V8 Supercars - Gold Coast 600: Qualifying & Race 31

Fewer stars, but Reynolds’ first V8 Supercars win highlights Gold Coast 600

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The third or fourth weekend in October usually brings a bout of nostalgia for open-wheel fans who miss IndyCars racing at Surfers’ Paradise in Queensland, Australia.

The event has continued in the five years since IndyCar last raced a non-championship event there in 2008, with the Australian V8 Supercars as the headliner. In these few years, a number of star guest drivers from IndyCar and sports cars have shared the seats with V8’s best, but there were a reduced number on hand for this year’s Gold Coast 600, which occurred this weekend.

Red Bull’s weekend dominance wasn’t limited to India because Red Bull Racing Australia won the Saturday race with Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff in the No. 888 Holden Commodore. It wasn’t a perfect weekend sweep though as David Reynolds and Dean Canto scored the Sunday race win in their No. 55 The Bottle-O FPR Ford Falcon. The win was Reynolds’ first in V8 Supercars; he nearly won the Bathurst 1000 in 2012.

Lowndes leads teammate Jamie Whincup by just six points (2549-2543) with just two more weekends, Phillip Island Nov. 22-24, and Sydney Dec. 6-8, to go in the 2013 season. Bathurst winner Mark Winterbottom is 88 points back in third.

Ryan Briscoe’s season-long world tour of different championships (IndyCar, sports cars, V8 Supercars, and IndyCar TV) continued with fifth and third place finishes co-driving the No. 66 Supercheap Auto Racing Holden with Russell Ingall.

Jeroen Bleekemolen scored an emotional second place finish on Saturday in the No. 97 TEKNO Team VIP PetFoods Holden with Shane van Gisbergen; Bleekemolen took a day while in Queensland to visit the site of Sean Edwards’ fatal accident. The Dutchman was Edwards’ best friend and tremendous rival both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Other possibly familiar names to U.S. fans who competed at the Gold Coast this weekend: American Le Mans Series legend David Brabham, IndyCar driver James Davison’s cousins Will and Alex Davison, one-time CART and former Indy Lights racer Jason Bright, Porsche factory shoe Marc Lieb, ex-Formula Atlantic driver Daniel Gaunt and ex-Trans-Am racer Craig Baird.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay
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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.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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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.