7:02 PM — The 2023 GMR Grand Prix is in the books, and Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou laid a beating on the field, taking the checkered flag a full 16-seconds ahead of McLaren’s Pato O’Ward. McLaren’s newest addition, Alexander Rossi, rounded out the podium after starting tenth.
Chasing the podium finishers and rounding out the Top 10 were polesitter Christian Lundgaard, the third McLaren with Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta, and Graham Rahal.
What started as a day filled with so much promise for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing quickly turned sour with Lundgaard losing the lead on the opening lap, Rahal getting punted and needing to pit to change a flat right rear tire, and Jack Harvey quickly falling to another forgettable 20th place finish. However, Lundgaard was able to settle in, led 13 laps on the day, and ultimately finished fourth, by far the best performance for the team on the 2023 season. In spite of the terrible start for Rahal, he was able to soldier on, lead seven laps during pit stop shuffles, and brought home a solid, 10th place finish.
While Ganassi will be happy with the win for Palou, the rest of the cars didn’t perform quite as well. Dixon, Ericsson, and Marcus Armstrong finished in sixth, eighth, and fifteenth place. Generally speaking, most teams would be pleased with those results, but I think their performance will be overshadowed by the great day McLaren had, bringing their cars home in second, third, and fifth. Nonetheless, Ganassi heads into practice for the 500 as one of the favorites.
Admittedly, this is only one race, but it really feels like the Team Chevy baton is well on the way of being passed from Team Penske to Arrow McLaren Racing. While Penske has a pair of victories this year (Newgarden at Texas and McLaughlin at Barber), the McLaren team has felt stronger on the whole this entire season. With an overall anonymous and uneventful race today, Team Penske certainly isn’t heading into practice for the Indianapolis 500 making a splash and riding a high. And with three consecutive forgettable Indianapolis 500s, all three Penske drivers will be feeling even more pressure this year to be competitive and bring home a victory for Grand Facility’s new owner.
Another team that was anonymous in the race – owing mostly to the fact their two cars took each other out on the second lap – was Dale Coyne Racing. Neither car had been strong through the weekend with David Malukas starting 20th and Sting Ray Robb starting 22nd. However, an aggressive move by Robb into Turn 7 of the second lap failed miserably and took out both of the Illinois-based cars. Thankfully for DCR, they won’t have to ruminate on the results for long as they’ll be back on track for oval practice in just two days.
Overall, this was a pretty ho-hum race, as many of them have tended to be. INDYCAR is reporting there were 286 passes (though those may have included pit shuffles), but the race was never particularly exciting or suspenseful. The fact that Palou just ran away from the field actually had little to do with the inactivity as the racing was fairly close behind him. However, running the final 80 laps under green had most of the field quickly strung out and made for a lot of processional laps.
Nonetheless, the preliminary events are out of the way now, and it’s time to flip things around! After a couple days off to celebrate moms, rearrange the track, and give teams one last chance to catch their breaths, practice for the 107th Indianapolis 500 kicks off Tuesday morning. As of this moment, the forecast is looking pretty good with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, possible showers on Friday, and a gorgeous weekend on tap. Given that next weekend is still seven days away, it’s just as likely to be stormy with temperatures in the upper 50s. This is Indiana, after all. But here’s to hoping this forecast is right.
That’s going to put a bow on my short coverage of the GMR Grand Prix. I’ll be back most every day this week with more coverage here at Fieldof33. I’ll have a couple more Historic Indy 500 journals to post, a preview of next weekend’s qualifying, and a couple other pertinent articles.
As always, thanks so much for following along. It’s time to start the greatest two weeks of the year, and I can’t wait to get underway!!
3:21 PM — It has gotten quite warm here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, particularly as the sun continues to occasionally peek through the very cloudy skies. Nonetheless, the crowd continues to grow throughout the day and now appears to be fairly solid. Many of those on the grounds are taking advantage of the time slot between the INDY NXT and the NTT IndyCar Series race to walk up and down pit lane and see the Indy cars up close.
