Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe have said that the rookies in the 2020 IndyCar season will have a challenge ahead as they navigate new circuits with limited testing time.
IndyCar 2020 rookie class is a vibrant one. With the likes of Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward (has nine races under his belt) & Oliver Askew, DCR’s Alex Palou, ECR’s Rinus van Kalmthout, talent is not hard to come by among the youthful crop, but the incoming class will have a formidable challenge to manage in their respective first year: limited testing time, and a shortened season.
Both of the above come as a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced major alterations, such as one-day IndyCar weekends, which will overhaul how races are run, and -more importantly – how the drivers race in them.
With testing time dramatically slashed for competitors, those who have yet to run at the IndyCar tracks that make up the series – the rookies – will unquestionably be the most severely disadvantaged by the changes, especially at the oval rounds.
And, this is something that has been addressed by both Newgarden and Hinchcliffe, the former of whom has come out saying that it will be extremely difficult for rookies, particularly in the season opener at Texas – a track known for its unrivaled intricacy.
“Texas is a very difficult racetrack to race in general, whether you’ve been there 20 years or first time,” said Newgarden to media including FormulaRapida.net. “It’s a daunting track to get right. Typically we have five races or so to sort out our stuff, kind of get ourselves in the right frame of mind, have a general base before we go to a track like that.
“I think for the IndyCar veterans it will be a tough race to get thrust into. From the rookie side, it’s going to be extremely difficult. This whole year is going to be tough on rookies with limited track time. I think Texas will be one of the toughest places to go to right out of the gates, face a big challenge. It will be tough on everybody.
“We’ll Probably have to change our mental process a little bit for how we race people. Like you said, I think rookies might have to have some extra care or some extra thought coming up on somebody or racing wheel-to-wheel with one of those guys. I hope everyone tries to get back into a rhythm to start this season. It’s going to be very, very important, especially at a place like Texas, that everyone try to settle in for this first race out.
“I think we need to do that for ourselves individually, but I think collectively as a group coming off the simulator racing we’ve been doing, everything over the last two or three months, trying to get back into a rhythm is going to be important for us.”
Separately, Hinchcliffe took a less aggressive stance, while still stating that it will be tougher on those competing in their first full IndyCar season. “I mean, I think a better question, or it’s better to direct the question to the comfort level of those guys. I certainly don’t envy their position,” he said.
“But I think it’s a good crop of rookies. They’re all accomplished drivers. They’re all intelligent guys, and they’re in this sport and at this level for a reason. So I’d like to think that the approach for them is going to be, hey, this is our first-ever race in an INDYCAR for some of them. Obviously I know Pato has done a couple, but for all of them that are racing at Texas for the first time, it’s a long game.
“You’ve got to be patient. Obviously the safety element is heightened here and the danger factor is heightened here, but I think the teams will prep the drivers appropriately. I think the guys are smart enough, they’ve got good heads on their shoulders. And so will you give them a little extra room in the first stint? Yeah, probably, but at the end of the day, they’re all professionals, and like I said, they’ve made it here for a reason.
“I’m happy for them that they got that extra session to start off, and that was something that actually I think came from the drivers, the non-rookies really pushed for that session for those guys, so it was nice to see that that was added, and yeah, we’re all kind of in — none of us has been on track for a long time, so we’re all going to be a little rusty.
In extreme cases, like Palou, the Spaniard has yet to even run an oval race in his career, so it remains to be seen how he will perform, and how colossal the challenge will be for him. Others like O’Ward, Askew and van Kalmthout have raced in IndyCar/Indy Lights.
Here’s the story on rookies Palou and Veekay returning to the US
Here are the details of the races to come
Here’s Rossi and Kanaan on the 2020 Indy 500
Here are the details of the 2020 IndyCar season soon to kick off