Start, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2017

Last-to-first victory in IndyCar season opener

Weekend Racing WrapPosted on | Author Bradley Downton

The new IndyCar season began with a surprise as the mighty Penske did not assert their usual dominance on the streets of St Petersburg.

Also last weekend the World Rally Championship greeted its third winner in as many rounds despite drama in the final moments of the Mexican round.

Meanwhile in NASCAR a fight broke out in the pits after a controversial end to yesterday’s race in Las Vegas.

IndyCar

Race 1: St. Petersburg

When Sebastien Bourdais crashed in qualifying on Saturday and brought out the red flags – eliminating him from the session – no-one could have expected him to get within sight of the podium, never mind stand on top of it.

After that mishap for Bourdais Will Power took pole position and, unlike last year, was able to start from it this time. He led James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon but the revised, narrower turn three caused havoc behind. Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball made contact which sent Rahal spinning and Kimball into Carlos Munoz, while JR Hildebrand, Helio Castroneves and Mikhail Aleshin also picked up damage.

The ensuing caution ended on lap five and Hinchcliffe pounced immediately, taking the lead and stretching away from Power. A puncture then sent Power into the pits where he suffered further misfortune, hitting a wheel gun at the pit exit, earning a drive-through penalty.

The leaders were beginning their routine pit stops when the yellow flags reappeared after a tangle between Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin left the track littered with carbon fibre. With the top seven having not stopped they had to do so under caution, losing all the advantage they’d gained in the opening laps.

Reigning champion Simon Pagenaud inherited the lead but Penske lacked their usual magic around the St Petersburg course and he was soon caught by Bourdais. Coyne’s new hiring thrilled the team by passing Pagenaud for the lead and cruising to victory. Dixon passed a host of rivals to join them on the podium but Power’s day was ruined for good when an engine problem forced him out.

World Rally Championship

Round 3: Mexico

Kris Meeke almost threw victory away in the final kilometre of the Rally of Mexico. The Citroen driver was leading by over half a minute when a bump threw his C3 off-course. He disappeared down a bank and into a spectator car park, where he took a brief detour through the vehicles before successfully relocating the course.

The rally began three days earlier in Mexico City’s Zocalo square with two super special stages. This caused significant problems, as an accident on the motorway between the capital and rally base caused a six-hour delay to the transporters carrying the cars, forcing the cancellation of Friday’s morning loop of stages.

Once the action got underway high altitude and temperatures caused problems for many of the front runners, leaving Meeke to build a small advantage over Sebastien Ogier and the three Hyundais. The latter challenge soon disintegrated however as all three i20 Coupes suffered near-simultaneous mechanical issues and dropped time.

Saturday was a relatively straightforward day leaving just Sunday’s final two stages. Proceedings ran without a hitch until Meeke, the final WRC runner on the course – had the drama which sent blood pressures skyrocketing in the Citroen camp. He made it to the line with 13 seconds in hand over Ogier and Thierry Neuville, who took the Power Stage win.

NASCAR Cup

Race 3: Las Vegas

Brad Keselowski was on course to win his second race in a row when a late problem allowed Martin Truex Jnr through to win. Truex therefore swept all three stages of the third NASCAR race of the year.

But it was a last-lap collision between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano which made the headlines when Buch attacked his rival in the pits. NASCAR has not announced what if any action will be taken against either driver.

Over to you

What racing action did you watch last weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Next weekend’s racing

The following series are in action next weekend:

  • IMSA race 2: Sebring
  • NASCAR Cup race 4: Phoenix

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39 comments on “Last-to-first victory in IndyCar season opener”

  1. IRL is a piece of junk racing series

    1. it aint so bad but the cars are YUCK. they look so heavy and clumsy

      1. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that an Indycar weighs roughly the same as an F1 car does nowadays, and with F1 cars being a touch larger physically this year, the dimensions are probably very similar as well. I’d be curious to see the specs side by side. That being said, I don’t think Indycars are particularly good looking, and they obviously aren’t nearly as advanced as an F1 car and they don’t have as much power.

