Indycar Oval Season- Veterans Rule, Passing at a Premium

The NTT Indycar Series completed the oval portion of their abbreviated schedule Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway. It was quite a feat to get in six races of any kind in a season that was delayed until June. Some positive things came from the abbreviated, revised schedule. The double header qualifying format, the competitiveness of Carlin Racing with Conor Daly driving, and that fans were allowed to attend Iowa and Gateway. Sunday’s attendance at gateway is thought to be around 7,500, which would make it the largest oval crowd of the year.

Qualifying Format for Double Headers

The double header qualifying format in which the first lap set the Race 1 grid and the second lap set the Race 2 grid was fascinating and did scramble the lineup a bit for the second race. I was surprised no one swept both poles at an event. Four different drivers won poles at the doubleheaders- Conor Daly, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato.

If there are more double headers next season, I hope this format stays. This year it was put in to save time and expense on an improvised program, but it was fun to watch.

Oval Points

It seemed as if Scott Dixon dominated the ovals, but Newgarden was not far behind. Dixon’s 95 point margin is largely based on the road course races. Dixon accumulated 256 points on the ovals while Newgarden has 251. Takuma Sato and Pato O’Ward each have 205 points on the ovals. Sato’s win at the Indianapolis 500 made up for his missing the race at Texas.

Passing

The aeroscreen may be a factor. Less tire degradation might also be a culprit. It seems as if passing is more difficult this year than last year. This past weekend passing was non existent except for a few bold moves, especially Sunday.

The aero package works  very well on road courses. Adjustments need to be made for the oval package. I hope that after a season with the new aeroscreen, the series and teams can figure something out.

Yellows

 The seventeen caution periods this season on ovals is I think, about average. Seven were in the Indianapolis 500. While the timing of the yellows can’t be predicted, several drivers have been caught out by the yellow flags just after their pit stops.

 Conor Daly had just pitted in Iowa race 2 when the yellow flew for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s accident. The rain yellow at Gateway this past Saturday pushed Josef Newgarden back in the field.

Two races have ended under yellow because of accidents with four laps to go. I don’t have a problem with races finishing under yellow. A race has a scheduled distance and that’s when it should end. Baseball doesn’t add an inning when a game ends on a strikeout instead of a home run.

Carlin and Daly

Carlin Racing and Conor Daly have been a great match. Daly has made Carlin competitive on the ovals. His average finish with Carlin is 8.8 with four top tens and a pole. The one top ten he didn’t get was because he was caught by a yellow in Iowa Race 2.

I hope Daly continues his arrangement with Carlin next season.

Rookies

The rookies have looked great on the road courses, but have struggled some on the ovals. Rinus VeeKay, who had a disastrous start at Texas,  does appear to be improving. He had a 6th and a 4th this past weekend. Oliver Askew Had a 3rd and a 6th at Iowa, but hasn’t shown consistency at the other ovals. Alex Palou has a best oval finish of 11th.

VeeKay leads the rookie standings overal with 181 points, while Askew has the most oval points, 126.

I’m sad to see the oval portion end. there are five road or street courses left on the schedule. We are still waiting for final word about Mid Ohio and whether fans will be allowed. There is no word yet about fans viewing the Harvest classic races at IMS. St. Pete I still think is iffy to run and definitely sketchy for fans.

Daly Eager to Begin Double Team Season

The strange twisting path Conor Daly has taken in Indycar rounds another corner this season. Daly will drive for two teams- Ed Carpenter Racing on the road and street courses; and Carlin Racing on the ovals. A season originally planned to begin at St. Pete for ECR now launches at Texas for Carlin.

“…it’s strange obviously. It’s not how you’d like to do things ideally. But it’s a great opportunity to be a full-time INDYCAR driver again. So I’m going to look at it like that, ” Daly said on the makeup of his full time season.

Daly thinks his experience in the races he ran in 2019 for Carlin will be helpful this season, and it gives him a level of comfort as the sole Carlin entry this weekend.

