The Verizon IndyCar Series stars are back in action this weekend at Road America. After having a week off to recharge their batteries, it’s time to get back to work and do so at one of the drivers’ favorite tracks.
Here are five storylines to watch for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
Natural road courses don’t normally produce many cautions. The race at Barber back in April only had two and both were caused by the rain. The INDYCAR Grand Prix also had just two caution flags that flew. So, that likely means that we will see limited cautions on Sunday too right?
I’d say so.
Last year’s race had two cautions for seven total laps. In 2016, there was only one yellow.
Trends say look for only two caution flags to fly. When they do come out is the bigger story.
Starting Spot Matters But Strategy May Be Bigger
This season has shown that starting spot has mattered more times than not. With limited cautions on natural road courses, if you time the strategy right, the top starting cars are the ones to beat. In 2016, the race winner (Will Power) stared on the pole. Last year, the winner (Scott Dixon) started fifth. But, Dixon beat the Penske’s on fuel mileage and saving his tires.
He was able to use strategy to get by the Penske’s on his pit stops and win the race.
He just did so in the last race at Texas.
Road America will run just like that. Whoever can get clean in and out laps and run the longest on a fuel stint but also save their tires where they’re running flying laps at the end of stints will be the one to beat.
Right now, the Honda’s have that advantage. Chevy’s earned the front row, but the next seven spots went to Honda drivers. The Honda teams have had better speed on the Firestone primary tires and have shown to have better fuel mileage.
Behind the Indianapolis 500, the Verizon IndyCar Series has some other big races on the schedule. But, is Long Beach and Road America numbers two and three? Right now, I’d say so. Despite this being only the third year that the series has been back in Elkhart Lake, it’s instantly made its way to the top of places the drivers like racing at. The fans have showed up in droves and showed why this race is here to stay.
As far as a crown jewel, I’d say it certainly is. This is one that everyone wants to win.
Last year the Penske’s had the cars to beat. Instead, Dixon stole the win by strategy and skill. Same thing happened in the last race in Texas. I doubt they get beat like that again. Plus, on natural road courses, the Penskes are the ones to beat. They won at Barber (Josef Newgarden) and Indy (Will Power) this year. Last year, they won at Sonoma (Simon Pagenaud), Mid-Ohio (Newgarden), Indy (Power) and Barber (Newgarden). If you go back to the 2016 season finale in Sonoma (Pagenaud win) Penske has won seven of the last nine races on natural road courses.
I don’t see them losing this one.
Josef Newgarden was quickest in both practice sessions on Friday and won the pole for Sunday’s race. His teammate Will Power starts alongside in second.
No one is as hot in the series right now than Scott Dixon. Heading into the month of June, Dixon had led a combined zero laps. But, this month alone (3 races), he’s led 158 and taken two victories. His other finish this month was a fourth place run. But, if you go back to the start of May, Dixon hasn’t finished worse than fourth. He’s accumulated 248 points in the last five races which is best out of anyone. He also heads to Road America with the points lead.
Can he keep the month going right and end it on the right footing?
Dixon is the defending race winner in Road America. So you tell me.