Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Road Course Races
Since 2014, NTT IndyCar Series races have been held on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway combined road course. Held customarily on the Saturday two weeks before the Indianapolis 500, and the weekend prior to Indy 500 practice and qualifying, the “IndyCar Grand Prix” serves as a kickoff to track activity for the month of May.
The combined road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was originally completed in 2000 for the Formula One United States Grand Prix. The U.S. Grand Prix was held at Indy from 2000 to 2007 on the original 2.606-mile clockwise circuit. In 2008, improvements were made to the course, and an updated 2.591-mile counter-clockwise layout was created for motorcycles. Moto GP raced on the modified layout from 2008 to 2015. The Grand Am/IMSA sports car series also held races on the now slightly-modified clockwise F1 course from 2012 to 2014. The Indy Lights Series also held races on the road course from 2005 to 2007 (“Liberty Challenge”), as a support race to the Formula One weekend. However, the IndyCar Series stayed away from the IMS road course, except for some occasional private testing. In September 2011, Dan Wheldon notably tested the new Dallara DW-12 chassis on the IMS road course, just a month prior to his fatal crash at Las Vegas.
In 2013, the IndyCar Series conducted a feasibility test on the road course, with the possibility of hosting a race in the future. After positive test results, and positive feedback from competitors and fans, an annual race was added to the month of May. Parts of the track were reworked, and a new 2.439-mile road course layout was created. The road course portion was repaved and various improvements yielded a more competitive layout and a circuit better suited for IndyCars (as well as for stock cars). The first Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course race was held in May 2014. Support races – including all levels of the “Road to Indy” (Indy NXT, USF Pro 2000, and U.S. F2000) were included as part of the weekend. The road course race filled the void of what used to be the first (of two) weekends of Indy 500 Time Trials. In 2010, after having two weekends of qualifying for most years dating back to 1952 (except 1998-2000), the series permanently went to one weekend (two days) of Time Trials. With the Sunday of that weekend usually falling as Mothers Day, the track officials elected to schedule the road course race for Saturday afternoon (with various practice and qualifying and support events on Thursday-Friday), and no track activity scheduled for Sunday. Track conversion from road course to oval configuration would occur on Sunday and/or Monday. The teams would spend the same time converting their cars from road course aero kit configuration to oval aero kit, and Indy 500 practice on the oval begins Tuesday.
The name of the road course race was changed to the IndyCar Grand Prix in 2017, in order to emphasize that the event was part of the American-based IndyCar Series, and not a continuation or revival of the old Formula One event. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IndyCar Grand Prix was moved from May to July 4th, and became part of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 weekend. It was run as part of a Saturday road course doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150. Due to cancellations of other IndyCar Series events in 2020, a second road course event was added to the schedule. The IndyCar Harvest GP consisted of twin races, added as part of the Intercontinental GP 8-hour endurance race weekend in October.
For 2021, the IndyCar Grand Prix was moved back to it familiar date in mid-May. A second road course race was held in mid-August, again as part of the NASCAR weekend. This was the schedule again in 2022, although Brickyard weekend was moved up a couple weeks to the last weekend in July.
The inaugural IndyCar road course race in 2014 utilized a standing start. During the 2014 IndyCar season, the series experimented with standing starts at selected road/street course events. Polesitter Sebastián Saavedra’s car stalled triggering a huge crash at the start. All races since have utilized a rolling start. For the first three years, the race was scheduled for 82 laps, for a distance of almost exactly 200 miles (199.998 miles). In 2017, the race was lengthened by three laps to 85 laps (207.315 miles). Most races since 2017 have utilized the 85-lap distance, except for some that were part of doubleheader weekends.
Angie’s List was the title sponsor of the May race in 2015-2016. From 2020 to 2023, Global Medical Response (GMR) served as title sponsor, followed by Sonsio Vehicle Protection, which took over in 2024. The 2021 August race was sponsored by IMS partner Big Machine Distillery (which is owned by Scott Borchetta, who also owns Big Machine Label Group, which sponsored the Brickyard 400 several times). After that, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Gallagher insurance) took over sponsoring the summer race.
