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NTT IndyCar Series makes noise on Saturday

June 5, 2020

INDYCAR_CMYK_POS

 

The NTT IndyCar Series gets back in action – for real – this weekend with a single-day trip to the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway. This marks the series’ 24th annual visit to the 1.5-mile oval west of Dallas and north of Ft Worth, but it’ll be a very different affair this year.

Only regular series participants will be on-site, together with officials and hand-picked media. There will be no fans in the stands at the Eddie Gossage-managed circuit, a situation that has to pain the showman who regularly finds new ways to entertain fans at the track. This Saturday, June 6th, there will be a single day of practice, qualifying and racing, which is not a new experience for the series but likely is for most everyone on the grounds.

Saturday night’s Genesys 300 marks the first time all teams will be using the new Red Bull Aero Technologies aeroscreen in a race; it has been tested extensively by single and, occasionally more than one driver on a track at a single moment, such as the pre-season February test at Circuit of the Americas. Still, nobody’s raced with the thing and this first test, on a banked oval should show if the aeroscreen is a viable piece of equipment.

INDYCAR is assembling a total of 24 racers for this season debut, and some of them have never raced on this oval and, in at least one case, any oval. Alex Palou, the Spaniard making his first start under the Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh banner, is new to the series and to left-turn racing. As a total pro, it’s doubtful he’ll have issues, now that he’s been able to make his way to the USA from his Barcelona home. This is the first time for Rinus Veekay, the Indy Lights graduate racing with Ed Carpenter Racing for the full season, who hasn’t been to Texas; neither has Jack Harvey, starting his and Michael Shank Racing’s first full season of competition and third together.

There was one scratch from the entry list earlier this week. Carlin will race with a single, No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet entry for Conor Daly, doing the oval honors in place of street course specialist Max Chilton. Felipe Nasr, who’s had an extraordinary IMSA career of late will not be driving the No. 31 as intended. It’s unsure whether the decision was made for monetary or travel rationales.

It’s difficult to think about winners and losers for this race because, if it runs cleanly every single one of the 24 racers will be a winner. If it’s a crash fest, everyone will be a loser. It’s imperative for this group to race well, race strong, race ethically at a time when ethics appear to be lacking everywhere beyond the racetrack.

Obviously, Team Penske will be strong as they have been over the past few years, leading the 10 Chevrolet racers with reigning champ Josef Newgarden, Month of May monster Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, a winner at this track. And the enlarged Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson) and Andretti Autosport-affiliated camps (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach, Alexander Rossi, together with Jack Harvey and Colton Hereto) will be ready to take them on as part of the 14-car Honda challengers, joined by the potent Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.

The number of racers is growing in this protracted season but the number of teams is decreasing. There are now distinct power houses in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock: Penske, Andretti, Ganassi are the sharp end of the pyramid; two-car entries from A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Arrow McLaren SP, Dale Coyne Racing (with separate co-entrants for the No. 18 and No. 55 Hondas) and two-car Ed Carpenter Racing, which features the series’ sole driver/owner in Ed Carpenter, an oval specialist who came up through the USAC ranks.

This Saturday’s Genesys Technology 300 will be the first season-starter on an oval since 2008’s opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval. INDYCAR’s president, Jay Frye, has promised this race will honor the COVID-19 physical distancing strictures currently in place, has set up a Honda garage separate from the Chevy garage, and expanded pit boxes so that crews can work comfortably on the long Texas Motor Speedway pit road.

The break between the first and second races of this season, Texas and the July 4th Indy road course, allow Frye, the teams and all parties to take stock and decide if other changes are warranted. The only change we’d like to see is the wail of fans to accompany that of the engines.

By Anne Proffit

From → Uncategorized

2 Comments
  1. i love this line…” It’s imperative for this group to race well, race strong, race ethically at a time when ethics appear to be lacking everywhere beyond the racetrack.”
    Thank you. me

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