FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on August 5, 2013 8:40 am
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Under sunny skies and perfect conditions, Charlie Kimball has won his first IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Below, the More Front Wing crew offer our first impressions of the 2013 Honda Indy 200.

STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of passing on track today, but the one for the lead was the one that mattered. Charlie Kimball now joins James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, and Simon Pagenaud as the fourth first-time winner in a season that continues to offer one twist after another.

I wasn’t watching the NBC Sports Network feed at the track, so I have no idea what the commentary was like or what the viewers saw at home (though I have faith that it was an excellent broadcast as usual). And it’s no secret that fuel strategy races are not every fan’s favorite. But from my seat in the media center, I certainly found this race interesting enough to keep my attention. Watching how the extra five laps played in and how the two-stop versus three-stop (versus early three-stop versus late three-stop) strategies played out was fascinating, particularly since some pretty big fish missed the mark.

And it was also fun to guess at whether this was going to be another caution-free race, which it was — along with last year’s Mid-Ohio race and three others (1984, 1985, and 1993).

Not everyone will agree, but this race felt like classic IndyCar racing to me. It wasn’t a barn-burner, but I enjoyed it.

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PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

You know how going to the grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving is fun in the “we-kinda-have-to-enjoy-the-family-while-we-can” sort of way but not quite the “this-concert-is-incredible-with-my-friends” sort of way?  Yea, Mid-Ohio is kinda like that for me.  If you can grasp the subtleties and you enjoy the anticipation of somebody maybe making a mistake, this is the type of racing that you would enjoy.  But it’s not for everyone.

While I won’t go bragging to any of my non-racing coworkers this week about the incredible action from this weekend’s IndyCar event, it wasn’t a boring race by any means.  I found the different strategies interesting, and I think there were enough balls in the air throughout the race to really keep the results in question until it was clear that nobody had anything for Charlie Kimball at the end.

Whoa, wait a minute.  Who?  Charlie Kimball?  Yea, that’s right.  The guy who a few years ago was written off as a ride-buying Indy Lights graduate who bought his way on to Chip Ganassi’s B-team was standing on top of the podium today because he was the fastest driver and nobody could catch him.  Charlie is a really great young American driver, and I was absolutely thrilled to see him get his first victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  (Of course, we already knew that a good results on in the works after Charlie joined us last week for the More Front Wing podcast.  I expect other drivers to take note of the good mojo we’ve delivered throughout the 2013 season!)

All in all, not a spectacular race but not a total snoozer either.  I was much more excited about the race today than the three week break that INDYCAR now finds itself in.

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CHAD’S IMPRESSIONS:

It’s always good to see a driver get that first career win. It’s even sweeter when a guy like Charlie Kimball does it.
It was a popular win throughout the IndyCar community, and it couldn’t have played out any better. Charlie didn’t luck into this win. He didn’t win because of mother nature, or because he had just enough fuel in the end. He crushed everyone by keeping it simple – racing the hardest and the fastest, all the way to the end. Despite being held up behind EJ Viso towards the end, he made an incredible pass on Simon Pagenaud for the win, which symbolizes how hard he was fighting, and how determined he was to win.
Being the third wheel in a Ganassi camp that features 2 other drivers that have a combined 6 Championships and 4 Indy 500 wins can be unsettling. This day belongs to Charlie though. His boss, has now won the last 4 races after laying a goose egg in the first 10 events. The only hiccup they have had these past four race weekends was Chip’s fall after the race today on pit lane. He is fine, and his team is too.

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JOHN’S IMPRESSIONS:

Any time another first time winner breaks through, it serves to validate the strength of the Indycar field. Charlie Kimball did that and more today by showing superb pace, guts, and a flair for the dramatic (pass). I can’t say that I have been a true believer in Kimball’s abilities in the past, but today opened my eyes to his true pace. Bravo Charlie!

All that being said, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power have to be lamenting what might have been. I have no sympathy for them, however, since they took the strategy play. It amazes me that drivers of that caliber continue to be talked into the strategy play versus demanding that they be allowed to push the pace all weekend and win or lose on their own merits. I wonder at what point Power is going to say enough is enough, I want to race! The fastest guys in the paddock should want to drive fast, not save fuel.

This race was by no means a classic, but I thought the strategy that unfolded led to some compelling racing. I’ll be watching with great interest to see how Charlie backs his maiden triumph up. On to Sonoma…

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