Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tips

We turned to some pro drivers who have raced on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course for tips and tricks to help SCCA club racers at the Runoffs

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is new to most of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs participants, but pro series have been racing there for years. And while the configuration that the pro series drivers use differs from the Runoffs layout racers will see this Sept. 25-Oct. 1, there is still plenty of useful information to be gleaned from their experience. The key differences are the use of the long, left-hand Turn 6 with the tight right back onto Hulman Boulevard (the pros use a left-right chicane), and the faster entry into Turn 7.

Tom Long guided readers around the track with a turn-by-turn breakdown earlier this year, so we’re focusing here on some little tidbits that might not be obvious to the first-timer with limited Indy track time.

For the purposes of this discussion, the right-hander onto the Hulman Boulevard back straight is 6a and the left-hander off the back straight is Turn 7, in order to keep turn numbers consistent between the configurations.

Robert Stout won the first of two Idemitsu MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich races at Indy. One thing he found that worked for him is to use the curbs, with the exception of the really big ones that define some of the corners.

“Turn 1 and 12, for starters, are the curbs you want to make sure you’re staying away from,” says Stout. “You don’t want to get up on those unless you absolutely have to. That said, just about every other curb on that track, I’m not just using but using with all four tires if possible. And in Turns 7, 8, 9 and 10, I was very aggressive – I like to drive in with lots of speed, using every inch of the curb.”

Doing that, he says, may even open up a passing opportunity. While the general consensus among many drivers is that if you don’t make a pass into Turn 7, you’re going to be behind all the way to the Yard of Bricks, Stout believes there may be an overlooked opportunity.

“Something I didn’t get to try to take advantage of, but I had in my back pocket, was being so aggressive on the last lap that I could set up a pass in Turn 10,” he reveals. “So Turns 7, 8, 9, if you can really charge through the center of those corners and not compromise yourself at all, I think you can set yourself up for a move on the last lap.”

Oliver Askew, winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races at Indy, notes, “[The track’s] very abrasive, especially when it’s hot. There are a few corners that you need to be careful with the front tires degrading. Turns 1 and [12], when you come off the banking, it’s a different asphalt. The oval asphalt is cut differently – it has a lot more grip. That’s a big thing and you have to use it to your advantage.”

Parker Thompson, who also races with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, pushes the importance of the straights. “It’s all about the straightaways, especially when you’ve got a 2.0-liter motor with barely any aerodynamics. If you don’t get on the straightaway, you’re going to get drafted by, so put a focus on the exits, not the entries. Don’t overdrive the car; let the car do the work and make sure you get on those straights good.”

Long, a Mazda factory driver and driver coach, notes that handling is also key, and warns not to overlook ride height as a potential advantage. “Indy is a very flat and smooth circuit that really rewards a car that can have a quick change of direction,” he says. “Beyond that suiting Mazdas in general, setting up your ride heights a little lower may help. You can get away with a little lower ride height than you might at a bumpy circuit or one that has a lot of elevation.”