Race 2 Quick Thoughts-A Sense of Normalcy

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power takes the pole and dominates the race. Team Penske sweeps the weekend. with two wins and two front row starts. Power and Josef Newgarden combined to lead 109 of the 160 laps. This weekend brought a sense of normalcy back. This how the IMS road course works.

A victory at St. Pete would make Power a 40 race winner. It has been more than 20 years since two 40 race winners were active in the series.

Not every race can be as great as Friday’s, and I wasn’t expecting today’s race to be that good. It is quite a feat to lead every lap in a race, especially one with such a long pit stop delta.

It was nice to see Simon Pagenaud move up to the top 10 after an awful friday. He still hasn’t figured out qualifying. Pagenaud’s struggles in qualifying have been one of the most puzzling things about this season.

Colton Herta made an impressive late charge to close in on Power. It made the last few laps interesting.

Alexander Rossi had his best weekend of the year with two podium finishes.

Jack Harvey has three top 10s and one podium in four races on the IMS road course.

Scott Dixon’s struggles continue. His lead over Newgarden is just 32 points heading to St. Pete. The Florida street course is not one of Dixon’s better tracks. He just needs to keep Newgarden in sight during the race.

I don’t know how Indycar determines race distances, but I think 5 more laps might have made the race more intriguing.

If the fans had a vote, the Harvest Grand Prix would be an annual event.

Finally, huge thanks to Roger Penske, Doug Boles, and the entire staff at IMS for their efforts to create a safe environment for fans to be to attend the races this weekend. The fans who live in Indianapolis needed this, and they will remember and appreciate this weekend for a long time.

Power on Pole for Race 2

Will Power is back home again in Indiana. He took the pole position for this afternoon’s Race 2 of the Harvest Grand Prix. Power has won on this track three times in the May edition of the IMS road course race.

Colton Herta starts second. Yesterday’s winner, Josef Newgarden, starts 9th and points leader Scott Dixon starts 15th. Rinus VeeKay, yesterday’s pole winner, starts 14th.

Power’s pole is his 4th of the year and 61st of his career. He could tie or pass Mario Andretti’ s career mark of 67 poles sometime next season.

Harvest Grand Prix Race 1- Quick Thoughts

Photo- Dana Garrett, Indycar

Wow! What a good race. This was arguably the best Indycar race I have seen on the IMS road course. There were battles for the lead, fights for position throughout the field, and the drama of the points leader losing ground. The winning pass also came on track. Race 2 has a tough act to follow.

The early battle for the lead between Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay was a glimpse into Indycar’s future. The two drivers have an average of less than two years’ experience combined. Herta’s move to grab the lead at the start was topped by VeeKay’s move to regain the top spot the next lap.

Rinus VeeKay leads Colton Herta early in the harvest Grand Prix

I feel for Marco Andretti. He qualified well and was having a great race until the lap 79 fire which ended his day. He was in contention for a top 10.

Josef Newgarden is now within 40 points of Scott Dixon for the series championship. Dixon, who said his car struggled on black tires, needs to finish ahead of Newgarden tomorrow. he still could clinch the title after Race 2, but it looks more likely the title will be decided in St.Pete. All other drivers are eliminated from title contention.

Newgarden has 3 wins for the year, and Dixon has four. Dixon hasn’t won since Road America Race 1 on July 11.

Will Power had another issue in the pits but he recovered to finish sixth.

It was unusual to see Simon Pagenaud struggle and pick up only six spots from his 22nd starting position.

Will Power would do well on a dirt track. His slide and save coming off the last turn was exciting and showed great car control.

I’m not sure how close to the 10,00 fan limit the Speedway was today, but it appeared to be near the limit. Tomorrow might be the biggest crowd of the weekend and should reach the allowed capacity.

Race 1 May Depend on Setup

Photo: Graham Rahal in fall colors. Indycar, Chris Owens

Good morning from the northwest media annex. Today’s schedule:

7:30 Gates open (Gates 1 and 9)

10:20-11;35 Indianapolis 8 Hour Practice

1:40-3:10 Indianapolis 8 hour Practice

3:30 Opening Ceremonies for Harvest Grand Prix Race 1

4: 00 Green flag (TV- USA Network beginning at 3:30)

Today’s race may hinge on who has the setup right. several drivers yesterday complained of loose cars. Today’s forecast is for a high of 59 degrees. Tire degradation may be lower than normal, which could negate an alternate pit strategy.

Rinus VeeKay on his way to his first career pole. Indycar photo by Chris Jones

It was a big day for rookies. Alex Palou led the practice session and Rinus VeeKay won the pole. Could we see a rookie win today? Josef Newgarden is my favorite to win right now, but I would not count out Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, or Jack Harvey. Why should this race be normal?

Yesterday proved a long held theory of mine. The air inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway is lighter and fresher than the air outside. I felt the weight of 2020 lift from my shoulders the moment I entered the gate. It was great to be back inside the track and to see cars running again.

The place is immaculate. The speedway is cleaner and brighter than it has been in many years. The museum building gleams in the sunlight.

It was a decent crowd for a Thursday afternoon. Everyone was smiling just because they were at the track. I have heard ticket sales have gone very well for the rest of the weekend.

I enjoyed the sports car races as well. Jarrett Andretti just missed a podium finish in the first race. In the second race, the Andretti Autosport entry recovered from an early penalty to finish fifth. I need to read up on this series more.

VeeKay on Pole, Newgarden Gains a Point on Dixon

Photo from Rinus VeeKay Twitter feed

Rinus VeeKay won the pole for Race 1 of the Harvest Grand Prix late this afternoon with a lap at the end of the session of 1:09.6903. Josef Newgarden lead Group 1 with a time of 1:10.4706 to earn the second starting spot on the grid. Newgarden did inch one point closer to Scott Dixon by leading his group.

The Dutch rookie’s first career pole is the fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ed Carpenter has won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 three times. ECR joins Team Penske as the only two teams who have poles in both the 500 and on the road course.

Group 1 never had the chance to run on red tires. With about four minutes left in the session Takuma Sato, the first driver of the group to come in to the pits to switch to the faster rubber, spun into the sand trap at the north end of the track as the other teams were changing tires. Time ran out under the red flag.

Group 2 ran incident free. Colton Herta led most of the way. His best lap on black tires was just 0.5 seconds slower than Newgarden’s fast time. It appeared he would easily beat Newgarden when he switched to the alternate tire. But his last lap was 0.0145 seconds than VeeKay’s final run.

Pagenaud’s Qualifying Woes Continue

Simon Pagenaud, who has had difficulty in qualifying all season, will start 22nd Friday. Pagenaud has not let hislow starting position affect his racing. He has won one race after starting last. Pagenaud is 8th in the standings.

Inauspicious Start for Returning Vets

The returning veterans-Sebastien Bourdais, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, and Sage Karam- struggled in practice and qualifying. Bourdais starts 16th, Castroneves 19th, Hinchcliffe 18th, and Karam 21st.

The lineup:


Harvest GP Preview- Fans Are Back; Will They See Dixon Clinch Title?

Good morning from the northwest annex of the IMS media center. Today’s schedule:

Noon- Gates Open (Gate 1 only)

12-12:30 Indianapolis 8 Hour/ GT World Challenge test

2:25-3:40 Indycar Practice

6:20-6:50 Indycar Qualifying for Race 1

For the first time in 104 years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts an Indycar race in the fall. The Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader, named for the 1916 Harvest Classic, runs on the same road course as the GMR Grand Prix in July, but under much different weather conditions.Here are some things to look for this weekend.

The First Harvest Classic https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/09/21/the-first-harvest-classic-2/

Dixon Could Clinch His Sixth Title

Scott Dixon has a chance to close out the championship this weekend. he needs to have a 55 point lead over Josef Newgarden after Saturday’s race. Dixon has won four races to Newgarden’s two. The tie breaker, if needed,   could be decided at St. Pete  should Newgarden sweep the weekend. Dixon also has more second place finishes at this point. I think Dixon will come close, but will not clinch until the final race at St. Pete.

Fans Return

After racing in front of empty stands twice at IMS, Indycar drivers will finally see some fans this weekend. Up to 10,000 a day will have access to the track. COVID protocols are in place. Fans were assigned designated entry gates depending on their seat locations.

The drivers are excited to race in front of fans at IMS. This weekend will be the fifth race weekend where fans are allowed. I understand that St. Pete will allow a limited number of fans. We may know that number  in a couple of days.

