PREVIEW: 2020 NTT IndyCar Series – Indy GMR GP

6 Mins read
Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series continues with its second round of the season this weekend. The teams and drivers will head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first of two races this year at the famous speedway’s Grand Prix circuit. The GMR Grand Prix will take place on Saturday, July 4.

This weekend will also be a historic one, as it will mark the first time that the NTT IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Cup Series have shared a race weekend at the same track. The Cup Series will be in action on Sunday, racing the Brickyard 400 on the oval. There will also be a NASCAR XFINITY Series race on the Grand Prix circuit just after the IndyCar race.

Here is everything you need to know before this weekend’s IndyCar race.

What happened in 2019 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix?

Last year’s sole race on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit saw Chip Ganassi Racing‘s rookie, Felix Rosenqvist, start on pole position for the first time in his IndyCar Series career. Felix, in just his fifth race weekend in IndyCar, beat his multiple-time champion team-mate, Scott Dixon to take the pole, with Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey also putting in a superb performance to take third on the grid.

The race would start dry, with Rosenqvist holding onto the lead on the long run down into turn one. Harvey would impressively out-drag Dixon down into the first corner and would take over second-place. Not long after the race had gotten underway, the first caution would fly when Marcus Ericsson would sadly crash at the final corner. The caution came right as rain began to approach, with the leaders opting to remain on their dry tyres until the rain worsened.

Scott Dixon would soon work his way into the lead of the race, passing both Harvey and Rosenqvist to take over the top spot. Dixon would lead much of the middle-stages of the race, but his advantage would be undone with twenty-five to go when the rain began to worsen, causing veteran Helio Castroneves to spin on the pit-exit and beach himself in the gravel at turn two. This would bring out a caution, which would come right within the window for the field to pit and make it to the end of the race.

Drivers had pitted right before the caution, some for dry tyres and some for wets. During the caution, the rain would worsen even further, prompting those who had just pitted for dries to pit again for wets. This left Scott Dixon, whose team had made the right call to move to wets in the first place, out in the lead of the race for the ensuing restart with seventeen laps remaining.

Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud restarted the race after having moved up to sixth-place. In the wet conditions, he appeared to have a distinct advantage over a majority of the field. He would use his experience to cut through into contention for the win, passing the likes of Matheus Leist, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones in quick succession.

Pagenaud would pass Harvey to take second-place with six laps remaining and would soon set about trying to reel in Dixon, who had a five-second lead. With four laps remaining, the gap was halved. With three to go, the gap was less than a second.

Pagenaud’s pace was relentless, but passing Dixon would be a challenge. With just over a lap remaining, Pagenaud’s chance came. Dixon would go slightly wide at turn seven, allowing Pagenaud to get to the outside of Dixon into the chicane of turns eight and nine. Pagenaud managed to hold it around the outside of Dixon for the first part of the chicane to give himself the inside for the second part. Slight contact was made between the two, but Pagenaud would make the move stick and would go on to pull away for the final lap of the race.

Pagenaud would cross the line to take the victory with an advantage of just over a second; thus breaking a victory drought that stretched all the way back to Sonoma Raceway in 2017. Dixon would have to settle for second place, with Jack Harvey impressively taking his and Meyer Shank Racing’s first IndyCar Series podium finish after a standout performance for the part-time entrant.

You can read the full qualifying and race report from last year’s race at the Indy GP circuit by following the links below: 

Credit: Doug Matthews / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

Aside from this being the first time that IndyCar and NASCAR’s premier series have shared the same race weekend, this weekend will also mark the first time that the NTT IndyCar Series races at a road course with the new-for-2020 aeroscreen.

The aeroscreen passed with flying colours at its first race running at Texas Motor Speedway last month, but this will be the first time the screen will be used on a road course in race conditions. After numerous tests, including two-days of road course testing at the Circuit of the Americas earlier this year, it is highly likely that this weekend’s event will go without issue.

With very little preparation and practice at the season-opening race at Texas Motor Speedway, it perhaps was not too shocking to see that the team that looked to comfortably be the best were Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist had easily the two fastest cars on the grid, whilst the third car of Marcus Ericsson was mired further back after a poor qualifying session.

Switching from the high-speed oval of Texas to the Grand Prix circuit at Indianapolis, however, will mean there are many different challenges. However, you can still expect the likes of Ganassi, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport to be fast out of the box.

In particular, Rosenqvist may well be one to watch from the Ganassi stable. The Swede took pole position for the Indy GP race last year and showed great pace throughout. He will be hoping for redemption this weekend after a shot at his first IndyCar victory slipped through his fingers after a late-race crash at Texas.

Last year’s Indy GP winner, Simon Pagenaud, will be hoping that lightning strikes twice this weekend. The race last year marked the turning point in his 2019 campaign which ultimately saw his fortunes snowball into an Indianapolis 500 victory and a runner-up spot in the title by the end of the season. However, he still trailed his champion team-mate, Josef Newgarden, a little too often.

Second-place at Texas was a great foundation for Pagenaud’s 2020 season. He will be wanting to keep the positive momentum going this weekend at Indianapolis. With a shortened season, one poor result could put any driver in a difficult position.

One driver hoping to shake off a bad result at Texas will be Alexander Rossi. The Californian has been a serious title contender for the last two seasons but has had one too many poor results that have ultimately ruled him out of taking the crown. When Rossi and the #27 crew are on song, they are hard to beat. They will be hoping to be on song this weekend to bounce back from a one-lap down fifteenth place finish at Texas last time out, whilst also hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s Indy GP race when contact on the run down to turn one ultimately saw Rossi take twenty-second place.

Lastly, there will be a number of drivers and a team that will be making their first appearance of the year this weekend. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will be making their first IndyCar start outside of the Indianapolis 500 in seven years, with Sage Karam driving the #24 Chevrolet. The team will likely spend the weekend getting back up to speed with road course racing.

Elsewhere, Carlin will have a fresh driver in their sole entry this weekend. Max Chilton returns to the cockpit to kick off his partial campaign in the #59 Chevrolet. The sister car, the #31 Chevrolet, will not run once again. It is not known as to when or if the #31 car will race this year, but when it does it is expected that Felipe Nasr will drive the car.

Dalton Kellett will also make his first IndyCar start in A.J. Foyt Racing‘s #14 Chevrolet. The Canadian is set to contest eight races over the course of the year and comes into IndyCar after several years of racing in Indy Lights.

The final ‘new’ face this weekend will be Spencer Pigot. The American, who raced full-time for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 and 2019, will return to the paddock for the first of two planned outings this year. He will drive the #45 Honda for Citrone/Buhl Autosport with the backing of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He will be hoping to make the most of his limited opportunities this year to try and find his way back onto the grid in an increased capacity.

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 03 July

11:30 ET / 16:30 BST – Practice 1
16:30 ET / 21:30 BST – Qualifying

Saturday 04 June

12:00 ET / 17:00 BST – Race

Where can I watch the 2020 GMR Grand Prix?

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, both qualifying and the race will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for qualifying and the race will be shown on NBC.

Further coverage of practice will be provided in the United States by NBC Sports Gold.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

You can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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