And Simon Pagenaud, finishing in fifth place, was one of the stars of the day, putting in some terrific overtaking moves during the afternoon. "I tell you today this car was probably the fastest one out there today," he said, calling fifth a really good result for Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. "They say you can't pass around here, but I have a few tricks I'm not going to tell anyone. It was a fun, physical race."
Another driver for a small single-car team, Mike Conway in the #14 AJ Foyt Racing car, also had an impressive day at Barber. He was rarely out of the top ten and proved to be one of the few who was able to repel more overtaking moves than he yielded to. "Happy we finished in top 10 which is what we needed - still struggling with certain level of grip out there," he said.
Conway's only bad moment happened right at the very beginning of the race. "I was on the outside of Scott and he clipped Rahal and went wide. I was on the outside and had to drift out on grass. As I pulled back in I got so much stuff on my tyres, I couldn't get through turn 2. So much understeer, would've run into people. I lost a bunch of positions but got a couple back. We just had to hang in there all day. Tough day."
Rubens Barrichello was another to have a long, tough day of things and at one point seemed stuck well down the running order. But the veteran F1 driver dug deep and kept working at it, and by the closing laps he had popped up into the top ten in a strong eighth spot.
"Starting so far back and at some points in the race even further back, I think it was a positive that I was able to work my way back through the field," he said after completing only his second IZOD IndyCar Series race. "By the end of the race, I had one of the fastest running cars, so I think it was enjoyable to watch and for me to race."
Even so, Barrichello made it clear that he had been hoping and wanting for more from Barber, one of the few tracks that he'll race on this year that he won't arrive at completely unfamiliar with. "It's hard to be happy with [just] a top ten," he said. "People race hard over here, but they were fair. I had many knocks and bumps, but the cars are so robust in this series that we can luckily get away with it."
Barrichello had a particularly hard-fought battle over the closing laps with a familiar face from the F1 world - Sebastien Bourdais, who put a Lotus-powered car into the top ten by the chequered flag through a brilliant piece of driving against the odds.
"It was a really good race," said the former Toro Rosso F1 driver and four-time Champ Car champion. "I honestly didn't believe we were going to hold off Justin [Wilson], [James] Jakes and [Dario] Franchitti and all these guys and race them this close because we know we're at a big power disadvantage.
"Every time we get in traffic, we get swallowed up like we don't exist, so I was a little down before the race. Expectations were not super high," he admitted. "I was very happy with my car ... When the other cars lost their tyres, it really helped me put the moves of them. Our car held its tyres very well and that put us in that position. We passed a lot of people and it was a pretty exciting day."
It proved that while Lotus are definitely the engine minnows at this early stage of the season, there are signs of plenty of promise in the hands of the right driver. Oriol Servia also did commendably well, putting the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus-powered car into 13th place, while Simona de Silvestro finished in 20th for HVM. Katherine Legge's spin off left her five laps off the lead by the end and down in 23rd place, while the fifth member of the Lotus contingent was Alex Tagliani who didn't complete a single lap before an electronics problem with the gearbox linkage caused the engine to die on him - similar to the problem that had hit Bourdais in the morning warm-up which had briefly left the Frenchman fearing an engine change might be required.