Daly said, “By the end of the season together, or the oval season that we did together, we were fighting quite a lot at the sharp end in Gateway. I love that track, but I also really enjoy driving the car there, too. It’s great to have the support of Gallagher still, have a great-looking car to drive on the ovals this year, albeit an interesting new schedule with the doubleheader at Iowa will be interesting and everything in general about this year will be different, but it will be cool. I’m excited to get it going with these guys on Saturday night.”

He is not a fan of the aeroscreen and Daly realizes it will be an unknown factor for everyone Saturday night. He understands the reason the series implemented the device.

“I think publicly I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of it. But I understand the reasons obviously why it’s been introduced. I respect what the series wants to do, the direction they’re taking obviously. But, yeah, it obviously presents a lot of interesting variables. …Yeah, it’s exciting because it’s all new, but it’s also like I don’t know what’s going to happen. It should be interesting.”

Daly thinks not having fans in the stands at Texas will weird at first, but once the visors go down and the cars are rolling the focus will be on the racing itself.

“…when we line up on that grid two- by-two, we close the visor, that’s all that needs to be said. We’re going to be going racing. There’s going to be a pace car out there that’s going to be leading us around. Realistically all focus is on the job at hand. I think it’s going to be strange basically before and after the race. But during there’s not a lot of time that you spend looking anywhere else other than the racetrack right in front of you. It will be interesting and it will be strange.”

This is an important season for Daly, who has been an itinerant driver in the Indycar paddock for most years.  He has the ability to make a car better, as he did with carlin last season. Having five secure races with a team he drove for in 2019 should help further develop Carlin’s program.  With Carpenter, Daly has another great chance to succeed at the Indianapolis 500.

 

Daly Fills Schedule Gaps with Carlin

Conor Daly will drive a full NTT Indycar Series season after all. Carlin Racing announced today that Daly will drive the 59 car on all the ovals except Indianapolis in place of Max Chilton, who will drive on the road  and street courses. In 2019, Daly also raced the ovals for Carlin. His best finish was 6th at Gateway.

Daly will race the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the road and street courses for Ed Carpenter Racing. It had been rumored after he signed with ECR that running the other ovals for Carlin was a possibility.

I’m sure there is a no information sharing agreement in place. While I am happy that Conor will be in all 17 races, this move doesn’t help ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay on the ovals. It also takes some seat time away from another driver looking for some work. But it is a good deal for Carlin. Daly usually makes any car he gets in better.

Carlin also announced that Felipe Nasr will drive car 31 at the St. Pete opener this weekend.. Nasr, a former F1 driver who currently drives for Action Express in the IMSA Weather Tech Series, turned the fastest lap on the first day of testing at Sebring last week. Nasr will likely be in more races this year, but will not run the full season. His entry keeps alive the streak of at least one Brazilian driver in an Indycar race which began in 1999. I still fear that streak may end at some point this season.

Carlin Team Leads Sebring Test Days

Felipe Nasr led Day 1 and Max Chilton led Day 2 in testing at Sebring Monday and Tuesday this week. Nasr had the fastest lap on Monday and was second quick on Tuesday. It is testing and probably doesn’t translate to a race weekend, but it is a nice way for Carlin to begin March. No driver has been named for car 31 as of now, but Nasr has to be a strong candidate.  If someone else drives the car at St. Pete next week, the NTT Indycar Series opener will the first race without a Brazilian driver since 1999.

The times from Tuesday:

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Rinus VeeKay looks as if he has adapted to Indycar quickly. We’ll find out how well in about a week.  Back in a while with a summary of today’s Josef Newgarden/Simon Pagenaud teleconference.

A Busy Day at Sebring

It was a busy day at Sebring today as several teams wound up their preseason test. With less than two weeks to go before the St. Pete opening race, 15 cars were on track in the ‘thours I was at the track. I didn’t see either of the Arrow McLaren SP cars or any of the Penske drivers. Their transporters were there. They may have gone out after I left at 2:30.

