2019 Indianapolis 500 Tomorrow on NBCSN

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Update: NBCSN will show the 2019 St. Pete race tomorrow instead of the 500. Still at 2:30 ET

It is a bit of consolation for race starved Indycar fans. NBCSN will show the 2019 Indianapolis 500 tomorrow beginning at 2:30pm ET in place of the cancelled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I have heard from two of my three readers who have already been watching old Indycar races on YouTube. For those like me who don’t have televisions smart enough to do that, tomorrow’s showing will be a welcome treat. I’m hoping for a huge rating on this rebroadcast.

Other items from yesterday:

The Long Beach Grand Prix still is looking for a way to reschedule the Acura Grand Prix.

Many drivers are talking about doing sim racing and inviting people to watch. I believe Discord is setting up something.

In addition to the cancelled races, the open tests at Richmond and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will not occur either. My guess is the IMS test will possibly move to early May.

If you have any suggestions for content you would like to see in this space for the next six weeks, send along your ideas to tutorindie@yahoo.com. I’m planning to repost some Bump Tales and do a couple biographies of drivers from the past.

Indycar’s Numbers Games

Numbers are the big story in the NTT Indycar Series this week. A famous car number is switching teams, an increased number of entries may cause problems at certain tracks, and there is lots of speculation about how many entries there will be for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.

We are still waiting official word that J. R. Hildebrand will return to Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the 500.  He not only still needs a car, he needs a number as well. In 2018 Hildebrand drove car 66. Last year, Hildebrand was in car 48. Both of those numbers have gone to Arrow McLaren SP cars. Fernando Alonso will drive the 66, and the 48 will be on the car Jimmie Johnson tests next month at Barber.

A team isn’t going to the trouble of requesting another team to relinquish a car number just for a test. This step makes it fairly definite that Johnson will drive in at least one race next year. I would think he would be in more than one race. I don’t think DRR gave the number to AMSP for free.

Lots of Cars, Not Enough Pits

Marshall Pruett had a story on Racer.com yesterday about the increased number of entries at certain tracks and the possible dilemma that may create with pit space. Mid Ohio and Toronto are the two venues where this potential issue may arise. As usual, Indycar President Jay Frye had anticipated this and was already working on it.

You can read the full article here:

IndyCar venues working to accommodate expanded grids

With 24 full time teams, some tracks are already at their limit. I think we will see 26 cars at several races this year. Pruett states that the finale at Laguna Seca could see 28 cars. I anticipate at least that many for the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis as well.

500 Car Count

For now I an sticking with my prediction of 35 cars for the Indianapolis 500. I will not be upset if there are more. Marotti Racing hinted at an announcement coming soon. That is an entry I didn’t expect.

 

Alonso Goes “Home” for Indianapolis 500 Ride

The announcement from McLaren:

https://www.mclaren.com/racing/team/arrow-mclaren-sp-and-fernando-alonso-join-forces-104th-indianapolis-500

Thoughts

I hope this team has its act together this year. Missing the race two consecutive years would be embarrassing.

Interesting that Alonso had a former Andretti sponsor on board.

We probably won’t see the same level of Fernandomania this time around. It’s great to have a former F1 champion enter the race, but I think the buzz of 2017 is totally gone.

What a strange relationship Alonso and McLaren have.

I hope fellow countryman Oriol Servia joins the entry list as well.

From Earlier:

A Bonus for Fans and penalties for the Grid: More Changes for 2020

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2601821392

 

A Bonus for Fans and Penalties for the Grid; More Changes for 2020

Two changes for the 2020 NTT Indycar Series season came to light today. One is for the fans and one is a return to a rule from 2012-2013.  In Roger Penske’s drive to improve the fan experience, there will be a public drivers’ meeting at every race this coming year. The meetings will follow the pattern of the Legends’ Day ceremonial meeting the day before the Indianapolis 500.

The Indianapolis 500 drivers’ meeting is mainly to introduce the drivers, hand out awards, and for the race director to give instructions about the start and other race procedures. Any issues will be discussed in a closed drivers’ meeting earlier in the weekend. I’m not sure how the logistics will work at some tracks like Long Beach or St. Pete. With open access a large open area will be needed.

I’m glad that Penske Entertainment is actively seeking and implementing ideas for fan interaction. It will allow some fans who usually don’t have the chance to see drivers up close to get a view. My concern is when you take an element that has been unique to the Indianapolis 500 and make it universal, it cheapens that aspect of the event.

I’d rather see newer, more original ideas for fan interaction. You can’t do everything every race just like it’s done for Indianapolis. I do applaud  the Penske team for jumping right in and looking for more ways to involve the fans. I just want the Indianapolis 500 to remain unique in more ways than the race itself.

Grid Penalties Return

Unapproved engine changes will once again result in a grid penalty and may under certain conditions also result in a loss of driver and entrant points. A loss of 10 grid spots for changes not approved by Indycar was in force for a few years early in the last decade. The penalty was switched to a loss of engine manufacturer points through 2019. The penalties are different this time.

On road and street courses, a driver must start six places further back than where he/she qualified. On ovals other than Indianapolis the grid penalty is nine positions. I addition, an unapproved engine change initiated by the entrant also results in a 10 point penalty for both the driver and the entrant.

A full season entrant is allowed four fresh engines. each engine must run 2,500 miles before it can legally be changed. There is an allowance for an engine damaged in a crash. If an unapproved change is done at a test, the grid penalty applies to the next race.

Trackside Online’s Steve Wittich published a fine article outlining the approved and unapproved changes. If you aren’t a subscriber, today would be a great time to sign up.

I think the grid penalties are fair and will hopefully prevent the mad engine swapping out that occurred among the contenders at the end of last season. With the manufacturers’ title already decided in favor of Honda, neither OEM had anything to lose by giving the drivers going for the championship a fresh engine. The grid penalties are more reasonable than the punishments doled out in Formula 1, where a driver might spend the rest of his career satisfying a grid spot penalty.

I do not like the double jeopardy of losing grid spots and 10 points. I can understand losing grid positions, especially if a car has a brand new engine. I can even understand entrant points. I don’t understand penalizing the driver as well. Engine issues are rarely the driver’s fault. Ten points could be quite a hit in the middle of a championship battle.

I think overall these are two good changes for Indycar. I do have some concerns about the unintended consequences, but I do appreciate Penske’s innovative thinking.

Look for a post on Thursday and my season preview beginning Friday.

Citrone Buhl Looks for May Debut

A new team co owned by a former driver and a businessman with investments in other sports entities have formed a new racing team and plans to enter the I104th running of the Indianapolis 500 this year.  Robbie Buhl, who started 78 Indycar races between 1993 and 2004, including eight starts at Indianapolis; and Robert and Nick Citrone, announced their plans this morning. Buhl won two Indycar races in his career.

Citrone founded  Discovery Capital Management, and is the largest minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nick, his son, is a Data Analytics Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The team hopes to participate in the GMR Grand Prix as well as the 500. They hope to expand to more races in the future.

Thoughts

It’s always exciting to see a new team come into Indycar. This group has a former driver, which is always a plus, and what seems to be solid financial backing. I’m assuming they will look for an established team to partner with.

This opens another seat for a driver looking for a May ride. No driver was named today.

Chip Ganassi has ties to Pittsburgh as well.  I;m not sure if his team is interested in a partner arrangement. The team did not announce which engine they will use. If it’s not a Honda, that makes this thought moot.

I wasn’t sure the car count for the 500 would get back to 36 as it was in 2019. I am more confident of at least that many now.

It seems a little late to announce something for May. My guess is this has been in the works for awhile and the team is pretty close to ready.

 

Hinchcliffe Returns to Andretti for Indianapolis 500

It seems everything in Indycar comes back to the starting point. In a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning, it was announced that James Hinchcliffe will return to Andretti Autosport for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. He will also race in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis on May 9 and at Texas Motor Speedway  June 6. Genesys, an Indianapolis based technology company will sponsor car number 29.

Hinchcliffe drove for the team from 2012-2014, and he had his best years with the team.   Three of his six career wins came in 2013, and he was eighth in points in 2012 and 2013. With Andretti Hinchcliffe started the Indianapolis 500 twice from the middle of the front row and had a career best finish of sixth in 2012.

From 2015-2019 at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Hinchcliffe’s best season finish was 10th in 2018. He was released from driving duties at the end of 2019. He won the pole for the 100th running of the 500 in 2016.

Hinchcliffe will be attempting to start in his seventh 500 mile race this May. He has struggled to make the race the last two years. In 2018 he was bumped from the field and last year qualified 32nd. Making the race should not be an issue this year.

Notes

Hinchcliffe will have some orange on his car.Genesys’s colors are orange, charcoal, and white.  Ironic considering he was let go by Arrow McLaren SP.

I’m surprised that Toronto was not one of the additional races. I would have that race would have been his second priority. Perhaps it will be added later.

Michael Andretti mentioned that the team would like to try to get Hinchcliffe on full time.  If that happens, who might be out? I would think Zach Veach  is on the hot seat unless he has a strong season. Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be looking at Indy only after 2020?

 

 

Daly Happy to Have a Steady Ride

 Note: Thoughts are with NASCAR driver Ryan  Newman  who was seriously injured in a crash at the end of the Daytona 500 last night. The latest report at just after 10 pm last night said he is in serious condition with non life threatening injuries. Please keep Ryan and his family in your thoughts.

NTT Indycar Series teams needing a driver replacement won’t have the series’ supersub available this season. Conor Daly will drive 13 races for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, competing in all the road and street races plus the Indianapolis 500.  In 2019 Daly drove in seven races for three different teams.  Daly drove full time for Dale Coyne in 2016 and A. J. Foyt in 2017. Those two season account for 33 of his 46 Indycar starts. While this season is not full time, Daly is glad to be with the same team for all his races in 2020.

While Daly feels more pressure, he feels the season long assurance will help in the long run.  “I’m putting more pressure on myself, ” he says.”Something crazy may happen at St. Pete, but we’ve got another race coming up. That’s so nice; you forget how good that feeling is.” Daly is thankful for the U.S. Air Force support, which began on a limited basis in 2019.

Daly says he is not a huge fan of the aeroscreen, citing vision and cooling issuesas his main concerns. He thinks he may have to raise his seat to see. “There are issues we won’t really know until we do testing with everyone.”

It is rare for him to have races before Indianapolis, Daly notes. At the moment his focus is on the St. Pete opener. He plans to work even harder this year. “It’s nice to have more chances,” Daly said.

Of the three rookies driving in the NTT Indycar Series this season who came directly from Indy Lights, Daly said that it shows the drivers in the Road to Indy ladder that getting to Indycar is not impossible.

After seeing how Daly performed in good equipment at Indianapolis in 2019, it will be interesting to see how he does with another team that has shown consistent competitiveness at the Speedway. I also look for Daly to help improve ECR’s road course program.