Once again, having re-watched the race, read the articles and spent a day squealling at the top of my lungs, I’ve got my five Twin Checkered Flags and Spin moments. Let’s get to it!
Twin Checkered Flags
1: Don’t Let a Frenchman Start From the Back.
Another race, another Frenchman penalized and starting dead last (more on that in Spin). This time, in the yellow so bright you can see it from a mile away Menards car, Simon Pagenaud carved his way through the pack, jumping up six places at the start and later averaging an overtake every two laps, finishing a respectful fifth.
Meanwhile fellow Frenchman and St Pete winner, Sebastien Bourdais, decided that the best way to go through the parade lap was to hit the wall and limp into the pits for a new rear wing. Despite Dale Coyne saying on NBCSN’s coverage that the goal was just to get decent points, Bourdais managed, with a little help from Andretti Autosport dropping like flies, to finish second on the podium. Combined with his win this has had the result of setting him up as the early front runner.
2: Little Teams Getting It Done
Usually when you look at teams outside the big ones, it’s accepted that the stars have to align just right for them to get a podium, never mind a win. While it could be argued that the stars did so for Bourdais in St. Pete, in Long Beach James Hinchcliffe was up front all race. He overtook and pulled away from Scott Dixon as the Kiwi decided that he’d already used too much fuel after only a handful of laps of dicing with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alex Rossi.
Sticking to the two stop plan, he kept his nose clean and remained calm as Andretti Autosport cars dropped like flies and brought out safety cars, dashing off into the distance as Bourdais found himself defending against Josef Newgarden and Dixon (and had to get round a trio of back marker later) to claim the win. So that’s two races down and neither has been won by one of the big three (though two of the three have been on the podium), not only that but we have Bourdais leading the championship with Hinchcliffe second and rookie sensation and Bourdais’ teammate Ed Jones swimming along in seventh.
Do I expect at least one of the big three to make a strong run for the championship by the end of the season? Of course I do. Can I also expect the little teams to give them just as much of a run for their money? Yes, and I love it.
3: Indy 500 Playlist Filling Up.
At just under fifty days until the 101th running of the Indy 500, we got two more announcements last week, and both were fantastic. The first is IndyLights winner, IMS Radio pit lane reporter and rock climbing monkey Zach Veach with AJ Foyt Enterprises, cementing the team’s position as the youngest driver combo in the paddock (with an average age of 24).
The other is two time Indy Lights runner up Jack Harvey with Andretti Autosport. Both drivers deserve a decent shot at IndyCar and, honestly, what better place to prove yourself than the biggest race in the world?
Then Monday gave us Gabby Chaves at Harding Racing.
And then, well, Wednesday happened….
4: Emma Is Taking None of Your Shit, IndyCar.
The wives and girlfriends (and husbands and boyfriends) of the IndyCar drivers are certainly a lot more visible compared to what I was used to seeing when I started watching, as someone coming from F1. From Ashley Judd forever in gorgeous floral dresses, giant floppy hat and sunglasses to Liz Power’s brutal murdering of plastic bottles out of sheer nerves (and being forgotten in Will’s championship speech) to the uncomfortable moments when Robin Miller seems to constantly leer at them during his grid run.
Then there’s Emma Davies-Dixon. She has a Twitter account and she is not afraid to use it to defend her man. Trapped on my side of the pond for this race, Emma was active on Twitter and it was more evident by the end of the race where a full course caution lasted longer than she felt it should have lasted, retweeting those that agreed with her and even giving the IndyCar Twitter account a disapproving huff of a response.
Sadly they’ve been deleted now but, as always, a sight to see.
5: Drinking Games
Two races in and I think we’ve got the start of a drinking bingo card with Pinball Kimball, Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin being almost magnetically drawn together, Frenchmen starting at the back and working to the front and possible hints of Andretti unwittingly getting some of the Honda engines that I’m sure should be over in F1 at McLaren. For the race itself, your liver was in danger if you were to take a shot every time the race was compared to Monaco in anyway or referred to as the series’ second jewel after Indianapolis.
