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IMSA: Indianapolis thoughts and observations

Jul 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

IMSAatIMS Getty Images

Just four weekends remain in the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season following this weekend’s Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis. A few weekend thoughts and observations:

  • Party like it’s 1995: Nearly 20 years after the 1995 Indianapolis 500, that race was discussed when referring to the top two finishers in the race on Friday. Christian Fittipaldi, who co-drove the winning No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, finished second in that race – what was the Brazilian’s only ‘500 start. Meanwhile the car that finished second, the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley, featured a driver who crashed out of the lead in that 1995 Indianapolis 500, Scott Pruett, and a co-driver who was all of three months old at the time of the race: Sage Karam. It’s funny how relevant that race has been in 2014, with Jacques Villeneuve having returned to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time this year since winning that day in May, some 19 years ago…
  • Perfect pole parity: In the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes, there has not been a single repeat pole winner this year. The P class is eight-for-eight in different polesitters, with four Daytona Prototype car poles and four P2 car poles. GTLM is seven-for-seven, split among five different manufacturers (Dodge Viper SRT, Porsche, Corvette, BMW, Ferrari). IMSA really couldn’t have done much better than that in terms of outright lap time balance.
  • IMS circuit still favored DPs over a race distance: Like the series’ street races, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is more of a point-and-shoot track where torque and horsepower play dividends. So over a race distance, the DPs had the edge over the P2s, which had good single lap speed thanks to their pace in the infield section. Longer fuel stints also aided the DPs. The scorecard reads 6 DP wins to only 2 P2s… however this makes it seem more lopsided than it is. The lap time achievement balance is close, given the aforementioned balance in qualifying results. But given the nature of most circuits over a race distance, it takes a near perfect effort for a P2 to get and stay ahead given the car’s disadvantages.
  • The kids are alright: IndyCar rookie Jack Hawksworth and Indianapolis 500 near rookie-of-the-year Karam put in star turns Friday at IMS. Karam started the No. 01 car, survived a first corner fracas where prototypes were making contact around him, led during a portion of his stint and handed over the car to Scott Pruett all good to go. Hawksworth closed the race in the No. 08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 in Prototype Challenge, and hunted down and passed teammate Bruno Junqueira. Not bad at all for the young Englishman in his sports car, multi-class debut, going against one of racing’s most underrated drivers.
  • The paddock/schedule was not alright: There were some frustrating reports I received from those on the ground at IMS, given the paddock layout for the TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The TUDOR paddock was split behind the NASCAR/F1 garages and on the East side of the IMS museum – near Turn 2 – while the CTSC paddock was housed behind the suites at pit in. Some 0.8 of a mile each way was the walking distance as measured, and made it something of a headache for anyone needing to spent considerable time in both paddocks. While racing on the track’s “Super Weekend” holds some appeal in terms of a cohesive, unified, NASCAR-owned front, it’s hard not to feel that it could be better for the TUDOR Championship to race as the lead series at IMS in the future – a.k.a. not at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night.
  • Risi’s big improvement: Behind the race-winning Dodge Viper SRT squad, Risi Ferrari turned the corner with pole from Giancarlo Fisichella and a runner-up finish for he and co-driver Pierre Kaffer in the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia. Aided in part by Adjustment of Performance updates, the Ferrari excelled on the twisty IMS circuit and had a rare trouble-free weekend, despite a couple offs in the race.
  • Hard luck for Porsche: The factory Porsche North America squad turned in by far its best effort since the opening two races in Florida on Friday with the Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSRs, but engine-related issues forced the leading No. 911 into retirement following a great drive from Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy. The No. 912, driven by Patrick Long and Michael Christensen, made it onto the podium in third. With AoP updates coming for Porsches at Road America including a bigger air restrictor, larger splitter and rear wing, they could well be the favorites there.
  • Audi on the doorstep: With Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Dodge Viper SRT having scored wins in the GT Daytona class, only Audi and Aston Martin are yet to break through. But Audi is very close. The Paul Miller Racing team has three podiums – including second at Indy with Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller in the team’s No. 48 Audi R8 LMS ultra. Meanwhile the Flying Lizard squad has had a host of near misses and poor luck has struck the Fall-Line Motorsports effort more often than not. PMR posted its best 2013 race at Road America a year ago, finishing fourth in the American Le Mans Series GT class with what had been an older spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and should be better positioned for success this time around.

In two weeks’ time, the series heads to my home track – Elkhart Lake’s Road America – for the next round of the season.

  1. testover6370 - Jul 28, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    I happened to move to Indy the day before the race and since work and school haven’t started yet I took the family to the speedway to watch on Friday.
    Thoughts from track:
    -Wow, crazy and weird to pull right into the track with no line, but tickets at the entrance, and park in the infield, having arrived 15 minutes before the CTSCC race. Not a big crowd at all.
    -I spent both races traveling along the spectator berms along Hulman boulevard, stopping at either end for a while to watch the action from there. The south end hosted some great out-braking overtake moves, and the north end with the new quick chicane let you really see some style and talent differences between drivers. The grass mounds were great for my toddler to run around and watch the cars go by. She had a blast.
    -unfortunately, the only bits of the races I could see happened between those two turns. There were no video boards facing the mounds, and only one bridge to get to the other half of the track. I didn’t bother. Slim pickings on concessions too but that was understandable given the tiny, Grand-Am level crowds.
    -Bottom line, I had a good time but at $30 a head for limited viewing opportunities and minimal amenities, it wasn’t a great value. Free parking was nice though.

    Thoughts after watching the coverage replay on YouTube:
    -Turn 1 lap 1 shows another reason why P2s don’t have a chance in this series. P2 teams race like real pros, passing using clean overtakes and the like. DPs just slam everyone out of the way, and the series embraces that style, never penalizing the NASCAR crowd for contact. DPs were designed to be battering rams, P2s were built for actual racing, and the results speak for themselves.
    -It took me 2 sentences to explain the 4 classes to the Grand-Am fan (yes, one actually does exist!) next to me on the mound. Why Fox feels the need to run through it every race is beyond me. We don’t get primer lectures on divisions, leagues, conferences, feeder series, etc every time we watch football and baseball games, because they assume the viewers know or can easily figure it out. Why is racing any different?

    • indycarseries500 - Jul 28, 2014 at 10:20 PM

      They really need a tram that goes between the bridge and the turn 1 and two mounds, if you ever go to another road race at IMS I highly suggest the turn 2 mound, sat there for an IndyCar practice in May and it was incredible, then I decided I’d start the Tudor race there and ended up staying the whole race. Also the E Penthouse, great view of the cars though a very fast turn 14.

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