St. Petersburg

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES takes a short breather this week, with the Honda Indy Toronto, a popular street circuit, next on the calendar July 22-24.

That race begins a stretch of five events in 22 days. With two street circuits and a permanent road course included, has offered two veteran motorsports writers the license to design their ideal track map from aspects of the current NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. No boundaries were given, although it needs to have some form of logical flow.

Trust us, it’s not easy, but it sure is fun.

The following was compiled by Paul Kelly. On Thursday, it was Curt Cavin’s turn.

Long Beach’s Front Straight: I’ve always loved the front “straight” on the streets of Long Beach for one reason – it’s not straight. The kink heading down Shore Line Drive creates almost a fast, top-speed corner before drivers careen into the tight, left-handed Turn 1. The Southern California sun is almost always shining, and the scent of sea air mixes with racing fuel. What’s not to love?

St. Petersburg’s Turn 1: There’s a reason why many longtime NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans still yearn for the return to Burke Lakefront Airport at Cleveland. The airport runways allowed drivers to pile into some corners, especially Turn 1, as much as five- and six-wide. Turn 1 at St. Petersburg, heading off the runway at Albert Whitted Airport, may be the closest thing the current schedule has to that prospective chaos as cars fan out after the start or restarts and then funnel into a tight corner before heading to the city streets.

Laguna Seca’s Rainey Curve: Curt picked the Corkscrew at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and who can blame him? It’s one of the most iconic turn complexes in the world. But no turn confounds me at Laguna more in racing video games than Rainey Curve, named after American MotoGP god Wayne Rainey. It’s the quick left-hander soon after drivers drop through the Corkscrew. Drivers often are in a hurry to get up to speed after slowing and navigating the huge drop through the Corkscrew, and it is so easy to overcook the entry to Rainey and run wide. Rainey requires equal levels of commitment and precision, which is why I love it.

Portland’s Turns 1-2-3: I’m sure every driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES would rather skip these three corners that comprise a chicane complex on the front straight and extend the mad dash past the start-finish straight all the way into what’s now Turn 4. But not me. I love this chicane. Turn 1 is at least a 90-degree right, with drivers standing on the brakes to slow to make the corner. The entry to the left-handed Turn 2 is tight, but the radius opens upon corner exit, which allows skilled drivers to carry good speed through the right-handed Turn 3 and down the rest of the front straight into Turn 4. There’s always action – and usually some carbon-fiber carnage – in this complex, which is INDYCAR’s answer to the Variante del Rettifilo, the Turns 1-2 chicane at Monza.

Barber Motorsports Park’s Turns 9-10: This isn’t the most challenging complex on the list, but I love it because it shows the true performance of NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars. I relish seeing cars barrel into this ultra-fast left-right combo, with a smidge of elevation change, and defy the laws of physics. There’s also a decent-length straight after Turn 10, so if a driver misses their marks in 9 and 10, it’s going to be a slower sprint to Turn 11.

Road America’s Carousel: The Carousel is comprised of two corners, Turns 9 and 10, at Road America. It’s a strong barometer of car setup and bravery, as I love to hear drivers dance on the throttle and wrestle the wheel trying not to go wide or lose time in this complex. The Carousel also is vital because if a driver makes a mistake here, their exit toward the Kink, Kettle Bottoms and Canada Corner will be slow, all but ruining their lap. This is one of the ultimate momentum corners in the series.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Turn 10: See a trend in my choices? I’m big on corners that require precision to carry essential momentum from the exit. Turn 10 at Indy is one of those corners. Drivers have just completed one of the slower sections of the course, Turns 7-8-9 behind the IMS Museum, and they know they have a quick squirt from the exit of Turn 10, back on the oval until Turn 12. So, the tendency may be to rush Turn 10 to hurry through Turn 11 and brake hard for Turn 12. But if anyone misses Turn 10, their momentum will be ruined.

Mid-Ohio’s Keyhole: When you think about corners at Mid-Ohio, what’s the first that usually comes to mind? The Keyhole, of course! This is such a tricky corner with so much potential for disaster. Drivers need to stand on the brakes pretty aggressively and deal with an off-camber corner that’s trying to pull them off the outside of the track. And like the Carousel at Road America, screw up the Keyhole, and your entire lap could be ruined.

Belle Isle’s Turn 1: I love this corner because it’s fast. Seriously fast. That shows off the speed and performance of NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars just past the start-finish line, where many fans sit. That’s cool. Plus, it seems the tire barrier on the outside of Turn 1 always seemed to be lined with strong Velcro, grabbing drivers who got just a bit too wide after carrying too much speed at corner entry.

Laguna Seca’s Andretti Hairpin: Ask any NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver, and they’ll tell you Turn 2 – the Andretti Hairpin – is tricky as hell on two counts. It’s a double-apex left U-turn with a downhill entry, so the temptation is to carry too much speed into corner entry. Drivers who judge the correct entry speed sometimes still are tempted to jump on the throttle too early before the second apex, and if they do that, their corner is ruined. Laguna has a handful of iconic corners, with the Corkscrew and Rainey Curve among them, but the Andretti Hairpin is one of the toughest to get right.

Toronto’s Turn 1: Sorry to get basic, but I can’t offer one physics- or action-based reason why I like this corner. But to me, one of the most iconic pictures from any circuit in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is a shot of cars from behind on the start-finish straight at Toronto, heading toward the stately Princes’ Gates, a triumphal arch bordered by colonnades. When you see that, it’s unmistakably Toronto, probably my favorite city in North America. Sure, the CN Tower is Toronto’s main architectural icon. But for me, as a racing writer and fan, the Princes’ Gates aren’t too far behind.

Nashville’s Turn 11: I agree with Curt here. This is such a cool, yet potentially calamitous, corner. Cars are hauling the mail off the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, and there’s a tendency to get overzealous around this tricky, bumpy, left-hander. Just ask Colton Herta. Then again, don’t ask him.