Article by Jacob Black, photo courtesy of IndyCar
To say this was a big weekend in motorsport is like saying that the Pontiac Aztek was “mildly unappealing”. There was MotoGP in Texas and IndyCar in California. The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship was also in Cali, while NASCAR headed to Darlington to a track labelled “too tough to tame” and nicknamed “the Lady in Black”.
Ironically, NASCAR and the Tudor Series were the least controversial of the series this weekend.
MotoGP got off to a bizarre note when Jorge Lorenzo launched his Yamaha as soon as the start lights were illuminated – you’re supposed to wait until they go out again to go. The massive jump start earned him a ride-through penalty which he served even before it was announced because some things are just obvious.
With Lorenzo out of the running Honda phenom Marc Marquez simply walked away with a comfortable win over his teammate Dani Pedrosa. In third place was Andrea Dovisioso, whose result will give cheer to one half of the Ducati garage. His teammate Cal Crutchlow ended the day in pain after a monster crash. That crash came about after the Brit had pitted for a new rear tire, and just one race after a bizarre electrical problem left his bike cutting out randomly on the main straight in Qatar.
Ducati and Yamaha both struggle for pace while Honda dominates up front.
In IndyCar Briton Mike Conway scored his third ever win in the series driving for Ed Carpenter’s squad. Conway famously quit AJ Foyt’s team after declaring that ovals were too dangerous, but found a perfect match in Carpenter. Carpenter can’t race on street courses, but punches above his weight on ovals, while Conway refuses to race ovals and excels on street courses. The yin-and-yang duo were vindicated by Sunday’s victory.
Conway held off Aussie Will Power who again escaped a penalty despite most fans believing one was owed. This time around even Power thought he deserved one, telling reporters post-race that “I’m surprised I didn’t get a penalty” after he punted (former) friend Simon Pagenaud. Power’s faux pas wasn’t a patch on Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay’s blunder though – more on that later.
The Tudor United SportsCar Championship needed a trouble-free weekend after the first two races of the inaugural season were marred by clumsy officiating. With only two of the four classes on show at Long Beach, officials were under intense scrutiny but performed well. The intriguing-but-uncontroversial race was won by Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett after Pruett passed the No.10 of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor late in the race. Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia claimed victory in the GTLM class aboard their Corvette.
A streak of seven different winners from seven straight NASCAR races so far in 2014 was broken at Darlington by Kevin Harvick. Harvick dominated most of the race but needed a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish to get back past Dale Earnhardt Jr and snatch his second win of the season.
Green Flag: In most sports there are once-in-a-generation stars who do more than shine, they change the sporting paradigm for that series. Like Valentino Rossi before him, Marc Marquez is one such sportsman. The tiny Spaniard is imperious on his Honda and was never in doubt for victory at Circuit of the America’s in Austin Texas. He gets this week’s Green Flag.
Yellow Flag: There is a new toughness to Will Power in 2014 and it’s exciting to see this very quick racer in such an aggressive mood. However, his brash overtaking attempt on Simon Pagenaud left the Frenchman fuming for good reason, and Power was once again lucky not to cop a penalty.
Black Flag: IndyCar’s Ryan Hunter-Reay seemed unable to recognize his own error after triggering a multi-car pileup in California. The American instead claimed Josef Newgarden should have given him more room in their scrap for the lead. Reality is that RHR was never close enough for his lunge on Newgarden, and his clumsy attempt put both cars in the wall, with RHR’s Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe also caught up before Jack Hawksworth, Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato all piled in. Helio Castroneves was lucky to avoid major damage as Hunter-Reay wobbled across the track and collected him immediately after the crash.
Hunter-Reay’s team boss Michael Andretti simply said his driver, “Needed to be more patient”, while Hinchcliffe said “patience is a virtue and someone wasn’t too virtuous today”. If there was any doubt about who the Canadian was referring to, he dispelled it instantly by expressing his condolences to Newgarden and his team and throwing his teammate under the bus.