GMR Grand Prix Preview

Nearly one month after the season began at Texas Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series is ready for Round 2 in their own backyard. Teams and drivers will prepare to tackle the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the first of two races will take place on Independence Day. The other race will take place in October, but the one coming up this weekend will be part of a historic festival of speed.

For the first time, IndyCar will team up with NASCAR for an epic double-header event at the World’s Greatest Racecourse. The speedway will host IndyCar and the NASCAR Xfinity Series on the road course on Saturday afternoon. The Cup drivers will then take to the oval on Sunday for the 27th running of the Brickyard 400.

Unfortunately, there will not be fans in attendance for this historic weekend of races. It is a real shame too, considering how much work and effort Roger Penske has put into all of the improvements to the speedway. IMS did announce on Friday that they are going ahead with preparations for the Indianapolis 500 on August 23, with a 50% fan capacity.

This will be the 7th IndyCar race on the IMS road course, with Will Power and Simon Pagenaud splitting all six of the previous victories. In fact, Power and Pagenaud have led a combined 250 laps in this race. No other active driver has led more than 40 laps. One driver that surprisingly hasn’t won this race yet is Scott Dixon. While the Texas race winner not captured the checkered flag for this event, he certainly has performed well. In fact, he has finished runner-up in each of the last three years. Should he break through and top that this weekend, he would figure to have a commanding lead in the championship.

Another statistic that may cause you to rub your eyes is the past history of reigning champion Josef Newgarden. Oddly enough, in his six starts in this race, Newgarden has never finished inside the top ten. Graham Rahal will certainly be a driver to keep an eye on this weekend. After the trouble he had starting the race at Texas, and his teammate Takuma Sato not able to compete, Graham is going to be a man on a mission. It would be ideal if he could channel that motivation during qualifying. He finished in 9th last year, and in the three years prior to that, he went from 17th to 2nd, 24th to 4th, 20th to 6th, and 17th to 9th.

The field for this race has been growing in recent weeks. Spencer Pigot will make his first start of the season on Saturday, driving the No. 45 Honda for RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport. This team will be getting familiar with one another as they are set to tackle the Indy 500 together in August. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing also announced last week that they will enter their No. 24 Chevrolet with Sage Karam. They were slated to participate in Toronto and St Petersburg this season, so the move makes perfect sense as they prepare to expand their participation.

Dalton Kellett will be making his IndyCar debut in the No. 14 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. The only reduction in the car count came from Carlin, who will once again enter just one entry this weekend for Max Chilton. Despite that, there will be 26 cars entered in the event on Saturday.

There will be a 90-minute practice session on Friday, following by qualifying at 4:30 PM ET that will air on NBC Sports Network. A 30-minute warmup session is scheduled for 9 AM on Saturday, with the 80-lap race starting at Noon on NBC. The Xfinity race will follow the IndyCar race on Saturday, and Sunday’s Brickyard 400 will air at 4 PM ET on NBC.

Driver Quotes

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Indianapolis is such a special place. It’s like my second home, so racing there means a lot to me personally, especially even more so now that Roger (Penske) owns the track. It’s such an honor racing for him, but with this being our first race there since he purchased the track, it just makes it even more great. And not to mention this will be the first time ever INDYCAR and NASCAR have raced at the same track on the same weekend, and it’s the Fourth of July, so it’s just going to be a huge event. I know myself and my crew on the XPEL Chevrolet are really pumped for this race weekend. We really miss the fans at our races but know precautions are necessary and are glad they will be joining us back at the track soon. It’s going to be such a huge weekend for NBC, and we are so thrilled to be part of it.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL: “While the GMR Grand Prix usually kicks off the Month of May, this year’s race is just as exciting as INDYCAR and NASCAR come together to celebrate the July 4th weekend with a historic doubleheader. I’ve had great results on the IMS road course in the past and can’t wait to get on track for my first road course in the No. 4 TRESIBA Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing! The opportunity to race for A.J. is always special – it means even more when it’s at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!”

PATO O’WARD: “The next few weeks ahead of us are going to be intense and eventful. There is no better place to start it off than at the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Arrow McLaren SP and I have used this time off to prepare and be ready to tackle the challenges coming toward us at each track and event. I can’t wait to get going again this Friday and am really excited to be racing again on NBC. Hopefully, Oliver (Askew) and I can put on a show for all our fans and partners.”

