Spring Training Begins at COTA; 25 Entries Set to Run

Today, at last, is the official opening day of the 2019 NTT Indycar Series season. Spring training begins at 11 am ET at Circuit of the Americas, the newest track on the schedule. Cars have 5 hours of track time available today and 6 hours tomorrow. Today’s action will be streamed on Indycar’s Facebook page, Twitter, and YouTube.

With Monday’s news about the change in plans at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, Colton Herta will test the lone car for the team.  Kyle Kaiser will likely test for Juncos. The team announced yesterday that Kaiser will drive the number 32 at COTA in the March 24 race.

IndyCar sessions are scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m. ET on the 12th, and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:00-6:00 p.m. ET on the 13th.

Expected to test :

A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy (2): Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist

Andretti Autosport Honda (4): Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (2): James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson

Carlin Racing Chevy (2): Max Chilton, RC Enerson

Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (2): Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist

Dale Coyne Racing Honda (2): Sebastien Bourdais, Santino Ferrucci

Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy (2): Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones

Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda (1): Colton Herta/Patricio O’Ward

Juncos Racing Chevy (1): TBA

Meyer Shank Racing Honda (1): Jack Harvey

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda (2): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato

Team Penske Chevy (4): Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves

Tickets for Spring Training can be purchased at http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/indycar-spring-training.

Quick Impressions- GP of St. Petersburg Kickoff

The first impression walking towardthe Dali Museum is there is no entry gate, no bridge to walk over, nothing that looks like a race track.

The area is huge when it is not confined by walls and fencing.

It was weird to see cars driving the wrong way down Dan Weldon Way.

The event was well attended. It was obvious that Mayor Rick Kriseman is a huge supporter of the race.

With Indycar testing on the West coast, Kyle Kirkwood, Indy Pro 2000 driver, was the only representative of Indycar.

Here are some photos.

Look for more details later today on Wildfire Sports.

 

Firestone Extends Indycar Partnership Through 2025; Building Race Tire Facility

I never think of Indycar without envisioning a car with Firestone tires. Firestone tires have been synonymous with Indycar it seems like forever. The tire has been on the winning car at the Indianapolis 500 69 times, including the first race in 1911. That relationship remains with today’s news.

Firestone will continue as the sole tire supplier to the NTT Indycar Series through 2025. The announcement of the new deal came at the Dallara Factory in Speedway this morning. In addition, Firestone is building a new state of the art manufacturing facility for Indycar tires in Akron. The building, the Advanced Tire Production Center (ATPC) should produce its first tire in late 2020.

“Champions have relied on Firestone tires for more than a century, and racing has always been the ideal proving ground for new technologies that help us evolve and advance our company’s passenger tire offerings,” said Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “As the NTT IndyCar Series continues gaining momentum, we are introducing new fans to the Firestone brand and strengthening our relationship with the drivers who use our durable, dependable Firestone tires.”

 

Ralph Hubbard, Creator of the HANS Device

Hubbard and his brother-in-law, Jim Downing, created the device in an effort to save drivers’ lives by protecting their heads and necks from the violent jolting in accidents. Their research began in the early 80’s. Indycar was the first series to adopt the device and Formula 1 made it compulsory in 2003. The HANS Device was optional in NASCAR, but after Dale Earnhardt’s death in the Daytona 500, it soon became mandatory.

Drivers and fans are thankful to Dr. Hubbard for work and inventing what is now taken for granted as a part of a driver’s equipment. Many lives have been saved with this attachment.

Indy Qualifying Changes?

The Pit Window has learned that an official announcement about the qualifying format for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will come either at the end of this week or early next week. Some tweaks to the current format are expected. I will share my thoughts on the new procedures next week. I hope more  changes may be on the way for 2020.

Testing Begins

Weather Tech Raceway hosts the first Indycar test of 2019 Friday. Most of the projected grid will be there. Official Spring training begins Tuesday at COTA. The Tuesday session will be live streamed on Indycar,com.

The entry list for Weather Tech Raceway:

wp-1549475787562120752579864604659.jpg

 

Gainbridge Becomes Presenting Sponsor of Indianapolis 500- The Story and Some Thoughts

Indycar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continued their momentum with today’s announcement of Gainbridge as the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500. The four year deal was announced by Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles at the track this afternoon.

Gainbridge is a part Group 1001, which has a multiyear sponsorship agreement with driver Zach Veach, who drives for Andretti Autosport. Gainbridge will be the primary sponsor on his number 26 car this coming season.

