For the first time in a decade, the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the desert southwest, to race at Phoenix International Raceway. And outside of one test in the off season, many of the drivers in the field on Saturday night have never raced at the unique one-mile oval. High speeds and fast lap times are nearly a guarantee in the Phoenix Grand Prix, but who will emerge to win the race?
Here are your top ten race contenders from our Phoenix Power Rankings:
Juan Pablo Montoya
Team Penske, #2 Verizon Chevy
After winning at St. Petersburg, Juan Pablo Montoya has stolen away all the momentum Chip Ganassi Racing built from their comeback championship run at Sonoma. And with his NASCAR experience at Phoenix, Montoya is likely to be leading the field in the desert this weekend.
Team Penske, #3 REV Group Chevy
Castroneves continued a strong run for Team Penske in fourth at St. Petesburg, further proving that Penske remains on top in IndyCar. One of the most seasoned drivers in the series, Castroneves is a top candidate to win on Saturday night.
Chip Ganassi Racing, #9 Target Chevy
The reigning champ would probably like a do-over after St. Petersburg, where problems on pit road relegated him to a seventh place finish. Look for Dixon to bounce back and prove that any title run goes through Ganassi again in 2016.
After missing the first race of the year with an illness, Power is back and ready to make up the big gap to be able to contend for the championship. He was one of the fastest in testing earlier this year at the track, which never hurts too."
Team Penske, #12 Verizon Chevy
No driver heads into Phoenix with bigger headlines than Will Power. After missing the first race of the year with an illness, Power is back and ready to make up the big gap to be able to contend for the championship. He was one of the fastest in testing earlier this year at the track, which never hurts too.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, #15 Honda
If you’ve ever been caught in rush hour traffic in downtown, then you know how Graham Rahal felt last race in St. Pete. A disappointing 16th place finish after a big crash means Rahal comes in to Phoenix wanting and hunting for a better performance.
Ed Carpenter Racing, #21 Chevy
Could Ed Carpenter Racing bounce back in a big way this weekend after a demoralizing performance in the opening race of the year? Coming home in last place, Newgarden will be joined by owner Carpenter in the race for the two-car effort.
Team Penske, #22 Devilbliss Chevy
From the “close but no cigar” department, Simon Pagenaud is still searching for his first win with Team Penske since joining his team in 2015. His second-place run with the team in Florida was the best so far, though he could’ve certainly taken that one more step up.
Andretti Autosport, #28 DHL Honda
A third place run by Hunter-Reay and squad early in the year means the arrival of Honda back on the scene to contend for wins all throughout the year. Could Andretti Autosport lead the charge to the front?
Andretti Autosport, #27 United Fiber & Data Honda
Looking to bounce back from a forgettable 2015 campaign, Marco Andretti could’ve used a better finish at St. Petersburg. Coming home in 15th after a spin midway through in Turn 1, he’ll hope to recapture some of that oval magic he found in Iowa in 2011, also home to his last win.
KVSH Racing, #11 Hydroxycut Chevy
For a seasoned Formula One and Champ Car driver, Bourdais has found a surprising amount of success on the ovals. With a fourth at Indianapolis last year and his first oval win at Milwaukee, you can no longer count out this driver anywhere.