The Inaugural Grand Prix Of Indianapolis
As most of you read this, I should be on my way to IMS for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. This is my first of three trips from Nashville to Indianapolis over as many weekends. This will also be my one weekend of going alone. Susan was told she could not get off three weekends in a row, so she sacrificed this weekend instead of the next two.
A few years ago, I wrote an article on things that would never happen at IMS. This race was one of them, which shows how much I know. I never thought I would see the day that IndyCars ran on the old Formula One road course on the infield at IMS. When it became more than just an obscure idea, I thought it would be a fall race – so that it would not detract from the Indianapolis 500. So much for my expertise.
When they announced in the fall that there would be an IndyCar road course race and that it would happen this weekend, I had mixed emotions. As most know, I’m a traditionalist that despises change of any sort. But as we closed in on the Month of May, I came around and actually warmed up to the idea to the point that I have actually embraced it. I truly believe that it will enhance the Month of May and will not take away from the “500”.
The other night on Trackside, I heard Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee talking about the Grand Prix saying that they saw the crowd for this weekend to be more of a local crowd, while the “500” two weeks from now will feature both local and far-away guests – as it has for decades. That makes sense. Tickets for the Grand Prix begin at $25. You can’t get inside the grounds for the Indianapolis 500 for under $40. There will probably be many locals that seldom get to go to the “500” either due to costs or Memorial Day commitments that may decide this is a good alternative.
When they held the open test on the road course last week, the drivers raved about how great it was. I have no doubt that the changes they made over the winter made a huge improvement in the previously underwhelming track, but I had a hard time determining how much of the praise was genuine and how much was toeing the company line. I suppose we’ll find out this weekend just how racy the new configuration is. Having the DW12 on the track instead of the old Dallara should be a big help to putting on a good show.
Give credit to IMS officials. They have created a fan-friendly atmosphere for the Grand Prix that may not be as relaxed for the “500”. For example, fans that purchase the Bronze Badge (still the best deal in sports) will be allowed to take a pre-race Grid Walk prior to the Grand Prix. That won’t happen for the “500”, I’ll promise you that.
There are some problems associated with having an additional race in May. I’ve heard some sponsors will not even attempt to bring guests in for the Grand Prix weekend; simply due to the fact that no matter how many times they’re told – guests will not understand that the race this weekend is not the Indianapolis 500. Once they get there, they’ll be disappointed. That’s not a good feeling for a good customer or potential client to go home with. Even worse, they’ll realize that this is considered a secondary weekend and the big weekend that they were not invited for is two weeks from now. There’s nothing like making a prospective client feel that they couldn’t make the cut for the big weekend. Although it’s an unfortunate and unusual circumstance, I completely understand if sponsors choose not to entertain this weekend.
What I don’t understand are the reports I hear of the confusion of the residents of central Indiana. If my soon-to-be ninety year-old mother who lives two hours further away from Indianapolis than I do understands the difference in the two races this month, why are those that live in the shadows of the SE Vista so confused? I don’t think it’s because Doug Boles and his staff have been trying to keep it a secret. Have the local news outlets been hiding it from the public? It baffles me that the local casual race fans can’t grasp the concept that a second race has been added – and it’s not Formula One.
I live in the county music capital of the world. I am a casual fan of country music, at best. But I certainly know what’s going on in the world of country music, just so I can be conversant on the subject with my friends that are. I am also very aware of when there has been a change made to the various music festivals that go on throughout the year – if for no other reason, so I can know when to avoid downtown. It seems to me that there has been either some strange disconnect among the fans of Indianapolis, or that this confusion has been greatly exaggerated. I’m hoping it’s the latter. If it’s the former, I don’t think it has been due to lack of promotion.
Despite those recent reports of confusion, I think ticket sales have exceeded what they originally projected – although I think they were intentionally modest with their expectations. People are curious and want to go. That’s why I’m going. If it’s a big success, I want to say I was there for the first one. If it’s a massive flop, I’d like to say I was there for the only one.
I’ll be curious to see what the buzz is like when I get there. Until the rains came on Sunday, the last race at Barber had a buzz you could feel throughout the entire weekend. It’s a shame the rain put a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm. Considering I left Nashville on central time, I lose an hour – so I will probably not make it for the morning Verizon IndyCar practice. But I’ll be milling about when US F200, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights are all having their respective qualifying sessions. I should be able to get a feel for the crowd in that time, before IndyCar qualifying at 2:00 this afternoon.
Speaking of rain – it is definitely in the forecast. Today appears to be the worst day of the weekend, but there is a good chance of rain tomorrow for the race. It doesn’t matter – that’s why they have rain tires. I never thought I’d see IndyCars making rooster-tails at IMS, but times change. What’s most important is that the rain is out of the area on Sunday. That’s when practice opens on the oval for the Indianapolis 500. I’m sticking around through the entire day of practice on Sunday, before heading back home Sunday night.
I will put up another post shortly after I get there late this morning. As usual, I’ll be posting here throughout the weekend – each of the next three weekends. Please follow me here throughout the weekend for pictures, some news and my semi-valued opinion. You may also follow me on Twitter (@Oilpressureblog) for more instant pictures.
The Month of May begins! Check back later.