Romain Grosjean

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is revving up for the GMR Grand Prix for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a race for INDY NXT by Firestone event this weekend as the on-track portion of the Month of May kicks into gear.

The action for the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course begins Friday with the 10th edition of the annual race Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). The INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix is Saturday at 1 p.m. (Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

SEE: Race Details

Andretti Autosport won both INDYCAR SERIES road races at IMS last year, with Colton Herta taking the wet GMR Grand Prix in May and Alexander Rossi winning the Gallagher Grand Prix in July. Can they repeat, or will Team Penske return to its dominance at the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit?

Oval practice for the 107th Indianapolis 500 opens Tuesday, May 16. PPG presents Armed Forces Qualifying is Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson trying to defend in the 107th Running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 28.

Let the storylines begin.

An Andretti Show Again?

As mentioned, last year’s action on the IMS road course was swept by Andretti Autosport, with Herta having the strongest car of the bunch.

Herta led 50 of the 75 laps in the GMR Grand Prix while capturing the seventh series race win of his career. That race saw a mixture of weather conditions, with heavy rain arriving in the late going as part of what became a timed race. Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud finished second as the race finished under caution.

Herta was leading the Gallagher Grand Prix on July 30 when, coming through the Turn 8-9 complex, he hit the curb and suffered a broken gearbox. That was Lap 42, and the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda was done for the day. Rossi was the beneficiary, passing him in Turn 10 for the lead he would not relinquish. Rossi led the final 44 laps for his first victory in more than three years.

Rossi has moved to Arrow McLaren this season – he drives the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet -- but Herta has two other teammates who join him as top contenders this week. Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27 AutoNation Honda) won last month’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach while Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DNSFilter/DHL Honda) can make a case for being the most consistently strong driver of this season. He has finished second in each of the past two races (at Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park).

Also, the first two second-place finishes of Grosjean’s INDYCAR SERIES career came on the IMS road course – both as a rookie in 2021 – and he certainly is hungry to score his first series victory.

What Transfers from Last Year?

Last year’s race was one of the most unique in series history, and it began with officials declaring a wet start, which meant alternating tire requirements for road course events were scrapped.

Andretti Autosport’s decision to have Herta pit for dry tires on Lap 2 helped him jump from the 14th starting position to the lead on the next lap when the rest of the field came to pit road to remove rain tires. Herta’s team also made a key decision to become one of the first to switch back to rain tires late in the race, which led to his victory as a downpour forced the shortening of the race based on time.

Given the unique conditions of last year’s race, the question must be asked: Does anything transfer to this year? The answer, likely, is no.

Drivers spent much of last year’s race sliding as the track was often too dry for rain tires or too wet for slicks. Nearly everyone had a story to tell of the adventure and even if rain arrives this weekend, as could happen, it surely cannot replicate what occurred last year.

“There’s really nothing that you can do to prepare for these situations from a team’s aspect,” Herta said. “Obviously, I can watch video (of) races in the rain or I can watch the onboard (video) from last year and kind of get an idea of where you want to be out on the track when it comes to it. (But) as far as strategy, you really have to go on the fly.”

It also can be argued that last year’s Gallagher Grand Prix isn’t all that relevant, either, given the warmer summer conditions of the July 30 race.

Rain Precautions in Place

The heavy rain at the end of last year’s race saw spray off the cars that made visibility difficult. If that situation occurs again, adjustments to the aeroscreen should be beneficial.

Introduced this year, rain vanes are intended to push the water out of the driver’s view. Developed in partnership with Dallara, the safety inspired update is optional, although INDYCAR reserves the right to make the vanes mandatory when conditions require.

Extensive wind tunnel testing of the rain vanes included a session supervised by Rossi, who observed the driver’s view through video conference.

To further increase visibility, the centerline flap that ran vertically up the middle of the aeroscreen has been permanently removed.

Of course, the degree to which this modification helps depends on the amount of water involved.

Said Rossi: “With rain in the forecast, adaptability will be key.”

The ‘Other’ Marcus

Rightfully so, all eyes will be on Marcus Ericsson this month not only as the reigning champion of the “500” but also as the series points leader after four races. But Marcus Armstrong? Yes, he deserves plenty of fanfare as the GMR Grand Prix approaches.

As it stands, Armstrong is driving the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda in only the road course and street circuit events for Chip Ganassi Racing. But that could change as Takuma Sato, the two-time “500” winner, has only been confirmed for the first two oval events of the season (at Texas Motor Speedway and the “500”).

Armstrong is a 22-year-old New Zealander who won four races over three Formula 2 seasons, and he has shown remarkably consistent to open his first year in the U.S. He has finished 11th, ninth and 11th in his three INDYCAR SERIES races, and he has completed all of the laps. He ran particularly well in last month’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix, driving from the 26th starting position due to a penalty from qualifying to finish 11th.

Armstrong’s consistency has him leading the Rookie of the Year standings by 15 points over Agustin Canapino (No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet). Based on the average number of points Armstrong has scored in his three races, he could be standing 11th in the standings if he competed in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway and performed similarly.

Armstrong is eager to get on the IMS road course as friends of his from Europe – think Callum Ilott, Christian Lundgaard and others – have raved about the circuit.

“(They’ve) told me that it is very smooth, and you know that the track feels very similar to a couple of European circuits,” he said. “So, I’m looking forward to that one.”

The Weekend Schedule

All two-day INDYCAR weekends are jammed with on-track activity, and this one is no different.

The flurry begins Friday and Saturday at 8 a.m. ET, with the junior categories first on the circuit. The first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice is Friday at 9:30 a.m., with Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network providing coverage as they do for all series practices and qualifying sessions.

The second INDYCAR SERIES practice is Friday at 1 p.m. followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 4 p.m.

INDY NXT by Firestone has a pair of Friday sessions: Practice at 11 a.m. followed by qualifying at 2:20 p.m.

Saturday, the INDYCAR SERIES warmup is at 11:15 a.m., with coverage of the 85-lap race on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 3:30 p.m. The 35-lap INDY NXT race is at 1 p.m. ET (Peacock, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

Tickets are available by clicking here.