Teams that I saw were Andretti, Ganassi,  Coyne, Foyt, Meyer Shank Racing, Carlin, and Dragonspeed. I believe Felipe Nasr was in the Carlin car. I did not see Max Chilton  on track.

Here are a few photos from the day. More will we posted on The Pit Window”s Facebook page tomorrow.

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Indycar Season Preview, Part I: Coyne, Foyt, Carlin Look to Improve

Photo by Kyle McInnes

It’s time for my annual projection of how I think each team will perform in the NTT Indycar Series in 2020. This is the first of three parts on a team by team breakdown.

Carlin

Driver stability looks to be an issue once again for this team. Carlin placed only one car in the Indianapolis 500. Max Chilton chose to not run ovals. Charlie Kimball ran just seven races.  Conor Daly did a decent job running the ovals, but he is no longer available.

With Chilton returning for the road courses in car 59. the team still has to find a driver for the ovals for that car and a full time driver for the 31. While it looks as if Felipe Nasr may drive most of the races in the second car, nothing is confirmed. Nasr would be a great addition to an already talented grid. He was quick at the COTA test.

Carlin will struggle, especially the first half of the year. If they can get affirm driver lineup before St. Pete, we could see some progress after the Indianapolis 500.

Foyt

Optimism abounds at A. J. Foyt Racing. A new driver lineup, which I think is a bit of improvement, makes the outlook brighter. Charlie Kimball has the full time ride in car 4. His engineering background should help the team improve. Three drivers will share car 14. I think the first driver in it holds the key to their season.

Sebastien Bourdais will be in the 14 for the first three races of 2020. I believe that is how long Foyt has to get everything in place for the rest of the year. Between Kimball’s engineering and Bourdais’s experience, the team has a great opportunity to set up for a successful season. The unknown factor is how rookie Dalton Kellett does in his eight road/street events.

Tony Kanaan will drive the 14 in the oval races as he phases out his career as a regular in the series. Ovals have been the strong suit for Foyt. Kanaan has qualified well at Indianapolis and finished third at Gateway last season.

I think the team will be better than last year. I can see a couple more top tens and possibly a few second round entries in road and street course qualifying.

Coyne

2019 wasn’t a terrible season for cars under the Coyne umbrella, but they were expecting a bit more. I think one car will improve while the second car may surprise some people but have a few hiccups along the way. Santino Ferrucci moves to the 18 car for his second Indycar season. Rookie Alex Palou, who looked decent at Spring Training, is in the 19.

The team lost engineer Craig Hampson, who went to Arrow McLaren SP, and had some other personnel changes as well. This may change the dynamic a bit at Coyne, but they are such a close knit group that the effects should be minimal.

Ferrucci had many flashes of brilliance last year and ended third in the Rookie of the Year standings. He was Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis. Ferrucci seems to have a natural knack for ovals. He was in contention for the win at Gateway. He is my dark horse candidate for a season top 10 finish.

Alex Palou could surprise some people. He won’t have Ferrucci’s  2019 advantage of an experienced teammate, but he is quick. How long it takes to channel that quickness to the nuances of an Indycar weekend will determine how his year goes. He joins a very talented rookie class, which I’ll discuss next week. The Indycar youth movement continues.

Coyne should have some slightly better results this season, especially from Ferrucci.

Tomorrow- Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and Arrow McLaren SP.

 

Nasr, Sette Camara Share Car 31 in Testing

Photo from Carlin Racing Twitter

There may be new Brazilian blood in Indycar this season after all. I wrote a piece last week after Tony Kanaan’s announcement discussing how drivers from Brazil could be gone from Indycar in a couple years’ time. Carlin Racing must have read and decided to fix.

The Last of the Brazilians?https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2578729372

Felipe Nasr and Sergio Sette Camara will share the 31 car in NTT Indycar Series Spring Training testing at COTA tomorrow and Wednesday. Carlin Racing announced the pair as their drivers for the car, which had a TBA designation on the entry list.

