Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 7, 2014

DE LA BASTIDE: GP of Indy is worth watching


Kokomo Tribune

---- — There can be only one inaugural for any event and this weekend the Indianapolis Motor Speedway plays host to the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

It marks the first time the Verizon IndyCar Series will compete on the revamped road course at the famed IMS oval and kicks off three straight weeks of activity leading up to the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

Practice begins on Thursday with qualifying at 2 p.m. Friday and the 82-lap race set for 3:40 p.m. on Saturday. The Firestone Indy Lights will conduct two events on the road course.

IMS officials are estimating more than 50,000 fans for the first Grand Prix.

I’ve been a long-time advocate of having the IndyCar teams compete on the road course at IMS, so I hope this will become an annual addition to the month of May.

During practice sessions leading up to the Grand Prix, 19 drivers toured the 14-turn road course within one second of each other. The drivers have indicated there are several places that will allow passing.

One change long-time IMS fans will notice is that the cars will be traveling in the opposite direction with turn one just to the north of the pit area. That will be a prime spot for passing.

Who will win the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis? Money would have to be on the drivers who have done well on the street and road courses in the past.

Expected to compete for the victory are Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais.

Montoya has a unique opportunity to possibly win three races in one year at IMS. Although Montoya is racing full-time with the Verizon IndyCar season, he has secured a ride with Ganassi Motorsports for the Brickyard 400 with the Sprint Car series.

IN OTHER RACING NEWS

I was disappointed to learn that Mt. Lawn Speedway, west of New Castle, is not conducting any racing in 2014. The track first opened in 1935.

There was a time when racers and fans had the opportunity to see racing in Muncie on Friday, Anderson on Saturday, and Mt. Lawn on Sunday.

I believe the owners of Mt. Lawn Speedway made a mistake several years ago by switching from Sunday night to Saturday, which put them in direct competition with Anderson Speedway.

Hopefully the track will reopen in the future and return to Sunday night racing.

As a result of the Mt. Lawn closing, Anderson is adding a new division for Front Wheel Drive division drivers to continue to compete. It will be known as the “Pro” division and use the Mt. Lawn rules.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com.