Montoya Returns to 500 with AMSP

From Arrow McLaren SP:

Juan Pablo Montoya, Arrow McLaren SP and Mission Foods will team up for a second consecutive year, with the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion competing in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet for both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Montoya will again join full-time Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist to complete the team’s lineup for the Month of May.  
 
Montoya returns to Arrow McLaren SP after competing for the team last year, finishing ninth in the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500. This year will see him attempt to qualify for his seventh entry into the race, having competed six times in his career, including winning as a rookie in 2000 and again 15 years later in 2015.  
 
The MISSION brand will be represented on the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Montoya’s race suit during both races, as well as continuing to be featured on the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet piloted by O’Ward and the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet piloted by Rosenqvist. 

Mission Foods first partnered with Arrow McLaren SP in 2020 and the successful partnership continues to find new and exciting ways to activate and reach new consumers through the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. 
 
The 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 takes place on May 29, 2022 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Follow along with Arrow McLaren SP all season long on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube at @ArrowMcLarenSP.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Driver, No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet:  
 
“I’m excited to return to Indianapolis with Arrow McLaren SP and Mission, to once again compete in a race that holds a special place in my heart – the Indianapolis 500. I had a great experience with the team last year and look forward to building on the progress we made in 2021. I think we have a real shot at competing at the front of the field and challenging for the win.” 
 
Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing: 
 
“We’re delighted to have both Juan Pablo and Mission Foods back for another Indianapolis 500. Juan Pablo is an institution in motorsport, with two Indianapolis 500 victories and an impressive Formula 1 career with multiple wins for McLaren. He adds experience that really benefits our team, giving us another driver with the potential to win anytime he steps into the car.” 
 
Juan Gonzalez, Mission Foods Chief Executive Officer: 
 
“We are thrilled to partner again with Juan Pablo Montoya and Arrow McLaren SP for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis 500 and Juan Pablo are legendary to racing and loved by race fans everywhere. It’s an honor for our brand to align with icons like these.”

Holiday Wishes for Indycar

As we begin the most festive week of the year, I have some holiday wishes for Indycar. The first practice at St. Pete is just two months from Christmas day. Knowing that should make the holiday better. Here are six things I wish for in 2022.

A Full 17 Race Schedule

Indycar has not run its complete, originally announced schedule in two years. 2021 looked promising, but Toronto again was cancelled due to COVID-19. The border has reopened, but will the Omicron variant close it again? If it does, for how long?

I hope by July that things will have settled down enough to allow the race to go on.

I am not concerned about St. Pete or Texas yet, but the situation warrants wartching.

The Unicorn

I wish for the elusive third OEM to be announced. An announcement in 2022 means the new engine will appear in 2024. With the growth in entries anticipated for next season and a number of other teams looking to join Indycar, a third engine is a necessity. Honda is maxed out for the season and the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet is close to capacity as well.

A third engine opens the possibility for 30 cars at some tracks and 39 or more entries at the 500. I think one of the bigger teams will align with the new manufacturer.

A Sold Out Indianapolis 500

Conditions permitting, it would be great if the 106th running of the 500 would be a sell out. Local television might show the race live again if all tickets are sold. Many fans who skipped the 2021 race plan to return. The 135,00 or so at the 2021 race seemed larger than that to those who were there, but the partially empty grandstands did not look good on television.

I spoke briefly with Doug Boles at the PRI show. He said that ticket sales are looking good.

A Title Fight Between O’Ward and Herta

Just like 2021, 2022 will bring more of the younger kids contending for the championship. This coming season I would love to see a battle for Astor Cup between Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta. The youngsters had two the fastest cars last season. Herta was never really in title contention because of some early DNFs. He still tied for the most wins in the series with three, and he had four poles.

O’Ward had some early issues with team strategies and setup problems. He finished third in the standings after being taken out of the finale early. His two wins in 2021 kept him in the hunt. I think he is ready for an even bigger season.

Some Top 5s for Kirkwood

First of all, I am happy that Kyle Kirkwood has a full time ride. Of course, I wish he were on a more competitive team. But I hope he can raise the bar at A. J. Foyt Racing and maybe squeeze a top 5 or two out of the car. It will be a challenge. His best chance for a good finish will be at World Wide Technology Raceway, where Foyt cars have a third and two fifth place finishes.

Kirkwood might sneak in a good finish at a road course somewhere as well. Realistically, I can see him getting some top 10s in 2022.

