May 7, 2021

INDYCAR NOTES: Diversity Is Key To Success

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. – NTT IndyCar Series teams will have little time to unpack from a fast weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., and empty out their notebooks before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for a doubleheader on the high-banked, high-speed oval.

Consider that Indy car teams and drivers will participate in four races on three distinctly different racing venues in a 14-day period, and it’s obvious that diversity is the key to success.

Just 10 days ago, IndyCar opened its season on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course at Barber Motorsports Park, with 24-year-old Alex Palou winning the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Seven days later, it was 21-year-old Colton Herta dominating the field on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for his fourth career Indy car win.

That equals the number of victories Colton’s father, Bryan Herta, had in his entire career.

Oh, by the way – Bryan oversees Colton’s race strategy at Andretti Autosport this season, the first time the father and son have worked together.

But there is no rest for the weary as IndyCar kicks into high gear, with doubleheader races at the 1.5-mile Texas oval this weekend.

The Genesys 300 is Saturday night, with the green flag waving at 7:40 p.m. ET. That race is scheduled for 212 laps and 318 miles.

The XPEL 375 takes the green flag Sunday at 5:15 p.m. ET and is even longer – 248 laps or 372 miles.

Fourteen days will feature four races on three different types of circuits.

“Yeah, it’s perfect for a rookie,” Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin told SPEED SPORT. “Exactly what I want.

“Ideally I’d love to do something a little bit more. I’d love to have a bit more time on each one, but that’s not how it works,” McLaughlin added. “I feel like I just got myself sorted on the road course, we jumped on the street course, which had a different tire, got a feel for the tire there, and now I’m going to jump into an oval and basically throw out the past two weeks’ work and focus on something totally different.

“But that’s why we love it.”

One of McLaughlin’s Team Penske teammates sized up the extremely fast-paced start to the season.

“It’s going to be flat out,” Josef Newgarden said after Sunday’s race. “We’ve got to be on it here. We knew we were going to rattle through four races pretty quickly, and then when you really count May into that, you’re getting through a third of the season pretty fast.

“We’ll know where we’re at pretty solidly in this championship hopefully by the time we get to June, but we need to stay focused and get through this next period pretty quickly with the best results possible.”

The Honda Indy Toronto is in danger of being lost for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (IndyCar photo)

– Green Savoree Promotions partner Kevin Savoree continues to hold out hope that there will be a race in Toronto on July 11, but the fate of the Toronto Honda Indy lies in the hands of Premier of Ontario Doug Ford and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ontario is amid a ferocious third wave of COVID-19 and Ontario is in near total lockdown. Also, the rollout of any COVID-19 vaccines has been slow and somewhat confusing to many Canadian citizens, so it appears highly unrealistic that a street race can be held just two months from now.

Penske Entertainment CEO and IndyCar President Mark Miles has said if the Honda Indy Toronto cannot take place, the race would be added to an already existing race weekend to make a doubleheader.

The most obvious choice would be the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, because it is another Green Savoree controlled racing facility.

Mid-Ohio is already on the schedule for a July 4 race date and there is growing talk that it would be extremely easy for the Indianapolis-based teams to add a race on Saturday, July 3 to the schedule.

But there is also discussion in the paddock to add the Toronto race to World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, a track owned by Curtis Francois and not part of Green Savoree Promotions. That track is already on the schedule for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Aug. 21.

The movement that wants to add a second date to Gateway hopes to see one more oval race on the schedule for this year. Currently, there are just four ovals on the calendar, and two of them are this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I just want to race at the best places possible, without regard to whether it’s a road course, a street race or an oval,” team owner Chip Ganassi said last Sunday.

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