THE POWER OF THREE FOR HINCH, TK – Depending on how far back you started, it made sense to go for a three-stop strategy rather than two, for Sunday's race. The two-stoppers invariably would need to do a bit of fuel saving to hit their numbers, while theoretically a three would allow those runners to run full tilt at breakneck speed and make up the difference in pit time with a series of fast laps.
Chiefly successful of the three-stop brigade were James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan, who utilized the mix of strategy and speed to climb from 15th and 18th to fifth and sixth, respectively. Given the results were achieved on a track where passing is notoriously difficult, they were impressive finishes.
“That was probably the toughest race of the year running flat out every lap at this track,” said Hinchcliffe. “I think I had more fun than anyone but (Scott) Dixon. It was like a qualifying lap every lap. We ran some good lap times and I'm just happy to bounce back after what happened in qualifying (qualified 16th).”
“We went with a three-stop strategy and despite no yellow flags we made it work,” said an exhausted Kanaan, who was under the weather all weekend. “It was a very physical race with no cautions.”
FINISHES DON'T MATCH RACE PACE – The underlying and perhaps surprising pace from two of the series' more underdog teams Sunday was not rewarded with great finishes. Indeed Justin Wilson, James Jakes and Josef Newgarden – the first two of Dale Coyne Racing and Newgarden at Sarah Fisher Hartman – each should have had a shot at a top ten based on their efforts, but all ended 12th or worse.
Wilson's race never got started after being tapped into a spin following contact from Rubens Barrichello. No matter, though, as in the next 14 laps before his first stop, he'd climbed 11 spots from last to 14th, before it all went awry on the stop with a slow right rear tire change. And Wilson made up all those spots, but one, on-track rather than via pit stops.
Jakes (laps 25, 51, 76) and Newgarden (laps 25, 52, 68) ran three-stop strategies and although they each ran in the top ten for a sizeable portion, their final pit stops dropped them out of it.
Newgarden's 12th continued his unfortunate streak of races without a top ten finish, and the same for Simona de Silvestro in the HVM Lotus. She made some impressive laps early but was down on power, pace and fuel mileage and had to commit to a three-stop strategy on principle, rather than by pace. She ended two laps down in 23rd. Ed Carpenter finished again for the 12th time in as many races, but remained even off de Silvestro's pace in qualifying.
DIFFERENT LIVERY FORTUNES – Five drivers were racing in abnormal liveries this weekend, and had mixed results. While Ryan Briscoe (PPG blue and white, LEFT) and JR Hildebrand (pink camouflage on the National Guard car) finished in the top ten, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Pelotonia, LEFT) and Oriol Servia had forgettable afternoons.
Franchitti's charge ended when colliding with Hinchcliffe in making a passing attempt on the backstraight. That required a front wing change to his reliveried GE Reveal car and left the Scotsman outside the top 10 for the fifth time in six races, all of which he's started on the front row.
Hunter-Reay and Servia, of course, were second-to-last and last with varying mechanical issues in their Pelotonia green/white and Mecum black/yellow cars. RHR's slow engine failure was painful to witness, while Servia's race never got going with gearbox issues bringing him into the pits on the first lap. It's been these two that have borne the brunt of mechanical issues from the Chevrolet perspective this year; Servia's came after his first race advancing out of his first round group, and ended a string of four straight top-five finishes in races on ABC.
PANTANO STARS AGAIN – More on Giorgio Pantano's exploits at Mid-Ohio can be found here, but in a nutshell, it was business as usual for the Italian in his sixth career start, all of them coming in substitute roles.
After shading more heralded teammate Graham Rahal all weekend, Pantano followed Rahal through the pack from their 21st and 24th starting positions as they both could run flat out on three-stop strategies. In the process, Pantano set what was the race's fastest lap for most of the day before Oriol Servia eclipsed it late in the day.
It may turn out to be his only start of the year deputizing for Charlie Kimball, but, it was another impressive outing for the 33-year-old Italian who hadn't so much as sat in a Dallara DW12 before opening practice on Friday.