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What We Learned from IndyCar Grand Prix 2017

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The Big Picture:  Back in 2014, the Verizon IndyCar Series added a road course event to its May race schedule, taking place two weeks before  the legendary Indianapolis 500. This move resulted in pulling together the support series races, a pair for each  of the three divisions, along with the contest for its premier series. Drivers seem to love the hybrid track which takes place partially on the Brickyard with the balance on a purpose-built road course originally built to host Formula One.

Event: Incredible road racing watched mostly on television with very light in person attendance. In the words of a  Marketing major, trying to put on two races in one month one being the Indy 500 dilutes your brand. But it sure is fun!

Qualifying: Will Power killed it as he usually does, earning his 47th career pole. Only his Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, has more poles among active drivers with 49. With the Australian topping the board, Roger Penske  has won every pole of the season thus far. Will this continue? Starting second was Castroneves, then Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon started fourth, returning Penske driver Juan Montoya was fifth, and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top six. There were less than two seconds  between first place and last, making for a very close field.

Race: For the fifth consecutive event of the year, we have a different winner. Will Power won from the pole for his 30th IndyCar win,  leading 61 of 85 laps. Castroneves led the balance of the circuits while Power was pitting. There were no cautions, so it was a true contest of speed and pit strategies.

Biggest Surprise: The twelfth-place for Newgarden, who set fastest lap of the race, but racked up two pit speed violations for all his trouble.

Biggest Disappointment: The last place finish of Bourdais who qualified sixth, not far enough up to avoid getting hit by another car. Bummer.

Best Team:  Team Penske once again was best. The other teams are not doing badly; it’s just nobody does it better than Mr. Penske and his mates.

Worst Team:  No worst this race.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  Series sponsor Verizon wins this one because their driver Will Power victor was victorious.

What We Learned:  Even if one unfairly loses two races that he should have won, perseverance will eventually result in a highly-deserved win.

Schedule:  In two weeks, the “greatest spectacle in racing”, the 101st running of the Indy 500, on May 28th!

Quotes of the Weekend:

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was not the best weekend for the Arrow crew. We rolled off the truck with a car that finished on the podium at this track last year. It’s so tough because every race this year, our strength has been rolling off the truck with a good car. In a series that’s so competitive, and we have such little track time, that’s the key because it’s really tough to bounce back from a bad first session, and unfortunately that’s what we had. We picked off a few spots in the first stint, but ultimately we got stuck behind (Simon) Pagenaud. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind him and that allowed other cars to close in and that led to a chain reaction of events which brought us to a pretty disappointing result in 13th. We’re going to try and bounce back from this; we’ve got the two biggest weekends of the year coming up and we’re going to try and hit it out of the park.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda):  “It was just a really, really good day for myself and the Gallagher team. It was by far the best race I’ve had in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The team did a good job and we made a call to start on primary tires and I knew within five or six laps it would pay off for us. On the second stint it just started playing into our hand, and having no yellows furthered our strategy. Moving forward seven positions in the race was mega, and without any off strategies playing out, we got there on straight speed. This is a great start to May and hope we can do even better in the 500.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “Today definitely wasn’t our day. We had issues from the first lap when Marco spun us and punctured my tire all the way to later in the race when one of my front tires started going down. Those extra stops just put us back too far and with no yellows there was no way we were going to make up those few laps we were already down. It’s not a great way to start the month, but we’ve all seen what Honda can do here so I’m looking forward to getting back on the oval on Monday.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It just feels great to finally have a good day and everyone has worked so hard on our team. 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. I think that’s number 30. Good number. I want to make that 31 by the end of this month.”

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Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.