NTT IndyCar Series: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix Preview

Will Power on pole at the Circuit of The Americas. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Can Will Power return to form this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

It’s not often that an NTT IndyCar Series race serves as the undercard when racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but that rarity will occur Saturday when the Big Machine Spiked Cooler Grand Prix acts as the warmup for Sunday’s Brickyard NASCAR Cup Series race. That historic combination, with both groups running on the IMS road course, should draw a blend of open-wheel and stock car fans as IMS seeks to reverse a downward trend in Brickyard race weekend attendance.

Race Facts: Saturday’s 85-lap/207.32-mile sprint features, at times, 14 twisty curves and at other times high-speed straights. The course measures 2.439 miles over its run in the infield, turns 1-2 and the 2,869 ft, main straight of the oval…The qualifying mark is held by Will Power: 1:07.704 (129.687 mph) in 2017. Power also holds the race mark at 1.42:57.610 (120.813 mph) set that same year…Most driver wins: Will Power (4)…Most team wins: Team Penske (7).

Recent Races: Power, with his four wins, has dominated the somewhat tricky, mostly flat course originally built for the now departed Formula One events. Three races were contested here in 2020 as the pandemic forced schedule changes throughout that season. Scott Dixon held off Graham Rahal in July while Josef Newgarden beat Alexander Rossi and Power defeated Colton Herta in October.

Race Entries: Twenty-eight car/driver combinations are entered for Saturday’s grand prix; one of the largest in recent years. That entry is surpassed only by a record non-Indy 500 field of 29 that started at Kentucky Speedway in 2011. The grid will include RC Enerson for Top Gun Racing, F2 Danish youngster Christian Lundgaard, a member of the Alpine F1 Academy for young drivers, replaces Santino Ferrucci at Rahall Letterman, and Cody Ware at Dale Coyne Racing, will attempt to start both the NTT IndyCar race on Saturday and the NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard race on Sunday.

2021 Season: Point Standings and wins after 11 races: 1) Alex Palou, 410 points, 2 wins…2) Dixon, 368, (1)…3) Pato O’Ward, 362, (2)…4) Newgarden, 335, (1)…5) Marcus Ericsson, 331, (2). Other 2021 winners: Herta (1), Rinus VeeKay (1), Helio Castroneves (1)…Manufacturers’ standings: Honda (959 points, 7 wins)…Chevrolet (890, 4).

Notes: TV: Qualifying, Friday, August 13, NBCSN, 7:00 pm (ET)…Race, Saturday, August 14, NBCSN, 12:30 pm, (ET)…In 2019 Simon Pagenaud came from 8th starting spot to win on the often hard to pass IMS road course…This will be the 11th Indy Car race on the IMS road course…Points leader Alex Palou leads the series points chase with five races remaining. Since 2008, the leader at that point has gone on to win the championship seven times…Scott Dixon has finished first or second in four of his last seven starts on the IMS road course…Eight entered drivers have competed in in all ten IMS road course races held: Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Power, Graham Rahal and Sato.

Our Take: No one can say that the Indy Car series races on the same style tracks each week. From the bumpy, narrow street/bridge course in Nashville, to this week’s infield/oval combination at IMS, and the next race at Gateway’s high speed 1.25-mile oval, the NTT Series drivers must have a notebook full of secrets to check on each week. That, and the varied backgrounds of the drivers, from Formula One to short paved and dirt ovals to NASCAR stars, the series’ paddock is probably more eclectic than any other. With that in mind, the question is, who’s talent will show itself this week after Marcus Ericsson came through at Nashville after a harrowing crash early on. Power seems to have things figured out over the IMS road/oval combination, so we’ll go with him (if he stays out of trouble) over Newgarden and Dixon.

“They Said It”: Jimmie Johnson, Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda: “It’s good to have back-to back races for me leaving Nashville as we head over to the Indy Grand Prix. Nashville was a tricky one for us; certainly, a lot of growth took place for me. There were plenty of issues that took place…and other things that were quite unfortunate during the course of the race. I’m very excited to get back in the car this weekend as I may see some of my NASCAR friends during the double-header; familiar faces and showing them around the Indy Car paddock.”

Next Race: August 21, Bommarito Automotive Group 500, Worldwide Technology Raceway (Gateway), Madison, IL.




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