United States Grand Prix: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Entrance
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Jonathan Weiss / Bigstockphoto.com)

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most iconic race amphitheatres in the United States. Based out of Indiana, the track is as well known for its foray into Formula 1 as it’s iconic links with NASCAR racing. 

As the Indianapolis summers are often hot, the climate for the races are usually pretty good in the US for the American Grand Prix. The track has been around since 1909, which makes it one of the oldest Grand Prix circuits, even though the first official United States Grand Prix wasn’t held there until 2000.


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Indianapolis 4.192 km 13 230,000 1909

Circuit Layout

The Track at Indianapolis
The Track at Indianapolis (tpsdave / Wikipedia.org)

The layout of the tracks at Indianapolis are one of the key reasons why it’s so iconic. Not only do they have their Formula 1 layout, but on top of that they have their speedway, MotoGP and Indy Car layouts as well. 

The F1 circuit measures 4.192km in total length, which is one of the shortest on the Grand Prix calendar when in operation. The track has to work harder than most to create a tough driving experience for it’s drivers and cars. One of the ways in which they do this is by incorporating the steep banking that’s used for the Speedway track. 

The banking offers a surface and incline that no other circuit in the world has, for Formula 1 at least. Entry into the banking is actually relatively slow, but as cars build up speed heading through the banking and then out, they hit the pit straight and enjoy the slingshot effect that this type of levelling creates with Formula 1 cars. 

The pit straight is fairly long one, measuring around 900m in total. You then head into a series of ‘s’ style corners with turn 1 and 2 being at 90 degrees, although offering little chance to cut either with steep kerbing running alongside both. This is actually a feature of a lot of the track, preventing drivers from cutting pretty any of the 13 corners in total. 

Turns 3, 4 and 5 are all sweeping right handers. They seem pretty innocuous, but as the cars come from the low turns of 1 and 2, make it imperative that they get their lines right in order to fend off any attacks from chasing cars.

Through 6 and 7 offer the driver a chance to really show off their skills. A number of lines can be taking on the approach to 6 to make for a better exit at 7, which has created quite a popular passing spot. The long straight from 7 down to 8 again provides a good passing point. 

Through turns 8, 9, 10 and 11 are often considered to be areas where races are won and lost. A tight double hairpin through 9 and 10 make for the slowest part of the track and then drivers are scurrying for track positions coming into 11 and then hitting the banking of 12 and 13. 

Other Races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NASCAR Racing at Indianapolis
NASCAR Racing at Indianapolis (actionsports / Bigstockphoto.com)

Indianapolis is actually one of the few tracks in the Grand Prix book to be more popular with other sports than Formula 1. The NASCAR scene is huge at the track and creates bases for hundreds of thousands of fans to attend some of the major meetings. 

The track has played host to many other races, including Verizon Indy Car Series, Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400, NASCAR Infinity Series and the Lilly Diabetes 250. 


Panasonic Pagoda at Indianapolis
Panasonic Pagoda at Indianapolis (rbnlsn / Wikipedia.org)

The history of Formula 1 at the track first came about in 1998 when Tony George had arranged for Formula 1 to come back to the United States. At the time, it wasn’t really known how the American public would gel with the sport, especially given the popularity of NASCAR and Indy Car racing already. 

It took two years’ worth of construction and renovation at the track to get it ready for Formula 1 racing. The early fears of popularity were soon squashed, as in the first year of racing (2000) they attracted over 200,000 people, making it one of the most well-attended Grand Prix’s ever. 

Grand Prix at Indianapolis

The Grand Prix wasn’t without controversy though, especially in 2002 when Michael Schumacher tried to crate a dead heat for the race with fellow teammate Rubens Barichello to offer him more points in the drivers championship. They ended up being just out, with Barichello ahead by 0.011 seconds, must to the dismay of other drivers and even the crowd. 

The other issues came in 2005 when teams that were ruining Michelin tyres pulled their cars into the pits prior to the race starting in a protest about their performance on the famous banked curve. Just six cars running Bridgestone tyres ended up running the race. 

The race started to decline as the initial buzz of the Grand Prix within the US also waivered. Ticket prices were increasing, and the track probably wasn’t best sortied to exciting racing. The race was removed in 2008 and whilst the US Grand Prix has returned to the Circuit of Americas in 2012, the Indianapolis circuit seems to have seen the last of F1 racing for some time.