PLYMOUTH, Wis – After a much needed week off for the NTT IndyCar Series stars last week, the drivers and teams return to action this weekend in Road America. Here’s everything you need to know for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix At Road America (12:30 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network).
How To Tune In
Coverage – 12 p.m. ET
Green Flag – 12:50 p.m. ET
TV – NBC
Radio – IndyCar Radio Network
Computer – racecontrol.indycar.com
Distance – 55 Laps/222.64 Miles
Defending Race Winner – Josef Newgarden
Starting Position Will Matter
We’ve seen it a lot in the past, but starting position for Sunday’s race will mean a lot. Two of the three years at Road America the pole winner has gone on to win the race too. That’s good news for Colton Herta. In fact, all three years has seen a driver come from the top five to win. That’s great news for Herta again as well as Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal.
This season alone, seven of the nine races has seen the race winner come from a starting spot within the top 3 Rows. That means if you don’t make the Fast Six on Saturday, you’re likely not winning on Sunday.
Don’t expect many cautions this weekend either. We didn’t see a single yellow fly in last year’s race while also having just one in 2016. In 2017, there were only two yellows. This year, we’ve seen just one caution in two of the three races run on natural road courses. The IndyCar Grand Prix had just three.
Alexander Rossi practicing his No. 27 Honda at Road America this weekend – INDYCAR Media Site
Andretti Autosport’s Struggled In The Past In Road America But Strong This Weekend
The Andretti foursome has been fairly good this year. Yes, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach have struggled at times, but Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay have been consistently up front too.
Where this weekend is key is, Andretti has struggled the last three years at Road America.
Veach, finished 22nd last year. On natural road courses this season, he’s finished 22nd, 12th and 12th respectively. He was 17th, 12th and 11th respectively in practice this weekend. He’ll start 14th.
Andretti, has finished 12th, 18th and 11th respectively at Road America and sixth, 14th and 13th respectively on natural road courses in 2019. He was 10th in both practice sessions on Friday and 15th on Saturday. He even qualified 10th too. But, he has some new momentum and wants to keep it.
Things are finally starting to turn Andretti’s way. The third generation driver brought his No. 98 Honda home sixth in the Sunday race at Belle Isle three weeks ago. Six days later, he charged from a last row starting spot to finish 10th at the Texas Motor Speedway. Now, it’s time to keep this momentum going this weekend at Road America.
See, Andretti sits 14th in the NTT IndyCar Series standings. He’s only 23 points out of 10th though, which is a goal Andretti would like to obtain soon.
But, in order to get there, he has to first start qualifying better. Saturday was a step in the right direction.
“We need to build on these top-10s we’ve collected the past couple races,” said Andretti. “Road America is one of my favorite permanent road courses. There are lots of opportunities to pass, but I need to qualify better than we have been to capitalize and walk away with a good result.”
What about RHR or Rossi?
Rossi, has never finished in the top 10 on the Wisconsin road course as he has finishes of ninth, fifth and 22nd respectively on natural road courses this season too. In practice, he looked like a favorite though. Rossi, was sixth, first and fifth respectively. He’ll roll off on the front row in second.
Hunter-Reay looked like their best shot heading into qualifying, then he qualified only 15th. He does have two top four finishes in three tries at Road America to go along with two top eight finishes in three tries in 2019 on natural road courses too. He calls Road America his favorite track on earth and was first, seventh and fourth respectively in practice.
“Road America is always a blast to drive – it’s one of my favorite racetracks on Earth,” said Hunter-Reay. “We brought the DHL team home a second place last year and this year our goal is to do one better and end the day in victory lane.”
On the season, he has four straight top eight finishes in his No. 28 Honda to go along with seven in his last eight starts on the year overall.
Josef Newgarden practicing his No. 2 Chevrolet at Road America – INDYCAR Media Site
Penske/Ganassi Show? Why 1 May Not Shine
Sunday could shape up as a Penske vs. Ganassi show. Penske has won in 2016 and 2018 in Road America while Ganassi (2017) was the meat to the Penske sandwich two years ago. Will Ganassi win again this Sunday?
Scott Dixon is their best shot as he’s scored two straight second place finishes on natural road courses this season. He also has two straight podiums at Road America too. He was third, 11th and 12th respectively in practice this weekend though and will only start 12th after having a mechanical issue in qualifying. Felix Rosenqvist was fast in practice but will only start 18th. That’s a tall task for either to win.
Can they beat the Penske’s? Right now, I’d say no.
Josef Newwgarden led 53 of the 55 laps run last year and led 13 laps in a runner-up effort in 2017. He was eighth in 2016. On natural road courses this season, he has two top four finishes in three tries. He was fifth, third and first respectively this weekend. He’ll start fourth.
Will Power led 46 laps in his win in 2016 and was fifth in 2017. His car engine went sour on the drop of the green flag last year. But, he has had speed. Power, was fourth, second and third respectively in practice this weekend and will roll off third.
Simon Pagenaud has two top seven finishes in his last three Road America tries and won at Indy in May. He’s struggled a bit in bring seventh, 15th and 13th respectively this weekend and will only start 16th.
Championship Contenders Will Be Strong Why Separation Likely Will Happen
Barring a fluke caution in the middle of a pit sequence, it appears that we likely won’t have a surprise winner on Sunday. In fact, Sunday’s 55 Lap race could be a big player in this year’s championship.
The title contenders were all out front in practice on Friday and Saturday.
Entering session 1, Newgarden, Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Dixon, Sato, Power and Hunter-Reay sat 1-7 in the standings. In that first practice, they were 5-6-7-3-2-4-1 respectively. In session No. 2, they were 3-1-15-11-18-2-7 respectively.
On Saturday, they were 1-5-13-12-18-3-4.
For qualifying, it will be 4-2-16-12-6-3-15.
Right now, it appears that Newgarden and Rossi may pull ahead of the three behind them while Power will close up to the three in front of him.
Pagenaud, Dixon, Sato and Hunter-Reay may be in a bit of trouble.
Colton Herta leads fellow rookie Felix Rosenqvist around Road America this weekend – INDYCAR Media Site
Parity Up Front, But Same Teams Vying For The Win
In the first practice session on Friday, we saw four drivers from four different teams in the top four spots on the speed chart. It went Andretti-RLL-Ganassi-Penske. In the second session, it was Andretti-Penske-Penske-Harding/Steinbrenner-Ganassi-RLL again.
On Saturday, it was Penske-HSR-Penske-Andretti-Andretti.
Coincidentally enough, these five organizations have won all nine races run in 2019 too.
Also, Penske and Ganassi have combined to win all three races at Road America since 2016.
This looks like an Andretti/Penske/HSR/Ganassi race for the win on Sunday.
Average Weekend So Far For Dixon/Bourdais/Pagenaud
Between them, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud have 10 Indy Car championships. They’ve also had some great success in Road America too. This weekend though, they’ve been just average. So much so, Dixon and Bourdais called themselves that on Friday. They didn’t get any better on Saturday either.
Dixon, was only 11th quickest on the overall speed chart on Friday. He was 12th on Saturday. He starts there too.
Bourdais, was just 14th quickest on both days himself and will start seventh.
Pagenaud, was 15th and 13th respectively himself. He starts 16th.
This trio may very well get into the top 10 on Sunday, but how much further will be difficult.
Graham Rahal exits Canada Corner in a special throwback paint scheme this weekend – INDYCAR Media Site
RLL Qualifies Well After Struggling Weekend
Heading into this weekend, RLL looked like a sleeper team to beat. They’ve been so strong on natural road courses over the last two years including Takuma Sato winning twice on them since last September.
But, they’ve struggled so far this weekend.
Graham Rahal has never finished outside the top eight in Road America but he was only 21st, sixth and 16th respectively in practice this weekend. He did rebound to qualify fifth. Can he stay there now?
Sato, finished fourth in this race last year but was just 18th quickest on Friday and 18th again on Saturday too. He’s been puzzled at the lack of balance and grip in his car this weekend as they don’t seem to have it figured out just yet. He also rebounded to start sixth too.
