Photo Credit: motorsports.nbcsports.com
The 9th race out of 16 scheduled races of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series campaign takes us to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday, June 26th for the 1st time since 2007. The indycars will race 50 laps around the 14-turn 4.048-mile natural terrain road course.
Simon Pagenaud leads the Indycar points championship after finishing in 2nd place in both the 1st and 2nd races of this season in St. Petersburg and Phoenix as well as at Belle Isle, and winning in Long Beach, Alabama, and Indianapolis (Grand Prix). Other race winners from earlier this season are Scott Dixon, who won at Phoenix, Alexander Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500, Will Power, who won at the 2nd Detroit race, Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at St. Petersburg, and Sebastien Bourdais, who won at the 1st Detroit race. Those drivers sit 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 14th in the championship standings, respectively.
The only former winner of the Road America race in this year’s field is Sebastien Bourdais, who won the race the last time the IndyCar Series visited Road America in 2007. Just 9 drivers in this year’s field have raced at Road America in an indycar before.
Also of note is the Chevrolet vs. Honda battle. Drivers of the Honda-powered cars have seemed to race slightly better than they’ve qualified so far this year, but have only won 1 of the 8 races thus far this season, that being Alexander Rossi at the Indianapolis 500. This win showed, however, that they are indeed very strong and can be competitive, and it gives them a lot of momentum moving forward. James Hinchcliffe, driving a Honda-powered car, started from pole in the Indianapolis 500. It was Honda’s 1st pole since 2014 in race 1 of the Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. Drivers of Chevrolet-powered cars had taken 30 consecutive pole positions since then. The drivers of the Honda-powered cars were also very strong at Texas Motor Speedway, running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd when the race was suspended at 71 out of 248 laps.
Honda appeared to be closing the performance gap to Chevy over the final stages of the 2015 season, but Chevy has come out and dominated to start off this season, winning 7 of the first 8 races. However, Honda seemed to make some strides at Alabama, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis 500, getting Graham Rahal to 2nd place at Alabama, placing 8 of the top 13 cars at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and sweeping the top 2 positions at the Indianapolis 500. They also placed 4 cars in the top 7 and 7 in the top 12 in Race #1 of the Dual in Detroit, and ran well at Texas before the race was suspended.
Drivers to watch for (with engine manufacturers):
Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet): Castroneves’ best finish at Road America is 7th, which happened in 2001.
Scott Dixon (Chevrolet): Dixon’s best finish at Road America is 4th, which happened in 2001.
Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet): Kanaan’s best finish at Road America is 4th, which happened in 1998 and 2002.
Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet): Montoya’s best finish at Road America is 13th, which happened in 1999.
Will Power (Chevrolet): Power’s best finish at Road America is 13th, which happened in 2006.
Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet): Pagenaud’s best finish at Road America is 11th, which was in 2007.
Sebastien Bourdais (Chevrolet): Bourdais is the only former winner at Road America in this year’s field, having won the race in 2007.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda): Hunter-Reay’s best finish at Road America is 4th, which happened in 2004.
Graham Rahal (Honda): Rahal’s best finish at Road America is 3rd, which happened in 2007.
Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet): Newgarden has never raced at Road America.
James Hinchcliffe (Honda): Hinchcliffe has never raced at Road America.
Marco Andretti (Honda): Andretti has never raced at Road America.
Carlos Munoz (Honda): Munoz has never raced at Road America.
Takuma Sato (Honda): Sato has never raced at Road America.
Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet): Kimball has never raced at Road America.
Alexander Rossi (Honda): Rossi has never raced at Road America.
Conor Daly (Honda): Daly has never raced at Road America.
JR Hildebrand* (Chevrolet): Hildebrand has never raced at Road America.
Mikhail Aleshin (Honda): Aleshin has never raced at Road America.
Gabby Chaves (Honda): Chaves has never raced at Road America.
Max Chilton (Chevrolet): Chilton has never raced at Road America.
Jack Hawksworth (Honda): Hawksworth has never raced at Road America.
Spencer Pigot (Chevrolet): Pigot has never raced at Road America.
*=JR Hildebrand will only drive at Road America if Josef Newgarden is not cleared from the injuries that he sustained at Texas Motor Speedway in a horrifying crash on Sunday, June 12th.