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NEWS & NOTES
Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:
1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race
2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg
3. Inside the box score - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
4. Of note:
• Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons
• Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete
• Show car on display at Long Beach Airport
• HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson
1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race: The penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway has been renamed the ABC Supply 500. The racetrack in Pennsylvania and the building supplies distributor announced the entitlement earlier today.
Pocono Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series for the third consecutive year for the 200-lap race that will play a crucial role in the championship. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, won at Pocono from the pole last year.
"ABC Supply is a true industry leader and their love of racing couples our own," said Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky. "They have been involved in motorsports for over 10 years now and we are thrilled to welcome them to our extended Raceway family. We cannot wait to work with them to promote the ABC Supply 500 this year."
ABC Supply Co. also is the primary sponsor of the Nos. 14 and 41 AJ Foyt Enterprises cars of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth, and is the race entitlement sponsor of the July 12 race in Milwaukee.
"For a decade now, our racing program has brought thousands of our associates and customers together to celebrate and cheer for our team," ABC Supply vice president of operations Mike Jost said. "This year we are excited to have the chance to increase awareness of both ABC racing and INDYCAR in general with our sponsorship of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway."
Wisconsin-based ABC Supply is in its 10th season as sponsor of the AJ Foyt Racing entries. Foyt won Indy car races at Pocono Raceway in 1973, '75, '79 and '81.
"It means a lot to me that ABC Supply is sponsoring the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway this year," Foyt said. "ABC Supply has been a great sponsor for me and for INDYCAR for the past 10 years, so I'm glad to see them align themselves with Pocono. Pocono Raceway has always been one of my favorite tracks because I really enjoyed racing there.
"The owners, the late Doc Mattioli and his wife Dr. Rose, were and continue to be really good friends of mine. Their grandsons, Brandon and Nick, have done a great job following in their footsteps with all they have done at the track in recent years. I think the fans will see another fun and competitive Indy race there this year."
2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg: Foremost, Juan Pablo Montoya had to be honest with himself early in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Qualifying 18th and finishing 15th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was an inauspicious start, and though he could easily have put the emphasis on acclimation to a new car and racetracks after a 14-year hiatus from Indy car racing, Montoya said he "had to grow as a driver."
"Last year was a tough year for us at the beginning. We knew that," said Montoya, who won the 1999 CART title and 2000 Indianapolis 500 before moving to Formula One and then on to stock car racing. "We knew it would be a process to get to where we needed to be. Normally I'm really good at remembering everything about every track and last year I think this was such a blur for me. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I didn't really pay too much attention to details.
"It was tough not only (at St. Petersburg) but generally on the street courses. I'm a guy that always excelled at street courses everywhere I raced. To come (to St. Petersburg) and have a year with really bad street course racing, it was pretty tough."
On balance, Montoya quickly found his footing on the diverse set of street/road courses and ovals. Two weeks after St. Petersburg, he advanced 12 positions to place fourth at Long Beach. He finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 and then strung together four top-10 finishes, capped by a victory from the pole at Pocono Raceway in early July. Claiming three consecutive top-five finishes to close the season and finish fourth in the championship standings sparked confidence that carried through the long offseason.
Now, a year after his heralded return, Montoya has come full circle by winning the 110-lap opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. He held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over a 27-lap duel of wits and will to win by .9930 of a second. All four Team Penske drivers finished in the top five (Helio Castroneves was third and Simon Pagenaud was fifth). Castroneves' Lap 90 time of 1 minute, 01.8607 seconds in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest race lap in the 11 events under INDYCAR sanction at St. Petersburg.
"It's a good way to start the year," said Montoya, who qualified fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. "We worked really hard in the offseason preparing for this. We wanted to hit the ground running. Our car was unbelievable. It was fast and it was fun. To win on a street course after my performance last year, I'm like 'Oh, yeah.'''
Suddenly, championship talk has germinated. The motorsports veteran will take it in stride, looking to further hone his race craft and continue to develop the Chevrolet aerodynamic bodywork package on the upcoming road and street course at NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12, the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 and the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 before the 99th Indianapolis 500.
"The fun factor is that you can win races," said Montoya, who celebrated the victory trackside with a sizable Colombian contingent. "I mean, I feel like I'm in the best team. I have a great sponsor. We're performing well. What's the downside of it?"
3. Inside the box score - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Numbers to note following the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg -- the opening round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
1.44 - Average running position of runner-up Will Power for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg. Power led 75 laps.
2.83 - Average running position of winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg.
4 - Positions gained by Jack Hawksworth in the final 11 laps of the race. (12th to eighth).
6 - Consecutive races at St. Petersburg led by Will Power.
7 - Lead changes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The previous 10 averaged 6.5 lead changes.
13 - Career Indy car victories by Juan Pablo Montoya, tying him with Tom Sneva for 32nd all-time...Positions improved by Jack Hawksworth (21st to eighth), most of any driver in the race.
17 - Finishing position of Gabby Chaves, the highest-placed Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate.
21.7 - Percentage of races that Juan Pablo Montoya has won in his Indy car career (13 for 60).
30 - Number of laps in which Jack Hawksworth improved his position - most of any driver in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
66 - Races led by Will Power since the beginning of 2010, a span of 87 races.
119 - Career top-five finishes for Tony Kanaan (third place in race) and Helio Castroneves (fourth place) after their finishes at St. Pete. The pair is tied with Scott Dixon, Bobby Rahal and Dario Franchitti for sixth all-time.
175 - Indy car races won by cars owned by Roger Penske. Team Penske has 97 oval wins and 78 road/street course wins.
219 - Number of total on-track passes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Rookie Stefano Coletti had 18, most of any driver.
234 - Consecutive starts by Tony Kanaan, extending his all-time record.
4. Of note: Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves and Shannon Sailes, the "Dancing Usher," entertained fans on the Detroit Pistons' "Dance Cam" on March 31. The duo instigated the skit during a second-quarter timeout that even caught the attention of players at The Palace of Auburn Hills. "Doing the dance with Shannon was a blast. He is a really good dancer and I like his moves," Castroneves said. "I'm glad he wasn't on 'Dancing With the Stars' when I was there. I have hung up my dancing shoes these days but I was able to bring out a few moves to keep it interesting." ... Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete: Sebastien Bourdais' sixth place in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was his best finish in an Indy car season opener since 2006, when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on his way to the Champ Car title. It also was his best finish in five starts in St. Petersburg, where he resides. ... Show car on display at Long Beach Airport: Travelers passing through Long Beach International Airport will see a Verizon IndyCar Series car in the terminal to promote the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19. ... HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson: HoneyBaked Ham of Bloomington, Ind., will be an associate sponsor of the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd's Racing entry in the Indianapolis 500 driven by Bryan Clauson.