The Biggest Wish of All

Well, maybe the second biggest after the third OEM, but an announcement of a 2023 IMSA race at IMS would make me very happy. The odds are long as IMSA has established a May race at Mid Ohio. The sports car series seems happy with their schedule. I don’t think they are looking for new venues or to switch any dates around.

I have also heard IMSA is not happy with Indycar putting Texas on the schedule on March 20, the day after the Sebring 12 Hour race. Many Indycar drivers participate in the 12 hour as an extra driver. Some plan to do double duty that weekend.

All, or possibly none of my wishes may come true, but I hope that all of your holiday wishes do. I will have a post next week before moving to winter headquarters. Happy holidays, everyone.

Jimmie Johnson Goes Full Time

The announcement this morning that Jimmie Johnson would enter the Indianapolis 500 was not a surprise, but the fact that he will run the four other oval race was. The seven time NASCAR champion announced that he will run the entire NTT Indycar Series season in 2022. The Chip Ganassi Racing entry will bear Carvana as his primary sponsor for 16 of the 17 races. The American Legion will be on the number 48 car for one of the two Iowa races. Carvana was Johnson’s amin sponsor in 2021.

The announcement came on NBC’s Today Show. Johnson followed with this Tweet:

In 2021 Johnson only ran the road and street courses in the series. He showed steady improvement throughout the year. His best qualifying spot was 22nd, where he started in three races. Johnson had a best finish of 17th in each of the final two races at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.

Johnson tested the oval at Texas and ran a rookie orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. He did well at IMS. Johnson needs two more laps to complete the rookie test.

The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, scheduled for May 29, now has six rookies who will attempt to qualify. The other rookies expected to enter are Kyle Kirkwood, Callum Ilott, David Malukas, Devlin DeFrancesco, and Christian Lundgaard. There may be one or two more rookies on the entry list.

Al Unser, Sr. – Simply One of the Best

This morning has been devastating. I woke up to the news that my beloved sister-in-law died last night. Five minutes later I stumbled across the news about Al Unser, Sr. Please forgive me if this seems somewhat random. We have lost one of the best ever.

First 500 win. One of my favorite cars

There is a bit of irony in his passing. Last evening, the newest four time winner, Helio Castroneves, unveiled the ticket for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves was the first back to back winner of the 500 since Unser turned the double in 1970 and 1971.

Fourth 500 win

Unser’s older brother, Bobby, died in May of this year. It is hard to believe that Racing’s First Family has been taken away within seven months.

Al (left) and Bobby Unser, 2017

Al’s driving style was one of patience. I remember many races where he wasn’t even in the conversation until the final stages, but when the checkered flag waved, he saw it first. His fourth win and final 500 was like that. He only got into the 1987 race after Danny Ongais was injured in practice. Roger Penske pulled a show car out of a hotel and Al qualified 20th. He took the lead when Roberto Guerrero stalled in the pits on his final stop and led the rest of the way.

At the wheel of the Marmon Wasp

Unser still is the all time lap leader at IMS, with 644 laps at the front of the field. His 39 race wins is sixth on the all time list. Unser is the only driver to win the Triple Crown, the three 500 mile races at Indianapolis, Pocono, and Ontario in the same year, 1978. He won eight different 500 mile races.

Fortunate that this photo was taken earlier this year.

I was fortunate to see all four of his Indianapolis 500 wins. I will remember his smooth driving, his taciturn interviews, and his interactions with fans. The last time I saw Al was at the 2018 PRI show. He and his son, Al, Jr., were the keynote speakers at the opening breakfast. They kidded each other and told stories about each other. Someone asked Al Sr. where he learned to drive. Jr. suggested his brother Bobby taught him. I will never forget the look the elder Unser gave him.

With Al, Jr. (left)

Please take some time next time you see A. J. Foyt at a track next year to say hi and thanks. We are quickly losing our legends.

If a Ticket Sprouts Can Spring be Far Behind?

Ticket unveiling day always brings the promise of May. It serves as a mid winter lift of the spirit. We are just a little more than five months away. The ticket for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 was unveiled tonight by the 2021 winner Helio Castroneves. Castroneves, the fourth four time winner, will drive full time for Meyer Shank Racing in 2022.

The May 29 race will mark the first time in 30 years that a driver will have a chance to win a fifth 500. Rick Mears was the last driver to have that opportunity in 1992.

I think they could have chosen a photo with a more expressive Helio. The posed shot seems very static, especially for the spontaneous Castroneves, whose display of exuberance after winning last May was a joy to watch.

