What to watch for: IndyCar at the GP of Indianapolis


INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s what to look for ahead of the fifth round of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season, the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis (3:30 p.m. ET, check local listings), which serves as the first of two races at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month of May. Qualifying highlights are above.


The weather forecast has been a moving target throughout the week, and now throughout the day in the run-up to todays race. Storms are expected to hit around 3 p.m. and may intensify later after that; per weather.com as of 12:30 p.m. ET, the chance for rain moves from 35 percent up to 70 percent, then to 100 by 5 p.m., then back down to 35.

The weekend at IMS has been dry thus far and there have been a decent number of fans on the mounds on the grounds. Rain would likely kill walk-up attendance, and it would also throw a monkey wrench into the setups for teams that are gambling that it will stay dry. If you’re setting up for a wet setup though, it may play to your benefit.


Today’s grid order is not a good look for the series, and to be honest, from talking to folks on the ground at IMS, neither Chevrolet nor Honda officials like the way it looks.

In order, it goes 10 Chevrolets, 1 Honda, 1 Chevrolet, 1 Honda, 2 Chevrolets and then 10 Hondas to make up the balance of the 25-car field. Only Jack Hawksworth in 11th and James Hinchcliffe in 13th prevented a full top-13 sweep by Chevrolet aero kits.

Honda is struggling on overall lap pace and in particular, on top-end speed. Some 5 or 6 mph separate the top Chevrolets from the top Hondas on average.

It poses a major challenge to the teams at the IMS road course, which has two of the longest straights all season for the series.

Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, thus far, have provided Honda’s best hopes this year. They may be best positioned to do likewise today, but might need either rain, strategy or both to have their ultimate shot at success.


Last year, the fifth race saw the first repeat winner of the year. And today, it may be possible for the Verizon IndyCar Series to have the first repeat winner of 2015.

Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya have the best shot of scoring their second wins thus far this year from second and fourth on the grid, respectively.

A win for Will Power (polesitter), Helio Castroneves (starts third) or Simon Pagenaud (fifth) would extend the streak to five winners in five races. Other 2015 winners Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe start 12th and 13th, respectively.


Firestone has brought its hardest compound primary tire for this weekend’s race, and this year’s selection is the same primary and alternate specification used at this race and Mid-Ohio last year.

If the race stays dry, high levels of tire degradation are unlikely, as polesitter Power explains.

“The tire’s really consistent here,” Power said in Friday’s press conference. “You could still pump out good lap times at the very end of the stint. It almost evens itself out with fuel weight with a bit of tire degradation. The track takes rubber really well. At the end of the race, it just gets better and better and better. It just lays down rubber and sticks, too.

“Yeah, I don’t think there’s going to be any tire deg at all.”

Firestone will also utilize the same rain tire as in 2014, as the team works on a new wet tire.


  • Interesting times for JR Hildebrand, who returns to a Verizon IndyCar Series road course race for the first time since August 2013 at Sonoma in the No. 6 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet. Hildebrand qualified a respectable 15th, only a couple tenths off teammates Newgarden and Luca Filippi. But strangely, given the engine/aero kit disparity, Hildebrand is the lowest Chevrolet on the grid – ahead of 10 Hondas.
  • Among the Hondas is Justin Wilson, who makes his series return and will roll off 18th in his Andretti Autosport debut.
  • Stefano Coletti led the warmup session and also has a fastest race lap (Long Beach) to his credit this year. The KV Racing Technology rookie is in desperate need of a top finish after four tough results to open 2015.

Heart of Racing program aims to elevate new generation of women to star in sports cars

women sports cars
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/Heart of Racing

(Editor’s note: This story on the Heart of Racing sports cars shootout for women is one in an occasional Motorsports Talk series focusing on women in racing during March, which is Women’s History Month.)

Heart of Racing driver and team manager Ian James says his daughter, Gabby, isn’t so interested in auto racing. But she is interested (as a New York-based journalist) in writing about the sport’s efforts and growth in gender equality

It’s a topic that also was brought up by James’ wife, Kim.

“They’re always saying, ‘Hey, you manage all these guys, and you help them, so why not a woman?’ ” Ian James told NBC Sports. “And I feel like there are a lot of women that haven’t had a fair crack at it in sports car racing.

Our whole DNA at Heart of Racing is we give people opportunities in all types of situations where there’s been crew personnel or drivers. And I felt like we hadn’t really addressed the female driver situation. I felt like there was a void to give somebody a chance to really prove themselves.”

During the offseason, the team took a major step toward remedying that.

Hannah Grisham at the Heart of Racing shootout (Mike Levitt/LAT)

Heart of Racing held its first female driver shootout last November at the APEX Motor Club in Phoenix, Arizona, to select two women who will co-drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the SRO SprintX Championship.

The season will begin this weekend at Sonoma Raceway with Hannah Grisham and Rianna O’Meara-Hunt behind the wheel. The team also picked a third driver, 17-year-old Annie Rhule, for a 2023 testing program.

