The series returns to race at its most storied home, but this weekend it races on the other circuit for just the second time. The race was meant to add to the fun of the month of May at Indianapolis and it looks like it does just that. The one question that might arise is how much this race may be overlooked as teams and fans focus on the 500. A race is a race, however, and this one still offers points and counts toward the championship, so it’s not like the event is completely ignored.
While the Team Penske foursome look like the drivers to beat, they haven’t quite capitalized on their outright pace, having won just one of the four races thus far. With the second practice over, they held four of the top-six spots, but Scott Dixon showed the quickest pace. Will this race be another letdown for the team that has such high expectations?
- While there’s a race this weekend, the focus for Indianapolis has been on the 500, and there are a few things worth mentioning. First, there are now 34 cars entered, which means that Bump Day might once again bring some drama. For a number of years Bump Day tended to be more interesting than the qualifying for the top nine, as teams took strategy gambles while drivers sat on pit lane in anxious states. The return of this aspect, after the day held no interest last year, will be welcomed.
- Pippa Mann, Townsend Bell and Alex Tagliani have all been confirmed for rides for the 500. Though it’s likely that none of this trio will be in contention for the win, they are all accomplished drivers and can make their way around the track. Mann and Bell both suffered contact in the 2014 event which brought about poor finishes, but Tagliani scored a 13th-place run.
- In a cruel twist, Simona de Silvestro will not be running the GP of Indy but will have a ride for the 500. It’s rather shocking that de Silvestro, who looked strong in the first two races, is unable to secure the backing to run the full season.
The track is the refurbished road course once used for the Formula 1 American Grand Prix. The course has also been used for a Grand Prix motorcycle race. This race will be the second for the IndyCar series on the 2.4-mile, 14-turn course that is relatively flat. Simon Pagenaud won the inaugural event, keeping Ryan Hunter-Reay at bay while they both held off a charging Helio Castroneves, who had more fuel and fresher tires.
What’s the points? Drivers
Juan Pablo Montoya continues to lead the way, with 133 points, though his gap over the field is diminishing, especially with his 14th-place finish at Barber. Castroneves is a mere three points behind, while Dixon is making his way toward the top, now having 123 points. Josef Newgarden’s win catapulted him to fourth as he’s got 119 points, and in fifth is the defending champion, Will Power, with 112 points thanks to his fourth-place recovery at Barber. The drivers in spots six through 10 are separated by just 21 points behind Power.
What’s the points? Engines
The gap between the two manufacturers is still quite large, with Honda holding a points margin of 380 to 216 over Chevrolet. Chevrolet continues to try to dig out of their early-season penalties.
Driver(s) to Watch
Sebastian Bourdais has been fast in both practices and may be one of the drivers to steal a win against the big teams like Newgarden did. His road-course acumen has always been known and the former CART champion would love to show that he should still be regarded as a factor for the championship – even if he is sitting in the 10th spot in points.
The relationship between NASCAR and INDYCAR has long been a contentious one, with the two series eying the other as a rival. In some ways that thinking is correct, but really, the two are so distinctly different that they should be seen as complementary. Ryan McGee wrote an article that looked at the hopeful change in the old way of thinking. Jeff Gordon seems to be one of the possible links to such as change – which was furthered when Townsend Bell, who’ll be driving in the Indy 500, posted a pic of the cockpit of his car, which was plastered with Gordon photos. Interesting.
Who Ya Got?
Toni Montgomery continues her hot streak, having gone with Power for Barber. This week she’s got her eye on Pagenaud. Matt Stallknecht hit a pothole at Barber with his choice of Montoya, but will likely rebound by choosing Power this go-round. Proving that anyone can get lucky every now and then, my selection of Hunter-Reay turned out decent at the last race, and I’ll be going with Castroneves to continue my good fortune on the road course at Indy.
The race will be shown on ABC on Saturday, May 9, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying and all Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 213, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR 15 app.