SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — IndyCar Series drivers are back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix, and so are the fans.
The track opened at 7:30 a.m. Friday, welcoming fans eager to see their favorite drivers as they practice and qualify for the race.
Qualifying and the Firestone Fast 6 begin at 4 p.m., with Indy Lights Race 1 to follow at 5:30 p.m.
Ensuring the safety of drivers participating in events at the track is the mission of the America Medical Response safety team.
The safety team, under the guidance of Tim Baughman, IndyCar’s director of track safety, has a roster of 30 people. There are 16 firefighter paramedics, two nurses, and two doctors at each race.
Speed is key when responding to a racecar after a crash, according to Baughman.
“We’re there in 15, 20 seconds. We take care of the driver. If the car’s on fire, we put the fire out,” Baughman said. “We assess the driver, and, within two minutes, we hope to have that driver into the infield care center here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
Another person with a team to command during the month of May is IMS President Doug Boles.
Boles says fans and drivers alike are excited for the first month of May without coronavirus restrictions since 2019.
“The drivers can’t wait to get back here and and and do it in front of fans. That’s really important to them,” Boles said. “There’s something about coming to Indianapolis for those drivers that’s really special, kicking it off with the GMR Grand Prix this weekend and then getting ready to convert the track so we can go racing in terms of the Indy 500 on Tuesday.”
Boles says he expects the fans will be out in force. The track is planning for at least 40,000 fans at the Grand Prix and a crowd of over 300,000 at the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
“Ticket sales are better than they’ve ever been in the last 25 years, except for the 100th running, which is when we sold it out — and those tickets are still going real quick. I think it’s going to be a fantastic race.”
When those thousands of fans arrive at the track, they’ll be surrounded by hundreds of food options. Some of that food will be served up by Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, which also provides food options at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Executive chef Jay Webb says he’s excited for fans in the suites to try some of their dishes.
“We’ve got a lobster roll, we’ve got a blackened chicken sandwich–little avocado, mayo, a little jalapeno, aioli, fresh roasted peppers. We’re doing a smoked sausage with caramelized onions and peppers,” Webb said. “My favorite item is…actually, I’m kind of torn between the po’boy and the blackened chicken sandwich.”