INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: Gallagher Grand Prix track trends, favs, sleepers, fades

TRACK: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (2.439-mile road course), DISTANCE: 85 Laps (207 Miles)


TRACK HISTORY/TRENDS

  • Starting Position is everything – 11 of the 12 races on this layout were won by a top 8 starter. The only one not was Colton Herta in the rain back in May who started 14th in the rain.
  • Starting positions for natural road courses lately (since 2016) – 43 races (counting Barber, Indy, Road America and Mid-Ohio this year)
  • 2016: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st
  • 2017: 7th, 1st, 5th, 2nd 1st, 3rd
  • 2018: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 20th, 1st
  • 2019: 4th, 1st, 8th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd, 1st
  • 2020: 7th, 9th, 7th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st
  • 2021: 3rd, 7th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st
  • 2022: 2nd, 14th, 2nd, 2nd
  • That’s 41 of the last 43 coming from the top 10 (95%)
  • That’s 21 of 43 from the pole (49%) and 29 of 43 from the front row (67%)
  • Also, that’s 34 of 43 (79%) from the Fast Six.
  • 7 of the last 8 have been won by the front row (88%) including 11 of the last 15 (73%).
  • The pole winner has only won just 1 race in the last 12 starts dating back to last year’s season finale.
  • Penske has been great in return trip. They’ve dominated the doubleheader weekend in 2020 and Will Power led every lap in this race last year too.

TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

While a road course is a road course, the IMS road course is most comparable though to Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Laguna Seca. Toronto, Long Beach, Belle Isle, Nashville and St. Pete are street circuits run on city streets. These other road courses are all natural free flowing terrain with some elevation changes. If you’re good at one, you’re more than likely good at the others.

In 2020, Penske and Ganassi each won three times on these types of circuits including all three at IMS. Andretti Autosport won the other that year in Mid-Ohio.

In 2021, Ganassi won three times (Barber, Road America, Portland), Penske twice (Indy, Mid-Ohio), Ed Carpenter Racing once (Indy) and Andretti Autosport once (Laguna Seca) themselves.

So far this season, we’ve had four races on a natural road courses (Barber, Indy, Road America, Mid-Ohio) with 3 different organization winning (AMSP, Andretti, Penske).

That’s 18 natural road course races during this Aeroscreen era with Penske winning 7 times, Ganassi 6, Andretti Autosport three times and ECR/AMSP once each.

The other part is who are the top qualifiers not only on natural road courses, but at Indytoo.

41 of the last 43 natural road course races were won by a top 10 starter. 7 of the last 8 races though were won by a front row starter including 5 of which from the pole. All but 1 race here was won by a top 8 starter.

So, in order to find Sunday’s winner, you first have to dissect who are the top qualifiers on these types of tracks to contend on Saturday.

Fast 6 Potential

  • Josef Newgarden – He qualified 7th at Barber, 3rd at Indy, 2nd at Road America and 14th in Mid-Ohio this year. For here, he has 5 top 9 starting spots in his last 6 tries including 4 of which in the Fast 6. Can he put Iowa behind him after dominating both days and not winning the 2nd race?
  • Will Power – He won the pole at Indy back in May but was also 19th at Barber, 15th at Road America and 21st in Mid-Ohio too. Power has 3 front row starting spots in his last 4 Indy road course tries including 8 Fast 6 appearances in his last 9 starts here overall. He had pace in Mid-Ohio but was penalized his fastest laps.
  • Alex Palou – He’s qualified 3rd, 2nd, 3rd and 7th on like tracks this season. Palou has also qualified 4th, 4th, 6th and 2nd in his last 4 Indy road course starts too. While he has 1 top 5 start in the last 8 races on the season, if you like him, grab him now.
  • Colton Herta – On like tracks, he was 10th in Barber, 14th in Indy, 5th in Road America and 3rd in Mid-Ohio. For Indy in general, Herta has qualified in the top 8 in 6 of his 7 tries including 5 of which in the Fast 6.
  • Felix Rosenqvist – This may be your top sleeper. On natural road courses this year, he’s been 6th, 6th, 8th and 4th respectively. At Indy, Rosenqvist has 5 top 10 starts in 7 tries.
  • Pato O’Ward – He’s made the Fast 6 in all 4 of the natural road courses this season (2nd, 5th, 6th, 1st) and will be in the hunt again this weekend. O’Ward has 4 top 10 starting spots on the Indy road course in his last 5 tries including 3 of his last 4 being in the top 5 with a pole just last August.

Fringe Fast 6

  • Romain Grosjean – He qualified 8th at Barber, 10th at Indy, 7th in Road America and 17th in Mid-Ohio. While he was 13th here in May, he was also 1st and 3rd respectively last year.
  • Scott McLaughlin – He qualified 4th in Barber, 11th in Indy, 9th in Road America and 2nd in Mid-Ohio. His Indy starts last year were 5th and 21st respectively. May not be a Fast 6 driver but definitely a 2nd round one.
  • Conor Daly –On like tracks this season, Daly has qualified 22nd (Barber), 4th (Indy RC), 18th (Road America) and 22nd (Mid-Ohio). In his last 3 Indy starts, he was 6th, 8th and 4th.
  • Callum Ilott – These are his best tracks. Ilott was in Row 6 at Barber (11th) and Road America (12th) as well as 7th at Indy and 10th in Mid-Ohio.
  • Christian Lundgaard – Another rookie but one that qualifies well on like tracks. He was 14th in Barber, 8th in Indy, 13th in Road America and 16th in Mid-Ohio. He was on Row 2 in this very race a year ago.
  • Jack Harvey – On the season, he was 15th in Barber, 9th at Indy, 20th in Road America and 24th at Mid-Ohio. This is his best track though with qualifying 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 3rd, 7th and now 9th.
  • Graham Rahal – On the season, Rahal has made it to the 2nd round just twice, both on these types of tracks. He was 9th at Barber, 12th at the Indy GP, 22nd in Road America and 18th in Mid-Ohio. He has qualified 7th, 4th, 11th, 10th, 11th, 17th and 12th respectively in his last 7 road course starts here.

Probably In The Middle

  • Rinus VeeKay – On like tracks this season was 1st at Barber, 15th at Indy, 17th at Road America and 11th at Mid-Ohio. VeeKay was 7th and 9th here last year and won a pole in 2020.
  • Alexander Rossi – Has made the Fast 6 and 2 out of the 4 natural road courses this season. However, he was 16th here back in May and has qualified in the Fast 6 just once in 10 Indy road course tries. He does have 7 2nd round appearance in that span though too at least.
  • Scott Dixon – Weird having him on this list. He was 13th at Barber, 21st at Indy,10th in Road America and 5th in Mid-Ohio. Dixon has qualified 12th, 15th, 16th, 26th and 21st respectively in his last 5 Indy road course tries.
  • Marcus Ericsson – He qualified 4th in Road America but was 12th, 18th and 13th in Barber, Indy and Mid-Ohio respectively during in the year too. Also, Ericsson has 1 top 10 starting spot in 7 Indy road course tries too including 5 of his last 6 being bounced in the 1st round.
  • David Malukas – He was 18th in Barber, 24th in Indy GP, 14th in Road America and 8th at Mid-Ohio.
  • Simon Pagenaud – On like tracks this season, Pagenaud has qualified 24th, 20th, 11th and 6th respectively. He hasn’t made the Fast 6 here since 2016 and has just 2 second round appearances in his last 6 tries.
  • Helio Castroneves – He was 16th, 19th, 16th and 15th at Barber, Indy RC, Road America and Mid-Ohio respectively.

Be Wary

Takuma Sato – He was bounced in the 1st round in 6 straight Indy road course races now with being 16th or 17th in 4 out of the last 6.

Devlin DeFrancesco – He has qualified 20th 17th, 21st and 20th on like tracks this season.

Kyle Kirkwood – He started 21st in Barber, 22nd in Indy, 24th in Road America and 9th at Mid-Ohio.

Dalton Kellett – On the season, he was 23rd at Barber, 26th at Indy GP, 23rd in Road America and 23rd at Mid-Ohio.

Jimmie Johnson – He was 26th in Barber, 27th in Indy, 26th at Road America and 27th at Mid-Ohio. Johnson has qualified 23rd, 22nd and 27th in his 3 Indy road course tries in general.

