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IMS Facilities Team Working Overtime To Convert Circuits on Historic Weekend at IMS

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR Xfinity Series both are competing in separate events Saturday, July 4 on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While the track distance and configuration are the same for the historic doubleheader of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR Xfinity Series races on the same day, it’s not quite the same track for both races.

The GMR Grand Prix for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will take the green flag at noon (ET), live on NBC. As soon as the race is completed, IMS Facilities crews will jump into action to make track alterations for the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, which begins at 3 p.m. (ET), live on NBC.

Two crews, led by John Lewis, IMS senior vice president of facility development, will replace the curbing at Turns 5, 6 and 7 with steel curbing that prevents the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers from cutting the corners. The steel curbs being placed in Turns 5 and 7 weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, while the steel curb being installed in Turn 6 weighs 2,000 pounds.

The curbs must be installed with a heavy-duty forklift. The IMS Facilities team plans to have the transition completed in 30-40 minutes, Lewis said. They expect to have one hour between races to complete the work.

“INDYCAR has time lines in those corners, so if a vehicle cuts a corner, they have it monitored electronically and by video,” Lewis said. “NASCAR is saying that if you cut that corner, it’s going to be a deterrent. There will be no advantage gained because you’re going to hit a heavy steel curb.”

The next big challenge for the IMS Facilities team will be to convert the 111-year-old racetrack from the road course to the oval circuit immediately following the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard on Saturday afternoon, getting ready for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records for the NASCAR Cup Series at 4 p.m. Sunday (live, NBC).

Lewis said the IMS Facilities teams must close the two areas where the road course connects to the 2.5-mile oval, which are on the main straightaway near oval Turn 4 and inside oval Turn 2. The facilities crews will take concrete barriers used throughout the track, mostly at the road course pit entrance and road course extension near Turns 12, 13 and 14, and use them to close the road course.

“That’s about a six- to eight-hour process,” Lewis said. “We hope to be done between 2 and 3 a.m. Sunday morning and have it back to an oval condition.”

Additionally, leading up to this weekend, IMS had to make changes in its timing-and-scoring loops to accommodate the stock cars running the road course for the first time. IMS has a total of 44 scoring lines throughout the racetrack, which includes on pit road.

In general, one of the most notable changes from the IMS road course to the IMS oval is the location of the scoring loop that, for timing-and-scoring purposes, is considered the start/finish line. For Saturday’s road course action, race fans will notice a white line painted on the north end of the racetrack on the oval Turn 4 side of the famed Yard of Bricks. For Sunday, the white start/finish line will move closer to the south end of the racetrack, near Turn 1, while the road course start/finish line will be painted black.

Aside from adjusting the start/finish line scoring loop, which IMS does for every GMR Grand Prix, the racetrack had to install new scoring loops to accommodate the stock cars. Unlike Indy cars, stock cars hold their transponder at the rear of the car, which is further away from the white line.

“The whole concept is when you install a loop, you want to bring it back from that white line so the leading edge of the car is there,” said Jon Koskey, senior director of technology for INDYCAR. “So, when you go the other way on the road course, their lines are on the wrong side of the white line now. So, we had to reinstall an additional start/finish on the south side of the bricks so that when their transponder is over that loop, their nose is now on the road course white line.”

The thrilling 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course that will host both INDYCAR and NASCAR on the same day, which is a first for motorsports, has been massaged since the Indiana weather started to improve in the spring, Lewis said. He takes pride in the overall appearance of the road course and the oval, which features 3 acres of new sod planted and placed throughout IMS.

“We’ve been working on it ever since the weather broke,” Lewis said. “I think you’ll see, and I hope it shows up on television, the turf is like it’s never been before. All the curbs have been repainted, we’ve rebuilt many of the curbs, and it is in pristine condition. That’s our goal.”

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