The Frontstretch: IndyCar Recap: Grand Prix of Baltimore Presented by SRT by Huston Ladner -- Sunday September 1, 2013

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IndyCar Recap: Grand Prix of Baltimore Presented by SRT

Huston Ladner · Sunday September 1, 2013


In a Nutshell: This race came off as a prime example of the concept of “war of attrition.” Just by staying on the track, a driver had a good chance of making a run at the win. As drivers from the “Big Three” of Penske, Andretti, and Ganassi all had issues, those in lesser-funded cars found hope.

They also found Victory Lane. When the checkered flag waved Simon Pagenaud, of Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports, earned his second win of the year and slid into third in the overall standings. In second came 22-year-old American Josef Newgarden, from Fisher Hartman Racing, who was followed by Sebastien Bourdais of Dragon Racing. That’s two Frenchmen inside the top three. Rounding out the top-5 finishers were the Brit, Justin Wilson, from Dale Coyne Racing and Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro, from KV Racing Technology. Quite the international affair.

Simon Pagenaud is now a two-time race winner this season after powering through the field Sunday to win IndyCar’s street race in Baltimore.

Key Moment: In many ways, this race was a mess, so it’s hard to point to one specific mark as being the key moment. Lap 46, however, might be the best place to look, as it was rookie Stefan Wilson who caused a caution in turn seven. During the yellow, heavyweight Ryan Hunter-Reay retired jumbling the order and the field bunched up at the front. From then on, with all cars in close contact, the drivers put themselves through a rash of cautions, enough to make it seem like the Grand Prix was more of a Smash ‘Em Derby. The final restart, with nine laps to go, would prove to be the longest stretch of laps without a caution after lap 40.

Highlight Reel: – Helio Castroneves is likely more than happy to leave Charm City. His so-so qualifying effort put him midpack. His lap one incident required an early green-flag pit stop, placing him at the back. Through pit strategy, he moved into the top 10, seemingly minimizing the damage. But then, he had contact on pit road with a pit crew member, earning him a penalty that set him back all over again. Calling his race eventful seems apt – and he’s a driver who finished in the top ten, ninth, while extending his championship lead to 49 points.

– Will Power and Scott Dixon have probably removed one another from their Christmas card mailing lists. Power usually has issues with Dario Franchitti, but for the past two weeks, it’s all been with Dixon. The pit road incident at Sonoma. A practice crash between the two. And then, Power attempted to peek inside of Sebastian Bourdais on a restart and in doing so clipped Dixon, putting them both into the wall. Power, oddly enough, was unaware that he even crunched Dixon, thinking that he had just lost it on the long straightaway.

- Dixon has every reason to steam until the next race (which is a while away). The past two weeks have been nothing but trouble even though he’s had the car to beat both times. To say that Dixon might be frustrated is to call a killer shark a friendly animal. He’s not out of the championship battle, mathematically but he’s got to hope for Castroneves to have some kind of issue in one of the remaining races.

- Well, that about does it for Ryan Hunter-Reay as far as his championship hopes are concerned. Sure, he could go on an amazing three-race tear, but even if he does, there’s likely too many points to make up to win it.

- The Baltimore Grand Prix is likely one to be forgotten by a number of drivers, but they’re not alone. Those managing the race would probably also be happy to see this one move to the dustbin and never to be seen again. Having clarified and modified pit road rules, the series seemed to be in a good spot for the race. But for all the good, they seemed baffled by determining the racing order during some cautions; they struggled with how to blend cars that used a runoff to avoid incidents; and then, there was Dixon’s request to have his car returned to his pit. The miasma left from this race is one that will linger for a while.

- If the race at Sonoma wasn’t an indication of how bad Takuma Sato’s season has gone away, then Baltimore cinched it. Mechanical gremlins attacked his car in the early laps of the race and relegated him to a last-place finish. That’s the second week in a row that Sato’s car has fallen away due to problems outside his control.

- Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe seemed unable to get away from each other for much of the first half of the race. The two bumped and nudged one another in repeated fashion. That may not be a big deal for Andretti, but Hinchcliffe, who endured another vexing day, has still not signed a contract for next year, and his seventh-place finish seems unremarkable.

- To follow up on Hinchcliffe, however… the whole of Andretti Motorsports seemed off at Baltimore. Not only were none of the cars a factor for the win, they could barely be found in the top ten through much of the race. There appears to have been a significant performance dropoff since they surged in the early part of the season.

- Your funny moment in the pre-race show this week: Townsend Bell took Leigh Diffey for the customary lap to give viewers a taste of the track. But during the lap, the power cut out on their car… adding them to the “war of attrition” that defined this day.

Josef Newgarden’s second-place result made owner Sarah Fisher proud as the race team continues building momentum to close 2013.

Notable Drivers: Josef Newgarden and Simona De Silvestro. For Newgarden, the result is just what he and Fisher Hartman Racing need. It shows the promise that the two have and provides a sense of optimism as the season ekes towards a close. As for De Silvestro, finishing fifth is a good way to enjoy her 25th birthday. Having the two young drivers finish in the top 5 is an encouraging sign towards youth arriving in IndyCar.

From the Twittersphere:
Some deep thoughts coming in 140 characters or fewer…

Marco Andretti @MarcoAndretti
Gave it my everything today. Guys did a great job. Great strategy. Not sure i have finished a street race with an unscathed front wing :)

Luca Filippi @LucaFilippiLF
I was P10 after few laps and then we had an engine problem, lost some power and finally it went. Such a shame!The @bha car was great to drive

Ryan Hunter-Reay @RyanHunterReay
Had a great comeback going after anti-stall issue put us back to last at the start. Electrical/battery issue ended our day.

Justin Wilson @justin_wilson
“@tagliani: @justin_wilson dude can’t believe how much chaos you had to go thru today P2-P4 keep it up.” Thanks mate. Hope to see you racing

Dario Franchitti @dariofranchitti
Well, I think I’ve seen it all now…

What’s Next: The next race is actually two as the series heads to Houston for the third and final doubleheader weekend of the season. There’s only three races left, and another double crams a lot of action into a short period of time. The races, however, are a long way away, with IndyCar taking a much-needed month off (ha ha) before resuming competition. The races are October 5th-6th, with Saturday’s event at 6 PM ET and Sunday’s occurring at 4 PM. Races will be aired on NBCSN.

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