This is the first of five articles that preview the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series. Each day this week, Arch City Media features an aspect of the upcoming season for the popular franchise.
After numerous shuffles last season, the NTT IndyCar Series returns for a more-stable, and higher-attended, campaign that begins this upcoming Sunday with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
“The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles to the sport’s return to scheduling normalcy.
Due to cancellations and re-adjustments directly affected by pandemic, the premier open-wheeled series saw the amount of 2020 races drop to 14.
Adjustments also resulted in a push of the traditional Indianapolis 500 to mid-August in front of no spectators as well as the locally-hosted Bommarito Automotive Group 500, held at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, that expanded to a two-race weekend event held in front of a limited audience.
Stability is projected with this year’s 17-race line-up, which includes a return to the Madison, Illinois 1.25-mile oval on Saturday, August 21 as well as the restoration of the Indy 500 to the traditional Memorial Day weekend set-up.
The two races, alongside a pair of early-May shootouts at Texas Motor Speedway, are the lone IndyCar oval events for the season. Seven races will be held on road courses while six take place on street circuits.
“I think I speak for all the drivers and the teams that we’re very privileged to be able to continue on with almost a 100 percent season and put on some typical IndyCar fantastic racing,” said 2020 series champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing).
Overall in the schematic, a new early-August street circuit event in Nashville, Tennessee has been added.
Conversely, IndyCar dropped Iowa Speedway from its line-up after a 14-year partnership while prior events held at Circuit of the Americas (Austin, TX) and Richmond (VA) Raceway were put on hiatus in 2021.
After a 2020 absence due to the pandemic, IndyCar makes its annual trek to the 17-turn 2.38-mile permanent road course at Barber Motorsports Park for the series opener this Sunday.
“It’s really great to see we’re going to have the fans back at Barber and then St. Pete,” said Gallagher Carlin driver Max Chilton of the series’ first two events. “That’s a really good sign.”
Coverage of Sunday’s race takes place on NBC (locally KSDK-TV, Channel 5) beginning at 2 pm Central. The network possesses exclusive rights to the series with live coverage either appearing on their primary broadcast platform or on the Peacock streaming application.
“With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans,” said Miles of the partnership with NBC.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg follows the subsequent weekend. The street course hosted last season’s race finale, which saw Dixon claim his sixth career series title.
As spring progresses, returns to Fort Worth, Indy and Detroit dot the schedule and summertime events at Road America, Mid-Ohio and Toronto continue the series.
The inaugural Music City Grand Prix, held August 8 in Nashville, is already opening eyes as it will be the first professional race to cross a body of water during competition as drivers will pass a suspended bridge over the Cumberland River into the city’s downtown area. The ownership of the group promoting the event includes numerous high-powered people in the local community as well as musician Justin Timberlake and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“If I’m a betting man, all signs are pointing to a ginormous event, a world-class event,” said 2020 series runner-up, and Nashville native, Josef Newgarden (Team Penske). “They’re very prepared. They have everybody on board that needs to be on board as far as the city, the support from the Titans, the support from local business owners, from national business owners, from brands, large-name individuals. I’m very excited.”
IndyCar’s return to Madison for the fifth running of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is marked for Saturday, August 21 and will feature support races from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and from Indy Lights that weekend.
September races at Portland, Leguna Seca and Long Beach finish the season.
“I think it’s a very important season,” reflected Team Penske’s Will Power on IndyCar’s future following a year of little to no spectators. “It is sort of concerning at times to think that we must have fans this year. We really must. It becomes very tough on these promoters when they’re not getting the income from the ticket sales. Really praying that things open up. That’s obviously dependent on a lot of other things at the moment.”
For more information on the series, visit their official website.
COMING UP TUESDAY: The defending series champ seeks a record-tying seventh title but last year’s runner-up is primed to play spoiler after a strong late-charge in the standings. Meanwhile, a pair of talented 21-year-olds made impressive strides and look to capitalize on upward trajectory. We’ll look at the projected top contenders this season.
Arch City Media will have coverage of the series with previews and recaps of every event.
2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE
SUN 4/18 Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
SUN 4/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
SAT 5/1 Texas Motor Speedway Race 1
SUN 5/2 Texas Motor Speedway Race 2
SAT 5/15 GMR Grand Prix at IMR Road Course
SUN 5/30 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500
SAT 6/12 Detroit Grand Prix Race 1
SUN 6/13 Detroit Grand Prix Race 2
SUN 6/20 Road America Grand Prix
SUN 7/4 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
SUN 7/11 Honda Indy Toronto
SUN 8/8 Music City Grand Prix – Nashville
SAT 8/14 IMR Road Course
SAT 8/21 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – Madison, IL
SUN 9/12 Grand Prix of Portland
SUN 9/19 Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca
SUN 9/26 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.