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Amidst a hail storm of flying carbon fiber debris and to the surprise of many Simon Pagenaud won last year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. SPM wasn’t considered an upper echelon team at the time, though Pags won two races for Schmidt last year and put the team on the map before going to Penske during the off season’s free agent signing of the year. Following Pags’ departure SPM signed Mayor James Hinchcliffe who’d parted ways with Andretti Autosport to fill the Frenchman’s former seat. Hinch was horrifyingly struck in the helmet by debris, concussed and briefly incapacitated during last year’s GP of Indy in an unsettling sequence of events. These two intertwined drivers and teams will figure largely at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.
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Our special prediction for this weekend’s event concerns the greatly increased signage at the Speedway this year. It’s crass commercialism on display. You’ll no doubt notice it immediately upon tuning in, with the gi-normous Angie’s List double banner stretched obstructively across the yard of bricks. We predict the gargantuan eye sore won’t survive through Saturday’s race and will be torn down Bastille-style in a rare instance of race fans rising up at IMS. Note to Mr. Boles: less signage at The Shrine of Motorsport, please.
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For pole winner, we’re forecasting Team Penske to be three quarters in the hunt as Power’s losing streak lengthens. Juan Montoya’s been quick and will edge out Helio and defending winner Pags for top qualifying spot. That is, unless Chevy rival Scott Dixon steals the show in his Target machine, which is a distinct possibility.
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Our vision of who’ll be first out of the race is split between two deserving candidates. JR Hildebrand’s back as part of an expanded pre Indy 500 field and certainly knows the front straight wall well after smacking it on the final turn of the 2011 Indy 500. But our sentimental choice has to be Sebastien Saavedra, whose stall on the pole last year started the carbon fiber fireworks display in spectacular fashion. Fittingly he’ll be first out for Chip Ganassi, though happily with less injurious results – particularly for Mayor Ballard.
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In an attempt to shake things up, we’ve a shock pick for winner of the Indy Grand Prix. In a rare combination, our choice to win is also the biggest surprise of the race. Realizing how badly Hinchcliffe and Schmidt want to beat Penske and Pags this year, they’ll somehow get it done Saturday at the Speedway. Hinch will return to victory lane with his new team despite long odds, dangerous debris and a pronounced Honda disadvantage. In the midst of a string of recent success stories – including Josef Newgarden’s first win at Barber – IndyCar’s good times continue with another upset victory by a small team. Almost unbelievably, Madcap Mayor Hinchcliffe and Sam Schmidt will gavel down the competition to again become the little team that could – this time not in some swamp, but at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.