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.

 

 

Born Racer: The Driver Is Not the Only Hero

Born Racer is a movie about heroes. Of course there is the driver, Scott Dixon, who knows the risks in his profession. But there is also his family, wife Emma and daughters Poppy and Tilly, who show outward strength while inside they are a bundle of nerves. The crew needs to get the car in perfect running condition and manage the race to achieve the best result possible. Sometimes things happen beyond their control, as in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Race Day 2017 begins at 5 am in two places. The garages at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway open and Ken Szymanski, the tire man for Scott Dixon’s car, begins checking tire pressures as he ponders what the next twelve hours will bring. In the Dixon motor home, Emma Davies-Dixon prepares breakfast for Scott, who is already focused on the day ahead. He sits quietly watching prerace coverage on a local television station. She sits with him, but doesn’t speak.

Activity at the track continues at an ever quickening pace as race time approaches. After the Ganassi team meets, Dixon and his family walk hand in hand to the grid. As Scott dons his helmet, Emma shares her thoughts about drivers who didn’t come back and the families they left behind.

” I don’t want it to be my turn,” she thinks as the race is about to start. She can only wait anxiously for three hours to know.

Shortly after the first pit stop, Dixon collided with Jay Howard in a horrific crash which sent his car flying into the inside catch fence and wall, destroying his car. Anxious moments are reflected on Emma’s face and the faces of the crew. Dixon gets out of the car on his own. there are more tense moments as Emma waits for him to come out of the infield hospital. somehow, Dixon has a broken ankle, but no other injuries.

One of the most riveting moments of the film is a look at the team on Dixon’s pit stand staring in stunned silence in the seconds just after the accident. The camera captures the dread and concern they feel watching the replay on the video board.

Later we see Dixon return to the motor home at the track being happily met by his daughters and Emma. She talks about how the car saved Scott’s life with relief and still some terror in her voice.

The season and the championship pursuit moves on. Kate Gundlach, a new assistant engineer with the team, talks about seeking perfection in her job to give Dixon the best car possible. Gundlach grew up in a racing family. She is passionate about the sport and her role. Winning the pole and having a chance to win the 500 was exciting, but the chance to win a championship really motivates her.

With just a single win at Road America and some frustrations at other races, there is still an outside shot at the title in the final race at Sonoma. The Penske team has a big advantage with their aero package and Josef Nnewgarden cruises to the title.

Emma and Scott stand together in pit lane. She tells him, “I’m really excited about next year.” As it turns out, that was a prescient statement.

The movie is a tribute to the best current driver in Indycar, who has already established his place among the all time greats of the sport.It also honors his family and team. We get an intimate behind the scenes look at his family and the crew. We see their single focus on one goal, the support they provide each other, and their resiliency when difficulties arise.

Some of my favorite scenes:

Dixon relaxing at home in the pool with his daughters on a rare day off.

Kate Gundlach preparing the steering wheeling with total focus, care, and love,

Emma’s tension while waiting to hear that Scott is okay after the wreck.

Ken Szymanski comparing Scott to Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna, whom he also worked with. He says that three have that something extra which motivates him to work harder.

The home movies of Dixon’s karting days when he was a kid.

Ron Dixon, Scott’s father, talking of all the money he put into Scott’s racing. He worked extra hours and took out loans just to keep Scott’s career going. “It was all worth it,” he says.

Born Racer is available through Amazon. It can also be downloaded for viewing from iTunes.

Comings and Goings- The Indycar Grid Adds More Youth, and Other Notes

Chip Ganassi has never been known for his patience with drivers. Ask Darren Manning and Ed Jones. Jones was the latest one year and out at Ganassi as Felix Rosenqvist will drive the 10 car with continued support from NTT Data. To be fair, Jones did not have a bad season with eight Top tens and two podiums. It was just not as good a season as the team had hoped. He did not take many points away from Dixon’s championship rivals. 2019 will be the third consecutive season a new driver has been in car 10.

Rosenqvist won three races in 10 starts in Indy Lights in 2016, then spent 2018 in Formula E. He won twice and finished sixth in the standings. Rosenqvist does have talent and will be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year. The rookie class is quite deep with Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta already in the field.

C. J. O’Donnell to Leave at the End of the Year

C. J. O’Donnell,  Indycar’s chief marketing officer since November 2013, will leave his position at the end of the calendar year. In his five years with the series, O’Donnell and his team has grown the fan base, adding 1 million followers to Indycar social media platforms, increased television viewership by 23% and helped attendance at races grow. I had the good fortune to meet him at Long Beach a few years ago. I wish him well in his future endeavors. O’Donnell and Jay Frye are two of the best hires Indycar has made in recent years.

Coyne Fills Second Seat

Yes, it is October 1 as I write this. No, that is no a typo. Dale Coyne Racing announced today Santino Ferrucci will drive the number 19 car full time in 2019. He and Sebastien Bourdais in the 18 mean Coyne has both drivers signed about as early as I can remember. This should help with their off season testing.

Ferrucci drove four races for  Coyne in 2018, the double header at detroit and the final two races at Portland and Sonoma. He finished 11th at Sonoma. Ferrucci had been pursuing an F1 career in Europe but was suspended for on track incidents at a race in early July. There have been no issues during his brief time in Indycar.

I’m interested to see how he does over the course of a season. He has done fairly well as far as keeping the car on course. Ferrucci was hit from behind in the second Detroit race after a clean Race 1.

Seats Still Open

Three full time  rides from 2018 still need drivers. The 23 Carlin car, the Schmidt 7 (6 is reserved for Robert Wickens), and the Carpenter 20 road/street ride. Charlie Kimball, who drove the 23 for Carlin last season, reportedly does not have a full year budget and may drive the car part time. Schmidt has offered his open seat to a couple of drivers who have turned it down. Carpenter would like to re-sign Jordan King, but there has not been any news about that lately.

Carlin and Rahal Letterman Lanigan have talked about adding a third car, which could be good news for Ed Jones. Dreyer and Reinbold Racing may be close to running a part time schedule, including the Indianapolis 500. Sage Karam would likely drive.

Dragon Speed and Scuderia Corsa are still consdering their options.

Of course everyone is awaiting a decision from McLaren. I’m trying to keep my expectations low and hope to be pleasantly surprised. When they do announce their plans, I think I’ll be grateful that I gave up Track Forum a while ago.

Running the 1?

Unless sponsor PNC Bank insists on having the 1 on the car they back, look for Scott Dixon to carry the number 9 again next season. Ganassi and Dixon have been reluctant to put the number 1 on their cars following a championship. They did one year and that year did not go well.

I think the champion should not have an option and should be required to run the number 1. This is another point on which the series will not listen to me.