Picking out the good and bad after one of the most thrilling and dangerous IndyCar races in recent memory.
The drivers – almost every driver (more on that later) in the field for putting on one of the most thrilling, exhilarating and downright scary races I’ve seen for years. The margins between cars at 200mph plus were miniscule and the constant 3, 4 and sometimes 5-wide moves through the turns had my pulse racing.
Marco Andretti – good to see a glimmer of Marco’s potential still flickering at Fontana. I tipped him to be Honda’s hope in the race and for two-thirds of the race looked just that. Out-muscled by Rahal (more on that later) to take the win but a podium was well-deserved and a much needed boost for Andretti Autosport.
AJ Foyt – telling it how it is after the Power/Sato crash.
Sage Karam – the rookie finally showed the promise and potential that convinced Chip Ganassi to give him a shot this season. Needs to transfer that to street and road courses when he gets the opportunity.
Tony Kanaan – always there, always strong, always in contention. IndyCar’s ‘Mr Consistency’. Frustrating that his form this season should have him in contention for the championship.
Honda – a bang to rights, bona-fide, not rain-assisted win for Honda is a much needed boost for them and the series. At a time when they are looking at what comes after 2016’s 100th Indy 500, a win on speed alone is good for everyone associated with IndyCar.
Graham Rahal – he’s been a revelation this season with his speed, consistency and a maturity that has been seriously lacking to date. Despite getting the win we saw the old Graham reappear in California. Clearly he saw an opportunity to win fair and square at Fontana but at times he was overly aggressive in crowding and squeezing rivals. He and not Ryan Briscoe was the real cause of the accident that took out Castroneves.
Pack racing – unfortunately Saturday, for me, crossed the line between fantastic racing and dangerous racing. My heart was in my mouth almost every lap hoping the latest 4-wide move would not result in a catastrophic accident. There were many references to the tragic events of Las Vegas in 2011 and rightly so. The racing on Saturday was spectacular but only because no one was injured. Ryan Briscoe’s accident could have been very serious. NASCAR can handle pack racing because the drivers are much more protected. Tight, inch-apart racing at high speeds with open-cockpit, open-wheel cars and catch fencing is not a good combination sadly.
Will Power – a race weekend to forget for the defending champion. Mistake at first pitstop when he almost pinned his tire man to the pit wall set the scene that culminated in petulant and brattish act of shoving the safety team after his crash with Sato. Emotions run high but there is no excuse for treating the people who might save his life that way.
Pit dangers – Power’s tire man got away with it but Dale Coyne Racing saw another crew member carried away on a stretcher after a pit stop gone wrong. This is starting to feel like a pattern so is it time to mandate that all pit crew must remain behind the wall until the car stops?
Sato – just when AJ Foyt could have done with a strong result Sato’s ‘win or crash trying’ mantra came to the fore again. On pace Sato could and should have matched or surpassed both Rahal and Andretti on Saturday.
Fans – yes the date has moved for the third time in as many years but anyone bemoaning the lack of ovals on the IndyCar schedule should take a look at the crowds for qualifying and race day at Fontana. That is why there are not more ovals on the schedule.