Power Quickest in GMR Practice; Good session for Young Guns

It’s probably bad news for the rest of the field. Will Power lead the only practice session for the seventh running of the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning.  Power languished near the back of the pack through the first hour of the 90 minute session, then slowly began moving toward the front, topping the charts with about  15 minutes remaining. He was the only driver to crack the 1:10 mark.

The results:

1 12 Will Power Team Penske 1:09.949 –.—- 30
2 18 Santino Ferrucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 1:10.124 0.1755 21
3 8 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.165 0.2161 28
4 5 Pato O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP 1:10.187 0.2387 29
5 9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.205 0.2567 25
6 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 1:10.285 0.3359 25
7 22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske 1:10.313 0.3642 27
8 10 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.362 0.4132 29
9 45 Spencer Pigot RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport 1:10.363 0.4146 23
10 7 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP 1:10.364 0.4154 30
11 88 Colton Herta Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport 1:10.385 0.4360 17
12 1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske 1:10.386 0.4375 26
13 60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing 1:10.455 0.5063 24
14 98 Marco Andretti Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian 1:10.486 0.5372 30
15 27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport 1:10.520 0.5717 21
16 30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:10.538 0.5894 25
17 21 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing 1:10.606 0.6571 36
18 59 Max Chilton Carlin 1:10.611 0.6627 26
19 15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:10.685 0.7367 31
20 20 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing 1:10.694 0.7448 26
21 26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport 1:10.709 0.7602 27
22 55 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh 1:10.886 0.9376 26
23 4 Charlie Kimball AJ Foyt Enterprises 1:10.980 1.0312 25
24 29 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport 1:11.227 1.2783 26
25 14 Dalton Kellett AJ Foyt Enterprises 1:11.448 1.4997 42
26 24 Sage Karam Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 1:11.616 1.

The rookies and younger drivers had some time at the top. Felix Rosenqvist, last byear’s pole sitter, led for a while, as did Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson.

Oliver Askew is the only rookie in the top 10. The biggest surprise in the top 10 is Spencer Pigot in 9th.  His team, Citrone Buhlo in partnership with RLL Racing,  team is making their Indycar debut this weekend.

the practice was stopped twice. Santino Ferrucci bumped Ryan Hunter-Reay around the 45 minute mark. Hunter-Reay was getting his tires up to temperature when Ferrucci tried to pass him pon the inside going into turn 7. Hunter-Reay spun and stalled. Ferrucci received a 5 minute stop and hold penalty for avoidable contact.

With about 30 minutes left, Sage Karam lost power on the access road by turn 12.

Notes

Except for Hunter-Reay, the rest of the Andretti Autosport struggled in the middle of the pack.

A dozen or so fans stood at the ,main gate watching the video board facing the entrance.

It was frustrating hearing the cars but not seeing them. It was still better than nothing.

I have never seen the Speedway look nicer.

A few photos:

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Back tonight after qualifying.

Today’s GMR Grand Prix Schedule

Good morning from my Pandemic Media Center nine miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today’s schedule for Indycar practice and qualifying: (All Times Eastern)

11:30-1:00   Practice    NBC Gold

4:30-6:00      Qualifying    NBCSN

Times given are broadcast windows.

A few other notes:

Gary Trout, co-owner of Top Gun Racing, has announced the team will attempt to run in this year’s Indianapolis 500 and two other races. Earlier this week the team said they would wait until 2021. Top Gun plans to have R C Enerson drive in the 500, the Harvest grand Prix at IMS, and the season finale at St. Petersburg.

The 26 entries for this weekend’s race is a record number for this event. Had the race run on its original date there may have ben as many as 30 cars taking the gren flag. The most notable absence is Scott McLaughlin. The two time Australian Supercars champion looked to make his Indycar debut in this race for Team Penske, but the quarantine and pandemic have delayed his first race in the series until 2021.

I will be back after practice with a summary before qualifying.

 

GMR Grand Prix- Another Serving of P Soup? A Preview of an Historic Weekend

Photo: Simon Pagenaud can win his 4th GMR Grand Prix and third straight race at IMS this weekend.

