Indycar Announcement of Schedule Change for Barber

Indycar’s official announcement.

INDYCAR Announces Update
for 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Opener
Series to raise curtain on new season April 18 on NBCINDIANAPOLIS (Friday, Jan. 22, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener at Barber Motorsports Park has been rescheduled from Sunday, April 11 to Sunday, April 18. The move results in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst being featured on NBC network television. A record nine events will air on NBC this season. It’s the first time the 2.38-mile road course will host the opener for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. A return to the popular Birmingham, Alabama, racecourse leads an opening stretch of four races in 15 days with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (April 25) and a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway (May 1-2) to follow. NBC will air the first two races of the new season and six of the first eight from April to June. “The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans.” Barber Motorsports Park became an instant hit among INDYCAR drivers when the series first tested on the fast and undulating circuit in 2007. A fan favorite, as well, this year marks the 11th time the series will race there, a tradition that started in 2010. Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest driver at Barber, with three wins. Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato is the most recent winner. “Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park jumped at the opportunity to have our event showcased on NBC network television” said Gene Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports. “We are proud of the tremendous support that INDYCAR receives annually here in the heart of the deep south. The facility and museum are world class, and we look forward to highlighting George Barber’s vision in what has become a bucket list destination for all race fans.” An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.
The updated schedule for those of you playing at home:

Season Opener Moving to April 18; Shown on NBC

The shift was bound to happen. As reported by other sources last night, The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park has been moved to April 18. The move allows the race to be on NBC rather than NBCSN. Barber is till the season opener and the Firestone Grand Prix of St, Petersburg follows a week later.

The NTT Indycar Series now begins its season with three consecutive weekends and four races. Following St. Pete, the series goes to Texas for a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader May 1 and 2.

Activity begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 14 with GMR Grand Prix weekend.

End of Schedule Changes?

I wouldn’t count on it. With rumblings that the Olympics will be cancelled, NBC Sports networks will have a lot of time to fill. Like last year, Indycar now has some fallback dates. I doubt that any new races will be added, but Indycar has to do something to stay in public view between the Toronto race on July 11 and the Music City Grand Prix August 8.

Today’s move is the third schedule change and the season hasn’t started. Last year there were six schedule changes.

Race for Equality and Change Taking Proactive Approach

This week’s announcement of Paretta Autosport with technical assistance from Team Penske adds another dimension to the Race for Equality and Change. Paired with Force Indy, which intends to promote African Americans in the sport, the REC is attempting to expand the reach and appeal of Indycar.

Beth Paretta’s experience and her contacts in motorsports is a plus for the new team.

Beth Paretta

Bringing Simona De Silvestro back to the Indianapolis 500 is a great move. De Silvestro has endured all kinds of misfortune at IMS from fire to uncompetitive cars. This might be her best shot at success.

Simona De Silvestro

The next step for the Race fo Equality and Change is to bring other interested teams and individuals. I would love to see Jacki Henricher become involved with Indycar.

St. Pete Moves to April 25; Barber Inherits Season Opener

From Indycar this morning:

INDYCAR Announces Update
to 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule
Series to return to popular Streets of St. Petersburg in April INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled for Sunday, April 25 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The move creates a condensed, action-packed early-season schedule for 2021. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of St. Petersburg after Josef Newgarden’s thrilling win last October, which culminated with Scott Dixon’s sixth series title. NBC will remain as the television home of this year’s race on the tight, demanding street layout. “It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.” Due to the move, Barber Motorsports Park becomes the host of the season opener as the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will raise the curtain on the 2021 season. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 18th NTT INDYCAR SERIES event in the Sunshine City. The traditional season opener since 2011 and a fan favorite on the INDYCAR schedule, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg received a three-year title sponsorship extension from Bridgestone Americas, Inc. last October. “We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast coverage of the race on NBC.” An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.

Buying Time- Changes at the Front of the Schedule?

Indycar is considering pushing the opening of the season into April. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set to start the 2021 NTT Indycar Series the weekend of March 5-7. At that time attendance restrictions will likely still be in place. By moving the race to late April the series and Green Savoree Promotions are hoping for fewer restrictions as more COVID vaccinations will have been given by then. Green Savoree lost two races last season, Toronto and Portland. They hosted a double header weekend at Mid Ohio with just 6,000 fans a day and held the St. Pete race as the season finale with a limited number of fans.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, originally set for April 18, is now the season finale September 26.

The new calendar may have Barber moving back a week as well and serving as the season opener. Currently slotted for the weekend of April9-11, Barber would move to April 17-18, followed by St. Pete the following weekend. Through 2011, St. Pete and Barber were on back to back weekends.

St. Pete has not put tickets on sale as of yet with the race scheduled about eight weeks away. This tells that that something is going on. The decision needs to be made soon, since the track build would have to begin around the first if February.

