IndyCar Fast Facts: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix

Photo courtesy INDYCAR
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Here’s all you need to know about this weekend’s IndyCar race in suburban Phoenix, the second race of the 17-race schedule, and the first of the season on an oval:

Race weekend: Friday, April 6 – Saturday, April 7, 2018

Track: ISM Raceway, a 1.022-mile oval in Avondale, Arizona

Race distance: 250 laps / 255.5 miles

Entry List: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (PDF)

Firestone tire allotment: Ten sets primary

Twitter: @ISMRaceway, @IndyCar, #DesertDiamondPGP, #IndyCar

Event website: www.ISMRaceway.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2017 race winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet)

2017 pole winner: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet), 37.7538 seconds (194.905 mph)

Qualifying lap record: Helio Castroneves (18.8701 seconds; 194.975 mph), set on April 29, 2017

NBCSN race telecast: Saturday, April 7 (9 p.m. ET, live)

NBCSN qualifying telecast: Friday, April 6 (8 p.m. ET, live)

Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Video Streaming: Both practice sessions will be available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar)

Radio broadcasts: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with analyst Anders Krohn. The turn reporter is Jake Query with Nick Yeoman and Michael Young reporting from the pits.

All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app and Verizon IndyCar Series practices are broadcasted on IIndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times EASTERN): 

Friday, April 6

5 – 6 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

8 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single-car format, two laps each), NBCSN (Live)

11 p.m. – Midnight Verizon IndyCar Series final practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Saturday, April 7

9 p.m. – NBCSN on air

9:35 p.m. – Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (250 laps/255.50 miles), NBCSN (Live).

Race Notes:

* Sebastien Bourdais claimed the season-opening race of the Verizon IndyCar Series for the second year in a row as he won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11. Bourdais is hoping to claim back-to-back wins to start the season for the first time since 2006 as he pursues a fifth Indy car championship.

* Josef Newgarden of Team Penske continues defense of his 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Newgarden captured his first series title in his first season with Team Penske, winning four times. Now he aims to be Team Penske’s first repeat champion since Gil de Ferran collected back-to-back CART championships in 2000 and 2001.

* Scott Dixon hopes to add to his record-setting resume in 2018. Dixon’s four season championships tie him with Indy car greats Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti, trailing only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 41 and won at ISM Raceway in 2016.

* The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix will be the 64th Indy car race at ISM Raceway since the track opened as Phoenix International Raceway in 1964. Al Unser has the most wins by an Indy car driver at the track (six). Tony Kanaan (2003 and 2004), Scott Dixon (2016) and Simon Pagenaud (2017) are the past Phoenix winners entered in this year’s race.

* ISM Raceway will host the first of six oval races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other ovals event scheduled are: 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil (May 27), DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (July 8), ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Aug. 19) and Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park (Aug. 25).

* Twelve drivers have won the Phoenix race from the pole: Mario Andretti (1966), Lloyd Ruby (1967), Bobby Unser (1968, 1972), Al Unser (1969 and 1985), Gordon Johncock (1973), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Rick Mears (1982, 1989 and 1990), Teo Fabi (1983), Tom Sneva (1984), Arie Luyendyk (1996), Helio Castroneves (2002) and Tony Kanaan (2003).

* Drivers who have won at Phoenix have gone on to win the Indy car championship nine times: A.J. Foyt (1964, first race; 1975, second race), Mario Andretti (1966, second race), Bobby Unser (1968, first race), Al Unser (1970, first race; 1985), Rick Mears (1982, first race), Bobby Rahal (1992), Buddy Lazier (2000), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001) and Tony Kanaan (2004).

* Matheus “Matt” Leist, Robert Wickens, Pietro Fittipaldi and Kyle Kaiser will each make their first Indy car oval start this weekend at ISM Raceway. Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, and Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights champion, will each be making his series debut in Phoenix. The four drivers – along with Zach Veach – are all Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders.

* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 284th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Kanaan will attempt to make his 345th Indy car start, which would pass Helio Castroneves for third on the all-time list.

* Scott Dixon has made 225 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 201 consecutive starts, which is the fourth-longest streak in Indy car racing.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)