INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens

Richmond in, Pocono out on 2020 NTT IndyCar Series Schedule

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PORTLAND, Oregon – A return to the 0.75-mile Richmond Raceway at the end of June highlights INDYCAR’s 17-race 2020 schedule, which was announced Sunday on NBC during the pre-race show before the Grand Prix of Portland.

Richmond Raceway will return to the NTT IndyCar Series schedule for the first since 2009 and will be the only new addition on the 2020 schedule. The three-quarter-mile Virginia oval will play host under the lights on Saturday, June 27, and be the 11th race on the season.

The Richmond round is the only addition to the schedule. The lone subtraction is the August visit to the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, which completed its second tenure of IndyCar Series racing from 2013 to the 2018 ABC Supply 500 on August 18.

“We are pleased to return to the Mid-Atlantic region, one we know to be full of INDYCAR fans,” INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles said. “We’re also excited to return to historic Richmond Raceway, which was recently reimagined with a $30 million redevelopment project that modernized the infield for a better fan experience.”

The two-day race weekend will fall on the same weekend utilized for the previous nine NTT IndyCar Series races at Richmond dating back to 2001.

“Richmond Raceway’s history in motorsports dates back to 1946 when the track hosted two AAA Championship Car events,” Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier said. “After hosting INDYCAR from 2001-2009, we now look forward to the return of the NTT IndyCar Series for our fans at America’s Premier Short Track as part of a Mid-Atlantic festival of speed on June 26-27, 2020.”

The reaction to the 2020 schedule was fairly positive in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock prior to Sunday’s second Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway.

“Pocono was probably my favorite oval, but it costs us between $400,000 to $500,000 a race,” IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports.com. “If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I want to spend it in front of somebody.

“It’s a shame, but even in the good old days, we never really attracted that many people.”

Rahal is very positive about the series return to Richmond because of its geographic location in the Eastern United States.

“Richmond is a fairly major market area with Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia nearby,” Rahal said. “I’m confident the racing will be better than when we were there before because back then the downforce levels were different and that limited the passing.

“I expect our race to be similar to what fans saw last week in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway.”

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The 2020 season marks the second full season with the NBC Sports Group, which will air the races live on NBC and NBCSN in addition to programming on NBC Gold. The coverage will feature eight races on NBC, including a crescendo to the finish and NTT P1 Award qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. The remaining nine races will air on NBCSN.

For the 10th consecutive year, the NTT IndyCar Series season will kick off on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday, March 15. The opener on the scenic waterfront 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in the Gulf Coast city first hosted Indy cars in 2003 and has continuously since 2005.

The season will conclude for the second consecutive year at the historic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course, where the championship-deciding race will be held Sunday, Sept. 20 – again on NBC.

Other changes to the schedule include:

 The Circuit of The Americas race, which was the second race of this season, will move to the fourth slot and be held Sunday, April 26.

 After running the oval race at Iowa Speedway (Saturday, July 18), the series will have a three-week break as NBC and NBCSN focus on televising the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course returns to one of its traditional weekends, moving from Sunday, July 28, this season to Sunday, Aug. 16, next year. This will begin NBC’s crescendo to the finale, with three of the final four races on network television (Mid-Ohio, Portland and Laguna Seca).

 The break between the final two races of the season will be reduced from two weeks to one. The Grand Prix of Portland will be held Sunday, Sept. 6, while the Monterey race held Sunday, Sept. 20. Both will air on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series showcases a diversity of tracks with a schedule comprised of seven held on permanent road courses, five on temporary street circuits and five on oval tracks.

 The centerpiece of the schedule will be the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, featuring the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 24. The month will open with the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the speedway’s 2.439-mile road course on Saturday, May 9. Qualifying for the 500 is set for Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17.

 The street race in Long Beach (Sunday, April 19) returns in April for a 37th consecutive year, which is second only to the Indianapolis 500 for most years in succession of Indy car races on the current schedule. Toronto’s Exhibition Place, another tenured event on the schedule, returns for a 36th year with its race on Sunday, July 12.

 After celebrating its 10th INDYCAR race earlier this year, Barber Motorsports Park will host the NTT IndyCar Series on Sunday, April 5.

 The Raceway at Belle Isle Park will host a doubleheader for the eighth consecutive year (Saturday-Sunday, May 30-31), both of which will be televised on NBC.

 Texas Motor Speedway continues its tradition dating to 1997 of hosting a Saturday night summer race (June 6). In addition to Richmond, the NTT IndyCar Series will race Saturday night at Iowa Speedway (July 18) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 22).

 Road America again offers the season’s largest track at 4.048 miles, with the race set for Sunday, June 21, on NBC.

Broadcast times will be announced at a later date, but all track activity and additional exclusive content will be available on NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer product that brings subscribers closer to the NTT IndyCar Series than ever before.

INDYCAR remains committed to keeping the schedule at 17 races because current team sponsorship budgets are able to support that number of races. That is a move that some team owners applaud because it allows their teams to have a solid foundation, and even expand their operations.

 

2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

March 15 — Streets of St. Petersburg, NBCSN

April 5 — Barber Motorsports Park, NBCSN

April 19 — Streets of Long Beach, NBCSN

April 26 — Circuit of the Americas, NBCSN

May 9 — Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, NBC

May 24 — 104th Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NBC

May 30 — Streets of Detroit, Race No. 1, NBC

May 31 — Streets of Detroit, Race No. 2, NBC

June 6 — Texas Motor Speedway, NBCSN

June 21 — Road America, NBC

June 27 — Richmond Raceway, NBCSN

July 12 — Streets of Toronto, NBCSN

July 18 — Iowa Speedway, NBCSN

August 16 — Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, NBCSN

August 22 — World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, NBCSN

September 6 — Portland International Raceway, NBC

September 20 — WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, NBC

 

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”