Indy’s 2016 season consists of some of the most anticipated races of the year. In May, the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 did not fail to disappoint, especially with rookie Alexander Rossi’s incredible win. The canceling of the Boston race created a rescheduled move to Watkins Glen, which hasn’t seen an Indy race since 2010. And today, we had Indy’s return to Road America after a long, nine year absence.
The first forty laps of the race were rather quiet and uneventful, granted Scott Dixon did have an unfortunate engine failure, taking him out in the first lap. This left Will Power with a lenient and leisurely lead (he looked like he was on a Sunday drive whenever the camera found him on the track), while Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud danced about for positions 2, 3 and 4.
What broke up the predictable looking finishes was rookie Conor Daly’s rear end blowing up. The car immediately spun into the tire wall on Turn 1 with about 10 laps to go in the circuit, causing the first and only yellow flag of the race.
Had it not been for this four-lap yellow (the delay caused by the dropping of Daly’s car off the tow truck as they towed it away…), Will Power most likely would have enjoyed a very cushy win. But the yellow brought everyone close and although unfortunate for Daly, brought a little excitement to the last six laps of the race.
Pagenaud looked set to finish second until engine trouble in the final four laps led to an immediate slowing down of his car–he finished 13th. This presented Kanaan with second, who made a considerable effort to try and overtake Power in the last lap, but Power’s car proved faster in the straights making a pass nearly impossible.
The end result was Power, Kanaan and Rahal taking positions 1, 2 and 3 for the podium.
But really, the most impressive happening in the race was Josef Newgarden’s progress, having returned after his terrifying crash in Texas just two weeks earlier (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1SGzJevGjo). He suffered only a broken collar bone and hand fracture, which is hard to believe when you watch the crash again. Cleared to race this weekend (and apparently sore according to his pre-race interview), he managed a position 20 start and with a solid race, made a 12-spot advancement finishing 8th overall.
I haven’t followed Newgarden’s career until recently, but his dedication and enthusiasm for the race is incredible. Knowing the little bit I did know about the injuries he sustained in Texas, I thought it’d be impressive to see him make some progress today, but 8th after starting 20th was beyond impressive.
If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the 25-year-old, now might be the time to do it. I would say his injury slowed him down, but if we look at his progress alone in today’s race–had he started further up on the pole, maybe he would have been on the podium.
*Edited to reflect the race was at Texas Motor Speedway with Newgarden’s crash, not at COTA, 6/27/2016