Indy Postscript- A Most Satisfying Day at IMS

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

A few more items from a great day at IMS:

I just watched the replay of the NBC broadcast of the GMR Grand Prix. I thought it was great coverage. I like the graphic showing which tire each car was using at the time and laps since pitted information. More of that, please.

The VeeKay family celebration on the victory podium was heart warming. We don’t often see a driver’s family enjoy the fruits of heir sacrifices to get a driver to the top of his profession.

How no one got into the marbles and spun is miraculous. the track was one large used rubber pile. VeeKay’s tires at the end show how much wear everyone’s tires had. this is a screen grab from Victory lane.

Rinus VeeKay drove the wheels off the car yesterday. He drove between Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou to take second, and made a great pass on Grosjean to be in position to assume the lead when Dixon pitted.

The Battle for the Title

Alex Palou is the only driver to have led at least one lap in each of the five races to date. We are looking at a championship battle between teammates. Scott Dixon leads Palou by 13 points. Each has won a race. Dixon holds the tie breaker if it should come to that based on his St.Pete finish. I predict Palou will be this season’s first repeat winner.

Last Thoughts

Maybe it was because yesterday was the first may race with fans in attendance since 2019, but yesterday was one of the best days I have ever had at IMS. I’ve been there a couple times, but Saturday just had a very special feeling about it.

How odd that Ed Carpenter Racing’s first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway should come on the road course. Carpenter’s cars are always very good on the oval. Is there another win for the team coming in two weeks?

Back tomorrow when my coverage of the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins. Thanks to all of you for following this weekend.

It’s Race Day

Photo: Romain Grosjean will the field to the green today. Walt Kuhn, Indycar

Today’s schedule:

All Times Eastern

Saturday

7:30am 5:00pm Gates Open

7:50am 8:40am Indy Pro 2000 Race 2

8:55am 9:25am Indy Lights Qualifying 2

9:40am 10:20am USF2000 Race 3

10:45am 11:15am NTT INDYCAR SERIES Warm-Up Peacock

11:40am 12:30pm Indy Pro 2000 Race 3

12:45pm 1:45pmINDY LIGHTS Race 2 Peacock

2:39pm ‘Drivers Start Your Engines’ NBC

2:45pm GMR Grand Prix – Green Flag NBC

Welcome to the first May race day at IMS in two years where fans will be in the stands. This will be an interesting race with many of the favorites starting in the middle or back of the back. After yesterday’s wild qualifying and the way the season has begun, maybe it’s time to consider other drivers besides the usual favorites. Alex Palou and Jack Harvey deserve special attention today. Palou has already won on a similar course, and Harvey always does well at the IMS road course. Pit strategy and track position will be key as always at this track.

In the 2020 version of this race which was held in July, cautions played a huge role in the outcome. Graham Rahal was on an alternate pit strategy that appeared to be working out. The yellow flag dashed his hopes of winning.

Team Penske dominates the GMR Grand Prix and it looks like all four drivers could be contending today.

I think we will have the fifth winner in five races this season. The series has already seen five different drivers on pole, although two were by point standings,

Notes

Andretti Autosport regular drivers had a best qualifying of eighth with Colton Herta yesterday. Alexander Rossi led the first practice session, but faded in qualifying and will start 14th. It is puzzling what’s going on with the team.

Josef Newgarden’s Snap-On car is this weekend’s best looking livery.

, IndycarPhoto by Joe Skibinski

It was a decent sized crowd yesterday, and I will be interested to see how many attend today’s race.

Mask compliance was very high yesterday. The Speedway has hired Mask Ambassadors to give people gentle reminders to wear their face coverings. The ambassadors carry a fan like placard with the phrase “Face Coverings Required” I saw them remind some people of the requirement. certain other tracks I have been to this year could have use a system like this.

The race is on NBC with coverage beginning at 2:30 pm Eastern. Green flag is at 2:45.

I watched the replay of qualifying on NBCSN. The broadcast carried no graphics of any sort, and it was hard to follow the action during the rounds of qualifying. I heard graphics appeared on Peacock. Is NBCSN having a fire sale since they are 2winding down the network? This was a huge disservice to fans who don’t or can’t have Peacock for whatever reason. You still have a contract NBC. Honor it.

The Starting Lineup:

  1. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:09.4396 (126.447 mph)
  2. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:09.5665 (126.216)
  3. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:09.6528 (126.060)
  4. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1:09.7118 (125.953)
  5. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:09.7140 (125.949)
  6. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:09.8662 (125.675)
  7. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:09.8185 (125.760)
  8. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:09.8222 (125.754)
  9. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:09.8548 (125.695)
  10. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:09.8722 (125.664)
  11. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:09.9060 (125.603)
  12. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
  13. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:09.8243 (125.750)
  14. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:09.9012 (125.612)
  15. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:09.8382 (125.725)
  16. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:09.9512 (125.522)
  17. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:09.8665 (125.674)
  18. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:10.0726 (125.304)
  19. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:09.8759 (125.657)
  20. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 1:10.1830 (125.107)
  21. (11) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:10.6810 (124.226)
  22. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:10.6174 (124.338)
  23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 1:11.0455 (123.588)
  24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 1:10.9312 (123.788)
  25. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 1:11.1370 (123.429)

Grosjean Pole- From Flames to Fame

Photo: Romain grosjean hug chief mechanic Olivier Boisson after winning the pole. Photo by Mike Silver

Romain Grosjean leaping from his burning car in Bahrain is finally put away. Grosjean won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did not win the pole by default. Grosjean had to hold off two time series champion and multiple pole winner Josef Newgarden to achieve the top spot for the race. The pole is just the third all time for Dale Coyne racing and the first on a natural road course. Sebastien Bourdais won a pole on the oval at Phoenix in 2018. Mike Conway took the pole for Detroit Race 2 in 2016.

In a qualifying session which saw points leaders Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward struggle and pokle master Will Power cause a red flag in Round 2, Grosjean joined three other fast six newcomers- Conor Daly, Alex Palou, and Scott McLaughlin to fight for the pole along with Jack harvey and Newgarden.

“Amazing,” Grosjean said. “When I saw the (first qualifying) group I was in, I was like, ‘Oh, dear, if we can get out of the first group, we’re going to be OK,’ and we did. That last few laps, we were on it. What a day for us.

“I’m happier than I have been in a very long time.”

In the only other natural road course run this year, at Barber, Grojean started 10th and finished seventh. His getting to the Fast Six wasn’t much of a shock, but earning the pole was.

Notes on a Strange Day

The wierdness wasn’t reserved for qualifying. The practice sessions had some odd happenings as well. In session 1, Alex Palou’s team discovered a water leak before he got on the track. Palou missed the entire session. Palou bounced back to get in the Fast Six.

During the first practice we learned that Max Chilton and Carlin Racing withdrew from this weekend. Chilton was unable to return from England because of a travel issue. Today’s issue has no effect on their 500 entry.

Scott Dixon developed a clutch issue during the afternoon practice, Unlike Palou, he did not recover in qualifying and will start 16th. two spots ahead of Pato O’Ward. Dixon and O’Ward are first and second in points. Newgarden and Palou,, third and fourth in points, start second and fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya looked quite uncomfortable in the third Arrow McLaren SP entry. He struggled to get the car through the final turns.

Conor Daly made the Fast Six for the first time. It has been a long time since Ed Carpenter racing has been in the Fast Six.

Newgarden and Palou were the only members of the Fast Six who have won a race. The series is on about as level a playing field as it has ever been.

Team Penske still does not have a pole this season.

