Signs of the times at Road America.. Except for the gift shop not many masks in evidence. Fans entering the track had temperature taken. Did not receive mask or hand sanitizer. I talked to some friends who are camping andIand arrived yesterday. They received a mask and sanitizer upon entry. There are sanitizer stations at various points. Seems as if there are fewer vendor tents. Maybe more will set up tomorrow
Road America is the crown jewel of road courses in North America. Indycar returned to the 4.048 mile course in 2016 after a nine year absence. It’s a shame they ever left. This place is designed for Indycars.
The REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader this weekend begins a crucial part of the season for Alexander Rossi and the Andretti Autosport team. Rossi, a preseason title contender, sits 23rd in points after two dismal performances at Texas and Indianapolis. Mechanical woes in bot races left him out of consideration for a good finish. His DNF at Indianapolis last weekend really hurt. The good news for Rossi is he returns to the track where he dominated the race last year, winning by 28 seconds. Hew needs to win at least one of the races and have a top five in the other one to begin his steep climb up the points chart.
While Rossi’s struggles stand out, the rest of Andretti Autosport has drivers all over the map. Jack Harvey,whose Meyer Shank team is an associate team of Andretti, sits 17th. Ryan Hunter-Reay also has had some issues in the first two events ranks ninth. Zach Veac looked good at Texas with a career-tying best finish of 4th, but struggled last Saturday. He is currently 6th in points. Colton Herta leads the team, quietly resting in 4th place after two races. Herta won the pole at Road America last year. Rossi beat him to the first turn and no one saw him the rest of the day. If Herta repeats as pole winner, he won’t get beat again. Despite Herta’s standing, he hasn’t been mentioned much. I think that will change Saturday and Sunday.
Another Top 5 for ECR?
One of the nicest surprises in the young 2020 season has been the performance of Ed Carpenter racing drivers. Carpenter was fifth at Texas. Rinus VeeKay placed fifth last Saturday after starting 18th. The rookie moved up 13 places in a race that had just four laps of caution. Conor Daly was in the top 10 most of the day at Indianapolis, but faded to 12th at the finish. Overall ECR has shown a lot of improvement over previous years. Road America will be a big test for their program.
Will Dixon Stay Undefeated?
The odds are against Scott Dixon sweeping the weekend and winning the first four races of the year. However, it is not something that would surprise me. The Ganassi team has looked well prepared upon arrival for the first two races. Should he sweep, Dixon will have amassed 50 career victories. We don’t see that very often. Only twice, actually. Winning just one of the two races would give the five time series champion a huge advantage for the rest of the year.
Conditioning and Water
After the GMR Grand Prix driver concerns about stagnant air in the cockpit caused by the aeroscreen and their drink bottle placement heating their drinks has brought about some changes. The water bottle has been moved away from the heat source and he tube has been shortened. On pit stops, the additional crew member assigned to remove aeoscreen tearoffs will also hand the driver a water bottle during the stop. This will allow the drivers to have more water available while they are on track. Some drivers ran out of fluids early last weekend.
I don’t expect conditioning to be a problem at Road America. the track is not as physical as the IMS road course. Who will win? I think Rossi wins one of the races and Will Power bounces back from his pit issues to win the other one.
Floyd Clymer and motorsports grew up together. After a career as one of the pioneers of motorcycle racing, Clymer began publishing books and repair manuals for motorcycles and cars in his 20’s. He purchased the Indian motorcycle company in the early 1960s after an attempt to buy the company failed a few years earlier.
For me, his greatest publications were the annual Indianapolis 500 yearbooks published between 1946 and 1968. They are an in-depth analysis and record of each year’s race as well as a record of he first third of the Hulman ownership period. Sadly, the only one I have is the 1961 yearbook, pictured at the top of the article. It was a gift from Harry Hartz.
Parts of the yearbook are taken straight from the Official Speedway program. The program from the track is a nice souvenir, but the yearbooks delve deeper into the month of May. There are pages devoted to technology, a chronicle of each day during the month, extended driver profiles, and a record of each car’s pit stops during the race. The pit stop record tells the lap, time of the stop, and what work was done.
I appreciated the tribute page to Tony Bettenhausen, who was fatally injured the day before Pole Day while testing a car for Paul Russo.
It’s a shame there still isn’t a publication like this. Collecting these books will be my next project after I have obtained all the Speedway programs from 1946 until the present. The Clymer books are an invaluable archive of the months of May. It would be nice to bring a publication like this back.It is a great single source of virtually everything that occurred in each month of May.
Below are some photos from the 1961 yearbook.
Imagine the Indianapolis 500 with an Orwellian feel to it. Or looking like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time. Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star published an article about those possibilities last night. It is worth a read. Find it here: https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/motor/2020/06/08/what-attending-indy-500-like-fans/5320149002/
I understand the idea, and I don’t know how realistic some of these things are. Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, acknowledges that some of these ideas are far fetched. The concepts are about safe crowd movement during a pandemic, keeping groups as small as possible. It doesn’t address the part where people will be sitting close together to watch the race.
The main idea is an app that not only tells you which gate to enter, but also assigns a time to be at the gate; tells you when you may visit the concession stands or restrooms; and tells you when you may leave the stands after the race. I can buy small parts of this. On the back of each ticket, the Speedway has for years suggested that you enter the gate closest to your seat. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t necessarily go into the track at that particular gate. Where I park has more to do with where I enter than where my seat is.
Some fans like to get to the track as early as possible while some like to get there late in an attempt to avoid the crowds. I don’t think fans will like being forced to alter their habits.
