St. Pete: Dawn of the Aero Kit Era

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The dawn of the IndyCar aero kit era Sunday looked a lot like the previous era except with more cautions, debris and carnage. Dozens of broken winglets, ruined front and rear wings – some teams having to replace multiple wings and even borrow from other teams – and several penalties thrown in for good measure marked the 2015 season opener. Unfortunately a female spectator was hit in the head by flying debris during the race, causing a skull fracture. We suggested trained “debris monkeys” as a remedy for the numerous buzz killing caution periods. Team Penske’s dominance remained unquestioned with Montoya taking his 13th IndyCar win and his teammates finishing no lower than fifth. The only non Penske in the top five was TCGR’s Kanaan in third.

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The day began shakily with race coverage on ABC delayed due to basketball, “a boys’ game played in women’s clothing.” Turned out less Eddie Cheever and Scotty Goodyear wasn’t the worst part of the coverage. After the post-race ran a few minutes over the hour, the network abruptly took its viewers to Jeopardy which was already in progress. So much for the post race interviews. Otherwise, the coverage was about what one expects from ABC – incomplete and not a priority.

St. Pete drew a good crowd as it appeared to be a packed house on a gorgeous though breezy day. Appropriately Dollar Dale Coyne’s car driven by Carlos Huertas was the first out of the race with steering issues. This worked out well for AJ Foyt’s team, who had to borrow a $20,000 wing from Coyne for Sato’s damaged Honda. AJ’s newfound luxury of a two car team almost paid off with a split strategy, but both Sato and Hawksworth faded like a Florida sunset in the end.

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Graham Rahal received a penalty for hitting Charlie Kimball who’d already been speared and whose tire was rubbing and smoking badly. Rahal punted him, shook his fist and yelled “No smoking!” as he drove past Kimball’s spun out car. ABC cut to a disgusted Chip the Hutt who waved his hand in the manner of a miffed monarch in the reaction shot of the race. Simona de Silvestro also had a rough day in her return to the series, hitting James Jakes in the rear and drawing a penalty for her unnecessary contact.

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Contact was in abundance Sunday and at times St. Pete resembled a NASCAR “race.” Even the class of the field the Penske teammates banged into each other late in the race in a battle for the lead. Power attempted to pass Montoya in turn 10 after losing the lead during pit stops. Power banged into his team mate, hitting Montoya’s left rear and managing only to damage his own front wing while failing to make the pass. Montoya cruised on to victory and even a combative Aussie team mate couldn’t change the outcome. Roger Penske summed up the on track incident nicely after the race: “Juan didn’t want him by.”

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Also dominant in the new era was Chevrolet, sweeping the top six spots similar to its qualifying results. Hunter-Reay finished best in class of the Hondas in seventh. Chevy’s less elaborate approach to aero kits compared to Honda’s appears to be making an early difference, with less damage and greater speeds at least through the first weekend of the season. Dixon’s Target crew blew it for him with a problem in the pits and the Andretti Autosport Hondas moved forward after poor qualifying efforts when they weren’t hitting each other. Marco and Simona both had some embarrassing on screen moments.

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It was an eventful and even mildly entertaining opening race, but also a predictable one.  The new fangled aero kits have helped skew early results in favor of Team Penske. It’s a good thing the Cap’n hired four drivers this year. By doing so he increased the number of potential winners in each race  – to four.

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25 thoughts on “St. Pete: Dawn of the Aero Kit Era

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