For the first time in over a decade, there were IndyCar’s on the Richmond Raceway. The last time the NTT IndyCar Series visited the Commonwealth of Virginia, they were basically booed out of town.
Passing was few and far between. The drivers were outspoken that they felt bad for the race fans that showed up to witness a high speed parade. This wasn’t what IndyCar racing was all about and it was a snoozefest.
Well, with a different racing package, one that will certainly help the return next June, the test on Tuesday showed that we should see a much better race than we’ve ever seen on the .75-mile D-shaped oval.
“The car does feel a lot different from when even we first ran here in the early 2000s to the last time we ran here, through that race as well,” said five-time series champion Scott Dixon. A lot less downforce, probably a little more power or similar power. It’s quite tricky, a lot of fun to drive. Feels fairly low grip at the moment in some situations. It’s hard to say, too, from a racing perspective as it’s only Josef (Newgarden) and me here, and we’re mostly doing single runs at the moment.”
That was the initial prognoses too. See, the series had way too much downforce then. The cars were suited for bigger tracks where they could be flat out but have room to draft and pass. On short tracks like Richmond, they were all going the same speed with no time off the throttle. How are you supposed the pass a car in front when you’re both going the same speed?
Now, the cars have a lot less downforce, which in turn will make drivers have to lift in the corners each lap. Mix that with tires degrading over the course of a stint and you get…passing.
Another thing that we thought when the announcement was made was that Richmond was coming back on the schedule was that next June’s race should race a lot like the one at Iowa. Richmond, is .75-miles in length. Iowa, is .894-miles. They’re both D-shaped ovals and have some decent banking in the corners too.
But, it’s all speculation until cars hit the pavement on the Richmond area race track. On Tuesday, Dixon and Newgarden got to feel first hand on what this track will compare to, if anything.
“Honestly, they’re quite similar,” Newgarden said in the comparison of Richmond to Iowa. “It feels like a smooth Iowa is what it feels like. It’s a touch shorter, so you kind of notice the intensity is a little bit higher. Your concentration on getting in and out of the corner in between straights is a little shortened, so it feels more intense.
“Globally it feels very, very similar to Iowa. It’s just a lot smoother. Iowa is very, very bumpy, has those characteristics to make you think about the setup. I think here from a compliance standpoint, you can run the car a lot more like a smooth short oval, but still has that styling, what feels like race-ability like Iowa. I’m hoping a second lane comes in. If it does, I could see it racing very similar to that place.”
Newgarden should know. He led 282 of 300 laps at Iowa back in 2016. He backed that up with leading 254 of 300 laps this past July there too.