Today’s question: Two-part question this week! Who will win the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday (noon ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and which driver racing in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at IMS would you love to see also compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race Saturday?
Curt Cavin: Big ups to Sribhen, who correctly picked Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward as the Iowa Speedway race winners, but we all know that was a Newgarden sweep that simply didn’t happen. Similarly, the easy pick this week is Will Power, who leads all NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers with five race wins (and five poles) at the IMS road course. Power also was third in the GMR Grand Prix on May 14, and Team Penske has won eight of the 12 races contested on this circuit. But picking drivers from Roger Penske’s organization each week gets old, so I’m going off script this week to take a first-time series winner. Romain Grosjean had a pair of podium finishes on the IMS road course last year and while he didn’t have the best of events in the wet GMR Grand Prix and finished 17th, he’s due for a win. His teammate, Colton Herta, is the track’s most recent winner. As for a Cup driver I’d like to see in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, Chase Elliott would be interesting given that seven of his 17 wins in Cup have come on road courses. But you couldn’t go wrong with Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson or Austin Cindric.
Arni Sribhen: Can we chalk up last week’s moment of clairvoyance for the Iowa winners to a blind squirrel finding a nut? Remember fellas, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Will Power is the obvious pick, but even he doesn’t remember that he won this race a year ago because all of his wins on the IMS road course have all run together. So here’s a non-Will Power pick to hedge with. Take Alexander Rossi. Rossi’s had an average year so far, but his average finish in his last five starts on the IMS road course is 5.4. This is the weekend the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda finally finds Victory Lane. Rossi had a pair of podiums in the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix doubleheaders and finished fourth in the 2021 Gallagher Grand Prix, which shows he’s really good in return trips to tracks. As for a Cup driver that I’d like to see in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, I’d vote for Ross Chastain. Sure, he’s a touch aggressive at times, but he likes to smash watermelons. He’s also pretty adept at road courses and wouldn’t be afraid to hustle an INDYCAR SERIES car around the track without power steering. Shoutout to our old friends AJ Allmendinger and Cody Ware because once an INDYCAR guy, always an INDYCAR guy.
Paul Kelly: First things first: All hail Arni for his perfect picks last week. Is the man that accurate with Powerball numbers? OK, he called Josef Newgarden to win Sunday and Pato O’Ward to win Saturday, with the reverse happening, but who’s counting? Not me. Impressive. As Curt and Arni said, it’s just too easy to pick Will Power on the IMS road course. He has five wins in 12 starts on this circuit, a ridiculous win rate of 42 percent. But I’m looking for an upset Saturday, so I’m picking Rinus VeeKay. The Dutchman earned his only career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory on this track in the GMR Grand Prix in May 2021 for Ed Carpenter Racing, and he also has finishes of third and fifth here. As for a NASCAR driver I want to see race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car and do double-duty this weekend, it’s Austin Cindric – in a Team Penske car. Cindric has so much history at this circuit through his father’s management role with Team Penske’s INDYCAR SERIES team since 1999, and Austin won the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard NASCAR Xfinity Series race here last year. While that win opened many eyes, Cindric has been a very good road racer for a while. He competed in IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge and the Pirelli World Challenge sports car series, raced in the Bathurst 12 Hour and was a Porsche North American Junior Academy driver. I think he would surprise people with his skill behind the wheel of an INDYCAR SERIES car on the IMS road course.