INDYCAR increases teams' Leaders Circle payout to $1.25 million for 2015
2. Dixon would join elite company with 12 Hours of Sebring victory
3. Allison Transmissions marks centennial with CFH Racing at IMS
4. Castrol EDGE returns as Bryan Herta Autosport associate sponsor
5. Of note:
INDYCAR increases teams' Leaders Circle payout to $1.25 million for 2015:
INDYCAR announced today an increase of $250,000 to its Leaders Circle program,
which raises the total annual payment for eligible Verizon IndyCar Series
entrants to $1.25 million.
A total of 21 entrants are entered in the Leaders Circle program for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
"INDYCAR is invested in the continued support of its teams," said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. "The Leaders Circle program rewards INDYCAR teams for full-season participation and helps each of them with an additional source of funding. The program is also an asset to our promoters as it guarantees over 20 cars at each Verizon IndyCar Series event. As INDYCAR continues to grow we're excited about opportunities like this that are beneficial to the teams that compete in our series."
The Leaders Circle program was established in 2002 to provide incentives to teams that participate full time in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Each Leaders Circle member is assured a minimum of $1.25 million if the entrant successfully qualifies for all of the 16 Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2015, including the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Twenty-one entrants were selected based on final 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series final entrant points.
All Leaders Circle entrants will continue to compete for bonuses that will now be paid to the top-12 finishers - an increase of two positions compared to 2014 - at each Verizon IndyCar Series race aside from the Indianapolis 500. Non-Leaders Circle entrants also will compete for payouts awarded to the top-three finishers in each race excluding the Indianapolis 500.
The Verizon IndyCar Series driver champion and championship entrant again will share a $1 million bonus, with second through 10th in the standings sharing bonuses totaling $320,000. The recipient of the Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year award will receive a $50,000 bonus.
Contingency awards will continue to be presented at all Verizon IndyCar Series events. Read the full story.
2. Dixon would join elite company with 12 Hours of Sebring victory: Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon can join an elite group of competitors by driving to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend.
Dixon co-drove the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Prototype with Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray to the overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. Only eight times have drivers won at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway in the same year.
Indy car racing luminaries A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Lloyd Ruby are on that list.
This weekend, Dixon will join full-season drivers Scott Pruett and Joey Hand in the No. 01 entry.
"Sebring is one of those iconic motor races in the world and I think we'll have a good chance," said Dixon, who also won the 24-hour race in 2006. "I'm looking forward to working with Scott and Joey again."
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' entry won the 2014 12 Hours of Sebring with drivers Marino Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
Also in the Prototype class, Sebastien Bourdais returns to co-drive the No. 5 Action Express Racing and Justin Wilson will co-drive the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian entry. Both are former overall winners of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Simon Pagenaud, who earned a podium finish in the 24-hour race in January, returns to co-drive the No. 4 GT Le Mans class entry for Corvette Racing.
For more on drivers participating in the endurance race, visit IndyCar.com.
3. Allison Transmissions marks centennial with CFH Racing at IMS: Allison Transmissions will celebrate its centennial in part by being an associate sponsor on the No. 20 CFH Racing car driven by Luca Filippi in the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 and by Ed Carpenter in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24.
Allison traces its corporate lineage to the founding of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. on Sept. 14, 1915.
As a co-founder of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and part-owner of several racing teams, James A. Allison established a precision machine shop and experimental firm on Main Street in Speedway called the Allison Experimental Co. to support his racing endeavors. As a race team owner, Allison won the 1919 Indianapolis with driver Howdy Wilcox.
"We're honored that Allison Transmission chose to celebrate their centennial with CFH Racing," said Carpenter, a team co-owner. "In addition to producing world-class products, they are great neighbors and supporters of the community."
4. Castrol EDGE returns as Bryan Herta Autosport associate sponsor: Bryan Herta Autosport announced that Castrol EDGE has extended its associate partnership with the team for the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
"We are very pleased to continue our association with the Castrol EDGE brand, which includes promotion of Castrol EDGE to customers in our great new car dealer network," team owner Bryan Herta said. "With Castrol's support, 2015 is shaping up to be our best yet."
Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, will drive the No. 98 Honda in the 16-race season.
"Castrol EDGE is our most advanced motor oil, providing superior motor oil strength for engines that work harder due to higher engine pressures, helping vehicles to maximize performance, " said Dan Hanson, Castrol's OEM workshops director. "Our partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport gives us a tremendous platform to showcase that performance and to connect with IndyCar fans."
Click here to read more about the partnership.
5. Of note:
Local company supports Andretti: Indianapolis-based Delivra has joined Andretti Autosport as its official provider of email marketing. ... Karam, Kimball to attend IMS Night with Indiana Pacers: Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam will sign autographs and participate in activities March 21 as Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts IMS Night with the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The first 4,000 attendees will receive a co-branded Pacers/Wing & Wheel window flag, distributed by the 500 Festival Princesses. ... Ganassi adds Global Rallycross team: Chip Ganassi Racing is expanding into Global Rallycross with two entries.
- Pappas joins KV Racing Technology/KVSH
- Team Penske finalist for Sports Team of the Year
- Andretti Autosport partners with global tech company
1. Bestwick back with ABC in 2015: Ticking off the multitude of storylines associated with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Allen Bestwick might have lobbied for a larger broadcast window on ABC.
Bestwick enters his second year as the chief announcer, with former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. returning as analysts. Jon Beekhuis, Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl will be the pit reporters.
ABC will telecast the season opener March 29 (3 p.m. ET) along with four other races and both days of Indianapolis 500 qualifications.
An introduction and explanation of the new aerodynamic bodywork kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda - how they work, to what benefit on the street circuit and how teams adapt -- will be among the elements that the network team will convey to the TV audience.
"How does it impact the overall race? Who's going to win and why? Does one have a half-inch over the other on a particular course or particular configuration?" said Bestwick, who along with Goodyear took in the Promoter Test on March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park.
"The bottom line is still to tell the story of the race, and that's why we have all the excellent cameramen, all the excellent audio people and the reporters. Those are more tools to deliver that home."
Bestwick said he felt at home last year in the booth.
"My first year was exactly what I thought it would be, which is good racing with good people," he said. "Obviously, I wasn't a stranger to a lot of the people involved nor was I a stranger to watching the competition so it turned out to be what I thought it would be.
