IndyCar

Here’s What Drivers Said after Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 2018 INDYCAR Grand Prix winner): “It’s been a slow start for us, so it’s just fantastic to get the win. But 200 wins in IndyCar just shows Roger’s determination and the way his team works and his passion for winning. It’s a real pleasure to drive for him. You’re given equipment week in, week out to win, and yeah, I have to say it’s amazing to be a part of that history of Penske Racing because it’s such a deep history. So yeah, I’m so grateful to be able to drive for this team.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 2nd: “It was a great result today for the PNC Bank car and the whole team. Everyone on the Ganassi team never quits, never gives up and we were able to make up a lot of spots and finish second. I think that was the worst I’ve ever qualified without crashing or having a technical issue. Good day in the points for the No. 9 team. I love having this race open up the month for us here at Indy.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – finished 3rd: “I have to work on my fuel save game a little bit (laughter). Hats off to the Lucas Oil guys – we had a great first stint. We had an even better second stint, and then Will (Power) and I had a great little battle when I was on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), he was on the reds (Firestone alternate). I guess I’m not as efficient at fuel saving as they are, but we made it. Scott (Dixon) got behind me on push-to-pass, and I was instructed not to do much because of fuel save. In the end, I’m really happy to be on the podium. It’s frustrating because it feels like you’re driving so slowly because it feels like you’re lifting for what feels like an eternity before the corner, but then the team was reassuring me that (Alexander) Rossi and (Sebastien) Bourdais had to do the same thing. It wasn’t comfortable by any means. It was the first time in my career I’ve had to save fuel like that, but in the end, happy with the podium. Would have liked to be a bit further up, but hard to complain.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda) – finished 4th: “Really good points there for the SealMaster Honda No. 18. I just didn’t feel like I did the best job to maximize the result. At the end, we got another fourth place and honestly I didn’t know what we were gonna get. We were loose for most of the race, which made for a very tough run. I thought the track was going to finally come to us and it didn’t. The balance was only good when we put the brand new red (alternate) Firestone tires on. The guys (other drivers) were really aggressive at the start of that last run and I didn’t know whether I should say screw the fuel number and go with them. I was already not making the number and under a lot of pressure from behind, so I thought maybe we just don’t have the pace and had to give up some positions. After that I was kind of a lonely wolf out there doing my thing and trying to make the fuel number a bit better. Next thing you know the leaders are backing up big time to us. Wickens didn’t want to give up on Rossi and Rossi was being aggressive, so by the end of that stint we had saved enough fuel to use the push to pass and he couldn’t and we recovered fourth. Overall, not super happy with myself. I feel like I missed on the balance a little bit. I feel like I didn’t get it quite done. Ultimately all that matters is we got the points from the fourth place and we’re looking pretty strong in the championship. Hopefully it keeps on happening.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – finished 5th: “I was pretty concerned after this morning’s session. For some reason, the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was losing pace through nothing more than just car balance as each run went on, so it was a little bit of a mystery to us. We’re very fortunate to have a four-car team. We were able to better the setup for Ryan (Hunter-Reay) on his car, and the No. 28 DHL car probably saved our weekend. Big shout out to them on the team effort. It was a good recovery – just disappointing that we couldn’t finish fourth. I think we had the opportunity to save fuel in that stint and we just didn’t make it happen, so we need to look into that, but overall a good recovery by the whole team. I’m very excited to get to work on Tuesday – we’ve been very fortunate with such good cars here so looking to fight and go two out of three.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 6th: “It’s just like I never left, you know? It was great strategy from the team. We started with the blacks and took a gamble. It wasn’t worth it to try to fight because I kind of knew it would have come back, and it did. The team did a phenomenal job staying cool. All my guys did phenomenal pit stops. This is a group that we’re going to have for the 500. So, imagine when you have the guys just showing up and doing the job is incredible. I feel sorry about Simon (Pagenaud). (Takuma) Sato hit me on the back. I lost control on that part of hitting the No. 22 of Simon, but he made a phenomenal comeback. Again, it’s great to be back in Indianapolis and I’m ready to get going.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – finished 7th: “Long day at the office for us. I think there was decent speed in the Arrow Electronics car on reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the black (Firestone primary tires) stint was hard for us. Then, on the last stop under caution, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay pulled into his box right as we were heading out and we had to check up for that. I think we lost two spots in the pits after that, which is unfortunate because it was a fuel save race after that. Nobody was really passing anybody, so we probably should have been top five, but still a solid day. No major mistakes anywhere just trying to keep it clean and keep raking in points. Congrats to Robbie (Wickens) on the podium – another good showing for the team and we will just carry this momentum into the 500.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 8th: “What a day. I can’t believe my luck so far this season. Maybe that is good for Indy 500. I keep saying it. It’s coming up now. Hopefully I get all the luck in the world for the 500. It was an awesome car today, fantastic. I think we could have challenged for the win. It is what it is. We recovered from the first lap incident. They opened the pit and we pitted, then they threw the green flag that next lap so we couldn’t get back to the pack. The car was very good and the Chevy power was awesome. We managed to finish the race with good fuel consumption and was able to pass Graham Rahal just before start finish because of fuel consumption. Awesome heading to 500. Congratulations to Will (Power) – he made it three here now. So, I have to catch him next year. Also, it is the 200th win for Team Penske in INDYCAR. It is phenomenal. What a team. It is an honor to be part of it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda) – finished 9th: “We had a pretty good car on the reds and were able to get the United Rentals machine up to the front but ultimately on the blacks we really struggled. Everybody did but the time in which we put them on hurt us. And then on the last fuel run, I was hitting the fuel number I was told to hit and came up short. Luckily I ran out in the last corner. If it was before that I would have been a lot more upset. I lost eighth place and finished ninth. That’s the way things go sometimes. We didn’t have quite Dixon’s pace on reds, which is how he got that big gain over us but my guys did a great job in the pits. The got me positions when we needed to and we were able to pass a lot of cars in the race. Overall I can’t complain too much. I’m tired of starting in the back. If we can start in the top-three or top-five even we can make these guys lives really tough. We make it tough for them now but we’re doing it from 17th. We need to start up front and make it really tough on them. I’m confident in that, confident in my team. We just have to get the job done in qualifying.