2020 Schedule – Some Thoughts

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The NTT Indycar Series presented its 2020 schedule Sunday afternoon during the Grand Prix of Portland pre- race show. The response from many fans ranged from tepid to angry.  Much of the anger was directed at the subtraction of Pocono from the schedule. The Tricky Triangle’s replacement, Richmond, is a 3/4 mile oval. Outside of IMS, Texas is now the longest oval on the circuit next year at 1.5 miles. I’m not happy that there will be fewer miles of competition in 2020.

I have heard from several of my friends that the schedule will not allow them to attend as many races next year as they have the past few seasons. The main reason is turn around time. There are three sets of back to back weekends, in which he first race in each set is a Sunday afternoon race and the second race is the following Saturday night. There is one set each in June, July, and August.  Fans may be okay with one six day turnaround, but three? Some the fans I have had discussions with  went to both races in some of the newly formed  pairs this year, but can’t do both since they are back to back. Attendance series wide may be affected. I sensed some frustration among those I’ve had contact with.

Another issue I have with the schedule is it looks like an accordion. It stretches out, then it squeezes tight. The season begins with the traditional St. Pete opener. It’s three weeks until the next race at Barber. Barber, which is too early in the year, is followed by a two week gap to Long Beach, COTA comes the week afterwards. Two weeks later the five week grind beginning with the Grand Prix of Indy commences.

I understand the gap between Iowa on July 18 and Mid Ohio August 16 is driven by the Olympics, NBC’s biggest sports property. Since most of the events will be shown on a delay, surely NBC could have squeezed in one Indycar race somewhere in that time frame. This might have been a good opportunity to attempt a mid week race. I’m not anti-Olympics, though they have added some questionable events. I just think there would be time to get one race in.

I’m sad to see Pocono leave the schedule. It’s a classic track and another high speed oval. The series should have at least two of those on the schedule. I’m wondering how ABC Supply’s pull back from racing had to do with dropping the track.

One fourth of the schedule will be finished before May and one half will be done by May 31. That leaves just  nine races from June through September 20. This schedule shows why the season needs 20 races and should end around October 10.

My criticism of which television channels the races are on still stands. I was hoping for some changes and a couple of different races on NBC. To summarize, one of the first two races should be on NBC to let viewers know that they can watch Indycar on NBC. It would also be a stronger promo for the Indianapolis 500 than the blurbs during the NHL playoffs. I have no problem with them, but a race would make a stronger statement.

There are some positives in this schedule however. Richmond returns to the schedule after a ten year break. There is just a two week, instead of a three week gap between Portland and the finale at Weather Tech Raceway. I will still

attend as many races as I can

Grand Prix of Portland- Quick Thoughts

Will Power has returned. After finally winning a race this year at Pocono, he has now won two out of the last three races. Two wins and htree poles is still a somewhat substandard year for Power, but he has come alive in the last part of the season. One of the things that didn’t feel right about this season was Power not being a threat to win every week.

A great run for Spencer Pigot in sixth. Pigot is another driver who has begun to show better the last third of the year.

Matheus Leist earned A. J. Foyt Racing another top ten. This is the team’s fourth top ten since Iowa.

While Alexander Rossi gained on  Josef Newgarden, Newgarden still increased his lead. Rossi is back in second place, 41 points behind. Simon Pagenaud is just one point behind Rossi.

Scott Dixon is likely done as far as the championship is concerned. Has to be a frustrating day for him.

The first lap yellow seemed to take a long time to clean up. It looked like the wreckers had  hard time hooking the cars up to the trucks.

I’m not sure what Ryan Hunter-Reay was thinking on the restart.

I feel awful for Conor Daly not getting a chance to show what he could do for Arrow Schmidt Peterson. This is the second race in which both ASPM cars were taken out on the first lap.

Felix Rosenqvist has two second place finishes in the last five races. Here is another driver finally emerging late in the year.

Here are two photos I took of the start and the chaos that followed. if you look from Veach and behind him, you can see how it developed.

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Zach Veach (blue and gold car on the left) and behind him is where the first lap accident began

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Look for a full race report tomorrow on Wildfire Sports. I’ll be back next week with comments on the 2020 schedule and the changes at A. J. Foyt Racing. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

 

 

Race Day at Portland

Good morning from the Great Northwest as the NTT Indycar Series is about six hours away from the start of Round 16. It has been a tough week in the motorsports community. It always helps to get back to racing.  Today will also be a busy news day.

