INDIANAPOLIS – The fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) will run on Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Five years ago, this race was met with some resistance and some awkward excitement. Now, it’s one of the biggest staples on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Several drivers talked this weekend about this track being one of their favorite road courses in North America. It’s certainly a race they all want to win.
With that being said, who can avoid the first lap carnage (there’s been a wreck on the opening lap in all four years) and can someone other than Team Penske (3 wins in 4 years) reach victory lane on Saturday.
Also, the pole sitter has won this 85 Lap race in three straight years. Will that happen again?
Here are five favorites.
This one is obvious. Power, is due for a win in 2018 and this could be the race he does just that. He has three top five starting spots now in the race and has two wins as well. Can he take his No. 12 Chevrolet to victory on Saturday?
I say yes.
Power was fastest in both practices on Friday and qualified his No. 12 Chevrolet on the pole for the third time here.
Talk about another driver that’s due. Pagenaud is off to a rough start to the 2018 season. He’s had the speed but doesn’t have the results. If not for a pit road mistake at Phoenix or having been punted by Graham Rahal at Long Beach, Pagenaud surely would have had a top five finish by now. Instead, he’s marred 15th in the points standings and looking for his first solid result.
That could come this weekend too. Pagenaud has also won twice here and has done so in every other year fashion. He won in 2014 and 2016, what about 2018?
He has a win at Indy before. That was in the 100th Running of the Indy 500. Can he become the first driver to win both the ‘500 and the INDYCAR Grand Prix? So far, yes.
Rossi, was in the top three in both practice sessions on Friday and qualified his No. 27 Honda. He’s won at the Watkins Glen and Long Beach road courses in the NAPA colors. Why not at IMS?
He’s been so strong for nearly an entire year. Since last July he’s finished outside the top six just twice.
He’s hungry for a win and he’s had a great car so far this weekend. Bourdais, qualified his No. 18 Honda third and was also in the top seven in both practice sessions this weekend too. Also, Bourdais has two fourth place finishes in this race in four tries.
Three Penskes? Of course. This is their race to lose every year and why not have the points leader who’s won half the race in 2018 on it? Yes, Newgarden hasn’t finished in the top 10 here before, but he’s starting sixth and was in the top 10 in both practices too.
If not for a pit road penalty and some unfortunately luck last year, Pigot was destined for a top five finish in this very race. He’s back for more. He finished 11th and ninth respectively in his two tries in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and has had pace this season to shine on Saturday. The American was eighth in both practice sessions this weekend and will roll off tomorrow ninth.
Don’t sleep on Pigot.
You can’t overlook Pigot’s Ed Carpenter Racing teammate of Jordan King either. He was also quick in every attempt this season but hasn’t had the finishes to show for it. He was fast here in the open test back in March and backed that speed up with being third quick in the first practice session of the day.
His No. 20 Chevrolet will be battling on Saturday for the win. King, was in the top five in both practice sessions this weekend. In fact, he was third and second respectively and will start fifth.
This is one of Kimball’s better tracks. In fact, natural road courses suit him. He won his lone INDYCAR race on one at Mid-Ohio. He also has three fifth place finishes in this race in four tries. He was fast at Barber in the last race before being taken out early.
He can win this race this weekend.
He’s at his best on natural road courses too. Chilton, finished 14th in his rookie season in this race in 2016 and seventh last year. If not for an electrical gremlin last race in Barber, he was heading towards a top 10 finish that day too.
This wouldn’t be the first time Wickens has won at Indy. He won in sports cars a while back. Also, Wickens has been very fast to start this year off with. He started on the pole in St. Pete and if not for late race contact with Alexander Rossi, he likely would have won. He’d lead 69 out of the 110 laps that day. In Phoenix, he’d finish runner-up.
Wickens was fourth fastest in final practice and qualified his No. 6 Honda on the front row.