Photo: Pato O’Ward will represent Chevy in today’s test.
Tire testing 9-12
Tire testing 1-5
Today’s tire test won’t have the drama or excitement of Wednesday’s Rookie Orientation, but it has importance for the next two seasons of the NTT Indycar Series. In addition to testing next year’s tire compound for the Indianapolis 500, Indycar will add weight to the cars, simulating the added weight in 2023 of the larger 2.4 liter engine and the hybrid energy recovery system. The new components should about 125 pounds to the cars. The extra weight will give the series an idea of how the balance of the cars will change under more weight.
I am very interested to hear what Jay Frye and the technical crew says about today’s results. We are a long way from the final configuration for 2023.
Meyer Shank Racing with Helio Castroneves will represent Honda and Arrow McLaren SP with Pato O’Ward will test for Chevy. are the test cars. The oldest driver in the series and one of the youngest drivers providing input reflects the 2021 season and the generational transition Indycar is going through.
As far as I know the turn 2 mounds are open. There is no streaming for today’s activity.
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race. (Note: A seventh set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)
Qualifying record: Helio Castroneves, 1:07.722, 118.969 mph, Sept. 8, 2000
NBC television broadcast: Race, 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 19, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.
Peacock Premium Live Streaming: This weekend’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer live streaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes will be the lead announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Dan Rusanowsky and Alex Wolff will report from the pits. The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205 and 211, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, Sept. 17
2:30–3:15 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 1, Peacock Premium (live)
Saturday, Sept. 18
10:45–11:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 2, Peacock Premium (live)
2:05 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (live)
Sunday, Sept. 19
9-9:30 a.m.– NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium (live)
11:50 a.m. – Driver introductions
Noon – NBC on air
12:23 p.m. – Start engines command
12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (95 laps/214.51 miles), NBC (live)
Alex Palou leads the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with two races to go for the first time in his career. Palou has led the point standings after nine of the 14 races this season.
Palou leads Pato O’Ward by 25 points with Josef Newgarden (-34), Scott Dixon (-49) and Marcus Ericsson (-75) behind. Palou assumed the point lead following his win at Portland. The lead has changed hands six times between Palou, O’Ward and Dixon.
There are five drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship: Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson. Any driver who trails the points leader by 54 points or more following the race will be eliminated from contention.
Since the first INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the winning driver has won the INDYCAR SERIES championship six times: Bobby Rahal (1986 and 1987), Danny Sullivan (1988), Michael Andretti (1991), Alex Zanardi (1998) and Cristiano da Matta (2002).
Key championship point statistic: Since 2008, the driver who has led the championship with two races to go has failed to win the championship five times. Scott Dixon in 2008, 2018 and 2020, Dario Franchitti in 2011, Will Power in 2014, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2017 and 2019 are the exceptions who have won the title after leading with two races remaining.
Don’t call it a comeback: No point lead is ever safe in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Five times since 2008, a driver has made up a deficit with two races to go to win the championship – Dario Franchitti, who trailed Ryan Briscoe by four points in 2009 and Will Power by 23 points in 2010; Ryan Hunter-Reay, who trailed Will Power by five points with two races remaining in 2012, Scott Dixon, who was in third place, 48 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 and Power who overcame a four-point deficit to Helio Castroneves in 2014.
CHAMPIONSHIP WITH TWO TO GO (2008-2021)
Juan Pablo Montoya
Scott Dixon (-48)
There have been nine different winners in 14 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Portland International Raceway), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500), Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1, Streets of Nashville), Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, World Wide Technology Raceway) and Will Power (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-2) have all won in 2021. The modern record (1946-present) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
There have been seven different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Rinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden and Will Power) The only repeat winners in that stretch are, Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1 and Streets of Nashville), Newgarden (Mid-Ohio and WWT Raceway) and Palou (Road America and Portland).
The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will be the 24th INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but just the second since 2004. Teo Fabi won the first INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 1983. Colton Herta – who won the most recent race at the track in 2019 – and Helio Castroneves -who won at the track in 2000 – are the only former winners entered in this year’s race.
Thirteen drivers have won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from the pole – Teo Fabi (1983), Bobby Rahal (1985), Danny Sullivan (1988), Rick Mears (1989), Danny Sullivan (1990), Michael Andretti (1991 and 1992), Paul Tracy (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Bryan Herta (1998 and 1999), Helio Castroneves (2000), Cristiano da Matta (2002), Patrick Carpentier (2003) and Colton Herta (2019).
Team Penske has won six times at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Penske’s winning drivers are Danny Sullivan (1988 and 1990), Rick Mears (1989), Paul Tracy (1993 and 1994) and Helio Castroneves (2000). Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has three wins with Bryan Herta (1998-99) and Max Papis (2001). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins with Alex Zanardi in 1996 and Jimmy Vasser in 1997.
Eighteen drivers entered in the event have competed in past INDYCAR SERIES races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Helio Castroneves has four starts, most among the entered drivers, but hasn’t raced at the track since 2001. Five entered drivers have led laps at the track (Colton Herta 83, Will Power 6, Scott Dixon 2, Sebastien Bourdais 1 and Simon Pagenaud 1).
Four rookies – Romain Grosjean, Callum Ilott, Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are expected to compete. The four rookies, along with veteran drivers Oliver Askew, Dalton Kellett, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will all be making their first INDYCAR SERIES at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Charlie Wiggins, the Indianapolis mechanic and race driver who starred in the Colored Speedway Association in the late 20s and early 30s, is the subject of a new film biography which begins production next spring. The film will be produced by Welburn Media Group, headed by Ed Welburn and Madisun Leigh.
Welburn, the former Vice President of Global design at General Motors, said he was inspired by For Gold and Glory, the documentary and subsequent book about Wiggins and the Colored Speedway Association.
“Watching the documentary about Charlie, I was excited and at the same time deeply saddened that such an amazing piece of African American history, of American history, of car history, could be completely unknown to me, my enthusiast friends, and most auto racing experts,” said Welburn. “I decided that I had to bring Charlie’s story to life.”
Leigh is helping to adapt the screenplay from the documentary.
“It’s yet another missing piece of the puzzle that is the contribution of African American ingenuity and genius to our country’s rich history,” said Leigh. “Charlie was a humble yet daring man who, despite the stifling impediment of Jim Crow laws and unimaginable personal tragedy, rose again and again to meet those challenges and obstacles.”
The project has received production support from the NTT Indycar Series and from Firestone.
Wiggins won the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes at the Indiana State Fairgrounds four times, and also worked on William Cummings’ car in 1934, when Cummings won the Indianapolis 500. The crew explained to the speedway guards that Wiggins was their janitor. After the track closed for the day, Wiggins and the rest of the crew worked on the car. On Race Day Wiggins had to watch from the “Coloreds Only” section of the track.
In december, i wrote about including CSA records in the all time Indycar records as baseball did with the Negro leagues:
Wiggins won several other races during the Colored Speedway association’s brief time as a racing series. Following Wiggins’ career ending injury in the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, the association’s attendance dwindled and the league folded in 1936 at the end of the season.
This is the post I was going to write earlier this week before something happened. I think this should be safe until next week or longer, I hope. The good news is the NTT Indycar Series grid for 2020 is nearly full. The bad news for drivers on the outside is the grid is nearly full. Here is a team by team look at where things stand.
Penske– All set with the same lineup as last year- 2019 champion Josef Newgarden, 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power.
Carpenter- Nothing confirmed for either car except for Ed Carpenter running the ovals. I expect Spencer Pigot to return to the 21. The road course races for the 20 could go to Rinus Veekay, although he is seeking a full time seat. Would Carpenter consider a full time car for VeeKay and run the 20 just on ovals?
Carlin- Nothing solid at Carlin yet. Will Max Chilton be back for just the road/street courses? Can Charlie Kimball get a full time budget? Who else might be in the mix? Ed Jones, Matheus Leist, and Conor Daly are some of the available talent.
Foyt- Tony Kanaan will be in the 14 for his final full time ride in Indycar. The seat in the 4 car is still open. It likely won’t be Leist again. Right now this ride is wide open.
AMSP- Plenty has been written about this team this week. Their lineup is set with Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, the last two Indy Lights champions. I expect expansion team type results from them next year.
Dragonspeed- The team is hoping to run 10 races next season, which may be optimistic. Ben Hanley is their main driver, although someone with money could drive in some races for them. The team is expanding their sports car program in both WEC and IMSA.
Andretti Autosport- The armada returns with an expanded lineup. Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Zach Veach all return. They are joined by Colton Herta as Harding- Steinbrenner has been absorbed by Andretti.
Meyer-Shank – Jack Harvey hopes to run a full season in 2020. the team will have a technical alliance with Andretti.
Ganassi- The team has expanded to three full time entries. Scott Dixon and 2019 Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist return. Marcus Ericsson will drive the third entry. Don’t look for a fourth car except maybe for the 500.
Coyne- Sebastien Bourdais stays in the 18. It appears the team is close to completing a deal with Santino Ferrucci to return to the 19. I don’t think the Hinchcliffe situation changes anything here.
Rahal- Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato are set. Everyone’s attention is focused on the third car which doesn’t yet exist. Will it come into being for James Hinchcliffe? I’m not sure enough money can be put together by the parties concerned.
As of today there are 20 solid full time cars. The question marks are Carlin and Meyer-Shank. I’m not counting the 4 car at Foyt, either.
Cara Adams Promoted at Bridgestone/Firestone
Congratulations to Cara Adams. In a press release from Bridgestone, Adams is now “…director, race tire engineering & production, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) and Firestone Racing. In this expanded leadership role, Adams will oversee the entire race tire production process – from product design and development through manufacturing and management – in support of the Firestone brand’s role as sole tire supplier of the NTT IndyCar® Series.”
Cara is one of the hardest working people in the paddock, but she always has time to answer a quick question.
Everybody relax. This will take some getting used to. And we will get used to it. Aesthetically it’s not the best looking Indycar I’ve ever seen, but it is the safest to date. I do see some things that pleasantly surprised me.
Since this piece is a retrofit on existing bodywork it is not going to be the best presentation. I think with the new car the aeroscreen will look better as an integrated part of the tub.
First, my biggest concern from a viewing standpoint, is that you can see the driver and his hands on the steering wheel. The screen is clear. I expected some kind of tinting that would make the driver invisible. Second, a crew member can reach inside to fasten the belts. I thought the driver would need to learn how to do that task. I still have a concern about extracting a driver in a bad accident or in case of fire.
From the little bit I’ve seen of the cars on track, I don’t notice much difference at speed. I will go out to turn 2 later and see if I can see much difference in how the cars look on track. I imagine there will be a much more noticeable profile difference on a road course.
I talked to Cara Adams of Firestone this morning. The tire supplier is using the current tire and has also brought last year’s tire as a backup. She expects higher right front loads due to the weight shift to a higher position. I will try to follow up with her later.
Here are a few more photos. I will up date later. Scott Dixon, Will Power, Jay Frye, and Andy Damerun of Red Bull Advanced technologies will have a media availability at 3 pm.
I never think of Indycar without envisioning a car with Firestone tires. Firestone tires have been synonymous with Indycar it seems like forever. The tire has been on the winning car at the Indianapolis 500 69 times, including the first race in 1911. That relationship remains with today’s news.
Firestone will continue as the sole tire supplier to the NTT Indycar Series through 2025. The announcement of the new deal came at the Dallara Factory in Speedway this morning. In addition, Firestone is building a new state of the art manufacturing facility for Indycar tires in Akron. The building, the Advanced Tire Production Center (ATPC) should produce its first tire in late 2020.
“Champions have relied on Firestone tires for more than a century, and racing has always been the ideal proving ground for new technologies that help us evolve and advance our company’s passenger tire offerings,” said Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “As the NTT IndyCar Series continues gaining momentum, we are introducing new fans to the Firestone brand and strengthening our relationship with the drivers who use our durable, dependable Firestone tires.”
Ralph Hubbard, Creator of the HANS Device
Hubbard and his brother-in-law, Jim Downing, created the device in an effort to save drivers’ lives by protecting their heads and necks from the violent jolting in accidents. Their research began in the early 80’s. Indycar was the first series to adopt the device and Formula 1 made it compulsory in 2003. The HANS Device was optional in NASCAR, but after Dale Earnhardt’s death in the Daytona 500, it soon became mandatory.
Drivers and fans are thankful to Dr. Hubbard for work and inventing what is now taken for granted as a part of a driver’s equipment. Many lives have been saved with this attachment.
Indy Qualifying Changes?
The Pit Window has learned that an official announcement about the qualifying format for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will come either at the end of this week or early next week. Some tweaks to the current format are expected. I will share my thoughts on the new procedures next week. I hope more changes may be on the way for 2020.
Weather Tech Raceway hosts the first Indycar test of 2019 Friday. Most of the projected grid will be there. Official Spring training begins Tuesday at COTA. The Tuesday session will be live streamed on Indycar,com.
I’m kidding. It was one of the best weeks the series has had since 2008 reunification. The announcement of NTT as series sponsor was the week’s biggest news, but three announcements followed, strengthening two events and one team. Friday’s news about the new ASPM team, in my opinion, is just as big as the NTT announcement. It could very well change the dynamic in the paddock.
The Road to the Title Begins and Ends with Firestone
Firestone has sponsored the opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the last few years. The tire supplier now will also sponsor the season finale at Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca.
Firestone and Indycar have been together virtually since the beginning of racing in America. It is a relationship fans almost take for granted. It’s great to see that they continue to increase their support of the NTT Indycar Series.
REV Group Helps Road America Keep it Local
REV Group has replaced Kohler as title sponsor the race at Road America. REV is a Milwaukee based company that manufactures RVs and emergency vehicles. REV Group plans to have a hospitality area to salute first responders who attend the event.
The new race sponsor replaces Kohler, who held title rights for the first three years of the race. It is one of the most popular events on the schedule.
The REV Group Grand Prix is June 21-23, and is one the eight races televised on the NBC network.
