Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#GPofNOLA Could Have Been Named The NOLA Mudder 47 (Laps)

Tony Kanaan goes off course during the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park. Image Credit: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar
#GPofNOLA Could Have Been Named The NOLA Mudder 47 (Laps)

The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana was ushered in with great anticipation and hype for a 75 Lap affair. This great uplift was to be dampened (literally) by a track that suffered from the improper, or unplanned for, wick-ing of pooling water caused by rain in several key places.

True, the track facility (2.74-mile, 13-turn road course) was reclaimed from low ground swamp area near the city of New Orleans which is what characterizes the geography at the end of the Mississippi River. With this in mind, why wasn't the facility better prepared for the track to become a race-able surface in a more even way around the track?

Gabby Chaves (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins Brian Herta Autosport Honda) comes off course due to degrading track conditions during the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park. Image Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar

So full course YELLOW Flags (FCY) filled the air as much as the wet spray from the turbulent backsides of the second race-testing of the Chevy and Honda aero kits. This left (from notes) a total of 47 Laps completed of a scheduled 75 Lap race (called a 105 minute timed race on Lap 28 due to FYCs) with only about a total of 26 Laps actually raced in anger. This left 21 laps upon which strategy and fuel conservation could be applied to the race day equation.

Bravo to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who race with Honda engines and aerodynamics and were able to place both of their drivers on the podium. James Hinchcliffe was able to notch his first win in 2015 and his fourth overall IndyCar career victory while British born James Jakes finished third, his first podium finish since he finished second at Belle Isle-2 in 2013 - his second career top-five IndyCar finish.

Of the 47 Laps logged, Hinchcliffe did not go in for fuel during the last 34 laps that were run ... keeping clean and fuel management were the keys to his success.

The mudder part of the race was on display as cars left the track and hit ARAMCO barriers, slid off the track on corners then kept the tires spinning, flailing grass and chunks of mud while creeping back to a paved surface to soldier on.

One of the most controversial incidents happened on Lap 44 which turned out to be the last GREEN Flag restart - after cruising around the track another three laps on FCY.

The final full course YELLOW Flag came from a massive incident between Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pageneud, and Ryan Hunter-Reay as the drivers attempted to go three-wide in turns 3 and 4.

Pageneud slid off the track into the mud, and then back on the track in the next right-hand corner, collecting Hunter-Reay and Bourdais sending all three cars across the grass.

Bourdais slides to the tire wall and hits broadsides cracking the hull of his No. 11 Dallara (all preceding crash images by Bret Kelley for IndyCar).

Post Race Incident Quotes:

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “Really too bad about the finish because the Penske Truck Rental Chevy was really fast. It handled great in traffic and we looked like we were heading toward a good result. I'm not sure what Hunter-Reay was thinking there. He just drove us off the track and I'm just glad everyone is OK. I want to thank the fans for staying with us this weekend despite the weather. I think the No. 22 Chevy team will be able to come back strong at Long Beach.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a great race going, had some good clean racing there with (Graham) Rahal, (Will) Power — even (Simon) Pagenaud, we went side by side through Turn 10 there, it was some good racing. Then we got down to Turn 3… I’m peddling the car all the way out, it’s loose, there’s just no more room for (Pagenaud) to be out there.  (Sebastien) Bourdais, is on my left, I don’t know where to go at that point. I’m using my regular racing line – (Pagenaud) stuck his nose out there (and was off the racing line)… And just cleans us all out. I’m happy all three of us are uninjured. (Pagenaud) said I ran him out of room, but there just was no room in the first place. I don’t know what to say to that — it’s certainly a racing incident but there wasn’t a whole lot of room there to begin with. Disappointing way to end the day, we were looking for a strong finish with the DHL Honda.”

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Chevrolet):  “It was a weird race obviously. We held our own throughout the race getting as high as fourth. The Mistic-Circle K car ran good in the wet and ran good as the track transitioned. Then the race just became a succession of cautions with restarts after restarts during which I made a couple of spots and lost a couple of spots. Because of all the cautions there were different strategies and as they played out we ended up having to pit when everybody behind us had already done so. The guys in back cycled to the front and we cycled to the back with the leaders. Then with all the cautions, the guys in back were able to stretch their fuel and on the last restart I was on the inside and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) came up and made it three wide with Simon (Pagenaud). Ryan pushed Simon into the grass, he then came back on track with no control and could not avoid collecting me ending our race. It was never going to be a good day, but now with the damage to the car it is a shame because this was going to be my Indy 500 car.”

The #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda front wing aero kit of James Hinchcliffe bathed in New Orleans purple, green and gold, Mardi Gras style, winner's circle confetti at the Verizon IndyCar victory podium. Image Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar

The race also had its share of missing and damaged aero kit parts, but through it all, drivers that kept their cars clean, advanced during restarts, and stayed away from the mud were rewarded with great results.

Pos   Driver                      Team/Engine         Time/Gap
1      James Hinchcliffe     Schmidt/Honda     1h47m19.4896
2      Helio Castroneves     Penske/Chevrolet     +0.4279
3      James Jakes     Schmidt/Honda     +0.8452
4      Simona de Silvestro     Andretti/Honda     +1.2924
5      Juan Pablo Montoya     Penske/Chevrolet     +1.7564
6      Tony Kanaan     Ganassi/Chevrolet     +2.2638
7      Will Power     Penske/Chevrolet     +3.0958
8      Graham Rahal     Rahal/Honda     +4.3495
9      Josef Newgarden     CFH/Chevrolet     +5.7352
10      Luca Filippi     CFH/Chevrolet     +7.2115
11      Scott Dixon     Ganassi/Chevrolet     +7.8421
12      Carlos Munoz     Andretti/Honda     +9.0899
13      Marco Andretti     Andretti/Honda     +9.7817
14      Charlie Kimball     Ganassi/Chevrolet     +15.7221
finished the race, above - retired from the race, below
15      Gabby Chaves     Herta/Honda    
16      Carlos Huertas     Coyne/Honda    
17      Stefano Coletti     KV/Chevrolet    
18      Sage Karam     Ganassi/Chevrolet    
19      Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti/Honda    
20      Simon Pagenaud     Penske/Chevrolet    
21      S├ębastien Bourdais     KV/Chevrolet    
22      Takuma Sato     Foyt/Honda    
23      Francesco Dracone     Coyne/Honda    
24      Jack Hawksworth     Foyt/Honda
(ht: motorsport.com | nextgenindy.com)

The return of  Simona de Silvestro for a second race (in a race by race commitment) to an Andretti Autosport seat gave the accomplished female driver and the team its highest finishing order in this young 2015 season. A commitment to have a car ready for her this next weekend for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a track where she has won at and performed well, has not been announced. It would be a shame a deal can not be made by race time April 17 - 19 - Race Broadcast, Apr 19 4:00 PM ET.

Two races in the books where Carbon Fiber and Terra Firma have played a major role at bringing out full course YELLOW Flags. Let's hope we all can be treated to a competitive full run through the streets of Long Beach and see for ourselves if the new aerodynamics of the cars limit the potential of passing because of low mushroom cloud "muddy air" turbulence placed on the trailing car.

If this is the case, IndyCar will be taking a big step backwards toward a lack of fan enjoyment due to IRL style nose-to-tail railroad car racing that was prevalent during the Dallara "Crapwagon" era.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, NOLA, IndyCar, Verizon IndyCar Series, VICS, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pageneud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simona de Silvestro,


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