CONCORD, N.C. – Josef Newgarden’s exhibition laps aboard his Team Penske Chevrolet Indy car Friday on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL had a lot of people talking.
The question being asked was could this be a precursor to a full-fledged NTT IndyCar Series race on the 2.28-mile ROVAL configuration?
IndyCar President Jay Frye was on hand for Friday’s exhibition laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway and said that an NTT IndyCar Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was not out of the question in the future.
“I don’t think there are any hurdles necessarily, just schedules, timing, how it all works,” Frye said. “Obviously our season ended last week (at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) so that’s something you would look at down the road (and) how it would fit possibly.”
It’s been more than 20 years since an Indy car last turned laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway in any capacity. The last time an Indy car was on track at Charlotte Motor Speedway was in 1999, when three spectators were killed when debris from a crash flew into the stands.
Newgarden’s laps around the ROVAL were unofficially 14 seconds faster than that of William Byron, who earlier in the afternoon won the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
While the scheduling of a potential IndyCar Series return to Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same weekend as a NASCAR event is an option, Frye said that they didn’t necessarily have to share the billing.
“Not necessarily. It doesn’t have to be like that,” Frye said when asked about a NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader on the ROVAL. “Obviously there has been talk about a doubleheader and things like that, so we’re certainly open to that.
“Today was obviously a thing that Shell and Pennzoil put together. It was cool to see how the car reacted. It was really, actually, cool to see the fans perspective and the teams perspective down watching (in the garage), the Cup teams. So it was fun.”
Frye said that even before Newgarden’s exhibition run was announced, he and members of the IndyCar executive team had planned to come to Charlotte to check out the ROVAL.
When Newgarden’s exhibition laps were announced by Team Penske, it created an even bigger opportunity for Frye to check out what an Indy car could do around the ROVAL.
“We were going to come down and check it out,” Frye said. “We had not been to see the facility when it was in this configuration. Then this opportunity came into play so obviously today would be the day to come check it out. Our guys are here and a car was on the track.”
With the schedule for the NTT IndyCar Series already set for 2020, a return to Charlotte isn’t likely until at least 2021. Frye wouldn’t discount the possibility of bringing the series back to Charlotte, saying that anything was possible.
“Obviously today seemed like it was pretty successful,” Frye said. “So who knows.”