Dixon: Seven is Better than Six

Photo: Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Scott Dixon is just a couple of small steps from the rarefied air of Indycar all time greatness. In 2020 he became the third driver in history to win 50 races. Three more wins will put Dixon in second place all time, passing Mario Andretti. Repeating as series champion will tie him with A. J. Foyt at seven titles. Dixon has two goals for 2021- to repeat as series champion, which he has never done despite his six Astor Cups, and to improve the team’s qualifying efforts from last season.

On repeating and winning a seventh championship, Dixon said,

“Seven sounds a lot better than six, so why not? I’ve never been able to repeat, so that’s goal number one, is to go back-to-back.It’s always tough. I think even to win the last two out ofthree has been pretty exceptional for our team, and it’s been fantastic for PNC and welcoming them to the sport and on board the 9.

To me it would mean everything to me to be able to do that. I think even to get the sixth was — in the current landscape is extremely tough and very difficult to do. Very proud of that. The obvious goal is to add to that. That will be what we’re trying to do.”

From the weekend: O’Ward Ready to Fight for the Championship

https://wordpress.com/post/thepitwindow.blog/15202

Road course qualifying was a challenge for the Chip Ganassi racing team in 2020. Despite Dixon’s consistent finishes and four victories, he was starting mid pack. Dixon thinks they have found a solution.

“Yeah, I think we’ve found some better understanding of maybe the process of — it was kind of weird, I think ’19 we maybe had the best average of the field for qualifying position, and then ’20 was a pretty rough year, especially for road course I think for our team as a whole. Street course was okay, ovals were pretty good,with the exception I think of Iowa where we had a problem.We have some ideas. I think the problem that we’ve faced I think in recent years is when you do this testing,especially in winter months, the tracks are very cold and the conditions are extremely different to what you get to.”

Dixon also acknowledged that he has some some things to work on as a driver as well.

“You think you have a process, but we probably won’t understand it until we get into a few races and see if we can rectify it. Personally I think there’s definitely somethings I needed to change and apply differently, which I’m pretty cognizant of that and have tried to apply that I think to some of our testing thus far, even though we’ve only had two or three days.It’ll be a season-long process, I think, trying to get to that point and knowing if we can fix it.”

Dixon usually hits his stride just after the Indianapolis 500, which may explain his hot start to last season, which began in June.Indycar has not seen a back to back title winner since Dario Franchitti, who the championship in three consecutive years, 2009-2011. Dixon hopes to join his former teammate. Even if he fails to repeat, he is certain to finish in the top five.

O’Ward Ready to Fight for the Championship

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Pato O’Ward left no doubt about his plans for the 2021 Indycar season.

“We want to win races. We want to be consistently fighting for podiums, and we want to be there. We want to be contenders every single race weekend.I think in doing so, that’ll put us in a position at the end of the year to fight for the championship. That is the goal. I want to get to Long Beach having a possibility to win the championship,” The Arrow McLaren SP second year driver said on Indycar Content Day yesterday.

O’Ward finished fourth in the season standings in 2020, winning his first career pole at road America. While he has yet to win a race, that will happen this coming season. I have a feeling he will stand on the top step of the podium more than once this year.

O’Ward spent time in the off-season watching his races from 2020, focusing on the races he felt he should have won. His goal this year is to qualify better and to minimize pit errors, which hurt him in a couple of races last season. O’Ward told the media,

“Man, I rewatched every race where we were in contention, both Iowa races, both Gateway races,Road America. Just from things that I learned last year,you qualify up front, you make your life so much easier.Another thing is that pit stops are huge in INDYCAR racing. I lost a lot of my race wins because we didn’t execute in the pits, and that’s huge. I feel like our pace was very, very strong. I think we were very strong in many places that we went to all year.But where we need to push this year, and we may need to make sure if we have a mistake it has to be minimized, is in the pits, and me as a driver just do my job.”

Motivation has never been an issue for O’Ward, but he seems even more determined to succeed this upcoming season.He feels that he and his team are ready to mix it up with the big three of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti. He does acknowledge it’s a tall order.

