Errors plaguing IndyCar teams in the ‘very restrictive’ era of COVID-19


Consistent gaffes in the pits. Costly blunders behind the wheel. Curiously inaccurate data entry by the most buttoned-up of engineers.

If there’s been a theme in the NTT IndyCar Series this season (aside from the seeming invincibility of Chip Ganassi Racing and its four consecutive victories), it’s been the preponderance of miscues and mistakes by even the best teams in the paddock.

The delayed 2020 season is nearing its midpoint during a grueling stretch of five races in 15 days with consecutive doubleheader race weekends at Road America and Iowa Speedway. And it seems the massive number of errors can be traced to the confluence of a lack of routine and the restrictions of working during the socially distanced era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

WEEKEND SCHEDULEWhat’s happening on track at Iowa Speedway

WHO’S RACING IN IOWA: Entry lists for Friday, Saturday races

INDYCAR IN 2020How to watch the 2020 schedule

“Up and down pit lane, I don’t think anyone has been flawless from the pit crews to the drivers to the strategists,” Team Penske managing director Ron Ruzewski told NBC Sports. “Like anything, you get in a rhythm in the season and just get to where it’s second nature. Up until these last couple of weeks, it’s been pretty choppy. So I don’t think anybody has really truly found their flow.”

Socially distanced celebrations have been the norm in victory lane this year (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

The exception might be Scott Dixon, who opened the season with three consecutive victories at Texas, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Road America. Though he had the fastest and dominant car in the opener, Dixon’s latter two wins came by capitalizing on others’ misfortune and missteps (namely, a fueling problem for Graham Rahal and problems on pit exit for Josef Newgarden at Road America).

Marcus Ericsson’s mask-clad crew at Texas (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

But even Dixon ran into trouble Sunday when he finished 12th at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course after being hindered by two slow pit stops (the first because of a problem changing the right rear; the second for two stalls). Though teammate Felix Rosenqvist triumphed for his first career victory to keep the team undefeated in 2020, working through the pandemic has been just as much a slog for Ganassi as a raft of protocols have changed the commonly held best practices and workflow for preparing and racing in IndyCar.

“Nobody likes working the way we’re working,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “It’s very claustrophobic almost. You’re having to rethink every movement based on what the COVID requirements are upon each of us as a team of people inside this IndyCar bubble. It’s very restrictive. All our people in the building when we come to work every day and how we work in the building and how we travel and work at the racetrack and how we work in the pit lane. It’s so foreign to what we’ve ever done before, that it puts everybody at a totally different mental preparation level than they’ve ever been before.”

While there has been much focus on the compressed schedules (practice time has been severely limited; and IndyCar will limit qualifying at Iowa to Friday only to give teams a break Saturday), Hull said the number of hours being worked are roughly the same. Rather than being physically taxing, it’s a mental strain that might be affecting team members, who are wearing masks full time while trying to adhere to new policies foreign to the freedom of access and movement they typically enjoyed.

A Team Penske crew member deals with the heat at Texas (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

“Things you take for granted at the racetrack — reaching in the cooler and grabbing a drink – we have protocols now for that, and guys that are handing out drinks,” Ruzewski said. “We’re taking it really seriously and trying to put our best foot forward to protect our guys and the series.”

Said Hull: “You just have this thing hovering over you all the time that ‘Man, I hope I don’t get sick. I hope I’m doing everything right.’ You’re probably freaking out about that. You’re freaking out about going to the grocery store, to Target, about dropping your kids off wherever. You’re living a different life today to protect the group and team of people you work with, and it’s a different working environment.

“Frankly, I think to myself from time to time, ‘Is this worth all this? Should I just retire?’ It’s just provided such a different way to go racing.”

The COVID-19 limitations have been coupled with a lack of repetition this season as teams and drivers have wrestled with going from 0 to 200 mph literally and figuratively. With hardly any real-world testing since February and the absence of two weeks in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that provide teams with the daily at-track reps needed to work as well-oiled organizations.

“All of those things give time for people to get up to speed and mistakes and issues to get sorted out,” Andretti Autosport Chief Operating Officer Rob Edwards told NBC Sports. “If you look at any of the other sports leagues that have ramped back up, like soccer in Europe, they had preseason training and friendly matches before they got into competition.

A member of the Andretti Autosport team of Zach Veach pushes the car through tech (IndyCar).

