The stars were out in full force for Richmond Raceway’s official Tuesday (Sept. 3) press conference for the NTT IndyCar Series’ return to the track in 2020.
Drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles and series president Jay Frye were all on hand for the presser, held in the raceway infield with an audience of representatives, journalists and fans.
Also on hand were Richmond Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier and several local officials.
IndyCar returns to the oval for the first time since 2009 on June 26-27, 2020. Kanaan and Dixon were the final two winners at the raceway in 2008 and 2009, respectively, technically making Dixon the defending winner of the race.
“It’s great, but also sad in a lot of ways too,” Dixon said on returning more than a decade after that victory. “…You’ve missed it quite a bit; obviously the goal is to go back to back even though it’s 11 years later, but I think it’s more of a disappointment of not being here through that period.”
The Virginia circuit dropped off the series schedule after 2009, but they recently entered talks to be brought back on. The decision was made official over the weekend in an announcement prior to the Portland race, with Pocono Raceway the odd track out for next year.
Richmond is now the only track on the Eastern seaboard besides St. Petersburg, and the only venue on the East Coast above the state of Florida.
IndyCar will host a two-car tire test at Richmond in October and will return in March for an open test, which will be a full-field session open to the public. Dixon will be one of the two drivers at the October event.
Frye elaborated on how the new low-downforce, high-horsepower car has changed the sport, particularly at Iowa Speedway, a track very similar to Richmond.
“2 years ago, at Iowa, we had [around] 300 passes with a higher downforce car,” Frye said. “Last year at Iowa we had 995 on track passes, and then this year we had around 800, so we think the formula we got is really good. We’re very committed to making sure we have a spectacular show here for you all.”
Bickmeier said the return of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck and IndyCar series were the two biggest questions he has gotten during his tenure as president.
“We can answer that question now, he said. “2020. …We’re going to have some fun with that. I think you’re looking at trying to diversify your product offerings here, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
On Dixon and Kanaan’s appearance at the presser, Bickmeier had high praise for IndyCar.
“I give them all the credit for getting two of their champions out here to reconnect with our community,” he said. “They’re great ambassadors for the sport, they’re great competitors, but again I think that speaks to what they do when they come to a race. They love that connectivity to the fans, the community and the media.”
Kanaan said he was very excited to see Richmond return to the schedule, also furthering the comparisons to Iowa.
“I think it’s going to be an extremely similar race to Iowa,” he said. “And setup-wise we’ve really been talking since the announcement Sunday what we’re going to do. This is going be an exciting race and Iowa has been extremely exciting the past two years, [and] we found the right package, so I can’t wait.”
Dixon compared Richmond to Iowa as well, but also contrasted the two, singling out the banking, bumpiness and tire compounds as the major differences.
“It’s strange, because as we’ve taken downforce off the car it actually hasn’t really slowed down the peak speeds,” he said. “[They’re] probably 20-30 miles per hour faster, but the cornering speed hasn’t fallen off that much in qualifying laps and things like that.”
On testing, Kanaan said that he wouldn’t be present at the October tire test but that he would be ready to go for the full-field session next year.
“March can’t come soon enough,” Kanaan said.