A close points race and a race for history in the spotlight at IMS

History could be written this week on a site rich in history.

Team Penske’s Will Power, who leads NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers with five career poles for races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, can match Mario Andretti’s pole record by winning the NTT P1 Award as the top qualifier for Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix. Andretti has won 67 poles in his INDYCAR career; Power’s total is 66.

Additionally, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, a six-time series champion, can take a step closer to being the sport’s most successful driver by earning victory lane this weekend. At the Honda Indy in Toronto on July 17, Dixon tied Andretti for second place with 52 wins; another victory would allow him to access this position. AJ Foyt holds the record with 67 career wins.

And then there is the battle for the season championship. Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing returns to IMS with the championship lead, but his advantage over second-placed Power is slim. Eight points separate these two drivers, with a total of six drivers, including defending champion Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, separated by 44 points with five races remaining.

One of the top six is ​​Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, whose availability for the two-day event driving the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet remains in question following an incident at the July 24 race at Iowa Speedway. He was cleared by INDYCAR medical officials to participate in the first practice session on Friday and will be reassessed after that session. Newgarden was leading the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 race presented by Google in hopes of winning the weekend’s doubleheader and taking the overall lead when his #2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet went one-on-one. -tail and hit the wall. Newgarden and Dixon are tied for third in the standings, 34 points off the lead.

Iowa Race 2 winner Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) is the fifth driver in the championship chase; he is fifth, 36 points behind Ericsson.

Here are five things to watch for this weekend.

Power aims for the all-time record

Andretti has held the pole record for nearly 36 years since he passed Foyt. When the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner last qualified in first place in 1993 at Michigan Speedway, it looked like no one could match that mark. Power was only 12 at the time.

Power, now 41, quickly took on Andretti’s record, twice winning eight poles in one season (2010, 2011) and one pole in each of the last 14 seasons. During that span, the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet driver averaged 4.3 poles per season, and he earned three this season, including two last weekend at Iowa Speedway.

Statistically, Power is the fastest of his generation to qualify. Among the drivers taking part in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix, Helio Castroneves (#06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) has 50 series poles – his tally is the fourth in the sport’s history – and Dixon (#9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) is next among active riders with 28 poles. No other driver participating in this weekend has more than 16.

Power isn’t just fast in qualifying. His 41 race wins put him fifth all-time, and his next win will put Michael Andretti in a tie for fourth. Dixon holds the record for consecutive seasons with at least one race win, with 18, but Power is second with 16. Both have won a race this season. In total, Dixon won races in 20 seasons, another record. Castroneves have won in 17 seasons, Power in 16.

Power also has his sights set on something bigger than statistical marks: he wants a season championship to go along with the one he won in 2014.

« It’s played on the wire, man, » he said. “You better pull out all the stops or I’ll take it from the youngsters. »

Dixon on the lookout, again

It must be the summer weather that invigorates Dixon, who has won 30 of his 52 races after the calendar flipped in July. Twice he won three races in a row in the seventh month of the year.

Dixon finished fifth and fourth in the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend, reducing his deficit to the championship leader by 10 points. He has dropped 35 points this month.

Watch if Dixon has a shot at winning that championship as the season heads to the West Coast in September for the final two races. In seven seasons in his career, Dixon has won one of the last two races.

Dixon hasn’t had the same level of success as Power on the IMS road course, but he’s been consistently good. He won the July 4, 2020 race and earned three second-place finishes on the 14-lap, 2.439-mile course, the highest mark of any driver who has never been employed by Team Penske.

However, recent races at the IMS road course haven’t been so good for Dixon. The average of his results in the last five starts is 10.5, and he has never finished higher than eighth place.

“Last time we were (on the IMS road circuit) it was more of a qualifying mistake,” he said. “I think the pace was definitely there, but you only have two laps to get there. I started my first lap badly, then I spun on the second. If you don’t succeed (in qualifying), you will find yourself at the back of the pack (he started 21st). »

Grosjean hopes for a strong comeback at IMS

Romain Grosjean (#28 DHL Honda) is one of the riders to watch this weekend because of the confidence he gained at Iowa Speedway.

Surprisingly, it was Grosjean, who had never raced on the small oval, who achieved the best results every day among the Andretti Autosport drivers. You should know that the organization of Michael Andretti won seven of the first nine races on the circuit with five different drivers.

Grosjean finished seventh and ninth in both races after qualifying 10th for each.

« I’m very proud of the whole weekend, » he said. “With Helio (Castroneves) and Simon Pagenaud and (Alexander) Rossi and (Colton) Herta, they have so much more experience on the ovals than just being able to represent the best car (in the organization).

 » I am very happy. With a few better pit stops (in Saturday’s race), it would have been better (than finishing seventh). »

Grosjean, a second-year NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver, is eager to return to the IMS road circuit, even though he didn’t do as well at the May 14 GMR Grand Prix as he did at the two races. last year on the circuit. He won the NTT P1 award for the first race and finished second in every race in 2021.

Close battle between the recruits

Outside the spotlight of the championship chase, there is a competition between two men for Rookie of the Year.

The gap between Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard (#30 Shield Cleansers Honda) and Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas (#18 HMD Honda) closed at Iowa Speedway, although both riders got the best result for a novice pilot. Lundgaard finished 10th in Race 1; Malukas was eighth in Race 2.

Lundgaard is four points clear of the Gallagher Grand Prix, and both drivers have been the best in five races this season. Both pilots also had early success at IMS.

Lundgaard got the job with RLLR in part because he qualified fourth in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at the IMS road course this weekend in 2021. He finished 12th in of the August 14 race. He finished ninth at this year’s GMR Grand Prix after starting eighth.

Malukas, who won an Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires road race at IMS in 2021, had the best result among rookies in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at IMS this year. He finished 16th and felt he deserved rookie of the year ahead of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 12th but finished 28th. place after late contact in Turn 2. He and the team seem to have used that as motivation for the rest of the season.

« Since (the) month of May, the team has shifted a notch, » Malukas said. “We have a kind of chemistry. I know what I want from the car, and the team knows what I want from the car, and everything fell into place…everyone is smiling. »

Rookies Callum Ilott (#77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevy), Devlin DeFrancesco (#29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda PowerTap) and Kyle Kirkwood (#14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet Sexton Properties) have shown flashes this season but are further down the rankings. Ilott was the top rookie in the GMR Grand Prix, finishing seventh, while Kirkwood trailed all rookies in the Long Beach street race in 10th.

Dream weekend program

This weekend’s schedule offers everything a North American motorsports fan could ask for, as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES joins NASCAR’s Cup Series and Xfinity Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On Friday, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES kicks off with its first practice session at 9:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying for the NTT P1 award will take place at 1 p.m. Practice for the Xfinity Series will take place at 3:05 p.m. with Series Qualifying following immediately.

On Saturday, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has a pre-race practice session at 8:15 a.m. ET with the 85-lap race airing on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at noon. The Cup Series practice session begins at 9:35 a.m. and goes straight into qualifying at 10:35 a.m. The green flag for the Xfinity Series will be raised, also on NBC, at 3:30 p.m. The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard of the Cup series will take place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (ET), live on NBC.

Tickets for the weekend can be purchased at IMS.com.

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