Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Phoenix & Long Beach Megapost -- 2018

Hey there Internet! Well, it only took us two races into the year to fall behind. In my defense, however, those weeks happened immediately after Easter. And, a cleric such as myself (I think I'm probably level 3) can hardly be expected to function clearly for at least 10 days after Easter.

Anyway, I'm back and about to get all kinds of insightful about the last two INDYCAR races. Let's start with the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (or DDWVCPGP for short). Here we go!

The Phoenix Scorecard

FinishDriverGridLedCompletedARPRees ScoreIndex

Quick Hits -- Phoenix

- First and Foremost: You can tell a lot about a race by the Rees Score of the winner. I've looked at this before, and probably will give it some more attention in an off-week post in the future. But, the short version is that the lower the winner's score, the more competitive the race. In this case, Newgarden wins with a 75.18 score, indicating a high degree of competitiveness. I'm inclined to agree with this, even if most of the competitiveness came in the form of Power and Bourdais, who finished far from the podium (very far in my Australian Overlord's case).

- Happy, Happy, Happy: The happiest driver of the race (represented by highest Index) is Ed Carpenter. The series' resident ovals-man, Carpenter didn't qualify terribly well. Now, this shouldn't be surprising. With the exception of Phoenix in 2016, the owner/operator of the Number 20 entry hasn't qualified well on a flat short oval (Phoenix or Milwaukee) pretty much ever. I have a theory as to why. They drive the most like road courses of any oval, and there's a reason Ed doesn't drive the twisties. All that is to say that he went out there and ran well (ARP right around 10) and brought it home P7. Solid drive Ed. Can't wait to see you at Indy.

- Wickens Watch: What a first two drives for Robert Wickens. I am almost willing to say that his drive is absolute proof that I don't understand European racing. Max Chilton is a multi-year Formula One veteran, and Wickens had to languish in DTM?!?! Also, much was made of this being his first oval race ever. And, that's totally fair, and I'm not knocking how amazing it was for him to put in this kind of performance, BUT this was a flat short oval: the road course-iest of the ovals, as I've said before (now, Phoenix is no Milwaukee, but we don't have Milwaukee anymore). So, probably a best-case for Wickens starting out on the oval tracks. Again, I'm not saying he won't have speed at Indy, or Pocano, or Iowa, or Gateway; I just don't think that he'd have turned in this kind of performance if those were his first. Prove me wrong, Robert, I'd love to see it!

The Long Beach Scorecard

On to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

FinishDriverGridLedCompletedARPRees ScoreIndex
23Claman De Melo2105817.368.122.57

Long Beach Quick Hits

- First-er and Foremost-est: So, we have the other end of the "You Can Tell How the Race Went by the P1 Score" Scale here. Rossi was dominant. He was dominant from the first practice session until the checkers waved. I was listening to the radio broadcast after our evening service at church, and I heard Anders Krohn (I think it was Anders...) mention that Power had a full two minutes of Push to Pass left going into the last restart. Didn't matter. Rossi was in front and he was going to stay there. Well deserved Rees Score of 93.43.

- Sad, Sad, Sad: Unhappiest driver of the race (represented by largest negative Index) was Graham Rahal. Now, much digital ink has been spilled about Graham's punts-manship of Simon Pagenaud on the first lap, and I won't rehash that here, but it gives me a chance to talk about what Index (as a stat) is. Quickly, Index compares a driver's Rees Score to the score of a hypothetical car that started, finished, and ran every lap in a given finishing position (discounting any bonuses for leading laps). So, Graham Rahal (in P5) is being compared to a driver who started, ended, and ran every lap in fifth. Rahal started and ended P5, but had an Average Running Position of almost 13.5. Now, this is attributable to his five pit stops (including penalty) while almost all the lead group (save for Ed Jones) only stopped twice; but regardless of what that huge negative Index is attributable to, Graham has to look back at Long Beach and wonder what could have been.

- Non-Wickens Rookie Watch: Zach Veach gets special mention today. After starting back in P16, Veach used solid racecraft to find himself running comfortably in the back of the top 10 in the middle third of the race. Then, he made his second stop on lap 56 (same as teammates Rossi and Andretti), which gave him enough fuel to go to the end, and when a yellow on lap 60 gave him the gift of track position Veach did not relinquish it. I'll admit that I've never been super high on Veach (even back to his Indy Lights days), but this was a good run. I'll want to see more before I fully convert, though.

Stay Tuned

Well, I promise that I won't get way off schedule again. We'll endeavor to get a Barber post up early next week. Let me know down in the comments if there's anything you want to see out of this coverage that you're not seeing. Or, you can hit me up @ScoringIndy on Twitter. I'll see you out there!

-- Guido