Harvest GP Preview- Fans Are Back; Will They See Dixon Clinch Title?

Good morning from the northwest annex of the IMS media center. Today’s schedule:

Noon- Gates Open (Gate 1 only)

12-12:30 Indianapolis 8 Hour/ GT World Challenge test

2:25-3:40 Indycar Practice

6:20-6:50 Indycar Qualifying for Race 1

For the first time in 104 years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts an Indycar race in the fall. The Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader, named for the 1916 Harvest Classic, runs on the same road course as the GMR Grand Prix in July, but under much different weather conditions.Here are some things to look for this weekend.

The First Harvest Classic https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/09/21/the-first-harvest-classic-2/

Dixon Could Clinch His Sixth Title

Scott Dixon has a chance to close out the championship this weekend. he needs to have a 55 point lead over Josef Newgarden after Saturday’s race. Dixon has won four races to Newgarden’s two. The tie breaker, if needed,   could be decided at St. Pete  should Newgarden sweep the weekend. Dixon also has more second place finishes at this point. I think Dixon will come close, but will not clinch until the final race at St. Pete.

Fans Return

After racing in front of empty stands twice at IMS, Indycar drivers will finally see some fans this weekend. Up to 10,000 a day will have access to the track. COVID protocols are in place. Fans were assigned designated entry gates depending on their seat locations.

The drivers are excited to race in front of fans at IMS. This weekend will be the fifth race weekend where fans are allowed. I understand that St. Pete will allow a limited number of fans. We may know that number  in a couple of days.

Fan Favorites Come Back With an Eye Toward 2021

Two Indycar legends, one popular veteran, and a driver and team looking to expand their program have joined the field for the double header. Sebastien Bourdais will drive the number 14 for A. J. Foyt. Bourdais, a four time series champion, will finish the season in the car and be in it full time next season.

Helio Castroneves is back, but not with Team Penske. The three time Indianapolis 500 winner is filling in for Oliver Askew at Arrow McLaren SP. Castroneves is looking for a full time ride in the series in 2021. Many people see these two races as an audition for a third AMSP car. Askew is recovering from concussion symptoms.

James Hinchcliffe will finsih the season in the 26 gainbridge car for Andretti Autosport. Hinchcliffe replaces Zach Veach, who vacated the ride last week. Hinchcliffe could be in line for the car next season. He ran three races for Andretti earlier this season.

Sage Karam and Dreyer and Reinbold return for their third and fourth races of 2020, all at IMS. They hope to improve on their results in the previous two races. the team hopes to do even more races next season.

Cooler Temperatures Will Change the Racing

Today will be the warmest day of the three with a high of 63 degrees. There is only a slight chance of rain. Friday’s high is 59 degrees and Saturday warms all the way up to 60. Bundle up if you’re coming out.

The cars should produce faster speeds and have less drag in these conditions. Will it create more passing opportunities? Colton Herta  talked about some teams experimenting with downforce levels.

The different race lengths (85 laps Friday; 75 laps Saturday) look to be pretty straightforward as far as the number of stops.  Alternate pit strategies might come into play Friday.

The road course has been dominated by Team Penske, which has won all but two of the races run on this configuration. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power have each won on this circuit  three times. I think the tie gets broken in one of the races the next two days. The other race might go to Pato O’Ward.

Look for coverage of the day’s happenings later tonight.