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.
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.
Look for Part 2 tomorrow. Weather permitting I will be at IMS Thursday for the test. The weather forecast looks dicey for running.