By: Spencer Neff
October 25, 2020
Today’s 100-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the final race of the 14-event NTT IndyCar Series calendar. After the cancellation of its March 15 date due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the race was later rescheduled.
Following months of uncertainty, the season finally came to a close in the same spot where it was scheduled to begin just over seven months ago.
Newgarden wins, Dixon clinches sixth title in third
After one of the wildest races in recent memory, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden made it consecutive wins at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by 4.1409 seconds.
With his fourth win of 2020 and 18th of his career, Newgarden ties Ryan Hunter-Reay (who finished fifth today) for 26th on the all-time win list.Unfortunately for the two-time champion, it was not enough to earn a third NTT IndyCar Series Championship.
By finishing third, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon earned his sixth career title. After qualifying 12th, Dixon worked his way through the field to cap off a dominant season in which he also won his 50th career race.
The championship puts Dixon within one of A.J. Foyt’s all-time mark. Since winning the season opener, Dixon has led the points, making him the first wire-to-wire champion since Sebastien Bourdais did so during the 2006 ChampCar season.
Sandwiched between the championship rivals in second was Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who earned a runner-up finish for the third time in his first full IndyCar season. O’Ward also finished fourth in the final points standings. Despite some late-race miscues that relegated him to 11th, Colton Herta finished third in the standings.
Last month, Sebastien Bourdais was announced as the full-season driver of the No. 14 entry for A.J. Foyt Racing. Today, Bourdais ended his part-time season with the team on a high note, finishing fourth.
This was Bourdais’ best finish since a third at Barber Motorsports Park last year and the first Top Five for A.J. Foyt Racing since Tony Kanaan finished third in the No. 14 last year at World Wide Technology Raceway.
After a disappointing day for his Andretti Autosport team, Hunter-Reay rounded out the Top Five.
Marred by multiple collisions, the pace car running out of fuel and a few drivers making contact with the wall, the lone street circuit race for this year was an exciting way to cap of 2020.
Andretti Autosport’s disappointing season continued as Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe were both taken out of contention due to wall contact. After finishing second and third in points the last two years, Rossi has gone winless for the first time in his five-year career.
While making an impressive drive through the field, Marco Andretti spun and his day ended in 20th, one spot ahead of Rossi. Fortunately, Hinchcliffe was able to continue and finished 14th.
For next season, Hinchcliffe is still the favorite to take a full-time role in the No. 26 after taking over the last three races in the wake of Zach Veach’s departure. Despite a frustrating race, their performance over the weekend has to give Andretti Autosport hope for 2021.
It was a disappointing start to a promising IndyCar career for Scott McLaughlin. After qualifying 21st, the Team Penske driver crashed with Rinus Veekay on Lap 47.
With all the issues drivers faced with a slippery track, the 2021 race will be interesting considering that will be the season opener for 2021, on March 7.
Herta leads Warmup
After topping the only pre-qualifying practice, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport’s Colton Herta led the way in Sunday morning’s warmup.
During the 30-minute session, the sophomore driver posted a best time of 1m01.6011 (105.193 mph). Dixon was second, with his teammate Felix Rosenqvist and Herta’s teammate Alexander Rossi completing a sweep of the Top Four positions for the Honda-powered entries.
In fifth, St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais led the Chevrolet-powered cars in his A.J. Foyt Racing entry.
VeeKay returns to ECR for 2021
After clinching Rookie of the Year honors during qualifying, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay got an extra reason to celebrate on Sunday morning.
Before the on-track action began, the team announced the Hoofddorp, Netherlands racer would return for the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.
“I am very happy to be back with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2021!” he stated.
“I feel like an entirely different driver than I was at the beginning of the year. The team has been so patient with me and given me every opportunity to learn as much as possible. I have a great group of guys around me and I can’t wait to have that same amazing support next year.”
This season, VeeKay overcame a rocky start that saw him crash in practice and the race at Texas Motor Speedway during the June 6 season opener.
In his first Indianapolis 500, he qualified fourth, fastest of any rookie and the only Chevrolet-powered entry to qualify in the Top 12.
At the first race of the Harvest Grand Prix, VeeKay earned his first career pole position and finished third, his first career podium, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
“The 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES is one that we will never forget. With all the challenges that have been presented, limited track time and schedule changes, we have seen Rinus progress rapidly from the start of the season until now,” stated Team Owner Ed Carpenter.
“It is clear to us that he has all of the tools to be a winner at this level and we look forward to climbing the podium together!”
The 2020 Season has come to a close. Next up, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to the streets of St. Petersburg to begin the 2021 season on March 7.
Until then, IndyCar1909.com will have continued coverage of IndyCar and Road to Indy news as well as some additional features during the next few months. Thank You for joining us and we look forward to continuing to share the best of IndyCar with you.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR