PREVIEW: 2020 NTT IndyCar Series – Road America

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Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

The teams and drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series will journey to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this weekend for the first doubleheader race weekend of the 2020 season. The famous and fabulous Road America will play host to the two races that comprise the 2020 REV Group Grand Prix, with Saturday and Sunday each featuring a full-points race.

After two races and two victories, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon leads the championship ahead of Simon Pagenaud. Many will be hoping to take the fight to Dixon this weekend to stop the New Zealander running away to a sixth championship victory.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix.

What happened in 2019 at Road America?

Colton Herta put in a fantastic lap in qualifying for last year’s race at Road America to become the youngest-ever NTT IndyCar Series pole-sitter; following up his victory at COTA earlier in the year where he became the youngest-ever NTT IndyCar Series race winner.

Herta duelled Alexander Rossi in the fight for pole, with the Californian missing out by just two-tenths of a second. In the race, however, Rossi would not be denied. Rossi would try a move around the outside of turn one on lap one and would keep battling Herta through turn two. Rossi would pull ahead on the exit of the corner and successfully held onto the lead at the end of the second straight.

That exchange would be the one and only time that Rossi had to fight another competitor for the remainder of the race. The entirety of the race would be run without any interruptions due to cautions. This allowed Rossi to stretch his legs in the lead of the race, with himself, his car and his crew working in perfect harmony.

By the time the race drew to a close at the end of lap fifty-five, Rossi had built up a near-thirty second lead. He would cross the line to take victory with a twenty-eight-second advantage in what was perhaps one of the most dominant performances in recent NTT IndyCar Series history.

After losing the lead on the opening lap, Herta’s hopes for a podium finish would soon begin to vanish. The Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver seemed to struggle with his tyres and would fall into the clutches of those behind him. To add insult to injury, a lengthy first pit-stop due to a faulty fuel hose would drop him out of the top five.

Herta’s troubles would promote Team Penske stablemates Will Power and Josef Newgarden up into second and third. Newgarden would begin to fall back by the end of the race and would just hold onto the final podium spot after a late challenge by Graham Rahal. The top five would be completed by Scott Dixon, who sensationally finished fifth after being spun on lap one and forced to fight his way through the field without the help of a caution.

Pole-sitter Herta would finish further back in eighth after more struggles with tyre life later in the race.

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

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

Scott Dixon’s start to the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series has been almost perfect. The New Zealander has not started either race from pole position, but superb drives at both Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway‘s Grand Prix circuit have seen Scott stand on the top step of the podium both times.

As a result of his brace of victories, Dixon now leads the championship with a decent advantage of twenty-nine points over Simon Pagenaud. Scott, naturally, will be hoping for his advantage to increase further this weekend and there is every chance that he could do just that.

Dixon took victory at Road America in 2017, finished third in 2018 and went from the back of the field to fifth-place after a spin on the opening lap in 2019. If his affinity for the Wisconsin circuit continues into this year, Dixon could easily be leading the way after the doubleheader.

A handful of drivers will enter this weekend seeking redemption after a tricky start to the year. Consistency has long been key in competing for an NTT IndyCar Series championship. This year, with a condensed calendar, consistency is even more critical.

Team Penske‘s Will Power sits fifteenth in the standings after finishing thirteenth at Texas and twentieth at Indianapolis. The Australian’s bad luck from 2019 looks to have carried over into 2020, with a slow pit-stop at Texas and an ill-timed caution and a stall in the pits removing him from contention for the win at Indianapolis.

Power has previously had success at Road America, with a win in 2016 on the circuit’s return to the championship, as well as a runner-up finish in last year’s event. After mistakes and retirements took him out of contention for last year’s championship, Power will be absolutely determined to get his 2020 season back on track if he wants to have any hope of challenging at the end of the season.

Similarly, Felix Rosenqvist will be hoping for a strong showing this weekend. Felix had been in contention for his first IndyCar victory at the season-opening race at Texas. However, a mistake whilst chasing down his Ganassi team-mate, Dixon, for the lead would put him out. Last week at Indianapolis, the mid-race caution came at the worst time, trapping Rosenqvist back in the pack where he would remain until the chequered flag; with the Swede finishing only fifteenth.

The results mean that Rosenqvist only has twenty-five points to his name and is only in nineteenth place in the standings. It certainly hasn’t been the start to his second season that Felix had been hoping for. Rosenqvist finished last year’s race at Road America in sixth-place. This year, he will be hoping for even better. However, any decent haul of points would likely come as a relief to Rosenqvist after the last two races.

Lastly, there will be one driver hoping that history repeats itself this weekend. Last year’s Road America race winner, Alexander Rossi, will head into the doubleheader in desperate need of a good result; or at least an end to his bad luck. Mechanical gremlins plagued Rossi’s first two races of the year, with his car failing to get off the grid in time for the start of the race in Texas, whilst a fuel pressure issue would force him into retirement at Indianapolis.

As a result, Rossi sits way down in twenty-third place in the standings with only twenty points to his name. Alexander will be absolutely desperate to get back into the hunt this weekend as he continues to try and fight for his first NTT IndyCar Series championship. A repeat of his dominant victory last year would help him on his way, but he will still need to rely on consistently strong finishes for the remainder of the season if he wants to catch up from his early setbacks.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Saturday 11 July

11:30 ET / 16:30 BST – Practice
14:30 ET / 19:30 BST – Qualifying
17:15 ET / 22:00 BST – Race 1

Sunday 12 July

10:30 ET / 15:30 BST – Qualifying
12:35 ET / 17:35 BST – Race 2

Where can I watch the 2020 REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader?

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, the races this weekend will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1. However, due to clashes with the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix coverage, qualifying for race one will be shown delayed and qualifying for race two will not be shown.

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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