Askew Withdraws from Harvest GP; Castroneves to Fill In

Photo: Oliver Askew at Indycar Content Day in February

From Arrow McLaren SP:

Helio Castroneves to pilot the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet at Indianapolis

Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew will withdraw from the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix, after being declared not fit to drive by the INDYCAR Medical Team.

Following the INDYCAR race at Mid-Ohio, Oliver reported a balance and coordination issue, which triggered an examination from the INDYCAR Medical Team. As a result, Oliver is not medically cleared to race and is subject to INDYCAR’s Return to Racing Protocol.

“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors. My priority right now is focusing on my health,” Askew said. “Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”

Askew will be replaced in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet by Helio Castroneves for the upcoming doubleheader Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“The welfare of Oliver, our team members and fellow competitors is paramount,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt.

“We therefore support Oliver and the decision of INDYCAR. Withdrawing to focus on his health and recovery is the right thing to do.”

Helio will join Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, to complete the team’s driver lineup in Indianapolis.

“First and foremost, we wish Oliver the best and that he is able to take time to recover,” said Helio. “I look forward to getting back on track and helping to build on the great progress that Arrow McLaren SP has made this year.”

Arrow McLaren SP returns to action at the Harvest GP, a doubleheader of races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The races will take place on Friday, October 2nd at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and Saturday, October 3rd at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. 

Book Review: Racer

A. J. Foyt calls him a fighter. Michael Andretti talks about his big heart. Richard Petty considers him family. Mario Andretti talks about John Andretti the family and business man. The four legends describe their feelings toward Andretti in the forewords to his autobiography, Racer, recently published by Octane Press

John Andretti has a passion for racing, family, and life in general. His autobiography, as told to Jade Gurss, author of Beast, reflects his passions through stories about his life. From his early racing days as part of a very competitive family, to his battle with colon cancer, Andretti maintains a positive attitude.

The son of Aldo Andretti, Mario’s twin brother, John grew up in a family where competition ruled. Whether it was sledding in the backyard, trying to get better grades than his sister, or just beating Michael or Mario on the track, John competed at the highest level he could.

Early on his passion for racing appears. If he can’t win the race, he has to at least finish higher than the pother family members he is racing against. In a kart race at Pocono, John was leading his class comfortably. A tire couldn’t be removed and the crew told him to just finish the race on it. Cousin Michael begins to catch him, but John holds on for the apparent victory. After the race, John is disqualified because of the tire and Michael gets the trophy. Several times later in the autobiography, John makes reference to Michael possessing his trophy.

John’s passion for racing continued while he attended Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. John drives back to Indianapolis to race, then returns to school. Still he maintains a high grade point average. He has 17 races scheduled in May of his senior year. John receives permission to take his final exams early, and he doesn’t return for commencement.

In 1995 John begins raising money for Riley Children’s Hospita with the Race for Riley. The race began as a challenge to Mike Hibbeln, a producer at WIBC radio. The Andretti kids were treated at Riley as kids. John wants to give back. The event grows, sponsors such as Cheerios get in volved, and in 2019 Race for Riley raises more than $600,000. Of all of John’s accomplishments, I think this was the one he was most proud of.

John drives Indycar and NASCAR, winning races in both series. He drives for Richard petty two different times and becomes an honorary member of the Petty family. He also tries drag racing for a bit. John doesn’t stay long enough to win any drag races, but he did well in his brief time.

The story about the Stinger, the Marmon Wasp tribute car built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first 500 Mile Race, shows John’s determination. John and Tammy Whitworth, CEO of Window World, who had sponsored Andretti in the 500 have an idea to get every living driver who had riven in the 500 to sign the car. If a driver can’t get to Indianapolis to sign it, Andretti takes the car to them,l no matter where they live. The car travels to Florida, California, South Carolina, and Colorado and several othet places in order for former drivers to sign it. Only one driver refuses to sign it. Andretti does not name the driver. The car is auctioned off in 2016 fro $900,000. The proceeds went to St. Jude Hospital.

In the final six chapters, Andretti talks about his cancer diagnosis and his treatments. It is difficult to read, especially for someone who has gone through these treatments or has had a partner who has had cancer.

Andretti maintains his positive attitude until the end. Success is not always measured in how many races won, but by how much is done for the benefitof others. because of his efforts for Riley hospital and St. Jude, John Andretti is a champion.