As for concessions and restrooms, an app can’t regulate your needs in these areas. An app that knows where your seat is and allows you to find the least busy food stand or restroom nearest your seat makes more sense. I’m sure the newly renovated restrooms are really nice looking, but I’ll make an appointment when I want a tour. I’ll go when I need to.
When the race is over, people flock to the exits. many don’t stay for the winner’s lap in the pace car. I can’t imagine forcing to stay up to an hour waiting for permission to leave. By the end of the race some fans have been in their seats close to five hours.
I wonder if a black market will develop where fans sell or trade their time slots. I’m not sure how that could be done. A scenario- i need to go to the restroom but my time slot is 40 minutes away. My neighbor has just entered his/her bathroom time. can we trade?
We all want to attend sporting events and concerts again. Venues have to insure the safety of their customers and take every reasonable precaution. Some of these concepts go a little beyond reasonable in my opinion.I hope some middle ground can be worked out. Who even knows if or when the race will even run this year?
The article also mentions some great new technology from NTT Data. I like the idea of the temperature scanning device. That is definitely a more efficient process than a staff member with a hand held thermometer. An alarm that sounds when a gate has too many fans there is also a good idea.
I concede this year more strict crowd control is needed. I agree that movement should be limited. I also believe that most fans understand this and will do what they need to in order to attend our beloved 500. I am always fearful of once controls are in place they tend to stay in place and get more strict. Race Day has always been one of the days of the year where I feel the freest. I could survive a year of some limits.
Sad news, but not unexpected. I hope this isn’t a foreshadowing of the 500 in August. The statement from IMS:
The upcoming Fourth of July race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will run without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IMS officials announced today following extensive consultation with local and state officials.
Stage 5 of Indiana’s reopening plan allows for sporting venues to host public events with social distancing and is scheduled to begin July 4 in most counties. However, Marion County – home to Indianapolis, the state’s largest city – recently entered Stage 3 of the road map 10 days after the majority of counties. This follows nationwide trends suggesting larger municipalities should exercise caution in navigating plans to reopen.
“While we certainly worked diligently to run our events with spectators, we reached a point where we needed to make a final decision because the race weekend is less than a month away,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said. “Today it’s not possible to be confident that Indianapolis will be at Stage 5 of the state’s reopening plan by the Fourth of July weekend.
“We are extremely appreciative of the time and expertise Governor Holcomb, Mayor Hogsett and state and local public health officials have given us over the last few months. This was a collaborative process and a decision we’re all aligned with after thorough review of the situation. We remain committed to welcoming the world’s greatest fans to the Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in late August.”
The culminating event of the holiday weekend will be renamed the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records, in recognition of the company’s ongoing efforts to support the supply chain of hand sanitizer available to the public. In early March, when the pandemic started to hit hard, Big Machine Distilleries recognized the great shortage of hand sanitizer and immediately pivoted and started production to assist the local community and first responders with product. Inquiries from across the country soon dictated a full-blown national awareness, which has led to the name change of the race. The company and its Big Machine race drivers will announce plans to donate bottles of hand sanitizer to Indianapolis front-line workers around the event weekend.
Everyone in Central Indiana and around the country can tune in to the historic NASCAR-INDYCAR double-header weekend live on NBC. The marquee holiday weekend at IMS will mark the first time the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series have shared the same track with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on the same event weekend. The GMR Grand Prix for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Pennzoil 150 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series are scheduled for Saturday, July 4, while the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records for the NASCAR Cup Series is scheduled for Sunday, July 5.
Fans who have purchased reserved seats or general admission tickets to the GMR Grand Prix, Pennzoil 150 or Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records will have the option for a credit to future IMS events, such as the 2020 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge or Harvest GP, or a refund. IMS will contact these fans directly.
Other public events surrounding the weekend have been canceled given the decision to run all races without fans. This includes the Driven2SaveLives BC39 USAC Midget race and the FGL Fest concert. Fans who have purchased tickets to these events also will have the option to receive credit to a future IMS event or a refund and will be contacted directly by IMS.
The NBC television schedule for the weekend will be released soon.
I said it three months ago. It didn’t stick. Now i will say it again with more certainty. It’s race week for Indycar. The NTT Indycar Series begins its season this coming Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. Fans will not attend, although the governor of Texas said that race tracks could have a crowd at 25% of capacity. Track president Eddie Gossage said there would not be enough time to arrange for a crowd this coming weekend.
Amid all the stress of the coronavirus and the protests of the death of George Floyd that have caused much destruction, the race will be a welcome respite for weary fans.
The broadcast schedule (All times ET):
Palou Returns, Will VeeKay Make it?
Alex Palou returned to the United States this week and will be able to drive Saturday. We still have not heard if Rinus Veekay will be in the country in time. The Depart of Homeland Security rule allowing athletes to return from Europe did not include motorsport originally. Indycar and IMSA have been scrambling to get drivers and team personnel here to begin their seasons.
IndyLights Will Not Run in 2020
As I began writing this post, I received the sad news that IndyLights will not run this year. This is a tough break for several drivers. Kyle kirkwood, the favorite to win the title, will lose out on the scholarship to be in an Indycar in2021. For the full story, go to TSO Ladder presented by Cooper Tires. The link:
A Positive End
I want to finish this post on a positive note. Just before midnight Saturday I met my new foster greyhound, Paradigm. One of her great great grandparents was named Flying Penske. Fate? Her status may soon change from foster to adoption. Stay tuned.