The schedule for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR doubleheader at Road America is among the fastest the NTT IndyCar Series has produced. The pacing of the event will keep pit crews busy as they attempt to get through both rounds and then hit the road from Wisconsin to Iowa for the next doubleheader which starts on Friday, July 17.
Presented as a pair of single-day races, the Road America event gets moving on Saturday with a 75-minute practice session at 11 a.m. ET, qualifying at 2:15 p.m., and the green flag for a 55-lap race at 5:15 p.m.
On Sunday, the 23 drivers head straight into qualifying for Round 2 at 10 a.m., take a moment to breathe, and climb back into their cars for the start approximately two hours later at 12:42 p.m.
On the team side, Andretti Autosport is responsible for five of the cars on the grid – more than any of its rivals – which will make for a “challenging” weekend spent trying to keep everyone fresh and their Honda-powered machines in top shape, according to team COO Rob Edwards.
“The challenges are all human,” he told RACER. “The current schedules that we need to work with in the current situation put a lot of strain, a lot of load on the crews. We know how brutal Texas was for the crews, and then Indy last weekend was probably slightly less brutal on the crews, although probably more brutal on the drivers. Whereas again, depending upon the temperatures, this weekend is going to be super-challenging for the crews with how quickly everything will happen.”
With one race completed at Indy and four more to go between Road America on July 11-12 and Iowa on July 17-18, the entire paddock is praying for two clean days ahead and a light workload once Saturday’s contest is over.
“It will be in the evening when the first race is over, so if you come out of it with minimal damage and performance that you were reasonably happy with, then it’s obviously systems check, engine systems check, gearbox check, and so on to get the cars ready for Sunday,” Edwards said. “But if you had a really bad day, then that might be followed by fairly extensive setup changes or whatever. In the particular case of Road America, it’s a very short day on Sunday, and we run later than normal there on Saturday, so depending on what the cars look like and how well you performed, some could be busier than others.”
The compressed Saturday schedule will also require teams to modify their engineering plans due to the limited track time prior to qualifying. On a typical Road America IndyCar weekend, two sessions on Friday and a third on Saturday would be offered. In 2020, it’s one opportunity to practice, and nothing more.
“I think it’s really about prioritizing, because there isn’t much time to practice, or time between practice and qualifying,” Edwards said. “So you’re going to try and do what you’d normally do in three hours, in a little over an hour there. Maybe, in prioritizing a list, there are some things that you would like to do that you have to shuffle to the bottom in terms of making sure that the things that have to be right to go racing are taken care of above all other things. You won’t have much time to experiment.”
Edwards is eager to get the Road America event under way since it presents an opportunity for Alexander Rossi to put a pair of forgettable races behind him and return to a venue where the No. 27 Honda entry crushed the field in 2019. While holding 23rd in the championship standings, Rossi’s race strategist has been working behind the scenes to ensure the rough opening to the 2020 season doesn’t derail morale or motivation.
“I think that’s the thing; you’ve got to keep everyone on an even keel,” he said. “I think the good, the positive thing is the crew know that the driver and the engineer can do it. The engineer knows the driver and the crew can do it. As an entity, I think everyone on that side knows that once the things that we can’t control are out of the way, that we’ll get back to doing what this group does.”