A Great Day for Two Good Guys

It’s only Wednesday and the emotions in the Indycar family have been riding a roller coaster since Sunday. The joy of Pato o’Ward’s victory was tempered with the news of Bobby Unser’s death. But yesterday, two of the nicest guys in the paddock had great days. Robert Wickens drove a car at speed for the first time since his horrific crash at Pocono in 2018. Stefan Wilson confirmed he has a ride for the Indianapolis 500.

Stefan Wilson Returns to 500 with Andretti

Andretti Autosport announced Stefan Wilson as the driver of car 25 in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Wilson’s entry will be the sixth car in the Andretti stable. The announcement from the team:

STEFAN WILSON RETURNS TO ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT WITH LOHLA SPORT FOR THE 105th RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500

05.04.21

• Wilson and LOHLA SPORT to complete Andretti Autosport’s six-car Indy 500 lineup
• Premier women’s golf lifestyle brand LOHLA SPORT to make their debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500 for Wilson’s third start at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Andretti Autosport announced today that Stefan Wilson and new partner LOHLA SPORT will join the five-time Indianapolis 500 winning team for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 to complete the team’s six-car lineup. Wilson, who ran the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport and competed for the team in Indy Lights, will team up with the new premier women’s golf lifestyle brand to run the No. 25 LOHLA SPORT Honda.



“We’re excited to not only welcome Stefan back to the team, but also to have a new partner in LOHLA SPORT come on board to experience their first Indy 500,” said Michael Andretti, Chairman and CEO, Andretti Autosport. “We have a great history with the Wilson family and we’re hopeful we can build on successes we’ve had in the past this May.”

 
“After leading laps with Andretti Autosport at the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, I’m hungry to return and finish the job. I’ve worked tirelessly to make this return happen and I am so thankful that LOHLA SPORT has believed in me to represent them,” said Wilson. “It’s a dream come true to rejoin Andretti and also partner with Honda once more in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The icing on the cake is we get to do this with a brand new company in LOHLA SPORT, a premium women’s apparel brand already captivating the golf lifestyle scene. Among the fans and partners involved with the Indianapolis 500, we have a huge amount of golf enthusiasts, so I’m excited to get them exposed to what LOHLA SPORT is all about. None of this would have happened without Don and Carolyn Cusick, who are avid racing and golf enthusiasts and also shareholders in LOHLA SPORT. This program also represents the birth of Cusick Motorsports, and I am hopeful the 2021 Indianapolis 500 will be a springboard to many exciting opportunities for the Cusick Motorsports brand in the future. Lastly, I am thankful to have Expedia Group’s VIP Access join the effort, along with Menlo Ventures, VSRS and Liberty Group.”


Debuting in January of 2021, LOHLA SPORT has quickly captivated the golf, country club and resort market. The brainchild of recognized fashionista Lisa O’Hurley, former Golf Channel and GOLFINO executive with more than two decades in the industry, the brand’s impeccable sense of style features colorful, on-trend European designs with Los Angeles flair. Formal collaboration with London-based Paul Rees – renowned creator of countless Burberry, Aquascutum and GOLFINO hits – has LOHLA SPORT in roughly 100 exclusive golf shops coast to coast.

“Taking this cool, market-broadening road to Indy doesn’t happen every day,” said O’Hurley. “LOHLA SPORT is proud to support women who love golf and love all sports as our outfits are fit for the course, court, racetrack and everywhere between.”

Also joining the effort is Cusick Motorsports, created by Don and Carolyn Cusick as a business incubator in racing; VIP Access, Expedia Group’s network of premium, invitation-only properties; VSRS, specializing in forging exclusive relationships in the automotive sector; Menlo Ventures, an investment firm having backed 70+ public companies and Liberty Group, specializing in wealth management, tax planning and estate law.

“As a lifelong INDYCAR fan I have always wanted to attend the Indianapolis 500 live, but never found my way there until now,” said Don Cusick. “Thankfully the stars aligned this year, meeting Stefan Wilson and creating this amazing partnership. From casually asking Stefan if he had any contacts for great seats at Indy and half-jokingly telling him the best seat would have him driving in it. As it turns out I’m getting the second-best seat in the house as the sponsor of the number 25 Andretti Autosport Indy car driven by Stefan. LOHLA SPORT is a company I am invested in, owned by our family friend Lisa O’Hurley. I couldn’t be more excited for the month of May and this opportunity to sponsor Stefan Wilson, one of the truly great people in motorsports.”

The No. 25 LOHLA SPORT Honda and Wilson will make their 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut on with Opening Day on May 18 before the green flag waves for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, May 30 with broadcast on NBC.

Herta Expects to Contend Again; Hopes Father Knows Best

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

No one on the Indycar Content day zoom conference was surprised to hear Colton Herta make his intentions to be in position to win the series championship this year.

“I wouldn’t be in INDYCAR if I didn’t have the confidence in myself to perform. Yes, I believe I can. I think we showed it last year of what could have been. If I didn’t have that slip up at Iowa, mess that up for us, we could have been really good in the championship hunt going into the last round,” he responded when asked if he could win the championship this season.

Herta exuded his usual confidence during the conference. He seemed more focused and calmer than he has the last two years. . He knows he has the driving talent to win and the team to help him get there. What does he need to go from third to first in the title chase?

“… cutting out the mistakes, changing kind of those top fives, fourth and fifth places that we had last year, we had a bunch of them, into podiums, and some of those podiums we had into wins. We need to win a little bit more and we need a little bit more podiums, a tiny bit more consistency to really make a true championship run.”

One thing that will change on Herta’s team will be his race strategist. Bryan Herta, Colton’s father, will be in his ear during races. The elder Herta is one of the best strategists in the paddock. He managed fuel strategy for Alexander Rossi in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Fathers as their son’s strategist has not worked well in the past. Michael Andretti was Marco’s strategist, which didn’t pan out. Bobby Rahal was on the radio for Graham one year. That was not a good situation Why will this arrangement work out better than the previous ones?

Colton explained, “I think you can tell by now that we’re both pretty mellow. We don’t get excited and we don’t get upset or very sad. We stay pretty even. Our emotions don’t really get the better of us. I think in that aspect, I think the other personalities will get heated at each other, where I don’t think it would happen with us because of how mellow we are.”

Winning more races and eliminating mistakes are what Herta believes will bring him the championship. He hopes he can bring his dad along for the ride to the top.


Rossi Set to Bounce Back from Year that ‘Sucked’

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Alexander Rossi will tell you exactly what he thinks.

“No, I just think we sucked globally. Like there wasn’t anything we were doing right, whether itwas qualifying performance, whether it was race performance, pit stops, my driving. None of it was good…Last year just sucked. It sucked on track, it sucked off track. It was a terrible year for everyone except for Scott and Takuma, so good for them.”

The Andretti Autosport driver did see a reason for optimisim toward the end of the season with four podiums and a strong performance at St. Pete, where he was ina position to win until a late crash ended his race and frustrating season. he takes the blame for the incident.

“..the end of the year went really well for us for the most part,minus St. Pete, which is on me.There you go. I’m not going to get into the details of it because it’s not necessary, but I think we’re operating at a really high level right now, and I’m excited to get on track in Barber.”

Rossi said that the team’s testing has gone quite well, and that they are ready to come out of the gate strong. He believes the schedule with fewer short ovals plays to the strength of the Andretti team overall.

” I think street courses followed by the superspeedways followed by road courses are Andretti Autosport’s strong suits and we only had one of those last year which we did not capitalize on whatsoever…Fortunately short ovals really aren’t a huge factor anymore, so yay for that.”

Rossi believes a lot of the issues in 2020 revolved around the condensed track time at races, and not getting to where they needed to be quickly enough.

“…at the end of the day as much as we as a team struggled with the minimal practice time, I did, as well. Like I wasn’t doing a good enough job getting up to speed quick enough, which was putting us on the back foot and having to take pretty big risks in qualifying. Sometimes it was okay, sometimes we qualified — quite honestly we qualified all right all throughout the beginning of the year. We were just never kind of in the top three, which is where you’ve got to be these days. It’s where you’ve got to be to go out and win races.”

Rossi is excited for the 2021 season to begin. he is very about the way preseason testing has gone, and believes he and team can put 2020 in the past. I thought last year was an aberration for Rossi. I look for a strong year from him, and he will be contending for the title all season.

Capstone Returns for Six Races with Andretti and Hinchcliffe

Photo from Andretti Autosport

Andretti Autosport completed the sponsor package for James Hinchcliffe today. Their news release:

02.18.21

Andretti Autosport has announced today that the team will again join forces with Steinbrenner Racing to field the NTT INDYCAR SERIES entry piloted by James Hinchcliffe. Recognizable partner Capstone Turbine Corporation (www.capstoneturbine.com) (NASDAQ: CPST), the world’s leading clean technology manufacturer of microturbine energy systems, will return with their #ShiftToGreen campaign as the primary partner on the No. 29 Honda for six races in the upcoming 2021 NTT INDYCAR® SERIES season. Paired with Genesys, who was previously announced to primary 10 races with Hinchcliffe, today’s sponsorship confirmation further rounds out the season for the fan-favorite driver.

“We are looking forward to continuing to expand the winning relationship with Capstone Turbine and helping them grow green energy brand awareness by assisting them with new B2B introductions and expanding current relationships with other sponsors that are Capstone end users,” stated Michael Andretti, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Andretti Autosport. “We’re also pleased to welcome George and the Steinbrenner Racing team back into the Andretti fold. We’ll be working together on this entry for Hinchcliffe this year, as well as the Indy Lights car for Devlin DeFrancesco.”

The 2021 season will be Hinchcliffe’s 11th year competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and his fifth in the Andretti Autosport stable. In his 145 starts, he has recorded six wins, one pole, 32 top-five finishes and has led a total of 781 laps. “I’m really excited to be joined up with Capstone for a handful of races in 2021,” said Hinchcliffe. “Working with a company that is essentially trying to save the world is such a cool experience. I think the need for green energy is very apparent and it’s something that affects and helps everyone. Being a part of educating people on what we can do better and how we can be better is something that’s really exciting. Obviously, the goal is to win and the best way to raise awareness is to get the #ShiftToGreen Honda into victory lane and tell people about what we’re trying to do. It’s also great to be working with George and Steinbrenner Racing. They’ve only been together a short while, but the results have come already and that speaks to the people in that organization, so I’m really happy to be in the Andretti Steinbrenner program”

“The Mayor of Hinchtown will now add Grand Marshal to the Capstone World to his resume. When he is not driving at 240 miles per hour on an INDYCAR circuit, James will be helping Capstone educate fans on the types of alternative energy sources that are accelerating the global shift to green energy,” stated Darren Jamison, Capstone’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The energy landscape is changing, and we are excited to have James both behind the wheel and as our brand ambassador. The valuable business relationships we have developed with the support of George Steinbrenner IV and Michael Andretti offers Capstone a platform to reach the racing community and help more companies save money and lower their carbon footprint.”

The Capstone green and white livery made its NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in 2019 on the streets of Toronto with Colton Herta and Harding Steinbrenner Racing and continued through the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca where Herta scored a victory from pole position. In 2020, the Herta sponsorship extended the relationship between Andretti Autosport and Capstone Turbine, which began at Texas Motor Speedway during the month of May in 2019 with driver Alexander Rossi who was the first INDYCAR driver to put Capstone Turbine on the podium with a second-place finish.

“We are very happy to continue our partnership with Capstone,” said George Michael Steinbrenner IV, owner, Steinbrenner Racing. “It has been a great journey taking this partnership from a single race sponsorship in 2019 to a strong and sustainable pact. Working with Capstone has opened our team to a world of green energy initiatives that we continue to seek to bring to the INDYCAR paddock.”

“Being able to continue into our fifth season partnered with Andretti Autosport feels like we’re keeping the family together,” added Steinbrenner. “It looks a bit different this year, but we are greatly looking forward to working with a great driver and human in James Hinchcliffe as well as continuing to maintain our success on and off the track.”

Capstone Turbine will serve as the primary partner on the No. 29 Honda at Texas Motor Speedway (Race 2), the INDYCAR Grand Prix, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the streets of Nashville, Portland International Raceway, and the season finale race on streets of Long Beach.

Hinchcliffe Full Time with Andretti; Genesys to Sponsor 10 Races

Photo: Karl Zemlin, Indycar

James Hinchcliffe returns to Andretti Autosport and the Indycar grid full time as the team announced their fourth full time car for the 2021 NTT Indycar series campaign. Genesys will sponsor the 29 car for 10 races for Hinchcliffe in 2021. Sponsors for the other seven races will be named in the coming weeks

.Hinchcliffe drove for Andretti from 2012-2014 after a year at Newman-Haas. After five years at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Hinchcliffe lost his ride after the 2019 season. He ran three races for Andretti with Genesys sponsorship in 2020 and ran three races for Andretti late in the year replacing Zach Veach. His best finish was seventh in the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe won three races in 2013 for Andretti and he has six career wins.

