Today’s question: What was your biggest takeaway from the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst last Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park?
Curt Cavin: I suppose this is obvious, but it’s how much the mental side of the sport plays to the physical. Clearly, Arrow McLaren SP was in some degree of disarray to open the season, with star driver Pato O’Ward frustrated with the team as he tried to get a new contract at a level he deemed appropriate. After two disappointing races, the parties gathered at Long Beach and reportedly got things squared away. O’Ward immediately looked like his old playful self, finishing fifth in that weekend’s race. Another strong run followed at Barber, capped by O’Ward’s first victory of the season to climb to fifth in the standings. Thirteen races remain, more than enough time to erase the 30-point deficit he has to series leader Alex Palou. The field should be on alert.
Zach Horrall: While his finish wasn’t indicative of how he performed, I left Sunday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park incredibly impressed with Callum Ilott. His speed wasn’t just a one-off. He placed in the top 10 in each practice session, he paced final practice, and he qualified a career-best 11th – all in a car fielded by the smallest team in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock. Sure, it was a bit of a rookie mistake that took him out of contention in Sunday’s race and led to a 25th-place finish, but those things will happen in your first year as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver. Ilott showed why he was such a hot prospect in F2 and why his name was thrown around as a potential Formula One driver. What’s clear is if you give Ilott a good car, he can drive the wheels off it. I hope to see more of it in the future, like maybe even next week in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS, where he made his debut NTT INDYCAR SERIES test, but also in the distant future. I hope Ilott plans to stick around the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Paul Kelly: I continue to be impressed with the rebound by Chevrolet this season. The Bowtie is now 4-for-4 in visits to the winner’s circle after Pato O’Ward’s victory in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Let’s not sugar-coat it: Honda was superior in the last two seasons, winning the championship and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge both years. Honda won 10 races to Chevy’s six in 2021 after the two manufacturers split the 14-race season in 2020. But Chevy has re-emerged as a Race Day force in 2022. The pure pace equation remains tight, with the two engine manufacturers splitting NTT P1 Awards at the four events so far this season. It will be interesting to see how Chevy’s resurgence looks at Indy, where it powered only two of the first nine starters in the “500” last year and only one of the first 12 starters in 2020. The power pendulum appears to have swung back toward Detroit in the last 12 months, and I would be stunned if Honda – still a formidable and reliable rival for Chevy – locks down the front of the starting grid in a similar fashion in a little over two weeks.