Grand Prix Preview

And so it begins. Today starts of our Month of May activities in Indianapolis. As most of you read this, I am on my way to Indianapolis this morning for the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Unfortunately, Susan will not be joining me this weekend. She is feeling much better after not feeling well at all at Barber, but she is sitting this one out. She still does a lot of cake decorating for a local specialty bakery in Nashville. With this being wedding and graduation season, May is always tough for her – especially with Barber running so late this season.

Of the seven Grand Prix that have taken place that allowed fans, I’d say she has missed probably three of them for various reasons – kid’s graduation, etc. I am pretty confident she’ll be joining me for Qualifying weekend, but with her still-low stamina from chemo a year ago and everything else she has going on, she thought it wise to rest up and save herself for the next two weekends. I agree.

There is some debate whether the race run on the NASCAR weekend over July 4, 2020 was considered the GMR Grand Prix. For the record, I consider that the makeup of the Grand Prix that did not run in May of that year, due to COVID. So while some say there have been only seven races run as the GMR Grand Prix, I say there were eight. I do not count those run later in the season these last couple of years. Those are separate events.

I actually do like this weekend. It’s a race weekend that’s kind of condensed into two days. There is always track activity going on for Friday and Saturday. Yet with all of the activity, it is a very laid back weekend for IMS. It’s a good weekend to check out the museum and the gift shops. I also always use the Grand Prix weekend to scout out the stands that sell the Classic Jumbo Tenderloins, since those select stands seem to move around from year to year. I wouldn’t want it every race weekend, but it’s a little different this being a Saturday race. It makes for a relaxing drive back home on Sunday.

While some view this weekend as nothing more than an appetizer for the rest of the Month of May, this is a full points-paying race, as much as Long Beach or Barber. Teams that are looking ahead to the Indianapolis 500 and ignoring this race will probably regret it at the end of the season. While we would all like to be speculating on the pole speed for next weekend, there is a race to be run this weekend.

The GMR Grand Prix has been around long enough to see some trends. We know Team Penske does very well, winning five out eight. We also know that Simon Pagenaud performs well on this track, having won three times and scoring two more podiums and a fourth-place finish. That’s not a bad record in eight starts.

Will Power also performs well at this track. Aside from two GMR Grand Prix victories, he also won the two late-season races on the IMS road course in 2020-21.

Just because someone hasn’t won on this track, doesn’t mean they can’t. Since the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama a couple of weeks ago, most people have been talking about the feud that is brewing between Graham Rahal and Romain Grosjean. Since he came here at the start of last season, I have been a big Grosjean fan. In this incident, However, I completely side with Graham Rahal. Either the second time that Grosjean drove into Rahal was completely intentional; or he is such a bad driver that he doesn’t belong in a race car. I tend to think it’s the former.

We may be in for some interesting fireworks between the two this weekend, because they both tend to do well on this course, although Rahal’s sample-size is much bigger than Grosjean’s, there is no question that Grosjean does very well on the IMS road course. He won the pole at this race a year ago, and finished second to Rinus VeeKay. In August, he qualified third and finished second again. That’s about as strong as you can be without winning.

Rahal has a good track record on the IMS road course, but has yet to win there. Since 2015, Rahal has strung together finishes of second, fourth, sixth, ninth, ninth and fifth. He also has finished seventh in the two late-season races the past two years.

I think both drivers will qualify well and we will see them battle throughout the day on Saturday.

Graham Rahal is not the only driver from his team. This is one of the best tracks in Jack Harvey’s brief IndyCar career. He was a surprise podium finisher in 2019, but he has two sixth-place finishes in the late races the past two years. This is also the site of Christian Lundgaard’s IndyCar debut last August, where he qualified fourth and finished twelfth. I’ll be interested to see how he does the first time driving on a track for the second time.

Points leader Alex Palou has a mixed record at this track. In his first IndyCar season in 2020 while with Dale Coyne, Palou finished nineteenth and seventeenth on the IMS road course. Last year with Chip Ganassi, Palou finished third in the GMR Grand Prix, but twenty-seventh in the August race. He has been a model of consistency almost everywhere he’s been, but this place seems like it might be the Spaniard’s Achilles Heel. I’ll be interested to see how he does this weekend.

Last year, youth was served on the GMR Grand Prix podium as two second-year drivers and a rookie stood on the podium (although the rookie was thirty-five year-old Grosjean). I’m not going to predict the podium, but my prediction is that Romain Grosjean overcomes his current bad vibes and finally breaks through for his first IndyCar win, and Andretti Autosport their first win of the season, and their first-ever win on the IMS road course.

I mentioned a compressed schedule. Today is very compressed. The NTT IndyCar Series will have its first practice of the weekend this morning at 9:30 EDT, while I’ll still be driving up. Practice Two will be this afternoon at 12:45 EDT. Qualifying will begin at 4:00 this afternoon. All Friday track activity will be shown exclusively on Peacock. The morning warm-up on Saturday morning takes place at 10:30, and will also be shown on Peacock. Then the race itself gets underway with a 3:20 EDT green flag, with coverage on Big NBC.

I will be posting throughout the abbreviated race weekend – on Friday and Saturday. I will follow up with my usual Random Thoughts post on Monday. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog. Please check back later this morning.

George Phillips

One Response to “Grand Prix Preview”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Have a great weekend, George. While this race has been traditionally been dominated by a handful of Penske drivers, it has put some unexpected faces toward the front in both qualifying and the race. Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Jordan King, Matheus Leist, Oliver Askew all had their best starts or finishes at the Indy GP. Charlie Kimball scored three consecutive 5th place finishes in the race. I was skeptical when they started running it, but it has become a solid and fun addition to the calendar and a good way to fill the schedule in May.

    And of course the July 2020 race was a GMR Grand Prix. It was quite literally called the “GMR Grand Prix”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: