Brickyard IndyCar Preview

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Update: I had the following post all written up and ready to drop in this morning, explaining how I would be going up to IMS by myself this morning (I sometimes write these a few nights ahead). In that original post, I casually mentioned that Susan is a little under the weather, and she would sit this one out to rest up for next weekend’s Music City Grand Prix.

In all honesty, things regarding her health have been a lot more serious than that around here all month. Susan went to a follow-up appointment on the morning of July 5th. Her blood work was so bad, and she was so weak – they admitted her into the hospital immediately. She hasn’t been home since.

Susan has had some very successful procedures on her liver in that time, one of which assured the doctors that they had found and fixed the root of her problem. But she had a bad reaction to anesthesia and with an impaired liver, it took her almost a week to come around mentally. The good news is that there is still no sign of any recurrence of her cancer. These issues are all related to the autoimmune disorder that was found in February.

Ultimately she went about ten days without getting out of bed, and she’s lost muscle control to the extent she can no longer walk. Last Friday her other conditions, besides walking, had improved enough that she was discharged to a physical therapy rehab center.

As of Tuesday night, things were going great. She was alert, enthusiastic and enjoying her rehab. She had already made great progress in a matter of days. She knew she could not go this weekend, but her goal was to get out in time for the Nashville race next weekend. On Tuesday night, we both saw that as a real possibility.

But things went terribly wrong on Wednesday. When I talked to her on my way to work that morning, she was exceedingly grumpy. At lunchtime we talked and she sounded confused. When I saw her Wednesday night after work, she was not even the same person I had seen twenty-four hours earlier.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way to a meeting in Clarksville, TN when I got a call from her rehab center. She had a fever, she was very confused and her lab work showed she had an infection and also needed a blood transfusion. Since they were not equipped to handle such things, they sent her back to the hospital. When I arrived from Clarksville, she was already in the ER; confused, disoriented and looking frail.

I would not feel comfortable leaving her now. So, unfortunately, I will not be making the trip to IMS this weekend. I am typing this updated section on my phone Thursday night, while sitting in the ER as Susan sleeps; while waiting for her to be transferred to her room. Rather than trying to weave corrections throughout the post, I decided to simply add this update ahead of the existing post. Just know when you read about me going to the race, Charlie Brown’s and Dawson’s – those were the plans, but plans sometimes change at the last minute. Please continue to keep Susan in your prayers. And now, the original post…

And just like that, it’s time to go back to Indianapolis. The 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was run just two months ago today, and it’s already time for another IndyCar race at IMS – the Gallagher Grand Prix on the IMS road course, as part of the Brickyard IndyCar/NASCAR Double-Header.

If you are reading this on early Friday morning, I am on my way to Indianapolis. Susan is under the weather this weekend, but she is trying to get herself ready for the Music City Grand Prix next weekend. She has had a rough summer, but she is now improving. So, I am flying solo this weekend.

I will miss the Friday morning practice. It starts at 8:30 am local time, and I live in the Central Time Zone. That means I would have to leave before 3:00 am my time to make it up there. I’m a fan, but I’m not doing that. As it is, I’ll be leaving around 5:00 am, which will put me at IMS around 10:30 am if I have no traffic delays. That will get me there way ahead of IndyCar Qualifying at 1:00 pm on Friday. Immediately after Saturday’s IndyCar race is over, I plan on heading back to Nashville. I won’t stick around for Saturday’s Xfinity race or Sunday’s Cup race. I should be home before dark Saturday night.

When we attended this race last year, I was shocked at how the NTT IndyCar Series was relegated to the lowest status of the weekend. The Gasoline Alley garages that have housed Indy cars since I’ve been going to this track, were filled with NASCAR Cup cars. The Xfinity cars were tucked away in the old Formula One garages just behind the south end of the pits. Where were the Indy cars? They were operating under tents and awnings in the museum and hospitality parking lots.

It was quite depressing to witness, but when I wrote about it – most of you thought I was overreacting. Now that I’ve had a year to get used to it, I still don’t like it – but at least I know what to expect.

Still, it is always good to have a really good reason to go to IMS. Whenever we leave the grounds for the last time in May, it was always an empty feeling knowing that it would be a whole year before we returned to the hallowed grounds. The last two Mays, we left knowing we’d be back in a couple of months.

This race was run the second weekend in August last year, and it had a surreal feel to it. The sun shines differently in mid-August than it does in May. Plus, this is actually considered a NASCAR weekend, meaning that the media has to follow NASCAR protocols, which are sometimes different than IndyCar – especially the way they handled COVID protocol last year. I almost felt like an interloper at the track that is the reason IndyCar exists.

