Well, they weren’t wrong. There is definitely a strange vibe at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today that makes this day feel absolutely nothing like anything an IndyCar fan might recognize if they are used to enjoying the Month of May and the Indianapolis 500.
Given that the NASCAR Cup Series hasn’t even been on track today while IndyCar has spent the day sharing the course with the NASCAR Xfinity Series, it certainly doesn’t, in any way, suggest that IndyCar is indeed a true co-headliner. In fact, the closest IMS analogy I can think of is that today feels like when Indy Lights used to have a practice and qualifying day prior to Carb Day for their Freedom 100.
While IndyCar teams are used to working out of the Gasoline Alley garages, those spots are being occupied by the Xfinity Series teams while the Cup teams are utilizing the former Formula 1 garages behind pit road. I guess that makes some sense as IndyCar teams are used to working out of temporary paddock accommodations given their experience with numerous street courses each year, but it certainly feels odd to see the track’s namesake race cars relegated to temporary housing out in left field.
In terms of the physical facility, I admittedly didn’t wander to the back side of the road course, but for the people along the frontstraight, the only indication of IndyCar being here is an NTT IndyCar Series banner covering a section of seats immediately north of the start/finish line. Otherwise, all signage is related to the numerous NASCAR partners.
I will admit that it is interesting to actually see some of the NASCAR guys out here and watch those cars navigate this circuit. Even though the Xfinity cars were about 20 seconds off the pace of their IndyCar brethren, you can certainly tell they are working just as hard to squeeze every tenth of a second out of their machines. I expect seeing the Cup cars tomorrow will be a similar experience. (It will be nice to actually recognize a few more of those names as well.) It’s been well over a decade since I last saw stock cars on track (Chicagoland Speedway in probably 2009 or 2010). It’s not always bad to be exposed to a different engine note and a different type of racing. For those who haven’t been to a stock car race before and are in the neighborhood, you should consider swinging by the Brickyard tomorrow for a full day of action.
That’s going to wrap up a short, low-key day here at IMS. I’ll be back tomorrow morning (after breakfast at Charlie Brown’s, of course) in time for IndyCar’s warmup session at 8:15 with the 85-lap Gallagher Grand Prix getting the green flag at 12:30 pm EDT.
2:16 pm — It was a pretty last-minute decision, but I ended up making the short, two-hour drive from Champaign over to Indianapolis for the NASCAR/INDYCAR “Doubeheader” weekend and am currently parked in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. Due to some real-job necessities this morning, I wasn’t able to arrive until the beginning of IndyCar qualifying, which has just recently wrapped up.
As I’ve mostly missed the on-track IndyCar action for the day, I am going to take some time to explore the facility and take in a bit of the environment around here. I’ve heard many people say it is an odd (some would even go so far as to call it a humiliating) weekend for IndyCar as they are definitely the odd man out at their home track, so I’m going to go do a bit of exploring.
Spoiler alert: Felix Rosenqvist led a Arrow McLaren SP 1-3 qualifying effort with future McLaren driver Alexander Rossi sitting between them. Rounding out the Top 6 for tomorrow race are Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden along with RLLR’s Christian Lundgaard.