Drivers newsworthy, enthusiastic on Content Day

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AUSTIN, Texas – One by one, the drivers confirmed for the upcoming NTT INDYCAR SERIES season passed through the hallways of a downtown hotel Monday as the series hosted its annual preseason content-gathering event.

Optimism reigned as the competitors talked of races and championships they’re aiming to win in 2020. Obviously, some have better chances than others, but the enthusiasm throughout the field for the 17 races ahead was infectious.

Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske and teammate Simon Pagenaud, last year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner, led the charge, with five-time series champion Scott Dixon and the sport’s newcomers joined the fun.

The drivers posted various items on social media, including a host of entertaining Instagram stories by Team Penske’s Will Power and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

The content was gathered not only by INDYCAR and its television partner, NBC, but also by many of the tracks the sport will visit this year, partners like Firestone, Honda and Chevrolet, and numerous media outlets (print, radio and television). For example, AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet) did extensive work for World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the site of his final race as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES regular on Aug. 21-22.

And, much of what was heard was newsworthy:

Carlin will have Brazilians Felipe Nasr and Sergio Sette Camara (above) driving its No. 31 Chevrolet in the test session held Tuesday and Wednesday at nearby Circuit of The Americas. Max Chilton will drive the team’s No. 51 Chevrolet. If either Brazilian starts the season-opening race, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15, it will extend the country’s streak of having at least one driver in each race since the 1999 IRL finale at Texas Motor Speedway. Kanaan's consecutive streak of starts will stop at 317, a record.

The car liveries of Ed Carpenter Racing drivers Conor Daly (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet) and rookie Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Sonax Chevrolet) were revealed on social media. Charlie Kimball’s car at AJ Foyt Racing (No. 4 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet) also got its first look.

Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport’s Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Honda) said the plan is to have Capstone be the primary sponsor of his car for most of the races.

Andretti Autosport said John Andretti’s #CheckIt4Andretti will continue with decals on its five cars this season.

Two-time-defending Virgin Australia Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin (No. 2 Shell Chevrolet) made his first official INDYCAR appearance for Team Penske, talking about how Roger Penske offered him the chance to test this week at COTA and to race in the GMR INDYCAR Classic at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR met Alex Palou, who will drive the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda. He confirmed the pronunciation is “PELL-o,” like “Hello.” He also talked about teaming with Santino Ferrucci in go-karts as teenagers -- he thought it was 2013. “He was just as crazy as he is now,” Palou said of Ferrucci.

Sebastien Bourdais said that while he is focused on competing in four races with AJ Foyt Racing’s No. 14 car, including the season opener in St. Petersburg, he is exploring options to compete in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Bourdais has been one of the 500’s fastest drivers in recent years.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation Honda) noted that while he has 19 career starts in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and is in his third season, he will feel like a rookie at Richmond Raceway, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Texas Motor Speedway because has never raced there. He has only raced at Iowa Speedway in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.

There also were some lighter moments:

Herta lost control of his cell phone, with new Andretti Autosport teammates (and other drivers) taking turns playing pranks on him with the phone. For example, they took a lot of photographs and locked him out of the phone for several hours.

Team owner George Steinbrenner IV said he and Herta have remained “the same laid-back goofy dudes” despite their success (two wins and seventh in the championship last year).

VeeKay called two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk a longtime family friend, but that doesn’t guarantee anything on the track this season as Luyendyk is a race steward. “I have to keep in mind that he can give me penalties,” VeeKay said.

Herta confirmed that his four-member band, the Zibs, actually makes money. It charges $250, which means after dividing four ways and expenses removed, each member gets “abou $30,” he said with a laugh.

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