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Hinchcliffe spent part of 2020 as part of the NBC broadcast team at aces where he wasn’t driving.

The Indianapolis 500 and Hinchcliffe have a love hate relationship. A grisly accident in post qualifying practice nearly cost the Canadian driver his life. he returned the following year to win the pole for the 100th running oif the race. In 2018 he failed to qualify. Hinchcliffe returned to the 500 field in 2019, finishing 11th after starting 32nd.

Rossi Tops Sebring Test Day

Photo: Indycar, Chris Owens

Alexander Rossi led a strong showing by Andretti Autosport at Sebring on Tuesday with a quick lap of 52.27 seconds. Teammate Colton Herta was second, followed by Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were next in line.

Photo-Chris Owens Indycar

Harvey, of Meyer Shank Racing had a technical alliance with Andretti last year. I look for a strong year from Harvey. The team has a full year under their belt, and having Helio Castroneves as a teammate for six races should help as well.

Dalton Kellett and A, J, Foyt Racing tested both days and seemed happy with the team’s progress.

Marco Will Run Indy Only, Looks at Other Racing Options

Photo from Marco Andretti Twitter

In a surprise announcement this afternoon, Marco Andretti said he will not drive full time in the 2021 NTT Indycar Series. Andretti said he will still enter the Indianapolis 500 and possibly some other selected races. Marco hopes to do some sports car racing in IMSA and explore other racing opportunities.

The 98 did not qualify for the 2021 Leader’s Circle money and US Concrete is not returning as a primary sponsor. Marco has struggled the last few years on track. He won the pole for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 but finished 13th, not leading a lap.

It will be strange but not unprecedented not seeing the Andretti name on track. Mario and Michael Andretti only did the 500 while driving full time in Formula 1.

Marco’s statement from his Twitter account:

“Upon careful thought over the past couple of months, I have made the decision to make some changes to my racing activities and focus for 2021,” said Andretti. “I recently shared this decision and the changes that I want to make with my dad (Michael) and have spoken at length with him about it. I appreciate his openness and for allowing me the flexibility to map out my own course going forward.

“I am fortunate to be in a position at Andretti Autosport to run the full IndyCar season if I want to. But, instead, I have decided to change up my direction somewhat — to reset, to do something a little different — look at everything fresh and see where that takes me. And, to me, now seems like the appropriate time to do that.

“I definitely am going to keep driving. I still have a deep passion for it and have unfinished business to take care of and some boxes that I want to check before I consider retiring as a driver.

“First and foremost, I remain very hungry to win the Indy 500. It is our biggest stage and the place that I feel I bring the most to the table as a driver. I’ve come close there and am in the mix there it seems each year. Winning the pole there last year was awesome but that isn’t enough — I know that a victory there is in my future so we’ll try to get that done in the coming years. As such, I have committed to and am looking forward to running the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport this year.”

“In addition to being squarely focused on the Indy 500, I might also take a look at running some other races on the IndyCar schedule as the season progresses, in order to remain ‘car fit.’ I have also offered to help the team with some testing and other activities along the way,” Marco said. “And, I may look at different opportunities in all of motorsports. My involvement in my Andretti Autosport entry will continue.

“I also want to do some sports car racing — maybe even get the chance to do IMSA events with my cousin Jarett, which would be a lot of fun for me. I’ll be looking into other sports car opportunities as well in the coming months and welcome discussions in that regard. Marquee events like the (Rolex 24) 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Le Mans would be on that list for sure.

“I am excited for what the future holds for me both on and off the track and, again, am grateful to Dad and Andretti Autosport for allowing me the freedom to change things around as I’d like and to proceed forward a little differently this upcoming season.”

Michael Andretti, Marco’s father, emphasized that the decision was Marco’s alone. Andretti’s decision does not affect James Hinchcliffe’s situation. Hinchcliffe is expected to be confirmed soon as a full time drive for Andretti Autosport for this coming season. Hinchcliffe will not be in the 98.

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.