NASCAR Race Weekend Central

What Mattered at the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix

So much for respecting your elders, right? Don’t mention that in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series.

In five IndyCar races this year, two were won by 20-year-olds (Rinus VeeKay and Pato O’Ward), one by a 21-year-old (Colton Herta, who is now 22), one by a 24-year-old (Alex Palou) and Scott Dixon, who is 40.

Dixon’s still the points leader, but the youth movement has been the story so far in 2021 and that continued with VeeKay taking the checkered flag first at Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

However, it’s not just a youth movement. It’s a home-grown youth movement. Sure, VeeKay is Dutch, there’s no denying that, but he went through all three levels of the Road to Indy, winning in all three levels before winning in IndyCar, the first racer to accomplish this feat.

O’Ward has won races in Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights en route to winning the 2018 Indy Lights title over Herta. Herta won several races during his tenure in Indy Lights before moving to IndyCar.

Now it’s time to see if the youth movement can triumph over age and experience in the Indianapolis 500.

Romain Grosjean said the only thing he’d change about the race was blue flags.

The polesitter finished second to VeeKay but led a large portion of the race. However, while trying to put cars one lap down, Grosjean had some difficulty.

Unlike Formula One, cars on the edge of the lead lap are allowed to fight to stay on the lead lap. Grosjean lost some time trying to lap Takuma Sato, and that combined with a stint in the middle of the race on the slower Firestone black sidewall primary tires while the rest of the leaders were on the faster red sidewall option tire meant that it was only a matter of time before the Frenchman was going to lose the lead.

However, if a leader cannot get past a slower car on their own, something might need to be done to help correct that. Would a push to pass modification be something INDYCAR could look at where a driver going a lap down can’t use it to defend themselves staying on the lead lap?

Jack Harvey’s luck is either really good or really bad. There are no in-betweens.

Despite running near the front for the first half of the race, Harvey had an issue with the right rear tire on his second pit stop, leading to the tire going flat on his out lap. Because of an improper pit exit, Harvey also had to do a drive-through penalty soon after getting the wheel replaced.

“We had a really great start and held P2 for a decent bit there,” Harvey said in a team release. “The strategy was just great and we had a five second lead on the guy that ended up winning the race. But on that second pit stop we had a wheel gun fail. We talk about it week in and week out, that we do this all as a team, and that’s easy to say when you’re having a good weekend. This is when it matter now, for us all to come together and to reset. The next one is always the important one, whether its Indy or Detroit, we’ll be ready.”

Havey also had a right rear mechanical failure at Texas’s second race while running near the front of the field. It’s a bit frustrating to see, but running near the front of the field shows that the Meyer Shank Racing technical alliance with Andretti Autosport has been paying dividends.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to open wheel racing wasn’t exactly ideal. The No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet finished 21st after starting last, with not many highlights to the weekend.

The two-time Indianapolis 500 champion was 21st and 25th (last) in both Friday practice sessions and was 23rd in the pre-race warmup.

Given Montoya’s finishing record in the Indianapolis 500, he should be better on the oval, but being out of single seaters for a few seasons means that expectations aren’t going to be too high in the first race back.

After five races, one notable team still has not been to victory lane yet.

Team Penske is winless going into the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 2013. That year, Penske ran two cars full time with Helio Castroneves and Will Power alongside a part-time entry for A.J. Allmendinger.

What’s also remarkable is that this season, two Chevrolet-powered teams have won this season. The last time any non-Penske Chevrolet team had won an IndyCar race was back in 2016 when Josef Newgarden spanked the field at Iowa Speedway for Ed Carpenter Racing.

It’s not like Team Penske is struggling. In the first four races of the season, Team Penske drivers finished second in all four races and at the GMR Grand Prix, Newgarden finished fourth.

Practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500 starts Tuesday (May 18th).

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