Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Track Walk: 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

This year marks the 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis
It is the month of May and that means IndyCar heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis takes place on the second Saturday in May. Josef Newgarden heads to Indianapolis fresh off his first career victory at Barber Motorsports Park after holding off a hard-charging Graham Rahal and veteran Scott Dixon. It was also the first victory for the merged CFH Racing. Ed Carpenter Racing had won four races prior to this season while Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing had one victory.

TV Channel: ABC
Time: Coverage begins Saturday May 9th at 3:30 p.m. ET. Green flag will be at 3:45 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever are in the booth. Rick DeBruhl, Jon Beekhuis and Dr. Jerry Punch will work the pit lane.

Four Winners From Four Races
For the second consecutive year there have been four different winners in the first four races. Juan Pablo Montoya, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have won the first four races this year. Last year, Will Power, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud won the first four races, with Hunter-Reay winning the fifth race, the Indianapolis 500. This year however, the addition of NOLA, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is the fifth round of the season.

The last time the first five races were won by five different driver was 2008 when Scott Dixon won at Homestead, Graham Rahal won at St. Petersburg, Danica Patrick won at Motegi, Will Power won at Long Beach and Dan Wheldon won at Kansas. Dixon won the sixth round of the 2008 season, which was the Indianapolis 500. Prior to 2008, the most recent year to feature five different winner in the first five race was 2003 where Dixon won at Homestead, Tony Kanaan won at Phoenix, Scott Sharp won at Motegi, Gil de Ferran won the Indianapolis 500 and Al Unser, Jr. won at Texas. Dixon won the sixth round of 2003 at Pikes Peak.

The Championship
One-quarter of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship is in the book and here are how things stand: Juan Pablo Montoya leads the championship with 136 points, three points ahead of Penske teammate Hélio Castroneves. Race winners Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden are third and fourth in the championship, trailing the Colombian by 13 and 17 points respectively. Defending champion Will Power rounds out the top five in the championship, 24 back of Montoya.

NOLA winner James Hinchcliffe is two points behind Power, sixth in the championship. Tony Kanaan is tied with Hinchcliffe in the championship but the Canadian holds the tiebreaker. Runner-up at the most recent race at Barber, Graham Rahal is eighth on 103 points. Frenchmen Simon Pagenaud and Sébastien Bourdais round out the top ten in the championship on 96 and 91 points respectively.

Three Andretti Autosport drivers are 11th through 13th with Carlos Muñoz leading the way on 84 points. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are tied on 81 points with Hunter-Reay holding the tiebreaker. Remember Hunter-Reay was penalized three points after NOLA for an accident involving Pagenaud and Bourdais. Luca Filippi and James Jakes round out the top fifteen on 69 and 62 points respectively.

Entry List Growth
Twenty-five cars have entered the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Notable additions include J.R. Hildebrand, who will drive the #6 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet for CFH Racing. Hildebrand is also scheduled to attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. This will be Hildebrand's first road course race since Sonoma 2013 driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. He started 18th and finished 16th in that race at his home track.

Another driver scheduled to run both Indianapolis races and will be making their 2015 IndyCar debut is Justin Wilson. The Sheffield-native will drive the #25 Andretti Autosport Honda in both races. Wilson finished 11th in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Sebastián Saavedra will return in the #8 AFS Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Saavedra started on pole position for last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis but stalled on the start and was hit from behind by Carlos Muñoz and Mikhail Aleshin. Saavedra finished tenth in his first start for Ganassi at Long Beach last month.

Carlos Huertas returns to the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda after missing the last two rounds. Francesco Dracone will be in the#19 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. They will be making their third and fifth starts this season.

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series join IndyCar on the IMS road course.

A dozen drivers are entered in Indy Lights. Spencer Pigot took the championship leader after sweeping the Barber weekend. He has 132 points and holds a seven-point lead over Ed Jones, who won the first three races of the season. Jack Harvey is 20 points behind Pigot in third. Max Chilton trails Pigot by 48 points with Félix Serralés rounding out the top five, 54 points back.

R.C. Enerson is three points back of Serralés. Scott Anderson and Juan Piedrahita are tied on 67 points with Kyle Kaiser two points behind them. Ethan Ringel rounds out the top ten with 59 points, three ahead of Shelby Blackstock. Sean Rayhall returns for his second consecutive round after making his debut at Barber. Rayhall scored fastest lap in Barber 1.

Last year, Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia each scored their first Indy Lights victories as they split the races on the IMS road course. This year's Indy Lights races will take place on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET and Saturday at 1:25 p.m. ET.

