Pagenaud, Power favored in Indy road course showdown

·2 min read
Defending champion Simon Pagenaud of France, right, and fellow three-time winner Will Power of Australia are favored ahead of Saturday's IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis (AFP Photo/Chris Graythen)
Defending champion Simon Pagenaud of France, right, and fellow three-time winner Will Power of Australia are favored ahead of Saturday's IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis (AFP Photo/Chris Graythen)

Washington (AFP) - Three-time winners Simon Pagenaud of France and Will Power of Australia will be favored in Saturday's IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the second race since the season began last month.

Pagenaud won over the 14-turn, 2.439-mile (3.925km) road course in May of 2019 then captured the Indianapolis 500 oval classic two weeks later for a sweep at the iconic "Brickyard."

"I'm thrilled to go back to Indianapolis," Pagenaud said. "My whole life changed last May... by winning both the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar GP. Memories I will never forget. Now we finally have the opportunity to return and attempt to win again."

The coronavirus pandemic that delayed the season opener to June in Texas pushed the Indy road course race to the US Independence Day holiday as part of a historic weekend double-header that includes a Sunday NASCAR stock car race at the circuit, which includes part of the Indy oval.

It's the first time IndyCar and NASCAR, the most popular form of US auto racing, have raced at the same venue on the same weekend, but fans will not be allowed at the races due to the deadly virus outbreak, which will require social distancing and masks for race teams all weekend.

Pagenaud must wait until next month to try and repeat as Indy 500 champion, the 104th edition postponed to August 23 by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Power, the Frenchman's Penske Racing teammate, is also a title threat in the 80-lap Indy road course showdown, having won it in 2015, 2017 and 2018 while Pagenaud won in 2014 and 2016 in addition to last year.

Together with Power's 2018 Indy 500 victory and Pagenaud's 2019 triumph, Roger Penske cars own four IndyCar wins in a row at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and every road-course title.

"We've had some amazing success there as a team since Simon and I are still the only winners," Power said. "This is such a fun road course and always is a place where the series really can put on a show."

New Zealand's Scott Dixon, chasing his sixth career IndyCar points crown and second in three seasons, won the 2020 opener on June 6 at Fort Worth, Texas. He is a contender as well, having been runner-up at the Indy road course each of the past three years.

"We'll definitely keep pushing and keep snatching these wins if we can," Dixon said.

The Kiwi racer is set for his 260th consecutive IndyCar start, which will become the longest active streak as Brazilian Tony Kanaan's record streak of 318 starts in a row ends.

Spectators are set to return to IndyCar events in two races July 11-12 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

"I know all of us in the series can't wait to see them back," Pagenaud said.