All those things aside, we enjoyed this weekend last year. It had the same low-key feel that the GMR GP has. It is sort of an anti-climactic “after the 500” weekend. Last year, I did get to eat a tenderloin at the track, and of course went to Dawson’s after leaving the track. Last year, we stopped at the famous Edinburg Diner for one of their giant tenderloins. This year, they are closed for vacation; so that won’t be happening.

But Dawson’s and Charlie Brown’s will both be open for business and I plan on hitting both spots with my good friend Paul Dalbey from Fieldof33.com. With Trackside going nightly all of this week, and Beyond the Bricks with Jake Query and Mike Thomsen resurfacing every night this week – it’s almost a mini Month of May in late summer. Who can complain about that?

As far as the race itself, those still in contention for the championship can either hurt themselves this weekend or make great strides. I now consider this championship to be a six-way battle. Only forty-four points separate points-leader Marcus Ericsson and sixth-place Alex Palou. Three of the six drivers still in the championship hunt have won on the IMS road course; Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Will Power. Dixon and Newgarden have each won once on this track; while Will Power has won an astonishing five times on the fourteen-turn road course that incorporates about a third of the famous oval.

Other winners in this weekend’s field include Simon Pagenaud (three wins), Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta. For what it’s worth, David Malukas and Jack Harvey each won an Indy Lights race here in 2021 and 2015 respectively, while Kyle Kirkwood won a US F2000 race at the IMS road course in 2018.

Counting the GMR Grand Prix, the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix of 2020 and this IndyCar/NASCAR double-header – this will be the thirteenth IndyCar race contested on the IMS road course, since the original Grand Prix in May of 2014. This is not a track where young drivers usually excel. The exception to that is when second-year driver Rinus VeeKay won the GMR Grand Prix in May of 2021.

Romain Grosjean bears watching this weekend. He has raced the IMS road course three times, twice with Dale Coyne and once with Andretti Autosport. He earned a podium both times with Coyne, but finished seventeenth this past May with Andretti. I suspect he will do well again this weekend, but probably won’t get a podium finish.

Another driver to watch is points-leader Marcus Ericsson. He has five Top-Ten finishes in a row on the IMS road course, including a fourth-place finish just this past May. But he won’t win this weekend, and he may leave IMS no longer in the points lead. One person I don’t think will win is Ericsson’s teammate, Alex Palou. Now that Chip Ganassi is suing the defending IndyCar champion for breach of contract in Marion County Civil Court, I’m guessing there is just a little tension among the No. 10 team and driver enough to distract their race preparations. I’m not really going out on a limb here, but I think Will Power will win Saturday’s race. Depending on where Ericsson finishes, Power could well be the points leader when the race is over.

This is a very compressed IndyCar weekend. Practice One gets underway at 8:30 EDT this morning and will be shown on Peacock. Qualifying will take place at 1:00 EDT this afternoon, shown live on Peacock. Saturday’s morning warm-up will be at 8:15 EDT on Peacock, while TV coverage for the Gallagher Grand Prix starts at Noon EDT on Big NBC. The green flag is supposed to wave at approximately 12:20 pm EDT.

As I normally do when I attend a race weekend, I will be posting throughout the weekend. I will post once I arrive at the track later this morning, then again following Qualifying. I will post tomorrow before the race, then a short recap after the race before hitting the road. I will then have my usual Random Thoughts here on Monday. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog for photos, videos and comments. Please check back later.

George Phillips

15 Responses to “Brickyard IndyCar Preview”

  1. Thinking of you and Susan. Hope things improve

  2. Prayers for Susan…

  3. Rick Johnson Says:

    My prayers for Susan. She’s had an incredibly difficult couple of years, but from everything I’ve read on your posts, Susan sounds like a real fighter.

  4. Sorry to hear she is having so much trouble with her conditions, will continue prating for her….Get better.

  5. Gary Manes Says:

    Prayers for Susan. She’s such a warrior…

  6. Leslie Bissell Says:

    My prayers for Susan and for you. For what it is worth, I agree with you about the garages. It is very hard to imagine someone else in AJ’s garage.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Prayers for Susan for me as well.

  8. Thinking about both of you, and hoping for a turn around soon. Susan definitely deserves it after all that she has fought through already.

  9. Praying for Susan.

  10. Jeff L Wright Says:

    Thoughts and prayers from this reader in Indy. Prayers for a quick recovery for Susan.

  11. northeastvista Says:

    Remebering Susan in our thoughts and prayers every day.

  12. Thinking of you and Susan.

  13. Bruce B Says:

    🙏🙏🙏

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