The IndyCar may be forgiven a bit of exuberance when it comes to season openers; after an offseason of pining away for DW12s to again roar in anger, any sort of IndyCar race is most welcome. But this past Sunday’s excitement registering from fans online and particularly via social media needed no artifice or rationalization. They saw one of the more exciting street races we’ve seen in some time, and served notice that in an era of hype and off-track soap operas, IndyCar’s on-track product is simply the best racing going right now.
And was there ever a lot going on! IndyCar fans saw:
- A brand-new winner in James Hinchcliffe, with the Mayor of Hinchtown definitively showing he’s not just today’s Clown Prince of IndyCar. It was a masterful, breakout performance, and one I’m sure most fans would want to see much more of.
- Simona de Silvestro reminding us that the “Iron Maiden” is the real deal when it comes to racing. A set of worn red tires cost her a podium, but she competed up front all day and came away with one of the more memorable P6 finishes in recent memory.
- A thoughtful, but aggressive Marco Andrett show his offseason work is paying off with a tremendous podium effort at a track that has been traditionally challenging for him.
- A bizarre set of strange mistakes that furthered the air of predictability. Who would have thought we’d see Dario Franchitti make a rookie mistake coming out of the pits? Who imagined Will Power’s day would be affected by J.R. Hildebrand’s “distracting driving”? Did anyone foresee the number of electrical and mechanical issues that plagued teams big and small? Even without these occurrences, it was a crazy day, one where the field shuffled, attacked, reshuffled, and responded over and over.
- Tristan Vautier proving that what the IZOD IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year proceedings might lack in quantity, they certainly compensate for in quality.
- Drivers without the setup to win—EJ Viso, Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani, Takuma Sato, and Justin Wilson—put on gritty, feisty performances to finish in the Top 10, and give us a great back-and-forth in the late laps of the contest.
- Lastly, we saw as deep and as talented a field as IndyCar has had in almost two decades put their all into a race. This was a field of drivers at the top of their game, neither giving nor accepting any quarter, but racing for the most part in an intelligent, skillful manner. Anyone who saw the performance of IndyCar’s “young guns” on Sunday has to feel very good about the future of on-track talent in this sport.
Really, though, one could go on. No race is perfect (get those caution periods shortened!), but there was so much to enjoy here, it really put a big exclamation point on the start to the 2013 IndyCar campaign.
We don’t know what final TV ratings will hold, and as fans, we don’t know how things will always play out on the business side of things. But on Sunday, the thing that should matter above all else did—good, hard racing. If the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was any indication, we are in for one hell of a season.
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Zachary Houghton runs indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.