Pro Mazda will run three races at they will make-up the cancelled second race from NOLA. Neil Alberico holds the championship lead 130 points, eight ahead of Santiago Urrutia. Alberico has won three of five races with Urrutia has one victory. Pato O'Ward is third on 77 points with Florian Latorre  three points behind O'Ward and Timothé Buret a point behind his fellow Frenchman Latorre in fifth.

Weiron Tan is sixth in the championship on 71 points and won at Barber. Tan is tied with Garett Grist. Jose Gutierrez sits on 66 points with Will Owen on 65. Owen won on the IMS road course last year in  U.S. F2000. Canadians Daniel Burkett and Dalton Kellett are tied for tenth with 63 points.

Last year, Scott Hargrove swept the Pro Mazda races on the IMS road course. Hargrove will return to Pro Mazda competition this weekend he #19 JDC Motorsports entry. Besides Hargrove, twenty-one  cars are already entered for this round with the notable addition being Victor Franzoni with M1 Racing. Franzoni won at NOLA in U.S. F2000 and is currently fifth in the U.S. F2000 championship. This is the only Pro Mazrda round Franzoni is schedule to contest.

Pro Mazda will be the lone race on Thursday and will close the day at 5:55 p.m. ET. On Friday, Pro Mazda will run at 2:00 p.m. and the Saturday race will take place at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Seventeen cars are entered for the U.S. F2000 round. Jake Eidson leads the championship with 152 points. Edison swept the St. Petersburg weekend but has finished third in all four races since. Eleven points back is Nico Jamin, who has won at NOLA and Barber. Aaron Telitz is 21 points back and won at Barber last week. Australian Anthony Martin round out the top five, 48 back of Eidson.

Last year, Will Owen and Adrian Starrantino split the U.S. F2000 races. This year's U.S. F2000 races are scheduled for Friday at 1:00 p.m. ET and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Fun Facts
Should he take the green flag, Hélio Castroneves will become the seventh driver in IndyCar history to make 300 career starts. For more on the 300 starts club, read this article.

Simon Pagenaud is the only driver to win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Every winner of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis has started fourth on the grid.

Honda has won every Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The only driver to have won on both the oval and road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Alex Lloyd. Lloyd won the Liberty Challenge in 2006 and the Freedom 100 in 2007.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves and Ryan Hunter-Reay look to join Lloyd as winner on both the oval and road course.

Marco Andretti could become the first driver to win in both Indy Lights and IndyCar on the IMS road course. He won the inaugural Liberty Challenge in 2005.

Stefano Coletti won on the IMS road course in 2006 driving in Formula BMW as a support race to the United States Grand Prix.

Sébastien Bourdais won the inaugural IMSA race on the IMS road course with co-driver Alex Popow in 2012.

Jack Hawksworth won the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA race held on the IMS road course last July. Hawksworth led the most laps in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis, leading 31 of 82 laps.

The IMS road course track record is a 1:09.6716 set by Simon Pagenaud in round one, group one last year. Rain started to fall prior to the start of round two in qualifying last year in qualifying. Scott Dixon set fastest lap in the race with a 1:10.4062.

Josef Newgarden is coming off his maiden IndyCar victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Thirty-three times in IndyCar has a driver scored their first two victories in consecutive starts. The most recent driver to do it was A.J. Allmendinger in 2006 when he actually scored his first three victories in three consecutive races at Portland, Cleveland and Toronto.

A.J. Allmendinger is one of seven drivers to win their first three races in three consecutive starts. The others are Louis Chevrolet (1905: Morris Park 1, Empire City, Burnots Island), Gaston Chevrolet (1919 Sheepshead Bay 5, Uniontown 7, Sheepshead Bay 6), Kelly Pettilo (1934 Mines Field, 1935 Indianapolis 500, St. Paul), Wally Dallenbach (1973 Milwaukee 2, Ontario Heat 1, Ontario), Kenny Bräck (1998 Charlotte, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Atlanta) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999 Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro).

The only driver to score their first four victories in four consecutive starts is Al Rogers, whose only starts were in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Rogers won four consecutive Pikes Peak Hill Climbs from 1948-1951.

This will be the first IndyCar race to ever take place on May 9th.

Jim Hickman, the 1982 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, was born on May 9th. Hickman died on August 1, 1982 from injuries suffered in an accident during practice at Milwaukee. He would have turned 72 years old this Saturday.

I gave you one answer. Can you name the drivers to have won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year?

Possible Milestones at Barber:

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 80 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 15 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 33 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

It's going to be a wet race but not as wet as NOLA and Honda gets their second victory of the season and we will have five different winners from the first five races. Ryan Hunter-Reay wins. A rookie finishes in the top ten. A driver that wasn't at Barber finishes in the top ten. A new track record will be set in qualifying. A driver that starts in the top six does not finish in the top fifteen. Sleeper: Luca Filippi.