Show car and revised course (IndyCar photo)

Miles: Road course race is plan to “jump start, ignite” month of May

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said the month of May at Indianapolis in its current stature could be so much more. So plans to increase exposure for the city, and the bottom line for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have made an IMS road course race for IndyCar all the more likely.

“We started looking candidly and asked, ‘Can take this to another level? What if we could do more with May?’ This will build to the culminating event. What if we could jump start and ignite May,” Miles said at the IMS press conference on Tuesday.

Miles said the two weekends prior to the Indianapolis 500 – which in 2014 will be held May 25 – needed a concerted effort to feel like bigger deals.

“We concluded we needed to concentrate on the weekends,” he said. “Opening weekend, I just had this nagging feel we could do more. We had a great antique car show, practice, and the atmosphere was starting but we asked why not turbocharge it. Let’s bring the best of our worlds together. I feel we need to expose Indianapolis race fans to IndyCar racing.”

That last line is, to this writer’s mind at least, a tad disconcerting considering the high volume of IndyCar fans that live in Indianapolis or the surrounding areas. But perhaps Miles’ point was more that a fair number of fans who attend the Indianapolis 500 do so because it is an iconic cultural event, not necessarily for the race itself.

And additionally, the Indianapolis 500 is blacked out locally in Indy, which removes a local option for fans who may not choose to attend the race in person.

Miles is optimistic this race could expose Indianapolis, and the IndyCar Series, to a greater national level of attention. As Mayor Greg Ballard put it, there is “nothing like the month of May in Indianapolis.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.