Event Coverage: 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix


Scott Dixon’s Grand Prix weekend was a mess.  Both he and Ed Jones (Dixon’s latest Chip Ganassi teammate) struggled in practice and qualified poorly.  Dixon’s car was so bad Jones actually out qualified him (15th vs 18th), a rarity for Dixon. Dixon said the team ended up throwing the kitchen sink at their setup overnight.  Whatever they did worked as Dixon was fastest in the final warm up. With a good car underneath him, Dixon began to work his way through the field.
Tony Kanaan moved from Ganassi’s team to Foyt Racing in 2018.  Foyt’s team was comfortably the lowest performing in 2017 (and to be fair in 2015 and 16 as well), but the group is hoping bringing in the Brazilian veteran and some fresh engineers will help bring this storied team back up the grid.  Introducing TK has definitely improved the team’s fortunes as he has had multiple top 10s this season, but Foyt Racing is still a ways off from winning again. Kanaan had a good car and ran as high as 6th, but poor pit stops dropped him down to 18th by the end of the race.  Clearly the Foyt crew has some work to do.
Power and Wickens were nose to tail for the first stint of the race, both pitting on Lap 20.  Wicken’s SPM team kept him on the softer Firestone Red tires, while Power opted for the harder, but longer lasting blacks.  This gave Wickens a pace advantage, but meant he would need to take the blacks later to meet the rules (both cars started on the reds).  Both teams had immaculate pit stops, but Power’s Pit Stop Competition winning team was able keep him ahead of Wickens.
Despite having a stellar car, Wickens’ speed on the reds was too much and was able to pass Power three laps after the pair pitted.  Wickens got a great run down Hulman Boulevard and passed Power heading into Turn 7. Wickens was able to keep Power behind him throughout the second stint, despite the slight drop off of his softer tires later in the stint.  Wickens pulled a small gap on Power, but the two were never more than a corner apart.
One of the great stories of 2018 has been that, despite Penske trimming a car and Ganassi cutting back from four to two, the IndyCar field has actually grown for the first time in five years.  Carlin Racing, Harding Racing, and Juncos Racing all have full-time programs for 2018, adding four cars to the field. Michael Shank Racing has also partnered with Andretti Autosport to run a part-time season.  Gabby Chaves drove for Harding Racing in 2017, finishing 9th at the Indy 500 and 5th in Texas (Harding only competed in these two races as well as Pocono). Their 2018 debut has been a bit tougher, but Chaves is a smart young driver and will be a threat on the faster tracks like Indy, Texas, and Pocono again.  
Graham Rahal seems to have trouble in qualifying, but put him in a good car and he is lightning.  Rahal started 17th, but immediately began working his way through the field. He’s had a decent year, finishing within the top 10 in every race, but nothing that really stands out.  He’s had some outstanding drives, starting dead last in St Pete and finishing 2nd. He had another good run at Indy, ending up 9th at the end of the day, and continuing his streak of solid finishes.

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