Dragonspeed, Hanley Set for St. Pete

From Indycar and Dragonspeed:


The 10Star DragonSpeed team is gearing up for the season-opening round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March15, confirming that Ben Hanley – who maintains his rookie status, having run three NTT IndyCar Series races with the team last season – will pilot its Chevy-powered Dallara chassis around the streets of the St. Petersburg, Fla. 

“I can’t wait to get back in the No. 81 machine for another crack at St Pete,” said the34-year-old Hanley. “After the thrash required just to make it to the track last season, we’re coming back in a much more settled situation. I don’t know if we can repeat the combination of luck and timing that put us 12th on the grid in 2019, but we will be much better prepared this time around and should be stronger throughout the weekend.”

DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian said, “The continuity represented by having Ben in the car at St Pete is a real boost, and for the fifth year in a row he remains the lead driver across all of our programs. That said, the realities of life as a young IndyCar team might see us running other drivers at the same level as Ben, perhaps with more IndyCar experience, during the year. But committing to Ben as the test and race driver for the launch of our 2020 effort is clearly the best way to get our season off to a strong start.”

Julian added, “We haven’t had the head start of some teams in testing the new IndyCar Aeroscreen and are pushing hard to get it in time to maximise the limited track testing allowed to us as a part-time entrant, while making some time in between for data analysis and shaker rig testing.”

DragonSpeed’s next event is the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance classic on 25-26 January, where the Indianapolis-based squad will defend its 2019 LMP2 class victory after setting the fastest time at last weekend’s official pre-race test.

Quick Thoughts – Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

A typical St. Pete race- action early then strung out the second half.  That’s not to say there weren’t some interesting things to watch. There was some good racing throughout the pack. It was fun to track the rookies, who did quite well.

Another huge crowd here. I talked to someone who has been to every St. Pete race who said this was the biggest crowd he’d seen.

What a great move by Rosenqvist to pass Power on the restart. He was a thorn in Power’s side all day.

Pit strategy once again determined the winner. Tim Cindric made the right call  by saving the new reds. Early in 2018, he made a couple of good calls on tires as well.

There were fewer cautions than I expected. One more could have changed the results.

Three rookies, Rosenqvist, Colton Herta, and Santino Ferrucci finished in the top 10. Marcus Ericsson ran in the top 10 a while before dropping out with mechanical problems. At COTA, Pato O’Ward joins the rookie crop. The battle for Rookie of the Year could be just as good as the championship fight.

Great drive by Jack Harvey to finish 10th.

Given the engine issues Bourdais and Hunter-Reay had, I hope we’re not seeing the Honda engine of 2017 return.

About a fourth of the cars had non functioning LED panels. I hope this is fixable.

It was great having Robert Wickens at the track. his presence electrified the atmosphere for the paddock and the fans. His absence on the track gives the series one less contender.


Look for my full race wrap-up on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.


It’s Race Day!

Good morning from St. Pete. It is about five hours until race time. Indycar has a 30 minute morning warmup beginning at 9:20. I jus returned from a pace car ride. Several of the turns are tighter than they seem. Turn 7, I believe, is almost a 90 degree hairpin.  Turn 10 isn’t as sweeping as it appears. Brakes will get quite a workout today.

Pit strategy and playing the yellows are the keys to victory. With several fast cars starting toward the rear, we cold see some interesting moves. The first three rows should have quite a battle with five of the potential championship contenders there. The winner heer rarely goes on to win the series title. Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 was the last St. Pete winner to come close.

It’s amazing that Will Power has won eight of the fifteen poles at this track. That total is one seventh of his career pole wins.  Power just got nipped at the last minute by Robert Wickens last year. The question is, will he be more patient at the start? Last year he spun trying beat Wickens to turn 2.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg television coverage begins with a prerace show at 12:30, followed by the race broadcast on NBCSN.  Enjoy the race.

Back with quick thoughts after the race.


