Road America Preview

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I first want to thank everyone for all of the messages of concern regarding Susan’s diagnosis. She and I were absolutely overwhelmed with the outpouring of love by the comments here, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. We also greatly appreciate all of the texts, phone calls and e-mails that everyone has sent. Her spirits are good and we are very happy to be at Road America this weekend, before she starts treatment next week. In the interest of full disclosure…In case you are concerned that I wrote a lot so soon after her diagnosis, most of this was written Monday night. I just added the first paragraph once we arrived, along with a couple of other edits. Thanks again for all of your support – GP

As planned, we flew to Milwaukee last night after a full day at work for both of us. We had an eventful flight, which was supposed to land around 8:30 pm. However, storms in Milwaukee forced us to land in Chicago. We sat forever and finally landed in Milwaukee around 11:30, barely making our rental car deadline of midnight. By the time we picked up our rental car and made the trek up to Road America, we got to our hotel sometime after 1:00 am. It wasn’t fun, to say the least.

Last year, we flew up on Thursday morning on a flight leaving Nashville at 5:45 am, through Kansas City. We got to the track around noon, in time to participate in the “grid walk” by the IndyCar drivers, teams and media. We were allowed to take our rented golf cart out onto the 4.048 mile, 14-Turn track and got to do over two full laps of the famous course. That was one of the more memorable things we’ve gotten to do in our time as IndyCar bloggers. Since we arrived on Friday this year, there is no grid walk for us this year.

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We got lucky with our hotel this year. We normally stay in either Sheboygan or Fond du Lac, which are both healthy drives from the track. This year, once the date was changed from three weeks ago to this weekend – Mrs. Oilpressure got right on it and found us a prime resort hotel in the heart of Elkhart Lake, overlooking the lake. Best of all, we were able to use her hotel points and the rate had not been increased yet because of the race’s date change.

It’s amazing what moving this race back three weeks can do for a change in weather. Normally, this race is run in either moderate or cool conditions. The first year we came here, we left Nashville around 7:00 am in muggy 91° weather – even at that early hour. When we arrived at our Sheboygan hotel around 5:00, it was cloudy, breezy and a cold 60°. The shorts I was wearing at the time were suddenly very uncomfortable. I have worn a sweatshirt and jacket here during the day and have still been chilly. That will not be the case this year. The high temperature for today and Saturday is predicted to be north of 85°. When Race Two runs on Sunday, it is expected to drop to 82°. There is a chance of rain or thunderstorms this afternoon, but Saturday is expected to be completely sunny and Sunday should have only a few harmless crowds.

That is a much better forecast than last year. It was cloudy and cold for the race. Then as the victory lane celebration was taking place, the skies opened up, causing everyone to scurry for cover. We went to the Media Center located on the outside of the front stretch, directly across from the pits. It was raining so hard, we could not even see the wall separating the track from the pits. It was good that the deluge held off until after the race, but it sure made getting out of there difficult for most of the fans. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like rain will be much of a factor this weekend, beyond today.

Speaking of last year, it was an odd race from the start. Colton Herta sat on the pole as a rookie, but his glory was short lived. Alexander Rossi swept across his nose from the outside in Turn Three and he never looked back. The race went caution-free and Rossi went on to win by more than twenty-eight seconds over the second-place car of Will Power.

Other than Rossi’s complete beat-down of the field, the most impressive drive came from Scott Dixon, who started twelfth. As the field went through Turn Five for the first time, and started up the hill – Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay tangled back n Turn Five, spinning Dixon around as the entire field went by. Dixon re-started the race at the tail-end, but somehow clawed his way back to an impressive fifth-place finish. With no cautions on the day, you know it wasn’t just a case of getting lucky and catching a yellow at the right time. Josef Newgarden finished out the podium with a solid third-place finish. For the record the rookie polesitter, Colton Herta, finished eighth.

This will be an unusual Road America weekend for a lot of reasons. The biggest change is that this will be a double-header weekend for the first time. That was necessitated by the cancellation of other races in the season due to the pandemic, just to give the series enough races to complete a championship. Normally, a double-header weekend (like Belle Isle) would have two practices on Friday with two qualifying sessions for two races coming at various times in the weekend. The NTT IndyCar Series will have no such track activity today. The only track activity for today will be the two active series in the Road to Indy. They will have qualifying and races for their respective series all day today.

Given that information and the news that I delivered here on Wednesday regarding Susan’s health, we may not even go to the track today. We will play that by ear, but if there is anything else she wants to do – we’ll do that.

