|IndyCar is back to a natural-terrain road course and it is Road America|
Time: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday June 23rd with green flag scheduled for 12:50 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Marty Snider Dillon Welch and Robin Miller will work pit lane.
IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 12:05 p.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Second Practice: 4:00 p.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Third Practice: 11:00 a.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Qualifying: 4:00 p.m. ET (Taped-delayed coverage on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. ET)
Race: 12:50 p.m. ET (55 laps)
* - All practice and qualifying sessions are available live with the NBC Sports Gold IndyCar pass.
Alexander Rossi Needs a Win
For the second consecutive year Alexander Rossi heads to Road America second in the championship and within touching distance of the championship lead but Road America has not been kind to Rossi in his first three attempts.
Rossi's average finish is 14.667 with finishes of 15th, 13th and 16th. Last year, he started fourth but in his first two attempts he started on the eighth row.
It is not that Rossi has not had good races. In 2017, while he started toward the back, Rossi employed a four-stop strategy and it appeared it would result in a top five finish but then he suffered wing damage on a restart and took away a good finish. In last year's race, Rossi was in contention for a podium finish before he was forced to make a pit stop when the left front chamber shims fell out and that relegated him to 16th.
Road America is one of three tracks Rossi has multiple starts at but has not lead a lap at with the others being Sonoma, which is no longer on the schedule, and Toronto.
Rossi has three runner-up finishes in the last four races. Before this season Rossi had only two runner-up finishes in his entire IndyCar career. While Rossi has not been in IndyCar long, he has never had multiple victories in the first ten races of a season.
The biggest reason Rossi needs a victory is because the man ahead of him in the championship, Josef Newgarden, has won two of the last three races, and the man behind him in the championship, Simon Pagenaud has won twice since Rossi's lone victory this season at Long Beach. On top of all of it, all three of Rossi's runner-up finishes have been to either Newgarden or Pagenaud.
While Road America has not been kind to Rossi, Newgarden has found great success in the last three years. The Tennessean went from 20th to eighth in 2016 with a broken clavicle and wrist. In 2017, he started third and finished second. Last year, he won from pole position and led 53 of 55 laps.
The only track Newgarden has won at in consecutive years is Barber in 2017 and 2018 and the only time he has won consecutive races was in 2017 when he won at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, which was also apart of a period of three victories in four races.
Pagenaud has finished in the top ten the last two years at Road America but he has only led two laps in his four starts at the track and his best starting position and his best finishing position at the track is fourth.
Will Power Needs a Win
For the second time in Will Power's IndyCar career Power heads into the tenth race of the season without a victory. The only other time Power has not had a victory at this point of the season was in 2013. That year he had only one podium finish in the first nine races and that was a third at Milwaukee in the ninth race. His best finish this season is third, which occurred at St. Petersburg and the second Belle Isle race.
On top of all that, both of Power's teammates have won multiple races this season. Power has only been the top Penske finisher in one of the first nine races. Since the start of the DW12-era in 2012, Power has won 20 races but only six of those victories have come on natural-terrain road course races and three of those six victories were the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The other three victories came at Barber in 2012, Sonoma in 2013 and at Road America in 2016.
Power has been sixth in the championship after the last six races.
Ryan Hunter-Reay Needs a Win
While Ryan Hunter-Reay has won more recently than Will Power, like Power, if he wants to keep his championship hopes alive he will need a victory and last year, Hunter-Reay was on Newgarden's heels for the entire Road America race but was unable to pass Newgarden on the track and he was unable to jump ahead of him through pit strategy.
For the last two seasons, Hunter-Reay has been very consistent. Last year, he had seven top five finishes through the first nine races. This year, he only had five top five finishes but he has seven top ten finishes. His only retirement from the first nine races was his engine failure at the St. Petersburg season opener.
In five Road America starts, Hunter-Reay has three top five finishes and four top ten finishes. Last year was his first podium finish at the track. Hunter-Reay has also started in the top ten four times at the track but he has never led a lap at the track.