As of 2023, the all-time fastest IndyCar race on the road course happened in 2017. Will Power average 120.0813 mph, in a race that went caution-free. The closest finish for an IndyCar race on the road course came in the August 2023 event. Scott Dixon held off Graham Rahal by 0.4779 seconds. Race winners for IndyCar Series races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course are as follows:
|Grand Prix of Indianapolis||Simon Pagenaud||82||199.998||96.436|
|Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis||Will Power||82||199.998||116.842|
|Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis||Simon Pagenaud||82||199.998||108.784|
|IndyCar Grand Prix||Will Power||85||207.315||120.813|
|IndyCar Grand Prix||Will Power||85||207.315||113.318|
|IndyCar Grand Prix||Simon Pagenaud||85||207.315||103.254|
|GMR Grand Prix||Scott Dixon||80||195.120||114.789|
|IndyCar Harvest GP Presented by GMR – Race 1||Josef Newgarden||85||207.315||119.060|
|IndyCar Harvest GP Presented by GMR – Race 2||Will Power||75||182.925||119.115|
|GMR Grand Prix||Rinus VeeKay||85||207.315||116.096|
|Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix||Will Power||85||207.315||113.458|
|GMR Grand Prix||Colton Herta||75*||182.925||90.008|
|Gallagher Grand Prix||Alexander Rossi||85||207.315||114.483|
|GMR Grand Prix||Alex Palou||85||207.315||115.234|
|Gallagher Grand Prix||Scott Dixon||85||207.315||111.647|
|Sonsio Grand Prix|
Note: The 2022 May race was shortened from 85 laps to 75 laps (two-hour time limit) due to rain.
Multiple road course race winners
- 5 — Will Power
- 3 — Simon Pagenaud
- 2 — Scott Dixon
IMS oval and road course race winners
- Scott Dixon — Indy 500 in 2008; road course twice
- Will Power — Indy 500 in 2018; road course five times
- Simon Pagenaud — Indy 500 in 2019; road course three times
- Alexander Rossi — Indy 500 in 2016; road course in 2022
- Josef Newgarden — Indy 500 in 2023; Freedom 100 in 2011, road course in 2020
- Colton Herta — Freedom 100 in 2018; road course in 2022
Indy 500/Grand Prix May “sweep”
- 2018 — Will Power
- 2019 — Simon Pagenaud
Standing starts were used for selected raced during the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, With the field lined up on the mainstretch awaiting the standing start, polesitter Sebastián Saavedra’s car stalled. A huge crash resulted, involving Saavedra, Carlos Muñoz, and Mikhail Aleshin. Debris was showed all along the frontstretch and pit lane.
Series rookie Jack Hawksworth led a field-high 31 laps, but finished seventh. Late in the race, Simon Pagenaud led Ryan Hunter-Reay. Both drivers were low on fuel, and trying to nurse their cars to the finish. Hélio Castroneves, who had pitted for fuel, was charging through the field, and trying to chase down the leaders. Pagenaud managed to hold off the challenge, and crossed the finish line just ahead of Hunter-Reay and Castroneves. Pagenaud’s car ran out of fuel on the cool down lap. It was Pagenaud’s second-career victory, and first win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Will Power won the pole position, as Team Penske qualified 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified on the outside of the front row (2nd). At the start, a multi-car tangle in turn one saw Dixon spin out in front of the entire field. Hélio Castroneves (in his milestone 300th Indy car start) was involved in contact, as was Josef Newgarden, and others. Power led 65 of 82 laps, dominating on his way to victory. The races was slowed for only one yellow to clean up the lap 1 incident.
After the final round of pit stops, Graham Rahal made a charge to the finish. He was able to close within two seconds of the lead, but was unable to catch Power in the final few laps.
Simon Pagenaud became the first two-time winner on the road course. Pagenaud started from the pole position and led 57 of the 82 laps. After a caution came out on lap 38, Conor Daly came to the lead for a total of 14 laps while the field was cycling through different pit stop strategies. On the final series of pit stops, Pagenaud executed a very fast in-lap and out-lap, including a lightning fast 6.7-second pit stop. He emerged as the leader, and led the final 14 laps to victory. Cold temperatures and cloudy, windy conditions made for one of the coldest Indy car races in Speedway history.
Will Power started from the pole position and led 61 of 85 laps en route to victory. The race went caution free. Hélio Castroneves led 24 laps, but ended up fifth at the finish after his tire strategy did not work out favorably. After his final pit stop, Castroneves dropped from second to fifth in the closing laps on the primary “black” tires, while all the other leaders elected to take the option “red” tires.
Will Power won for the second year in a row, and third time overall. Power started on the pole position and led 56 of the 85 laps. Power chased down leader Robert Wickens to take the lead on lap 51 with a daring pass on the outside of turn one. When a full-course caution came out on lap 56 due to a spin by Josef Newgarden, all of the leaders headed to the pits for their final pit stops. Power edged Wickens to the blend line by about two feet to grab the lead. After a restart, Power held off Scott Dixon and Wickens for the victory. The win was the milestone 200th Indy car victory for Team Penske, and two weeks later, Power would sweep the month by winning the “500”.
