With Grand Prix of Indy in the past, finally time to focus on the 500

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From left to right, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and James Hinchcliffe celebrate after the 2016 Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Pagenaud finished first, followed by Castroneves and Hinchcliffe (WXIN, May 16, 2016)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – You already know what’s next.

Two weeks and zero IndyCar races remain before dropping the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Some drivers couldn’t even keep thoughts of the IMS oval out of their minds during Saturday’s Indy Grand Prix.

“When I was leading the race,” explained Helio Castroneves, “I went a little bit wide on turn two of the oval, between one and two, and I’m like, ‘We’re gonna be here Monday’… then ‘Okay, go back, we have to think about the race here.'”

Now, there’s no need to suppress the anticipation. The Speedway’s main event is each driver’s all-encompassing focus.

“Being around here, it’s hard not to think about the 500, especially with the 100th running,” said Charlie Kimball. “To be able to go to bed tonight and know all that’s coming up is practice and qualifying for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is going to be nice.”

As practice for the 500 begins Monday, past success will certainly be a talking point. Castroneves can tie an IndyCar record with his fourth win on the oval. Juan Pablo Montoya can earn his third title along with as back-to-back trips to victory circle. But along with the past, drivers are confident recent success will also play a role in the race’s outcome.

“Confidence is huge in sport, and racing is no different,” explained James Hinchcliffe, who’s coming off three-straight top-10 finishes, including a third-place showing in the GP of Indy. “This team’s been on a bit of a roll, and hopefully, that trend can continue heading into Memorial Day.”

Any discussion of drivers on a hot streak begins, and frankly ends, with Simon Pagenaud. The 22 car for Team Penske has won three IndyCar races in a row, just one shy of tying a series record.

“Being able to dominate like we do right now is uplifting,” said Pagenaud after Saturday’s GP win. “We have a lot of confidence, huge momentum going into the Indy 500, so there wouldn’t be any better way to show up here in May.”

The Frenchman unquestionably shows up with the advantage, and only one driver will truly leave the Speedway at the end of this month feeling as pleased as he is right now.