Citrone Buhl Looks for May Debut

A new team co owned by a former driver and a businessman with investments in other sports entities have formed a new racing team and plans to enter the I104th running of the Indianapolis 500 this year.  Robbie Buhl, who started 78 Indycar races between 1993 and 2004, including eight starts at Indianapolis; and Robert and Nick Citrone, announced their plans this morning. Buhl won two Indycar races in his career.

Citrone founded  Discovery Capital Management, and is the largest minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nick, his son, is a Data Analytics Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The team hopes to participate in the GMR Grand Prix as well as the 500. They hope to expand to more races in the future.

Thoughts

It’s always exciting to see a new team come into Indycar. This group has a former driver, which is always a plus, and what seems to be solid financial backing. I’m assuming they will look for an established team to partner with.

This opens another seat for a driver looking for a May ride. No driver was named today.

Chip Ganassi has ties to Pittsburgh as well.  I;m not sure if his team is interested in a partner arrangement. The team did not announce which engine they will use. If it’s not a Honda, that makes this thought moot.

I wasn’t sure the car count for the 500 would get back to 36 as it was in 2019. I am more confident of at least that many now.

It seems a little late to announce something for May. My guess is this has been in the works for awhile and the team is pretty close to ready.

 

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?

 

 

Daly Happy to Have a Steady Ride

 Note: Thoughts are with NASCAR driver Ryan  Newman  who was seriously injured in a crash at the end of the Daytona 500 last night. The latest report at just after 10 pm last night said he is in serious condition with non life threatening injuries. Please keep Ryan and his family in your thoughts.

NTT Indycar Series teams needing a driver replacement won’t have the series’ supersub available this season. Conor Daly will drive 13 races for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, competing in all the road and street races plus the Indianapolis 500.  In 2019 Daly drove in seven races for three different teams.  Daly drove full time for Dale Coyne in 2016 and A. J. Foyt in 2017. Those two season account for 33 of his 46 Indycar starts. While this season is not full time, Daly is glad to be with the same team for all his races in 2020.

While Daly feels more pressure, he feels the season long assurance will help in the long run.  “I’m putting more pressure on myself, ” he says.”Something crazy may happen at St. Pete, but we’ve got another race coming up. That’s so nice; you forget how good that feeling is.” Daly is thankful for the U.S. Air Force support, which began on a limited basis in 2019.

Daly says he is not a huge fan of the aeroscreen, citing vision and cooling issuesas his main concerns. He thinks he may have to raise his seat to see. “There are issues we won’t really know until we do testing with everyone.”

It is rare for him to have races before Indianapolis, Daly notes. At the moment his focus is on the St. Pete opener. He plans to work even harder this year. “It’s nice to have more chances,” Daly said.

Of the three rookies driving in the NTT Indycar Series this season who came directly from Indy Lights, Daly said that it shows the drivers in the Road to Indy ladder that getting to Indycar is not impossible.

After seeing how Daly performed in good equipment at Indianapolis in 2019, it will be interesting to see how he does with another team that has shown consistent competitiveness at the Speedway. I also look for Daly to help improve ECR’s road course program.

Penske Gives IMS a Valentine

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came away from the announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway even more impressed with Roger Penske and what he can accomplish. It was just 100 days ago that he purchased the Speedway and the NTT Indycar Series.  There is a lot of information to digest from the press conference. Here are some thoughts about the major areas discussed today.

For a detailed list of the improvements at IMS, click or paste this link:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2589662794

Increased Purse

Adding $2 million to the purse for a total of $15 million is a step in the right direction. It’s an increase of about $60,000 per starter. The winner is guaranteed $2 million. I hope the winning driver’s total reaches $3 million with other prizes. Could this be just a first step? Penske seemed to dodge the question about adding a title sponsor to raise the purse even further.

Qualifying

I like the multiple attempts on Bump Day for those trying to get in the field. One of the issues with the 2019 format was that a driver couldn’t defend by going out again. Expanding  the time to 75 minutes is okay. I would prefer two hours for this. I will save my annual qualifying rant for May.

The turbocharger boost to 45 horsepower for qualifying should see speeds increase. There are many other factors that may prevent this- weather, time of day, the effect of the aeroscreen.  Fast Friday will be interesting.

NBC expanded coverage on both qualifying days may lead to higher race day ratings. Some coverage will be on NBCSN, but it sounds as if the main segements- the Fast Nine and the  Last Row Shootout- will be on NBC. Again, more about this in May.

New Sponsors

The new sponsors announced today show the power of Roger Penske. Several are associate sponsors of Penske’s race team. The more the merrier in this department.

Fan Experience

Penske has said from the first day he would invest in the fan experience. He is doing that. The improvements to the video boards alone would have been a big enough enhancement for one year. However he is not stopping there. Moving the west side fence into Georgetown Road will greatly help the congestion there.

Refurbishing 125 restrooms with fresh paint and new sinks has been needed for some time. No mention today of the famous (infamous?) troughs.

I’m excited to see the lighted signs at the main gate and at Gate 2.

Victory Podium

The one thing that concerns me is raising the winning car to the podium. It’s a nice idea and I understand why they want to do this, but I think this will take some excitement away from the celebration. I thought this practice was stopped because the moment lost spontaneity. I would prefer the celebration be on ground level, where there is actually more room, then lift the car and have the driver and team come up to the podium. Maybe IMS can practice this during the GMR Grand Prix and the Freedom 100 to work out any possible kinks in the new procedure.

Today was a very positive day for the future of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s always a nervous time when anew owner comes to a place. I felt at the time Penske was the best person to take over the Speedway. Today showed that so far my feeling was correct.

IMS Reveals Wide Ranging Plan

Here is the press release from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My thoughts will be up in just a bit.

Penske Unveils Wide-Ranging Plan to Enhance Month of May, IMS

Record Purse, Qualifying Changes, New Sponsors, Facility Improvements Set for May 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: Alex Damron,  adamron@brickyard.com, 317-501-4218

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 – A wide-ranging, multifaceted plan to boost and strengthen the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was unveiled today featuring significant improvements and financial investment that will resonate with fans from Central Indiana and throughout the globe.

The goal of the plan is to produce a legendary Month of May. Enhancements revealed exactly 100 days from the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24 include:

– The largest purse in Indianapolis 500 history

– Improvements to the Indianapolis 500 qualifying format and television schedule

– New sponsors investing long term in the “500,” IMS and NTT INDYCAR SERIES

– A multimillion-dollar investment in the fan experience at IMS

Since Jan. 6, following the change in ownership, the IMS team moved quickly to implement significant upgrades to the GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and the Big Machine Vodka 400 during Fourth of July weekend.

“This is the Racing Capital of the World,” Roger Penske said. “It is on par with some of the most historic sporting institutions in this nation and across the globe, from Churchill Downs to Augusta National. Today, we’re announcing a meaningful investment in our fan experience that will produce rapid results. It’s part of a long-term plan to ensure the legendary status of the Speedway continues to grow and evolve for generations to come.

“I am very excited about the enhancements to qualifying weekend, the largest-ever ‘500’ purse, new sponsors and the significant investments we are making to the INDYCAR SERIES and to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Indianapolis 500 Purse

The event purse for the 104th Indianapolis 500 will be the largest in the history of the event. The purse will grow by $2 million to more than $15 million, boosting the prize pool for NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams and drivers.

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Qualifying weekend for the 104th Indianapolis 500 – Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17 – will feature a variety of changes to its format and broadcast to create even more memories and drama. 

Multiple attempts will return to the Last Row Shootout, expanding it to 75 minutes. Previous versions of the Shootout featured one attempt per car. While fans enjoyed that format, feedback indicated they wanted even more drama as drivers try to seize one of the three final spots in the field.

A boost in turbocharger level will see speeds climb this year during the Indy 500 qualifying sessions. Turbocharger boost will increase horsepower by 45 HP this year.

An expanded weekend TV schedule will ensure NBC televises coverage of qualifications on both Saturday and Sunday, with total network exposure increasing over 2019. Full weekend broadcast details will be released soon.

New Sponsors

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and IMS will add six new major sponsors in 2020. Pennzoil, Verizon, Snap-on Tools, DEX Imaging, Road & Track magazine and Global Medical Response will make significant investments in the racing series and Speedway.

Multimillion-Dollar Fan Experience Investment

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 saw large investments made to the Speedway. Beginning with this year’s GMR Grand Prix, fans will experience many new upgrades to IMS. These enhancements are all projects that will be finished before gates open, with several additional opportunities under consideration for future seasons.

Technology upgrades are a major component of this plan. More than 30 additional large-screen video boards will be added, including 24 along the Paddock seating. The Paddock screens will bring race action and vital information to an additional 25,000 fans. In addition, all seven large infield big-screen monitors will receive a running order addition.

Another exciting addition is the IMS Media Wall. This video board, measuring 100 feet wide by 20 feet tall, will be installed at the base of the Pagoda facing the Pagoda Plaza as a cornerstone of a plan to transform the popular gathering area for fans. It will also provide data-driven race insights to fans from NTT.

Verizon and their 5G Ultra Wideband network will transform the iconic Speedway into a first of its kind technology-led entertainment complex. IMS will be the first motorsports facility with commercial 5G service that will enhance both the consumer experience and track operations.

Infrastructure improvements will be noticeable inside and outside of the fabled, 110-year-old facility.

Pedestrian traffic on Georgetown Road will be widened by two lanes to make ingress and egress easier for more than half of the venue’s Race Day customers.

More than 125 restrooms are being renovated inside IMS. New pavement will be added to the Parcel B lot near the IMS Main Gate to improve the parking experience and create a cleaner look for the “front door” of the facility. Approximately 3 miles of fencing will be added to the entire grounds.

