Dalton Kellett's long wait to make his IndyCar debut will finally come to an end on Saturday afternoon.
The 26-year-old Kellett, a product of Stouffville, Ont., will be on the grid at the GMR Grand Prix at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He started racing go-karts at the age of 13 and has made it a goal to reach North America's top open-wheel circuit — with a few more months tacked on because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's really exciting to finally get the chance to step up into the NTT IndyCar Series," said Kellett. "Obviously honoured to represent Canada as our next Canadian guy.
"It's a culmination of a lifetime dream for me so it's a big weekend."
Of course, it won't quite be as Kellet pictured it without fans in the stands.
The GMR Grand Prix as well as the Xfinity's Pennzoil 150 and the Brickyard 400 the following day in the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader, will have no spectators in the stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Speedway, Ind., is in Marion County which is behind schedule for the state of Indiana's reopening plan, preventing event organizers from selling tickets to any of the three races.
"It's unfortunate that the fans won't be able to experience the race with us," said Kellett. "The silver lining is that, in the U.S., the broadcast shifted to network television so more people will be exposed to it, will get the chance to watch the race."
Kellett will be behind the wheel of the No. 14 car for A.J. Foyt Enterprises and racing against some of the biggest names in IndyCar including Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Josef Newgarden, who are ranked first through third.
Fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., is also in the field racing the No. 29 car for Andretti Autosport.
Although it's a star-studded lineup, Kellet said he is not intimidated. He's faced all of these drivers before, albeit in iRacing simulations which IndyCar televised in the early stages of the pandemic when most people were completely housebound.
"It was definitely a toe-in-the-water experience," said Kellett. "With the caveat that some guys aren't going to race how they would in real life on iRacing. Some may be more bold or do stuff they wouldn't normally do.
"But I think that overall you get a sense of who is really aggressive, who is more methodical."
Kellett's IndyCar experience will triple within the week as he's also signed up for Road America on July 11 and 12. Competing in two races on the weekend is a different challenge altogether, he said.
"It's a little nerve-racking because in the junior leagues you do tend to do double-headers, but it's a different level in IndyCar," said Kellett, who noted that IndyCar has had to schedule more double-headers than usual with its condensed schedule this year. "So physically the Road America and all the double-header weekends are going to be very challenging."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.
Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter