Saturday, April 1, 2023

Five Takeaways from the GMR Grand Prix

The 2022 IndyCar Series field barrels down into Turn 7 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
It was a wet and wild one for all 27 competitors on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Image courtesy of James Black / Penske Entertainment

The NTT IndyCar Series was back in the sport’s backyard for the eighth time and the 2.439-mile road course was doused as rain drenched the track twice during the two-hour timed race. The GMR Grand Prix was full of spins and hits, which led to eight cautions and added another layer to the story of a talented youngster.

Colton Herta led 50 laps, leaving most of the action in the rear-view mirrors, but it wasn’t a typical cruise to victory. On Lap 4, Herta had a drift-like save in Turn 8 and soon inherited the lead of the race.

As the month of May has kicked off in wild fashion, here’s what we learned from the fifth race of the season:

1. Herta’s Ability

Colton Herta stands atop the podium at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Herta (above) delivered Honda earns its second-ever Indy GP win. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Since the 22-year-old California native has entered IndyCar, he has been a leader in the youthful driver movement and added a seventh win to his career.

Andretti Autosport as a whole have been fast straight off the haulers to open a race weekend and finally found a way to convert speed into a win. Herta started 14th on the day and the No. 26 Honda team elected to pit first on Lap 2 of 75.

That short-pit strategy put the eventual race winner up at the front. Through pit-stops for switching to alternate red Firestone tires then back to the wets, Herta maintained the lead until the race finished under caution.

The Andretti pilot didn’t put a foot wrong as there were many other championship contenders running into issues in slippery conditions.

2. The Cream Rises to the Top

Six of the eight Indy GPs have been won by the two drivers who rounded out the podium on Saturday, with Simon Pagenaud and Will Power showing their prowess even in the wet.

The former Team Penske teammates had quite the opposite of days as Pagenaud started towards the back in 20th. The Frenchman methodically climbed his way into the top 10 at Lap 42, he then jumped into third just 10 circuits later and never looked back.

Power put his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet on pole for the 64th time in his career, now sitting three away from Mario Andretti’s all-time record. Although the Australian led no laps on Saturday, he stuck around the front and held a top 10 position for the majority of the race.

This is the first top three result for Pagenaud with new team of Meyer Shank Racing. For Power,  he takes over the championship lead and through the first five races of the season, they’ve all been top four finishes.

3. Can Honda Close Out The Month?

It was all Chevrolets entering the month of May, sweeping the first four races of the season and it was all on Honda to respond.

In a wild card race, they most certainly answered the call with three of the top four finishers being from the Japanese manufacturer. Could this lead into them overtaking Chevrolet as Indianapolis 500 preparation starts tomorrow?

In the last seven Indy 500s, Honda only swept the month once, 2014 with Pagenaud winning the debut race on the road course.

4. The Rookies

Rookies Tatiana Calderon and Callum Ilott drive through Turn 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Three rookies finished in the top 15 at the Indy Road Course, the most so far this season. Image courtesy of James Black / Penske Entertainment

Attrition was the name of the game for the teams and multiple 2022 rookies found themselves with best career finishes on the day.

Callum Ilott has turned up the heat as he made Round 2 in qualifying for the second consecutive race. The No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet started seventh and finished eighth for the Brit’s best result in just his eighth start.

Last year, Christian Lundgaard made his debut at the Indy GP, which aided him to his first career top 10. Lundgaard made Round 2 in qualifying for the first time this year, rolling off seventh for the race and ultimately ending up ninth.

Tatiana Calderon was AJ Foyt Racing’s highest finishing driver in 15th and led her first lap in the series. The young Colombian will not close out the month in the No. 11 Chevrolet due to her only competing on the street and road courses.

5. Long Cautions

A total of eight cautions included spun and wrecked cars, which was expected with low visibility and the wet conditions, but the time of cautions is a topic of conversation going forward.

The race was under the yellow flag for majority of its fixed time. There were 31 caution laps and the longest stretch was for the sixth one of the day after Jimmie Johnson took a spin in Turn 10.

Three of the race breaks were for spins and the assumption stands that long cleanup times are due to the time it takes for drivers to get going after stalling. Johnson and fellow teammate, Alex Palou both were stuck on the track needing help to get back going with the lack of an onboard starter.

Scott McLaughlin went for a late race spin off into the grass on Lap 67. Getting stuck well off the racing surface similar to Palou, with the grass being wet that also added time to get the race resumed.

Matt Narváez
Matt Narváez
Matthew is a NASCAR contributor apart of the team. A fan of racing since 2011, he has had passion for sports journalism since 2015 and is a current Mass Communications student at the University of South Florida.

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