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IndyCar Preview: Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis

Written by Dan Jones, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Michael L. Levitt via Motorsport Images

IndyCar returns to familiar territory once again. to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for Round 14 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series, as the championship heads to the business end of the season. Points are as invaluable as ever, as drivers look to secure their IndyCar futures, as well as the crucial team funding ahead of the 2024 season, at the Autumn Indianapolis Road Course event, with the race looking set to be the final time IndyCar’s will hit the Road Course in the Autumn.

But before we look forward to that, let’s recap the last event at Nashville, which saw Kyle Kirkwood claim a second career victory, backing up his dominant weekend in Long Beach. Scott McLaughlin was the dominant man at Nashville, for a second year in a row, as he took pole, however he lost out on strategy to Kirkwood, missing out on victory by less than a second in consecutive years.

Alex Palou had a late fuel scare, but was saved by a late caution, caused by rookie Linus Lundqvist. The Spaniard finished P3, on what looked like his final hurdle to a second IndyCar title, now lying 84 points ahead of Josef Newgarden with just four races to go, in what looks set to be his final season with Chip Ganassi Racing.

It was a less chaotic Music City Grand Prix than expected, with only three cautions, significantly less from the 17 in the previous two events combined. The major news of the Nashville weekend was that the streets will play host to the 2024 season finale, on an alternative layout, due to changes around the Nissan Stadium, meaning IndyCar’s will fly down Broadway in 2024, to close out the season.

Kirkwood took a second career victory in Nashville. Credit: Josh Tons via Motorsport Images

But we still have another season of racing before that, and let’s turn our eyes to the Brickyard, and the double-header weekend, as IndyCar will join the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series on the Road Course for what’s become a thrilling weekend for American motorsport fans. Being a busy weekend, the usual timings are adjusted for IndyCar, with qualifying taking place on Friday, and the racing action on Saturday, in order to accommodate the Cup Series on Sunday.

But let’s delve into the course itself, a 2.439 mile (3.925km) road course, which is flat in nature, and features 14 corners, nine to the right, and five to the left. Drivers start off on the iconic pit straight, in the opposite direction run to that of the oval. Immediately, cars are presented with the best overtaking spot on the track, a right-hander, where drivers will shift down to second gear, for a corner that dramatically narrows on entry, meaning many cars have been seen going wide and onto the grass.

Following the heavy braking zone at Turn One, drivers have a longer left-hander at Two, which can’t quite be taken at full throttle, due to them being pushed right against the exit kerb at Turn One. After Turn 2 is a flat-out kink to the right, before another high-speed right-hander, usually taken in fourth gear, which opens up a wider section of race-track and the opportunity to take multiple lines. Drivers then face the flat left-right chicane at Turns five and six, which features some deadly kerbs, and has seen both IndyCars and NASCAR machinery go airborne.

The circuit then features a long straight, before a heavy braking zone into a left-hander, followed by a third gear right-hander, the corner of Colton Herta’s iconic save in 2022. Coming up straight after is another immediate left-hander, before another high speed right-hander, all taken between third and fourth gears. Turn 11 brings you back on to the banking, before the circuit narrows again at the right-hander at 12, with the final significant corner being an off-camber left-hander, which lasts an eternity, before a flat-out right-hander brings drivers to the end of their lap.

A technical but entertaining lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most similar circuit to that of the European circuits, favouring drivers such as Romain Grosjean, Christian Lundgaard and Callum Ilott. But who has statistically gone well here? Will Power is Mr. Indy Road Course, the Aussie has taken no less than five victories on the Road Course as well as six pole positions. The defending champion is still yet to win a race this year, this would be his best bet to finally break that duct in 2023.

Alex Palou won the May iteration of this race, dominating the field, and taking victory by over ten seconds, the event that kickstarted a dominant run of form that has seen him edge ever closer to the IndyCar title. A victory this weekend would all but seal the title. With Palou being undefeated on Road Courses since Alabama - the race before the Indy GP, he would be a strong bet this weekend.

Is Palou the man to beat again? Credit: Gavin Baker via Motorsport Images

However, Josef Newgarden may have something to say about that. The Indy Road Course has not traditionally been his best circuit, with only a singular victory, back in 2020, which also happens to be his only podium at the circuit. It is now or never if Newgarden wants to win the title, and he would almost certainly require a win here to keep Palou within distance. However, Penske’s road course form hasn’t been particularly encouraging, so Newgarden would need to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Rinus VeeKay took his first IndyCar victory in 2021 here, however it would take a miracle to repeat that sort of luck. Colton Herta was the man to beat at the Indianapolis Road Course last year - he won the May event and was leading the autumn event when his engine gave up on him. Herta could also be one who could finally break his winless duck this weekend. Andretti’s road and street form has been impressive this year, backed up by Kirkwood at Nashville, and on a track Herta, and even Andretti have been historically strong at, it’s a good chance for him, as well as Romain Grosjean, who took his first IndyCar pole here in 2021.

Then Andretti Autosport driver, Alexander Rossi, won this event last year, having inherited the lead from Herta's misfortunes. Rossi also claimed his first Arrow McLaren podium here in May, and has a further two podiums at the track to back up his form with. Arrow McLaren have never been particularly strong at the road course, but all cars finished in the Top five here in May, with Pato O’Ward in second, and Felix Rosenqvist in fifth, with O’Ward another one of those desperately seeking a win this season.

Yet another driver looking to break their win duct will be Scott Dixon, winner of the 2020 event. Nashville signified over a year since Dixon last won, and despite lying third in the standings, and only finished outside the Top seven once this year, Dixon hasn’t seemed to be the fastest man on any given weekend, and will be desperate to keep his win record - which stretches back to 2004 - alive.

The other driver to win on the Indianapolis Road Course is Simon Pagenaud, however, for the sixth event in a row, Pagenaud will be sitting out of action after his accident in Mid-Ohio. Pagenaud has given us an update on his health, saying the delay has been ‘longer than expected,’ let’s hope we see him back on track soon! But, that does give us another opportunity to see Linus Lundqvist, who was particularly impressive in Nashville last weekend - reaching the Firestone Fast 12 and setting the fastest lap, as Meyer Shank Racing assess Lundqvist for a race seat last year, with many now looking at the Swede after a particularly impressive debut in Nashville.

Lundqvist impressed in Nashville

Talking of Meyer Shank Racing, they will be making an announcement on Friday, believed to be regarding Helio Castroneves’ future. Castroneves looks set to move on from a full-time IndyCar schedule, the 48-year-old looking set to make the switch to IMSA, and Tom Blomqvist coming over the other way.

This also looks set to be the last Indy GP event to take place in the autumn, with rumours swirling the event will be replaced by the Milwaukee Mile heading into next year, so one last chance to take the Grand Prix honours in the Autumn.

But that’s everything you need to know about this weekend! A different schedule, many drivers looking to break their win ducts, the return of Linus Lundqvist, NASCAR joining the show - what is there not to like! The 85-lap race may effectively hand the IndyCar title to Alex Palou, but with so many drivers having little on the line, we could be in for a cracker.


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