What’s going on in the IndyCar Paddock at Mid-Ohio

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – As Alexander Rossi’s future may be determined soon, there are several other developments in the INDYCAR paddock of tremendous interest at Mid-Ohio.

Andretti Autosport has scheduled a “Driver Media Availability” for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Watch Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio live on NBC at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Once Rossi’s future is announced, the focus will shift to 19-year-old driver Colton Herta at Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Earlier this week, NBC Sports.com reported that George Michael Steinbrenner, IV and his stepfather Sean Jones indicated their partnership with team principal Mike Harding was not solidified for next season. In fact, both said there are as many as “five or six” different options that could see them involved with during the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.

The son of New York Yankees co-owner and chairman Hank Steinbrenner and the grandson of Yankees patriarch George Steinbrenner, he has been a loyal and supportive partner of Herta through the junior ranks of racing. Jones and Steinbrenner were hoping his involvement in the NTT IndyCar Series would help entice potential sponsors to the operation.

None of the money to help support Harding Steinbrenner Racing is coming from the Yankees or its sponsors.

The team has struggled to attract a big-time sponsor, despite signing GESS International – a bio fuels company – and Capstone Turbines for this year’s Indianapolis 500 and the races that followed.

According the Harding Steinbrenner Racing president Brian Barnhart, the team needs additional funding, either through additional sponsorship or with another team owner getting involved in the team.

Michael Andretti is also heavily involved in Herta’s future with the team. His father, Bryan Herta, is co-owner of the No. 98 Honda along with driver Marco Andretti and Michael Andretti. Herta’s contract is owned by Andretti, which sublet him to Harding in a “junior team” partnership.

If Harding Steinbrenner Racing has financial issues and is unable to continue, Andretti’s options could be to expand his car lineup to five cars or align with another existing IndyCar team. Andretti is trying to firm up those details with Harding Steinbrenner.

Friday night practice for the INDYCAR Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.

When Colton Herta won the March 24 INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), he was just 10 days short of his 19thbirthday making him the youngest driver ever to win an IndyCar Series contest.

At one time, Team Penske appeared to be a strong candidate to make a big for Rossi, but that team could focus on Herta as its driver of the future. In order to do that, however, team owner Roger Penske would have to expand to four full-time entries in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2020. That appears unlikely at this time, but stranger things have happened.

Also, there is news circulating that McLaren’s Zak Brown is determined to create a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team and has made several offers to buy existing teams in the series. Once again, that is complicated because McLaren’s departure from Honda after the 2017 season was so acrimonious, that Honda officials in Japan have prohibited Honda Performance Development from doing business with a McLaren effort in IndyCar.

McLaren attempted to make the field for the 103rdIndianapolis 500 with two-time Formula One World champion Fernando Alonso this past May but failed to make the 33-car starting lineup.

Brown spoke to Formula One media members Friday in Hockenheim, Germany – site of this weekend’s Grand Prix of Germany.

“Indy is still very much a work in progress,” Brown told reporters. “We learned a lot on what not to do this year at Indy. That was a rude awakening.

“I made a lot of mistakes in how I put that together. The reasons we want to go to Indy remain. That doesn’t change. When you have a failure, you need to learn from it and grow. The easy thing is to not get back on the horse. But you can’t do that in life. I think you’ve got to dust yourself down and get back on the horse.

“So that is under active review. We would do it differently, needless to say, to how we did it this year. And if we did it, I’d be more inclined to look to do it on a full-time basis than a one-off. I think having tried that, that’s a pretty tall order. Or certainly to go at it by yourself, I think is too tall an order.”

Brown would like to do a full season in IndyCar, but Alonso is not interested in anything other than the Indianapolis 500.

“I’d love to have him involved in an IndyCar program if we were to do it and he wants to do it,” Brown said. “He’s undecided on what he wants to do next year. This is the first time in 17-18 years he doesn’t have a calendar filled with racing, so I think he needs to take the summer break to kind of reconcile in his own mind what he wants to do. But if he wants to go IndyCar racing and we were to do it, of course he’d be top of our list.

“He’s told me he doesn’t want to do a full season. But let’s see what happens when he’s at home for two weekends consecutively not driving a racing car for the first time in 20 years. Personally, I think he would enjoy IndyCar racing.

“He has told me at this point that he doesn’t [want to do a full season]. He knows the commitment it would take. You’ve got to move to America and Fernando’s an all-in or all-out guy as you all know. It’s more a function of he has been racing that long and does he want to take a little bit of time off and figure out what he wants to do.”

Also, Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports.com that rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden will be back next season. The future for another driver from Sweden, Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson, is uncertain as he continues to negotiate for a second season with the team.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson will be testing IMSA World Endurance driver Felipe Nasr of Brazil on Monday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Nasr is the current IMSA Sports Car champion and won the 2019 12 Hours of Sebring.

There remain many moving pieces in place in IndyCar as the series heads into Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”