IndyCar

Will Power impressed with Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL

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While visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday during the Parade of Power tour, Team Penske’s Will Power got a chance to sample the newly configured “roval,” the road course built within Charlotte that incorporates a mix of an infield road course with parts of the 1.5-mile oval.

Power, who was at Charlotte with his Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series counterpart Ryan Blaney, along with NHRA Pro Stock racer Greg Anderson, explained afterward that the circuit left a good impression on him.

“I haven’t gotten to do a whole lap, but I’ve seen the two chicanes and the turn that goes into the infield. It looks pretty nice,” Power detailed. “I know the old track (the oval), I’ve driven around the old track. I don’t know how much it’s changed, but (the roval) looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Power got a chance to sample the circuit in a ride-along with Blaney, who drove Power around in a two-seat version of his No. 12 Penske Racing Ford.

Power also revealed that, per a conversation he had with Blaney, the circuit could pose a unique challenge and produce some very intense racing.

“Blaney says it was quite difficult to get his head around (the track), but he says it’s going to be solid racing (on it) – a lot of moving people out of the way and that type of thing. He seems to think the fans will like it.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has previously raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway, between 1997 and 1999. And Power, who lives in North Carolina, would welcome the idea of the track returning to the schedule.

“That would be a total home race for me. I’d love to see that, that would be awesome. But, I have no clue if that would ever happen,” Power revealed.

A hypothetical return to Charlotte would follow a recent trend of IndyCar returning to venues it hasn’t visited in recent years. IndyCar heads to Portland International Raceway on Labor Day Weekend (September 2, on NBCSN), a circuit that hasn’t held an IndyCar race since the old Champ Car World Series raced there in 2007, their final season prior to unification.

And the series is also slated to return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2019 after an absence that dates back to 2004 – Champ Car’s final race at the circuit came in that season, with Patrick Carpentier taking the win.

The return of such venues, stalwarts on the open wheel calendar through the 1990s and into the 2000s, is nothing short of positive in Power’s mind.

“You think about how big the crowds were when CART was going to Portland and Laguna Seca – there is a good fan base there, and those tracks have good history and they’re great tracks to drive on. So, I’m really excited about the additions to the schedule,” he added.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series event is the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway (August 19, on NBCSN), while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles the Charlotte “roval” on September 30 for the Bank of America Roval 400.

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View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!