Apron project at Indianapolis delayed for one year

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Back in December, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles revealed that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was likely to re-install the track’s previous “apron” in order to spice up the action for its NASCAR events.

But now comes word that the apron project has been delayed for at least one year, with Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star reporting that NASCAR officials wanted more time to study the effects of changes made to the track.

The Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series will race at Indy on July 26 (NNS; Indiana 250) and 27 (Cup; Brickyard 400), respectively.

“They asked if we could postpone [the project] so they could test it,” IMS president Doug Boles told Cavin today. “We said, ‘That makes sense; we understand that.'”

Boles also noted Indianapolis’ rough winter, which delayed multiple other track projects over the off-season; since the area took longer to warm up, officials decided not to run the risk of having the track not be ready for 2015 Indianapolis 500 activities.

Speedway crews had planned to begin re-installing the apron following the conclusion of its vintage racing weekend in early June.

The apron has been targeted as a way to increase passing for the stock cars at Indy, which have not also produced a great show on the 2.5-mile rectangular oval. An apron has not been in place at Indy since the early ’90s, when a series of bad IndyCar crashes compelled the track to remove it.

However, as Cavin reports, the delay on this project should be just that as Boles says that track shareholders have approved the re-installation.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.