This Weekend in Auto Racing (May 15th, 2021)

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Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

IndyCar - Indianapolis Grand Prix
Saturday, May 15th - 2:00 p.m. ET - NBC - Streaming
on the NBC Sports app

IndyCar's Month of May is here. The Indianapolis Grand Prix on the track's infield road course is a young tradition, but it has been tradition long enough that there is some pattern to it. Racing at Indianapolis now opens with a wholly unrelated race, before preparations for the 500 takes over the oval for the next two weeks starting tomorrow.

The headline of the day is the shocking qualifying performance of Romain Grosjean. The former Haas and Lotus F1 driver was by no means slow in his first two races of the year, but he had been a clear step behind both the contenders of the field and fellow rookie Scott McLaughlin. This was not so yesterday, and, in a qualifying session where giants like Will Power, Scott Dixon, and Patricio O'Ward missed the Fast Twelve cut-off, he and his Dale Coyne Racing team found themselves in a perfect position to capitalize. The pole is Grosjean's first in an IndyCar, and it comes in just his third career race.

The sheer depth of this field means that contenders will often miss the group qualifying cut-off. However, it is very rare that so many would at once. Power, Dixon, and O'Ward are all serious heavy hitters, and all will be asked to climb through the field as quickly as possible to retain their healthy position in the championship fight. All missed somewhat on both setup and tire strategy yesterday, and all will need to find speed in-race if they plan to fight Grosjean and the leaders up front.

NASCAR - Dover International Raceway
Sunday, May 16th - 2:00 p.m. ET - Fox Sports 1 - Streaming
on the FOX Sports app

After a dominant performance last weekend, Martin Truex Jr. heads into Dover with a chance to come away with three more wins than any other driver in the field. Yes, Denny Hamlin has the dominant championship lead, but it is Truex turning that Joe Gibbs Racing pace into consistent wins, and this championship format is skewed in a way that would allow Truex to enter the playoffs with a dominant lead even if Hamlin is two full races worth of points ahead before the reset.

He cannot let up now. Truex has finished first or second in his last four races at Dover, and another finish in the top two would be an overwhelming success. This championship format rewards stretches of regular season dominance far more than it rewards consistent strength, so Truex can actually create something close to the dominant season someone like Kevin Harvick had entering the playoffs last year without actually having to worry about strong non-top-five finishes the rest of the year.

IMSA - Mid-Ohio
Sunday, May 16th - 2:30 p.m. ET - NBC Sports Network - Streaming
on the NBC Sports app

Believe it or not, the IMSA season that began in January is in just its third event. The sprint portion of the IMSA calendar is now underway, and it starts with the classic natural terrain road course at Mid-Ohio.

As this is a non-endurance round, this is also the first IMSA race of the season without a few cars that had become important contenders in the early races. In DPi, the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express Racing is back on the shelf until the six hour race at Watkins Glen. That leaves six cars, representing six separate teams, in the league's top class chasing both wins and championship position this weekend. The three Cadillacs, two Acuras, and one Mazda should be fairly evenly balanced, but the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Mazda programs will be the most hungry. For CGR, a new-for-2021 program, the first two races of the season represented failures to capitalize on overwhelming speed. For Mazda, a program set to shut down at the end of the season, Mid-Ohio represents one of precious few remaining chances to gather wins in an attempt to send out their RT24-P with an IMSA championship.

Corvette Racing will not have such concerns in GTLM. That class, also closing, is now down to just three cars for the full season after BMW's announcement last season that their M8 GTEs will contest only the endurance rounds. Two of the remaining cars are the Corvette C8.Rs that dominated so much of last season, leaving the sole privately-entered Porsche badly outmatched on paper.

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