There are still a couple of weeks before the next event on the 2020 NTT IndyCar series schedule, but there has been plenty of news over the past few days, which has been all very positive. There may just be two weekends of racing remaining, and the title still remains firmly in Scott Dixon’s grasp, but the spotlight has been on IndyCar this week, as a number of announcements have been made. Below is a recap of the major headlines from this week.
IndyCar Returns to Nashville
IndyCar officials on Thursday officially announced a 2021 race on August 8 that will be a temporary Grand Prix circuit in downtown Nashville and around the Nissan Stadium campus. “The Tennessee Titans and Nissan Stadium are excited to partner with the Music City Grand Prix to bring the NTT IndyCar series to Nashville and the stadium campus,” said Burke Nihill, president and CEO of the Tennessee Titans. “This is in keeping with our organizational goal of making our city, this venue and our organization as versatile and as busy as possible.”
The 2.17-mile, 11-turn temporary track will race across the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge into downtown Nashville and back, making the Music City Grand Prix one of the only events in motorsports to cross over a major body of water. This event has been privately funded and is the first new street course added to the IndyCar calendar since Houston was added in 2013. This circuit was designed by renowned track specialist Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting. The agreement guarantees the event for at least three years.
This event could not come at a better time, with defending series champion and Nashville native Josef Newgarden on hand for the announcement on Thursday. President and CEO Mark Miles declared: “The Music City Grand Prix will be a one-of-a-kind NTT IndyCar Series experience anchored in the heart of Nashville’s action-packed, exhilarating downtown corridor. Nashville is a world-class city and global entertainment capital that provides an exceptional platform for our series. From professional sports teams and top live music acts to a burgeoning food and culture scene, it is a perfect home for a racing event of this magnitude.”
Sebastien Bourdais Returns to Full-Time Status
AJ Foyt Racing announced on Wednesday that Sebastien Bourdais will join the team for the entire 2021 season in the famed No. 14 Chevrolet. Adding icing on the cake, they also announced that Bourdais would get a head start on things by driving in the final three races this season; the Harvest GP events at IMS and the season-finale in his hometown of St Petersburg on October 25.
Bourdais was let go by Dale Coyne Racing after the 2019 season, in which he recorded one podium finish and led a total of 19 laps. The four-time champion was thrilled with the opportunity that he will have next year. Legendary team owner AJ Foyt is even more excited. “I think he’ll be an asset to the team by far. We tested with him earlier this year and he knew exactly what he wanted and today I think that’s very important in a racecar driver. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The team did not announce what they plan on doing with their other full-time car for next season, currently occupied by Charlie Kimball. Dalton Kellett is rumored to still be in the fold as well. The team will field a third car in the Harvest GP races for Kellet, in the No. 41 machine. Bourdais is currently in LeMans, France prepping for the upcoming 24 Hours of LeMans this weekend.
Scott McLaughlin IndyCar Debut Announced
Team Penske announced on Thursday that Scott McLaughlin will finally make his IndyCar series debut in the season-finale at St Petersburg on October 25. The Australia Supercars Champion was supposed to join the team at the GMR Grand Prix earlier in the year, but everything went out the window once the pandemic hit. Scott participated in the preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.
“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”
Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He currently leads the standings this year with three races remaining. Scott also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue. He will drive the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet.
Fans Permitted at IndyCar Harvest GP
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced on Friday that a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend both of the Harvest GP races in a couple of weeks. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department. will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, such as face coverings, temperature screenings, socially distanced seating, and pre-assigned gate entry.
Tickets are available now on IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. “We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President Doug Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”
The IndyCar races on Friday (3:30) and Saturday (2:30) are not the only on-track action during the weekend. The Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America will also be doing laps around the road course. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held on Sunday. The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.
2020 Le Mans 24 Hours
While IndyCar, Formula One, and IMSA will not be racing this weekend, there is a crown jewel race this weekend that will feature plenty of open-wheel connections. The 88th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours will begin on Saturday afternoon. There are five cars entered in the LMP1 class, led by the Toyota Racing machines. Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, and former IndyCar winner Mike Conway are in the No. 7 Toyota, and have earned pole position for the race.
The LMP2 class features 24 cars, with the most noticeable IndyCar connection being two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya driving for DragonSpeed in the No. 21 Oreca machine. Ben Hanley, who has completed in the Indy 500 the past two years with DragonSpeed, will be in the team’s No. 27 car. Rene Binder, who started in six IndyCar races in 2018, will be in the No. 34 car for Inter Europol Competition. Ho-Pin Tung (Jackie Chan DC Racing) and Roberto Gonzalez (JOTA) are two names that open-wheel fans will recognize from the past as well.
The GTE PRO class features eight cars with Sebastien Bourdais driving the No. 82 Ferrari 488 with Risi Competizione. The competition will be fierce, as he competes against drivers like Cooper MacNeil, Harry Tincknell, and Richard Westbrook. The GTE AM class features 22 cars with Jan Magnussen leading the way for JMW Motorsports in the NO. 66 entry. Click here for the full spotter guide, courtesy of Andy Blackmore. MotorTrend TV will carry coverage of the race.