Archive for August 11, 2015

Image by Mike Harding for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Six Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will participate in testing from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A Firestone tire test will be conducted with Andretti Autosport‘s Marco Andretti and Team Penske‘s Helio Castroneves.

Drivers Ed Carpenter of CFH Racing, Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske will participate in team testing on the 2.5-mile oval.

Firestone annually tests at IMS “as we’re continuously seeking to innovate and make the tire better and make sure we’re prepared for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500,” according to Dale Harrigle, chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports and manager of race tire development.

The public may watch the test for free from the south terrace grandstands and Turn 2 viewing mounds.

The Verizon IndyCar Series will return to IMS in May 2016 for the third annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Marco Andretti navigates the Turn 9 Esses during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma -- Photo by Chris Jones

Marco Andretti navigates the Turn 9 Esses at Sonoma — Image by Chris Jones

Seven Indy Lights Drivers to Receive Valuable Indy Car Test Time at Sonoma

Seven Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers, including the top three in the championship standings, will share a test day in Verizon IndyCar Series cars with Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Aug. 13 on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course in Sonoma, California.

Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers testing, with Indy Lights drivers testing in parentheses, are:

Andretti AutosportMarco Andretti — (Matthew Brabham)
Chip Ganassi Racing TeamsScott Dixon — (Sean Rayhall)
KVSH RacingSebastien Bourdais — (Ryan Phinny
Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingGraham Rahal — (Ed Jones)
Schmidt Peterson MotorsportsRyan Briscoe — (Jack Harvey)
Team PenskeJuan Pablo Montoya, Will Power — (Spencer Pigot, Nelson Piquet Jr.)

According to Rule 6.2.3 of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook, teams are allocated two additional team test days in the testing year window for the purpose of testing a current Indy Lights driver. On-track time may be split with a team driver (one Indy Lights driver and one team driver), but a team driver may not use more than 50 percent of the available track time.

Brabham drove an Andretti Autosport Indy car July 1 at an Iowa Speedway test alongside Andretti, and other Indy Lights drivers periodically test in a Verizon IndyCar Series car. But this is the first large-scale in-season test day.

“This is exactly what we’ve wanted to have happen with the program,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which operates Indy Lights under INDYCAR sanctioning. “We appreciate INDYCAR enabling this with its testing regulations and to encourage it. To see these drivers getting this opportunity is rewarding for them and exciting for us. It’s what the program is all about; we want to see them make it to the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Indy Lights is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy driver and team development ladder. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a $750,000 scholarship toward the Verizon IndyCar Series with three guaranteed races, including the Indianapolis 500, in 2016.

Harvey, who drives for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, takes a six-point lead over Pigot (Juncos Racing) and an 18-point lead over Jones (Carlin) into the championship-deciding doubleheader race weekend Sept. 11-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

“The test could be valuable for next year,” said Harvey, the Englishman in his second season with SPM. “I could show (a Verizon IndyCar Series team) that they could trust me with their car, I can be fast and provide the proper feedback.”

Added Pigot, 21, of Orlando, Fla., who won the 2014 Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires championship: “It’s something that I’ve been working toward for quite a few years and climbing the Mazda Road to Indy has prepared me for it. I’m excited to get behind the wheel. Winning the Indy Lights championship is the No. 1 goal through the middle of September, and obviously the goal is to move up to IndyCar next year. This (test) could help my chances for next year.”

Sam Schmidt, who co-owns the team that operates a four-car Indy Lights program and a two-car Verizon IndyCar Series program, said the goals of the test day are to make the No. 5 Indy car driven by Briscoe competitive for the Aug. 30 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma to keep it in the top 10 of entrant points and give Harvey “a taste” of driving the Honda-powered machine.

“We’re hoping he (Harvey) can win the championship, which would lead to the scholarship and moving up next year in some capacity,” said Schmidt, who has seven Indy Lights championships as a team owner. “It’s always good to start that process as early as possible.

“It’s one of the incentives that INDYCAR built into the program and hopefully it will expand with other IndyCar teams.”

The list of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers testing at the venue that will host the championship-deciding race includes six of the 10 drivers mathematically eligible for the title. The 85-lap, high-stakes race carries double points, with 100 awarded to the winner, 80 for second, 70 for third, etc., along with the regular four bonus points over three categories (Verizon P1 Award winner, leading a lap, leading the most laps).

