OBSERVATIONS: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (So Far)
Wet conditions can make for an exciting race, but sometimes can cause headaches. The latter happened on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park as the Verizon IndyCar Series completed 22 laps before postponing the remainder of the event until Monday at 12pm ET.
Marco Andretti is hoping it goes smoother than today after he turned a good qualifying effort (finally) into a quick spin and faded to the back of the pack. Charlie Kimball and Will Power, though, weren’t as fortunate.
Kimball brought out the first yellow flag with a spin following contact with Ed Jones. It certainly wasn’t a welcome turn of events, as he was running in the top-10 and that says something for Carlin Racing after a rough start. Now, he’s simply left frustrated.
“I was just going through the corner and he ran into the back of me,” Kimball said. “Apparently the stewards reviewed it and no action taken and I vehemently disagree with that because when you are driving your race, especially in the wet, you have to be conscious of where the cars are. Yeah, its hard to see, but at the same time its just a dumb move. He is not a rookie anymore and he needs to not be making rookie mistakes like that.”
Power spun on the restart after encountering one of the standing water spots on the frontstretch. That’s something you rarely see given his ability turning left and right. Though looking back, you have to wonder if that was the right call by race control to drop the green after drivers complained on the radio about visibility. There was a moment where you wondered if the double finger salute would return.
“I could not see a thing,” Power said. “And I had just one car in front of me. It just hydroplaned on me and was out of control. I just can’t believe they went green on that with how bad it was and the amount of standing water. So yeah, very disappointing. But to me, very dangerous.”
That said, masterful job by Ryan Hunter-Reay to avoid him if you want to take anything good away from what happened. Oh, and race control red flagging the event in recognizing conditions.
Certainly racing in the rain can be entertaining as we saw with the Mazda Road to Indy, 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 today.
On that note – this is the first race for IndyCar with the new aero kits in the rain, and Rahal made an interesting observation in how the under panels of the car move the water.
“I’ve raced a long time and the lack of visibility is the worst I’ve seen by far,” he said. “The underwing is pretty powerful and it’s throwing water everywhere. On the front straight I couldn’t see my nose cone!”
Josef Newgarden, meanwhile, has been masterful to date as race leader – but we aren’t surprised, even if caught a little off guard by his save on the restart when he got sideways. He won in the rain in Toronto in 2015, and already has a win this year coming at ISM Raceway. It’d be no surprise if he finishes it off on Monday.
Despite tough conditions, the broadcast team also exceeded. Robin Miller’s feature on Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe’s confession kept everyone tuned in and entertained.
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) April 22, 2018
Let James Hinchcliffe regale you with a story about peeing himself this afternoon pic.twitter.com/qpNAHT1v7d
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) April 22, 2018
IndyCar twitter was also entertaining, thanks to Josef Newgarden’s snack desperation and a game of X and Os between Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing.
Guys, this rain red flag situation is taking a turn for the worst. We are running low on snacks here @Team_Penske. I’m not sure how much longer we can all hold out. Engineers are looking to eat their computers. Please send support 🙏 #IndyCar
— Josef Newgarden (@josefnewgarden) April 22, 2018
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) April 22, 2018
We’ll see if Monday can keep the party going well.
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