INDIANAPOLIS – The NTT IndyCar Series is in the midst of their most important month of their entire season – the Month of May. Earlier this spring, rumors were starting to swirl that the series was close to announcing a third OEM to join the IndyCar in the near future. See, the rumors were so strong that some said that the series was going to announce a new partner to join Honda and Chevrolet for 2021 and beyond as soon as Indy.
But, on Friday from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR President Jay Frye told reporters that the series has “nothing imminent” to announce on that front.
See, rumors were just that, rumors. While the series is still actively pursuing a third OEM, nothing has been signed. With the new upgrades set to be added to the cars in 2021, time is running out to secure a partner.
“Yesterday, Tomorrow. Whenever they sign up,” Frye said on when the deadline is to get a third manufacturer in comfortably in time for 2021.”
When asked if IndyCar could move the upgrades back a year or two to give them more time to work something out, Frye said they’re looking at some different option.
“It just depends,” said Frye. “When you think about what the upgrade piece is, it’s not just an upgrade, it’s different configurations. Before, the deadlines were more important than now because if someone comes in now, they’re not getting the advantage in anyway. They’re actually behind in a way. We’re kind of navigating through that now. Some of the ones we’re talking with is that it’s part of the equation on how do we make it all fit.
“A third is becoming a more of a necessity now, not a luxury since that we’re growing.”
Frye, did say that while we talk about adding a new manufacturer, he is grateful for the ones that we have in Honda and Chevrolet. But, this process is ongoing and that he’s still confident it’s more of a matter of when, not if, a new engine comes on board.
“We’ve probably had two or three things happen the last couple years that we were really close, and those things are still ongoing. There’s nothing imminent to be announced, but we’re encouraged by the conversations we’re having. We’re encouraged by what they’re telling us. They like what we’re doing; they like where we’re going. A lot of it’s just timing. So, it’s a big commitment to do it, it’s infrastructure, it’s building engines. It’s complicated. We’re confident that something is going to happen sooner than later.”
Also, Frye said that he’s generally happy with the car count in general with what we have too. He noted that the season opener at St. Pete in 2017 had eight teams and 21 cars. This past March, we had 12 teams and 24 cars. Here in May, we have 36 cars going for 33 spots where we had 35 a year ago.
“We’re at 36, which we’ve grown from last year which is important,” said Frye. “A by product of that is having more cars here. I think we could have had 38 easily if a couple of deals come together and I think that would have been max.”
In terms of any locked in entries for the Indy 500, Frye said that nothing has been discussed past this year yet and that they will wait and see how this year’s format plays out.
“We’re really excited about the formula that we’ve come up with this year. We’re really excited to see how that plays out. We put a lot of work into how this is going to work. One of the things to me about the past that was counterproductive was 10-33 having to go again on Sunday. We kind of looked at the last four years and that group saw only a 3.3 average move. Does it really matter if you start 11th or 14th? It really doesn’t so what else can we do? We came up with this cool formula we think. We thought the Monday practice as always spectacular and there are a lot more people here on Sunday than on Monday so we want the Sunday crowd to see what they didn’t see on Monday since they’re not here. So, pile all of that together and we think we have come up with a really good day. This just start in the last couple of months. We’re excited about what we’ve got so lets see how that plays out. There’s different nuances that we can possibly take moving forward.”
Frye also noted on Friday that they’re hoping to decrease the gap between the races before Indy and to Indy. This year, with how Easter fell on the calendar, it made things difficult to have a race past Long Beach before the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
Easter was April 21 this year. The series observes the holiday and doesn’t race on that weekend. Then, with Talladega on the NASCAR schedule at the end of April, it meant that Barber had to be run earlier in the month instead of later.
Combine all of that and you get three weeks off.
“There’s a balance there right,” Frye said on the long break. “Two weeks is probably right where three is one too many. I think a two week break coming into this month would be healthier than a three week. We did fill it in with a full day open test at the Speedway which is almost like a race. A one day event.
“I think if we look at it, it is shorter because of Easter. I don’t believe it is three next year. It was kind of anomaly this year. It will be fixed next year. Not that it was bad, it was just three weeks seems long.”
Next year, Easter is on April 12, meaning that at the very least a race will be pushed back. Long Beach will have to run on April 5 or April 19. Barber will have to be April 5 or April 26.