MOORESVILLE, N.C. – By next week, teams in the NTT IndyCar Series will be allowed to start using their limited number of test dates for the upcoming season.
With the nation still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, a preseason open test will not be held.
In the past the annual affair known as Spring Training has been held in February at such venues as Homestead-Miami Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park, Sebring Raceway, Phoenix Raceway and the past two years at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas.
Of those venues, Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., is the only one still on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule. With the season starting in the March 7 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, IndyCar officials have decided against a pre-season test, leaving it up to the teams to prepare with their test dates.
“We don’t plan on having one this year for numerous reasons,” IndyCar President Jay Frye told SPEED SPORT. “There isn’t a good venue weather related that we race at that will be good in February. We’re not exactly sure with the pandemic what will happen, so we thought going into St. Pete the first part of March would be the best thing to do as a group and err on the cautious side.
“By then, we hope everything we will going good. Hopefully, we can get that back in 2022.”
There are two COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use by the FDA including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. A third potential vaccine produce by AstraZeneca is awaiting approval for use in the United States.
Vaccinations began in late December and will continue throughout 2021.
The level of success of those vaccines will play a determining factor in how soon fans are allowed to return en masse.
Many, if not all, of the NTT IndyCar Series teams are off this week for the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day. But on Jan. 4, it’s back to work to prepare for the new season. Some of those teams will test at Sebring and other locations before the season begins in March.
So far, IndyCar teams seem to have forged through the pandemic in good shape. In fact, there may be more cars on the grid in 2021 than there were in 2020.
Most of the sponsors have stayed with the teams and that is a good sign for stability, and possibly future growth.
“We have a lot of great partners in the entire paddock,” Frye said. “A lot of great announcements that have happened. This (COVID-19) wasn’t anyone’s fault what happened, and we dealt with it the best we could. We overcommunicated with our partners so they understand what we were dealing with, how we were dealing with it, when we were dealing with it. That was key, the communication to our paddock when we were having calls immediately after the postponement St. Pete and how it was navigated.
“People see light at the end of the tunnel, they see what we have in 2021 with Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin coming in. The car count looks good, looks up, and we are excited about the future.”