In wet and rainy conditions, Simon Pagenaud won his third race on the road course. He also became the second driver in a row to “sweep” the month by winning the “500” two weeks later. Pagenaud charged from sixth place to first over the final 18 laps. With two laps to go, race leader Scott Dixon led Pagenaud as they approached the end of the Hulman Boulevard backstretch. Dixon slid a little wide in turn 7, and Pagenaud took the lead in turns 8–9. Pagenaud pulled out to a two-second victory.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GMR Grand Prix was moved from its traditional mid-May date to July 4th weekend. It became part of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 weekend, and was scheduled as part of a Saturday road course doubleheader with the Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150.
Scott Dixon dominated the race, running away from the field after a full-course caution shuffled the standings on lap 36. Dixon had made his second pit stop under green on lap 33, but three laps later Oliver Askew crashed hard in turn 14. The leaders subsequently pitted under the caution, allowing Dixon to cycle up to the front of the pack. After the green came back out, Dixon chased down leader Graham Rahal and took the lead on lap 48. Despite Rahal only making two pit stops – compared to three by Dixon – Dixon was able to cruise over the final twenty laps, and he won by 19.9469 seconds. It was Dixon’s first victory (after three second places) on the road course.
2020 (Harvest GP – Race 1)
Numerous IndyCar Series races in 2020 were cancelled or rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two races were added on the IMS road course in October to help fill out the season. They were added as support races to the Intercontinental GT Challenge weekend (8 Hours of Indianapolis). They were also the first races at Indianapolis in 2020 open to a limited number of spectators, as both the Brickyard weekend and the Indianapolis 500 in August were held behind closed doors. Approximately 10,000 tickets were made available for each race (approximately 5,000 at the north end and 5,000 at the south end). The name “Harvest Grand Prix” was a gesture to the Harvest Auto Racing Classic held in the fall of 1916.
The first race of the Harvest GP doubleheader was held on Friday October 2. The race was scheduled for 85 laps, and rookie Rinus VeeKay won the pole position. Colton Herta grabbed the lead on the first lap from the third starting position. VeeKay was able to take the lead on lap 7, then led the next 15 laps. Later in the race, Herta was back in the lead with Josef Newgarden chasing him down. Going into turn one on lap 60, Newgarden made a decisive pass, and Herta locked up the tires and overshot the turn. The leaders then made their final pits stops, with Newgarden coming back out as the leader. Newgarden led the final 25 laps to victory.
2020 (Harvest GP – Race 2)
The second race of the Harvest GP doubleheader was held on Saturday October 3. The race was scheduled for 75 laps. Will Power stated from the pole position and led all 75 laps, scoring his fourth win on the IMS road course. After the final round of pit stops, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta were battling for second place. Herta passed Rossi, then set his sights on power. With Power’s tires starting to go away, Herta closed the gap to less than half a second. Power held on to win by only 0.8932 seconds in the caution-free event.
The GMR Grand Prix returned to its customary mid-May date. Rookie Romain Grosjean won the pole position and led 44 laps. Down the backstretch on lap 42, Rinus Veekay made a daring pass up the middle between Alex Palou and the lapped car of Jimmie Johnson. Grosjean and VeeKay battled for the race lead over much of the second half. The race was decided after the final round of pit stops. On lap 65, VeeKay emerged in front, easily beating Grosjean into turn one as Grosjean was exiting the pits. VeeKay scored his first career IndyCar win, and Ed Carpenter Racing’s first win on the IMS road course.
For the second year in a row (and this time scheduled as a planned race rather than a COVID-19 postponement), IndyCar held a race during NASCAR Brickyard weekend. This time, all three series – NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the NTT IndyCar Series – all raced on the IMS road course. Polesitter Pato O’Ward grabbed the lead going into turn one and led the first 16 laps. Going through turn 6, Scott McLaughlin hit the curbing and went airborne, but avoid serious contact. After the first round of pit stops, Will Power emerged as the race leader. Power would lead 55 laps, giving up the lead only during pit stops. On lap 68, Alex Palou brought out the yellow with a blown engine. The field bunched up for a restart on lap 71. Power got a clean jump, while Romain Grosjean made a decisive pass on the outside of turn one to take second. Power went on to win, his record fifth victory on the IMS road course.
In chaotic wet conditions, Colton Herta won for the first time on the IMS road course. The race started on a damp track, with parts of the course starting to dry. Some cars made an early switch to slick tires. Herta ducked in on lap 2 to switch to slicks. He made a remarkable save going through the “museum complex” of turns (turns 8 and 9), and eventually cycled up to the lead by lap 5.
During a caution on lap 60, the leaders pitted, with most cars taking on alternate “red” tires. Scott McLaughlin beat Herta out of the pits by a nose. One lap later, however, heavy rain began to fall, and nearly everyone went back to the pits to put on rain tires. Pato O’Ward (still on slicks) led on the restart, but Herta easily passed him going into turn 1. The race was shortened to 75 laps due to a two-hour time limit, with Herta winning by a comfortable margin over Simon Pagenaud.
