With two races in the books, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season is now well and truly under way. Below, the More Front Wing crew present our first impressions of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
From the standpoint of actual on-track action, I really found today’s race to just be kind of… meh. It wasn’t the best race we’ve seen with the DW12, but I suppose it wasn’t the worst either.
That being said, I still really enjoyed it from a couple of standpoints. The Firestone tires seemed to come into play nicely today with the reds obviously quicker than the blacks, and that made a critical impact in the late stages of the race as Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to catch, pass, and pull away from Helio Castroneves, who had build up a pretty sizeable lead through the middle portion of the race.
Secondly, it was great to see more names mixing it up throughout the day. Charlie Kimball had the run of his career today and showed all day long that he has really come into his own this season. Tristan Vautier once again showed he is going to be a driving force in years to come. Josef Newgarden had a great run into the top 10 after starting in 22nd position. And although his run didn’t reflect it in the final results, AJ Allmendinger showed that he is certainly ready to be competitive in IndyCar racing once again.
All in all, an interesting, though maybe not necessarily remarkable, race today at Barber.
I suspect that at least a few people will complain that this race was boring. It certainly wasn’t the pass-fest that St. Petersburg was, nor did it meet the bar set by last year’s event here. But I found plenty of stories that were more than intriguing enough to hold my interest.
Team Penske split their bets by putting Will Power on a two-stop strategy, and I found it a bit surprising that it didn’t work in their favor in the end. It seems that the long green flag runs just ate up too much tire and fuel for him to keep pace in the final laps. I think it’s fair to observe that Power didn’t seem his typical dominant self this weekend. We’ll all be watching to see how long that lasts.
Deserving of a particularly loud shout-out is Charlie Kimball, who looked strong right from his brazen move at the start up until the checkered flag fell on his 4th-place finish. Kimball has flashes of brilliance; now he just needs to figure out how to make that performance consistent.
And the determination award for the weekend goes to James Hinchcliffe, who sat waiting in his damaged car for 75 laps to be towed back to the pits under a yellow flag that never came. His disastrous finish leveled against the strong results of the usual front-runners should leave most of those understood to be championship contenders more or less even in the point standings going into Long Beach.
Except for Dario Franchitti, of course. That guy just can’t catch a break lately.
Overall, I’m not left catching my breath like I was after St. Petersburg, but that’s to be expected. I felt this was a strong second event for the IZOD IndyCar Series season that left us with plenty to think about as the teams prepare to head west.
I think we have to start with almost the entire race being green, except for the hiccup towards the start. Will Power survived getting into the dirt early, but the fuel mileage gamble didn’t give him enough to win. We’re now coming up on an entire year without Will winning a race, which seems bizarre to even mention, but it’s true.
This was just a great dueling race, with Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay bringing their A-Game on this one. If the championship seemed wide-open after St. Pete, it seems even more so after the latest visit to Alabama.
Great start for Andretti Autosport winning the first two races of the season. What a bummer for Allmendinger. He had a great drive going. Speaking of great drives, Kimball showed us that he’s not just a third wheel at Ganassi. Dixon finished 2nd for the fourth straight time at Barber, but also got his second top five of the season and is currently (you guessed it) 2nd in the point standings. Dario would kill for any of those things right now. Another solid drive for Andretti and Vautier with Wilson and Newgarden grabbing top 10 finishes made it yet another fantastic race at Barber.
I definitely think the best car won the race today. RHR was able to pass front-running cars and stretch big gaps on the field once he got to the point. RHR is easy to cheer for, so I never have any problem seeing him take the checkers.
I was very surprised with the run from Charlie Kimball. He opened some eyes today, mine included, and I will be watching intently to see if he can back this strong performance up in the coming weeks. He was strong all weekend, so the finish was no fluke.
I’m curious to hear what happened to AJ Allmendinger besides the stall in the coming days. The car seemed quick, but he came out 11th after pitting from 7th at his first stop and never really made it back up. The move he made on Power on the first restart reconfirms for me, though, that the Dinger belongs in IndyCar. Now, if we could just convince him of that!