NTT IndyCar Series 2020 preview – updated

The NTT IndyCar Series starts the 2020 season this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida.

There has a huge visual change over the winter.

All cars have been mounted with a windshield, the so-called Aeroscreen, which will protect the drivers from flying debris from other cars. While Formula 1 was chosen the HALO system, with just a harness over the drivers head, and a pylon in front of the drivers, Indycar has gone for the fully enclosed version, with ballistic “glass” just like on a fighter plane.

Red Bull Technologies has been part of the process, with designing the product, thanks to some of their knowledge from Formula 1. There have been several tests done in the USA, where Indycar themselves has tested the “glass” part. They were actually going for another solution from a different supplier, until they gave up on that project and teamed up with Red Bull Technologies.

Josef Newgarden
Photo: Indycar.com / Chris Graythen

The closed cockpit brings new challenges for the drivers. They have tear-offs on the regular helmets if they get oil or any other smear on the visor. But they can’t do that themselves on the new Aeroscreen. The teams do however carry tear-offs on the screen itself, which they can pull off during pitstops, just like teams do in sportscar racing, where you have the windshield covered in several layers. The teams are allowed to send one extra person over the wall, but that person is restricted to removing this tear-off only. There can be up to 8 tear-offs on the Aeroscreen at the time.

Another difficulty is driver cooling. The oncoming air has hit the helmet directly in the past, to cool down the head and upper body of the driver. All air is now guided way over their heads, so they will be in a greenhouse environment. To prevent that, there has been some air ducting implemented at the bottom of the Aeroscreen, to guide the air onto the driver. But no doubt, it will still be a much hotter job to be an Indycar driver 2020 compared to the previous seasons. For the short ovals and road- and street courses, there will be a helmet air intake mounted on cars, if the driver wishes to use it – just like it’s known from NASCAR, which has fresh air connections on top of the helmets too.

Aeroscreen, tear-offs
Photo: Indycar.com / Chris Graythen

In case of rain, there are small heating treads implemented into the “glass” to keep the fog away. That technology is also present on several versions of helmet visors unless the good old fashioned anti-fog isn’t applied.

Should it be needed to remove the Aeroscreen, in case of an accident where the doctors need more room to take the driver out of the car, it’s possible to remove the whole lot in less than 15 minutes.

Aeroscreen, cockpit view
Photo: Indycar.com / Chris Graythen

Other than the Aeroscreen, it’s still the same Dallara DW12, with various small updates through the years, racing with the IR-18 aero kit, that Indycar started using in 2018, making all cars look the same, and no longer dependent on what engine manufacturer you had alleged with.

Let’s have a look at all the teams. If there are no further comments behind the drivers’ name, they will do a full season. Numbers in brackets are the car number.

A. J. Foyt Enterprises (Chevrolet)

Charlie Kimball (4)

Sebastien Bourdais (14), 4 road- and street courses

Tony Kanaan (14) 5 oval races, incl. Indy 500

Dalton Kellett (14), the remaining 8 road- and street courses

Andretti Autosports (Honda)

Zach Veach (26)

Alexander Rossi (27)

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)

James Hinchcliffe (29), 3 races incl. Indy 500

Colton Herta (88)

Marco Andretti (98)

Arrow McLaren SP (Chevrolet)

Patricio O’Ward (5)

Oliver Askew (7)

Fernando Alonso (66) only Indy 500 confirmed

Carlin (Chevrolet)

Max Chilton (59), only road- and street courses plus Indy 500

Conor Daly (59), ovals minus Indy 500

Felipe Nasr (31), just the opening round confirmed

Chip Ganassi Racing (Honda)

Marcus Ericsson (8)

Scott Dixon (9)

Felix Rosenqvist (10)

Dale Coyne Racing (Honda)

Santino Ferrucci (18)

Alex Palou (55)

DragonSpeed (Chevrolet)

Ben Hanley (81) – so far only the opening round. The team has however planned to do a further 5 races incl. Indy 500.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Chevrolet)

Sage Karam (24), St. Pete, 2x Indianapolis plus Toronto.

Extra car at Indy 500

Ed Carpenter Racing (Chevrolet)

Ed Carpenter (20), only ovals incl. Indy 500

Conor Daly (20), only road- and street courses plus Indy 500

Rinus Veekay (21)

Meyer Shank Racing – support fra Andretti Autosports (Honda)

Jack Harvey (60)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Honda)

Graham Rahal (15)

Takuma Sato (30)

Spencer Pigot (45), 2x Indianapolis

Team Penske (Chevrolet)

Josef Newgarden (1)

Scott McLaughlin (2), only GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis road course confirmed. Possibility for more.

Helio Castroneves (3), only Indy 500

Will Power (12)

Simon Pagenaud (22)

Takuma Sato
Photo: Indycar.com / Chris Graythen

That leaves us with only very few seats open, and a few opportunities for expanded programmes. Looking at the full-season drivers, there will be three rookies in Rinus Veekay, Oliver Askew and Alex Palou. Veekay and Askew arrive from Indy Lights, while Palou did Super Formula in Japan last year.

On top of that, we have Dalton Kellett and Scott McLaughlin for one or more races. Kellett has several seasons in Indy Lights to his CV, but without showing any big results so far. He did grab a few wins and podiums in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last year, but otherwise, it’s quite an empty trophy cabinet. McLaughlin is just the opposite. He is a front runner in the V8 Supercars series in Australia, where he races for DJR Team Penske, so he already has close ties to Roger Penske. He got his first Indycar test earlier in the year, and was lightning fast from the get-go, despite having not been in a single-seater for years. The rumours go towards him getting more than the one race in Indycar 2020, which is confirmed at this point.

Marcus Ericsson
Photo: Indycar.com / Jonathan Ferrey

All teams were out testing a month ago at Circuit Of The Americas, but that test was hampered by very cold temperatures and rain, so they only got a smidge of the track time that was planned. That meant that we didn’t really get to see any of the dynamics between the drivers and teams. But since there hasn’t been any changes at Team Penske and Andretti Autosports over the winter, a fight between Josef Newgarden and main rival Alexander Rossi should be expected – perhaps mixed up with a bit of Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud – and a few wild cards, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Felix Rosenqvist, in case the Swede gets all the rookie mistakes and lack of track knowledge out of the system that was plaguing him last year. If anybody else than these eight drivers finish in the top 8 at the end of year season standings, it would be quite a surprise. These are the 8 best cars in the field on paper.

But NTT Indycar Series always sprints a surprise or two, so we could very well see another driver on top of the rostrum during one or more events, just like we saw twice with Takuma Sato in 2019. Neither Sato nor Rahal from the RLL team are likely to feature as title candidates in 2020 – unless they start scoring constant top 5 finishes all season long. That is one of the huge forces for Scott Dixon, who finished in the top 5 a total of 11 out of 17 races in 2019, 13 out of 17 in 2018, 10 out of 17 in 2017 etc etc.

Update per 10 March – Carlin drivers updated.

The schedule for 2020 looks like this, with S for street course, R for road course and O for oval.

 

Round Date event Name Track
1 15 March Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg  S Streets of St. Petersburg
2 5 April Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama  R  Barber Motorsports Park
3 19 April Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach  S Streets of Long Beach
4 26 April AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge  R  Circuit of the Americas
5 9 May GMR Grand Prix  R  Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
6 24 May 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge  O  Indianapolis Motor Speedway
7 30 May Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear Corporation  S The Raceway on Belle Isle
8 31 May
9 6 June Genesys 600  O  Texas Motor Speedway
10 21 June REV Group Grand Prix at Road America  R  Road America
11 27 June Indy Richmond 300  O  Richmond Raceway
12 12 July Honda Indy Toronto  S Exhibition Place
13 18 July Iowa 300  O  Iowa Speedway
14 16 August Honda Indy 200  R  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
15 22 August Bommarito Automotive Group 500  O  World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
16 6 September Grand Prix of Portland  R  Portland International Raceway
17 20 September Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey  R  WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

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