Arrow Steps Up Commitment to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Schmidt Peterson is now Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. In a Friday announcement in Denver, Arrow became a team partner and primary sponsor of both Schmidt Peterson cars. James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson will drive in 2019. A third car will be ready for Robert Wickens when he is able to return.
The relationship between Schmidt and Arrow goes back to 2013 with the develoment of the SAM car, a semi- autonomous vehicle which has allowed Sam Schmidt to drive a street car again. That partnership led to Arrow sponsoring Hinchcliffe and ultimately to a stake in the team.
The new team structure brings a huge infusion of resources to Schmidt’s organization, which should see better results from the entire team. It might take a year for them to be really strong, so I’m looking at a great season in 202 for this outfit.
Arrow is one of the classiest sponsors in the paddock. They stood by the team when Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the 500 this year, and they are supporting Wickens by holding a seat for him.
To me, this announcement is nearly as big as naming the series title sponsor. It is another large company investing heavily in Indycar.
Aero Tweaks Should Improve Racing at Indy, Pocono
In an effort to improve the superspeedway package the NTT Indycar Series is introducing aero options for both Indianapolis and Pocono. The new Universal Aero Kit introduced last year greatly improved the road and street course racing, but the speedway configuration didn’t produce the hoped for results.
Teams will have more aero tuning freedom on both the front and rear wing of the car.
The rear wing will have a 3/8 inch tall Gurney flap. One option is 13.2 inches wide and adds 50 pounds of downforce. The other choice measures 24.5 inches across and adds 100 pounds of downforce. there is a third flap which covers the entire length of the wing and adds 200 pounds. The full wing flap will only be allowed at Texas.
Extra downforce should allow cars to pass easier.
The front wing has a 3/8 inch tall flap which is 5.5 inches wide. Teams may use this flap asymmetrically. One problem in the 500 last year was the front end washing out as cars attempted to pass.
Sad news today about the death of Glen Wood, of the famous Wood Brothers racing team. Wood, 93, drove until 1964 and began his race team with is brother Leonard. His team also was Jim Clark’s pit crew in 1965 when he won the Indianapolis 500. Their pit stop routine became the norm for Indycar.
The Wood Brothers team is the oldest team in NASCAR. They have won 99 races including 5 Daytona 500s
Indycar put together another good race. The Honda Indy Toronto was a great follow-up to the great race in Iowa last week. This was a street brawl. Cars banged together, fought for position, went wider than anyone thought possible at Toronto. The race played well on television.
The new aero kit has definitely improved the street course races. They have all seen more passing and action than in year’s past. I hope what we saw last weekend means they have finally figured out the oval configuration. Pocono and Gateway will provide those answers. I’m not sure if there is much to be done on road courses. At Road America Newgarden didn’t run away and hide from Hunter-Reay, but Hunetr-Reay couldn’t pass.
Good Days Spoiled
Marco Andretti had fourth place locked up until he pitted for fuel with two laps to go. Was there a fueling issue on his last stop?
Spencer Pigot was on his way to his second good finish when he hit the wall and had to retire.
Josef Newgarden had the race in hand, and would probably have had a close fight for the win with Scott Dixon when he brushed the wall on a restart. He clawed his way back to 9th, but lost a lot of ground to Dixon in the title chase.
Good Days Rewarded
Simon Pagenaud had his second podium of the season in what has been a frustrating year for the former series champion. The next race at Mid Ohio is a track where he done well. It will be interesting to see if his success carries over.
Tony Kanaan’s sixth place was AJ Foyt Racing’s best result of the year.
Robert Wickens reached the podium in his first home race. Teammate James Hinchcliffe finished fourth. This is the third straight year a Canadian driver has been on the Toronto podium. Hinchcliffe finished third the last two years.
Conor Daly stepped into the 88 Harding Racing car this week. He started 11th and finished thirteenth, Harding’s best overall weekend of the year. Daly is a master of jumping in a car at the last minute and doing well. Harding is looking to put a second car on the grid in 2019. Could Fall be a candidate for that seat?
Charlie Kimball in fifth was the best result for Carlin Racing this year.
Zach Veach finished seventh after starting 22nd.
Dixon in Control of the Title
Dixon’s quest for a fifth championship is looking better. he now leads Newgarden by 62 points. I believe this is the biggest lead this late in a season since Juan Pablo Montoya held a commanding lead in 2015. Dixon has done very little wrong this year, taking as high a finish as he could, then finally breaking through at Detroit for his first 2018 victory. He and Newgarden now lead the series with three wins each.
Dixon has now won 44 races, just 8 behind Mario Andretti. If you don’t appreciate this future legend yet, start now. He definitely belongs with the greats of old.
My full Toronto recap will be on wildfireradiosports.com Tuesday. Wednesday watch this column for a story on the 1956 Indianpolis 500.