But Saturday and Sunday are going to be packed with track activity. The Vintage Indy cars are here this weekend. They will be making track appearances and will also be available for viewing while they are parked. They will first take to the track at 9:30 CDT (local time) on Saturday. Then at 10:30, the NTT IndyCar Series will have their one and only practice of the weekend, lasting until Noon.

At 12:35, vintage Corvettes will hit the track until qualifying for Race One takes place from 1:30 CDT on NBCSN. This will be a modified and shortened format that will not involve the normal shootout version of the Firestone Fast Six. Instead, there will be two groups released for twelve minutes each, in a quest to see who can post the fastest time. Then they will be lined up in that order. This will take only thirty minutes to complete. Once that’s done at 2:00 CDT, the Vintage Indy cars will be on track for the second time of the day.

At 4:00 CDT, the first IndyCar race will take place and will be shown live on NBCSN. It will be after 6:00 before the 55-Lap race is completed, but it stays daylight a lot longer up here than it does in Nashville, so darkness will not be a problem even long after the race is over. Why the late start? I’m sure TV had a lt to do with it. Keep in mind, this new date was changed not that long ago. NBC has had to do a lot of juggling along with the series.

Sunday will start with the Vintage Indy cars on track at 8:00 am CDT. At 9:00 CDT, IndyCar qualifying will take place in the same split group format as Saturday. Coverage for Sunday’s qualifying will only be available on NBC Sports Gold. The Corvettes will be on track at 10:00 CDT and the pre-race show will begin on Big NBC at 11:00 am CDT, with the green flag flying at 11:42 am CDT.

Unless you are a die-hard Scott Dixon fan, you hope Dixon is off of his game this weekend. Two races in, and he is already pulling away in the championship. No matter how much you like or respect Dixon, the series needs a competitive championship to follow in this abbreviated season. If you are an Alexander Rossi fan, you hope he can duplicate what he did a year ago…twice. He is mired in twenty-third after an absolute disastrous start to his season. He needs two wins and needs for Dixon, Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud to have problems all weekend, if he has any hopes of getting back into contention. The same goes for Will Power, who is currently sitting in an unimpressive fifteenth in points.

Another thing that will be different at Road America this weekend is that neither of us will be part of the IndyCar media. Although I’ve had an IndyCar hard card for the past five years, that counts for nothing in the pandemic era. There were only twelve IndyCar media members allowed in the massive IMS Media Center last weekend for the GMR Grand Prix. The media center at Road America is one of the smaller ones on the schedule. I suspect that they can only allow a maximum of about nine or ten in there. When you have NBC, The IndyStar, Racer.com and Trackside Online that all have hard deadlines to meet, there was no way a lowly blogger would be allowed. The track was very gracious and apologetic about it and I understood fully. So, we are paying customers this year. One thing that will not change is that I plan to eat a lot of brats and cheese curds at the track. No track does concessions like Road America.

Since we are 100% totally fans this weekend and won’t have access to Wi-Fi at the track, coupled with Susan’s health issues – this will be it for the weekend from us. We plan to relax, take in everything this track has to offer and enjoy ourselves, and not be bothered with writing posts before leaving the track each day. I also don’t want to be dependent on suspect hotel Wi-Fi. At this point, I can’t even guarantee that I’ll have a “Random Thoughts” post here on Monday…but I’ll try. But you can still follow along with us on Twitter as we will be posting a few pictures, videos and comments. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog and Susan at @MrsOilpressure.

So, it’s now prediction time. I think Dixon will cool off a bit. Surely he can’t keep up this torrid pace for three and then four races in a row. If he does, it will make for a boring season for most. But I think he will come back to earth this weekend. I also predict that Alexander Rossi will finally work his way out of this slump and win one of the two races this weekend. Simon Pagenaud will win the other, while Will Power finds his form as well. This weekend will set the stage for a much more interesting season heading into next weekend’s unique oval double-header at Iowa. Stay tuned.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Road America Preview”

  1. Jack Phillips Says:

    Have a Spotted Cow for me, George.

  2. Leslie Bissell Says:

    Have fun you two!

  3. billytheskink Says:

    You all enjoy the weekend. We’ll be here when you post again.

    Rosenquist needs a rebound this weekend as well, I think he gets it.

  4. Glad you guys made it there safely. I’ll be hitting the road later today to head north. Hope to see you there!

  5. Yannick Says:

    Enjoy your stay and come home safely.

    All the best.

  6. Mark Wick Says:

    This is a weekend for both of you to enjoy together. Do that, and forget about everything else for a few days.

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