IndyCar: Grand Prix of Alabama ‘hot and not’ list

The drivers, teams and standouts that impressed and embarrassed in equal measure at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

Hot

Josef Newgarden – kept his head when the big moment came. Finally hooked up a consistent, fast weekend which combined with decisive overtakes early in the race, made the Tennessee native a contender for the win. There were no crazy calls on strategy but at times it looked like nerves would get the better of his pit crew. Newgarden kept his cool nevertheless, a definite mark of greater maturity. Looking forward to seeing if this loosens off both driver and team allowing them to step up and become regular contenders.

Aero kits and Barber – for a circuit that has typically offered processional races, there was some great overtaking on Sunday. I feared it would be a snooze fest on Sunday and drivers were complaining of serious understeer when they got close to the leading car. Nevertheless several made bold moves even though the Barber circuit remains too narrow for IndyCar.

Honda – who would have thought Honda’s lack of downforce relative to Chevrolet would have been an advantage? Honda’s leading runners were easier on their tires as a result which served to claw back some of the deficit to the cars with the bow ties.

Graham Rahal – like Newgarden, hooked up a consistently fast weekend combined with great overtakes and, unusually for him, good decision-making. Took full advantage of superior tires in the final stint to almost steal the win. Now he needs to avoid focusing on what could have been at the weekend, not think he has made it and focus on what he and the team did well, in order to replicate that week in, week out.

Not

IndyCar fuel tanks – the mandated fuel tanks are in that frustrating place between being not big enough and too big. Within half a dozen laps we were talking about fuel saving and strategy. In the end, mixed strategies offered a thrilling climax to the race but fuel numbers still dominate and they only excite the commentators and statisticians.

Will Power – uncool from the start. Over the line moves on his team-mate Simon Pagenaud at the start and then bemused at his drive thru penalty for hitting Sato at pit exit. ‘Typical’ was his response to the decision and that in itself was a typical petulant Will Power response.

Francesco Dracone – see last week’s ‘hot and not’ list from Long Beach.

Team Penske – Helio Castroneves running out of fuel on the last lap is pretty unforgiveable when no one else – including those on the same strategy – did. From Castroneves’ perspective, this could be a critical result when we get to Sonoma in August as he seeks that elusive first series crown.

Juan Pablo Montoya – poor in qualifying and out of sorts in the race. Had to get the elbows out to make progress but ended up tripping over other cars along the way and putting himself further back. Fortunate to still be leading the point standings after Barber but a lot of drivers he had a nice cushion over have caught right up.

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