Full Throttle Recap: IndyCar Grand Prix

Racing is strong in traditions. Those traditions continued today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The pole-sitter of the IndyCar Grand Prix has gone on to win the race every year except in its inaugural year. Will Power, in his No. 12 Verizon Chevy, has now accomplished that feat three times. His 51st pole this past Friday gave him sole possession of the third place spot on the all-time career pole winners list, a spot he had shared with Helio Castroneves since Gateway in August of 2017. The win itself was a huge milestone for Team Penske, and Power spoke about that after the race,

“It’s been a slow start for us, so it’s just fantastic to get the win. But 200 wins in IndyCar just shows Roger’s determination and the way his team works and his passion for winning. It’s a real pleasure to drive for him.

You’re given equipment week in, week out to win, and I have to say it’s amazing to be a part of that history of Penske Racing because it’s such a deep history. I’m so grateful to be able to drive for this team.”

Another iconic IndyCar team, Chip Ganassi Racing, fought their way to the podium as well. Scott Dixon, the living legend who somehow still manages to stay under the radar, finished in the runner-up spot at the Indy Grand Prix for the second year in a row.

Today’s results are noteworthy because Dixon’s two strongest finishes this season came on the weekends of his worst starts. He started from P17 at Phoenix International Raceway and finished P4, and today he started in P18. Never count Dixon out of the mix, regardless of his practice lap times or qualification attempt. He’ll show up at the front of the pack seemingly out of nowhere, and produce a performance you never anticipated. And every since time, we shake our heads and say something under our breath like “Scott freakin’ Dixon, man…” with a smirk and a mad amount of respect.

As always, Dixon remains the humblest of comptitors, crediting the skilled team around him and the efforts of the entire group that yield results like today. That point is best seen in his response to the question today about what was changed on the car between Friday and Saturday,

“It was dampers, springs, geometry, closed cambers. It was pretty much everything. I think we actually threw in a kitchen sink on most of them, too. It was definitely a lot of changes.

A team like ours shouldn’t be as lost as we were, and I think maybe with the test we had here in those really cold conditions, we tried to react to that too much, and over a two-day event, it doesn’t really give you much time to sit on it and think about it, and we made a lot of knee-jerk reactions, which we should know better.

But yeah, it played out well, and ended up finding a bit more pace out of the car, and the result was decent.”

Another team who seemed happy with their results this weekend was Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, when rookie Robert Wickens started P2 and finished P3. He leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points battle and sits 8th overall in the Series Championship Points ranking.

Wickens earned the respect of his fellow competitors and fans alike, from the get-go, with a pole at the season opener in St. Petersburg, FL. He led 69 of 110 laps that weekend and was poised to win the whole thing when a 2-to-go restart resulted in contact between him and the No. 27 of Alexander Rossi, taking Wickens out in Turn 1. He put it behind him and went on to a P2 finish on the podium in Phoenix. His P4 finish at the rainy 2-day event at Barber proved that this kid is absolutely here to compete for a Championship and to make a career in IndyCar.

Power gave some serious props to the Canadian driver after today’s event,

“He (Wickens) is obviously very good. I think big fuel save is probably a new thing for him, so — Dixon and myself have been doing it our whole careers and we’re used to trying to extract lap time and fuel save.

But I’ll tell you, he’s definitely — I mean, he has as much experience as I have at a top level. He’s been racing at a high level for a long time, but he’s definitely a guy that will be a champion in IndyCar. I have no doubt in my mind, at some point in the right situation, and that could be this year he will be a champion.”

Man. Talk about a compliment. To hear that from someone like Power, should make everyone take note of Wickens if they haven’t already.  

He brought up a good point about fuel saving though, and it was something that Wickens commented on as well,

“I’ve never raced in a category where you had to save fuel. Apart from warm-ups or kind of like in-and-out laps, I’m not really practicing it that much, and it’s something that became very apparent to me this afternoon, that that’s something I have to work on because obviously they were hitting the same numbers that I was to try and make it to the end, but their pace was way quicker than mine.”

Can you imagine the results we’re gonna see from Wickens when he figures out fuel-saving methods? Dude. Look out.

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Photo credit: Shawn Gritzmacher, IndyCar