3 Sleepers To Watch
While it looks like this may be a race to win between Power and Newgarden from the Penske camp vs. Herta and Rossi from the Andretti/HSR camps, watch out for three sleepers.
Spencer Pigot finished eighth in this race last year and fifth in the last natural road course race on the season in Indy. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver was also eighth, 13th and sixth respectively in practice this weekend. He’ll start eighth.
Another youngster to watch is Pato O’Ward. He was 13th, ninth and 10th respectively himself in practice and seems to have a good No. 31 Chevrolet under him. He starts 13th.
Don’t count out James Hinchcliffe either. He finished 10th last year at Road America and was ninth, eighth and ninth respectively in practice this weekend. Hinchcliffe, also said on Friday that the speed is there in his car to contend. He’ll roll off ninth.
“We’ve had good runs the past two weeks, just haven’t gotten the results to show for it,” Hinchcliffe said on Friday monring. “Running for the win in Detroit, battling against the front runners, the top three in Texas, and unfortunately, just don’t have the finishes yet. The speed’s there, though. That’s the hard part. If we can just keep executing like that and keep putting fast race cars on the racetrack, we can be up front, and there’s no reason we can’t do that here this weekend.”
It’s also not like his teammates haven’t had good cars lately either.
Jack Harvey finished third in the INDYCAR Grand Prix in his No. 60 Honda. Marcus Ericsson was runner-up in the second race in Belle Isle and seventh a week later in Texas.
Hinchcliffe himself started 32nd for the Indy 500 but didn’t spend much time there. He charged up to a 11th place finish. He was ninth in the first Duel in Detroit and the only reason he was 18th in the second race was because he was involved in an incident while trying to hold off Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi after coming out of pit road. He was in the lead at that point and was in the drivers seat, pun intended, to win that day.
In Texas, he had a top three car but crashed out towards the end.
The speed is there for SPM. Hinch sees it and knows this could be the weekend to win.
Josef Newgarden (+350)
Newwgarden led 53 of the 55 laps run in his win last year and led 13 laps in a runner-up effort in 2017. He was also eighth in 2016. Furthermore, he has two top four finishes in three tries on natural road courses this season. Also, Newgarden won the last race of the year two weeks ago in Texas and was fifth, third and first respectively in practice this weekend. He starts fourth too.
Alexander Rossi (+400)
Rossi, has never finished in the top 10 on the Wisconsin road course and has finishes of ninth, fifth and 22nd respectively on natural road courses this season. But, he does have four straight top fives entering this weekend, three of which being runner-ups and was sixth, first and fifth respectively in practice. He’ll start second on Sunday.
Will Power (+450)
Power’s finishes are 24th, 11th and seventh respectively on natural road courses this season. His engine quit on the first lap of last year’s race at Road America. But, he has a race win in 2016 and was fifth in 2017 here as well. This weekend, Power was fourth, second and third respectively in practice. He starts third.
Colton Herta (+2000)
He’s already won on a natural road course this season. Also, Herta was fourth and second respectively in practice this weekend too. He starts on the pole, the same spot that has produced two of the three race winners at Road America.
Graham Rahal (+1600)
Rahal, has two top 10 finishes in three tries on natural road courses as well to go along with a top eight finish in all three tries at Road America. He also has five top 10 finishes in his last six tries on the season. He starts fifth.
James Hinchcliffe (+2500)
He’s had a fast race car in each of the last four races run on the season. He was 10th in this race last year. He’s been in the top 10 in all three practice sessions this weekend too and rolls off ninth. Go for it here.
Marco Andretti (+6600)
Andretti, has finished 12th, 18th and 11th respectively at Road America and sixth, 14th and 13th respectively on natural road courses in 2019. But, he has two straight top 10 finishes on the season and was 10th in both practice sessions on Saturday. He also starts 10th as well.
