Images via Walter Kuhn/IndyCar (1); Chris Jones/IndyCar (2)
Now in its fifth edition, the IndyCar Grand Prix has establishes itself as the event that truly kicks off the month of May for both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series. With the longtime tradition of two weekends of Indianapolis 500 qualifying now down to one, the road course race has become a welcome curveball in the IndyCar schedule, giving fans of the series a second opportunity to see its top drivers compete in the most important city on the calendar.
There’s a lot going on in today’s race, from the return of Helio Castroneves to the Team Penske fold to an exciting power struggle between points leaders Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. But these are the three stories we’ll be following closely as we prepare for the last round before the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:
Will Simon Pagenaud and Will Power keep up their pattern of trading wins at this race?
Only two drivers have ever won this race since its addition to the IndyCar schedule: Pagenaud on even-numbered years (2014 and 2016), and Power on odd ones (2015 and 2017). If the pattern holds, that would put Pagenaud on pace for a victory today; however, the Aussie was the one who qualified on pole, taking the 51st of his career and breaking a tie with teammate Castroneves for third on the all-time list. His French teammate, however, will have to get past half a dozen top drivers as he starts seventh.
How will Zachary Claman DeMelo take advantage of the extra race on his program?
Dale Coyne Racing’s second car was due to be a nearly even split between Claman DeMelo and Pietro Fittipaldi until the Brazilian suffered leg injuries in a frightening crash at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa last weekend. In response, his Canadian teammate will remain in the car after contesting the past two races at Long Beach and Barber. Though his starting spot matches his car number (19th), he finished second here as an Indy Lights driver last year, and comes off of setting the fastest lap of the race in Alabama.
Whose season would get the biggest boost with a victory?
A number of top drivers find themselves on the lower end of the points table right now, and a big day for any one of them could go a long way. Pagenaud may be the worst off, sitting in 15th after a first-lap DNF at Long Beach and not much else to speak of. But Power and Ed Jones, currently ranked 10th and 11th, have each been undercut by DNFs bookending their Long Beach podiums, while Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato are still adjusting to their new race teams.