Morning at Laguna Seca

Good morning or good afternoon, wherever you are. We are two hours from the first Indy Lights practice, followed by the first Indycar practice.

Some news items to catch up on.

Not a huge surprise, but Scott mcLaughlin has signed a multi year deal with Team Penske. The second year driver has three poles and three wins this season.

In a huge boost to the Indy Lights Series, HMD announced their intention to field eight Indy Lights cars in 2023. There have been years when the Lights field barely had eight cars. HMD currently runs points leader Linus Lundqvist, who should wrap up the championship this weekend.

Lundqvist said he wants to finish his championship “on a high.”

I’m hearing the chances of Colton Herta getting a super license exemption to race in Formula 1 are slim.

Championship Strategy

Josef Newgarden said he will approach this weekend mostly like any other.

“…you treat it to be the same as always, working on trying to maximize the car trying to make your points like oh, this is gonna be the same regardless.”

About the decision to test at Portland instead of Laguna Seca, Newgarden said,

“We tried a different strategy I think it worked for us at Portland for sure. But you know what time is gonna tell if that was the right decision or not. I think we feel good confident about that.”

Kirkwood on Moving On

Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood reflected on his time with A. J. Foyt Racing and moving to Andretti autosport next year.

“It’s bittersweet, because, and I really, I really wanted to win with this team. It’s great. The guys really like a family atmosphere, you kind of feel the heritage within the team. . So I’m gonna go into powerhouse team , like Andretti Autosport. Knowing I’m gonna have a good car atalmost all events and so it’s, it’s good for that sense. But it’s also it’s also bitter in the sense that it kind of feels like a moment leaving a family. So we’ll definitely be emotional. But I mean, no matter what, it’s good for everyone.. , One thing I can definitely take away from the season is we’ve definitely developed the car better, especially on street courses. But we definitely progressed on everything, got the car in a better spot, whoever fills into that number 14 car is gonna be in a better spot than where I was at the end of the season, which is nice to know from just my own knowledge.

Working with really good .teammates is the main thing I’ve never really had a teammate to push me in the past couple years. And given the lineup stays the same, it’s gonna be a ton of fun working with all of them, because I know they’re all stellar drivers and they’ll all push me to do better and, and actually be very valuable stuff and whatnot. So that’s something I’m extremely lucky. “

Kirkwood doesn’t necessarily feel pressure jumping into the 27 car. “Rossi has obviously done very well, because eight wins in that car over a few seasons almost won a championship. So while there is pressure, it’s obvious that the cars would be good, but I think people understand that I’m coming in just after a rookie season and coming out with a new team and stuff. So I can’t be expected to be right out of the gate. It’s gonna stay right but as it goes along the road, it’s probably gonna pressure me to get up to his level, if not better him. So yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure involved, but there’s always pressure “

Bommarito to Sponsor Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood will carry the main sponsor of the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway next weekend in the final oval race of the Indycar season. Sexton properties has been Kirkwood’s main sponsor since Mid Ohio when Rokit was dropped from the team.

The release from A. J. Foyt Racing:

ST. LOUIS (August 10, 2022) — The Bommarito Automotive Group continues to expand its footprint in motorsports. Missouri’s #1 automotive group has signed as the primary marketing partner of AJ Foyt Racing’s No. 14 Chevrolet for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway August 19-20. Associate sponsor and friends over at Rebel Bourbon are also proud to be a part of the 6th Annual Bommarito 500 NTT INDYCAR Series race.

A.J. Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, started his race team over 50 years ago.

He won three of his seven INDYCAR championships and claimed the final two of his Indy 500 victories while driving for his own team. Since his retirement from driving in 1993, his team has continued to win, claiming two more national titles and the 1999 Indy 500 with Kenny Brack. At WWT Raceway, the team has five top-10 finishes, three of which were in the top-five, including a fifth place last year with Sebastien Bourdais and a third place in 2019 with Tony Kanaan.

The No. 14 Bommarito Chevrolet will be driven by rookie Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights Champion who won a pole and finished second in both Indy Lights races last year at the 1.25-mile oval track at WWT Raceway. The 23-year-old Floridian’s meteoric ascent to the NTT INDYCAR Series is marked by consecutive championships in the three-tier Road to Indy ladder series.

Bommarito Automotive Group is Missouri’s largest automotive group that began with a single Oldsmobile dealership managed by Frank Bommarito over 50 years ago. In 1998, Frank Bommarito handed over the reins to his son John Bommarito who continued to build the network of dealerships to its present number of 20 locations employing over 900 team members in the St. Louis area.

“We are honored to be a part of bringing the NTT IndyCar Series to the St. Louis region. Thanks to the support of race fans across the country, we’ve demonstrated that when you win on the weekend it generates sales on Monday,” said John Bommarito, President of the Bommarito Automotive Group.

“As an iconic brand here in the St. Louis marketplace and selling vehicles nationwide, the Bommarito Automotive Group could not be more proud to adorn the iconic AJ Foyt Racing No. 14 Chevy, driven by Kyle Kirkwood, for the 6th Annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 right here in our own hometown. Bommarito and A.J. “Super Tex” Foyt, together making history.”

“I’ve been a dedicated race fan for decades and to have the opportunity to partner with AJ Foyt Racing at the sixth annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is an honor,” said Chuck Wallis, Vice President and General Manager of the Bommarito Automotive Group. “To be able to be involved in the motorsports industry at the level Bommarito has dedicated to it is an absolute dream come true.”

Tickets for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 are on sale now at WWTRaceway.com. The race will be broadcast by the USA Network Aug. 20, Saturday night starting at 6 p.m. ET.

About Bommarito Automotive Group For over 50 years, Bommarito has been a staple in the St. Louis marketplace. The Bommarito Automotive Group currently operates 20 automotive locations throughout every St. Louis neighborhood, led by President John Bommarito and over 900 dedicated team members. Bommarito is recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as Missouri’s No. 1 Automotive Group.

Bommarito Automotive Group continues to grow its brand while also growing its involvement in motorsports. Bommarito began its motorsports involvement in 2015 with Jordan Anderson Racing and since has evolved into Jordan Anderson Racing with Bommarito Autosport and are owners of the No. 31 NASCAR Xfinity team with driver Myatt Snyder and the No. 3 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Bommarito also holds the title sponsorship for the Bommarito 500 NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at WWTR since 2017. In addition, Bommarito now is involved with the sponsorship of the Vasser Sullivan IMSA team which recently has earned podium finishes in consecutive races. Recently they were the primary sponsor on the iconic #43 Richard Petty NASCAR CUP car at the inaugural Cup Race at WWT Raceway. And now they are proud to announce the partnership with AJ Foyt Racing for the 6th Annual Bommarito 500 with Kyle Kirkwood in the driver seat.

Visit online 24/7 at Bommarito.com and follow their social channels @BommaritoAuto and @BommaritoAutoSport

Rebel Bourbon

For more than 170 years, Rebel Bourbon has been bridging the gap between its proud heritage and modern tastes to honor the rebel spirit that lives in each of us. Featuring an award-winning recipe that dates back to 1849, Rebel Bourbon is made using only the purest Kentucky limestone-filtered water, a wheated mash bill and new, charred American white-oak barrels for aging. The result is a bourbon with a big, round body and full flavor that is defiantly smooth. A spirit of rebellion can be found in every bottle of Rebel Bourbon, making it a favorite among purists and trailblazers alike. Unapologetically original and brazenly bold, Rebel Bourbon invites anyone seeking a bit of defiance, freedom, attitude and a taste of the rebel spirit to “Be More Rebel.” Visit rebelbourbon.com to learn more.

Herta, Rossi Lead IMS Road Test Day

Simona De Silvestro on track at Thursday’s test

Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi were the tow fastest drivers in Thursday’s test on the IMS road course. Eight drivers from four teams turned laps on a day that might closely reflect the conditions for the Gallagher Grand Prix July 30.

Herta was happy to drive the track on which he won the GMR Grand Prix in May in dry conditions.

“It’s good to get an understanding of what its going to be like that day,” Herta said.

Colton Herta

Grosjean Talks about May

Romain Grosjean had an issue with his car in the morning and only ran two laps. he talked about his experience in his first Indianapolis 500.

“I was annoyed with the car. I hope I never have that car again,” he told the media. Asked his impression of the opening ceremonies, Grosjean said “That was really cool.”

Romain Grosjean

Kirkwood Excited for Mid Ohio

Kyle Kirkwood is looking forward to next weekend’s race at Mid Ohio. The rookie for A. J. Foyt Racing has had a lot of success there when he was driving in The Road to Indy.

“Mid Ohio is my number one track. I can’t wait to go to that one,” Kirkwood said. he also noted that the Lexington track is probably the best road course for the team.

“I just love driving that track” he said.

Kirkwood said Iowa was “a lot of fun to drive.”

Kirkwood thought the 500 pre race was “Amazing. I don’t think anything really compares to that. You sit on the grid, and I’ve never had that sensation of the crowd and the prerace ceremonies. I thought it was pretty big at St. Pete. Pretty much every other grid I go to will be less nerve wracking because of the experience I had at the 500.”

Kyle Kirkwood

Photo Gallery

Simona De Silvestro prepares to go on track
Pato O’Ward
Alexander Rossi
Devlin Defrancesco
Much of test days is sitting in the car

Kirkwood Leads First Detroit Practice

Note: I did not feel well yesterday and left the track before practic began. I took a rapid COVID test bwhich was positive, then I arranged a PCR test. I should get those results today. I am heading home this morning to isolate if necessary.

Kyle Kirkwood put up the fastest time in yesterday’s first practice session for the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit. The A. J. Foyt Racing driver turned a lap of 1:16.1345 edged Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi. All three drivers have announced new deals for 2023. O’Ward extended his contract with Arrow McLaren SP, Rossi joins O’Ward as a teammate next year, Kirkwood moves into Rossi’s current ride at Andretti Autosport.

Felix Rosenqvist slid in turn 1 and hit the barrier. The car suffered moderate damage.

Kirkwood also was fastest in practice in the IMSA GTD class.

The Day at Belle Isle

The Friday crowd was vary large for the final race on the island.

It was nice to see activity nin the infield again. In 2021 all vendors were outside the track.

Instead of a food court the food trucks lined up on na drive just before the paddock. The event provided many more tables this year.

I will report remotely the rest of the weelend, and we will see what happens as afr as Road America goes.

From Andretti Autosport: Kyle Kirkwood to Pilot Andretti Autosport No. 27 AutoNation Honda INDYCAR Starting in 2023

If you’re shocked by this, you haven’t been paying attention. This announcement takes the mystery out of Friday’s team announcement.

The Andretti release:

06.01.22

Andretti Autosport has today announced that NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie and 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Champion Kyle Kirkwood will pilot the No. 27 AutoNation Honda starting in the 2023 season.

“I couldn’t be more excited to return to Andretti Autosport next year and represent AutoNation and Honda.” said Kirkwood. “Andretti Autosport is a place I’ve called home for years past and I have truly felt like family. I have a ton of loyalty to the team, and it means a lot to have Michael and the Andretti team offer me this opportunity. AutoNation has been doing great work in raising awareness and funding for cancer research. I’m honored to Drive Pink (DRVPNK) next season.”

Kirkwood continued, “I have worked extremely hard this season and will continue to work harder every day for the A.J. Foyt team. I want to thank the entire team at A.J. Foyt Racing for giving me the opportunity to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The group on the No. 14 car have been incredible and I am beyond grateful to them for all the amazing experiences we have been able to share together so far this season.”

AutoNation, America’s largest and most admired automotive retailer, will serve as the primary sponsor for the full 2023 racing calendar as they drive towards $35 million donated in the fight against cancer. As a long-time partner with the championship-winning organization, AutoNation and DRVPNK have appeared on race cars across the Andretti Autosport INDYCAR team since 2014.

“We really enjoyed having Kyle as part of our Indy Lights team and he’s off to a strong start in INDYCAR,” said Andretti Autosport Chairman and CEO Michael Andretti. “I think he’ll bring a fresh perspective and will be competitive. We are looking forward to helping him continue his career growth.

“AutoNation first joined the team eight years ago and we’ve been thrilled to see how their support has continued to grow over the years. We’ve seen a lot of successes both on and off the track and are excited to see what Kyle and AutoNation can do together for the DRVPNK campaign.”

“We are excited to welcome Kyle to the team and for the passion and commitment he will bring to our mission to drive out cancer, through DRVPNK,” said Marc Cannon, AutoNation CXO and EVP. “We would also like to wish Alexander all the best and thank him for his endless efforts to support AutoNation’s mission to drive out cancer over the years.”

With this move, it is confirmed that Alexander Rossi will depart the team at the conclusion of the 2022 season after seven years. Together, Rossi and Andretti have captured seven wins, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in Rossi’s rookie 2016 INDYCAR campaign.

“Alexander has been a great contender for us, and we’ve enjoyed having him as part of the team for seven seasons,” added Andretti. “He’s won races and become a leader in the team, but all careers and all teams evolve, and we’ve mutually decided it’s time for each of us to move on. I have no doubt he’ll have a continued, successful INDYCAR career and we wish him the best. In the meantime, we are all working hard to finish the 2022 season strong.”

Sato Leads Again

Takuma Sato kept the fastest lap of the day in leading Thursday’s practice as he did Tuesday. His best lap, 227.519 mph, was a bit slower than Tuesday’s best of 228.939 mph. Scott Dixon again was second after leading until the final half hour.

Sato at Tuesday’s post practice conference

The Dale Coyne team also had its second driver, David Malukas, with today’s third best time. Malukas was seventh on Tuesday.

In the final hour Romain Grosjean had three close calls with the outside wall. He did not make contact, but with tomorrow’s higher speeds Grosjean needs to be careful about drifting out on that far on corner exit.

A. J. Foyt Racing jumped into the top 12 with J. R. Hildebrand fourth and Dalton Kellett 11th.

The top 12, by teams:

Ganassi- 3

Coyne- 2

Foyt- 2

AMSP- 2

Carpenter- 2

Meyer-Shank-1

Although no Penske driver cracked the top 12, Will Power was the fastest on the no tow list. I expect Penske drivers to be in the hunt for the top 12 on Saturday.

Results:

After practice Ed Carpenter said no one knows who will be really good for qualifying

“…a lot of people haven’t shown their hand just yet. I don’t think Ganassi has really shown anything — there’s someone else,
McLaren I don’t think did any Q sims either today. So
there’s some big hitters that still are concealing what they
can do.” he said.

Ed Carpenter, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Kirkwood after today’s practice

Kyle Kirkwood said of the additional power that cars will have tomorrow and Saturday,

“For me it’s a little bit intimidating going
from qually sim and pulling out the downforce out and
feeling how light the car is there. It’s kind of like you don’t
really want to turn the wheel because you’re just unsure
what the car is going to do, and adding another 10 or 15
miles per hour to it is going to be less than comfortable, I
would have to say.
From the people that I’ve talked to they all say it’s not that
big of a step. It actually feels better because you get the
runs out of the corners and it’s not like you lose tons of grip
due to the speed. I guess I’ll let you know after I go
through Turn 1 the first time with more power.”


Jimmie Johnson added, “Yeah, all of that, and then the only
thing to add is the last time I was in qualifying trim here
was in a Cup car, and we let off used little brake to get into
Turn 1.
So to feel the boost and the straightaway speed and look
down at that 90-degree turn and think that I’ll hold it flat, it’s
going to be an interesting conversation with my right foot.”

Kirkwood Comfortable on IMS Oval

Kyle Kirkwood is excited to be in his first 500. I spoke with the A. J. Foyt Racing driver yesterday after practice.

“It’s a really cool thing,” Kirkwood said of driving in the 500 for the first time.

He was happy with his morning run when the number 14 car finished 11th.

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

“We did the most laps out of everyone. So we’re getting the critical things that we’ve got to take everything apart, put our car back together and we seem to be better than we started off for some reason. So we’re happy with everything works around.”

Kirkwood felt his car picked up where they stopped at the end of the open test last month.

“You know, it’s just starting off. Everyone’s kind of starting off slow because it’s such a long, such a long two weeks of testing and everything so it’s really just making sure we got all the big things sorted out and we’ll start fine tuning the car as days go on,” Kirkwood said.

“We feel good. I think the conditions are quite a bit different than they were at the at the open test. I think everyone out there seemed to struggle a little bit more in traffic, for whatever that reason,” he continued. “We’ve had some rain over the past couple weeks and the track might have been a bit dirty. Possible. . But we feel we feel okay at the moment.”

The team’s plan for yesterday afternoon was “We’ve got a big list of items that we need to get through this next week and we’re just hitting all this off gathering as much data together and then we’ll reconvene or go back over it at some point, either at the end of this week or next week and figure out exactly what we have and we’re looking forward to get through these types of items and hopefully ended up with a really good car at the end.”

At St. Pete Kirkwood mentioned that he didn’t have much oval experience. Racing at Texas seems to have helped his confidence on ovals.

“Yeah, I’m very comfortable. It’s a bit different than Texas is given how flat the track is. But I feel very comfortable in the number 14 Rokit Chevrolet. “

Kirkwood ended up 21st in the afternoon session. It’s not unusual to see cars slide backwards in the second practice session as the team tries different setups.

Quick Thoughts- Long Beach Grand Prix

Photo: Josef Newgarden earns a hard -fought win

Today’s race showed that a street course can produce exciting racing. Pit stop strategy got Josef Newgarden to the lead. He then had to defend against three challengers- Colton Herta, Alex Palou, and Romain Grosjean. Newgarden brilliantly defended the lines going into the corners to keep Grosjean at bay.