“IndyCar, we haven’t had any of that, so I think in terms of the crews and drivers, the ramp up is different. Particularly at Texas for the first race. You’d normally have Friday and Saturday to work through issues that came up. Texas, you had often a matter of hours or minutes to sort things out. Oh by the way, in 97-degree heat when you’d been up since 4 o’clock in the morning. I think all of those things contribute.

“I think people were finding more cadence at Road America, but it’s a lot more like having a light switch than a dimmer in terms of ramping things up. I think for sure that’s a factor in some of the jumbling that we’ve been seeing.”

At Arrow SP McLaren Motorsports, managing director Taylor Kiel said “the general word we’re using is intensity from the moment you step in the car or on the plane to go to the track until the moment the checkered flag waves. You don’t have a lot of time to think. It’s very fast paced. The amount of time between sessions is reduced dramatically compared to what we’re used to, so how that’s changed us is the pre-event work, while always a priority for us, is an absolute necessity now. If we unload with a package that’s not quick, you’re not going to get any better by the time the race shows up.”

Kiel said the team has prioritized pit stop practice as important as our pre-event simulation work or our car builds or anything we’re doing from an R&D perspective, so we prioritize it and make time for it.”

Team members of the Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports team follow COVID-19 protocols by wearing PPE while in the garage (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

Not all of the errors necessarily have been related to repetition. Edwards noted that Alexander Rossi’s prerace problem at Texas was related to series protocols limiting personnel in the pits (which since have been relaxed), and a mechanical failure for the No. 27 Dallara-Honda at Indy also was unrelated to the pandemic.

Ruzewski said Newgarden’s stall at Road America was related to “an engine issue. It was kind of a fluke thing. A lot of things we’ve seen this year at Team Penske have been these tiny, obscure things that have been pretty rare, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen that happen before or I can’t believe that happened,’ but unfortunately as competitive as the series is now and the talent out there, you basically have to have a flawless weekend.”

In finishing second in the Saturday race at Road America, Power revealed he had to overcome being bogged down by a second car that was too tall because an engineer had entered the wrong ratio – something that likely would have been caught pre-pandemic with more time for Team Penske’s redundant systems to act as a failsafe.

Alexander Rossi (left, talking with teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay) said because of this season’s condensed schedules “very rarely are you able to answer all your questions in practice, then it’s straight into qualifying and the race.” (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar)

“A guy that never made a mistake that I can recall clicks the wrong button on a screen, accidentally hits enter, and next thing you know the wrong bit’s in the car,” Ruzewski said. “It was an honest mistake, and arguably, it wasn’t completely detrimental, but you could also argue it wasn’t an A plus score, and maybe that was the difference with Scott (Dixon) getting the better restarts.”

There have been some teachable moments from navigating the logistics of new protocols as well. Andretti Autosport originally was planning to distribute cloth masks to its team members but discovered they were less practical in the heat of 90-plus degrees. The masks commonly found in the medical field were included instead in at-track PPE kits (which also included hand sanitizer).

“Would you believe there’s a reason that hospitals tend to wear the paper-type masks because they’re very breathable,” Edwards said with a chuckle. “I think a lot of teams had looked at trying to do something with branding and masks, and ourselves in particular. We had to just step back and say whilst it looks really good, it’s not the most practical. Having guys perform at their best is important for the sponsors and the performance of the car on track, so we’ll take the good, old paper-ish masks as the best solution.”

Edwards also sees other positives emerging from the pandemic, noting the efficiency of a one-day schedule (which is used by European-based Formula E Series that also is raced by Andretti) “will influence what racing looks like in the future for us in IndyCar.

“We’re happy to be doing it and enjoying the challenges,” Edwards said. “We’d 100 percent prefer to be racing this way than still be quarantined at home and still wondering what racing might look like. I’d say the mental challenges were as great or greater for a whole bunch of A types being forced to stay home for March, April and May. The whole COVID-19 pandemic is a mental challenge as much as a health and safety and physical challenge. Yes, there are mental challenges at the racetrack, but there were equal, greater mental challenges sheltering at home.

“It’s obviously challenging, but it’s obviously important to be out there racing and overcoming challenges is what people in motor racing do. You work your way through it.”

Graham Rahal, who had a win get away last Saturday at Road America because of a fueling problem, watches practice with his team from the pit stand (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more


The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close