Archive for March, 2018

Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser, and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan celebrate in Victory Circle after winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — IndyCar Image by Chris Owens

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Sunday, March 11, 2018) – If the first race is an indication, the Verizon IndyCar Series is in for a wild, unpredictable and most exciting 2018 season.

Sebastien Bourdais repeated as winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg today, but only after rookie Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi collided while battling for the lead on the next-to-last of 110 edge-of-your-seat laps. It was the first of 17 Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.

For Bourdais, the spoils of being in the right place at the right time were the 37th victory of his Indy car career, which ranks the four-time season champion sixth on the all-time list. The driver of the No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan trails Al Unser by two wins for fifth place.

It also brings full circle Bourdais’ recovery from a fractured pelvis and hip sustained in a frightening crash during qualifying at last year’s Indianapolis 500.

“This is emotional because I was able from a few broken bones to come back in this victory circle,” said Bourdais, who lives in St. Petersburg near where the 1.8-mile temporary street course is constructed each year.

“We didn’t have the fastest car today but we had consistency and we pulled it together. We were going to get a podium today, which was awesome. I was really happy for Robert (Wickens) and kind of heartbroken for him, but for us it is just such an upset. I can’t quite put it into words.”

Wickens, who started from the pole position in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying on Saturday, was vying to become the first driver to win an Indy car race in his debut since Buzz Calkins in 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

After leading a race-high 69 laps, Wickens was in front for a Lap 108 restart following a full-course caution for the stalled car of Max Chilton. On the restart, Rossi, in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda for Andretti Autosport, attempted an inside pass of Wickens heading into Turn 1 at the end of the Albert Whitted Airport runway straight, but Rossi’s car slid wide and the two made contact.

Rossi continued but Wickens’ car was disabled, bringing out the last of eight full-course cautions in the race.

“I didn’t get the best restart in the world, but that didn’t really matter,” said Wickens, who was scored in 16th place. “I (braked) really late into Turn 1. I defended a little bit, but the track was so dirty off-line that I told myself that if Alex wants to go there, go for it, but he’s not going to make the corner. He made a mistake on the inside and I guess he just couldn’t keep it, and just slid into me.

“It’s a shame. Everyone on the Lucas Oil team and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports did a fantastic job today. It would’ve been a fairytale to finish that one out, but sometimes it’s not meant to be.”

Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s Robert Wickens and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi make contact exiting Turn 1 during the final restart of the Firestone Grand Prix — IndyCar Image by Chris Owens

Bourdais and Graham Rahal, running behind Wickens and Rossi, avoided the incident and slipped past to finish first and second, respectively. Bourdais’ victory is the sixth in the history Dale Coyne Racing and the fifth for Bourdais in cars entered by co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan.

Team co-owner Dale Coyne admitted it wasn’t the best car on track, but benefited from having Bourdais in the cockpit and a little good fortune after he had to pit on the opening lap to replace a punctured tire.

“We had an eighth-place car today,” Coyne said. “(Bourdais’) consistency makes that a fourth-place car, and luck made it a winning car.”

The triumph also confirmed for Bourdais that he was right in not considering retirement following his Indy crash last May. “When I got the verdict of what was broken and I was going to heal pretty well, it was never a question on whether I should continue or stop,” the 39-year-old Frenchman said. “Guess I’m glad I did continue.”

Rossi, who finished third, said he got the jump on Wickens for the decisive restart by activating earlier his push-to-pass – which provides an engine boost of approximately 60 horsepower.

“The run was perfect for me going into Turn 1 and I knew there wasn’t going to be very many other opportunities,” Rossi explained. “Obviously, he had a good car all day and they did a great job. Made the (pass attempt). He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner.

“It’s difficult with these cars and with how much we’re sliding around in the first place, even on the racing line. When you’re put in the marbles, it’s hairy. Super unfortunate. You never want to see that happen. I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second.”

