Indy's road course puts on a show

Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Indy's road course puts on a show

IndyCar

Indy's road course puts on a show

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For all those people who clamor for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar to change the road course, or run it in reserve, or mess with it in any way, hopefully Friday’s Harvest Grand Prix changed their mind.

In one of the most entertaining and fiercely-contested road races in IndyCar history, there were over 200 on-track passes for position — including four for the lead — and some of the best driving on display.

“It was a great fight today,” said winner Josef Newgarden, who had a nice tussle with Colton Herta for the lead. “It was all about strategy, close combat and everything you want in an IndyCar race.”

Boy howdy.

From Herta out-jumping polesitter Rinus Veekay to take the lead going into Turn 1 on the opening lap, to Veekay returning the favor on Lap 2 at Turn 8, to Herta passing Newgarden on Lap 24 for the top spot, it was everything you don’t usually see in a road race. And then Newgarden finally pressured Colton into overshooting Turn 1 on Lap 60 to pretty much decide things.

But there were great duels early and often around the 14-turn, 2.4-mile track that will host NASCAR for the Brickyard 400 in 2021.

“We’ve never run good here on the road course and it was a grind, but I’m proud of this team to get on the podium,” said Alexander Rossi, whose charge from fifth to second was another element of the action.

Whether it was Will Power, Scott Dixon and Rossi going at it for fifth place halfway through the 85-lapper or Power, Dixon, Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey leaning on each other at every corner for seventh place with five laps left, or Veekay charging from sixth to third in the closing laps, the 10,000 fans in attendance got their money’s worth.

“It was a tough race,” said Veekay, whose rookie year continues to be impressive. “I fought hard and I drove as hard as I could. I think I did pretty well with passing, and I think I’m always next to Colton (Herta) fighting for position. But it’s fun — the two youngest guys in the series battling it out. Everyone is on top of their game, and it’s a real reward to pass those guys.”

Amazingly, with all the hard racing, dive-bombing and close calls, there were no full-course yellows, and only one real incident when Ryan Hunter-Reay and Santino Ferrucci tangled going into Turn 1. They both spun and continued.

Graham Rahal recovered from an early spin to take seventh, and might have won the passing award.

“I spun early and luckily didn’t end up hurting us, but it was a tough day,” said Rahal. “We were able to pass a lot of cars, but in the end we were on blacks and out of overtake so that didn’t help.”

As he was signing off the telecast, former IndyCar champion Paul Tracy turned NBC analyst summed up the day. “That’s one of the best road course races I’ve seen in a long time.”

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