Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Track Walk: 4th Grand Prix of Indianapolis

The first race of May takes place on the IMS road course
The fifth round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. This will be the fourth time the IMS road course has been used for an IndyCar race and this year's race takes place on the second Saturday in May for the fourth consecutive year. Last year's race saw Simon Pagenaud lead a Team Penske 1-2 and it was Team Penske's second victory in the race. After Honda won the first two races of the 2017 season, Chevrolet has responded by taking the two most recent races and Chevrolets led 326 of 340 laps contested at Barber and Phoenix. This year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis has been extended to 85 laps, three laps longer than the three previous editions.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday May 13th. Green flag will be at 3:35 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: ABC.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever in the booth with Dr. Jerry Punch, Jon Beekhuis and Rick DeBruhl working the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice- 9:15 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Second Practice- 3:25 p.m. ET (45-minute session).
Qualifying- 4:20 p.m. ET.
Warm-Up- 11:00 a.m. ET (30-miunte session).
Race- 3:50 p.m. ET (85 laps)

Pagenaud Back on Top
For the second consecutive season, Simon Pagenaud left Phoenix as the championship leader. Last year, he never looked back and held the championship lead all the way to a championship. The two-time and defending Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner enters this year's race with an 18-point lead over Scott Dixon.

Pagenaud and Dixon are the only two drivers with top five finishes in all four races this season with Pagenaud having three podium finishes this season. Pagenaud retired in the 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a gearbox issue. Dixon has improved in all three Grand Prix of Indianapolis with finishes of 15th, tenth and seventh.

Josef Newgarden trails his teammate by 26 points but he hasn't finished better than 17th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and he hasn't started better than 12th. Being caught up in the first lap accident at Phoenix dropped Sébastien Bourdais to fourth in the championship, 31 points behind his fellow Frenchman. Bourdais finished fourth in the first two editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis but retired in 24th after damage from a lap one accident.

Thirty-nine points behind Pagenaud is James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian finished third in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Hélio Castroneves has the best average finish in the short history of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis at 3.7 with two podium finishes including finishing second-place last year to Pagenaud. This comes despite having an average finish of 8.7.

Lap One, Turn One
All three Grand Prix of Indianapolis have had a first lap accident, two of which have occurred in turn one and three of the first four races this season have had a first lap accident.

The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis is remembered for the infamous start line accident when pole-sitter Sebastián Saavedra stalled from the standing start and was run into by Carlos Muñoz and Mikhail Aleshin. Two years ago, Scott Dixon was spun in turn one by Hélio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden and Jack Hawksworth also spun. Last year, Sébastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan came together entering turn one.

Of the nine drivers involved in the first lap incidents four have started in the top five and three have started outside the top fifteen. Castroneves and Dixon are the only drivers to be involved in a first lap incident to recover for a top ten finish. Castroneves finished sixth and Dixon finished tenth in 2015.

Charlie Kimball has been involved in two of the three first lap accidents this year. Despite Kimball's growing reputation for contact, he has finished fifth in all three Grand Prix of Indianapolis and started second last year after Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden had their qualifying times disallowed. Kimball is the only driver to have top five finishes in every Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Graham Rahal has also been involved in two of the three first lap accidents this year. Rahal has an average starting position of 17.7 in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis but has an average finish of 9.0 with finishes of second and fourth the last two years.

Same Song, Different Tune for Andretti Autosport
Phoenix marked the second time in four races all four Andretti cars retired from a race but unlike Long Beach where all four cars retired because of mechanical or electrical issues, all four cars retired at Phoenix after contact.

Despite Andretti Autosport's rough start, three of the team's four drivers are in good championship position. Ryan Hunter-Reay is ninth in the championship with 82 points despite his only top ten finish being fourth at the season opener at St. Petersburg. Hunter-Reay finished second in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and has the third best average finish of drivers to have started every Grand Prix of Indianapolis at 7.3.

Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi are 11th and 12th in the championship on 79 points and 75 points respectively. Sato finished ninth in the first two editions of this race before finishing 18th last year. Sato has completed all 246 laps in the history of the race. Rossi scored his first career top ten finish in IndyCar last year with a tenth-place finish in this race.

Marco Andretti finished seventh in the season opener but an electrical issue, gearbox issue and being collateral damage in a first lap accident have left him 19th in the championship, tied with Conor Daly on 57 points. Andretti has finished 14th, 16th and 15th in his three starts on the IMS road course with his best starting position being 13th.

The Return of Montoya
The lone addition to the IndyCar grid for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian will drive the #22 Fitzgerald Gliders Kit Chevrolet for both Indianapolis races. Montoya has won his first start of the season the last two years in IndyCar. His best finish in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was third in 2015. He has started in the top ten in all three of his starts on the IMS road course.

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series will be on track this weekend at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Andretti Steinbrenner Racing's Colton Herta has won two of the first four races of the Indy Lights season and he finds himself leading the Indy Lights championship on 101 points. Both his victories this season have come from pole position. Juncos Racing's Kyle Kaiser finished second in both races from Barber Motorsports Park and Kaiser finds himself second in the championship trailing Herta by 16 points. Herta's teammate Nico Jamin won race one from Barber and sits third, 26 points behind Herta with Belardi Auto Racing's Aaron Telitz a point behind the Frenchman in fourth.

Carlin's top driver is Neil Alberico, who finds himself fifth on 69 points. The Californian has finished third in race one of each race weekend this season. Belardi's Shelby Blackstock is on 61 points, three ahead of Team Pelfrey's Pato O'Ward. O'Ward is not entered for this weekend's race. Juncos' Nicolas Dapero sits on 52 points, one ahead of Carlin's Zachary Claman DeMelo with Matheus Leist of Carlin rounding out the top ten on 49 points.