Other series have either postponed or placed restrictions on their early events. Formula1 has postponed the first race, the Australian Grand prix to a yet to be determined date later in the season. IMSA has modified attendance and infield access for the Rolex 24. The Tulsa Shootout and the Chili Bowl will go on as scheduled with limited attendance and restricted fan access. The Tulsa health department will monitor the Shootout and may shut down the Chili Bowl if rules including mask wearing are not enforced.

Changes at the Rolex 24 Hours

Changes for the Rolex 24 emailed to ticket holders two weeks ago:

Unfortunately because of these required protocols, the following experiences have been cancelled:

  • Garage Access
  • Fan access to grid walk and ballfield for pre-race festivities
  • Infield Tent Camping
  • Infield Car Camping
  • GEICO Park West Tent Camping
  • Café 24 Breakfast

All 2021 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA 2-Day or 4-Day admissions are still on your account and will be available to download/print approximately two weeks before the event as we will not be mailing tickets or camping passes in 2021. This also includes your free admission to the Roar Before the Rolex 24, January 22-24. For more information on how to access your tickets using Tickets @ Home, click here. For our guests with a cancelled experience, we understand this news is disappointing and we have placed a credit on your account for the cancelled experiences.

We recognize that many factors, including your ability to travel, may have been impacted by the pandemic, and we want you to understand your options as you make decisions related to attending the 2021 Rolex 24. Please carefully read your options below based on your specific Rolex 24 At DAYTONA experience.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation in keeping everyone safe.


RV CAMPING INFO

RV Campers will be limited to six people per campsite, and all RVs must be self-contained as shower facilities will be closed. In addition, for the safety of our competitors and staff, the garages, paddock and pit road will be closed to fans, and the grid walk and ballfield access will be also be closed to fans for the 2021 event. As a result, Garage access is no longer included with the 4-day admission. We understand this news is disappointing, and we have placed a credit on your account amounting to 20% of your 4-day admissions.

Four day parking is available for $60. Cars must leave the track at the close of each day’s activities. This does not apply to race day.

Indycar Notes- Is Mario Out of a Ride? Honda Ends Fastest Seat in Sports Commitment

Photo: Mario Andretti drives the two seater before the start of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Indycar photo, Chris Jones

A story that got curiouser and curiouser finally reached its conclusion this morning.

An article in The Drive by Steve Cole Smith on October 31 indicated that !969 Indianapolis 500 winner and World Champion Mario Andretti will not return to drive Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports, the 2 seater that leads the grid before the start of races. Smith said he learned at St. Pete that Honda is removing Andretti from the ride.

Andretti later responded with a Tweet saying this was “Fake news.”

Robin Miller of Racer magazine in a story yesterday (November 1) says that Honda has denied firing Mario. Mario also stated his desire to continue with the program, which began in 2005.

Just a couple of hours ago, Marshall Pruett of Racer reports that Honda is ending its sponsorship of the Fastest Seat in Sports. Indycar is seeking a new sponsor for the program. The question left is, will Mario Andretti still be driving?

Testing at Barber Today

21 cars will participate in the first official day of offseason testing for the NTT Indycar Series today. First time drivers taking part are three time Australian Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin for Team Penske, seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson for Chip Ganassi racing, and Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The da Costa test is a courtesy test and not expected to lead to an Indycar ride.

The testing list, from Nathan Brown’s Twitter feed:

St. Pete Tears Down Track

My Eyes in Florida tells me that the St. Pete track is being torn down, to be rebuilt late February next year. the podiums for the race winner and championship celebrations are still up as of this morning. I would think they would leave the grandstands up as they did all summer. There is actually less time between the March 2021 race and the race two weekends ago than there was between the original date for this year and when the race was held.

Limited 500 Seating? Other News of the Week

An answer to a question by Robin Miller in Racer magazine mailbag may offer a hint as to what to expect attendance wisewhenever the Indianapolis 500 is run. I’m still not optimistic about August. The answer:

From IMS President Doug Boles: “We are not installing the southern third of the Pit Road Terrace seats this year. The Pit Road Terrace seats are the temporary bleachers that we install behind the pit road fence on the south side of the Pagoda. It would not impact a decision to bring back the apron or not. A couple of reasons for the change: (1) With IndyCar using the Gasoline Alley garages on July 4 weekend, it helps us with our install time by not putting up as many seats between the race and Aug 12, and (2) in a typical year, we only sell about 50% of these seats, so a third reduction in more appropriate related to demand. And, not the reason why, Skip is correct that it would be a benefit in a COVID year in the sense that it is less people in the area. Ticketing customers in the impacted seats are being relocated inside the remaining Pit Road Terrace seats or given an option for another seat without having to pay the seat price difference.”

Along with fewer seats there will likely be no fans in the infield. Another blurb I read last week said that 175,00 tickets have been sold. Will IMS cap the sales now? I would expect a decision about August needs to come by mid July. The COVID-19 numbers in Indiana continue to decline, but several other states are experiencing large spikes in cases and deaths. Stay tuned. Wash your hands.

From earlier: Schedule Set for GMR Grand Prix

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2775920421

Barber Renewal or Extension?