Veach Out at Andretti

Photo: Zach Veach at mid Ohio in what turned out to be his final ride for Andretti Autosport. Indycar, Chris Owens

Zach Veach will step out of the number 26 Andretti Autosport Gainbridge car effective immediately. he will not return for the 2021 season.

Two statements released this morning via Andretti Autospport’s twitter:

The team will name a replacement in the next few days. This could be an opening for James Hinchcliffe to have a full time ride with the team next year.

Veach sits 20th in the 2020 standings with a best finish of 4th at Texas. Veach began his Indycar career in 2017 at Barber Motorsports Park. In 2019 he finished 18th in points.

Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Enter Harvest Classic

Sage Karam and  Dreyer & Reinbold will enter next weekend’s harvest Classic doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team had hope to expand their program this year, but their plans were disrupted by the coronavirus. Karam finished 24th in the Indianapolis 500 in August.

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Sage Karam after qualifying for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo by John Cote, Indycar

Karam began his Indycar career in 2014. he has competed in six Indianapolis 500s. his best finish is a third place at Iowa in 2015.

Their sponsor, Oil2Soil, is a peat moss based oil absorbent intended to be an environmentally friendly method of oil cleanup. Their product is available on Amazon and has residential and commercial applications.

The First Harvest Classic

As we prepare for the Harvest Classic at IMS next week, here is a brief history of the last Harvest Classic.

Photo: Johnny Aitken prepping his tires before the 1916 Harvest Classic at IMS. No, I did not take this photo.

Seven years into his venture of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Carl fisher and the other founders were still searching for their footing. It had not been the success they had hoped. The 500 mile races were a hit with fans, but in 1916 the race was shortened to a 300 mile contest because Fisher thought 500 miles was too long. The fans were not happy about the decision. Dario Resta, who narrowly lost the 1915 500 to Ralph DePalma, won the 1916 event.

With war on the horizon, Fisher decided to add a September race meeting to the Speedway calendar. He was looking for extra income in case the 1917 race couldn’t run because of United States involvement in the European conflict. The Harvest Classic on September 9 featured three separate races of 20 miles, 50 miles, and 100 miles. There were separate purses of $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000. The first two races were not heat races for the 100 miler.

Attendance was disappointing. The event was a week after the Indian State Fair. People had spent their money going to the fair. Also, as the name of the evnt implies, the farmers were beginning preparations for harvest. Some estimates out the crowd at less than 10,000.

The event itself featured several current and future stars. 1915 500 winner Ralph DePalma entered in a Duesenberg. Eddie Rickenbacker drove a Maxwell. Tommy Milton, a future 500 mile race winner, made his first appearance at the speedway. Speedway star Johnny Aitken entered the event in a Peugeot.

Aitken won all three races. The 20 mile race was the easiest victory. In the fifty mile race, Aitken and Hughie Hughes had a wheel to wheel battle with Aitken winning by 0.28 seconds. There was more drama to come in the final race of the day.

In the 100 mile race, Aitken led most of the way, but battled with Rickenbacker during the last 50 miles. With four laps to go, Aitken’s steering broke, and Rickenbacker took the lead. He had his own issue, however. A loose right rear wheel buckled with two laps to go giving the lead back to Aitken.

This would be the final race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until 1919. After the 1916 event the speedway announced that the May race would again be 500 miles. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, racing halted until the war ended. Johnny Aitken never got a chance to race at Indianapolis again. He died in 1918 of pneumonia during the flu pandemic.

The Indianapolis 500 was the only race at the Speedway from 1919 until 1994, when the Brickyard 400 NASCAR event debuted. The stock car race was the first race outside of May since September 1916. Will this year’s Harvest Classic also be a one time event? I’m not so sure.

10,000 Fans Per Day Allowed at IMS for Harvest Classic, Sports Car Race

At last, fans will be able to attend an Indycar race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IMS announced this morning a limit of 10, 000 fans each day will be permitted for the Harvest Classic Indycar races October 2 and 3 and the eight hour sports car race October 4. Tickets are on sale now at IMS.com. Fans will finally get to see improvements Roger Penske has made to the facility. The complete release from IMS:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.

Venue Enhancements on Display as INDYCAR Title Rac
Reaches Exciting Final Stretch
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993.

