IndyCar

Danica Patrick: NASCAR cars ‘way easier than an Indy car to drive’

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Following Wednesday’s practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick made her opinion very clear when asked to compare driving a NASCAR stock car vs. an Indy car.

“All the IndyCar fans out there might find this warm and fuzzy, but everyone would always ask me if I had a hard time driving those big old stock cars and if they were really physical, and I’m like (she snickers), ‘No, they are way easier than an Indy car to drive.’”

Patrick also said driving an Indy car is more of a finite exercise, where attention must be paid to everything more closely than in a stock car, all the way down to the safety belts.

“Maybe this isn’t a popular thing to say but you didn’t have to run the belts all that tight in a stock car,” she said. “You didn’t have to worry about your helmet or the padding that much (in NASCAR). It was all just like fine.

“But in an Indy car, it’s all critical.”

I miss that relevancy of being in the game and being someone like before the race, where they’re like, ‘Who do you think is going to win today?’ My name did not pop in NASCAR, you know?

Patrick’s comments echo those of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch following his first practice sessions while preparing for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“With a Cup car, we have to lift – not necessarily get on the brakes, but at least know they’re there – and settle the car down before you turn in,” Busch said. “This, you’re driving down the middle of the straightaway, then you swerve wide to gain that nice arc into the corner – and there’s no deceleration rate.”

It’s clear Patrick still holds a strong affinity to IndyCar racing. It’s where she first made a name for herself. It’s also where she won a race, while her best career finish in a NASCAR Cup race was sixth.

And it will be in an Indy car that Patrick will compete in the last race of any type in her career, the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

“I remember watching the Indy 500 the first year I wasn’t in it and I missed it,” Patrick said. “I miss that relevancy of being in the game and being someone like before the race, where they’re like, ‘Who do you think is going to win today?’ My name did not pop in NASCAR, you know?

“I missed being relevant. So I’m going to try and achieve that here this month. It’s going to be hard because everybody is really good.”

As she prepares for the opening of practice for the 500 on May 15, Patrick isn’t just thinking about winning the race, she’s also soaking in all the atmosphere and legacy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It always feels like home here at Indy,” she said. “The track feels so familiar, everything like from the walk to pit lane. I’m just waiting for the alley cats to show up, basically.”

Check out the following tweet to hear more of what Patrick had to say.

After two days of practice, Patrick is consistently up to 220 mph in laps around the 2.5-mile IMS oval. It doesn’t look like she’s lost much from her previous IndyCar tenure.

When her comments about NASCAR and IndyCar first hit social media, battle lines between fans of each genre of motorsport were quickly drawn.

One tweet in particular, however, helped make more precise what Patrick said, leading the Illinois native to respond in kind by saying simply, “thank you.

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New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500