"Probably the one that surprised me the most was Indianapolis because I got such a build-up from various people about how different it's going to be and how overwhelming it's going to be. What I found was I had been to the Speedway and broadcast so many races before that I actually felt right at home. The same booth, the same parking space and the TV trucks in the same place. I found it strikingly familiar and comfortable and the race was everything I thought it would be.
"It was a great day and great competition and I'm looking forward to season two."
2. Teams continue development next week: Simona de Silvestro will test the Honda aero package for the first time next week at Sebring International Raceway in an Andretti Autosport-prepared car in preparation for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
De Silvestro, 26, was catching up with new teammates Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz and the crews at the March 16-17 Promoter Test at Barber Motorsports Park.
In 2013, de Silvestro qualified a career-best third on the St. Petersburg street circuit in her first race with KV Racing Technology. Fourth place in the 2011 opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course had been her career-best finish until she posted a second place in 2013 in Houston 1.
In 2014, she pursued Formula One aspirations. In 65 Verizon IndyCar Series races over four seasons, de Silvestro recorded three top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.
Multiple teams will test March 23-25:
Sebring International Raceway short course -- James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports; Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power of Team Penske; Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi of CFH Racing; Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing; Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing; Stefano Coletti of KV Racing Technology.
NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. -- Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone of Dale Coyne Racing; Gabby Chaves of Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian; Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam and Charlie Kimball of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
Texas Motor Speedway -- Andretti Autosport for a Honda speedway aero package development test.
Promoter Day sessions totaling 2 hours, 30 minutes on the afternoon of March 27 will precede a 45-minute practice March 28 before the three rounds of qualifications for the 110-lap race March 29 (3 p.m. ET, ABC).
3. Of note:
Pappas joins KV Racing Technology/KVSH: Veteran engineer Bill Pappas, most recently with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, has joined KV Racing Technology/KVSH Racing to serve as technical consultant for the Nos. 4 (rookie Stefano Coletti) and 11 (four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais). ... Team Penske finalist for Sports Team of the Year: Team Penske is a finalist in the Sports Team of the Year category for the eighth Sports Business Awards. Nominees are recognized for excellence and outstanding achievement in sports business. Team Penske earned the Verizon IndyCar Series entrant and driver (Will Power) championship in 2014. ... Andretti Autosport partners with global tech company: Andretti Autosport announced connectivity and sensor solutions leader TE Connectivity as a new commercial partner.
1. A.J. Foyt makes cameo at NOLA test: A.J. Foyt is becoming more active as he continues to recuperate from triple bypass surgery in November.
"I'm doing a lot better; every day I'm doing a little bit more," the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion said. "I'm getting more of my strength back and I'm eating a better than I was when this first happened. I've been on my bulldozer a couple times. Nothing to brag about, I was very weak and very tired but I have done some stuff with it. I probably should keep that quiet because I'm not sure the doctor would enjoy hearing that."
Foyt made a cameo appearance at the Verizon IndyCar Series team test March 14 at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La.
"I think the new cars look pretty nice. The engineers are going to have their hands full with all of the trick stuff they came up with on the new aero kit," he said.
2. Huertas returns for second full season: Carlos Huertas is thankful for the track time ahead of the season opener.
"Last year was tough because some events I had never been to the place before and sometimes it was a two-day event of practice and then qualifying so it's impossible to do miracles, especially on the ovals," said Huertas, who was confirmed to drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the second consecutive season. "I think I drove really well. I finished a lot of races, I was consistent and for a first year without any testing before the first race I think it was pretty good."
Huertas held his own throughout the season, and even won the first race of a doubleheader at Houston. Overall, he advanced a cumulative 37 positions relative to his qualifying in the 18 starts (finishing better than/tying his qualifying spot 12 times).
"I won a race in my rookie year and not a lot of other people have done that so that was pretty good, but I think I had some other good performances that I didn't get the result because of some things that happened - like a penalty at Long Beach and a messed up pit stop at the Indy road course," he said.
Added team owner Dale Coyne: "Carlos surprised everyone last year with his performance. The effort the team has made over the winter, as shown by our Sebring test with Carlos, gives us confidence for the upcoming season."
The supporting cast of chief engineer Robert Ridgely, race strategist Darren Crouser and chief mechanic Greg Senerius returns, which also will benefit the second-year driver.
"We did a test a few weeks ago at Sebring where we tried out a lot of stuff that was productive and I really enjoyed my time in the car," he said. "Coming to this test (at Barber) I know this place, how the series works and how the team works so that is a positive."
For more on Huertas's return to Dale Coyne Racing, read more here.
3. Dracone to compete in first four races for Dale Coyne Racing: The initial four races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season is a solid starting point in the eyes of Francesco Dracone, who will drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. He joined the team for the March 16-17 Promoter Test at Barber Motorsports Park.
Dracone made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in 2010 with Conquest Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and also competed at Sonoma Raceway.
"I've been seeking this opportunity since the very day after Conquest (Racing)," said Dracone, 31, of Turin, Italy, who tested with Dale Coyne Racing in 2013. "I tried last year but they had a great driver in Justin Wilson. This winter we talked again (with Dale Coyne) and it seems feasible to run at least four races. It's great being here picking up the pace again with the Indy car at this new circuit for me. It's just exciting."
Dracone recorded a field-high 34 laps in the morning session on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course, and he'll see additional on-track time March 17 at Barber and next week at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Ala., ahead of the March 27-29 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"It's important to be here today and be part of the IndyCar Series," said Dracone, who has competed the past four years in Auto GP. "Testing is essential with the standards and level of the Verizon IndyCar Series. It's great to have two days in a row to get started."
"Francesco shows great enthusiasm for our sport," said team owner Dale Coyne, who noted that plans for the No. 19 car driver beyond the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 at Barber Motorsports Park are undetermined. "We look forward to working with the rookie in preseason testing and early races as he looks to INDYCAR for his future."
To learn more about Dracone, check out IndyCar.com.
4. Foyt takes on additional family duties: Larry Foyt recently was named president of A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
"I really enjoy the business side of racing," said Foyt, 38, who had been team director of the Verizon IndyCar Series team since 2006. "I think all of my past experience has helped me get to this point -- whether it was at TCU as a student, or managing our stock car team while I competed in NASCAR. My time behind the wheel has helped me relate to the drivers and understand their needs as well."
A.J. Foyt Racing has the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car driven by Takuma Sato and the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. car driven by Jack Hawksworth entered for the full season.
Team manager Mitch Davis, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing over the winter, will be the race strategist for Hawksworth. Raul Prados, who has been with the team since 2012 as performance engineer, is the chief engineer on the No. 41 entry driven by the second-year driver.
5. Wilson working to extend career starts: Justin Wilson, a seven-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner, was in the paddock at Barber Motorsports Park catching up with team members and other drivers.
Wilson, who will co-drive a Michael Shank Racing Prototype in the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21, is seeking to extend his Indy car career starts to at least 169. Wilson, 36, spent the past three seasons in a Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
"I'm looking forward to getting back in a car and Sebring is always a lot of fun. I miss being in a car here," Wilson said. "It's kind of frustrating walking around and seeing all the cars and there's not one to jump in, but that's where it's at sometimes. I'll just continue to work on things and see what I can put together in the future. I'm pretty sure I'll be in an Indy car sometime this year. I just don't know when or how yet."
Read more on Foyt's new gig at IndyCar.com.
6. Beekhuis to do double duty on air: Jon Beekhuis has joined ESPN's team as a pit reporter for telecasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series on ABC. The veteran motorsports reporter also will continue as pit reporter for many of the NBCSN telecasts this season. He has been with the network since 2009.
Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl also will be pit reporters for ABC's telecasts. Allen Bestwick enters his second season as the chief announcer, while former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. return as analysts.
ABC will televise the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 (3 p.m. ET).
IndyCar Series Headlines:
- Team '15 season preview: Focus on points, pointers
- Associate sponsor announced for Filippi at St. Pete
- Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana brings on DHL for inaugural race
- Scott Andersen partners with Hell & Knarr for 2015
- Comerica Bank Free Prix Day returns
1. In-your-face introduction: Aero kit test at Barber: Chevrolet and Honda have unveiled computer-generated models of their road/street course and short oval aerodynamic bodywork platforms, and the radical packages will spring to life March 16-17 when Verizon IndyCar Series teams convene at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for the initial multi-day on-track examination.
"It's kind of like taking the SATs; everyone is cramming for the big test, which is St. Pete," said Josef Newgarden, who enters his fourth season in the No. 67 CFH Racing Chevrolet.
The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 29 (3 p.m. ET, ABC).
"There's a lot of work to do to try to figure out how the aero kits work on track. Set-ups will change, driving styles will change a little bit. It's exciting and a new challenge," added Newgarden.
The March 16 sessions (10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. local) on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber road course are free and open to the public. Live lap timing both days will be available on www.IndyCar.com.
More information on aero kits at Barber Motorsports Park here.
2. Bowers & Wilkins moves to primary sponsor: Bowers & Wilkins has expanded its role with Bryan Herta Autosport in partnership with Bowen Motorsports to be the primary sponsor of the No. 98 Honda driven by Gabby Chaves for the Verizon IndyCar Series season that starts March 29 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
For the full story on Bowers & Wilkins with Bryan Herta Autosport, check out IndyCar.com.
3. She's back: De Silvestro will open with Andretti: Fan favorite Simona De Silvestro is returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
De Silvestro, 26, will drive an Andretti Autosport Honda in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27-29, the team announced. Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz also will drive Andretti Autosport-prepared cars in the 110-lap race (3 p.m. ET, ABC) that features the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
De Silvestro will join her new teammates and catch up with other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for the initial full-scale team testing of the road/street and short oval aero kits, though she will not be testing during these sessions. The Monday, March 16 session is free and open to the public. Live timing will be on www.IndyCar.com.
For more information on De Silvestro's announcement with Andretti Autosport, read here.
3. Pro sports stars help kick off St. Pete opener: Organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are incorporating local sports stars into the Verizon IndyCar Series race festivities March 29.
Vincent Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will serve as the grand marshal. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb will serve as the honorary starter, waving the green flag to mark the opening of the season and start of the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.
"I have the utmost respect for all of the drivers, crew members and teams that will be competing at the event, and can't wait to join them on the track," Jackson said. "It's a great chance to showcase not only the city of St. Petersburg, but the entire Bay Area on a national stage, and I am excited to help represent Tampa Bay as the Verizon IndyCar Series kicks off its season."
For more information and quotes from Cobb, check out IndyCar.com.
4. Mann named Captain for Central Indiana Race for the Cure: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann has been named the captain of a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure team.
Pippa's Pink Posse will participate in the 3.1-mile Komen Central Indiana Race in Downtown Indianapolis on April 18. The day includes running and walking events, as well as opening ceremonies, the annual Pink Parade of breast cancer survivors, a 5K timed competitive run, a 5K non-competitive run/walk, a one-mile family walk, kids dash and color station.
"I'm so looking forward to this event," said Mann. "I'm looking for anyone who wants to join Pippa's Pink Posse and join our team in the fight against breast cancer. The funds raised will continue to fuel science in search of the cure and support those in the community who are fighting the disease."
For more information about the team, read here.
6. Of note:
Focus on points, pointers: Charlie Kimball enters his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series season driving the No. 83 car with primary sponsorship from global diabetes care company Novo Nordisk. Sage Karam made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in a partnership between Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Read the full 2015 preview on Kimball and Karam at IndyCar.com. ... Associate sponsor announced for Filippi at St. Pete: Bankers Financial Corporation, a St. Petersburg, Fla., insurance, surety and business solutions company, will be an associated sponsor on the No. 20 CFH Racing car driven by Luca Filippi in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. ... Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana brings on DHL for inaugural race: DHL has been named Official Express and Logistics Provider for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 10-12. Scott Andersen partners with Hell & Knarr for 2015: Anderson, driver of the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport (SPM) Indy Lights car has signed a new commercial partnership with Hull & Knarr of Indianapolis, Ind. Read more on the Indy Lights announcement here. ... Comerica Bank Free Prix Day returns: Continuing a tradition that started with the first Grand Prix event in Detroit in 1982, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and Comerica Bank announced that they are again teaming up for "Free Prix Day." On May 29, fans will have the opportunity to take in the on-track action of the Verizon IndyCar Series on the Belle Isle circuit and other events for free. Get tickets here.
1. D-A Lubricant returns as RLL Racing sponsor: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced that D-A Lubricant Co., a heavy duty and industrial lubricant compounder/blender, will be the primary sponsor of the No. 15 Honda driven by Graham Rahal in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana April 10-12 at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. In addition, D-A Lubricant Co. has joined the team as a multi-year, major associate sponsor.
The partnership marks a return to Indy car racing for D-A Lubricant Co., based in Lebanon, Ind., which sponsored entries in the Indianapolis 500 from 1955-58 with a highest finish of sixth in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in 1956 with driver Bob Sweikert. D-A-sponsored cars also ran in the USAC Championship Car series during that period, earning one win in 1957 and four wins in 1958.
For more information and a closer look at the RLL Racing car, check out IndyCar.com.
2. Ergonomic assessment for multiple benefits: Through a partnership with Community Health Network, CFH Racing participated in an ergonomic study with the goal of personnel safety enhancements, injury reduction and related workers compensation claims and an improvement in efficiency.
At the race shop, Brent Beecher of Community Health Network arranged for filming and photographs of crew members at their station during a simulated pit stop.
"They go through the pit process as we took photos and video and then we can slow everything down frame by frame and catch all the nuances that you can't do in real time," said Beecher, a certified ergonomist who has led the hospital system's ergonomic consulting division for nearly two decades."
Results were collated and presented to the team, with action items quickly implemented.
"We wanted to add value to fitness and performance training," added Terry Sutterfield of Community Health Network's Employer Health division. "There are individualized programs that blend into the team's strategic plan.
"The goal is to support keeping people in healthy state and maximize their fitness to perform at highest level."
Read more on Community Health and CFH Racing's ergonomic assessment here.
3. KV Racing Technology pairs Coletti with veteran Bourdais: A victory in the GP2 Series' 2014 season finale at Abu Dhabi was a fitting farewell to Stefano Coletti, who rides into the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2015 with KV Racing Technology.
Coletti, who turns 26 on April 6, will drive the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet for the team co-owned by 1996 Indy car champion Jimmy Vasser and businessman Kevin Kalkhoven. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 29, and Coletti and new teammate Sebastien Bourdais will test the new aerodynamic bodywork components March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park.
Coletti, who said his longtime goal was to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, auditioned in the No. 4 entry Feb. 10 at NOLA Motorsports Park. He also tested in a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car in December.
"It's a great championship and the competition is very high," he said. "When I tested with KV Racing Technology at NOLA a few weeks ago, there was a great atmosphere and the whole team really welcomed me, so I can't wait to get to Indianapolis and start working with the No. 4 crew and getting to know everyone better.
"It's a great opportunity to be on the same team as a driver like Sebastien Bourdais, who is very experienced, very quick and a nice person to work with. I couldn't have asked for better for my rookie year. (I) look forward to an exciting year with the team."
For the full announcement, check out IndyCar.com.
4. IMS to celebrate release of Pattern Magazine, Indy Girls at Pagoda Party : When arts and sports enthusiasts gather at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda Saturday to get an early look at the latest issue of Indianapolis-based Pattern magazine, which features 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan on the cover, they'll get another preview, too.
The event will also serve as the launch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indy Girls for the 2015 racing season. Party-goers will be the first to meet the five women in their new capacity as goodwill ambassadors for IMS with first looks at this year's Indy Girls' uniforms, which were designed in the Indianapolis area.
Creating the outfits was a new challenge for Noblesville, Ind., pattern maker and fashion designer Catherine Fritsch, who made her first-ever trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the project.
"It's really special to me that I am putting something in front of people that I have never had contact with," said Fritsch. "I have a lot of contacts in fashion and theater, but not really in sports areas. That's new for me."
Tickets to the event are available here.
5. Of note - Team '15 season preview: 'Race for wins right away': Both Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes are in their first year with the team co-owned by former Indy car driver Sam Schmidt and Canadian businessman Ric Peterson. For a closer look at SPM's 2015 preview, check out IndyCar.com... Hunter-Reay gets a pass for missing ticket unveil: While the Indianapolis 500 champion's photo was unveiled on the 2015 Indianapolis 500 ticket during a 500 Festival Corporate Members event at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis, Ryan Hunter-Reay was more than 1,000 miles away at a South Florida hospital. His second child, a boy, arrived earlier in the day. For more, check out IndyCar.com ... Sunoco extends its role as the official fuel: Sunoco, the official fuel of the Verizon IndyCar Series, also has been named official fuel of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Read the full announcement here.
Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - Jan. 20, 2015
Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Fourteen of 33 starters from Indianapolis 500 headline Rolex 24
2. Fisher enjoys Chili Bowl, plans ahead to next year
Honda Performance Development Appoints Allen Miller as Race Team Leader
4. Herta receives FIA Americas Award
5. Inaugural Racing For Cancer golf tournament raises $100,000
6. Of note
1. Fourteen of 33 starters from Indianapolis 500 headline Rolex 24: The Verizon IndyCar Series will have significant star power this week at the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona as 14 of the 33 starters from the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will compete in the first endurance race of the IMSA-sanctioned schedule at Daytona International Speedway.
A Verizon IndyCar Series competitor has co-driven the winning overall entry in the Rolex 24 At Daytona the past four years. Click here for the full story on past winning competitors.
"The 24 kind of kicks off the year and has become part of my calendar," said Hunter-Reay, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. "I always look forward to it before the start of the (Verizon IndyCar Series) season. It definitely helps you get in race shape after a long layoff."
There are 53 entries for the race on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course: 16 Daytona Prototypes, eight Prototype Challenges, 10 GT Le Mans and 19 GT Daytona cars.
Drivers who competed full time in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series (* Indianapolis 500 only) entered in the sports car race with class in parentheses:
Additionally, 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Gabby Chaves returns to co-drive the No. 0 DeltaWing with former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Katherine Legge, Memo Rojas and Andy Meyrick. Shelby Blackstock, who moves from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season, will share seat time with Plowman.
2. Fisher enjoys Chili Bowl, plans ahead to next year: Sarah Fisher is already making plans to compete in the 30th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals next January in Tulsa, Okla.
The Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner drove from the sixth starting position to win one of the two D feature races on Jan. 15 to advance to the C feature. Despite moving from 13th place to sixth, she fell two positions short of a transfer.
On Jan. 17, Fisher placed fifth in the second 10-lap I feature (the top four advanced to the H feature) in the No. 67 RW Motorsports car.
"I've been so lucky to be a part of the Chili Bowl Nationals. With Hartman Oil, RW Motorsports, and an incredible group on this team, I've had the best opportunity in some great equipment," said Fisher. "I owe thanks to so many people who made this happen for me, especially my husband Andy, whose birthday just happens to be (Jan. 17). It's extremely competitive and just a blast to be a part of. Count me in for 2016."
The Chili Bowl marked Fisher's first time competing as a driver since the 2010 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Though she has had success in a variety of sprint cars and midgets, it was her first time competing in a midget on dirt in the Chili Bowl.
For the full story on Fisher's first Chili Bowl, check out IndyCar.com.
