IndyCar Grand Prix – an emerging tradition at the greatest racetrack
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most known as a venue of the Indianapolis 500 race (since 1911) and the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Cup Series race (since 1994), both at the 2.5-mile IMS oval circuit. But, Indianapolis Motor Speedway also has an infield road course, which was constructed in 2000 to host the Formula One Grand Prix race. Formula One was visiting Indianapolis until 2007. After that, Motorcycle Grand Prix was held there until 2015. Today, the main race on the 2.439-mile 14-turn circuit is the IndyCar Grand Prix.
The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was held in 2014
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis was held for the first time as a part of the IndyCar Series in May 2014, serving as a lead-in to the Indianapolis 500. In 2015 and 2016, the race was sponsored by Angie’s List and the official name was the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. In 2017, a sponsorship was dropped and the name was changed into the IndyCar Grand Prix.
The road course wasn’t explored enough
The first step in a direction of organizing the IndyCar Grand Prix race at Indianapolis had been made in 2012, when Hulman & Co., the parent company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, gets suggestions to explore the road course better. In that time, the annual Moto GP race was the main event there.
Before 2012, Indy cars had never raced on the road course layout, but their support series, the Indy Lights, had raced there four times between 2005 and 2007. IndyCar teams were using road course occasionally as a test facility since many of them are headquartered in the Indianapolis area.
Racing in the clockwise direction
In September 2013, an IndyCar feasibility test was conducted on the track and the test yielded positive results. The inaugural race was announced in October, being scheduled for early May 2014. The decision was made to utilize the course in a clockwise layout, opposite to motorcycle and stock car races but similar to F1 races back in the 2000s.
The circuit was reconstructed
The construction project began immediately to reconfigure the road course layout in order to the make the circuit more competitive and more suited for Indy cars. The entire road course portion was repaved, while several segments were modified. The new course distance measured 2.439 miles (3.925 km).
Since its inception, the IndyCar Grand Prix serves as an “opening weekend” for the month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, being scheduled for the Saturday two weeks before the Indianapolis 500.
Simon Pagenaud was the first winner
The first winner of the 82-lap Grand Prix of Indianapolis was Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud. The race was marked by a huge crash at the start, when a car of polesitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled, being hit by Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin. Later in the race, a rookie Jack Hawksworth was leading for race-high 31 laps. Pagenaud, who started fourth on the grid, led for six laps and took the victory ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves.
Lights-to-flag wins for Power and Pagenaud
In 2016, Simon Pagenaud became the first two-time winner of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, now as Team Penske’s driver. He started from pole and converted it to victory, after leading for 57 of 82 laps. Helio Castroneves finished second, ahead of James Hinchcliffe.
In 2017, Will Power did the same astwo years before – started from pole and led for 61 laps en route to victory. Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the podium.