Chris Griffis Memorial Test Returns to IMS, Includes Indycar Test

Photo from Indy Lights Twitter page

A news release from Indy lights. I’m happy to see these test days return.

PALMETTO, Fla. – Andersen Promotions today announced that the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test will return to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021. A fixture on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires calendar, the 10th annual event is scheduled for October 30-31 on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course.

Named in memory of Chris Griffis, the former team manager of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who passed away suddenly in September 2011, the cornerstone of the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test is to provide new drivers with the opportunity to sample the Road to Indy while offering returning drivers the chance to hone their programs for the following year. More than ever the 2021 test will provide several drivers with the opportunity to experience the next rungs on the highly acclaimed driver development program as part of the 2020 and 2021 series prize packages.

Indy Lights, which spent 2020 on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returns with a stronger-than-ever champion’s scholarship award of $1,289,425 to guarantee entry into at least three NTT INDYCAR SERIES events for 2022 including the Indianapolis 500. As an additional performance incentive, three NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams will provide each of the top-three finishers their first taste of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car. That one-day NTT INDYCAR SERIES test outing is scheduled for October 29 the day prior to the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test.

“The ‘scouting combine’ experience, similar to other sports, will be an incredible opportunity for their great work and achievement from the 2021 season,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “From the engineer meetings to the test session on the track to the team debrief afterwards, it’ll run the gamut. A ‘let’s see where you are’ type of test with NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams participating and observing.”

As announced in June of this year with the likelihood of a Chris Griffis Memorial Test not feasible in 2020, the reigning champions in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – Sting Ray Robb and Christian Rasmussen, respectively – will be provided with next level tests at the conclusion of their 2021 campaigns. Robb will be awarded an NTT INDYCAR SERIES test and Rasmussen an Indy Lights test to be held during the three-day event.

The value of the champions’ scholarships for Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 have also increased to $718,065 and $401,305 respectively, guaranteeing the 2021 champions advancement to the next step on the ladder. The prize package will now also include an Indy Lights one-day test provided by the series for the Indy Pro 2000 champion and a one-day test for the USF2000 champion in Indy Pro 2000.

“As competitors continue to evaluate their plans for next season, we want to emphasize our commitment to assisting drivers in climbing our Road to Indy ladder to reach the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We are extremely excited to work with INDYCAR to offer our top-three Indy Lights drivers an opportunity to test an Indy car, and to offer our reigning champions and 2021 champions in the junior series a chance to take the next step in their careers.

“The Chris Griffis test has always been one of my favorites. While it is exciting to see the new talent coming into our paddock, it is also especially rewarding to watch our current drivers move up and to hear their comments after first outings in the next level car.

“I also want to thank the Speedway for working with us to accommodate this event in a very busy month of October for them.”

Force Indy, Penske Drive for Diversity

In the 1930’s African American driver Charlie Wiggins submitted an entry for the Indianapolis 500. It was rejected, not because of his ability. Wiggins was a multiple winner of the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The 500 would not have a driver of color until 1991.

Today, a new era of diversity begins at IMS, thanks to efforts from Roger Penske and Rod Reid, who introduced Force Indy to the media today.

Reid laid out his mission early in today’s press conference.

“I kind of see this two ways. One is that we are inviting the black community to come into motorsports through our effort as Force Indy. We are also inviting the motorsports industry to embrace seeing and having the presence of African Americans and people of color in the pits, in the paddock, in other places in motorsports.

I want to be very, very clear that we are about diversity. We are about more than just me as a principal and the drivers. As a matter of fact, one of our core projects that we’ve engaged in in terms of putting this team together is to make sure that we have those positions like mechanics and engineers and others in the mix.”

With the support of Team Penske, Reid, the CEO of NXG Motorsports, will field a car in the 2021 USF2000 series, the first step on the Road to Indy. Reid has spent 40 years in motorsport helping people of color succeed in the sport. Reid believes the mentoring of Team Penske will be a significant boost to the team in its first year.

Jimmie McMillan, Penske Entertainment Chief Diversity Officer, said, “This is very pivotal for the Race for Equality and Change that we are undergoing right now. I could tell you under our leadership, certainly under Roger Penske, but also under Mark Miles, Bud Denker, Doug Boles, Allison Melangton, Jay Frye, we are all committed to changing this sport. It is an everyday laser focus on what we can do to move the needle.”

