The reality of how tough it’s become to drive only periodically in the NTT IndyCar series was on full display the past two days for James Hinchcliffe, Sebastian Bourdais and Hello Castroneves.
Three of IndyCar’s biggest names were recalled into action at the Harvest GP doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and to say they each struggled is something of an understatement.
Hinch, making his fifth 2020 start for Andretti Autosport and replacing Zack Veach in the Gainbridge Honda, fared the best as he started and finished 13th on Saturday after going from 18th to 14th on Friday.
“It seems like an awful lot of work to pick up one spot (in owner points), but with the race length the way it was and the fuel situation, everyone was kind of in a similar boat,” said the popular 33-year-old Canadian who is expected to take his Genesys sponsorship to Andretti for a full-time ride in 2021.
“It was just how and when you use your tires, and I think we did a good job in that sense.
“Ultimately it was a pretty lock-step race and I’m just happy to finish in a somewhat reasonable position (that) gives us something to build on for St. Pete.”
Bourdais, the four-time IndyCar champ who has signed on with A.J. Foyt for the full season in 2021, hadn’t driven an Indy Car since last February at the test in COTA. He qualified 16th (photo at top) and finished 21st on Friday, then went from 21st to 18th on Saturday.
“It was a pretty trying weekend; not where we want to be, but it’s just the beginning of the relationship,” said the 41-year-old Frenchman. “We’re hoping to build something and prepare as best as possible for next year. In some respects we achieved that. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but if it was easy I may not be here.
“We have a lot to think about, a lot to go through and analyze and see what may explain what we’ve experienced this weekend. Starting from where we started today makes things very difficult.”
Castroneves replaced the injured Oliver Askew for Arrow McLaren SP and his numbers (19-20 and 20-21) were probably not what the three-time Indy winner was hoping for as he looks to continue his IndyCar career.
“The result doesn’t show how much work everyone put in to make sure I was comfortable,” said the 45-year-old Brazilian who was not in a Team Penske car for the first time in 20 years. “We tried a different strategy (three pit stops), and even if the strategy wasn’t right, it was right for me because I could push and understand the car on reds. The car is in one piece which is great and I wish we could have another qualifying session and race tomorrow.”
Bourdais summed up what was likely the feelings of all three: “At the end of the day, live and learn. Everybody tried real hard; the mechanics did a great job throwing all the changes that we wanted to try at the car – and that was quite a bit, all weekend long. We’ll keep working at it and move forward.”