Spotlight on Allmendinger, Power at Barber

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Two of Team Penske’s three drivers will have the spotlight well and truly on them this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park (Sunday, 3 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network).

AJ Allmendinger makes his much publicized return to IZOD IndyCar Series competition – his first race under IndyCar sanction and first open-wheel race since the Australian Champ Car race in 2006.

Meanwhile Will Power seeks to break a nearly year-long winless drought with what would be his third straight win at the Birmingham, Ala. facility. Helio Castroneves, the third Penske driver, won the inaugural Barber race in 2010.

Though expectations are high for Allmendinger’s return, simply coming to grips with the car, the track and the incredibly deep field he’ll be racing against, the Los Gatos, Calif. native is keeping his targets in check.

“I guess NASCAR fans don’t know a lot of the names in the field, but that’s because of marketing. Trust me, there are no scrubs in this series, these guys are so quick,” Allmendinger said. “So now I’m here trying to manage expectations. But right now, I would love just to get through the first round of qualifying.”

Power, meanwhile, seems to have a cartoon anvil chasing him around the IndyCar circuit. Things as bizarre as getting taken out under a yellow flag seem to happen only to him. But the Australian’s dry wit has been able to carry him through the longest winless stretch of his Team Penske career.

“I don’t even get angry anymore. It happened and I’m just like, ‘Surprise, surprise, I just got run over, let’s go check the damage,’” Power told the AP’s Jenna Fryer. “Maybe I should start qualifying 16th and going a lap down? Then maybe nobody would think I have the worst luck ever.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.