The NTT IndyCar Series is scheduled to launch its season in less than three weeks at Texas Motor Speedway, and despite having been fully prepared to race at St. Petersburg in March, the field of 24-plus cars aren’t exactly ready to lap the daunting oval outside Dallas-Forth Worth.
Although IndyCar teams returned home from St. Petersburg in mid-March with Chevy- and Honda-powered cars that were in perfect shape to tackle the downtown street circuit, the haste to shelter at home, the long period of shutdown barring teams from working inside their respective shops, and the change of venues to a high-speed oval on June 6 has resulted in a fresh round of vehicle preparation.
“The cars were just sitting there, the way they came back from Florida,” team owner Dale Coyne told RACER. “The way they went to the first race is how they were left. We were surprised by the shutdown. We gave our guys a week off after St. Pete, then we got shut down later in that week – the state of Illinois did – so we didn’t have the time to do anything, even if we’d wanted to.
“I think the teams in Indy probably had an extra week, so they probably did some stuff for their cars. People were ready to go and do the first four races with their street setups and road racing setups, and now, it’s changing everything over on the cars to start with a superspeedway – then we go back to a road course at Road America.”
With Texas scheduled as a one-day event, Coyne does not expect IndyCar teams to invest significant amounts of time in specialized speedway chassis prep. With the series said to be leaning towards impounding all cars after qualifying, there would be no need to do more than ready each car for race trim leading into Round 1 at TMS.
“Texas, as a one-day event, changes your mindset of what you can do and can’t do,” Coyne said. “And since they’ve been talking about impounding the cars after qualifying, that impacts some tricks that you would normally do in qualifying; but you wouldn’t do them in qualifying there if you can’t undo them for the race. It’s not worth the effort and you don’t have the time. Especially in a one-day event, you just don’t have time to be changing pieces out.”
Without the presence of COVID-19, IndyCar teams would be in Gasoline Alley tearing their cars apart as final preparations for the Indianapolis 500 dominated their days. Pushed back to late August, Coyne says teams are busy turning St. Petersburg cars into Texas cars, and have either started or resumed the time-intensive efforts to ready their primary Indy 500 cars in the background.
“We’re also working on our Indy 500 cars, which wasn’t really an option when we got back from St. Pete,” he says. “We were still waiting for some aeroscreen pieces, some bits and pieces that we didn’t have that we could finish our Indy 500 cars, and there’s been a lot of catch-up there since we’ve been down. I think the same as everybody else; most of us had the titanium piece already fitted into the car, so it’s just some fit and finish work now. So it parallel paths, where we got plenty of time to get the car ready for Texas, and then we’ll be working on the Indy 500 cars alongside side them at the same time.”