GMR Grand Prix Preview

Things are about to get real. For the last couple of weeks, OK…for the last eleven and a half months, we have been romanticizing about the Month of May in Indianapolis. Things really got cranked up a notch, when we turned the page on the calendar – just after the NTT IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park.

Now the first weekend of track activity in May is upon us – the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. As you read this, Susan and I are on our way up from Nashville to the first of three weekends in a row at hallowed ground that holds the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I can already tell you that we will not make the first practice, which starts at 9:30 am EDT and can be seen on Peacock. However, it lasts until 10:45, so we might get there before it ends.

Depending on when we hit town, we might delay going to the track a bit. I would like to expose Susan to The Workingman’s Friend. Ever since I ate there last month while in town for the Open Test, I’ve been dying to get back, As I said in my review of the place, it is quite possible the best burger I’ve ever eaten. Robin Miller kept saying how good it was, and he did not lie. Susan appreciates a good burger about as much as anyone I know. It opens at 11:00, so we may go there before hitting the track.

As has been the case a lot of times in this race, the weather may play a factor. The latest forecast looks like today’s practice and qualifying sessions may be run in the wet, but I think we can look for dry conditions during Saturday’s race. That was the scenario in the inaugural edition of this race, that saw rainy conditions in qualifying that ended with Sebastian Saavedra on the pole. That didn’t go well. If you recall, that was the year of the standing starts at a few tracks. Saavedra stalled his car at the start and was a sitting target that eventually got hit. I was sitting in the stands that day and got this choice piece of video on my phone.

Practice Two starts at 1:00 pm and will end at 2:00 pm. It will also be shown live on Peacock. Qualifying for Saturday’s race will begin at 4:00 pm EDT and you may also watch it live on Peacock. With this being a Friday-Saturday event, this is a very compressed schedule. Even if we miss the first practice, that is a full day at the track.

Mrs. Oilpressure will be glad to know we can sleep in (just a little bit) tomorrow morning, because the Morning Warm-up doesn’t start until 11:15 am EDT. The race itself will start at 3:30 pm Saturday and will be shown live on Big NBC. With press conferences, that will make for a late departure from the track on Saturday night. Hopefully, we can make it to Dawson’s or one of our other favorite spots before they stop serving. I don’t think we’ll have any problem finding something to eat.

This is always a very relaxing weekend at the track. The crowds are not bad at all. This is definitely the weekend to go and visit the IMS Museum. It will be slightly more crowded than it was when I went on the rained-out Friday of the Open Test last month, but you will definitely have room to move around and gawk at exhibits at your own pace; without having tons of people around you, wanting you to get out of the way so that they can take a selfie. The gift shops are always fully stocked with merchandise on this first weekend of track activity. They would like to run out of most of their stock by the day after the race, so this first weekend will be the best time to do your souvenir shopping.

Next weekend, the crowds will pick up considerably for Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Weekend. Then, of course, everything builds to the crescendo of Race Weekend for the Indianapolis 500. By the time the 500 rolls around, this race will seem like a distant memory. But with the 500 mercifully no longer paying double points, the GMR Grand Prix is just as important point-wise as the 500 (except for the qualifying points available). Prestige? That’s another matter, but the points pay the same.

Heading into Saturday’s race, the NTT IndyCar Series is locked in a very tight battle. Only twenty-six points separate first place (Marcus Ericsson) and seventh place (Will Power). At this point, I think only one driver has been consistently fast in all four races, without throwing a dud in there – Romain Grosjean.

In the season-opener in St. Petersburg, Grosjean won the pole and was battling for the win with Scott McLaughlin, when the two collided and ended up in the tire barrier. At Texas, Grosjean led late and crashed out near the front with only a handful of races left. He finished second at Long Beach, behind teammate Kyle Kirkwood. At Barber, Grosjean was again on the pole. He dominated, leading fifty-seven laps out of ninety. He was leading until McLaughlin passed him with nineteen laps to go, and finished second for the second race in a row. Grosjean is currently fifth in points, and only fifteen points out of first. Had he been content to ride along where he was, and not crash out at Texas – Grosjean would probably be leading the points battle right now.

Grosjean has done very well on the IMS road course. As an IndyCar rookie in 2021, he won the pole for the GMR Grand Prix, and finished second to Rinus VeeKay. In the August race, during the NASCAR double-header weekend; Grosjean qualified third and again finished second. 2022 did not go so well for Grosjean at the IMS road course. In the GMR Grand Prix in the rain, he started tenth and finished seventeenth. When the series returned in late July for the Gallagher Grand Prix, Grosjean started twenty-second and finished sixteenth.

But 2023 has been a different year for Grosjean. He seems to have a different mindset and his Andretti Autosport team is much-improved. Grosjean has outperformed all of his Andretti teammates, and that included Colton Herta. Two weeks ago, I said Romain Grosjean was going to be my pick to win the GMR Grand Prix. Nothing has changed my mind since then, so I’m sticking with it. I’ve picked him to win the last two races, and he has come in second. The third time is the charm, so he is my official pick. We’ll see.

As usual, Susan and I will both be posting here throughout the weekend, on things racing-related, as well as things going on off of the track. But you may also follow both of us on Twitter for photos, videos and updates. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog and Susan at @MrsOilpressure. Please check back later today and throughout the weekend.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “GMR Grand Prix Preview”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Grosjean seems as good a pick as any. It will be interesting to see if the whole Andretti team is fast like they were at St. Petersburg, or if it is only Grosjean like we saw at Barber.

    This has often been a good track for some of the drivers and teams who are presently struggling: Pagenaud, the Rahal team (even Harvey), Ed’s team.

    The points are about as tight as they have been through 4 races in at least a decade (the last time 9 other drivers were within a race’s points of the leader was 2015, the last time the leader had fewer than Ericsson’s 130 points was in 2009), so this is a good chance for someone a little further back to make a move (looking at Herta, Power, Dixon)… or for one of the top few drivers to create some separation from the pack, especially if they can carry that success into the 500.

  2. Someday when I grow up, I’m going to show up for this race and just stay for the entire month of May….

  3. OliverW Says:

    I like the idea of having standing starts for street courses and road courses. Drivers at the back have less of a penalty. Brings even more variation to indycar like running on ovals, street courses and road courses to challenge their abilities. It really is a must for Long Beach care of having a hairpin just before the long straight at the start. Sadly the powers that be don’t agree.

  4. Scott K Kenney Says:

    Dang, I was going to pick Grosjean, but since you picked him that means he’s not going to win. Haha

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