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Felipe Nasr explores U.S. options in visit to IndyCar at Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Ex-Sauber Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr is making the rounds at this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, as the 25-year-old Brazilian sorts out his next career move.

Nasr and Sauber parted ways late into last year’s offseason, and it’s left him looking for alternative options – one of which could be the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.

His Brazilian countryman, Helio Castroneves, has invited him to check out the scenery this weekend ahead of a potential arrival in 2018. Castroneves himself faces an uncertain future in IndyCar as he may not continue with Team Penske into 2018, and with the Team Penske and Acura Motorsports DPi program set to come online next season.

But beyond Castroneves, Nasr has also caught up with a few team members from Carlin, a team he drove for in Europe in the past.

“It was Helio that invited me! But I know the people from Carlin for many years though. Drive for British F3 and GP2 as well. So we have a good relationship and it’s good to see them doing well in Indy Lights,” Nasr told NBC Sports.

“This is my first weekend here. It’s good to have a look around. It’s a series that always caught my attention. I wanted to stay closely by. Helio will show me around. It’s interesting.”

Nasr identified IndyCar as one of a number of potential series options for next season.

“The thing is, everything was really late last year. The deal with Sauber wasn’t going to continue. That was December time,” Nasr explained.

“It was late to get in any other series. I’ve still driven other cars, other series this year. So I definitely will be racing next year, but not sure where yet. So why not have a look here? There might be something in the near future to do.

“I would say when I look at series out there, in IMSA, IndyCar, Formula E, the WEC, there’s all these series with great visibility and levels of competition.”

Although Nasr didn’t call Castroneves his mentor, per se, Castroneves has been an integral part of Nasr’s family life and upbringing.

He’s 42 while Nasr, who turned 25 last month, has only a little bit of U.S. experience – he starred with Michael Shank Racing as a Sunoco Challenge winner en route to third overall in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“Helio probably knows me since I’m young! He did South American F3 with my dad’s team. If not, he’s one of the most experienced guys in the field. It’s nice to be looking around and meet a few people,” he said.

“He was very involved in my dad’s team early on. When he moved to do IndyCar, he’s done some solid years here. He always kept a great relationship with my family. When he invited me to come along, I thought it’d be nice.

“He’s one of the guys I want to be around. Basically he knows how everything works here. It’s kind of different. It’s a very strong field with very strong teams.

“I’m just here as a nice spectator. So Helio will be showing me around, and hopefully I can get a few more details about this series.”

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

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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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.