IndyCar Grand Prix Preview

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As you are reading this, I am either in Indianapolis or well on my way. My plan is to get away early, but this time I feel like my plan will work – mainly because it is not dependent on anyone else. If I tell Susan we are leaving at 6:00, she translates that to mean 7:00. When John McLallen was giving me a ride to Barber, I had to wake him out of a deep sleep to remind him that he was to pick me up at 6:00. He showed up at 7:15.

Today, I’m travelling alone in my own car and can leave whenever I feel like it – preferably around 5:00 or so. Susan has been working in western Kentucky all week and will work today, before heading straight to IMS this afternoon. We’ll spend the weekend together, then she’ll return to Kentucky on Sunday whenever I head back to Nashville. While I’ll be very happy to see her, it’ll be sort of nice to go at my own pace all day today at IMS.

One of those things I’ll do is head to the IMS Museum today. Susan doesn’t really get that much of a thrill out of it, but this weekend the museum is offering free admission. I plan on taking advantage of not only the free admission, but also the smaller crowds this weekend. The Race Weekend crowds at the museum can be stifling – especially on a hot day.

Of course, that’ll be when the Indy cars aren’t on track. It’s a condensed schedule for this year, cramming everything into two days. The first practice is at 9:15 this morning. I may catch the tail end of that one, but I doubt it – not with losing an hour due to the time change. The second practice is at 12:25 and qualifying will be at 4:20 this afternoon. There will be a final warmup tomorrow at 11:00. Then the green flag will wave Saturday afternoon at 3:50 with ABC coverage starting at 3:30 (all times Eastern).

The weather is looking a lot better this year than last. If you’ll recall, last year on Race Day for the Grand Prix – it was freezing! It was cloudy, gloomy and about fifty degrees; but felt like thirty. This year looks much better. For practice and qualifying today, it’ll be about 65° and mostly cloudy. Tomorrow for the race should be perfect – about 72° and sunny. I can take that.

As for the race, it would be hard to bet against the five Penske cars (Juan Montoya is in this race). Penske has the drivers. There have been three IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Simon Pagenaud won the first while driving for Sam Schmidt. Will Power won the second in a Penske car and Pagenaud won last year’s race driving for Penske. In short – all GP winners now drive for Roger Penske. I thought that Honda may have the slightest of edges on the IMS road course, however if you listened to Michael Andretti on Trackside last night – he doesn’t give Honda much of a chance this weekend.

In the very short history of this race, there have been some surprise early leaders driving for small teams. In 2014, Jack Hawksworth, driving for Bryan Herta, was pulling away from everyone before a yellow bunched up the field. A slow pit stop put him out of contention. Last year, Conor Daly led fourteen laps while driving for Dale Coyne before ending up sixth.

But if you don’t want to give this race to a Penske driver, then your choices are wide-open. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports won the inaugural event in 2014. They could very easily repeat with James Hinchcliffe, who won at Long Beach. Graham Rahal finished second in 2015 and fourth last year, both times in a season where the Honda package was at a disadvantage. With at least a more level playing field than last year, Rahal could very well be atop the podium tomorrow afternoon.

And don’t forget that the Ganassi drivers have not forgotten how to drive. Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan could easily win tomorrow. And don’t forget the four Andretti cars that’ll be in this race. Any of those four drivers could win.

But this weekend is not just about the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Mazda Road to Indy will be showcased all through the weekend. On Friday, there will be racing probably beyond 7:00 pm.

This is also the weekend that I go on my annual quest to find the classic Jumbo Tenderloin sandwich. Don’t waste your time with that disgusting abomination they sell behind the Pagoda. Each year there is an obscure stand somewhere on the grounds that sells the real thing. I’ll do my best to find it today. When I do, I’ll let you know about it here.

As usual, I’ll be posting on here throughout today and tomorrow. But with no track activity on Sunday, there will be no post here on Sunday. Monday will have my usual race recap. Please follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog or Susan at @MrsOilpressure for photos and timely comments.

My race pick to win is something of a toss-up. I’ve narrowed it down between my pick for Phoenix who ended up last, and a driver that has already won once already this season and could be poised for a monstrous season this year. Graham Rahal is due, not only for the Grand Prix, but to have some good luck this season. I think he’ll have another solid race, but my pick to win is the other driver I was referring to – Josef Newgarden.

Please check back later through the day.

George Phillips

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2 Responses to “IndyCar Grand Prix Preview”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Free admission to see the AJ Foyt exhibit in the museum? That’s awesome. I hear they’ve got everything from Foyt’s first ride in the 500, to an early 60s midget, to the Oldsmobile Aerotech speed record car.

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    Good luck finding a non-restored tenderloin. As you wander through the museum pondering and cogitatin’ over which car is original and which was restored, I am happy to relate that the Museum is considering posting little tags on future museum acquisitions that will say “Kimball scratch”.

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