Earlier this week an announcement from the Birmingham News Journal said that the NTT Indycar Series and Barber Motorsports Park signed an extension of their agreement through 2023. Today, a Barber spokesperson said the contract runs through 2022.  Barber is a staple on the Indycar calendar. The track is a great setting for a race. It is one of my favorite tracks to go to.

Illinois Opens Tracks With Limited Attendance

The state of Illinois has allowed race tracks to open with fan attendance limited to 20%. I’m not sure of the specifics of Illinois’ phased openings, so I don’t know what this means for Gateway yet. Gateway is another track that may have to make an attendance decision. The best attended non Indianapolis oval could open the first turn grandstand to allow the fans to spread out more.

McLaren Financial Troubles

reports this week say McLaren is facing some financial issues. The company is seeking a loan and legal action to raise 280 million pounds. A buyout and lease back arrangement is a possibility. We will have to wait and see what effect this has on their Indycar program.

A Positive Ending

Former Indy lights driver Aaron Telitz has signed on full time with AIM Vasser Sullivan’s IMSA GTD program. Telitz replaces Chase Parker, who was let go by the team last week. Telitz is a good driver. He is with a team with an Indycar connection, which I hope will earn him a chance at an Indycar ride someday.

Kody Swanson, USAC midget and Silver Crown driver, tested an Indy Pro 2000 car this week. Swanson is another driver who is long overdue for a shot at Indycar. It would be great if he could get some Road to Indy races in this year.

We are just nine days away from the next Indycar race!

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Barber iRace

Indycar teams are now taking this iRacing thing seriously. Teams brought in their engineers and pit strategy won the race.

It was great having the race on television. In addition tom the broadcast I hope something can be worked out where fans who don’t have access to NBCSN can watch online without subscribing to a service.

It was a decent race with more of an air of a real race than the Watkins Glen race

The best part of yesterday was having Robert Wickens participate. His 8th place finish after starting last was a great drive. He ran as high as third. Wickens definitely had the drive of the day.

I thought the track had a bit of a cartoonish look on television. I’m not sure if that was because I had never seen this type of race on a large screen before, but it I found it a bit unsettling. Where was the bridge by the museum?

Sage Karam proved once again that he is a master at iRacing, but he still doesn’t seem to handle adversity well.

What a great win by Scott McLaughlin. I wouldn’t be surprised if he repeats that feat when he gets his first real shot at Indycar.

Three of yesterday’s top five were not Indycar full time drivers.

It was nice to have an hour or so of distraction.

I’m very excited for next weekend’s race at Michigan. look for lots of flying cars.

The race summary:

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Wickens Return Highlights Indycar iRace at Barber

Robert Wickens returns to the cockpit although virtually today. No matter. It will be great to see him on “track.” The race is at 2:30 pm ET and also on NBC sports.c and the NBC Sports app.

Here is Wickens’tweet from yesterday:

 

Fast Facts for Barber iRace

Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Fast Facts

When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 4

Track: Barber Motorsports Park, a 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama

Race distance: 45 laps/107.1 miles (approximately 60 minutes)

Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for a 10-second duration

Expected pit stops: One. Cars will be allowed two “Fast Repairs” during the race.

Competition caution: A planned competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 15. It will consist of three laps, followed by a single-file restart.

Twitter: @IndyCar, @iRacing, @BarberMotorPark, #INDYCARChallenge, #INDYCAR, #HIGPA

TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside the network’s INDYCAR analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by Miss Alabama 2019 Tiara Pennington singing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley giving the command to start engines. The podium finishers will be interviewed on the live NBCSN broadcast. Diffey also will host a post-race virtual press conference with the podium finishers for media members (call-in details will be distributed).

Spotter guide: Click here to see a detailed spotter guide for this Saturday’s race.

Race notes:

Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat Felix Rosenqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing) to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds. Will Power (Team Penske) finished third in the 25-driver field.

• INDYCAR has conducted 10 Indy car races at Barber Motorsports Park. Takuma Sato won the most-recent race at the track, in 2019. Helio Castroneves won the first Indy car race at Barber, in 2010.

• Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest Indy car driver at Barber Motorsports Park with three victories (2015, 2017 and 2018). Newgarden is in the field for the virtual race Saturday after finishing seventh last Saturday at Watkins Glen.

• The field for Saturday’s race at Barber consists of 29 drivers, including 21 with previous starts in Indy car races at the track. Watkins Glen INDYCAR iRacing Challenge winner Sage Karam has just one previous start at Barber, in 2015 for Chip Ganassi Racing. Most notable among drivers without Indy car starts at Barber is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson , who raced in an Indy car last Saturday at Watkins Glen after 18 Cup Series starts at that track.

• Four drivers are joining the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge for the first time this Saturday: Five-time series champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing).

• Nineteen of the 24 drivers who started the inaugural event last Saturday at Watkins Glen were running at the finish, proving these athletes are just as skilled in the virtual world as in reality.