Is O’Ward Now the Big Domino?

Oliver Askew’s time as the NTT Indycar Series top Silly season domino appears to have been short lived. With Friday’s announcement that Pato O’Ward was now free to pursue an Indycar ride, speculation revved up that he would sign with Arrow Mclaren SP. Askew had been considered as a possibility either for that seat as well as a possible part time ride with Chip Ganassi Racing .

Zak Brown, President of McLaren, has been interested in O’Ward for a while. I think it is highly unlikely both Askew and O’Ward would be hired by AMSP. I doubt if the team would want two rookie drivers. While I’m still not sure veteran James Hinchcliffe will return, despite what the team and Hinchcliffe have said, a veteran needs to be in the 5 car. Since the 7 car is looking pretty much to have a rookie in it, this makes a stronger case for Hinchcliffe staying.  This will be the third straight year Hinchcliffe will have a rookie teammate. In 2017 his good friend Robert Wickens joined the team. Last year Marcus Ericsson was in the second car.

Let’s presume O’Ward does join Arrow/McLaren and Askew goes to Ganassi on a part time basis. This scenario virtually assures O’Ward Rookie of the Year. In fact, O’Ward could be the only full time rookie driver in the series in 2020.  Rinus VeeKay may end up in the road course only car at Ed Carpenter Racing, which would limit his chances for top rookie honors for the season. VeeKay could also go to a third car at Dale Coyne Racing. I haven’t heard much about where he is in securing a ride.

For O’Ward, getting a full time Indycar ride would complete a wild roller coaster 2019 for him. He thought he had a full time drive for 2019 with Harding Steinbrenner racing, which fell through at the last minute. After a couple of drives with Carlin and failing to make the field for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, O’Ward signed a contract with Red Bull. He an a few races in Japan Super Formula before his early release last week. Stay tuned.

Carlin Wants Limits on Bigger Teams

An article by David Malsher Sunday on motorsport.com discussed concerns  Trevor Carlin of Carlin Racing has of the Big Three (Penske, Ganassi, Andretti)  getting too big. Carlin fears there won’t be enough room for teams like his to post good results. Andretti and Ganassi are both planning on an extra car next season.

The link to the story: https://www.motorsport.com/indycar/news/carlin-warns-indycar-multi-car/4560809/

I understand his point, but the competition in Indycar is close and the Big Three don’t sweep every race. In 2018, 14 of 51 podium spots, 27% had drivers representing teams outside of the Big Three  The just completed season had similar results with 13 non Big Three podium spots. Last year Penske cars won 9 races, Ganassi 2 and Andretti 2. If you count Colton  Herta as an Andretti car, they won 4. Rahal won the other 2 races. 2019 also saw fewer different winners than the series has had in a while. Wins were limited as the seven winners in 2019 each won multiple races.

Of the four Andretti cars, most weekends Alexander Rossi was the only one in contention. Zach Veach and Marco Andretti  were not factors most places. Felix Rosenqvist had a few good races for Ganassi, but he wasn’t always fighting for a podium. Penske driver Will Power didn’t win a race until Pocono in  August.

Opportunities are there. A top ten finish against good competition is a decent result. A. J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing show up every week knowing their chances are limited. I thi nk the more cars, the better. Every sport has its dominant teams. You don’t see the lesser teams folding.

There have been season when just two teams won all the races and there have been years where almost every team has won a race. Winning in Indycar isn’t easy. It takes time for newer teams to put everything together just to contend for a win.

 

Kyle McInnes: The Indycar Circuit through My Lens

Editor’s note: I met Kyle (pictured above) at Barber this year and began using his photos in my race weekend posts. I really like the way he captures the essence of the driver and the track. Today, he shares his story and some of his best photos from this year as well as some nor racing shots he has taken.
If I’m not photographing automobiles or motorsports, I enjoy spending my free time tinkering around with our 1956 Ford F100, 1969 Dodge Charger, or our 1935 Rolls Royce 20/25 Sporting Saloon.  I simply have a true enjoyment and appreciation of automobiles, no matter the make or model.
My photography career started in high school, which led me to earn an associates degree in visual communications in college.  After college, I worked for a local newspaper as their only staff photographer.  I have also freelanced, working for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Marketing Department, photographing both Indy Car and Nascar events. 
In my later twenties, I settled down, got married, and my wife and I have two wonderful children.  I started focusing more of my time working to provide my family with a more stable income, purchasing a boarding kennel, that my wife and I have run for the past 13 years.  However, I have always had the drive to get back into motorsports photography and this year I took the jump.
I made the decision and commitment to dive head first back in,  but didn’t have any recent images for portfolio work, so I set out to get some images for my portfolio.
I had heard that some of the Indy Car teams were having a test session at Sebring……..what better place to start in January…. than in Florida? I bought a plane ticket, rented a car, and packed my gear and off I went having no idea if I would even be able to get into the test. I did make it in, along with every other race, besides Texas. It would have been much easier if I could have acquired photo credentials to have better access to photograph from, along with having a place to work other than downloading, editing, and sending images out of my rental car. 
It has been an amazing year. I had an image used by Racer, another used for Rookie Driver Santino Ferrucci’s autograph card, just to name a few. Thankful for Mike, for giving me a shot and making use of some of my images. I ended the year with 35,312 Indy Car images. Here are a sampling from each race.
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Richmond Raceway Excited for Indycar Return