OLIVER ASKEW: “I’ve always enjoyed racing on the Indianapolis road course, and I’ve had a lot of success there on the Road to Indy. I hope to take that experience into my first INDYCAR road course race. I think that everyone at Arrow McLaren SP has set the foundations for a very good month of racing, so I’m looking to take advantage of the cars we have been working hard to put together. It will feel weird to be racing in Indianapolis without fans, but hopefully everyone tunes in to NBC to watch the race at noon on Saturday.”

MARCUS ERICSSON: “I’m very excited to go back racing again. It’s been a bit frustrating to wait it out after Texas. We’ve been wanting to go racing again right away. I think we have a lot of positives to bring as a team from Texas. We have amazing cars, and obviously with Scott (Dixon) winning the first race of the year, as well, that is bringing good momentum for the whole team. Personally, I think the Indy GP is a fun track. I had my best qualifying of the year there last year, so I have some good memories from there and I know the track well. I’m looking forward to building on that. Also, it’s the first road course race with the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda car. It’ll be exciting, and I’m really looking forward to it. I think we can really mix it up in the front of the field and fight for a good result on Saturday.”

SCOTT DIXON: “I’ve been excited as soon as the NASCAR-INDYCAR doubleheader was announced! It’s fantastic. I was a bit saddened only because I think that would be something great for the fans to see. I hope it’s something that will progress to more in the future. Looking forward to the Indy GP, I think we’ll definitely keep pushing and keep snatching these wins if we can. I just feel very lucky and very privileged to say we are going racing this weekend in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST: “It’s good to be back at Indy GP and Indy, in general. I think, considering everything right now, it’s a good feeling to be racing in Indy. It’s easier for everyone involved, the team, the drivers, as most of us live here. I think there’s definitely some unfinished business from last year with having my first-ever pole in INDYCAR at the Indy GP, but I was not able to bring a great result to it. So, that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re hungry and ready to go in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.”

WILL POWER: “Any time we race at Indianapolis is always just something else. There’s so much history at that track, and it means so much to our series. With Roger (Penske) owning the track now, it’s even more special knowing how much the series, the track and our team mean to him. The Verizon Chevy guys have prepared a really great car for this weekend. We have had some amazing success there as a team since Simon (Pagenaud) and I are still the only winners. This is such a fun road course and always is a place where the series really can put on a show. NBC has put a lot of time and effort into this race weekend and having NASCAR and INDYCAR at the same track during the same weekend will be really cool.”

DALTON KELLETT: “I’m excited to get my season underway at the GMR Grand Prix. I couldn’t be more grateful for the chance to make my debut in the No. 14 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet! With the long delay to the start of my season, it will be important to maximize all available track time – especially given the condensed schedule. As a rookie, I expect there to be obstacles to overcome and new challenges to face. I am confident in the team we have put together to take these on. The goal is to perform well and learn the most that I can in my rookie event.”

GRAHAM RAHAL: “There will be a lot of racing in the next three weeks, but we’re prepared. Physically I feel good, rested and ready. I think the team is ready, as well, and we’ve always seen that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rises up in the toughest of times, and I think that will continue. It’s very hard to apply anything we got from the COTA test since it was very limited due to conditions. We’re really relying on what we’ve learned in the sim and hoping it will translate nicely for us. The sim work was great. We found some huge improvements over our old setups, found a good lap time and really put ourselves in a better spot. Now the question remains, how will that translate to the track? We will find out shortly. We have worked really hard on resolving any prior issues that may have hurt us in Texas or in the past. I feel with the work on the sim and everywhere else that we’ve developed, our team has done a great job and prepared us for this weekend. It’s exciting to get back, and I’m thrilled to be getting going for the next few months. I imagine it will be a lot hotter now than it would have been in May. It will test the drivers with everything we’ve had going on, limited to no time on track in these cars with the Aeroscreen and everything else. It will be a challenge for us all, and the Fifth Third Bank team hopes to rise to the occasion.” (On racing with NASCAR): “It’s monumental. It’s a shame we will not have fans in attendance to see it all with us, but this is a great weekend for motorsports, and I’m excited to see what this can do for us in the future.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI: “I’m very excited to get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and race the No. 18 MOUSER MOLEX Honda. This will be the first time INDYCAR and NASCAR run on the same track on the same weekend, so it’s going to be historic and really great for the fans watching on TV. This will also be the first time INDYCAR competes on a road course with the new Aeroscreen, so that will be fun. I think after last year’s result on the IMS road course, the Dale Coyne Vasser Sullivan team can bring the MOUSER MOLEX machine to the front in the GMR Grand Prix.”

