Grand Prix Of Indianapolis Preview

By the time you read this, I’m hoping Susan and I will be on I-65 headed north to Indianapolis. I use the word “hoping” because sometimes my wife doesn’t feel the urgency to get on the road that I do. The plan was to be on the road by 6:00 this morning. Counting the fact that we lose an hour with the time change, that puts us at IMS a little after 11:00 am EDT. Unfortunately, a 6:00 estimated departure time sometimes ends up actually being delayed by a couple of hours.

Don’t tell her, but I really kind of liked it when we had two cars at Barber, due to her working in Alabama all of that week. I was able to leave Nashville on time and leave the hotel each morning when I wanted to. I think she liked it too, which may have explained how we got along so well that weekend.

But this weekend, and the next two, we are riding together. Let’s just hope we are actually en route by the time you’re reading this.

Whenever we get there, it won’t be two soon. We’ll be starting the first of three consecutive weekends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today and tomorrow will be the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Next weekend is Qualifying weekend for the Indianapolis 500. Then of course, the third weekend is the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

As usual for race weekends we attend in person, we’ll be posting here throughout the weekend. Also follow us on twitter for instantaneous photos and comments. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog and Susan at @MrsOilpressure.

It’s not the traditional Month of May I grew up with, but few things are the same as they were when I was a kid. Sure, it would be nice if cars were on-track from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm every day starting May1, but that’s simply no longer feasible in today’s world. People have way too many entertainment choices. Granted, if I lived within fifty miles of the track, I’d be playing hooky every day in May just to sit there and watch cars go around – all day every day. But I also realize that not everyone gets the same thrill from that experience as I do.

So now, we have a revamped Month of May. With ideal weather, there are now only five practice days in the month, before two days of qualifying. With everyone driving essentially the same chassis and the use of computer modeling, there is no real need to have weeks of testing at the track. Everyone pretty well knows what they’ve got, so it doesn’t really make sense for teams to spend the money it takes to put a car on the track just for one afternoon of testing. Does that mean I like it? No, but I certainly understand it.

With that in mind, I applaud the powers-that-be for creating a new reason for fans to go to the track in mid-May – The Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Remember – this race is run on Saturday, not Sunday. The ABC broadcast starts at 3:30 EDT.

To be brutally honest, this is not a great race. Nor is the IMS road course a great track. There are no elevation changes and very few passing zones. If this same layout was to be used at a facility in any other city, I seriously doubt that we would go. But it is only a four hour drive from Nashville and it happens to take place at my favorite place in the world – so of course we’re going.

But to say we’re going strictly for the racing would be a lie. We’re going to expand our whole Indianapolis experience for another weekend. It’s another chance to do all the things we like to do and can only do in May.

As far as the race goes, even after years of watching Formula One at IMS, then attending the previous two IndyCar Grand Prix races there – it’s still unsettling to watch the cars run “backwards” for the Grand Prix. I know road courses are traditionally right-handed, but I wish they would try running the race just once where the cars are travelling north to south on the main straightaway; as they do in the Indianapolis 500. I don’t know if that would add to any excitement, but it sure couldn’t hurt.

If they ever do, it certainly won’t be this year. This year will use the same configuration as the last two – funneling into the road course Turn One and bypassing the oval Turn One to snake through the section built for the now departed Moto GP race.

In this configuration, the Grand Prix will be 82-laps on the 14-turn, 2.439 clockwise road course, resulting in a 200-mile event. Last year’s winner, Will Power started on the pole and led sixty-five of the eighty-two laps to win a bit of a snoozer. The inaugural event in 2014, saw Simon Pagenaud win while driving for Sam Schmidt. Pagenaud started fourth and was able to clear the chaos caused by the stalled Sebastian Saavedra on the pole. Pagenaud led only six laps, but won comfortably over Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Except for the disastrous start, the first race was a much better race than last year’s. Maybe the first year was more interesting because qualifying was affected by rain, putting some of the better cars near the back. Last year, the pole sitter won, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t action behind the leader. Graham Rahal started seventeenth in 2015, but finished second. Charlie Kimball started fourteenth and finished fifth, and Takuma Sato finished ninth after starting twenty-second.

Just as last year, there will be twenty-five cars in tomorrow’s race. Along with the full-time entries, there will be cars fielded for Spencer Pigot (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), JR Hildebrand (Ed Carpenter Racing), Alex Tagliani (AJ Foyt Enterprises) and Matt Brabham (Pirtek in association with KVSH).

So who will win Saturday? I don’t see a need to go out on a limb with this race. The race winner will extend his points lead over second place. He will also run his win streak to three in a row. Who am I talking about? The winner of the Inaugural race – Simon Pagenaud.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “Grand Prix Of Indianapolis Preview”

  1. Hopefully you are on the road now!

    One thing I disagree with, I don’t ever want to see an Indycar cross the yard of bricks in a counter-clockwise fashion for any race other than the 500!

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    I am happy to see Gabby Chavez back in a car.

  3. From the practice results it looks like Graham Rahal and his “Steak n Shake” team know how to get the Honda package up to speed. Frankly, they were very impressive last month in Birmingham and showed a lot of grit. For this year’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis I am going with Graham Rahal and the “Steak n Shake” team. I also believe that they will have a terrific “Month of May!”

  4. billytheskink Says:

    So, is the “new” Honda motor breaking cover this weekend? That could make things interesting.

    Safe travels, y’all.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I believe everyone will have one except Gabby and Hinch (not enough mileage on their existing engines per CC)

  5. Kevin_K Says:

    I think this will be a Penske show, though I also think it will still be a good race. This season could well be a 1994-like season; where Penske simply dominates almost everywhere.

    Remember, in 1994 of the 16 races only 4 (Australia, Michigan, Toronto, Road America) were won by non-Penske drivers.

  6. Yeah if Penske and Ganassi win all the Pre-Indy 500 races that’s not a good thing

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