Random Thoughts on the GMR Grand Prix

It is now Sunday morning as I type this, while I am still in my Indianapolis hotel room. I’ve had a night to ponder what I witnessed on Saturday in the GMR Grand Prix, and I still think it was one of the craziest races I’ve ever seen – much less, been to in person.

For those that were wondering if I saw any of the NBC broadcast, or if I was able to stay dry – the answers are yes and yes. I was out on the grid as the race was about to get underway. I was able to get several good photos as drivers and teams were making last-minute preparations, which I will share throughout this post. I took them with my iPhone camera, since Mrs. Oilpressure was not along on this trip to use her “real” camera and her gifted eye for photos.

I was out there for the invocation and the National Anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner was played on an alto saxophone. It would’ve sounded great in a cocktail lounge, but not sure an outdoor sporting event was the right atmosphere. But as I’ve learned in some of my National Anthem critiques, not everyone shares my taste in what’s appropriate and what’s not. I did find it amusing that even in a solemn moment like the playing of our National Anthem, drivers are not immune to having cameras in their face, as proven by Josef Newgarden and this NBC cameraman. (All photos by George Phillips, Oilpressure.com)


I roamed the grid before and after the National Anthem, in search of some decent photos, and these are what I came up with. I didn’t think it was too bad for someone with a phone, but a traditional camera being held by someone who knows what they are doing would have been a lot better.











What was just the occasional raindrop during the National Anthem, became a sprinkle – and then a steady drizzle. Call me a fair-weather fan, but I decided to leave the grid early in search of shelter. I had a feeling it was about to get worse. It did. I watched the entire race in the IMS Media Center, and yes – we had the NBC feed to watch on an array of monitors that would make the best sports bar jealous. I was able to view the broadcast or glance out the window just to my right and see the expansive main (and wet) straightaway down below me. Yes, there are perks to being a lowly blogger.

I still feel like I need to watch the full replay as soon as I get home, because there was so much going on at the same time – even though I had the luxury of the race commentary going on while I watched. I can’t imagine how lost the loyal fans were that sat through the rain. When you attend a race in person, you’re never quite sure what all is going on – even in a normal dry race. With so many things happening on each lap, like it was Saturday – there is no way anyone out in the stands had a full grasp of what was unfolding in front of them.

IndyCar needs races like this about once per season. I wouldn’t want every race to be like Saturday’s race, because the season would be too chaotic with totally random results. But rain presents the wild card. It throws everyone a curve to sort of level the playing field. If someone had a bad result on Saturday (like Josef Newgarden, Juan Montoya or Kyle Kirkwood), it doesn’t mean that driver can’t drive in the rain – it just means they were a one-time victim of either someone else’s bad driving or the random spin. Juan Montoya drove a spectacular race. He started twenty-third and was running as high sixth late in the race, when the elements finally got him and he crashed hard on Lap 74.

The craziness of Saturday was proven in the results. Three of the Top-Four never made it out of first round qualifying on Friday, including the winner. Colton Herta won the race from the fourteenth starting spot. Simon Pagenaud finished second after starting twentieth, and Marcus Ericsson finished fourth from the eighteenth starting spot. Only pole-sitter Will Power finished in the first four finishing positions – finishing third, while starting first.

I have been to every IndyCar race on the IMS road course that was run in May, many of those races have been duds, but a couple of them have been very exciting. The 2019 race with Simon Pagenaud stalking down Scott Dixon in the rain comes to mind. It seems like rain is the friend to the GMR Grand Prix. Quite honestly, it would suit me fine if it rained for every IMS road course race, so long as Mother Nature gets the rain out of her system for the next two weekends.

TV Coverage: Unlike most races I attend in person, I was able to watch the race on TV, as well as in person. I have not seen any of the replays of practice or qualifying, but I thought the NBC crew did an exceptional job of keeping up with everything that was going on – which was a lot.

The only gaffe I caught was when James Hinchcliffe wondered out loud why the yellow was so prolonged for getting Dalton Kellett out of the tire barrier. That was, in fact, the previous caution. When Hinch said that, they caution period was for the cleanup in Turn One, when teammates Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist got together on Lap 42.

When everything was on hold, due to lightning prior to the race, I was also able to catch about half of The Club, the very well-done special on the four-time winners. What I could tell between interruptions in the Media Center was that it was definitely worth watching. I’m glad I set my DVR before I left. It will be the first thing I watch when I get home.

Decisions, Decisions: There were a lot of gambles on Saturday; whether to switch to slicks after the mandated start on wet tires, and when. Then, if and when it might be the best time to switch back to wets. I will not fault anyone for making the decisions that they did. No one knew what the weather was going to do, or when it was going to do it. Quite honestly, when Alexander Rossi made the move to go back to wets on Lap 41 – I thought it was the right call. That shows how much I know and why I won’t criticize anyone’s decisions.

I also thought that Herta went to the slicks too soon. He proved me wrong with some of the quickest hands in a cockpit I’ve ever seen. There is no way he should have saved the car that got out of control in Turn Eight on Lap Four. As Leigh Diffey said – “That was a crash that didn’t happen”.

Gambles like we saw Saturday made that race so fascinating. When you thought someone was totally out of contention, they end up making the right tire call, and they were suddenly running up front.

The Aero Screen: We are now in our third season with the aero screen, and it is still a source of controversy. Some drivers are reluctant to speak out against it, while others don’t mind being vocal at all. Mainstream writers and lowly bloggers like myself also feel the sting of outrage whenever we suggest it might still be a work in progress. Just because someone does not speak glowingly of the aero screen does not mean that they enjoy watching drivers die.

