Thoughts and Observations on the IndyCar Firestone 600 from Texas Motor Speedway

Warning:  If you are easily offended you probably shouldn’t read this post. There was ridiculousness last night and I intend to address it first. Sometimes I honestly don’t know what IndyCar fans desire, expect, or want.  Before last night’s race could even begin the complaining began because having apparently run out of things to cover at the Belmont Stakes, NBC Sports Network started IndyCar coverage approximately 15 minutes early. Once the race began, another element complained that it was boring (apparently any oval race not the Indianapolis 500 where the cars aren’t side by side for the duration is boring).  Fans complain when the networks end a broadcast on time or switch to another channel that they may not have because it’s time for another event to come on.  They complain because something isn’t covered live. Now there are complaints because a network gave extra coverage.  Instead of complaining and tagging NBC Sports Network and IndyCar on social media we should have been thanking them. Could they have made better use of social media to notify viewers, sure – but we got extra coverage for a change – just be thankful!  Not every race can or should be side by side for the duration.  Not every race is going to provide constant passing.  Last night’s race may not have been exciting in that respect, but it was interesting in respect to how teams set up and adjusted the cars throughout the race and how drivers stayed on top of the handling of their cars.  Enjoy the races for what they are; last night’s racing wasn’t a great one but neither was it a horrible one.

With that rant out of the way, on to what I thought about the race.  As usual, much of it structured around what I tweeted during the race:

“Looks like Hinch’s race is already toast pitting at this rate.”

Andretti Autosport did not have a good night. There’s no other way to put it.  After putting 4 of 5 cars in the Top 10 in the Indianapolis 500, they failed to put any of their cars in the Top 10 at Texas.  The race started off bad and never improved for the team when Marco Andretti’s car lost an engine just 3 laps after he made some bold moves on the start.  James Hinchcliffe’s car never did handle properly and as a result it simply ate tires all night long, he consistently had to stop early than everyone else.

” I said it last weekend: Hunter Reay sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for an Indy 500 win.”

Andretti Autosport’s bad luck continued when Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car lost an engine after 136 laps.  My joke after during his very poor Detroit race weekend was that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for the Indianapolis 500 victory.  Now that disaster repeated itself at Texas, you have to wonder…  Surprisingly, it was rookie Munoz that carried the flag for Andretti at Texas by finishing 13th.  I wonder if we’re seeing a mid-season fade beginning?

“I think Power may have to pass Carpenter in the pits then work to stay in front depending upon traffic.”

It was fairly obvious that Carpenter had a better car in traffic than Power did.  Early on when there wasn’t as much traffic and Power was out front, he built up a considerable lead.  As the race progressed, the field strung out, and there were cars to pass, Power’s set up just wasn’t right for it.  Carpenter’s was; it was easier for him to pass and when he had other cars in close proximity to him his car just handled better.

“I don’t think Power had the car to beat Carpenter but he still had a solid P2 in the works. No excuse, there’s a button for that.”

There really was no excuse for the pit lane speeding penalty that Power picked up.  I don’t think he had the set up to beat Carpenter at the end but he had a firm handle on second.  Essentially he threw second place away but got lucky with the final yellow flag.  He changed tires and the drivers in front of him didn’t. If it wasn’t for that yellow flag he would not have reclaimed second place. He owes second to Sato’s engine.

“Montoya P7 in points. Truly – I did not expect that. I figured he’d be around 15-20. I’ll admit it – I’ve got crow to eat.

At the beginning of the season, I didn’t harbor high expectations for Montoya.  I didn’t feel the excitement that others felt about his return and I didn’t expect to see any podium finishes.  With the exception of a fourth place finish at Long Beach his results – finishing in the back half in 3 out of the first 4 races – reinforced my expectations up until the Indianapolis 500.  At the Indianapolis 500 he reminded us what he was capable of back in the day by finishing fifth (and if he didn’t have a pit lane speeding penalty he may have finished higher).  The two Detroit races saw him back to earlier season form but at Texas we saw the old Montoya as he finished third; not only was the ability and skill on display but the attitude was back in the post race interview.  I’m fully willing to admit I was wrong in my pre-season assessment, pass me my plate of crow.  I look forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds for Montoya.

“Splitting the driving duties makes things easier for ECR; they don’t have a driver championship to worry about – just winning races.”

Caveat – I’m not an Ed Carpenter fan.  That said, you can’t fault him for deciding to split the season with Mike Conway. He is comfortable on and excels on ovals. Mike Conway is comfortable on and excels on road and street courses. This decision puts this single car team at the sharp end of the stick every race.  Sure, it doesn’t put them in the running for a driver’s championship but it puts them in the running for race wins – of which they have 2 already this season.  Even though he struggled at the road and street courses, I can’t believe that it was an easy decision for Carpenter to pull himself out of the car for over half the season but without a doubt it was the right choice for the team.  They’re winning races, and after all that’s what it’s all about!

I didn’t mention it on Twitter, but I was very impressed with Mikhail Aleshin last night.  In only his second oval race he was the highest finishing rookie with a seventh place result.  The other rookies have oval experience from the ladder system, but Aleshin doesn’t. Before crashing at Indianapolis, he wasn’t looking too bad there either.  Not unexpectedly for a rookie, his finishes have been erratic but there have definitely but you can definitely tell that skill and talent are there.  Hopefully politics doesn’t pull the monetary rug of funding out from under him, I’m looking forward to seeing how “The Russian” develops.

Finally, I think it is interesting that Honda didn’t have a very good weekend at Texas.  They suffered 3 engine failures during the race and only put 2 cars in the Top 10.  Their performance has prove to be on a par with Chevrolet this year but after last night I wonder about reliability.  Let’s see what happens throughout the rest of the season.

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