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 10th: “I made quite a good start. I overtook four cars minimum at the end of Turn 1. I was probably P6 in Turn 2 or 3. However, we were side-by-side with (Spencer) Pigot in Turn 4, which was good, and then we went to the first chicane Turn 5 still side-by-side and unfortunately he tried to go too wide and he ran out of road. Instead of avoiding the curb inside, he just launched it by himself and basically hit me while airborne and that was it, I went to the back. After that I think we had a good car on the red tire (Firestone alternate) but on the black tire (Firestone primary), I think we probably made a mistake and went backwards significantly. Then, we had a good fight back in the end on red tires. In the end, I think tenth is not the best, but I think it’s good for the team that our two cars just made the top 10. It was an OK weekend.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader) – finished 11th: “We had a podium car, for sure. It’s tough to throw it away. I think I got too greedy. I had two or three runs on (Sebastien) Bourdais. I just got frustrated and too greedy. I thought he was going to give me a little more room. He gave me some, but it wasn’t enough. It is my fault, I think I ruined a podium finish for the No. 1 Verizon Chevy team. But, we recovered what we could. The Chevy power helped. The 200th win for Roger (Penske, team owner) and Team Penske is a very big deal. I am happy for Will (Power) and his team. Now we go on to preparation for the 500.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – finished 12th: “It was a really fun start. A few people had incidents, so I saw a few open holes and I just took them. It’s just unfortunate about the small issue we had before our first pit stop that cost us some time. Without that issue on our in lap, we probably could have been in the top 10 easily at the end. We’re not quite sure what the issue was so we’re looking into it. We’re really happy with how the race went, our pace was strong, it was great to be out there. Overall, I’m happy with the result, it’s good for me, I learned a lot and I’m happy for the team.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda) – finished 13th: “After an issue in warmup this morning, we had to bring in a new engine – so we started the race on a fresh one, which meant we literally went to the back, just waiting for the engine to get run in. With the lost time on the engine change before the race, there were some other car changes we weren’t able to make, so we were stuck with a mechanical change that we knew wasn’t going to be good all day. We just sort of hung in there and did what we could to get through the day. It was more of a salvage than anything, but a big thanks to the U.S. Concrete boys for hanging in there.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 14th: “We actually had a good race going, but our pit stops were just not up to par. All we gained on track we lost in the pits. We need to address that before the next race.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet) – finished 15th: “It was a tough start to the race, I arrived at the chicane pretty much side to side with Takuma (Sato) and at that point, there wasn’t much space. I tried to miss the curbing, but obviously didn’t and got airborne then spun. It didn’t help our race right there, it kind of ruined it with that incident. After that, we went a lap down and just tried to stay close to the leader so that if there was a yellow, we could take advantage of it and get a lap back. That happened towards the end, and we were able to pass a few guys in the last restart to move up a little bit. Overall, frustrating day, it felt like we had a pretty good pace. The guys did a great job in pit lane and the engineers gave me a good car. Hopefully, we can get the Preferred Freezer car up front for the 500 and move on after this.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – finished 16th: “Up until the final stages I was really enjoying our race – it was probably the most competitive I’ve ever been in a Verizon IndyCar Series race racing-wise. I was making some quality moves and I think we got some quality time on air for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. Unfortunately, today we just lost some time in the pits I think; in particular, we had an issue when everyone was pitting under yellow which cost us quite a few spots.  It’s a real shame, as we had great pace and I think if we’d started further up the field we would have been there the whole day because our pace was definitely top five.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “That was a long race with a lot of green time. I was pretty happy with the changes we made, especially on the red tires. We really struggled for pace on the black tires, so that’s something we’ll have to look at the data and figure out how we improve that aspect of our race. I thought that if it wasn’t for a few mishaps in the pits, we’d probably be inside the top ten. Now we make a few improvements and I’m really looking forward to the best part of this month.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 18th: “It was a rough day. We were running seventh and eighth and then we had an electrical issue that caused a misfire. It cut power on the bottom and top ends. We tried a couple on-track fixes, but they didn’t work and a fix in the pits would have taken too long. So, we were running all day about half of the horsepower and had to save fuel. It was pretty much a full nightmare scenario and certainly not what we hoped for today. The DHL team did a good job toughing it out during a very frustrating race, and we’re all looking forward to getting onto the oval Tuesday.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet) – finished 19th: “So awesome job by the team. We finished our second race now after Long Beach, so I am really happy. Overall, it was a really physical and really tough race. It felt like it lasted forever. At the end there we had to save fuel, and that was my first time actually saving fuel in the car, so it was a really good learning process. We made a lot of progress and the car felt great. I feel like we have a lot of positive momentum heading into second half of May. I am looking forward to getting on the big oval. Now that we have this behind us, we finished the race, and got the car back in one piece, I am ready to go for the big one.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet) – finished 20th: “That’s a real shame. We must’ve hit a piece of debris and we ended up cutting the left rear tire on that last stint, so we didn’t get the opportunity to race for the top 10. We worked our way and the guys were awesome in pit lane. We had really good stops all three stops and we had the strategy right. We really improved the car from yesterday to today. It’s disappointing not to get the result, but the performance doesn’t show how good the team and the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet was today. I’m ready to move and we’ll take any extra we can get for the next few weekends.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 21st: “Today was a tough race. I had a difficult car, dealt with a few issues. Unfortunately, it was not our day again. On to the next one.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 22nd: “Not the result we wanted, obviously, today with the NTT DATA car. I think we had good pace in the beginning and we got a good start and moved up several positions. Late in the race we must have just run over something and the tires went down. The car behind us had the same problem too.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda) – finished 23rd: “It was definitely one of the toughest weekends we have had. It seemed like anything that could have happened, did, in the race… we had to change a front wing, we got a cut tire. We rebounded from the damaged front wing pretty well, I think we were running around 13th – right with our teammates. Then, we started having a tire go down and that basically ended our story for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. I just want to thank everybody – especially my engineer Garrett (Mothersead) for working so hard to figure out what our problem has been all weekend. I still think we missed the balance overall just a tad, but we came a long way from where we started, that’s a plus. I’m happy to have this out of the way and be able to focus on the Indy 500.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 24th (last): “Unfortunately, we got caught up in someone else’s accident. There really was not anywhere for me to go. Wrong place, wrong time, which put an end to our race, really. The pace was good as it has been for the last four races. It all comes together eventually, this is just one of those days that is a bit annoying at the moment.”

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IndyCar: Which drivers need to start or continue comebacks in 2019?

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With the 2018 IndyCar Series season already far back in our rearview mirror, it’s not too soon to start looking ahead to the 2019 campaign, which begins on March 10 at St. Petersburg, Florida.

When you look at how 2018 ended up, several drivers either didn’t have the season they had hoped for and are looking to make big comebacks in 2019, or perhaps began comebacks in 2018 after prior difficult seasons.

Let’s take a look at who is due – or in some cases, overdue – for an even stronger season in 2019:

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: RHR isn’t overdue by any stretch, having started his “comeback” of sorts in 2018. His fourth-place season finish was his best in the series since winning the championship in 2012.

He also earned two wins – Belle Isle II and the season finale at Sonoma – his first visits to victory lane since winning twice in 2015.

Had it not been for three DNFs in the second half of the season, Hunter-Reay likely could have finished in the top 3 at season’s end.

It was good to see him come back into prominence after frustration the last two seasons (12th in 2016 and 9th in 2017).

Hunter-Reay still has several more good years in him and it would not be surprising to see him finish even higher in 2019 – and potentially once again being a championship contender.

SIMON PAGENAUD: After winning the championship in 2016 and finishing second in 2017, Pagenaud definitely had an off-season by his usual standards in 2018, finishing sixth in the IndyCar standings.

The French-born driver failed to win a race for the first time since 2015 and had just two podium finishes (also the most since 2015).

One of the most telling stats from what was a frustrating campaign is Pagenaud and the No. 22 led a total of just 31 laps across the 17-race 2018 season, the fewest laps led in a single season in his entire IndyCar career.

