DOUBLE-BARREL BRUNO – How refreshing it was to see Bruno Junqueira not only back in an IndyCar, but actually able to race the car after twice being pulled after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 of late (2009, 2011).
With modest expectations, Junqueira did about as expected for the fledgling Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing squad in place of injured rookie Josef Newgarden. The biggest headache, beyond switching back and forth between the IndyCar and his usual PC class car in ALMS, was figuring out debrief times. After his PC pole Friday he had to wait to complete the post-qualifying press conference before having a chance to debrief with his IndyCar engineer!
A very respectable 10th on the grid became 20th with an engine change done in advance of the weekend, and contact Sunday ended his race, although he had fallen out of contention from an early spin at the same time as Conway.
“I got hit from behind early in the race and lost a lap,” Junqueira related via Twitter after the race. “I had a good pace, passed some people and was set for a good result, but I brushed the wall in the chicane and after a few corners, the suspension broke and I had to go to the pits and the day ended for me. P19. I am mad for not finishing, but happy with my race pace. I was very competitive with some fast laps.
“This new car is much better then the old,” he added. “Compare Baltimore with San Jose, both are really bad and break the car. With the chicane as well, how many car crashed there? 15? Expensive!”
OF NOTE – Oriol Servia (seventh) and E.J. Viso (ninth) recorded their first top-10 finishes since Toronto and Milwaukee respectively (both were fifth-places). Rubens Barrichello's second straight top-five finish has brought him to 11th in points.
Takuma Sato was unlucky again. Another engine change, this now shifting onto his seventh after mechanical woes at Sonoma, left him high and dry in 24th on the grid. But his early pace coupled with great strategy vaulted him to the lead, ahead of Graham Rahal, before more mechanical woes struck in the last 25 laps.
Rahal was one of two drivers who attempting to regain lost track position under a yellow, as was Sebastien Bourdais, but was the only one penalized. Bourdais spun from second and fell to sixth, where he restarted on lap 17. Meanwhile Rahal had a mechanical glitch during a caution that dropped him from ninth to 15th, and was later assessed a drive-through penalty by IndyCar president of competition Beaux Barfield, who reported he had data on his gaining the position back without it being allowed. Rahal ultimately finished 11th.
Hunter-Reay's win masked the other issues for his teammates. Marco Andretti nosed into the tire barriers at Turn 1 and ended 14th, a spot ahead of James Hinchcliffe, whose 15th included a stop on track and loss of a couple laps. Since Milwaukee in June, Hinchcliffe has had only one top-five finish and fallen from second to seventh in points.
Beyond Conway, Carpenter and Kimball, James Jakes also had a surprisingly good weekend, and was particularly racy in his 31 laps before nosing into the barriers at Turn 4.
The field is back to California on Sept. 15 for the MAVTV 500, the 500-mile season finale where a new champion will be crowned.