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Rahal, Briscoe, IndyCar series officials rave after IMS road course test

Sep 5, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Graham Rahal on the IMS road course (IndyCar photo) Graham Rahal on the IMS road course (IndyCar photo)

Running an IndyCar road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – particularly in the month of May – seems as counter-intuitive to “tradition” as humanly possible. But judging by the reactions of those who participated in Wednesday’s test, it was a day to open minds and give serious consideration to the possibility.

Graham Rahal, who drove the No. 15 blu eCigs Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, said drafting could be a big part if the series opts to use the clockwise course configuration used by Formula One and GRAND-Am, where the oval Turn 1 is taken as a right-hander leading onto the front straight. There’s also the configuration used by MotoGP, a counter-clockwise version.

“When I showed up, I thought we shouldn’t use Turn 1 at Indy,” he said. “We shouldn’t run on the oval at all. But I think that’s what is going to make the racing so good. If you’re leading on the last lap, you’re bound to get passed by anyone within eight carlengths. The tow someone would get down the frontstraight would be massive.”

Rahal added that the setup balance between a car optimized for the straight or the tricky infield section would be a great challenge.

Ryan Briscoe was also on hand, in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet. Briscoe, unlike Rahal, had not had a prior opportunity to drive on the road course before. But the Australian seemed to enjoy the opportunity.

“It was definitely strange to be coming off the wrong way on the frontstretch. It’s a pretty good track, actually,” he said. “It’s got a lot of high-speed corners. Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) is really fast. A lot of high load in the steering wheel and very different to what we do here on the 2.5-mile oval. It’s a really different feeling going the other way.”

INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker said this was an opportunity for the series to test the track as it is and make the necessary alterations based on driver feedback.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles spent most of the day talking with fans on hand gauging their input. Without saying “Yes, it’s happening,” Boles gave every indication this is moving ahead.

“I think everybody at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the whole organization is excited about the prospects. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this test,” Boles said. “We have a great facility right here in the middle of Indianapolis, and many of the teams are based here. Even if we were using it for testing throughout the season, it would be nice to have, but we certainly think we have a big fan base here in Indianapolis and people love to see these cars run. Yes, it’s a break from tradition, not running in the oval direction, but that’s why we’re here.”

  1. Jeff - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    I can foresee a road course race replacing the 500 with the current crop of owners, who don’t like the cost of running on ovals, and racers like Mike Conway, who is afraid to race on ovals. Not to mention a competition and operations president like Derrick Walker who thinks the current schedule is evenly balanced between oval and street, road course races.

    • muddytrane - Sep 5, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      Jeff, do you think in reverse of everything that is real? First, NO RACE will ever replace the 500, not even a RC race at the speedway. Second, the series doesn’t worry about Mike Conway not running on ovals, that is his decision. Lastly, Derrick Walker does not think the schedule is evenly balanced the way it is. If you listened to him talk before the race at Sonoma he said they would like to add a few more ovals to even the schedule out more IF they made business sense. The problem has been attendence at the ovals and not costs.

  2. muddytrane - Sep 5, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    We all know that they are going ahead with this race no matter what. Even if Rahal and Briscoe said they hated the track, the family would go ahead anyway. Plus, do you think that they (drivers and officials) would really say anything negative? It’s just a shame (as I’ve said before) that the fans are being held hostage by the family by having to use the RC just so they can recoup money from TG’s blunders. Just too many great RC tracks in the USA that they can/should use instead of the family track. Just wait and see how bad the attendence is for the RC race due to fans only being able to afford (and worry about) the 500 in the month of May.

  3. snoopyo - Sep 6, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    Now MUDDY don’t be so hard on the family remember one of them had vision and John Barnes thinks that man who had vision is the greatest haha .It amazes me how TG split up the sport wanted an all oval series and then he decided to spend money to build a road course.So these idiots at 16th in Georgetown raise the ticket prices of the race that matters most and made them there fortune but they lower the cost of tickets for another race from another series.This group seems to show no respect for the series or the 500. They raise ticket prices for the 500 and now want to have a second race in the month how are people suppose to afford to go to both especially when you raised the price of tickets for the other.Tony Hulman is spinning even faster in his grave with this potential move. When TG first took over at IMS he said he wanted to run the speedway as a business there was the first problem he had no idea how to run a business and went threw a few hundred million dollars. Bringing in nascar was his first move to make money and then used all of that to form his dream and blew threw all of that money then he brought in F1 and Bernie picked his pocket for huge amounts of cash. The best thing that could happen is if the family sold the series to people who knew what they were doing and actually cared about whats best for the sport ( former drivers owning the series).The fans care more about the series then the people who own it.

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