The race that made history  becomes a part of a bigger history Saturday. No fans will be present to witness it. The GMR Grand Prix began as a prelude to the Indianapolis 500 in 2014. It was the first time a race other than the 500 had been run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1911. Saturday the race is the first part of the first Indycar/NASCAR doubleheader. Thrown together by the Coronavirus pandemic, the long overdue coming together of the two series could not happen anywhere else. IMS is the place that comes to mind when you talk about racing history.

The GMR Grand Prix winners club is the most exclusive group in racing.    There have been just two winners- Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. Each driver has won three times. Is Saturday Game 7? Team Penske has won the last five races. Schmidt Peterson won the first one. Power has also won the pole three times. Pagenaud has started from the point once.

Last year’s race was arguably the best of the six.  The event was plagued by rain throughout. Simon Pagenaud made the right call on which tire to use in the final segment. He sliced to the front, passing Scott Dixon late on the final lap to take what would be the first part of his May sweep.

Weather, Endurance

The race has run in different weather conditions. In 2016 was an  unseasonably cold day, 2019 had rain. Saturday looks to have temperatures near 90 for the start. Will the heat in the cockpit caused by the new aeroscreen be a factor?

The Grand Prix is the first leg of a five race in fifteen days stretch for the NTT Indycar Series.  Drivers have talked about how fit they have become during the delayed start to the season. Saturday’s heat will be a good test for the mupcoming doubleheaders at Road America and Iowa, two physical tracks.

Rookies

Three full time rookies, Oliver Askew, Rinus VeeKay.and Alex Palou join part time rookie Dalton Kellett in the field.  It is the first race for all of them at IMS. Kellett will drive the road course races in car 14 for A. J. Foyt Racing. He shares the car with Tony Kanaan, who drives the oval races.

Askew, VeeKay, and Kellett  have raced on this track in the Road to Indy. Will their experience help them this weekend?

First Lap Tradition

The GMR Grand Prix has yet to have a clean first lap.  In the inaugural race pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled at the start most cars got by him, but two cars starting in the back rows plowed into him. Fortunately no one was injured. Turn 1 has seen spins and collisions each year at the start. Last year contact ruined Alexander Rossi’s chances of having a good finish.

Debuts

Conor Daly makes his debut for Ed Carpenter Racing Saturday. Daly is driving the road and stret courses for ECR and driving the oval races for Carlin. I have never seen Conor this well prepared for a season. This will be just his second full time year. His sixth place for Carlin at Texas should give him a lot of confidence heading into this marathon stretch. I have said before that Daly in the cockpit improves whichever team he drives for.

This will also be Charlie Kimball’s first road course race for A. J. Foyt Racing. Kimball finished 11th at Texas, a respectable showing for the team. In 2019, Matheus Leist finished 4thin the GMR Grand Prix for Foyt.  The potential is there for another good result.

Another Red Letter Day for the P’s?

I think the letter P finally falls from the top of podium Saturday. Scott Dixon, who has finished second three times in this race, finally gets to move up a step. His performance at Texas, along with the great  of teammate Felix Rosenqvist, showed me that this team is ready for a very strong season. Rosenqvist won the pole in 2019 and could also be a factor.

Don’t feel sorry for the two race winners. At least one of them will still be on the podium.

 

 

GMR Grand Prix Entry List- Pigot, Karam Return

Spencer Pigot and Sage Karam join the Indycar regulars and part timers this weekend in the seventh annual GMR Grand Prix. the race has served as a prelude to the Indianapolis 500 on Mother’s day weekend the last six years. Could this be a new permanent date for this race?  Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin was scheduled to drive for Team Penske had this race taken place on its original date.  Carlin has entered just one car for this event. Had the race been run uin May there was a potential for 30 entries.
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GMR Grand Prix Fast Facts

From Indycar:

Race weekend: Friday, July 3 – Saturday, July 4

Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course (clockwise)

Race distance: 80 laps / 195.12 miles

Media Links: Entry List (PDF) | Trackside Book (Interactive PDF)

Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time, with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate (Note: An eighth set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)

Twitter: @IMS @IndyCar, #INDYGP, #IndyCar

Event website:www.ims.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2019 race winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet)

2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), 1:08.2785, 128.597 mph

Qualifying lap record: Will Power, 1:07.7044, 129.687 mph, May 12, 2017 (Set in Round 3 of knockout qualifying)

NBC Sports telecasts: Qualifying, 4:30 p.m. ET Friday, July 3, NBCSN (live); Race, noon ET Saturday, July 4, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s telecast of the GMR Grand Prix alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. The GMR Grand Prix race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

NBC Sports Gold livestreaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer live streaming product.

