This is shaping into one of the most intriguing IndyCar season I’ve seen in a very long time. Yes, at this point last year, we had two different winners, but unlike last year, this year both winners are from the lower tear of team, aka teams not named Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti. AND both winners are Honda drivers.
Before we delve into the finer details of the race, let’s take a moment to just be happy for James Hinchcliffe. From a sheer personality standpoint, there are few guys like him on the IndyCar grid. He is the real deal, a nice guy, with a great smile, and a great ambassador for the sport. Seeing him take his first win after his horrific accident at Indy nearly two years ago is a great thing. A really great thing. And you could see his elation just getting out of the car.
Sappy stories aside, Hinch drove a great race, aided by good strategy from the team. He was always up in contention, always ready to make his move. He never pushed himself into making a mistake, and instead drove a calculated race that put him squarely in first place in the closing laps. He knew he had the car under him the entire day, as witnessed by the excess of Push to Pass he had stored at the end of the race. He knew he had the car to win and save up his PtP so he could use it to make the pass for the win, or as actually happened, hold off 2nd place.
Enjoy It While It Lasts, Honda
As I’ve talked about previously, it is a great thing to see Honda being competitive in the series. This time last year, Honda was nowhere. They couldn’t so much as get within spitting distance of the Chevy. This time around, however, Honda is the dominant force over the first two races of the season.
But, like I’ve said before, that’s not going to last. Honda has the better mechanical grip, which helped them to win these two opening street races. But in two weeks is Barber, a fast, flowing circuit which places a premium on aerodynamic grip. Advantage Chevy. Now, I’m not saying that Honda can’t be competitive at Barber or even at Phoenix. But this is not going to be the all out Honda fest like we’ve seen in the past two races.
Andretti’s Miserable Day
Things could not have gone worse for the team, who looked like they were in contention to be up for their first win since the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Hunter-Reay, Andretti, and Rossi all looked like they could have been in with a chance to win the race. But technical issues befell each and every member of the team. It was nothing short of complete and utter heartbreak.
The team has assured the press that they are working hard to get to the bottom of the issues that struck each of their four cars, but one has to start thinking if perhaps Andretti is sacrificing reliability in favor of outright speed. Their cars have certainly looked competitive in races and in quals, but if their setups are compromising their reliability, they could be in position to have a worse season than they did last year.
There are quite a few fellow writers out there who have severely criticized the Chip Ganassi driver’s decision to change strategy on the fly, a move which eventually compromised their race. I’m not one of those writers.
Yes, did that early pitstop cost Scott Dixon a chance at a race win, you bet your ass it did. Had he kept to his original 2 stop strategy, I have very few doubts in my head that Scott Dixon would have been on for a win. But instead, his team took a gamble. Seeing Marco Andretti pulling off to the side of the track, the team jumped into action. They pulled Dixon in, banking on a yellow. But that yellow never came. And Dixon lost the race.
But that doesn’t mean it was a bad move. Had that yellow come, the boys at Ganassi would have looked like geniuses. But it never came, and they didn’t look like that. And that’s racing.