2017 IndyCar series: Watkins Glen talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By Andrew Kitchener, Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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    The Indianapolis 500 is back. (Image: Creative Commons)

    The second-last weekend of the 2017 IndyCar Series season promised so much, and it delivered a potentially championship-changing race on Sunday.

    Here are the big talking points from the classic upstate New York road course.

    A dream weekend for Alexander Rossi
    The Californian had a pretty good run of things at Watkins Glen. Prior to race weekend, it emerged that he and sponsor NAPA Auto Parts had signed multi-year extensions that’ll keep them both at Andretti Autosport and in a Honda for the foreseeable future. Then he went out Saturday and won the pole. On Sunday, he led 32 of 60 laps and withstood a patented Scott Dixon challenge to claim the win – no easy feat. Dixon isn’t called the Ice Man for nothing.

    Rossi’s Watkins Glen triumph is his second career IndyCar Series victory and his first since the 2016 Indianapolis 500. The way he’s improved in leaps and bounds late last season and all this season, I feel like the #98 Andretti Honda is going to be a pretty regular feature in victory lane for a number of years to come.

    Disaster for Josef Newgarden

    A pit lane incident is bad. A pit lane incident when you’re already mired in the middle of the pack and need a decent finish to salvage as many points as possible to extend your championship lead is the stuff of nightmares. Coming out of his stall on lap 46, Newgarden tried to beat Will Power out, and lost control on cold tires, whacking the guardrail, before the helpless Sebastien Bourdais ploughed into him from behind.

    “No excuse for it. It was my fault,” Newgarden said afterward.

    I’m sure the Tennessean knows the dire situation he’s in now. A pretty decent thirty-one point lead has been whittled away to nothing, with Ganassi’s Scott Dixon just three markers back, heading into the double-points finale at Sonoma in two weeks. Newgarden might well rue his decision to race Power out.

    The championship fight is seven-wide heading to Sonoma
    Well, mathematically, there are seven guys who can win the series still: Newgarden, Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Australia’s Will Power, Graham Rahal and Rossi. Fair to say, it would take a calamitous series of events to see Power, Rossi or Rahal win, and Pagenaud is going to need to basically win every session there is if he’s going to claim back-to-back titles.

    But stranger things have happened in the IndyCar Series. We saw it this weekend at Watkins Glen and we saw it two years ago at the Sonoma finale, where Montoya coughed up the championship title. So anything’s possible.

    You can’t ask for much more than IndyCar has served up this year: a tight points battle all year long, and multiple drivers with a legitimate shot at snatching the title at the finale. I can’t wait!

    One hundred for Ed Carpenter Racing
    It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the owner-driver operation, but Carpenter and his Chevrolet crew celebrated their one hundredth race as an organisation this weekend. Their 2018 plans will be interested: does Carpenter continue to run the oval races in the second car alongside J.R. Hildebrand or will the Indianapolis Motor Speedway specialist step back and put Spencer Pigot (or someone else) in that car full time, with a third entry for himself at Indy? One of a handful of silly season questions that will be answered in the near future.

    Tony Kanaan has a ride for 2018
    The affable Brazilian – the guy I want to win when Rahal and Power can’t – told Robin Miller on a Racer.com video on Friday that he had a paid ride for 2018 and 2019. Miller speculated that it was either with Andretti Autosport, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Dale Coyne Racing or A.J. Foyt Racing. Racer also confirmed that Kanaan would not return to Ganassi.

    Watch the video and you see TK’s face light up when he talks about having James Hinchcliffe as a teammate, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn in the near future that Kanaan will be in the second Schmidt-Peterson Honda alongside Hinch next year. What a fantastic, media-savvy, fan-favourite combination that’ll be!

    The IndyCar Series finale is two weeks away at Sonoma – see you then!

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