Will Jamie McMurray be a ‘Dega dark horse once again?

Leave a comment

Perhaps the biggest subplot outside everything that’s happening in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup has been the strength of Chip Ganassi Racing.

In particular, CGR rookie phenom Kyle Larson has been stellar this post-season with finishes of third, second, sixth, second, and sixth in the first five Chase races.

But his veteran counterpart, Jamie McMurray, has been solid as well. The Missouri native opened up the Chase with runs of ninth (Chicagoland) and fourth (New Hampshire).

He then finished 22nd at Dover due to handling woes, but he looked to have a Top-5 run in the bag at Kansas before he suffered a cut tire with less than 10 laps to go that relegated him to 25th. Last week at Charlotte, McMurray avoided such bad luck and posted his best finish of the season in third place.

Now, Big Mac will seek to keep up his momentum this weekend at Talladega, where he won under caution last fall (and in Auburn colors, no less).

To him, the key will be doing all he can to stay up front with the leaders. While he’s fully aware that there’s no bulletproof strategy to surviving 500 miles at Talladega, he says that it’s much harder these days to work through the packs in order to be in position for a late-race charge to the lead.

“I remember years ago riding in the back and saying with 50 laps to go, or whatever number we picked out, we’ll go to the front,” McMurray mused yesterday. “It seemed at the time you could do that, but now you can’t because we get three-wide, and we run three wide for most of the fuel run.

“It will single-file out, or maybe it is a double-wide at some point. [But] most of the run is three-wide, and you make your move like most places on a restart and you hope you can get in the row that is moving to the front, whether that is making it the third row, wherever it is…inside, middle outside. It’s hard to pass after that.

“It is hard to go four-wide. People don’t want to go with you when you get past three.”

Even with that issue, it’s not far-fetched to think of McMurray as a dark horse this weekend.

Save for Dover, he’s been relatively quick this Chase. And as we’ve written before, he has a penchant for stealing wins from those in the running for a championship.

His ‘Dega triumph one year ago marked his third victory in a Chase race. The first such win came at ‘Dega in 2009 for Roush Fenway Racing, and in 2010, he got his second one for CGR at Charlotte.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.