At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, July 3
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, NBC Sports Gold

4:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of NTT INDYCAR SERIES knockout qualifications), NBCSN (Live)

Saturday, July 4

9-9:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, NBC Sports Gold

Noon – NBC on air

12:01 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:08 p.m. – GMR Grand Prix (80 laps/195.12 miles), NBC (Live)

The Weekend the Tree Fell in the Forest

Photo: The start of the 2019 GMR Grand Prix

Suppose history was made and no one was there to  see it? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has an historic weekend planned, but fans will not be there to see it. I think this hurts more than the Indianapolis 500 not taking place this past May 24. Then, you knew there weren’t any cars running. This weekend, cars are running, but you can only watch them on television.

The time for an Indycar/NASCAR doubleheader is long overdue. I assume that officials of the two series and IMS thought that a limited amount of  fans would be allowed to attend races on the July 4 weekend when the deal was signed. But when a virus controls things, there are no guarantees. Fans are not allowed to witness what should be a significant event in American racing history on Independence Day weekend.

I have seen many firsts at the Speedway (NOT the first 500, thanks for asking)- the first 150 mile an hour lap, the first 200 mile an hour lap, the first Formula 1 race, the first Brickyard 400- and as much as I understand what’s going on, it’s frustrating not to be there this coming weekend. I stopped going to the NASCAR race after 2007. I thought the first few were good, but when the cars changed the racing changed. I  lost interest in it.

I was interested to see the Xfinity Series on the road course. That might be the way to go for the Cup cars in the future. I enjoyed the USAC stock cars when they raced on the road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park (remember the Yankee 300?).  This combined event may not be repeated. When things get back to normal, the GMR Grand Prix will move back to the second weekend in May. I hope the two series, and maybe IMSA as well, can find a mutual weekend that works for all series to run together.

We need to treat this IMS race meet like the  first moon landing. It is too far and too risky to be there in person, so we must be content to watch it on television.

Better times are ahead. Wash your hands and mask up. We will get there sooner.

 

The 50% Solution

Hints and rumors came to a head today as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place August 23 with a reduced crowd of 50% of the track’s capacity. My understanding is that the 50% includes infield and camping space.

Many ticket holders (not me) received a letter today with instructions for re -ticketing. If someone does not wish to go, a credit will be issued which can be applied to next year’s race, among other options. This leaves many fans in a difficult situation. I have from several who will not attend because they feel it isn’t safe. I can’t fault anyone’s decision. It’s a personal choice.

I do believe the Speedway and Penske Entertainment Group are rushing things. They have about two more weeks to make this decision. Indian enters its final re-opening stage a week from tomorrow, and Indianapolis, I assume, will start the final stage on July 11. At this point, why not wait to see if the October date might be a better choice? I submitted a request for a ticket, but I’m not sure if I will use it.

I know this has to be a difficult decision for Doug Boles and Roger Penske. I would be more comfortable with even  fewer fans.

The Risks

I spoke with a friend of mine who is involved in the medical community in Indiana. My friend says that Indiana is prepared and is ahead of other states in keeping the spread down. The doubling rate in the entire  state is 100 days; in Marion County it is 300 days. States that have spiked in cases after re-opening were already seeing increases prior to ending their shutdowns.

So, according to my friend, as long as the numbers in the state stay steady, and people tend to their  personal hygiene- washing hands, wearing masks, distancing- August should be fine. September/October is the beginning of the flu season, which could complicate the Coronavirus.

Lifting the Blackout?

A statement from Mark Miles today said the local television blackout will not be lifted for the race. Why not. They are asking people to stay home then telling them they can’t watch the race until evening? This is a very bad PR move. If the blackout was lifted in 2016 because the track couldn’t sell any more tickets, how is this situation different? The tickets are capped, and although some fans aren’t coming there may be others who want to. I hope the Speedway and Indycar reconsider this decision. If the blackout is lifted it may figure in my decision as to whether or not I watch the race in person.

