Grand Prix Of Indianapolis Preview
As you read this, Susan and I are (hopefully) en route to our second of four weekends at IMS. Practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis was yesterday. After another practice this morning from 11:00 to 11:45 for the Verizon IndyCar Series, qualifying will take place this afternoon at 3:00. Of course, the race for IndyCars will take place tomorrow at 3:50.
But there is going to be non-stop track activity for the next two days. Like at Barber a couple of weeks ago; the Mazda Road to Indy is well represented with US F200, the Mazda Pro Series and the Indy lights presented by Cooper Tires. Between those different series and the Verizon IndyCar Series, there is track activity today from 9:30 until 5:30. Tomorrow starts off with the Indy Lights warm-up at 10:00 and culminating with the finish of the IndyCar race somewhere around 5:45. If you like various forms of open-wheel racing, IMS is the place to be this weekend.
Like most in-person race weekends, I’ll be posting throughout today and tomorrow. With no track activity on Sunday, I will not have anything up here on Sunday – but I’ll have a full recap here on Monday morning. Since I don’t really follow the Mazda Road to Indy, I’ll limit my coverage to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Credit IMS President Doug Boles with creating what is being called a “Track Invasion” after the IndyCar race. That is designed to allow fans to walk on the famous track after the race is over. Susan and I are lucky enough that our credentials get us on the grid on Race Day for the “500”. As many times as I get to get out into the pits and the actual track surface, I still just stand there in awe when I think of the history that has taken place beneath my feet. If you are there tomorrow, I highly recommend that you listen to the little kid inside of you and take advantage of the Track Invasion. I’ll also give Boles a salute for giving fans free admission to the grounds yesterday and allowing free garage access to the fans today during practice. If you don’t own a bronze badge for the month, it would be worth your while to head to the track today just for the garage access.
Susan had to work last year and could not make the Grand Prix weekend, so she will be a rookie for this event. If you plan to go and you didn’t go last year, I’ll tell you what I will tell her: This is a great stand-alone event and judge it on its own. If you try to compare it to the Indianapolis 500, you are doing yourself and the Grand Prix weekend a disservice. It’s completely different in every aspect.
Being different is not bad. This event has one year of history to draw from. The Indianapolis 500 has ninety-nine. If you are expecting the spectacle and pageantry of what you are used to seeing at the end of each May, you’ll go away disappointed. If you go expecting a totally fresh experience at IMS – that’s exactly what you’ll get. It’s a fun weekend and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is debating about going.
I will admit that it takes some getting used to watching IndyCars going in the “wrong” way down the main straightaway. But after a few laps of practice, you get to where you don’t think about it. To me, what was most unnerving was seeing the main lower grandstands along the outside of the main straightaway remain totally empty. They don’t sell tickets there. Instead the tickets sold are mostly at the turns around the track, where most of the action takes place.
Last year, I sat in the Tower Terrace seats just north of the Pagoda. They were doing a standing start, so I decided to film the historic start on my phone. Little did I know that I would end up with a perfect shot of Mikhail Aleshin crashing into the stalled car of Sebastian Saavedra.
That led to about eight laps of caution to start the race. Once they got going, Jack Hawksworth checked out. But a bad pit strategy messed up his day and Simon Pagenaud had the honor of joining Ray Harroun, Jeff Gordon and Michael Schumacher as winners of inaugural events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
One scary moment was when James Hinchcliffe was hit in the head with debris. Although stunned, he had enough presence of mind to pull off into a runoff area. When the Holmatro Safety team go to him, he was very obviously dazed. He was carried off on a stretcher holding his head as his availability for the Indianapolis 500 was in doubt. Fortunately, Hinchcliffe was cleared to drive just before qualifying the next weekend.
I’ll be curious to see if Jack Hawksworth can return to the form he showed in last year’s race, after qualifying on the front row. Although he has appeared racy at times, he has not posted the results everyone was expecting at Foyt this season. His best finish has been eighth in the season-opener at St. Petersburg. Hawksworth is currently seventeenth in points, but is still two spots better than his teammate Takuma Sato. Hawksworth could really stand a good result this weekend.
Last year’s winner, Simon Pagenaud, has moved from Sam Schmidt’s organization to Team Penske and is currently ninth in points. While his Penske teammates sit first, second and fifth respectively. Pagenaud will be in an orange and white DeVilbiss liveried car for the Grand Prix and then a red and white car with Avaya sponsorship for the “500”. Pagenaud is in need of a good finish to keep up with his teammates in the standings.
So who is my pick to win the second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis? It might possibly also end up being my pick for the “500”, but we’ll see about that. It’ll be a Penske driver, but it won’t be Pagenaud. It’ll be the one that just seems to keep getting better and better with age – Helio Castroneves. If so, then Helio will be the points leader heading into qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. We’ll see.
Check back later today. Also, please follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog, or Susan at @MrsOilpressure to get instant updates and photos throughout the weekend.