The 2020 NTT Indycar Series schedule will be announced during the pre race show which begins at 3:00 pm Eastern on NBC. The green flag will fly at 3:40 Eastern time.  I don’t expect more than one change to next year’s races. I will have my thoughts on the schedule in a couple of days.

Today is about the Grand Prix of Portland. Yesterday’s scrambled qualifying should make for an interesting race. The outcome, and a possible effect on the championship, could be determined by who and who doesn’t get through the  first set of turns. After that, pit strategy and yellow flags will play a big part in the final result.

After Practice 3 yesterday the drivers lined up for a moment of silence for F2 driver Antoine Hubert, who died in an accident at Spa yesterday. It was a touching moment and a reminder of how the racing community is not just each separate series in isolation. Photo from Indycar

 

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Quick Thoughts- Grand Prix of Portland Qualifying

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Was that qualifying or boxing match? What a tremendous battle between Colton Herta and Will Power. They traded the lead back and forth for three rounds before Herta emerged on the pole. Power’s miscue in turn one on his next to last lap may have cost him the pole. Herta was quick all weekend, though, and the result isn’t a surprise.

This session was the best road/street course qualifying of the year. There was drama throughout.

Scott Dixon is the only one of the top four in points to get in the Fast Six. Leader Josef Newgarden starts 13th, a dangerous place to be going into turn 1 at the start here. Simon Pagenaud starts 18 and Alexander Rossi 7th. Watching the championship contenders’ progress in the race will be an interesting task tomorrow.

Jack Harvey has done a great job all year. In eight races to date, he has  finished in the top ten in four of them.  Today is the fifth time Harvey has advanced to at least the second round of qualifying. Today is his second Fast Six. I can’t wait to see what he does as a full time driver next year.

Conor Daly did it again. He jumps into a car for a different team and puts it into Round 2. Daly will start 9th, his best starting spot of the season. This is his second time in Round 2. He also has two top ten finishes. Daly deserves a full time ride in 2020. I don’t know what else he can do to prove himself.

Great job the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team to get both cars into Round 2.

Five teams in the Fast Six always makes the final round fun.

Felix Rosenqvist missed turn1 in two consecutive rounds but still made the Fast Six.

Power said after qualifying that there is not as much difference between the red and black tires this year as there was last year at Portland. He still thinks cars will be able to pass during the race.

Herta gambled by waiting to run one final lap on reds. He was nearly as fast on blacks.

Chalk up another one for the 2019 rookies. The scoreboard- 3 poles, 1 win.

Back tomorrow morning with a race preview. It looks like we will have a fun race tomorrow.

Herta Fastest in Practice 3; Qualifying Groups Set

Photo: Kyle McInnes

First, news I hate reporting about. Sad news from Spa. F2 driver Antoine Hubert suffered fatal injuries in a horrific crash at the start of the race this morning.

Colton Herta led his second session of the weekend in final practice this morning for the Grand Prix of Portland.  Herta was the only drive to turn a lap in less than 57 seconds and turned the weekend’s fastest lap yesterday morning. His time of 57.9939 seconds beat the second quickest time of series points leader Josef Newgarden by 0.1083 seconds. Will Power was third, followed by Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.

Red flags flew twice. Matheus Leist spun in turn 2 and stalled as he attempted to restart the car. Late in the session Santino Ferrucci’s car stopped just after exiting the pits. Practice resumed after the car was towed back to his pit. It was an adventurous session for Ferrucci. Rossi was coming out of the pits as Ferrucci entered turn 1. The cars nearly touched and Ferrucci needed to go through the chicane.  He was not happy with Rossi.

Hondas again dominated practice. The Team Penske cars of Newgarden and Power were the only Chevys in the top ten.

Qualifying Groups

Group 1`                                                                        Group 2

Newgarden                                                                     Herta

Dixon                                                                                Power

Hunter-Reay                                                                   Rossi

Rahal                                                                                Harvey

Bourdais                                                                         Rosenqvist

Sato                                                                                  Chilton

Hinchcliffe                                                                     Ferrucci

Veach                                                                              Andretti

Daly                                                                                 Pagenaud

Leist                                                                                 Pigot

Kanaan                                                                            Kimball

Jones

 

Notes

Katherine Legge will drive the 2 seater at the start of tomorrow’s race. She says she is working on a ride for next year’s Indianapolis 500.