Hunter-Reay has been the top Andretti Autosport finisher twice this season with the first time being at Austin when Hunter-Reay finished third after Rossi was shuffled back because his final stop had to make a pit stop after caution. In the second Belle Isle race, Hunter-Reay finished fourth, one position ahead of Rossi, who spun in the race, which allowed Hunter-Reay to get ahead of his teammate.
Graham Rahal's Throwback
There will be a familiar look for a familiar name this weekend as Graham Rahal's #15 GEHL Honda will sport the livery of his father Bobby's 1994 Miller Genuine Draft livery. This livery is also in honor of Honda's 25 seasons in IndyCar.
Bobby Rahal used Honda engines in 15 of 16 races in that 1994 season. The one race Rahal did not use a Honda engine was the Indianapolis 500 when he used an Ilmor engine and finished third. However, Rahal's best finish that season came with a Honda engine and it was a runner-up finish at Toronto.
Bobby Rahal has made 17 Road America starts, tied for the second most all-time with Al Unser, Jr. and behind only Michael Andretti, but despite Rahal's terrific record of 10 top five finishes, 15 top ten finishes at the track and 13 lead lap finishes, records in all categories, he never won at Road America. Rahal had six podium finishes at Road America with runner-up finishes in 1984, 1988 and 1996.
Graham has continued the strong results for the Rahal family at Elkhart Lake. In four starts, Graham Rahal has two podium finishes and two top ten finishes. He has started in the top six on three occasions with his worst starting position being ninth. He has only led two laps at the track. Rahal is coming off a third place finish at Texas, his first podium finish in over a year. He has not had a podium finish on a road/street course since Mid-Ohio in 2017 and he has not had consecutive podium finishes since he swept the Belle Isle doubleheader in 2017.
Rahal is eighth in the championship and his championship position has improved after each of the last three races.
Can Scott Dixon Make a Championship Comeback?
It is the start of another summer and this is when Scott Dixon finds another level. Twenty-five of Dixon's 45 victories have come during summer, of those 25 victories, 13 have come between the first day of summer and the end of July.
Dixon has won five championships before but this year he heads into the final eight races fourth in the championship and 89 points behind Newgarden.
How does this deficit compare to Dixon's previous five championship seasons with eight races to go?
In three of Dixon's five championship seasons he was not the championship leader with eight races to go. During his first championship season in 2003, Dixon was second in the championship, 31 points behind Tony Kanaan for the championship lead with eight races to go. Dixon did not win any of the final eight races that year but he had five runner-up finishes. He took over the championship lead after Michigan with six races to go but lost it after the next race at Gateway, falling to fourth. Dixon did not retake the championship lead until after the penultimate round at Fontana.
In 2008, Dixon took the championship lead after winning the Indianapolis 500, his fifth start of the season. He would lead the championship all the way through Chicagoland but his gap went from +43 points with eight races to go after Richmond to a championship margin of 17 points over Hélio Castroneves after Chicagoland.
Five years later, Dixon entered the final eight races fresh off his victory at Pocono but he was fourth in the championship, 65 points behind Castroneves. Dixon would sweep the Toronto doubleheader the following weekend and jump up to second. Dixon would not take the championship lead until the penultimate race at Houston. He entered that doubleheader weekend trailing Castroneves by 49 points but turned into an eight-point advantage heading into the season finale at Fontana. Dixon would go on to win the championship by 27 points over Castroneves.
Juan Pablo Montoya famously never trailed in the 2015 championship and with eight races to go, Montoya had a 63-point advantage over Dixon in third. Dixon was third in the championship from the sixth race of the season at the Indianapolis 500 all the way through the penultimate race at Pocono. Dixon entered the final race trailing Montoya by 47 points but in the double points paying finale Dixon won the race and led the most laps while Montoya finished sixth. This left the two drivers level on points but Dixon's three victories to Montoya's two victories won him the title on tiebreaker.
While Dixon has won the championship while being fourth with eight races to go, he has never had to overcome a deficit as large as the one he currently holds. Since 1979, there have been 21 previous occasions where a champion was trailing with eight races to go but the largest deficit overcame with eight races to go was 75 points by Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and on only two other occasions was the eventual champion trailing by more than 50 points with eight races to go. Greg Ray overcame a 70-point margin to win the title in 1999 and Sam Hornish, Jr. was 61 points behind the championship leader entering the final eight races in 2002.
