INDIANAPOLIS – Three teams stand out as clear favorites to win Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports combined to put eight cars in the top 10 of the starting lineup for the 85 Lap race this weekend. In fact, five of the top six starters are among this group.
That’s good news too. The last three years have seen the race winner start from the pole. Furthermore, in all four years of this new race, every winner has started from the top two rows. There’s one Penske and two SPM cars in that group this weekend. ECR has both cars of their own in the top nine.
So, in terms of picking a race winner, you’d be foolish to not pick among that grouping. Plus, this race has had three combined caution flags fly the last three years year, including none last season, so strategy is really out the window too.
That means several talented drivers will be coming from the back on Saturday.
Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing saw just two of their combined eight drivers make it out of the opening round of qualifying. That went to Alexander Rossi (eighth) and Takuma Sato (11th). The rest of the grouping, well they struggled.
Rossi, was second and third respectively in the two earlier practice sessions, so he does have a shot on Saturday. The others, well they have some work to do.
Ryan Hunter-Reay has two podium finishes in four tries in this race, but he was only 15th and 16th respectively in practice and rolls off 13th. He will be joined in Row 7 by his teammate Marco Andretti. He was only 13th and 11th respectively in practice himself. Zach Veach, the fourth Andretti member, starts 20th.
Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t have a single one of their duo of drivers make it past the first round. Ed Jones will start 15th while Scott Dixon rolls off 18th. Dixon, said that the car actually has balance, but the speed just isn’t there. He has started seventh or better in all four of his previous INDYCAR Grand Prix starts.
Joining Dixon in Row 9 is Graham Rahal. He’s the only one with experience in coming from the back and making it work here. Rahal, has started 17th or worse in each of the last four years here. In the previous three races, he’s finished sixth or better. Can he do it again tomorrow?
This group hopes so. The new car has produced record setting passing thus far. We’ve had 999 passes through four races in 2018. That’s a 110-percent increase over this point in 2017.