Nasr drove for Carlin in the British Formula 3 and GP2 series. He won the 2011 British Formula 3 Championship. Nasr drove for Sauber in F1 in 2015 and 2016. He currently drives the number 31 Whelen Engineering team for  Action Express in the IMSA Weather Tech Sports Car Championship. He was the 2018 series champion and finished second in the standings last year.

Sette Camara drove in Formula 2 for Carlin in 2018. He won three races. His best season finish was 4th.

It is not know if Carlin is looking to share the ride for 2020 or favors one driver. Nars would have some schedule conflicts.

Media Day

I will be posting stories about some individual drivers from Media Day. A few common threads stood out.

It seems all the drivers are in favor of the aeroscreen and applaud the series for taking this step. Some expressed concerns about vision and cooling while others said it was no different than driving a sports car.  The drivers who have had track time with the aeroscreen seemed the most concerned. Tomorrow’s weather will be a good test for some potential issues.

Several drivers, especially the ones from Andretti Autosport, were lavish in their praise of John Andretti. They loved his positive attitude, his passion for racing, and the kind, caring person he was.

All the drivers who were asked said they would prefer to win the Indianapolis 500 rather than a season championship. Those whop won the 500 want very badly to win another one.

Back in the morning with a preview of the day and the ;latest weather forecast.

 

Arrow McLaren SP Liveries: A Taste of Mclaren and a Somewhat Retro Look; Carlin Returns

Arrow McLaren SP revealed their liveries for 2020. The number 5 car which Pato O’Ward will drive and the 7 of Oliver Askew have different color front end plates which will help fans tell the cars apart. The gold cockpit surround of last year has been replaced by papaya orange. I really like the number fonts. The majority of number fonts in the NTT Indycar Series have become rather generic, mainly block numbers in various colors. The fonts for this team are dynamic.

The orange and blue accents are a familiar scheme for McLaren, whose founder Bruce McLaren drove cars with these colors.

The design reminds me of Raul Boesel’s Duracell car of the early 90s, and it also has a hint of the MGD Light car. It’s always nice to have a bit of a retro appearance. The highlight of the reveal was when Mike Long said the new 5 year out plan is to get Robert Wickens back in a car. The technology is there and improving.. What an amazing day that will be for Indycar and Wickens.

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Oliver Askew’s #7

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Pato O’Ward’s #5

The aeroscreen seems less intrusive on theses cars than it does on some other entries. I am anxious to get an in person look at all the cars next Tuesday at COTA.

 

Carlin, Chilton Return

Carlin Racing also announce today that Max Chilton will be back in the 59 car with Gallagher sponsorship. Chilton will drive all road and street courses and the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. There was no mention of a second car or whether someone else would drive the other four ovals. Carlin plans to have two cars at Spring Training next week.

 

Spring Training Schedule and Streaming

Spring Training from COTA will be streamed next Tuesday and Wednesday on the Indycar Mobile App and Indycar.com.

The schedule (all times Eastern):

Tuesday

11 am-1 pm

2:30 pm-6:30 pm

Wednesday

10 am- Noon

1 pm-5 pm

I’m will be on site Monday and Tuesday. look for my Spring Training preview this weekend and updates Monday and Tuesday.

 

Daly Confirmed for Carlin Seat on Last Two Ovals of the Season

Carlin Racing announced today that Conor Daly will drive the 59 car at both the ABC Supply Co. 500 at Pocono and  the Bommarito Automotive Group 500k at World Wide Technology Raceway.  From Carlin’s Twitter page:

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Daly will have driven in every oval on the 2019 schedule. He drove for Andretti Autosport in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, finishing 10th.  Daly also drove for Carlin at Texas and Iowa.He finished 11th at Texas and 13th at Iowa. He finished fifth in 2017 driving for A. J. Foyt Racing  in the inaugural race at Gateway.

Daly will return to Andretti in the season finale at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. His seven races this year is the most he has driven since his season with Foyt.