Like millions of American students, NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers are on summer break, as the next event is the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 8 in Nashville, Tennessee.
So, with four consecutive weekends away from the track, drivers have found varied ways to relax after a grind of 10 races since April 18 and also prepare for the home stretch of this exciting season, which features six races in eight weekends between Aug. 8 and Sept. 26 before a 2021 champion is crowned.
Here’s a sampling of plans from selected drivers, in their words:
Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing): “I think obviously when we have this momentum, I would race next weekend again. It would be nice. Like Alex (Palou) says, when you have a good season going, for me I've had some really strong weekends lately, definitely going to the break with a good feeling. I'm not a big fan of the breaks, but if there is going to be a break, I think having a result like (second place at Mid-Ohio), it's definitely better than having a really bad day, going into a break with that. You're going to dwell on the whole thing.
“Sort of reset for the last part of the season. I'm going to go back to Sweden and see my family. Haven't seen them for six months or whatever. That will be nice. Give me some energy going into the last part of the season.”
James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport): “I'm going to be working the first two weekends on SRX. They actually let me drive that car. I'll get a couple of laps in those things. And then I'm probably going to go back home to Canada for a little while. My wife's (actress Becky Dalton) got a new movie that she's shooting. I'm going to go play support staff for a couple of weeks, something like that. Amazingly, not a Christmas movie this time. But she will have another one, and I'm sure she's making out with some dude in this one, too.”
Josef Newgarden (Team Penske): “Well, it's a good momentum for us (to win heading into the break). We're about four weeks off, try to keep it up. I'm so excited for Nashville. I mean, I just don't know how you can't be so giddy about that event. I know I am. It's going to be a huge, huge deal for all of us, not just for the series, but for that city. Can't wait to experience what that's all about. Hoping we can have a good race there. It would be great to win a race there in my hometown.”
Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing): “I think it's good to have now a break so we can now go over everything. So many races, so many good moments. But there's some stuff we've got to do as a team, me as a driver. It will be good to see everything. Yeah, just prepare for the rest of the season. It's good to be in the championship lead so you don't have to think what to do to get there because we're already there. It's just about being stronger and performing every weekend.
“More time is better for me. I don't have to think about how to get it done. It's just enjoy. Some places we have to go, that's it. I think it's good. It's always good to go on vacation, preparing a race, you are P1 in the championship. We just got to improve some stuff to make sure we can keep that until the end of the season. It will be a good thing for us. I think also having four cars, we have so much data that we have more time to analyze everything, we can be stronger every weekend. Yeah, it's going to be good for the team.
“We (Palou and Marcus Ericsson) have a ping-pong tournament we're going to go together. We're going to be a team. We got at least one week that we're going to train to try and beat the guys at Nashville (at Josef Newgarden’s annual charity ping-pong tournament). Yeah, apparently he (Ericsson) is really good at ping-pong. I need to get to his level training. That's it. We're going to prepare for races, have fun, relax, get ready for the rest of the season.”
Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport): “Hang out. My dad is in Nashville; we're neighbors, kind of (with Josef Newgarden). I'll do that. I'm going to go to SRX.”
Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing): “I'm going to go to Curaçao, the Caribbean, after Mid-Ohio, where I'll see my girlfriend for the first time since Jan. 4. Then she's going to come to Nashville, so she's going to stay for a long time. She has not been to an INDYCAR race before. Unfortunately, with COVID, it's hard to get her across from Europe, but right now if she stays 14 days in the Caribbean, she can get into the U.S. That's our plan, and I think she'll love it, definitely. Just going to relax a little bit, and yeah, try to build up the recovery in my shoulder and try to build up all the workouts.”