Let the Season Begin-A Welcome Return to Barber

Photo: Takuma Sato heads to Barber as defending pole and race winner. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

It is Race Week at Last. The NTT Indycar Series is set to begin the 2021 season Sunday at barber motorsports Park near Birmingham. 24 cars will take the green flag at 3:42 pm EDT. The race is on NBC.

The track has set a limit of 20,000 spectators a day. In addition to each fan having a ticket, each vehicle must have a parking pass. As will be the norm at nearly all events this year, fans will not have paddock or pit access. The trams will still be running, but with a smaller capacity.

I am excited to get back to Barber. This year’s race is later in April than the 2018 and 2019 events, which means the extensive plant life will be blooming.

In 2020 this race fell victim to the pandemic. It was scheduled to be the second race of the year. For the first time in its history, Barber opens the season. Several teams have tested here this winter. It will be the first race at this track for last year’s rookies Rinus Veekay and Alex Palou.

I don’t expect the year’s hiatus to affect team performances much. Indycar has raced at barber since 20210, and the teams have extensive information about setups for this track. What will we see this weekend?

Josef Newgarden testing at Barber. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Is This Still Newgarden’s Track?

Josef Newgarden is the only three time winner at barber, his last win coming in 2018. Team pensk has won six times, winning three races in a row on two different occasions. A seventh win is not out of the question. Will Power has won the pole four times here, adding to Team penske’s mastery of the track. However, in 2019 Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing dominated with a front row sweep in qualifying and a convincing victory by pole winner Takuma Sato. early mechanical trouble by Graham Rahal prevented what might have been 1-2 sweep.

Scott Dixon has never won at Barber. he has been on the podium eight times, six of those as runner-up. Could this be his breakthrough year and his 51st career win?

Andretti Autosport has won twice with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has a consistent record of top 10 finishes.

Arrow McLaren SP and Pato O’Ward are looking to contend for the championship in 2021 and want to make a strong opening statement. I think O’Ward will be a factor this weekend. Somewhat overlooked in all the buzz about O’Ward has been his teammate Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist edged O’Ward in a stirring duel for the win at road america Race 2 last season.

Rookies

Eyes will be on how the veteran “rookies” do. Television eyes might focus on just one, but keep an eye on Scott McLaughlin. The Australian Supercars champion is going to surprise some folks with how ell he does.

How will Romain Grosjean’s Formula 1 experience translate to Indycar? Barber should be one of his better tracks this season. If he can get through the flying start, I think he will have a good race.

Jimmie Johnson will get the bulk of the attention. The seven time NASCAR champion says he plans to take things slowly, but we will see. Johnson has worked jard to prepare for his Indycar debut. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in his results this weekend, but we’ll see how he’s doing after Road America, which will be his sixth race.

Notes

Mark Miles talked yesterday about the situation in Toronto. Canada is still having a difficult time with COVID-19. He is waiting as long as he can to make a decision. Miles thoughts about moving or replacing the race::

“If not, I don’t think there will be much opportunity to move it. The rest of the schedule is pretty full and there’s so much going on in Toronto, and that street race requires a lot of planning.

If we needed to, I think the most likely step would be a double-header on a weekend we’re already scheduled. I won’t speculate at this point as to which one it would be, but I don’t think — we wouldn’t be looking at putting a different race in that date. We’d be looking at adding one on a weekend we’re already scheduled and planning to execute.”

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Fast Facts

Race weekend: Saturday, April 17 – Sunday, April 18

Track: Barber Motorsports Park, a 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course (clockwise) in Birmingham, Alabama

Media links: Entry List (PDF) | Trackside Media Guide (Interactive PDF)

Race distance: 90 laps / 207 miles

Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate, one additional set available for rookies for use in first practice.

Twitter: @BarberMotorPark @IndyCar, #HIGPA, #IndyCar

Event website: www.barberracingevents.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2019 race winner: Takuma Sato, 1:55:46.8076, 107.272 mph. No race in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Takuma Sato, 1:08.5934, 120.711 mph. No race in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.6001, 124.324 mph, April 23, 2016

NBC Sports race telecasts: Qualifying, 10 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN


2:42 p.m.: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (90 laps/207 miles), NBC (live)

Race Notes:

  • The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be the 11th NTT INDYCAR SERIES event conducted at Barber Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010.
  • Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato are the only entered drivers to have won at Barber Motorsports Park. Power won the race in 2011 and 2012, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and 2014, Newgarden in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Pagenaud in 2016 and Sato in 2019.
  • Power, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Newgarden and Sato are the only entered drivers to have won the pole position at Barber Motorsports Park. Power claimed the pole position in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, Pagenaud won the pole in 2016, Hunter-Reay won the pole in 2013, Newgarden won the pole in 2018, and Sato won the pole in 2019.
  • Five drivers have won the race from the pole – Power in 2011, Hunter-Reay in 2013, Pagenaud in 2016, Newgarden in 2018 and Sato in 2019.
  • Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in eight of his 10 previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park – including six runner-up finishes – but he has yet to finish on the top step of the podium at the picturesque road circuit.
  • Seven drivers have competed in every NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Barber Motorsports Park – Marco Andretti, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Power, Graham Rahal and Sato. All but Andretti and Kanaan are entered this weekend.
  • Team Penske has six wins at Barber Motorsports Park (2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Andretti Autosport, Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are the only other teams to win at the track. Andretti Autosport won in 2013 and 2014 with Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter Racing won with Newgarden in 2015, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won in 2019 with Sato.
  • Three NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year contenders – Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are entered. Those three, plus 2020 rookies Dalton Kellett, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time.
  • Eighteen of the 24 drivers entered in the event have competed in NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Barber Motorsports Park. Ten entered drivers have led laps: Power 208, Newgarden 133, Hunter-Reay 93, Pagenaud 87, Sato 74, Dixon 46, Rahal 25, Sebastien Bourdais 19, James Hinchcliffe 4 and Alexander Rossi 3.
  • Dixon has made 272 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti is not entered in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race for the first time since he debuted in 2006. Andretti has made 248 consecutive starts, 

Indycar 2021 Part II-Another Championship Coming Down to the Wire

Photo: Josef Newgarden looks to regain the Indycar title. Indycar photo

Long Beach, September 26- The NTT Indycar Series championship hinges on who finishes ahead of whom. Will Scott Dixon win his seventh title? Does Josef Newgarden win his third? Will Alexander Rossi finally earn the trophy he covets?

This is the scenario I see playing out in the season finale. I’m not ready to declare that the young drivers will be battling each other. We might see a brief spurt mid season where Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta are ibn the hunt, maybe one of them leading for a bit, but I think we have one more year of the old guard. By old guard i mean drivers over 25.

I see O’Ward winning multiple times and another first time winner out of the group including Jack Harvey, Rinus VeeKay, and Alex Palou.

While a driver has just seventeen chances to win in a season, there are 51 chances to get on the podium. The number of podiums could well determine the title since I thin there will be nine different winners in 2021.

The early schedule favors Newgarden. He has dominated at barber the last few years, and he won St. Pete last fall. As always happens, though, is the early leader comes back to the field. Dixon has not won at either of the first two tracks. The lack of short ovals will later be a disadvantage to Newgarden.

It’s gong to be wild ride to the finish line.

Winners

Who are the nine winners this year? I will name them, but unlike some stories I’ve seen, I won’t assign a number of wins. Here they are, in no particular order:

Newgarden

Dixon

Rossi

Herta

Power

Harvey or VeeKay

O’Ward

Rahal

Sato

Sebastien Bourdais could restore some glory to the iconic nuimber14

Will Bourdais Help Foyt?

A storyline to watch is how much will having Sebastien Bourdais in the team’s number 1 car help A. J. Foyt Racing? The season starts at two tracks where Bourdais has done well. In 2020, Bourdais started seventh and finished fourth at St. Pete. I think Bourdais will improve the qualifying and will have several top 10s and a couple of top 5s. A podium spot may sneak in there as well.

Will Peacock Ruffle Some Feathers?

Practices and most qualifying will be on the new Peacock streaming service this season as NBC is phasing out NBCSN. The service is $.99 a month and can be cancelled anytime. If you just get it for the months of the Indycar season, it is 4#0. NBC Gold costs almost $50 for the year. I bought Peacock in tuime for last week’s open test at IMS. I was impressed by the coverage and the picture quality, even on my phone and tablet.

Peacock has now built an Indycar page which has the upcoming broadcasts for the next two weekends. Don’t dismiss it until you try it.

Predictions

Josef Newgarden will win his third Indycar title in 2021. Scott Dixon has always had a difficult time in a year where he is defending his championship. Alexander Rossi and Andretti Autosport need a strong run at the Indianapolis 500 to have a chance. Last week’s test did not give me hope for that to happen.

Scott McLaughlin will win Rookie of the Year simply because he is the only rookie who will drive in all 17 races. He would probably win anyway.

Graham Rahal will win the Indianapolis 500. The team dominated with a first and third in 2020. I expect them to be strong again in May.

Indycar 2021 Part I- The Usual Suspects May Have Some Company

At last, it’s time for Indycar. The season begins this coming Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. As life as we knew it slowly creeps back to normal, COVID protocols and spectator limits continue to affect how we watch sports. The 17 race schedule should have fewer disruptions and changes than last year. Some races will see expanded grids as part time teams and drivers jump in at various races. The front of the field shouldn’t change much though. Here are some things to watch in the 2021 NTT Indycar Series. Part II tomorrow.

Rookies

No Indy lights in 2020 means no champion to move into an Indycar seat for the new year. The rookies arguably are the most experienced and oldest rookie class in history. A seven time NASCAR champion, a three time Australian Supercars champion, and a 10 year formula 1 veteran.

Jimmie Johnson, seven time NASCAR champion, gives Indycar a try with Chip Ganassi Racing. Johnson realizes he is on a steep learning curve. He has tested at Barber a couple of times, so he should be more comfortable in the opener. Johnson is not ready to tackle the ovals this season, but has not ruled out the Indianapolis 500 in 2022. I look for him to have some good runs starting at Road America.

Scott McLaughlin is the only rookie who will run the entire schedule. The three time Australian Supercars champion will run a rare fourth car for Team Penske. McLaughlin seems to have adapted quickly to Indycar in testing, but qualifying and racing are another matter. I expect he will get some top 10s, possibly a podium, and if things fall the right way, he may even win a race. McLaughlin should win Rookie of the Year simply because he is running all the races.

Romain Grosjean will drive for Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing. He comes to Indycar after a Formula 1 career in which he earned several podiums early in his career. Grosjean should do well on the larger road courses like Road America and Laguna Seca. The Frenchman will sit out the first three oval races at Texas and Indianapolis, but he is considering running at Gateway.

Will Big 3 Become Big 4?

Most of the race winners will come from the Big 3 teams- Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, and Andretti Autosport- but Arrow McLaren SP is looking to join the club. Pato O’Ward has made it very clear that he considers himself a title contender this year. Entering his second full time season, O’Ward should win his first career race and possibly his second in 2021. He will also need several podiums to stay in contention.

Pato O’Ward ( Indycar photo)

“We want to win races. We want to be consistently fighting for podiums, and we want to be there. We want to be contenders every single race weekend.I think in doing so, that’ll put us in a position at the end of the year to fight for the championship. That is the goal. I want to get to Long Beach having a possibility to win the championship,” O’Ward told media in March.

Scott Dixon should win the two races he needs to tie Mario Andretti’s career total of 52 victories, but getting a third win might be difficult. Josef Newgarden will win at least three races this season. Colton Herta has a chance to be a multiple race winner. Alexander Rossi should get back to Victory Lane as well.

Will Power somehow manages to squeeze two wins out of a year no matter how frustrating a season he has.

Track Time at a Premium

Barber is the first track where Indycar will be on track just two days instead of the usual three at road courses. This will give an advantage to the bigger teams and hurt the rookies and smaller teams. I understand the reasons for the move. It cuts costs to teams and creates less risk to all race participants by minimizing contact.

