The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host its first Verizon IndyCar Series road course race this weekend, adding to the excitement surrounding the month of May for fans of open wheel racing leading up to the May 25 Indianapolis 500. This will be the first time that the series competes on both the roadcourse and oval tracks, and will add yet another wrinkle in the storied history of the brickyard.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and driver Josef Newgarden are looking forward to competing in the inaugural 82-lap Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the brand-new 14-turn, 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) road course Saturday, May 10.
"Adding the Grand Prix of Indianapolis feels more like the full Month of May that IndyCar used to be," Newgarden said. "I think fans will get a much better view of what Indy cars are all about from a bigger scale and not just the Indianapolis 500. There's a lot more to offer with IndyCar, and fans will get to see that first-hand."
SFHR tested on the road course for the first time last week. Newgarden turned a lap of 1 minute, 10.9278 seconds in the No. 67 Klipsch Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry, 1.3309 seconds behind leader Scott Dixon.
"We're a little bit more behind than we'd like to be for the Grand Prix course," Newgarden said. "We didn't have a stellar test, but it was our first time out there, and we learned what we needed to. We are going to push as hard as we can this weekend because it's Indianapolis and we are excited to have Klipsch Audio behind us. I feel confident that we're going to be able to figure out what we need to in practice and that we will be quick on Saturday."
Newgarden is 10th in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship point standings after placing in the top 10 in St. Petersburg and at Barber Motorsports Park.
Nashville-area native Newgarden thinks fans will experience exciting IndyCar racing in the Grand Prix of Indianpolis due to the layout of the circuit that runs through the inside of IMS' notorious oval.
"I think it'll be challenging to get away from anyone at the race because there's such long straightaways and really good brake zones, which should not allow one person to be able to break away from the field." Newgarden said. "I think there's going to be a lot of passing, a lot of drafting down the straights. I think it will be wheel to wheel with a lot of the field for the whole race."
When the checkered flag flies at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday evening, IMS will undergo a transformation to oval configuration in less than 24 hours before Opening Day of the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 11.
"It will be more challenging for the teams going straight from the Grand Prix to Opening Day for the '500' because the cars have to be turned around immediately," Newgarden said. "The drivers have to mentally switch over to the different challenge of running on the oval, but I think it'll be tougher on the teams."
Practice for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins at 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, May 8.
“After getting more time on this track I think the restarts are going to be incredibly exciting," added Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud. "We can definitely run side by side for quite awhile around here. We’re going to put on a good show for the fans. With such a long, straight line before you reach Turn 1 there’s an opportunity for teams to pick a level of downforce that’s different from the competition to get an advantage. It’s going to add another element of intrigue on race day for sure."
His teammate Mikhail Aleshin, carrying the colors of the Russian Federation and sponsor SMP bank, has high hopes for the roadcourse, and for the month of May in general.
“I had half a day testing here last week and found that I really enjoy this road course," Aleshin added. "It’s very smooth, and has a nice curving configuration. There will be plenty of chances for overtaking here. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has put together two great cars for our team that will perform well in hot and cold, rainy conditions. Every driver here is relatively new to the track so we’re all still trying to find the best line.”
History will be made at the storied track on Saturday, May 10, with the running of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. ABC will have a live telecast of the Grand Prix at 3:30 p.m. ET with the race’s green flag at 3:50 p.m., featuring announcer Allen Bestwick with analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever.
Verizon IndyCar Series team owner and Indianapolis 500 veteran Sarah Fisher will be honored on Mother's Day/Opening Day of the 98th Indianapolis 500 at noon (ET) Sunday, May 11 when she waves the green flag for the start of practice. Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles will make a surprise presentation to Fisher, who is expecting her second child June 19, after she waves the green flag.
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