IndyCar

INDYCAR: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama postponed until Monday due to rain

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After two red-flag race stoppages due to rain, hydroplaning and several on-track incidents, Sunday’s INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been postponed until Monday.

The race will resume at 11:30 a.m. ET, live on NBCSN, at the 2.3-mile permanent road course of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The race was stopped at Lap 22 Sunday afternoon. It had originally been scheduled for 90 laps, then was cut to two hours, and efforts had been made to hopefully get at least one full hour of racing in.

All of those efforts failed due to Mother Nature. It’s expected that the race will resume somewhere around Lap 25 on Monday after likely two pace laps.

However, there’s more bad news: Rain is also in the forecast for Monday in the Birmingham area.

Josef Newgarden, who is the defending winner, also started the race after capturing the pole during qualifying on Saturday. He led all 22 laps Sunday before the race was called.

Newgarden is scored as the race leader, followed by St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach, Robert Wickens, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and Ed Jones.

Restarting eleventh though 20th on Monday will be Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Max Chilton, Rene Binder, Matheus Leist, Gabby Chaves and Tony Kanaan.

Rounding out the rest of the field are Zachary Claman DeMelo, Will Power and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* The race began under rain and it never stopped. Marco Andretti experienced the first incident when he spun into the grass on the last turn on Lap 3 but was able to get back underway.

* Rookie Matheus Leist had difficulty getting started, missed the pace laps and didn’t get onto the track until just before the green flag dropped.

* Gabby Chaves had to pit just nine laps into the race because his helmet visor was fogging up. He also took fuel at the time.

* Charlie Kimball spun in the final turn and made contact with the fence, causing suspension damage. It brought out a full-course yellow caution and Kimball had to be towed to the pits.

Kimball told NBCSN that Ed Jones got into the back of his car and forced him into grass and wall.

“I was just going through the corner and he ran into the back of me, and apparently the (race) stewards reviewed it and no action taken,” Kimball said of Jones. “I vehemently disagree with that.

“When you’re driving a race, especially in the wet, you have to be conscious of what the other cars are. Yeah, it’s hard to see, but at the same time that’s just a dumb move. He’s not a rookie anymore. He needs to not be making rookie mistakes like that.”

* On the restart on Lap 17, Josef Newgarden spun but was able to regain control. Not so lucky was his Penske Racing teammate, Will Power, who spun and hit the inside retaining wall, ending his day.

“I couldn’t see a thing,” Power told NBCSN. “It was just hydroplaning out of control. I just can’t believe they went green on that, how bad it was and so much standing water.

“Very disappointing, but to me, very dangerous. I kept telling Roger (Penske), ‘I can’t see a thing ahead of me.’ It’s the last thing we needed. Very disappointing.”

* The race was stopped under red flag conditions on Lap 19 because there was so much puddling on the track.

* During the 37-minute red flag stoppage, Graham Rahal gave his perspective on how bad the conditions were to NBCSN:

“I’ve raced a long time and the lack of visibility today is the worst I’ve ever seen, by far,” Rahal said. “The underwing on this new car is pretty powerful and it’s just throwing water absolutely everywhere.

“We just have to figure it out. It’s not ideal right now, we need to get some of this flooding out of here, but so far I think the Firestone rain tires have done a good job and the car seems to be happy. You just have to keep it safe. I’m not kidding you: on the front straight, I can’t see my own nose cone.”

* Zachary Claman DeMelo was assessed a two-lap penalty for unapproved repairs on his car during the red-flag stoppage.

* During caution on Lap 23, Tony Kanaan had an issue getting up a hill, slipping his tires, potentially with his gearbox. After stopping, he finally got going and took his car to the pits for service.

* Ditto for Graham Rahal, who also lost a couple of positions when he spun before what was supposed to be the restart, only to see the red flag come out for a second time.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The start of the race was moved up a half-hour from its originally scheduled start time of 3:38 p.m. ET.

* Actor Channing Tatum was grand marshal and gave the command to start engines.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne