Showdown at the Speedway as IMSA Hits The Bricks
With a new track layout, countless different elevated viewing locations to take in the race action around nearly the entire track, a fan walk and autograph session that is open to the public, and well over 100 cars set to compete, the two IMSA races set for Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix will be the perfect way to kick off the Kroger Super Weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams rip around the oval in practice, Friday afternoon will feature two IMSA races that will be staged on the 2.435-mile road course. The circuit features an all-new layout that debuted when the Verizon IndyCar Series staged its first-ever road race at the Speedway earlier this year, the Indianapolis Grand Prix, making for some great racing.
After the fan walk, which is open to the public and is a great way to meet the drivers and check out the cars before they take to the track, Friday’s first race will go green at 2:35 p.m. as the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC) stages Round 8 of the 2014 season.
Based on cars that you and I can buy at a dealership, CTSC features two classes, ST and GS. The ST machines are ones that you might recognize from the grocery store parking lot, with Honda Civics, small BMWs, and even some Porsche Boxsters making up the field. In fact, after knocking on the door of a big result all year long, one of those Boxsters broke through for a win in Canada.
“I feel more relieved than excited, although it probably hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Remo Ruscitti, who shared the driving duties with Adam Isman for the win two weeks ago. “It’s awesome to finally win, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s good to get the win here at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.”
Faster, louder, and even more aggressive, the GS cars are ones that you might recognize from a car show, with loads of Ford Mustangs, some Aston Martin Vantages, the new Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, and the Porsche 911 all doing battle.
Leading the championship is the No. 46 Fall-Line BMW M3 of young Chicago native Trent Hindman, who took fourth in the last round to keep his edge on the championship with a slight eight point advantage over the defending IMSA champion Rum Bum Racing squad.
"I think fourth place was a good way to bounce back from the last two races which were pretty difficult for us,” said Hindman. “I know we are really looking forward to Indy as historically we've had a strong car there in past years."
After the CTSC race takes the checkered flag at just after 5 p.m., there is a quick break and it will be right back to racing for the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at 5:45 on Friday.
This race will see nearly 50 cars across four classes competing in a 2-hour, 45-minute sprint race that could prove to be a critical round in the championship battle.
There are four classes of cars in the TUDOR race, with two different prototype-based classes and two different GT-based classes.
The fastest classes are the Prototypes and LMPC machines. They look like exactly what you might expect from the word “prototype,” with sleek designs and big rear wings. The cars have both closed cockpit (where the driver opens a very small door to get into the car) and open-cockpit (the driver just jumps in the car like it was a convertible) machines.
The most recent race saw Oak Racing score the Prototype victory to tighten the points championship.
But with one win so far this year and a lot of momentum, it is still the Indianapolis-based Wayne Taylor Racing team that leads the championship with 218 points, while Action Express Racing, Oak Racing, and Visit Florida Racing are all within 11 points of the lead as each team has at least one win this season.
“Indy is already a special racetrack, but going there as our team’s home race makes it even cooler,” said Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor. “We had a good race there in our first attempt. I think we can show very well with a clean race.”
The second style of cars in TUDOR are GT machines, which are readily recognizable as cars you’d like to have in your own driveway: Ferraris, Corvettes, Porsches, and Vipers. There are two different GT-type classes, GTLM and GTD.
The GTLM are the cars fielded by the big-boy factory squads, with the teams hiring the best drivers they can find.
Leading the championship and very hot heading into the Brickyard race is the yellow No. 4 Corvette Racing machine of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia as the duo have now won four straight IMSA races. But the visit to the Speedway is the first for this team and its all-new Corvette machine, threatening to disrupt the points momentum for the squad.
“It will be a new track for me,” said Magnussen. “Being such a short weekend, there is a lot of pressure to make the most of things, get in there and get to know the track. It will be good to go to Indy. I’ve never been, even as a spectator, so it will be a really cool experience!”
The second Class of the GT cars, “GTD,” has similar cars as GTLM, with Vipers, Ferraris and Porsches that are driven by line ups that feature both professional and amateur drivers.
The GTD championship points leader is a guy who really knows his way around the the Speedway, as Townsend Bell, who raced in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and his co-driver Bill Sweedler lead the championship with their No. 555 Ferrari 458 for AIM Autosport despite having a tough run to 13th place last weekend at Mosport.
With two races, some incredible cars, and some even better new viewing spots to take it all in, the Brickyard Grand Prix has something for everyone.