Event Coverage: Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Event Coverage: Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

by David Zipf

The month of May means many things to many people.  To some, it means breaking out the swimsuit and enjoying the sun for the first time in months.  For others, it’s a reason to celebrate a popular science fiction series. And for plumbers it mean replacing toilets after they’ve been destroyed by a night of Corona and tacos.  But for racing fans, all eyes turn to Indianapolis as the Verizon IndyCar Series visits one of the most famous racing venues in the world: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  These days IMS hosts not one, but two races for IndyCar: the world famous Indianapolis 500, and the growing Grand Prix of Indianapolis held on the infield road course.  To kick off the Month of May, we’re turning both left AND right.

Coming into the Grand Prix, the big story of the season has been Simon Pagenaud.  The French driver joined the powerhouse Team Penske in 2015 and the results were…less than stellar.  While teammates Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya were fighting for the championship, Simon only finished 11th in points, far below what Penske expects.  Simon has more than made up for that n 2016: he finished 2nd at St Petersburg and Phoenix, then won Long Beach and Birmingham, taking a commanding lead in the points.  2015’s big headline was the introduction of the aero kits: and even moreso how Chevrolet decimated Honda winning every single pole.  Honda lobbied hard to make updates outside the standard development window IndyCar allowed for 2016.  IndyCar allowed those changes and Honda made them.  Yet the Chevy train rolls on, winning all the poles and all the races of 2016.  Honda has been closing in, but would they finally break through at Indy?

 

Fifty three weeks ago, James Hinchcliffe was laying in a hospital bed, fighting for his life.  Hinch was involved in a huge crash which resulted in one of his Dallara's A-arms piercing his leg.  He survived the crash and spent the rest of the season recovering.  He is back in his Arrow sponsored SPM Honda, showing why he’s the Mayor of Hinchtown.  In his return to the track that nearly took his life, Hinch qualified 4th.
Graham Rahal was Honda’s brightest hope in 2015, winning twice and nearly stealing away the championship.  Once again, he has been Honda’s fastest car, fighting with Pagenaud in Alabama for the lead at the very end of the race, losing only when he broke both front wings dealing with traffic.  He would go on to qualify fifth.
Will Power in the number 12 Penske Verizon Chevrolet was the man to beat at Indy in 2015.  In 2016, he has had the absolute worst luck.  At St. Pete he got the pole, but did not start the race because of an inner ear infection.  Since then, the typical Will Power aggression has seemingly been missing.  He was quick at Indy and set the track record in the early part of qualifying, but on his final flying lap, he clipped the wall and missed the Firestone Fast 6, relegating himself to 10th.  Josef Newgarden in the 21 Ed Carpenter Chevy was quick in 2015, but 2016 has been tough as well.  He finished 3rd at Barber and made it into the Fast 6 at Indy, qualifying in 5th.
Unfortunately for both Newgarden and Rahal, their times would not stand.  Both cars were found to be underweight and both were stripped of their qualifying times and would start in last.  Both teams were devastated, but understood rules are rules. 
Simon Pagenaud faced no such trouble and took the Verizon Pole Award for Indy’s GP.  So much for the field catching up to Simon.  He already won the GP in its inaugural year in 2014.  With pole in the bag, it would be up to the other 24 cars to run him down.  Old school IndyCar fans should be delighted to see the return of the Menards livery to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Simon was making sure John Menard is getting his money’s worth out of this new partnership.

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