If you’ve been anywhere on the interwebs (and if I’m being completely honest, well, you are right now) you’ve already noticed the sheer volume of words that have been a lot of words spent on the finish of the first race of the 2018 season. Whether you think Rossi was at fault, or Wickens was at fault, or it was just one of them racing deals, there is only one question:
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?
When you boil it all down, those four words and emphatic punctuation sum up the feelings of your humble host. It certainly looked like Alexander Rossi had the fastest car at the end of the race, as evidence by the two or three tenths of a second he was gaining on Robert Wickens each lap. Then again, if you were watching the ABC broadcast and not following along with the tremendously helpful Verizon Indycar app it’s entirely possible you didn’t know that. When ABC shows races…these things happen.
And considering that a restart with two laps to go has a very good chance of breeding another caution, it seems to me that Rossi calculated this was his last, best shot to win the race. Now, you may think that he should have not tried the move to the inside on the front stretch given that Wickens left the entire inside lane open while Rossi got the jump on him on the restart, but…come on, man. Racers gonna race!
This is not to say that I’m not #GuttedForWickens like so many others, Canadian and otherwise. He stunned everyone by winning the pole and then spent the next 108 laps showing everyone it wasn’t a fluke. But he was two laps from a storybook ending that didn’t happen, and he can’t feel too good about leading most of the race and coming away with the same amount of points as Max Chilton.
Question for the studio audience: since this was Wickens first Indycar race, is it possible he simply wasn’t expecting so many passing attempts? Between his first-lap incident with Will Power and the showdown with Rossi, it certainly seemed like he expected those pass attempts to back off in the turns.
Oh, where is Derek Daly when we need him to pontificate about “the Human Drama”?
But, in all seriousness, now WE ALL KNOW that Wickens is the real deal, at least on street circuits. His teammate won at Long Beach last year, so it won’t be long before he gets another legitimate shot at victory. And he just made a boatload of fans despite not having his face or voice shown for the entire broadcast. Again, on ABC…these things happen.
Oh, by the way, Sebastien Bourdais won the race. And Graham Rahal finished second. And they were both on some fuel saving strategy and were probably gonna be really pleased with third and fourth until Rossi got his adrenaline all worked up. Here’s a pop quiz: what do all four of these drivers have in common? I’ll give you a hint – they don’t wear bow ties. Honda’s definitely looked superior and not just in the box score.
Conversely, no Team Penske entry finished higher than 7th. Either Chevy has work to do or Helio has cursed his former Indycar teammates. Just for fun I’m going to go with the latter. If they have similar results in Phoenix I’ll be all over social media proclaiming “The Curse is REAL!”
(“This is why we don’t get invited to nice events” – The Spotter)
This week’s honorable mentions include:
The Universal Aero Kit, for looking marvelous, and accommodating a record number of overtakes for this race. We didn’t see that many of them, but again, with ABC broadcasts…these things happen.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who after rebuilding their staff over the winter, were in place to place their both drivers in their Maple Leaf Mafia in the Top 5. Wickens didn’t finish but James Hinchcliffe ended in 4th place.
Ryan Hunter-Reay started the race in the pits, then drove his way to 5th place. With any luck, he’s going to have an epic season. He just has to try finish ahead of his teammate Rossi.
Scott Dixon, who Sato’s Takuma Sato, served a penalty, and still came back to finish 6th.
Helio Castroneves, who took time out from his sports car schedule to give a stout “Start Your Engines!” command, and then hopped into the broadcast booth to show he could dominate the commentary as well if Roger Penske would only let him.
New Race Control Overlord Kyle Novak, for letting racers race and keeping the yellow flag laps to an absolute minimum. He was in a no-win situation at the end of the race, and he erred on the side of encouraging a more exciting product. And I’m sure Wickens completely disagrees with me now and I totally understand that.
Final Lap: Did you see all of those Alfa Romeo commercials during the broadcast? That’s an interesting ad buy for a company that reportedly has interest in becoming the third engine manufacture. The fact that they are opening up their wallet for commercials says this interest is more than lip service. Which is fine, because a Guila Quadrifoglio would make a lovely pace car!