The podium of Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, and Alexander Rossi hoist their trophies in Victory Circle following the Firestone Grand Prix — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

Rahal, driver of the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, logged his best St. Petersburg finish since becoming the youngest race winner in Indy car history in 2008.

James Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, finished 4th in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, placed 5th in the No. 28 DHL Honda.

Three-time St. Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves, this year’s grand marshal, gave the call for drivers to start their engines in what quickly became an eventful race on the shores of Tampa Bay. There were five caution periods in the first 40 laps of the race as drivers adjusted to the lower downforce levels of the universal aero kit on all cars racing for the first time. Still, the new car produced incredible racing throughout the field, as there were a record 366 on-track passes to break the old race record of 323 set in 2008.

Verizon IndyCar Series competitors and fans have some time to catch their breath before the next race. The Phoenix Grand Prix will be run under the lights at ISM Raceway on Saturday, April 7. The race airs live at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s IndyCar Rookie Wickens races to the Pole for the Firestone IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Saturday, March 10, 2018) – The unpredictability of the Verizon IndyCar Series reached a new and exciting level in Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with rookie Robert Wickens taking pole position in his debut event.

On a track slick from light rain, Wickens slipped in a lap at the end of the Firestone Fast Six – the last of three knockout qualifying rounds – to claim the pole for Sunday’s 110-lap race that kicks off the 2018 season. Wickens’ circuit of 1 minute, 1.6643 seconds (105.085 mph) in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda bested seven-time St. Petersburg pole winner Will Power by less than a tenth of a second for top honors.

Wickens became the first driver to win the pole position in his maiden Indy car race since Sebastien Bourdais in 2003 – also at St. Petersburg.

“It was just chaos – half wet, half dry,” said Wickens, 28. “I like those conditions a lot. As a kid my whole career, I’ve seemed to excel in that type of session, and thankfully the team and everyone on the Lucas Oil car did a great job getting us on track at the right time with the right tire, with the whole procedure. Thankfully, I’m starting from the pole. Way better than I ever expected my first INDYCAR race to be, but I’m definitely not complaining with it.”

With all Verizon IndyCar Series entries running the new-look car with its universal aero kit for the first time in competition this weekend, the leaderboard throughout practice has been in a constant state of flux. The trend continued in qualifying, as three drivers making their series debuts – Wickens, Jordan King and Matheus “Matt” Leist – advanced to the Firestone Fast Six.

King, in fact, set the new lap record for the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course in the first round of qualifying with a lap of 1:00.0476 (107.914 mph), eclipsing Power’s 2016 standard by nearly two-hundredths of a second.

“Coming into qualifying, I knew we were quick enough to get through,” said King, the 23-year-old Englishman who joined the Verizon IndyCar Series after three seasons in FIA Formula 2 and two as a Formula 1 reserve driver. “But still, I had to perform, and it being my first time, I was obviously putting more pressure on myself than anybody else. But then I just had to keep reminding myself that if I just do what I know I can, the rest of it will be fine.”

Power’s best lap today in the Firestone Fast Six, 1:01.7346 (104.965 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, locked the two-time St. Pete race winner into the outside of Row 1 on the starting grid.

“I had a big mis-shift during my (best) lap where I just got stuck in gear for quite a while,” Power said. “Then when I saw how tight it was, it was like, ‘Yeah, probably lost a tenth or so there.’ But fantastic job by Wickens, first time out, to get pole.

“Just shows kind of the parity within the series, now that everyone has got the same body kit,” Power added. “They’re all good guys. They’re all guys capable of winning races. Yeah, pretty impressive, though, all those guys up in front there, first time out. … Three (rookies) in the Fast Six is very impressive.”

Leist qualified third in the No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing ABC Supply Chevrolet (1:01.7631, 104.917 mph), beating King, in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (1:01.7633, 104.917 mph), by an eyelash.

