By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Let’s try this again shall we!
The now eighth-month wait for NTT IndyCar Series action will finally come to an end this weekend as 24 daring drivers are ready to hit the demanding oval of Texas Motor Speedway June 6 after COVID-19 delayed the start of the season.
Not only the race will be on big boy NBC but will finally kick-off the Penske Era for INDYCAR and the much anticipated Aeroscreen kit at full song. Despite not having fans at the 1.5-mile oval, there’ll be plenty of action going down that should bring fans at the edge of their home seats.
This is due in most that part of the grid having a mixed bag of experience levels ranging for the well-established legends such as Tony Kanaan, who’ll start his final season, and five-time INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon, who’ll be entering his 20th season in top level open wheel competition.
You’ll have the daring veterans that’ll do what it takes to win like Alexander Rossi and Will Power and of course, the young guns of last year’s two-time series winner Colton Herta and reigning Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew taking center stage.
There’s also plenty of unknowns due to the wide range of competitors, but the biggest picture is who’ll get the job done right at day’s end?
They’ll only have an 50-minute session (an additional 30 for the rookies) to get track time before qualifying and the 200-lap main event occurs. Leaving no room for error and pivotal challenges that’ll linger at the mind of the competitors and race teams.
One thing is certain, the delay will be worth it as American open wheel racing is about to embark a new chapter and we’re all ready to be a part of the ride.
By the Numbers
What: Genesys 300, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 1 of 14
Where: Texas Motor Speedway – Ft. Worth, Texas (Opened: 1997, first INDYCAR event was 1997)
When: Saturday, June 6
TV/Radio: NBCSN, 8:00 pm ET / Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 211)
Track Size: 1.5 mile oval circuit
Race Length: 200 laps, 291 miles
2019 Race Winner: Josef Newgarden – No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started seventh, 54 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Kenny Brack – No. 8 Team Rahal Ford (22.854 seconds, 233.447 mph – April 28, 2001)
From the Driver’s Seat
“It’s going to be a new world for us racing here. Showing up for a one-day show, different than what we used to do at Texas. This sort of lag time between some events is very different. Haven’t been in the car in three months now kind of getting to Texas,” said reigning INDYCAR champion and 2019 Texas winner Josef Newgarden.
“Look, we got to make the most of it. I think in some ways it’s very exciting because we’ve never had opportunities to see who could shine under situations where there’s not a lot of testing. Kind of have to make quick decisions, hopefully make them better than people around you. From that standpoint, I’m really excited.
“I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure to get it right early within a race weekend, within a race situation. I think some people will really shine under those conditions more so than others.”
Last Time at Texas
If last year’s race was an indicator for what’s to come Saturday, then we’re going to have intense action and dramatic outcomes.
This was the case from start to finish as Takuma Sato led the field to the green flag and led the opening 60 laps. Sato’s ideal night would change on the opening set of pit stops when he slid into his pit stall, hitting crew member Chris Welch. He would be checked and released from the medical center later in the race.
However, the incident eliminated Sato from the fight for an oval victory as he finished 15th, three laps down. Sato would eventually get that long awaited second oval win at Gateway in thrilling fashion later in the season.
As the laps were winding down, the race saw a thrilling battle between the legend and rising star. Dixon and Herta put on quite a show, but that would come into a scratching halt on Lap 229.
Herta was eyeing on Dixon’s runner-up spot coming the down the backstretch. The great draft led him going low, but it all went awry as the two made contact at the entry of Turn 3, sending both cars into the wall. It nearly collected Rossi, who had an insane save to keep his race alive.
While all of that happened, Newgarden was at a different zip code but Rossi wouldn’t give up without a valiant fight with 8 laps to go, going high but just couldn’t clear him as he had to settle for another runner-up finish (his third out of the last four races up that point).
Newgarden went on to lead a total of 54 out of 248 laps to score his second of what would be four wins in 2019. Following some burnouts at the 1.5-mile oval, he gave the main credit to his entire No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske crew for putting him out in front when it mattered most.
“It’s these guys (on the crew), man, they keep putting me out front (and) I’m just trying to get it done at the end,” said Newgarden. “How about this Fitzgerald car; it looked good. It was good to have the Fitzgeralds here tonight. I knew we had a rocket ship and it was all about getting in the front. We were better in the front than we were in the back. We knew if we could get some (track) position we would be OK. Team Chevy doing a great job for us. A good day to capitalize on some points. These guys put me in position so it’s all up to them.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, June 6
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice (1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – NBC Sports Gold)
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (5:00 pm to 6:00pm – NBCSN)
- NTT IndyCar Series Genesys 300 (8:00 pm – 200 laps, 291 miles – NBC)