"Facilities workers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pulled an all-nighter earlier this week as the last of the Formula One race equipment arrived for July 2’s United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
F1 race cars and equipment arrived Monday, one day after the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Speedway officials received all the equipment, cleared it through customs for a second time when it reached the track and put it in each team’s paddock and garage area for individual teams to unload and set up. The effort was expected to take more than 18 hours, from late Monday afternoon to about noon on Tuesday. It was the culmination of nearly a month’s work as the Speedway was converted from a 2.5-mile oval to a 2.605-mile road course, which involved everything from moving more than 3 million pounds of concrete barriers to installing 44,000 tires, also used as barriers, around the course.
The direction of the track was changed and temporary signage was added to the paddock and other various areas of the track. “It’s like taking a map of the city and throwing it up in the air and when it comes down, saying, ‘That’s Meridian Street and it runs east to west,’” said Speedway facilities manager Paul Riley. Riley was the man in charge of supervising the conversion, which started immediately after the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
The conversion back to an oval — and in an even shorter time span — will begin immediately after Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix. Testing for NASCAR’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard will commence on Monday, July 10, with the race on Aug. 6. “Any project you do over and over again over time comes easier,” Riley said. “Our staff is dedicated and they get it done.”
The first time Speedway workers completely converted the track from an oval to a road course was in 2000 for the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis, which was held in September that year, some six weeks after the NASCAR race. The Formula One race was moved to earlier in the summer three years ago. This year, in preparation for the F1 race, Speedway workers moved 130 8-ton concrete barriers to create the pit lane, plus moved 60 6-ton barriers and 60 4-ton barriers at various other locations. Two temporary infield grandstands were built from the ground up, and walls and catch fencing on the inside of Turn 2 and Turn 4, where the road course enters and exits the oval portion of the track, were removed. They also removed grandstands from in front of the garages the F1 teams use. Bundles of stacked tires, 4.5 feet tall and covered with tarps to keep them from collecting rain water, were moved into place outside of Turn 2 and in numerous other locations around the course. In all, the Speedway used some 43,933 tires, officials said.
“Once the track is finished for the Formula One race, it changes the interior of the property,” Riley said. “We have a finite time [to complete the work], and we probably used 15 to 20 of our guys … We started the day after the [Indy 500] race and we try to get the track ready a week before they arrive.”
The first Formula One support equipment — fire trucks and other vehicles, compressed air, water, dry ice and tons of other stuff — arrived late last week, several days before the Canadian race. After unloading it, Speedway workers took a couple of days off before the race cars arrived and workers pulled the all-nighter on Monday. Once Sunday’s race is complete, Speedway officials will change the track back to an oval in preparation for NASCAR testing only one week later. “It will be a little challenging and we will be pressed, but we will have it done for them,” Riley said.