After a few false starts, the INDY NXT finally got underway and ran to completion without really much action. Rookie Matteo Nannini started first, finished first, and led all 35 laps between. Other than Josh Pierson dropping from 7th to 17th, no one else in the field moved more than +/- 3 positions during the race. In other words, it was a largely uneventful affair.
According to the super, hyper-accurate iOS Weather app, the current temperature is 82 degrees, and it feels quite a bit hotter when the sun is out. It will be interesting to see if any cars perform dramatically different today with increased temps compared to yesterday’s generally cooler and more overcast skies. Most still expect this to be a red-tire race, which could benefit some of those drivers who failed to make the Firestone Fast 6 and have fewer laps on their used red Firestone Firehawks. With 85 laps scheduled for this afternoon, most drivers are planning on a three-stop strategy, which means the first pit window may open around Lap 8-10.
It’s nearly go time, so I’m going to head out and enjoy this race. Back with more post race!
12:06 PM — It’s a pleasant 74 degrees under overcast skies. The two seaters are done with their promotional laps. The stands are starting to fill. The calendar says May. And I’m at the corner of 16th and Georgetown in Speedway, Indiana. It is a good day.
As those who took a few minutes to enjoy (?) the latest episode of Two Sites Unite will know, the GMR Grand Prix is not my favorite race on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar. It is probably the most overlooked race on the calendar and one that drivers, teams, crews, and fans see as a necessary evil to get out of the way prior to what everyone is really here for.
That being said, it is indeed Race Day at Indianapolis!! And as I type this, the final warm-up session has just gone green. Several teams will be using this final opportunity to find speed that proved elusive yesterday, most notably Team Penske. After three consecutive poor performances in the Indianapolis 500, the Penske trio were looking for a strong performance in the Grand Prix to kick start a turnaround for this month. But qualifying performances of 12th, 13th, and 16th leave all three drivers much further back in today’s starting lineup than desired, or expected.
But the Penske boys aren’t the only perennial favorites to be starting mid pack today. With Scott Dixon ninth, Rossi tenth, Ericsson eleventh, Colton Herta fourteenth, and Romain Grosjean eighteenth, watching these typical contenders attempt to move toward the front quickly will be exciting.
On the flip side of the coin, the overriding hope is that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will be able to back up their strong performance from yesterday when they put all three of their cars in the Top 10. First-time pole sitter Christian Lundgaard has been fast in all sessions (though he is, at present, only sitting P15 in the warmup session) and has been fast on this IMS Road Course nearly every time he’s been here since debuting at the 2021 summer race during the INDYCAR/NASCAR weekend. Jack Harvey and Graham Rahal both also had a desperately needed fast and trouble-free day with Harvey cracking into the Firestone Fast 6 for the first time this season.
It appears that Andretti Autosport, and Colton Herta in particular, are continuing to have mechanical gremlins infect their cars. Herta missed almost the entire first practice session yesterday with mechanical problems at the rear end of his #26 Gainbridge Honda. When he got on the track later in the day, he had multiple issues with the gearbox and clutch when launching from pit lane. According to the NBC Sports broadcast, the teams are using much longer first gears than typical here, and, when combined with the very grippy concrete pit boxes, are causing incredible strain on the engine and drivetrain when launching from the pit boxes. I’m not quite sure why this would suddenly be an issue when we haven’t seen such problems during the past many races run on the Indianapolis Road Course, but something is obviously causing their gearing and launch issues.
Warmup is now in the books. The Honda brigade continues to look very strong with five of the Top Six and seven of the Top 10. Lundgaard was able to jump to 13th, but the struggles continue to mount for Romain Grosjean, who was only able to manage a speed good enough for 22nd best.
In spite of Colton Herta starting 14th this afternoon, I’m sticking with my pick today to pull a rabbit out of the hat and find his way into Victory Lane. I may fail miserably with that pick… but I bet I still beat George’s pick! HA!
Back with more later!