For the third year, an IndyCar race was held as part of NASCAR “Brickyard” weekend. July race. Alexander Rossi snapped a three-year race victory drought, becoming the fourth Indy 500 winner to also post a victory on the IMS road course. Colton Herta started 9th and charged to take the lead by lap 8. Herta led 17 laps, but suddenly dropped out (with mechanical problems) while leading on lap 42. Rossi took the lead for good on lap 42.
Christian Lundgaard (driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) notched his first career IndyCar pole position, and led the field going into turn one. Alex Palou (who started third) started the race on the alternate “red” tires, and took the lead from Lundgaard going into turn 13. Palou led lap 1, and would go on to dominate much of the race. Palou led 52 of the 85 laps, executing a well-planned tire strategy. The only major incident of the day came on lap 2. Dale Coyne Racing teammates David Malukas and Sting Ray Robb clipped wheels in turn 7. Both cars spun out, brining out a full-course caution (the only yellow of the race). Neither car was able to continue.
Many teams attempted different tire strategies, but Palou came out on top. He made his last pit stop on lap 60, taking on scuffed primary “black” tires. Palou shuffled up to the lead on lap 65, for the moment, held a 10.5-second advantage over second place Pato O’Ward. On his last pit stop, O’Ward took on “reds” hoping to cut into the deficit. O’Ward’s tires eventually went away, and Palou pulled away for a commanding 16.8-second margin of victory at the checkered flag.
The Gallagher Grand Prix was held Saturday August 12, once again as part of NASCAR “Brickyard” weekend. On Friday, Graham Rahal qualified for the pole position, less than three months after having been bumped from the Indy 500 starting lineup. On race day, six-time champion Scott Dixon reached a milestone, starting in his record 319th consecutive IndyCar Series race. Dixon recovered from a first lap spin to win – winning at least one Indy car race for a record 19th consecutive season. Dixon edged polesitter Rahal by 0.4779 seconds, the closest finish for an IndyCar Series race on the IMS road course.
On the first lap, a multi-car tangle saw Marcus Armstrong and Scott Dixon spin out. Josef Newgarden – in the hunt for the points championship – climbed over the nose of Armstrong’s car, suffering damage. Dixon was able to continue. Meanwhile, Delvin DeFrancesco, who started 5th, went four-wide down the mainstretch, taking the lead into turn one. The race went under full-course caution, and several drivers (including Dixon) elected to pit and utilize an alternate strategy.
The green came out on lap 8, and Graham Rahal took the lead for the first time on lap 9. Rahal led the most laps (36), but Dixon was noticeably climbing up the standings on the alternate strategy. The race came down to the the final sequence of pit stops. Dixon pitted on lap 59 (of 85), followed by Rahal five laps later. Dixon emerged in the lead by over six seconds, but on fresher tires, Rahal began to cut into the lead. The two leaders encountered traffic, and Dixon’s lead dwindled to 0.2689 seconds with two laps to go. Dixon managed to hold on and won for the second time on the IMS road course. Meanwhile, Rahal finished second on the IMS road course for the third time.
The 2024 Sonsio Grand Prix is scheduled for Saturday May 11.
The one-lap qualifying track record for the current IndyCar grand prix course layout is as follows:
Road Course history
The original construction plans (ca. 1909) for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway included a combined oval/road course layout. This would have allowed for oval track racing and road course racing. When the track was in its planning stages, Carl Fisher instructed his designer to make the track ‘as big as possible’ to fit within the acquired 320-acre parcel of land. A 3-mile oval with a 2-mile infield road course was proposed, however, it stretched to the outer edges of the property. Such a layout would not have allowed room for construction of any grandstands along the outsides. A compromise was made to reduce the oval to 2.5-miles in length, to allow room for grandstands and various other support buildings.
The 2.5-mile oval track was to be augmented with a 2.5-mile infield road course – for a 5-mile road course layout. At some distance beyond the exit of turn two (along the backstretch), the infield road course turned inward, curved around and ran parallel (but in the opposite direction) to the mainstretch. It then would curve around the inside of oval turn four, circle back and re-join the oval on the backstretch. At the time, the infield was wide open, there was only a primitive pit area, and no grandstand seating on the inside, which would have allowed for such a configuration. According to historian Donald Davidson, it appears that some initial grading may have been completed for the infield road course, but construction on the infield portion was halted and it was eventually scrapped.
An infield road course did not become reality until 2000. Construction began in late 1998 on the new FIA Grade 1 road course to be used for the Formula One United States Grand Prix. After modifications, it was later used for the IndyCar Grand Prix, IMSA, motorcycles, and various other events.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course at RacingCircuits.info
- The Talk of Gasoline Alley, May 12, 2005
- The Talk of Gasoline Alley, July 25, 2014