Photo: Brian Spurlock/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Previewing the 2021 Big Machine Spiked Coolers GP

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

A few days removed from the most chaotic IndyCar race of the season, the series goes from the vibrant “Music City” and are “Back Home Again.”

However, there’s a bit of a somber tone as Bob Jenkins, one of the iconic voices of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, passed away Monday.

Truly a one of a kind broadcaster that’ll be sorely missed. Especially, during “The Brickyard” weekend as both INDYCAR and NASCAR share the IMS Road Course.

Naturally, having both sanctioning bodies can create opportunities for some crossover. Only one out of the 28 drivers will dabble on both disciplines and that’ll be Cody Ware. He’ll run both the second Dale Coyne/Rick Ware entry Saturday and the No. 51 Cup Series machine Sunday.

Rick Ware’s son will look to have a better outing after a disastrous second half in Nashville where he couldn’t get the car back going after spinning out.

Ware will be one of six rookies competing in the Big Machine Spiked Coolers GP which also includes RC Enerson. Last Sunday, Enerson competed in the Cup race at Watkins Glen, finishing 34th in one of Ware’s cars.

The 24-year-old Floridian will make his IndyCar return with Top Gun Racing. The duo will look to have a better IMS experience after failing to qualify for the 105th Indianapolis 500 in May.

Another rookie will be Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard, who’ll pilot the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. He’ll be the first driver not named Santino Ferrucci that’ll run the third RLL machine this season.

The two-time F2 winner recently tested at Barber Motorsports Park and now will have a shot to showcase his worth in American Open Wheel Racing.

Finally, with just five rounds remaining in the championship trail, Chip Ganassi Racing are determined of putting on a stranglehold to the season. Instead of just Alex Palou and Scott Dixon, one other racer has come into his own lately.

Marcus Ericsson will be determined of getting his third straight victory after a tremendous come from behind win in Nashville. The Swede has also scored more points than his two front running teammates recently, making him a dark horse title contender. Above anything else, be a key role in accomplishing a feat that hasn’t been done since 1994.

That being an Indy car team finishing 1-2-3 in the championship. Team Penske being the last one with Al Unser, Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy doing so in CART.

With the season winding down, a lot is on the line and with 28 cars set to take part of the 80-lap contest. Time will tell what’s the latest insanity that’ll beckon the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series campaign.

By the Numbers

What: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 12 of 16

Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Speedway, Indiana (opened: 1909, road course: 2000, first INDYCAR event was 2014)

When: August 14, 2021

TV/Radio: NBCSN, 12:30 p.m. ET / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 211), 12:30 p.m. ET

Track Size: 2.439-mile road course

Race Length: 85 laps, 207.3 miles

Recent Race Winners (as the Harvest Grand Prix): Josef Newgarden – No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started second, 34 laps led) (Race No. 1) & Will Power – No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started first, all 75 laps led) (Race No. 2)

Track Qualifying Record: Will Power – No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet (67.7044 seconds, 129.687 mph – May 12, 2017)

From the Driver’s Seat

Rinus VeeKay – No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

“Getting my first podium here last year and now winning, it was a dream. We are going back to Indy and hopefully I can have some luck again.”

Romain Grosjean – No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing Honda

“Last time out, we had a good weekend with pole position and finishing second. I got a lot of expectations, but we’re also running with NASCAR this weekend. So, the rubber and track will be different.

“We’ll keep working and pushing hard to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, we can have a good race. Same pace as last week, but a bit more like it in the race.”

Last Time at the Indy Road Course

Last fall, Team Penske ruled the Harvest Grand Prix with Josef Newgarden and Will Power winning the two races. However, it was the polar opposite in the series’ most recent race on the grand prix circuit.

That’s because the major headliners came from smaller race teams. Those being Dale Coyne w/ Rick Ware and Ed Carpenter Racing, whose lead drivers won the Indy crowd over.

Romain Grosjean, who was viewed as an ex-Formula One racer at the time, led the field to the green flag. From there, he set the tone in the Coyne-Ware machine. If it wasn’t for a pit strategy and relatively slow pit stop, a maiden win would’ve been on the cards.

Grosjean’s Kryptonite on a cloudy mid-May afternoon was ECR’s Rinus VeeKay. The entire No. 21 team took a different strategy that worked to an absolute tee. It showed when VeeKay was well ahead of Grosjean and he never looked back.

“Rocket” Rinus went on to score his maiden IndyCar win. Grosjean went on to finish a current season-best second.

“It was an amazing day,” said VeeKay. “To start with this morning, we started in the warmup fastest lap time. Of course, doesn’t say too much, but the car felt amazing, very good on the long run, even though we only did blacks.”

The raw talent further explained a key trait to his victory was learning from his previous three IMS Road Course starts.

“Then we went to the reds, learned from last year because we had many races here,” said VeeKay. “The reds were very good in the long run, and yeah, just start was great, had a great ability to pass other cars, and strategy was amazing by the team. So everything was just on it.”

“Amazing day, and definitely one I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, August 13

  • NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 1 (3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Peacock)
  • NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Peacock/NBCSN (Live))

Saturday, August 14

  • NTT IndyCar Series Warmup (8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. – Peacock)
  • NTT IndyCar Series Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. – 85 laps, 207.3 miles – NBCSN)

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.