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.”

Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.