Event dates: April 24-26, 2020. Note that last year the race was held in late March; it moves from the second race of 2019 to the fourth race this year.
The circuit: The second-longest permanent road course on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule at 3.41 miles (Road America is 4.048 miles, although it only has 14 turns to COTA’s 20). COTA has varying track width, from 39 to 52 feet.
Tickets: Tickets for the AutoNation IndyCar Challenge can be purchased online here. Early bird ticket pricing ends Jan. 31 at midnight. All three-day grandstand tickets include a reserved seat on Saturday and Sunday along with a general admission ticket for Friday. Make sure to experience the lawn seating on the dramatic 11-percent climb to Turn 1; it’s one of the steepest climbs in all of motorsports (see part of it in the inserted photograph).
Making his mark: Rookie Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing won the inaugural NTT IndyCar Series race at the Austin track, benefiting from the mid-race mechanical failure of race leader (and pole winner) Will Power, who had trouble on pit road after completing Lap 45. Herta led the race’s final 15 laps to become the youngest winner in Indy car history at 18 years, 359 days. The record had been held by Graham Rahal for nearly 12 years. Rahal was 19 years, 3 months and 2 days old when he won the St. Petersburg race in 2008. It was just the third series start for Herta. Watch INDYCAR’s 30-minute cutdown of the race here: Fast Forward.
Continuing the trend: Herta finished a solid seventh in the series point standings, one position behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, who claimed Rookie-of-the-Year honors. With Herta not winning the championship, a trend continued: Since unification of the sport in 2008, no driver has won an inaugural series race and also won the series title in the same season. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden came close to bucking that trend, finishing second at COTA and going on to win the championship.
Eager to return: Herta won't be the only driver eager to return to this spectacular layout on the city’s western edge. Patricio O’Ward, who was Herta’s Indy Lights teammate in 2018, had his strongest run of last season in a Carlin car at COTA. O'Ward waged a dramatic battle with Rahal in the middle part of the race. O’Ward might have finished higher had he not had to nurse his car home low on fuel. Rahal finished fourth. Their battle is featured in this radio call segment. Said NBC announcer Leigh Diffey: “This is spectacular stuff from the rookie.”
2019 (INDYCAR): Colton Herta