The Phoenix audition included 10 finalists who were selected from 130 applicants to the program, which has been fully underwritten by Heart of Racing’s sponsors.

“We didn’t want it to be someone who just comes from a socio-economic background that could afford to do it on their own course,” James said. “We can pick on pure talent. We’re committed to three years to do this and see if we can find the right person. I’m very hopeful.”

So is Grisham, a Southern California native who has been racing since she was 6 in go-karts and since has won championships in Mazda and Miata ladder series. She has several victories in the World Racing League GP2 (an amateur sports car endurance series). The last two years, Grisham has worked as a test driver for the Pirelli tire company (she lives near Pirelli’s U.S. headquarters in Rome, Georgia, and tests about 30 times a year).

Starting with the Sonoma during SprintX event weekends (which feature races Saturday and Sunday), she will split the Heart of Racing car with O’Meara-Hunt (a New Zealand native she got to know at the shootout).

“It’s huge; the biggest opportunity I’ve had in this sport,” Grisham, 23, told NBC Sports. “Now it’s up to me to perform how I know I can. But I’m super lucky to be with such an amazing team and have a good teammate. The Heart of Racing has a family vibe and energy to it that’s really amazing. It’s super exciting. It’s hard to put into words.”

Grisham is hopeful that a strong performance eventually could lead to a full-time ride with Heart of Racing. The team has full-time entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and won the GTD category of the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 piloted by James, Darren Turner, Roman DeAngelis and Marco Sorensen.

James said “there’s no guarantee” of placement in an IMSA entry for Grisham and O’Meara-Hunt, but “if they prove themselves, we’ll continue to help them throughout their career and our team. The GT3 program is an obvious home for that. If they get the opportunity and don’t quite make it, we’ll be looking for the next two. The next three years, we’ll cycle through drivers until we find the right one.”

Grisham described the two-day shootout as a friendly but intense environment. After a day of getting acclimated to their cars, drivers qualified on new tires the second day and then did two 25-minute stints to simulate a race.

Hannah Grisham reviews data with Heart of Racing sports car driver Gray Newell during the team’s shootout last November (Mike Levitt/LAT).

“Everyone was super nice,” she said. “Once everyone gets in the car, it’s a different level. A different switch gets turned on. Everyone was super nice; everyone was quick. I feel we had an adequate amount of seat time, which is definitely helpful.

“It’s always cool to meet more women in the sport because there’s not too many of us, even though there’s more and more. It’s always cool to meet really talented women, especially there were so many from all over the world.”

IMSA has celebrated female champions and race winners, notably Katherine Legge (who is running GTD full time this season with Sheena Monk for Gradient Racing). The field at Sebring and Daytona also included the Iron Dames Lamborghini (a female-dominated team).

The Heart of Racing’s female driver shootout drew interested candidates from around the world (Mike Levitt/LAT).

James believes “a breakout female driver will be competing with the best of them” in the next five years as gender barriers slowly recede in motorsports.

“It’s been a male-dominated sport,” James said. “It’s still a very minute number of women drivers compared to the guys. I’m sure back in the day there were physical hurdles about it that were judged. But now the cars are not very physical to drive, and it’s more about technique and mental strength and stuff like that, and there’s no reason a girl shouldn’t do just as well as a guy. What we’re just trying to achieve is that there isn’t an obvious barrier to saying ‘Hey, I can’t hire a guy or a girl.’ We just want to put girls in front of people and our own program that are legitimate choices going forward for people.”

“There’s been some really good female drivers, but a lot of them just haven’t been able to sustain it, and a lot of that comes from sponsorship. I think (with the shootout), there’s no pressure of raising money and worrying about crash damage. We’ve taken care of all that so they can really focus on the job at hand.”

Funding always has been a hurdle for Grisham, who caught the racing bug from her father, Tom, an off-road driver who raced the Baja 1000 several times.

“I don’t come from a lot of money by any means,” she said. “So since a young age, I’ve always had to find sponsorships and get people to help me, whether it was buying tires, paying for entry fees, paying for the shipment of a car to an actual race. Literally knocking on the doors of people or businesses in my town.

“So yeah, it’s definitely something I’ve always struggled with and held me back because the sport revolves so much around money. So again to get this opportunity is insane.”

Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was one of two women selected by the Heart of Racing to drive in the SRO SprintX Championship this year (Mike Levitt/LAT).

Grisham credits racing pioneer Lyn St. James (an Indy 500 veteran and sports car champion) as a role model who has helped propel her career. She was hooked by the sights, smells and sounds of racing but also its competitive fire.

“There’s a zone you get in, that subconscious state of mind when you’re driving. It’s like addictive almost. I love it. Also I’m just a very competitive person as I think most race car drivers are.

“For sure I want to stay with the Heart of Racing. Obviously, I’m still getting to know everyone, but it’s a super family vibe. That’s how I grew up in the sport with just my dad and I wrenching on the cars. That’s what I love about this sport is all the amazing people you meet. And I think this is one of the most promising teams in this country. For sure, I want to learn as much as I can from them and hopefully continue. I feel so lucky and grateful to be one of those chosen.”