Mclaughlin to Debut at St. Pete

Scott Mclaughlin will getto make his COVID -19 delayed Indycar debut at the season finale in St. Petersburg October 25. Mclaughlin, the two time Australian VA Supercars champion, was originally slated to drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. With all racing series scrambling to adjust their schedules this year, Team Penske and Mclaughlin finally found a spot that worked for both of them. Mclaughlin leads the Supercars points with three races remaining.

Penske had brought McLaughlin to the open test in Austin, where he posted the third fastest time. before returning to Australia he took his oval test at Texas Motor Speedway. McLaughlin is expected to be a full time driver for Team Penske in Indycar next season.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.

Notes

It will be weird seeing the number 3 car without Helio Castroneves in the cockpit. St. Pete signals the end of ties between Team Penske and Castroneves.

The field for the last race has gotten deeper with announcements this week of Sebastien Bourdais driving for A. J. Foyt and now mclaughlin in a Team Penske car. Jimmie Johnson, seven time NASCAR champion, may join the field for the first race in 2021, increasing the field’s depth even more.

We are still awaiting word on whether fans will be allowed to attend the Indycar Harvest Classic and the 8 hour sports car races at IMS the first weekend of October. A positive sign is the the Indianapolis Colts received permission to increase their home attendance to 7,500 for their home game September 27.

Nashville Joins Indycar Schedule

A street race in Nashville August 6-8, 2021 is the first new race added to the NTT Indycar series schedule under Roger Penske’s ownership of the series, and the first new street race added to the schedule since 2013. The fully privately funded event and Indycar have a three year agreement. The 2.17 mile, 11 turn track designed by Tony Cotman incorporates part of Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Some of the stadium suites will be viewing areas for the race.

Today’s announcement is the result of several years of planning by Matt Crews, president of Music City GP, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, and the Tennessee Titans.

Nashville officials are planning a music filled festival around the race.

A unique feature of the track is the section over the Korean War Veterans’ Bridge. I can’t think of another series which has a track crossing over water.

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The track resembles the Big Dipper. It runs counter-clockwise, which is unusual for Indycar road and street courses. The turns 7-11 cluster on the other side of the bridge looks interesting, as do the two long straights over the bridge.

Mark Miles was asked how adding another street course, this this is the fifth street event and sixth street race on the schedule,will affect the balance of types of circuits on the schedule, Miles said next year’s schedule will look a lot like this year’s original schedule. Miles said the full schedule will be released in 2-4 weeks.

Tickets are not on sale yet. Go to musiccitygp.com to sign up for notifications about ticket sales.

Foyt Signs Bourdais for Rest of Season and 2021

Sebastien Bourdais was supposed to start the season with A. J. Foyt Racing, but now he will end the season with them and drive the No. 14 full time in 2021. Bourdais will drive for Foyt beginning with the harvest Classic doubleheader October 2 and 3 at IMS and in the scheduled season finale in his hometown of St. Petersburg October 25.

Bourdais, a four time Indycar champion with 37 wins and 34 poles, hopes to make the team more competitive. He spent this season in IMSA driving a Cadillac prototype. Bourdais is currently in France preparing to drive in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

About the signing, Bourdais said, “This is exciting news for all of us. We waited with anticipation for most of 2020 to put together a deal for 2021. I’m really happy that I’m running the last three races of the year — it is great for us to get an early start on next year. 2020 has been a very strange year so far and I can’t wait to finally get behind the wheel of the AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet No. 14.”

Larry Foyt spoke of the reason for putting Bourdais in the car for the last three races.

“We thought it made great sense to get this started now. Not sure what the testing rules are going to look like for next year, so we wanted to get Seb in the car as early as we could. Good to get this done, announce it, looking forward to the end of this year and 2021”

Dalton Kellett, who had been in the 14 on the road courses, will move to the No. 41 car for the Harvest Classic. The twin races will be Kellett’s last drives this season.

Before the season schedule was altered by the pandemic, Bourdais was scheduled to open the season for Foyt at St. Pete, where he has won twice, in the 14 car. Kellett would take over on the road and street course and Tony Kanaan would drive the ovals. Bourdais also had two more races schedule in the 14. All three of Bourdais’ races were cancelled in the schedule shuffle.

Larry Foyt said a sponsor will be announced at a later date. No driver is set for the No. 4 car for 2021. The team is talking with its current drivers for that seat.

I’m happy that Bourdais will return to Indycar. He adds even more depth to an already deep field. He had success with Dale Coyne’s team. It will be interesting to see if he can help bring the Foyt team up to a more competitive level.