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Throwback cars giving 100th Indianapolis 500 retro look

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis 500 fans might feel like they’re traveling through a time warp this month.

Scott Dixon’s traditional red-and-white Target Chip Ganassi car has brought back the yellow lightning bolt. At Team Penske, Helio Castroneves is driving the “yellow submarine” while teammate Simon Pagenaud climbs into the trademark neon yellow car former team owner John Menard used in the 1990s. And the paint scheme on the No. 35 of A.J. Foyt Enterprises rekindles memories of the cars he drove late in his storied career.

They’re winning every popularity contest in Gasoline Alley.

“The yellow submarine has always been a sharp looking car,” said Robert Arnold, a 58-year-old fan from Indianapolis. “But the Menard’s day-glow paint schemes, I enjoy those very much. That really brings me back to the ’90s. I just really like all of the throwback paint schemes. I think they should bring these back, no matter the occasion.”

Throwback days have become popular events in much of the sports world.

Teams in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball all have donned uniforms from previous years. Last year, when NASCAR put Darlington back on its traditional September date, Sprint Cup teams celebrated by turning back the clock with old color schemes on the cars.

But the sudden penchant for going retro at Indianapolis Motor Speedway seems much more fitting given the circumstances – the May 29 race will be the 100th running of the 500.

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

“I think this year there was more of an emphasis on the throwback,” said Dixon, the 2008 race winner. “The only question I had about the lightning bolt was why it took so long to get it back on the car because I think it looks fantastic.”

The lightning bolt first appeared on the team’s cars in 1995 and the decal remained there through 2001, a span in which Ganassi’s drivers combined to win four series titles and Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

Penske’s team drew raves when it initially brought back the canary yellow car in 2014 with the same colors Rick Mears popularized by driving to 500 wins in 1982 and 1984. Now Castroneves is hoping his seventh attempt to join Mears, Foyt and Al Unser Sr. as the only members of the four-time 500 winners club will come with just as much luck as Mears had in the ’80s.

“I’m super hungry,” Castroneves said. “I’ve been close, I’ve been fast, I’ve been competitive, but – and we don’t want to use that word but – we haven’t won it yet.”

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud’s uniquely bright car is still adding chapters to Menard’s storied reputation.

From 1995-2000, Menard’s team won three poles. Pagenaud did it again last weekend by taking the No. 1 qualifying spot for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and then did something Menard’s teams never could by winning at Indy. With back-to-back pole wins and three straight race wins, Pagenaud heads into this weekend’s qualifying as one of the pole favorites in a car people still embrace.

“The only way the Menard’s car would be better is if Tony Stewart was behind the wheel,” said 27-year-old Justin Whitaker, who lives in Indy. “And being the 100th running, I’m glad to see Penske pay homage to their storied past.”

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

But the history of Foyt’s car is not just imbedded in paint.

Canadian Alex Tagliani, the pole winner in 2011, will drive the Alfe Heat Treating car with a number that signifies two parts of Foyt’s incredible legacy: He was born in 1935 and he started a record 35 consecutive races at Indy.

For Alfe, this is the third straight year it’s sponsored a retro-look car and fans are hoping it won’t be the last.

“This will be my 20th (500), so I like seeing those throwbacks because I remember seeing them (as a kid),” said Evan Rauch, a 27-year-old fan from Indy. “It’s great for the sport, but it especially adds even more to this historic race.”

Here are the starting times for 2020 NTT IndyCar Series action on NBC and NBCSN

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Another important tidbit for NTT IndyCar Series fans is out as INDYCAR and NBC announced starting times for the 2020 season. The full television schedule is also included.

There are different starting times at four races in 2020 from 2019. Those include the March 15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of the Americas on April 26, a later starting time for the Saturday night race at Iowa Speedway on July 18 on NBCSN

INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The August 16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be moved to an earlier starting time and will be broadcast on NBC. Previously, the race was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., but has been changed to a 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time green flag.

INDYCAR’s return to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, June 27 will begin at 8:15 p.m. ET. That is the only new event on the schedule.

Detailed broadcast information for the entire season will be announced at a later date.

Here are the notable changes to the starting times on the schedule:

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. ET this past season, will now have a 3:30 p.m. green flag. The race on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. ET green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. local) in 2020. The permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be better accommodated for an evening race under the lights with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

“The return of a night race for INDYCAR at Iowa Speedway is exciting news for our race fans, sponsors, and the entire region,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “The cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions. Our track provides some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, which will be good for attendance. This will be a can’t-miss weekend for all race fans.”

The return to a true night race at Iowa was the result of fans requesting it. The race will begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. And for fans and drivers, it is nostalgic, hearkening back to the first race many of them experienced … a night race on a short track.

The series hasn’t held a race that began after dusk at Iowa Speedway since 2015, and drivers and fans are welcoming it. Not only does it look more vibrant — and create sparks as cars bottom out — it also makes for better racing. Tires grip better when the track is cooler. Fans also avoid sweltering conditions during summer afternoons.

The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. ET start this past season, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Richmond Raceway – the only new addition on the 2020 schedule – for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 ET for the start of the first Indy car race at the .75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.