Indycar Officially Announces Richmond, Toronto Cancellations; Revised Schedule

From Indycar as I reported this morning:

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule

INDYCAR announces updated 2020 series schedule

INDIANAPOLIS (May 21, 2020) – An updated 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule was released today, displaying calendar adjustments implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway remains the season opener with a night race on the 1.5-mile oval Saturday, June 6. The next race on the INDYCAR calendar will be the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Saturday, July 4.

“Our teams and athletes are ready to get back on track and will deliver world-class action at Texas Motor Speedway and the Racing Capital of the World,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said. “We appreciate the opportunity to begin our season during these unprecedented times, and I’m confident we’ll put on a great show.”

The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America has been rescheduled from June 21 to July 11-12, becoming a double-header with championship points races Saturday and Sunday on the iconic, 4-mile road course.

Two events have been canceled for 2020 due to local restrictions surrounding the pandemic: the Indy Richmond 300 on Saturday, June 27 at Richmond Raceway and the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday, July 12 on the streets of Toronto.

The season finale will be the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, Oct. 25, a new date recently announced after the originally scheduled season opener March 15 in St. Pete was postponed due to the global health crisis.

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule

July Road America Double Header ?

The ever changing NTT Indycar Series calendar may be about to take another twist. there is heavy speculation that the REV Group Grand prix, originally scheduled for the weekend of June 20-22, will now take place July 10-12, the original date of the now postponed Toronto event.

The switch will mean two consecutive double headers, one on a road course and one on an oval. Iowa is the week following the new Road America date.

If Richmond takes place as scheduled, Indycar will run six races on four successive weekends. After a two week break, the series has four straight weekenddates in August.

I have a feeling this will not be the last schedule change.  I will have more, including the revised schedule, when the new Road America date is confirmed.

Road America: No Fans in May; Hopes to Admit Fans in June

In a press release from Road America this afternoon, the track announced its May event will proceed without fans. The facility plans to run its June events, including the Indycar REVGroup Grand Prix and is hopeful of allowing fans then. My interpretation of the statement is that they may limit the number of fans in attendance. Here is the complete statement:

ROAD AMERICA TO RUN MOTOAMERICA
SUPERBIKE WEEKEND WITHOUT FANS
Safer-At-Home Order in Wisconsin Means No Fans for May Event and Extra Weekend in June
ELKHART LAKE, Wis., May 12, 2020 – Road America announced today that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor of Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order being set to expire May 26 – that the racing portion of the May 29-31 weekend will continue, but without fans.
Although Road America and MotoAmerica worked diligently to find an alternative, the task proved impossible due to unknown restrictions on public outdoor events. MotoAmerica, however, is still planning to return June 26-28, along with all previously scheduled public outdoor activities, including Vintage MotoFest. The June 26-28 event will also feature the MotoAmerica Heritage Cup and the opening round of the Mini Cup by Motul.
“This event attracts competitors and fans, not only from the U.S. but around the world,” said Road America President and General Manager, Mike Kertscher. “As of today, we cannot predict when we will be at a point that our outdoor events meet the proper criteria for mass public outdoor gatherings in the state of Wisconsin. Make no mistake, we intend to come back stronger and ready to continue with our existing June events – including the WeatherTech Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints, June 12-14, and the IndyCar REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR, June 18-21. We also anticipate by mid-June, there will be further transparency for hosting outdoor events, and we will be well within the final phase of allowing mass public gatherings to take place, which is a primary factor for why we added a weekend in June.”
Customers who have already purchased tickets, camping or other items, for the May 29-31 MotoAmerica Superbike Series weekend, are encouraged to hold onto those items for the June 26-28 MotoAmerica Superbike Series event weekend. 
Anyone who chooses to transfer their purchase to another event, may do so at this link: www.roadamerica.com/ticket-exchange
“We worked hard with Road America to try to make the original date work with fans, but after Governor Evers’ extended the safer-at-home order to May 26, we couldn’t make it work due to the unknown restrictions on public outdoor gatherings. But we still intend to run the event May 29-31, without fans and air it on Fox Sports and MotoAmerica Live+,” said MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey. “This is not something we ever imagined, but then again we never thought we’d be faced with something like COVID-19. We will continue to work towards making the event special for everyone tuning into the broadcast and will keep everyone posted moving forward for the next event in June. In the meantime, we urge our fans, teams, and riders to continue to do the right things to keep them safe and healthy.”
###
About Road America: Established in 1955, Road America is conveniently located between Milwaukee and Green Bay in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The world’s best racers have competed at this legendary four-mile, 14-turn road circuit for over 60 years. Along with over 500 events held seasonally at the 640-acre facility, several major weekends are open to the public, which include the IndyCar Series, the MotoAmerica Series, three vintage racing events, numerous Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and NASCAR. Road America’s park-like grounds offer amazing viewing opportunities, numerous camping options, fantastic concessions, and high-speed excitement to hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. Fans can also stay and play in cabins located conveniently on the grounds and find all sorts of souvenirs, collectibles, and apparel at the 7,500 sq. ft Paddock Shop. Affectionately known by many as America’s National Park of Speed, Road America can accommodate groups of all sizes including weddings and corporate events in the Tufte Conference Center. In addition to public race weekends, Road America offers a variety of group event programs including geocaching, disc golf, and off-road adventure tours, karting and the Road America Motorcycle and Driving Schools. For more information, visit www.roadamerica.com Follow Road America on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube or call 800-365-7223
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View our videos on YouTube
Chevrolet – The Official Vehicle of Road America

The New World of Sport

Be prepared for a brave new world, race fans. Racing is set to resume, albeit under very different circumstances. NASCAR and Indycar will begin the season with no fans in the stands and strict procedures for teams during the events. This may be how we see racing for awhile. Every track presents a different set of circumstances, so the Texas model won’t work everywhere. It seems to be a good way to run oval races.

While I am as anxious as anyone to get to a race track, I want to be able to attend knowing my health is assured. The teams and drivers are assuming risk by participating in theses early races. Might it be better to wait until the country as a whole has a better handle on the situation? What happens when someone involved in one of the early races tests positive for COVID-19?

Indycar has the luxury to see how things go in the May NASCAR races. Future decisions might be based on what happens this month. The NTT Indycar series indicated yesterday that they are committed to completing the last schedule published April 6.

Track Updates

The governor of Oregon has announced that no fans will be at sports events in the state through September. That means no fans at the scheduled Grand Prix of Portland September 13.

The two Indycar races I see as least likely to happen are Toronto and Richmond. Canada has stricter lockdown procedures than the United States. The end date would not allow enough time for the track build. Richmond’s stay at home order expires June 10, two weeks before the race. It is a Porpermanent oval. In talking to people who live in the area, it doesn’t sound as if fans are going to be allowed at that race, if it goes on.

I also spoke with someone last night about Road America. It appears they are planning to have fans at the Indycar race. Whether that number will be limited has not been determined. The first part of the Indycar schedule could be a race with no fans, a race with fans, and another race with no fans.

Mark Miles said on Trackside Tuesday night that the Indianapolis 500 could be run as late as October if necessary. I would be fine with that, especially if it allows all fans wishing to attend to do so.

In these strange times, don’t expect a race to actually occur until you turn on your television and see it. We can ride this through. Stay safe and wash your hands.

The Greatest 33 Non-Winners: Final Grid- A Reader Request Post

Editor’s Note: This is the first reader request; originally published May 9, 2017

What a fun project this turned out to be! It was fascinating seeing how much those who submitted grids both agreed and disagreed. Some drivers got just one mention, while others appeared on every ballot.  There was near unanimous placement for some drivers, and some drivers were near the front on some grids and near the back on others. The driver nearly everyone agreed should be on the pole is Michael Andretti (pictured above, from 1992).

I  noticed the rankings were along age lines. Older fans close to my age seemed to have near identical grids,  and younger fans as a group submitted similar lineups.  Many drivers from long ago in general fared better on the lists from the older group. I was surprised how well the current drivers stacked up against the racers of the past. Another interesting detail is that all 50 driver finalists had at least one mention. I didn’t expect that.

To rank the drivers, I assigned points to the drivers corresponding to their spot on each person’s grid. A driver on pole got 1 point, the last driver got 33. If a driver was listed on pole on five grids, his total was 5. The lowest total won the pole. If a driver did not appear on someone’s grid, he/she was given 34 points. To my shock, there were only two ties. I resolved placement by averaged each driver’s highest and lowest rank of all the grades, with the lowest average getting the higher spot. One of the ties was for 32nd and 33rd. It was just like qualifying for the 1963 500.

The front row- Michael Andretti, Rex Mays, and Ted Horn, is strong. These drivers were in the top 10 on everyone’s grid. Andretti led 431 laps, the most by any non-winning driver. he started on the front row three times and had 5 top 5 finishes.  Rex Mays, in the middle of the front row is the only other driver to lead more than 200 laps and not win. Mays was on the pole four times. Ted Horn, on the outside of the front row, finished in the top five 9 times in 10 starts.

So here they are, the Greatest 33 Non-Winners of the Indianapolis 500:

Row 1

Michael Andretti

Rex Mays

Ted Horn

Row 2

Harry Hartz

Marco Andretti

Lloyd Ruby

Row 3

Gary Bettenhausen

Ralph Hepburn

Roberto Guerrero

Row 4

Scott Goodyear

Carlos Munoz

Robby Gordon

Row 5

Eddie Sachs

Tony Stewart

Jack McGrath

Row 6

Wally Dallenbach

Tomas Sheckter

Will Power

Row 7

Danica Patrick

Tony Bettenhausen

Joe Leonard

Row 8

Jimmy Snyder

Ed Carpenter

Danny Ongais

Row 9

Pancho Carter

Mel Kenyon

Kevin Cogan

Row 10

Vitor Meira

Russ Snowberger

Paul Russo

Row 11

Tom Alley

Johnny Thomson

George Snider

it’s kind of fitting that Snider is last on the grid. his trademark was jumping into a car on Bump Day and getting into the field starting near the back. Thanks to everyone who submitted a grid. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and reasoning as to how yo put your grids together.