Fridays will still be busy with Road to Indy and other support series. I’m looking at it as a day where i can enjoy the series that are running and pay a little more attention to the drivers in the ladder series. I hope having a day entirely to themselves gives the young drivers some more exposure.

I don’t think the third day will be coming back. It will still be a part of street course weekends, but expect shortened shows to be business as usual going forward. I hope this never applies to Indianapolis 500 practice.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the championship battle, what’s new for television, and what fans can expect at the track.

,

Newgarden Leads Day 2; Thinks Race Will be Better

Photo of Josef Newgarden by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

On a day that I wish we could save for may, 31 cars hopeful of making the field for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 completed the second day of open testing. Josef Newgarden, two time NTT Indtcar Series champion, had the quickest time of the two days, 226.819 miles an hour.

The first hour of the morning allowed the rookies, Pietro Fittipaldi and Cody Ware, to complete their rookie tests, and the drivers who needed to complete their refresher tests to co mplete their two phase runs.

Conor Daly led the veterans session from 10-11 before all cars were turned loose on the track. The day was interrupted twice for brief rain sprinkles and the afternoon action stopped for some track inspections.

Newgarden summed up his day in a zoom call with media after the session finished.

“It was a pretty good day,” Newgarden said. “I was happy enough with the car. I think we still need some work, for sure, but to just get an initial read on where we’re at is good. Obviously, there are a lot of new parts and differences to the last couple of years, so we’re just trying to assess what we need to really work on these last couple of weeks before we get back here in May. But I’m pretty happy.”

He responded to questions about the duifference between this year’s car and last year’s car. he likes the changes and thinks the racing will be better.

“Yes, definitely. It’s easier to follow. It’s still tough. You’ll still get a big front wash in traffic. 10 cars back, it’s always going to b e difficult. But I think they’ve made the ability to follow better. That balance separation between clean air and dirty air is definitely reduced.Some of them are tricky to drive, some of these parts. I think you’re seeing some split camps here along pit lane. Not everybody is running the same stuff. That’s been interesting to watch. There’s more downforce on the car. I think the balance shift in traffic is less.Yeah, the ability that we’re going to have to race compared to last year will be better.

I think you have a better opportunity this year looking at the amount of downforce we have, the balance shift in and out of traffic. I think you have a better opportunity to fight for the win in the third or fourth car inline.I think more than that, you are a quick car during the race,you somehow find yourself in the back, I think you have abetter opportunity of making your way forward. Those two elements will automatically help the show. But you don’t want to have it so easy where we’re packed up the entire field the entire time. I think that’s something that you would want to avoid.It’s a balancing act. I think it will be a lot better than last year as far as the ability to race up front. Time will tell. But I think you’ll have a better show.”

Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by James Black, Indycar

Juan Pablo Montoya, two time Indianapolis 500 is returning to the race after a three year absence. He gave his thoughts on the Arrow McLaren SP Chevy he drove in the test to the Indycar he last drove.

“They’re a little harder to drive, I think. I think the difference between clear air and dirty air is a little bigger. I think the changes from what INDYCAR did, from what everybody says, it’s a little harder as before, but not that bad.”

As for adjusting to the aeroscreen, Montoya felt the aeroscreen was similar to the sports cars he drove the last three years.

“It wasn’t too bad to get used to it. I thought it would be a little more intrusive. It’s definitely a pain in the butt to get in and out of the car, and it’s a lot hotter. I know like here it hasn’t been that bad in the oval. I did a test in Laguna. In a road course, you don’t get a lotof air. That was kind of shocking.Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of weird because, like, you’re really in a little bubble. It feels a little bit once you’re driving like a sports car.”

Notes

Andretti Autosport seemed to be struggling a bit as they did last year. The team did not have a driver in the top 10 today.

Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal look to be right wher they were last year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Sato won the 2020 race and Rahal finished third.

Montoya and Helio Castroneves were quick in their first outing in cars not owned by Roger Penske. It’s still odd seeing them in non-Penske cars.

Arrow McLaren SP could be a factor in the 500 as well as during the rest of the season. Montoya’s input should help push the team up a notch this year.