“I feel like last year we left a lot of unfinished business. We were close to winning four races, and we didn’t get it done. We didn’t get it done. There were tough pills to swallow,and I felt like that left everyone in the team so hungry. I can see it from the off-season, just how much work has been put into the development of trying to make the cars go faster at the speedway and road courses.Me as a driver, I truly don’t think I’ve ever been fitter, more ready to try and win the thing. I have lots of faith in the team. I have lots of faith in what we can accomplish as a group. It’s going to be ridiculously hard, but it is possible.”

The addition of Juan Pablo Montoya for the Indianapolis 500 should help him as a driver and the team overall, O’Ward believes. He also thinks having gone through a complete Indycar season as ateam and knowing what to expect, will improve their chances of success.

“I think having a year under our belts and the engineers knowing what I like and how I go about things, I think that just helps everyone work better and more efficient. I have lots of faith that all those small guys behind the computer doing all the analysis and the developments of either it can be a road course, street course, superspeedway for drag,aero, whatever it may be, I feel like in this off-season they had a direction and they had more of a clear picture of where they had to work, to work at or see where there was massive improvements to be made.”

The Indianapolis 500 is where O’Ward really wants to improve. Last year the superspeedways were “like driving into a black hole,” he said. He believes the team, with Monotya’s help, will be stronger at the brickyard in 2021.

I am putting O’Ward on my list of title contenders. This is the first of a series on each of the drivers I think has a shot at the Astor Cup in 2021.

Barber Puts Tickets on Sale- Limited Capacity, Paddock Closed

Previous ticket holders for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama received an email this morning offering tickets for sale to the April 16-18 Indycar season opener. The sale ends March9 at 6 pm Eastern time. Remaining tickets go on sale after that. The email said capacity is limited, bu gave no specific number.

The email also indicated that the paddock would not be open to fans. Prices are about what I remember, $100 for the three days.

The promoters are emphasizing Jimmie Johnson’s participating in the race.

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.

Pietro Fittipaldi Will Run Ovals for Coyne/RWR

Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar

Pietro Fittipaldi announced this morning that he will drive the number 51 car for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR for the oval portion of the NTT Indycar series schedule. The car’s main driver, Romain Grosjean, will drive the road and street course events. Fittipaldi had a brief stint with Coyne in 2018, but didn’t complete the season after suffering injuries in a crash at Spa practicing for an endurance race.

He will also serve as a reserve drive for the Haas Formula 1 team, and will attend most of the F1 races.

“I love INDYCAR. I love oval racing as well. My first championship that I won was a late model championship at Hickory in a short track oval. That was in North Carolina. To be racing on ovals in INDYCAR, yeah, I’m very pleased with it. I’m happy,” Fittipaldi told the media during Indycar content day today.

He has goals of driving full time in either indycar or Formula 1, though it sounds as if would pregfer Indycfar.

“I have two ultimate goals in my mind. One is getting a full-time ride in INDYCAR. That’s one of my ultimate goals. Obviously one day winning races or winning the championship. The other one could be Formula 1, as well. One doesn’t hinder the other. The program that I had torace on the ovals with Dale, there’s no real conflicts. I’ll be going to the Formula 1 races, then flying back with enoughtime to do the oval races.But for me, either it’s Formula 1 or INDYCAR. If I can get a full-time ride in INDYCAR, for example, I would beextremely happy. It’s very difficult nowadays. The opportunities are very limited. So to get something like afull-time ride in INDYCAR, that’s a big goal for me. But the Formula 1 dream and stuff is still there as well. I have both of them. I’m lucky to be able to work with both series.”

Fittipaldi understands the importance of bringing the Fittipaldi name back to the series and to the Indianapolis 500.

“I have a whole family that understands a lot about racing, has a lot of history in racing, my grandfather, my cousin, my mom’s cousin, Christian, Max Papis as well was an uncle of mine. To have the name Fittipaldi represented on track, it’s a big privilege, a big honor. I’m going to be there representing the family. Who knows, maybe win an Indy 500. That’s the goal. That’s the dream.”

It will be nice to have another driver from a legendary racing family in the series, even though only for a few races.

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.