104th Running at 50% Capacity

From Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It may be decision time for a lot of folks.  More thoughts later. This was hinted at on Wednesday in Miler’s mailbag

IMS To Admit Fans for 104th Indianapolis 500 at Reduced Attendance

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials confirmed June 26 their commitment to welcoming spectators to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, Aug. 23, with the venue capacity limited to 50 percent attendance.

“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was postponed from its original date of Sunday, May 24 due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

“We’re committed to running the Indy 500 on Sunday, Aug. 23 and will welcome fans to the world’s greatest racing venue,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “We will be limiting attendance to approximately 50 percent of venue capacity, and we are also finalizing a number of additional carefully considered health and safety measures. We’ll unveil the specific details of our comprehensive plan in the coming weeks.”

IMS is communicating with existing ticketholders to learn of their intent to use their race tickets. Credits will be available for ticketholders who choose to adjust their order. Individuals in high-risk groups are encouraged to consider staying home and returning in 2021.

In close consultation with public health officials, the IMS team is also working diligently to finalize a comprehensive plan of health measures that will be unveiled for spectators in the near future.

Limited 500 Seating? Other News of the Week

An answer to a question by Robin Miller in Racer magazine mailbag may offer a hint as to what to expect attendance wisewhenever the Indianapolis 500 is run. I’m still not optimistic about August. The answer:

From IMS President Doug Boles: “We are not installing the southern third of the Pit Road Terrace seats this year. The Pit Road Terrace seats are the temporary bleachers that we install behind the pit road fence on the south side of the Pagoda. It would not impact a decision to bring back the apron or not. A couple of reasons for the change: (1) With IndyCar using the Gasoline Alley garages on July 4 weekend, it helps us with our install time by not putting up as many seats between the race and Aug 12, and (2) in a typical year, we only sell about 50% of these seats, so a third reduction in more appropriate related to demand. And, not the reason why, Skip is correct that it would be a benefit in a COVID year in the sense that it is less people in the area. Ticketing customers in the impacted seats are being relocated inside the remaining Pit Road Terrace seats or given an option for another seat without having to pay the seat price difference.”

Along with fewer seats there will likely be no fans in the infield. Another blurb I read last week said that 175,00 tickets have been sold. Will IMS cap the sales now? I would expect a decision about August needs to come by mid July. The COVID-19 numbers in Indiana continue to decline, but several other states are experiencing large spikes in cases and deaths. Stay tuned. Wash your hands.

From earlier: Schedule Set for GMR Grand Prix

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Barber Renewal or Extension?

Earlier this week an announcement from the Birmingham News Journal said that the NTT Indycar Series and Barber Motorsports Park signed an extension of their agreement through 2023. Today, a Barber spokesperson said the contract runs through 2022.  Barber is a staple on the Indycar calendar. The track is a great setting for a race. It is one of my favorite tracks to go to.

Illinois Opens Tracks With Limited Attendance

The state of Illinois has allowed race tracks to open with fan attendance limited to 20%. I’m not sure of the specifics of Illinois’ phased openings, so I don’t know what this means for Gateway yet. Gateway is another track that may have to make an attendance decision. The best attended non Indianapolis oval could open the first turn grandstand to allow the fans to spread out more.

McLaren Financial Troubles

reports this week say McLaren is facing some financial issues. The company is seeking a loan and legal action to raise 280 million pounds. A buyout and lease back arrangement is a possibility. We will have to wait and see what effect this has on their Indycar program.

A Positive Ending

Former Indy lights driver Aaron Telitz has signed on full time with AIM Vasser Sullivan’s IMSA GTD program. Telitz replaces Chase Parker, who was let go by the team last week. Telitz is a good driver. He is with a team with an Indycar connection, which I hope will earn him a chance at an Indycar ride someday.

Kody Swanson, USAC midget and Silver Crown driver, tested an Indy Pro 2000 car this week. Swanson is another driver who is long overdue for a shot at Indycar. It would be great if he could get some Road to Indy races in this year.

We are just nine days away from the next Indycar race!