Today’s results, followed by the no tow time sheet:

RANKCAR NO.DRIVERTEAMENGINESPEEDLAPS
12Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevy226.819121
230Takuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda226.39660
386Juan Pablo MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevy226.12368
49Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda225.906126
515Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda225.644157
647Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevy225.639137
712Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy225.501162
860Jack HarveyMeyer Shank RacingHonda225.266140
95Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevy225.118156
106Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda225.074128
1122Simon PagenaudTeam PenskeChevy225.001184
1228Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti AutosportHonda224.949134
1326Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda224.203164
1420Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter RacingChevy224.146146
1510Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda224.134112
167Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevy223.973126
1718Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing With Vasser-SullivanHonda223.905104
183Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevy223.808195
1927Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda223.636136
2045Santino FerrucciRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda223.519137
2116Simona De SilvestroParetta AutosportChevy223.45892
2229James HinchcliffeAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportHonda223.458127
2348Tony KanaanChip Ganassi RacingHonda223.10199
2424Sage KaramDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevy223.09581
2598Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta-Haupert w/Marco & Curb-AgajanianHonda222.815138
2614Sebastien BourdaisAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy222.627125
2759Max ChiltonCarlinChevy222.258114
288Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda222.135188
2951Pietro FittipaldiDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda221.943144
304Dalton KellettAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy220.19697
3152Cody WareDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda218.43858

Indianapolis 500 test – Friday all-skate – no-tow timesheet

RANKCAR NO.DRIVERTEAMENGINESPEED
115Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda221.549
23Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevy221.153
327Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda220.889
428Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti AutosportHonda220.490
512Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy220.405
620Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter RacingChevy220.263
726Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda220.242
822Simon PagenaudTeam PenskeChevy220.099
959Max ChiltonCarlinChevy219.922
1060Jack HarveyMeyer Shank RacingHonda219.881
117Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevy219.670
122Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevy219.668
135Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevy219.621
149Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda219.558
1598Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta-Haupert w/Marco & Curb-AgajanianHonda219.518
1614Sebastien BourdaisAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy219.293
1730Takuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda219.175
184Dalton KellettAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy219.174
196Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda219.027
2024Sage KaramDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevy218.431
2147Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevy218.424
2229James HinchcliffeAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportHonda218.014
238Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda217.991
2416Simona De SilvestroParetta AutosportChevy217.880
2510Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda217.670
2651Pietro FittipaldiDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda217.619
2786Juan Pablo MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevy217.600
2848Tony KanaanChip Ganassi RacingHonda217.563
2945Santino FerrucciRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda217.068
3018Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing With Vasser-SullivanHonda216.992
3152Cody WareDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda215.776

Daly Quickest Again in Veteran Session

Conor Daly once again had the fastest time in the veterans only session which just comcluded. The veterans took to the track at 10 am following a one hour session for the Rookies and veteran refresher tests.

Pietro Fittipaldi and Cody Ware completed their rookie tests and all refresher tests are complete as well.

A light sprinkle has the track closed at the moment but the sun has returned and cars should be running again soon.

The speed chart from the veteran’s session:

If you are watching on Peacock, please let me know what you think. I’m impressed with the picture resolution.

Back later with a wrap up of today’s action.

Testing Resumes Today; Better Forecast

Today’s schedule at IMS:

9-10 Rookie orientation and Refresher tests

10-11 Veterans

11-6 All cars

Broadcast on Peacock

Photo: Sebastien Bourdais

From Indycar, a summary of Thursday’s Open Test
Track Activity To Resume at 9 a.m. (ET) Friday
INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, April 8, 2021) – Sebastien Bourdais of AJ Foyt Racing was the fastest among 32 drivers who turned laps Thursday at the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Open Test, which included a rain delay of more than five hours at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Frenchman Bourdais was among a group of 11 drivers who took to the 2.5-mile oval in the final 70 minutes of track activity for veteran refresher tests and the Rookie Orientation Program, and he turned a top lap of 224.427 mph in the famous No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet fielded by legendary four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt.

