In Search of Some Winter Warmth

Although we in the south don’t catch the brunt of winter as many parts of the country, we get our share. Just this past Friday, we woke up to about three inches of snow on the ground in Nashville, with more coming down. We had temperatures in the sixties just a few days earlier, so it didn’t stick around very long. It was just the second time this winter for us to have snow on the ground this winter, but it served as a stark reminder that we are still in the throes of winter. We’ve mostly just experienced just a lot of cold rain this winter. In fact, this past weekend was our first weekend in 2020 that we didn’t have any rainfall all weekend.

It’s easy to get depressed at this time of year. But if you’re a fan of the NTT IndyCar Series, there are two definite signs that spring is just around the corner. The first of which is what used to be called Spring Training, but is now simply referred to as the Open Test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) will take place tomorrow and Wednesday (Feb 11 & 12). There are twenty-six cars on the tentative entry list that was released by IndyCar last week.

Besides the full-time entries, there was Scott McLaughlin listed in the No. 2 car for Team Penske. He will now be driving in the IndyCar GP in May in place of Helio Castroneves. Helio will only be driving in the Indianapolis 500 this May. In the No. 14 car for AJ Foyt Racing, there are two drivers listed – Sébastien Bourdais and Canadian rookie Dalton Kellett – who will be splitting time in that car in the road and street races. Kellett will also be driving for the team in the Indianapolis 500, but not in the No. 14 car. Tony Kanaan will be making his debut for the team in the “500” as he will only be driving the ovals this season.

Max Chilton was confirmed to return for the non-ovals for Carlin this past Friday, and will once again be in the No. 59 Gallagher car at COTA. The No. 31 is still listed as TBA for Carlin. With Charlie Kimball going full-time to Foyt, and Pato O’Ward now at Arrow McLaren SP, the No. 31 at Carlin still seems up for grabs. There is also no one named for the No. 59 on the ovals for Carlin.

Both days of the Open Test at COTA will be streamed live for free at We will get our first prolonged look at the new aero screens on track.

The other winter tradition that has always brought warmth on a cold day is getting our first look at the new liveries. Back in the pre-internet days, there were no formal unveilings of liveries. Sometimes you wouldn’t see them until the first race of the season. Other times, you would catch a glimpse of a magazine photo to see what a car might look like.

Back in the early nineties, I subscribed to three racing magazines – Racer, AutoWeek and IndyCar Racing Magazine. Two of those three are now extinct. Most are probably very familiar with Racer and AutoWeek, but I’ll bet many have either forgotten about or are too young to remember IndyCar Racing (ICR). It was published monthly in Milwaukee with Ned Wicker as the editor. It had a low-budget, homespun feel to it, but it was great. It was the only magazine out there at the time that I knew of that was devoted exclusively to CART and Indy car racing.


When the latest copy of ICR hit my mailbox at this time of year, I couldn’t get it back in the house fast enough. I knew that we would be given our first full look at the new cars since that was in the days that Lola, Reynard and Penske all came out with a new chassis every year. Even if they were in standard black carbon-fiber fresh out of the box, we could see what had changed over the previous year as each chassis manufacturer was striving to give their teams a leg up on the competition.

But sometimes, the teams would already have their new cars in the new liveries for the coming season. This was how I first saw the unique Duracell livery of Raul Boesel in 1993 or how Derrick Walker took the classic Valvoline livery formerly run by Al Unser, Jr. Galles and turned it into a very ordinary paint scheme for Robby Gordon in 1994.

Boesel 1993

Gordon 1994

We are now in that time where we are starting to see new paint schemes and liveries for the 2020 season. What makes this year especially interesting is that this is the first season for the aero screen. So much has been written by me and others about the looks of the aero screen, that I’m not going to get into how good or bad it looks, but there is no denying that it changes the looks of the car compared to last year. Some teams have done a better job of incorporating their own liveries into the aero screen than others. You can decide who those are for yourself.

