Race Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
LEEDS, Ala. – The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama started off on a good note for the ABC Supply team but it did not end well.
Starting 16th and 20th respectively, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly were improving their positions and by the first pit stop, Munoz was up to 13th and Daly 14th. Munoz, who started on the harder black compound (primary) tires, switched to the softer red tires but immediately started complaining that the car was not working nearly as well. So much so, the team brought him in seven laps early to switch back to the blacks. For some reason the switch back did not make the difference that they expected. For the rest of the race Munoz struggled in the car. He placed 17th.
“This was a really long day, it was one of my toughest races in IndyCar,” said a dejected
Munoz afterwards. “It started out okay and then after the first pit stop we just lost the car totally – there was zero grip in the car. I’m not sure what happened. I just wanted to finish the race and not go off track. It was my toughest race at Barber. We just have to sit down, see what happened and learn from it.”
Daly, on the other hand, was having a good run having worked his way up to 12th at a track where passing is very difficult. Given the challenges of the day before with the electrical problems causing him to miss a practice session, it was encouraging that he was running competitively.
The team had solid pit stops until the most critical one of the race which was the final one under caution on lap 64 of the 90-lap event. With everyone pitting at the same time, positions can be gained or lost by thousandths of a second. Unfortunately for Daly, there was a problem on the pit stop which cost him three positions.
With 25 laps to go, the team knew it would be close on fuel so they asked Daly to save fuel in the beginning of the stint so he could have it when he needed it at the end. He tried to stave off a charging Will Power and Charlie Kimball (who’d made late stops), but the fuel consumption was higher than expected. Daly ran out of fuel and coasted across the finish line. He finished 18th, losing three more spots in the final lap.
“I thought that was one of the hardest fought races I’ve ever driven,” Daly said. “I passed Chilton on the outside of T13 – I was super happy with that. We were making moves—we weren’t just sitting back --and that was really nice to do. I felt like we had the car to attack and I was able to make some moves and I had some fun but issues outside of my control are still plaguing us. But all of that stuff comes around so hopefully we can have things go our way at some point. But until then I’m going to still try and do my job.”
Joseph Newgarden won the race for the second time in his career, and the first time driving for Penske. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five.
The teams are heading to Phoenix for their first night race and oval track race of the season. The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be broadcast live this Saturday night starting at 9:30 p.m. ET.