PREVIEW: Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Photo: IndyCar

The final dress rehearsal before the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this weekend, with the third Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The much younger and significantly more casual brother of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has perhaps suffered a lack of buildup this year but should be decently interesting nonetheless.

Here’s some of the nuggets heading into the weekend:

2016 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis – Talking Points

Weather woes?

At present it’s looking like a mid-50s high for Saturday’s race day, and intermittent rain mixed in throughout practice and qualifying. The three road and street races thus far have run under near ideal, picture perfect conditions and it will be fascinating to see whether the forecasted cooler weather makes a big impact on the racing thus far. Teams are allotted seven sets primary and three sets of Firestone’s alternate tires, with an eighth primary set available to any car running five laps on one set in the first 20 minutes of first practice.

Power vs. Pagenaud vs. 23 others

Thus far Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are the only two winners of the Grand Prix, and neither has been able to complete a month of May double dip sweep. Pagenaud rides the crest of momentum as he’s on the hottest streak of his career into this weekend’s race; Power, meanwhile, looks for his first win since this race last year.

“Yeah it does feel so long,” Power told reporters at the Team Penske headquarters in Charlotte earlier this week, including NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan.

“We were so quick last year (overall) but it didn’t work out. It becomes frustrating. This year, Phoenix, I made a mistake in the last pit stop. Dixon won. Long Beach, I screwed up in qualifying. Definitely was gonna be right there. Barber was just an average race. I’m determined to have a good month and put me back in position.”

Turn 1 tilt

The start line accident from a standing start in 2014 and last year’s cluster in Turn 1 have made the first lap of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis the standout moments for the highlight reels. Considering how difficult passing has been with this year’s closer aero kits, look for Turn 1 and the rest of Lap 1 to be a key factor in the outcome once more.

Rahal and Honda’s hopes

After his and the team’s near miss in Barber, and a runner-up finish here last year, Graham Rahal will be keen to put the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in victory circle for both his and Honda’s first win of 2016. Provided they can qualify a bit better like they did in Barber, it’s certainly possible.

The one-off wild cards

Expect the GPI to be the biggest and most notable race in terms of additional one-off entrants, besides the Indianapolis 500 later this month. In rookies Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham, the latter of whom makes his series debut, and veterans JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani, there’s an extra variable here with cars and drivers that aren’t in the usual battle.

Meanwhile, there’s also the last-minute change at Dale Coyne Racing with Gabby Chaves replacing Luca Filippi at least for the month of May. Both drivers are close on experience levels but Chaves, who’s a bit more experienced at Indy, should be able to provide a boost to the lineup.

The final word

One of the sneaky good drivers at the GPI has been KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who has back-to-back top-five finishes in the race. Here’s the pre-race quote from the driver of the No. 11 Team EUROPA – KVSH Chevrolet:

“I like the design of the Indy road circuit. There are a couple of good passing zones, but like all the road and street courses on the schedule, qualifying will be very important. We have finished fourth in the Indy Grand Prix the last two years and last year it was our first top-five finish of the season. Hopefully we can at least do that again this year.

“The EUROPA – KVSH Racing team has shown good pace, but we haven’t achieved the results we wanted so far this season. We just have to keep working and have a good race this weekend for the team and our sponsors.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

Thursday, May 12    

11:00-12:15 Practice 1 
3:00-4:15   Practice 2    

Friday, May 13    

11:00-11:45 Practice 3  
3:00-4:15   Qualifying 

Saturday, May 14    

11:30-12:00 Warm-up  
3:30        TV coverage starts (ABC)  
3:43/3:50   Drivers Start Your Engine/Est. Green Flag

All times local and ET.

Here’s last year’s top 10:

1. Will Power
2. Graham Rahal
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Sebastien Bourdais
5. Charlie Kimball
6. Helio Castroneves
7. Tony Kanaan
8. Stefano Coletti
9. Takuma Sato
10. Scott Dixon

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six:

1. Will Power
2. Scott Dixon
3. Helio Castroneves
4. Juan Pablo Montoya
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. Tony Kanaan