Ordinarily, we’d be able to take time after an IndyCar race and really analyze some of the key storylines in further detail.
After today’s Honda Indy Toronto, and everything that’s happened in post-race, that’s not really possible. So here’s some of the other little nuggets that have gone unwritten up to this point:
- The actual finishing order. Scott Dixon beats Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti. That much you knew. Marco Andretti, now, goes back to fourth, with Tony Kanaan fifth. The rest of the top 10: Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud and Simona de Silvestro. Here’s a link to the full box score.
- A few other stats. In 10th place, Simona de Silvestro has her first top-10 finish since Brazil early May (eight races ago). Mike Conway improved the most positions, from 20th to seventh in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda. James Hinchcliffe has his best career Toronto finish of eighth. Also, Ed Carpenter improved from 23rd to 13th, and for him, that’s not a half bad result on a road or street course, at all.
- Four cautions for 14 laps. The number of laps under yellow, 14, is the same as occurred at Detroit, race one. Go figure.
- Power outage. Twice, Will Power outbraked himself going into Turn 3 after a deep dive passing attempt. The first was on Dixon, the second on Franchitti. Unfortunate given how he ran, but the Team Penske driver finished only 15th.
- Sensor drama. So you’re wondering what the reason is why Josef Newgarden’s car failed to engage for the standing start? Unfortunately for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team and its talented sophomore driver, it was an engine sensor malfunction outside the team’s control.
- Rahal vs. Vautier. Bobby Rahal took to Twitter to explain his frustration with rookie Tristan Vautier after Vautier contacted Rahal’s son – and driver – Graham. “Simply put Vautier is over his head- desperate to make an impression regardless. If I was advising him I’d suggest finishing w/o drama,” the senior Rahal wrote.
- Briscoe on the mend? This from Panther Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who got caught up in the Lap 65 four-car pileup: “Sitting at med centre now getting ready to go to the hospital for X-rays on my right wrist. Thanks for all the nice messages.”
- Points! My colleague Chris Estrada just expanded on this, but Castroneves survived the usual calamities of race one for yet another top-10 finish. Heading into race two, Castroneves (384) leads Ryan Hunter-Reay by 39 points, with Dixon now third, only three points behind “RHR.”
- The sun will rise again, tomorrow. After today, we get a second race, tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. What’s not to love?
MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field. Finishing sixth in 2015 after a late rally was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 6th Place, 3 Wins, 1 Pole, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 195 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 6th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 71 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 10.4 Avg. Finish
The old adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” would probably be the best way to sum up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2015 season, which until the final quarter of season could best be described as a forgettable nightmare.
The first three races seemed somewhat OK, with eighth, seventh and fourth place grid spots. But none of the three produced a result of note; Hunter-Reay was also caught up in the three-car, late race accident at NOLA Motorsports Park and didn’t bank any good finish until a fifth place at Barber the end of April.
A tailspin followed. Hunter-Reay started between 14th and 21st every race between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Milwaukee – a stretch of eight races – and only had one top-10 finish in that stint, eighth at the rain-affected lottery that was Detroit race two. Some seasons are just ones you want to end and by Milwaukee it was obvious that Hunter-Reay was racing just to get to the end of the year, without things getting any worse.
Things finally came good with a typically good drive at Iowa and arguably one of the drives of his career, two races later at Pocono, to end with two wins and extend his streak of winning a race in each of his six seasons at Andretti Autosport. It was no coincidence, either, that Hunter-Reay’s uptick in form came with the return of the late Justin Wilson’s presence in a fourth car.
After Pocono, Hunter-Reay also drove well to finish second at Sonoma, and by that point he’d completed an incredible late-season turnaround to jump from 14th to sixth in points. But if asked, he’d probably admit this was his toughest season yet at Andretti and arguably his toughest overall since his 2009 season, when he was in-between full-time rides and saw out the year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.
Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
- 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.
Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.
Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.
The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.
As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.