Defending Indy Lights vice-champion Santiago Urrutia finished second in the second St. Petersburg race but he has finished 13th twice and 15th in the other three races and he is 11th in the championship on 48 points. Andretti drivers Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman are tied on 44 points with Kellett having scored two top ten finishes and Norman has three top ten finishes. Team Pelfrey's Juan Piedrahita and Carlin's Garth Rickards round out the championship on 38 points and 34 points respectively.

Indy Lights will race at 5:50 p.m. ET on Friday and 1:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Pro Mazda returns to competition for the first time since the St. Petersburg weekend.

Anthony Martin swept the St. Petersburg weekend with two grand slam performances of winning from pole position, leading every lap and picking up fastest lap along the way. The Cape Motorsports driver sits on 66 points, 16 points ahead of Juncos Racing's Victor Franzoni, who finished second in both St. Petersburg races. Team Pelfrey's TJ Fischer finished third both in Pro Mazda races from St. Petersburg and trails Martin by 22 points.

Pelfrey's Nikita Lastochkin finished fifth in both St. Petersburg races and has 34 points, one ahead of World Speed Motorsports' Sting Ray Robb with Pelfrey's Carlos Cunha Filho in sixth on 30 points, one point ahead of World Speed Motorsports' Phillippe Denes. ArmsUp Motorsports' Max Hanratty sits on 28 points with World Speed's Bobby Eberle on 24 points. Matt Machiko rounds out the top ten on 22 points, tied with Jeff Green as both drivers finished ninth and 13th at the season opener.

Race one of the Pro Mazda weekend will be at 3:25 p.m. ET on Friday with race two scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Cape Motorsports' Oliver Askew has won three consecutive U.S. F2000 races as the series heads to IMS. Askew had 122 points, 34 points ahead of Pelfrey's Kaylen Frederick and Pabst Racing's Rinus VeeKay. Frederick finished second in both Barber races while VeeKay has three podium finishes from four races. Defending U.S. F2000 vice-champion Parker Thompson sits on 79 points, fourth in the championship for Exclusive Autosport. Pelfrey's Robert Megennis rounds out the top five on 68 points.

Newman Wachs Racing's Dakota Dickerson finished sixth in the first three races of the season and he sits sixth in the championship on 56 points, eight points ahead of Exclusive Autosport's Luke Gabin. Pabst's Calvin Ming sits on 40 points, three points ahead of DEForce Racing's Kory Enders and four points of Pelfrey's Ayla Årgen, who rounds out the top ten of the championship.

U.S. F2000 will race at 2:30 p.m. ET on Friday and 9:52 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race to take place on May 13th, the first since Sébastien Bourdais won at Houston, a street course race that took place under lights on a Saturday night.

The pole-sitter has won this race the last two years. The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was won from fourth position.

Will Power has led 65 laps, the most laps in the history of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Team Penske has led the last 266 laps of IndyCar competition and is responsible for all 344 laps led by Chevrolet in 2017.

Tony Kanaan has not had a top five finish in his last six starts, his longest drought since 2013.

Ed Jones won the first Indy Lights race on the IMS road course last year and finished third in race one in 2015. He finished fourth in the second Indy Lights race each of the last two years.

J.R. Hildebrand has finished 21st and 22nd in his two Grand Prix of Indianapolis starts.

Carlos Muñoz's average starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is 19.0.

Mikhail Aleshin started and finished 25th in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and started ninth and finished 13th last year.

Max Chilton will have gone 1,750 days since his most recent victory on a natural-terrain road course on race day for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. His most recent natural-terrain road course victory was July 28, 2012 at the Hungaroring in the GP2 Series. Chilton's last two victories were at Singapore in GP2 and at Iowa in Indy Lights.

Conor Daly finished sixth in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis and led 14 laps. Daly has yet to start ahead of his teammate this season.

Spencer Pigot is still looking for his first career top ten starting position. He has still yet to make it to the second round of IndyCar qualifying on a road/street course.

The only drivers to have won on both the oval and road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are Alex Lloyd, Jack Harvey and Dean Stoneman. Lloyd won the Liberty Challenge in 2006 and the Freedom 100 in 2007. Harvey won the race one of the Indy Lights weekend and the Freedom 100 last year. Stoneman won the second race of the IMS road course weekend and the Freedom 100 last year.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, or Ryan Hunter-Reay could join Lloyd, Harvey and Stoneman as winner on both the IMS oval and road course.

Marco Andretti or Ed Jones could become the first driver to win in both Indy Lights and IndyCar on the IMS road course. Andretti won the Liberty Challenge in 2005. Jones won race one of the 2016 Indy Lights weekend.

The average amount of lead changes is ten with a median of 11.

The average amount of cautions is 2.333 with a median of two. The average amount of caution laps is 10.333 with a median of ten. 

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 66 laps to reach the 5,000 laps led milestone.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 4 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Josef Newgarden needs to lead 7 laps to reach the 700 laps led milestone.

Ryan Hunter-Reay becomes the first American driver to win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi making it two Andretti Autosport drivers on the podium. Simon Pagenaud retains the championship lead. Juan Pablo Montoya gets a top ten finish. The first lap will be completed without any incident causing a caution. At least two drivers will go wide in turn seven causing them to lose valuable positions. Team Penske continues to be the only Chevrolet team to have led in 2017. Sleeper: Max Chilton.