Kimball with the "Robowranglers" in Texas (LAT photo)

Robotics rivalry on tap between Kimball, Newgarden

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Ahead of the first of two races in the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), two of IndyCar’s young American stars will be engaging in a rivalry of a different kind: with robots.

Mid-Ohio race winner Charlie Kimball and Baltimore runner-up Josef Newgarden are competing for separate robotics teams based in Texas as part of IndyCar’s new STEM Initiative, which was announced earlier this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kimball, of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, will be partnering with FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) Team “Robowranglers,” from Greenville, TX. Meanwhile Newgarden, of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will join the League City, TX-based FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) Team “Robonauts.” The robots, Viper and Apex, have been built by these award-winning individual high school teams and will have a showdown as the driver-controlled robots try to score as many flying discs into team goals as they can. The higher the goal in which the disc is scored, the more points received.

More important than who wins is who loses – we wonder what kind of punishment should be doled out to whichever Honda driver comes in second. It needs to be at least close to the level of crazy that Alex Tagliani hit at the Indiana State Fair, when he lost a wager with Scott Dixon and wore a beaver suit.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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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.