Jimmie Johnson to Ganassi Indycar for Road and Street Races

Photo via Jimmie Johnson”s Twitter

Seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson announced a  two year deal today with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive Indycar’s road and street course races. The agreement is dependent on obtaining sponsorship. Johnson may be open to driving in the 2022 Indianapolis 500 as well.

Johnson will be on the same team as five time Indycar champion Scott Dixon, who might be a six time champion by the time the 2021 season begins.  Adding Johnson to CGR brings up several questions.

Will Ganassi field four cars at road/street events? Will Johnson’s road/street car also appear at the ovals with a different driver. giving Ganassi four full time cars?

I always like drivers crossing over from other series, and to see another series champion come over for two thirds of a season is huge. Should Scott McLaughlin enter the series full time for Penske next year, Indycar would have champions from two other major series racing on most weekends.

Johnson may bring a few more fans to the series at first. We will need to wait to see if his joining Indycar will have any long term effect on raising viewership.

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/

 

 

 

Ericsson Lands Sponsor

From Indycar

Marcus Ericsson's 2020 car

Marcus Ericsson’s new ride with Chip Ganassi Racing will be backed by a company from his home country of Sweden, the team confirmed Tuesday.

Huski Chocolate will be the primary sponsor of the No. 8 Honda and joins the team’s lineup of PNC Bank for Scott Dixon’s No. 9 car and NTT DATA for Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 10. Chip Ganassi’s team will have more than two full-time entries in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the first time since 2017. Dixon is a five-time series champion; Rosenqvist was last year’s INDYCAR Rookie of the Year.

Ericsson is a native of Kumla, Sweden, and he made his INDYCAR debut last year, finishing 17th in the standings. He finished second in the second of the Detroit Grand Prix races. He spent five years in Formula One before coming to INDYCAR.

Huski Chocolate’s headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden, and they currently maintain sports-related partnerships with McLaren in F1 as well as the Millwall Football Club of the English Football League Championship, the second tier of English football after the Premier League.

One-time INDYCAR driver and NASCAR veteran Stanton Barrett is CEO of Huski Chocolate Americas. Barrett competed in four INDYCAR races in 2009.

“This partnership is a great fit for our entire company,” Barrett said in a statement released by the team. “We have watched Marcus in Formula 1 and last year’s transition into INDYCAR. Marcus has great potential and now he can capitalize on his talents by teaming up with Chip Ganassi Racing in INDYCAR.

“This partnership with my friend Chip and CGR, a 12-time INDYCAR Champion team, is a critical and valuable platform to reach a strong racing fan base in North and South America. As Huski Chocolate continues expanding into important markets for our B2B and B2C products, CGR and Marcus will continue to pave the way for success on and off the track for Huski Chocolate. We can’t wait to get the season started in St. Petersburg with the Huski Chocolate Honda on the grid.”

INDYCAR’s 17-race schedule begins March 13-15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The year’s first open test is set for Feb. 11-12 at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

 

Aeroscreen Update

Photos: Mike Hull, Chip Ganassi Racing

New photos out today show the aeroscreen on Scott Dixon’s car in what I presume is its final form. The NTT Indycar Series spent the last few months testing and refining the screen, which they revealed on Carb Day in May.  The PNC Bank car will be on display at the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis December 14-15.

I think integrating the livery into the frame of the aeroscren helps a lot with the aesthetics of the car. The overall look is still a bit too close to closed cockpit for my taste, but if it offers improved driver protection, I’m okay with it.

One change is the vent in front of the aeroscreen on the damper cover. The final issue that needed to be resolved was cockpit cooling. I hope this solves that problem. I think the vent helps with the look of the car.

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My hope is that we can still see the drivers working the steering wheel through the turns. I hope to get to a test at Sebring next month to check on that. I’m not sure we’ll still be able to identify drivers by their helmets because of the height of the screen frame.

I applaud the series for their hard work in bringing another element of safety to the sport. I know we all get used to the aesthetics of it. Remembering that this is a retrofit and not an established part as it will be on the next chassis helps. The true test of performance and looks will be at St. Pete in March. I do think from the first time I saw the screen on the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September to now there has already been quite an improvement.

 

Coyne’s Short List

Three drivers appear to be in the running for the number 18 car in 2020. James Hinchcliffe, who lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP last month; Sergio Sette Camara, who drove in F2 in 2019 and had two wins and eight podiums; and Alex Palou, who scored one win and finished third in the season standings in Super Formula.

While Hinchcliffe would be the most popular choice with the fans, I think the ride will go to one of the other drivers. Palou is likely the front runner. He was impressive at a Coyne test at Mid Ohio. He is also a Honda driver. Sette Camara has done three seasons in Formula 2, and needs to move up. He is also talking with Carlin Racing.

Coyne has not set a deadline for a decision. There may also be a fourth driver in the mix.

Still Quiet at Foyt and Carlin

I’m not confident about hearing any news from Carlin or A. J. Foyt Racing before Christmas. There is simply no news from either camp. We could be in for some surprises from both teams.

Ganassi Out of IMSA for Now

Chip Ganassi Racing will not participate in the IMSA Weather tech Championship for the first time in 16 years. Their GTLM Ford program has ended. Ganassi cars have three overall wins and two class wins at the Rolex 24. The team has not ruled out returning to the series, possibly in the new prototype cars.  More on this story in my Wildfire Sports column tomorrow.

 

 

Ericsson to Ganassi: Updated

News just broke that Marcus Ericsson will drive the number 8 car for Chip Ganassi racing in 2020. No sponsor was announced. Ericsson drove for Arrow Schmidt Peterson (now Arrow McLaren SP) this year. He finished 17th in the points standings with a best finish of second in Detroit Race 2. Ericsson had an up and down season with two top 10s. He missed the Portland race as he was on standby with Alfa Romeo in F1.

The announcement likely eliminates the possibility of Meyer shank racing with driver Jack Harvey forming an alliance with Ganassi. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now appears to be where they will end up.

It was long suspected Ericsson would not return to AMSP. The question is will James Hinchcliffe return as announced earlier.  This might be a spot for Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew.

I see the following seats open or unconfirmed:

Carlin (2)

Foyt (1) if Kanaan returns

Carpenter (road course in the 20). Pigot has not been confirmed for the 21.

Arrow McLaren SP (1) for now. Conor Dqaly was informed last week that the team is going “in another direction.”

Coyne (1). Ferrucci is scheduled to return but no formal confirmation yet.

Update:

Per Marshall Pruett, Ganassi is continuing to explore ways to add a fourth car for Askew. I applaud the team’s efforts to keep their Ford GT teams employed after that program ends this weekend.

Rosenqvist Cleared to Drive; Reveals New Livery for Saturday

Felix Rosenqvist has been cleared to drive in the Bommariot Automotive Group 500 Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway. Rosenqvist was involved inn the first lap crash Sunday at Pocono. The nose of this car lifted into the fence, but returned to the track. he was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation and released later Sunday evening. Yesterday he received the final okay from NTT Indycar Series doctors to drive in this weekend’s event.

Today Chip Ganasssi Racing revealed Rosenqvist’s car for Saturday with Monster Energy sponsorship.

This livery should look great in a night race. I’m wondering if this is the start of Monster Energy’s interest in sponsoring a car on a more regular basis. I hope so.

World Wide Technology Raceway Adds Fan Enhancements

The track  will have three large video boards at the race Saturday.  It will sure be an improvement over the tiny screens from the past two years.

The Stanley Cup, the NHL’s trophy won by the St. louis Blues in June, will be on display at some point Saturday on the fan midway stage. Colton Parayko of the Blues will be the Grand  Marshal  for the race. Blues team captain Alex Pietrangelo will also be at the track.  I am very excited to at last get to see the Cup in person. After the Borg-Warner trophy, I think the Stanley Cup is the coolest trophy in North America.

Back later with some more on the race Saturday.  Look for my race preview tomorrow.

Indycar, NTT Data in Sponsor Talks

Per Adam Stern on Twitter

NTT fills most of the things I have heard about the potential sponsor:

Asian based company

Business to business company, not a consumer direct product.

NTT Data entry sponsorss Chip Ganassi Raving car 10, which will be driven by Felix Rosenqvist in 2019. Vetizon sponsored Penske cars before becoming the series sponsor.  Is history repeating itself? Stay  tuned.

If you haven’t seen the NBC promo for the Indianapolis 500, click the link below.