“I think I was expecting to be like top 10,” said Leist, the 19-year-old Brazilian teaming with veteran Tony Kanaan for AJ Foyt Racing, “but definitely not top five, top six. The team just did an amazing job, and very happy for the performance throughout the whole weekend already, and looking forward to the race.”

Takuma Sato, the 2014 St. Pete pole sitter, was fifth in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:01.8821), with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:02.0385).

Two of Hunter-Reay’s teammates failed to advance from earlier qualifying rounds when they were penalized for qualifying interference. Marco Andretti (No. 98 Ruoff Home Mortgage/Curb Honda) would have advanced from the first round and Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) would have moved on from Round 2, but both had their fastest two laps negated by penalty and could not advance by rule.

Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon saw his string of qualifying for the Firestone Fast Six in nine straight events come to an end. Dixon will start ninth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Bourdais, the 2017 St. Petersburg race winner, will roll off 14th in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Graham Rahal, in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, will start last in the 24-car field after being penalized his two best laps for causing a Round 1 red flag when his car spun in Turn 10.

A final 30-minute warmup practice is scheduled for 8:45am ET Sunday streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com — Live race coverage begins at noon on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and 12:30pm on ABC.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Robert Wickens with the Verizon P1 Award trophy — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

 

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INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 6, 2018) – The INDYCAR Safety Team, an industry leader in motorsports, now has title sponsorship from a national leader in emergency medical transport.

American Medical Response (AMR) was named today to a multiyear partnership with INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. AMR will brand the INDYCAR Safety Team and provide emergency and non-emergency ground medical transportation services at IMS.

The group now known as the AMR INDYCAR Safety team will continue to provide world-class medical response and care at all Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy events.

INDYCAR competitors will continue to experience the highest level of service from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team that has long set the standard for at-track medical response and care. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team is comprised of nearly 30 physicians, nurses, paramedics and firefighter/EMTs who average 20 years of experience in their respective areas.

AMR’s logos and red, white and blue colors will adorn the safety team’s firesuits, trucks and transporter, effective with this week’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which opens the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“In our opinion, INDYCAR’s safety team is the finest in motorsports,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “We are excited to partner with AMR to continue building the legacy of this outstanding group.”

AMR provides medical support for thousands of events nationwide, including inaugurations, sporting events, auto racing events and other competitions. This covers high school, collegiate and professional events, including the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

AMR also becomes the official ambulance provider at IMS for the INDYCAR Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard.

“The INDYCAR Safety Team has a world-renowned history of setting the standard for emergency services in motorsports, and AMR is proud to sponsor the group for the 2018 season and onward,” said Ted Van Horne, AMR president and CEO. “With our focus on safety and experience providing onsite medical responses at numerous sports venues, there is a natural fit for us to sponsor the safety team. We are also pleased to be the official provider of ambulance services at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

As previously announced, Holmatro remains involved with INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Official Rescue Tool Provider. Holmatro tools have been used to expedite on-track medical response at Indy car events since 1991.

Plainfield, IL – (March 6, 2018) – Dale Coyne Racing announced today that it will be running an entry for American driver Conor Daly at this year’s Indianapolis 500 in a joint entry with Thom Burns Racing, along with a partnership with the United States Air Force.

Daly, 26, from Noblesville, Indiana will look to make his fifth career start at the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil aboard the #17 Honda-powered Dallara chassis. The race is scheduled for May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The entry with Thom Burns Racing for Daly will be a third for the DCR team at this year’s race alongside its two full-time entries.

“We’re very happy to have Conor Daly back with us for the Indy 500,” commented DCR Team Owner Dale Coyne. “Conor has done a great job for us in the past and we hope to continue that this year at IMS. We also very much look forward to working with Thom Burns Racing and we’re extremely pleased and honored to be partnered and representing the United States Air Force.”

