Tuesday, April 9, 2013

HIGPA Wrap-up

I know I am seriously late to the party about the goings-on of the weekend, but the start of baseball season usually finds be quite busy. But I know a few of you have been waiting with baited breath for my thoughts of what happened Sunday at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and I want to bring a smile to your embittered lips.

(Yes, that's a serious inside joke. But if it made you laugh too, I'm glad.)

Anyway, I had to watch the race on DVR (I was at a ballgame) which while I'm glad I am still able to see the race, it isn't the same as checking it out live and getting the full effect of the race and accompanying social media. Still, there were a lot of things that I liked about the race, most especially that the final 85 laps were run under green.

Some don't like that because yellows bunch up the field and make things more "exciting". Maybe so, but even with the long green run there was still some good stuff through the field. I'll get to that.

So here's the Top 5, and a few other musings:

Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay. We learned a couple of things this weekend...1) If there was any doubt before, we have reached the point where we can now call RHR an ultra-elite driver and 2) Through two races, Andretti Autosport is the best team on the grid. Two wins, a pole and three drivers in the top 5 in points, nobody beats that.

But back to RHR. In winning the 10th race of his career, he won the pole, led the most laps (53) and down the stretch stared down three drivers who have been very, very good at Barber Motorsports Park, working past former winners Will Power and Helio Castroneves and holding off Scott Dixon, who had finished second all three years the race has been run there. A clean sweep for the weekend, rebounding from his disappointing run at St. Pete two weeks ago.

Runner-up: Scott Dixon. Dixie joked afterwards that he was looking for a bridesmaids dress after finishing second at Barber for the fourth straight year. He drove crazy hard trying to catch RHR in the race's final 15 laps, but catching him and passing him would've been another thing. Still, a fifth-place finish and second-place finish in the season's first two weeks is the consistency we expect from him.

3rd place: Helio Castroneves. Say hello to the new points leader! Two weeks, two podiums, most laps led (67). Helio has been crazy consistent since the beginning of last season, and seems to be getting stronger.

4th place: Charlie Kimball. While this isn't the best finish of his career (he finished 2nd at Toronto last year), it might have been one of his better drives. Kimball was fast all weekend, and his pass of Power in the race's closing laps will be on the list of the best passes of the year. Even Power, who has made his share of sweet moves, was in awe of how Kimball got around him. Has he started to turn the corner?

5th place: Will Power. Believe it or not, this is the first time since 2009 that Power had failed to win one (or both) of the first two races of the season. No doubt, after finishing P16 and P5, he sits P8 in points and is behind the field. With Long Beach and Sao Paulo coming up, he still has time to recover, but with his well-documented issues with ovals, he can't fall too much further behind in the standings when Indy and the heavy oval portion of the season begins. Twisties are where WP makes his hay, there is still time, but he needs to make a push over the next couple of weeks.

The rest: With his P3 finish at St. Pete and his P7 finish here, Marco Andretti is just one Top 10 finish away from equaling his total from all of last year...Josef Newgarden finished P9 to pick up the first Top 10 of his IndyCar career...AJ Allmendinger was in line for a Top 10 until he stalled his car on the last pit stop and fell to P19. He will be back at Long Beach and rumors are out there that he will be in the car for the weekend at Detroit as well...Did anyone ever think that Dario Franchitti would ever be DFL in points? Especially after two races? He ran much better than he did when he crashed at St. Pete, but mechanical issues left him P25 at Barber. In fact, Allmendinger has one more point that Franchitti despite only running one race.

In other news...Not a Barber note, but it is worth mentioning that Ryan Briscoe has a ride for the Indy 500, joining forces with Ganassi, for whom he drove to a 10th-place finish in 2005. It is good to see that the 2012 polesitter will be back to defend his title, and maybe even make some noise as a one-off entry.

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