In a Nutshell: Team Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power fought hammer and tong for the lead all race long, with Montoya edging the defending champ out to win courtesy of a great pit stop with 27 laps to go.
Key Moment: Power had a comfortable lead over Montoya before the final round of pit stops took place for the leaders between laps 81 and 82. However, a miscue by Power’s pit crew cost him the lead, allowing Montoya to pull away in clean air for the victory.
- Power’s pit crew was likely the reason that he lost the race. Their miscue, when you add up all of the time spent on pit road, cost the team a solid five seconds on the track. That was the difference between the team winning and losing.
- After lots of speculation throughout the off-season of short fields, the actual field that ended up showing up for the race ended up being especially strong. A solid 24 cars were on the grid for Sunday’s race, a healthy showing that serves as a bright spot in what has been an otherwise tough off-season finance wise for the sport.
- After last Sunday’s NASCAR race in Auto Club which was notably marred by debris cautions, debris has been a talking point across motorsport circles everywhere. Three such debris cautions flew in Sunday’s race. Luckily, all seemed to be for legitimate debris, but there were more than a few instances when visible debris was on-track and never elicited a caution. Could INDYCAR be too laissez faire in this regard in the wake of NASCAR’s recent quick trigger for such cautions? It’s a worthwhile question to ask.
- The much ballyhooed aerokits made their long-awaited debut on Sunday, and the results were largely mixed. The race, while featuring plenty of action after restarts, spread out fairly quickly, and was pretty much just your standard-issue IndyCar street race. Its your call as to whether or not you think that’s a good thing.
- Speaking of the aero kits, it appears that the Honda cars have some work to do with theirs. The highest finishing Honda was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport entry, which posted a seventh-place result. Not exactly a great way to start the year after an underwhelming 2014 season.
- After announcing their driver lineup a mere week before the start of the season, Dale Coyne Racing had a pretty miserable Sunday afternoon. Drivers Carlos Huertas and Franceso Dracone each exited the race early due to mechanical issues. One has to wonder if the team’s shaky financial standing could become an issue down the line this season?
- Overall, the highlight of what was a somewhat uneventful race came very late in the going, as Montoya and Power dueled for the lead with less than 10 laps to go. Power took a risky line going into a sharp left hander on the backside of the course, and the two made contact. A wreck nearly unfolded as a result, but luckily each driver came away unscathed. It was the kind of hard racing one wouldn’t expect out of teammates, but my guess is that it was something of a sign of things to come in 2015, as Power and Montoya appear to be the main favorites to take the IndyCar crown.
Notable Driver: Montoya. It took a little while for Montoya to get back into the swing of things in INDYCAR, but he’s finally starting to display the form that helped him become a dominant force in the CART series 15 years ago. Montoya ran a masterful race on Sunday, stalking teammate Power for most of the event and then capitalizing on Power’s late pit road miscue. Montoya has new life in his role as an INDYCAR series driver for Team Penske, and my guess is that we’ll see more of him in Victory Lane throughout 2015.
“I saw him make the move but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position. If he was beside me I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead.’ When I got to the turning point he wasn’t even close. It is a shame we touched, but it’s all good, it’s racing.” – Montoya on late contact with Power
“[Team owner] Chip [Ganassi] told me to bring the NTT Data car back in one piece. He didn’t want to see a scratch apart from the marbles.” – Tony Kanaan on team owner Chip Ganassi
“I think that was the hardest seventh-place finish I’ve seen.” – Ryan Hunter-Reay
What’s Next: A new circuit, the New Orleans Motorsports Park, will be the site of Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Catch all the action live on NBCSN April 12th at 3 p.m. ET.
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