Zach Veach (+6600)
Veach, finished 22nd last year. On natural road courses this season, he’s finished 22nd, 12th and 12th respectively. But, he’s improved in each practice session this weekend. He went from 17th to 12th to 11th. He starts 14th.
Spencer Pigot (+6600)
Watch out for Pigot this weekend. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver has two top 10 finishes in three tries at Road America. He also finished sixth at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in May too. He was eighth, 13th and sixth respectively in practice too. He starts eighth.
Santino Ferrucci (+10000)
What a surprise he’s been this season. Ferrucci, finished 10th at Indy and has four top 10 finishes in his last five starts of the season. He was eighth quickest in practice on Saturday. While he starts 21st, don’t count out Coyne to get him to the front on pit strategy.
Pato O’Ward (+12,500)
Best value here. O’Ward was ninth and 10th respectively in practice and has nothing to lose here on Sunday. He starts 13th.
Scott Dixon (+450)
He won this race in 2017. He was also third last year. On natural road courses run in 2019, he has two straight runner-ups on the season. Need I say more? Well, yes actually. Dixon has lost over 40 points in the standings over the last few races and was only 11th quickest overall on Friday and 12th on Saturday. Be wary here. He starts 12th after an engine issue in qualifying.
Simon Pagenaud (+900)
Pagenaud has two top seven finishes in his last three Road America tries and won at Indy in May. But, he only has one top five finish on natural road courses this season and one top five in three tries at Road America too. He was just 15th and 13th respectively on the overall speed charts on both days this weekend thus far. He only starts 16th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (+1200)
Hunter-Reay looked like Andretti’s best shot. Then qualifying happened as he will start 15th unfortunately. He does have two top four finishes in three tries at Road America to go along with two top eight finishes in three tries in 2019 on natural road courses too. Hunter-Reay enters this weekend hot as well. He has four straight top eight finishes, three of which being in the top five including seven top eights in his last eight starts on the season. He calls Road America his favorite track on Earth. He was first, seventh and fourth respectively in practice. His starting spot is why I have hesitations on betting him
Sebastien Bourdais (+1400)
Since his return to Indy Car, Bourdais hasn’t had the best of luck at Road America, but he’s aiming to change that this weekend.
On natural road courses this year, Bourdais has two top five finishes in three tries. He was third in Barber and fifth at COTA. But, he’s been just average this weekend with being 11th, 14th and 14th respectively on the speed charts in all three sessions. He will roll off seventh.
Felix Rosenqvist (+1600)
Natural road courses are where Rosenqvist is at his most comfort. He’s finished 10th and eighth respectively on them in 2019 and should fare well this weekend. He was fifth quickest on Friday and seventh on Saturday. Unfortunately, he will only start 18th which is why I’m not high on his hopes to win on Sunday
Takuma Sato (+2000)
Sato, won the April race at Barber as both he and Graham Rahal combined to a front row sweep that weekend. On the season, Sato has two top seven finishes in three tries on natural road courses in his No. 30 Honda. He also has five top eight finishes in his last eight starts on the season too. He finished fourth at Road America in 2018 as well. But, he was only 18th quickest in practice in each of the two days this weekend too.
Josef Newgarden in his REV Group sponsored No. 2 Chevrolet at Road America – INDYCAR Media Site
2 Newgarden – It’s hard to go against him right now. He won the most recent race on the season two weeks ago in Texas. He led 53 of 55 laps in this race last year. He has two top four finishes in three tries on natural road courses this season. Also, he was fifth, third and first respectively in practice this weekend.
27 Rossi – Why not another runner-up for the fourth in his last five tries? Rossi, was sixth, first and fifth respectively in practice this weekend and looks the part.
88 Herta R – The pole winner has been quick all weekend. I just don’t think he can hold off Newgarden and Rossi in the race.
12 Power – His bad luck ends with a solid top five on Sunday. Power, has two top five finishes including a win in 2016 in three Road America tries. He was fourth, second and third respectively in practice this weekend as well.
5 Hinchcliffe – The speed nets him a top five finish this weekend. Hinchcliffe was in the top 10 in all three practice sessions and rolls of ninth too.