PRUETT: Notes from the Harvest GP

Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

PRUETT: Notes from the Harvest GP

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: Notes from the Harvest GP

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* What a delightfully unexpected demonstration of pole-winning road course speed from Ed Carpenter Racing. Strategic use of Firestone’s faster alternate tires through Friday gave Rinus VeeKay a chance to mingle with the series’ biggest stars, and he was rewarded with third – his first podium – and his third top-five finish of the year. A heavy reliance on the limited number of red-striped alternates prior to Round 2 meant VeeKay would pay a competitive price on Saturday, and with a start of 14th and a finish of 17th, he earned the The Jekyll and Hyde Award for producing the greatest difference in results during the doubleheader.

* He’d rather be racing, but if the worst-case scenario for Tony Kanaan involves commentating for NBC Sports in the future, we’ll be fortunate to have his humor and modern insights IndyCar driving on the broadcasts. And while we’re at it, what a pleasant surprise to hear our man Miller in the booth with TK and company on Thursday.

* Let’s acknowledge the quietly impressive string of races Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey has assembled. In his first year as a full-timer, the Briton has delivered six top 10s in the last nine races, closing with a season’s best of sixth at Round 2.

Harvey and MSR have been quietly putting together a string of solid performances. Levitt/Motorsport Images

* Of all the things Santino Ferrucci brings to IndyCar, the leading item is his inability to be boring between green and checkered flags. Whether it’s running up front and jousting with the leaders, or being buried in the middle of the pack and drawing considerable attention or ire – or both – from his rivals, the Connecticut native rarely finds himself without something  dramatic attached to his performances for Dale Coyne with Vasser Sullivan Racing. At the Harvest GP, his name was called more than any other, and it was said with sneers, criticisms, or ALL CAPS. On Friday, it was a continuation of the Mid-Ohio dance party with Colton Herta, a new run-in with Ryan Hunter-Reay, and pissing off Conor Daly.

* To get things rolling, Ferrucci seemed to forget the costly lesson Herta provided in Ohio to avoid placing himself on the outside of a tightening corner where he can be thrown onto the grass. Attempting to get by RHR rounding Turn 1, Ferrucci received the same handling Herta delivered last month, and the ensuing collision ruined their respective days. The treatment he received at IMS spoke to being raced by his reputation, rather than Ferrucci doing anything wrong towards RHR in the moment. And, as I wrote after Mid-Ohio, there’s a strong chance that if it had been Ferrucci’s teammate Alex Palou, or any other driver on RHR’s outside in Turn 1, the Andretti man would have been more charitable in the encounter. But, it wasn’t a different driver, and Ferrucci’s reputation – rightly or wrongly – led to another harsh outcome and a second straight scramble into the grass. (It’s also worth noting Robin Miller reported last week that Ferrucci was offered the chance to buy RHR’s Andretti seat for 2021… awkward!) From RHR: “He made a late attempt at a pass around the outside and got about halfway up alongside, at best. He was still at my corner and he just decided to keep his foot in, and he went off track. It took us both out. It’s becoming a common theme with him – it happened at the last race at Mid-Ohio when he took out several cars.”

* Halfway through Round 1, Ferrucci, running 15th, put up a strong defense when Herta, in third, was trying to get by. In the brief effort to impede Herta, Ferrucci made an error, blew Turn 1, and Herta motored away. Thanks to the TV producer’s decision to include the Andretti driver’s radio transmission during the back and forth with Ferrucci, we were gifted with Herta’s commentary of ‘Ha-ha, wanker,’ once the pass was complete.

* And there was more radio commentary offered about the driver in question as Daly unloaded on Ferrucci after the start to Friday’s race: “Santino just drove me STRAIGHT OFF THE TRACK! How does that idiot get away with it, honestly? It’s just a shame to see such questionable driving standards.” Like I said, he’s never boring.

Ferrucci has multiple rivalries in the making. Cantrell/Motorsport Images

* Finally, watching Ferrucci on starts and restarts is one of those scenarios where you want to avert your eyes, but it’s impossible to look away. Rocketing from 11th to sixth on Saturday was yet another example of his fearless approach to gaining ground when the field is in a tight formation. Despite the hits, spins, and grassy adventures, excitement is almost guaranteed when Ferrucci’s on the attack, and with the animosity growing towards him in the paddock, he’s close to becoming IndyCar’s version of UFC fighter Colby Covington. Covington, whose exceptional talent drew minimal fanfare in his early days, made a calculated turn from babyface to heel to solve the problem. With prodigious talent to back up his I-know-you-love-to-hate-me persona, the MAGA hat-wearing fighter has become one of the UFC’s bigger names, and it’s all because of the bombastic character he’s become in and out of the ring. Whether it’s with red hats or verbal taunts, Ferrucci just might benefit from embracing the hate.

* MR INVISIBLE, Round 2: Takuma Sato. If Pagenaud’s strange absence from the lead pack has been noteworthy, the bizarre disappearance of the Indy 500 winner certainly can’t be overlooked. Spinning his chance to post a fast lap on Firestone’s alternate tires – along with the rest of Round 1’s first group of qualifiers – away into the gravel trap ruined any hope of a decent race on Friday. Finishing 18th wasn’t a surprise, but after starting 17th and placing 14th on Saturday, all while teammate Graham Rahal had a competitive run to seventh, certainly highlighted the odd separation between the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entries. Since hitting the wall and falling to ninth at the end of Gateway Round 2, Sato’s produced finishes of 17th, 18th, 18th, and 14th. Rahal, meanwhile, has gone P4, P4, P7, and P7. That thing, where Dixon and Pagenaud are looking for something that’s gone missing? Add Sato to the list.

* Rahal, BTW, gets a 9.8 from the American judge for his 360-degree spin and continuation in Round 1.

* Now that they’ve learned to peacefully coexist on track, we need at least one segment of every race where Herta and VeeKay fight over the same piece of track. Having watched ESPN’s SportsCenter Friday night, and viewed its Top 10 Plays of the Day, I’m at a loss to how the wild Herta/VeeKay moments weren’t included.

Take a deep breath: The season’s over in less than three weeks and then we head into an off-season that’s guaranteed to be filled with surprise moves.

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