Spring Training Begins at COTA; 25 Entries Set to Run

Today, at last, is the official opening day of the 2019 NTT Indycar Series season. Spring training begins at 11 am ET at Circuit of the Americas, the newest track on the schedule. Cars have 5 hours of track time available today and 6 hours tomorrow. Today’s action will be streamed on Indycar’s Facebook page, Twitter, and YouTube.

With Monday’s news about the change in plans at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, Colton Herta will test the lone car for the team.  Kyle Kaiser will likely test for Juncos. The team announced yesterday that Kaiser will drive the number 32 at COTA in the March 24 race.

IndyCar sessions are scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m. ET on the 12th, and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:00-6:00 p.m. ET on the 13th.

Expected to test :

A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy (2): Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist

Andretti Autosport Honda (4): Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (2): James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson

Carlin Racing Chevy (2): Max Chilton, RC Enerson

Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (2): Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist

Dale Coyne Racing Honda (2): Sebastien Bourdais, Santino Ferrucci

Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy (2): Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones

Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda (1): Colton Herta/Patricio O’Ward

Juncos Racing Chevy (1): TBA

Meyer Shank Racing Honda (1): Jack Harvey

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda (2): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato

Team Penske Chevy (4): Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves

Tickets for Spring Training can be purchased at http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/indycar-spring-training.

King Joins RLL for the 500

Photo above: Jordan King at Mid Ohio, 2018

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced this morning that Jordan King will drive their third entry in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. King drove for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 as the road/street course driver of the number 20 car. He had hoped to put together a full time ride for this season. King joins Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato on the team for the oval portion of May. He will drive the car Oriol Servia used in this year’s 500. Servia led late in the race until he needed a late splash of fuel.

In 2018, King showed good pace in qualifying. He advanced to the second round six times, twice getting into the Fast Six. His best start was fourth at St. Pete. His best race finish was 11th at Toronto.

A lack of funding has prevented King from landing a full time ride. RLL has also been looking to field a third full time car. King hopes to add more Indycar races to his 2019 schedule. RLL is open to that idea.

COTA Tickets on Sale

Tickets for the Circuit of the Americas Indycar Classic went on sale today. There are four plans available. General admission is $85, Premium Grandstand seats begin at $119. Turn 12 bleachers are $119. There is also a Flex Pass, where fans can choose a different seat for each day. The pass is $189. Paddock Passes are $75. Seems a bit pricey to me, but it is a great track. Austin is a fun city as well.  The track is offering a 10% discount on General Admission until January 3.

I’m excited to return. I attended the first two F1 races. The hill in turn 1 was my favorite viewing spot. You can see some other parts of the circuit from there. The turn 12 stands also presents a good view. The cars come downhill to a left hand corner, then go uphill.

The 2019 Indycar Schedule; News and Comments

Some thoughts on the Indycar schedule released today:

I like that the huge gap between the first and second race is gone. Having three weeks between Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is probably more appropriate. It allows for testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a time closer to the 500.

I hope the three weeks between Portland and the Laguna Seca final is just a one year arrangement. IMSA races at Laguna Seca September 15.

Team members have two three week stretches of races plus the four week grind of May and the Detroit doubleheader.

Will Barber return to its traditional date next year? Easter falls on the usual Barber weekend necessitating the change.

I’m excited that Indycar is going to Circuit of the Americas. My first though when I went there for the inaugural Formula 1 race was  that it would be a good track for Indycar.  My concern is attendance. COTA is a huge property. Like IMS, what would be a decent crowd at most places will make the track seem empty. F1 is the only series that has had good attendance in Austin.

While I’m sad to see one less oval on the schedule, I’m happy that Iowa will again be a Saturday night race. That track was made for Indycars on Saturday night.

Attendance at Laguna Seca could also be a concern with IMSA holding an event the weekend before. These two series need to work together and hold joint events.

Television Schedule Still to Come

We know all, the races will be on an NBC network. The question is, which race on which network? I will go out on a huge limb here and say the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Seven other races will appear on the big network. My guessses:

St. Pete- season opener; introduces audience to Indycar

Long Beach- historic track and event

Indycar Grand Prix- prelude to the 500; promotes the 500

The 500

Road America- another classic track; spectatcular scenery

Iowa- Saturday night racing showcases Indycar roots

Pocono- another 500 race; usually one of the best races of the year

Laguna Seca- season finale allows season recap and promotes 2020 season.

I’m sure I have one correct. I left off the Detroit doubleheader. With a limited number of network appearances, putting half of that schedule in a four week span creates a large gap until the next network race.

Harding’s Future?

Last weekend at Portland Harding racing announced that 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and Lights runner up Colton Herta will drive in the Indycar finale at Sonoma. Herta tested with Harding earlier this season and O’Ward will test with the team Thursday.

We might be seeing the future of Harding Racing begin. Gabby Chaves, who began the year with Harding and has a contract for next year, may be out of a ride.

Talk still is going on about MclAren taking over harding and some uinvolvement with Andretti Autosport. Both O’Ward and Herta drove for Andretti in Indy Lights.

However this situation turns out, I admire Mike Harding for putting a team together, hiring good experienced people, and running the entire season with older equipment. This was a low budget operation. Small teams like this are what the series needs more of.

Fred Watch

On Wednesday, weather permitting, Fernando Alonso is scheduled to test an Indycar at Barber Motorsports Park. He will drive an Andretti Autosport car, the one Carlos Munoz drove in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Alonso has not announced where he will drive next year. The Indycar schedule has no conflicts with his WEC commitments for 2018. The WEC opener for 2019 is the same weekend as Portland.