Thoughts on McLaren

Silly Season was straightforward this year. Alexander Rossi stays with Andretti. Done. Wrap it up. Look to next year. Today, with McLaren’s announcement that they are joining Arrow Schmidt Peterson for 2020, the dam has burst. There are ripples throughout the paddock. Here are some of my thoughts about this development.

McLaren has a lot to prove after their debacle in May. Will partnering with Schmidt Peterson help them?

I’m disappointed that McLaren does not add to the car count. I’ve said before they are looking to come in the easy way, becoming part of an existing team instead of building their own team with  a technical alliance with an established team.

It’s a shame the way Honda’s hand was forced to make this deal happen. I can’t think of a Chevy team that would be a good match for McLaren. I’m not sure they even considered one.

My first concern was for James Hincliffe and Robert Wickens.  In Marshall Pruett’s story, he said that the commitment to Wickens will be honored. Later this morning, Hinchcliffe issued the following statement:

hinch statement

I hope he also  has a contract extension. Hinchcliffe’s current contract expires after the 2020 season. He also is losing his Honda commercial deal. I hope that he receives compensation for that.

Marcus Ericsson was likely going somewhere else anyway. he may be in a carlin car next year. Which brings up the question- who will drive the second car for the new team? Fernando Alonso said he is not interested in a full time Indycar ride.

Colton Herta may be available, but I think he will become the fifth driver at Andretti Autosport.  If he is, is Conor Daly once again out of a potential full time ride? It’s those paddock ripples splashing up.

With whom  does Meyer Shank now partner with as they prepare for a full schedule in 2020? The team is committed to Honda. An alliance with Andretti or Coyne seems most probable. I don’t think Ganassi is interested in being anyone’s partner.

The new team name is Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It bothers that mcLaren comes before Schmidt and Peterson and that the two founders names are reduced to initials. Since mcLaren is buying the team or acquiring the shares of either owner, I guess it’s a name recognition thing.

The biggest positive in today’s events is that Indycar now has a worldwide name in its paddock. it should help with recognition in Europe and may cause a bit of a bump in the United States.

I will keep updating as i learn more.  Everything I just wrote could be incorrect by now.

 

Daly Returns to Andretti for Finale; Some Other Tidbits

Photo from @FollowAndretti Twitter feed

The jaws are back. Andretti Autosport announced today that Conor Daly will drive the number 25 USAF car, the same one he drove in this year’s Indianapolis 500, in the NTT Indycar Series finale at Weather Tech Raceway.  In the 500 Daly started 11th and finished 10th. he ran as high as fifth during the race.

This season Daly has also driven twice for Carlin Racing- at Texas, finishing 11th after a 19th place start, and  at Iowa, where ended 13th from 16th on the grid.

I am glad Daly will drive for Andretti again this season. I was hoping he would be back in this car before Laguna Seca. Part of the reason I think the team is entering him in the finale is to serve as a point blocker to help Alexander Rossi get the championship. It would depend on where Daly qualifies, but it could help.

McLaren Closer to Indycar?

This Tweet from Adam Stern indicates some progress by McLaren toward the 2020 Indycar season. The engine issue and James Hinchcliffe’s contratc still seem like huge stumbling blocks. There is word McLaren is also after Colton Herta. I think there is still a lot of work to be done before we see orange cars  on the grid full time.

Third Car for Rahal?

In an interview with RACER magazine Bobby Rahal said this week that  a third car for Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing is closer than they’ve been before. The third RLL car has been a perennial Silly Season story.  I hope it finally appears at St. Pete next March.

More Indy Lights Drivers Test Indycar

Oliver Askew tested with Chip Ganassi Racing at Portland International Raceway yesterday. The CGR team was impressed with his performance. Rinus VeeKay also tested for Ed Carpenter Racing the same day at Portland.

Andretti Autorsport Indy Lights driver Ryan Norman also tested for Andretti at Mid Ohio last week.

I don’t get too excited about Indy lights drivers testing with Indycar teams.  It’s great that they get the experience, but the tests have zero implications for future Indycar rides.

I’m thinking the hybrid engine may not be the last bombshell announcement of this Silly Season.  We need a race soon. Very soon.

McLaren/Alonso Split- Thoughts

Motorsport Magazine reports this morning that McLaren and Fernando Alonso have parted company. The separation is believed to be amicable.

“We have no plans to run him in any further F1 test sessions this year…He is free to pursue other opportunities in motorsport and we support him doing so,” a McLaren spokesman said.

Alonso has had an off and on relationship with McLaren since his first season with them in 2007, when he complained of the team giving preferential treatment to Lewis Hamilton. When he returned to McLaren for the  2015 season, Alonso complained loudly and often about the uncompetitive Honda engine.

This past May at Indianapolis Alonso and McLaren failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 after a series of missteps by the team.

Where does Alonso go from here? If he wants to pursue the triple crown Alonso will need to find an existing team. Will it need to be Chevy team? I’m not sure. it seemed Honda was less happy with McLaren than Alonso.  He will also need to bring a lot of money.

I believe his commitment to Toyota in WEC ends after this season as well.  Alonso has talked of racing in virtually every major series in the world, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him doing a bunch of one-offs. We might see him in the Daytona 500 next year as well as the Indianapolis 500.  Perhaps a couple more races with Wayne Taylor Racing are in the cards.

I would like to see  Alonso try a couple of Indycar road races, especially road America and Laguna Seca. While McLaren may eventually come to the NTT Indycar sreries full time, I see Alonso just running selected races.

We know wherever he races there will be crowds of fans and press following him.

McLaren Reveals Car for 500; Some News; Barber Photos

McLaren revealed the car Fernando Alonso will drive in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 next month.  The mainly  papaya orange machine, the traditional McLaren color, has blue accents. While similar to Scott Dixon’s car, I think they are different enough to tell apart. The McLaren has less blue in the middle and is a different shade of orange from the Ganassi PNC Bank entry.

The sidepod sponsor is an e-cigarette company and includes a health warning. Don’t look for tobacco companies to come rushing back to motorsports just because they can add a health warning.  This si the second e cigarette company to be on a car. Blu sponsored Sebastien Bourdais a few years ago.

It’s a great looking car and it always adds to the race to have a former F1 champion in the field.

HSR Adds King Taco for Long Beach

Harding Steinbrenner Racing will carry King Taco sponsorship on Colton Herta’s car at Long Beach this weekend.  King Taco usually sponsors a car in their local race.  GESS, the primary sponsor of the 88 at Barber, is an associate sponsor this coming weekend.

It will be interesting to see if GESS commits further with the program in May.

Rich Energy Sponsors Jordan King

Jordan King, who will drive in the Indianapolis 500 as a third entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, yesterday announced Rich Energy is now a personal sponsor. This might help King, who drove the Ed Carpenter Racing number 20 on the road/street courses last year, get more races. Not sure if Rahal wants to do a third car for more than Indianapolis with the momentum the team has built the last two races.

Frye- Third OEM May Become Necessity

In a media availability at Barber Motorsports Park this past weekend, Indycar President Jay Frye said as more teams enter the field, a third engine manufacturer may “become a necessity rather than a luxury.”

It sounds as if he expects some more teams may be planning to enter the series. I agree. Honda and Chevy are getting stretched a bit already, especially in May.

Frye did not give any hints that a third OEM is imminent though rumors persist that a certain German company may have its name mentioned next month.

Last Look at Barber in Photos

Here are some final photos from Barber. The first two are from my friend Kyle McInnes, a photographer aspiring to become an Indycar photographer. Check out his work at kylemcinnesphoto.com.

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Top: Matheus Leist after spinning in practice.

Bottom: Spencer Pigot brings out another red flag Friday’

Photos by Kyle McInnes

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Scott Dixon makes his final pit stop.

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Sato’s crew celebrates after the checkered flag.

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Takuma Sato addresses the media after his convincing victory.

The last three photos are mine.

Back Thursday with a Long Beach preview.

The Pit Window Plays Santa

The big day approaches rapidly, and The Pit Window has gifts for Indycar. Before I pass them out, I want to thank everyone who has read the column this year. There has been a 300% increase in readership in 2018. I am humbled and appreciative. I hope everyone has a great holiday season no matter what or how you celebrate. On to the gifts.

For Indycar- An improved aero package for ovals. The street and road package is great. I hope you can find the answer to improve the oval racing. It seemed to improve as the year went on.

For IMS-

A tweak to the Indy 500 qualifying format to accomodate the larger entry list.

An IMSA race for 2020.

For A. J. Foyt Racing- Some top five finishes in 2019.

For Juncos Racing- A car on the grid for several races, including the 500.

For Zach Veach- Your first Indycar victory.

For Scott Dixon- Your first back to back championship.

For Will Power- Another Indy 500 win. The celebration was worth it.

For Robert Wickens- Continued progress toward full recovery. Watching you battle has been inspiring. You were a joy to watch on track, and you have shown that same spirit in therapy..

For McLaren- A successful Indy debut that leads to fuller participation in the series.

For NBC- Great coverage of all races and an outstanding Indy 500 broadcast.

For All Teams and Drivers- A safe, competitive 2019 season.

I will return mid week next week with a news roundup and a look at what you’ll see here in 2019.

Happy Holidays to all.

Catching Up with Indycar

Seems as if a lot has happened in Indycar since last Wednesday. I had a great time at the PRI Show. If you ever get a chance to attend, please do so. It is an amazing display of all things racing. Having the show in December helps the off-season blues.  Anyway, here are some news tidbits and some thoughts on each one.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing to Use Honda Engines

The hissing sound you heard was the sigh of relief from the Indycar paddock, who had grave concerns about Andretti Autosport giving technical aid to a potential Chevy team. I have voiced concerns about this since the possibility first arose.  Honda now has 14 full time entries for 2019.

In a related announcement, McLaren announced they will have Chevy power at the Indianapolis 500. Any technical partnership will be with a Chevy team. McLaren partnered with Andretti in 2017.

