The 2020 INDYCAR Season in Review

Here’s the deal with 2020 INDYCAR Season, it’s too much to describe in a sentence. You can’t assign a thematic word to it. Even this intro paragraph is hard to write. How can you sum up a season that started in the most peculiar and chaotic way? Back on March 12, 2020 I was finishing up everything at work. Last minute preparations to fly out to St. Petersburg for the Firestone Grand Prix, the start of the season.By the time my flight landed in St. Pete, all the major sporting events had either canceled or postponed their seasons. The following day, INDYCAR would do the same, canceling the race and letting us all know changes were coming. What would emerge as the 2020 INDYCAR season became a mixture of many schedule changes, online racing, double headers, and yet some familiarity.

the new normal – separated interviews and drivers not understanding facemasks

There were a lot of big changes brought to the season due to the Coronavirus. The first being a series of online races between the drivers of the series. I’m not a big video game fan, but it was a great way to keep everyone involved until racing in-person started back up again. (for more of my opinion on the iRacing time, stay stunted a blog is forthcoming on November 17th) I have lost count on the amount of times the official schedule changed. In 2020 we lost seven races (counting two races for Detroit). We gained an additional four races through the addition of double headers and had the Harvest GP added.  I believe almost every race left on the calendar moved in some way or another. Except Texas Motor Speedway, that race was held approximately in on the same date, just without fans. Given the cancellation of a lot of races, and the constriction of the season, there were a ton of double headers. The double header races gave an interesting twist to race weekends. Forcing drivers and crews to set up for one race, and then quickly adapt or changes things for the following race. Each double-header weekend gave fans two distinct and separate races. The two weekends that stick out the most would be Mid Ohio and Gateway. Mid Ohio had two great races, but the second race provided a completely different track condition following a morning deluge. Gateway’s two races proved to be polar opposites. The first race started off with a most spectacular crash at the drop of the green flag. The second, more of a parade with drivers playing it safe, and the track changing to a very hot surface.

Of course, the biggest change in the 2020 season was the running of the Indianapolis 500 without fans. It was something that really did play on the hopes of fans. At first the race was rescheduled to late August. Then the news that only fifty-percent of fans would be allowed. Then that got lowered to twenty-five percent and the release of the safety plan. Then so very close to the date of the race, fans were not allowed. Even without fans the 500 proved it’s place as the most prestigious and trying race on the schedule. Qualifications weekend ended with just one Chevrolet in the fast nine. Rookie Rinus VeeKay started the race fourth becoming the fastest rookie in the race, and throwing down the fastest qualifying speed by a teenager. The race itself – unimaginable. While Marco Andretti had clenched the pole, he lost that spot by the drop of the green flag. James Davisson tire exploded. Oliver Askew and Conor Daly had two separate but harrowing crashes at the same lap.  Alexander Rossi finished what may have been another win with a crash. The race came down to Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato racing each other, with Sato claiming his second Indianapolis 500 victory in fantastic form.   

With an extra couple of months off, drivers stepped back into their cars, and put on a show. Sure there were some big issues with the aeroscreen at first, including how to keep the drivers cool (I will be writing on the Aeroscreen’s first year, keep an eye on this blog). 2020 was not kind to Alexander Rossi, as you probably have heard me bemoan about on various episodes. Call it bad luck, call it a team suffering from 2020-itis but his season never developed as it should. There were a few good finishes, but those were shadowed by spectacular DNFs. His former teammate Zach Veach also had a horrible year. Last year Veach seemed to suffer from a sophomore slump, but he just could not shake it this year. After crashing into multiple teammates in Gateway, the writing was on the wall and Veach was ultimately released from the team before the last few races.

Conor Daly, splitting the year between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing, had a fantastic year. He got his first pole in Iowa, while in Carlin equipment, and seems to be one of the hardest working drivers in the paddock. Charlie Kimball had a decent season given he was using A.J. Foyt equipment the whole time. He finished all but one race and managed two top-tens. Rinus VeeKay rightfully earned the Rookie of the Year award with a fantastic season (you can read more about VeeKay’s season on my write up of the 2020 rookies HERE). Colton Herta managed to out pace every other sophomore in the field and every one of his Andretti Autosport teammates. Ultimately, Scott Dixon won the championship. Providing us with a sense of normalcy as the season ended. There may be a global health pandemic, we may all be keeping to ourselves, but Scott Dixon will win championships. Though, in true 2020 fashion even Dixon made some uncharacteristic Dixon moves.

We have just under four months before the 2021 INDYCAR Season starts. I can’t even begin to guess what it will be like. The logical side of me, the one who works in public health, seems to think we’ll have another season of change. I’m not concerned for our sport though. As we enter the off-season we have multiple teams expanding the number of cars, in a global public health emergency: that is a good sign. At the very least, we as fans, and this sport, survived an indescribable 2020 season. Whatever 2021 has in store, I’m not worried.

There were just too many races to write about. But on our Races and Recaps page you can find links to race previews and reviews as well as the episodes detailing each race.  Also please think about following us on Social Media and subscribing to our podcast, if you haven’t already. Even in the off-season we’ll be providing all types of content for you.