The sun was out, the cars were on the track, and the atmosphere was festive yet relaxed. The Verizon IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again provided a weekend of great on and off track activities. It was a pretty hectic weekend between on and off track activity, but it was the perfect opening for May.
I put some stock in qualifications when I debate whom to pick for winners. Qualifications this weekend seemed to throw a wrench in everyone’s ideas (to be fair I did pick Will Power for Fantasy IndyCar). I suppose more specifically Scott Dixon went – just kidding and for the first time in three years did not make it out of the first qualifying group. Huh? What? It was one of those moments where you think long and hard about calling your family and telling them goodbye because the first sign of the apocalypse just happened. However, Dixon’s gonna do what Dixon’s gonna do and based on tire and fuel strategery he went from 18th to 2nd place.
Team Penske had…well…it was a weird race weekend for Team Penske. Will Power came out and clenched back-to-back wins for the IndyCarGP (and back-to-back poles). The rest of the Penske team struggled on the weekend that nabbed the Captain his 200th win as a team. Lap 1, Helio appeared to dip into Pagenaud who then spun into Jordan King (more on ECR in a minute). Helio did jump up spots to end sixth after starting tenth, but maybe not the first return to an IndyCar race that Helio was anticipating. Pagenaud slipped down to finish eighth after starting seventh…and then Josef got squeezed out trying to pass, spun out, and had to wait (and wait) on a restart ultimately ending eleventh. By contrast, last year Team Penske held four out of the top five spots (of course Scott Dixon didn’t make it a complete Penske run on the spots!).
There’s talk about the IndyCar Grand Prix providing the bump of motivation heading into the Indianapolis 500, but Penske’s had a bit of a slump. Looking at last year’s finishes in both races – I am not sure that such a motivational bump works for this team. After having all four Penske cars finish in the Top 5 at the IndyCar Grand Prix, only three Penske cars (one being JPM’s one-off) finished on the lead lap of the Indianapolis 500, notably Helio did finish the race in second but it is the 500.
I’m slightly worried about Honda cars going into the Indianapolis 500. Specifically Andretti Autosport – what happened!? Zach Veach indicated they had trouble finding the balance on his car. Marco Andretti had to replace an engine right before qualifying. Ryan Hunter-Reay complained about his car the ENTIRE race, and apparently, Alexander Rossi’s car was also giving him trouble. When the team that has clinched the last three out of four wins for the Indianapolis 500 is having car troubles heading into that race it is not good. Maybe the cars were just shaking out the cobwebs, but it seemed like different issues on all cars.
At the end of the race, Robert Wickens and his crew chief had some discussion about overtake to which the crew chief replied “it’s a global issue with Honda” and that’s concerning. There seems to be a bit of a communication issue with that team, so much so that Wickens and his crew chief had a bit of a back-and-forth as to what the strategy was. Seemed like someone was thinking one strategy, and someone else had another one in mind. That’s great <sarcasm> and probably a very terse debrief session even if Wickens came in second (for like the fourth race in a row!)
The field made it again through Lap 1 Turn 1 without an incident. However, once again Ed Carpenter wore the pained expression of a man who is just hating every decision he’s ever made when both of his cars spin out, or in the case of Pigot catch some air time, within the first lap. Thank GOD the next race is the Indianapolis 500, Ed’s ready to focus on the one race that matters to him. #DaddyOnlyDoesOvals
It’s time for the Indianapolis 500 – let’s go!
And speaking of the Indianapolis 500 – Conor’s back and has a deal to do a NASCAR event as well because when you’re the fan favorite of IndyCar who DOESN’T HAVE A FULL TIME RIDE, you go where you’re wanted. and so yep this is happening and I’m not sure how to discuss my feelings on the matter yet. (to clarify I’m happy Conor has a ride I would have liked him to be in IndyCar and I think it speaks to the high price this sport costs)