The winning driver and team of the Indianapolis 500, Grand Prix and Brickyard 400 will receive higher honors, as the winner’s car will be elevated to the same level as the Victory Podium after each race. This will give fans a better vantage point for pictures and social media sharing of the most prestigious Victory Lane in global motorsports.

The atmosphere of the massive facility also will be enhanced through detail-oriented improvements throughout IMS.

Night light signage will be installed over Gates 1 and 2, while IMS will assume responsibility for the beautification project along Crawfordsville Road. Fans will notice fresh paint and new signage on more than 50 concession stands inside IMS, picnic tables added throughout the grounds for more gathering space for families and friends, and the placement of more than 230 racing-themed flags around the facility and Crawfordsville Road.

All aspects of this fan experience investment plan are underway and will be completed before IMS gates open for the Month of May on Friday, May 8.

Tickets are on sale now at IMS.com and the IMS Ticket Office for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, GMR Grand Prix, Big Machine Vodka 400 and all other activities at IMS.

View: Month of May Enhancements Presentation Deck

http://view.email.brickyard.com/?qs=ae911881c840fde4bc7ec4a33fc4a5df48942840c7bbc3ea4daba6f7667c7f76a7b2014771ce5c631bcb6fed734f2e965e735bf283aa789e33a50a1a560f394a2059f5c4a4d165de2631d9cf0f2aacd811

The Last of the Brazilians?

We are approaching the end of a great time in the history of the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT Indycar Series. Word today from Team Penske that Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis in May means Helio Castroneves will drive only in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. My feeling is this will be his last 500.

Earlier this month, Tony Kanaan announced 2020 will be his final year in Indycar as he runs only the ovals in the series. I could see him coming back for the Indianapolis 500, but I’m not sure for how long.  I think Kanaan may have a tough time getting funding for future rides.

The 104th Indianapolis 500 may be the last one for awhile with a driver from Brazil in it. Since Emerson Fittipaldi’s rookie year in 1984, I count 19 Brazilian drivers who have run in the race. I m ay be leaving a couple out.The early 2000s were the peak of the South American country’ s participation.  In 2003, Brazil finished first, second, and third. Gil DeFerran won, followed by Castroneves and Kanaan Four Brazilian drivers have compiled seven victories at Indianapolis. Castroneves has three and Fittipaldi has two. DeFerran and Kanaan each won once.

The high mark was in 2010 when seven Brazilian drivers started. Six starters were in the 2002 race .From 2003-2008, there were four drivers from Brazil in each race. Last year the contingent was just Castroneves, Kanaan, and Matheus Leist.

Among the other drivers from Brazil, I liked Raul Boesel, who I thought had a great chance at winning in 1993; Ana Beatriz, Vitor Meira, and Bruno Junqueira. Meira never won a race in his Indycar career, but came close several times. Junqueira has qualified several cars only to be displaced on race day.

The pendulum seems to be swinging back toward American drivers now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Trends of certain nationalities dominating the Indycar paddock are cyclical. It just doesn’t seem as if the Brazilian pipeline has many drivers in it right now.

It would be fitting if 2020 were the last 500 for both Kanaan and Castroneves. They grew up racing against each other. I think seeing them retire from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing together, while sad to mark the end of an era, would be nice.

 

 

 

Bourdais, Kellett Complete Foyt Lineup for Car 14

Sebastien Bourdais at Barber last season.

Sebastien Bourdais is not done with Indycar yet. A. J. Foyt Racing announced that Bourdais will drive the number b14 entry at the St. Pete opener, Barber, Long Beach, and Portland. The four time series champion will drive a Chevrolet powered car for the first time since 2016. He will get to drive in his home race at St. Pete, where he won in 2017 and 2018.

Dalton Kellett will take the wheel at Circuit of the Americas, the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Detroit, Road America, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Laguna Seca. Kellet, a rookie in Indycar, drove in Indy Lights for the past four years. He will also make his Indianapolis 500 debut in the third Foyt entry for the 104th running of the race.

Last week Tony Kanaan announced he will be driving the number 14 on all the ovals in his Indycar farewell season. Charlie Kimball recently signed to drive the second Foyt full time entry, number 4 for the full season.

Thoughts

I’m glad Bourdais will have a bit of a presence in Indycar.  If his schedule permits, I hope he can drive a couple more races. I wouldn’t rule him completely out for the 500 yet.

It will be interesting to see how Kellett performs. In Lights, he was better on oval than road courses.

Filling the third car for the 500 leaves one less seat for a driver looking for a ride. Usually Foyt partners with a one off team.

The four drivers who will drive for Foyt have a variety of experience and background. Bourdais is probably the best at setting up a car. Perhaps he can get the team pointed in the right direction. His driving in the first three races is a good move for the team.