no images were foundThis weekend’s opening round of the IZOD IndyCar Series had a lot of questions around it. Had Randy Bernard fixed some of the credibility issues, would the new cars and engines be competitive, would the field of talent be as good as what they were predicting? The answer to all of these questions (at least after the first round) was a resounding yes. St. Petersburg lived up to everything we had hoped for and then some. Great story lines, great drivers through the field, and the cars looked very competitive in my opinion. Helio Castroneves put on a pretty dominant display in his victory, his first since 2010 in Japan. The Chevrolet power was VERY fast all weekend and certainly made an early statement as the engine to beat. Here are some of the big story lines coming out of the weekend
As I said on Twitter during the race, the cars sounded amazing. The turbo charged V6 was music to the ears at 12,000 rpm. There were a few issues with the batteries but nothing that was show stopping as a whole. When you bring out an all new formula, you have to expect problems all around. This is the first time the teams have had to work with these variables in a long long time. Eight cars would fail to finish the race because of mechanical issues. Many of the Lotus Judd engines would fail and we all kind of expected that as well given the limited running. Alex Tagliani would be the best finishing Lotus (15th) but Sebastien Bourdais would truly carry the Lotus banner for much of the day as he flirted with the top five until falling out of the race 73 laps in.
The Chevrolet/Honda battle was great to watch but the Chevrolet just proved too much as six of the top ten finishers were Chevrolet powered. Scott Dixon’s Ganassi Honda would be the best as he finished runner up. Andretti Autosport finished really well also with Ryan Hunter-Reay taking the final podium spot and Andretti new comer James Hinchcliffe finishing fourth. Leaving St. Pete, it does look like the Chevrolet has a nice cornering advantage while the Honda’s showed some great pace on the long straights.
Passing with the DW12 also was not a shortage. While ABC refused to show many of the overtakes that were for position, Helio was able to put a sweet pass on Scott Dixon for the lead on the outside through turn one. It was simply a fantastic move by the Brazilian that even surprised him. The cars worked well and the chassis as a whole had no real failures to speak of. The amount of meaningful passes really has me optimistic going forward and I am actually really happy with the new car after the first round. Barber is the next round however, and that will be a real test to see if the cars are capable of similar overtaking. The course is narrow and fast with a number of elevation changes. Overtaking the competition however has always proven very difficult.
I applaud the drivers this weekend. This is the type of performance you should be getting out of a creditable championship. We didn’t have the stupid mistakes of St. Petersburg 2011 and it was rather refreshing. The drivers acted with respect and the amount of contact was non existent. Turn one was clean on the first lap and I think everyone watching was rather surprised. Come to think of it…we only had two incidents that I seen where cars made contact with each other. Helio Castroneves spun Ed Carpenter as he tried to enter the pits and Josef Newgarden made slight contact in front of him when the cars bottled up in one of the corners. It was a class act from all of the competitors and a lot of that can be credited to the strength of the field.
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Overall St. Pete has delivered another solid start to the season. As always, the ABC coverage left a lot to be desired, but the on track action was awesome. I will say that I was really surprised how well everything worked out and it leaves me very optimistic for the rest of the season to be honest. Watching the teams come to terms with the new car combo will be fun. This was road/street racing at its finest at the end of the day. Meaningful passes and a number of different strategies at play. Like I said before, next week at Barber will be a big test for the series, but I am very excited for the race and it has been a long time since I could say that about an IndyCar event.