GOOD & BAD: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season
Another year of Verizon IndyCar Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Scott Dixon was crowned the series champion. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.
Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.
GOOD: After the performances we’ve seen, nobody can doubt the talent that Alexander Rossi has. His ability to save fuel at Gateway Motor Speedway is worth an applause, as his ability to hit the fuel number in a discipline matter despite fast cars all around him proved to not be easy. He was rewarded for his efforts, too, finishing second.
There was also this incredible save that night.
BAD: While being hard charging, it doesn’t always work in your favor. Just ask Rossi what happened at the Grand Prix of Sonoma. Contact with his teammate Marco Andretti on the start of the event caused a flat tire, relegating him back deep in the field, down a lap at one time. He drove hard as he always does, though, charging back up to a seventh-place finish. Just imagine with that speed what could’ve been, though.
GOOD: I hope Rossi doesn’t change his style too much despite that, though, as it produced many highlights. He became the man of passing at ISM Raceway, making a total of 52 passes to get himself up to sixth with 20 laps to go, including having to unlap himself following a pass-through penalty.
GOOD: Ryan Hunter-Reay, showcased why he is a past series title holder with a dominating flawless performance at Sonoma en route to the victory as he wasn’t passed for the lead at any time during the event, but only through pit stops.
GOOD: Anybody remember Frogger? He’s just the safety official that retrieved a piece of debris that was dropped during pit stops.
BAD: While it was an impressive performance, it also highlights another thing. You’d think that there’d be better rules in place to protect people as this could’ve been worse very quickly.
GOOD: Shout-out to Patricio O’Ward. He goes from winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Championship last weekend, to testing an IndyCar for the first time on Thursday, qualifying fifth, and placing ninth in Sunday’s race with Harding Racing. His audition certainly showcased the ability he has behind the wheel that allowed him to ascend up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder smoothly
BAD: The ovals in IndyCar typically bring forth exciting racing – well, that wasn’t quite the case at times.
At ISM Raceway, for the most part, that was missing. It’s understandable as the drivers were fighting to find grip anywhere at times, fighting the steering wheel even on the bottom groove. So to expect them to go into a second line that’s unproven – you may be asking for too much.
Then at Pocono Raceway, it may have been thrilling to watch someone dominate and find an edge (Rossi), it also makes for a very boring race day as nap time becomes more tempting as the 200 laps click away. The aero package produced very little passing under the green flag, with pit stop strategy the only variable to produce changes in the running order.
BAD: Robert Wickens’ crash at that Pocono Raceway event. Battling for position, Wickens made contact with the back of Hunter-Reay, before going over top of the No. 28 DHL Honda’s nose, over across the top of the wall, and into the catchfence where he spun like a top before landing.
GOOD: The safety innovations by the series allowed Wickens to not only survive the crash, but he continues to improve each day through his rehab.
BAD: The repairs made to the fence, following the crash, as explained by Sebastian Bourdais.
“I’m old but I’m not wiser,” he told NBC Sports Network. “Everybody’s in the seat and you gotta go. I wasn’t happy with it at all. The construction guys said thumbs-up; I’m glad nobody tried it because I’m not sure that would have been satisfactory. It’s just tough moments.
“When we saw the extent of the damage I had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t gonna get fixed properly, and it wasn’t. The cables were loose, and it was just like, it was pretty lousy. So I wasn’t happy with it at all.”
BAD: Drivers and the way that lap traffic was handled, as shown at the Grand Prix of Alabama. It became a controversial point post-race with Simon Pagenaud telling Gabby Chaves how he felt, along with Spencer Pigot being raced unfairly by Zachary Claman De Melo, catching the attention of Marco Andretti.
When you’re knee-deep in lap traffic, the only thing you hope as a leader is they don’t mess you up. You also know the lapped drivers are supposed to let you run your race. Claman de Melo – that’s a different topic.
“With the two-lap penalty that we received yesterday, we knew we were already at a disadvantage,” he said. “So, the main goal today was to show my race craft aboard the No. 19 Paysafe car, show that my pace was there and to show that if we would have been on the lead lap that we could have definitely fought for a top 10 position. I think we did that with how I was able to pass other cars on a track that is known to be difficult for passing. We had good pace, and the fastest race lap, so it was a positive weekend overall even if it didn’t go our way.”
Certainly he showcased his ability – but at what expense? You’re two laps down buddy, show some respect for the leaders. How would he feel if the roles were reversed?
GOOD: While those fence repairs may have sucked and it would’ve been nicer to see the drivers play fair at Barber, there’s one thing you can say – isn’t it great to see drivers expressing their honest opinions? Maybe even sometimes a little too honest, though.
BAD: The way the race officials handled the rain at Barber Motorsports Park before eventually post-phoning the race a day.
Certainly racing in the rain can be entertaining, but safety is a priority. When you have drivers like Graham Rahal saying they can’t see, you know there’s a problem. I was surprised at the attempt to go back green and was relieved to see the red again after Rahal spun under caution. These decisions need to be looked over and improved as Paul Tracy was right when he said “it just turns into a full-panic knee-jerk reaction.”
That said, I applaud new pace car driver Oriol Servia for his insight for TV, and what he offered race control. He’s smart in keeping fan concerns in mind by saying, “If we just run laps to get to the halfway mark, we’re cheating the fans.” I honestly don’t get the time wasted on the postponement decision as the radar told you the rain wasn’t going to let up.
GOOD: Despite the highs and lows of the season, the broadcast team continued to exceed on a weekly basis. The commentary throughout the events was top-notch, with tough situations handled with the utmost respect. Combined with great pre-race features, and things are in great hands via NBC Sports.
BAD: While I praise the broadcast, can I also mention there were too many commercial breaks in the final stretch of races some weeks? Let’s clean that up, please.
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