Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is taking the opportunity of the two-week break in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to analyze the first eight races of the 17-race season and offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics in the first half of the season. This multipart series will run daily through Friday, June 24.
Today’s question: What was the most entertaining race so far this season?
Curt Cavin: I have always had a soft spot for races at Texas Motor Speedway, where I spend first half of the race holding my breath and the second half wishing it wouldn’t end. This year’s attractions in the XPEL 375 were the performances of Scott McLaughlin in his breakout oval race and Jimmie Johnson in his debut oval race in this series. I found myself locked in with both drivers, watching their lap times and the execution of passes. I also remember considering what Jimmie might have done in this series had he raced in the era of mostly ovals. As for the finish, when Josef Newgarden scooted past McLaughlin in Turn 4 just ahead of the checkered flag, it brought me back to the old Texas races where anything could happen. Great stuff over the years there. Thank you, Texas Motor Speedway.
Zach Horrall: The GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course had me glued to my seat from green to checkered flag. It was a wet race, then a dry race, then a soaking wet race, then a dry … you get the point. The weather and track conditions were constantly changing, and it was throwing so many teams and drivers for a loop and making them debate whether they needed wet or slick tires. Some teams made the wrong decision, and it made the race even more entertaining. Plus, who could forget Colton Herta’s epic drift through Turn 8? I’m still trying to figure out how he saved it. And I’ll say this: That race had so many challenges and curveballs, and I would argue that Herta and Andretti Autosport earned that win more than any other team and driver combination that has won an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race this season.
Paul Kelly: Curt and Zach both made excellent choices, two races definitely on my candidate list. But I’m going with a different one – the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for races featuring groups of drivers on different pit strategies and how they unfold at the end of the race, and the final NTT INDYCAR SERIES race on Belle Isle didn’t disappoint. Will Power used a two-stop strategy to get to the front and stayed there, but not without withstanding an almighty charge from Alexander Rossi, who was on a three-stop plan. Power led Rossi by 16 seconds after Rossi made his final pit stop with 20 laps to go, but Rossi used fresher tires and his patented calculated aggression to pull to within one second at the finish. Rossi was making up a second or more per lap over the final 10 laps despite the looming concrete walls and bumpy surface, and it was majestic. Who knows what would have happened with one more lap? But the race was 70 laps, and Power grabbed a hard-earned, well-deserved victory.