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IMS Writers’ Roundtable: Volume 1

The turning of the calendar means motorsports is warming engines for the dawning of a new season. The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals begin next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race roars to life at the end of the month. Private testing by NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams also gets underway this month.

With that in mind, it’s time to introduce a new roundtable discussion for The three panelists have different perspectives but share a passion for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its events. They’ll discuss and analyze topics throughout the year.

Curt Cavin has worked every Indianapolis 500 since 1988 and covered each of the Formula One and MotoGP events, plus the first 23 NASCAR events, held at the iconic track during his reporting days at The Indianapolis Star. Paul Kelly’s motorsports experience is even more diverse, having worked in editorial and public relations in Indy cars, sports cars and drag racing since 1993. He also covered NASCAR, short-track and motorcycle racing as a newspaper reporter in upstate New York in the late 80s and early 90s and is the Speedway’s resident MotoGP and Isle of Man TT freak. Zach Horrall is clearly the newbie of this group, but his love for the sport is deeply rooted, growing from a childhood passion to a reporting job in college at The Indianapolis Star, covering the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR and drag racing before joining IMS in 2019.

Today’s topic spans the 2021 lineup of exciting events at IMS, headlined by the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 30, a pair of NTT INDYCAR SERIES road races and the return of the NASCAR/INDYCAR doubleheader.

Today’s question: What is most intriguing about what’s to come at the Speedway in 2021?

Curt Cavin: The obvious answer is the return of the Indianapolis 500 to the Month of May. Last year’s August race was the first “500” held outside of May, and while Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field put on a heck of a show for television, let’s hope the race never again has to stray from Memorial Day weekend, and it goes without saying that having hundreds of thousands of fans on site makes it “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” How will this year’s month look and feel? Like all aspects of global sports entertainment, that’s still to be determined, but all of us are ready for springtime at IMS.

Paul Kelly: Picking an intriguing event in 2021 at IMS is like deciding which present you want to open first on Christmas morning. They’re all good, right? The Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge always is a highlight. This year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is no different, as the field will be so deep. There might be 15 drivers with the legitimate speed to drink milk in Victory Lane. And the shift of the NASCAR Cup Series to the IMS road course after 27 years on the oval will be historic and very exciting, if last year’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard for the Xfinity Series is any indication. But I must admit the most intriguing event for me in 2021 at IMS is the Indy Autonomous Challenge on Oct. 23. This is a high-speed race featuring Dallara chassis controlled from outside of the car. Yes, drivers are the stars of the sport. But it will be really intriguing to see this exciting technology that has so many street applications put on display at serious speed at IMS. It’s not a video game – it’s a real race with real cars complete with fascinating technology. That excites the tech dork in me.

Zach Horrall: The NASCAR/INDYCAR doubleheader this August is sure to be a highlight of the 2021 season. These two racing together on the same weekend is a race fan’s dream. But I’m also looking at the history. A new chapter in IMS’ story will be written when the NASCAR Cup Series shifts to the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. If the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard was any indication, this will be a thrilling race. These drivers only have one opportunity to be the first road course winner at IMS, and you know they all want it and will do whatever it takes to get it. Selfishly, I’m excited to witness such an historic moment. I envy my colleagues here who got to see the inaugural Brickyard 400 (don’t tell them that it pre-dates me by two years). It’s rare that you get to witness a “first” at a place like this, but that’s exactly what we get to see this year. I can’t wait to look back on this race decades from now and say, “I saw the first NASCAR Cup Series road course race at Indianapolis.”

2021 IMS Race Dates

May 30: 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (NTT INDYCAR SERIES)
Aug. 14: Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard (NASCAR Xfinity Series)
Aug. 15: NASCAR Cup Series race
Oct. 17: Indianapolis 8 Hour (Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli)
Oct. 23: Indy Autonomous Challenge

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