It’s time for everyone to stop sleeping on the GMR Grand Prix. For the past three years we’ve been treated to just exceptional racing and drama. This year, it was no different! We had a first-time pole winner and a first-time race winner. There was drama from beginning to end, there was beautiful weather, and fans were at IMS in May. Who could ask for anything more? (Well I suppose that depends on who your favorite driver is)
Even before the race started, May was exciting, We had quite the unique Firestone Fast Six with Romain Grosjean; Josef Newgarden; Jack Harvey; Alex Palou; Scott McLaughlin; and Conor Daly. It was hard not to just be excited for the sheer new, or slept on, talent in this group. Ultimately, Romain Grosjean earned his first pole in the NTT INDYCAR series, and his first in open wheel racing in approximately ten-years. Welcome to INDYCAR Grosjean! The place erupted in support for him. INDYCAR fans are quite particular. We may not like F1 drivers who come over and act like they’re the be-all/end-all, but we love F1 drivers who come over and embrace our sport.
To start the race Grosjean did not bunch up the field or show any sign of timidity at the start, he took that start and ran with it! It was a good fast quick start. Then we got to Lap 1 Turn 1 and the series just doesn’t like to have nice things. It appears as if, in a racing incident, Simon Pagenaud and Conor Daly got together, and Conor was off in the grass. Along with him went Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi. The other two managed to get through the incident, Conor’s car died in the middle of the grass. The ECR team did ultimately get him back out for a few laps, but he ultimately retired from the race.
Jack Harvey showed exceptional promise this race! By the end of that first lap he had passed Josef Newgarden and found himself in second place. He was just showing the true racer that he is. His team was telling him to get around Rahal, but to also use “efficient” push-to-pass (reminds me of the “sneaky” push-to-pass Hinchcliffe was told to use a few years ago). Then Lap 39 pit stop happened and what could have been a race win just crumbled. There was an early release, and the tire had to be adjusted. However haste makes waste and by Turn 1 that tire was falling off and losing air. So Harvey had to come back into the pit to get that fix, and then he had to serve a drive through for an unsafe pit release. His radio then was the epitome of angry driver. Jack and that team has had just some sheer heartbreak this season, they get caught up in incidents that weren’t their fault. This race was just a perfect example of horrible luck, Harvey certainly had a race to win, and his own team caused the issue.
While Romain Grosjean started on the pole, he ended up with a second-place trophy. He did have a great race both with a fast start and restart – plus he and Takuma Sato got into some hip-checking throughout the race. It ultimately came down to strategy and the Dale Coyne Racing team just didn’t have it. Neither did Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Graham Rahal was brought in to pit on Lap 2 under yellow, and then again lap 3 to refuel. The strategists were hoping they could make it a three-stop strategy. It was a close call, and Graham did have a great car, but the track did not feel it would be his race to win.
It was Rinus VeeKay’s weekend. He was just handling that car like a seasoned veteran. At one point he threaded the needle between Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou to really solidify his position. Credit also goes to the Ed Carpenter Racing team who kept the pit stops quick and spotless. At about Lap 60 I switched to listening exclusively to his radio and it was one of the greatest additions to the race. He was just responding “copy” and as the laps got higher…so did his voice. Plus, we happened to be sitting across from his pit and I was able to watch his parents just lose their minds at the end. Congrats Rinus…and by the way he was the only Chevrolet in the Fast Nine for last year’s Indianapolis 500…May is going to be fun for him.
As we look towards the Indianapolis 500, this is a year for the series. Out of the first five races, there have been no repeat winners or pole sitters, and we’ve had three first time winners. It’s a great year all ready.