E85 fuel to Power Indycars Through 2020

Although Indycar will have Speedway as the official fuel supplier for 2019, E85 will remain the fuel for the next two years. There had been some talk of returning to methanol whent he new car came on in 2021 to add more horsepower. That is still possible, but keeping the same fuel formula makes sense since the engines are essentially the same.

It appears that this will be a seamless transition from Sunoco to Speedway.

BC39 Returns to IMS

The BC39 midget event will be back at IMS September 4-5 as a prelude to the Brickyard 400 weekend. this year’s event was a rousing success with great racing and sellout crowds. The race is the perfect opportunity for people like me who keep saying, “I should go to a dirt track this weekend” and never get around to it.

It was one the best events I attended in 2018.  MY review of it can be read here:

https://wordpress.com/post/thepitwindow.blog/8551

Foyt to be Inducted into Houston Sports Hall of Fame

A. J. Foyt will be inducted into Houston’s Sports Hall of Fame 2019 class. Foyt is a Houston native who operates part of his racing team in Houston. This is a great honor for him. My question- What took so long? The induction comes on the 60th anniversary of Foyt’s first Indianapolis 500. While he didn’t finish that race, he did pretty well in subsequent races.

Reader Billy the Skink added an explanation about the Houston Sports Hall of Fame:

To be fair to the Houston Sports Hall of Fame, they didn’t take all that long to induct Foyt. This is only the hall’s second year of existence (the project was proposed many years ago and languished in development hell for a lonnnnnnnnnnng time). They rightly recognized that Foyt was one of the first nationally prominent sports figures to hail from or be associated with Houston. The only reason he was not an inaugural class member is likely because the hall’s organizers liked the synergy and splash made with a 3-person class of Hakeem Olajuwon, Nolan Ryan, and Earl Campbell, all patron saints of sorts of Houston’s 3 major pro team sports and all wearers of the number 34.
Foyt has long been a member of the more established Texas Sports Hall of Fame, along with other racing Texans Johnny Rutherford, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, and the Labonte Brothers. Still need to get Lloyd Ruby, Jim McElreath, Kenny Bernstein, Eddie Hill, and Ted Johnson in there.
So it didn’t really take that long for A. J. to get in the hall. I apologize tio the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

Indycar’s IMSA Invasion Continues

The Weather Tech Sportscar Series is quickly becoming Indycar’s second home. Roger Penske debuted an Acura DPi team last year. Chip Ganassi has been in the series for a long time. Bobby Rahal also has a two car team. Michael Shank was in IMSA before he entered Indycar. For 2019 Ricardo Juncos will have a DPi team as well.  Many drivers participate in the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 hour events.

Graham Rahal drove for Penske last year. In 2019 Alexander Rossi will join Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in one of the Penske entries. Simon Pagenaud will co drive the other car with regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.

Rahal said the reason for the switch is that he cannot fit comfortably in the car. Ryan Hunter-Reay backed him up on that point. Hunter-Reay has driven the Wayne Taylor Racing prototype.  Rossi is one of the taller drivers in the series as well. I’m not sure that this move changes much. Rossi is a bit slimmer than Rahal, but I think the height is the issue.

In related news, Alex Zanardi was confirmed for the Rolex 24 as a co driver of one of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s cars. The car will have special hand controls to accommodate Zanardi. It will be gbreta to see him in major racing again.

TV Summit

This weekend NBC met with nine racing series that are on their networks to work out plans to better coordinate schedules. Some things discussed were joiny events and a Racing Week in America, seven nights of racing on television. Yes, please! I will have more about the summit later this month.

Coming Attractions

After my move this week to The Pit Window’s move to winter headquarters, look for a post on another 500 mile race program and another in which  I play Santa for the Indycar community.  My last 2018 post will be around the 28th.

 

McLaren Forms Its Own Team for Indy; Some Thoughts

Following yesterday’s late afternoon announcement that McLaren and Fernando Alonso will enter the 2019 Indianapolis 500, CEO Zak Brown added further details. The Mclaren effort will be a separate team, McLaren Racing. It is expected they will still receive some support from Andretti Autosport.  The team will run Chevrolet engines in all likelihood.

Brown would not comment on a possible two car effort at Indy. He did say that this entry is a precursor to a full time Indycar team.

Some Thoughts

It’s always great to have more cars in the 500, especially with another separate team. The international aspect is great for the race.

The possibility exists to have six former F1 drivers on the 500 grid, including a former world champion. Maybe Team Penske can bring Juan Pablo Montoya back as well.

Alonso will drive a car very different from the one he drove in 2017. There will be less downforce. I have no doubt he will adjust quickly as he did in his first May.

If McLaren’s main focus is helping Alonso win the third leg of the Triple Crown, would it be helpful for them to enter Pocono as well in 2019? While it is a different track from Indy, it is still a high speed track of the same length.

Andretti Autosport will be giving support to two Chevrolet teams, Harding and McLaren, during May. I don’t think that is a good idea for the series.  Even if their personnel are completely removed from engine discussions, it just looks bad.

The entry list for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 appears to be heading to about 38 cars. I will wait until late April to begin my annual plea to change the qualifying format.