INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power took the lead in the first stanza, Helio Castroneves the second, Power the third and additionally the last en route to winning the warmup act for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Round 5 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
More importantly, it also caps off a weekend where Power led every session. He paced first and second practice, qualifying where he took his 47th career pole position, and this morning warmup, before leading 61 of 85 laps.
The win means there are now five winners in as many races this season, as Power broke through for the first time since Pocono last August. This is Power’s second INDYCAR Grand Prix win after also winning in similar dominant fashion in 2015, when he led 65 of 82 laps.
Power joked yesterday he hoped all race weekends would adopt this abnormal format as part of a two-day weekend schedule, but after the way he performed this weekend, he might well be bloody serious.
“It was definitely — you know, you’re on the toes all day because you had the autograph session in between and then some appearances. I didn’t mind it,” Power said. “If you can get on it pretty quickly, it’s good. But if you were here — yeah, obviously it worked out for me, so we should keep doing this.
“I don’t think it mattered. I mean, yeah, all the sessions have been 40 — yeah, it’s good to have a night to think about it before qualifying, but definitely shortens the weekend up.”
As the run to the notorious and treacherous first corner was done without incident, it meant there was less chance of a caution happening. Only seven have happened in three years.
Today’s race ran caution-free, the first in IndyCar since Long Beach 2016, and was almost entirely dictated by pit strategy. Although the race was lengthened three laps this year from 82 to 85 laps, it made little difference to the grand scheme of things.
There wasn’t much in the way of on-track passing, either. Scott Dixon made a good move on Castroneves for second on Lap 69, at the inside of Turn 7. But with Dixon on Firestone’s red alternate tires and Roger Penske opting to put Castroneves onto the primary black sidewall tires for the final stint, it was always a question of when rather than if he’d get around him.
On Lap 74, Castroneves lost his podium position as Ryan Hunter-Reay passed him on the inside of Turn 7. Simon Pagenaud got Castroneves later as well for fourth.
Behind the top five, it was Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Alexander Rossi, Spencer Pigot and Juan Pablo Montoya in the top 10.
Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais went out early with mechanical problems, both stopping on the oval Turn 4.
MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Saturday times and notebook
New Tatuus PM-18. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s a rundown of times and notes from Saturday at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder had their first day of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A link to Friday’s notebook is here.
Drivers and teams alike have raved about the pace, and the rather loud sound, of the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda. Reports from private testing had the new car rather close to Indy Lights pace at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and rather quicker than the old car at Road America. The first tangible evidence of that occurred today as all 10 of the Pro Mazda drivers who got representative laps (second BN Racing car of Leonard Hoogenboom ran only a few laps in session four after engine issues all day) supplanted the Pro Mazda lap record at IMS – 1:22.8800 by Pato O’Ward in 2016 – easily. Oliver Askew’s best time of 1:19.8920 in the second session was nearly a full three seconds quicker on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
Of the 11 Pro Mazda drivers that ran today, only Carlos Cunha, Robert Megennis, Nikita Lastochkin, Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb ran in the 2017 season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all five of them running full-time in 2018 for what would be each of their second seasons in the championship, as returning sophomores along with what should be a glut of strong rookies. Wright, who also races sports cars, looks poised to add a second program of some other series to a planned Pro Mazda full season.
Megennis is planning to test with other teams in the weeks to come, as he tests for Juncos this week after racing in USF2000 with Pelfrey the last two years. Both he and Robb missed portions of sessions today with new car issues.
Several Indy Lights spins and off-course excursions occurred but none produced any serious issues. Rinus Veekay and Anthony Martin were among those to test the course limits but kept on going unharmed. Veekay had a spin in session three on new tires, then promptly laid down the fastest lap of the session for Belardi later on.
His teammate this weekend, Nico Jamin, wound up with the fastest lap of the day in Indy Lights – although he wasn’t quickest in the cool evening session, the fourth of the day, when most of the field ran some sticker tire runs on their Cooper tires.
Pro Mazda title combatants Victor Franzoni (Juncos) and Anthony Martin (Andretti) made their Indy Lights test debuts. The perpetually happy Franzoni wrote on Instagram, “Awesome day!! We finished the day in P3!! The most import we learned a lot!! Tomorrow will be even better!!” Martin, meanwhile, said this: “It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce, so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. You don’t want to push yourself too early, so we’re working up to a few things. You have to do things a lot quicker and you have to use a lot more brake pressure.”
In USF2000, it was an excellent day at the office for Pabst Racing with Andres Gutierrez – who impressed in a pair of weekends with DE Force Racing this year – leading three of four sessions, while teammates Hunter McElrea and Lucas Kohl were also in the top-five. Pabst has been busy running cars in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda this weekend.
Beyond Pabst, Newman Wachs Racing also had an excellent day, mainly with sophomore Darren Keane and Californian rookie Jake Craig. Keane, who’s coached by Ozz Negri, led the fourth and final session of the day, and stands as a driver who could make a big leap forward in performance if he secures a full season in 2018.
Another team of note today was BN Racing, with Callan O’Keefe – Keane’s teammate when both drove for Team BENIK at this race weekend last May – second best on the day. The South African is poised to be that team’s lead driver next season. Teammates Elliott Finlayson and Zoey Edenholm are working towards seasons of their own; Finlayson having coming off a recent Super Sweep in SCCA Runoffs competition at IMS last month and Edenholm having only just graduated from karts into cars just this month.
While the USF2000 field was primarily rookie-dominated, two-year series veteran Aaron Telitz made a cameo return today with RJB Motorsports, and brought the ex-ArmsUp chassis its best pace yet in RJB’s hands as the Wisconsinite ran with Mirl Swan and Alex Barron’s crew support. Past RJB driver and two-time Team USA Scholarship, Michai Stephens, was also on site today.
Speaking of ArmsUp, its top rookie from 2017, Devin Wojcik was on hand today making the rounds as well, although wasn’t in a car. He looks to return to USF2000 for a second season in 2018.
USF2000 boasted some good diversity with Pabst, BN, Newman Wachs, Exclusive, Pelfrey, BENIK and RJB teams in the top 10 today, but there’s one notable omission: Cape Motorsports. The seven-time defending champions in the series are not testing in USF2000 this weekend, and has just a single Pro Mazda car on site for Oliver Askew. Granted, the team is also at Circuit of The Americas this weekend for F4 U.S. Championship action, where Kyle Kirkwood has taken that series’ championship. DE Force, which also ran in USF2000 this year, is also not here this weekend as it’s at COTA. ArmsUp isn’t here this weekend either.