RESULTS: Veteran sessionRookie Orientation/Refreshers

Bourdais turned his top lap in the last few minutes of the final session, which resembled the “Happy Hour” of an Indy 500 practice day with cars running in aerodynamic packs. He was among the veterans who needed to complete the two-phase refresher test since he didn’t race in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2020.
“Pretty good refresher for the A.J. Foyt No. 14,” Bourdais said. “That ROKiT car was pretty good. It always feels a little different when you start at low speeds and the car’s never really settled, but we got through both phases and are ready to go tomorrow and start working properly. It’s all good.”
Rain halted the opening veterans-only session at 12:30 p.m. (ET). A second heavy shower around 3:15 p.m. delayed track activity until the track reopened at 6:03 p.m. under blue skies and sunshine.
Track activity will take place from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) Friday, with live broadcast coverage on Peacock. Rookie Orientation and refresher tests will take place from 9-10 a.m., with veterans back on track from 10-11 a.m. The track will open for all drivers from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Conor Daly was the second-fastest driver overall and the fastest in the morning session of 90 minutes before heavy rain arrived in Indianapolis. Daly’s top lap was 222.714 in the No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing, also with the help of an aerodynamic tow. Sage Karam was third overall at 222.408, with his best lap in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet also coming during the final session after the rain left town. Three-time Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter was fourth at 221.296 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five at 221.097 in the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda.

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay suffered a broken finger in a crash in Turn 1 just 11 minutes into track activity in his No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet fielded by ECR. He was cleared to drive. VeeKay’s car dipped low into the grass inside Turn 1 and did nearly a full clockwise spin before hitting the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 with the right front and right side of the car. The car then spun twice and slid through the short chute before stopping at the entrance of Turn 2 with heavy damage. “I wanted to do as many laps as possible to be successful,” VeeKay said. “I’m very sorry. It was a weird moment.” The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 30. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opens April 17-18 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Carpenter Set for a Busy Friday

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Ed Carpenter was hoping to accomplish more today, but weather and a crash of one of his team cars shortened his plans. The open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was shortened by rain and an incident involving one of Carpenter’s team cars.

Rinus Veekay crashed just 10 minutes into the open test, spinning low in turn 1 and then hiiting the outside wall. VeeKay broke a finger, but has been cleared to drive.

Of his second year driver, Carpenter said,

“He did so well at Indy last year, but got a little bit ahead of himself today. Didn’t quite have a feel for his balance, got a little bit too aggressive in one. I know he’ll bounce back. He’s shown that he can bounce back from unfortunate circumstances in the past. I know he’ll be ready when he gets back out there.”

VeeKay may not be on track Friday. The crew woill have to rebuild the car. Carpenter said they are unlikely to use the backup car since it is the car they will run in the first four races of the season, which begins next weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Carpenter and Conor Daly, the third member of Ed Carpenter racing, kept to their plan.

“Essentially we each just got a baseline run in. I only did nine laps. Happy the car has had some pace, we were able to get a good draft. At the same time it doesn’t really mean anything after just a brief period of running, and not everybody out there yet.”

The weather interruption didn’t bother him. After the constant schedule changes last year, this just another hiccup. Carpenter said about the shortened day,

“Don’t worry about it too much. Weather and changing schedules is something we’ve all gotten quite adept at over the past year. Looks like it’s going to be a better weather day tomorrow. The six hours will go quick. Some of the things we wanted to do, it would have been nice to have our session, lunch break, go back out and do some longer changeover types of things that we may have to scrap till we come back. If we can be efficient, we can still get through everything we wanted to, at least the big items.”

I asked Carpenter if he was able to run in traffic enough to see whether the aerodynamic changes improved the ability to follow and pass.

“No, not yet,” he replied. ” I got a one-car tow, but it was about seven seconds out, so not really a good enough read to start to fully establish that.We had some of the parts on, not all of them. There are a lot of different configurations out there. Definitely need more time. There’s really no group that formed in the short amount of time we had. Still plenty to learn. But I’m sure we’ll get through that tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s weather calls for a high of 77 degrees with a small chance of rain. The temperature is closer to what conditions on race day could be.