Rookies Agree They Have a Lot to Learn

Photo of Romaiin Grosjean by Chris Owens, Indycar

Indycar’s 2021 rookie class is unusual. Three drivers, successful in other major disciplines, older than the typical first year driver, have decided to take the plunge into Indycar. Scott McLaughlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Romain Grosjean spoke to the media yesterday during Indycar’s content day. Unlike past years where some of the rookies have moved up from Indy Lights with some knowledge of the cars and driving style required, the three newcomers come from NASCAR, Australian Supercars, and Formula 1. Two have multiple championships in their previous series.

All three are happy with their progress during pre-season testing, but all admit they have a long way to go to be competitive in the Indycar series.

Scott McLaughlin. Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

McLaughlin summed up the steep learning curve.

, “There’s a lot of things I’ve got to get used to. For instance, even just driving a turbo car. I’ve never really done that before in Australia. For me, I’m learning boost levels, aero maps, trusting aero, aerodynamics through corners and stuff.”

Jimmie Johnson by Chris Owens, Indycar

Johnson talked about driving an Indycar.

“…the intensity of driving that car. It’s a monster. That’s the best way I can put it. There’s so much power,so much downforce, so much grip. It’s wild to drive.”

He also said that gettintg the final 10 to 15 percent woukld the hardest to reach.

“But that last little bit, that’s what the elite guys are so good at and chase their whole career. I don’t know if I’ll get to100 percent with the amount of years that I have to give this a try, but there’s still so many things I haven’t even experienced yet. I’ve never been on a red tire. I’ve just recently had a chance to drive a street circuit tire and understand how much more grip it has versus a traditional road course tire.When you look at the street course tracks, I won’t even be able to drive on one until the practice, the opening practice session that we have prior to qualifying.”

Grosjean noted the different driving style needed for an Indycar compared to a formula 1 machine:

“I think it’s the driving style. It’sfairly different between Formula 1 and INDYCAR. Does itcome from the tires, the car, from the aero, the mechanicalgrip? I don’t really know. I just found that it was different todrive and to go fast.That’s something I really adapted between Barber andLaguna. I think I’m going to the simulator tomorrow beforeflying home. I think we’ve got some good tests that wewant to do with Dale Coyne and Honda, get as muchknowledge as we can before we start the season.”

Grosjean has a good understanding of where he is as far as driving this season. In spite of his 20 year racing career, he said,

“But I need to remind myself I’m a rookie. Even though I got 20 years experience in racing, I’m a rookie. From the rolling start to the refueling to the racetracks, there’s many,many things to learn.We will take step by step. We’ll see how things are going. But the whole team has been great helping me to find my marks. Honda has been really helpful as well in getting me up to speed, telling me all the procedures. The team has been really good.”

In spite of their success, or perhaps because of it, in other series, the 2021 Rookie class has a realistic perspective on what they can achieve this season. I’m impressed that this trio has made the decision to try a new type of racing.

Carvana Unveils Livery for Jimmie Johnson’s Car

Photo from @Carvana

Today is turning out to be a big day for cars numbered 48. Earlier Tony Kanaan announced his full time ride in the Brazilian Stock car series. Now, Kanaan’s other 48, the Chip Ganassi racing Indycar, revealed its new livery for the 2021 season. This is actually the livery for Jimmie Johnson, who will drive the car on the road and street courses.

It’s a nice livery, although it looks like a derivative of AMSP’s cars. In some light the trim looks orange. I think it is really a yellow. It might take a race to get used to the distinction between Johnson. O’Ward, and Rosenqvist. The blue deflector in front of the rear wheel should help fans to distinguish this car from the AMSP cars.

The car debuts at the NTT Indycar Series opener March 18 at Barber Motorsports Park.

American Legion Joins Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip, Ganassi Racing has added the American Legion to the sponsorship group for the 48 car, which will be shared by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan in 2021. American Lagion will be the primary sponsor for the Indianapolis 500 and one other race. The full announcement from the team is below.

Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion Announce Multi-Year NTT INDYCAR SERIES Relationship

Posted: December 01, 2020 Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today a multi-year agreement with the nation’s largest veterans service organization, The American Legion, as a sponsor of the No. 48 Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES represented by a combination of Seven-Time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson (street and road courses) and former Indianapolis 500 Winner and Series Champion Tony Kanaan (ovals).

“We’re excited about this new relationship with The American Legion as it allows us to further the sponsorship program on the No. 48 team with Jimmie and Tony, while also representing a very important relationship with an organization dedicated to supporting veterans,” said Chip Ganassi, team owner of Chip Ganassi Racing. “Jimmie in particular has a long-standing appreciation for the service of veterans, so it was just another reason why partnering with The American Legion on his debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES made sense.”

The American Legion will be featured prominently on Johnson’s No. 48 Honda during every race in the 2021 and 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The organization will also be the primary paint scheme for two races in 2021, including, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Kanaan, winner of the 2013 Indianapolis 500, will be behind the wheel for those races. 

“This is truly a win-win for all involved,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, national commander of The American Legion. “Teaming up with Chip Ganassi Racing allows The American Legion to showcase how it strengthens America every day through its programs, advocacy and support of veterans and their families. We’re looking forward to bringing that message and our mission to race fans across the country.”