The unveiling capped the opening day of the PRI show, which returned to Indianapolis after a two year COVID induced absence. 62,000 people are attending this year’s show which has displays in the Indianapolis Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Some photos from this evening taken by The Pit Window camera crew (me):

Doug Boles, IMS President, introduces Castroneves
Castroneves gets his first look at the ticket bearing his image.

DRR Adds Two Cars for Indy with Karam and Ferrucci

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing announced a two car effort for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, featuring two drivers who finished in the top seven in last year’s race.

Sage Karam

Sage Karam, who will look to be in his ninth 500, eighth with this team, finished seventh in 2021. He returns in car 24.

Santino Ferrucci

Santino Ferrucci, who has finished in the top 10 in each of his 500 mile races to date will drive car 23. Ferrucci drove several races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2021, including a sixth place finish at Indy. Ferrucci also had a couple of top fives for RLL.

The announcement raises the confirmed car count for the 500 to 29, with a total of 36 entries expected. Chevy and Honda should each power 18 cars.

Indianapolis 500 Ticket; Juncos Hollinger Unveils 2022 Car

This Thursday, December 9, The ticket for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be revealed at the PRI show in downtown Indianapolis. 2021 winner Helio Castroneves will be on hand for the ceremony. The event will be streamed beginning at 5:45 Eastern Time on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Facebook page.

Juncos Hollinger Car Keeps Juncos Green

The livery for Juncos Hollinger for 22 has the familiar look of a car from the Juncos stable. The number 77 car, to be driven by rookie Callum Ilott, has the green and white with black trim we saw when Juncos last had a car in the Indianapolis 500.

Photo from Juncos Hollinger Facebook page

The unveiling may mean the team will not be partnering with Carlin as some thought. Will getting a sponsor change the livery? It is entirely possible, although it seems in the past Ricardo Juncos has been able to keep this color scheme no matter what sponsors he gets.

Grosjean, Johnson Take IMS Rookie Tests Wednesday

From Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway & NTT INDYCAR SERIES
Grosjean, Johnson To Take Indy 500 Rookie Test Wednesday at IMS


Grosjean and Johnson, both series rookies in the 2021 season, will attempt to complete the test that involves a series of laps at three controlled speed phases on the 2.5-mile oval. The Rookie Orientation Program is a prerequisite for participation in the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29, 2022.
Former Formula One standout Grosjean plans to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport, while seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson is exploring possible participation in the race in the No. 48 Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Note

I understand that fans may view the tests from the turn 2 viewing mounds.

Remembering Robin Miller

IMS Photo

Late to the party, and less eloquent than much of what I have read today, but please indulge me my thoughts regarding Robin Miller, Indycar’s voice in print and broadcasting. I find it ironic that during one of the best Indycar seasons in years we have lost two great voices of the sport within less than 20 days.

I knew Robin Miller for years before I met him. I may have read every story he put in the Indianapolis Star when it was a real newspaper. he covered racing, high school sports, and the pacers included. I liked his frank, forthright style. Euphemisms were for the other writers to use.

I’m not sure where Indycar would be today without Robin Miller. He helped drivers get rides in the series, he has pushed for races to get on the schedule, most recently Gateway, and his tireless touting of the series and the Indianapolis 500 have contibuted to the staus the series enjoys now.

We have lost a fierce Indycar advocate, a man who would help a struggling driver or team owner whenever and however he could, and someone who made the paddock and the media center come alive. I remember the first race for which I had media credentials at St. Pete how Miller’s charisma gave an energy to the compact crowded room. When Miller left, the stillness in the room was palpable.

I first actually met him in the IMS media center that year. I happened to be wearing one of the shirts I had purchased from one of his numerous fund raisers. We rode the elevator up to the fourth floor together.

“Nice shirt,” he said. I thanked him and introduced myself. After that he always greeted me with a smile. I felt comfortable going to him with questions which he always took time to answer. he didn’t seem to care what out let you wrote for, if you were in the media center, you were a comrade.

My best memories of Miller come from Portland. In 2018, the year the venue returned to the series, his fist comments upon entering the media center were about how little money had been spent on the place in 11 years.

The next year, I sat near him in the Portland media center as he took a call from A. J. Foyt. It was a cordial conversation about when Robin would release a story. He wouldn’t share the news with me at the time, but when it broke, I asked for a clarification and he calmly explained it to me.

Please don’t ask who will replace Robin Miller at Racer magazine. The answer is no one. Someone might take over the mailbag (I hope not), and someone might step into his reporting role. But replace? No way.