NOLA kicks off crazy stretch of 10 weeks in a row for IndyCar

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ long offseason stretched seven months in-between races at Auto Club Speedway August 30, 2014 and the season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg March 29.

But starting this weekend, the series will be on-track every weekend between now and June 15, with plenty of more weekday track time in-between.

This 10-week consecutive stretch is going to test the mettle of drivers, crews, and staff alike. Here’s the rundown of days of on-track activity between this week’s inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana and the Honda Indy Toronto in June:

  • April 10-12, NOLA Motorsports Park, Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana
  • April 17-19, Streets of Long Beach, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
  • April 25-26 (no Friday practice), Barber Motorsports Park, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
  • May 3, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, oval aero kit testing
  • May 7-9, IMS road course, Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis
  • May 11-15, IMS oval, Indianapolis 500 practice
  • May 16-17, IMS oval, Indianapolis 500 qualifying/pole qualifying
  • May 18, IMS oval, Indianapolis 500 practice
  • May 22, IMS oval, Indianapolis 500 Carb Day practice
  • May 24, IMS oval, 99th Indianapolis 500
  • May 29-31, Belle Isle Park, Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans
  • June 5-6, Texas Motor Speedway, Firestone 600
  • June 12-14, Exhibition Place, Honda Indy Toronto

From tomorrow, April 10, through June 14, IndyCar has official on-track sessions in 30 of the next 66 days.

Figure the leftover 36 requires transport, car changeover and other logistical elements, and it’s going to be 66 days of madness between now and the series’ lone trip to Canada for all involved with the championship.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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