By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season continues this weekend with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in Speedway, Indiana. The Open Wheel will be covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Preview: GMR Grand Prix – Saturday, July 4, 2020 12:00PM (ET) NBC – INDYCAR is back this weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the seventh annual GMR Grand Prix. The event is part of a busy NTT INDYCAR SERIES, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Cup Series weekend at the famous venue. Traditionally held in May as a kick off to the Month of May at IMS, this event may as well be called the Team Penske Invitational as they have won the last five events and their current drivers have won all six.
Previous driver experience on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course shows just two former winners in the field in Simon Pagenaud (3) and Will Power (3). The active Top 5 in laps led are Power (182), Pagenaud (68), Scott Dixon (40), Josef Newgarden (21), and Ryan Hunter-Reay (18) / Graham Rahal (18). Pagenaud and Power are the last two winners. Looking at the box scores from 2019 and 2018, only Dixon has finished in the Top 5 in each of the last two races. If that’s expanded to the Top 10, Dixon is joined by Pagenaud, Power, and Rahal. So despite Team Penske’s dominance in the win column in this event, they haven’t filled the Top 5 with all of their cars each year.
It should be another exciting weekend of action with plenty of storylines to follow. It will be odd to see another race without fans, especially in the cavernous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but fortunately fans are expected at the following events at Road America and Iowa Speedway. An event record 26 cars are entered this weekend including season debuts for Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot, and Max Chilton as well as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut for Dalton Kellett. Without COVID-19 complications this might have been the debut of Scott McLaughlin with Team Penske, but those plans are on hold for now and may continue throughout 2020.
My pick to win: Josef Newgarden – With the possible exception of Scott Dixon, it would be foolish to pick anyone but a Team Penske driver to win this event. It’s just a matter of which one. Newgarden hasn’t produced his typical results at this event in recent years, but as we’ve seen elsewhere it’s just a matter of time before he gets it done whether it’s on supreme pace or strategy. You can’t go wrong with Pagenaud or Power here, but I’m going with Newgarden this weekend.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, & Jack Harvey – I obviously like Newgarden this week, but his high salary is still a big risk in the roulette of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and his lack of history on the IMS road course. Rosenqvist won the pole last year and figures to be lightning quick again after a strong showing to start the year at Texas. You know his teammate Dixon is always good here. Herta qualified P4 last year and should be quick again. Rahal has arguably raced better on this circuit than anyone in the series and always finds his way into the top part of the field regardless of qualifying results. Harvey is an excellent value pick this week at just $21 after a podium finish and strong performances on road courses last year.