By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will kick off the Month of May with the 4th running of the INDYCAR Grand Prix. The race weekend is slated for May 12-13, 2017.
About the Race
The INDYCAR Grand Prix is round five of seventeen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017. The event is held on a permanent road course, one of six such events in 2017.
The defending race winner is Simon Pagenaud. For the Team Penske driver, it was his third consecutive series win en route to the 2016 series championship.
The race will consist of 85 laps for a race distance of 207.32 miles. Support races include action from Pro Mazda, US F2000, and Indy Lights, as well as a unique race that will pit Sam Schmidt against Mario Andretti in autonomous cars.
About the Track
The race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which was constructed in 1909. In order to host Formula One, an infield road course was added in 1999, and the facility became the home of the United States Grand Prix from 2000-2007.
The course was modified in 2008 to make it more palatable to hosting Moto GP. After a feasibility test for running the Verizon IndyCar Series, the course was further modified in 2013.
The current version of the infield circuit features 14 turns and measures 2.439 miles around. The track utilizes much of the oval’s front straight, as well as portions of turns one and two. The track runs clockwise, in contrast to the oval races held at the Speedway.
Other than the 9.2 degrees of banking in the oval turns, the course is relativity flat, offering fine viewing for spectators. The tight right-hand turn one offers a great opportunity to pass as we have seen the field fan out four-and five wide coming down the front straight.
The thought of hosting the IndyCars on the infield road course began soon after the 2000 Formula One debut at the facility. Early speculation gained more momentum after the Indy Lights Series began utilizing the circuit in 2005 with the Liberty Challenge; a support race for Formula One.
The idea continued to be tossed about for nearly another decade. In late 2013, the event became a reality when it was announced on the Series’ 2014 schedule.
The inaugural run was won by Simon Pagenaud, in a race that was marred by a crash at the start. Utilizing a Formula One style standing start, the pole winning car of Sebastian Saavedra stalled at the green. Now a sitting duck, he was subsequently plowed into by both Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin.
The second running, this time with a traditional rolling start, featured a turn-one melee when Scott Dixon spun in front of the entire field. The remainder of the race ran caution-free as Will Power dominated the event taking the win.
The 2016 edition saw another first lap incident that took out Tony Kanaan, one of the most popular drivers at the Speedway. Simon Pagenaud went on to take his second INDYCAR Grand Prix win.
About the Field
The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed, top-to-bottom lineups in all of racing.
Joining the 21 full-time entrants in the series will be Juan Pablo Montoya in a fifth entry with Team Penske.
The reigning Series Champion is Simon Pagenaud, who drives for Team Penske. Pagenaud, who hails from Poitiers, France, is in his third season with Team Penske, and 2016 marked his first series title. Pagenaud is also the current points leader coming off of a win at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama two weeks ago.
Sixteen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, seven have won championships in IndyCar or CART/ChampCar, and five are Indy 500 winners. There will be one true rookie in the field, with Ed Jones behind the wheel of the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Drivers in the series represent twelve different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.
About the Series
The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen steady growth in attendance and television ratings.
The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which will run for the 101st time in May. Mark Miles is the Chief Executive of Hulman and Company, and Jay Frye is the President of Competition and Operations for the Verizon Indycar Series.
Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer. The 2017 rules called for a freeze on aero-kit development, in anticipation of a common aero package for 2018.
Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.
Where and When to Watch
Tickets for the INDYCAR Grand Prix can be purchased here. Raceday reserved seats range from $41.00-$87.00, general admission tickets are $30.00 and kids under 15 are free with a paying adult. There are also a variety of two-day, garage pass, and VIP packages available
Television coverage of the race will be provided by ABC-TV. Race coverage will begin at 3:30 PM EDT on Saturday May 13. Coverage of practice, qualifying and support series’ can also be found streaming on the Verizon IndyCar Series You Tube Channel, Facebook Page or at http://racecontrol.indycar.com/
Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Fans can also keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.