Fan Favorites Come Back With an Eye Toward 2021

Two Indycar legends, one popular veteran, and a driver and team looking to expand their program have joined the field for the double header. Sebastien Bourdais will drive the number 14 for A. J. Foyt. Bourdais, a four time series champion, will finish the season in the car and be in it full time next season.

Helio Castroneves is back, but not with Team Penske. The three time Indianapolis 500 winner is filling in for Oliver Askew at Arrow McLaren SP. Castroneves is looking for a full time ride in the series in 2021. Many people see these two races as an audition for a third AMSP car. Askew is recovering from concussion symptoms.

James Hinchcliffe will finsih the season in the 26 gainbridge car for Andretti Autosport. Hinchcliffe replaces Zach Veach, who vacated the ride last week. Hinchcliffe could be in line for the car next season. He ran three races for Andretti earlier this season.

Sage Karam and Dreyer and Reinbold return for their third and fourth races of 2020, all at IMS. They hope to improve on their results in the previous two races. the team hopes to do even more races next season.

Cooler Temperatures Will Change the Racing

Today will be the warmest day of the three with a high of 63 degrees. There is only a slight chance of rain. Friday’s high is 59 degrees and Saturday warms all the way up to 60. Bundle up if you’re coming out.

The cars should produce faster speeds and have less drag in these conditions. Will it create more passing opportunities? Colton Herta  talked about some teams experimenting with downforce levels.

The different race lengths (85 laps Friday; 75 laps Saturday) look to be pretty straightforward as far as the number of stops.  Alternate pit strategies might come into play Friday.

The road course has been dominated by Team Penske, which has won all but two of the races run on this configuration. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power have each won on this circuit  three times. I think the tie gets broken in one of the races the next two days. The other race might go to Pato O’Ward.

Look for coverage of the day’s happenings later tonight.

Herta Seeks to Build on Momentum from Mid Ohio Win

Photo: Colton Herta celebrates his win at Mid Ohio. Indycar, Chris Owens

Colton Herta hopes to convert the momentum gained from his race 2 victory at Mid Ohio into at least one win this weekend in the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A sweep would help him in his bid to overtake Josef Newgarden for second place in the point standings. Herta trails points leader Scott Dixon by 118 points. Newgarden trails by 72 points.

“I mean, I think if you’re not going for the championship, you’re kind of mindset is to win races. That’s really the mindset. Obviously don’t overextend it and throw a good result away. I have a little bit to lose.Obviously we need to do well. If we really do want to get second place in the championship, we need to win another race. I think we do need a little bit of help from Josef on this weekend., ” Herta told media this morning.

For the races this weekend, in cooler temperatures than Indycar normally encounters at IMS, Herta is unsure what to expect.

“I’m not really sure what it will do for the racing. I think there’s a possibility that guys will try different downforce options if it’s that much cooler. This is a place you can sometimes get away with trimming if it’s a little bit cooler because how long the straights are, no major high-speed corners. It might be interesting in the race tosee what people go for with downforce options that might open up the passing a little bit.”

Herta has been impressed with the rookies this year. Although this is his second year in the series, he is already looking over his shoulder. He commented on the rookies.

“…it just seems like the series is getting tougher and tougher. Another really good crop of rookies. Definitely makes you work harder. You know there’s a lot of guys coming in that are really fast and can take your seat. Yeah, definitely makes you work really hard.”

Herta would like to see IMS change the track configuration for Race 2.

“I think I would love to maybe see — I think you could do it each day, do a different track each day where you can have the turn one like the Formula 1 cars used to use, I think that might make overtaking a little bit better. The other day you can do the normal track. You can practice on the normal track, run it Sunday, shouldn’t be a huge adjustment to run the track Sunday.”

He likes the shortened format that has been used on the short ovals this year, but still thinks road courses should stay with the full weekend program.

Herta is happy that he got a victory this season. It will help him approach the final three races a bit more relaxed.

“I think just a bit of relief that we got the win in this year. I think it’s important for me to win at least once a year. I think for a lot of guys, they feel the same way. It was nice to get that win done, kind of take it off my shoulders, kind of push forward.”

Practice for the Harvest Grand Prix negins Thursday at 2;25 PM Eastern time.