As we close in on this Sunday’s season-ending race at Sonoma Raceway, this past Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway proved to be a very costly proposition for numerous teams, and has now forced all teams into a scramble to prepare and rebuild cars for this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Accounting for the highest attrition rate of the season, by the time the checkered flag fell on Lap 200, only 11 cars of the original 24-car field were still running. The 13 DNFs in the 24-car field surpassed the 11 DNFs in the 33-car field at this year’s Indianapolis 500 for the highest number of retirements.
And with just one race remaining, the cost to repair the damaged cars at this late stage of the season is something most teams’ budgets probably didn’t need.
All told, more than one-third (74 laps) of the 200-lap race was run under caution due to the 12 caution periods.
Nine cars were knocked out due to contact: Sage Karam, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal, Tristan Vautier, Jack Hawksworth, Sebastian Bourdais and Justin Wilson.
Sadly, Wilson, who was struck in the head by debris off Karam’s wrecked car, passed away just over 24 hours later, the first IndyCar driver to die from a racing incident since Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in 2011.
Four other drivers and their cars failed to finish the race due to mechanical issues: Gabby Chaves, Charlie Kimball, Ed Carpenter and Stefano Coletti.
The weekend also proved particularly costly for Kimball, who wrecked his primary car during qualifying.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.