Verizon IndyCar Series at the 2017 Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

Simon Pagenaud sets up for Turn 1 during the Phoenix Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

Race weekend: Friday, April 28 – Saturday, April 29, 2017

Track: Phoenix International Raceway, a 1.022-mile oval

Race distance: 250 laps / 255.5 miles

Firestone tire allotment: Nine sets primary

Twitter: @PhoenixRaceway, @IndyCar, #DesertDiamondPGP, #IndyCar

Event website: http://www.phoenixraceway.com

INDYCAR website: http://www.IndyCar.com

2016 race winner: Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet)

2016 pole winner: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet), 38.2604 seconds (192.324 mph)

Qualifying lap record: Helio Castroneves (19.0997 seconds; 192.631 mph), set on April 1, 2016

NBCSN race broadcast: Saturday, April 29 (9 p.m. ET, live)

NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 29 (7:30 p.m. ET, taped)

James Hinchcliffe on course during the Phoenix Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Rick Allen will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Radio broadcasts: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes with analyst Davey Hamilton. Turn reporter is Jake Query with Nick Yeoman, Michael Young and Zach Veach reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video Streaming: Practice and qualifying will be available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/indycar)

INDYCAR Mobile app: Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app is available across all carriers. Exclusive features for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and include enhanced real-time leaderboard and car telemetry; live in-car camera video streaming for select drivers during Verizon IndyCar Series races; live driver and pit crew radio transmissions during races and live Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio streaming during all track activities.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, April 28
4-6 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice, Livestreamed on RaceControl.IndyCar.Com
8 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single-car format, two laps each), NBCSN (7:30 p.m., April 29)

Saturday, April 29
5-5:10 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice
6 p.m. – NBCSN on air
6:35 p.m. – Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (250 laps/255.50 miles), NBCSN (Live).

Carlos Munoz sets up for Turn 1 during the Phoenix Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Race Notes

* Josef Newgarden claimed his first win as a member of Team Penske at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 23. Newgarden is the third different winner in 2017, joining Sebastien Bourdais (St. Petersburg) and James Hinchcliffe (Long Beach). The Verizon IndyCar Series has averaged nine winners since 2012, including a record-tying 11 in 2014.

* The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be the 63rd Indy car race at Phoenix Raceway since the track opened in 1964. Al Unser has the most wins by an Indy car driver at the track (six). Helio Castroneves (2002), Tony Kanaan (2003 and 2004) and Scott Dixon (2016) are the past Phoenix winners entered in this year’s race.

* Phoenix Raceway will host the first of six oval races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other ovals event scheduled are: 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil (May 28), Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (June 10), Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (July 9), ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Aug. 20) and Bommarito Auto Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park (Aug. 26).

* Twelve drivers have won the Phoenix race from the pole: Tony Kanaan (2003), Helio Castroneves (2002), Arie Luyendyk (1996), Rick Mears (1982, 1989 and 1990), Al Unser (1969 and 1985), Tom Sneva (1984), Teo Fabi (1983), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Gordon Johncock (1973), Bobby Unser (1968, 1972), Lloyd Ruby (1967) and Mario Andretti (1966)

* Drivers who have won at Phoenix have gone on to win the Indy car championship nine times: A.J. Foyt (1964, first race; 1975, second race), Mario Andretti (1966, second race), Bobby Unser (1968, first race), Al Unser (1970, first race; 1985), Rick Mears (1982, first race), Bobby Rahal (1992), Buddy Lazier (2000), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001) and Tony Kanaan (2004).

* Rookie Ed Jones will make his first Indy car oval start this weekend at Phoenix. The 2016 Indy Lights champion made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at St. Petersburg and finished second at Phoenix in Indy Lights 2016.

* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 269th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 210 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing. Dixon will tie Jimmy Vasser for second all-time should he start at Phoenix.

* Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 331st career Indy car start, which ranks third on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 330th Indy car start, which would break a tie with Al Unser Jr. for fourth all-time. Both are competing in their 20th season of Indy car racing in 2017.

* The No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet crew of Helio Castroneves won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.

Simon Pagenaud on course during the Phoenix Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY PHOENIX GRAND PRIX PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “Phoenix is a great place for INDYCAR, and I’m very excited to attack our first oval of the year. It’s very different compared to Indianapolis but it puts us in that state of mind close to the month of May. A day after Barber, the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet crew is already hard at work to prepare the
car for Phoenix. It’s an exciting event as it is also a night race.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Oh, man, I’m really ready to race at Phoenix. Coming off our win at Barber, the No. 2 hum by Verizon Chevy team and I are ready to hit the track for our first oval of the season. We had a good test out there before the season and we’re comfortable with what we have out there. I’ve only had one race out there and were able to get a
good result over at (Ed Carpenter Racing). The crowd there is really fun and we’re ready to put on a show.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet): “Phoenix is a track where I fortunately have more experience than anyone else in the series right now due to the years Indy car racing went away from there. I’ve done well there and really enjoy the atmosphere. The crowd is really great and full of energetic race fans who really enjoy Indy car racing. We had a solid top-five finish at Barber and the No. 3 REV Group Chevy team really wants to build on that momentum as we head to our first oval this year. I’m always excited to have the REV Group on board. They are great supporters and awesome to work with.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I really enjoyed racing at Phoenix last year. It’s an incredible challenge physically and mentally to stay on your game the whole way through. I look forward to starting off our oval part of the schedule strong.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Phoenix was a tough event for us last year. It was tough for all Hondas, to be honest. But with the resurgence we’ve seen from Honda and the momentum we have at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports right now, we are hoping to have a strong weekend and try and just execute as best we can with what we have. Everyone is so close that even if we don’t have the ultimate pace as the other manufacturer, if we hit all our marks and do our job perfectly, we can still leave here with a strong result.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I like Phoenix a lot. It’s a pretty tricky track. It’s very intense racing there, and you don’t have the chance to make any mistakes. It’s a great racing track. Last year, the car was pretty good there, and I’m looking forward to getting back.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “Last year we had a great Gallagher car in Phoenix and we had our best result of the season. It’s a very challenging oval and I learned a lot here last year. Scott (Dixon) had a great car and I think we performed well overall as a team, and we’re looking forward to duplicating that effort again this Saturday.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda, 2016 Phoenix race winner): “I’m excited to be going back to Phoenix again. We obviously had a great result here last year, and hopefully, we can duplicate that again with a strong run. It’s a tough track and I know it’s changed a bit over the years with some resurfacing, and we learned a lot last year in terms of how the cars handle now. I love the area and Arizona is a great part of the world. There are a lot of fans in the area and I hope they are as excited as we are to go racing Saturday night under the lights.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “I love coming to Phoenix. I’m so glad INDYCAR made its way back there. Phoenix has been good to me in the past, and even last year, we had a car that could have possibly won if not for a late yellow that threw off our strategy. With the first three races of the season being road and street courses, I’m definitely ready to get back on an oval and see
what the No. 10 NTT Data Honda can do.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a great time in Phoenix last year even though it was only my first race there. We had a podium finish which was awesome. Barber was a tough one for me. We had a strong, really fast No. 12 Verizon Chevy and a tire issue really took away our ability to win a race I know we could have. My team has been great and has provided really great cars. We just keep ending up with the worst luck. We’re motivated to keep setting up great cars and hoping our luck changes soon to find our way back to another win.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “The Phoenix open test was our first day working together as a team with the Chevy aero kit at a racetrack. I think we are much better now than when we tested there, and I’m looking forward to showing how much we have improved. I can’t wait to go there.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “We had a good race last year with a top-five finish. Our starting position wasn’t the greatest, so we need to work on that and try to improve, but in the race, I think we were very good. We were patient and saved a lot of fuel when we needed to and the guys did a great job in the pits, too. It was a good, consistent and steady race last year and with the way our season has gone so far this year, that’s something that we could really use. Overall this year, I have expected to be very competitive and we have struggled a little. I hope that Phoenix is a place that we can get back on track in terms of our expectations. Our hope is that we can have a good car to go racing with and put the United Rentals Honda in victory lane while racking up more money for Turns for Troops and Soldier Strong in the process.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “We had a good test at Phoenix earlier this year, but I do think it will be difficult for us. There’s some pretty strong competition ahead of us that we’ll need to beat. I think that this type of short oval does favor the opposition. We have an (aero) kit that works very well on street and road courses but on short ovals, I think it will be a little bit more difficult. Then again, I may be wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time. We’ll see. We’re preparing as if it was any other type of race with the means we have and we’ll do our best and see how we come out.”

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “I did pretty well at Phoenix last year in Indy Lights and we tested there a couple of months ago, so I feel pretty comfortable around the track. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it is racing in the pack, in traffic, because I think that will be the most difficult part. It’s probably one of the most challenging ovals, I’d say, just because of its characteristics. It will be a tough weekend but I’m confident we can do well.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I am super excited to get back to Phoenix and start my driving season. We have had several tests since my last race in Pocono, but it will be good to get back to a race weekend as a driver. We had a great open test at Phoenix in February and I feel very confident heading into this weekend.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury. I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car. I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program. I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough. I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car. Everyone has been super helpful, and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Phoenix is an incredibly fast short oval. The sensation of the speed going through Turns 1 and 2 is very impressive, which means it is quite physical, too, and it’s pulling 5 Gs. The open test we had at track in February feels like such a long time ago and it was both productive and difficult. This track has been a little unkind to me in the past, but the team is preparing the best car. So, I am looking forward to improving the car from where we left off. It will be my first oval race with Andretti Autosport, so I’m excited to go back to Phoenix.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Oberto Beef Jerky Honda): “The Oberto team will be pushing hard this weekend for the first oval race of the season. We’ve had mechanical and electronical issues the last two races, but our pace has been good, and hopefully, we can keep that momentum into this weekend. We had a decent test at Phoenix in February and will look to improve the car even more and go for a win.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “After a strong showing at Phoenix in 2016, we are looking to bring the DHL Honda back and be even more competitive. I’m really looking forward to the first oval race of the season and the lead-up to Indy. It will be a short, compact weekend, so we’ll have to make the most of our time on track, but I am confident we can get the DHL car in excellent shape to run a solid race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): “I’m looking forward to heading back to Phoenix Raceway this weekend. We were strong in qualifying last year, but had issues during the race that didn’t show the pace of the car in the end. Coming off of the Barber race weekend, we’re switching gears to the oval and the unique challenges that come with it. We tested at Phoenix during the offseason, but coming back for the race we have to be ready to adjust quickly with just one practice session to prepare for both qualifying and the race.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): “Looking back on the Phoenix test, I think we made a big improvement from where we were last year, so I am looking forward to getting back there and trying to capitalize on that. It’s going to be interesting with the new format that we have – but that’s the same for everyone. It is going to be a busy, busy Friday. We need to make sure we execute well and come out of the box strong. It’s all about qualifying there, so hopefully we can start up front and have a good race.”

James Hinchcliffe on course during the Phoenix Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

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