What to Watch For: IndyCar at Indy GP (3:30 p.m. ET)

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INDIANAPOLIS – The fifth round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, today’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis (3:30 p.m. ET), provides the final race prior to the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. And the two couldn’t be more diametrically opposed while being on the same racetrack – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

PREVIEW
QUALIFYING REPORT
POST-QUAL TECH INFRACTIONS

After qualifying and this weekend’s sessions, here’s what to watch for today: 

PAGENAUD’S CONTINUED ROLL

I joked on Friday the only thing hotter than Simon Pagenaud right now in IndyCar might be his new livery on his No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. It’s fluorescent, bright, eye-popping – perhaps even eye-gouging – and it accurately captures the roll of Pagenaud’s start to the season.

You know the story by now. Two seconds, two straight wins, and now two straight poles. Pagenaud had a 48-point lead heading into the weekend over Scott Dixon and if he banks another win or second-place finish, there’s a good odd chance Pagenaud could have 60 or 70 points in hand on the field heading into the Indianapolis 500 – when a maximum of nearly triple a standard race win number of points are available.

HONDA’S RISE

Three Hondas in the Firestone Fast Six – although one of them later got bounced in post-qualifying technical inspection – provided a good sign that Honda is capitalizing on the improved pace and performance package.

Several factors are in play here. Most of the Honda runners are on a new engine this race following a mileaging out of their first one to start the year. Secondly, a number of Chevrolet competitors feel the Honda drivers are closer this year because the aero kit is improved; it’s less sensitive and, frankly, closer in appearance and workability to the Chevrolet kit.

We’ve seen Graham Rahal be the thorn in the sides of the bigger teams but James Hinchcliffe and Jack Hawksworth are on the verge of breakthroughs, Andretti Autosport was better in practice if not qualifying, and Spencer Pigot has been a good surprise this weekend. We’ll see what happens if there’s more Honda presence on Sunday.

DIFFERENT DOWNFORCE LEVELS

The Indianapolis road course is one of the toughest to set up for because of the mix between the high-speed straightaways and the tighter technical sections. A higher downforce play can get you more pace through the turns while trimming out for a lower downforce option will pay dividends in a straight line. Expect a good balance here on this front throughout the field.

COOLER TEMPERATURES

With projected highs in the mid-50s ambient, it’s going to make for one of the coldest race days in some time. How well teams will do to adapt and get their tires up to temperature on what’s a smooth, but yet abrasive track for tires will be an interesting tell-tale. The Firestone red alternates are magic in small doses and there’s a good chance a heavy primary affair will follow on Saturday.

Hinchcliffe described the challenge: “I mean, the tire’s good. It’s just that ultimate speed is only there for one lap. We obviously have no idea how it’s going to degrade over a full stint. If you lose a couple 10ths from your fast lap, I can stay there for a while. That will still be the tire to be on tomorrow.

“We’re looking at temperatures considerably colder than we’ve seen all weekend tomorrow. That’s definitely going to affect tire degradation and grip. Going into tomorrow, it’s a little bit of guesswork about tire strategy and setup and how to take care of them.

“I think traditionally here the red tire is a better tire. It’s just, yeah, for that one lap in qualifying, it’s so tough. Like I said, it so close, so easy to make a mistake at this place. There’s so many very inviting corners to overdo it a little bit.

“Like I said, such a dream to drive this thing on a brand-new set of sticker reds on that one lap, then you start finding problems with it. But it’s good till then.” 

DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK… OK, CALL IT A COMEBACK

With Rahal and Newgarden cars bounced in tech and the five other new or returning drivers in the field – Spencer Pigot, Matthew Brabham, Alex Tagliani, JR Hildebrand and Gabby Chaves – there’s a number of additional variables this week that didn’t exist in Barber a couple weeks ago.

And speaking of comebacks, today marks Hinchcliffe’s first start at IMS since his devastating accident in practice here last year. A podium or win would make for a phenomenal story for the Canadian. 

A MORE CASUAL AFFAIR 

Compared to the 500, which was announced as a sellout earlier this week, the Grand Prix is definitely a more casual atmosphere for fans and competitors, and a heckuva lot less crowded. It’s not that the urgency isn’t there – it is – but compared to the pressure of the 500 there’s definitely a lighter air around this race. Which isn’t a bad thing.

It provides a good race atmosphere without the same, super high, ridiculous stress as you get at some events, particularly the 500 later in the month.

HERE’S YOUR GRID

IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
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Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):


Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta


Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans