Monday, June 24, 2013

Iowa Notebook; Or, Hinchtown=Titletown?

-Andretti Autosport doesn't own Iowa Speedway, but they might as well. They've won five of the seven IndyCar races held here, and James Hinchcliffe's performance Sunday afternoon was his strongest of his three victories this year. Ryan Hunter-Reay passed just about the entire field after having his car's nose replaced early in the race, and finished P2. In fact, every Andretti driver finished in the Top 10.

-With that in mind, let's give some consideration to Marco Andretti's day. He qualified well and finished in the Top 10, but both guys in front of him in points finished in front of him Sunday, too. He's only 55 points back, but I just keep thinking he's got a victory in him this season. Top 10s are great, but I'm sure Marco knows that's not sufficient for this title fight.

-So obviously Helio Castroneves, RHR, and and Marco Andretti are all in the thick of the title hunt, but what about Hinchcliffe? He's only 66 points behind, and has the most victories of any driver on the year. One could argue if not for mechanical issues, he could possibly be ahead of his teammates in the overall standings. Hinch isn't a "win or go home" driver, but it does seem like his results are feast or famine. Let's check back after Pocono and his home race at Toronto to see if he's put something consistent together.

-I suppose we have to discuss Ganassi's issues with the Honda engine. Chip Ganassi was extremely critical of Honda earlier this season, and after Scott Dixon had engine issue Sunday, Dixie and his wife both grumbled about their engine woes. I'm not alone in thinking we might see a Ganassi change to Chevy sometime after the season ends, if it can be worked out.

-So, is Honda behind? Some, I think, but I also don't think you can chalk up all the Ganassi troubles to engine issues. It isn't as if teams are flatly noncompetitive in Hondas--plenty of Hondas are getting good results, and Simon Pagenaud and Mike Conway both won at Detroit in one. Granted, that's not an oval, but if Dale Coyne and Sam Schmidt's teams can with with them, why can't Ganassi?

-Just as strong as Hinch this weekend was Indy Lights driver Sage Karam, who has never lost at Iowa Speedway, going all the way back to his USF2000 days. His victory Saturday gave him the Lights points lead over Carlos Munoz (-11), with Gaby Chaves (-30) and Peter Demspey (-41) still in the picture. Jack Hawksworth's podium was also a very nice comeback on the ovals. I can't wait to see what's going to happen at Pocono with these guys.

-I know we all hoped that Simona de Silvestro would have a better year post-Lotus, but it's been a rocky road since before Indy. Yesterday, I saw people assign blame to Simona, KV Racing, or a mix of the two. Honestly, I have no idea just where the issue is right now, but I certainly wish it would stop. It seems as if when Simona has a loose car, that's it, game over. There's no discernible improvement over the course of a race. I'm not looking forward to Pocono right now for the #78 team.

-Graham Rahal just missed a podium, but early on in the race, I would have marked him for the win. He had a great car early, and still hung on in the closing laps to secure a good result. It's not his best result of the year, but it was probably his best drive. Although it was also an extremely aggressive one, to boot, he stayed on the right side of the law. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will hopefully be able to build on that.

-Ed Carpenter's last stint yesterday was a thing of beauty. Ed charged ahead after a messy last pit stop to breeze past Graham Rahal for P3. It's almost as if Ed has taken a backseat somewhat since winning the Pole at Indy, but that shouldn't be the case. (FYI, for the 2nd straight year, he had the fastest race lap at Iowa). Few drivers are as steady on ovals, or as much of a joy to watch with how they adjust over the course of a race. He's going to be an absolute blast at Pocono and Fontana.

-The ABC broadcast was basically what we've come to expect from an ABC broadcast--really neat intro segments and the like, but really awkward booth dialogue. The booth team did at least seem excited about the racing, which was a nice turn, but it still lacks the polish the NBC Sports team brings. Well, enough about that. I'm sure you're as tired of hearing about it as I am of typing it.

-No matter how your favorite team or driver did this weekend, bear in mind these guys have been going non-stop since returning from Brazil at the start of May. That's a long time, and even the fittest and toughest have to be wearing down from frequent travel, late nights, and stress. So it might be a nice gesture to give them a tip of the hat on that account before the show heads to Pocono in two weeks.

-Other Notes: Another really rough day for Team Barracuda, whose season just keeps going down the wrong path. They need a really, really big week to right the ship at this point...Awesome drive for Oriol Servia in the Panther Racing car. Panther could do far worse than to keep him in the car as much as possible for the remainder of the season....10 drivers finished on the lead lap Sunday, compared to 9 last year...Congrats to IndyCar alums Martin Plowman and Bertrand Baguette for their LMP2 class victory in 24 Hours of Le Mans Sunday, and condolences to the loved ones of Allan Simonsen. Such a mixed, tragic weekend for the racing community as a whole.


  1. Hate to say it, but Simona is definitely under the gun now. Must show noticeable improvement at Pocono, or she may have a problem keeping this seat, especially with a hot commodity like Carlos Munoz looking for a seat in 2014.

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