He also had the second-worst average per-race finish of his career (8.6), after having average finishes of 6.1 in his championship season and 5.3 in 2017.

Of course, looking at things from a glass half-full viewpoint, Pagenaud went from a winless and disappointing 11th place finish in 2015 to become champion in 2016. Could history repeat itself in 2019?

By all measures, 2018 was definitely an off season for Pagenaud. Look for him to make a significant comeback in 2019.

Or, to borrow a line Pagenaud said to teammate Josef Newgarden during their early 2018 season “autograph battle,” it’s your move, bro, for 2019.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The French driver had perhaps the best comeback season of any driver in 2018.

When former CART champ Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan joined forces with Dale Coyne Racing just prior to the start of the 2018 season, Bourdais was the hand-picked driver to carry the DCR with Vasser-Sullivan banner.

Bourdais did not disappoint. He started the season with a win at St. Petersburg and enjoyed his best overall season finish – seventh – in an Indy car since capturing the fourth of four straight CART/Champ Car World Series championships in 2007.

It was also Bourdais’ best career IndyCar finish, topping his previous best season finishes of 10th in both 2014 and 2015.|

Bourdais, who turns 40 in late February, finished the season strong with two top 5 and two other top 10 finishes in four of the last five races. That’s a good harbinger of even better things to come in 2019.

GRAHAM RAHAL: It was a tough season at times for Rahal, who turns 30 in early January.

Not only did he have his worst season finish – eighth – since 2014 (19th), he failed to win even one race (also for the first time since 2014) and had just one podium finish (2nd at St. Petersburg).

As if to add insult to injury, Rahal had two of his three season DNFs in his final two races (4th lap crash at Portland and a battery issue at Sonoma).

Rahal is overdue for the kind of season he had in 2015, when he won two races, had six podiums and finished a career-best fourth in the overall standings.

While Rahal has the equipment and personnel to do better, something just didn’t click in 2018. Will things turn around in 2019?

MARCO ANDRETTI: The grandson of Mario and son of Michael Andretti continues to be a work in progress – with emphasis on the word “progress” when it came to his 2018 performance.

Although he remains winless since 2011 and hasn’t had a podium finish since 2015, Marco Andretti still showed overall improvement in 2018, including earning his first pole (Belle Isle I) since 2013.

With a fifth-place finish in the season-ending race at Sonoma, Andretti jumped from 12th in the standings to finish the season tied for eighth place with Graham Rahal, Andretti’s best overall showing since finishing fifth in 2013.

Andretti had a strong second half of the 2018 season, with a top 5 in the season finale at Sonoma, as well as three top 11 finishes in five of the last eight races.

Don’t be surprised if he closes in on a top 5 finish in 2019. Andretti Autosport continues to improve overall as a team, particularly with Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and now Andretti, as well.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was a strange season for the Mayor of Hinchtown.

He failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, had just one win and two podium finishes, yet ended up with a 10th place overall finish in the standings, his best performance since finishing 8th in both 2012 and 2013.

The Canadian driver went on a hot streak early in the second half of the season, winning at Iowa and finishing fourth in his hometown race in Toronto.

But DNFs at Pocono and Portland, as well as three other finishes of 14th (Mid-Ohio) and 15th (Gateway and Sonoma) likely cost him a chance of potentially finishing as high as eighth.

There was also the emotional, gut-wrenching crash involving Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and longtime best friend, Robert Wickens, at Pocono. While Hinchcliffe tried to put on a happy face and showed support to his fallen mate, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wickens’ injury constantly dwelled on Hinchcliffe’s mind.

With the Indianapolis 500 heartbreak, the firing of engineer Lena Gade (who lasted just five races before her ouster), the injury to Wickens, and the overall second-half season struggles, Hinchcliffe is to be commended for finishing as high as he did in the final standings given the overall circumstances he had to endure.

At the same time, it’s likely a season he wants to wipe away from his memory bank and turn a forgettable season in 2018 into what Hinchcliffe and his team hope is an unforgettable season in 2019.

TONY KANAAN: A new team, new outlook and racing for legendary A.J. Foyt offered a great deal of promise for Tony Kanaan in 2018.

Unfortunately, the Brazilian native suffered through the worst season ever in his IndyCar career, finishing 16th in the overall standings.

Prior to 2018, Kanaan had experienced just one other season outside the top 10 (11th in 2013, the same year he won the Indianapolis 500).

Admittedly, TK, who turns 44 on December 31, is the oldest full-time driver on the circuit. But it doesn’t look like he’s lost much with age.

Rather, three DNFs and a career single-season low of having led just 20 laps over 17 races took its toll on Kanaan.

He will return for 2019, driving a second season for Foyt. But things need to dramatically improve for Kanaan, who hasn’t won a race since 2014.

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