GMR Grand Prix Preview

Round Two of the NTT IndyCar Series will take place tomorrow on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the seventh running of the GMR Grand Prix. Originally scheduled for May 9, this was to be a racing fan’s delight as it was rescheduled for the Fourth of July in conjunction with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and the Xfinity Series, which had already planned to run the road course this year.

Enthusiasm was dampened when it was announced on June 4 that the historic IndyCar/NASCAR double-header would run with no fans. I was hopeful that some IndyCar media might be included (meaning me), but that did not happen. So for the first time since the inception of this event, I will be watching from home.

This was never my favorite race in the world. In fact, if it didn’t take place at IMS and serve as a kickoff for the Month of May, it probably would not be in our rotation of races to attend.

Last year’s race may have been the most thrilling, to watch Simon Pagenaud charge through the field in the rain and dispose of each rival one at a time on his way to the win. It was the beginning of a feel-good Month of May for Pagenaud, who had gone twenty-one races without a win. Truth be told, Pagenaud was in a must-win situation with Team Penske or he may have been out of a ride at the end of the season. Pagenaud continued his great month by winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 the following weekend, before completing his May sweep by winning the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

The first year of this event will be best remembered for the start. That was in 2014, when IndyCar was experimenting with Formula One-style standing starts. Through something of a fluke in qualifying Sebastian Saavedra ended up on the pole. With the entire field behind him, he stalled his car at the start. It appeared that all the cars would be able to get by him, but he got clipped by Carlos Muñoz and then nailed by Mikhail Aleshin. There was carbon fiber carnage all over the main straightaway. Standing starts were never attempted for this event again. Simon Pagenaud won the inaugural Grand Prix at Indianapolis, while driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Since that initial race, the wins have been bounced back and forth between Pagenaud and Will Power. The following year, Pagenaud joined Team Penske, but it was Power that won the event for Penske. The two drivers alternated winning until 2018, when Will Power broke the pattern and won for a second time in a row. It looked as if Scott Dixon may crash their exclusive fraternity last year, but Pagenaud had other ideas and kept the trophy between him and Power.

Unlike Texas, it looks as if teams will be able to practice and qualify today and then look at data overnight to make adjustments for the morning warm-up and then the race at Noon EDT on (Big) NBC on Saturday.

A couple of drivers will be making their season debut, with one of those teams making their IndyCar debut. Dreyer & Reinbold will make their first non-Indianapolis 500 debut, since Oriol Servia drove for them at São Paulo in 2013. As he has since 2016, Sage Karam will be behind the wheel for the team that is trying to extend beyond the "500" in their schedule. If you’ll recall, they were to race at St. Petersburg before that race was postponed just hours before the first practice back in March. This will be the first GMR Grand Prix for both driver and team. Spencer Pigot will be making his fifth start in a row at the GMR Grand Prix, but his team will be making their inaugural run. Citrone/Buhl Autosport has aligned themselves with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. I’m hopeful that both drivers can have successful outings this weekend, but my expectations are low for both, simply due to inexperience of the teams, not the drivers.

It would be fun to think that another driver might break the Power-Pagenaud cycle, but I don’t see it happening. I think Will Power has a lot to prove, since he was the one Team Penske driver that had a really poor showing, finishing thirteenth after a botched pit stop. With three wins apiece and Pagenaud having won the last one, I say that Will Power will redeem himself for Texas and he will win tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix at IMS.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “GMR Grand Prix Preview”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    I hope to see the Andretti guys get off the mat and challenge the Penske-Ganassi machines.

  2. Shyam Cherupalla Says:

    Standing starts were abandoned since then, i think Indy should introduce standing starts atleast in all Road courses, yet another feature to show difference from other series and adds variety for drivers to get good at

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