The season opening race weekend may not be for nearly two more months (March 11-13 in St. Petersburg, Florida), but the Verizon IndyCar Series preseason kicks off Wednesday with the first of several test dates.
Here’s a schedule (dates and participants subject to change):
* Jan. 20 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida: Honda Manufacturer Day — Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz, along with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal.
* Feb. 1 at Sebring: Andretti Autosport will be joined by AJ Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth.
* Feb. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway: Chevrolet Manufacturer Day — drivers slated . Drivers slated to attend include Helio Castroneves, 2015 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, CHF Racing’s Josef Newgarden and KV Racing Technology’s Sebastien Bourdais.
* Feb. 10 at Sonoma Raceway: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball is the only driver slated to test thus far, but it’s likely additional drivers and teams will join him.
* Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix International Raceway: “Test In The West,” a promoter test. Participants have not been announced yet.
* March 1 at Sebring: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s and 2015 IndyLights champ Spencer Pigot.
* March 2 at Sebring: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Rahal and Pigot will be joined by Team Penske’s Castroneves, Montoya and Pagenaud, as well as Newgarden.
* March 15 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama: Team Penske will be represented by Castroneves, Montoya and Pagenaud, while Rahal will represent Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.