O’Ward on Road America Entry List

Photo: Pato O’Ward will again drive car 31 as he did in Detroit.

Pato O’Ward returns to Carlin Racing for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. O’Ward, who originally was thought to have a full season ride at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, signed a 12 race deal with Carlin after St. Pete.  It has since been announced that he will not run Gateway or Iowa. O’Ward is looking for funding to complete the NTT Indycar season.

His new contract with the Red Bull Junior program is awaiting approval of his super license. He may not be fully eligible for it at this time.

Also returning to the paddock is Jack harvey in the number 60 MSR entry. This race race is the seventh of Harvey’s 10 race program in 2019. He will also race at Mid Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca. Harvey had a career best third place finish at the Indycar Grand Prix in May.

Twenty three cars are on the entry list for the fourth race at Elkhart Lake since Indycar returned.

Look for a full preview on Thursday.

 

It’s Still the Penske Invitational

This was supposed to be the year the streaks ended. The race would have its third winning driver, and his last name wouldn’t begin with P.

Above: Simon Pagenaud made two brilliant passes in the last five laps to win the Indycar Grand Prix. Photo: Kyle McInnes

This was supposed to be the year the streaks ended. The race would have its third winning driver, and his last name wouldn’t  begin with P. A team other than Penske was supposed to celebrate in Victory Lane. It looked like the reign was over when Felix Rosenqvist won the pole and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon grabbed the second spot on the grid. But in the end, a masterful drive by Simon Pagenaud kept the Indycar GP trophy with Team Penske. Pagenaud made two brilliant passes with five laps to go to win.

Pagenaud ended a 21 race winless streak. There were rumors about  job security  at Team Penske. He is now fourth in points. I wouldn’t overlook him when considering title contenders.

Dixon said after the race, “With 10 laps to go i knew i was in trouble. I had to stop the car to get it to turn.”  Dixon has finished second three straight years at the Indycar Grand Prix.  ” Simon was turning some amazing lap times,” Dixon added.

Pagenaud said that the tires of each podium car showed a different wear pattern. It was an indication of how varied car setups were for the race.  Pagenaud’s team his upon the one that worked best in the wet.

Tire strategy looked like it would be what decided the outcome of the race when Josef Newgarden pitted during the first caution and was able to cycle to the lead. He may have had to gamble on whether an extra would have been necessary, but he hit a tire leaving the pits on lap 68 and going to the rear of the field for the restart ended his day.  Newgarden finished 15th.

Tony Kanaan gambled on going to the rain tires early, but the move backfired when the rain came later than his team anticipated. Kanaan finished 20th.

Some Traditions End,Others Continue

For just the second time in the brief history of the Indycar Grand Prix, a Penske car was not on pole.  Will Power qualified sixth fastest and dropped back all day, but he recovered to finish 7th.

The traditional first lap incident made its annual appearance. Pato O’Ward collided with Alexander Rossi.  Rossi returned to the race four laps down and didn’t make up any ground all day.

The race still boasts just two winners, Pagenaud and Power. Team Penske has won five of the six Grand Prix.

Tough Day for Rookies

With Felix Rosenqvist on pole and Colton Herta staring fourth, it looked to be another great day for the rookies.  It didn’t turn out that way. Rosenqvist lost the lead to his teammate Dixon on the first restart.  Herta’s day ended when he got spun in turn 1 and then hit by Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Herta has had a rough string last or near last place finishes since winning at COTA.

Rosenqvist faded. He left the pits with his car on fire from a spill. The flames extinguished as he exited the pits. He finished 8th. The only other rookie in the top 10 was Santino  Ferrucci.

Pato O’Ward was involved in the Rossi incident and received a drive through penalty. the team had alternator all weekend. O’Ward made seven pit stops yesterday.

Dixon makes Up Ground in Championship

Scott Dixon is now within six points of Josef Newgarden for the series title. This puts Dixon ahead of where he was last year at this time. He didn’t lead a lap  or win a race until June in 2018 and won the title by a healthy margin.

