NTT IndyCar Series Preview: Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway

Josef Newgarden celebrates in victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Josef Newgarden celebrates his 2019 win in victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

Well, it’s finally going to happen. After three months of scheduling, cancelling, rescheduling and postponing, the NTT IndyCar Series will present its first race of the season Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Thirty-one Indy car races have graced the Fort Worth high banks over the years, but for the first time Texas will play host to the series opener. Given the pandemic sweeping the country, the Genesys 300 is fortunate to have made it onto the very fluid IndyCar schedule, albeit with no fans in the track’s massive stands. In an “old school” move, practice, qualifying and the race itself will be held on the same day; much like in the 1950’s and 60’s. Three rookie drivers will have just a brief session to acquaint themselves with their cars, the track and the high-speed traffic that Texas is known for. Should be interesting.

Race Facts: Texas Motor Speedway opened for competition in 1997 and has hosted 31 Indy car events on the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval. Turns 1/2 are banked 20-degrees while turns 3/4 are steeper at 24. Charlie Kimball (2017) holds the two-lap qualifying mark at 222.556 mph (46.5861sec.). Scott Dixon (2015) lays claim to the fastest race ever run here; 191.940 mph (1:52:47.85). Arie Luyendyk bested Billy Boat and Davey Hamilton in the track’s 1997 (IRL) inaugural run. The Genesys 300 will go for 200 laps/300 miles in its daylight to darkness dash. Among active drivers, Helio Castroneves has won four times, Dixon (3) and Power (2), while Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan have each won once.

TV: Saturday, June 6, Qualifying, 5p.m. ET, NBCSN…Race, 8p.m. ET, NBC network.

Recent Race History: Josef Newgarden started seventh in 2019 trailing early race leaders Ryan Hunter-Reay and pole-winner Takuma Sato. He worked his way to the front on lap 190/248 and quick pit work by his Penske crew on lap 198 allowed him to return to the front for good six laps later. He survived a restart with 12 circuits remaining and held off a stubborn Alexander Rossi for the 0.816 sec. win. It was his first Texas victory on his way to his second NTT IndyCar Series championship.

2020 Season So Far: IndyCar has worked hard to salvage the remnants of its original 17-race schedule after the COVID-19 pandemic shredded it. As of now the schedule shows 14 races at 10 different tracks.

Genesys 300 Grid: Twenty-four entries are listed for Saturday’s race versus just 22 in 2019. Three rookies (*) are among the field that shows 10 Chevrolets and 14 Hondas.

Chevrolet: AJ Foyt Enterprises; Charlie Kimball/Tony Kanaan…Arrow McLaren SP; Pato O’Ward/ Oliver Askew*…Carlin; Conor Daly…Ed Carpenter Racing; Carpenter/Rinus Veekay*…Team Penske; Josef Newgarden/Will Power/Simon Pagenaud.

Honda: Andretti Autosport; Zach Veach/Alexander Rossi/Ryan Hunter-Reay/James Hinchcliffe/Marco Andretti/Colton Herta…Chip Ganassi Racing; Marcus Ericsson/Scott Dixon/Felix Rosenqvist…Dale Coyne Racing; Alex Palou*/Santino Ferrucci…Meyer Shank Racing; Jack Harvey…Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; Graham Rahal/Takuma Sato.

Notes: Car owner Trevor Carlin announced at the last minute that his team’s second entry (likely for ex- F1 pilot Felipe Nasr) would be parked for the Texas opener due to financial difficulties related to the Covid19 pandemic. Carlin hopes to work toward having that second entry (#31) participate in the remaining NTT series events… The Dragon Speed team also hoped  to race at Texas but just a TBA driver was listed and they are not on the final entry…Eighteen drivers started all 17 series events in 2019…Given the plethora of schedule changes, shortened race weekends and with just 10 cars set to compete, Road to Indy organizer Andersen Promotions has decided to sit out the 2020 Indy Lights Series season and regroup for  next year…Tony Stewart was the Texas pole-winner in both 1997and 1998…The Indy Racing League sanctioned races here from 1997-2010 before IndyCar took over from 2011 to the present.

Our Take: No one likes a race that is run with limited practice time, not only during race weekend but also in pre-season testing. The COVID-19 pandemic forced some testing to be dropped and has shortened the Texas race weekend schedule. Texas is a track that requires veteran savvy to succeed, but three rookies will have to learn quickly during their short time before qualifying. IndyCar is fortunate to have been able to do schedule juggling, and despite all of that, they have come up with a patchwork lineup of 14 events at 10 venues. One or two more may be added before season’s end. Hope for the best.

“They Said It” Scott Dixon No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing/PNC Bank Honda: “I think everybody is pretty ready. There are scenarios where maybe the sunlight going from day to night (with a 7:00pm Central start time) will be something new for most of us. As far as car fit (for the driver) and how the (wind) screen is, we’ve had plenty (test) miles, albeit on road courses, earlier in the season. It’s going to take a few laps for everybody to get used to it at Texas; get back going…It will take a few laps to get up to speed.

“The only thing I don’t like about this coming weekend is where we’re limited in the amount of laps we can do in a stint. Last year we ran 65 laps on a stint to this year we’re limited to 35 half tanks in the car…Some of the rules they (IndyCar) have implemented with the maximum of 35, it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.”

Next Race: GMR Grand Prix… Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course… Saturday, July 4, in conjunction with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 Cup and Xfinity weekend.


Share Button