McMillan added,”As an African American male, I cannot understate the importance of today. Someone who did not grow up with the sport, but grew to fall in love with the sport over time and over being introduced to it by others. I have strived to spread that love to other African Americans, people of color. This is a pivotal morning.”

The car will carry number 99. Reid explained the significance of that number.

“It’s so important for us to know where we’ve come from. There’s a lot of history. African Americans have been in motorsports ever since the beginning of the car, the sport itself.

A gentleman in the 1920s by the name of Dewey Gaston, he went by the nickname Rajo Jack. He actually ran No. 33 for a lot of years, was very, very successful with that number.

He was staging a comeback in the early ’50s, late ’40s. He brought a car that he thought would be extremely successful. That car was a big block engine, thought he was going to put it up front. It was No. 99. He was never able to win in that car. I think he finished the best with like a fourth in one of his races. Then he stopped.

I thought it would be fitting for us to take on that heritage and use the No. 99 to move forward. With the help of the Penske organization, ourself, we wanted to put No. 99 in the winner’s circle.”

Reid expects members of his team to eventually find jobs with other teams in the Indycar paddock. He never speaks just of drivers, but always talks of mechanics, engineers, and people on the business side of the sport. Reid indicated that the team plans to move up the Road to Indy ladder to land in Indycar in the future.

A driver has not been selected as yet. Reid said they are looking for someone who fits their criteria.

“I can tell you there’s a lot of talent out there. There are a lot of deserving drivers. Our goal is to sit down and make a decision and choose one of them that we think fit our criteria.

Very quickly, that criteria includes being an American, it includes being someone that has been given an opportunity to go from karts to cars as part of that transition. We’re also looking for someone that is youthful and can grow with us as we start to develop our team.

Probably the most important thing is they’ve got to fit what our mission is. We’re really all about the full team. This is not just about the driver, as you’ve heard from everyone here.”

There is a lot of speculation that Myles Rowe, who tested with a USF 2000 team last month is the prime candidate, but Reid was noncommittal. Neither would he rule out a female driver.

Unlike the Indianapolis 500 drives of Will T. Ribbs and George Mack, which were essentially one off ventures, Reid is looking at a long term sustainable model to infuse diversity throughout Indycar.

The support from the top should give Force Indy the foundation to succeed. I’m sure Charlie Wiggins is smiling today.

Zanardi Well Enough to Transfer; Kirkwood Gets a 2020 Do Over

Some bits of positive news:

Alex Zanardi, two time Indycar champion and paralympic gold medalist, continues to recover from his hand cycling accident last June. Zanardi suffered neurological and facial damage when his cycle hit a truck during a race in Tuscany. He had been in a facility in San Rafaella, but is moving to a rehabilitation center in Padua, which is closer to his home.

“The patient has reached a generally stable physical and neurological condition that permitted his transfer to another hospital equipped with all the necessary clinical specialties and closer to the family home,” said a spokesman for the San Rafaella hospital.

Kirkwood Returns to Andretti for Indy Lights

For 2021 Kyle Kirkwood will be where he was supposed to be in 2020. The 2018 USF200 champion and 2019 Indy Pro 200 champion will finally get to drive in Indy Lights for Andretti Autosport, where his 2020 season was going to take place.

Kirkwood spent the past season in IMSA, which is not a bad alternative. For one thing, he received some experience doing pit stops, which drivers don’t get in Indy Lights. I look for Kirkwood, who will be in car 28 for Andretti, to be a strong contender for the title.

Updated: Indy Lights Schedule Has a Glaring Omission

Indy lights releaed their 2021 schedule as the top rung of the Road to Indy returns next season after a one year absence. The grid should have between 12-15 cars, with a strong field of drivers including IndyPro 2000 champion Sting Ray Robb. I am excited to see Indy lights return.

Missing from the schedule is the Freedom 100, a Carb Day staple since 2001. My understanding is that this was an Indycar decision. It takes away some of the entertainment value of Carb Day. Indy lights has had some great races at IMS. I assume Indycar might get a 2 hour practice that day to make up for it. I would rather watch an Indy Lights race than watch the Pit Stop Competition.

The two oval races will be at World Wide Technology Raceway August 20 and 21. The schedule also has Indy lights returning to the Detroit GP for the first time in a few years.

Update: Indycar has issued a statement regarding no Freedom 100 in May:

The schedule:

I’ll be back tomorrow with my St. Pete preview.

St. Pete Track Busy with Series Finales- On Track Schedules

The postponed Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg not hosts the NTT Indycar Series finale, the Road to Indy season ending races also take place this weekend. Mazda MX-5 Cup and Porsche GT3 Cup action is also on the agenda. Indycar does not get on track until Saturday morning at 10:55 am for a 90 minute practice. Friday is dedicated to practice and qualifying for USF 2000, Indy Pro 2000, Mazda mx-5 Cup, and Porsche GT3 Cup. each of the support series will have two races. Both Mazda races are Saturday. The second races for the other three series are on Sunday before the Indycar finale. The schedule by day (all times Eastern):

Friday

TimeSeriesSession
8:45 AM – 4:00 PM Gate Hours
9:00 AM – 9:40 AMMX-5 CupPractice 1
10:00 AM – 10:45 AMPorsche GT3 CupPractice 1
11:05 AM – 11:35 AMUSF2000Practice 1
11:55 AM – 12:25 PMIndy Pro 2000Practice 1
12:45 PM – 1:25 PMMX-5 CupPractice 2
1:45 PM – 2:15 PMPorsche GT3 CupPractice 2
2:35 PM – 3:05 PMUSF2000Qualifying 1
3:25 PM – 3:55 PMIndy Pro 2000Qualifying 1
4:15 PM – 4:35 PMMX-5 CupQualifying
4:55 PM – 5:10 PMPorsche GT3 CupQualifying

Saturday

TimeSeriesSession
8:15 AM – 5:45 PM Gate Hours
8:30 AM – 9:15 AMMX-5 CupRace 1
9:30 AM – 9:50 AMUSF2000Qualifying 2
10:10 AM – 10:30 AMIndy Pro 2000Qualifying 2
10:55 AM – 12:25 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESPractice
12:50 PM – 1:35 PMMX-5 CupRace 2
1:55 PM – 2:40 PMPorsche GT3 CupRace 1
3:05 PM – 4:20 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESQualifying
4:40 PM – 5:25 PMUSF2000Race 1
5:35 PM – 6:15 PMIndy Pro 2000Race 1

Sunday

TimeSeriesSession
9:15 AM – 3:00 PM Gate Hours
9:30 AM – 10:15 AMUSF2000Race 2
10:40 AM – 11:10 AMNTT INDYCAR SERIESWarm-Up
11:30 AM – 12:20 PMIndy Pro 2000Race 2
12:40 PM – 1:25 PMPorsche GT3 CupRace 2
2:30 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESRace

Mid Ohio- Busy Day for Indycar

Good morning from the Mount Vernon media center annex. Six races are on tap today, four for the Road to Indy, one for Mazda MX5 Cup, and the first practice for Indycar, followed by qualifying for the first Indycar raceof the weekend. The 75 lap event is on NBCSN at 5 pm Eastern

Today’s schedule (All Times Eastern)

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Eves Suffers Fractures in Road to Indy Crash at IMS

Braden Eves suffered two neck fractures in a horrific crash in an Indy Pro 2000 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday. He sent this tweet from the hospital this morning Safety advances and the AMR safety team did agreat job in keeping the outcome from being worse.

Road America First IndyCar Track to Welcome Fans

Good morning from Elkhart Lake.  Due to social distancing my seat in the media center  is five miles from the  track.  I can barely see the cars.

Today’s  Schedule: All times Central

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It will be a pleasant day at the track with a high of 81 predicted for mid afternoon. Rain chances drop to 20% at 8 am then are 15% or less the rest of the day. Last night we had some storms. Milwaukee was under a tornado warning early in the evening. The weekend still looks good.

I’m looking forward to seeing cars on track again.  I will also be observing track practices to see how Road America’s plans have worked out in real time. Look for my thoughts this evening.

Today is the day for the Road to Indy to have the track all to themselves. It’s nice when they get a full day on an Indycar weekend.

I will post short bulletins but look for updates on The Pit Window on Facebook and @PitWindowToo on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

Road America Weekend Schedule

The schedule with broadcast times. Reminder- all times are Eastern. If you are going to the race, times are an hour earlier. Saturday’s race is on NBCSN, the first race of the year on that channel. Sunday’s race is on NBC.

Qualifying will follow the format used for the Detroit races. Two groups get 30 minutes each. The fastest driver in each group gets a point and is guaranteed a front row start. the faster of the two is on the pole. the other cars line up behind the leader of their group.

Thursday is reserved solely for the Road to Indy. USF 2000 and IndyPro 2000 each have practice, qualifying, and two races.

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