Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am not a patient person by nature. Waiting for word on the start of the Indycar season, which is a long way off, has been a real test for me. I have some thoughts on the way things might work out.

The Indianapolis 500 is the big domino. As the days go by, I think it is less likely the race will be run on May 24. While the date is past the eight week window the CDC established, there is nothing to say it won’t extend the window. The Kentucky Derby’s postponement until September 5 is not a good omen for Indianapolis.

The series should probably make a decision on when the 500 can run before any other race is rescheduled. If there is just one race this year, this is the one that it has to be.

How Many Races for a Legitimate Championship?

To crown a series champion I think there would have to be a minimum of 10 races. Remember the three race championship of the IRL’s first season? I never thought that was a legitimate championship. I can’t see getting in that many races this year. perhaps Indycar would consider carrying over this season’s results into 2021. If that’s what they decide to do, if the 500is run this year it cannot be double points. That would be too much of an advantage for the winner.

What We Have Missed So Far

We may have lost the chance to see Felipe Nasr race for Carlin. With IMSA also postponing events, more conflicts may arise. He was one of the new drivers I was looking forward to seeing last weekend. I have always enjoyed watching him drive at Daytona and Sebring.

Sebastien Bourdais has lost three of the four races he had scheduled to drive for A. J. Foyt Racing. His fourth race at Portland, like everything else, is not certain at this point. I’m disappointed that we may not see him in Indycar at all in 2020. The misse time with Bourdais in the car is also a setback for the team. Bourdais would have helped them sort out their car for the rest of the year. Foyt has lost invaluable feedback.

Will we still see Scott McLaughlin this year? Australian Super Cars is also shuffling their schedule. Another talented driver may have to defer his Indycar debut until 2021.

How many of the smaller teams can afford this hiatus? How many teams that were planning 500 only programs will still be able to enter?

Teams’ Generosity

Per Jenna Fryer of AP, unused food from the Indycar teams’ hospitality at St. Pete was donated to The Rescue Food Ministry, an organization which donates leftover food to local community shelters and agencies. They usually donate to St. Vincent DePaul, but there was so much food that they also contacted the Salvation Army to help distribute all of it. McLaren alone donated nearly 380 pounds of food.

The teams in all gave away nearly 1,200 meals.  In Indianapolis I volunteer at Second Helpings, a food rescue and redistribution organization.  They would be ecstatic with a donation of that size. Second Helpings received a substantial donation of food after the Super Bowl in2012, and they also receive good sized donations during May.

What Do You Want to See Here?

During this time of no racing activity, what content would you like to see in this space? I began reposting “Bump Tales” yesterday, and I plan to still do that on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I may put in a couple of new ones I was planning for May.

I would like to know what else you might want to see. Please respond in the comments section of this post.

 

 

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.

 

Newgarden: Aeroscreen Will Affect Setups

In a teleconference this morning Josef Newgardenand Simon Pagenaud agree the 2020 season will be interesting as teams  look to figure out setups with  the aeroscreen. Newgarden said that it seems to affect setups differently at different tracks.  He said the first team that gets a handle on how to work with it best will have an advantage.

“… it’s very different, I would say. It’s reacting differently to different tracks so far. I’ve had a taste of it at Richmond, COTA and Sebring. Those are all pretty different places. So you get these small characteristic differences everywhere. Sebring was quite interesting. It was very fun I think for all three of us yesterday to sample that and see what it was all about. But the moral of the story is I think there will be definite differences with the car. It’s going to want certain things from a setup standpoint, certain things from a driving standpoint. We’re not the same as 2019. I think it always brings an opportunity for us to try to figure that out quicker than the rest of the pack. We’re working pretty hard as a team right now to make sure we come out of the gates the best with the new opportunity and try to get on top of it the quickest. It’s always fun to have that. As a driver you like change, the opportunity to try and shine at something new. Yeah, we just need to make sure we’re on top of it when we get to St. Pete next week.”

Simon Pagenaud, commenting on Scott McLaughlin, who may drive in as many as eight races for Team Penske this season:

“Scott got the first taste of it in 2020. I must say he did a really good job. He’s obviously a great champion. You don’t win the V8 Supercars champion twice without being an incredible driver. It’s expected for him to jump into anything and be fast and end up understanding the series. I’m as excited as you are. First of all, having champions come from other series for INDYCAR is really good. It just shows the interest. It just shows that the series is on the upward trend. I’m excited to see him come in, do a few races this year. I think he’s going to bring fresh for us blood, a new perspective. That could be very interesting for our development, as well. I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great guy, so far it’s been a great relationship starting. We’ll see how he goes. I hope he does well. I think it’s going to be awesome for us to gather more fans.”

Jimmie Johnson to Test for Arrow McLaren SP

Seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson had a sat fitting at the Arrow McLaren SP shop in Indianapolis today. He will test in the team’s Indycar next month at Barber Motorsports Park. There has been talk that Johnson would like to run some Indycar road and street course races in 2021 following his retirement from NASCAR after this season. He currently has made no commitments to running a race next year.

Johnson’s Tweet:

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I think it would be amazing if Johnson and Fernando Alonso drove in the same race next season.

On the Way!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway began mailing tickets for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 today. Receiving the blue envelope is one of the most exciting days of the year.

 

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.