3. Honda Performance Development Appoints Allen Miller as Race Team Leader: Allen Miller, a 21-year veteran with Honda Performance Development, has been named Race Team Leader for the company, heading up all on-track activities for HPD's pinnacle motorsports programs. The appointment was announced today by Art St. Cyr, president of HPD.
"Allen has been a vital part of HPD, virtually from the start of the company, " St. Cyr said of Miller's selection. "His management skills, diverse racing background and extensive experience will be a huge benefit for HPD and our racing efforts in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Pirelli World Challenge, and endurance sports car series."
Check out HondaNews.com for today's news release.
4. Herta receives FIA Americas Award: Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Bryan Herta was presented the FIA Americas Award during an awards gala Jan. 17 in Panama City, Panama.
The Skip Barber Racing School nominated Herta, who began his racing career in 1990 in the Skip Barber Saab Pro Series.
"I am very honored to receive the FIA Americas Award," Herta said. "I have been privileged to work with and have the support of so many talented people throughout my career in and out of the cockpit and I will take this opportunity to recognize and thank all of them. And thank you also to the Skip Barber organization for the nomination, without the opportunity the Skip Barber Race Series provided me as I began my career none of this would have been possible."
Herta competed in Indy Lights in 1993 and competed full time in Indy car. Bryan Herta Autosport has been a race-winning team in Indy Lights and Verizon IndyCar Series competition since its formation in 2009, including winning the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with driver Dan Wheldon.
Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, also was recognized at the event for his accomplishments in the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy.
Inaugural Racing For Cancer golf tournament raises $100,000: The
inaugural Racing For Cancer golf tournament Jan. 19 at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.)
Country Club hosted by 2014 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner and 2012 Verizon
IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay raised a total of $100,000, with
proceeds to benefit Cleveland Clinic Florida's new cancer center.
information about Racing For Cancer's impressive donations to cancer research
facilities can be found on the INDYCAR
6. Of note: Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda teams will test Jan. 25 at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., before moving to Homestead-Miami Speedway for testing on the road course Jan. 28. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams will test on the HMS road course Jan. 26-27 and on the 1.5-mile oval Jan. 29.... Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti said that his son, Marco, will likely compete in the Miami and Long Beach (Calif.) rounds of the FIA Formula E Championship this spring. He made his series debut in Argentina earlier this month. Read more on the latest notes here.
INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - Jan. 15, 2015
Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Foyt prepares for milestone birthday
2. Kanaan celebrates birth of son "Deco"
3. Hunter-Reay receives Baby Borg
4. Rahal celebrates Ohio State football national championship
5. Ganassi first Verizon IndyCar Series cars on track at NOLA
6. Of note:
1. Foyt prepares for milestone birthday: A.J. Foyt will have a low-key 80th birthday on Jan. 16 at his Houston home, which suits him just fine.
The iconic motorsports figure continues to recover from complications following a triple bypass heart surgery Nov. 12. He is expected to make a full recovery. Among "Super-Tex's" birthday festivities will include a celebratory call from Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott.
Foyt has been spending most of his time at his home but is hoping to make a visit to his ABC Supply Racing team's shop in nearby Waller, Texas -- maybe even on his birthday.
Send him a birthday greeting via Twitter here.
2. Kanaan celebrates birth of son "Deco": The Kanaans welcomed a new addition to kick off the new year. Tony Kanaan and wife, Lauren, celebrated the birth of their son, Deco.
"The family is getting bigger ... Deco has arrived. #2035indy500champ," the 2013 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner predicted on Twitter.
This is the first child for the couple, who were married in 2013. Kanaan also has an older son, Leonardo.
3. Hunter-Reay receives Baby Borg: Ryan Hunter-Reay envisioned the perfect location for his "Baby Borg" before winning the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May 2014.
Preparation has always been key for the 34-year-old Verizon IndyCar Series driver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who earned the series drivers' title in 2012.
"It's (going) front and center on a shelf by itself in my office at home. That and the championship trophy go together, but the Indy 500 is the one I'm most proud of," said Hunter-Reay, who was presented the BorgWarner Championship Driver's Trophy by BorgWarner CEO James Verrier during a dinner Jan. 14 as part of the Automotive News World Congress. Read more about the priceless moment at the event here.
"Winning the Indy 500 is a dream come true," said Hunter-Reay. "And just to have my name on the Borg-Warner Trophy amongst all the legends of the sport means the most to me. To finally bring something home now is great."
Hunter-Reay held off three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves by .600 of a second - the second-closest finish in race history - following a six-lap duel to the checkered flag as hundreds of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers stood and cheered.
Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti was also presented his third BorgWarner Championship Team Owner's Trophy. He also won in 2005 (Dan Wheldon) and 2007 (Dario Franchitti). Read the full story on IndyCar.com.
4. Rahal celebrates Ohio State football national championship: A highlight of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal's holiday break has been the success of his home team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Big Ten football champions took to the national stage on Monday, Jan. 12, and defeated the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
"What an experience," Rahal said. "I had to be politically correct and say that other than the night that I got engaged, this was the second best night of my life. It was so cool to be at the game and be part of it as a die-hard Ohio State fan. These are the type of days that you don't get to see too often and to be there and experience it was incredible.
"I would be shocked if that was the last time I saw that in my life, but with the coaching staff at Ohio State, you feel like it could happen every year. We were at the game against Virginia Tech that they lost and just seeing the team change from that team to the team that they were at the end of the season, the team that won the championship, shows their willpower and how that can affect people. Because the team that showed up at the end was simply unstoppable and it was incredibly impressive, really cool to see."
5. Ganassi first Verizon IndyCar Series cars on track at NOLA: Former Verizon IndyCar Series champions Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, race winner Charlie Kimball and development driver Sage Karam participated in an all-day test session around the 13-turn, 2.67-mile NOLA Motorsports Park which will make its debut on the 2015 schedule April 10-12.
"The facility is very good and once you get the grandstands up and there's a little prep to be done to the track, it will be too," Dixon said. "Right now I think the track layout is going to be really good.
"It's exciting for us to come to New Orleans. You're never really sure for the first time how (a new track) will be received. Looking at other places that are similar in the south, like Barber (Motorsports Park), the fans are fantastic. I think the crowds will be very good. Even talking to the people at the hotel last night, they know the race is coming. They're looking forward to it. I hope we can put on a good show and we can definitely build on it."
Of note: St. Pete tickets on sale:
Tickets to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the North American opener
for the Verizon IndyCar Series and all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy,
are available for purchase here.
