By: Spencer Neff
September 30, 2020
For the first time since 2013, the NTT IndyCar Series will race during the month of October. This weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host an IndyCar doubleheader on the 2.438-mile, 14-turn road course in Speedway, Indiana.
Adding to the intrigue for this weekend’s Harvest Grand Prix (an homage to the 1916 Harvest Classic run at IMS), the races will be two different lengths. On Friday, the first race will be a 75-lap run, while Saturday’s race will be 85 laps, the same length as the IndyCar Grand Prix from 2017 to 2019.
With three races remaining, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon remains the overwhelming title favorite in search of his sixth championship. In July, Dixon won the IndyCar Grand Prix, breaking Will Power and Simon Pagenaud’s claim as the event’s only previous winners.
Additionally, Dixon became the first non-Penske driver since 2014 to win the event, when Pagenaud won the inaugural race with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton (now Arrow McLaren SP).
Heading into the weekend, Dixon’s points lead over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is 71 points. With the October 25 finale at St. Petersburg not awarding double points, keeping that margin will be pivotal.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Dixon said of this weekend, particular the fact spectators will be allowed at IMS for the first time in 2020.
“I think it’s going to be fantastic to have up to 10,000 fans on each day. It’s definitely been a different dynamic, I think, for a lot of us this season, especially the Indianapolis 500 that ran without fans. We welcome the fans greatly. Hopefully, the weather cooperates and we can have a fantastic weekend.”
While Newgarden expressed his anticipation of spectators being allowed for the weekend, the 2017 and 2019 Series Champion recognizes the task at hand.
“With two opportunities to race this weekend, we still feel we have a good shot at the title since my entire team has been working so hard and have a really great plan put together,” Newgarden said.
“Execution will be key, especially since doubleheader weekends can be so intense and anything could happen.”
In addition to Dixon and Newgarden, five other drivers are still mathematically in contention for the title ahead of this weekend.
While the focus will be primarily on the title fight, three popular veteran drivers return to action this weekend.
For the first time since 1999, Helio Castroneves will race for a team other than Penske. Last week, Arrow McLaren SP announced that rookie driver Oliver Askew is still dealing with effects of a concussion suffered during the August 23 Indianapolis 500. With Askew not cleared to drive, Castroneves was named as his replacement.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure that Oliver (Askew) gets better. He’s a young man with a bright future ahead of him,” Castroneves noted of the rookie.
“It’s great to be back in a place where I have so many memories. It’s even more exciting this time, coming back with a new team and getting new experiences. I already have a taste of the great group of people at Arrow McLaren SP, and I’m looking forward to this weekend. Hopefully I can add a little bit of my experience to a great team and brand.”
The exuberant veteran also quipped about the change of teams he faces this weekend.
“I also want to thank Roger Penske and Tim Cindric for allowing me to race this weekend for a different team,” he added.
“My biggest fear is to not enter the wrong garage after 20 years! I’m looking forward to a good race.”
This weekend, James Hinchcliffe returns to Andretti Autosport for the final three races of the season, taking over the No. 26 entry. Last week, the team announced Zach Veach will not return to the team for 2021.
Previously, Hinchcliffe drove for the team from 2012 to 2014 and in three races this season, winning three times in 2013. This year, Hinchcliffe has a best finish of seventh at the Indianapolis 500.
“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team,” Hinchcliffe exclaimed in Friday’s announcement.
“I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”
While previously announced in the offseason, this will be Sebastien Bourdais’ first event with A.J. Foyt Racing. On September 15, Bourdais was announced as the driver of the No. 14 for 2021.
“There’s a lot of things to learn for me with the team,” Bourdais acknowledged. “the team to validate a few things that they think they need answers on for this season and, more importantly, the next.”
“I’m very much looking forward to the Indy GP. It’s a track that I’ve had good success on and very much enjoyed the layout, but it’s not going to be easy because we’re jumping straight into the thick of it: one practice, then qualify, race, qualify, race. Hopefully, we hit the ground running with a happy setup and can have a good weekend.”
In two of the previous three doubleheaders in 2020, Dixon has won the first race of the weekend. Look for that trend to continue. As for the second race, Graham Rahal could be a name to watch as a potential favorite. In July, he ran second to Dixon and was third at the Indianapolis 500.
INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR Fast Facts
Race weekend: Thursday, Oct. 1 – Saturday, Oct. 3
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course (clockwise)
Race distance: 85 laps / 207.35 miles (Race 1); 75 laps / 182.925 miles (Race 2)
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time, with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Nine sets primary, five sets alternate (Note: An extra (10th) set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)
Twitter: @IMS, @IndyCar, #HarvestGP, #IndyCar Event website: http://www.ims.com
INDYCAR website: http://www.IndyCar.com
2019 race winner: Inaugural event
2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Inaugural event
Qualifying lap record: Will Power, 1:07.7044, 129.687 mph, May 12, 2017 (Set in Round 3 of knockout qualifying)
NBC Sports telecasts: Race 1, 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, USA Network (live); Race 2, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBC Sports’ telecasts of the INDYCAR Harvest GP doubleheader alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.
NBC Sports Gold livestreaming: Thursday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session (2:25 p.m. ET Thursday) and NTT P1 Award qualifying (Race 1, 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday; Race 2, 10:20 a.m. ET Saturday) will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer live streaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. The INDYCAR Harvest GP doubleheader airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM
205, IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Follow tire strategies for Qualifying and Race Day here
At-track schedule (all times local):
Thursday, Oct. 1
2:25-3:40 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, NBC Sports Gold
6:20 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (two groups/12 minutes each), NBC Sports Gold (Live)
Friday, Oct. 2
3:30 p.m. – USA Network on air
3:53 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
4 p.m. – INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1 (85 laps / 207.35 miles), USA Network (Live)
Saturday, Oct. 3
10:20 a.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (two groups/12 minutes each), NBC Sports Gold (Live)
2:24 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
2:30 p.m. – NBC Sports on air
2:31 p.m. – INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 2 (75 laps / 182.925 miles), NBC (Live)
Header Image By John Cote/INDYCAR