Roger Diez: Coronavirus breaks momentum of Penske Fords
Unfortunately, there will be no racing this weekend. Coronavirus fears have had an ongoing effect on our sport, along with many other aspects of daily life. First the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix was canceled due to a McLaren team member testing positive for the virus.
Then both NASCAR and IndyCar announced that they would hold their races in Atlanta and St. Petersburg respectively, but without spectators. Both sanctioning bodies next announced postponement or cancellation of this week’s race and future events. NASCAR will postpone next week’s Miami-Homestead race, while IndyCar is canceling all races through April.
I expect Formula 1 to follow suit, with Monaco possibly the first race to take place this season. IMSA postponed the 12 Hours of Sebring scheduled for next weekend until Nov. 11-14 due the ban on travel from Europe affecting many of the teams based there.
In the NASCAR Cup, the hiatus will break the momentum the Penske Fords have built, with Joey Logano scoring his second victory of the season last Sunday at Phoenix. It remains to be seen whether the March 29 Texas race or the Bristol race on April 5 will go on as scheduled.
Although NASCAR has said Atlanta and Miami-Homestead are postponed rather than canceled, I don’t see how they will be able to reschedule, given their already full calendar. If additional races are postponed, the series could be racing until Christmas.
The NTT IndyCar series season opener was to have 26 entries, one of the largest fields seen in recent years. Team Penske entered three cars for Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud. Andretti Autosport had three drivers entered plus two partnership entries: Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach, Marco Andretti, and Colton Herta. Chip Ganassi Racing added a third car for the 2020 season, with Marcus Ericsson joining returning drivers Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist.
Five rookies were scheduled to start their first IndyCar race, with sports car champion and Formula 1 veteran Felipe Nasr is the most seasoned driver among them. Other rookies are Oliver Askew, Alex Palou, Rinus Veekay and Ben Hanley. They will now have to wait until May to experience their first IndyCar outing.
Formula 1 is currently under a cloud of controversy unrelated to COVID-19. The seven teams not using Ferrari power units have threatened legal action against a settlement made between Ferrari and sanctioning body FIA concerning the legality of the Ferrari power unit.
Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren, Williams, AlphaTauri, and Racing Point took exception to the statement by the FIA that “the specifics of the agreement will remain between the parties.” The lack of transparency goes against well-established practice of issuing technical directives to provide clarification of “grey areas” in the regulations being exploited. All seven teams signed a statement requesting a full accounting of the FIA investigation, reserving the right to pursue legal action if not satisfied with the FIA’s response.
Jimmie Johnson is looking ahead to retirement from full-time stock car racing and exploring his future options. One of those options, a possible Indy car race in 2021, is on hold now.
Johnson was scheduled to test an Arrow McLaren SP Chevy-powered Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on April 6, the day after the scheduled race there. Johnson was fitted for the seat last week and was looking forward to the test, but with the race cancellation it is doubtful it will take place. Johnson has indicated that if he does participate in an IndyCar race in 2021, it will be on a road course. He is not interested in racing the open-wheel car on ovals