Watkins Glen, NY – Now that the penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season is behind us, the actual second to last race of the year was crazy in itself. With that being said, here are the main takeaways from the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen.
Alexander “The Great” Rossi
What a weekend it was for the Andretti Autosport driver. He signed a multiyear extension with the team, then won his first career pole. He was also in the top five in all three practice sessions this weekend too.
To put the icing on the cake, Rossi capped the weekend off with a win in Sunday’s race. It was his second career IndyCar victory. But, the win didn’t come easy.
Rossi, rode in second for the early portions of the race, but took over the lead on Lap 23. Unfortunately, his crew didn’t fill his tank up and he had to pit for an unscheduled stop one lap later. He would end up 16th and off sequence.
Luckily, his teammate Takuma Sato brought out a caution on Lap 27 which sent him back to the front and near the same pit sequence as the rest of the leaders. When the final caution came out on Lap 45, he was leading and go to go to the end.
Also, it was his fifth straight top five on the season, three of which coming on the podium.
There’s no one driving as well as Rossi right now.
Championship Altering Race
It was a weird race in the fact that the main championship contenders didn’t really run up front for most of the race. Then, Josef Newgarden exited pit road too hot on Lap 45 and got into the pit exit wall. In return, Sebastien Bourdais got into the back of him ending his race hopes with an 18th place finish. That was his worst result since an 19th place run in the Indy 500 and 13th place finish at Texas.
But, despite five top two finishes over the last seven races now, Scott Dixon trails Newgarden by just three points heading to the season finale at Sonoma. Really, the top four are within 34 points now with seven drivers still mathematically eligible.
Chip Ganassi Racing Was Strong On Sunday
Scott Dixon may have finished second but his entire Chip Ganassi Racing team was strong all race. They put three cars in the top eight with Charlie Kimball finishing seventh and Max Chilton eighth. The only reason all four weren’t in the top 10 was because Tony Kanaan got into the pit exit wall trying to avoid Josef Newgarden’s crash on Lap 45.
Overall, it was a great day for CGR.
Honda Power Was King, They Sweep The Podium
On Friday, Honda began to flex their muscle at Watkins Glen. In the first practice session, they had seven of the top eight speeds. In the second one, they backed that up with putting six in the top nine.
Then, in the third practice on Saturday morning, they had six cars in the top seven on the speed chart. That all equated to five of the top seven starting spots in Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen being Honda drivers.
But, what would happen in the race?
Honda drivers lead 38 of the 60 laps en route to a clean sweep of the podium at Watkins Glen.
Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon shared the front row and in turn finished 1-2. Rossi, led 32 laps while Dixon took his No. 9 Honda to the lead four two circuits. Third place finisher Ryan Hunter-Reay led four laps in his No. 28 Honda too.
Furthermore, Graham Rahal brought his No. 15 Honda home fifth to give Honda four cars in the top five. If you go back to eighth, Honda had two more cars with six of the top eight finishers.
Overall, out of the top five finishers, there were three different Honda organizations too (Andretti-1st, 3rd, Ganassi-2nd, Rahal-5th).
Another Solid Race for AJ Foyt Racing
Since AJ Foyt Racing tested at Mid-Ohio in mid-July, things have turned drastically around for their two drivers. Prior to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz had four total top 10 finishes between them.
They’ve had five in four races.
Daly, came home 10th at Mid-Ohio, 14th at Pocono, fifth at Gateway and now 11th on Sunday at Watkins Glen. If not for a pit road penalty late at Pocono, he likely would have had a top 10 that day too. Then, if not for a few drivers being off sequence in Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen, he too would have had another top 10 finish.
Munoz, was 18th at Mid-Ohio, but has three straight top 10 results since. He was 10th at Pocono, ninth at Gateway and 10th at the Watkins Glen International road course.
Pit Strategy Caused a Weird Race
Heavy rains fell overnight and into the morning on Sunday, deeming this race a “wet start.” That meant all the drivers had to start on wet Firestone tires. But, the track was drying quickly and 19 of the 21 starters hit pit lane for slicks on the opening lap. The other two would pit one lap later.
But, six drivers would be off strategy causing this race to be a very weird one with some not so normal contenders challenging up front for the win.
Both Ed Carpenter Racing cars would pit on Lap 8, so would Max Chilton. Then, Marco Andretti and Jack Harvey would hit pit road on Lap 14. By virtue of a Lap 14 caution for Takuma Sato, it would put Chilton, Harvey, Andretti, Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand in the top five.
Then, Alexander Rossi had to pit for an unscheduled stop on Lap 24 and he to would be off strategy. That left those six against Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves for the win.
In return, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden weren’t really factors.
It was a weird but exciting race.
Spencer Pigot Led 1st Laps
Pigot spun early on in the race but then found himself leading his first career IndyCar laps shortly after. By virtue of being off sequence, Pigot would lead eight laps on Sunday. He would also finish 12th.
Simon Pagenaud Extends Streak
Pagenaud has still completed every lap of the season and could be just the second driver ever to run all 100-percent of the laps in a season, joining Tony Kanaan (2004) at that feat. He completed all 60 laps on Sunday and has completed all 2,246 laps this season.