I’m sure I can have a bingo card sorted come the Indy 500 if need be….
1: The Impeding That Wasn’t Really Impeding Yet Was
Can anyone explain why Simon Pagenaud ended up being penalised for impeding teammate Helio Castroneves? Yeah, maybe for that lap but Castroneves managed to proceed into the next part of qualifying eventually ending up with the pole, something that he would proceed to squander in the race itself as he was caught sleeping as the green flag waved. It must also be noted that I really can’t picture Roger Penske complaining about one of his own cars. Some logic from race control, please.
2: THE JOURNEY IS LONG DONE SO STOP
You win one of the most prestigious races in the world, marking yourself as one of the front runners for the season, and outside of a big team to boot. Getting out of the car, you’re probably expecting a question on that, right?
Not if you’re James Hinchcliffe.
If you’re James then you know you’re going to get a question relating to your crash instead and how this moment apparently seemed unlikely. As if he hasn’t been up front since the crash, nearly winning at Texas Motor Speedway last year. The ‘journey’ ended last year, either with him declaring he was never going in again during his first test back or when he returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and stuck the car on pole.
Maybe it was because of Dancing with the Stars where, like all these sorts of reality shows, everyone needs a gimmick and it was only natural that his ended up being his crash. Perhaps it’s for the benefit of any new fans that he brought over that NBCSN felt the need to bring this up one last time.
Listen Ed, I get it.
You love racing on ovals, not so much for the road and street courses though – so logic does dictate that you find someone to take the car for the latter while you do the former.
There’s just one problem.
See the guy you’re sharing with? He’s probably the strongest driver in your team. You saw how he was doing at St Pete until his tyre decided to explode and at Long Beach he was still one of the stand out Chevy cars in a race dominated by Honda.
And you’re not even giving him a ride for Indy…
4: Sexist, Two Legged Kind
Come on Robin Miller, you’re suppose to be a respected IndyCar pundit and journalist. You must be able to see how the series has changed since you first got involved all those years ago.
There have been female fans since it began, though I’m sure you’ve only ever noticed the women that were there for you salavate over (this doesn’t include the partners of the drivers by the way). There’s women involved in every part of the series now, you even work alongside some of them.
So why oh why did you think that people wouldn’t be annoyed or frustrated when you decided that a segment on Loki the Wolf-Dog would be the perfect moment for you to have a go at the appearance of women that have been with drivers?
You’re sixty seven years old, grow up.
5: The Strangest Hint to an Announcement Ever
It’s not easy being an Andretti Autosport fan. It’s the big three team that I’m pretty sure is only called that now because, for the longest time, it was the biggest team in the series. It’s nice when they do well, especially at Indy, but sometimes I just wait for that moment it doesn’t just go wrong, it goes wrong wrong. Long Beach was one of those races. First it was Marco, sitting in the drive off area trying to get his throttle back and restart his engine before giving up a few laps later. That was okay, it’s Marco Andretti and he was running midfield at the time. Beside, as his fan, I’m use to this. Then it was Alex Rossi, from the front pack and sniffing at a potential win, with pretty much the same problem as Marco. Sharp intake of breath as I’m sure I hear a friend’s cry of angst from across the pond.
But it’s not over.
There’s a brief glimpse of Takuma Sato slows down, the same issue again and I can only look, hoping that it doesn’t affect Ryan Hunter-Reay but it does. Of course it does because it’s Andretti Autosport and no team can do team mechanical failure like them apart from McLaren over in F1. It’s McAndretti now, I’m sure you heard the jokes in the podcast.
Then its announced that Fernando Alonso of McLaren will be in the Indy 500 over Monaco in McLaren ran through the Andretti Autosport team something that had been finalized on Saturday. All I can do now and sit back and wonder if we’ve just witnessed one of the most bizarre hints to a team-up in the history of motorsport.