With that being said, Saturday was the first true test for the aero screen in rain. From what I can tell, reactions from the drivers were mixed. Will Power said he didn’t have much trouble at all with visibility. Simon Pagenaud said that he learned to compensate by picking his own reference points for breaking in his side view, because visibility was so poor looking straight ahead. Pagenaud also suggested a wiper, but I’m not quite sure how that would work.

Conor Daly was the most vocal in his criticism of the aero screen. “I’ve never seen anything like it” were the first words out of his mouth, when asked of his impression of the aero screen in the rain. He went on to say “It was like the water just stayed in the center of the screen, and I don’t know why, but even as you went faster, which you would hope it would clear, it didn’t”. Daly also admitted that Jay Frye hates it when he criticizes the aero screen. Maybe Frye hates it, but fans appreciate honesty from drivers that don’t always tow the company line.

Personally, I’ve gotten used to the aero screen. I no longer even pay attention to the ugliness of the straight-on view. I also acknowledge that it has prevented severe injury, if not deaths, in its two-plus seasons on the car. But I think some of the comments we heard on Saturday, indicate that there is still some work to be done to account for rain.

The Crowd: As I said earlier, I have been to every one of these races in May. Despite the threatening weather, I thought that Saturday’s crowd was one of the best crowds I’ve seen at this race, except for maybe the inaugural race in 2014, when everyone was curious about the new event. I shot this photo around 2:00 pm Saturday – about an hour before the scheduled start, as the initial round of bad weather was approaching from the northwest.


I think Friday’s crowd was the best I’ve seen for Friday at this race. I’ve seen previous Fridays where the Speedway looked like a ghost town, and some of the signage for the remainder of the month was still being put up. That was not the case this past Friday, when the facility seemed to sparkle and was bustling with people that came out to enjoy the sunshine and 86° temperatures – along with a full day of track activity.

Honda’s First: After winning last year’s Indianapolis 500, the pole for the 500 and the IndyCar championship – it would have been easy to assume that Honda would pick up where it left off. But 2022 has been a struggle for Honda. Going into Saturday’s race, Honda had one pole and no wins. While Chevy won the pole on Friday, Honda finally found Victory Lane on Saturday with a one-two finish.

Drive of the Day: I tend to go with someone who did not win the race for the Drive of the Day. It’s hard to argue against Colton Herta starting fourteenth and winning the race in such extreme conditions; having a career save along the way. But since he did win the race, I will go with Simon Pagenaud – who started twentieth and finished second.

All in All: Saturday’s race would make even the most skeptical IndyCar hater admit that they had just watched a very entertaining race. Would I want something like that every race? Absolutely not. But rain helped shuffle the deck as many title contenders found themselves facing the wrong way, at least once on Saturday.

Consequently, we have a new points leader heading into practice for the Indianapolis 500. In fact, he is our fourth point leader after five races in 2022. After St. Petersburg, it was Scott McLaughlin leading the points. After wins at Texas and Long Beach, Josef Newgarden sat atop the points. When the series left Barber Motorsports Park, Alex Palou assumed the spot where he finished last season. Now, a reinvented and consistent Will Power leads the points. Power has not finished lower than fourth in any race this season. I have an idea he may leave Indianapolis in a couple of weeks still in that position. I’m not saying he wins the Indianapolis 500, but he will most likely do well.

I will load this up to drop in on Monday morning, and then head to the track to do a little gift shopping at the museum before heading home. I have to be at work Monday morning. But our plan (for now) is for Susan and I to drive back up on Thursday, to catch a practice day and be on-hand for all of Fast Friday before taking in two days of qualifying over the weekend. There is nothing like the Month of May!

George Phillips

10 Responses to “Random Thoughts on the GMR Grand Prix”

  1. I believe it was a soprano saxophone used for the national anthem. I didn’t get a great look at it to confirm, but the tiny mouthpiece is usually a giveaway (not to mention the tone).

  2. S0CSeven Says:

    My race ended at lap 50 when NBC left to cover the shooting of those poor folks in Buffalo.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I have to admit that I got a bit weary of incidents, and how frequently they were occurring, during the final third of the race. That said, it was mostly entertaining and its unpredictability was always compelling. I am glad that Herta did not fall victim to a fluke or small but ill-timed mistake, as he earned the win through both strategy and clearly displayed driving skill.

  4. Mark Wick Says:

    I was amazed when the replay of Colton’s slide was shown during the telecast that neither of the experienced drivers noted the obvious reason that he didn’t go completely around. Just at the point the car was going to swap ends, the left rear tire hit a dry patch on the road, got traction and stopped the rotation. Then the left front also hit the dry patch and caught, and this was right where the track was making a hard right hand bend, so he was now pointed the same direction as the track. I am not saying he didn’t handle the situation well, but had that dry patch not been exactly where it was, he would have spun.

  5. I didn’t get a chance to turn in to Peacock after the race right away. Was there ever a post race show? I checked again yesterday and nothing post race but the highlights were up

    • Brandon Wright Says:

      The post race show was tacked on to the end of the broadcast and wasn’t a standalone episode. So if you want to see it just fast forward through the race to the last half hour or so.

  6. George,

    The Sax National Anthem was a breath of fresh air and a great vs the great singers who try and fail at their own rendition of the anthem.

    As for the race, can we just have Hinch and Bell in the booth! Diffy just doesn’t do it! The tone of his voice along with his lack of or connection to the sport detracts from each and every broadcast!

    The race it self was a blast to watch from the couch. The difference in strategy was fun to watch and the bravery exhibited by the young guns of the sport makes me smile knowing that the future of IndyCar is bright!

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