By: Tanner Watkins
March 20, 2019 | 10:00 AM
After six months of waiting, the NTT IndyCar Series season is off and running with the first round already under our belts. Josef Newgarden put on a dominating performance in the second half of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg en route to the season-opening victory on March 10, and now the series shifts its focus to a first-time event in Texas.
Circuit of the Americas will host IndyCar for a race weekend for the first time in the track’s seven-year history. The Austin, Texas facility has hosted Formula One’s United States Grand Prix each year since it opened, and now the cars and stars of American open-wheel racing will get their chance on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.
A total of 24 cars are on this week’s entry list for the inaugural IndyCar race at COTA, including six rookies. One piece of that rookie crop is Pato O’Ward, the highly-touted driver from Mexico who will get his 2019 season underway with Carlin.
O’Ward had originally been slated to run the full 2019 campaign with Harding Steinbrenner Racing before his deal was dissolved. For the reigning Indy Lights champion, this will be the first of 13 races that O’Ward will compete in for 2019 with Carlin.
Also of note, there are a few notables with previous race experience at Circuit of the Americas due to Formula One cameos. Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi finished an impressive 12th at COTA for Manor Marussia back in 2015, the last season for the California native in F1 before moving to IndyCar.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Marcus Ericsson has four starts at the American facility from his time in F1, registering a best finish of 10th last fall while driving for Alfa Romeo Sauber. Last but not least, Max Chilton ran one race at Circuit of the Americas during his stint in F1, placing 21st for Marussia in 2013.
As for the stories leaving St. Pete? We mentioned that the 2017 series champion got off to a hot start by winning, and it was a good day for the defending series champion in Scott Dixon – the runner-up. Pole sitter Will Power finished third to round out the podium while rookie Felix Rosenqvist dazzled by leading laps and finishing fourth in his debut.
For the two-time defending St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais, as well as Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay, the hometown race wasn’t all roses like it was for our podium finishers. Bourdais exited on lap 11 with what appeared to be an engine failure while Hunter-Reay departed just eight laps later with a mechanical issue of his own.
Both race winners from 2018, Bourdais and Hunter-Reay will be looking for strong finishes at COTA to help dig out of an early-season hole. The same could be said for the aforementioned Ericsson, who suffered a mechanical failure on lap 54, as well as Ed Jones, who was running inside the top ten during the race’s early stages when he made a mistake on corner entry and ended up in the concrete barrier.
The impact felt by Jones resulted in a broken finger. Jones has yet to be cleared by IndyCar to race, but the plan is to re-evaluate his status in the next couple of days to determine his status for Sunday’s main event. It is expected that Jones will drive this weekend.
Teams of the NTT IndyCar Series will hit the track on Friday morning for first practice at 11:15 a.m. Eastern. In the afternoon, IndyCar will host another practice session – this one being one hour in length instead of the traditional 45 minutes – starting at 3:05 p.m. Eastern. All practices during the weekend (including Saturday morning’s session) will be televised on NBC Sports Gold.
Qualifications for the IndyCar Classic will go green at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, March 23, shown live on NBCSN. That is where you can find the race as well, with a pre-race show beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, March 24 and the race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
There will be no morning warm-up for this event at Circuit of the Americas.
And while video coverage of the practice sessions will be shown only on NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR Pass, fans of the series can catch all of the action for free (and live) by listening to the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network. To hear Mark Jaynes, Anders Krohn and the entire IndyCar Radio crew, check out RaceControl.IndyCar.com for their commentary plus live timing and scoring.
INDYCAR Classic Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, March 22 – Sunday, March 24
Track: Circuit of The Americas, 3.41-mile, 20-turn permanent road course (counterclockwise) in Austin, Texas
Entry list: INDYCAR Classic (PDF)
Race distance: 60 laps / 204.6 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 20 seconds.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate
Twitter: @COTA, @IndyCar, #INDYCARClassic, #IndyCar
Event website: http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
NBCSN telecasts: Qualifying, 3 p.m. ET Saturday, March 23 (live); Race, 1 p.m. ET Sunday, March 24 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for NBCSN alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis and Robin Miller.
Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Ryan Myrehn reporting from the pits.
The INDYCAR Classic race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT IndyCar Series practices and qualifying are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 216 and XM 209.
NBC Sports Gold live streaming: All NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer live streaming product that will put more INDYCAR programming content at viewers’ fingertips than ever before.
In addition, full-broadcast, same-day replays of NTT IndyCar Series races, live streams of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races, edited cutdowns of NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights races and more will be available.
At-track schedule (all times Eastern):
Friday, March 22
10:00 – 10:45 a.m. – Indy Lights practice, NBC Sports Gold
11:15 – 12 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #1, NBC Sports Gold
2:20 – 2:50 p.m. – Indy Lights qualifications #1, NBC Sports Gold
3:05 – 4:05 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #2, NBC Sports Gold
4:10 – 4:40 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series pit stop practice, NBC Sports Gold
Saturday, March 23
10:15 – 10:45 a.m. – Indy Lights qualifications #2, NBC Sports Gold
11 – 11:45 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #3, NBC Sports Gold
1:45 – 2:45 p.m. – Indy Lights race #1, NBC Sports Gold
3 p.m. – INDYCAR Classic qualifying (three rounds of knockout qualifications), NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold
Sunday, March 24
10:10 – 11:10 a.m. – Indy Lights race #2, NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. – NBCSN on air
1:36 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines,” given by Colt McCoy, NFL quarterback and Texas Longhorn legend
1:43 p.m. – INDYCAR Classic green flag, (60 laps/204.6 miles)
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.