NTT IndyCar Series: Harvest GP Doubleheader Preview

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing won the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing won the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

The first Indy Harvest Classic was held way back in 1916, so here we are in 2020, about to witness the next running, now called the Indy Harvest GP, to be run in two parts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course Friday and Saturday, October 2-3. Races 12/13 of the NTT IndyCar Series were a somewhat late addition to the often-altered season schedule and will precede Sunday’s 8-Hour GT World Challenge America endurance race.

Race Facts: Race 1: 85 laps (207.35 miles) …Race 2: 75 laps (182.90 miles). IMS road course qualifying record: 2017, Will Power, 129.687mph…Race record: 2017, Power, 1:42:57.610, (120.813 mph) …Most wins (3) Power…Most team wins (5) Team Penske.

Recent Race History: The previous IMS road course race (the GMR GP) was held during July’s Brickyard weekend after its traditional May running was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda ran away with the race after a full-course caution shuffled the field on lap 36/80. Dixon had stopped three laps earlier while the leaders at the time pitted under caution after Oliver Askew’s crash. Following the green flag, Dixon chased down then leader Graham Rahal on Lap 48 and cruised to a 19.9-second victory after leading 26 laps; his first GMR win after three runner-up finishes. Rahal was second with Jack Harvey taking his first podium finish in third.

2020 Season So Far: Point Standings after 11/14 races: 1. Scott Dixon, 4 wins, 456 points, Honda…2. Josef Newgarden, 2, 384, Chevrolet…3. Pato O’Ward, 0, 338, C…4. Colton Herta, 1, 327, H…5. Will Power, 1, 306, C…7. Takuma Sato, 1, 300, H…8. Simon Pagenaud, 1, 277, C…11. Felix Rosenqvist, 1, 244, H…Dixon continues to lead the points chase with his 72-point lead over 2019 champion Newgarden, though a pair of tenth-place finishes at Mid-Ohio slowed his efforts to clinch the series’ crown before the final race at St. Petersburg.

Race Entries: Twenty-five cars are entered for the pair of races with several changes from the usual road course grid. Helio Castroneves will replace Oliver Askew for McLaren as Askew was not medically cleared to drive. Sebastien Bourdais finally starts his season as the third Foyt Racing entry, joining with Charlie Kimball and Dalton Kellett for the final three races. Conor Daly is back with Ed Carpenter for his usual road course duties while Dryer & Reinbold will extend its schedule, entering Sage Karam for the weekend. Finally, Zach Veach has permanently stepped out of the Andretti Autosport No. 26, making way for James Hinchcliffe for the remaining races and perhaps next season.

Notes: TV: Race 1, Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network…Race 2, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Network…There will be a limit of 10,000 fans allowed to enter each day for the doubleheader and the endurance race by order of the Marion Co. Public Health Dept…The original 1916 Harvest Classic race was the only non-May race at IMS from 1911-1993 until the 1994 Brickyard 400 was run in August…The original 1916 Harvest GP consisted of three races around the IMS oval each won by Johnny Aitken, including two of them decided by less than a car length. General Admission tickets for those races was just $1. The track was closed for two years (1917-18) shortly after, due to WW 1…The announcement of an agreement for a street race in Nashville, TN beginning next summer surprised some as the under-used Nashville oval, outside of town, would have been another choice in the region and could have satisfied those interested in adding an oval track race to the schedule.

Our Take: This is easy. Penske driver Will Power has won three times on the IMS road course. Team Penske has won the race five times. Tough prediction, but a Penske driver (Power or Pagenaud) will capture each race.

They Said It: Sebastien Bourdais (No. 14, AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s time finally to get that 2020 INDYCAR season started for us. It’s been a long time coming but really happy to get this show on the road and see what we’ve got. Obviously, there was a lot of anticipation at the beginning of the year and many months have gone by and many races, so we’re not taking it easy by getting in the seat at the tail-end of the season. There’s a lot of things for me to learn with the team, the team to validate a few things that they think they need answers on for this season and, more importantly, for the next. I’m very much looking forward to the Indy GP. It’s a track that I’ve had good success on and very much enjoyed the layout, but it’s not going to be easy because we’re jumping into the thick of it; one practice, then qualify, race, qualify, race. Hopefully, we hit the ground running with a happy setup and can have a good weekend. If that’s not the case, we’ll dig deep and learn a few things and see what we get results-wise.”

Next Race: Race 14…Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Sunday, October 25.

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