CONOR DALY: “After what seems like many months together as a team, we still have yet to race together. I’m very excited to get out there with Ed Carpenter Racing and complete our first race together. The car looks incredible. I can’t wait to get out there for the U.S. Air Force. ECR has done well at the GMR Grand Prix before, so it’s time to get out there and compete for a win. We’re looking to get some good points and start off this three-weekend stretch strong.”

RINUS VEEKAY: “I am really looking forward to the GMR Grand Prix, finally driving an Indy car at Indy! That’s something really special. I am excited to get to drive again and really get the season started now. We’ve got some really busy weeks coming up. I’m very confident and think we have a strong package for this weekend.”

SIMON PAGENAUD: “I am thrilled to go back to Indianapolis. My whole life changed last May when my Menards Chevrolet team had that incredible month by winning both the Indianapolis 500 and the INDYCAR GP. Memories I will never forget. Now we finally have the opportunity to return and attempt to win again. We have been very fortunate at Team Penske with that particular road course race since my teammate Will Power and I are still the only winners of the event, which says a lot about how our team works together. I have been training pretty hard since our last race at Texas. Training is such an important part of my race prep. It’s great to feel in the best physical shape and mental space of my career right now. I wish fans could join us but know they will be back soon, and I know all of us in the series can’t wait to see them back starting back at Road America. So, until then, we will do our best to put on a great show for all of the fans tuned into NBC.”

SAGE KARAM: “It’s been a long time for the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team to run more than just the Indy 500. They have been trying hard to expand their INDYCAR program, and this year WIX Filters extended its partnership to run some road courses. We were all ready to go at St. Petersburg when the (COVID-19) pandemic lockout started. We had to pack up and take everything back to Indy. We had put in a lot of work with testing, simulation runs and purchasing some road course parts with Dallara. We were hoping to run more events in 2020. But some races were postponed or canceled. So, I’m very excited to run the IMS road circuit this weekend. The Indy GP was not originally on our 2020 schedule, and I really wanted to do it. Now we get that opportunity. I ran a sim test recently for the IMS road course. I believe we are ready to go. It is a big learning curve for myself and DRR since it’s over seven years since DRR has run an NTT INDYCAR SERIES road race. I raced there in 2014 in the IMSA race with the Ganassi sports car and finished second. It was a tough situation at St. Pete as we were very excited to run there. And it just wasn’t me. There were guys moving up from the Indy Lights and other guys who were looking for full-time rides with new opportunities. It has been tough for all of the drivers to sit. Many guys had been chasing their dreams of INDYCAR racing and had to wait. It’s good that we can show our sport in action again after so many sports have been halted. I think the drivers want to put on the best possible show for the fans because we all – teams, drivers, sponsors and fans – have missed the racing. The fans are what makes the racing world go round.”

ZACH VEACH: “After the weeks off, I’m really excited to get back to a racetrack and jump into the thick of the season. We had a great run in our Gainbridge car at Texas and we’re looking forward to working as hard as we can to continue it here at the GMR Grand Prix. This weekend marks the first of five races in a 15-day span.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI: “After waiting for what seems like forever, we are kicking off a bit of a marathon stretch here with the GMR Grand Prix. This is quite a challenging track to get right, so our work will certainly be cut out for us with the expected heat, as well as the variable of the Aeroscreen. I am excited to be racing back in Indy, but we will certainly be missing our fans again this weekend.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “Time to go racing again and no better place to do it than at the Brickyard. Obviously, we wish our fans and partners could be in attendance with us and hopefully, that time will come soon enough. It was great to get back in the car at Texas and after a strong qualifying effort, we had some electrical issues on the grid that put us a lap down. The 28 DHL team feels like that was a huge opportunity that got away so we’re looking to capitalize on that form for this weekend’s GMR Grand Prix.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “It’s funny, the time between Texas and now feels almost as long as between St. Pete and Texas, so I think everyone is super excited to get back to racing. I haven’t turned right since last September, but it’s a track I really enjoy driving, and any day at IMS is a good day! Hopefully we can get the Genesys car up there and be contenders, especially on such an historic weekend with the INDYCAR/NASCAR doubleheader.”