9 Indycar Races on NBC

NBC Sports today made their Indycar broadcast schedule ,official. A record nine races will be on NBC, including six of the first eight races. The NBC portion begins at the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park and continues the following weekend. The season finale at Long Beach is slated for NBCSN.

My NBC coverage for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 am Eastern. I assume the race will begin at 12:30 or a little bit later.

Eight broadcasts begin at noon Eastern.

I would prefer the double header at Detroit be moved to NBCSN and Road America and Long Beach replace those two races on NBC. Once again, Roger didn’t return my call.

I’m sure the network is as proud as a Peacock about this schedule.

Here is the schedule with broadcast times:

DateRace/TrackNetworkTime (ET)
Sun., April 18Barber Motorsports ParkNBC3 p.m.
Sun., April 25Streets of St. PetersburgNBC12 p.m.
Sat., May 1Texas Motor Speedway – Race 1NBCSN7 p.m.
Sun., May 2Texas Motor Speedway – Race 2NBCSN5 p.m.
Sat., May 15Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course)NBC2:30 p.m.
Sun., May 30The 105th Indianapolis 500NBC11 a.m.
Sat., June 12Raceway at Belle Isle Park/Detroit – Race 1NBC2 p.m.
Sun., June 13Raceway at Belle Isle Park/Detroit – Race 2NBC12 p.m.
Sun., June 20Road AmericaNBCSN12 p.m.
Sun., July 4Mid-Ohio Sports Car CourseNBC12 p.m.
Sun., July 11Streets of TorontoNBCSN12 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 8Streets of NashvilleNBCSN5:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 14Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course)NBCSN12:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 21World Wide Technology RacewayNBCSN8 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 12Portland International RacewayNBC3 p.m.
Sun, Sept. 19WeatherTech Raceway Laguna SecaNBC3 p.m.
Sun, Sept. 26Streets of Long BeachNBCSN3 p.m.

Note: dates and networks are subject to change

O’Ward Leads Laguna Seca Test; Grosjean 3rd Fastest

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Pato O’Ward had the quickest time in Monday’s test at Weather Tech Raceway Monday. The private test The private test session included seven drivers from four teams. It was the first test day in an Indycar for Juan Pablo Montoya, who will drive for Arrow McLaren SP in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya will be in car number 86 at Indianapolis. The number is a tribute to Peter Revson’s 1971 500 pole winning McLaren.

Romain Grosjean, who recently signed with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR, was third fastest on the day. Grosjean said in an earlier interview that this track was the one he was most looking forward to driving. he had Laguna Seca on a video game when he was younger.

Helio Castroneves also partticipated in the test for Meyer Shank Racing. Castroneves will drive in six races, including the 500, for Meyer Shank Racing.

Indycar’s next official test will at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 8-9 for all entries in the Indianapolis 500. There is no word yet if this test will be open for public viewing.

Results:

RANKCAR NO.DRIVERTEAMENGINEFAST LAPDIFF.TOTAL LAPS
15Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.293 83
218Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing With Vasser-SullivanHonda71.529-0.236104
351Romain GrosjeanDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda71.571-0.278109
67Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.600-0.30792
560Jack HarveyMeyer-Shank RacingHonda71.688-0.39581
421Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet71.797-0.504104
886Juan MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevrolet72.219-0.92675
706Helio CastronevesMeyer-Shank RacingHonda72.812-1.51991

Arrow McLaren SP Sports a Different Look for 2021

All photos from Arrow McLaren SP

Arrow McLaren SP revealed their liveris for the number 5 car of Pato O’Ward and the number 7 car of Felix Rosenqvist today. The cars have a bit of a different look and are not similar as they were last year. In 2020 Oliver Askew’s number 7 had blue end plates and the cars were at times difficult to distinguish.

The team presented the cars in a You Tube video this morning on their social media channels.

Rosenqvist (L) and O’Ward (R) comparison. Slide the arrow for a full view of each car.



The numbers on the roll hoop appear a bit sharper on the 2021 car. Last year the numbers were a hard to see at times. I’m glad they kept the abstract look of the digits.

Juan Pablo Montoya will join the team for 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. His car number, sponsor, and livery will be announced closer to May.