Tatiana Calderon – On like tracks this year – 26th, 15th, 25th and 26th respectively.

Colton Herta celebrates his win in the GMR Grand Prix. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Favorites

Will Power

He has 2 wins and a 3rd place finish in his last 4 tries here.

Colton Herta

Can he pull the road course sweep? He has 5 top 4 finishes in his last 6 Indy road course starts and was 10th, 1st, 5th and 15th on like tracks this season.

Scott McLaughlin

His 3 Indy finishes have been 8th, 23rd and 20th respectively. On like tracks this season, he’s also finished 6th, 20th, 7th and 1st.


Sleepers

Arrow McLaren SP

Felix Rosenqvist was 6th in May but had more speed in it. Pato O’Ward has 2 5th placed finishes in his last 4 starts here. I think they found something in the test to help.

Simon Pagenaud

He was runner-up this past May and has 3 top 10’s in his last 4 including 3 total wins here.

Conor Daly

He was 5th in May and always qualifies well here.

Rinus VeeKay

While he was 24th and 23rd in his last 2 road course starts here, he had 3 top 5’s including a podium and a win his 4 starts prior.

Marcus Ericsson

He never stars well here but was 4th in May and going for 2 straight Indy wins with a ‘500 triumph in May. Ericsson has 5 top 10’s in 6 Indy road course tries in general anyways and has finished 12th, 4th, 2nd and on natural road courses this season.

Alexander Rossi

4 top 7 finishes in his last 5 tries including 3 of which in the top 4. He was 9th, 11th, 3rd and on natural road courses in 2022.

Dale Coyne Racing

They went P7 and P12 in May.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing

Lundgaard has been stout in 2 starts here. This is Jack Harvey’s best track with 4 top 8’s including a podium and Graham Rahal has 10 top 10’s in his last 11 tries too.

Fade

Josef Newgarden

I’d fade him for now… He qualifies well, but has just 1 podium in 11 Indy road course tries. He’s also been 14th, 25th, 1st and 7th on like tracks and has 5 finishes outside the top 10 this season.

Alex Palou

He had a fast car in May before going off course in the rain, was 3rd in May 2021 and had a podium going before his engine blew last August. If luck is on his side, watch out. However, he has just 1 top 5 in his last 8 races too.

Scott Dixon

He has 10 top 10’s in his last 11 Indy road course tries but no top 5’s in his last 5 through. He’s finished 5th, 10th, 9th and 5th on like tracks this year.

Jimmie Johnson

24th, 19th and 22nd are his 3 finishes here.

Helio Castroneves

His last 5 finishes have been 21st, 20th, 21st, 21st and 14th respectively.

AJ Foyt Racing

Not their best track especially after going 15-26-27 in May.

Devlin DeFrancesco

He was 21st in May.

Top Stat

Oddly enough, we’ve seen a lot of parity here for this road course event. Simon Pagenaud started it in May 2019. Scott Dixon won in July 2020. Josef Newgarden won in October 2020 in Race 1 of the doubleheader weekend while Will Power won the 2nd leg of it. Rinus VeeKay won in May 2021 while Power won again in August of last year. Then this past May, it was Colton Herta’s turn.

That’s 6 drivers in a 7 race span to win here on the 2.439-mile road course layout. Will we get a 7th on Saturday?

Scott McLaughlin was 8th in his road course debut last year and has 3 top 7 finishes in 4 natural road course starts this season including a win in Mid-Ohio. That’s helped him score the 3rd most points (118) on these types of circuits this season. Pato O’Ward hasn’t finished better than 5th here but was on his way to a potential win this past May and had a great car in Mid-Ohio before an engine problem. So was his teammate Felix Rosenqvist. Conor Daly always qualifies well here (3 straight top 8s) and was 5th in May. Marcus Ericsson was 4th in May and 10th and 9th respectively last year. No one has as many points (120) as Ericsson has accumulated on natural road courses this season. Alex Palou was 3rd in May 2021 and has qualified in the Fast 6 in 4 straight road course races here. All 3 of his INDYCAR wins have come on these types of tracks. Alexander Rossi has 4 top 7’s in his last 5 starts here. Romain Grosjean was runner-up in both races in 2021.

I think there’s plenty of candidates to keep this string going.

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