The 2020 schedule will be released near the beginning of the pre-race show on NBC tomorrow.

Another nice crowd on hand at Portland International Raceway today.

From earlier today:

https://thepitwindow.blog/2019/08/31/qualifying-day-at-portland/

 

 

 

 

Portland Preview- Can Newgarden Clinch?

And then there were two. It’s hard to believe Sunday will be the next to last race of the NTT Indycar Series. Portland International Raceway hosts the race for the second consecutive year after a successful return in 2018.  CART race on the island track from 1984 until 2003. Champ Car then sanctioned the event for four more years. Indycar returned last year ending an eleven year absence.

There have been some close finishes at Portland. Mark Blundell beat Gil De Ferran by 0.027 seconds in 1997. Mario Andretti beat son Michael to the line when the younger Andretti ran out of fuel in the last corner. Most of the time, however, the victories have been decisive. Al Unser, Jr. beat Geoff Brabham by 39.61 seconds in 1984.

Takuma Sato, winner of last week’s thriller at World Wide Technology Raceway, won last year’s Grand Prix of Portland by taking advantage of a caution period to move into the lead. His 20th starting position was the farthest back a driver has won from at this track.

While one eye will be on the race itself, the other one will be looking at the championship. Josef Newgarden leads Simon Pagenaud by 38 points and Alexander Rossi by 46. I think it will take two very bad races by Newgarden for him to lose the title. Portland is Rossi’s last chance to go into the finale at Laguna Seca with any hope of capturing the title. Pagenaud has been lurking all year and took over second place last weekend. I wouldn’t count him out. Both Pagenaud and Rossi need help from Newgarden, however, and I don’t see Josef cooperating.

Portland’s festival curves have been the sight of many first lap incidents. Lastyear a five car pileup nearly cost Scott Dixon the title. He somehow got the car refired and after some repairs in the pits, he wen. t on to a fifth place finish. The flat course has some other areas to be wary of. Turn 11 can be tricky.

In 24 Indycar races at Portland, only four drivers have won the race from the pole. In 2018, Will Power won the pole, but a gearbox issue put him seven laps down and he fished 21st. Power is not having the best of seasons this year. Although he has a win and three poles, which would be a great season for many drivers, this year’s results are far below his typical season.

Rossi needs to win this race and i think he will.  Newgarden and Pagenaud could be having their own battle.  They are too good to ruin each other’s races. One of the issues I have with the double points in the finale is that it can widen the gap between contenders more than it can bring them closer. The points difference between points is wider, giving the points leader an advantage. As close as the points chase usually is going into the finale, double points in my opinion have never been a necessary thing to make a closer title fight.

Portland Spotter’s Guide

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I will be on site in Portland with updates after each session and will also keep you posted on the Road to Indy championships.

Notes

Per Adam Stern, the 202 schedule could be released at the end of the week.  It appears Pocono will not return.  My thoughts on that when the announcement is official.

Who would have thought that there would be a season where Sato would have more wins than Will Power has?

Indycar now has two last laps to incorporate into next year’s commercials- the final lap at Mid Ohio and last Saturday night’s run off turn 4 to the checkered flag. I’m hoping for another promo worthy finish on Sunday.

Charlie Kimball has added Portland to his original five race schedule. He was originally sitting out this week and just running the finale in three weeks.

Reminder: The race is on NBC. The big network. You might need to make sure your DVR is set to record the correct channel.

Richmond Returns

As reported yesterday, Adam stern tweeted that Richmond Raceway will be on the 2020 NTT Indycar Series schedule. The 3/4 mile D shaped oval will be the shortest oval on the schedule. Iowa is 7/8 of a mile. I’m not sure how I feel about two short tracks of nearly identical length. It takes away some of the series’ diversity.

Late Breaking News

There are reports that Marcus Ericsson will be in Spa with Alfa Romeo this weekend instead of racing for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Conor Daly will drive the 7 car at Portland.

There seem to be conflicting reports about whether Ericsson is driving or there in his reserve role. In any case this is a huge opportunity for Daly. ASPM will be the third team Daly will have driven for this season.

The statement from ASPM: