With the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series about to drop the green flag for the first time this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, we here at Racing Refresh.com would like to give you our 2021 season preview as we embark on another 17 race schedule to crown a new IndyCar Champion.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series schedule looks a lot different this year, as many tracks that had their race postponed or taken off the schedule due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic are back in 2021. The season kicks off
For the second year in a row, the first race of the season will not be held on the Streets of St. Petersburg due to the pandemic, but instead head to Barber Motorsports Park on April 18th, returning to the schedule after being lost to the pandemic. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the second event of the year on April 25th, after hosting the 2020 season finale where Dixon won his sixth series championship.
After that, teams will travel to Texas Motor Speedway for a doubleheader event on Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd, for the Genesys 300 and Xpel 375. The series will then get a one-week break before traveling to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for preparations of the fastest month in motorsports.
On May 15th, the teams will run the road course layout for the GMR Grand Prix, which was dominated by Dixon last season as he won the first three races of the season. In 2020, the series raced this layout three times, and in 2021 they will run the course twice, returning on August 14th.
Returning to tradition on Memorial Day weekend, the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be held on May 30th. Qualifying will be held the week prior on Saturday and Sunday May 22-23. Last year, in the only Indy 500 held outside the month of May, Takuma Sato dueled with Dixon to the very end, winning his second Borg-Warner Trophy in the process.
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, the doubleheader, returns to its spot on the schedule following the Indy 500, as teams will race on the bumpy streets of Belle Isle on June 12-13th. The last time we saw the Duel in Detroit, Josef Newgarden won in a rain-shortened first race, and Dixon dominated the second race.
Onward to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, where the famed road course Road America will host the ninth round of the season, moving back to one race after running a doubleheader last year. Dixon played the strategy game and took advantage of a mishap by Newgarden on pit lane to win race one, while Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward had the duel of the year, with Rosenqvist taking his first career IndyCar victory in race two.
Next, the teams will head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Independence Day, Teams will then head north of to the border to Canada, returning to the Streets of Toronto. Simon Pagenaud won the 2019 event after battling Dixon for the win.
After the longest break of the season, the Nashville Street Circuit makes its debut on August 8th for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. The 2.16 mile, 11 corner circuit will be the first new street circuit on the calendar since The Grand Prix of Houston in 2013.
On August 14th, the second race on the IMS road course will take place, followed by the final oval on the 2021 calendar, as the series heads to World Wide Technology Raceway for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
After another three week break, the series makes a west coast swing to close out the 2021 season, beginning with the Grand Prix of Portland. Also, returning to the calendar is the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway, Laguna Seca In 2019, this event was the season finale, where Felix Rosenqvist claimed the rookie of the year, Colton Herta took a trip to victory lane, and Newgarden won the 2019 series championship.
The final race of the season will be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, moved from its date in April, which will provide for a memorable and glorious season finale as we crown a champion on the last weekend of the season.
Entering 2021, there are a lot of new faces in new places. A driver going for a record seven IndyCar Championships and a Seven Time NASCAR Cup Series Champion battling young and hungry drivers for 2021 IndyCar Rookie of the Year.
Chip Ganassi Racing:
Defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon comes into 2021 as he is gunning for a record tying seven IndyCar series champion as the leading veteran heads the all new lineup for Chip Ganassi Racing. 2019 Rookie of the Year Rosenqvist has left the team, and in his place comes twenty-four year old Alex Palou. Formerly of with Dale Coyne Racing. Joining the team will be Seven Time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. Who carries over the 48 car for CGR Road and Street Course schedule in 2021. For the four oval events, Tony Kanaan will be the primary driver in that car, adding another veteran in the team's roster. Marcus Ericsson also remains on the team in 2021 piloting the No. 8 Honda, coming off of a twelfth place points finish last season.
Andretti Autosport have reduced the size of their program from six full-time cars in 2020 to four in 2021. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay remain in their same cars from the 2020 season. As well as fan favorite addition, James Hinchcliffe returns to the stable driving the No.26 car in 2021. The brand-new driver to the strong lineup in 2021 is Colton Herta, who will be the fourth driver in the Andretti stable, as Herta looks to be in championship contention as IndyCar heads to the famed Streets of Long Beach.
Arrow McLaren SP:
For 2021, the Mexican superstar Pato O'Ward returns to the team as he had an impressive rookie campaign in 2020. Joining him will be Scott Rosenqvist. The two had a very good battle in the closing laps of last year's race at Road America. This team has improved over the offseason. Will wins be in their future for 2021? Only time will tell.
After a very heartbreaking second place run in the championship standings last year, Josef Newgarden returns to Team Penske as the odds on championship favorite in 2021. He is also joined by Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, who also returned for 2021. But all eyes in Team Penske are on Rookie of the Year contender Scott McLaughlin. The twenty-seven-year-old rookie from New Zealand, who won the Virgin Australian Supercar Championship from 2018 to 2020. There is no question that the young kiwi has talent as he made his first start in the series last year at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but was involved in an accident and wrecked out of the event. The hype and potential for great things is there, and there is no doubt we will see him running up front as the season progresses.
Dale Coyne Racing:
The only team with a completely brand new lineup for the 2021 season will be Dale Coyne Racing, as they have three new drivers coming into Barber Motorsports Park. Headlined by former Hass F1 driver, Roman Grosjean. Who will compete on the road and street course schedule. Filling in the seat on the oval events will be former Hass F1 teammate Peitro Fittipaldi. The other driver retuning to the DCR lineup is 2016 Indy Lights champion, Ed Jones. Who will be piloting the DCR-Vasser-Sullivan entry for the 2021 season
Rahal- Letterman-Lanigan Racing:
One of the few teams that are going unchanged for 2021. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato are racing full-time. Rahal and Sato had both finished 6th and 7th in the standings respectively last year. For Sato, hoping to go back-to-back in the Indianapolis 500.
Coming off the freshman year for the team. Expect optimism and potential from their only full time entry piloted by Jack Harvey. After getting financial backing over the offseason. The team will expand with a part-time entry car for select races piloted by Helio Castroneves. Which includes an opportunity to race in The Indianpolis 500 later in May.
Former F1 driver Max Chilton returns this year for the road and street course events this year. As of writing, no driver has signed on for the oval events. You may remember Connor Daly has filled out in that role in the past. So time will tell if they are running the full schedule this year, and who will be the second driver in that team.
Ed Carpenter Racing: The 2020 Rookie of the Year, Rinus Veekay returns to the team hoping to continue his good efforts from his freshman season, leading the team. Ed Carpenter will return to sharing a ride in 2021. Driving in the four oval events, while Conor Daly will be the driver on the road and street courses. Daly will also drive the team's third entry in The Indianapolis 500 in May. Rounding out our team previews will be A.J. Foyt Enterprises. The old adage of "Nowhere to go but up" can apply to the team this season, as last year the team struggled in most events last year. The team will field two full-time entries in the 2021 season. Series veteran, Sebastien Bourdais, will be running full-time, and joining him will be Dalton Kellett, who finished 31st in last year's Indianpolis 500. He will be running a full-time schedule.