GMR Grand Prix Preview (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network)

TRACK: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.439-mile road course) DISTANCE: 85 Laps (207.315 Miles)
WEATHER: RAIN 0%, 93 degrees at race time

Favorites

Simon Pagenaud

He’s won this race three times. He’s been a top 10 machine too. Too good to overlook here.

Will Power

He’s won this race in three of the last five years in dominating fashion. He led 65 laps in a win in 2015 and 61 and 56 respectively in his other two wins. Also, Power has five top six starting spots in this race including three poles.

Scott Dixon

In this race, he’s finished in the top 10 the last five years including three straight runner-up finishes to Power and Pagenaud. Dixon won in Texas and has a car to beat.

Felix Rosenqvist

The Swedish driver should have finished second in Texas. He earned the pole for this race last year and finished eighth. He’s also made two starts on this track in Indy Lights, both coming in Indy Lights in 2016 to where he finished in the top six in both tries.

On natural road courses last year, Rosenqvist was at his best. He finished sixth, second, second and fifth to close out the year on them last year.

Colton Herta

He had early race troubles last year but he does have past success in Indy Lights here. He swept all three races in 2018, two on the road course and one on the oval for three straight wins. Also, he won both of his races as a rookie last year on natural road courses.

Sleepers

Takuma Sato

In this race, Sato has three top 10 finishes. He’s won twice on natural road courses over the last couple of years too.

Graham Rahal

If he could qualify better in this race, then watch out. Prior to last year, Rahal had never started better than 12th. Despite that, he had four top 10 finishes including a runner-up in 2015. His hard charging mentality has turned the heads of his competitors as they’ve all said that if he started closer to the front, then it’s game over.

Zach Veach

Worth a look. He was fourth in race 1 at Texas.

Questionable

Josef Newgarden

Newgarden has never has scored a top 10 finish in this race before. I don’t like his chances for these odds.

Alexander Rossi

While Andretti Autosport has typically struggled in this race, Rossi has gotten better and better each year. He went from 10th in 2016 to eighth in 2017 to fifth in 2018. He did get punted on the opening lap last year. He needs a good result.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

If Hunter-Reay can get any luck, then he will be strong. Last year he was only 17th. Bad luck struck him in 2018 with his engine going sour. He limped home to a 18th place finish. The year before though, he put his car on the podium with a third place result. He was also runner-up to Pagenaud in the inaugural race in 2014.

He’s either feast or famine in this race.

Marco Andretti

I’m not sold on his chances yet. Andretti, has never started or finished in the top 10 in this race before.

Race Preview

After a full month off, the NTT IndyCar Series is back in action this weekend on the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds. Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, IndyCar Radio Network) will mark just the second race of the 2020 season and seventh of the events’ history.

This one will be different than we’ve ever seen. First off, it’s a doubleheader weekend in NASCAR. Secondly, it’s a race at IMS behind closed doors. That’s sacrilegious and going to be very awkwaed. Finally, this is the second race with the AeroScreen. As drivers said following the season opener at Texas last month, nothing is the same with it. All the setups have changed and notes from last year might as well be shredded.

That may be good news for the other teams not named Team Penske. In the past six years of this race, current Penske drivers have won all of them. Yes, Simon Pagenaud won the inaugural race in 2014 for Schmidt, but he’s with Penske now and has won two of his three races with Penske power — including last year.

Will Power has won the other three races, all with Penske.

Also, will starting position matter? Four of the last five years have seen the pole winner win this race. Five of the six races run saw the winner come from the top 2 Rows. Pagenaud, started eighth last year in his win.

Want to win on Saturday? Better at least make the Fast Six.

The big reason to that is, we’ve seen chaos on the opening lap in almost every year. The only year we didn’t was in 2017 when the entire race went caution free.

A big reason to that is how tight Turn 1 is and how moves are being made into it to gain spots on track.

If you made it past Lap 1, pit strategy follows.

This race overall has seen three or fewer cautions in the last five years. When four of those five races had a first lap incident, you can see that this race has been run clean for a majority of the way.

That makes this a tire strategy race. The question then becomes, when to put on the alternates and do you use two sets or one?

With 85 Laps, some drivers can run the Firestone Blacks and use a two stop strategy. They’re in fuel save mode but know the tires can last until the end of their stints. Can they keep the speed though?

On the other side, you can start on Firestone Blacks and go with the Firestone Reds and use a three stop strategy too and use the alternate tire on the final two stints.

See, Indy doesn’t produce a lot of tire wear. You can use the Firestone Reds for faster lap times with minimal fall off here than like other places. Yes, the Firestone Blacks will last even longer and keep consistent lap times throughout a run, but the Firestone Reds will be faster at the start of a stint and not fall off as severe as the run goes on.

Saving sticker sets of Reds are going to be key this weekend so you can have them in the race itself. But, does that risk messing up qualifying?

Top Stat

In each of the last two years, the eventual race winner went on to win the Indy 500. While this year is different with the ‘500 being run in a completely different month, does the trend still continue.

Top Quote

“I think there’s definitely some unfinished business from last year with having my first-ever pole in INDYCAR at the Indy GP, but I was not able to bring a great result to it,” Felix Rosenqvist said, as he won the pole last year. Can he win his first race on Saturday? “So, that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re hungry and ready to go in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.”

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