Anticipation continues to build for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES opener Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst. Here’s a look at the year ahead and what’s new with North America’s premier open-wheel series.
The season begins with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst, one of the many traditional events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar, which makes a return after the 2020 pandemic year.
A series of four races in three weekends will start the season, including the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 and a doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2 for the Genesys 300 and the XPEL 375.
“You could feel the energy in the paddock during last week’s Indy 500 testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “Now we’re ready to end the offseason and wave the green flag on an exciting season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES action featuring our daring, fierce and competitive athletes.
“Starting the season with four races on three consecutive weekends is an ideal launch, with momentum carrying into the Month of May. The championship stretch also is exciting, with three consecutive West Coast races to wrap up the season, along with visits to Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, St. Louis and an inaugural event in Nashville.
“Combined with another road course event during another NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend at Indy, we are very optimistic about the success of the 2021 season and the continued growth of the series.”
Event weekends will feature a compact schedule in 2021, with practice and qualifying schedules built on lessons of efficiency from last season’s pandemic year.
“Street course events include a late afternoon practice on Fridays to allow more time to highlight support events. Road course weekends will feature a more impactful Saturday for race fans with two practices that day followed by qualifying, including the exciting Firestone Fast Six.
Growing Car Counts
Thanks to expansion by some NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams, the car count is on the rise in 2021. Race weekends will see a steady 24 full-time entries with some races, excluding the Indianapolis 500, seeing as many as 26. Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske both will field four full-time cars for the first time since 2017.
Meyer Shank Racing continues its steady growth with the addition of three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who ranks 12th on the INDYCAR SERIES’ all-time wins list with 30 victories. He’s driving the No. 06 Honda to create an expanded two-car team for MSR in six races this season.