Power helps introduce Verizon vehicle technology: Will Power says that passenger car drivers with the diagnostic technology offered through Verizon Vehicle is like having a pit crew at the ready. Read more here.
Historic Indy cars available for auction: The only turbine Lotus in private hands - the STP-sponsored No. 70 Lotus 56-3 driven by Graham Hill that set the Indianapolis 500 four-lap qualifying record of 171.208 mph in 1968 - is a featured item Jan. 17 during the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more details on additional items and broadcast information, click here.
Teams turn laps in new Indy Lights car: Eight drivers representing five teams took part in the two-day test at the 2.034-mile Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., and all were ecstatic about the pace, consistency and reliability of the car, which will make its race debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., March 28-29. Driver comments available on IndyCar.com.
Mann rubs elbows with business connoisseur Trump at Komen event: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann rubbed elbows with business magnate and reality television star Donald Trump last weekend in Palm Beach, Fla. Because she drove the pink Susan G. Komen car last year in the Indianapolis 500 and her work with the organization, Mann was on the guest list for the 5th Anniversary Perfect Pink Party, which was on Jan. 10 at Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Mann shared her thoughts from the event on the Verizon IndyCar Series blog.
INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - Jan. 7, 2015
Today's Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Aero kit Q&A - ''Not going to be a spec car"
2. Racing in DNA of new Mazda Indy Lights engine
3. Fisher returns to racing at Chili Bowl Nationals
4. Edwards moves to Andretti Autosport
5. Hamilton to lead Kingdom Racing venture
6. Sonoma Raceway to host fourth John's March Against Stomach Cancer
1. Aero kit Q&A - ''Not going to be a spec car": Beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, INDYCAR will introduce chassis competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series based upon aerodynamic bodywork designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
Cars will be differentiated by their shape as the manufacturers have designed aero kits for speedways and road and street course/short ovals for the Dallara IR-12 chassis.
Manufacturer track testing of prototype components opened Oct. 6 and continues through Jan. 18, which is the same date as homologation. Production will ramp up to meet the March 1 deadline for one road and street course/short oval kit to be delivered to each entrant. The speedway aero kit, according to the INDYCAR timeline, will be delivered by April 1.
The initial team on-track test is scheduled for March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24 will mark the debut of the speedway aero kit.
In the Q&A below, INDYCAR director of aerodynamic development Tino Belli provides insight into the regulations of the aero kit legality boxes and options available to teams for the 2015 season:
Q. You're one of the few who has seen both manufacturers' aero kits on the track. Will fans notice differences from last season?
Differences between the 2014 Dallara chassis and the 2015 aero kits and between the Chevy and Honda aero kits will be quite easily spotted by an interested fan. Especially to someone who is interested in technology, they'll see many differences between the cars. At speed and with different color schemes, it might be more difficult to see the differences.
It's certainly not going to be a spec car, and it's not spec even within the Chevrolet or Honda environments.
The Chevy might not always run in exactly the same configuration between a Penske and Ganassi car, and the same with Honda between, say, an Andretti and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car because teams will have options.
Q. To review, what were the legality boxes -- areas open for development by manufacturers -- for 2015?
The engine cover, sidepods and rear wheel guards are common between the speedway and road/street course/short oval packages. On the speedways, the manufacturers can do a new front wing main plane, rear wing end plates, front wing end plates. Teams are allowed to use optional components that fit to the sidepods, engine cover and rear wheel guards such as winglets and flicks.
The teams will have quite a lot of things they can play with if they decide that they can come up with a better solution for their particular requirements and their driver or car set-up. The car set-up is not only going to be a downforce level like a wing angle, springs, shocks, toe and camber. If a particular type of mechanical set-up needs an aerodynamic solution, they can try what they like.
We believe there will be a reasonable number of components that the manufacturers will homologate as optional that a team could investigate to see what could give it a better solution on a particular racetrack. An example is the Indy road course, which because of the length of the straights is a low-drag racetrack. You can imagine teams coming up with a hybrid speedway/road course solution. They can't put on a speedway front wing on a road course, but they could perhaps use speedway sidepod options.
Another thing we're allowing is all of these optional components can now be changed between qualifying and the race. A team could decide to go for a super low drag qualifying set-up and use the newness of the tires to try to get the speed and then revert to a more high-downforce race set-up, which could mean a change in some of the components on the sidepods, wheel guards and engine cover. For a long time, we had what you qualified with is what you raced.
The same will be true for the Indy 500 with the optional components. In qualifying for Indy you might put on all your lowest drag optional components or choose to emit components, and then for the race you might decide there is some sidepod winglet that might give you better handling characteristics or is more efficient.
On the road course in addition to the sidepods, engine cover and rear wheel guards is the front wing flaps and end plates, and the rear wing end plates. The rear wing is a standard Dallara main plane for all events except for the Indy 500, during which teams can choose between the Dallara or their manufacturer's main plane. The engine air intake will be different from the Dallara chassis, too.
Q. What happens with homologation?
On Jan. 18, everything is frozen. So we require the CAD files, the weights of the components, the layer books. We don't have to have a component in our hands by Jan. 18, but we have to have all of the designs in our hands and they will be locked down at that point.
The only thing the manufacturers can do afterward is if they have some sort of reliability issue or if they could prove they could save significant money by altering a construction technique to save money they can ask for a concession. The component won't be allowed to be any lighter and we want it to have similar stiffness.
Q. How often can any of the legality boxes be upgraded?
From a performance point of view, except for the sidepod and engine cover that have to remain fixed for two years, all of the other components are up for being upgraded. But they only are allowed to upgrade three legality boxes total in a two-year period.
Currently, they can choose to homologate a new component in one of the three boxes any time from the beginning of the 2015 season to the end of the 2016 season. If one manufacturer feels it is behind in a particular configuration, it can bring forward a box to try to catch up earlier. If you're feeling confident or comfortable, you'll want to delay upgrades until after you see how 2015 pans out with all the different racetrack configurations we go to.
The components that get changed, the old components are grandfathered so teams can still choose to continue to use those components or use them as spares.
Q. How will the process of policing the aero kits work?
Our task is to make sure that the component as homologated doesn't get altered by either the manufacturer or team. We want the bodywork run as the aero kit manufacturer designed it and manufactured it. We'll be checking the weight of components along with the shape and stiffness of the components. Like the current technical inspection, there will be a combination of jigs and fixtures, load tests, maximum and minimum height dimensions and then we'll continue with the laser scanning that we tested last season so we can compare our record of the CAD of components against the car any time.
