I'm a little disappointed that I got too busy this past week to put out my Milwaukee wrap-up, so I'm jumping on this one right away.
For the third straight year, I went with Iowa! as my wrap-up title, because 1) I was born in Iowa, 2) Iowans are great peeps who show up and support the event and 3) as usual, IndyCar put on a great show. There apparently was a rumour that Iowa may not be on the schedule next year, which I hope is just someone talking out their rear ends, because it would be a HUGE mistake to leave this off the schedule. People support this race and IndyCar needs to reward that loyalty.
Anyhow, what a great race today! Not necessarily up front, where James Hinchcliffe led 226 laps on his way to his third win of the year, but all over the rest of the field as there was plenty of action. Although it wasn't like Hinch had an easy cruise because everyone was in traffic pretty much all day long so there was still plenty of work to be done.
On to the top 5!
Winner: James Hinchcliffe. Leaving Detroit three weeks ago, Hinch had been unable to put together two consistent weeks in a row...good or bad. But after going P9 at Texas, P5 at Milwaukee and now a P1 today it seems like he is finally finding his footing. Taking the lead from the green flag, Hinch picked up the first oval track win of his IndyCar career and his first on an oval since winning at Chicagoland in the Indy Lights series in 2010. Despite as many finishes of P21 and worse as wins, Hinch is now fourth in points, and a doubleheader in his hometown of Toronto lurks just three weeks away.
Runner-up: Ryan Hunter-Reay. While Hinch won the race, RHR might have had the best car, but was sent to the back of the field after needing his front wing replaced after contact with Graham Rahal. He was stalking Hinchcliffe in the closing laps before being pinned behind lapped traffic which ended his rally. Still, with five podiums in the last six events, is there a hotter racer on the planet right now? He is now just nine points behind Helio Castroneves in the standings, and that's only because Helio won the final heat race for the pole position and picked up those same number of points.
Third place: Tony Kanaan. Winning the 500 was a good kickstart for TK heading into the ovals, as he has gone P1, P3, P10 and P3. Like RHR, Kanaan had some adversity to deal with as his weight jacker was broken so he couldn't make any on-board adjustments, and he had to pit another time with an overheating issue.
Fourth place: Ed Carpenter. Carpenter has had some great stretches on each of the four oval races but hasn't had (at least in his mind I'm guessing) a lot to show for it. Sunday seemed like it might be going in that direction, because he was challenging Hinch for the lead prior to the first round of pit stops, then dropped back into the midfield before making a charge late in the race. The fact he hasn't had a podium on any of the ovals is a bit of a disappointment, but Pocono in two weeks is right up his alley.
Fifth place: Graham Rahal. Talk about a driver -- and team -- that needed this one badly. Rahal had a good weekend, winning a heat race and running as high as second before being passed by TK and Carpenter late. Still, it's hard not to feel good about the result given the P21 and P16 finishes the last two weeks at Texas and Milwaukee, not to mention the cluster that was his month of May. Hopefully they get their stuff together, because it's fun to see a Rahal up front, and his battles with Marco Andretti today was good theater.
A few other ideas:
Oriol Servia, stepping into the Panther Racing entry this weekend, looked good in both the heat races and the main event, and finished a solid seventh. Forget the "auditions", just put the Voice of God in the car permanently, please?...Helio Castroneves took an engine change and went from the pole to 11th starting position, but was never a factor in finishing P8. Still, it's his ninth Top 10 in 10 races...Marco Andretti was up front early but ended up P9 and is third in the points...What is going on with Target Chip Ganassi? Scott Dixon was three laps down in 16th and Dario Franchitt was four laps down in 20th. Sure, Honda has been behind the 8-ball on ovals all season, but these guys in the past have been good enough to work around it...Green was the name of the game, again, as 221 laps were run under green, including the last 91. As crazy as it sounds, that marks the first time in four oval races we didn't have a 100-lap green flag run. Hope that trend continues!
After six races in five weeks, the drivers and teams get a breather before reconvening at Pocono in two weeks. The Tricky Triangle will host IndyCar for the first time in 24 years and will be the second leg of the Triple Crown.