Coming down to the end of the season, the NTT IndyCar Series returns home to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for another race this season on the road course.
With only five races left to go, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Alex Palou still holds the championship lead with 410 points but his teammate Scott Dixon is now in second 42 points behind. After an incident in Nashville, Patricio O’Ward has dropped to third in the standings, followed by Josef Newgarden in fourth and Music City Grand Prix winner Marcus Ericsson in fifth.
This weekend also sees the IndyCar grid grows once more with the debut of Formula 2 star Christian Lundgaard for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the forty-second driver to appear in the series this year.
In a blockbuster doubleheader weekend with the NASCAR Cup Series, will Dixon be able to catch his young teammate and claim his seventh championship? Will anybody else be able to challenge the young Spaniard or his legendary teammate? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
It wasn’t quite last year but instead three months ago at the GMR Grand Prix, where Romain Grosjean scored his first IndyCar pole position and led the field to green. An early incident in turn one saw Simon Pagenaud spin Conor Daly to bring out the first caution not even a lap into the race. Already under caution some teams chose to move to the alternate red-wall tyres, namely Dixon and O’Ward, as it was believed that they were the optimal racing tyre.
At the restart, Grosjean streaked back out to the lead until he pit on lap 25, maintaining strong pace on his worn alternate tyres before pitting for a fresh set. He once again regained the lead as the final stops cycled out, but was followed closely by Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey.
Unfortunately for Harvey, his race went sour on lap 38, after the team failed to get the right rear tyre on correctly before the tyre was cut down on the backstretch during his out lap, sending him plummeting down the order.
Grosjean continued to lead through the second stint, but a hard-charging Rinus Veekay was closing in. The Dutchman had worked his way up from seventh to second, taking second place by diving between Palou and Jimmie Johnson on the backstretch for an incredible pass. Grosjean opted to go long on his second stint to make for a shorter stint on the mandatory black tyres, but was held up in a heated on-track battle with Takuma Sato, which allowed Veekay to close the gap even more.
With up to temperature alternate tyres, Veekay made the pass for the lead in turn twelve on lap forty-four while the Formula 1 veteran was on cold tyres, and never looked back. The Ed Carpenter Racing star successfully undercut Grosjean on the final pit stops and bolted away, claiming his first IndyCar Series victory. Grosjean came home in second place after being held up by Sebastien Bourdais, while Palou rounded off the podium in third.
You can read the full race report here.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
The major headline is IndyCar’s newest driver Lungaard with RLLR. The twenty-year-old Dane is in his second full season of F2 with ART Grand Prix, and after four rounds he is twelfth in points with two podiums in sprint races.
Lungaard completed a test for RLLR in July at Barber Motorsports Park, bringing a small bit of experience behind the wheel of an IndyCar, but has not run this track and has very limited time to get up to speed with only one practice session. Regardless, it will be exciting to see another young driver making a move to IndyCar with potential to run more races in the future.
As always with the IMS road course, turn one is the best place for overtaking, and is always exciting as the sea of cars fan out on starts and restarts before narrowing down for the ninety degree corner. Getting through this corner clean is pivotal as races can be won or lost as a result of contact here.
Strategy will also be worth watching this weekend and the choice between the red and black tyres. If the reds are still the preferred tyre like they have been in the past, will Grosjean and Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing have learned their lesson and get off the blacks as soon as possible? Will he have the same pace that he did then?
Two more drivers to watch will be Dixon and Harvey. Dixon has nine straight top ten finishes in races on the IMS road course, and dominated the 2020 GMR Grand Prix while on a three-race win streak at the beginning of the year. His championship rival O’Ward, on the other hand, has struggled at the track, and this could be a great opportunity for him to build a gap to third in the championship and hunt down his teammate Palou.
Harvey has been in quite the slump over the past few weeks, a far cry from how he was contending at the beginning of the year, but IMS has always been kind to the Brit as he has multiple front row starts and got his first podium at the track in 2019. Every race here he is a threat, and hopefully soon he can put together a win.
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEKEND?
Friday 06 August
1500 EST / 2000 BST – Practice 1
1900 EST / 0000 BST – Qualifying
Saturday 07 August
1230 EST / 1730 BST – Race
WHERE CAN I WATCH?
Coverage in the UK for the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.
In the United States, coverage for practice will be broadcast on the Peacock streaming service, with qualifying and the race being broadcast on NBCSN.
HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?
You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions. You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.