2. Racing in the DNA of new Mazda Indy Lights engine: Mazda's endurance racing DNA will intersect with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires beginning in 2015.
The 2-liter, 4-cylinder turbo, dubbed the MZR-R and built in partnership with Advanced Engine Research, began its life in the American Le Mans Series as a lightweight solution for prototypes.
The MZR-R, with reliability and power as its core attributes, went on to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, powered the ALMS LMP champions in 2011 and won its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2012.
"Mazda and AER partnered on our first sports car engine starting in December of 2006 with the intent of competing in the American Le Mans series and the European Le Mans series," Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan said. "The sports car engine, over time, went through several iterations, specifically on the reliability front, and we got to a point where it was making incredible power for incredible lengths of time.
"We finished running that engine in 2012, began focusing on our SKYACTIV diesels in 2013, and with the new direction being taken for Indy Lights we felt the MZR-R could be a perfect fit to take the series into its next chapter. It's small, it's efficient, it can make whatever power level they need, and it has a heritage that has been proven at some of the biggest races in the world."
Doonan believes the engine will prove to be an affordable and reliable complement to the new Dallara chassis.
"The target set by Dan Andersen and his team at Indy Lights has been 450 horsepower, which is well below its capabilities, and we know it can run for 10 or 12 hours straight without problems," Doonan said. "Dan's intent, and certainly Mazda's intent, was to be able to give the teams an engine that is capable of doing a full season without a rebuild. Early testing has proven that, and we haven't had any engine issues since testing began with the Dallara IL-15."
With all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder program featuring Mazda engines, Doonan said a long-held desire to power Indy Lights has finally been realized.
"Mazda's known for a lot of things: our grassroots racing programs, the Global MX-5 Cup, everything we do in sports car racing, and we also have a long tradition in open-wheel racing and supporting the drivers moving up the ladder," he said. "Indy Lights is the top of that ladder, and we've wanted to be there to make sure drivers have the best engine possible that will train them for the turbocharged engines they'll use one day in (the Verizon) IndyCar (Series)."
3. Fisher returns to racing at Chili Bowl Nationals: Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Sarah Fisher will compete in the 29th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire on Jan. 12-17 in Tulsa, Okla.
A test in October with RW Motorsports in Linton, Ind., prompted Fisher's entry into the event. Her racing background includes success in a variety of sprint cars and midgets, but this will be her first time participating in the Chili Bowl. Qualifications are Jan. 15. She last drove a race car in competition in the 2010 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Competing in the Chili Bowl has always been a bucket list item for me and with the support of (CFH Racing co-owner) Wink (Hartman) I am able to fulfill another dream," Fisher said. "By attending the event last year to cheer on my brother-in-law Kyle O'Gara, I was able to experience the atmosphere and see how much fun it was. I wanted to be racing in it the next time I came back.
"I have raced on dirt in the World of Outlaws and the All Star Circuit of Champions, but being in a midget on dirt is a new experience for me and I am very excited for the challenge."
Fisher, 34, who holds the record for most Indianapolis 500 starts by a woman, will drive the No. 67RW for RW Motorsports, owned by Steve Weirich and Mario Rotondo. Hartman Oil will be the presenting sponsor, with Russell Oil, Inc., the National Cooperative Refinery Association and the Indy Trading Post as additional partners.
"We both have the same goals of putting open-wheel racing back at the forefront and certainly the Chili Bowl is an event that encompasses that goal. As we continue to work together in INDYCAR, this is a fantastic element to add to the mix," Weirich said.
Bryan Clauson, who is scheduled to drive the KVSH Racing/Jonathan Byrd's Racing car in the Indianapolis 500 in May, is the defending Chili Bowl champion. Clauson made his Indy 500 debut in a Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car in 2012. He kicked off the new year with a victory in the POWRi World Midget Series event in Auckland, New Zealand.
4. Edwards moves to Andretti Autosport: Andretti Autosport has hired Rob Edwards, who spent the past five-plus years as team general manager with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as its director of race operations and engineering.
Edwards replaces longtime team director Kyle Moyer, who moved in the fall to Team Penske.
"We're really pleased with the contributions Rob has made to the team," team co-owner Sam Schmidt said. "Under his leadership, we grew to a two-car team in the Verizon IndyCar Series and scored our first four victories in the ultra-competitive series. We wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Andretti Autosport has three confirmed entries for the Verizon IndyCar Series season along with entries for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
"His experience in racing will be valuable in moving our organization forward across multiple racing platforms," team owner Michael Andretti said, while noting that George Klotz will remain the Verizon IndyCar Series team manager.
James Hinchcliffe, who drove for Andretti Autosport the past three seasons, will compete in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car this season. The team has not announced a replacement for Edwards.
5. Hamilton to lead Kingdom Racing venture: Davey Hamilton, who for the past two seasons was co-owner of the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports team that fielded the No. 77 car driven by Simon Pagenaud, has been named managing director of Kingdom Racing.
He'll oversee racing operations and sponsorship for the team, which has been involved in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2008.
"We've accomplished so much over the past seven years and will continue to expand our footprint throughout motorsports in 2015," said Hamilton, who has partnered with Kingdom Racing since its inception. "First off, we will continue our affiliation with a (Verizon) IndyCar (Series) team for the Indy 500 and will continue our Miles of Smiles events at various locations around the United States."
6. Sonoma Raceway to host fourth John's March Against Stomach Cancer: Sonoma Raceway will host the fourth John's March Against Stomach Cancer on Jan. 17 to support the battle against gastric cancer, one of the world's leading causes of cancer-related deaths.
The event is named in honor of John Cardinale, the raceway's longtime vice president of media and community relations, who passed away in 2013 after a two-year battle with the disease, becoming one of nearly 11,000 people who die from stomach cancer in the U.S. each year.
"To be able to come together to support the fight against this terrible disease and to celebrate the spirit of people we loved is a privilege for which I am truly grateful," said Sacramento's Kathy Black, who attended the 2014 event. "We hope to come together every year to take time to remember and honor those we love."
John's March offers a unique chance to raise funds for No Stomach For Cancer (www.nostomachforcancer.org) and enjoy a symbolic "march" around the raceway's 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. John's March has raised more than $40,000 over the past three years and is the only major fundraiser for gastric cancer on the West Coast.
The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens March 8 with the Brasilia Indy 300 at Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet Nelson Piquet in Brasilia, Brazil. The race will be televised live at 11 a.m. (ET) by NBCSN (Local Cable providers, Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (Local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213 and www.indycar.com)