      2. They are not.

    2. Regardless of your opinion, which I heavily disagree with, it hasn’t been called IRL for almost 15 years!

      1. haven’t watched it for 15 years either specseries are crap

        1. How would you know it’s a “piece of junk” if you haven’t seen it for 15 years?

          1. Because if he doesn’t state an obviously fallacious opinion, he can’t be perceived as being cool. People might ignore him, and his incredibly more-valid-than-thou opinions, and for the sake of humanity, he’s just not willing to take that risk. :)

            Personally, while I don’t watch the oval races, IndyCar’s got some fantastic racing going on right now.

            … but for people complaining that F1 doesn’t have close enough racing, it’s worth pointing out that the St. Pete IndyCar race had 9+ seconds between 1st and 2nd, and 3rd was 26+ seconds behind.

          2. Because that is how the internet works… ;)

        2. “Because if he doesn’t state an obviously fallacious opinion, he can’t be perceived as being cool. People might ignore him, and his incredibly more-valid-than-thou opinions, and for the sake of humanity, he’s just not willing to take that risk. :) ”

          Thanks for that @grat! You saved me the typing.
          Now I’m going to go back and try everything I hated 15 years ago.

    3. I don’t like the concept of a spec series but in the real world, some spec series provide fantastic racing, including IndyCar. Yeah, the cars don’t look great but F1 cars aren’t exactly models of visual grace either.

      IndyCar also provides much easier fan access to the teams and drivers at many of the tracks. I had a standard pit pass at Sonoma a few years ago and I was talking with Dario Franchitti and his mechanic, right next next to his car, on the track, before the race up until he put his helmet on and got into the car. Try that at an F1 race!

      My only serious complaint about IndyCar are that most of the street circuits are just too damned narrow with the inevitable result of many minor crashes and cautions.

      1. The only spec series I follow is Indycar, and I have the same complaint as you. These street races may as well be lotteries. The oval races are only just a bit better than that. But the real track racing is usually good: Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Sonoma… this is why I tune in. I would really like to see F1 at any of these tracks.

        Dario is a legend! Meeting him in that situation must have been pretty special.

  2. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    13th March 2017, 10:47

    NASCAR will probably give Kyle the thumbs up for his “punch”. Next week will be a sellout in Pheonix and Joey owes Kyle a kiss with the safer barrier.

    1. He’ll probably get a fine, probation and maybe a few stitches.

  3. Meeke driving through the car park is great, so lucky to get through it unscathed and win the rally to boot! Can’t believe how close he went to one of the parked cars, it was obviously meant to be, well done to Kris.

    1. It appears that he actually did touch the spectators car: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6vwOhXW0AES2ve.jpg

      Just incredibly lucky he didn’t hit it full on, would have been very nasty at that speed. Probably the first time someone has literally taken the car park route, that was hilarious!

      1. I’m sure there is some sort of metaphor for VW in the WRC there…

      2. if I owned that car, I wouldn’t even be mad… ;)
        then, again, I wouldn’t park it on the outside of a corner, half a meter away from the track… :P

  4. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    13th March 2017, 13:26

    Although it was nice to see Seabass and Dale Coyne on the top step, you have to question Indy’s closed pits rule under FCC here.

    I can understand they have itchy flag fingers for debris these days, but regularly upturning the race order by mid-race yellow dilutes the purity of the competition.

    1. I also wonder why they insist on somehow throwing the wheel gun around the car and letting someone else pull it out of the way when they could have a simple overhanging system that folds up and out of the way when not in use.

      1. They don’t have an overhanging system because the pits on many of the indycar circuits are quite crowded & the turning circle on these cars is quite pathetic. An overhanging system similar to what F1 use would cause more problems than it potentially solves as there would be a far higher risk of the car in the pit box behind getting tangled up in the wheelgun hanging from it if it wasn’t pulled out the way fast enough.

        @fullcoursecaution The reason they close the pits under caution is to avoid drivers speeding back to the pits trying not to lose time. Before they started closing the pits (In 1996 from memory) drivers used to ignore the yellow flags in order to lose as little time as possible while making there way to the pits, Additionally crews tended to take more risk when releasing cars after the stop.
        By closing the pits it removes any incentive to not back off for the caution & also tends to slow down the pit procedure & make the crew think more when releasing there driver.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          13th March 2017, 19:54

          That makes sense @gt-racer . What has F1 done to combat speeding under SC? Delta times? Pardon my ignorance

          1. Yes, delta times. I just re-watched the 2011 Montreal GP, getting psyched up for the new season. Jensen Button received a drive through penalty for speeding behind the safety car in that race, but it didn’t seem to have phased him in the Long run.