Notes

How odd to be five races into the season and not have seen Will Power win a race. I’m sure that will change soon.

Pagenaud is the season’ fifth different winner. Four different team have won the first five races. I believe the record is seven different winners in the first seven races of a season.

I hope Andretti Autosport comes out of the box strong for the 500 starting Tuesday. This was a completely forgettable weekend for the team. The highlight was Marco Andretti improving 10 spots in the race.

This was by far the best of the six Grand Prix races.

I don’t usually talk about drive of the day, but htree drivers deserve mention. I will go with hockey’s system of award the three  stars of the race.

#3- Matheus Leist- started 21st, fished fourth. This is a huge boost for A. J. Foyt’s team.

#2- Jack Harvey- started and finished third.  Harvey has been driving under the radar with two top tens and nearly a third. He has gotten to second round qualifying more than once. His move to grab second at the start was incredible. The most amazing thing is Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are a part time team.

#1- Simon Pagenaud- started 8th, finished 1st. Just a great drive all day. When is the last time you someone make up six seconds in five laps?

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Indycar Grand Prix

What a great race. It was one of the two best of the year.

Jack Harvey had a great weekend. As I said yesterday, the secret’s out.  This was his third top 10 of the year. Hard to remember this is a part time team.

A great drive today from Matheus Leist was overshadowed by Harvey and Simon Pagenaud.

Ed Carpenter Racing had two cars in the top 10. On a road course.

Attendance was pretty good considering the forecast.

Pagenaud made two incredible passes in the last 6 laps to get by Harvey and Dixon. He said they weren’t planned.

This was a lost weekend for Andretti Autosport. Zach Veach in 12th was the highest finisher for the team. Today followed a poor qualifying yesterday.

Jack Harvey was a delight in the post race press conference. He could barely contain his excitement.

Colton Herta has had a tough go of it since his victory at COTA. Two last place finishes and next to last today. I hope the 500 will be where his luck changes.

A more detailed report will be out tomorrow. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

Meyer Shank Racing Expands Program to 10 Races with Eye Toward Full Time Schedule

Meyer Shank Racing confirmed Jack Harvey will drive in 10 NTT Indycar series races in 2019 after a  six race program in 2018. Harvey will continue to carry Sirius XM sponsorship. The eam hopes to expand to a full time program at some point.

Harvey will drive in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, his only oval race, and nine street/road course events. The rest of his schedule begins at the opener in St. Pete, followed by COTA, Barber, Long Beach and the Indycar Grand Prix at IMS. Following the 500, The last four he wil run are Road America, Mid Ohio, and the two season ending races at Portland and Laguna Seca.

Shank has purchased a new chassis specifically for use in the 500. The team will once again partner with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“We are extremely excited to be extending our program,” said Harvey “That has always been the goal for 2019 and it is amazing to achieve that and continue to grow what we are doing. I have to thank Michael [Shank], he has put in an immense amount of work and of course thanks to Jim Meyer for his continued support. Without either of those guys, in their own way, I wouldn’t have received the opportunity.”

Harvey’s best finishes last season were 16th at both Indianapolis and Portland.

Juncos Racing, which ran a partial schedule last year, is the only team that has not announced its 2019 Indycar plans.  They are debuting their IMSA program this weekend at Daytona, so new on the Indycar front may not be for awhile.

Carlin Announces Chilton Full Time; Kimball Will Run Partial Schedule

Carlin Racing today confirmed Max Chilton will return as driver of the number 59 car for the 2019 NTT Indycar Series.  The announcement had been expected for quite a while. This will be Chilton’s fourth year driving the Gallagher car. He raced out of the Chip Ganassi Racing team in 2016 and 2017 before moving with teammate Charlie Kimball to Carl;in’s new entry last year.

“I couldn’t be happier to formally announce that Gallagher will be back for the 2019 season partnering with myself and Carlin. Gallagher and Carlin are like family to me and I’m excited to see what we can do together building on both partnerships,” said Chilton. “Our first year together as an IndyCar team had its ups and downs, but the potential and growth that we showed as a team was obvious to everyone. I want to say a massive thank you to Gallagher for their continuing support of me. To have the opportunity to represent the nearly 30,000 employees of Gallagher, a brand that focuses so heavily on teamwork and innovation, is a true privilege.”

Kimball, meanwhile will be back with long time sponsor Novo Nordisk on a part time schedule. His races weren’t confirmed yet. My guess is his schedule will include the Indianapolis 500, Laguna Seca, Mid Ohio, and  one of the March/ April races.  I’m not sure how many Kimball will run. I had heard he had a 70% budget, which would mean he would run about 12 events.

Carlin will have another driver fill in for the remaining to complete the entire schedule. R. C Enerson has tested with the team.

I thought last year it was a bold move for Carlin to plunge into Indycar full time with two cars. They did manage a couple of top 10s. They should see improved resulkts this season.

Tomorrow morning Meyer Shank Racing will announce Jack Harvey’s 10 race schedule for the Indycar season. Watch this spot for news of that announcement tomorrow afternoon.

Season Preview, Part 1- New Teams Hope New Aero Package Levels the Field

New teams, new drivers, new sponsors, and a new aero package are ready. The fans are more than ready. The 2018 Indycar season starts Friday when practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins.

In a three part series, I take a look at each team and make some predictions for the year.

Today I focus on the new teams. In all parts of this preview, team order is random and is not intended to be a prediction of season long results.

Michael Shank Racing

It has been a long road to Indycar for Michael Shank, beginning last year with the Indianapolis 500. Jack Harvey drives the Shank car, which has a technical partnership with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. The team has scheduled 6 races this year so far. Harvey will drive at St. Pete, Long Beach, The 500, Mid-Ohio, Portland, and Sonoma. The team may add a couple more races. This will be an interesting team to watch. They might be able to grab a couple of top 10s, but I see them using this season to learn and build.

Juncos Racing

Ricardo Juncos may be pioneering the model for future Indycar teams. Juncos has been a long time steady participant in the Mazda Road to Indy, winning the 2017 Indy Lights championship with Kyle Kaiser. Kaiser and the team both move to Indycar this year. Juncos has eight scheduled races this year. Kaiser will drive in four, and newcomer Rene Binder will drive the other four. There is hope to add some more outings for Kaiser, the team’s primary driver.

Binder will open the season at St. Pete, then race at Barber, Toronto, and Mid-Ohio. Kaiser debuts at Phoenix, then goes to Long Beach, and finishes the season at Indianapolis, driving in the GP of Indy and the 500. The hope is to add more races for Kaiser. I hope that happens because he needs more seat time and needs to have races deeper into the season.

I think this team will struggle to get results, but they will build a solid foundation for the following years. Juncos still has a presence in the Mazda Road to Indy with Victor Franzoni headlining their Indy Lights program.

Carlin Racing

It was just a matter of time before Carlin moved to Indycar. After a successful two years in Indy Lights, including the 2016 championship with Ed Jones, they become a two car team with former Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton. Carlin knows how to run races and their two drivers have Indycar experience.

Chilton is still learning the craft and showed improvement last year. Kimball is at a crossroads. Were his problems last season a part of being on Ganassi’s B team? This will be a pivotal year for him.

I think they will have some good results and will end up in the upper half of the field.

Harding Racing

A three race toe dip last season and now Harding is a full time entry with Gabby Chaves. In their brief time last year the team produced two top 10s and was running at the finish of every race. Chaves is a steady driver. The team strengthened their leadership hiring Brian Barnhart as president and Al Unser, Jr. as driving coach. That experience alone gives them a bit of an edge over the other new teams. Look for a consistent season with some very good results on occasion. Harding could be the best of the newcomers.

Tomorrow-

A. j. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, Schmidt Peterson Racing, and Ed Carpenter Racing

Windscreen Testing, News, and Thoughts

Indycar continues to make progress in safety with its announcement Friday of the first windscreen on track test next Thursday at Phoenix.  The trial for the new safety component comes the day before the open test at ISM Raceway ( still can’t used to calling Phoenix that yet). One of the major questions is whether the drivers see out of the screen in all directions and during daylight and night conditions. Is the view blurry or distorted? The wind tunnel tests apparently were satisfactory enough to proceed to on track testing. I’m at least as interested in this test as I am seeing how the cars will race at Phoenix. Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon driving will have testing honors. The test will be three sessions of 5-10 laps, one in full sun, one at dusk, and one at night. The runs will occur between rookie sessions.  The series still needs to test for how the screen performs in the rain and do more intense ballistic tests.

I love the look of the screen. It reminds me of the windscreens on the roadsters of the ’50s and early 60’s. The size of the screen almost gives the car a roadster look, adding to the retro feel of the new aero design.

The screen is manufactured by PPG, and it is composed of a material called Opticor. This is the same material used in fighter jet canopies. Indycar has not set a timetable for putting the windscreen on the cars. I would not look for them this year. I applaud the series taking a careful, well thought approach to this safety feature. They have come up with an aesthetically pleasing screen that I hope serves its intended purpose well.

News

Updates:

Some big news broke after I published this morning.

First, Scott Dixon will have a full year primary sponsor, PNC Bank. No terms were announced although Chip Ganassi Racing has an announcement scheduled for tomorrow at IMS. This will be Dixon’s first full time sponsor since Target left. Here is the car:

FB_IMG_1517849100885

I think reversing the red and blue would be a better look. The car reminds me of Charlie Kimball’s old livery.

The second bit of news involves Dale Coyne Racing and a return of two familiar names top Indycar. Jimmy Vasser and James Sulivan have partnered with Coyne and Sebastien Bourdais  The new team name is Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan. Seal Master will sponsor the number 18 for nine races including the Indianapolis 500. Speculation continues that Coyne will enter a fourth car at Indianapolis for a driver that has driven for the team before. I’m excited I might get to wear my Dracone shirt again. A source hinted about this at Daytona.

 

Dale Coyne announced, as expected, car 19 will be shared by Zachary Claman DeMelo and Pietro Fittipaldi. Still to be determined is which races each will drive. DeMelo drove in Indy Lights last year, winning at Road America. He also drove in the Indycar season finale at Sonoma for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, DeMelo maintained a respectable race pace. Fittipaldi,  grandson of 2 -time 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi,  spent last season in Formula V8  3.5, notching six victories and winning the championship. He will have an oval test at Phoenix. Coyne said he was not opposed to running both driver in the Indianapolis 500. He also indicated Pippa Mann will also be in the race.

This announcement means Conor Daly will not have a full time ride  for 2018 unless a last minute deal emerges at Harding for a second car. Indycar needs to find a way to do a better job of keeping its popular drivers. It is a money over talent game, and Conor lost out. Daly still might get something for the 500.

Chip Ganassi Racing has scheduled a major announcement tomorrow morning at IMS. Speculation is that they have a sponsor for Scott Dixon.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports unveiled the liveries for their three cars last Thursday. The big news is that Robert Wickens will have number 6 instead of Schmidt’s traditional 7 this year. Speculation is the 7 is being saved for Danica Patrick. If that is the case, I don’t see where any one-off has the right to demand a number be reserved for them. Kurt Busch and Fernando Alonso took whatever number they were offered. Sometimes the series tries too hard to attract certain drivers at the expense of others.

The SPM cars look great. James Hinchcliffe will be in the same Arrow livery of the past few years. Wickens’s car is red with Lucas Oil sponsorship, and Jack Harvey’s number 60 displays Sirius XM on the sidepod. Harvey currently has six races planned with an eye toward possibly adding more.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan announced the return of Total Oil as the primary sponsor on the 15 at Long Beach. Total sponsored Bobby during his 1992 championship season. RLL will have more sponsor announcements soon. It sounds as if they had a great off season procuring sponsorships.

I will be exploring the Everglades and Key West the rest of the week. If I’m not eaten by a Burmese Python, I will be back on the 14th with thoughts on the Phoenix test. The test will be live streamed on Indycar.com. Because of the time difference, I hope to watch the evening practice.