Gainbridge is an online financial services platform which has $37 billion in assets. they currently operate in Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey with plans to be in other states this year.

They were also the presenting sponsor for the Indiana Women in Tech LPGA tournament held at the Brickyard Crossing in 2018.

Like Speedway, which became the official fuel and convenience stores of the NTT Indycar Series, Group 1001 is an Indiana based company with a national reach.

Quick Thoughts

Indycar and IMS have put together two sponsorship deals within a month, an incredible accomplishment for any series.

This is the second company which sponsors a car to expand their involvement to the series or the 500.  It is great to see that these commitments are genuine and long term.

I like that the Gainbridge name on the new logo is separated from the race logo. The Penn Grade name was too much a part of the race logo for my taste. I could live without the “#This Is May” hashtag on the emblem.

The best news of all- cars will be on track in just eight days!

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.

Indycar’s Pretty Good Week

I’m kidding. It was one of the best weeks the series has had since 2008 reunification. The announcement of NTT as series sponsor was the week’s biggest news, but three announcements followed, strengthening two events and one team. Friday’s news about the new ASPM team, in my opinion, is just as big as the NTT announcement. It could very well change the dynamic in the paddock.

The Road to the Title Begins and Ends with Firestone

Firestone has sponsored the opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the last few years. The tire supplier now will also sponsor the season finale at Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

Firestone and Indycar have been together virtually since the beginning of racing in America.  It is a relationship fans almost take for granted.  It’s great to see that they continue to increase their support of the NTT Indycar Series.

REV Group Helps Road America Keep it Local

REV Group has replaced Kohler as title sponsor the race at Road America. REV is a Milwaukee based company that manufactures RVs and emergency vehicles. REV Group plans to have a hospitality area to salute first responders who attend the event.

The new race sponsor replaces Kohler, who held title rights for the first three years of the race. It is one of the most popular events on the  schedule.

The REV Group Grand Prix is June 21-23, and is one the eight races televised on the NBC network.

 

Arrow Steps Up Commitment to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Schmidt Peterson is now Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. In a Friday announcement in Denver, Arrow became a team partner and primary sponsor of both Schmidt Peterson cars.  James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson will drive in 2019. A third car will be ready for Robert Wickens when he is able to return.

The relationship between Schmidt and Arrow goes back to 2013 with the develoment of the SAM car, a semi- autonomous vehicle which has allowed Sam Schmidt to drive a street car again. That partnership led to Arrow sponsoring Hinchcliffe and ultimately to a stake in the team.

The new team structure brings a huge infusion of resources to Schmidt’s organization, which should see better results from the entire team. It might take a year for them to be really strong, so I’m looking at a great season in 202 for this outfit.

Arrow is one of the classiest sponsors in the paddock. They stood by the team when Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the 500 this year, and they are supporting Wickens by holding a seat for him.

To me, this announcement is nearly as big as naming the series title sponsor. It is another large company investing heavily in Indycar.

Aero Tweaks Should Improve Racing at Indy, Pocono

In an effort to improve the superspeedway package the NTT Indycar Series is introducing aero options for both Indianapolis and Pocono. The new Universal Aero Kit introduced last year greatly improved the road and street course racing, but the speedway configuration didn’t produce the hoped for results.

Teams will have more aero tuning freedom on both the front and rear wing of the car.

The rear wing will have a 3/8 inch tall Gurney flap. One option is 13.2 inches wide and adds 50 pounds of downforce. The other choice measures 24.5 inches across and adds 100 pounds of downforce. there is a third flap which covers the entire length of the wing and adds 200 pounds. The full wing flap will only be allowed at Texas.

Extra downforce should allow cars to pass easier.

wp-15478612240951077988461334951974.png
The top 2 wings will be available at Indianapolis.

The front wing has a 3/8 inch tall flap which is 5.5 inches wide. Teams may use this flap asymmetrically. One problem in the 500 last year was the front end washing out as cars attempted to pass.

wp-15478612668525309166021447161963.png

Glen Wood

Sad news today about the death of Glen Wood, of the famous Wood Brothers racing team. Wood, 93, drove until 1964 and began his race team with is brother Leonard.  His team also was Jim Clark’s pit crew in 1965 when he won the Indianapolis 500.  Their pit stop routine became the norm for Indycar.

The Wood Brothers team is the oldest team in NASCAR. They have won 99 races including 5 Daytona 500s