The announcement comes on #GivingTuesday, a day of global giving designed to help change communities and the world. As a result, Johnson, who has family members that have served in the military, will be making a $10,000 donation to The American Legion. Johnson hopes his donation will motivate fans and the public to support our veterans by donating $48 to The American Legion. The $48 pays homage to the number 48 car that he and Kanaan will drive. Donors can visit legion.org/48 to make a gift and help celebrate this new relationship and veterans across the country.

“Our family knows firsthand how important it is to recognize our veterans,” said Johnson, who’s grandfathers and brother-in-law served in the military.  “It’s exciting to be partnering with The American Legion to be able to show our appreciation to veterans and to continue to raise public awareness and support for this special organization.  Giving Tuesday is a great day to announce this partnership and a way for fans to show their appreciation for our veterans.” 

Jimmie Johnson to Ganassi Indycar for Road and Street Races

Photo via Jimmie Johnson”s Twitter

Seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson announced a  two year deal today with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive Indycar’s road and street course races. The agreement is dependent on obtaining sponsorship. Johnson may be open to driving in the 2022 Indianapolis 500 as well.

Johnson will be on the same team as five time Indycar champion Scott Dixon, who might be a six time champion by the time the 2021 season begins.  Adding Johnson to CGR brings up several questions.

Will Ganassi field four cars at road/street events? Will Johnson’s road/street car also appear at the ovals with a different driver. giving Ganassi four full time cars?

I always like drivers crossing over from other series, and to see another series champion come over for two thirds of a season is huge. Should Scott McLaughlin enter the series full time for Penske next year, Indycar would have champions from two other major series racing on most weekends.

Johnson may bring a few more fans to the series at first. We will need to wait to see if his joining Indycar will have any long term effect on raising viewership.

August Tickets, Test Drives, ECR’s New Engineer

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has sent out new tickets with modified seat assignments. The ticket for the scheduled August 23 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 is different from the original tickets for May 24. The new ticket has a shot of Simon Pagenaud standing on his car after winning last year’s race.  Sadly, Norman did not make the photo again. I was disappointed he wasn’t on the original release. I hoped a second chance wold allow him the opportunity. The photography is amazing.

Jimmie Johnson Test Drive

After two failed tries, seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson finally got his dream drive in an Indycar yesterday.  Johnson’s first scheduled test at barber was cancelled when Indycar shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. His second scheduled test day didn’t happen because Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days ahead of the test.

Johnson turned about 120 laps in Felix Rosenqvist’s car and impressed five time Indycar champion Scott Dixon and Ganassi team manager Mike Hull. Both felt Johnson could fit right into Indycar and be competitive.

Johnson has said he has no interest in driving in the Indianapolis 500, but he seems to be changing his mind. the aeroscreen might be ther thing that persuades him. I look for Johnson to run more than one road course race in Indycar next year. The 500 may wait until 2022, but we’ll see.

I think it would be an amazing crossover if the master of one racing discipline gave Indycar more than a one-off attempt. We are starting to see more drivers try different disciplines as they did in the 50s and 60s. I would like to see different series coordinate their schedules more to accommodate more crossovers.

Pearn to Engineer Daly’s Car for 500

Cole Pearn will be the engineer on Conor Daly’s number 47 entry in the Indianapolis 500. Pearn had stepped away from racing in 2019 after helping Martin Truex and Furniture Row Racing win the 2017 NASCAR championship. I have heard a lot of praise for his skills.

I don’t know much about him, but he worked with Pete Craik, the engineer for Ed Carpenter’s number 20 car at Furniture Row. Their former relationship should help Daly. I still think this is a huge leap for his first Indycar venture. On the plus side, the Carpenter are usually strong at Indianapolis.

A Dark September

After the double header at World Wide Technology Raceway, Indycar has the entire month of September off. How does the series stay relevant for 32 days between races?

In  my weekly call with Roger (kidding!) I will offer a few suggestions:

  1. Announce the elusive third OEM
  2. Lay out the final configuration for the new 2.4  engine, including whether a hybrid component is included.
  3. Unveil the new chassis.
  4. Present the 2021  Indycar schedule.
  5. Announce the 2021 schedule of events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
  6. Purchase Iowa Speedway.

You’re welcome, Roger and Mark.

 

 

It’s Race Day

Happy Fourth of July.

Good morning on Race Day number 2 for the NTT Indycar Series,  Today’s schedule ( All Times Eastern):

9:00 am-9:30  Warm up   NBC Gold

12:00 noon- GMR Grand Prix   NBC

The Starting Lineup:

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Notes

For all NBC’s hype about the historic weekend doubleheader, I just don’t feel it. The lack of fans takes away from the luster and prestige of the two races.

I wish Jimmie Johnson a speedy recovery from COVID-19. Sooner or later the disease was bound to find its way into a racing paddock. No one knows how many races Johnson will miss. He also won’t get to drive in his scheduled Indycar test for Ganassi next week.

Today’s race theme- Youth vs. Experience.

How far can Simon Pagenaud advance from 20th place? If he gets through turn 1, lap 1, unscathed, look for a top 10 from the defending race winner.

I will be back with a brief summary of the warmup, then a race wrap -up later.

 

 

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.