The Air Force’s partnership with co-entrants Dale Coyne Racing and Thom Burns Racing, and its initial involvement with the Indianapolis 500 will help the Air Force Recruiting Service to meet its mission to inspire the nation’s brightest, most competitive young men and women for service. The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States, with a large, patriotic fan base – providing an inspiring and engaging opportunity for recruitment.

“We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with Dale Coyne Racing and with the United States Air Force and to be back at Indianapolis again in 2018,” co-entrant Thom Burns said. “It goes without saying that the Memorial Day Weekend is a very special time, and for many reasons. The Speedway has always been my dream and to bring an American icon like the Air Force here for Conor Daly gives me great pride. The Air Force helps to protect our freedom so that we can have the ability to participate in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ the Indianapolis 500.

“It is our duty and privilege to assist with the recruiting efforts of the Air Force. Potential recruits will not only find us on the track but out in the community, as well, as we build awareness of the tremendous career opportunities that the Air Force provides.”

Burns, who owns an Indianapolis-based property development company, is launching Thom Burns Racing with experience gained from partnerships and many prominent Indianapolis 500 entries over the last 30 years. Burns has been involved since 1987 with entries for drivers including 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier, 1996 IndyCar co-champion Scott Sharp, Steve Chassey, Dominic Dobson and Jeff Andretti. Burns also was instrumental in forming standout CART team PacWest Racing with Bruce McCaw in the 1990s.

Daly comes to Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing after a 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season in which he recorded four top-10 finishes. His best results came on ovals, with a season-best fifth at Gateway and seventh at Texas. This year’s Indy 500 will mark the return to Dale Coyne Racing for Daly who competed full-time with the team in 2016. The popular American driver scored a career-best second place finish in Race 1 at Detroit with DCR.

Daly also made headlines during the offseason for his extended appearance on the hit CBS reality show, “The Amazing Race,” with friend and fellow racer Alexander Rossi.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to represent the Air Force at the Indianapolis 500,” Daly said. “Memorial Day Weekend is an incredible time of appreciation for those who serve our country. I can’t thank Dale Coyne enough for having me back on the team and Thom Burns enough for bringing this program together with the Air Force to give us a fighting chance at the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. “In conjunction with an incredible team of people at Dale Coyne Racing that I’ve had the pleasure of working with before, I think we will have a great opportunity to shine.”

The Air Force is entering its first partnership with an Indianapolis 500 team because the principles of speed, teamwork and technology from the race and Verizon IndyCar Series are an ideal match for the Air Force’s target audience.

“The Indianapolis 500 is a great venue to inspire young adults, communicate our mission and build awareness about career opportunities within the Air Force,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch. “The strategic partnership enables the Air Force to leverage the STEM aspects of INDYCAR and the shared principles of teamwork, speed and competition.

“This partnership with Dale Coyne Racing, Thom Burns Racing and talented American driver Conor Daly at the Indianapolis 500 reflects the core values of the Air Force perfectly.”

For more information on Thom Burns Racing, follow the team at Thom Burns Racing on Facebook and @ThomBurnsRacing on Twitter and Instagram. 

Racing fans got their first real look at Chris Vallo of Highland, Indiana’s CV Enterprises during this episode of Car & Track films as it provided highlights of the 1971 NASCAR Grand National Motor State 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The film is hosted by Bud Lindemann.

It was here that Vallo first took the risk of speaking publicly about his interest in sponsoring a Nichels Engineering Pontiac in NASCAR.  To our knowledge, this is the only film footage of Chris Vallo that exists …

Sadly, Nichels Engineering would never be paid for their efforts and a few months later would begin dragging Vallo through what would become a multi-year journey through the Indiana courts.

The next major racing venture Vallo would attempt, would be convincing Dan Gurney that CV Enterprises would sponsor an the All-American Racers “Eagle” in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

It’s true that the “Mystery Eagle” did run in that Indy 500, but no proof exists that Vallo’s $100,000 check to Gurney ever successfully cleared the bank.

When all the court trials were complete, Chris Vallo headed off to prison never to be heard from again.

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