If you went into Sunday’s race thinking that the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had it out for Charlie Kimball, I would have agreed with you. Last year, Charlie injured himself in a practice crash which kept him out of the race. A practice crash this year forced him into his back-up car for the race. And still Charlie fought through the adversity to win his first IndyCar race in decisive fashion.
It’s easy to say that Kimball’s win came down to strategy but Charlie was able to execute on his three-stop strategy thanks to putting in a lightning quick drive. While early leader and polesitter Ryan Hunter-Reay was on a two-stop strategy, it was the wrong strategy choice.
While Hunter-Reay had to conserve fuel to make it through his 30-lap stints, Kimball and other three-stop strategy drivers went at it ten-tenths for the 90 lap race. When RHR pitted on Lap 30, Kimball took the lead. However, he wasn’t the only car on a two-stop strategy as he would cede the lead to Simon Pagenaud during the second round of pitstops.
During the third round of pitstops, Kimball came in with 25 laps to go which put Pagenaud upfront. The Frenchman put in a series of blistering laps to build just enough of a lead to stay in front of a hard charging Kimball. While the strategy worked, lap traffic did not as EJ Viso stormed by Pagenaud heading into The Keyhole hairpin while the Sam Schmidt car was on cold tires. The chop move stole Pagenaud’s momentum on exit of the turn which gave Kimball a golden opportunity to make the pass into Turn 4 and gave the Ganassi driver his first career IndyCar win.
Kimball’s win made him the ninth different winner from 14 races this season and the fourth first-time winner this year joining James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud who crossed the line in second place. Rounding out the podium was Dario Franchitti who parlayed his 6th place start and three-stop strategy into his third podium in four races.
Will Power was the best of the two-stop cars on the day with a fourth place finish. Ryan Hunter-Reay was only able to convert his pole into 5th. Helio Castroneves stretched his championship lead by a couple of points by finishing one spot ahead of Scott Dixon with the pair ending the day in 6th and 7th, respectively. Justin Wilson had a respectable run to 8th. Marco Andretti switched from a planned two-stop strategy to a three-stopper after fuel conservation dropped him like a rock through the field. He was able to salvage a 9th place finish. Teammate James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top ten.
Starting in 2014, IndyCar will mandate that all engines in the series have twin turbochargers. The series was going to allow engine manufacturers to make big changes to their engines ahead of next season anyway but it looks like Honda will be forced to make a big change. The current engine spec was homologated for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The idea behind mandating twin turbos is to improve the parity between Chevy and Honda. Early in the season, we saw Chevy largely dominate proceedings though we’ve seen solid stretches by Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon carry the Honda camp. Though I can understand the argument that the playing field is level now after a Honda sweep of the podium this weekend.
According to IndyCar President of Competition Derrick Walker, both manufacturers were looking for equal turbo specs rather than balancing the single and twin turbos through the rules package. Hopefully this results in an even playing field between the two engine manufacturers next season. A little parity makes things much more exciting.
Silly season is just about ready to kick off in full force for the 2014 season. The big cars in play are the #4 Panther Racing car previously occupied by J.R. Hildebrand, the fourth Chip Ganassi Racing car and the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport car. However, the Panther and Ganassi cars will be the ones with the biggest fallout on the rest of the grid.
It’s believed that James Hinchcliffe is Target and Chip Ganassi’s preferred option for the Ganassi ride. Robin Miller reports that Hinch is looking for some long-term security from Chip, including some guarantee that he’ll succeed Dario as team leader at Ganassi. However, failing getting Hinch, Ganassi is looking at Ryan Briscoe for that seat.
Briscoe is the current favourite for the #4 Panther seat but if he goes to Ganassi, expect Oriol Servia to take that ride instead.
Tony Kanaan’s seat at KV Racing isn’t locked in either. Jimmy Vasser is currently looking for more sponsorship for Kanaan’s ride. If Kanaan looks elsewhere, his seat will be determined by who’s in the Ganassi seat. If Hinch goes, Andretti Autosport is likely to snag TK for that ride. Failing either KV or Andretti, Kanaan could end up at either Ganassi or Herta as a short-term solution.
As for drivers who are signed for next season, Josef Newgarden has inked an extension with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Takuma Sato hasn’t been signed by AJ Foyt Racing yet but Foyt wants Taku back in his car next season.
The next race comes after another three-week break. You’d think that now would be the time for IndyCar to pounce with events with football still quiet but that’s why I’m here writing instead of trying to save IndyCar. The race is the annual trip to Sonoma Raceway for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
While I wouldn’t count out Scott Dixon or any of the Ganassi cars given their recent hot streak, don’t be surprised if we finally see Will Power finally break through. Penske has won the last three races at Sonoma and Power has won two of those three races.