Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

IndyCar drivers open for more NASCAR doubleheaders in the future

Leave a comment

On Thursday’s “Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico on NBCSN, IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske said he would like to see more doubleheaders between IndyCar and NASCAR in the future.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader is scheduled for July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Penske is also the owner of that fabled facility.

IndyCar will stage the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Also scheduled that day is the Pennzoil 150 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

The next day, the Brickyard 400 is scheduled for the NASCAR Cup Series.

Just a few days after he won his second NTT IndyCar Series championship, Josef Newgarden got that conversation rolling when he drove his Chevrolet Indy car around the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

Because real racing has been halted because of COVID-19 pandemic, virtual racing has given fans a chance to see how drivers from one series stack up against those in another.

The fourth race of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge is the Firestone 175 at virtual Twin Ring Motegi in Japan (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR’s Kyle Busch will be included in that contest. It also marks the return of three-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver and longtime NTT IndyCar Series star Helio Castroneves.

Newgarden also would like to see more drivers from other series try to compete in different forms of racing when real racing returns.

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

“Oh, definitely,” Newgarden said. “For me as a younger guy in the sport, sort of reaching the middle point, I’ve always wanted to see more crossover from drivers and teams and series. I think most drivers do, to be honest with you.

“We got in this place over the last however long you want to call it, 20 or 30 years, where everyone became specialists. There was less of this. If you’re an IndyCar guy, you can’t run NASCAR, this or that.

“This has provided a really fun push where series can come together and provide more value for the fans, can provide more action for the drivers to really take in or soak in different experiences. Maybe that will lead to more crossovers from different drives.”

So far in the six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have competed in a virtual Indy car. In Saturday’s race, two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will compete in an Indy car.

“Kyle Busch really wants to run the Indianapolis 500,” Newgarden said. “All of us want that. We want to run against the best in the world. I think it’s vice versa. If there’s a guy like Scott Dixon that wants to run in NASCAR for an event, I think those guys want to see that happen, too, because Scott is one of the best.

“Without a doubt, there’s been some positives from this sim racing. I think what they’re proposing in reality as we go back to the real world is quite exciting. I think we’re all pretty excited and confident that Roger is leading that charge and is probably the best person positioned to get something like that done.”

Driver Scott Dixon — Getty Images

Scott Dixon is a five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, a winner of the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and a multi-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner.

Although he doesn’t think the virtual form of racing is the same as the real thing, it does allow drivers from different series to square off with one another.

“The format itself is fun,” Dixon said. “I think having the accessibility and ease to have that crossover is pretty cool, probably more so for the sponsors.

“The way these things drive, it also depends on a lot of things: how long you’ve done it, what kind of car you’ve been driving on the sim for a period of time, trying to get up to speed. Even going from an IndyCar to a GT car, there’s all these tiny little things that you need to mold into your driving pattern and how you use it.

I think it’s cool for a spectacle. It’s been a lot of fun. Even yesterday with Kyle Busch running in the practice sessions, it’s a lot of fun, conversations, everybody is chatting and getting along.

“The reality of it is very unreal in a lot of ways. I think the racing has been a lot of fun. Yesterday I think Motegi leading into this weekend, the multiple lines, what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be pretty cool.

“Last week at (virtual) Michigan, even though I had to watch most of it from my couch, it was pretty cool to watch.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.