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PREVIEW: Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

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The final dress rehearsal before the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this weekend, with the third Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The much younger and significantly more casual brother of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has perhaps suffered a lack of buildup this year but should be decently interesting nonetheless.

Here’s some of the nuggets heading into the weekend:

2016 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis – Talking Points

Weather woes?

At present it’s looking like a mid-50s high for Saturday’s race day, and intermittent rain mixed in throughout practice and qualifying. The three road and street races thus far have run under near ideal, picture perfect conditions and it will be fascinating to see whether the forecasted cooler weather makes a big impact on the racing thus far. Teams are allotted seven sets primary and three sets of Firestone’s alternate tires, with an eighth primary set available to any car running five laps on one set in the first 20 minutes of first practice.

Power vs. Pagenaud vs. 23 others

Thus far Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are the only two winners of the Grand Prix, and neither has been able to complete a month of May double dip sweep. Pagenaud rides the crest of momentum as he’s on the hottest streak of his career into this weekend’s race; Power, meanwhile, looks for his first win since this race last year.

“Yeah it does feel so long,” Power told reporters at the Team Penske headquarters in Charlotte earlier this week, including NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan.

“We were so quick last year (overall) but it didn’t work out. It becomes frustrating. This year, Phoenix, I made a mistake in the last pit stop. Dixon won. Long Beach, I screwed up in qualifying. Definitely was gonna be right there. Barber was just an average race. I’m determined to have a good month and put me back in position.”

Turn 1 tilt

The start line accident from a standing start in 2014 and last year’s cluster in Turn 1 have made the first lap of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis the standout moments for the highlight reels. Considering how difficult passing has been with this year’s closer aero kits, look for Turn 1 and the rest of Lap 1 to be a key factor in the outcome once more.

Rahal and Honda’s hopes

After his and the team’s near miss in Barber, and a runner-up finish here last year, Graham Rahal will be keen to put the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in victory circle for both his and Honda’s first win of 2016. Provided they can qualify a bit better like they did in Barber, it’s certainly possible.

The one-off wild cards

Expect the GPI to be the biggest and most notable race in terms of additional one-off entrants, besides the Indianapolis 500 later this month. In rookies Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham, the latter of whom makes his series debut, and veterans JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani, there’s an extra variable here with cars and drivers that aren’t in the usual battle.

Meanwhile, there’s also the last-minute change at Dale Coyne Racing with Gabby Chaves replacing Luca Filippi at least for the month of May. Both drivers are close on experience levels but Chaves, who’s a bit more experienced at Indy, should be able to provide a boost to the lineup.

The final word

One of the sneaky good drivers at the GPI has been KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who has back-to-back top-five finishes in the race. Here’s the pre-race quote from the driver of the No. 11 Team EUROPA – KVSH Chevrolet:

“I like the design of the Indy road circuit. There are a couple of good passing zones, but like all the road and street courses on the schedule, qualifying will be very important. We have finished fourth in the Indy Grand Prix the last two years and last year it was our first top-five finish of the season. Hopefully we can at least do that again this year.

“The EUROPA – KVSH Racing team has shown good pace, but we haven’t achieved the results we wanted so far this season. We just have to keep working and have a good race this weekend for the team and our sponsors.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

Thursday, May 12    

11:00-12:15 Practice 1 
3:00-4:15   Practice 2    

Friday, May 13    

11:00-11:45 Practice 3  
3:00-4:15   Qualifying 

Saturday, May 14    

11:30-12:00 Warm-up  
3:30        TV coverage starts (ABC)  
3:43/3:50   Drivers Start Your Engine/Est. Green Flag

All times local and ET.

Here’s last year’s top 10:

1. Will Power
2. Graham Rahal
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Sebastien Bourdais
5. Charlie Kimball
6. Helio Castroneves
7. Tony Kanaan
8. Stefano Coletti
9. Takuma Sato
10. Scott Dixon

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six:

1. Will Power
2. Scott Dixon
3. Helio Castroneves
4. Juan Pablo Montoya
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. Tony Kanaan

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.