It is time. Tomorrow (Friday) the gates to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway open to fans in May for the first time since 2019. Has it only been two years? It seems like a lifetime ago. The eighth GMR Grand Prix takes place this weekend, followed next week by practice for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Grand Prix began in 2014 as a way to add content to a shrinking May agenda. Attendance at the first event exceeded expectations, and the race has settled in at nice crowd of around 35,000 or so.The 2021 race is the fifth round of the NTT Indycar Series championship. Last year this race took place July 4 in conjunction with the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race. In 2021 it returns to its traditional spot n the calendar.
Several teams and drivers come into this weekend needing a successful run.
Can Penske Continue Its Domination?
The GMR Grand Prix has been practically owned by Team Penske since 2015. Until Scott Dixon won last year in July, Will ,Power and Simon Pagenaud were the only two drivers to have won this race. Pagenaud also won the inaugural event driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.Josef Newgarden and Will Power each won a race in the Harvest Classic last October at IMS
.Team Penske uncharacteristically has not won a race this season. As a team their statistics for the first four races show no poles or wins, five of the 12 podium spots, and a total of 31 laps led. Josef Newgarden has two of the podiums. I think this is the weekend the team breaks through with a pole and a victory, not necessarily the same individual.
Will Power has won the pole four times for this race, including the July running last year. he also won the pole for Race 2 at the Harvest Classic. If the team is to begin a run at the championship, this is the race where they can get going.
O’Ward Looks to Build on Momentum
Pato O’Ward jumped to second place in the standings with his win the second race at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. He won the pole at Barber, but strategy cost him the victory there. O’Ward could be the one to break the Penske May spell of this race. O’Ward will have a strong weekend.
Arrow Mclaren SP adds Juan Pablo Montoya to their lineup for May. his experience will be helpful to O’Ward and possibly help Felix Rosenqvist, who has struggled in the quarter of the season.
Andretti Drivers Need a Boost
Except for Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport has underperformed this season. James Hinchcliffe has has been involved in race ruining contact three times this season. Ryan Hunter-Reay eked out a 10th place in Texas race 2 for his best finish to date, and Alexander Rossi languishes in 15th place with one top 10 finish.
The team needs top 10s from all its drivers, and a top 5 from at least one of them. The Andretti armada should be strong for the 500, but they need to get something rolling this weekend.
The three series rookies, Scott McLaughlin, Romain Grosjean, and Jimmie Johnson, make their IMS debut this weekend. Only McLaughlin will also run the 500. McLaughlin has one podium with a second place in Texas Race 1. I look for McLaughlin and Grosjean to have strong showings on this track. Grosjean did very well at Barber, earning a top 10, and mcLaughlin has the backing of Team Penske, which should help at this track.
Will Dixon Keep Rolling?
Scott Dixon is in his familiar.number one position in the standings with a victory under his belt and no finish lower than fifth. So far Dixon is giving one of his stronger title defenses. He is actually the defending race winner of this event as well. A win Saturday would tie Dixon with Mario Andretti for second place on the career win list with 52 victories. He would also be only the third winner of this race in the month of May.
As I have said on a couple of other occasions this year, don’t count out his teammate Alex Palou,. Palou held off Power to win at Barber, and he is third in the standings.
The GMR Grand Prix is shaping up to be a very competitive race. Qualifying is key to a good result. No matter the outcome the winner will be the fans, who once again get to enter this sacred ground in the month that Indianapolis lives for. It will be great to back at IMS.