COTA Preview

Posted in IndyCar on March 22, 2019 by Oilpressure

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I am always intrigued when the NTT IndyCar Series goes to a new venue. Last year, the series returned to Portland, in 2017 it was Gateway. In 2016, the series returned to Road America, Watkins Glen and Phoenix. The thing is, while those were new venues that had not been on the schedule for a while – they were sites that had hosted IndyCar races about a decade earlier and we knew what to expect.

The last time the NTT IndyCar Series raced at a totally new venue for the first time, was NOLA Motorsports Park – just outside of New Orleans. It was a disaster. The layout of the track was very uninspiring and fan parking was almost laughable. But its undoing was tied to the terrible weather. Heavy thunderstorms cancelled qualifying and continued through Sunday morning. Being below sea-level, it didn’t take long for the track to flood making conditions all but impossible to race in. The skies parted enough for the cars to “race”, but many of the laps were run under caution. It was a very forgettable weekend.

Susan and I attended the event all weekend, so I feel I can speak on it. Even without the terrible weather, I’m not sure that NOLA would have stayed on the schedule. First, the track had financial issues. Michael Andretti promoted the event and I’m not sure he was ever paid. The aforementioned parking issues were tough to overcome, as there was very little onsite parking available. The whole track had a very odd feel to it.

Four years later, the series takes on a completely new track this weekend for the first time since the NOLA debacle. The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) just outside of Austin, Texas is by all accounts a world-class facility. Ground was broken on the facility on New Year’s Eve of 2010, and it was officially opened in October of 2012. A month later, COTA was hosting its first Formula One race.

When I think of Texas, I don’t immediately think of dramatic changes in elevation. But at COTA, the run from the Start/Finish line is an 11% grade that climbs 133 feet to Turn One. The 3.4 mile circuit then descends through a series of fast corners, before a hairpin at the furthest point from the pits. That is followed by a long straightaway that heads into a sharp left-hander and several slower turns before returning to the main straightaway and up the hill again.

There are twenty turns on the 3.4 mile layout, making it the second longest track on the schedule, behind Road America’s 4.048 miles. COTA is one of only two road and street courses on the schedule that run counter-clockwise, with Laguna Seca being the other.

I’ve never been to COTA. In fact, I’ve never been to Austin. We plan to go over the next couple of years, but after the problems that NOLA had – I thought we’d give them this year to work out the kinks. You would think hosting Formula One for the past seven years would be enough to iron out problems, but F1 and IndyCar are two different types of events. From what I’ve heard by some that are going this weekend, it has not been hassle-free.

COTA certainly looks colorful, perhaps a little too colorful. While Barber, Road America and Mid-Ohio have rustic wooded areas alongside the tracks that are sometimes manicured with dogwoods and azaleas (Barber); COTA has chosen to pave and paint their curbing and runoff areas in bright colors. While it is a novelty, sort of like the red football field at Eastern Washington University – that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It goes back to what I think is a great rule of thumb – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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As far as this weekend goes, if you recall – Colton Herta led three of the four sessions at Spring Training and set the fastest time of the two-day test. Alexander Rossi set the other fast time. You could draw a conclusion that Honda may have the upper-hand, but Will Power was third quick overall in a Chevy and Simon Pagenaud was fifth fastest. Looking through the combined practices, it’s fairly balanced between Honda and Chevy.

I also know better than to put too much stock in Spring Training. Other than bragging rights, what happens there is not usually indicative of what takes place in the season.

The race will air at 1:00 EDT on NBCSN, with Qualifying on Saturday at 2:00 EDT on NBCSN. The three practices will be shown on NBC Sports Gold.

I’m tempted to go with Alexander Rossi as the race winner, because he is one of the few in the field that has actually raced at COTA, during his Formula One days. But since most of the field has not ever raced there, I’m going to go with the theory that most of the field is dealing with a level playing field and most everyone is operating off of a clean sheet of paper.

Felix Rosenqvist showed me a lot two weeks ago at St. Petersburg. He led one practice, qualified well and finished fourth on a track he had raced once on during Indy Lights. If he can do that against drivers with a lot of experience at a track, imagine what he can do when few drivers have ever raced at a venue. Therefore, I’m picking Felix Rosenqvist to win the Inaugural IndyCar Classic at COTA.

George Phillips

Why Do We Go To Races?

Posted in IndyCar on March 20, 2019 by Oilpressure

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By Susan Phillips

Note from George:  Thanks to my wife for pinch-hitting today. I am lucky to have a job that does not normally require me to bring work home with me. But every now and then, the day-job gets super crazy and forces me to work on projects at night. This is one of those times. Things have been so hectic this week, I have not had the time nor the energy to write at night. I was just going to announce that there would be no post today, but Susan jumped in at the last minute and wrote this up Monday and Tuesday night. Things may be just as crazy next week, but then things will get back to normal; just in time for us to go to Barber. Thanks again, Susan! – GP

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How Did This Happen?

Posted in IndyCar on March 18, 2019 by Oilpressure

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There is a popular TV commercial out right now with the tagline “Stay in your lane, bro”. I should probably heed that advice and stick with what I know, rather than treading into waters where I could be eaten by sharks that know a lot more about this topic than I do. But I’m going to give it a try.

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Trendiness, Buzzwords & Pet-Peeves

Posted in IndyCar on March 15, 2019 by Oilpressure

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The NTT IndyCar Series offseason ended this past weekend, with Josef Newgarden and Team Penske collecting the first win of the season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The podium had no real surprises, so it appears to be business as usual. There was a lot of offseason news to write about, which left me little time to devote to some of the more frivolous “puff” pieces I like to do in the offseason. Since there is a weekend between the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the IndyCar Classic at COTA, I thought I would squeeze one in that I had planned to run a couple of weeks ago – so just pretend for a few minutes that we are still in the offseason.

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My First Street Course

Posted in IndyCar on March 13, 2019 by Oilpressure

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By Susan Phillips

The great thing about this race was how well-attended it was. I saw a wide variety of fans—I don’t know if Florida just loves a chance to gather and party or this is a well-established race that always draws a crowd. I did not see this from a fan’s perspective—finding a place to park in the downtown area, getting to the venue, and all the other things involved with attending a race in the downtown area.

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Random Thoughts on St. Petersburg

Posted in IndyCar on March 11, 2019 by Oilpressure

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This will be somewhat abbreviated for a couple of reasons. First, I wrote about the race yesterday soon after it was over. Secondly, it is late Sunday night as I type this. We have a 9:30 am flight to catch and I’m tired. So this will be brief.

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Josef Newgarden Wins at St. Petersburg

Posted in IndyCar on March 10, 2019 by Oilpressure

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The 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is in the books and Josef Newgarden was standing atop the podium after the first checkered flag of the new NTT IndyCar Season was waved.

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