Today’s question: What was the best race so far this season other than the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge?
Curt Cavin: The GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis road course gets my nod due to the new players involved. Seven of the top nine qualifiers, including pole sitter Romain Grosjean, entered the season without a race win in their career, which made the hunger factor off the charts. The race centered on Grosjean, who led 44 laps in just his third series start, and Rinus VeeKay. The Dutchman wasn’t going to be denied in the second half of the race, leading 33 of the final 38 laps. VeeKay’s win gave INDYCAR its fifth of what became seven different winners to open the season.
Zach Horrall: I must say, I think the NTT INDYCAR SERIES opened with a bang at Barber Motorsports Park in April. Aside from the usual excitement to start the season, there was so much intrigue: How would this stellar rookie class fare? Will the usual suspects start the season strong? Will the Barber circuit race the same after last year’s race didn’t take place due to the pandemic? The racing this year was great. There was the Lap 1 melee started by Josef Newgarden that threw an interesting wrench in the race. The race-long battle between Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward on different strategies was thrilling to watch, as Palou nursed a two-stop strategy and O’Ward charged on three. Plus, the finish! Palou held off Will Power by just .4016 of a second – the closest in the history of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst. Little did we know how telling that race would be for the rest of the season.
Paul Kelly: The best races contain a bit of everything, right? At least that’s the way I see it, and no race outside of the Indy 500 had a mixture of drama, tension, chaos and emotion quite like the first race of the Chevrolet Dual at Detroit on June 12. Marcus Ericsson earned his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory on the streets of Belle Isle, holding off Rinus VeeKay and Pato O’Ward in a legitimate three-way tussle for the win. But that was only the last storyline in two hours of action that bordered on surreal. The race took a scary twist on Lap 24 when a mechanical malfunction caused Felix Rosenqvist’s car to crash almost nose first into a tire barrier, forcing a lengthy red flag period while Rosenqvist received medical attention and the retaining wall was fixed. Thankfully, Felix was able to return a few weeks later at Mid-Ohio. That red flag nerfed the pit strategy of reigning series champion Scott Dixon and shuffled Will Power and Ericsson to the front. Then the race looked like it would come down to a duel between leader Power – seeking the first victory of the season for Team Penske – and the chasing Ericsson. But Romain Grosjean crashed with five laps to go, and the race was halted again, with all cars heading to the pits on a scorching day. When action resumed, Power’s car wouldn’t restart in the pits due to an ECU malfunction, and he lost any chance for victory. Ericsson then drove with grace under pressure from VeeKay and O’Ward over the final four laps in a race that featured a mixture of drama, danger, daring and despair.