IndyCar-Neely’s Nine: Field Rankings after GP St Pete

With round one of the 2013 IZOD Indycar Series down, the field now leaves the Albert Whitted Airport circuit in sunny St. Petersburg, FL for the luxurious Grand Prix Circuit at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, AL. We learned a good bit about 2013 in St. Pete, but increased speeds and grip at Barber should prove to separate the contenders from the pretenders as we get the real feel of how the season should play out.

These rankings are nothing more than my personal opinion, and not always reflective of actual points standings. If you disagree with my rankings, well, I’ll pray for you.

1. James Hinchcliffe-#27 Andretti Autosport GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
The only way Hinch’s weekend gets any better is if he wins pole. The Mayor started outside row 2 and stayed near the front all day, setting himself up perfectly to take advantage of Helio Castroneves’ late race restart bobble to grab his first IZOD IndyCar Series win.

2. Helio Castroneves-#3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet
If Helio doesn’t slide the back of the car out on the final restart, Hinch doesn’t win this race. Helio clearly had the dominant car, leading 42 laps across two stints in the lead. Helio is the only multiple time winner of GP St Pete and clearly showed why this is his race.

3. Scott Dixon-#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
All he did was start in P20 and finish P5. He took what was pretty much a dog of a Honda and squeeze out a Top Five finish. Dixon patiently made his way up through the field to get Honda’s best finish.  Next best Honda? Takuma Sato in P8. Even though he was never in contention to lead, Dixon showed why he’s a championship contender.

4. Simona de Silvestro-#78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Simona possibly had the best run of her IZOD IndyCar Series career. She started P3 and stayed in the Top Five all day. Not only that, but she was P3 with three laps remaining until her tires went over the cliff. Simona managed to hold off a hard charging Marco Andretti until she absolutely couldn’t anymore. Even though she finished P6, Simona was the true P3.

5. Marco Andretti-#25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
Up until about the last 10 laps of the race, Marco had a very quiet race. Over those last 10 laps though, Marco made his presence known by getting around both Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro to capture a podium finish and securing two of the top three spots for Andretti Autosport. Marco ran in the Top Ten most of the day and made smart moves when he needed to.

6. Tony Kanaan-#11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology with SH Racing Chevrolet
TK very quietly had an excellent day. Another driver who stayed in the Top Ten all day, Tony maintained solid pace and smart racing to bring home a Top Five finish for his KV Racing team. Late in the race he held off pressure from Marco Andretti for a number of laps until his tires finally let go. the start of 2013 has been far better to TK than 2012. Now he goes to Barber where he was one of the faster cars at the Open Test.

7. Tristan Vautier-#55 Florida Lottery Schmidt Peterson Racing Honda
The impressive rookie made the Firestone Fast Six in his first try, starting outside Row 3. Tristan ran strongly in the Top Five until a header issue took him out on Lap 69.  Vautier’s run at St. Pete is a clear example of finishing position not being indicitive of the actual run. I’ll be surprised if this kid doesn’t get a win before the year is up.

8. Alex Tagliani-#98 Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport Honda
By all accounts, Tag had a rough weekend. He started in P18, dropped all the way to dead last by virtue of an early pit stop, but raced back all the way to P10 by the time Checkered Flags were waved. Alex very steadily raced his way back up the grid and ended with a nice finish.

9. E.J. Viso-#5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport HVM Racing Chevrolet
In the post race press conference, team owner Michael Andretti admitted that the team had been less than kind to Viso over the course of the weekend. Despite being hamstrung with a P22 starting position, Viso raced his way to a P7 finish. The old E.J. Viso would have stuffed his Dallara into a tire barrier somewhere from pushing too hard, but the new Viso let the race come to him.

The Mario Moraes Parking Award: J.R. Hildebrand-#4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet
J.R.’s race was simply one derp after another. After he passed James Jakes at the blend line, he’d eventually pass Simona de Silvestro under caution as well. While Simona’s KV Racing crew tried to figure out how to handle the Hildebrand situation, J.R. took care of the problem himself by attempting to double park on top of Will Power. I’m not sure if J.R. was tweeting, playing Angry Birds, or suffering from Brain Freeze, but his lasck of awareness ended his day; possibly an act of mercy.

Next race is April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL

One comment

  • JR had a very uncharacteristic race. Even back in Firestone Indy Lights, he was always a calm, poised professional. He drove aggressively, of course. You don’t win a championship without doing so, but he was never reckless. Very odd weekend for Captain America.