Update: Herta Transporter Catches Fire; Car Okay

Andretti Autosport issued the following statements on Twitter @FollowAndretti around 11 am ET:

At this time, damages to the 88 car appear to be minor and cosmetic, caused by heat, smoke and/or water. We have no current reason to believe that any competition or mechanical aspects of the 88 car have been damaged or compromised. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti
Our Indy Lights team is in Florida for testing and is now in route to St. Pete to help evaluate and assess. Additionally, we are sending a team of INDYCAR crewman from Indianapolis to St. Pete today – in advance of the full team’s arrival tomorrow morning. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti

We are also preparing backup pit equipment at our Indy race shop, this equipment & a spare transporter will depart Indianapolis today as well. Again, we would like to express our gratitude to our transport drivers & local fire departments for their quick responses & support.

 

The transporter carrying Colton Herta’s number 88 car to the Firestone Grand Prix caught fire early this morning just about 15 minutes from the track. An update just a few minutes ago reported that the car was not damaged, but there is extensive damage to the pit equipment.

Herta is expected to be a contender for the NTT Indycar Series championship. Follow along all day for updates.

My guess is the fire was caused by brake failure. A similar incident involving a Penske transporter happened in the early 2000s. I believe it Helio Castroneves’ car, but I’m not sure. He went on to win the race.

Update from Nathan Brown if the Indianapolis Star:

A Busy Day at Sebring

It was a busy day at Sebring today as several teams wound up their preseason test. With less than two weeks to go before the St. Pete opening race, 15 cars were on track in the ‘thours I was at the track. I didn’t see either of the Arrow McLaren SP cars or any of the Penske drivers. Their transporters were there. They may have gone out after I left at 2:30.

Teams that I saw were Andretti, Ganassi,  Coyne, Foyt, Meyer Shank Racing, Carlin, and Dragonspeed. I believe Felipe Nasr was in the Carlin car. I did not see Max Chilton  on track.

Here are a few photos from the day. More will we posted on The Pit Window”s Facebook page tomorrow.

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Indycar Season Preview Part III- The Contenders

Three teams which comprise nearly half of the full time grid will battle for the NTT Indycar Series season championship. I’m going to save my predictions for next week. here’s a look at the Big Three. As in my previous two posts, the order is random and is not necessarily indicative of my thinking about their finishing order

Chip Ganassi Racing

The team has expanded by one car and now is home to the two Swedish drivers, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson. Five time champion Scott Dixon gives the team veteran leadership. Their 2019 season wasn’t bad with Dixon ending the year fourth and Rosenqvist sixth. In addition, Rosenqvist earned Rookie of the Year. Dixon won twice, putting him just six wins behind Mario Andretti for second all time.

Still, it seemed as if Dixon was not having a good year. But it actually was just a poor three week period. A poor showing in the Indianapolis 500 was followed by a self inflicted crash at Detroit Race 1, and then  he was involved in a crash at Texas. He won Race 2 at Detroit to salvage something of that three week period, but seeing him end fourth for the year was unusual.

Rosenqvist won a pole and nearly beat Dixon in a dramatic finish at Mid Ohio. A qualifying penalty cost him a potential pole at Laguna Seca, but he stormed back to finish eighth in the race.  I look for Rosenqvist to have a strong second year with his first series win likely.

Ericsson comes to the team from Arrow Schmidt Peterson. The highlight of his season was a second place at Detroit. He was 17th in the final standings. Ericsson should have a better year his time around, but there may not be a huge jump in his year end ranking. I’m interested to see what he does with better equipment.

Team Penske

Four series titles and two Indianapolis 500 wins should make a driver from the Penske stable the odd on favorite for the championship. Josef Newgarden is at the top of his game, and Simon Pagenaud revived what may have been his sagging team standing in 2019. Will Power had what was for him a substandard season. Then there is the Scott McLaughlin factor to consider.

McLaughlin at present is entered only in the GMR Grand Prix in May, but there is talk of him driving in as many as eight races in 2020. Is he being groomed as a replacement for one of the three drivers? Or, will Penske go to four cars in 2021? Does it make financial sense to run a fourth car next year with a new chassis due to come on line in 2022?

While this seems like a lot of intra team drama, I wouldn’t worry about any effect on the racing. This team will run up front most weeks and at least one of the drivers will be in the conversation for the title in September. McLaughlin could actually help take points away from the contenders on other teams.

Andretti Autosport

This team seems to grow bigger every season. For 2020 Andretti is fielding five teams with the absorption of Harding Steinbrenner Racing in addition to a technical alliance with Meyer Shank Racing. In May James Hinchcliffe joins the squad for three races. Are they spreading themselves too thin? I don’t think so. Of all the teams in the paddock, Andretti seems to work better with more work.

This is an interesting mix of drivers with different goals for the upcoming season. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta are probably going to contend for the championship. I’m looking forward to seeing if we have an intra team rivalry and how that might appear on the track. Both had great seasons last year. Herta was hampered a bit by rookie mistakes and mechanical gremlins, but he is a quick learner. Rossi had two dominant victories, but most of the time he was behind the drivers fighting him for the points lead.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is entering the final year of his contract. His long time sponsor, DHL, is also is up for renewal after the season. Will Hunter-Reay step down from a full time ride? He wants to finish on a high note. 2019 was a difficult year for him. His results this year may determine his future. I think Hunter-Reay can find a way to win a race this season.

Zach Veach is also entering the last year of his contract. He finished 18th last year, the lowest of the drivers on the team. Veach had a decent rookie year, but seemed to slip a bit in 2019. He needs to have a solid year in 2020.

Marco Andretti went to driving school in England to sharpen his skills. He dropped from a ninth place finish in 2018 to 16th last season. Andretti needs to improve his road course qualifying to be in a better position for good race results. He won a pole at Detroit in 2018. Andretti needs a good start to the year to set a positive tone for an improved season.

Parts I and II

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2604485664

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/02/28/indycar-season-preview-part-ii-teams-that-should-improve/

 

 

 

Genesys Assumes Sponsorship at Texas

It makes sense now. I wondered why one of James Hinchcliffe’s three races with Andretti Autosport was Texas instead of Toronto. His sponsor is the new title sponsor of the June 8 NTTINDYCARSERIES race, now known as the Genesys 600. The company replaces DXC Technologies in the title role.

It’s nice to see a new sponsor jumping in with both feet like this. I would have been happy with their three race sponsorship for Hinchcliffe. That would be a nice beginning for a new Indycar partner. I hope their involvement leads to a full time of half year sponsorship for Hinchcliffe and Andretti.

Earlier today, the Firestone Grand of St. Petersburg announced Frontier as the official television and internet provider of the season opening race. I posted the announcement here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2603641037

I love days like this when there are several announcements, especially when they concern more companies getting involved with the series.

My season preview will start tomorrow. It will be a three part series where I assess each team’s outlook for the 2020 season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hinchcliffe Returns to Andretti for Indianapolis 500

It seems everything in Indycar comes back to the starting point. In a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning, it was announced that James Hinchcliffe will return to Andretti Autosport for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. He will also race in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis on May 9 and at Texas Motor Speedway  June 6. Genesys, an Indianapolis based technology company will sponsor car number 29.

Hinchcliffe drove for the team from 2012-2014, and he had his best years with the team.   Three of his six career wins came in 2013, and he was eighth in points in 2012 and 2013. With Andretti Hinchcliffe started the Indianapolis 500 twice from the middle of the front row and had a career best finish of sixth in 2012.

From 2015-2019 at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Hinchcliffe’s best season finish was 10th in 2018. He was released from driving duties at the end of 2019. He won the pole for the 100th running of the 500 in 2016.

Hinchcliffe will be attempting to start in his seventh 500 mile race this May. He has struggled to make the race the last two years. In 2018 he was bumped from the field and last year qualified 32nd. Making the race should not be an issue this year.

Notes

Hinchcliffe will have some orange on his car.Genesys’s colors are orange, charcoal, and white.  Ironic considering he was let go by Arrow McLaren SP.

I’m surprised that Toronto was not one of the additional races. I would have that race would have been his second priority. Perhaps it will be added later.

Michael Andretti mentioned that the team would like to try to get Hinchcliffe on full time.  If that happens, who might be out? I would think Zach Veach  is on the hot seat unless he has a strong season. Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be looking at Indy only after 2020?

 

 

Bumped Before May; Honda Nixes Alonso Andretti Ride

Fernando Alonso watches as he is bumped from the Indianapolis 500 in 2019. Photo: Mike Silver

\Fernando Alonso will need to find needs to find a Chevy team to take him on if he wants another chance to win the Indianapolis 500. An expected announcement from Andretti Autosport putting Honda in the 29 Andretti ride never came. I thought that was because of the death of Michael’s cousin, John Andretti. But Honda headquarters in Japan vetoed the deal.

The bad blood between Alonso, and McLaren for that matter, stems from criticisms leveled at Honda in Formula 1 when they supplied engines to the McLaren which Alonso drove for. Granted, the engine performed poorly. Alonso called it a GP 2 engine during one race. The team was not happy with the engine the entire season.

Alonso now has limited options among the Chevy teams. Penske never was a possibility, Ed Carpenter racing will not run a fourth car. The best opportunities lie at Arrow McLaren SP, Coyne, or Carlin. Alonso failed to qualify last year in a Carlin supported entry. I’m not sure he wants to go that route again.

One off Chevy teams which may have availability are Juncos and Dreyer and Reinbold. Alonso needs a huge check to hook up with Juncos. I’m not sure where D&R stands with their second driver, thought to be J. R, Hildebrand.

Door Open for Hinchcliffe?

My first thought upon hearing this news is does Hinchcliffe have a shot at the now open Andretti ride? I don’t know which teams he has talked to already or how far negotiations have progressed. He wants to run races besides Indianapolis. Andretti would probably be the easiest team to accommodate that.  The team had considered running Alonso at one or two more races.

I’m sure Andretti is getting lots of calls from lots of drivers asking about the now empty seat. Some possibilities are Carlos Munoz, Stefan Wilson, and Oriol Servia. Sebastien Bourdais may be interested as well.

Implications

I really don’t see Alonso driving in the 500 this year. The Chevy possibilities themselves have limited room for another car.

Drivers and teams may now be even more leery of criticizing their engine supplier. Indycar seats and engine leases are hard enough to come by. This not a component of a team anyone wants to upset.

Honda’s veto of Alonso underscores the need for the NTT Indycar Series to secure a third OEM. If  one supplier has a say about who drives cars with their engines, the field narrows for the parties affected. Of course Honda has every right to make decisions they believe are in their interests, but  having just two engine choices is limiting.

What will it now take for a driver to get the seventh Andretti car for Indianapolis? Alonso was likely bringing significant sponsorship to the team. Will Andretti decide to forgo the extra car?  I was seeing one less car for qualifying this year as it was. I hope I’m wrong.

 

 

Update with Comments: Meyer-Shank, Harvey Set for Full Time Run

I’m very happy to see Meyer-Shank and Jack Harvey will run the entire season for the next two years.

Michael Shank has set a great example for other fledgling teams of how to build up to a full season. I admire his tireless work to get to this point.

Last year Harvey had good results in the first  part of the season where they ran the majority of their schedule. After the team took a break, they seemed to struggle in the remaining races which were scattered through the last part of the year. I’m hoping the consistency of running every race will provide even better results.

With Meyer-Shank in an alliance with Andretti, this eliminates any chance of another full time car. i wouldn’t be surprised if there is an extra entry for May, though.

Their video is very cool. Welcome to a full season, MSR.

Daly Returns to Andretti for Finale; Some Other Tidbits

Photo from @FollowAndretti Twitter feed

The jaws are back. Andretti Autosport announced today that Conor Daly will drive the number 25 USAF car, the same one he drove in this year’s Indianapolis 500, in the NTT Indycar Series finale at Weather Tech Raceway.  In the 500 Daly started 11th and finished 10th. he ran as high as fifth during the race.

This season Daly has also driven twice for Carlin Racing- at Texas, finishing 11th after a 19th place start, and  at Iowa, where ended 13th from 16th on the grid.

I am glad Daly will drive for Andretti again this season. I was hoping he would be back in this car before Laguna Seca. Part of the reason I think the team is entering him in the finale is to serve as a point blocker to help Alexander Rossi get the championship. It would depend on where Daly qualifies, but it could help.

McLaren Closer to Indycar?

This Tweet from Adam Stern indicates some progress by McLaren toward the 2020 Indycar season. The engine issue and James Hinchcliffe’s contratc still seem like huge stumbling blocks. There is word McLaren is also after Colton Herta. I think there is still a lot of work to be done before we see orange cars  on the grid full time.

Third Car for Rahal?

In an interview with RACER magazine Bobby Rahal said this week that  a third car for Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing is closer than they’ve been before. The third RLL car has been a perennial Silly Season story.  I hope it finally appears at St. Pete next March.

More Indy Lights Drivers Test Indycar

Oliver Askew tested with Chip Ganassi Racing at Portland International Raceway yesterday. The CGR team was impressed with his performance. Rinus VeeKay also tested for Ed Carpenter Racing the same day at Portland.

Andretti Autorsport Indy Lights driver Ryan Norman also tested for Andretti at Mid Ohio last week.

I don’t get too excited about Indy lights drivers testing with Indycar teams.  It’s great that they get the experience, but the tests have zero implications for future Indycar rides.

I’m thinking the hybrid engine may not be the last bombshell announcement of this Silly Season.  We need a race soon. Very soon.

Rossi, NAPA, Honda Stay with Andretti

Photo: Rossi in his dominant Road America win in June

Andretti Autosport put an end to Silly Season this afternoon, announcing that Alexander Rossi will be driving for the team in 2020 “and beyond.”  NAPA will continue to sponsor Rossi in nine races next year. Auto Nation will sponsor the number 27 car in seven 2020 races. Honda will continue to power Andretti cars. The announcement ends the rumors that Rossi might sign with Team Penske and the Andretti was switching to Chevrolet engines for 2020.

“It feels good to continue with Andretti Autosport,” said Rossi. “Over the past four years, we’ve built a very strong team with great chemistry and I believe that we have the tools necessary to win races and championships. I’m looking forward to not just calling this my team, but my home in the IndyCar Series. Michael [Andretti], J-F [Thormann], Doug [Bresnahan] and the entire team have been working very hard to put all the pieces of this deal together and it’s definitely a relief to have the future settled and be able to focus on the championship fight ahead of us.  

“It’s fantastic to have NAPA AUTO PARTS, AutoNation and Honda supporting the 27 program. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a great relationship with both NAPA and Honda and couldn’t imagine not having them in my corner. AutoNation has always had a strong partnership with the team through Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Drive Pink campaign and getting to know the AutoNation team better.”

Had Rossi signed with Penske, four of the arguably five best drivers in the series would be on one team. An Andretti switch to Chevy would give the engine seven of the best cars on the grid. With Rossi and Honda staying put, the balance of power in the series is preserved.  I’m not sure how Honda would have replaced Andretti in the series. The options are somewhat limited.