IndyCar has its annual stop at Mid-Ohio in the books. Although the battle up front was rather uneventful, there was a wealth of passing throughout the field – a good number by Mid-Ohio standards. Some notes from the day's action:
A FAIR RACE BY MID-OHIO STANDARDS – With passing throughout the field, and a relatively eventful first half of the 85-lap Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the race was far from the drudgery in years past where nary a move happened and the only action was in the pits. The DW12 was fairly racy, but didn't quite stack up for as good a race as Barber.
The quality of the Barber race was enhanced by a wider gap between the two Firestone compounds, the primary blacks and alternate reds, than it seemed to appear at Mid-Ohio. Additionally, the passing at Barber was purer than at Mid-Ohio, as Barber didn't have push-to-pass on offer whereas Mid-Ohio did. Like at Toronto, push-to-pass was present but not one of the main talking points, as it had been at Edmonton.
Either way, for as close as Scott Dixon and Will Power were all race, they needed to stay inch perfect for the duration, and that they did – with Dixon's TCGR pit crew making the difference at day's end.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION – Top rivals to the Penske/Ganassi juggernaut this weekend came from the series' two Frenchmen, Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais, at Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports and TrueCar Dragon Racing, respectively.
Bourdais, who was frustrated at not making the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday, employed a bit of reverse psychology where he wound up passing people early in the race after saying Saturday it would be difficult to pass. Moves on Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden in his first stint brought him to fifth, and he exited both of his pit stops from third.
It was Pagenaud that did the business later in the race, as Bourdais ran wide at Turn 4 and Pagenaud made it through to capture third place. Had Bourdais stayed P3 he would have been the 16th different podium finisher this year; as it is, he's the 20th different driver with a top-five (those who don't of the full-timers: Rubens Barrichello, James Jakes, Ed Carpenter, Simona de Silvestro and Josef Newgarden).
“There was a lot of fuel saving, but we're pulling it off,” Bourdais said. “I think we could have dared it a little bit more. Both times we could have made it a lot further, and I think that would have been the hot ticket. But, you don't want to be the last one out there if they pull out the yellow and close the pits for any reason. We needed the points finish. As much as I wanted to be on the podium, we will take P4 any day."
Pagenaud's podium was his third of the year, and all, coincidentally, have come in races where he had prior American Le Mans Series race experience (Long Beach, Detroit).
“I didn't think he (Bourdais) would be that close actually on the braking but I went in really deep and he couldn't make it so it was just enough,” Pagenaud said. “We were close on fuel. I was saving heaps of fuel on that last stint to finish the race.”
Either would be a good upset pick on the next two road/street races to record only the second win of the year outside the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams.
NO YELLOWS, GOOD! – Perhaps the funniest tweet I saw during the race came from Ross Bynum, an IndyCar contributor for Queers4Gears.com, who opined regarding the lack of yellow flags, “That sound you hear is Dallara ratcheting up spare parts prices due to the lack of racing carnage.”
So much of watching a race with Twitter as a compendium to at-track or TV coverage, plus timing & scoring, largely lends itself to snarky, sarcastic commentary (and yes, I'm very much guilty of that at times – including Sunday). Yet for two races running, the IndyCar drivers have behaved so well and so clean, and it's rather stunning.
Passes were made (mostly) cleanly, while the small handful of off-course excursions ended with saves and recoveries (Justin Wilson restarted on his own after his spin, and Ryan Hunter-Reay avoided getting stuck in the grass at Turn 4) that showcased the professionalism of the drivers to get going without causing a full-course caution.
This is the first time in my lifetime IndyCar has gone successive races without yellow flags, with the last having occurred in 1987 when the final two races at what was then called Laguna Seca Raceway and Tamiami Park in Miami ran without yellow interruption.
Add in Toronto, which was clean for roughly 75 of its 85 laps before the usual “all hell broke loose” routine in the last 10 circuits, and it's been very refreshing to see the field act like professionals and not cause rather dumb incidents.
Sonoma, for what it's worth, ran the first 65 of 75 laps without yellow last year before Ho-Pin Tung had an incident on the 66th lap. It's not inconceivable IndyCar could have a three-peat of races without a single yellow flag, which is funny to consider when just two races ago there were some calling for “green-white-checkered” finishes after successive races at Iowa and Toronto ended under yellow.
Naturally, that's meant no restarts and denied drivers and fans alike a chance for more potential passing opportunities. But if being “too clean” is a problem, for once, it's a good problem for IndyCar to have.