FORT WORTH (JUNE 8, 2013) — After an unprecedented start to the season with seven different winners (including two first time winners) over the first eight races and no winners from Team Penske or Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Helio Castroneves finally broke through with a win for the “red cars” in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. Defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second, continuing a spectacular season for the Andretti Autosport team. 2013 Indianpolis 500 Champion Tony Kanaan brought the SUNOCO/Turbo ride home in third for KV Racing Technology.
Castroneves pretty much dominated the event. That’s all one can really say about this race. After an Indianapolis 500 where the record for lead changes was literally doubled, this race seemed to be a bit of a snoozer. Roughly 300 pounds of downforce were taken out of the cars prior to the weekend, so that put more onus on the drivers to make things happen. While I like the concept, it came at the sacrifice of the show. Marco Andretti quickly overtook Will Power at the start of the event and would go on to lead the first 53 laps. Interspersed in there were caution flags, first for Pippa Mann and the #18 Cyclops Gear Dale Coyne Racing Honda. As I understand, a seal came loose on the engine, starting a fire. She was able to quickly get pulled off course where the HOLMATRO Safety Team were able to extinguish the fire. To Pippa’s credit, she pulled off the racing line as soon as she realized she had a problem. Unfortunately, her day would end on Lap 2.
Caution number two would come out on Lap 54 as Scott Dixon lost drive in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The car slowed on the backstretch, but he was able to coast around almost back to the pits. He needed a tow back, so caution was issued to return him to the pits. Powertrain issues sidelined the #9, but the team made an attempt to repair the car. When work was complete, the car suffered some sort of catastrophic failure involving the transmission fluid delivery system, burning three crew members in the process. They were checked and released from the infield care center.
Ryan Hunter-Reay assumed the lead after green flag pit stops were quasi-interrupted by the caution for Dixon. Ryan would go on to lead until the next round of pit stops on Lap 92, when the lead changed hands for the last time. Helio Castroneves assumed the lead and held on until the end. The only interruption was a caution on Lap 113 for a spin by Oriol Servia in the #4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet. From then on, it would be a glorified game of Follow-The-Leader, with Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Carpenter and Franchitti pretty much mirroring everything Castroneves did.
Yeah, there was some movement back in the field. Justin Wilson had an incredible run that didn’t turn out quite as well as results showed. After having a dog of a car through qualifying and practice, Wilson cut his way through the field, running as high as 4th at one point. Honestly, anything other than last place was a good finish seeing as how bad that car was on Friday. Wilson complained of oversteer so bad it rendered the car undriveable. Also, James Jakes once again outran his teammate. I wonder how awkward those team meetings between Graham Rahal and Bob Rahal are? Jakes is having a whale of a season while Graham lingers back in “also ran” land.
1. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
3. (13) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
4. (9) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
5. (2) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
6. (4) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
7. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
8. (7) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
9. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
10. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
11. (21) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
12. (10) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
13. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
14. (18) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 226, Running
15. (20) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
16. (22) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 226, Running
17. (8) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
18. (24) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 225, Running
19. (16) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 225, Running
20. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 224, Running
21. (17) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 223, Running
22. (14) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 223, Running
23. (11) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 61, Mechanical
24. (19) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 2, Mechanical
Winners average speed: 177.257
Time of Race: 01:52:17.4594
Margin of victory: 4.6919
Cautions: 3 for 27
Lead changes: 4 among 5 drivers
Andretti 1 – 53
Power 54 – 57
Hunter-Reay 58 – 92
Andretti 93 – 96
Castroneves 97 – 228
Point Standings: Castroneves 259, Andretti 237, Hunter-Reay 232, Kanaan 195, Sato 194, Pagenaud 194, Dixon 193, Wilson 184, Hinchcliffe 176, Franchitti 168.
In Their Words
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No.3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s been great. I have to thank AAA, the boys did a hell of a job. (Engineer) Jonathan (Diuguid) did a hell of a job and Chevy did a great job because we were not only able to manage our tires and manage our fuel, but it was the setup. We did our homework and thank god it paid off. Texas is awesome. I love this place.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): “That No. 1 DHL Chevy was great. We made the most of it, and we kind of lost it a little bit there when that yellow when came out. Our strategy was such that we needed that yellow not come out. You know we had a good shot at winning it today though. That was just an interesting race. It was hard to even get by some of that traffic. I was searching everywhere for grip; I had so many catches out there that I thought were on the wall. It’s going to be tough to go to sleep tonight.
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Sunoco “Turbo” KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): “It was pretty good, but we obviously we went off strategy. I’m really happy. We did a great job as a team. It’s the first race with the Sunoco Turbo car, so I hope they’re happy because I promised them a good race. I think third place as far as the championship goes is pretty strong so we’ll take it.
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): “It’s always easier to be the Monday morning quarterback. I think it worked out for Ryan (Hunter-Reay) – he had a vibration and came in early. He went out, running some quick laps and he didn’t catch a yellow. We tried to do the same thing, we caught the yellow and the RC Cola car ended up a lap down. So, it’s unfortunate and to top it all off the worst guy in the championship fight against me won, but congrats to him.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “I thought we had a shot for a podium finish (3rd) but Tony (Kanaan) had a lot fresher tires (35 laps) at the end. We will take fourth tonight and we scored some points for the ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka team. It was a great night for Chevrolet with a one through five on the scoreboard. We had a couple of miscues in the pits, one with some debris on the front of the car, and I didn’t hear the guys call me in for the stop. Overall, those didn’t hurt us. It was hard out there tonight. I was racing more car more than the other drivers at times. I hope the race was good for the national television audience tonight. This place is one of the toughest oval on the series now. The cars are a handful here. But we’ll take the fourth place and move on to Milwaukee next week.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “That second to last stint cost us a good finish tonight. It’s disappointing because the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda was running in the top five up to that point and we had a very good chance at repeating as race winners. The team didn’t an incredible job giving me a really competitive race car tonight.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): “We had a great car, it’s been pretty good all weekend and we made some great changes. We were definitely one of the top five quickest cars so its just a shame we didn’t finish there. We’ll bounce back next week. You win and lose as a team and we’ll just make sure we put it right next weekend.”
Next race is the Milwaukee Indyfest at the Milwaukee Mile on June 15. It’s a 4pm EDT start on NBC Sports(thank God.)