NBC/Indycar Package-A Peek into the Future

The future is upon us. In the extension of the current broadcast package with NBC Indycar has kept the traditional television component and is dipping its toes into the future. I am ecstatic about the 13 races on NBC. It will save a lot of time and angst every race week. I can pretty much know where to find the race.

The two races on USA, one of which I assume will be the Texas night race, should be easy to remember, as should the two races on Peacock. Which races will be on USA and Peacock? Besides the Texas night race, I’m guessing another nioght oval joins the schedule. As for the other two, I have no idea right now.

Streaming two races is quite a gamble for both the series and the network. Mark Miles said yesterday showing races exclusively on Peacock is an attempt to draw in younger fans, who are more likely to watch on their phones. I applaud the strategy. I have no desire to watch a live race on my phone, but if others do, great. Regardless of the broadcast channel, give me a television set.

I do see streaming as the wave of the future. Broadcasting and viewing is changing rapidly. The races on peacock are just the beginning. Eventually, our viewing habits will change. As long as I can watch on a large screen, I don’t care how the race is delivered.

Miles also said something about being able to follow the race on your phone while you are at the track. If I am at the track, I’m not going to be looking at my phone. I might take a look during a caution to get some details of what caused the yellow, but otherwise, I will just watch the live action and the video boards.

Next year will be interesting as afr the race broadcasts go. I hope NBC keeps improving the race graphics. I really like the pit stop clock and the tire choice images they have begun showing. I like all the information given in Formula 1 races and I would love it if Indycar races got to that point.

Notes

Josef Newgarden led testing at laguna Seca yesterday. The test included Team pernske, Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Each of the remaining six races should have at least 25 cars on the grid. Helio Castroneves will participate in every race except Gateway. Romain Grosjean is expected to race at gateway, but i’m not sure if he will be in the 51 or a third car.

Miles hinted that some of Indiainpolis 500 qualifying will be on NBC as it was last year. All qualifying qwill be on Peacock in 2022.

GMR Grand Prix Schedule and Networks

All Times Eastern

Friday

7:30am 6:00pm- Gates Open

8:00am 8:20am- Indy Pro 2000 Quals

8:35am 9:05am INDY LIGHTS Q1

9:30am 10:15am INDYCAR Series Practice 1 Peacock

10:40am 11:20am USF2000 Race 1

11:45am 12:35pm Indy Pro 2000 Race 1

1:00pm 1:45pm NTT INDYCAR Series Practice 2 Peacock

2:10pm 3:10pm INDY LIGHTS Race 1 Peacock

3:25pm 4:05pm USF2000 Race 2

4:30pm 5:45pm NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qual. / Firestone Fast 6 Peacock (live)

NBCSN– 6 pm ET (Delayed)

Saturday

7:30am 5:00pm Gates Open

7:50am 8:40am Indy Pro 2000 Race 2

8:55am 9:25am Indy Lights Qualifying 2

9:40am 10:20am USF2000 Race 3

10:45am 11:15am NTT INDYCAR SERIES Warm-Up Peacock

11:40am 12:30pm Indy Pro 2000 Race 3

12:45pm 1:45pmINDY LIGHTS Race 2 Peacock

2:39pm ‘Drivers Start Your Engines’ NBC

2:45pm GMR Grand Prix – Green Flag NBC

Let the Season Begin-A Welcome Return to Barber

Photo: Takuma Sato heads to Barber as defending pole and race winner. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

It is Race Week at Last. The NTT Indycar Series is set to begin the 2021 season Sunday at barber motorsports Park near Birmingham. 24 cars will take the green flag at 3:42 pm EDT. The race is on NBC.

The track has set a limit of 20,000 spectators a day. In addition to each fan having a ticket, each vehicle must have a parking pass. As will be the norm at nearly all events this year, fans will not have paddock or pit access. The trams will still be running, but with a smaller capacity.

I am excited to get back to Barber. This year’s race is later in April than the 2018 and 2019 events, which means the extensive plant life will be blooming.

In 2020 this race fell victim to the pandemic. It was scheduled to be the second race of the year. For the first time in its history, Barber opens the season. Several teams have tested here this winter. It will be the first race at this track for last year’s rookies Rinus Veekay and Alex Palou.

I don’t expect the year’s hiatus to affect team performances much. Indycar has raced at barber since 20210, and the teams have extensive information about setups for this track. What will we see this weekend?

Josef Newgarden testing at Barber. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Is This Still Newgarden’s Track?

Josef Newgarden is the only three time winner at barber, his last win coming in 2018. Team pensk has won six times, winning three races in a row on two different occasions. A seventh win is not out of the question. Will Power has won the pole four times here, adding to Team penske’s mastery of the track. However, in 2019 Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing dominated with a front row sweep in qualifying and a convincing victory by pole winner Takuma Sato. early mechanical trouble by Graham Rahal prevented what might have been 1-2 sweep.

Scott Dixon has never won at Barber. he has been on the podium eight times, six of those as runner-up. Could this be his breakthrough year and his 51st career win?

Andretti Autosport has won twice with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has a consistent record of top 10 finishes.

Arrow McLaren SP and Pato O’Ward are looking to contend for the championship in 2021 and want to make a strong opening statement. I think O’Ward will be a factor this weekend. Somewhat overlooked in all the buzz about O’Ward has been his teammate Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist edged O’Ward in a stirring duel for the win at road america Race 2 last season.

Rookies

Eyes will be on how the veteran “rookies” do. Television eyes might focus on just one, but keep an eye on Scott McLaughlin. The Australian Supercars champion is going to surprise some folks with how ell he does.

How will Romain Grosjean’s Formula 1 experience translate to Indycar? Barber should be one of his better tracks this season. If he can get through the flying start, I think he will have a good race.

Jimmie Johnson will get the bulk of the attention. The seven time NASCAR champion says he plans to take things slowly, but we will see. Johnson has worked jard to prepare for his Indycar debut. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in his results this weekend, but we’ll see how he’s doing after Road America, which will be his sixth race.

Notes

Mark Miles talked yesterday about the situation in Toronto. Canada is still having a difficult time with COVID-19. He is waiting as long as he can to make a decision. Miles thoughts about moving or replacing the race::

“If not, I don’t think there will be much opportunity to move it. The rest of the schedule is pretty full and there’s so much going on in Toronto, and that street race requires a lot of planning.

If we needed to, I think the most likely step would be a double-header on a weekend we’re already scheduled. I won’t speculate at this point as to which one it would be, but I don’t think — we wouldn’t be looking at putting a different race in that date. We’d be looking at adding one on a weekend we’re already scheduled and planning to execute.”

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete Will Allow 20,000 Fans

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg announced today that 20,000 fans will be allowed to attend the race scheduled fo0r the weekend of April 23-25. The race was originally set for this coming weekend as the NTT Indycar Series season opener, but was moved to the second race of the year after the race at Barber motorsports Park April 18.

Renewals begin today uband last through 5 pm Eastern March 15. general sales begin March 18 at 2 pm Eastern.

The official release:

Officials from the City of St. Petersburg and Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC (GSSP) announced today that members of City Council have unanimously approved for spectator attendance at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg set for April 23-25, 2021.
At today’s City of St. Petersburg Council Meeting, an event plan was presented by GSSP officials and Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration, and City Council approved the resolution by a count of eight votes to zero for 20,000 spectators to attend per day. As was implemented at the October 2020 race weekend, GSSP will operate the event under specific health and safety protocols for COVID-19. Fans should visit gpstpete.com/covid19 for more information on these essential event protocols. 
“This is an important event for our local economy and will again serve to showcase and elevate the Sunshine City on the world stage,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I am confident that the protocols in place will allow for a safe, fun race weekend in St. Pete.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg traditionally kicks off the INDYCAR season. This year it will be the second race on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule since the postponement from the first weekend of March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to a later April weekend provides the opportunity for more fans to attend.
Coinciding with this announcement, the exclusive renewal period begins today (March 4) for race fans who attended last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and purchased 3-Day tickets. These customers will have until Monday, March 15th at 5 p.m. ET to renew their 3-Day Reserved Grandstand seats or General Admission tickets. Grandstand seating will be limited capacity again to allow for social distancing between groups. Public ticket sales will open on Thursday, March 18th at 2 p.m. ET.
“This is another great day for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, our race fans and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The City of St. Petersburg is always one of the crown jewel stops each season for the entire INDYCAR community,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We are thankful for the support of Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Council, the City’s entire event team and Pinellas County for putting their faith in us again to operate this event and assisting us with our plan to host it ‘The St. Pete Way’ with the proper precautions in place.”
“On behalf of the entire Green Savoree Racing Promotions team, thank you to the staff at Penske Entertainment and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and of course, Mayor Kriseman and his great team at the City, and St. Pete City Council for all their hard work in making this rescheduled date happen,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of GSSP. “We’re looking forward to the last weekend in April for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. And, especially we greatly appreciate the patience of our fans as we work through all the planning. Let’s go!”
Competitors, spectators and all associated with the event will be subject to a health screening and temperature check before entry is permitted. All attendees will be required to wear masks or facial coverings at all times unless when eating or drinking with the “No Mask, No Entry” plan. Those who don’t have one will be issued a mask at the entry gates. The CDC’s recommended guideline of at least six feet of social distancing should be maintained while on site. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be prevalent across the venue.
Additional event information and customer FAQs will be posted at gpstpete.com shortly. Ticket purchasers on file and also those customers who deferred tickets from the 2020 event will also receive a direct communication on the renewal and ticketing process. 
The 100-lap NTT INDYCAR SERIES race will be broadcast live nationally on NBC with coverage beginning at 12 noon ET. Live streaming of all INDYCAR practice and qualifying sessions will be available on Peacock Premium throughout the weekend.

N B C-ya?

The news was not totally unexpected, but hearing that NBCSN would shut down at the end of this year still was a shock. The network, part of NBC, has been the home for many NTT Indycar Series races over the last few years, becoming more prominent since NBC obtained exclusive rights to Indycar in 2018. There will also be a change to NBC Gold in 2021. This season will not be affected.

Per Mark Miles: “NBC Sports has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift. Our 2021 broadcast schedule is not impacted by this decision. We plan to discuss our future broadcast arrangements in the late spring.”

NBC Gold, for about $45 a season, provided access to all practices and qualifications. That access may move to NBC’s new Peacock streaming service. I’m hearing $4.99 a month. I’m not sure if you have to pay for a 12 month period or just go month to month.

Indycar’s deal with NBC expires at the end of the 2021 season. When the dthree year deal was announced, Miles said it was a short deal so that Indycar could explore new broadcast developments.

What are the options? Some are good, some not so good.

Stay with NBC and show part of the schedule on USA network. The first Harvest Grand Prix was on USA in October. USA is in about six million more households than NBCSN. There are advantages to a network with more potential viewers. I actually had to find which channel number USA is on my provider to record the race. Normally, I never watch it. How long will it take viewers to find it? For 2021, a record nine races will be on NBC and eight are on NBCSN. Will NBC keep nine races on its flagship channel going forward?

Streaming options- Peacock, You Tube, and other streaming services have been mentioned. How will this affect the older die hard fans who may not be as tech savvy as the younger, more casual fans? I still don’t understand how streaming works and how you get it on a television set.

A different network? I would really prefer not to return to ABC. Their race broadcasts were not very good, they treated Indycar as an afterthought, and I found myself muting the television and listening to the radio broadcast most of the time.

Could CBS have an interest? I remember watching a few races on CBS in the 70s. I know things have changed drastically since then. I recall being singularly unimpressed with camera angles and the booth not keeping track of the race.

Whoever Indycar choses or their broadcast partner or partners, I would like to see the same announcing team for all races to provoide continuity. I hope the series can keep Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Rick DeBruhl, Katie Kiel, and bring back Jon Beekhuis.

Once again, Indycar fans have to go through some uncertainty regarding where to atch the races on television. I have faith in Roger penske and the Indycar team that they will fuind the best option possible. I am also aware that not everyone will be happy with the final decision.

Some Words of Thanks

In as difficult a year as 2020 has been, I have a deeper appreciation of the things for which I am thankful. The pandemic changed our lives in many ways, yet we somehow figured out ways to cope. The following is a list of things for which I am thankful- not all related to racing.

First I thank everyone who has read this humble blog this year. Readership has already smashed last year’s 12 month total by nearly 50%. I appreciate each of you who has found something worthwhile here as I complete my fourth full year. Hard to believe The Pit Window will turn five in May.

Thank you to the Creative Writing Class at the Life Enrichment Center in Tampa, Florida. Without them , this blog does not exist. You all are my inspiration. I am grateful every day that I discovered this class.

Now on to the racing thank yous:

First to Roger Penske and mark Miles for somehow crafting a credible season from the myriad restrictions all the municipalities and government agency restrictions put in place this year. As always, I am so thankful that he bought the series at the end of 2019. I can’t imagine anyone else who could have weathered this season this well.

Thank you to the promoters who worked with Indycar to create a reasonable amount of races for the season.

Thanks to Jay Frye and Indycar for their tireless efforts to advance safety and to try to improve the racing.

Much thanks goes to the AMR Safety Team. Without them the races could not go on.

Thanks to NBC for working Indycar’s rescheduled races into their schedules and expanding next year’s lineup on NBC.

Thanks to Doug Boles for getting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through what had to be a frustrating and challenging time.

Thank you to those few in the Indycar media who were able to cover races in person. I know circumstances were challenging, but the coverage was seamless. I hope I can rejoin you in 2021.

Thank you to all my racing friends. Knowing yoi and spending time with you at the track is time I truly treasure. I hope at some point in 2021 we can all meet at one track again.

Finally, I am thankful that my household is well, and that my closest friends who contracted COVID have recovered.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe and well.

Season Review: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Photo: Joe Skibinski, Indycar

It feels good to say that it’s time to review the 2020 Indycar season. It’s great that there was a season. All was in doubt for Roger Penske’s first year as owner of the NTT Indycar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the opening race at St. Pete was cancelled in March. After six schedule revisions, renegotiated deals, and guidance from state and local health officials, the season took place. Three race had no fans in attendance, and the other races had a limited number of fans allowed. Fans owe a huge amount of thanks to Penske, Indycar, and IMS for getting a credible schedule together for this year. Also a thank you to NBC Sports for working out broadcast windows for all the races

It was not too bad a season. There could have been more passing on the ovals, but the racing on the road and street courses was really good. Here are the things that stood out to me in 2020. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about individual teams and drivers.

Dixon, Power Move Closer to Career Leaders

Scott Dixon won his 50th career race at World Wide technology Raceway in August. He began the season winning the first three races. After a driver has won three in a season, the odds of winning a fourth go down dramatically. I expected we would have to wait until 2021 to see Dixon win number 50. He accomplished the feat the week after the Indianapolis 500, where he was the favorite and finished second. The nice thing is he won his 50th with fans present. Dixon is just two wins behind Mario Andretti in total victories. He should at least tie Andretti next season.

Will Power last year thought that reaching Andretti’s mark of 67 poles would be a difficult task. Power didn’t think it possible to win more than three poles a year with the competition as close as it is. He took five poles this season to end up within five of the career record. I can’t see A.J. Foyt’s mark of 67 wins ever being topped, but I can see Power going past Andretti for career poles.

Indycar’s Youth Movement Shows Talent

Drivers with less than two years of experience coming into the season had some brilliant moments. Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay each won a pole, Felix Rosenqvist and Colton Herta each won a race , and six podiums shared by eight of the youngest drivers in the series means Indycar has some talent waiting to get their due. This season belonged mainly to the veterans, but this talented group will be near the front consistently soon.

Dixon vs. Newgarden

Is this the new Foyt vs. Andretti rivalry? Six time champion Dixon and two time champion Newgarden have split the last four titles. It’s nice that they have alternated years. Until Dixon chooses to retire, this will be the matchup to watch. Most people, including me, thought the rivalry of the future would be Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. Rossi may enter the picture again, but he will need to come back strong next season if he wants to join this battle.

Aeroscreen Proves Its Need

A frightening crash in race 1 at Iowa proved that Indycar made the right call going with the aeroscreen instead of a halo. As the field was set to go green. Colton Herta’s car hit the car in front of him and became airborne. He landed nearly on top of Rinus VeeKay. The nose of Herta’s car hit the op of th aeroscreen. The screen also prevented a piece of debris from entering the cockpit of Marcus Ericsson’s car.

While the aeroscreen is not aesthetically pleasing, it is a great advance in safety. I think it will have a better appearance on the new chassis in 2023, wher it will be built into the design.

Best Races

Strictly my opinion, but the best races of the year were The Harvest Grand Prix Race 1, Iowa race 1, both races at Road America, and The finale Sunday at St. Pete.

The Indianapolis 500 was better than I expected, but it was not as good as it has been the last few years. Not having fans in attendance detracted from the event.

. The weather forecast looks dicey for running.

6 Thousand Fan Limit for Mid Ohio

A news release from Mid Ohio a few minutes ago:


After working with the Ohio Governor’s office and local health officials to confirm a reschedule date, INDYCAR and Green Savoree Racing Promotions have released the details and protocols for limited spectator attendance at The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course set for this weekend, September 11-13.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today that a variance to the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order has been granted for a total up to 6,000 spectators to attend. Currently purchased event tickets and Mid-Ohio Season Race Passes will be valid for entry. A very limited number of tickets remain for sale at midohio.com on a first come, first serve basis. No tickets will be available for purchase at the gate during the race weekend.
“We greatly appreciate Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership and support in granting the variance to the sports order to allow a limited number of spectators to attend The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this weekend,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions. “Our team would also like to thank Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Interim Health Director Lance Himes and Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg for their guidance and time to review our plans.” 
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be a doubleheader weekend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with 75-lap races on both Saturday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 13, on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio. NBC Sports coverage of the doubleheader weekend will begin Saturday with Race 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continue with Sunday’s Race 2 coverage on NBC at 1:00 p.m. ET. Practice and qualifying sessions will be available for live streaming on NBC Sports Gold. 
“We’re looking forward to an exciting NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Green Savoree has been an outstanding partner throughout this process, working diligently with the Ohio Governor’s office to ensure the right protocols and procedures are in place to host a limited number of spectators,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO, Penske Entertainment Corp. “Our doubleheader will provide an action-packed and thrilling experience for fans on site and viewers tuning in via NBCSN on Saturday and NBC on Sunday.”
In accordance with Ohio’s statewide mask mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is required to wear facial coverings while indoors or outdoors on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course property. All spectators will enter the facility through Gate 1. They will also be subject to a temperature check and health screening upon entry. The CDC’s recommended guideline of at least six feet of social distancing must be maintained while on property.
Limited tickets are available online only on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets will not be available for purchase at the gate.
“It’s exciting to open our gates to fans again this weekend. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is one of Ohio’s premier annual events,” said Craig Rust, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. “For those who attend, we ask for everyone’s cooperation and adherence to all the COVID-19 protocols which will be in place to make this a great weekend for us all.”
Fans should visit midohio.com/covid19 for more information on the essential health and safety protocols and social distancing procedures. Additional answers to common questions can be found at midohio.com/covid19faq as well as information for those who had purchased grandstand seats, paddock and pit passes since these areas will be closed during The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.