INDIANAPOLIS — After listening to feedback from several Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, Indianapolis Motor Speedway performed routine maintenance ahead of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Following manufacturer testing of the 2018 Indy car last October, IMS president Doug Boles reached out to Verizon IndyCar Series drivers James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon about the condition of the track surface.
“They both highlighted a couple of areas in the track that they felt like had changed over the summer a little bit,” said Boles. “So we did some core samples last fall and really started driving around the track and trying to understand some of the issues that were out there.
“Tony George Jr. (IMS’ director of performance and competition events) worked with our asphalt company as well as some others that have been involved in our track surface over the years and in addition to the hand sealing that we did in the fall, he worked with some folks and determined where those bumps were.”
After consulting with drivers to see where work was needed, IMS reached out to Firestone, the exclusive tire supplier of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“Firestone engineers are consulted when we decide to do things to the racetrack,” Boles said. “We would not make any changes to the racetrack without consulting the folks at Firestone to make sure that they’re involved in those decisions because they’re the brand that’s impacted the most by any work we do to the asphalt.”
There were 16 primary locations where there were bumps, particularly at the exit of Turn 2, the entry of Turn 3 and the exit of Turn 4. The Speedway ground the bumps after also consulting with INDYCAR.
“They found that the track (had some issues), especially in the places where the bricks were gone,” said INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye. “So when (IMS) came to us and said that this was what they needed to do because that was going on, we said yes because they know what they’re doing and they do a great job with the facility.”
After the initial grinding work concluded, Boles asked Dixon to come back to the Speedway to see the progress that had been made.
“Scott (Dixon) and I drove around the track a little bit,” said Boles. “Scott made some comments on a couple of the locations and we brought in some rollers and and rolled out those areas.”
With the bumps smoothed over and much of the track hand-sealed to protect from moisture, the only other concern would be the surface’s age. Since the Speedway’s first full asphalt re-pavement in the summer of 1976, the Speedway has been repaved in the summers of 1988, 1995 and 2004, making this the 14th season on the current surface.
“The top three lanes are almost perfect, almost as if we had laid it last year,” said Boles. "The bottom two lanes are the ones we’re most concerned about and right now we believe with the sealing we’ve done and the grinding we’ve done, we’ve got at least another 3-5 years out of this surface.”
With the recent work done to the Speedway, Firestone was not affected in any way with the tire compounds they brought to the track.
“The track grinding has had no effect on tire performance thus far,” said Cara Adams, chief engineer for Firestone. “Firestone’s tire specification for the Indy 500 is very similar to last year, with only minor modifications.”
With Firestone and IMS happy with the results, Boles and INDYCAR made sure that the drivers were satisfied with the work.
“I reached out to Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, Hinchcliffe and Dixon, the four of them to see what they thought,” said Boles. “And it feels to me and to them like we’ve been able to take care of those issues."
“If there’s something wrong, we hear about it,” said Frye. "Sometimes if there’s nothing wrong we don’t (hear anything). I didn’t hear any comments (Monday) about the track at all. That’s a win, that’s a good thing.”
Practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course begins Friday May 11th with the race on May 12th at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 starts on May 15th with race day on May 27th.