Introducing Indy Pro 2000

The middle step on the Road to Indy has a new name. The former Pro Mazda Series is Indy Pro 2000. I like the name for a couple reasons. It retains part of the old name, and it includes the word Indy, which helps more closely identify the series to the goal of many of its drivers.  The official press release:

PALMETTO, Fla. – The middle step on the world-renowned Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel driver development ladder is being rebranded as the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in time for the 2019 season.

Fitting in between the entry-level Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – which provides the final stepping stone to the IndyCar Series – Indy Pro 2000 will continue to build on a strong foundation which was further strengthened this year following the introduction of the state-of-the-art Tatuus PM-18.

Originally debuting as Star Mazda in 1991, then reformed as Pro Mazda in 2013 when Andersen Promotions took over the helm after the previous administration ceased operations, the series has served as a vital training ground for many of today’s open-wheel stars during its 28-year history.

Current IndyCar drivers Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Spencer Pigot and Graham Rahal all established their credentials in either Star Mazda or Pro Mazda, while recently crowned champion Rinus VeeKay is poised to move up one more step on the ladder when he enters the Indy Lights fray for 2019.

Indy Pro 2000 competitors next season will vie for a champion’s purse valued at $596,700 to progress to Indy Lights and follow in their footsteps, with the aim of graduating to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

“We are indebted to the tremendous support of Mazda over the past nine years, but now, as the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires legacy continues to grow, we feel the time is right to introduce a new look as we head into a new season,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions.

“The Tatuus USF-17 has been hugely successful from the time it was introduced in USF2000 two years ago, and since the same chassis – along with some considerable enhancements – forms the basis for the PM-18, it makes sense to incorporate this into the name evolution while also strengthening our ties to INDYCAR. We are excited to roll-out the new Indy Pro 2000 branding over the course of the next few months.”

The rebranding will go into effect immediately on the Indy Pro 2000 website (indypro2000.com) and social media platforms with the new handle of @IndyPro2000 on both Twitter and Facebook. Instagram will feature all three series under Road To Indy Official.

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires slate of 16 races at nine venues will kick off March 9/10 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., where all three levels of the Road to Indy will be in action. The Road to Indy annual Spring Training will take place one week prior on March 2/3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Coverage of Indy Pro 2000 will continue to include global live streaming of all practice, qualifying and race events on indypro2000.com, indycar.com, RoadToIndy.TV and the Road to Indy TV App. In 2016, Road to Indy became the first American racing series with a dedicated broadcast channel on demand. The channel is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku in addition to an official App on Xbox One.

Claman De Melo Returns to Indy Lights with Belardi

Above: Zachary Claman De Melo practicing for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Zachary Claman De Melo has signe3d with Belardi Racing for the 2019 Indy lights season. DeMelo drove in Indy Lights in 2017 and also had one Indycar race that year at Sonoma. In 2018 he drove nine Indycar races for Dale Coyne. He had several more races than anticipated as he substituted for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. De Melo’s best finish was 12th at the Indycar Grand Prix on the IMS road course.

Zach Veach returned to Indy Lights in 2017 in hopes of garnering enough attention to land a full time Indycar ride. His efforts paid off with a three year deal with Andretti Autosport.  De Melo has potential. For the Indianapolis 500 he qualified 13th and finished 19th.

More Lights drivers need to consider a return to the series to at least gain some more open wheel experience to prepare for Indycar.

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.

 

Gateway Announces Doubleheader- IndyCar and K & N Series Same Day

As if we needed more evidence that Gateway Motorsports gets it, today’s announcement provides it.  Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, and Vintage Racing also return. The two day event will be very similar to a weekend at a road course with non stop action.  More ovals need this type of programming.. The official announcement:

INDYCAR to be joined by NASCAR K&N Pro Series on August 24

November 28, 2018, St. Louis Region – Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois today announced its second doubleheader of the 2019 season: INDYCAR and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series will race on the same track on the same day. The cars and stars of the Indianapolis 500 will be joined by NASCAR’s future heroes on Saturday, August 24, 2019.

All three of NASCAR’s 2018 champions – Joey Logano (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series), Tyler Reddick (Xfinity Series) and Brett Moffitt (NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series) – won their first NASCAR races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.

Gateway Motorsports Park Executive Vice President and General Manager Chris Blair made the announcement after speedway Owner and CEO Curtis Francois signed the sanctioning agreement.

“Our slogan for 2019 is ‘Action is the attraction’ and this doubleheader will be the second of our 2019 season,” Blair said. “ The combination of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combo race – two races on the same track on the same day – delivers on our promise.”

The first doubleheader of the 2019 season will be the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series-ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards combo on Saturday, June 22.

“We are offering more racing than ever before on our INDYCAR Weekend,” Blair added. “Gateway fans will see the third annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 INDYCAR race, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda Series and vintage Indy Car racing over one two-day weekend here next year.”

Derek Kraus of Stratford, Wisconsin, won GMP’s inaugural NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combo race, the 2018 Monaco Cocktails Gateway Classic presented by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.

To purchase tickets or obtain additional information on Gateway Motorsports Park, please call (618) 215-8888 or visit www.gatewaymsp.com. Follow GMP on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

About Gateway Motorsports Park

Gateway Motorsports Park is the home of INDYCAR, NASCAR and NHRA racing in the St. Louis region. Located just five minutes from downtown St. Louis and covering more than 340 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the area. Gateway Motorsports Park’s facilities include a 1/4-mile drag strip, 1.25-mile superspeedway, 1.6-mile road course, a state-of-the-art karting facility and a 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. Gateway Motorsports Park was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Facility of the Year Award from the Race Track Business Conference and the 2017 Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis Attractions Association.

IMS Museum Plans Major Renovations- Some Thoughts

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported last week on renovation plans for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The full article can be read here:

https://www.ibj.com/articles/71234-getting-up-to-speed?v=preview

Highlights of the project, which at this time has no definite timeline or cost projection, include many interactive displays, virtual reality activities, a 3-D theater, and a racing simulator. Costs could run into the 10s of millions of dollars.The building will be double its current size with two wings and a partial third floor. There is talk of  some glass flooring offering a peek into part of the mysterious basement, which only a few outsiders have been privileged to see. For most race fans, the museum basement has been the IMS equivalent of a pharaoh’s tomb.

I think the museum is long overdue for a change. Up until a few years ago, displays rarely changed. The space had remained pretty much as it was when the first museum opened in the building at the corner of 16th and Georgetown. Even with their new approach of special exhibits and the additional display space in the north part of the building, the museum still is far behind other museums. The additional display space has added some improved experience, but they are still limited in what can be done.

I hope that keeping the current winning cars on display  is still part of the plan. I have always found comfort in seeing the cars when I first enter the museum proper. Several of my favorite cars of all time live there. It’s like visiting old friends. Yes, the museum needs to attract new and hopefully repeat repeat visitors. At the same time, they need to remember their older, frequent visitors like me.

On a snowy, rainy day like Indianapolis is having today, I like to go to the museum just to look at the cars. I’m not sure I’d be as tempted to go out to the new version just to hang out. A peaceful, meditative walk through history suits me just fine.

I celebrate the renovation plans, but I ask the people in charge to please consider retaining some of the current place’s charm.

The Pit Window and Wildfire Sports Going to PRI

The Pit Window and Wildfire Sports will be attending the PRI show the first week in December. Look for daily reports on Wildfire Sports and for commentary on the event here at the end of the week.  I’m excited to finally get to this show.

Wickens Update

In a tweet early this evening (Tuesday), Robert Wickens shares his latest progress on the road to recovery. You may need to double click the arrow to start the video. Keep up the great work, Robert.