Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Desert Diamond West Valley Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.
This is the first oval appearance of the season, and the last stop before teams head back to Indianapolis for the “Month of May”. It’s just the top tier of the ladder this weekend, with Indy Lights not making the trip this year, and the rest of the junior series taking the weekend off.
What Happened Last Race Pole: Helio Castroneves Podium:Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
Highlights from the 2016 Phoenix Grand Prix:
What Happened Last Time:
2016 was the first time the cars roared in anger on this track since 2005. It was a pretty decent welcome back, and the drivers, very happy to return to the storied track, put on a good show without doing too much damage to their equipment. (Of course those teams who’s drivers got up close and personal with the wall on Day 1 would beg to differ)
What to Expect This Time:
Fast, Crash, Hulk Smash!
This is the first oval race out of the gate, so it's a clean slate and even playing field. Everyone has tested here, and the entire field has raced on this track. (Even Rookie Ed Jones, who finished 2nd on this track in IndyLights.
Add to the mix that this particular track is known for catching even the most seasoned drivers out when they least expect it, and the fact that there is one less practice session this time around, and you've set yourself up for a wild ride.
Reigning Champion: Simon Pagenaud
2017 Points Leader: Sebastien Bourdais
ROTY Leader: Ed Jones
Who's the Favorite?
TK has won here twice. Castroneves and Dixon have been on the podium.
Look for Ed Carpenter to jump to the top right out of the gate. By default, with set up and guidance, and looking at his performance at the Phoenix test, look for JR Hildebrand to follow suit. *though he is just returning following being on the DL with a hand injury that required surgery, following Long Beach*
Of course, don't count out the usual suspects (Ganassi/Penske Juggernaut)
Who Could Surprise?
Look for the Schmidt Peterson duo of Hinchcliffe and Aleshin to make their presence known, and the Andretti stable to try to redeem what has been an off-balanced season so far.
If we had to pick just one?
Without tire issues last year, Helio would likely have 2 under his belt here. He’s been in a win drought for a while, so look for him, and fellow “thirsty” series senior Kanaan to be battling for the podium.
Event: Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Venue: Phoenix International Raceway Track Type: 1.022-mile oval Track Map)
TV: Rick Allen returns to the team this weekend as the lead announcer joined by Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell in the booth, and Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller on the ground.
Web/radio: Mark Jaynes takes over as chief announcer. Joining him in the booth will be analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Video Streaming: Only Friday's 7:00 p.m practice session for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel. Qualifying will be broadcast on NBCSN. (Video is available via Facebook for those outside of the US)
For those on Twitter this weekend, be sure follow along with: @PhoenixRaceway