A few things have changed throughout the years, but one thing remains true. The month of May is about Indy, and only Indy.
The month leading up to the Indy 500 was once spent strictly in preparation for that iconic race, but as the sport evolved, so has the preparation needed to go fast on this course.
“Obviously it was a month long back in the day because people were bringing new cars every year,” Will Power said on Thursday after setting the second fastest time in practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the speedway’s infield road course. “You really had to spend a lot of time sorting it out.
“You don’t need that much time on the oval anymore,” Power added. “You can just drive round and round and round and not learn much.”
While the grandeur of the Indy 500 has not changed, and more pressure than ever may be present in 2016 since this is the 100th running of that race, the month of May on this track has become more of a microcosm of the season. To win the championship, drivers now have to show success both on road courses and ovals.
“You got to think that IndyCar is about versatility,” Power said. “You got both disciplines here, road course and oval. If you could win both, that would be such a great achievement, you could now boast both wins.”
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course is not just any circuit. It was designed to host the United States Grand Prix when Formula 1 returned to America in 2000 after an eight-year hiatus. And for that reason, this track has a distinct cosmopolitan feel with hints of Barcelona and Silverstone, according to Power.
“It’s a track I really enjoy because it’s technical. It’s very much like a European track. You can drive the car in a different way that you can’t drive it on any other circuit.”
Power won last year’s edition of this race and hasn’t won since, which is one reason “it’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s a lot of fun. I think it races well, too. With the long straights and everything, creates good racing. Hopefully we can see a lot of passing in the race.”
That sentiment is limited in scope, however. “If I’m in front, hopefully not.”