Road America rocks for Rolex, ALMS, but two big hurdles remain for ’14

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Here’s a few thoughts I gleaned from my weekend trip up to America’s “National Park of Speed,” Elkhart Lake’s Road America for the joint weekend of the American Le Mans Series/GRAND-AM Rolex Series.  It’s the only time the two series will race at the same track before coming together as United SportsCar Racing in 2014.

  • It’s officially family now. There was no “separation of Church and State” when it came to the ALMS and GRAND-AM paddocks. They were fully integrated. Drivers and crews worked in both events. Rolex teams were interspersed with ALMS teams and no one got the short shrift. This was nice to see.
  • Like any family, it’s going to have a crazy character or occasional dysfunction. The radical DeltaWing fits the “crazy character” description and had its best weekend of the season by far. More on them to come in a separate post. The “occasional dysfunction” comes from varying agendas and political playing depending on the team, class or series you’re currently in. That’s expected to happen as the United SportsCar Racing merger process continues.
  • Great crowds. All-star reporter Dave Kallmann has more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but guesstimated a four-day weekend crowd “north of 125,000.”   As he and I have been at both this and the NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend there in June, I will agree that the sports car weekend easily beat the NASCAR numbers and you got more on-track action this time around. He got the hunch as well, that Road America will be a part of the combined 2014 schedule.
  • The food was fantastic as usual. With the mix of Road America’s iconic track food (double brats!) and stops to the new Carolina’s catering service that helps out some ALMS teams, it was three days of great eating at the track. That almost never happens.
  • A pseudo-IndyCar presence. Seeing Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Katherine Legge and Lucas Luhr all racing, and Dario Franchitti and other IndyCar folk around the paddock was rather bittersweet. It was great seeing them all there on an Indy off weekend but I’ll be the 725th person to say, “Can we please have IndyCar back at the track in 2014?” The answer, of course, rests on dates and sanctioning fees. That’ll actually be a perfect transition to…
  • The bloody, bloody 2014 USCR schedule. A disclaimer first: I don’t envy IMSA COO Scot Elkins and the rest of the IMSA officials working to make this thing happen. I know these guys are working their tails off every single day, and I respect the hell out of them throughout this process. But it’s almost been a year since the merger announcement, and the fact there isn’t a schedule yet – whether public or more importantly to the teams and manufacturers from a budget and marketing standpoint – is very tough to swallow. Series announcements, such as the introduction of PC and GTC for 2010, have been made at Road America before. Time is clearly of the essence, and a schedule needs to be out by Labor Day weekend at Baltimore at the latest, in this writer’s opinion. I’m not confident that will happen, and I had enough on-the-ground discussions with teams and drivers where the angst was palpable. Having a TV announcement helps, but now it’s about pumping out what markets will USCR be serving in 2014.
  • And lastly, B.o.P. No combined sessions of ALMS and GRAND-AM were held this weekend, but enough data came out from the combined times (nice work by a fan who created the combined qualifying times in a Google Doc) to describe the Herculean task Elkins and the rest of the crew have trying to balance the classes for next year (B.o.P is Balance of Performance). The P2/DP gap was about 5 seconds at the 4.048-mile circuit. Those two types of cars, and the DeltaWing, are eligible for the combined P class in 2014 and achieve their lap times in drastically different ways. Rolex GT and GX and ALMS GTC are roughly on par (within 1-2 seconds) and the ALMS’ PC class will need to be made slower than the top class, but still faster than the ALMS GT, which carries over into 2014 as GTLM. In order of importance, right now a schedule is more urgent than the B.o.P. adjustments, but still needs to be finalized shortly thereafter. 

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.