Rookies Get First Indycar Taste at Sebring

Sebring belonged to the newcomers today as rookies Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay ran tests for their NTT Indycar Series teams today. Askew shared the Arrow McLaren Sp car with teammate Pato O’Ward while VeeKay became familiar with his Ed Carpenter Racing machine. Two time Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin ran laps in a test for Team Penske. McLaughlin drives for Penske in Australia.

Sage Karam also got some test time in the Dreyer and Reinbold entry. DRR announced last week they will enter four events this year, including the Indianapolis 500. There is a possibility of even more races in 2020.

Notes

At times the cars looked like prototypes as they approached the turn where I watched from. The cars with a white band on the framework give this impression more than the black does. While you  can still see the drivers’ hands work the steering wheel, it is difficult to see the drivers’ head and helmet at a casual glance. The framework of the aeroscreen and the helmet seem to blend together.

The new protection device is more noticeable when the cars slow for a turn; I got used to it when the cars were at full speed.

A couple of things seemed strange:

A white Ed Carpenter Racing car.

Someone other than a regular in the Penske car.

It was great watching Indycars run again.

Some Travel Items

The “L” turn on Sebring Parkway as is now a roundabout. I didn’t realize the Mayor of Carmel had a home near the track.

It was sad to see how much of the open fields on the road approaching the track has been sold. The area will have a very different look next year, I’m afraid.

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Rinus VeeKay in the Ed Carpenter Racing #21
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Sage Karam
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Pato O’Ward
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Scott McLaughlin

 

 

Dragonspeed, Hanley Set for St. Pete

From Indycar and Dragonspeed:

1/13/2020

The 10Star DragonSpeed team is gearing up for the season-opening round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March15, confirming that Ben Hanley – who maintains his rookie status, having run three NTT IndyCar Series races with the team last season – will pilot its Chevy-powered Dallara chassis around the streets of the St. Petersburg, Fla. 

“I can’t wait to get back in the No. 81 machine for another crack at St Pete,” said the34-year-old Hanley. “After the thrash required just to make it to the track last season, we’re coming back in a much more settled situation. I don’t know if we can repeat the combination of luck and timing that put us 12th on the grid in 2019, but we will be much better prepared this time around and should be stronger throughout the weekend.”

DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian said, “The continuity represented by having Ben in the car at St Pete is a real boost, and for the fifth year in a row he remains the lead driver across all of our programs. That said, the realities of life as a young IndyCar team might see us running other drivers at the same level as Ben, perhaps with more IndyCar experience, during the year. But committing to Ben as the test and race driver for the launch of our 2020 effort is clearly the best way to get our season off to a strong start.”

Julian added, “We haven’t had the head start of some teams in testing the new IndyCar Aeroscreen and are pushing hard to get it in time to maximise the limited track testing allowed to us as a part-time entrant, while making some time in between for data analysis and shaker rig testing.”

DragonSpeed’s next event is the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance classic on 25-26 January, where the Indianapolis-based squad will defend its 2019 LMP2 class victory after setting the fastest time at last weekend’s official pre-race test.

Sebring Test Monday has Some Unusual Elements

It is not unusual for NTT Indycar Series teams to test at Sebring in January. It is unusual for a part time team to test, however. Dreyer & Reinbold is planning a four race program for 2020 and will take part in Monday’s test at Sebring International Raceway. The team has been Indianapolis 500 only the past few years. Sage Karam will drive for the team. A possible second entry for the 500 is also in the works.

We will also get to see two rookies on track together. Rinus VeeKay gets his first run for Ed Carpenter Racing, and Oliver Askew will test for Arrow McLaren SP. Askew’s teammate Pato O’Ward will also get some time Monday.

patoareos
Arrow McLaren SP testing late last year at Sebring

Team Penske will test two time Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin.

You Can Help

Long time racing broadcaster Bob Varsha has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Varsha has broadcast nearly every form of auto racing in his career.

A GoFundMe campaign has been established  by Marshall Pruett for Bob. You can contribute at

https://www.gofundme.com/f/supporting-bob-varsha039s-prostate-cancer-fight?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR2HAf53fA9A0WvHxlgP9F2tY5WfmGPbhP_zxVtKRBeqR-JcWi04uolIqhU

 

Alexander Rossi is auctioning his helmet from the Bathurst 1000 to aid victims of the wildfire in Austarlia. You can bid on the helmet at

https://www.ebay.com/itm/352925771454.

Some Large Grids

With Dreyer & Reinbold’s four race plan and Dragonspeed’s six race program in place, there are some rumblings that Juncos may have something in the works for 2020 as well. Assuming the both Carlin and Foyt have two cars for the full season, several races could have expanded grids.

What a great thing that would be for the series to have fields large than the 22 or 23 we have been used to at most events.

Checkers for Hulman- George; Green for Penske- Some Thoughts

What has seemed surreal for the last 63 days is now real. The purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indycar, and IMS Productions is now complete. While my head has been spinning since November4, the rotations are much slower now. The sale is like losing that oldest relative you’ve known since birth. I have mixed feelings of optimism and trepidation about the Penske years ahead. There are things about both the Speedway and the series I would like to see done differently.

IMS

For the fans, better Wi-Fi, bigger and better video boards, and more and better concessions are my top priorities. I would love to get a clearer signal from my seat in G Stand and be able to view the video board without the sun causing a glare on it. I’m not a frequent purchaser of concessions at the track, partly for price, but also I don’t like the limited selection. A wider variety is needed, including some healthier choices.

I think it’s time for newer, more modern garages. The current garages are nearly 40 years old. They aren’t bad, but a touch up might be in order.

More suites are a possibility. They do enhance revenue. My concern is where to put them so that they don’t detract from the experience of the average fan. I don’t think it would be a good look for the track for it to be completely enclosed by suites and grandstands. There are some open areas between grandstands that are available.

What I don’t want to see is a ban on fans bringing coolers into the track. Roger Penske said he wanted to respect traditions of the place. This is one that would definitely hurt attendance.

Another concern I have is the track going to electronic tickets. I value my tickets from past races. I have one from every race I have attended and a few I did not attend. No, I do not have my 1911 ticket. Thanks for asking. These pieces of pasteboard are works of art. I would hate to see them discarded in favor of an image on a phone screen or a print at home generic looking paper with a bar code. Perhaps the Speedway could offer fans a choice.  I would opt for the traditional ticket. I would even pay a fee for it.

My biggest concern, though, is a possible reduction of on track time. I already think the schedule is too short. It’s barely the Fortnight of May anymore. Thank goodness for the grand prix. Without it, we have an extended weekend. Increasing the purse to make the teams’ time at IMS more worthwhile would help.

The Indycar Series

I like the new procedures that have come out in the last few days. I think they make sense. I hope Jay Frye continues to revise things to be as fair as possible to all competitors.

While the new rule about reordering the field should help shorten yellows, what would really help shorten a caution period is not giving everyone a chance to pit. Either pit or don’t. but be aware the race could go green at any time. Yellows almost seem staged at times.

I don’t want to see a guaranteed spot rule for the Indianapolis 500.  This is perhaps a topic to include in my qualifying discussion in May, but there are other ways to protect teams. First, get rid of double points. Missing the race will not be the huge points penalty it is now. Second, give full time teams that miss the race last place points minus 1 for every spot below 33rd that they qualified. Teams and drivers don’t walk away empty, even though they are not racing. Giving points for every place is another post.

Make it clear to fans at what point on the track the race begins. Many times it looks as if the drivers begin racing too soon. I think fans aren’t aware of the start zone. Just make sure there is good field alignment when the front row reaches that area.

 

This is an exciting time for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT Indycar Series, and the Indianapolis 500. I wish Roger Penske the best as he begins stewardship of these entities. Fans will like some changes and not like others. Like anything new, we must wait and see what develops.

Roar Before the 24- Lots of Changes for Full Timers and Indycar Drivers

The Roar Before the 24 began today with a totally different look for the IMSA Weather Tech field. Several full time drivers are with new teams. As a result, some of the Indycar regulars who serve as the extra drivers needed for the endurance races are also in new situations. The most notable Indycar drivers to switch are Scott Dixon, who will drive for Wayne Taylor Racing this year after Chip Ganassi’s Ford GTLM program ended after 2019.

The majority of drivers who participated in the NTT Indycar Series in 2019 are in the DPi class. Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud are in Team Penske Acuras. Rossi is in car number 6 and Pagenaud in car 7. Dixon will drive in the 10 car. Ryan Hunter-Reay is with the number 55 Mazda. Matheus Leist, who at present does not a ride in Indycar for this year, is driving the endurance races for JDC-Miller in car 85.

Colton Herta returns to defend his GTLM win in the 2019 Rolex 24 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan in the number 25 BMW.

Part time Indycar drivers running this weekend at Ben Hanley with Dragonspeed in the 81 LMP2 entry and James Davison the number 2 Multimatic Riley, also in LMP2.

Katherine Legge returns on an all female team, but not with Henricher/MSR. She will drive the 19 GTD car for GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser. The Lamboghini Hurracan will be very competitive.

Go to the link to view the full entry list:

https://sportscarchampionship.imsa.com/sites/default/files/event-weekends/2020/emedit_event_weekend/em_roar_before_the_rolex_24/2020_iwsc_roar_official_entrylist.pdf

 

Things Will Seem Weird

There are things about the Roar that will look strange. Wayne Taylor Racing will not have a driver named Taylor.  It was hard enough last year getting used to Ricky Taylor in the Penske Acura. Now we also need to adjust to his brother Jordan in a Corvette GTLM.

I will miss the Ganassi Ford GTLMs. I loved the look of the car and its distinctive sound. I’m glad that their regular drivers have found other rides.

Normally watching Sebastien Bourdais in the endurance races is no big deal, but it’s difficult to realize that the number 5 Cadillac will be his home for the season. I hope he can find something for the Indianapolis 500.

I hope the smaller field, just 40 cars this year, can see more entries starting next season. I understand it’s economics, but sad to see the numbers going down. Some of the shorter races may see even smaller grids.

The Schedule

Saturday, January 4

7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Garages Open
7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Scout Days Open Garage inside the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship garage
7:30 AM
Infield & UNOH Fanzone open
7:30 AM – 8:15 AM
Scout Days Start/Finish Line Track Walk
8:00 AM – 3:30 PM
DIS Tours available – Purchase at Daytona Ticket and Tours building
8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Scout Days fishing available on Lake Lloyd
8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Pick up sheet to earn Scout Days Unit Excellence Ribbon at the GEICO Campgrounds information booth
8:45 AM – 9:00 AM
IMSA Prototype Challenge qualifying
8:45 AM
Scout Days STEMWERX Wind Tunnel activity signups at UNOH Fanzone Main Stage (limited spots available)
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Rolex 24 At DAYTONA trophy photos in Gatorade Victory Lane
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Scout Days Tram Track/Venue Tours departing from Tram Plaza
9:00 AM – 9:20 AM
Michelin Tire Workshop in Pilot Challenge Paddock
9:15 AM – 10:00 AM
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session #3
10:00 AM
Scout Days STEMWERX Wind Tunnel activity (must sign-up in advance)
10:15 AM – 11:15 AM
IMSA WeatherTech Championship practice session #3
10:15 AM – 11:00 AM
Autograph Session: IMSA Prototype Challenge drivers under FPL Solar Patio in UNOH Fanzone
10:30 AM
Guided IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Garage Tour Sign-Ups (limited spots available, UNOH Fanzone Main Stage)
11:20 AM – 12:00 PM
IMSA Prototype Challenge Pre-Race Access/Grid Walk
12:15 PM – 3:15 PM
Race – IMSA Prototype Challenge At DAYTONA (3 Hours)
12:30 PM – 1:00 PM
Driver Panel: AIM Vasser Sullivan in Driver Meeting Room
1:30 PM
Guided IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Garage Tour (limited spots available, sign-up begins at 10:30 AM at UNOH Fanzone Main Stage)
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Fan Forum: “Women in Motorsports” in Driver Meeting Room
2:00 PM
Scout Days STEMWERX Wind Tunnel activity (must sign-up in advance)
3:15 PM
Celebrate with the IMSA Prototype Challenge Winners at Gatorade Victory Lane
3:30 PM
Guided WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Garage Tour Sign-Ups (limited spots available, sign-up begins at 3:30 PM at UNOH Fanzone Main Stage)
3:35 PM – 4:05 PM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session #4
4:15 PM – 4:30 PM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying (GTD)
4:40 PM – 4:55 PM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying (LMP2)
5:00 PM
Scout Days STEMWERX Wind Tunnel activity (must sign-up in advance)
5:10 PM – 5:55 PM
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session #4
5:30 PM
Guided WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Garage Tour (limited spots available, sign-up begins at 3:30 PM at UNOH Fanzone Main Stage)
5:55 PM – 6:15 PM
Michelin Tire Workshop in Pilot Challenge Paddock
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session #5
8:30 PM
Scout Days movie showing inside the UNOH Fanzone
Sunday, January 5th
7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Garages Open
7:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Scout Days Open Garage inside the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship garage
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
IMSA Pinewood Derby at DAYTONA on UNOH Fanzone Stage
8:00 AM – 3:30 PM
DIS Tours available – Purchase at Daytona Ticket and Tours building
8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Scout Days fishing available on Lake Lloyd
9:00 AM – 9:15 AM
Scout Days Unit of Excellence Ribbons awarded at GEICO Campgrounds information booth
9:00 AM – 10:15 AM
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session #5
9:00 AM – 3:45 PM
Infield & UNOH Fanzone open
10:30 AM – 11:35 AM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session #6
11:50 AM – 12:05 PM
IMSA WeatherTech Championship qualifying (GTLM)
12:15 PM – 12:30 PM
IMSA WeatherTech Championship qualifying (DPi)
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session #6
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session #7
4:00 PM
Event concludes

 

 

Red Flag Revision; Helio Back in May

The NTT Indycar Series will change its rule concerning work done on a car during a red flag period. The new rule calls for exclusion from the race if the crew attempts to make repairs while the race is stopped. The previous rule provided for a minimum two lap penalty for unapproved work while the race is under a red flag.

The revision is likely in response to Pocono last year. After the five car accident in turn 1 of the opening lap, the cars of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe were repaired while the race was stopped. All three were assessed a 10 lap penalty when they rejoined the race. Rossi was in a battle for the season championship and needed every point he could get. The accident and his 18th place finish still dealt a huge blow to his title chances.

I like this rule. It takes away any possible advantage a car could gain under a red flag. Part of the need to get a car back on track is the current points system. I’ve never liked the idea of every position earning points. If a team knows they are not going to get points for a race, there is not a need to work on the car under a red flag.

Castroneves Back for May

Three time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will again drive for Team Penske in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. It will be his 20th time in the race. Castroneves will also drive in the GMR Grand Prix on the Speedway’s road course on May 9.

Castroneves has been driving full time in IMSA for Penske’s Acura DPi team since 2018. It is believed he had a three year agreement with Penske to drive at Indianapolis. 2020 is the third year of this agreement

The 44 year old Brazilian has finished 11th or better 15 times in his 19 previous races. He finished 27th in 2018 and 18th last year. He has a great career at IMS. In addition to his three wins, Castroneves has finished second twice and has a third place and a fourth place finish.

I’ll be back later today with a preview of the Roar Before the 24.