The Rest of the Field
Graham Rahal has a respectable track record at Road America but his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Takuma Sato has not had the same type of success. Sato finished fourth last year after starting seventh but in Sato's previous two starts at the track he has started 15th or worse on each occasion his finishes were outside the top fifteen and off the lead lap.
Both Dale Coyne Racing drivers are in the top ten of the championship and Sébastien Bourdais won at Road America in 2006. In his last two starts at the track he has failed to finish in the top ten each time. This will be Santino Ferrucci's first trip to Road America. Dale Coyne Racing has never had a top five finish at Road America with the team's best finish coming in 2004 when Oriol Servià finished sixth.
James Hinchcliffe heads to Road America without a top five finish in his last 14 starts. Hinchcliffe has one top ten finish in his last five starts. Last year, Hinchcliffe finished tenth at Road America, his best career finish in three starts and his best starting position at the track is ninth. Marcus Ericsson has been the top Schmidt Peterson Motorsports finisher in the last two races and he will make his Road America debut this weekend.
As for the other rookie drivers, Felix Rosenqvist has one top ten finish in his last four starts while Colton Herta has an average finish of 20.714 in his last seven starts and Patricio O'Ward returns in the #31 Chevrolet for Carlin. Herta had three consecutive podium finishes at Road America in Indy Lights with him winning the first race at last year's weekend. O'Ward made four starts at the track between Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. He had finished in fourth position three times and he was runner-up to Herta in the first Indy Lights race last year. O'Ward did win at Road America in IMSA's Prototype Challenge class in 2017.
Road to Indy
For the third time this season, all three Road to Indy series are together and every series is back on track after a month off. The last time we saw the three divisions they were all contesting ovals in the greater Indianapolis-area.
There are still 11 races remaining in the Indy Lights season and Freedom 100 winner Oliver Askew has an 11-point lead over Rinus VeeKay. Askew defeated Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman by 0.0067 seconds to win the Freedom 100 nearly a month ago. It was Askew's third victory of the season after sweeping the Austin weekend and it was his fifth consecutive podium finish.
VeeKay has won twice and he has finished in the top five in all seven races this season. Askew's teammate Robert Megennis is 44 points back with Toby Sowery 53 points back and Norman rounding out the top five, 60 points behind Askew.
Between U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda, Askew's four finishes at Road America are 17th, third, ninth and eighth while VeeKay swept the U.S. F2000 races there in 2017 and he was fifth in both Pro Mazda races last year. Megennis has never finished better than seventh in six Road to Indy starts at the track. Sowery ran both Pro Mazda races last year and he finished second in both races. Norman has two top five finishes in four starts at Road America.
David Malukas swept the Pro Mazda races at this track last year. Aaron Telitz will be back in the #4 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda this weekend and he swept the 2016 Pro Mazda races at his home track and he finished third in the second Indy Lights race last year.
Lucas Kohl and Dalton Kellett round out the nine-car entry list for Indy Lights.
Indy Lights will race at 2:50 p.m. ET on Saturday June 22nd and 9:50 a.m. ET on Sunday June 23rd.
Rasmus Lindh continues to lead the Indy Pro 2000 championship but Daniel Frost cut the gap to nine points after Frost won the Freedom 90 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Lindh sits on 142 points to Frost's 133 points. Both drivers have four podium finishes from the first five races with their worst finish being fourth.
Sting Ray Robb has finished in the top five of all five races with three trips to the podium including runner-up finishes in the last two races. Robb is 21 points behind Lindh. Parker Thompson had a rough Freedom 90 finishing tenth and he is 27 points behind Lindh. Kyle Kirkwood rounds out the top five on 97 points.
Kirkwood swept the U.S. F2000 races at this track in 2018 with Lindh finishing fourth and 18th in the two races. Thompson has made six Road to Indy starts at Road America and he has finished in the top five in all six races but his only trip to the podium was the second U.S. F2000 race in 2016 when he finished third. Robb has finishes of fourth, 11th, 11th and ninth in four starts.
