I intended this post as a news summary, but with all that happened late last week, I decided to share my thoughts about a couple things.
First, Ed Carpenter named Jordan King the driver of the 20 car for the road and street events. Later, Juncos Racing announced Rene Binder will run four races for the team- St. Pete, Barber, Toronto, and Mid-Ohio. Both drivers come from European racing, with time in what was F2, now GP2, The Indy Lights equivalent of Formula 1.
King spent three season in GP2. He also was a test driver for Manor F1 and won the 2013 British Formula 3 title.
Binder won four races last year in the Formula V8 3.5 series and spent three years in GP2.
My issue is not necessarily with the drivers. Mike Conway has a background similar to King’s. The question is why teams look to Europe and ignore the Mazda Road to Indy drivers. There are several who are ready to move to Indycar. The ladder series is largely ignored by the Indycar paddock when a new driver is needed. If I’m a driver in Pro Mazda, I’ve got to wonder if my money might be better spent just pursuing an Indycar ride, or maybe I’ll have a better shot driving in Europe. King and Binder might have decent seasons. The new aero configuration may be a bit of an equalizer. However, Indycar owners and the league itself should get more behind the development and promotion of drivers in their own developmental series.
Kyle Novak is the new race director for Indycar. Last year he directed races for IMSA’s Continental Tire Series races, a support series for the IMSA Weather Tech Series. He worked under Beaux Barfield. He replaces Brian Barnhart, who left to become president of Harding Racing. It will be interesting to see if he uses this year just to learn or will implement some changes right away. At any rate, it is a fresh perspective in race control, which could be a good thing.
Pato O’Ward secured a full time ride in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport, joining Colton Herta, Dalton Kellett, and Ryan Norman on the Lights squad. O’Ward won seven races in Pro Mazda in 2016 and drove in four Lights races last year before finishing the year in IMSA. His presence adds to an already strong Lights field for 2018. Should he move to Indycar in 2019, O’Ward could be the Mexican driver to help the league secure the race in Mexico they have been pursuing.
Indycar’s television time schedule came out last week. ABC, in what is hopefully their final year of covering Indycar, will covermost of the early part of the season and NBCSN has the rest of theyear.. The best thing about the race times is that Iowa will start at 2 pm Eastern time. This race should be a Saturday night race, and track president Jimmy Small is working toward the goal. A date change may be needed to accomplish it, but that would be fine. I have not enjoyed the Sunday afternoon races as much as I have the Saturday night ones. This earlier time may allow some fans to attend who couldn’t with the later start. Another good note is that Gateway will begin an hour earlier. Starting a race at twilight instead of when the sun is completely gone provides a different, interesting dynamic as the track changes.
Wednesday I will be going to Sebring for the Indycar test. Ganassi, Andretti, and Coyne are scheduled to participate. Hope to post pictures and report later this week.