In the IndyCar Classic at COTA, Will Power and Team Penske were confidently leading the race until circumstances out of their control led to the downward spiral of events that turned a potentially dominant victory into a disastrous DNF. The team that benefited the most was, of course, Harding Steinbrenner Racing and Colton Herta. An 18 year-old second-generation driver, with the humility of a man twice his age, showed the young racers following in his footsteps that the best results often happen when we least expect it. We've worked just as hard as the days when fortune may frown upon us, but sometimes it all just clicks together.
The expectations were reasonably high that the Penske Racing Team could get their second win in three races at a track they've dominated at, since it was added to the NTT IndyCar Series calendar in 2010. Only a fool, or someone who hasn't been following the series for the past few years, would bet against Josef Newgarden, Will Power, or Simon Pagenaud for the win at Barber Motorsports Park! The 'fools' or uninitiated prevailed, and what we witnessed over the course of last weekend has sent seismic reverberations throughout the entire paddock.
The Penske cars were a handful for much of the weekend, and they looked more vulnerable than I can ever remember seeing them in racing competition.
Meanwhile, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal looked increasingly comfortable with their cars and could produce consistently quick laps. Even with the uncertainty over which tire was the favored one for qualifying, it was clear that both drivers could extract the maximum potential whether they were on the prime black tires or option reds. Everyone is working hard toward a desired result but as we've seen countless times in sports, some teams just get everything to click better than others no matter how heavily favored their competition is.
That's what makes IndyCar racing so much fun to watch! Two weeks after the youngest driver in the field won his first race, a driver in his early forties put on a dominant display to remind the youngins that the veterans are just as formidable as they ever were. What made the result even more enjoyable was seeing Takuma Sato's humble reaction to it all. He praised his team before taking any of the credit for his impressive performance. Even after a delayed release, following his first pitstop, he didn't outwardly criticize the team during the moment that could have potentially given away the victory to Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing. He did his talking on the track.
Sato won his fourth IndyCar Series race last Sunday, but you would have thought it was his first if you haven't been following the series. He hugged every crew member surrounding his car. He embraced team partner David Letterman, who flew to Alabama at the last minute after seeing both his cars qualify on the front row, as if a son would embrace his dad after a comparatively victorious moment. Takuma also made sure to thank his teammate for the setup he adopted onto his car, after the morning warmup. His teammate whose day was not as celebratory.
There were other drivers who had a healthy serving of humble pie. The speed was there initially for young Herta and HSR, but reliability issues put them out of contention pretty early. Patricio O'Ward didn't have the result he was hoping for, in his second race with Carlin, but it was great to see him battling with Felix Rosenqvist. Spencer Pigot and ECR showed early potential for a great result, but it did not happen as planned.
On the flipside, Marcus Ericsson got his first top ten finish of the season, Sebastien Bourdais made it onto the podium, and Scott Dixon finished in second place yet again. Humble pie always tastes sweeter when you can reward those who support you the most.