Event Coverage: 2019 IndyCar Grand Prix
Simon Pagenaud Race
Simon Pagenaud had a steady race, starting a modest 8th, but kept himself in the top 10 throughout the day. Simon hasn’t really shined in the new, lower downforce bodywork that was introduced in 2018. He admitted later that 2018 was a development year for his team, but they were finally starting to get a hang of the updated car.
Helio Castroneves Race
Helio Castroneves returned for his annual pilgrimage to Indy. Things didn’t go great for Helio: he only qualified 15th and fell to 21st by the end of the race. While still very quick, it’s obvious that the time outside of an IndyCar is hurting his Indy runs. He’s still fast (currently 2nd in the 2019 IMSA standings), but his lack of seat time in an IndyCar really shows. Helio ended up bringing out the final caution when he spun on fresh rain tires.
Pit Stops
Did we say rain tires? We did. This IndyCar GP ended up as a 2-stop race. Part of that was helped by the cool conditions, allowing the alternate Red tires to go longer into a stint before falling off. Some cars only ran the reds, though others tried the primary Blacks as well. As the cars were heading out for the pace laps, the first spits of rain started coming down. Everyone knew rain was coming, it was just a matter of when.
Alexander Rossi on Rain Tires
Unlike Formula 1, IndyCar has no intermediate tire. They have two slick options and a full wet rain tire. Around Lap 55, the rain began to pick up. The trick would be when to transition to the rains. Change over too early, and you’d overheat and burn up the tires too quickly. Pit too late, and risk losing lots of time on the slick track, or worse yet crash trying to keep a 700 hp racecar on the track. Being 4 laps down, Rossi was used as a guinea pig for the Andretti team, helping the team decide when to pit their cars in contention.
Pit Indecision
Lap 59 became the critical lap for the race. At this point it was about even as to whether or not the rain tires would be an advantage. Castroneves pitted and attempted to go out on wets. He ended up spinning almost immediately after coming out of the pits and getting beached in Turn 2. This set off a flurry of activity. Clearly his stricken car would bring out a yellow. But IndyCar actively chose to leave the pits open for one lap to allow the teams to pit.
Scott Dixon Pits for Rains
A number of leaders took advantage of this free stop. IndyCar rules close the pits when the yellow comes out, but Race Control may choose not to immediately throw a yellow if a stopped car or piece of debris has a low chance of affecting other cars. Some cars, like Dixon, immediately stopped and swapped to the rain tires. Others, like all of the Penske cars, chose to stay out. Even more interesting, despite visible water on the track, some cars chose to stay on slicks!

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