It’s finally May, and that means that the NTT IndyCar Series is back home again in Indiana. Kicking the festivities off at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the GMR Grand Prixthe fifth race of the 2022 season.
After a Penske-perfect start to the year, Pato O’Ward became the first non-Team Penske driver to win a race this season with his victory at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. A tough outing at Barber Motorsports Park for then-championship leader Josef Newgarden saw him drop the top spot to Alex Palouwho takes control of the title race with 144 points.
“The Captain” still dominates the top five, with Scott McLaughlin strong holding in second place, only three points behind Palou with 141 points. Newgarden sits third now on 135 points. Will Power is in fourth only one point behind Newgarden with 134 points, and O’Ward leaps into the top five after his win on 114 points.
This weekend also marks the return of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya to the grid, as he prepares for another run at the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Who gets their May off to the best possible start? Will Penske be able to regain form? Can Chip Ganassi Racing turn Palou’s championship lead into their first win of the season? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the GMR Grand Prix.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
Last year Rinus Veekay took the victory, besting Romain Grosjean to earn the first win of his IndyCar career. Veekay started seventh and carved his way through the field, and set himself up to fight for the race win during the second pit stop sequence.
The Dutch driver pit on lap 38, a few laps earlier than the leaders for the faster red-walled tires. Second-place Palou pit on lap 40 for the slower black-walled tires, and on his out lap Veekay thrilled the fans with a three-wide move on the backstretch, splitting Palou and his teammate Jimmie Johnson to take provisional second place.
Grosjean was the provisional leader, running a longer stint on his reds so that he could have a shorter run on the black tires. Grosjean finally pit on lap 43 for those black tires, and after a tough on-track battle with Takuma Sato he narrowly beat Veekay out of the pits. But with his tires up to temperature, Veekay took the lead by turn 12.
The Swiss-born Frenchman struggled for pace on his harder tires, and Veekay quickly built a gap. A successful undercut on the next round of pit stops allowed Veekay to take the lead once more and beat Grosjean by five seconds en route to his first victory. Grosjean was unable to convert his first pole position into a win, but came home with his first career IndyCar podium finish in second. Palou completed the podium with a third place finish.
You can read the full race report here.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
The top three from last year’s race, Veekay, Grosjean, and Palou, all come into this weekend with a great shot at winning this race. Veekay is coming off the back of a pole position at Barber and could very well put himself in contention for another one come qualifying. We know he has the pace to do it, and that could set him up well to defend his race win.
For Grosjean, the IMS road course is his most successful track, with two runner-up finishes in two races and a pole to boot. Now, Grosjean is in one of the best cars on the grid with Andretti Autosportand could very well have the car under him to go one step higher on the podium and claim the first win of his IndyCar career.
And for Palou, he has been quietly consistent so far this year, with three podiums and no finishes outside the top ten. That consistency is the very reason he sits at the top of the championship standings right now, and he could very easily continue that top ten streak, or even turn it into a win. Ganassi had two wins by this point in the season last year, and have had at least two of their four cars in the top ten in each race this season. Will this be the time they break through?
Chevrolet-powered cars have won six of the seven GMR Grands Prix held, with Penske winning five of the races held. Simon Pagenaud and Power have dominated at this track with three wins apiece, and a win this weekend would be a huge boost to both veterans. Power has been on such a run of form that not even starting at the back at Barber could stop him from maintaining his streak of finishing in the top five every race this season.
Meanwhile, Pagenaud has only one top ten to his name this season as he adjusts to life at Meyer Shank Racing. He may not be with Penske or Chevrolet power anymore, but he’s the only driver to have won here with a Honda engine, and Jack Harvey has shown in the past the kind of pace that MSR can have at the IMS road course.
Highlighting one of the members of this rookie class, it was at this track that Christian Lundgaard took the IndyCar world by storm last August. In his first IndyCar race weekend ever, the Dane qualified fourth and finished twelfth, and with more experience in the series he will certainly be capable of improving on that finish and potentially getting the first top ten finish in IndyCar.
And finally, we come to the return of JPM. Montoya only ran the month of May for Arrow McLaren SP last year as well, and will look to improve upon last year’s 21st place finish in this race. After four years away from an IndyCar it was his first season with AMSP, and this race will likely be more of a way for Montoya to build more chemistry with the team and get re-adjusted to driving an IndyCar, but now having a year under his belt with the team, he could very well have a strong race.
Friday 13 May
0630 PT / 0930 ET / 1330 GMT – Practice 1
0930 PT / 1245 ET / 1645 GMT – Practice 2
1300 PT / 1600 ET / 2000 GMT – Qualifying
Saturday 14 May
1200 PT / 1500 ET / 1900 GMT – Race
WHERE CAN I WATCH?
Coverage in the UK for qualifying and the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.
In the United States, coverage for the race will be on NBC. Practice and Qualifying will be shown live on the Peacock streaming service.
HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?
You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice qualifying, and race sessions.
You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.