Safety Car turned Indy race on its head

The second round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series was run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t all on the oval, but on the road course, that’s also known from Formula 1 and MotoGP.

Will Power had taken Pole Position, while Jack Harvey surprised with second starting position, ahead of Colton Herta. Graham Rahal showed promising speed in the qualifying with fourth, ahead of rookie Oliver Askew, while the defending Championship Josef Newgarden was qualified in P6.

Championship leader Scott Dixon was starting from 7th. The qualifying had been a huge disappointment for second in the championship, and last years winner at the track, Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman had huge issues with his speed in the quali, and was all the way back in 20th.

Not only was the race being run on 4 July, but it was also a shared event with NASCAR. Spectators were unfortunately not allowed in, but it was still quite a big event for both series.

GMR Grand Prix at IMS start 2020
Photo: / John Cote

The start went really well, despite Rahal’s front wing briefly rubbed the rear tire of Harvey, when the two raced towards Turn 1. Fortunately there was no damage to either car, and Rahal slotted in third ahead of Herta.

Spencer Pigot started on 16th, but quickly made it into 11th, including overtaking Alexander Rossi.

The first drivers started pitting already after 8 laps. Pagenaud was amongst the early pit takers, but was followed by Dixon shortly after, who wanted to try something alternative, to get further up than the sixth position.

That was followed by a lot of the field – just not the first five cars on the track: Power, Harvey, Rahal, Herta and Newgarden.

Oliver Askew
Photo: / Chris Jones

It took another 6-7 laps, before Herta, Newgarden, Power and Harvey pitted, with one lap between each of their stops.

Rahal was on a completely different strategy, and was going for a two-stop, instead of three like the majority of the competition.

Pigot was another of the drivers, who chose to stay out for a long time, and that really paid back to him, when he was running the softer compound of the two, and managed to overtake Conor Daly, and grabbing second at that point of the race, and quickly opened up a big gap.

Rahal, Pigot and Daly pitted 26 laps into the race, and if they would be able to stretch their next stint to the same length, they would have quite an advantage towards the end of the race.

Alexander Rossi
Photo: / Chris Jones

After everybody had pitted for the first time, the standings had Power ahead of Newgarden, Harvey, Rahal, Dixon and Herta, while Rinus VeeKay was all the way up to 7th, from his 18th starting position.

Marcus Ericsson got an otherwise good day ruined when the team had troubles getting fuel into his car during the second stop of the day.

He got a huge break when Oliver Askew crashed in the final turn, and rear-ended into the SAFER barrier. Luckily Askew was all fine, but it resulted in the first Safety Car of the day.

Most of the field, of those who hadn’t already pitted for the second time before the Safety car came out, opted to pit for fuel and four new tires.

Rinus VeeKay
Photo: / John Cote

The new order was Rahal, Pigot, Daly, Dixon, Herta, VeeKay and Rossi, at the restart of the race. Will Power had fallen all the way back to 14th!

There was a bit of trouble at Turn 1, when Daly tried to overtake Pigot around the outside, but was shown the grass, and had to fall into third.

Alexander Rossi had to pit after 42 laps of the race, with the engine no longer running smooth. The mechanics fuelled the car, but Rossi couldn’t even get going again – it just made a small jump and wouldn’t go any further. Shortly after, he was out of the car, and another bad result for the former Indy 500 winner, and second in the 2018 Championship, and third in the 2019 standings.

Will Power
Photo: / John Cote

The two Ed Carpenter Racing drivers Daly and VeeKay came into a bit of in fight, where the rookie managed to get past his must more experienced teammate.

Dixon managed to fight his way to second in the race and started putting Rahal under pressure. He took the lead after 48 laps of the race, and quickly bridged a huge gap to the American. Both drivers had one pitstop remaining, so this was a real battle for the victory of the race.

Zach Veach
Photo: / Chris Jones

The final pitstop round of the day started on lap 55, with Dixon being one of the first to pit, to protect himself against a potential Safety Car period.

The day got even worse for Will Power, who stalled following his pitstop, and needed external assistance to get the car refired. He was already far from top 10 before his stall.

While the day had started out well for Spencer Pigot, he got some issues with the car, which saw him drop back through the field, which was super unlucky for him, after the great showing earlier in the race.

Pagenaud had made a huge comeback, racing all the way into the third position, from 20th on the starting grid.

Scott Dixon
Photo: / Chris Owens

James Hinchcliffe had also moved towards the front of the field. From 19th starting position, he was in 12th with ten laps to go.

There was a bit of excitement with four laps to go, with both Marco Andretti and Zach Veach running through the grass – unrelated to each other. Veach was in the middle of overtaking Conor Daly, when he outbraked himself, because he was trying to get James Hinchcliffe at the same time – but that didn’t work out.

After 80 laps of the race, it was Scott Dixon taking the chequered flag with a more than 20 seconds gap to Graham Rahal in second, followed by Simon Pagenaud, Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, Josef Newgarden, Patricio O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci and Takuma Sato.

The result saw Dixon extend his lead in the Championship, ahead of Pagenaud and Newgarden.

The NTT IndyCar Series is back on track next weekend, with two races being run at Road America.

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