IMSA will move races to Road Atlanta, Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

IMSA Roval Road Atlanta
Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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IMSA modified its 2020 schedule Saturday, announcing new race dates at Road Atlanta and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The six-hour WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Sept. 6 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta will replace the previously scheduled event at Watkins Glen International. A four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race will be held at the track Sept. 5.

The Roval will play host to the GTLM and GTD classes Oct. 9-10 (with practice Friday and a 100-minute race Saturday) ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series racing in the Bank of America Roval 400 on Oct. 11.

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The GTLM and GTD classes had been scheduled to race Sept. 12 at Lime Rock Park. Both Connecticut and New York have quarantine restrictions because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that would have made the races at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock logistically impossible for IMSA and its teams.

In a statement, Watkins Glen said its IMSA races being moved were “a result of the ongoing pandemic and its impact on the state of New York.”

The Roval will mark the first time IMSA and NASCAR have shared a track on a race weekend in six years.

“When Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith first envisioned the Roval, part of that vision included bringing new series to the track in addition to our classic NASCAR Cup Series events,” Charlotte Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager Greg Walter said in a release. “We look forward to working in partnership with IMSA to provide a unique perspective to race fans and a one-of-a-kind challenge to the drivers who will be tasked with tackling this technically innovative course.”

Here’s the release from IMSA:

IMSA today announced realignment to upcoming dates on its 2020 schedule, which includes shifting of the Labor Day Weekend six-hour race from Watkins Glen International to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, and the GT-only event from Lime Rock Park to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta will host the six-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Sunday, Sept. 6, with three other IMSA-sanctioned series that all were previously scheduled to compete at Watkins Glen also moving to Michelin Raceway that weekend. A four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race will be held on Saturday, Sept. 5, with doubleheader races for both the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Lamborghini Super Trofeo races also planned for the weekend.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL will host the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes in a 100-minute race as part of the NASCAR event weekend, Oct. 9-10, at the facility. This event will replace the Lime Rock Park race previously scheduled for Sept. 11-12.

Michelin Pilot Challenge, which also was scheduled to race at Lime Rock Park, instead will have a doubleheader of two-hour races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on the weekend of Sept. 25-27. The GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama will have three events per weekend at Mid-Ohio and the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 14-17.

IMSA continues to monitor state and local COVID-19 guidelines which may make additional schedule revisions appropriate in the coming weeks. Current Provisional IMSA schedules follow below.

After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit

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DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

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“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”