A. J. Foyt Racing had a promising beginning to the season. All thee cars will start 20th or worse tomorrow.

Newgarden Leads Chevy 1-2-3 in Practice 2

Josef Newgarden led the final practice round before qualifying for the GMR Grand Prix at 4: 30. Newgarden edged Rings Veekay and teammate Will Power in a Chevy sweep of the top 3. All four TeM Penske cars finished in the top 10, with Scott McLaughlin fifth and Simon Pagenaud eighth.

Pato O’ Ward struggled for most of the session but salvaged a ninth place at the flag.

Scott Dixon had a clutch failure and ended 23rd.

Juan Pablo Montoya struggled the entire practice period and was the slowest car

The top 12:

In

Opening Day at IMS at Last!

Good morning from the cozy confines of the IMS Media Center Northwest Annex at 71st and Michigan Road.The Pit Window will soon be heading to its annual opening day staff breakfast at Charlie Brown’s (table for 1, please.)

Two practice sessions and qualifying are on tap for Indycar today.

From last night:

GMR Grand Prix- Time For a Penske Bounce Back?

Today’s Schedule

All Times Eastern

Friday

7:30am 6:00pm- Gates Open

8:00am 8:20am- Indy Pro 2000 Quals

8:35am 9:05am INDY LIGHTS Q1

9:30am 10:15am INDYCAR Series Practice 1 Peacock

10:40am 11:20am USF2000 Race 1

11:45am 12:35pm Indy Pro 2000 Race 1

1:00pm 1:45pm NTT INDYCAR Series Practice 2 Peacock

2:10pm 3:10pm INDY LIGHTS Race 1 Peacock

3:25pm 4:05pm USF2000 Race 2

4:30pm 5:45pm NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qual. / Firestone Fast 6 Peacock (live)

NBCSN– 6 pm ET (Delayed)

Today is a day for reunions with friends and to scout viewing spots for tomorow’s race if you have a flex ticket. If this your first time at the track since 2019, take some time to notice the improvements Roger Penske has made. They are noticeable and impressive.

I will post brief reports on session results and have a full wrap up later tonight. Enjoy the day;.

GMR Grand Prix- Time For a Penske Bounce Back?

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.

Rookies

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.

GMR Grand Prix Fast Facts

From Indycar:

For Immediate Release GMR Grand Prix Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, May 14 – Saturday, May 15
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course (clockwise)
Race distance: 85 laps / 207.3 miles
Media links: Entry List (PDF) | Trackside Media Guide (Interactive PDF) | Driver Video Quotes
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time, with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate (Note: An seventh set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)
Twitter: @IMS @IndyCar, #ThisIsMay, #IndyCar
Event website: www.ims.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com 2020 race winner: Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda)
2020 NTT P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 1:10.1779, 125.116 mph.
Qualifying lap record: Will Power, 1:07.7044, 129.687 mph, May 12, 2017 (Set in Round 3 of knockout qualifying)
NBC Sports race telecasts: Qualifying, 6 p.m. ET Friday, NBCSN (Same-day delay); GMR Grand Prix, 2 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Nick Yeoman and Jake Query are the turn announcers. The GMR Grand Prix will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, May 14 (All times are local) 9:30-10:15 a.m. NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium 1-1:45 p.m. NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium 4:30 p.m. Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of NTT INDYCAR SERIES knockout qualifications), Peacock Premium (Live)
Saturday, May 15 10:45-11:15 a.m. NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium 2 p.m.  NBC on air 2:39 p.m. “Drivers, start your engines” 2:45 p.m. GMR Grand Prix (85 laps/207.3 miles), NBC (Live)
Race Notes: The GMR Grand Prix will be the 10th INDYCAR SERIES event conducted on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are the only drivers to win on the IMS road course.
Pagenaud won the GMR Grand Prix in 2014, 2016 and 2019, Power won the GMR Grand Prix in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and the second race of the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader in 2020. Dixon won the 2020 GMR Grand Prix, while Newgarden won the first race of the 2020 Harvest GP doubleheader. Pagenaud, Power, Felix Rosenqvist and Sebastian Saavedra are the only drivers to have won the pole position in the GMR Grand Prix. Saavedra claimed the pole in 2014, Power in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2020, Pagenaud in 2016 and Rosenqvist in 2019. Power and Rinus VeeKay won the NTT P1 Award in the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader last October.
Four NTT P1 Award winners have won the GMR Grand Prix from the pole: Power in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and Pagenaud in 2016. Power also won the second Harvest GP race from pole in 2020.
Nine drivers have competed in every INDYCAR SERIES race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – Marco Andretti, Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Power, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato. All but Andretti are entered this year.
Dixon has finished first or second in the last four GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis, including last year’s win – his first on the IMS road course. Dixon, who won at Texas on May 1 for his 51st career win, leads the point standings entering the event for the second straight year.
Rookies Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin will race NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course for the first time this weekend. Johnson is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though. He won the Brickyard 400 – the NASCAR Cup race previously held on the oval — four times.
Twenty-three of the drivers entered in the event have competed in INDYCAR races on the IMS road course. Eleven entered drivers have led laps in the GMR Grand Prix: Power 210, Pagenaud 68, Dixon 66, Graham Rahal 36, Newgarden 25, Ryan Hunter-Reay 18, Rosenqvist 15, James Hinchcliffe 4, Alexander Rossi 2, Marcus Ericsson 1 and Jack Harvey.