I will be back tomorrow with some 500 news and a report on my visit to the A. J. Foyt exhibit at the Speedway Museum. The cars were great to see, but the memorabilia was even more amazing to me. Thursday I will have my Indianapolis Grand Prix preview with my normally inaccurate winner’s prediction.

 

 

 

 

 

Indycar Drivers’ European Vacations

Above: Pato O’Ward at Road America last week.

Indycar began a three week summer break after Road America last weekend. The Series returns to action in Toronto July 14.  What do drivers do in their weeks off?  They go to Europe. One may not return. It’s complicated, and we’ll discuss that last.

The week before the REV Group Grand Prix Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais went to Le Mans to participate in the 24 hour race for Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT teams. It was the last Le Mans for this car. Ford is shutting the GT program down. My hope is that they return in another class, preferably the prototypes.

This coming week (July already? Really/) Marcus Ericsson will participate in a Pirelli tire test in Austria on Tuesday.  Ericsson is still a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo. When the Indycar season ends he will spend more time at the remaining F1 races.

RA19 062
Ericsson heading to Turn 14 at Road America

O’Ward Fills in for Banned Driver; Japan Next?

Pato O’Ward’s weird itinerant season continues. This weekend he is driving for MP Motorsport in Formula 2 in Austria. O’Ward replaces Mahaveer Raganathan, who accumulated enough penalty points to earn a one race suspension. Jordan King is O’Ward’s teammate this weekend. O’Ward qualified 17th Friday, one second off the pole speed and just 0.25 seconds slower than the more experienced King. It was O’Ward’s first time in this type of car, first time at this track, and of course first time on this particular tire.  Overall, he did a great job.

F2 runs two races this weekend, a race on Saturday which includes a pit stop, and a sprint race on Sunday.i am anxious to see how Pato does in the two events.

News from japan’s Super Formula that Dan Ticktum is losing his Red Bull backed ride has led to speculation that O’Ward will finish the season there. Nothing is confirmed. Ticktum has scored just 1 point this season. His teammmate has out performed him significantly.

Since O’Ward is under contract to Red Bull, he may complete his season there. That would be a big loss to Indycar, which thought they had a rising star. Considering Ticktum’s struggles, this may be a difficult situation for O’Ward. doesn’t work out, will there still be room for him back in Indycar? Let’s hope so.

I’ll be back next week with a look at another past Indianapolis 500 program.

 

Road America Postscript- Farewell to Speedville

The post Road America hangover is becoming as bad for me as the post 500 hangover. This is definitely my second favorite track after IMS.  I decided this in 2016 after about the first five minutes I was there. This year was the best year for me of the four Indycar events as experience goes for many reasons.

First, my friends Leigh and Bob were there for the first time.  They found some places I had never seen in turns 7 and 10. It was nice to see the track through fresh sets of eyes. We also had a great time visiting establishments in Elkhart Lake. I’m sure they will be back.

I also spent some time in the kink and I was impressed by the speed the cars carry before braking for Canada Corner.

The race behind Alexander Rossi was great. Third through sixth were contested all day. Dixon’s charge from the rear after the turn 5 incident was exciting to watch. His teammate Felix Rosenqvist had an excellent drive moving from 18th to 6th. Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe had steady drives and fought hard all day.

Colton Herta had an eventful day. After losing the lead to rossi in turn 3 of theopening lap, he had contact with both Power and Pagenaud in separate incidents and seemed to spend a lot of time off track in turn 5. Herta’s eighth place finish was his second best result of the season.

Rossi was probably not given any consideration for the drive of the day, but he should have been in the conversation. Winning margins like this don’t happen often in today’s NTT Indycar Series. His drive was a thing of beauty.

The crowd looked to me to be the biggest since 2016.  I thought the bowl at the bottom of turn 5 was fuller than it had been the last two years.

I’m about halfway through the NBC broadcast and i am very impressed. The cameras were on the Herta-Pagenaud skirmish all the way, including the point when Dixon blew past both of them. Great work.

So I will say good bye to Road America until next year and leave you with some photos.

RA19 161
Rossi leads lap 1
RA19 167
Marcus Ericsson finds his way back on track.
RA19 160
Some of the big crowd in turn 5
RA19 175
Power (l) tries to get around Herta, who did not give up spots asily.
RA19 181
Rossi’s wondering, ” Where is everybody?”
RA19 176
Pagenaud unsuccessfully tries to get by Herta. Seconds later Dixon blasts by both of them.