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IMS Circuit Has Paved Successful Road for Champions in Many Series

Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, which has had two configurations, has had one theme: It has favored championship pedigree.

All seven of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES races and 13 of the 16 Formula One and MotoGP races have been won by current or future series champions. The list includes some of the most decorated competitors in modern motorsports: Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi, Scott Dixon, Lewis Hamilton and Marc Marquez.

Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – Indianapolis 500 winners each – have dominated the INDYCAR races, with Team Penske drivers Pagenaud and Power winning three times each. Dixon finished second in the three races prior to winning the GMR Grand Prix in July.

Schumacher won five of the eight F1 races on the IMS road course from 2000-07. Rossi won the first MotoGP race held here, in 2008, and Marquez won the final three (2013-15). Those three competitors, plus Dixon and Hamilton, have combined to win an astounding 31 season championships, with Dixon and Hamilton likely to add to that total later this year.

Even NASCAR’s Xfinity Series is getting in the act, with Chase Briscoe, the series’ inaugural IMS road course winner in July, a leading contender for this year’s season championship.

“It’s great to obviously (win) at Indianapolis even though it’s not the big one,” Dixon said in referring the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, a race he won in 2008. “But it’s significant, man, trying to win at this place.”

While an artist’s original rendition of IMS included a road course, it wasn’t until 2000 that one was built. Schumacher won that first United States Grand Prix, along with a string of four in succession from 2003-06.

Double World Champion Mika Hakkinen won F1’s 2001 race at IMS – the last of his 20 Grand Prix wins -- with Hamilton, now a six-time F1 champion, scoring his second career series win in 2007. Rubens Barrichello, who won the 2002 race at IMS, is the only F1 driver to win here without having a series championship on his resume, although he twice finished second to Schumacher, then his Ferrari teammate.

While Marquez, a six-time MotoGP season champion, was his sport’s most successful IMS rider, Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner were other series champions to win at Indy (2008, 2009 and 2011, respectively). Two-time IMS winner Dani Pedrosa is MotoGP’s exception to the champion’s trend, although his 31 career wins (eighth on the all-time list) validates his championship-level ability.

Indianapolis’ original road course was 13 turns over 2.6 miles, but two portions of the infield section were reconfigured in 2014. The current version of the circuit is shorter in length (2.439 miles) with one fewer corner, and it’s certainly faster. MotoGP’s maximum average lap speed increased nearly 7 mph with the alterations.

Power has consistently been INDYCAR’s fastest driver on the IMS road course, winning four of the seven poles and standing as the series’ track record for qualifying (129.687 mph). The battle between Pagenaud and Dixon for the lead late in the 2019 GMR Grand Prix stands as one of the INDYCAR’s most thrilling IMS road course moments.

Several drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ upcoming INDYCAR Harvest GP (Oct. 2-3) have won Road to Indy races on this circuit. Marco Andretti was the first Indy Lights race winner on the course, in 2005, while Jack Harvey (2015), Colton Herta (twice in 2018) and Rinus VeeKay (2019) also scored Indy Lights victories on it.

Pato O’Ward won a pair of Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) races on the IMS road course in 2016, while Oliver Askew won both USF2000 races in 2017.

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