Commentary Open Wheel


The strategy for this week’s IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is simple stick with those who have won.

In its three-year history, only two drivers have found victory lane on the road course, and yours truly has drafted both of them for this week’s Firestone Fantasy Challenge.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud has a pair of wins in the first leg of the Brickyard doubleheader and enters with momentum following a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Three years ago, the Frenchman used superior fuel strategy to win the inaugural event and last year called on pace to get around Conor Daly during the final round of pit stops.

Despite leading the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, Pagenaud is performing worse than he did a year ago. Four events into 2016, he placed no worse than second; this year, he has finished fifth or better in all action to date. While a harsh comparison, it shows when the driver of the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet has had to bounce back from a bad starting spot, strong results are present.

The second choice is a risky one, if ever taking Will Power was considered a questionable move. The Australian went flag-to-flag to win the IndyCar Grand Prix in 2015, but last year’s race was a challenge. Off-course excursions and mechanical headaches left him with a 19th-place finish. The opening three road races of 2017 have seen adversities hold him to a season-best outing of 13th at Long Beach. Of course, when the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is bulletproof, the skill of its pilot is the best IndyCar can offer.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot also knows the taste of misfortune in 2017. Two technical breakdowns have denied the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion from big points hauls in 2017. However, an eighth-place effort at Long Beach showed what the 23-year old could achieve when the roadblocks are not in the way. With Pigot’s fantasy value at only $15 this week, it is worth the risk to give him another chance.

The fourth seat was a problem for me. I had hoped to add Juan Pablo Montoya, who is driving a fifth car for Roger Penske. Unfortunately, with a big $25 price tag, a Plan B option was necessary. I think I have acquired a good alternative in Andretti-Herta Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. His NAPA Auto Parts crew has shown the ability to create a result with strategy at Alabama and before stalling out at Long Beach, he hinted at having the speed needed to run up front.


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By Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory.

Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.