By: Spencer Neff
April 14, 2021
After an off season of nearly six months, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to kick off the 2021 season this weekend.
Before the first green flag, IndyCar1909 will go through all 17 rounds of the season and offer predictions for each race.
Feel free to reach out on social media and offer your predictions for this season.
Barber Motorsports Park
After the 2020 race was left off the schedule in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, IndyCar return to the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course in Birmingham, Alabama.
Last time the series visited the track, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato dominated from the pole in 2019.
For 2021, look for Josef Newgarden to kick off the season with a win.
In 2015, he earned his first career victory at this track and won in 2017 (his first win with Team Penske) and 2018.
After falling 16 points short of his second straight title, Newgarden begins his pursuit of a third championship in five years with a win.
Despite the cancelation of the 2020 season opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in Florida, the race returned as the season finale on October 25.
In a repeat of his 2019 performance, Newgarden earned his fourth win of the season and finished runner-up in the standings.
This year, Colton Herta begins the season in a new ride after winning the second Mid-Ohio race in 2020.
While he remains with Andretti Autosport, his third season will have him behind the wheel of the No. 26 entry.
Herta has started and finished no worse than 11th in his first two events on the street course. His second race with the team marks his first win of 2021.
Texas Motor Speedway Doubleheader
For the first time since 2013, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will contest their first race in the month of May outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ten years after the Twin 275s doubleheader, Texas Motor Speedway will host races on May 1 and May 2.
On May 1, the Genesys 300 will be 212 laps, while May 2’s XPEL 375 will be 250 laps on the 1.5-mile oval.
Last year, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon started second and led 157 of 200 laps in winning the season opener at Texas Motor Speedway.
As Dixon looks to tie A.J. Foyt’s record seven championships, a fifth win at Texas will start that mission in earnest.
For Race 2, Newgarden was the winner in 2019, when the race was run under a similar length.
Although the race starting earlier than most races at TMS, the 2020 event pole winner’s recent success will have him in strong contention for a second trip to Victory Lane.
IMS Road Course 1-GMR Grand Prix
The 2020 edition of the GMR Grand Prix was run on July 4, with Scott Dixon taking his first win after multiple runner-up finishes.
When IndyCar returned to IMS in October for the Harvest Grand Prix, Josef Newgarden and teammate Will Power made it a Team Penske sweep in Roger Penske’s first event with spectators as Owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
From 2014 to 2019, Power and Simon Pagenaud were the only winners on the 2.358-mile, 14-turn road course. Team Penske boasted a five-race win streak from 2015 to 2019.
Another win for Power to continue that streak will build moment for the “500” and the rest of 2021.
Since the UAK-18 (Universal Aero Kit) was introduced in 2018, Dixon has been among the strongest at the Indianapolis 500.
In three races with the new aero configuration, he has finished third, 17th and second.
After starting second in 2020, he led a race-high 111 laps but fell short of a second win to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato.
13 years after winning his first of three pole positions and only race win, Dixon gets his second win at the “500”.
Detroit Grand Prix
The second doubleheader on the schedule for 2021, the 2.35-mile road course is back on the schedule after the 2020 event was called off.
In two of the last four races at Belle Isle, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi finished on the podium.
Following a disappointing 2020 that left him without a win, Rossi breaks through for 2021 in the opener.
As for Race 2, the doubleheader format on road courses often produces a contrast between the two events, lending itself to surprise and even first-time winners.
Although the team’s strength was most evident on short oval, Arrow McLaren SP and Pato O’Ward get the third-year driver his first win and the team’s first since 2018.
In the first race of the doubleheader at Road America in 2020, Newgarden led 25 laps before issues on pit road cost him the victory.
This year, the 2018 winner at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin continues his dominance on the track and earns his third win of 2021
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Like Road America, Mid-Ohio became a doubleheader after the race was delayed. In Race 1, Power led 68 laps after starting on the pole and won for the first time at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio.
Power has started on the front row in nine of his 13 starts at Mid-Ohio and has six podium finishes. This year, he gets on the top step again.
Honda Indy Toronto
Another event make its way back to the calendar after a 2020 cancelation, the series’ lone international visit is set for July 11 to the 1.786-mile, 11-turn temporary Exhibition place street circuit in Ontario, Canada.
After winning the race in 2015 and 2017, Newgarden has finishes of ninth and fourth in the last two events. Winning for a third time in Toronto will only help pad his championship lead.
Nashville Street Circuit
With the addition of this 2.3-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit around Nissan Stadium. (home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans), predicting who will win or even run well beyond the usual top contenders on street courses can be a bit difficult.
After looking at the layout of the track, its long straightaways and design circumnavigating the stadium do bear resemblance to Baltimore’s street circuit around the Inner Harbor used from 2011-2013. In his two starts, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud finished second and first at Baltimore.
Visiting the newest street circuit for the first time, Pagenaud breaks through in his first victory of 2021.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course 2
After last year’s doubleheader with NASCAR was held without fans, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will hold another event with the stock cars, as the Cup Series will compete on the Road Course as well as the Xfinity Series.
When the GMR Grand Prix was held on its new date of July 4 in 2020, Scott Dixon won for the first time. Considering the six-time champion’s penchant for running well in the summer, he once again could be the winner at the road course in its second race of 2021.
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
After hosting two daytime races as part of their first doubleheader. the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois is slated to once again run a night race, as was the case from 2017 to 2019 in its return to the schedule.
In the past five races atGateway, Newgarden has been dominant, earning a pole position in 2019 and becoming the track’s first repeat winner during the second event in 2019 while finishing no worse than 12th and starting in the Top Six for all five races. A win here will help further the grip on Newgarden’s third title, similar to his 2017 victory at the track.
Another venue left off the 2020 calendar begins the “Western swing” to finish off 2021 at the 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course in Oregon.
In his debut at the track, Colton Herta started first and led 36 laps before finishing fourth. Two years’ experience will help the Andretti Autosport driver convert the speed into his second win of the season.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
A penalty during qualifying took away his chance at the pole position but a frustrated Felix Rosenqvist climbed from 14th on the grid to finish fifth and clinch Rookie of the Year honors at the 2.258-mile, 11-turn road course in Salinas, California.
The series’ next visit to Laguna Seca finds the Swede with a victory under his belt (Road America 2-2020) but he begins 2021 with a new team, Arrow McLaren SP.
Their 2020 resurgence will benefit its newest driver as Rosenqvist makes up for the disappointment of 2019 and makes it to Victory Lane.
After being called off for 2020 along with its West Coast counterparts, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns as the 2021 season finale.
In the last two appearances, Alexander Rossi has started on the pole and won both races, leading 151 of 170 laps. While the championship may be out of reach, another convincing win helps Rossi close out the season.
After winning four races for the fourth time in five seasons at Team Penske, Josef Newgarden wins the 2021 Championship.
In the process he joins Rick Mears as the only drivers to win three IndyCar titles for Team Penske.
Header Image By Chris Owens/INDYCAR