ADD “FAST” TO THE LIST FOR RHR
If Ryan Hunter-Reay's first IZOD IndyCar Series title came with any elements of doubt or disrespect, it centered on assertions that the American claimed the title only after the faster and more feared Will Power took himself out of the championship chase.
With more poles and fastest laps to his credit, few would argue that Power has been the statistical leader when it comes to outright pace since he joined Team Penske, but with a performance like the one RHR delivered at Barber – pole position, led the most laps and kept an intent Scott Dixon behind him – there's little doubt the Andretti Autosport driver can mash the throttle.
Beginning with his opening stint where he motored out to a lead that put more than the entire front straight between his No. 1 Chevy-powered Indy car and the rest of the field, it's RHR deserves credit for his speed as much as his savvy.
“That first stint when we were 12 seconds out in the lead, I'm like, 'Wow, what can go wrong?'” he mused.
The choice of Firestone primary and alternate tires played a crucial role in how drivers were able to attack during the race, and despite getting caught behind Team Penske's Will Power for the middle portion of the race, RHR put his alternates to good use as he closed the race by drawing down the three-second lead held by Penske's Helio Castroneves to make the pass and keep HCN and Ganassi's Scott Dixon behind him to the finish.
“We raced hard with Helio and when it mattered, we got the car back where it belonged today,” he continued. “That was the most the most pressure on me, knowing that we had a car that was capable of winning, so it was paramount on me to deliver.”
NEWGARDEN PLEASED, BUT NOT SATISFIED
For most drivers, earning a career-best finish in the IndyCar Series would be a cause for celebration, but when that driver knows he could have done better, there's a bit of an empty feeling afterward.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden spent his rookie season showing flashes of speed but had little to show for it in the final standings, making his run to ninth at Barber – all the way from 23rd on the starting grid – something that left him with mixed emotions.
“We had a good day; there were a couple of guys who were buried in the field and also had to make up a lot of positions, but we kept fighting,” the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion told RACER before revealing the root of his dissatisfaction. “I had a couple mistakes in a few corners and allowed Marco [Andretti] and Tristan [Vautier] and another one by me. I think we did a great job with the situation, and especially after getting no help from yellows, but I know I could have done better than ninth without my errors.”
Even with his strongest finish to date, Newgarden left frustrated knowing he did not maximize the team's potential.
“I'm happy for the guys; my SFHR crew did an amazing job, but we should have been mixing it up with Pagenaud and Power at the end. Those mistakes I make – I got off in the marbles – I lost eight or 10 seconds and all those positions. If we'd started in the top 5, which I think we could have, we could have a really good finish.”
Newgarden and the SFHR team received numerous accolades after the race, but the Tennessean says everyone is already looking forward to what the next race might hold.
“We had a lot of people saying, ‘Hey, congrats on your top 10,' and I thanked them, but we should have had a lot of top 10s. Ninth is a good result, but not a great result. We had a good run at St. Pete, too, but had a mechanical issue and could have been up front there too. We've had good performances, but not good results. We're trying to flip that this year. We need good results. We want to start higher and finish.
“So, yeah, everyone was really pleased for the result, great job all around, but let's focus on the next one. Let's turn this momentum into something. We don't want to go to Long Beach and finish ninth again. We aren't going to be pleased until we're fighting in the top 5. Top 5s and podiums.”
POINTS LEADER AGAIN
With a pair of podiums to open his 2013 account, Helio Castroneves finds himself atop the points standings after Barber. The 37-year-old was in a similar position last year, leading the championship through the first two rounds, but he told RACER
he plans to hold onto it for a while longer this season.
“Right now we need to keep putting ourselves in this position,” he said. “Wins are important. We have to keep trying to get them. We just need to continue doing what we're doing. The team is working great. My new engineer and I are working great and we're pushing ourselves forward. We've had two strong races and know we can do the same at Long Beach. Right now, I feel very good and very positive we can keep this good thing going.”
HONDA'S HEADER DRAMA CONTINUES
After Sam Schmidt's drivers fell out of the St. Petersburg race with broken headers, Honda thought it had rectified the problem for Barber, but Ganassi's Dario Franchitti was felled after 42 laps with the same problem. Or, to be more accurate, a problem with Franchitti's headers, but not
the same issue that struck the Schmidt cars.
“The failure on Dario's car was a different issue to the St. Pete one,” said HPD technical director Roger Griffiths. “It's the first of this type that we've seen. It's too early for us to say what happened. The exhaust system on Scott [Dixon's] car was identical, for example, and had no issues.”
With the HPD team set to arrive home in southern California on Monday, Griffiths says they'll play their own version of CSI: Barber
to figure out what caused this latest failure.
“We boxed it up and we're bringing it back with us,” he said. “We don't know if it was a manufacturing issue or metallurgy or whatever, but we'll answer that and make the necessary changes for Long Beach.”
Honda also showed it was a serious threat for the win on Sunday, but watching Dixon lose to Chevy left the manufacturer lamenting what could have been.
“The performance is there, but we don't do second place very well…” he said with a laugh.