By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The Month of May will officially begin this weekend with the running of the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
The grand prix circuit opened doors in 2000 when it was the site of Formula One’s United States Grand Prix, won by Michael Schumacher. F1 ran at Indy until 2007 as INDYCAR wouldn’t make its debut until an updated layout in 2014 was won by Simon Pagenaud. The GMR Grand Prix has been a staple in the sport ever since.
Although fans have mixed opinions on the circuit being run that month and now twice a year, some drivers see it as a racer’s circuit such. Drivers who’ve been able to get around the circuit quite well include Jack Harvey. Although results haven’t quite backed up his qualifying runs, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver hopes one of his strongest circuits will turn his season around.
Team Penske’s Will Power has yet to finish outside the top-four this season. Despite this, he’s fourth in points, trailing championship leader Alex Palou by just 10 points. The man sitting fourth in points is no stranger to success at the grand prix circuit, he’s won there five times and determined of going for win number six.
With his strongest start in recent memory, a win may put Power into the conversation as a title contender. More importantly, bring momentum to Team Penske as they hope the month ends with another Indianapolis 500 victory in their arsenal.
Defending race winner Rinus VeeKay is fresh off a podium at Barber Motorsports Park. It was his first podium since his cycling accident last summer. While a shot at another win from the pole came up short, a podium couldn’t have come at a grater time for the young Dutchman.
“I think spirits are very high. Of course we’re coming off a better start than we did last year,” said VeeKay. “I know we have a very good car here. We’ve always been fast here since my first-ever race here.
“I think I was a little sad after the race that I didn’t win last weekend. I think we had the opportunity to, and of course you want to grab it and take it,” VeeKay continued.
“Had a few bad sleeps because of that, but I think right now, I’m just extra motivated to go for that win this weekend and defend my win from last year. The team, everyone is very happy, and spirits are very high, so that’s very good.”
Finally, a familiar number of recent times will make its return. The No. 6, known as Robert Wickens’ number before his career-altering crash at Pocono, will be on an INDYCAR grid for the first time since 2018. The man behind the wheel will be Juan Pablo Montoya, who’ll run a third Arrow McLaren SP entry with colors similar to Wickens’ and exact sponsorship in Lucas Oil.
Montoya’s entry bumps the field total to 27 cars, equaling the most entries this season. That’ll change in two weeks when 33 cars will look to take the green flag in the 106th Indianapolis 500.
For now, the mindset is on the GMR Grand Prix, where a strong afternoon will do wonders for several teams.
By the Numbers
What: GMR Grand Prix, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 5 of 17
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Speedway, IN (Road Course Opened: 2000, first INDYCAR event was 2014)
When: Saturday, May 14
TV/Radio: NBC/Peacock/INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 160), 3:00 pm ET
Track Size: 2.439-mile road course
Race Length: 85 laps, 207.3 miles
2021 Race Winner: Rinus VeeKay – No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet (Started 7th, 33 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Will Power – No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet (67.7044 seconds, 129.687 mph – May 12, 2017)
From the Driver’s Seat
Rinus VeeKay – No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
“We’ve always really had a great setup on this track. Showing up here, we were always really fast already, and I’ve also driven a lot on this track in the Road to Indy. I’ve done many laps here. Many races I’ve done here.
“It feels very natural to push very hard on this track very soon, so I think we can really push hard and be on the limit very early in the weekend, which gives us a lot more time to try more changes on the car.”
Alex Palou – No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
“I cannot wait. It’s already May. You can feel it. It’s such a special place. It’s good that we got a good race (at Barber). To get a bit more relaxed going into Indy road course where we had strong results there and we were competitive.”
Last Time in the GMR Grand Prix
Last May, American Open Wheel Racing fans were properly introduced to Romain Grosjean, who put the Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing Honda on pole. As the weekend unfolded, he won fans over that’s carried onto today.
However, Grosjean would have to hold of a strong field to have a shot at a race win. That cloudy Saturday afternoon, one team stepped up to the plate. The team was Ed Carpenter Racing with Rinus VeeKay taking control of the race narrative.
On Lap 42, VeeKay threaded the needle by splitting by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou. The latter was for position and proved to be vital once Grosjean made his pit stop two laps later. VeeKay was right behind him and through the final set of corners, passed him that would ultimately hand him the lead.
During the final pit stop, it was a no contest as VeeKay was long gone once Grosjean exited out of the pits. The Dutchman went on to score his maiden NTT IndyCar Series win while Grosjean scored his first podium.
A year later, VeeKay reflected on what the grand prix win meant for him as he’ll look to repeat this weekend.
“Doing that in Indianapolis is very special. Also the way it went,” said VeeKay. “Everything went right in the race, and it was a dominant win, which I will never forget, and actually this might be the a good opportunity to show, but I got the date here tattooed on my arm in the off-season.
“That’s a date that will be printed on me for the rest of my life and something I will never, never forget.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, May 13
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 1 (9:30 am to 10:30 am – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 2 (12:45 pm to 1:45 pm – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (4:00 pm – Peacock)
- Indy Lights Race No. 1 (5:30 pm – Peacock)
Saturday, May 14
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice Warmup (10:30 am to 11:00 am – Peacock)
- Indy Lights Race No. 2 (1:15 pm – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series GMR Grand Prix (3:00 pm – 85 laps, 207.3 miles – NBC/Peacock/SiriusXM)