Updated: O’Ward Makes it Official

Update: O’Ward finished 14th in today’s F2 sprint race.

A tweet from Pato O’Ward:

I hope he does well. Red Bull doesn’t seem to show much patience with drivers who don’t produce.  Sad that Indycar loses such a great young talent, but it’s neither the first nor last time this will happen.

Indycar Drivers’ European Vacations

Above: Pato O’Ward at Road America last week.

Indycar began a three week summer break after Road America last weekend. The Series returns to action in Toronto July 14.  What do drivers do in their weeks off?  They go to Europe. One may not return. It’s complicated, and we’ll discuss that last.

The week before the REV Group Grand Prix Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais went to Le Mans to participate in the 24 hour race for Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT teams. It was the last Le Mans for this car. Ford is shutting the GT program down. My hope is that they return in another class, preferably the prototypes.

This coming week (July already? Really/) Marcus Ericsson will participate in a Pirelli tire test in Austria on Tuesday.  Ericsson is still a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo. When the Indycar season ends he will spend more time at the remaining F1 races.

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Ericsson heading to Turn 14 at Road America

O’Ward Fills in for Banned Driver; Japan Next?

Pato O’Ward’s weird itinerant season continues. This weekend he is driving for MP Motorsport in Formula 2 in Austria. O’Ward replaces Mahaveer Raganathan, who accumulated enough penalty points to earn a one race suspension. Jordan King is O’Ward’s teammate this weekend. O’Ward qualified 17th Friday, one second off the pole speed and just 0.25 seconds slower than the more experienced King. It was O’Ward’s first time in this type of car, first time at this track, and of course first time on this particular tire.  Overall, he did a great job.

F2 runs two races this weekend, a race on Saturday which includes a pit stop, and a sprint race on Sunday.i am anxious to see how Pato does in the two events.

News from japan’s Super Formula that Dan Ticktum is losing his Red Bull backed ride has led to speculation that O’Ward will finish the season there. Nothing is confirmed. Ticktum has scored just 1 point this season. His teammmate has out performed him significantly.

Since O’Ward is under contract to Red Bull, he may complete his season there. That would be a big loss to Indycar, which thought they had a rising star. Considering Ticktum’s struggles, this may be a difficult situation for O’Ward. doesn’t work out, will there still be room for him back in Indycar? Let’s hope so.

I’ll be back next week with a look at another past Indianapolis 500 program.

 

COTA Entry List-O’Ward Debuts

Patricio O’ Ward begins his rookie season at Circuit of the Americas as the NTT Indycar Series visits Austin for the first time.

O’Ward will join the 24 car field for his initial race of the year for Carlin Racing. Kyle Kaiser drives for Juncos in what is to date their only confirmed event. Juncos is expected to enter the Indianapolis 500.

The entry list:

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Watch for a race preview later this week.

O’Ward, Harding Steinbrenner Split; Pato has Limited Options for 2019

Above:  Pato O’Ward speaks to the media at Sonoma last September

In a statement released this morning Harding Steinbrenner Racing announced that the team and driver Pato O’Ward have agreed to part company. O’Ward’s statement:

“The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team supported my decision to seek a new opportunity by releasing me from my contract and allowing me the opportunity to find a new team before the start of the 2019 season,” said O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champion who strongly impressed in his IndyCar debut with HSR late last season. “Now, I am fully focused on finding the right opportunity and how I will use my scholarship from Indy Lights for 2019.”

O’ Ward raced for then Harding Racing in the 2018 Indycar finale at Sonoma. He qualified fifth and finished  ninth in a spectacular debut.  O’Ward was projected to team with Colton Herta in a two car effort for the merged Harding Steinbrenner Racing this upcoming season. Herta will be the sole full time entry for the team, which switched to Honda power in December.

The 2018 Indy lights champion has $1 million in scholarship money to put toward a ride. Rumors about financial woes at Harding Steinbrenner have been circulating for a while. This close to the beginning of the season it may be difficult to find a ride. There are some part time possibilities, however. I’m pretty confident a seat for the Indianapolis 500 will be available to him. O’Ward was projected as one of the top candidates for Rookie of the Year this season.

Possible landing spots-  This is strictly conjecture on my part. I have no idea what talks are going on, but I am looking at what little is available right now.

Juncos?- As of now, Kyle Kaiser will drive in the 500, but nothing else is confirmed. The team is looking for a driver with funding.

Carlin 2nd car?- Charlie Kimball has just 5 races set and R. C. Enerson has been testing with the team. There is speculation that he will fill in when Kimball isn’t driving, but I’m not sure he can run all 12 of the other races.

Coyne 3rd car?- Dale Coyne has brought out a third car from time to time. This may not be the best option for O’Ward to showcase his talent.

6th Andretti car for Indy?- O’Ward won the Indy Lights title in 2018 driving for Andretti and Andretti was giving some assistance to Harding Steinbrenner. Michael said at the Conor Daly announcement that a 6th car didn’t look good, but the cash infusion might change things.

