INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
INDYCAR / Chris Jones

View from the pits: IndyCar Classic at COTA

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The NTT IndyCar Series’ debut weekend at Circuit of the Americas culminates today with the 60-lap IndyCar Classic at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com.

After claiming the 56th pole of his career, Will Power has set himself up for a $100,000 bonus if he wins today’s race. But his bid to cash in is just one of numerous storylines that will play out.

Following all of those storylines are IndyCar on NBCSN pit reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee. What’s jumped out to them this weekend? And which drivers should we be watching? Read on…

MARTY SNIDER

“I don’t recall an IndyCar race where tire degradation has been more discussed from the first practice on…and it’s fantastic! If you’ve watched F1 races from COTA in the past, buckle in…this IndyCar race will be so vastly different from what you’ve seen in the past. These Indy cars are heavier than F1 cars, they have no power steering and they are an absolute beast to wrestle with over 20 turns!”

“There are legitimately a number of cars that could win the race, there is likely to be ample passing and strategy will be massive in deciding the winner. The Ganassi cars might have the most overall speed, the Penske cars worked all day Saturday to be good on old tires, and the Andretti cars may have the best overall balance through the whole run. Bottom line…Several cars are in the mix and there’s a whole new crop of rookies who have the ability and the car to upset the favorites. Can’t wait for the green flag!”

“My pick is Alexander Rossi. I like his experience here. You can tell he’s focused this week. Privately he’ll tell you he feels as though he has unfinished business here…he finally has a shot to win at what used to be his only home country race. I think he gets it done on Sunday.”

KELLI STAVAST

“In my section of pit road is the exciting, young American Santino Ferrucci, who drives the flashy, all-chrome David Yurman-sponsored machine for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. Santino comes to COTA riding the momentum of a top-ten finish on the streets of St. Petersburg, which kicked off his rookie campaign.

“Santino is high-energy, hard-working and professional, according to his veteran teammate and former champion Sebastian Bourdais. Already a winner at COTA in the [Lamborghini] Super Trofeo series, Santino told me he loves this track, as it suits his driving style and reminds him of circuits he ran back in Europe.

“Although the team struggled a little bit with understeer through both practice sessions Friday, Ferrucci told me the car came to life in final practice Saturday, describing it as “playful.” He has already achieved one goal for the weekend: advancing to the second round of qualifying, setting up an 11th place starting spot. Now he has his sights set on staying inside the top-ten in points following the 60-lap race.”

KEVIN LEE

“In my section of pit road, in the middle, there are several interesting stories to follow. For the 2nd straight race, Simon Pagenaud didn’t have the chance to advance in qualifying because of a red flag. But Pagenaud feels he and Team Penske have solved the issues they had last season with road and street course pace and will be quick in the race. Tight pit windows will make it difficult to make up a significant amount of positions. He’ll need a timely yellow to work in his favor.

“The other story will be the teenagers that were teammates in Indy Lights last season. 18-year-old Colton Herta backed up the pace he showed at St. Pete by qualifying 4th. 19-year-old Patricio O’Ward will start 8th in his first race with Carlin Racing. Both are impressive beyond their years and are we may be witnessing the early stages of superstar careers.

“Which teams are able to manage the tire wear will determine IndyCar’s debut at COTA.”

‘One and Only’ Kyle Larson wins Outlaws opener at Knoxville Raceway

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Paul Arch/World of Outlaws
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The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”

After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.

“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.

LARSON ON NASCAR‘I’d love an opportunity if it came’

“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him.  It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson scored his sixth World of Outlaws victory Thursday (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

It was the fourth Knoxville victory this year for Larson, who swept a World of Outlaws doubleheader weekend June 12-13 at the Sprint Car Captial of the World. He has more than 30 victories this year in sprint cars and midgets.

The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.

The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.

Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.

A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.

Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.

“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”


RESULTS

NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [10]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [1]; 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel [2]; 4. 2-Carson Macedo [24]; 5. 41-David Gravel [6]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [7]; 7. 71-Spencer Bayston [3]; 8. 18-Gio Scelzi [15]; 9. 12N-Joey Saldana [5]; 10. 5-Ian Madsen [19]; 11. 17A-Austin McCarl [21]; 12. 1A-Jacob Allen [11]; 13. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [16]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides [20]; 15. 24-Rico Abreu [22]; 16. 4-Terry McCarl [13]; 17. 2KS-Brooke Tatnell [18]; 18. O9-Matt Juhl [23]; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [25]; 20. 83-Daryn Pittman [9]; 21. 11K-Kraig Kinser [17]; 22. 15-Donny Schatz [8]; 23. 26-Cory Eliason [4]; 24. 49-Brad Sweet [12]; 25. 9-James McFadden [14]; Lap Leaders: Logan Schuchart 1-17, Kyle Larson 18-25; KSE Hard Charger Award: 2-Carson Macedo[+20]

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson celebrated with his family and team after the first night of The One and Only (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).