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Thursday, April 18
The Indiana Daily Student

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COLUMN: McLaughlin plays strategy perfectly, wins at Barber

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Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park was not the first time this season that we’ve seen Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean fighting for a win.

The season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg saw the two fighting for victory in the season-opening race on the streets of St. Peterburg, Florida, but a mistake from McLaughlin caused a collision that ended both of their chances to end up on the top step of the podium. 

This time around, the two were able to fight for the win once again, but cleanly. The two were on different strategies as McLaughlin opted for the three-stop strategy while Grosjean was on the two-stop strategy.

In years past at Barber, the two-stop strategy is typically the winning strategy, but a victory slipped out of Grosjean’s reach after making a mistake entering Turn 5 while also trying to save fuel with 19 laps to go.

Grosjean was in the lead after making one of the best passes I’ve seen in quite a while on McLaughlin, but a solid second-place finish saw Grosjean score 44 points, and he is now just 15 points behind points leader Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson. Grosjean currently stands in the fifth position in the championship standings.

Unfortunately for Grosjean, his first career win will have to wait after, even after leading 57 of the 90 laps. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grosjean contending for the win in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13.

Overall, I felt that the race was an entertaining strategy race that didn’t see a lot of calamity, a good thing for the team owners.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden had another rough day at Barber, finishing in 15th, making it his third consecutive finish outside of the top 10 at the road course.

My prediction to win, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, had a disappointing day with his seventh-place finish after qualifying in the fifth position.

As we look ahead to the Month of May, there are a couple of teams and drivers that have struggled mightily so far this season. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay currently sit at 24th and 19th respectively in the championship standings but will look to have a pair of strong showings in May.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud have both had their fair share of struggles this season as they currently sit at 20th and 21st in the championship standings. Fortunately, the two have experienced standing in victory circle at IMS with Castroneves winning the Indianapolis 500 four times alongside Pagenaud’s 2019 victory.

Pagenaud has also been one of the most successful drivers on the IMS Road Course with his three victories along with his second-place finish in the GMR Grand Prix in 2022. Although he has struggled in the four races up to this point, I think Pagenaud will be a force to be reckoned with during the Month of May.

Andretti Autosport has recovered nicely after each of the four drivers was involved in crashes in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 5 in the season opener. The outlier among the four has been Devlin DeFrancesco, who sits 27th in the championship standings – the worst of the full-time drivers. Every time I watch an IndyCar race, I expect nothing from DeFrancesco as he’s been nothing short of horrible in his time with Andretti Autosport. 

As the IndyCar Series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a month full of action, teams have already begun their preparations with a testing session on April 20. With the two-day show that is the GMR Grand Prix taking place May 12-13, not looking ahead to the Indianapolis 500 will be crucial as points are still on the line beforehand.

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