Additional track time for Dragonspeed- Ben Hanley has a 5 race schedule planned as the team dips its toe in the Indycar pool this year. O’Ward could allow them more time to develop.

Meyer Shank more races? Jack Harvey will be in 10 races as the team expands a bit from last year. Could O’ Ward get them closer to a full time schedule?

It would be a pity if O’Ward doesn’t race this season. He is a great talent whom I was looking to seeing on track.

 

The Early, Early Line

Happy New Year and welcome to another year of The Pit Window. Thanks to everyone for making 2018 a record year for this site.  Here are are some early predictions for the 2019 Indycar season. I may revise these after the Spring Training sessions at COTA next month.

2019 Champion– Alexander Rossi. Rossi made some mistakes that cost him the title last season. He seems to learn quickly and I don’t expect those errors to be repeated. Dixon has never won consecutive titles, which is why I am not picking him. Look for strong competition from Will Power and Josef Newgarden, as usual. Ryan Hunter-Reay rediscovered his groove and may gave his teammate a challenge as well.

Rookie of the Year- I’m  giving a slight edge to Felix Rosenqvist, mainly because of the team he drives for. Patricio O’Ward will present a strong challenge, especially with Harding Steinbrenner Racing receiving some technical support from Andretti, but Rosenqvist will provide strong support to Dixon in his title quest.

Indianapolis 500– Will Power. If any driver is gong to be the next back to back winner of the 500, Power is the one. He has become a master of ovals. Look for his dominance of May to continue. I can imagine the Victory Circle celebration if he returns there. Last year’s will seem tame.

Race Wins-  In 2018, four drivers each won three races. I think we will see a similar situation this season, although I look for Rossi to win a fourth race to give him the edge he needs for the title. Dixon will creep ever closer to the 50 win mark, but will need another year to get there and possibly two to pass Mario Andretti’s 52 victories.

A Brief Survey

I would like to hear from you. What stories did you enjoy the most last year? Which type of column did you not like?  Anything you would like to see more of, or less of? Please let me know.

The Roar

I will be heading to Daytona Saturday for The Roar Before the 24. Look for my coverage on Wildfire Sports. I may have some news regarding Wildfire soon.

Some Off Season Thoughts

The first week of the off season brought the exciting news that Harding racing will partner with Steinbrenner Racing in 2019. The new Harding Steinbrenner Racing team has signed rookies Pato O’Ward, 2018 Indy Lights champion, and Indy lights runner-up Colton Herta. Very few details other than the driver announcements are known at this time. There is a technical partnership with Andretti Autosport which will provide shocks, dampers, and engineering help.

The big question is which engine will Harding Steinbrenner use? Harding had Chevrolet power in 2018, and Andretti is a Honda team. For these teams to work together, the engine needs to be the same. If HSR goes with Honda, would that rule out a possible third car at Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing?

One of the greatest things about this new team is that the two team owners come from outside of racing. My friend Steve Wittich wrote an excellent article for Trackside Online about how Indycar needs diversity in its ownership. I hope we see more owners from outside racing. they should provide a fresh perspective on the business of racing.  You can find his article on Trackside Online.com. It is a site worth subscribing to.

New Title Sponsor?

There has been no word on a new series title sponsor. Things have gone rather quiet about who it will be. That could mean it’s wrapped up ready to be announced, or Indycar is still searching. It would have been good to have an announcement at Sonoma, and have some sort of handing over ceremony to thank Verizon for their sponsorship.

The Mysterious Third OEM

Is there someone ready to jump in for 2021? There has been some talk of one or two manufacturers, with one name mentioned more than others, but again, things seem very quiet on the new engine front right now.

McLaren News in November?

We may not know Mclaren’s plans until November. It would be great to have McLaren in Indycar, but this is turning into racing’s version of General Hospital. First Honda says they will not help Mclaren, then reports have come out saying yes they still might. Alonso has not made a decision. My guess he is in for the 500 only. Stoffel Vandoorne, considered a candidate for the seat when Alonso doesn’t drive, is rumored to be close to having a contract in Formula E. That could mean McLaren will be here for the 500 only as well.   Stay tuned.

Coyne’s Car 19

Dale Coyne has talked to some former Formula 1 drivers about driving the 19 car next year. he continues his quest to have one driver for the entire season in that ride. Apparently neither Zachary Claman De Melo or Pietro Fittipaldi will return. Too bad. They both have some potential to be decent drivers.

October Coming Attractions

Next month I have several columns planned for here and on Wildfire Sports.

A review of Born Racer.

A book review of Gentleman, Start Your Engines.

Look for  another month of May review via the official program for that year.

Commentary on off season news and the big announcements that could be coming will be posted as needed. In addition to a title sponsor, I am most interested to see which races will be on NBC network. I’m guessing there will be a lot in May and very early June. They didn’t ask me (again) but I think one Detroit race would be enough.

Look for a column on things Indycar might want to change for 2019.