What to watch for: IndyCar at Baltimore (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Leave a comment

WATCH OUT FOR CHICANE-ERY

The temporary chicane on Pratt Street always causes issues over the course of the Baltimore weekend. One could probably guess it is not a very well-liked portion of the two-mile street circuit among those in the IndyCar paddock, but consider the alternative – going straight on and launching over a set of light rail tracks – and you see why it’s there. But cars can easily wind up in the wall while rumbling over the curbs here. We’ll see what kind of impact it has on today’s 75-lap race.

MULTIPLE PASSING ZONES

The neat thing about Baltimore is that there are several good opportunities to make up ground on the track. Turns 1 and 3 are probably the best passing zones on the course, as both of them are hard-braking, right-hand corners that come off of long straightaways. You’ll find a lot of action – and close calls – in these two sections.

DIXON’S REVENGE?

To some, Scott Dixon was royally hosed last weekend with his pit road violation at Sonoma. To others, INDYCAR made the right call. No matter your viewpoint on the matter, expect Dixon – your pole sitter for today’s race – to be raring to go as he tries once again to narrow the gap to Helio Castroneves, who holds a 38-point edge over him. If Dixon can win and melt that deficit down to say, 20-25 points, it’s a good day for him.

STREET FIGHTING SIMON

Last year at Baltimore, the proverbial ‘move of the race’ award went to Simon Pagenaud, who earned a podium finish after pulling off an eye-popping run that saw him go from sixth to the lead on a restart at Lap 37. The Frenchman has already won this year on a street circuit (Detroit, Race 2), and he’ll start toward the front this afternoon. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him factor into the outcome.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Baltimore
STARTING GRID

Row 1
9-Scott Dixon
12-Will Power

Row 2
77-Simon Pagenaud
19-Justin Wilson

Row 3
67-Josef Newgarden
55-Tristan Vautier (rookie)

Row 4
3-Helio Castroneves
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 5
83-Charlie Kimball
14-Takuma Sato

Row 6
27-James Hinchcliffe
15-Graham Rahal

Row 7
98-Luca Filippi (rookie)
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 8
4-Oriol Servia
25-Marco Andretti

Row 9
78-Simona de Silvestro
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 10
6-Sebastian Saavedra
5-E.J. Viso

Row 11
18-Stefan Wilson (rookie)
7-Sebastien Bourdais

Row 12
*16-James Jakes
*10-Dario Franchitti

Drivers in italics will start on Firestone alternate tires (“reds”).
*Jakes (going over five-engine limit), Franchitti (unapproved engine change) penalized grid spots.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes Indy 500 should never have guaranteed starting positions

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Like many viewers watching last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 “Bump Day” on NBC, former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was captivated by the drama.

He also believes INDYCAR should not follow NASCAR’s path of “Chartered Teams” locking up positions in the major races; such as the Daytona 500. That has taken away the excitement and drama of the Daytona Duels.

“Not trying to get myself in the weeds here, but I think Indy could look at the history of NASCAR and how it has changed the excitement for some of the Duels and qualifying,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports.com. “I would not go in that direction. If I was in control of things, I would not pull those levers to have guaranteed spots. The thrill of Bump Day and the battle for the final row, increased the value of Sunday and viewership for Sunday. It taught people about other drivers and teams. We don’t learn those things if you don’t see them going through that battle and experience.

“I thought it was a tremendous win for the people that want to keep things at Indy as they are.”

Earnhardt, who is part of NBC’s crew for Sunday’s telecast of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, believes the way it all played out created a storyline that enhances the interest in the 500-Mile Race.

“I experienced the drama before with Bump Day that has happened here in this race in the past, but I thought it was symbolic with the conversation going on about guaranteed spots,” Earnhardt said. “For the folks who are the traditionalists who believe you have to earn your way in, it was a great day for those folks and their argument. Fernando Alonso and how that story played out and his reaction to not making it, I thought he handled it like the champion he is. All of that was interesting.

“The little teams beating the big teams was pretty cool. It created some really exciting stuff and did nothing but build excitement in the race.

“Even though Alonso is not in the race, I’m just as interested, or more interested, than I was before. Them not being in the race didn’t change it for me. If anything, that whole drama and how it played out made me more excited to see the event.”

Earnhardt is attending his first Indianapolis 500 in person. He will be part of NBC’s Indianapolis 500 Pre-race show along with Mike Tirico and 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick.

Earnhardt will also drive the Pace Car to lead the 33-car starting lineup to the green flag to start the 103rdIndianapolis 500. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time.