(Editor’s note: please welcome Zoe Hamilton to TGG! She’ll be providing Indycar race recaps and will feature on the podcast, coming soon.)
So, having watched the race, highlights and browsed post race articles, here’s my three Twin Checkered Flag and three Spin moments of the weekend.
Twin Checkered Flag
1: Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing in general.
You have to admit, probably the best way to screw up your first weekend of the season back with a team is to crash in qualifying, bring out the red flag (thus ending your participation under new qualifying rules) and leave you starting at the back of the grid.
Now in a certain series, to recover from this what you’d need is to have the most op car on the grid, a couple of safety cars and a red flag. You’ll get third with that.
But a wee team in Indycar with Dale Coyne as a strategist and four time champ Sebastien Bourdais at the wheel? You get the win.
You could argue that they lucked out with that second full course caution (more on that in Spin) that the front five had to pit under but Simon Pagenaud was the one that initially became the leader. Bourdais still had to overtake him, then keep ahead.
He managed that then pulled away, and even bearing in mind they pitted around the same time and we know Pagenaud was saving fuel at the end, it’s pretty damn impressive.
Also worth noting that rookie team member, 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones, kept his nose clean the entire race and brought the car home 10th.
Overall a good weekend for the wee team.
2: Hertamania is back
When I was sixteen I was panicking over high school exams. Colton Herta, rookie and fresh from a successful campaign of third in last year’s Euroformula Open Championship, starts his rookie season in Indy Lights with a second place finish and a win. He’s the youngest to ever achieve this in the series, and leaves St Pete at the top of the points standing.
To say the hype train surrounding the kid is real is like saying that water is wet.
People are excited (they’re insisting the plan is two years in Lights before progressing but if this was a taste of what’s to come…) and Bryan is now fully appreciating the joys of being dad of a next gen driver.
Speaking of Herta senior, the importance of his role as strategist and life coach for Marco Andretti has already been shown. Immediately after jumping out of the car after the race, Marco was already taking all the blame for the ‘poor’ result before Bryan slid over to fire some sunshine of positivity at the permanent rain cloud that IndyCar’s Eeyore lives under.
Also, please let the rumour that Bryan was the one behind Alex Rossi’s scooter being taped up be true. We need a glorious prank war in the paddock.
3: Spencer makes an impression and not just for the bang.
I’m gonna just start off with this: I need someone to give Spencer Pigot a full time ride next year. I think he’s a great talent and deserves it.
I mean, did you see that overtake he did on Pagenaud? He was one of the few competitive Chevys in the field for the race. We pretty much lost out on some good racing thanks to that wheel going boom.
1: Full Course Yellows
Let’s be honest, it’s not an IndyCar race if there isn’t at least one of these. The Graham Rahal/Charlie Kimball/Carlos Muñoz crash at turn three, yep, full course caution is understandable.
But for the debris that caused the second one? That should have just been a local yellow, especially when you consider the impact on the race it had by being a full course caution. Scott Dixon was really the only one of the front runners to recover from being forced to pit under the yellow.
The fact that the series even posted an article on their website which talks about looking into what is and isn’t worthy of a full course caution kinda says it all, really.
2: Charlie and Graham and their first lap.
Now I must admit, I was expecting these two to clash at some point this season, just not three turns into the first race.
It was purely a racing incident, Kimball being opportunistic and Rahal just not paying attention to his right hand side. When you consider the fact that besides Mikhail Aleshin taking a chunk out of Tony Kanaan’s wing with his nose this was otherwise a really clean race, the incident looks ridiculous for two season veterans.
And really, you had to feel sorry for Muñoz who suffered the most despite being a bystander to the initial crash; he was forced to retire thanks to mechanical damage eventually.
3: The luck of the Irish is a lie.
With joining AJ Foyt Racing and the team swapping from Honda to Chevy, you had to think this could be young Conor Daly’s chance.
Then comes the first weekend, Chevy is, on average, off the pace compare to Honda so poor qualifying, and you spend pretty much the entire race just, well, there. Nothing bad happens but nothing good either, you just happen to be making up the numbers.
And your old team gets the win.
Seriously, what does he need to do to catch a break?