NEWTON, Iowa – Back-to-back doubleheaders in a seven-day period are a true test of athleticism, fitness and endurance for drivers and crew members in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Last weekend at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn Road America racecourse, drivers competed in 55-lap contests Saturday and Sunday in the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR.
This weekend at the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway oval, it’s two 250-lap battles under the lights Friday night and Saturday night in the Iowa INDYCAR 250s.
From the longest track on the schedule at over 4 miles in length to the shortest oval on the calendar at seven-eighths of a mile, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is athleticism, fitness and endurance personified.
“When you look at the top level of Formula One, INDYCAR and NASCAR, the champion in the INDYCAR SERIES is the most complete champion because of the diversity of the series itself, the tracks they run,” racing legend Mario Andretti said. “They are at Elkhart Lake, a road course, one weekend and then at Iowa Speedway, a short oval, the next weekend.
“INDYCAR is the most diverse series in racing, and the drivers show the most diverse skills in the world."
Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport is one of those drivers who depends on peak performance to compete. His fitness regimen will be tested this weekend with the high G-force loads that come at Iowa, where the drivers are constantly going into, or out of, a corner at high speeds.
“That’s what I love about the INDYCAR SERIES, we have a schedule that is more diverse than any other form of motorsports on the planet,” Rossi said. “It’s always been the guys that can adapt and switch gears mentally from a driving style standpoint the best, going from street courses to road courses to short ovals to superspeedways. Those guys have always had an upper hand on this championship. That will be on full display during this week on the schedule.
“Going to Iowa coming off a doubleheader will be tough. We will be relying on the training program you’ve had in the offseason and how much you have prepared for the heat and stress of it all.
“It’s a new factor that we are all having to deal with more than in the past.”
According to Rossi, Iowa Speedway ranks in the top two or three tracks when it comes to physical demands. This weekend, those demands will be tested in back-to-back nights, 250 laps each, under the lights.
“Iowa has been the big one circled for everyone in terms of the heat and physicality,” Rossi said. “Road America was fine. I'll be pretty fresh going into Iowa. I think everyone is going to be dealing with the same thing.
“We made a big improvement, INDYCAR allowed us to move the water bottle placements. Now we have at least cold water throughout the race. That's a huge plus for us, will be a big help in Iowa.”
Scott Dixon turns 40 on July 22, but the five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion remains in tremendous physical shape. Dixon won the first three races of the 2020 season to give him 49 career victories. Next up is Mario Andretti’s 52 wins, second on the all-time list. A.J. Foyt is the all-time victory leader in INDYCAR with 67 wins.
Dixon is a triathlete and understands the importance of an exhausting physical workout program that he performs at his home in Indianapolis and with Jim Leo at PitFit on the north side of Indy.
“Iowa could be one of the toughest weekends the whole year,” Dixon said. “It is super physical with the G loading. You get barely any rest on the straights.
“These weekends have an opportunity to create a bit of havoc with people not being prepped as much as well as they could have been. That goes for the teams as well as the drivers. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
“You just want to get out of these four races as clean as possible.”
Tony Kanaan is the oldest driver in the series, and he returns to action for both races at Iowa Speedway. The 45-year-old from Salvador, Brazil is a pit bull when it comes to working out and is another triathlete.
Some drivers may dread the heat at Iowa – not Kanaan. He is looking forward to it.
“I love it,” Kanaan said. “I think the hotter and the more difficult it is, the better for me. That's what I train for. I train for difficult situations. I train to be able to have that edge on people that don't. Unfortunately, I know that a lot of the guys are doing the same. I used to think I have a bigger edge on them.
“They had two extremely hot races already, so they're more accustomed than I am. Although I can try to simulate the heat in the car, driving the car, it's what you're going to feel.
“I think we're going to be level there. I think it's going to be extremely tough. Everybody is complaining a little bit that it's quite a bit hot. But I'm ready. That is something that when I decided to become the athlete or the race car driver that I am today, one thing that I said was never going to lack is my physical condition.”
Kanaan believes he is more than capable of managing the physical fatigue that will come from the back-to-back 250-lap races. Mental fatigue can be more draining, however.
“For me the mental fatigue, it's really tough,” Kanaan said. “It's a lot tougher. You have trained for that. Your body, you can lift weights, do cardio, this and that. Your mind ...
“I'm expecting to be extremely drained after the two races, but I'm ready.”