IndyCar POWER RANKINGS: IndyCar Grand Prix
Throughout the season, POPULAR OPEN WHEEL will rank the drivers and teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR OPEN WHEEL Facebook page.
Will Power’s third victory in the IndyCar Grand Prix was impressive, but not enough to vault him all the way from sixth to first in this week’s Power Rankings.
While the former Verizon IndyCar Series titlist has two podium finishes in 2018, he also has three servings outside the first 10, a fact that is tough to ignore. Minus that, the Australian remains one to watch as time trials for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 quickly approach, along with any remaining road course events on the slate.
The No. 12 Chevrolet was stout, yet this time around it was his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden who made the unforced error. Appearing set to claim another top-five placement last Saturday, an overzealous dive to overtake Sebastien Bourdais cost the defending series king dearly, resulting in eleventh at the checkered flags.
Although not the ultimate disaster scenario, when coupled with a fifth from Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, it is time to flip-flop the top-two on the sheet. The Napa Auto Parts-sponsored pilot has shown a similar consistency to the Tennessee-native in each of the first five showings, but may be able to put his nose further in front, based on a greater potential to shine in the big dance, when compared to Newgarden.
Beyond the big two on the driver’s table, the other forward jumper was Scott Dixon. Despite a dismal 18th starting position on the grid, the Kiwi and his Chip Ganassi Racing squad never put a wheel or airgun wrong during the 85-lap distance, sneaking away with a runner-up finish.
1) Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport (+1 since Alabama): The resumes are nearly identical between the Californian and his championship rival from Team Penske that even the slightest rift in placements can upset the apple cart. The No. 27 Honda chauffeur came home 11th in Alabama and dropped from numero uno to dos. This time around, Newgarden takes the same bad result at the Brickyard road course and, the script shuffles likewise.
2) Josef Newgarden, Team Penske (-1): If a little more patience was shown in trying to get around Sebastien Bourdais, another podium could have been secured. Unfortunately, with the misguided attempt at the difficult turn 12 in the rear-view mirror, the reigning champion drops back to best of the rest behind Rossi.
3) Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Unchanged): The breakthrough triumph is still looming in the distance, but the Canadian freshman continues to exceed expectations. A stronger Will Power and a bit of an outfoxing job from Scott Dixon delays the celebration for now; however, the initial P1 score will come before the end of the 2018 campaign.
4) Will Power, Team Penske (+2): Last Saturday showed just how dominant this driver could be if trouble avoids him. The road course ace had to battle a little adversity in the last two stints against Wickens and Scott Dixon, but passed both tests with flying colors. The Australian just missed the big one three years ago; will 2018 be the year his visage is attached to the Borg-Warner Trophy?
5) Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing (+2): The Iceman took the phase one qualifying exit without too much damage psyche-wise. That reality manifested itself on Saturday with a plus-16 position improvement, which almost morphed into an improbable victory at a venue where a good grid position is paramount.
6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing (-2): Tough to drop the Frenchman down a couple of rungs after taking fourth in the IndyCar Grand Prix, but there are some tough hurdles left to clear concerning a title run. Assuming the Le Mans veteran gets through qualifying this weekend without incident, this pilot and squad combination enter unknown territory on May 27th.
7) James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (-2): Again, no doom and gloom here, yet a ho-hum top-10 just does not release the bling when judged against the outputs from two former IndyCar champions. Likewise, it is equally tough to fathom how the Mayor is getting dusted by his rookie teammate and countryman Robert Wickens.
8) Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (+1): Top-10’s continue to pour into the No. 15 Honda pilot’s bank account, but as ABC-TV analyst Eddie Cheever, Jr. stated on Saturday, Rahal must start higher up on the grid. These back-to-front adventures do not come without penalty somewhere down the road.
9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport (-1): The 2014 Indy 500 champ has the bad result out of the way concerning 2018 at the Brickyard. Whether that means a reversal of fortune in the main event come Memorial Day weekend, who knows?
10) Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske (New Entry): The 2016 No. 1 plate holder has been missing in action for most of the opening five acts. The veteran did well to overcome a Lap 1 get-together with Jordan King to vault back up to eighth at the finish. Decent, yet continuing the plus sign vibes will be required to stay on this list for more than a single round.
Dropped Out: Marco Andretti (Was No. 10 after Alabama)
1) Team Penske (+1): Eleventh or better efforts from all of the Captain’s men, including a notable sixth from part-timer Helio Castroneves moves the 200 wins and counting organization to the head of the class with the Indianapolis 500 next on the docket.
2) Andretti Autosport (-1): A top-five from Alexander Rossi advances himself to position one in the driver’s list, but iffy outings among the remaining members of Michael’s quartet is enough to cost them the lead role in the squad countdown.
3) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Unchanged): Robert Wickens continues to shock the IndyCar world, while James Hinchcliffe manages to stay in the top half of the order. Nothing to praise or punish on the report card.
4) Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Unchanged): Graham Rahal makes another advance from the back of the starting order, while teammate Takuma Sato overcomes a fender-bender on the opening circuit via Spencer Pigot to claim a second-straight top-ten. Status quo this week.
5) Chip Ganassi Racing (Unchanged): Scott Dixon had the best drive for those not named Will Power, yet the headaches continue for Ed Jones. A flat tire ruined an ok, but not solid performance for the Dubai-resident.
6) Dale Coyne Racing (Unchanged): Sebastien Bourdais deposits another first five result, and the IndyCar Grand Prix emitted signs of progress from Zachary Claman De Melo. Tough road to traverse in relation to the No. 18’s hopes of a title challenge, however.
7) A.J. Foyt Racing (Unchanged): Bottom of the bunch runs from Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist certainly calls into question the mindset of this organization. Was the focus on the recent road races, or the Indy 500? Time trials this weekend could answer this conundrum.
8) Ed Carpenter Racing (Unchanged): Double-trouble on the opening lap wasted a Firestone Fast Six showing from Jordan King and a possible breakthrough from Spencer Pigot. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing could very well be the last hurrah for this group in 2018.
9) Harding Racing (Unchanged): Gabby Chaves and company came home a quiet 17th on Saturday. Could have been saving ammo for the transition to the 2.5-mile oval if open test big lap was legitimate.
10) Carlin Racing (Unchanged): Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton each saw the twin checkers in the IndyCar Grand Prix, but not much else to quip about.
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