The NTT IndyCar Series ends their lengthy offseason this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. See, the series last raced in September of last year at Laguna Seca. The offseason was initially suppose to last six months, but on opening day of the 2020 season down in St. Pete, the whole world came to a stop. That’s when the coronavirus affected sports. Everything was put on hold — IndyCar included.
After several revisions to this year’s schedule, it’s time to finally get it off the ground and that takes place on Saturday night in the Lone Star State. The Genesys 300 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) was initially slated to be the ninth race of the season. Now, it’s the first.
For second year driver Felix Rosenqvist, he’s ready to get going and says that tracks like Texas are going to show if he can grow from a fantastic 2019 season or not.
See last year, Rosenqvist was incredible almost everywhere. He had 10 top 10 finishes in 17 tries. The problem was, all 10 were on road or street courses. In the five oval races, he finished 28th (Indianapolis), 12th (Texas), 14th (Iowa), 22nd (Pocono) and 11th (Gateway). If he wants to contend for this year’s championship, he has to turn those results into top 10’s, if not top fives.
With the loss of all but one street course (St. Pete) and the addition of an extra race now at Iowa, ovals make up more of the schedule now than last year. The Swedish driver is well aware of that and knows this is the discipline that he has most to gain on.
“I think going to Texas is going to be cool because my biggest improving thing from last year is definitely ovals,” Rosenqvist said on a zoom call on Monday. “That’s been a thing I’ve been thinking mostly about during the off-season. I think I have more to gain than anything else.
“Starting off in Texas, it’s going to be a nice feeling to see how much of that work has paid off, where we sort of stand compared to the others, especially on the ovals and superspeedways straight off the bat in the beginning of the year. Yeah, it’s going to be fun.”
His veteran teammate Scott Dixon noted that Chip Ganassi Racing did have pace on ovals last year everywhere with the exception of Indianapolis. While they did have speed more places than not, the ovals were the ones lacking in terms of performance compared to everywhere else.
“It’s definitely one of the focuses,” Dixon said on oval development for Ganassi in the offseason. “I think Texas we were running second when we got into the accident towards the end of the race. We were second. We had a mechanical failure at St. Louis with the radiator leak.
“I think really our biggest downfall last year was Indianapolis. Our race pace was decent. We weren’t just that good in traffic and qualifying was pretty horrendous.”
Dixon, noted that the addition of a third car for 2020 and the closure of the IMSA program could help speed up that boost on ovals now too.
“I think we’ve worked a lot on our deficits from last year,” Dixon continued. “I think with what we’ve been able to do with adding Marcus (Ericsson) to the fold has created a lot of opportunity with new people coming into the mix, plus more engineering staff from the Ford GT program which has been huge in the off-season to try to process some things, try to fix some of the issues.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I think we’ve made some good progression. I think having two great teammates that have had some good miles on ovals to try to help the process of these short practice sessions, to get on top of it, it’s going to be big for us as a whole.
“Yeah, lots of positives we see. We have to really wait till we get to the real world and get to the race, see how that plays out.”