Photo: Team Penske car ready for the aeroscreen  test at Richmond Raceway. Josef Newgarden drove the car in today’s sessions. The  aeroscreen looks much better painted. Photo from Team Penske

You could hear the excitement in track president Dennis Bickmeier’s voice as he talked about the NTT Indycar series returning to Richmond Raceway.

“…it’s really exciting to hear the sound of IndyCars going and Richmond Raceway again. A buzz around town, a luncheon around here with some of our invited guests, some of our partners, hopefully some of our potential new partners as well that are getting a glimpse of seeing IndyCars back on the track here at Richmond Raceway after a decade. Certainly exciting. Much quicker than even I anticipated. Again, given my previous history watching open cars around two-mile tracks, this is a different experience.”

“The track has sold tickets to fans in 26 states and two areas of Canada for the June 28 race. After the season ticket renewal period ends, more seats will be available for the Indycar race.

I asked Bickmeier to explain how Indycar’s return to the schedule happened. He  said discussions began in 2018.

“But really it was about trying to find an opportunity in
the schedule. We were open to a lot of different dates.
This June date is more along the traditional date where
IndyCar raced here before. We love this date. It works
well between our two NASCAR races. For us, it really
presents kind of a big cadence to our year as we’re
promoting all of our racing events here at Richmond
Raceway…
one of the most
asked questions I got in the time I’ve been at
Richmond is, When are the IndyCars coming back? I’m
happy to say we’re able to answer that question now.
It really wasn’t that complicated. These guys made it
easy, Jay and the team, to discuss the possibilities of
having IndyCar return. I’m just thankful we were able to
get it all together.”
It looks to be a promising successful event for the series.

Morning Testing Session Focuses on Tires

The morning part of the Richmond test was mainly  dedicated to Firestone tire testing. Today was Josef Newgarden’s first time in the car with red Bull Advanced Technologies Aeroscreen. He found the transition pretty seamless

“It was my first time with the screen. Just getting a feel
for that. It honestly was pretty seamless. Honestly
didn’t feel that different. Perception-wise it was a little
different when I got in. It took maybe 30, 40 laps, after
that you’re used to it. It feels kind of normal at this
point.”
Newgarden said the track was like “a smooth Iowa.”
“I’m hoping a second lane comes in. If it does, I could see it
racing very similar to that place.”
Scott Dixon said the car felt pretty much the way it did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. he thinks the oval configuration is fine. Dixon believes lap times may be slightly down because of the added weight, but thinks overal there will be a net zero effect on performance.
The final aeroscreen test will be at Sebring  November 5 with Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe driving. The test there will be the closest the series can come to testing on a street course.

Harding Steinbrenner Releases Al Unser, Jr.

Al Unser, Jr. announced in a Tweet this morning that he has been released from Harding Steinbrenner racing. The release is part of the ongoing transition of the team as it becomes part of Andretti autosport. I wish Al well and hope he can find another team with a young driver to help.

 

 

 

Silly Season Focus Turns to Askew and VeeKay

Editor’s note: A huge thank you to all of you who read my posts. Last week I went over the 10,000 view mark. it is a figure I never imagined four years ago when i began hunting and pecking on my keyboard. I appreciate everyone’s support.

With just a couple of 2019 full time drivers not confirmed for seats in 2020, Silly Season turns its attention to two potential rookies who finished 1-2 in Indy Lights.

It was just one sentence at the end of the Chip Ganassi Racing announcement regarding Marcus Ericsson joining the team in a third car for 2020. It said the team was trying to put together a deal for 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew. Askew ‘s name has also come up in speculation about the second car at Arrow McLaren SP.

Meanwhile, Indy Lights runner-up Rinus Veekay had his second Indycar test with Ed Carpenter Racing. The test may have been an audition for the road course races in the 20 as Carpenter plans to drive the oval races again. A ride for the Indianapolis 500 may also be included.

Veterans Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferrucci, and Max Chilton don’t have officially confirmed deals. All three should return to the teams they drove for this season. Conor Daly, meanwhile, is still looking for a ride. Ed Jones may be out of the series next year. I really don’t see where he fits.

