INDIANAPOLIS (IMS) – When Scott Sharp and Alex Tagliani drove on the recently reconfigured Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the first time Thursday during a TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series test, it didn’t take long for them to develop a positive impression.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sharp said about the IMS road course. “It’s got a great mixture of corners, with some real fast stuff with obviously some really slow stuff. We’re in sixth gear in a number of spots on the track and then we go down to second gear, and when you slow the car down that much, it really creates some great passing opportunities. I think for our cars here, with 50-something cars, it’s really going to be an action-packed race.”
Sharp and Tagliani will compete in the third annual Brickyard Grand Prix at IMS on Friday, July 25, with racing taking place simultaneously in two prototype classes and two production-based GT classes: Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.
A 14-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 with five top-ten finishes, Sharp will drive his No. 1 Tequila Patrón-sponsored HPD LMP2 car for Extreme Speed Motorsports during the Brickyard Grand Prix.
Tagliani, who in six Indianapolis 500 starts posted his best performance in 2010 when he finished tenth, was equally impressed following his first opportunity to drive on the IMS road course.
“I was pretty excited to try this new road course, and I really love it.” Tagliani said. “It’s a lot of fun for the prototype cars with the carbon brakes that we have going down into Turn 1, and I really believe that with the aero package it’ll make for an amazing race. I expect a lot of passing and dicing because of the long straightaway and the multiple places for passing, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
After finishing 13th in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, Tagliani is looking forward to his return to IMS next month when he’ll drive his RSR Racing AutoMaxUSA.com ORECA FLM09 car during the Brickyard Grand Prix.
“There are some pretty fast chicanes, some aggressive corners and lots of passing,” Tagliani said. “This is one of the most beautiful road courses I’ve run on, so I’m excited to come back here and run in July. It should be a lot of fun and I’m happy I was able to run a couple of laps in testing today.”
As much as he likes the IMS road course, Sharp says it’ll take him some time to grow accustomed to it.
“It’s a little odd going the opposite direction, and you want to start going on the oval not the road course, but it’s a cool road course,” Sharp said. “We’re getting our hands around the Patron prototype and making it work better, so hopefully we’ll come back for the race and be pretty strong.
“A lot of the Daytona Prototype teams, of course, have been here for the last few years, so they know there’s been subtle changes to the track, most of it they pretty much know. It helps that my teammate, Ryan Dalziel, has run really well here and been here the last few years, so he can get up to speed pretty quick and help those like me that are trying to figure it out.”
Also taking part in today’s test was Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally, who is a three-time Rolex Series champion (2001 SRP II, 2004SGS, 2006 Rolex GT) and the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year. Lally and his teammate John Potter finished fifth in the 2012 Brickyard Grand Prix and 16th last year in their No. 44 Porsche GT3 car.
“The new surface is incredible, it’s beautiful and we’re putting power down really well,” Lally said. “I think it’ll make the racing a lot better than it was last year. The new layout is much nicer than we had in years past. The kind of asphalt is better and I think the layout is quicker, so we’ve got a much faster section through the infield to set up another braking zone coming into Turn 8.
“We had a lot of action last year and I think we’re going to see even more this year. The fans in the infield are going to get a similar look to what they had last season, except they’re going to have a faster entry into Turn 8. I think we’re going to see the ability for cars behind to be able to make moves and be aggressive without as much penalty as we had last year.”
In addition to the Brickyard Grand Prix on July 25, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series will also host the Continental Tire Challenge road course race, which will feature two classes: Grand Sport (GS) and the smaller Street Tuner (ST) class.
The July 24-27 Kroger Super Weekend will consist of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship practice and qualifying on Thursday, July 24, with NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series practice and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship racing on Friday, July 25. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice and qualifying, along with the third annual Indiana 250 Nationwide Series race, will be held on Saturday, July 26, with the 21st Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com race on Sunday, July 27.