All of this is good news for the Indy GP. Sadly, the first four years of this race have been rather boring. The Indy road course really favored a good setup and clean air with the high downforce aero kits. The 2015, 16, and 17 editions were all won from the pole with no other driver really threatening the leader. The new aero kits should help alleviate the parade of the Indy GP and give the race some much needed action.
One driver looking for a good May is Sebastien Bourdais. A year ago, he crashed hard when qualifying for the 500 and spent most of the rest of the 2017 season recovering with a broken hip. He returned to full-time racing with a win at St Pete, but the following Phoenix and Long Beach rounds were mediocre. At least Bourdais has arguably the best looking car on the grid with its nose art and sweet Seal Master livery.
Alexander Rossi has had a stellar 2018 season. The 2016 Indy 500 winner took podium positions at both St Petersburg and Phoenix, then won at Long Beach. The rainy swept Barber race wasn’t as great, but Rossi is looking strong, helping to dispel the silly “he only won Indy because he got lucky” rumors that have dogged him since his maiden victory.
However the hottest driver in IndyCar right now is reigning 2017 champion Josef Newgarden. Josef won both the Phoenix and Barber races and is the current points leader. In fact he and Rossi are in a league of their own, with a 20 point lead over 3rd place Bourdais. Newgarden is the only consistent Penske driver at the moment: a major anomaly when you remember that both of his teammates (Simon Pagenaud and Will Power) got their starts in the waning days of Champ Car with their 800 horsepower Cosworth XFE engines and the short lived Panoz DP-01 chassis that very much mimicked how the current DW12 behaves. In theory, Power and Pagenaud should be right at home in these new cars, but it’s been Newgarden who has lead the Penske assault.
It’s hard not to mention Team Penske and Helio Castroneves, but for most of the year that’s exactly what we’ve had to do. Penske cut back from four cars to three in the off-season and Helio got moved into Penske’s new Acura DPi program alongside Ricky Taylor. Fortunately, both Roger and Helio love the Indy 500 more than anything and Penske is bringing Castroneves back for both of the May races. The team will be treating the Grand Prix as a refresher course and plan to give Helio another shot at winning his fourth 500 in two more weeks.
At 3:43 local time, the command was given to start engines. The weather was hot and overcast, with rain threatening the schedule. Rain would certainly make for an interesting variable if it did indeed come. If the rain did hit, it would come towards the very end of the race.