There was a three -way battle for the lead over the last 20 laps. You just can’t ask for more.

Team Penske has swept the season so far, which should worry the rest of the paddock. Scott McLauglin won the opener at St. Pete. Newgarden has now won two in a row heading to Barber, one of his favorite tracks.

Romain Grosjean

Half a Loaf for Andretti

Andretti Autosport hoped to have a much- needed successful weekend. Herta won the pole, and Alexander Rossi and Grosjean joined him in the Fast Six.

A day that looked like a victory, a potential second podium spot, and a top ten dissolved by the halfway mark.

It almost all got away from them. Grosjean’s second place saved the day. Rossi had two forays into runoff areas and Herta crashed. Rossi did finish eighth after running as high as fourth.

As talented as Herta is, he has difficulty playing catch-up. In Nashville last year he also crashed while trying to chase down the leader.

Johnson’s Weekend of Contact

Jimmie Johnson had arguably his most forgettable weekend of his Indycar career. He had wall in every session but one. Johnson injured his hand in Friday’s practice crash. After the first two races and his sixth place result at Texas, I though we might be seeing some progress. Long Beach is a big setback for Johnson.

Kyle Kirkwood

Top Ten for Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood finished 10th today for A, J, Foyt Racing. This will not be his last top ten finish this season. Kirkwood has done a great job qualifying and today the team got a good race result. He was consistent all day.

The other rookies did not have great days. Kirkwood’s teammate Tatiana Calderon finished 16th, her best result to date. The Foyt rookies were the two highest finishing rookies.

The others- Christian Lundgaard (18th), David Malukas ((21st), Callum Ilott (24th), and Devlin DeFrancesco (25th) had contact or mechanical issues. Lundgaard was the only other rookie running at the finish.

Scott Dixon

Dixon has been relatively invisible this season. He started 16th and finished sixth, a decent day for anyone, but below par for a six time champion. Dixon sits fifth in points, but it has been a very quiet fifth. It has been almost a year since Dixon won a race.

Disappointing Days

Besides Herta and Rossi, Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, and Simon Pagenaud had hopes for better results.

McLaughlin’s troubles began after two laps of the warmup, when a cracked header ended his practice time. The engine was replaced. He spun exiting the hairpin and recovered to finish 14th but slipped to second in the point standings.

Marcus Ericsson, whom I expected to contend for the win today, spun on lap 66 while fighting for third place and ended up parked in a runoff area for the rest of the day. He will be back and should get a win sometime this year.

Simon Pagenaud did some flower gardening around the fountain and ended the race in 19th. After a promising stat to the weekend on Friday when he led the first practice, Pagenaud seemed to lose some steam with each session. I am puzzled by what I have seen from Meyer Shank Racing this year. I thought they would be much better.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was a success. It returned to its traditional spot on the calendar, drew huge crowds each day, and produced a great race. I will have a weekend wrap up in the morning before heading back to Indy. Thank you all for following along this weekend.

McLaughlin on St. Pete Pole as Penske Sweeps Front Row

Scott McLaughlin turned a sizzling final lap as time expired to win the pole for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding. He edged teammate Will Power, who will start on the front row for the 12th time at St. Pete.

Scott McLaughlin on his pole winning lap

Group 1 in Round 1 ended with six different teams advancing, including A. J Foyt Racing with Kyle Kirkwood, Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus Veekay. Colton Herta led the round with a time of 59.466 seconds, followed by Graham Rahal, VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Kirkwood, and Josef Newgarden.

Group 2 saw Power lead with a lap of 59,394 seconds, followed by McLaughlin, Romain Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou. Palou and Grosjean recovered from heavy damage in the morning practice.

The second round saw a great battle for the lead between Power, Grosjean, McLaughlin, and Herta, with Power taking the round. Power set a track record with his lap of 59.346 seconds.

Will Power

The Firestone Fast Six looked to be comfortably in Power’s grasp as Herta, Grosjean, and Pagenaud all failed to beat his time. McLaughlin’s final lap was 0.12 seconds better than his teammate. The second year driver has earned his first career pole.

Two drivers and teams who had great drives today- Kyle Kirkwood of A. J. Foyt Racing and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing. Neither team is known for their prowess on road and street courses, nut today may be a sign that the situation could be about to change. Kirkwood finished fifth in Round 1. The rookie has shown in two days how talented he is.

VeeKay appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered mid -season last year. VeeKay was third in Round 1, sixth in Round 2, will start fourth tomorrow.

Qualifying Results: