Larson, Abreu Continue Winning Ways at Chili Bowl

Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu won the feature races on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, respectively. Cannon McIntosh won Monday’s feature. The top 2 in each night’s feature advance automatically to Saturday’s Chili Bowl finale.

Larson won his fourth straight Tuesday qualifying round. Abreu dominated his event.

Tyler Courtney was second on Monday night. Thomas Meserault was runner-up to Larson Tuesday and Alex bright came home behind Abreu last night.

Christopher Bell won Tuesday night’s VIROC Race of Champions.

Tonight 64 cars will vie for a spot in the feature race in which two more drivers will lock in a spot in Saturday’s final. Top cointenders racing tonight are Christopher Bell, Sam Hafertepe, Jr. Logan Seavey, and Zeb Wise.

Hunter-Reay Returns to Andrettiwtih DHL

Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar

Ryan Hunter-Reay confirmed this morning that he will return to Andretti Autosport in the 28 car, continuing with DHL and Auto Nation sponsorship. 2021 will be Hunter-Reay’s 12th year with Andretti. The 2012 Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner finished 10th in the 500 last season and 10th in the season standings.

Hunter-Reay is the third confirmed driver for Andretti, joining Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta. James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti are expected to have rides confirmed soon.

The full time grid is nearly full. In addition to the two expected to be claimed Andretti seats, there are two openings at Coyne, and confirmation of at least one car at Carlin.

Notes

Per Curt Cavin on Trackside Tuesday and a report from another highly reliable source, it appears former F1 driver Romain Grosjean will be in one of Dale Coyne’s cars for 2021. No driver is set for Coyne’s second car, but I hear Ed Jones might be the leading candidate.

Aldo’s Last Lap

Aldo Andretti, who died December 31, was taken for a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday before his celebration of Life service. Mario’s twin brother had done just a few laps in a tire test at IMS, but never got to drive an Indycar in a race.


Back later this afternoon with a report on the Chili Bowl.

Indy Autonomous Challenge Begins New Era of Innovation at IMS

Photo from IMS website

The Indy Autonomous Challenge, set for October 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ushers i n a the next wave of automotive innovation. IMS used to be a proving ground for safety and other aspects of passenger vehicles. Modern racing has pushed that mostly to the side. This event, featuring autonomous vehicles, seeks to return the Speedway to its role as a developer of advanced automotive progress.

The release from IMS:

January 11, 2021 | By Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), today unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

The primary goal of the IAC is to advance technologies that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), leading to increased safety and performance. In addition, the IAC is a challenging competition to excite the best and brightest university students from around the world to engage in hands-on engineering firsts.

“The Dallara-built IAC race car is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

The IAC is scheduled for Oct. 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races, awarded by IAC sponsor, Ansys.

More than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software have responded to the challenge, representing 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

Inspiration for the IAC was the DARPA Grand Challenge, as explained by 2005 winner, Sebastian Thrun: “The DARPA Grand Challenge proved that robots can drive themselves in very confined environments, but that they don’t have the agility and skill of a really well-trained human racecar driver to act in extreme situations. IMS is the best place in the world to challenge the robotics community to test self-driving cars. By going into a racing context, we will stretch self-driving cars to the absolute limit.”

The Modified Dallara IL-15 Autonomous Race Car

Since 2002, Dallara has been the sole race car supplier of the Indy Lights series, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best race car engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

The modified Dallara is retrofitted with hardware and controls to enable automation to enhance safety, control and performance. Components include rugged-edge on-board computing, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, perception systems, high-end graphics processing units (GPUs), drive-by-wire, and artificial intelligence acceleration and powerful central processing units to run IAC teams’ software and algorithms in the racecar.

One of the challenges for autonomous racing is solving edge case scenarios – challenges that occur only at extreme operating parameters, such as avoiding unanticipated obstacles at high speeds.

“We know how the world’s best race car drivers react in the Dallara, in high-speed scenarios, but now we have to anticipate the actions of a robot,” added dePonti.

Innovation at IMS

IMS has been a catalyst and proving ground for motorsport and transportation innovation since its inception in 1909. IMS hosts the crown jewel of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis 500 — annually the world’s largest single-day sporting event. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

IAC Sponsors and Contributors

Indiana Economic Development Corporation, ADLINK, Ansys, Aptiv, AutonomouStuff, Bridgestone, Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), Dallara, Microsoft, New Eagle, PWR, RTI, Schaeffler and Valvoline. See IndyAChallenge.com for more information about these amazing companies realizing autonomous mobility.

About the Indy Autonomous Challenge

The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), organized by Energy Systems Network and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is a $1.5 million prize competition among universities to program modified Dallara IL-15 race cars and compete in the world’s first autonomous head-to-head race around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 23, 2021. Racing at speeds of up to 200 mph, the primary goal of the IAC is to advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). These enhancements will lead to increased safety and performance in all modes of racing and commercial transportation. In addition, the competition is a platform for students to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

35th Chili Bowl Goes On with COVID Limitations

Open wheel racing season begins tonight with the first evening of the 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire in Tulsa. I am glad to see that the indoor race will proceed with limitations necessitated by the pandemic. The midget event is the most prestigious of the year. The organizers have worked closely with the local board of health, which has warned the event that it could be shut down if protocols aren’t followed.

Attendance each night is limited to 25% of normal capacity. Limited pit passes are available, which surprises me. I’m not sure I would want fins in the pits right now. Masks must be worn at all times and fans who do not comply will be asked to leave, with an escort if necessary. Everyone entering receives a temperature screening. Those who have a reading above the 100.4 degree threshold will have their temperature taken with a different thermometer.

Monday’s schedule ( All Times Central)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Building/Pit Pass Booth Open………………8:00 am
Building Secured………………………………….8:00 am
Practice………………………………………. 9:00 am
Draw For Lineups…………………………………2:00 pm
Driver’s Meeting……………………………………3:00 pm
Hot Laps………………………..……………..5:00 pm
Races……….……….….….…………..…….. 6:00 pm

Action at the Chili Bowl (Photos in this article from the Chili Bowl website)

Tuesday night features the Vacuworx invitational Race of Champions in which former winners of the event, and other top finishers from past years participate in a 25 lap feature race.

The entrants in the Race of Champions:

Aaron Reutzel – All-Star Circuit of Champions Champion
Brad Sweet – World of Outlaws Champion
Brady Bacon – USAC Sprint Cars Champion
Cannon McIntosh – 2020 Monday Night Winner
Chad Boat – 2018 VIROC Winner
Chris Windom – USAC Midget Champion
Christopher Bell – 2017-2019 Champion
Daryn Pittman – 2017 Runner-up
Jake Neuman – POWRi Midgets Champion
Justin Grant – 2019 Third Place
Kyle Larson – 2020 Champion
Rico Abreu – 2016 Champion
Sam Hafertepe, Jr. – American Sprint Car Series Champion
Spencer Bayston – 2018 Runner-up
Tanner Thorson – 2019 VIROC Winner
Zach Daum – 2016 Third Place

The full Chili Bowl entry list can be found at this link:

https://www.chilibowl.com/entries/manual.aspx

Each night’s activities Monday through Friday is streamed on FloRacing.com. Saturday’s program is live on MAVTV.

I will provide updates during the week as we build toward Saturday night/

Ferrucci Latest Driver to Find Life After Indycar

Photo:Chris Graythen (Getty Images) via Indycar

Santino Ferrucci will drive in 20 Xfinity Series races for Sam Hunt in 2021 as he begins the road to a NASCAR Cup ride. Ferrucci spent the last two years in Indycar driving for Dale Coyne with Vasser Sullivan Racing. He was Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2019, finishing seventh.

Ferrucci is the latest driver who has found work in another series after losing their Indycar ride. Many factors have caused the drivers to go a different direction. Sometimes it is a budget issue, other times team owners have made the choice.

Zach Veach, released by Andretti Autosport before the end of the 2020 season, will drive full time for Vasser-Sullivan’s GTD team in IMSA. Veach replaces Townsend Bell in the number 12 Lexus, and he will team with veteran Frankie Montecalvo. The car was a series title contender last year.

Helio Castroneves moved to the Team Penske Acura prototype in IMSA in 2018. That program ended with Castroneves winning his first title. He has a busy year coming up. Castroneves will drive in six Indycar races for Meyer-Shank Racing- Barber, Long Beach, the 500, the IMS Road Course race on August 14, Portland, and Laguna Seca. He will also participate in Tony Stewart”s and Ray Evernham’s new SRX series in addition to sports car races in the United States and Europe.

Juan Pablo Montoya was also out of work with the ending of the Team Penske Acura program, but he will return to the Indianapolis 500 with Arrow McLaren SP in May. Montoya will be one of the added drivers for Meyer-Shank’s Acura prototype in IMSA’s four endurance races. The rest of his 2021 season will be in Europe driving Dragonspeed’s LMP2 car in the WEC series.

I really enjoy seeing a driver run in several different series during a season. It would be nice if contracts allowed for more of this.

Pat Patrick, Car Owner, CART Founder, Dies at 91

Pat Patrick, who began his involvement in Indycar as a team sponsor and became one of the founders of CART, died Tuesday, January 5, at the age of 91 in His home in Phoenix. Patrick’s team won the Indianapolis 500 three times in his twenty seven years of ownership.

In 1967 Patrick’s oil company became a sponsor for Walt Michener’s team. In 1970 he became the co-owner of the team,with Johnny Rutherford driving. Rutherford just missed the pole of the 500 that year by0.01 second to Al Unser. Patrick owned the Indianapolis winning cars of Gordon Johncock in 1973 and 1982, and Emerson Fittipaldi’s victorious machine in 1989. The Wildcat chassis that Johncock put in Victory Lane in 1982 was the last American made car to win the 500. A Patrick car entered the 500 every year from 1970-1995. Patrick’s last entry At IMS was in 1994 with Al Unser, Jr. driving.

In 1979, Patrick and Roger Penske formed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and by 1982 the organization sanctioned all Indycar races except for Indianapolis.

Patrick invested in what is now Indy Lights, and he was instrumental in Firestone’s continued involvement in the series.

St. Pete Moves to April 25; Barber Inherits Season Opener

From Indycar this morning:

INDYCAR Announces Update
to 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule
Series to return to popular Streets of St. Petersburg in April INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled for Sunday, April 25 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The move creates a condensed, action-packed early-season schedule for 2021. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of St. Petersburg after Josef Newgarden’s thrilling win last October, which culminated with Scott Dixon’s sixth series title. NBC will remain as the television home of this year’s race on the tight, demanding street layout. “It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.” Due to the move, Barber Motorsports Park becomes the host of the season opener as the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will raise the curtain on the 2021 season. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 18th NTT INDYCAR SERIES event in the Sunshine City. The traditional season opener since 2011 and a fan favorite on the INDYCAR schedule, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg received a three-year title sponsorship extension from Bridgestone Americas, Inc. last October. “We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast coverage of the race on NBC.” An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.

Buying Time- Changes at the Front of the Schedule?

Indycar is considering pushing the opening of the season into April. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set to start the 2021 NTT Indycar Series the weekend of March 5-7. At that time attendance restrictions will likely still be in place. By moving the race to late April the series and Green Savoree Promotions are hoping for fewer restrictions as more COVID vaccinations will have been given by then. Green Savoree lost two races last season, Toronto and Portland. They hosted a double header weekend at Mid Ohio with just 6,000 fans a day and held the St. Pete race as the season finale with a limited number of fans.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, originally set for April 18, is now the season finale September 26.

The new calendar may have Barber moving back a week as well and serving as the season opener. Currently slotted for the weekend of April9-11, Barber would move to April 17-18, followed by St. Pete the following weekend. Through 2011, St. Pete and Barber were on back to back weekends.

St. Pete has not put tickets on sale as of yet with the race scheduled about eight weeks away. This tells that that something is going on. The decision needs to be made soon, since the track build would have to begin around the first if February.

Other series have either postponed or placed restrictions on their early events. Formula1 has postponed the first race, the Australian Grand prix to a yet to be determined date later in the season. IMSA has modified attendance and infield access for the Rolex 24. The Tulsa Shootout and the Chili Bowl will go on as scheduled with limited attendance and restricted fan access. The Tulsa health department will monitor the Shootout and may shut down the Chili Bowl if rules including mask wearing are not enforced.

Changes at the Rolex 24 Hours

Changes for the Rolex 24 emailed to ticket holders two weeks ago:

Unfortunately because of these required protocols, the following experiences have been cancelled:

  • Garage Access
  • Fan access to grid walk and ballfield for pre-race festivities
  • Infield Tent Camping
  • Infield Car Camping
  • GEICO Park West Tent Camping
  • Café 24 Breakfast

All 2021 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA 2-Day or 4-Day admissions are still on your account and will be available to download/print approximately two weeks before the event as we will not be mailing tickets or camping passes in 2021. This also includes your free admission to the Roar Before the Rolex 24, January 22-24. For more information on how to access your tickets using Tickets @ Home, click here. For our guests with a cancelled experience, we understand this news is disappointing and we have placed a credit on your account for the cancelled experiences.

We recognize that many factors, including your ability to travel, may have been impacted by the pandemic, and we want you to understand your options as you make decisions related to attending the 2021 Rolex 24. Please carefully read your options below based on your specific Rolex 24 At DAYTONA experience.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation in keeping everyone safe.


RV CAMPING INFO

RV Campers will be limited to six people per campsite, and all RVs must be self-contained as shower facilities will be closed. In addition, for the safety of our competitors and staff, the garages, paddock and pit road will be closed to fans, and the grid walk and ballfield access will be also be closed to fans for the 2021 event. As a result, Garage access is no longer included with the 4-day admission. We understand this news is disappointing, and we have placed a credit on your account amounting to 20% of your 4-day admissions.

Four day parking is available for $60. Cars must leave the track at the close of each day’s activities. This does not apply to race day.