There are 13 cars entered this weekend in Indy Pro 2000.
Pro Mazda's first race will be at 1:55 p.m. ET on Saturday June 22nd with race two scheduled for 11:05 a.m. ET on Sunday June 23rd.
After winning the first four races of the season, Braden Eves finished fifth in the Freedom 75 from Indianapolis Raceway Park but he did extend his championship lead to 44 points over Hunter McElrea, who finished 11th in the only oval race on the U.S. F2000 schedule.
Darren Keane still has only one podium finish this season but he is up to third in the championship, though he trails Eves by 67 points. Keane and Cameron Kaminsky are tied on 86 points but Keane holds the tiebreaker with his best finish being second in the second race on the IMS road course and Kaminsky's best finish was third in the Freedom 75.
Alex Baron is a point behind Keane and Kaminsky and Freedom 75 winner Cameron Shields is two points back on 84 points. Manuel Sulaimán has dropped to seventh in the championship on 83 points.
Eighteen cars are entered for the U.S. F2000 weekend from Road America. Notable names include Christian Rasmussen, Eduardo Barrichello and Jack William Miller, who all ran at Road America last year in Formula 4. Wisconsin-native Yuven Sundaramoorthy will also be contesting this weekend's races.
The first U.S. F2000 race will be at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday June 22nd and the second race will be at 9:00 a.m. ET on Sunday June 23rd.
This will be the 11th IndyCar race to take place on June 23rd and the last IndyCar race to take place on June 23rd was in 2013 and James Hinchcliffe won that race at Iowa.
Michael Andretti won on June 23, 1991 at Portland.
Seven drivers have picked up their first career victory at Road America. Those drivers were Héctor Rebaque, Jacques Villeneuve, brother of Gilles Villeneuve; Jacques Villeneuve, son of Gilles Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti, Christian Fittipaldi, Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani.
Josef Newgarden could became the fourth driver to win consecutive Road America races joining Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve.
American drivers have not won consecutive Road America races since Danny Sullivan won in 1989 and Michael Andretti went on to win the following two years.
The average starting position for a Road America winner is 3.571 with a median of three.
The pole-sitter has won three of the last four Road America races.
The only time the Road America winner started outside the top ten was in 2004 when Alex Tagliani won from 13th.
The last ten IndyCar races have been won from inside a top ten starting position.
The average number of lead changes in a Road America race is 4.074 with a median of four.
The final lead change has come in the final ten laps of a Road America race on 11 occasions.
There have been three Road America races decided on a last lap pass. Héctor Rebaque won the first race in 1982 after Al Unser ran out of fuel on the final lap. The same thing happened in 1989 but this time Danny Sullivan took the victory while Michael Andretti ran out of fuel. Seven years later, Al Unser, Jr. lost an engine on the final lap and that allowed Michael Andretti to get the victory.
The average number of cautions in a Road America race is 2.111 with a median of two. The average number of caution laps is 6.777 with a median of five.
Last year's caution-free race was the tenth Road America race not to have a caution and first since 2000.
On three previous occasions there has been consecutive caution-free races at Road America.
The last track to have consecutive caution-free races was Mid-Ohio in 2012 and 2013.
Last year's Road America race was the third fastest in the track's history at 132.101 MPH behind 1999 (137.697 MPH) and 2000 (136.457 MPH).
If Tony Kanaan takes the green flag he will make his 370th start, moving him into second all-time for starts in IndyCar history.
Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 48 laps to reach the 2,700 laps led milestone.
Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead 55 laps to reach the 1,600 laps led milestone.
James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 44 laps to reach the 800 laps led milestone.
Takuma Sato needs to lead 53 laps to reach the 700 laps led milestone.
Graham Rahal needs to lead 16 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.
I think this could be the season we remember for the head-to-head battle between Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi and the start of a decade-long rivalry and I think we will see these two driver go at it again at Road America. I think Rossi takes the victory but Newgarden finishes second. At least five American drivers finish in the top ten. At least one driver in the top five of the championship does not make it out of the first round of qualifying. There will be at least three different leaders in this race. Sleeper: Marcus Ericsson.