The Tires They Are A-Changin’- New Procedures for Texas

The NTT Indycar Series has added two tweaks to the June 6 schedule at Texas Motor Speedway. We have already seen the event shortened to 200 laps/300 miles from its traditional 248 laps/360 miles. This isn’t the first time we have seen the Texas race run a bit differently. Remember the twin races where the drivers spun a tire to determine Race 2’s starting position? That was fun. For this race, it’s nothing that drastic. One change I like, the other I’m not excited about, but I feel is necessary for the season opener.

The day of the Genesys 300 will begin with a 30 minute test session for  rookies Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay, and Oliver Askew. The 80 minute practice session begins immediately at the conclusion of the rookie test period. With testing cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Indycar felt the rookies should get extra time on the 1.5 mile oval.  This is a great and necessary move by Indycar. It doesn’t completely erase my concerns for the event, but it does help lower them a bit.

The second change is a 35 lap maximum stint for tires during the race. Several factors led to this decision. First, the divers haven’t been on track in nearly nine months except for testing almost three months ago. Second, tire supplies are down because of the changes in work time caused by the pandemic pandemic. And the new aeroscreen creates a change in the center of gravity which will affect tire wear.

I don’t like mandated stints. Indycar did this at Texas a couple years ago when tire wear became an issue. The decision came after the race had started. At least the rule is clear for the entire race. The tire rule takes fuel strategy out of the race but when the yellows come could dictate tire strategy. Teams get nine sets of Firestone tires for the entire day. The team that manages their tires the best should do very well.

Indycar News Roundup: IMS Museum Sets Opening Date; Palou, VeeKay in Limbo

It’s nice to start the day with some good news. the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum announced today that it will re-open July 7 and extend the From the Vault exhibit. I did not get a chance to see this exhibit in the fall, so I’m thrilled to get an opportunity to see it. Here are some important points from the museum’s announcement:

  • We have developed and revised, on almost a daily basis, protocols to keep our guests and staff as safe as possible. When we re-open, we will allow fewer people in the Museum and will have new guidelines for social distancing. These protocols are unprecedented, and we are learning what will work for us from such sources as the American Alliance of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, and other museums in the city, as well as our local groceries and big-box stores.
  • The Museum will reopen on Tuesday, July 7, under the governor’s executive order, the “Back on Track” re-opening plan, and further discussion with IMS officials. Our tours are scheduled to restart at the same time. This may change, however, and I encourage you to check our website before making plans. We will post our re-opening protocols there, too, at indyracingmusuem.org.
  • We are extending the run of From the Vault presented by Bank of America. Cut short by our closure, the full exhibit will run through mid-July, and then be contracted a bit to allow us to open a new exhibit on August 1. We will update and supplement From the Vault with additional cars this summer, and in October we will switch out about 10 of the cars to give you a great reason to return.
  • In fact, From the Vault presented by Bank of America is a great reason for you to have a museum membership. We plan on rotating a variety of cars through the exhibit, so you will want to come back several times. One thing that won’t change: our members always get into the Museum for free!
  • Our new exhibit is . . . going to remain a secret for a while longer. As soon as our printers can get back to work, we will get the banners and signage created, with a plan to start installing the exhibit about July 20. That exhibit will run through June 20, 2021.
  • We have been sharing a wide variety of film and video content on our YouTube channel and through our social media. If you do not follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or our YouTube channel, you are missing out on a lot of great race history.

Will Palou and VeeKay Race at Texas?

The Department of Homeland Security has made an exception to its travel ban to allow foreign athletes to enter the United States. The agency did not include motorsports. While this exclusion greatly affects IMSA, Indycar is also affected. Two rookies, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay are currently in Europe. Indycar, their teams, Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, are working with the the government and embassies to work out arrangements for them to enter the country. Indiana senator Mike Braun has written the DHS asking the department to add motorsports to its exception list.  I think Roger Penske knows a guy in DC who can help as well.

Speculation as to who might replace Palou or VeeKay has been swirling. i will leave that discussion until it is necessary.

Lost in a Lost World- Indy’s Day Without a Race

The city’s heart and soul vanished Sunday, stolen by the pandemic that dictates our lives nowadays. Race Day 2020 was not to be. Having the circadian rhythms of your life abruptly altered is a jarring experience. In Indiana, we are programmed for this day.

I awoke suddenly at 4 am, my usual race day rising time, then went back to sleep for a couple hours. I felt I should be somewhere, should get  the cooler loaded,  should meet my friends for breakfast. I kept looking at the clock and thinking, ” I would be entering the track now; I’d be heading to my seat now; It’s time for the opening ceremonies to start.”

Yesterday was the first time I had eaten breakfast at home on the fourth Sunday in May since sometime in the 1990s. A check of social media showed me that many of my friends were feeling the same way I was. feeling – lost. Watching the 2006 race on You Tube provided some solace. There may have been some dust in my eyes at the playing of”Taps’ and “Back Home Again in Indiana.” The Indianapolis Motor Speedway  website’s #500AtHome link had some content as well.

Around noon I went to a friend’s house for a small birthday celebration. On the drive I listened to the 2016 race on WIBC. I passed the track on the way and saw several groups of people gathered on the plaza in front of Gate 1. Most had lawn chairs and coolers.

It was comforting to be with some of my racing family for a couple hours. We watched the beginning of the NBC show, “Back Home Again.” The porch was silent during “Taps.” We discussed the August date and what other races we might attend. None of us can be sure any of the race dates are certain, but there was an air of hope.

I went back to Gate 1. The crowd had thinned considerably. Someone had the radio on. It was last year’s race playing at this point.

On Main Street, things were a bit more lively. All the outside tables at Dawson’s were full. Down the street people were just sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, talking.  I ran into a couple of friends there. The highlight for me was seeing this vehicle.

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After all, what is Race Day without a salute to the past?

In spite of the few hours of time with friends and at the track entrance, it was a day I hope I never have to go through again. There aren’t many people alive who remember the last time, 75 years ago, when there wasn’t a race on Memorial day weekend.

As for August, we need to keep hoping the race will run, but I can’t see how the Speedway can allow a huge group of fans at that time.  We have to hope that something will break like the rain on race morning gives way to to a sunny perfect race day.

More Details on Texas Race Move to NBC

From Indycar:

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NTT IndyCar Series News Release
For Immediate Release
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Set for NBC Network Primetime Debut June 6 at Texas

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Set for NBC Network Primetime Debut June 6 at Texas

INDIANAPOLIS (May 24, 2020) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will be broadcast in primetime on NBC for the first time when the season-opening Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway is televised starting at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday, June 6.

The race is moving to NBC from its originally scheduled window on NBCSN. It’s the first INDYCAR race on broadcast television in primetime since 2013.

“We’re pleased the daring nature and bold skills of INDYCAR’s athletes will be displayed to a network primetime audience in just a few weeks’ time,” Penske Entertainment Corp President & CEO Mark Miles said. “INDYCAR’s first season on NBC in 2019 was marked by significant audience growth, and this marquee broadcast slot reflects both our continued momentum and strong partnership with NBC Sports Group.”

NBC Sports’ lead INDYCAR broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell (analyst) and Paul Tracy (analyst) will call the Genesys 300 on NBC.

“America has a thirst for live sports, so we’re thrilled to showcase the spectacular racing of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in primetime on the broadcast network,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN.

Live comprehensive coverage of practice and qualifying June 6 from Texas Motor Speedway will stream on NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR Pass. Race coverage on NBC streams on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The Genesys 300 will be the first race of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES campaign as the series gets #BackOnTrack. This kicks off NBC Sports’ second season as the exclusive home of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, which will now take place Sunday, Aug. 23 on NBC.

The second race of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also will be broadcast to a network audience on NBC. A full-season broadcast schedule will be released at a later date.

Today’s news also will be announced on network television, during NBC’s four hour “Indy 500 Special: Back Home Again.” NBC Sports Group also has provided significant TV exposure to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES during the break in competition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, airing five races of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on NBCSN.

Classic 500s Abound on Television, Web

It won’t be the same as being at the track and seeing the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, but ESPN and NBC will feature several old 500s tomorrow.

The schedule:

Saturday:

Noon-ESPN- Virtual Legends Race from IMS

Sunday:

ESPN2

6:00 am- 2018 Monaco Grand Prix

8:30 am 2019 Monaco Grand Prix

3-5 pm  2006 Indianapolis 500

5-7 pm  2011 Indianapolis 500

7-9 pm  2014 Indianapolis 500

The races have three of the best finishes in 500 history.

NBC

Sunday

2-6 pm Enhanced replay of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 featuring interviews and commentary from Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud.

Other viewing options

Classic races on You Tube

The IMS website will have virtual content all day today and tomorrow, including a race to be determined tomorrow afternoon.

 

Make the best of this weekend. let’s hope for the best come August.

1970: The decade Begins With the Birth of a New Legend

Note: I know we all miss not being at the track today for Carb Day, one of the greatest days of May. Sunday will be a difficult day for most of us. I plan to immerse myself in old races. Whatever you do, stay safe and wash your hands. Please enjoy this piece about the 1970 program and race.

The ’60s belonged to A. J. Foyt. It appeared the ’70s would be the decade of Mario Andretti. It didn’t turn out that way.  Al Unser became the star of the era beginning with the 1970 race.

1970 was a milestone year for Tony Hulman. It was the 25th year of his ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, by far the longest tenure of the three track  owners. Oddly, the program does not make a big deal about this. there is a one page article on page 14 titled “Tony Hulman and the 500.” That is all the program says about an important anniversary. No one knew at the time that the Hulman family was merely a third of the way through their time as stewards of the track. On page 16 are two photos, one of the track in 1945, and one of the start of the 1969 race.

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Ads in the program were for Goodyear tires, still a factor in Indycar; Chase & Sanborn coffee (endorsed by Andretti); Monroe shocks, Thermo King, and Muriel Cigars. I can’t remember what year the last tobacco product ad appeared in a Speedway program.

The veterans’ page featured the eventual winner, Al Unser. Unser missed the 1969 race after a motorcycle accident in early may of the previous year. His car, the Johnny Lightning Special,had one the iconic liveries in Speedway history.

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The program was fairly standard for that time. It seems milestones then were  not the big deal they are today. I can imagine an entire month of tribute to an owner’s 25th year at the helm today. I am not sure we’ll ever see a tenure that long again.

Rookies in the field included Donnie Allison, Dick Simon, Greg Weld, and Rick Muther. Allison would win Rookie of the Year.

Unser dominated the race. leading 190 laps and winning by 32 seconds over Mark Donohue. Unser would win two more 500s in the 70s, the following year and 1978. He would add a fourth victory in 1987. Johnny Rutherford gave Unser some good competition for driver of the decade honors, winning in 1974 and 1976. Stiil, both drivers operated in the shadow of Foyt. Not to be outdone by the relative newcomers, Foyt won his fourth 500 in 1977.

Quick Survey

What are your plans for this Sunday? Leave a comment and I’ll talk about it next week.

 

 

Indycar Officially Announces Richmond, Toronto Cancellations; Revised Schedule

From Indycar as I reported this morning:

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule

INDYCAR announces updated 2020 series schedule

INDIANAPOLIS (May 21, 2020) – An updated 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule was released today, displaying calendar adjustments implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway remains the season opener with a night race on the 1.5-mile oval Saturday, June 6. The next race on the INDYCAR calendar will be the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Saturday, July 4.

“Our teams and athletes are ready to get back on track and will deliver world-class action at Texas Motor Speedway and the Racing Capital of the World,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said. “We appreciate the opportunity to begin our season during these unprecedented times, and I’m confident we’ll put on a great show.”

The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America has been rescheduled from June 21 to July 11-12, becoming a double-header with championship points races Saturday and Sunday on the iconic, 4-mile road course.

Two events have been canceled for 2020 due to local restrictions surrounding the pandemic: the Indy Richmond 300 on Saturday, June 27 at Richmond Raceway and the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday, July 12 on the streets of Toronto.

The season finale will be the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, Oct. 25, a new date recently announced after the originally scheduled season opener March 15 in St. Pete was postponed due to the global health crisis.

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule