It’s the GMR Grand Prix, but It’s Not May (A Preview)

When preparing for the GMR Grand Prix (formerly the INDYCAR Grand Prix) I get nostalgic for the pre-COVID-19 world. Since the race’s beginnings in 2014, it served as the opening weekend for May. The race provides a State fair like atmosphere with families and friends spread out over mounds among the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway enjoining race cars. The race itself has proven to continually entertain everyone. In the inaugural race, a standing start resulted in the pole-sitter stalling and smashed into by another driver. Debris everywhere, even getting into the starters stand and injuring then-Mayor Ballard. Of course I can’t talk about entertaining moments without mentioning the last ten or so laps of the 2019 race where Simon Pagenaud put on a clinic of racing in the rain. This year will be different. There will be no fans. It will not be in May. I do believe we’ll still see some magic though.

The race itself takes place on the road course at the IMS, utilizing the front stretch. You’ll hear both in our podcast and in any discussion the use of the phrase “Road Course Turn” because it’s important to differentiate the turns, and Turn 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is held in high honor and reserved for Turn 1 of the oval. If this is your first time watching this race, the drivers take the course in the opposite direction than the Indianapolis 500. They’ll go down the front stretch and into the first series of turns (Road Course Turns 1 through 6), another straight between Road Course Turns 6 and 7 before they enter a longer turn series (7 through 13), and ultimately turn on Road Course Turn 14 and back on the front stretch. Little known fact about this course, when the track created the course the left over dirt created the spectators’ mounds. This was the brainchild of Beth Boles, wife of current IMS President Doug Boles. Big tip, don’t buy the grandstand tickets, get general admission and spend the day on the mounds. There are enough screens you’ll see the race, plus everything is much more chill.

The race has been ran for six years, and only two drivers have won it (Will Power and Simon Pagenaud both with three wins each), and if not for Simon wining it during his year with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Team Penske would hold the title as the only team to win on the Road Course. 2018 was Will Power’s race, clenching the pole and the win. His over Team Penske teammates did not end the race well at all. Scott Dixon did Dixon things and went from 18th to 2nd. There was, of course, an incident in Road Course Turn 2 where Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot got airborne and Jordan King got squeezed out by dueling Penskes. 2019 was all Simon Pagenaud. The pole may have gone to Felix Rosenqvist (who despite having the race in the rain had his car on fire twice), but Simon’s beautiful work on passing drivers while the track dried out…including Scott Dixon will be one of my favorite motorsports moments ever.

This year, the race does lead off as the first Road Course of the season. A month after the race at Texas Motor Speedway. Both tracks are miles apart in their differences. Texas is a high speed, very physical oval. The IMS Road Course gives drivers both good long straightaways and impressive turn series. At least with this race weekend drivers will have a practice, quals, a warm-up, and then the race. Spreading it out over two days (and the Honda teams all rejoiced). With any race at IMS, you’ll want to keep an eye on Road Course Turn 1 (and Turn 2). A safe bet is to put your money behind either Will Power or Simon Pagenaud to at least podium. It’ll be interesting also for the rookies, this isn’t a road course you can sleep on. Even without fans, and in the humid July weather, this is Indy.   

If you do go and get grandstand seats, be sure to take some good pictures

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