It's a few months delayed, but the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is ready to drop the green flag on the 2020 season.
Saturday's Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway will be the first of 15 races scheduled from June to October, when the season will conclude where it originally planned to start - the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The season was suddenly halted March 13, hours before the first practice session at St. Petersburg, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly three months later, the 24 drivers who will compete in the 200-lap race Saturday night are eager to be unleashed on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval.
"I'm anxious, but I think I'm most excited," said Marco Andretti about the race, which will air live at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. "It was a long offseason to begin with and then obviously when COVID-19 hit, everybody was just kind of on hold. Really, really excited to get going. I think the world needs more sports, not just us, so it's a good thing to get going."
Six former winners - who account for the last six wins at the track - and three rookies slated to make their series debut are among the drivers who are expected to compete at Texas.
The race will also mark the official race debut of the Aeroscreen, a safety innovation for enhanced driver cockpit protection. The safety feature is a ballistic, canopy-like windscreen anchored by titanium framework encompassing the cockpit. INDYCAR has mandated its use by all teams at all track disciplines (ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits).
"Well, the positive is that we spent a good amount of time, the series itself, Jay Frye leading the charge, making sure that this screen was vetted as it could be, making sure that it is fully prepared to run through a rigorous INDYCAR event," said two-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden. "Is the Aeroscreen ready for primetime? Absolutely. It's been tested, been run through its paces at many different types of tracks, short ovals, speedways, road and street courses. It is absolutely ready to go."
But most importantly, the Genesys 300 is a chance for the drivers to get back on track and get their 2020 back to a sense of normalcy.
"I think it's a testament to the effort that's been put in by everyone at INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway and the state of Texas to allow us to go racing," 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi said. "It's really cool, really exciting. I think the world needs sports, needs entertainment, needs positivity, so, yeah, I'm excited to get there and not only put on a show for people but also get our season started and pick up where we left off at the end of last year."
NTT IndyCar Series PR