SPEEDWAY — Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials put a new, fresh spin to the traditional month of May on Tuesday, announcing the inaugural IndyCar series Grand Prix of Indianapolis, slated for May 10, 2014.
In attendance were Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, legendary IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske, 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kaanan and IndyCar Series race winner Graham Rahal, along with Hulman & Company Chief Executive Officer Mark D. Miles and IMS President Doug Boles.
The event will ramp up the first weekend of practice for the Indy 500 and marries an old tradition with what looks to be the start of a new one for IMS.
“This is a really big day for us,” Miles said. “To all of us, and people all over the world, the Indianapolis 500 is a bucket list event. It is iconic, it is known and one of those things fans all over try to figure out how to attend.
“When we started looking candidly, we thought we could take this to a whole (different) level. Maybe not so much the 500 … but what if we could do more with May and build to the culminating event?”
Miles said they had a “nagging feeling we could do more.”
“More” includes an overhaul to the Formula 1 racetrack to improve the racing and excitement for fans. Among other things, passing areas will be tripled for increased action.
To that end, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be a festival-type atmosphere like the other road races in the Izod IndyCar series. Fans will be able to walk around IMS, gather on large, new spectator mounds and new grandstands to take advantage of the best sightlines possible.
Also making the race attractive to fans will be the price-point for attendance. Miles said the cost of the ticket will be less than half of what the most expensive ones for the Indy 500, and that a family of four with two children under the age of 12 could attend for $50.
While the amount of laps has not been set, Boles said officials were thinking about 80 laps at present, but that number could be adjusted.
A $5 million reconfiguration is currently taking place on the existing road course to add increased speed and the passing zones. Upon completion, the course will span 2.434 miles featuring 14 turns, including a 90-degree turn right into Turn 1 of the historic track.
Rahal, who ran the F1 course and what will be part of the new course, shared his thoughts on the changes.
“I think that the track when I tested here, I enjoyed it, but it was quite slippery and the passing zones were limited,” Rahal said. “With all the changes that have been made here, I think what you’ll see is not only a track that’s extremely fast. The top speeds on test day with down force were ranging in the 180 mph range and that wasn’t fully trimmed out. The changes are going to make this one of the most exciting races we can go to.”
The month will begin with IndyCar Series practice for the Grand Prix on Thursday, May 8. More practice and qualifying will take place May 9 with the race on May 10.
The IMS crew will then transform the track overnight to prepare for the first day of Indianapolis 500 practice on May 11.
The Grand Prix should enhance an already historic and very popular event in the city and state, something that Ballard personalized with his experiences.
“I’ve lived in different places around the country and the world and am able to bring that back home and tell people very candidly, there’s nothing like the month of May in Indianapolis,” Ballard said. “I still get excited coming through the gates.
“To add this particular race to kick off the month is absolutely amazing.”
For more information about the event or tickets visit www.GPofIndianapolis.com.