INDYCAR Grand Prix Preview

Graham Rahal speeds by in his United Rentals/SoldierStrong/Turns For Troops IndyCar. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Graham Rahal speeds by in his United Rentals/SoldierStrong/Turns For Troops IndyCar. [John Wiedemann Photo]


Verizon INDYCAR Series
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

by Paul Gohde

The “Month of May” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins Saturday with the fifth running of the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the combined infield road course and oval. Originated in 2014 to act as a lead-up to the Indianapolis 500 later in May, the Grand Prix has seen some exciting races, giving IndyCar fans a chance to see their favorite cars and drivers in a slightly different environment at the historic speedway.

RACE FACTS: The Grand Prix will be race 5/17 on the 2018 Verizon schedule. The unique 14-turn, 2.439-mile course provides fans with opportunities to roam the infield grass berms and watch the event from a variety of sites. The field will battle for 85 laps (207.315 miles) in a race that should last for about 1:40.00. The weekend will also include Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 events.

PAST GRAND PRIX RACES: Simon Pagenaud (2014, 2016) and Will Power (2015, 2017) have each captured two wins in the event’s four-year history. Power’s win last year saw the Aussie push his Team Penske Chevrolet to a dominant 5.283-second win as he led 61 of the 85 caution-free laps. Power was quickest in each practice session, won the pole with a track record (129.687 mph) lap and set a race record speed average (120.813 mph) as he pulled away from Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay for his 30th career win. Team Penske has won three of the four Grand Prix events held here.

2018 SEASON SO FAR: After four races, three different drivers, Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden (2) have won as the new aero package has seemingly evened the field. Chevrolet (oval and road course) and Honda (street courses) have each won twice. With his two victories, Newgarden is the points leader (158), 13 ahead of Rossi. Bourdais (-39), Graham Rahal (-39) and James Hinchcliffe (-40) trail.

THE FIELD: Twenty-four cars are scheduled take the green flag Saturday with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves returning for both the GP and the 500 with Team Penske as he temporarily steps away from his Penske sports car ride in search of his fourth 500 win… Pietro Fittipaldi was seriously injured in a WEC sports car event last week at Spa Belgium and will not return to his Dale Coyne Indy car for some time. At this writing Coyne is weighing his options for a driver to replace the young Brazilian.


  • There were 36 entries for the Indianapolis 500, hopefully guaranteeing at least a bit of “bumping” during qualifying, as three cars would need to be dropped during next week’s trials. With Dale Coyne searching for a replacement driver, that number could be in jeopardy, though several funded drivers may end up in the No. 19 PayLess Honda; perhaps a different driver for the GP and another for the 500.
  • TV: ABC Network-Race, Saturday-3:30pm ET, Live.
  • The tight first turn that leads from the main straight to the infield road course has produced several incidents in the tightly-bunched early race laps.
  • Current IndyCar drivers Marco Andretti, Jack Harvey, Ed Jones and Kyle Kaiser have won here in Indy Lights.

OUR TAKE: Chevrolet has won here three times and combined with Will Power’s dominant performance in 2017, Chevy, Team Penske and Power must be viewed as the 2018 favorites, but Honda can’t be counted out having had many top finishes so far this season. The course is a hybrid, having both oval track and road course characteristics. Drivers who are careful in the early laps, especially at the start, and can manage tire degradation, should do well. Go with Power for Chevy and Graham Rahal for Honda.

FINAL WORDS: (Graham Rahal – No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “I have always loved this place (the combined road and oval course). It is definitely unique…It’s got long straightaways, a flowing section of corners, and this track allows you to go race for sure and make a lot of passes, so it’s an ideal track.”


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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”