While the green flag doesn’t wave on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season until Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park, series athletes will shift their season into gear this week at INDYCAR Content Days in Indianapolis.
Each year, the industry comes together at Content Days to gather various forms of content to use for the entire season. Racetracks, promoters, INDYCAR, sponsors, media and more will spend the days with NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes as they record messages, take part in fun content, participate in photo shoots, interviews and more.
In all, 29 drivers will rotate between 23 stations split between NBC Sports, INDYCAR, racetracks and partners such as NTT, Firestone and SiriusXM.
Although race fans may not notice any immediate content coming from this week’s event, they will see the results of Content Days throughout the entire year. Those fun segments and photos on the NBC and NBCSN race broadcasts? Most of those are filmed at Content Days. Official INDYCAR headshots and social content for INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other racetracks on the 17-race schedule also are captured at Content Days.
Dalton Kellett, driver of the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing, attended his first Content Day in 2020 and was amazed at the behind-the-scenes look he got. He’s eager to see what creative content everyone has in store for 2021.
“It’s really neat to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting those really dramatic shots,” Kellett said. “It’s very cool. I think when we look at the broadcast, we really see the final, finished product, and it’s very polished. It is surprising and also really neat to see how much they can do with so little. It just shows the creativity of the photographers and videographers.”
For the drivers, Content Days has double meaning. This is when they put in a full day’s work helping the NTT INDYCAR SERIES prepare for the season, but it also means the season is near, and business is picking up.
They’ll be asked to think about the upcoming season while their fellow competitors are nearby. Plus, many of them will be putting on their new, crisp driver suits for the first time. Oh, and this is the first time some of the drivers have seen each other since the season finale last October in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“That first time that we’re all back together; it definitely gets the competitive spirit flowing with everyone seeing all the competitors for the first time before the season opener,” Kellett said. “That was what I noticed last year being the new guy. You do know some people, but I didn’t know a lot of the other guys. What I noticed was everyone was kind of catching up and chatting about the offseason and all that. It is a mini-reunion.”
This year, the event is spread over two days to ensure social distancing is easy to accomplish due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, INDYCAR has partnered with AMR to ensure that that all Content Days participants, including drivers, partners, promoters and more, will be tested for COVID-19 every day they are on site before activity begins. Even after everyone has passed their COVID-19 test, mask wearing will be mandatory unless a driver is recording on-camera content.
Tim Baughman, senior director of track safety and medical services at INDYCAR, said he and the sanctioning body have been working on this plan since January to ensure it is as safe as possible for those in attendance, as well as for participants’ families when they return home.
“We looked primarily at taking a ‘bubble’ approach, and actually it’s even a safer bubble than most because we not only are going to test everybody prior to going into the bubble, but while in the bubble, except for when drivers are doing content, everybody will be wearing their mask,” Baughman said.
Baughman praised the work of AMR, the Official Medical Response Partner of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the sponsor of the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team, to create a safe environment for this activity.
“AMR is built to do these types of things, but having the resources they have at hand and their understanding to pull things off and provide the highest level of medical care support is invaluable,” Baughman said. “We’re taking Content Days a step higher because our partnership with AMR allowed us to have that capability and allowed us to use it.
“We made the decision back in January, even though the (Marion County positivity rate) numbers are looking a lot better today, that we want to be more on the conservative approach. Even though they’ve (decreased capacity restrictions in Marion County), we stuck with our plan, because we think it’s the best plan.”