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



Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
Align Media

Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury