By: Spencer Neff
May 9, 2019 | 9:40 AM
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most iconic venues in sports. For more than a century, the 2.5-mile oval has become a must for competitors to race at and for many spectators to visit.
Although most of its history is tied to the oval, IMS has also seen its share of historic moments on the 2.438-mile, 14-turn road course.
On Saturday, the NTT IndyCar Series will take to the IMS road course for the sixth time. As the excitement for racing at IMS in May builds, IndyCar Flashback profiles the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
As the inaugural IndyCar event on the road course, the race featured excitement and intrigue throughout.
Pagenaud takes inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis
On May 10, 2014, the Verizon IndyCar Series prepared for its 98th event on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There was a noticeable difference for this race, though, because unlike the previous 97 IndyCar appearances at IMS, this event would not be on the prestigious oval.
For the first time, an IndyCar race at IMS was run on the road course. Since 2000, the infield road course had been utilized for other series like Formula 1 and MotoGP. 14 turns (5 left and 9 right) would complete the track’s clockwise layout, and prior to the 2014 IndyCar race, IMS had spent $5 million in renovations to reimagine its course.
A day before the race, qualifying brought some additional surprises. Despite recording the fastest lap, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter Reay crashed and was penalized his two fastest laps for bringing out the red flag. Despite the penalty, Hunter-Reay started 3rd.
Benefitting from Hunter-Reay’s misfortune, KV/AFS Racing driver Sebastian Saavedra earned his first career pole. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that standing starts would be utilized to begin the race.
This did not play into Saavedra’s hands. During the race start, Saavedra was unable to get his Dallara-Chevrolet up to speed. As the field sped by him, Saavedra was driven over by Andretti’s Carlos Munoz and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin. Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya also ended up along the outside retaining wall further back on the front straightaway.
All four drivers walked away from their incidents while debris from their cars littered the track – with Montoya continuing on in the event.
The race restarted on Lap 7. Two laps later, rookie Jack Hawksworth took control from Hunter-Reay. After starting second, the BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian driver held the top spot for 31 of the next 34 laps – the most of any driver.
Following the opening-lap melee, the race stayed under green flag conditions for the next 34 laps. Things changed rapidly on Lap 42 when Will Power and Scott Dixon collided in Turn 3. After Dixon spun into the gravel, the caution flag flew again.
Hunter-Reay moved back to the front upon the Lap 47 restart. One lap later, Martin Plowman spun violently over the rear wing of Andretti’s Frank Montagny in Turn 7. The damage would end Montagny’s return to IndyCar after a five-year absence. Meanwhile, Plowman continued on.
Four laps later, the race went back to green. As was the case for the previous restart, this green flag was short-lived.
Shortly after Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson passed Hunter-Reay for the lead, Graham Rahal’s car stalled on the frontstretch. Once again, the field was placed under caution flag conditions.
Following a six-lap yellow flag period, the Lap 57 restart did not see another caution as Helio Castroneves held the lead from pit stops. Further back, James Hinchcliffe pulled onto the grass.
During the restart, the Andretti Autosport driver was struck in the head by debris. After sustaining a possible concussion, he was taken to the medical center on a stretcher.
With the racing continuing, Castroneves’ car owner Roger Penske continued to keep his driver on track in hopes of another yellow flag. On Lap 70, the strategy proved unsuccessful, and Castroneves was forced to pit from the race lead.
Following Castroneves’ stop, Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia took turns at the front. On Lap 78, Servia pitted and SPM driver Simon Pagenaud regained the lead of the race.
From there, Pagenaud had a clear path to the checkered flag. With Hunter-Reay 0.891 seconds behind, Pagenaud crossed the Yard of Bricks to become the first winner at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
After going winless through his first 38 open-wheel starts across IndyCar and ChampCar, Pagenaud now had won in four of his last 17 races.
With the runner-up finish, Hunter-Reay lowered Power’s lead in the championship standings to 1 point, and despite falling short of a fourth win at IMS, Castroneves was able to celebrate his 39th birthday with a third-place finish.
Hawksworth, the dominant driver early in the race, finished in third.
In the five years since that inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, things have changed drastically for some of the race’s key players. After recording two wins in 2014, Pagenaud moved over to Penske for 2015.
A year after, Pagenaud repeated his triumph at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis by taking victory in 2016 – his third consecutive win for Penske in that season, which turned out to be a championship effort. After winning two races and finishing second in points the following year, Pagenaud has not won since the 2017 finale.
Although he started on the front row in two of the last four Indianapolis 500s, Pagenaud has not added his face to the Borg-Warner Trophy.
15 days after they shared the podium with Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves battled for the “500” crown. After starting 19th, Hunter-Reay held off Castroneves by .060 seconds (the second-closest finish in race history) to win the Indianapolis 500.
Despite their success on the oval, neither driver has won on the road course. This weekend, Castroneves returns to his part-time IndyCar role with Penske.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback.
There will continue to be a poll on our Twitter page (@Open_Wheels) to determine the race profiled for IndyCar Flashback prior to each race weekend. Keep an eye out each race week for the poll to cast your vote.
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.