Full Throttle Recap: IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The fourth running of the IndyCar Grand Prix was the first one free of cautions in it’s history, dating back to 2014. It was also the first caution-free Verizon IndyCar Series race since the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2016.

Unfortunately, that created a parading effect on the event, with only a handful of good passes. It would be reaching to call any of those instances, battles though. While I always prefer a more edge-of-my-seat racing scenario, I appreciate the organic nature of our competitions and understand that not all of them will be nail-biters. I certainly would not have wanted any falsified yellows, as another North American racing series has started doing in order to create a false sense of urgency and restart drama.

The rather predictable ending of Will Power coming out victorious after a weekend where he topped every practice and qualifying chart was the second time the Team Penske driver has gone from pole to win at the IndyCar Grand Prix. The first time he achieved this feat was in 2015. He was focused that season on a “sweep” of the Month of May, and while he seems to be in more of a ‘day-by-day’ mindset nowadays given his new role of fatherhood, he has set himself up to get the broom out on Memorial Day weekend. Today was his 30th IndyCar career win, but he has yet to win an Indianapolis 500. Perhaps learning to take things as they come will lead him to that elusive race win or even a repeat series championship,

“Last year definitely had a few health issues to deal with, and I think that’s just how life is. You have good and bad times. You know, the bad doesn’t last forever and neither does the good. So you’ve got to kind of weather it and not get too down in the bad times and too up in the good times.

It’s the same in racing. You can’t just continually have good runs and everything fall your way. But on those bad days, it’s how you win a championship… hanging on to a reasonable result.”

Speaking of results, Team Penske has dominated the pole positions for the entire 2017 IndyCar season so far, with either Will Power or Helio Castroneves claiming the inside of Row 1 for the first five contests.

What is not being dominated by any one particular driver though, is the top step of the podium this season – we’ve had 5 different winners over 5 different races. Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and now Will Power have wins under their belts in 2017. The hope is that this trend continues and we shine the spotlight on the diversity and competitiveness of IndyCar. If we can keep this trend alive in a season with frozen aero kits, then perhaps we can grow even further in 2018 with the introduction of universal kits and have more variety in winners by teams, rather than just by drivers.

There was a nice variety of teams and engines on the podium this evening though – Next to Team Penske’s Will Power was Chip Ganassi Racing Team’s Scott Dixon in P2 and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay finishing out the Top 3.

Today marked Dixon’s 3rd podium of the season and his 92nd career podium. Dixon’s last win was at Watkins Glen back in September of 2016, but his consistency this season has him running second in the championship points race, behind the current series champion, Simon Pagenaud. Dixon passed Castroneves on Lap 69 for second and held onto that position with conviction, despite having a loose car and balancing that with tire degradation that Dixon actually commended Firestone for, after the race:

“The harder you push, you just ran into more degradation. But actually, I think that’s fantastic. I think a good job by Firestone to have that. It makes it a lot harder to maintain the tires with degradation, and the difference between the blacks and the reds I think, was perfect. So hopefully we can mirror that for some of the road courses down the road.”

The third place finish this evening in Speedway, IN was the best finish of the season for Ryan Hunter-Reay and the best finish for Andretti Autosport as well,

We’re headed in the right direction. We need more weekends like this. It was an excellent race, though. We had some excellent battles there in the beginning, especially through the first half, I think Simon Pagenaud and I went back and forth four or five times in one lap.”

(I loved hearing about this, but was pretty disappointed not to witness it on the ABC broadcast. However, that’s another discussion for another time, so I digress.)

The team has struggled to earn solid results in 2017, with all four of their cars failing to finish at both Long Beach and Phoenix. They are however, one of the strongest teams on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, having won the 500 in 2005, 2007, 2014 and 2016. The team will be welcoming two additional drivers on Monday, fielding a half-dozen cars in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this month.

Both Jack Harvey with Michael Shank Racing and Fernando Alonso with McLaren-Honda will be working with the full-season Andretti Autosport crews and drivers, to try and earn a fifth 500 win for the team.

All drivers and teams have one day off-track while the speedway is converted back to it’s iconic oval formation.

Practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 starts this Monday, May 15th. Be sure to save this page on Live Full Throttle for fast & easy access to IndyCar livestream links for the entire month of May and throughout the 2017 season.

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Photos c/o IndyCar: Bret Kelley / Shawn Gritzmacher / Karl Zemlin