IndyCar Drivers Ready To Hit The Ground Running

The NTT IndyCar Series schedule is about to go into overdrive beginning this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)
The NTT IndyCar Series schedule is about to go into overdrive beginning this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – After a lengthy shutdown that delayed the start of its season from March until June 6, followed by another one month gap between races, the NTT IndyCar Series season is about to go into overdrive.

Competitors from the NTT IndyCar Series will compete in five races in 15 days, beginning with Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. That race stats at Noon EST and will be part of a NASCAR/IndyCar tripleheader that also includes the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 on Saturday and the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard on the historic oval Sunday at 4 p.m. EST.

IndyCar will then move to Road America for doubleheader races on July 11-12, the first time that concept has been held at the historic road course. On July 17-18, it’s off to Iowa Speedway for two races on the .750-mile short oval.

For IndyCar, it’s like a standing start, going from zero to 200 mph in just a few seconds.

“It’s definitely an adjustment,” said three-time Indy GP winner and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. “Everybody I think in the world has been going at an interesting slow speed to going flat out.

“I think the advantage of it is we’ve all been able to train a lot, get ready for the heat. Obviously, the added windscreen makes for quite a hot day every day in the race car. That’s also going to be an adjustment.

“But I’m personally ready, ready to go, couldn’t be any more ready, to be honest with you. It’s the best shape I’ve ever been in in my career.”

Conor Daly is ready to go as he will rejoin his primary team at Ed Carpenter Racing. Daly is the street and road course driver for the No. 20 Chevrolet with owner/driver Ed Carpenter taking over on the ovals. Daly will also drive for ECR at the 104th Indianapolis 500, though he will drive the other oval races for Carlin Racing.

Daly is ready to get the extremely busy portion of the schedule started.

“Like Simon said, I feel really good myself,” Daly said. “I’m lighter than I’ve been starting a year before. I feel good. Obviously, this weekend will be new for us. We’ve done some road course testing, of course, with the windscreen. But it’s going to be a good old Indiana summer day, plenty of humidity, nice and hot. That will be really tough, I think. It will be really interesting.”

Indianapolis is notoriously hot and humid this time of year, so the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be another great test of the new aeroscreen and how it increases the heat inside of the cockpit. The doubleheaders at Road America and Iowa will be a true test of driver endurance.

“Really the doubleheaders are going to be the ones where I think it will really test us and put us on the limit,” Daly said. “But that’s why we do what we do. We want to be the best athletes we can be and the best drivers we can be. It’s on us to be as prepared as possible.

“I can’t wait for it. I’ve been sitting around in this darn simulator room for way too many weekends. I’m ready to get back to the real racecar and be sweating as much as possible because that means we’re out there doing work and I can’t wait.”

These drivers will also be part of a motorsports first with IndyCar and NASCAR competing at the same track on the same day. In order to make this happen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all garage areas will be separated and isolated according to series. Only crews for the series on track will be allowed access to pit lane.

Even IndyCar drivers may not have a spot to watch the race in person as this race will be held without spectators.

“If we’re allowed to watch, I can’t wait,” Daly said. “I think it’s going to be great. Those guys, I’ve been getting a lot of texts from different Xfinity guys about the track. I know it will be totally new for them. But I’m excited.

“I wish I could do the race obviously. I’ve got to stay focused on the INDYCAR program. I think it will be cool. I think they’ll race pretty well, too.”

Pagenaud is part of the powerful Team Penske operation that excels in all forms of racing. He believes Team Penske will do well in both NASCAR contests, but he won’t be there after his race concludes.

“I’m excited to see obviously Austin Cindric, how well he does over there in the Xfinity on Saturday afternoon,” Pagenaud said. “But obviously there is a lot of precautionary aspect we have to think about.

“I don’t think I can stay actually. I’m actually going to hop on the plane to get home to make sure we all stay safe. Obviously, we just have to follow the guidelines. It’s the way it is. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the race. I wish I could have. It’s the situation we’re in.

“I look forward to seeing the big NASCAR race on Sunday. That will be fun to watch. At the end of the day, it’s a historical moment, I think not just for American racing but for worldwide racing. I look forward to the weekend and seeing the reaction afterward.”