Quick Thoughts – St. Pete Qualifying

Today’s qualifying was brought to you by the color red and the noun penalty. This was one of the strangest qualifying sessions I can remember.

I understand the guaranteed time rule but it was a bad look to not give Group 1 another lap.

Not sure who hindered whom, but it seems as if a couple more penalties could have been called.

One rookie replaced another in the Fast Six. I thought both of them would make it.

Teammates make up each of the first three rows.  Very much like F1.

Disappointed to see Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars not advance farther. Sato had been fast in all practice sessions.

Will Power is a great qualifier. He seems to find the quick lap when he needs to.

The race outcome will likely be determined by when the yellows fall. I think there could be several.

Back in the morning with a race preview.



Rehearsal’s Over; The Show Begins

All the practices are complete and the NTT Indycar Series cars are set for the first qualifying session of the season. As expected, Chevy made more inroads into the top 10. Four drivers, the Penske trio of Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud, were joined by Ed Jones of Ed Carpenter Racing. It did not shock anyone that these cars were the top Chevys.

Honda, meanwhile, continued to lead the session. Ryan Hunter-Reay led his second straight round with a lap at 1:00:8966. Newgarden was just 0.0039 seconds behind. Hunter-Reay seeks his second consecutive pole. The biggest surprise of the morning was Alexander Rossi in 18th.

Fast Six Could Look Familiar

I think we can expect the Penske cars, Hunter-Reay, and perhaps a Carpenter car in the Fast Six. The last car could be Takuma Sato. Sato has been quick all weekend. He was third this morning.

Don’t count Sato out of a Fast Six appearance

Qualifying is live at 2:30 pm on NBCSN. Watch for my Quick Thoughts here later and my wrapup on Wildfire Sports.

Good Morning from Day 2 at St. Pete

another beautiful day is in store for fans attending the Firestone Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Yesterday Honda was very strong, leading  both practice sessions. The  rookies,  Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus  Ericsson, were impressive, with  Rosenqvist leading session 1. Rosenqvist was 14th overall on the day and Ericsson was 19th.  Herta was 4th overall.

Qualifying is a different story. I don’t expect the Penske cars to be 9th, 10th, and 17th overall today as they finished Friday. Josef Newgarden was the quickest Penske car all day. I see a battle between the Andretti duo of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Newgarden, Will Power, and possibly Scott Dixon for the pole. Don’t be shocked if Rosenqvist is up there as well. It will be interesting to see how much he learned about running on the red tires yesterday.

In action so far this morning, Parker Thompson won the pole for Indy Pro 2000 race 2. Indy Lights just began their qualifying session for race 2, which is tomorrow. Race 1 is 1:15 today, just ahead of Indycar qualifying.  Qualifying can be seen live at 2:30 on NBCSN.

Back with a quick morning session practice report, After qualifying, watch for my Quick Thoughts here and a full report on Wildfire Sports.

Ben Hanley Looks for a Solid Weekend

Ben Hanley eagerly anticipates his first Indycar weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The driver oft he number 81 Dragonspeed entry, the newest car in The NTT Indycar Series paddock, told The Pit Window the team has no major expectations except to have “Solid results and concentrate on getting a good race car Sunday. ”

Hanley, 34, from Manchester, UK, won the LMP2 pole for Dragonspeed at the Rolex 24 in January. He has open wheel experience driving in the GP2 series.

Hanley said the Indycar is similar to  the  prototype he drives in IMSA and the WEC, perhaps a little heavier on the downforce. He is eager to drive in traffic. Although there were other cars testing at Sebring with him, he realizes this weekend this will be different.

He has not run on the alternate red tires and won’t until Friday afternoon’s practice session. I asked Hanley what he expected from the tires.

“Hopefully stickier, ” he said. He is eager to see how the tires will change as the track changes throughout the weekend.

As for overall team goals for their five races in 2019, “We want be in it for the long term.   Just put our heads down and go to work.”