2017 IndyCar Series: Road America talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By , Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    Scott Dixon. (OmahaMH / Wikimedia Commons)

    By far and away the best natural terrain road course in North America, the Road America layout in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is a favourite with drivers and fans alike.

    With action like we saw on Sunday in a frenetic 55-lap event in front of another impressive crowd, it’s no wonder. Here are my talking points from a big weekend in Wisconsin.

    Scott Dixon finally gets a win
    The Ice Man could well be renamed Mr Consistency this year, leading the IndyCar Series points standings despite not winning a race. On Sunday, that all changed. The New Zealander, driving a Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, was the only one who could rain on the Penske parade – they had dominated the weekend to that point, their four cars locking out the front four spots in Saturday qualifying.

    The New Zealander beat Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves to the line for a memorable victory that was trademark Scott Dixon: he saved fuel to hit the right number, had a yellow fall his way after so much bad luck this season, and showed outright speed when it counted.

    Dixon’s forty-first IndyCar Series win (and Ganassi’s 103rd!) was a wonderful present for chief engineer/strategist Mike Hull, who celebrated his twenty-fifth year with the Ganassi organisation over the weekend, and has been present for all but one of Dixon’s IndyCar wins.

    As superb a driver as Dixon undoubtedly is, Hull, the other half of a lethal partnership, deserves plenty of plaudits, too. The combination of speed and strategic genius is hard to beat. Just ask the IndyCar Series paddock.

    Scott Dixon, New Zealand IndyCar racer

    Penske on Penske
    One of the biggest and most exciting moments of the race threatened to be a disaster for team owner Roger Penske. There’s nothing worse than teammates crashing each other out, especially when battling for the lead, but the Penske pair of Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves managed to avoid that fate in a thrilling exchange midway through the race.

    Newgarden’s pass on Castroneves going down the hill into turn two was as ballsy a move as you’re going to see. Logic and previous experience dictate you can’t get a pass done there, but the Tennessean found a way, and took the lead. You know it was a spectacular move when NBC commentator Paul Tracy, who knew his way around a wild overtaking manoeuvre during a storied career, was in awe.

    Ironically, Newgarden was the victim of a brilliant move, this time by Dixon on a lap 30 restart.

    The close season continues
    The IndyCar Series is as tight in 2017 as it’s ever been. We’ve had eight winners from ten different events, with Graham Rahal the only repeat winner, his two victories coming in consecutive days at Detroit, and there’s a good 10-12 cars each week who loom as serious threats to win the race.

    If IndyCar isn’t the most entertaining and close series in the world right now, please tell me what is!

    The kink bites twice
    It’s the fastest part of the entire circuit, cars entering the feared and famous Road America kink at more than 170 miles per hour – oval speeds on a road course – and it was the undoing of Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato and then veteran Tony Kanaan, who slammed the wall heavily, losing grip in the marbles hot on the heels of contact with Alexander Rossi.

    There’s no good place to have a crash at Road America, but losing control and hitting the wall at the kink, which is scarcely a corner in modern IndyCar racing, is always going to be dramatic. And it’s going to hurt. Glad that both drivers emerged basically unscathed.

    Ed Jones impresses again
    The Englishman driving for Dale Coyne Racing is an IndyCar Series rookie, but the way he’s driven for most of his 2017 campaign, you could be forgiven for thinking he’s a ten-year veteran. A seventh-place finish for his first attempt at a notoriously difficult Road America track is a wonderful achievement, and it’s continually great to see Coyne’s squad punching well above their weight.

    The points race
    Dixon’s first win of the year extends his series lead over defending IndyCar Series champion, France’s Simon Pagenaud, to thirty-four points. Castroneves sits second, with Sato in third, courtesy of his large points haul for winning the Indianapolis 500. Josef Newgarden rounds out the top five in points, and his Penske teammate, Australia’s Will Power, sits sixth, and is still in striking distance of a championship.

    Off to Iowa
    From the lighting-fast straights of Road America, the IndyCar Series packs up and heads into corn country, to the short oval in Newton, Iowa, for a 300-lap event in two weeks’ time.

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