Where’s the 500 Buzz?

It’s May 10 and I’m still not feeling it. MAY 10th! Perhaps it’s because the track isn’t open yet, or that I haven’t received my race tickets. Maybe it’s the lousy weather Indianapolis is enduring right now. Whatever the cause, the 500 buzz that I usually feel around May 1 isn’t there.

Moving the GMR Grand Prix back a week might not have been such a good idea. The later date has kept things low key as we wait for the track to open halfway through the month. I felt a little bit of excitement when I picked up my Bronze Badge at the track last week. The email from the speedway telling me my tickets had been mailed perked me up some as well, but that high withered when the blue envelope still hadn’t arrived by Saturday.

What will it take to get the buzz going again? Being at the track first thing Friday morning after my traditional Opening Day breakfast at Charlie Brown’s should do the trick. It has been two years since I have been inside the track during May. It was nice seeing some racing at IMS in October, but it wasn’t the same. Friday can’t get here soon enough.

There are some racing friends I haven’t seen since the 2019 500. I am excited to see them again as well. Sadly some are skipping this year, too, but it will be great to see those who do attend. I am normally a patient person except for one month a year. I hope the schedule returns to a more regular path in 2022.

Meanwhile, I will set my alarm for Friday morning, hope my 500 tickets arrive this week, and get my buzz restarted.

Dixon Goes for Sweep and History

Good morning from Road America as we prepare for race 2 of the GMR Grand Prix weekend.  I hope for another race as entertaining as yesterday’s was.

Today’s schedule: (All times Eastern)

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Scott Dixon could become the third driver in Indycar history to win 50 races. He now is within three of tying Mario Andretti for second place on the all time list. Dixon is also looking to win the first four races of the year.  Today could also be just the third time that a driver has swept a doubleheader weekend. Dixon did that in Toronto in 2013 and Graham Rahal won both days in Detroit in 2017.

Another three on the line today is whether Jack Harvey can get his third consecutive front row start. Harvey has started second for the last two races, but his fortunes in the races themselves have turned out well. He is in the second qualifying group today, which increases his chances for the pole.

Questions for the day- Will Conor Daly’s car be ready for qualifying? It was severely damaged in his contact with Pato O’Ward yesterday. Will Josef Newgarden bounce back from the pit bobble that cost him the win yesterday?  Will Team Penske win their fourth pole of the season.

Some fans yesterday respected the social distancing guidelines while many others didn’t seem to care. Road America would have been wise to perhaps sell fewer tickets to this event.  Masks are hit and miss. I did see more people wearing them yesterday. I will talk about this more tomorrow.

Enjoy the race, wash your hands, and wear your mask in public.