Something Different on Tap for Indy Road-Course Debut...Practice!

Ron Lemasters | 7/3/2020

Indianapolis Jeb Burton LS Tractor Michael Annett News Pilot Flying J Taylor Moyer Travis Mack XFINITY Series

There's something different this week in Indianapolis: NASCAR Xfinity Series teams will practice ahead of Saturday's event on the IMS road course.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 3, 2020) – When the JR Motorsports teams join their competitors this weekend on the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it won’t be business as usual.

For one, instead of racing on the 2.5-mile oval at The Brickyard, the teams will be going at it on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course, the same one used by the Indy Cars for the past several seasons in the Indy Car Grand Prix.

For another, there will be some time to get used to the layout.

After having had no practice or qualifying since returning from the pandemic-prompted shutdown last month, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will enjoy twin 55-minute practice sessions on the road course.

This makes an abundance of sense, as none of the drivers have yet to turn a wheel on the road course, which winds its way clockwise through the massive infield at IMS. There are no race notes to work from, as the course is not like any of the other courses the series currently competes on (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Road America and the Roval at Charlotte).

Three of the four courses are permanent road layouts and feature elevation changes; the lone exception being the Roval, inside the 1.5-mile oval at CMS.

Having two near-hour-long sessions is going to be about information.

“It’s still going to be super-limited, because it’s two 55-minute sessions and the track is super long,” said Taylor Moyer, crew chief for Jeb Burton and the No. 8 LS Tractor Chevrolet. “We are just going to go in with an option game plan. If he (Burton) needs help with one thing, we’ll do this and if he needs help with another thing, we’ll do that.”

Moyer said driver comfort with the package will go a long way toward making Saturday a good day for his team.

“I think it’s going to be a race of attrition and minimizing mistakes,” he said. “We’re just going to try to get him comfortable and feeling like he’s in good control of the car. We’re not going to push too hard in practice; I think the cleaner your car can be, the better off you’re going to be for the race.”

Having laps on the track will be important in other ways, said Travis Mack, crew chief for Michael Annett’s No. 1 Pilot Flying J Camaro.

“It’s about getting a good fuel window and fuel mapping, really looking at tire fall-off, see how the tires look,” Mack said of the practice window. “It’s going to be 94 degrees on Saturday, so you need to know how much grip it is going to have.”

Moyer said the practice would also allow teams to make sure the driver was comfortable, but also worried about his crew members. “The bigger concern is, it’s Indy on the Fourth of July; it’s going to be ridiculously hot,” Moyer said. “You have to worry about the health of your road crew as well as your driver.”

With a new venue that no NASCAR Xfinity Series driver has put a wheel on, Moyer said the practice sessions were the only way to go. “It’s the only fair way for NASCAR to do this, because not everybody has access to a simulator,” he said.

The simulator can be a double-edged sword, too.

“The simulator could be our own worst enemy, if you get there and the track is completely different,” Mack remarked. “We could end up off the track. We’re just going to go, feel it out, work our way up to speed and try to stay on the track.”

While it is a novelty in 2020, practice is about finding out what you need for the race, Moyer said.

“In my mind, you need to have a nice concise game plan that gives you the answers you need,” he said. “You don’t need to make it into Happy Hour and see who puts the fastest lap on the board or who can make the most laps. It’s going to be covering all your bases so you know how to approach things for the race.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • August 15 03:00 PM ET
    UNOH 188 Daytona Road Course
  • August 22 04:00 PM ET
    Drydene 200Dover International Speedway
  • August 23 12:30 PM ET
    Drydene 200Dover International Speedway
  • August 28 07:30 PM ET
    Wawa 250Daytona International Speedway
  • September 5 04:00 PM ET
    Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200Darlington Raceway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Henry 180

Road America | 8/8/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Austin Cindric7710
2Chase Briscoe760-11
3Ross Chastain708-63
4Noah Gragson697-74
5Justin Haley636-135
6Harrison Burton #608-163
7Justin Allgaier598-173
8Michael Annett543-228