Alexander Rossi at IndyCar Content Day. (Bruce Martin Photo)

Catching Up On The First Day Of IndyCar Content Day

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – In a city known for its wealth, golf courses, celebrity homes and of course, sunshine, something different arrived in town Tuesday.

It’s the NTT IndyCar Series, the high-speed form of racing that has left its Indiana Home for a warmer, sunnier climate.

Instead of the famed Bob Hope Desert Classic from decades gone by, IndyCar has come to the Coachella Valley. Tuesday and Wednesday are IndyCar Content Days. The older audience remember when those were still known as Media Days.

On Thursday and Friday, the action shifts to The Thermal Club – a lavish, multi-million-dollar development that caters to the motoring enthusiasts. It includes a race course that winds through the expensive Villas of this gated community.

On Tuesday, however, it was the Palm Springs Convention Center where drivers met with various international media members, posed for media photos and other obligations.

In many ways, it’s like the first day of school, as many drivers see each other after a long offseason.

“This is pretty fun,” rookie driver Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing said. “I’m up for it. I’m having fun so far.”

A large contingent of IndyCar drivers, however, also competed in last week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona IMSA Sports Car race included two drivers from the winning team at Meyer Shank Racing.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves became the first driver to win the famed 24-hour race at Daytona three times in a row.

The late Peter Gregg also won three Rolex 24 events in a row, but the famed race was not held in 1974 because of the energy crisis.

The Meyer Shank Racing drivers of Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves in victory lane. (IMSA Photo)

Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion was also on the winning team as well as regular IMSA stars Scott Blomqvist and Colin Braun.

“I think I’m extremely proud for myself, which is very important as a driver, especially at this point of your career,” Pagenaud answered in a question posed by SPEED SPORT Tuesday. “You just want to be proud about what you’ve done. I’ve got many more years to go and more races I want to clinch. I have a list of things I want to do, that’s for sure.

“I’m so proud of myself for the achievement, but also proud of the team. We talked about it in press conference, but this team is just incredible. The calm and the way they run this race is the best I’ve ever seen. They are able to be a relaxed team with having everything in control. I’m really proud to be part of it. I’m really proud to bring my experience to the team. Seeing them go like this is spectacular. All the success that we’re having is just incredible.

“I’m just blessed and excited to be here at this time.”

Pagenaud also revealed that earlier in his career, he envisioned a community similar to The Thermal Club in France. It would have focused on Europe’s automotive culture.

“I love the concept,” Pagenaud said. “Actually, before my IndyCar career, I was on a project like that myself in France. I was going to build something similar. I had the backing, I had everything going on, but my career took off. I had to give up on the project.

“It is something I’ve always been interested in. My dad used to run my home racetrack. I had access to it, so I could see how that was going.

I always had a passion for it because it’s a way to allow the fans to get closer to the car, allow the sport to be more known to the general public.

“There are so many things that you can do with a racetrack, not only for races, but so many people that can come to bicycle races, you can have runners do marathon. You can bring actually a lot of people to a racetrack. It doesn’t have to be just racing. It can be events.

“I’m into that. I’ve always been. Certainly, when it’s time to stop driving, it will be something that I’m interested in, yes.

“That’s maybe 20 years from now.”

It’s also a time for drivers who switched teams from last season to 2023 to talk about the new opportunity. One of those drivers is Alexander Rossi, who competed for Andretti Autosport from 2015-’22.

Rossi is now part of a three-driver effort at Arrow McLaren Racing, joining Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist on the growing powerhouse since McLaren returned to the series in 2020.

Rossi revealed the biggest thing he has noticed since joining the operation after the conclusion of last year.

“The biggest one is people, just learning who does what and what everyone’s kind of roles are, experience levels, who you need to go to for help on whatever issue you may have,” Rossi said. “I think that’s the biggest thing.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a different car, right? They’re going to have their own approach, methodology and way of doing things. Also switching manufacturers, that’s also big. Not only was I with Andretti for so long, I also was with Honda for that whole time. It’s going to be a transition from that standpoint, but nothing we can’t overcome as a group.”

Rossi indicated the team has hired 40 additional team members in its expansion from a two-car team in 2022 to three cars plus Tony Kanaan at this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Santino Ferrucci during IndyCar Content Day. (Bruce Martin Photo)

For Santino Ferrucci at A.J. Foyt Racing, it’s the return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series for the native of Woodbury, Connecticut. After competing in various series the past few seasons and serving as a “super sub” in IndyCar last year, Ferrucci is ready to return the famed No. 14 Indy car to the front of the grid.

Ferrucci also unveiled his helmet for this season, which is a throwback to a popular television series from the early 1990s.

“I did not grow up watching ‘Saved By the Bell,’ but it is the theme with Troy Lee,” Ferrucci said of the famed helmet artist and designer. “I just wanted something ’90s-like. Yung Gravy, who is kind of like a hip artist, has given me a little bit of the inspiration from some of his album colors for coloring on your techno grid.

“We’re just going to keep it different. The other side is actually from my first designed Troy helmet, back to my first full-time season. I actually like the design a lot. I just wanted to have some purple.”

Ferrucci Googled ’90s themes on Google Images and downloaded some clip-art images. He sent Lee the images, who took it from there.

When the helmet arrived, Ferrucci said it was like “Christmas morning.”

“I was a little taken aback because I had no idea where it was going,” Ferrucci said. “The disco ball on the top, I’m not going to lie, that was not one of my favorite helmets when I first pulled it out. I’m not a fan of dark colors. I life vibrant colors.

“That helmet has grown on me so much that that is probably, next to my Looney Tunes helmet, my favorite helmet. It’s kind of scary to think that it’s made such a change on my view.”

Those are just a few of the tales and anecdotes from Tuesday’s first day of IndyCar Content Day at the Palm Springs Convention Center.