    2. And as Dixon pointed out, the timing seemed particularly chosen to screw up the lead 7 cars that hadn’t pitted yet.

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        13th March 2017, 16:28

        In fairness a similar perfectly timed yellow screwed JPM and handed Dixon the 2015 title.

        Good spot about the wheelgun, that is a bit archaic now you mention it Craig

        1. A perfectly timed double points race didn’t help either!

  5. NASCAR truly is the WWE of the motorsport world.

    1. nah in the WWE he would have smashed him with a chair!!!
      also WWE is usually more believable as a sport in general!!!

  6. Can I ask a noob question RE: IRL ?

    Do the cars have off season development ? or are they essentially the same machine year the following season? Personally I’m neither keen on the way they look, though I appreciate some of the design was introduced as a safety measure.

    1. Racerdude7730
      13th March 2017, 15:08

      Not this year they don’t. It’s just engines and damper work they can do. Also it’s not been the IRL for many many years

      1. sorry I typed IRL because the first post! my bad

    2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      13th March 2017, 15:11

      Engine providers Chevrolet and Honda have off-season development. Last year for instance Honda had a bit of a power deficit to Chevy, which appears to have been reduced this year.

      In the 14/15 offseason they also developed separate aero-kits, which have remained largely unchanged since.
      They are going back to single-spec aero from next year.

  7. IndyCar is my favorite form of motorsports. The action is non-stop. If they allowed for in season development, there wouldn’t be ten cars on the grid. The cost is silly.

    Kyle Busch fot what he deserved. Everything that happened on track was fair.

  8. Indycar races (championships) decided on strategic flukes (eg last night) ruins it for me. Races are a complete lottery

    1. Street races and ovals may as well be lottery ball tumblers, but the real race tracks are worth watching.

  9. IndyCar is my current favorite racing series at the moment. With the road courses they have now (Watkins Glen, Road America, Sonoma, Barber, Mid-Ohio), that series is definitely worth watching. The drivers in that series are definitely able to showcase their skills on some seriously challenging tracks. And for all you European viewers out there (IndyCar is available most likely on pay channels there), IndyCar is ideal evening viewing. With the exception of Long Beach and maybe Detroit, I personally don’t much like most of the street tracks- Toronto has a great atmosphere but the circuit sucks and St. Pete is only necessary because having a race in Florida is a necessity for IndyCar. Baltimore I wish they would bring back. As for the ovals- Pocono is the best oval because it’s far different from any of the other ovals and it was effectively made for IndyCars, Indianapolis is always a toss-up and it is as important a race as the championship itself- Phoenix is okay and Texas and Iowa are both pretty boring.

    The best part about going to an IndyCar race is that the events are far more relaxed than, say, a Formula One Grand Prix. You can go into the paddock for not too much money and talk to the drivers- fan interaction in that series is far greater than it is in Formula One. I went to Montreal for the GP there and although it was a great event with a really good atmosphere, I have never felt more restricted at any race and because of the nature and location of the track, and trying to see the race is really hard unless you pay an arm and a leg for good grandstand seats at the hairpin or near the start-finish section there.

    1. Your comments are spot on friend. I’m a died in the wool open wheel racing fan and I completely agree with everything you said here. In fact I don’t make comments but I couldn’t help myself when I read your comment as I feel your observations were right on. I too went to the Montreal GP and found it to be exactly the same and wish I had broke down and bought a grand stand ticket.

      1. Chip Hilton
        15th March 2017, 2:12

        Love IndyCar. Love F1. Hate race snobbery.

  10. Bourdais was graced with a well timed yellow, but he was the fastest car in the race, albeit in clean air, but was fast all weekend. Would like to have seen his quali position had he not turfed it and him fighting for the lead without a yellow. Has the old band back together and seems it might bode well for him and Coyne!

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