Driver Faster - I Hear Rain! (Alabama Review)
Heading into the race, the dangerous zone was Turn 5, by the end of the practice session over 8 drivers had gotten caught in the clutches of Turn 5. I thought Friday the story of the race would be the hairpin in Turn 5. Boy was I wrong (actually I had some bad calls, but this was a weird race…)
There’s only one thing Hoosiers like better than IndyCar racing, and that’s talking about the weather. You add talking about the weather and IndyCar racing, well that’s a match made in heaven. Some of us have even made $20 on a bet about weather and the Indy 500. Going into this race with the threat of rain, it made all Hoosiers and all the announcers giddy. Then the rain came and surprisingly while the race never fully recovered, it was a fantastic both on the television and social media. Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing dueled in tic-tac-toe, Josef Newgarden’s crew ran out of snacks, we saw a great video on Zach Veach, and Hinchcliffe finally peed his pants during a race.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t all fun and games. We had drivers in some situations. Charlie Kimball got off track and into the fence (he says Ed Jones bumped him, Ed said he didn’t, and Race Control agreed with Ed). Will Power lost it on a restart, spun right in front of RHR, and hit the wall even before turn one, not just hit – smacked it. This was after Newgarden had two moments of “OMG”. The race was postponed after that (not immediately after that but they did go back to red flag shortly).
Then the controversy started. Credit to Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star for the fantastic piece on the decision Jay Frye, president of competition for IndyCar, made. It’s a good read, but the basis for the decision is that there’s no secured lock-up for the cars at Barber and so the call was made to allow Teams to refuel. A lot of people and drivers were upset with the decision to allow teams to refuel. A lot of people pointed to the rules that under a Red Flag condition, no work can be done on a car…close. Under 188.8.131.52.1, IndyCar may approve work on a car (the approved work is primarily battery plugin, cooling fans, and towels on the car). If such work happens, the car is reshuffled back to the restarting line, per the rule. So the call was made to allow teams to refuel, and I think instead of just reshuffling the whole damn field – they negated the policy.
I don’t know. I’m not sure if I would have made that decision. I understand the whole “we can’t lock up the cars so everyone will tamper them during the evening”. Except there were lines of storms continuing to come through, and you know just set people inside the garages. Is there not a piece of equipment to make sure they didn’t refill, or maybe they could have locked up the refueling equipment instead of the cars? It did negate the strategy teams had going into the race. Of course, once the race restarted and then the rain started back up again everyone was back off their strategy. I’m not going to rag on Jay Frye’s decision, admittedly he was in an unenviable position on that decision.
Monday – the race restarted. A timed race of an hour and fifteen minutes. What I find absolutely curious is that people thought this race was boring. Sure, Josef Newgarden got onto a tear and jumped way out ahead, but again people need to stop focusing on the front end of the race and watch the whole field. Zachary Claman DeMelo and Spencer Pigot got tangled up together, slid across the track, and then unhooked and continued the race. Will Power’s team had his car on the track within fourteen minutes of the race starting (they were not allowed to work on his car during overnight red) and he kept moving. Dixon started passing people on a charge – including a very good pass on Zach Veach. Then the last ten minutes of the race, the rain had started, and everyone rolled the dice on if they should put on wet tires or not. Sebastian Bourdais stayed out as Newgarden switched tires. It was risky and he had the lead, but the rain just got to be too much and he had to pit – it cost him the lead. Also, the race to the finish between Bourdais and Dixon basically was a drag race on a wet track. It wasn’t boring – it was thrilling.
Not sure who wins the "What a Rookie Move" crown - actually we had quite a few cranky drivers after the race. Pagenaud came after Chaves in front of god and everyone, and Marco Andretti decided to give his two cents about Claman DeMello's passes. Perhaps everyone was just cranky after an extra long weekend...but maybe they could have waited and dealt with it in private.
Newgarden won, he’s now won at Barber three times now. He’s won two races this season and is now in the lead with Alexander Rossi right behind him. Thirteen points separate Newgarden from Rossi, but twenty-six points separate second from third and fourth (Bourdais and Rahal who both have 119 points). The top five in the standings are all different teams. After four races, heading into the glorious month of May, there’s yet to be a clear winner. I’m sad Rossi’s not leading, but I love that it’s so close points wise. I also love that it’s almost May. I love the most that on Monday I get to spend two days at the track for testing and Rookie Orientation Program.
Also, fun fact about this race: my mother wanted to know if teams could choose not to use rain tires…so if you are ever thinking of putting a race team together don’t hire her.