Will Power, Penske, IndyCar Aeroscreen test, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2019

It’s about to get real: IndyCar’s delayed 2020 season begins tonight

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The long wait is over. The international single-seater season, postponed for months by the global pandemic, begins tonight.

The 2020 IndyCar season was supposed to begin three months ago on the streets of St Petersburg. Instead that race will now conclude the compressed calendar – in just four months’ time.

With that and another seven races from the beginning of the championship postponed or cancelled, the series will begin this weekend with what was originally scheduled as its ninth race, at Texas Motor Speedway.

IndyCar filled the gap between its cancelled season-opener and tonight’s race with an iRacing-based esports series which was generally well-regarded until the last few laps of its final round degenerated in an unseemly string of deliberate crashes. Happily, now things are finally about to get real again.

Before the pandemic the major off-season development in IndyCar – which had been in development for months if not years – was the takeover of the series by Roger Penske’s organisation. That creates the unusual situation that the championship is now owned by the same person who fields its most successful team. Penske drivers have won three of the last four championships and nine of last year’s 17 races.

The team retains its stellar line-up of Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden. All are IndyCar champions, Newgarden the reigning two-time winner. Now he needs a victory in the series’ blue riband race – the Indianapolis 500, postponed from May to August – to match his team mates.

Scott Dixon, Ganassi, IndyCar, Circuit of the Americas, 2020
Dixon will be a top threat to Penske
The closest competition for the Chevrolet-powered cars is likely to come from the two main Honda entries. Ganassi boasts the huge experience of five-times champion Scott Dixon plus the obvious talent of sophomore racer Felix Rosenqvist. The team has bolstered its grid strength with a third car this year for Rosenqvist’s compatriot, F1 refugee Marcus Ericsson, who mustered a single top-six finish in his debut season last year with second place to Dixon in Detroit.

While Andretti line-up includes 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, it was 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi who emerged as the most consistent threat to Newgarden’s title run last year. The team also has the services of Zach Veach plus two other drivers at satellite teams: Marco Andretti’s Herta-run car and the Harding entry piloted by 2019’s most impressive newcomer, two-times winner Colton Herta.

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Oliver Askew, McLaren, IndyCar, Circuit of the Americas, 2020
McLaren have joined the series with Schmidt Peterson
James Hinchcliffe will appear for the team at selected races having been surprisingly ousted from the Schmidt Peterson team in one of the off-season’s other surprise developments. McLaren’s alliance with Schmidt has brought a new and inexperienced line-up into the team: Ex-Red Bull junior Pato O’Ward and Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew. How much a difference the input of the powerful McLaren organisation will make is one of the most intriguing questions the new season poses, along with anticipation of Fernando Alonso’s returned to the postponed Indianapolis 500.

Joining Askew as new additions to the grid this year are Rinus Veekay at Carpenter and Alex Palou at Coyne. If the latter shows the same flair in a spec Dallara chassis as he did in Super Formula and Formula Renault 3.5 he could be one to watch this year, but it’s a shame the team hasn’t been able to retain multiple Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais within its fold. Santino Ferrucci now drives that distinctive black-and-yellow striped car.

All the drivers and teams will have a significant new addition to make sense of this year. The series will run the new Aeroscreen at all events, enhancing the head protection offered to the drivers. Unlike F1’s Halo, it incorporates a screen, so its effect on the aerodynamics of the car is much more pronounced. As well as altering the car’s centre of aerodynamic pressure, affecting the handling and tyre wear, testing has shown its affects the cars’ slipstream as well, which will be particularly significant for tonight’s oval race.

Colton Herta, IndyCar, Laguna Seca, 2019
Laguna Seca is no longer the season-closer, but gets two races
Tonight’s race will be the first time for 12 years that the series has opened on an oval. The planned return to Richmond has been scrapped, so IndyCar will make two visits to Iowa’s tiny track instead.

However the pandemic has forced the series to cancel all three of its street races at Long Beach, Toronto and Detroit (the latter a double-header). Visits to Barber Motorsports Park and the Circuit of the Americas have also been shelved. Along with Iowa, the spectacular road courses Road America and Laguna Seca will double up, bringing the planned total number of races to 14.

Tonight’s race will be a teaser of the action which is to follow. The teams will have a month’s wait until they hit the track again, then cram in no fewer than five races in the space of just 15 days, as IndyCar’s disrupted season finally gets started.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 14 comments on “It’s about to get real: IndyCar’s delayed 2020 season begins tonight”

    1. Looking forward to this, although it will be a record and watch Sunday morning job for me.

      I wonder if there will be any real world animosity shown to Pagenaud or Ferrucci? The most important thing is that everyone stays safe on the track. Its almost a new era, especially with the windshield, so would be good to see fair close racing without major incident.

    2. Texas is a scary place to start with basically no testing. Super high speeds and very close racing. Glad things are getting going again! Can’t wait, and have a safe race.

      1. Scary indeed as I believe it’s not the same as last time, Sato spun on that ‘traction’ strip added by NASCAR.

    3. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      6th June 2020, 20:54

      This is the one track where the race can be an absolute amazing race or a race where one mistake could lead to bad things. Can’t wait though.

    4. Bad things just happened to Takuma in Qualifying, can they repair the car in time ???
      Fingers crossed.

      1. The backup should come out

    5. They are going to pull out the backup car I’m pretty sure

    6. Oh, a live Indycar race is on tonight? First I’ve heard of it now in the USA.
      I guess I’m desperate enough for live racing to even watch this oval crap. This should give the awful windshields a test with these drivers at Texas.

      1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        7th June 2020, 1:55

        Trump never tweeted about it at 3 in the morning?

        1. Not that I know of. I don’t do Twitter. I’m not sure if he is interested that much in it. He has other more important issues he is dealing with.

    7. Live and on NBC’s channel 4 here in LA, rabbit ears friendly at 5pm West Coast time.

    8. Little concerned about this silly traction compound they have laid on the high line for NASCAR as it seems like it gives the Indycars zero grip if they touch it.

      Outside of the obvious safety concern there is also the potential for it to make overtaking harder if nobody can pull out to try an outside pass for fear of the car suddenly swapping ends without warning.

    9. Agreed JN didn’t touch it on the pole lap, when they’re two/three wide it’s going to be impossible to avoid, tire ware on that stuff must be an x factor too.

      1. groan ..wear

    Comments are closed.