INDYCAR Prepares for Another Record-Making Season

NTT INDYCAR SERIES, INDY NXT by Firestone Set To Shine on Streets of St. Petersburg

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, March 1, 2024) – It is that time of year when the winter freeze quickly turns into the heat of thrilling wheel-to-wheel action as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone launch their 2024 seasons on the palm tree-lined streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule highlights include traditional favorites and, new to 2024, a made-for-TV $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club – a spectacular racing event set among extraordinary scenery just a short drive from world’s premier entertainment market, a return to historic Milwaukee Mile for a thrilling doubleheader, evening racing at Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway and a supercharged season finale at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix at Nashville Superspeedway.

Once again in 2024, St. Petersburg begins a season of double-digit telecasts on NBC. It is the first time in 20 years the INDYCAR SERIES schedule has featured three consecutive years of double-digit events on network television. Peacock will feature all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions, qualifying and events after a 2023 season that featured the highest viewership in more than a decade.

The bright lights from TV cameras also will accompany production of season two of the docuseries “100 Days To Indy,” focusing on the dramatic countdown to the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Episode 1 will debut on The CW Network Friday, April 26.

“This is an era of tangible growth and tremendous opportunity for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “Rising attendance, combined with incredible fan engagement across our digital channels, increased merchandise sales and rising viewership and visibility are all signs of significant momentum. We look forward to continuing this rising tide, on and off the track, as the curtain rises on another intensely fought and captivating season.”

Personalities aside, all focus will be on another record-making season with numerous storylines:

INDYCAR’s Most Unique Season

While the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season awaits the arrival of the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with hybrid technology after the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, teams will push the limit until then with enhanced possibilities of track records with lighter chassis components prepared for the hybrid addition. They include a lighter, 3D-printed titanium aeroscreen top frame. Without compromising overall strength and durability, the new INDYCAR top frame saves seven pounds from the previous model.

Additionally, a switch to a magnesium gearbox casing and bellhousing – located between the INDYCAR SERIES combustion engine and the gearbox and will house the hybrid assist unit – will provide additional weight savings.

2024_COMP_CHANGES_HYBRID.pngThe hybrid system is made up of the Motor Generator Unit (MGU) and Energy Storage System (ESS). Teams will be free to use multiple strategies for regeneration and deployment as the power unit builds and transmits energy through the MGU before and after being saved in the ultracapacitor ESS. The additional horsepower is deployed through the same motor generator. The new powerplant unit will be used in addition to the traditional overtake (“push-to-pass”) option on road and street circuits. The combination of the traditional push-to-pass with the hybrid unit will provide over 100 additional horsepower.

Use of the new power unit will be available on ovals with manual and automatic regeneration options but only with manual deploy.

Since the start of on-track testing, 21,108 miles have been completed with the INDYCAR-specific hybrid unit.

To ensure a smooth and comfortable transition to the hybrid unit addition this summer, teams will not be assessed any grid penalties for unexpected hybrid unit changeouts.

Evolving Safety and On-Track Performance

An annual INDYCAR review has led to adjustments for the upcoming NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with an eye on safety, technical performance and rules.

From a safety perspective, 2024 will feature:

  • The addition of LEDs on rear wing end plates for better visibility for trailing drivers during rainy conditions
  • Redesigned brake rotors for improved cooling

Specific to racing on ovals, 2024 will feature:

  • The addition of a stronger front wheel bearing retaining nut to match the implementation of the updated rear wheel bearing retaining nut in 2023. The update followed a meticulous review of the incident at the 2023 Indy 500 involving the No. 27 car of Andretti Global and the No. 6 car of Arrow McLaren, which resulted in the loss of the left rear wheel assembly on the No. 27.
  • Stronger rear retaining ring
  • New and stronger rear uprights with wheel tethers mounted to the upright rather than caliper studs
  • Updates to the rear wing front clevis to better distribute impact loads into the attenuator.

Beginning with the Sonsio Grand Prix in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, an updated, lightweight PPG ballistic screen (aeroscreen), will be introduced featuring vents for increased overall driver cooling and a top front duct directing air to the drivers’ chest. The ducting is 3D printed in rubber to prevent hand injuries in an accident. The updated aeroscreen will only be used on the remaining road courses and street circuits in 2024.

From an officiating standpoint, updates for 2024 include:

Restart line

  • On restarts, drivers must remain in single file and are prohibited from passing until reaching a line designated in the last corner. Additionally, the EM Motorsports light panels positioned around the track will be illuminated green to supplement the traditional cloth flag waved at the start-finish line for both starts and restarts.

A split group practice on the Streets of St. Petersburg

  • Deployed on a trial basis in St. Petersburg, the field will be split into two groups following a 20-minute “All Cars” session to begin Practice 1. Following the 20-minute “All Cars” session, each group – split by odd and even numbered pit boxes – will receive two 10-minute segments on an alternating basis. As in qualifying, the clock in Segments One and Two will stop for the first red flag condition of each practice segment.

Updates for the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will be announced at a later date.

A 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season that featured 7,753 passes, including on-track passing records set at six racetracks, and the most laps and miles completed in a season in over a decade is expected to continue to its record-making trajectory in 2024.

“The last few seasons have been unprecedented in terms of records and milestones,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “Between the massive effort by Chevrolet and Honda with the hybrid unit and the perpetual partnership and input from our owners, teams and drivers, 2024 is expected to be even more competitive and one of the most unique seasons and championships we’ve ever had. We cannot wait to get started in St. Petersburg.”

A Sustainable Return for 2024

The most sustainable era in INDYCAR SERIES history will continue as the series, its teams and events continue to work to develop green technologies. Highlights from 2023 included the first use of Shell’s 100% Renewable Race Fuel, continued use of renewable diesel for all INDYCAR team transporters supporting the series and use of Firestone Firehawk alternate race tires – on street circuits – made from guayule rubber.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first sport facility to achieve organizational certification through the Council for Responsible Sport while the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear and the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend achieved gold-level event certification.

Other announcements are expected throughout the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

NXT Up: INDY NXT by Firestone

After last year’s successful launch of a reimagined look for INDYCAR’s developmental series with continued integration with INDYCAR as a sanctioning body, INDY NXT by Firestone enters 2024 with even more energy and momentum. The pathway to North America’s premier open-wheel racing series is expected to feature over 20 drivers from seven countries in pursuit of a $1.4 million purse. It is set to have the most entries across the entire season for the developmental series in 16 years (2008).

Once again, the series champion will receive $850,000 to be applied to an oval test at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 Open Test and Rookie Orientation Program, an entry for the 2025 Indianapolis 500 and an entry for an additional 2025 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event. The 2024 championship team, again, will receive a prize of $35,000.

This season’s INDY NXT champion will have to earn it. The 2023 season featured 1,226 on-track passes for position, up 113% from the previous year. Lead changes were up 25% from 2022.

New for 2024, group qualifying will decide the starting grid on road and street circuits. Based on the best lap times from the practice session immediately preceding qualifying, the fastest driver in that session will choose which group will compete in the first of the two qualifying sessions.

With 12 minutes allotted for each group (with a guarantee of one timed lap), the fastest driver between the two sessions will be awarded pole position with the drivers who finished behind that driver, in order and in that group, occupying the odd-numbered starting positions (3, 5, 7, etc.) for the race and the drivers who finished in order from the other group occupying the even-numbered starting positions (2, 4, 6, etc.). One driver and entrant championship point will be awarded to the fastest car in each qualifying group.

Lineups for race weekend doubleheaders will be set by the entrant’s best lap determining their starting position for Race 1 and their second-best lap determining their starting position for Race 2. The procedure for qualifying on ovals (aggregate time of two consecutively timed laps) remains unchanged for 2024.

Also noteworthy, INDY NXT will celebrate its 500th race as INDYCAR’s top developmental series when the series competes on the streets of Detroit this summer.

“It is clear that incorporating this series with the rest of the INDYCAR paddock has paid dividends,” INDY NXT by Firestone Director Levi Jones said. “The rise in team participation and car count is proof of concept. It’s even more gratifying to see former champions Linus Lundqvist and Christian Rasmussen advance to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

“As the series grows and the competition becomes more fierce, we look forward to elevating the next generation of top INDYCAR SERIES racers.”

All 14 INDY NXT races will be available in the United States via Peacock with coverage on INDYCAR Live, INDYCAR’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, in those countries not covered by international agreements.

INDYCAR’s season begins March 8-10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Coverage of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season debut, Sunday, March 10 will be available at noon ET on NBC and Peacock. A Spanish language version will be available on Universo.

INDY NXT by Firestone’s season opener begins earlier in the day at 10 a.m. ET.

The award-winning INDYCAR Radio Network will provide coverage of both races, with audio available on SiriusXM channel 218 and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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