2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Indianapolis – Preview

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Credit: Bret Kelley / Courtesy of IndyCar

The famous ‘month of May’ for the Verizon IndyCar Series has begun, but before the drivers take part in the famous Indianapolis 500, they have to tackle this weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here is a rundown of everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s race.

What happened in 2017 at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis?

Twelve months ago, fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series witnessed a domination on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit. In qualifying, Team Penske kept up their fantastic single-lap pace, with Will Power taking his third pole position of the season so far after breaking the lap-record in his #12 Chevrolet. Penske cars occupied five of the top seven positions on the grid too, with Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden lining up just behind Power in second and third.

In the race, Power looked strong throughout. He dropped behind his team-mate Castroneves early on, but would later re-take the top spot. Of the eighty-five lap race distance, the Australian would lead sixty-one laps and would go on to claim his first win of the 2017 season. It was a much-needed win, too, with Power having had a tough start to the year after not placing inside the top twelve in the first three races.

“It just feels great to finally have a good day and everyone has worked so hard on our team,” said Power at the time, “Obviously, a rough start. But, like you said, should have won a couple by now. It helps in points. It’s great to get a win again.”

Five seconds further back was second-placed Scott Dixon, who blamed excessive tyre wear in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda as the reason he was not able to further challenge Power. Completing the podium would be Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Despite their impressive qualifying pace, the remaining four Penske drivers would fall back during the race. Simon Pagenaud and Castroneves would take fourth and fifth, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Josef Newgarden further back in tenth and eleventh.

You can read the full qualifying and race reports from last year’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis here: 

What should I look out for this weekend?

After the first four races of this year’s championship, the battle for the top of the standings is between two young American drivers. With two wins to his name already, reigning champion Josef Newgarden is currently the championship leader after a dominant win last time out at Barber Motorsports Park and a previous win at ISM Raceway last month.

Trailing by just thirteen points is second placed Alexander Rossi. The Californian started off the season with three podiums in the first three races, including a dominating victory at Long Beach, but an eleventh place finish in Alabama a few weeks ago has left him on the backfoot against Newgarden.

As the all-important ‘month of May’ begins, both drivers will be hoping to keep or regain control of the standings, starting with this weekend’s race. We’ve yet to see the pair battling each other for a win, but if both of their teams can put them in a position to do so this weekend, it should be scintillating.

Further back, just over twenty points separate third and eighth place in the standings. Graham RahalJames Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens occupy those positions and are all hoping that a well-timed victory could spring them up the order. However, there is one team in particular that all of those drivers will be hoping to beat in order to accomplish that goal.

Since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was introduced to the calendar in 2014, only Penske drivers have taken victory on the road course. Four races have been so far, with Will Power and Simon Pagenaud both having taken two wins each.

After a disappointing start to the season for both drivers – with Power currently tenth in the standings and Pagenaud further back in fifteenth – both will be hoping that they can grab win number three on the IMS Grand Prix circuit to get their 2018 championship hopes back on track.

Finally, Helio Castroneves will be back in action for both races this month in the #3 Penske Chevrolet. After missing the first four races with the new 2018 universal aero kit, it will certainly be interesting to see how he get’s on against his competition who are already fully accustomed to the car.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 20 April

09:15 ET / 13:15 GMT – Practice 1
12:30 ET / 16:30 GMT – Practice 2
16:30 ET / 21:30 GMT – Qualifying

Saturday 21 April

15:30 ET / 20:30 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the Grand Prix of Indianapolis?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Barber Motorsports Park website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the race itself. Race day coverage will start on Saturday at 20:30 BST on BT Sport ESPN.

Coverage of practice and qualifying will be available in the UK on IndyCar’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

In the United States, television coverage for the Grand Prix of Alabama will be provided by ABC, with added broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube courtesy of IndyCar.

How can I keep up to date with all the action over the weekend?

If you cannot make it to Indianapolis for this weekend’s Grand Prix, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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