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IndyCar Recap: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix

IndyCar Recap: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix
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The IndyCar series had their third and final event of the year at the iconic yard of bricks on Saturday afternoon. This was the opener of a historic tripleheader weekend with IndyCar, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series. With five rounds to go on the season, Alex Palou looked to maintain a strong points gap over title rivals Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon. While Romain Grosjean was on the hunt looking to do one spot better than his second-place run on the Indianapolis Road Course back in May. All things considered, this was a season-defining race for a healthy amount of drivers. However, there are a couple of pre-race items first.

Remembering Bob Jenkins

Bob Jenkins was as synonymous to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar as the Indy 500 is. The Indiana native served on the Indianapolis 500 broadcast team for over three decades from 1979 to 2011. Ranging from radio, PA announcer, and lead broadcaster, he had done it all. He also served as a leading voice for NASCAR, Formula 1, USAC, and much more through the years. He was an absolute icon in the broadcasting realm. Sadly, Mr. Jenkins passed away on August 9th after a battle with brain cancer. He was 73 years old.

 

New Kid On the Block

For this weekend, the Rahal-Letterman squad had a new face in a third entry. That would be Christian Lundgaard from Denmark. He is currently an F1 prospect for Alpine Racing and is a multi-time race winner in the Formula 2 series. Lundgaard also serves as the team’s reserve driver to boot. This was his first taste of IndyCar, qualifying fourth for the race. An impressive feat for the 20-year-old. The only three drivers to best him were Will Power, O’Ward, and Grosjean.

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Race Recap

Maximum Power

O’Ward would get by pole winner Power going into turn one. The title contender proceeded to lead the opening 15 laps of the race. Only giving it up to come to pit road for tires. Once the pit stops cycled around, Power got back to the lead, and then went on to lead 18 laps in the opening half of the race, the most of any driver. Once passed by Power, O’Ward fell into the clutches of Colton Herta at the beginning of lap 22.

Into the second half of the race, Power was in complete control. He led the entire way up until the second and final set of green-flag pit stops. His last stop definitely could have gone better, as he almost stalled his Verizon 5G machine coming out of his stall, letting Grosjean gain some time. And that gap was about to be completely reset on lap 68.

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High Drama

The first of only two cautions all day was due to a blown engine for Palou. To say this had gigantic points implications would be an understatement. What was a comfortable points gap entering this weekend was about to be around 20 points leaving Indy. The good news for Palou was that Dixon had a brutal qualifying effort, and in turn, was not a factor at all on Saturday. O’Ward however would be the biggest winner with this engine failure, getting right up to the proverbial rear bumper of Palou in the standings.

On the ensuing restart, Power scurried away from Herta and Grosjean, but this would only end up being a six-lap stint. Rinus VeeKay would bring out the race’s final caution after he stalled his Ed Carpenter Racing machine near the end of the infield section. More importantly, this ensured that there would be at least one more restart.

Sprint to the Finish

A huge advantage for Power was that Grosjean had long been out of his Push-To-Pass. In comparison, Power had well over a minute’s worth. After another strong restart, Power stretched his lead out to a one-second gap to at long last pick up his first win of the year at the yard of bricks. Even bigger, this was his sixth overall win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and his 40th career IndyCar win.

Grosjean would once again finish second on the Indy Road Course, while Herta rounded out Saturday’s podium. Grosjean also had his whole family out for today’s race. Typically, they don’t get to see him race in person, and today almost saw him win at the world’s most prestigious race track.

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With just four races remaining, Palou’s points lead is now far from safe. He sits just 21 points clear of O’Ward, and 34 clear of Dixon. With the way the IndyCar points system is structured, that gap is even shorter than it looks. Palou’s margin for error is slim-to-none going forward as IndyCar has its final oval race of the year next weekend under the lights at Gateway.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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