INDIANAPOLIS – IndyCar’s youth movement continued with 22-year-old Colton Herta winning Sunday’s GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. But the other two drivers on the podium are two of the most experienced and successful drivers in the series.
Team Penske’s Will Power has 40 career wins including three in the GMR Grand Prix. He also has two other wins on the IMS road course, including a victory in 2020 IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix Race No. 2 on October 3, 2022, and the 2021 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on August 14, 2021.
Power finished third on Saturday and combined with Alex Palou’s 18th-place finish, took over the lead in the NTT IndyCar Series championship.
“It’s good because I’m kind of the lone guy,” Power said afterwards. “I’m the older guy, and you have the two young blokes, good mates. I’m just getting the work done. Actually, it’s been a good thing from me. I put my head down and do the work.”
Simon Pagenaud won the first IndyCar race on the IMS road course in 2014 for one of his three wins in the GMR Grand Prix. He started 20th and raced his way all the way to a second-place finish on Saturday.
“I would say experience definitely counts in these races to not get caught out or put yourself in a bad situation, so yeah, it’s no surprise to me to see Simon up there,” Power said. “It’s cool to have both of us on the podium together again at this track.”
Pagenaud believes IndyCar’s future is bright with the likes of young drivers such as Herta, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay. But the driver from France also believes the experienced veteran drivers still have a lot to offer.
“Definitely experience pays off, but you see Colton out there still getting the job done,” Pagenaud said. “It’s funny to be fighting with Will for most of the race. Always enjoyable. We’ve been together on this podium quite a bit, so it’s quite fun.
“I think it’s just personally a track that smiles to me for some reason. I find myself always in a good spot in the race. Today was tricky. It was more like a sports car race, and I used everything I learned in sports car races.”
Despite the rainy conditions that often serve as a great equalizer in these types of races over the normal, dry conditions, Pagenaud showed his racing skill and ability by getting up to second after starting 20th.
How did he do it?
“We had a good start,” he said. “We jumped all the way to 13th right away. Then, the pit stop sequence, up to 11th. Then after that ninth. Then seventh. Then it started raining. Then fifth. Then Scott McLaughlin and Alex Palou had problems, so third.
“So on and so forth. We made a lot of passes on track for sure and had some very good exchange in the pit stops. That made a difference.”
In the process, he proved that a race driver can pass on the IMS road course, it’s a matter of understanding the proper passing zones and making the car work in those areas.
“I’m not the only one, but certainly having that long straightaway – obviously helps,” Pagenaud explained. “The previous corner is tricky. It’s not easy flat, full throttle, so some people slide. Then you get a run. It’s about outbraking the opponents over there.
“Also, that curve that they put in turn five makes it harder, and if you are on cold tires, the person behind you can have a run, and that also created an opportunity for passing into turn seven.
“And then tire wear. I think Firestone is bringing a tire that wears a little more than usual. Not what we’re used to. It’s putting a bit of a mix in the racing right now. You see some cars degrading more than others. Drivers being more aggressive than others too.
“Sometimes when you are patient, it pays off.”