Home Editor's Picks 2021 IndyCar Preview #5 – Sights Set for Sunday’s Season Start

2021 IndyCar Preview #5 – Sights Set for Sunday’s Season Start

by Brian Ledford

This is the final installment of Arch City Media’s preview of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series. We’ll have continuous coverage of the popular franchise all season long.

MONDAYSEASON OVERVIEW    TUESDAY CHAMP HOPEFULS  WEDNESDAY NEWCOMERS    THURSDAYTEAMS

The NTT IndyCar Series launches Sunday with the first of 17 scheduled races for the 2021 campaign.

Driver Colton Herta – Photo Credit: INDYCAR – Chris Owens

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama takes place at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama with a 2:40 p.m. green flag start for the field of 24 drivers.

The 90-lap feature on the 2.38-mile permanent road course features 17 turns and 80 feet of elevation change which makes patience imperative when looking to pass the opposition.

IndyCar’s annual trek to the legacy track was postponed last year due to the pandemic so Sunday’s return marks the series’ first appearance there in two years. Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) won the last series event held there.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) had a hard charge out of the gates in last season’s shortened schedule, winning the first three races in 2020 and four overall, en route to his sixth IndyCar title that places him one shy of A.J. Foyt’s benchmark of seven.

The overall key narrative this season is the 40-year-old Kiwi’s attempt to tie Foyt’s record.

“To me, it would mean everything to me to be able to do that,” said Dixon of the quest for seven. “I think even to get the sixth was, in the current landscape, is extremely tough and very difficult to do. (I’m) very proud of that. The obvious goal is to add to that. That will be what we’re trying to do.”

Driver Josef Newgarden – Photo Credit: INDYCAR – Chris Owens

Meanwhile, 2020 points runner-up Josef Newgarden (Penske Racing) is primed to thwart Dixon’s progression. His upward trajectory late last season put him within striking distance of snaring the title from Dixon. The two-time IndyCar champ also claimed four wins last year.

“I always tell people, I tell the team, let’s get on the board today,” said Newgarden of using Sunday’s event for a strong season start. “We don’t need to win the race, but we need to score some points, have a good showing, set ourselves up for a good year.”

21-year-old Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport) finished third in points last season, thanks to a victory at Mid-Ohio and numerous podium placements. The second-generation driver knows that he needs to take more wins in order to claim an IndyCar title.

“That’s been the trend the last few years for guys that have won the championship, is they’re winning four race as year,” said Herta. “When they’re not winning, they’re finishing on the podium. I have full faith in myself and in the team that we can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of effort from everybody.”

Driver Will Power – Photo Credit: INDYCAR – Chris Owens

Other veteran drivers looking to claim a season-opening victory are Will Power (Team Penske) and Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) while 21-year-old Pato O’ Ward (Arrow McLaren SP), who finished fourth in points in 2020, seeks a first-time IndyCar win.

Also notables to watch are the newcomers to the series that have lengthy tenures at other motor sports series. Seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson (Chip Ganassi Racing), three-time Supercar champ Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) and Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) aim to make an initial splash.

Qualifications take place Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s coverage on NBC (locally, KSDK-TV, Channel 5) beings at 2 pm.

For more information on the NTT IndyCar Series, visit their official website.

Arch City Media will have a recap of the race posted Sunday night.

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