If you weren’t aware, it was hot in Indianapolis this past weekend. Temperatures hit the 90s (I know this both from the fourteen thousand times they mentioned it during the race coverage and from working on my COVID-19 Project of rebuilding my screen porch). That was a big concern going into this race. Additionally, there was a named concern that because both NASCAR and INDYCAR sharing the track would overlay Firestone and Goodyear rubber onto the track. As it turns out, the different compounds did not really impede the drivers. The practice session was quiet, there was one incident between Ryan Hunter-Rhea and Santino Ferrucci. RHR was still warming up tires and when he went into Turn 7 he didn’t realize Ferrucci was behind him and they touched. RHR took blame for the event, but Race Control put a 5 minute penalty on Ferrucci. Sage Karem had a spin and stall, and was unable to get the car restarted.
Qualifications was full of surprises. Simon Pagenaud did not advance past the first round. The Firestone Fast Six only had two big named drivers (Josef Newgarden and Will Power) and rookie Oliver Askew held the fastest time within the Fast Six. Interestingly, Josef Newgarden waited a long time to go out for his laps. Then on his lap his tires locked up and he was wasn’t able to get in a recorded time. What was not surprising was that Will Power clenched the pole. This puts him within nine poles of Mario Andretti. It was a great Firestone Fast Six, Jack Harvey really looked like he got the pole and he challenged Power greatly.
The morning warm-up this race was just nuts. Within five minutes Marco Andretti stalled, again, causing a red flag. The car was found to have gearbox issues and that ended the session for Marco. Alexander Rossi started the session late due to issues with the fuel system in the car. The sky is blue. Indiana summers are hot. Rossi has fuel issues at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As far as results, the stock I put into warm-up only is who had issues and couldn’t rebound. If you had Marco in any of your fantasy leagues…I am sorry.
The big strategy going into the race was how many pit stops: 2 or 3. If you went on a two-stop strategy you were going to find yourself with longer stints. That means a lot more tire wear, and a heavier car full of fuel. However if you went on a three-stop strategy you spent a lot more time on pit lane and in the pits. It was a good mixture of those who started on either a two- or three-stop strategy. That changed when it became obvious the heat was killing tire wear AND when everyone saw how quick Scott Dixon was on the Firestone reds. At the end of the race only Graham Rahal, Santino Ferrucci, and Conor Daly kept with the two-stop strategy.
It was Dixon’s race. As INDYCAR Radio said, he has always been the bridesmaid at this track. Amazing calls were made by the team. He started off on the primary tires, which allowed him to complete the rest of the race on the quicker Firestone reds. Plus, it what honestly was pure luck that right before the only yellow of the race, Dixon had completed his pit stop. Once he got on reds, he was untouchable. It was also a redemption arch for Graham Rahal after a less than ideal finish in Texas. Graham was one of the few drivers on the two-stop strategy and it worked for him. His tire choices ultimately got him in the end, he was on the slower primary tires trying to catch Dixon. Not going to happen.
It was supposed to be such a promising race for Jack Harvey. He qualified second and made Will Power fight for that pole. He had a good race but then got screwed by the yellow. It came out before his pit, and Harvey got pushed back after a pit stop and just couldn’t get the positions back. It is heartbreaking as it had really looked like a great weekend. Sage Karem also just had a shitty weekend. This was a race he initially wasn’t supposed to be on the schedule for the team, but was added within the last two weeks. The weekend was just full of shit issues, and the race just continued the same theme. Karem exceeded the track limits and therefore had to yield a position. It was an unfortunate struggle for the team the whole weekend.
Andretti Autosport had a no-good horrible weekend. Both Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi had issues with the car the whole entire weekend. The race ended prematurely for Rossi after engine troubles ultimately forced him to retire. Then Andretti Autosport teammates Andretti and Zach Veach got entangled with each other and they both went off-roading. Plus AT-Veach lost his drink bottle at lap 10. Not the best thing during a very hot weekend. Colton Herta also had water bottle issues (this is the second race in a row, I am volunteering my services next week as drink bottle inspector…I’ll bring my duct tape). However Herta ended up finishing the race in fourth so he ultimately had a great race.