Aeroscreen Gets a Rain Test

The aeroscreen’s second test at Barber Motorsports Park passed another test. Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud drove cars fitted with the new cockpit protection device for its first road course outing. Rain during the test allowed the drivers to check visibility in the wet.  Both drivers said the water dispersed off the screen better than it does coming off their helmet visors. neither driver saw a problem with rain.

I think it’s great  that they had the chance to observe what happens in wet conditions, but how will it do at the start of a wet race with 24 cars on track? What will happen to the last driver in a group of three or more? I hope they can get a rainy test day at an open test when more cars are on track.

 

On Wednesday, Kyle McInnes, whose great photographs have been featured in many race weekend stories this year, will be a guest columnist. Kyle took many amazing shots this season and will share them here.

INDYCAR, IMS Tap Schafer Condon Carter to Create National Brand Campaigns

Press release from Indycar this morning

10/10/2019

Chicago Cubs and Indiana Pacers among Clients of Award-Winning Chicago-Based Agency

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 – INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have named Chicago-based Schafer Condon Carter (SCC) as their comprehensive creative agency of record, charged with developing aligned national promotional campaigns surrounding the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

SCC, founded in 1989, creates award-winning campaigns and strategies for a diverse, impressive range of local, regional and national clients in sports and consumer products, including the Chicago Cubs, Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Procter & Gamble, Danone, Portillo’s restaurants and more.

The first campaigns of the multiyear partnership will be unveiled before the start of the 2020 racing season.

“SCC is the right choice to help the INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 brands gain an even greater national profile and continue their trend of year-over-year growth in media consumption and ticket sales,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of INDYCAR and IMS. “SCC’s outstanding work speaks for itself, with its creativity and energy earning many national awards, recognition and success for all kinds of clients. We believe they can help us more effectively and aggressively position the NTT IndyCar Series, our teams and drivers and all of our world class sporting events at IMS.”

SCC will work to elevate the brands and accelerate the momentum of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, closely aligning the synergies and strategies between the world’s most competitive racing series and the world’s largest single-day sporting event.

One particularly recognizable campaign SCC executed for the Chicago Cubs is the “Fly the W” campaign that was a hallmark of the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 world championship season.

“We are extremely honored to have been selected by INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to become their strategic and creative partner,” said David Selby, CEO of SCC.  “The opportunity to help steward and grow the iconic INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 brands is exceptional.  They are unique in the world of sport, and among an elite group of brands with such rich history and legacy.  All of us at SCC look forward to playing a critical role in elevating their positioning and driving deeper fan engagement with the NTT IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and all of the exceptional events and experiences at IMS.”

SCC is an independent creative and technology agency that connects humans and brands through insight-fueled experiences. A simple mission drives SCC’s entrepreneurial, people-first, results-obsessed culture – We work for humans. SCC’s work is based on deep human insights and an understanding of the communities and cultures within which brands compete.

SCC’s integrated practices include SCCdigital, SCCprism, SCCdesign, SCCmedia, and MAKE247 content studio. The company also operates a private equity portfolio, SCCventures, with holdings in the food and tech sectors. SCC is privileged to work with outstanding partners that include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, The Chicago Cubs, Ideal Industries, Portillo’s Restaurants, Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market and Solo Cup.

The independent agency is a fully integrated shop employing over 120 creative, energetic, passionate professionals based in the eclectic West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. To learn more about SCC, visit www.schafercondoncarter.com.

 

Ericsson to Ganassi: Updated

News just broke that Marcus Ericsson will drive the number 8 car for Chip Ganassi racing in 2020. No sponsor was announced. Ericsson drove for Arrow Schmidt Peterson (now Arrow McLaren SP) this year. He finished 17th in the points standings with a best finish of second in Detroit Race 2. Ericsson had an up and down season with two top 10s. He missed the Portland race as he was on standby with Alfa Romeo in F1.

The announcement likely eliminates the possibility of Meyer shank racing with driver Jack Harvey forming an alliance with Ganassi. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now appears to be where they will end up.

It was long suspected Ericsson would not return to AMSP. The question is will James Hinchcliffe return as announced earlier.  This might be a spot for Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew.

I see the following seats open or unconfirmed:

Carlin (2)

Foyt (1) if Kanaan returns

Carpenter (road course in the 20). Pigot has not been confirmed for the 21.

Arrow McLaren SP (1) for now. Conor Dqaly was informed last week that the team is going “in another direction.”

Coyne (1). Ferrucci is scheduled to return but no formal confirmation yet.

Update:

Per Marshall Pruett, Ganassi is continuing to explore ways to add a fourth car for Askew. I applaud the team’s efforts to keep their Ford GT teams employed after that program ends this weekend.