Montoya holds a nine-point advantage over Rahal entering the penultimate race of the season Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway. Dixon, who won last August at Sonoma Raceway, is 34 points out of first place.

“INDYCAR is doing a good job to promote the ladder series, and the rules that allow IndyCar drivers a test day with an Indy Lights driver is an example,” Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team manager Ricardo Nault said. “We’ll be splitting the day with Ed Jones, not only per the rules, but to give him the opportunity to help us develop the car and give him some time driving.

“Being second in the championship, we want to put our best foot forward and give it our best chance. We’d be behind if we didn’t go there. We have to maximize every opportunity.”

An additional car at the test will be driven by Mikhail Aleshin, who will use the day as a refresher in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. It will be Aleshin’s first time behind the wheel of an Indy car since he sustained a concussion, chest injuries, fractured ribs and a broken shoulder in an August 2014 practice crash at Auto Club Speedway. SPM has named Aleshin as a third team entry for Sonoma along with Briscoe and James Jakes.

Road America president George Bruggenthies and INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker convened a news conference Aug. 8 at the racetrack to announced that the Verizon IndyCar Series and all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system would race at the road course in June 2016.

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Derrick Walker: I’m pleased to be here along with George at Road America. We wondered how we could make it happen. And now we have. We’re here today from an INDYCAR perspective to let you know it’s happening. We’re back.

George Bruggenthies: Derrick and his team have been great to work with. Obviously there were numerous details to work out to have the Verizon IndyCar Series be able to race here. A lot of details to go through. We have reached a date, June 23-26, 2016. It’s a multi-year agreement. We understand that the future of IndyCar needs to be here at Road America. Thank you to Derrick.

Q: Having a race here in Road America in the Wisconsin state, what that does mean for status of Milwaukee?

Walker: Good question. Milwaukee is very similar to Elkhart Lake to us. It’s a classic track, a track INDYCAR does really well. We don’t see Milwaukee going off our schedule. We want it to be part of our schedule. We’re not breaking any secrets, but George has been looking at it with us to see how we can co-produce, co-promote both events. Because there’s a lot of fans in this region for INDYCAR. We want to see it continue. The schedule is still being worked on Milwaukee is still very much on the list.

Bruggenthies: Absolutely, back in the Champ Car days, Road America and Milwaukee Mile worked together and co-promoted events. We’re very open to that.

Q: Having this race here in June, what will happen with the race in Fontana? Will that change dates?

Bruggenthies: I don’t do the schedule, that’s for Derrick.

Walker: The event … Fontana has its problems in the sense of the time of year of when you have that event, temperature there. What we’re trying to do is keep Fontana on the schedule. But finding an available date and putting it in the best chance to succeed is what we’re working on right now. I’d say it’s still a work in progress. I don’t have a definitive answer. I’d say negotiations are still in progress. I think INDYCAR can work for it to still keep it on the schedule, which incidentally happened to be one of the most exciting races for someone as old as I am has ever seen, Fontana this year.

Q: Is there going to be a test for IndyCar prior to the June date?

Bruggenthies: I understand several teams have been calling us. We’ll probably have some testing after the INDYCAR season this year, late September I expect, and then probably in the spring.

Q: With it being a four-day weekend, does this include Pirelli World Challenge?

Bruggenthies: Yes. Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS series will be combined as a support series for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Q: Why is this happening now, what triggered it come together?

Bruggenthies: We completed the agreements about 15 minutes ago. Literally 15 minutes ago. It’s been very complicated and only just been completed.

Q: For a lot of business reasons it’s taken this long …

Bruggenthies: Initially it was scheduled. We don’t have a lot of room on the schedule. June became possibly available. Working on the details has a lot of requirements on both sides. Understanding the capabilities of what they can do. We’re offering a special ticket promotion to our fans, today and online at the retail store. It’s $100 for four-day admission, garage access, free program, free parking. Limited time offer.

Walker: One other comment I’d be remiss not to mention. We have with the IndyCar Series the Mazda Road to Indy, so all our feeder series on the schedule. So a full contingent of open-wheel racing on the schedule.

Q: Are there any other type of open-wheel events here?

Bruggenthies: A lot of series that come here have open-wheel cars. F1 and F5000 at the vintage weekend in July. Some of the Sports Car Club of America ones are open-wheel. Those with INDYCAR.


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