The month of May for the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is much busier than usual this year, thanks to the inaugural road course race here this weekend.
Saturday's Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be the first time the series competes on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at IMS. Immediately following this race, preparations begin for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. The 2.5-mile oval opens for the initial Indy 500 practice session on Sunday. The 500-mile race at IMS is scheduled for May 25.
Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the GP of Indianapolis. Two practice sessions were held on the road course on Thursday and a final session on Friday morning. Teams also had a one-day test here on April 30.
The "new" road course at IMS took 70 construction crew members 35,400 hours to transform the "old" circuit for the GP of Indianapolis. Some IndyCar drivers have competed on the course here in the past. Sebastien Bourdais won the first sports car race (Grand-Am Series) at this track in 2012. Marco Andretti scored the victory in the inaugural Indy Lights event here in 2005. Takuma Sato earned his maiden Formula One podium at Indy in 2004.
This course incorporates portions of turns 1 and 2 as well as the frontstretch of IMS. The scheduled 82-lap, 200-mile race will feature a standing start and will run clockwise, the opposite of the Indy 500. Drivers will have at minimum four unique opportunities to pass, including the revised turn 1, a 90-degree right-hand corner.
Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car champion, was quickest in Thursday's P1 with a lap in 1 minute, 10.5150 seconds.
"We had a good test on the new road course last [week]," Bourdais said. "We made a lot of progress and learned some things. I raced here in Grand-Am, and that was fun, but that track was very slippery. I have to say I had some reservations early on because the corners [of the new racetrack] are very tight, but the grip more than makes up for it. The new asphalt that was laid down is very, very grippy and actually a lot of fun."
Scott Dixon, the defending IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner, led the way in P2 (1:10.4654).
"It's obviously nice to have a home race," Dixon said. "It's been a real pleasure to be back at this place, starting the month a little bit earlier. They did a fantastic job on the track - one, with the grip level, and two, the way it's going to race with the long straights and big braking zones."
A light rain fell on the course for Friday's 45-minute morning practice session. Qualifying is scheduled for the afternoon. Simon Pagenaud topped the charts in final practice with his lap in 1:23.1597.
"It's a nice racetrack," Pagenaud said. "It's flowing. There's a nice rhythm to it. It's in Indy, and it's at home."
The GP of Indianapolis is the fourth IndyCar event of the season. There have been three different race winners this year: Will Power (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Mike Conway (Long Beach, Calif.) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Birmingham, Ala.).
There have been three different pole winners as well: Sato (St. Petersburg), Hunter-Reay (Long Beach) and Power (Birmingham).
Power currently holds an 18-point lead over Hunter-Reay and a 33-point advantage over Pagenaud. Dixon is 38 markers behind.
Series: Verizon IndyCar. Date: Saturday, May 10. Race: Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Site: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course). Track: 2.439- mile, 14-turn course. Start Time: 3:50 p.m. ET. Laps: 82. Miles: 200. Television: ABC. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.