ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will race the first of three doubleheader events this season at this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR Doubleheader at Road America at 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday, July 11on NBCSN and noon (ET) Sunday, July 12 on NBC.
Scott Dixon has won the first two races of the 2020 season, scoring the win at Texas Motor Speedway June 6 and at last Saturday’s road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 23 drivers entered in the weekend’s doubleheader will compete in a compacted schedule. The two-day event will feature a one-hour, 15-minute practice session Saturday, followed by an NTT P1 Award qualifying session before each 55-lap race Saturday and Sunday.
Practice times will set the field into two groups for NTT P1 Award qualifying, but there will only be one round. Each group will run a 12-minute session, and the fastest in each group will earn a bonus NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship point and the overall fastest lap will earn the NTT P1 Award.
Here are “5 Things To Look For…” heading into this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR Doubleheader.
Twice as Nice?
For the first time since 2014, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will conduct doubleheader events at tracks beside the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, and the first two twin bills will happen in consecutive weekends.
Road America and Iowa Speedway will offer the challenge of racing on the largest and smallest tracks on the schedule, but with a total of 200 points on offer over seven days, the stage for the championship race could be set.
“With doubleheaders in Road America and Iowa the next two weekends, the fans should get some really good action,” said five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon. “That means lots of racing, and I think that’s what we all want both as drivers and as racing fans.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES held doubleheaders in 2013 and 2014 on the Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place and Houston’s Reliant Park. Dixon and Graham Rahal are the only drivers to sweep doubleheader races. Dixon took the two Toronto races in 2013, while Rahal swept the Belle Isle doubleheader in 2017.
For teams, the doubleheader is even more challenging as they have to prepare for a day of practice, qualifying and a 55-lap race Saturday, only to return after a night’s sleep for qualifying and a full 55-lap race Sunday.
And it leaves little room for error.
“One little mishap puts you in a tailspin the whole weekend, and it’s really hard to come back from,” Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Michael Shank told IndyStar’s Nathan Brown. “And it can be as simple as a little electrical issue that keeps you out of 20 minutes of a given session. That time in those one-day shows is so precious.”
The Iceman’s Hot Streak
Scott Dixon’s wins in the first two races of the 2020 season have him on the brink of history.
The New Zealand driver would become the fourth driver to win the first three races of an INDYCAR season should he capture the opener of the REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader.
A.J. Foyt won the first seven races of the 1964 USAC season, while Al Unser claimed the first three of the 1971 USAC season. Sebastien Bourdais won the first four races of the 2006 Champ Car World Series season. All three also claimed the championship in that same year.
“It feels great to get the start to the season we’ve had,” said Dixon, who has had a pair of three-race win streaks in his career – Watkins Glen, Nashville and Mid-Ohio in 2007 and Pocono and a doubleheader sweep at Toronto in 2013.
“The team has put a lot of work into the program, and we’ve unloaded with fast cars in both races so far. I’m glad we’re getting into racing every weekend. Road America is one of my favorite tracks, and our goal is to keep the PNC Bank car at the front twice his weekend.”
Youth vs. Experience
With six full-time drivers under the age of 24, there is a definite youth movement in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
But while first- and second-year drivers are just beginning to show their vast potential in the early part of the season, the veterans of the series are not ready to give up the spotlight. In fact, drivers with at least seven NTT INDYCAR SERIES seasons under their belts have taken all the podium positions thus far.
“I’ll tell you, it’s getting tough. It’s getting really tough out there!” said Simon Pagenaud, who along with Scott Dixon has stood on podiums at Texas and Indianapolis. “There are some really good kids coming up. Some really fast guys. Oliver Askew was impressive in qualifying. We’ve got Pato (O’Ward) and Rinus (VeeKay) – I started behind him, and he marched his way to the front. I was very impressed with his race pace. I only beat him on his last pit sequence.
“A lot of good kids. (Felix) Rosenquist is always there, and Colton (Herta) is becoming more and more consistent. It is going to get tougher and tougher as the year goes on. It’s impressive to see how tight things are.”
Herta, who scored his first career pole at Road America in 2019, sees this weekend as an opportunity for the young guns to finally make their mark.
“I’m happy with how the year has gone so far,” Herta said. “We’ve been consistent. We’ve shown speed everywhere we’ve gone. Happy to get back to Road America. I’m happy it’s a doubleheader. Felt like we were very fast there last year. I think we do have a chance to win.”
Two Races, Two Looks for Rahal
The doubleheader event at Road America will give Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the chance to showcase a pair of primary sponsors on Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda this weekend.
Rahal will debut the black, white and gold colors of TOTAL QUARTZ in Saturday’s Race 1 and return to the blue and green colors of the Fifth Third Bank car that he raced in Indianapolis for Sunday’s Race 2.
Rahal’s team will rewrap his car Saturday after Race 1.To aid in the process, the team will already have some bodywork, such as the engine cover and sidepods, prepared.
Welcome Race Fans!
After two events conducted without fans in attendance, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will welcome race fans for events this weekend at Road America and next weekend at Iowa Speedway.
The fans and the atmosphere they bring to each NTT INDYCAR SERIES event have been missed by the drivers.
“It’s been strange,” said Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. “It is strange to go to the track without any fans. It’s like being at a test session. Without the hype from the crowd, you don’t get the feeling of being a gladiator or a superstar. It’s quiet. It doesn’t have that racing feel.
“To me, race fans make racing interesting. It’s a party every weekend when we go racing, and without them, it is not. I’m excited about going to Road America, and for the first time we are going to open up the gates. I look forward to it. It is a great place to have people and for them to camp and see us racing around that beautiful track.”