Graham Rahal is supposedly going to be running as many as eight different liveries this season and has already unveiled two of them. I thought both Rahal cars did a great job last year of keeping the same basic design of the paint scheme even when the sponsor changed. It looks as though that will carry over into this season.



Chip Ganassi Racing revealed to new NTT Data livery for Felix Rosenqvist last week on social media. It has a little too much black for my liking. I always liked it when marble-blue was the predominant color in this scheme. At least most of the black is glossy, and they only used the dreaded matte-black as trim.



On Friday morning, Arrow McLaren SP held a livery unveiling live event that began with both cars hidden under tarps. The newly unveiled livery did not match up to the hype, in my opinion. Two years ago, I thought the Schmidt cars were some of the best looking on the grid. They carried glossy black sidepods and either gold or cherry-red chrome-like finishes on the top half of the car. Last year, they were both painted (not wrapped) in dull gold and the hideous matte-black sidepods.

McLaren 1

McLaren 2



Quite honestly, I don’t see that the cars to be run by the team taken over by McLaren, look much better. The gold has been replaced by McLaren papaya orange, with the same dull black sidepods. Had I walked across the street to see that unveiling, I would have been mad at myself for wasting the time.

Of the few liveries I’ve seen so far, I really like the Rahal liveries, I’m not as wild about the Rosenqvist livery and I’m not impressed at all with the Arrow McLaren SP paint schemes. The good thing is that we will probably see more on track tomorrow at COTA and more will be officially unveiled over the next few weeks before the green-flag flies at St. Petersburg on March 15. For those keeping score, that’s less than five weeks from today. That should keep you warm over the next month.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “In Search of Some Winter Warmth”

  1. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    Truly, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder…I like Ganassi and McLaren and don’t care for Rahal. I also like the matte black look.

  2. David , Fort Wayne Says:

    Car Livery has always been important to me along with helmet design. It was always an easy way to differentiate a team and specific driver. I understand with the change in funding teams may have different looks due to sponsor demands but I think the basic livery should remain relatively consistent. Now with the Halo needing some way to identify who is driving the car must be achieved. Car numbers are not always that easy to see and with the musical chairs in some teams you shouldn’t need a program to remind,who who,is driving. I am thinking mostly of when you are actually at the track,as TV will normally let you know who is driving

    What is it with so many dark colored cars? I am old school and find the STP day glo, or Pennzoil yellow ,or Cuyote organge,or McLaren papaya, Menard yellow hell even the pink cars were easily spotted and followed on track. Are there not any independent graphic designers out there

    Is the digital side pod display coming back? I watched the IMSA 24 hour race and I believe all,the entrants had them and they worked all day.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The LED panels are not returning to Indycar in 2020, they may return when the new chassis debuts in a few years but it appears the series will not try again to get them to work on the DW-12.

    • Just saw Charlie Kimbell’s 2020 livery, how does one who is a causal fan associate that car with the Foyt Team. No sign of Coyote Red on any part of that car.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Oh, I loved IndyCar (later “IndyCar and Championship” and just “Championship”) magazine. Lots of great photos, driver-by-driver recaps of each month so you could find out what happened when a favorite mid-pack underdog DNFed and ABC didn’t tell you why, the always entertaining split warriors and their letters to the editor…

    I will say this for the AMSP paint schemes, they do a good job of “hiding” the aeroscreen. If your goal is to hide the device, keeping its trim dark or black while framing the bottom and back side of it in a lighter color is the way to go.

    Speaking of the aeroscreen, it may be in for a rain test in Austin this week. Really though, it appears track time at COTA is going to be somewhat limited on both days due to weather, especially Tuesday, which is quite unfortunate.

  4. “throws” = what Mahomes makes. “throes” = winter related. Try some No-Doz.

  5. is this a case of “who has the Dull Gold (Lucas) makes the rules”?

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