The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 Preview

It’s here. The ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just around the corner as the eyes of the world descend on Indianapolis. A race that is etched into motorsport folklore with unbridled, full-throttle, commitment, and speed. We are, of course, talking about the Indy 500!

May is an incredible month of racing with the Monaco GP on May 23 before Indy 500 on May 30, although the latter is more like a two-week event as practice and qualifying start the week before the intense 500-mile, 200-lap race.

In fact, qualifying is set to take place across both Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the general shootout with the ‘Fast Six’ on the final day.

We also return to some form of normality, with the Indy 500 returning to its rightful place at the end of May – following last year’s postponed event that took place in the middle of August. Unlike last year, we will also have spectators with 135,000 in attendance, a whopping 40% capacity!

DRIVERS! DRIVERS EVERYWHERE!

This season truly has been one to remember. The 2021 campaign has had five race winners in five races with three of those being first-time winners in Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and Rinus VeeKay.

Current championship leader Scott Dixon and Colton Herta won the other two races and the six-time champion will indeed be pushing for his second Indy 500 win having last achieved it in 2008.

The last seven winners are all present this year including Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, and defending 500′ winner Takuma Sato. Both Sato and Montoya head into this race seeking an incredible third win which would put them tied fourth on the all-time winners list alongside the likes of Bobby Unser and Dario Franchetti.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves also returns to the Brickyard. A win would put him tied first on the all-time list alongside A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Jr, and Rick Mears.

While the veterans of the sport all bring swathes of experience to the event, it’s the younger drivers who will certainly share the spotlight.

Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS in a spectacular display of racecraft, cutting his way through the field to beat pole-sitter, Romain Grosjean, to the chequered flag. Last year, the Dutchman qualified inside the ‘Fast Six’ on his first attempt at the Brickyard, setting one of the fastest speeds ever seen at the 500′ in the process.

Scott Dixon followed by Alex Palou. 500 Practice. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Alongside him in last year’s Fast Six’ was Alex Palou, who likely caught the attention of his current outfit Chip Ganassi with his performance that weekend. Heading into this weekend second in the championship, Palou has an incredible opportunity to capitalise on the double points on offer.

Graham Rahal was one of the fastest in the pre-season test at the Brickyard and showed a similar pace in this week’s practice. The American driver has shown some incredible pace this year putting in two top-five finishes at the double-header in Texas.

There really are contenders everywhere you look. With Patricio O’Ward. Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, and Scott McLaughlin also looking incredibly sharp coming into qualifying.

FRESH FACES

As ever, we welcome a host of fresh faces to the 500′. Among these are rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and RC Enerson and veterans Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferucci, Stefan Wilson, Ed Carpenter, and JR Hildebrand.

Marco Andretti returns with Andretti. He was last year’s pole-sitter and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend.

Simona De Silvestro. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Simona De Silvestro also makes her Indy 500 comeback with the all-female Paretta Autosport outfit. This marks De Silvestro’s first run since the 2015 edition of the race.  The Swiss driver has made hints that she could make further IndyCar outings with Paretta in the future.

Both Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson will not be taking part this weekend with both set to return at the Detriot GP.

HONDA VS CHEVY?

So far in practice, there doesn’t seem to be an overall advantage in what is set to be an incredibly competitive battle. Will Power with Penske Chevrolet topped Tuesday practice while Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda topped Wednesday.

Honda, and Chevy have three wins apiece in six attempts. While the only oval comparison we can make this year at Texas was slightly skewed due to qualifying being canceled with the championship standings used to set the grid for the race. Both races were one by an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Honda.

This race truly could be anyones for the taking.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS.

Thursday, May 20
5-11pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Friday, May 21
5-11:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Saturday, May 22
6-7:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday, May 23
6-7.30pm (BST): Last Chance Qualifying
7.30-9.30pm (BST): Fast Nine Qualifying

Friday, May 28                                                                                                                                       3-5:00pm (BST): Final indy 500 Practice

Sunday, May 30                                                                                                                      4:30/4:45 (BST): Indy 500 Race Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romain Grosjean defies the odds to take first career IndyCar pole at IMS

Romain Grosjean defied all odds to take his first career IndyCar pole position at the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The rookie edged out two-time champion Josef Newgarden in only his third weekend with Dayle Coyne Racing. This marks the Frenchman’s first single-seater pole since his GP2 days in 2011.

It is also the first pole position for Dayle Coyne Racing since 2018, when compatriot Sebastian Bourdais topped qualifying in Pheonix.

Penske’s Newgarden lost out by only 0.128s but starts in a promising position for the race tomorrow.  Seven out of the last eight here have been won by Penske, will they add to that tally?

GMR Grand Prix, Scott McLaughlin. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

Scott McLaughlin was arguably just as impressive, sneaking into the Fast Six for the first time in his career and starting in fifth position after his incredible weekend at Texas Motor Speedway behind Meyer Shank’s Jack Harvey in third and Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou in fourth. Ed Carpenter’s Conor Daly rounded out the Fast Six.

Grosjean only just barely made it through Round two, following a surprise exit from Indianapolis Road Course expert Will Power. The Australian spun on the penultimate corner and was prevented from restarting with a clutch issue. He had previously made it into the Fast Six on eight of the last nine attempts at this circuit. The four-time IMS winner will have some work to do starting tomorrow’s race in twelfth.

Colton Herta, who today signed a new multi-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, missed out on the Fast Six in seventh, while Rinus VeeKay starts just behind in eighth.

Ed Jones made it two Dayle Coyne Racing cars in the Top Ten, outpacing Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in tenth, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal eleventh.

GMR Grand Prix. O’Ward. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski,

Free Practice pace-setter Alexander Rossi will start fourteenth after just missing out on Round Two, ahead of reigning champion Scott Dixon, who starts two places further back in a disappointing sixteenth. Second-place driver in the championship, Pato O’Ward starts a further two places back 18th.

Jimmie Johnson was slowest in his qualifying group but will start twenty-third ahead of Dalton Kellett and IndyCar returnee Arrow McLaren SP’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who had his two quickest laps deleted for holding up  Alex Palou.

STARTING GRID:

  1. Grosjean
  2. Newgarden
  3. Harvey
  4. Palou
  5. McLaughlin
  6. Daly
  7. Herta
  8. VeeKay
  9. Jones
  10. Pagenaud
  11. Rahal
  12. Power
  13. Rosenqvist
  14. Rossi
  15. Ericsson
  16. Dixon
  17. Sato
  18. O’Ward
  19. Hunter-Reau
  20. Bourdais
  21. Kimball
  22. Hinchcliffe
  23. Johnson
  24. Kellett
  25. Montoya

O’Ward Seizes Long-Overdue First IndyCar Win at the Texas XPEL 375

Sunday saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward clinch victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, his first IndyCar win – and with it, a chance to drive at the F1 Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi.

O’Ward had been in incredible form all weekend, coming off the back of a podium at the Genesys300. With 50 laps to go, O’Ward looked set to take the lead of the race when teammate Felix Rosenqvist brought out the final caution following a pitstop in which his right rear tyre failed to attach.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Josef Newgarden. Texas.

However, Josef Newgarden could not have timed the undercut better. He was in pit-road as the caution was brought out and emerged ahead of  Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, and O’Ward who had been battling all evening.

On the restart, Newgarden made it past Takuma Sato who was still yet to pit, however so too did his nearest rivals. Behind them, O’Ward made quick work of Graham Rahal to move up to second.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. O’Ward. Texas.

Newgarden failed to pull away from the attacking group and came under relentless pressure but it was with 20 Laps to go where the race was won. O’Ward, with steely determination, kept the accelerator planted into Turn 3 and seized the lead of the race.

O’Ward, who prior to this had come second on three occasions, finally broke the duck as he charged on to take the chequered flag, 1.5s ahead of Josef Newgarden.

Pato becomes the first Mexican to win in the American series since Adrian Fernandez at the Auto Club Speedway, 2004. Additionally, this marks McLaren’s first win since their return to IndyCar and the first since Johnny Rutherford at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1979.

As an extra reward, McLaren CEO Zak Brown will give O’Ward an opportunity to drive for the McLaren F1 Team at the post-season, Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test.

Graham Rahal had been in the mix all race pulling off some audacious moves and benefitting massively during the earlier caution brought on by Meyer Shank driver Jack Harvey. Havey had been running in the top five, even overtaking IndyCar champion Will Power in the process until a wheel-bearing failure forced the car into the pits – leaving oil all over the road.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Dixon leads Power, Rahal. Texas,

Rahal and Power, who had pitted earlier were able to jump a number of cars – including Newgarden – as the field collectively pitted under yellow.  The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver found himself in fifth. Despite both drivers being taken by O’Ward on the restart, Rahal fought bravely against Scott Dixon who had led from pole.

During the final pit stop and caution which was brought out by Felix Rosenqvist, Dixon held on to his advantage over Rahal. But back on track Rahal eventually cleared the Genesys300 winner to take his first podium of the season.

Colton Herta had a brilliant race – starting way down the field after an unfortunate brake issue forced him to retire from the Genesys300. Herta made great use of the undercut pulling off a great move on Simon Pagenaud to take fifth.

Alex Palou, who had started on the front row lost a lot of position after Jack Harvey’s caution. Like yesterday, the Spaniard never looked like he was going to trouble his six-time champion teammate. Despite finishing in seventh, it rounds off a decent weekend for the Barber Motorsport Park winner who finished inside the top ten in both races.

Scott McLaughlin followed up his maiden podium with an eighth-place, well ahead of Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who rounded out the top-10.

Power had been in the battle at the front, but having dropped back slightly by the time of the final restart, but came off worst in the three-wide battle as Herta passed Pagenaud.

The Australian was pushed wide onto the high side and crucially – into the slippery ‘PJ1’ section. The Penske driver veered uncontrollably wide, hitting the barrier and finished down in 13th behind Ed Carpenter and Marcus Ericsson.

Takuma Sato, who decided to try the overcut came up short. After briefly leading after the final pit stops he eventually would eventually fall down to 14th

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. First Lap Crash. Texas.

However, the most dramatic moment of the race came during Lap 1 in the form of a horrendous seven-car pile-up. As the field concertinaed, Pietro Fittipaldi was caught out by the late braking of AJ Foyt’s Sebastien Bourdais. His Dayle Coyne entry sent both drivers into a spin collecting: Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi,  Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan, and Conor Daly in the process. Daly found himself upside down in a scary moment for the Carlin driver but was left relatively unscathed.

Scott Dixon leaves Texas with the lead of the championship while Patricio O’Ward sits 22 points behind. Alex Palou has slipped to third while Newgarden continues his relentless charge up to fourth.

IndyCar gets back underway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 15th May for the GMR Grand Prix.

 

 

 

 

 

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.