PREVIEW: INDYCAR Grand Prix from IMS road course

Photo: IndyCar

The month of May tends to mean one thing for the Verizon IndyCar Series: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Testing on the 2.5-mile oval came early last week, and the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Penngrade Motor Oil will come later this month, May 27, with practice beginning next week.

But before the Indy 500 can be at the forefront, there is another race to be run: the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course.

Now in its fifth year, the Grand Prix has served as kickoff of sorts to on-track activity in the month of May. And given that more than three races worth of points are up for grabs this month – the “500” is a double-points race and points will be awarded for qualifying – the impact that IMS can have on the championship can be immense.

Talking points ahead of the INDYCAR Grand Prix are below.

Welcome back Helio!

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 28: Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet, waves to the crowd during driver introductions ahead of the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 28, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

For the first time in 2018, Helio Castroneves will grace the IndyCar grid. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will pilot his usual No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, with Verizon branding featured on the livery – Penske will actually have three Verizon liveried cars this weekend, with Josef Newgarden’s No. 1 and Will Power’s No. 12 also sporting Verizon colors.

This is the first IndyCar race for Castroneves since last year’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, but the affable Brazilian has not sat idle, and is coming off a landmark debut victory for the Acura Team Penske squad at the Acura Sports Car Challenge from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last weekend.

With momentum on his side, Castroneves heads to Indianapolis looking for two more victories, at the INDYCAR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.

Can Anyone Join Power and Pagenaud in the Winner’s Circle?

Will Power is a two-time winner on the IMS Road Course. Photo: IndyCar

There have been four runnings of the INDYCAR Grand Prix to date, and only two drivers have emerged victorious across all four runnings: Will Power, in 2015 and 2017, and Simon Pagenaud, in 2014 and 2016.

Since it’s an even- numbered year, the law of averages says it’s Pagenaud’s turn to grace Victory Lane. And given that he has had a slow start to the year – Pagenaud is 15th in the championship, with a best finish of ninth at Barber Motorsports Park – a win would be a welcome shot in the arm for the 2016 IndyCar champion.

Simon Pagenaud won on the IMSA Road Course in 2016 and 2014. Photo: IndyCar

“The INDYCAR GP is always a lot of fun and it’s a race myself and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team are really comfortable with,” said Pagenaud ahead of the event. “We won that race a few years ago and are ready to do it again. My team has been working hard to prepare great cars for the month and we saw a lot of really great speed at the recent test at Indianapolis. I really just can’t wait to get back on track in Indiana.”

Power, too, could use a momentum boost, as he sits tenth in the standings after suffering wall contact in three of the opening four races.

“After a couple weeks off, I’m ready to get back at it,” Power asserted. “We had a rough go of it at Barber, but we’re putting it behind us. The month of May is such a special time in Indianapolis and I’m really excited to go back there. Last year we won the INDYCAR GP in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy and I see no reason we can’t do it again.”

However, there are plenty of drivers who could easily add their names to the list of winners on the IMS Road Course.

Scott Dixon scored his first podium at the event last year. Like Power and Pagenaud, he has had a quiet start to 2018 – he sits seventh in the standings and does not yet have a podium – and a win would go a long way to turning his season in the right direction.

Sebastien Bourdais qualified a strong sixth last year, but an engine failure on Lap 3 ended his day before it ever got going. A winner on the streets of St. Petersburg earlier in the year, Bourdais is most certainly on the list of contenders.

James Hinchcliffe finished on the podium at this race in 2016 and will look for at least a repeat performance in 2018.

Graham Rahal has finishes of second, fourth, and sixth in the last three runnings (he crashed out of the debut event in 2014), and had maybe the drive of the day last year, coming from 20th on the grid to finish sixth.

Alexander Rossi has maybe been the fastest and most consistent driver this year, and enters this weekend as one of the favorites. Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay has finished on the podium here twice, in 2014 and 2017, and also looks to have a chance at battling for a win.

All told, it adds up to a lot of contenders heading into this weekend, and any one of them could supplant Power and Pagenaud in Victory Lane.


A number of drivers head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway looking for correct course after tough starts to their seasons. Several of those drivers are below.

  • Takuma Sato’s 2018 season has not gone the way he may have hoped, with Barber being the only race in which he has finished in the Top 10 (eighth). His 2017 season was kickstarted after he triumphed at the Indy 500, and he’ll hope a return trip to IMS kickstarts his 2018 campaign.
  • Charlie Kimball had three straight finishes of fifth at this event between 2014 and 2016 before an engine failure derailed that streak last year. He and teammate Max Chilton enter Indianapolis amid a tough start with the new Carlin team – Kimball is the only one with a Top 10 finish (10th at Long Beach) and both will look to turn their luck around this weekend.
  • Spencer Pigot had reasonably high expectations as Ed Carpenter Racing’s full-season driver in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, but the year has not gone to plan, with finishes of 15th, 14th, 15th, and 15th to start the year. He’ll look to right the ship this weekend.

Of note: Zachary Claman De Melo will replace for Pietro Fittipaldi, who broke his legs in a vicious crash in qualifying for the Six Hours of Spa last weekend, in the No. 19 Paysafe Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

The Final Word…

From Helio Castroneves:

“I’m back! I’m so excited to be back with Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in INDYCAR. I’ve been really enjoying my time with the team’s IMSA program, but I’m really excited to jump back into the No. 3 Verizon Chevrolet. We have a great team of guys put together for both the INDYCAR GP and the Indianapolis 500. I’m ready to kick off the month with a road course race and get some time in the car with the new aero kit. More importantly, I’m excited to go out there and put on a great show for the fans there.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:


At-track schedule (all times local)

Friday, May 13
9:15-10 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series Practice 1, streaming on (Live)
12:30-1:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series Practice 2, streaming on (Live)
4:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifying), streaming on (Live)

Saturday, May 14
11:15-11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup, streaming on (Live)
3:30 p.m. – INDYCAR Grand Prix (85 laps/207.3 miles)

Here’s last year’s top 10:

1. Will Power
2. Scott Dixon
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
4. Simon Pagenaud
5. Helio Castroneves
6. Graham Rahal
7. Max Chilton
8. Alexander Rossi
9. Spencer Pigot
10. Juan Pablo Montoya

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six:

1. Will Power
2. Helio Castroneves
3. Josef Newgarden
4. Scott Dixon
5. Juan Pablo Montoya
6. Sebastien Bourdais



Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.