Yet another race in the books, and another finish for indycar lore. Depending on who you ask, the 2013 Indy Brazil 300 was either the race of the year, decade, century… or ever. I’m not sure I have the qualifications to make such claims, but they sure aren’t too far off. There were multiple on-track passes for the lead, and even given the roulette type nature of the previous three races, we literally had no idea that Hinch would pull it out in the final corner. Especially while sitting in P4 with ten laps to go and nearly ten seconds of time to make up.
Hinch – The Canadian driver showed experience well beyond his year on his way to victory lane this weekend. Keeping his cool while Sato was just toeing the line between tough defensive driving and blocking, James pounced when Takuma over cooked the entrance to the final turn on the final lap. The patience that was displayed to simultaneously run hard, making up a couple second gap and three positions with just a handful of laps left, but wait until the time was right to finally put the deciding move on Sato. Well played by The Mayor as he clinched win number two, the second of many more this season.
Blocking – If the definition of blocking is moving from the racing line to impede the progress of another driver, Takuma Sato did not block on Sunday. The only thing he is guilty of is apexing the slight doglegs on the back straight. Sato consistently ran the inside line while apexing the doglegs for the majority of the final stint once he gained control of the lead position. There were no jerky motions to the inside and Sato had started his drift to the apex before either Hinch or Josef made their own move to the inside. In reality, if a driver is taking the Sato line, the passing zone does not open up until after the final meander in the back straight before turn 11. It was great racing from Sato, Newgarden and Hinch all the way to the end and an even better no-call from race control If you were upset with the no-call, how would you have taken race control monkeying with the finish?
Josef Newgarden – Speaking of blocking, If anyone got the short end of the stick, it wasn’t Hinch, it was Newgarden. The video replays were much less decisive in Newgarden’s case than Hinch’s. And if there was a real, honest to goodness block, it was probably when Josef violently abandoned his inside line on lap 70 due to the encroaching Sato. After a few spirited laps in the closing segment, Joseph’s tires were shot causing him to lose a few positions before coming home in his career best finish of P5.
Tires – The forced decision to run the 2012 tire compounds actually helped the racing and finish. It was clear from the start that drivers could run quite hard on the softer reds this weekend without a large amount of tire degradation with many drivers turning their personal best lap near the end of the final stint of the race while on reds. This allowed all drivers in contention to run as hard as they absolutely could almost all afternoon without the tires falling off the cliff (see Simona de Silvestro in St Petersburg). I prefer the 2013 spec tire as it opens more possibilities to alternate tire and pit strategy along with maintaining a wider gap in grip and longevity between the blacks and reds.
Cautions – Say what you will about the drivers seemingly inability to keep the race clean for any length of time some weekends, but all that yellow allowed the drivers to run hard, every lap, until the end of the race; no slowed stints due to fuel strategy. The yellow flag periods were relatively quick by indycar standards, probably because there wasn’t enough running to necessitate heavy usage of the sweepers. Yellows aren’t always the best of things, but they seemed to play into the race quite heavily; a nuance that makes 19 yellow flag laps, over a quarter of the event, more bearable than usual.
DCR and Ana Beatriz – Three DNF’s in four races that were all the result of some type of mechanical gremlins have really put Ana Biatriz and the second car at Dale Coyle Racing in a tight situation. I fear that her perdicimant is shining the spotlight squarely at Dale’s poor prep work on the second, rent-a-seat ride. I was honestly shocked on Sunday when her engine cover came off and there was helicopter tape, the extremely expensive tape used to cover seams and find hundredths of a second, stuck to the cover as well. Ditch the tape and spend some time finding out what the heck is wrong with the second program. Ana and Justin Wilson deserve more out of their operation.
KV Racing – How in the name of the Borg-Warner did KV manage to run Tony Kanaan out of fuel while in Brazil? Tony’s final sponsorship check for the weekend must not have included three full tanks of gas. That, or Vasser is far worse at race strategy than anyone could have dreamed of. This is the same guy who pulled Takuma Sato out of the lead, and an almost sure win, at this very track in an attempt to go “off strategy”. I’m not sure where the KV crew learned to call races, but they could really use a refresher course. TK does not deserve to be locked into the bag-o-snakes that is Vasser, Kalkhoven, and their KV Racing crew.
For the fourth race in a row, I was muttering to myself that I need to start taking Ryan Hunter-Reay more seriously. The 2012 champion still feels like a dark horse for me, even after four competitive runs this year. Although no one is watching, indycar has the most momentum heading into The 500 than it has had in a long time. There is no way there wasn’t increased casual exposure in the wake of the Brazil finish; see this article on Jalopnik, a casual motoring website, for proof. We have 33 entries lined up with the promise of one or two more possible late comers. That’s it for the opening act of the 2013 season; on to Indy and the meat of the season.