Rating the heroes and zeroes from IndyCar’s return to the iconic Road America circuit in Wisconsin which hosted massive crowds and a thrilling, grandstand finish.
IndyCar Road America 2016 heroes
Hero – Josef Newgarden
IndyCar’s bionic man astounded many by lining up to race at Road America. Not content with bouncing back from a horrible accident two weeks ago, Newgarden promptly raced at one of the season’s toughest tracks to a top 10 finish. Going up against the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, he raced like a driver in top form and peak fitness. Mighty impressive.
Hero – Conor Daly
Whilst he is unlikely to beat Alexander Rossi to Rookie of the Year honors, Daly’s season is becoming more and more impressive. Road America is a true racers circuit and despite never racing there, Daly was at the sharp end of the field all day. A top 6 finish was definitely on the cards and with Pagenaud’s problems late on, it could have been higher. Suspension failure ruined a great run but credit to Daly for apologizing to Hunter-Reay for claiming contact put him out.
Hero – MSNBC commentary team
A pleasure to get back to MSNBC’s coverage of IndyCar and swap Scott Goodyear’s stating the obvious commentary style and the underlying Goodyear/Cheever tension for the smart and humorous Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell
Hero – Will Power
We saw a glimpse of the old Will Power from 2014 at Road America this weekend, back to his dominant self (with ironically, the help of a late full course caution). I tend not to enjoy Power’s dominant races much but in context this one was important for the series. With Pagenaud seemingly closing in on the championship and Scott Dixon blighted by more technical issues, good performances from the other title contenders were vital. Power looked like a sitting duck as Tony Kanaan closed up during the final laps on Firestone reds. A shrewd use of his remaining push-to-pass allocation took care of Kanaan despite TK’s mighty late charge.
Hero – Road America fans
Attendance at Road America over the entire weekend was a joy to see. It felt like a (good) step back to the glory days of CART at Elkhart Lake. I hope IndyCar was taking note of what happens when the series returns to quality, historic race tracks. There is no need to be going overseas or forcing street circuits on to the schedule that have questionable levels of city support when there are still classic IndyCar tracks remaining unused.
Heroes – Castroneves, Kimball and Hunter-Reay
While Montoya gave Kimball a big thumbs down for his race craft on Sunday, some of the moves between Helio, Charlie and Ryan during the race was tremendous. There are few other road courses on the IndyCar schedule that could offer the almost 3-wide racing we enjoyed at the weekend. Credit specifically to these 3 but to the drivers in general for mastering the skill of racing hard and still being able to be friendly and civil to each other post-race.
IndyCar Road America 2016 zeroes
Zero – TV director
Reviewing the TV coverage it was clear the director leading the TV coverage for MSNBC was having an off-day. As obvious passing moves were being lined up coverage would cut away to the front 3 who were for 40 laps, not doing much of anything. Or worse still, filler footage.
MSNBC does a better job relative to ABC on promoting the series – those filler moments that are aimed at those home who are not at their local track and encouraging them to consider what they are missing out on. But on this occasion there was no need to cut away to wide shots of big crowds and pre-recorded ‘aren’t we all having fun at Road America’ segments. The racing can and should be doing the talking.
When the race is particularly dull by all means dip in to the B-roll ‘cheerleading’ footage. IndyCar undoubtedly still needs a lot of that. But when the racing is good, stick to the on track action.
Zero – Juan Pablo Montoya
It is bad for Montoya’s legion of fans (and the series in general) that the 2015 championship runner-up is in a serious slump. Mistakes and accidents are becoming the features of his races instead of the brave, dynamic maneuvers we have enjoyed for nearly two decades.
After the bitter disappointment of 2015 many expected the Colombian to bounce back and dominate. Things have gone awry since his win in St. Petersburg
Zero – Honda
After the high of Indianapolis Honda are firmly back playing catch up to Chevrolet. The top speed disadvantage was obvious at Road America as Honda powered cars tried – even with push to pass – in vain to fend off or attack Chevy rivals. Cars carrying the famous bowtie have a strangle-hold on the championship at the moment and Honda, for pride at least, should be making inroads this season. And if not for pride, they should be doing it at least to counter any perception that they are not interested anymore after bagging the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Zero – Marco Andretti
It has become painful to watch the third-generation Andretti pedal his Honda in the series recently. From the outside it seems like both driver and team are completely lost on how to progress. Team-mates and rookies are showing Marco a clean pair of heels regularly. You have to wonder how much longer Michael can continue to pull in sponsorship based on the family name and potential that was first displayed ten years ago.
would have been a 3.5 out of 5 but final ten laps knocked it up to 4.