* I’m surprised and impressed by how competitive the Honda cars have been in 2017. I don’t think anyone – especially within the Chevrolet camp – thought that Honda would come out of the gate so strongly at St. Petersburg and Long Beach.
* That said, I still think the IndyCar Series championship will be won by one of the Team Penske drivers. Simon Pagenaud qualified poorly at St. Pete and started from the back of the field at Long Beach, yet still posted top five finishes in all four races to lead the point standings. Josef Newgarden has already broken through for his first Penske win, Helio Castroneves is still fast enough at 42 to have claimed two poles this year, and Will Power is could win anywhere if his luck changes.
* On the Honda side, Scott Dixon has demonstrated his usual overall excellence and Ganassi Racing handled the transition from Chevrolet to Honda smoothly. Sebastien Bourdais’ victory in the opener at St. Pete showed that good things happen to good people who work hard and I expect the Bourdais/Dale Coyne Racing combination to win more races this year. James Hinchcliffe already bagged for a win or Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and has run consistently at the front. Conversely Andretti Autosport must be worried about its sudden inability to get a car to the finish.
* I was bummed that JR Hildebrand had to miss a race due to injury, but stoked to see him earn a quality second place finish at Phoenix. His return to a full-time drive is a great story and he and Ed Carpenter form a strong duo for the oval portion of the schedule.
* To my eye, attendance was down at St. Pete and Barber, and the crowd at Phoenix looked terrible on television. IndyCar’s spectator count has held steady or grown slightly in recent years at a time when NASCAR attendance has noticeably declined so it will be an interesting trend to follow for the rest of the season.
* I’m looking forward to The Fernando Alonso Show, especially because the long range weather forecast could make for a tricky baptism to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway difficult. It’s expected to be sunny with temperatures in the low to mid 80s all week, which will create slick and inconsistent track conditions. Not only will that make things difficult for Alonso, with only 33 Indy 500 entries (and the Lazier Partners effort not yet fully funded), any kind of significant practice wreck could make for a field with fewer than 33 qualified cars.
* I hope it is a safe and exciting two weeks at IMS. If you see me at the track, please flag me down to say hello!