TAKUMA SATO: “It’s very important to maximize the potential of five races in three weeks, but we need to do our best every weekend, no matter the circumstance. It will be hard for everyone at the team as its consecutive weekends, but hopefully we will be in great shape for every race. I think the biggest challenge of the GMR Grand Prix will be how we deal with just a single practice session before qualifying. It’s a 90-minute session, but we don’t have time for analyzing data between sessions, and if you need to change a suspension geometry or make some big change, then we lose a lot of time. It’s very limited on-track time. It’s challenging, for sure, not to have had on-track testing, as well as very limited access to the sim. Driver cooling on a road course is a little unknown for a hot day, but everyone seemed impressed with the cooling at the (Texas) oval so hopefully, we will have similar performance. The team is preparing everything they can, and we hope all the analysis we’ve done leads to a great performance on the track.”

SPENCER PIGOT: “The fact that the race was rescheduled will definitely help me a bit. Instead of the GMR Grand Prix being almost midseason, it’s the first road course race of the year so everyone will be trying to get comfortable again. Having said that, I think I’m the only driver that has no experience with the Aeroscreen, so that will be a big difference. I’ve talked to a lot of drivers, and they say it doesn’t take too long to get used to. Hopefully, that will be the case for me on Friday. It’s going to be a challenging weekend. The IMS road course is always pretty tricky. There are some technical sections with corners right on top of each other, so you have to be very accurate because one small mistake can affect three or four corners rather than just one. It will be great to work with Graham (Rahal) and Takuma (Sato) this weekend. They are two of the top drivers in INDYCAR, so being able to compare data and discuss car changes with them will be very helpful. With their only being one practice session, having three cars within one team will allow us to try more changes to make the best decisions before qualifying. I’ve been training a lot leading up to this weekend. I’ve been doing more workouts outside in the heat trying to prepare for the weather and the Aeroscreen. At Pit Fit Training, we’ve also been adding in some time in the sauna to our workouts to help get acclimated to the conditions we expect. I’ve also been going to the shop about three days a week, getting to know all the crew members better, get comfortable in the car, practicing pitstops, etc. I’ve been on the phone with my engineer on a regular basis, as well as going over some setup ideas and trying to plan out the weekend. We aren’t allowed inside the track until the morning of practice, so we are trying to prepare as much as possible before we get to the Speedway.

ALEX PALOU: “I’m really excited to get back to racing this weekend at the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Texas was my first official NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, but it was on an oval, after three months off and I had never raced on an oval before, so this weekend feels more like an unofficial first race for me! I’m very happy to be heading to a road course, which is the type of track that I’m used to racing on in Europe and Japan. It’s an environment that I’m much more comfortable with, so I’m looking forward to a good weekend in my Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda. The team had good cars there last season, and I’m confident we can be quick there this year. Hopefully, we can come out of the weekend with a good result.”

MAX CHILTON: “I couldn’t be more excited to get back behind the wheel of the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend on the road course at IMS after being out of the car for so long. It’s been a long time to be away from a racetrack, but I’ve been putting in a lot of time at my home gym and thankfully I was able to get some time on the sim last week as well as some testing in one of Carlin’s F3 cars at Silverstone to get back into the swing of things. I love being at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and really enjoy driving the road course layout there, so I’ve been anxious to get back over to the US for this one. Conor (Daly) and the team did a great job in Texas a few weeks ago and got us off to a great start, so I’m hoping I can keep us moving in that direction and come away with another solid result for Carlin and Gallagher.”

JACK HARVEY: The GP was obviously the highlight of our year last season with our first INDYCAR podium, not only for me as a driver but for everyone at Meyer Shank Racing. Naturally, we’re hoping to replicate another great weekend and if we can really string it together, we’d really like to end up on the top step.”

MARCO ANDRETTI: “This hasn’t been mine or the team’s strongest track, so I’m excited to try and turn that around this weekend. I always love coming to IMS. It’s a fun, challenging course that takes a different discipline of driving throughout the lap. It’ll be different without the fans this weekend but can’t wait to see them back here in August.”

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