NTT IndyCar Series – Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America Preview

Josef Newgarden held off Ryan Hunter-Reay for the win at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

by Paul Gohde

Open wheel race fans were saddened in 2008 when Indy car racing at Road America was deleted from the schedule for eight seasons after Champ Car was merged into the Indy Racing League. But demands by fans for its return were heard loud and clear and the scenic track has been back for NTT IndyCar Series racing since 2016. This Sunday, Elkhart Lake’s 4.05-mile course will host the Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America; the thirtieth Indy car race in Road America’s storied history.

Race Facts: The Rev Group Grand Prix will run for 55 laps/220.77 miles on the 14-turn undulating Kettle Moraine natural road course, first opened in 1955. One-lap qualifying record: 2000, Dario Franchitti, 145.924 mph. Race record-55 laps: 1999, Christian Fittipaldi, 137.697 mph. Most wins: Mario Andretti/Emerson Fittipaldi/Michael Andretti (3 each). Most team wins: Newman-Haas (10), between 1983 and 2007.

Previous Race at Track: Road America 2018 saw Josef Newgarden dominate the weekend. The Team Penske driver captured Saturday’s pole and led 53/55 laps (only giving up the lead to pit on laps 14-15) to win Sunday’s race over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon. Newgarden’s Penske teammate Will Power shared the front row but dropped out after just two laps with mechanical ills. Rookie Robert Wickens came home fifth. Newgarden won by 3.375 seconds in the caution-free race.

Season So Far: Standings: 1) Newgarden, Chevrolet, 3 wins, 367 points… 2)  Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1 win, -25…3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2 wins, -48…4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1 win, -89…5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1 win, -9. Colton Herta also has one win…At Barber in April, a course somewhat similar to RA, Sato took his only season win for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, defeating Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais.

The Field: Twenty-three NTT IndyCar’s will climb the hill to take the green flag Sunday (perhaps in the rain) with Max Chilton and Pato O’Ward teaming for Carlin with Gallagher returning as sponsor for Chilton . Jack Harvey suits-up for Meyer Shank with SP, and Spencer Pigot takes the road course duties from his boss Ed Carpenter in a Direct Supply-sponsored Chevrolet…_

Notes: Four former RA winners will start Sunday’s race: Newgarden, Dixon, Power and Bourdais…Surprising IndyCar rookie Santino Ferrucci finished a season-high fifth and fellow-rookie Marcus Ericsson grabbed seventh in the recent NTT IndyCar race at the high-speed Texas Motor Speedway oval…Five active teams have won here: Team Penske (5), RLL (2), Andretti Autosport, Dale Coyne and Schmidt Peterson (1 each).

Our Take: Road America is a treasure for Indy car fans and drivers alike. It comes closest to experiencing a Formula One circuit of any other on the IndyCar schedule. That said, it is also a risk/reward problem for crews as to set up and in-race strategy. Leave your driver out one extra lap before pitting for fuel and he may end up having a bratwurst with the fans at Canada Corner. Miss the set up and you may have the fastest car through turns one/two but slide around with understeer through the Carousel. Team Penske has most of those calls down pat many weeks and the Newgarden/Power duo will be strong among Chevrolets. Scott Dixon and Rahal will give Honda a strong run. Rahal longs for a win here as the third-generation Rahal to compete here. Wife Courtney Force could be the happiest Rahal in Victory Lane come Sunday.

Final Words: Graham Rahal (No. 15/ Manitou RLL Honda) “It’s challenging to get the lap right at Road America due to the track length. You can get so many sectors perfect and then make one mistake and it’s very costly. With the long straights, every corner and every mistake carry a big lap time penalty if you get it wrong…Road America is set up perfectly for Indy car racing. We love racing there as it was always a huge family event for us and will be again as all the Rahals (including for the first time Graham’s wife Courtney Force) will gather there over the weekend.”


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