It has been the strangest four months. There’s been iRacing, and two races without fans. However this weekend the final missing piece – we the fans will be on site for the race. Yes there is still a global pandemic and yes if you will be there PLEASE wear your mask and practice the recommendations from the CDC. But my god, we’ll be near cars, at a race track, and not separated by a fence (like some of us were during the GMR Grand Prix). It would have been great to have gone to Texas as the first race. Of course having a race at the IMS be the first race with fans is always fitting. Road America though, is perfect. They call it America’s “National Park of Speed” and trust me it’s a moniker well deserved.
Road America is a permanent road course situated in the Southern-ish part of Wisconsin. The 4.084 mile road course (the longest on the INDYCAR circuit) features fourteen turns, elevation changes, and some great vantage points. It’s also given some great racing moments. For those of us who are fans of Alexander Rossi the past two years have been great. In 2018 he and Sato got scrappy…and Sato felt the need to complain (Sato has no credibility on standing when it comes to complaining about other drivers). Then of course last year, Rossi passed Colton Herta lap one, Turn 1 and never looked back. Just dominated that race. At one point Josef Newgarden came on his radio to ask how far ahead Rossi was and his response was just “wow”.
In a season where “but this time things are different” will be a theme: things are different. Road America will host a double-header of INDYCAR races. Both Saturday and Sunday drivers will go fifty-five laps for a total of just over two-hundred miles. It is again a very tight schedule for the series. Saturday features a practice session, qualifications, and a race. Sunday is qualifying and racing. Judging by the first two races, expect a lot of discussion to focus on the heat in the cars. Wisconsin will be cooler, marginally, than Indy or Texas; however this is a much longer track. Drivers will undertake two very long races in cars where they haven’t quite figured the cooling system.
As far as drivers to watch? I’m interested in both a redemption story from Andretti Autosport (specifically Rossi) after shitty races to start the season. This is unlike a top tier team to have consistent issues with at least two cars during races, and one of them being their best driver. Last year Rossi just dominated the race. He’s a driver who tends to take bad starts and use them as fuel to get results. Watch Out. The other group will be the rookies. I think this is a track where a rookie can step up and shine. Rinus VeeKay did a great job at the AMR Grand Prix, I look for another rookie to do a good job at this race (on our recent episode I picked Oliver Askew as my good bet).
For those of you braving the first race with a crowd. First, please do wear your mask and follow the CDC Guidelines of social distancing and hand-washing. If this is your first time – explore the different vantage points! There are so many good spots to watch practice, and quals, and the Road to Indy races that don’t require a ticketed seat. We’re camping in the carousel, look for the flamingos and say “hi”!