Rossi and Dixon Looking for Better Seasons in 2020

Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon hope Friday practice at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg helps them find out how the aeroscreen will affect the cars in race like conditions. In a teleconference this afternoon, Rossi said the brief testing time the team has had leaves a lot to figure out. Dixon wondered about how the extra weight and higher center of gravity will affect handling.

According to Dixon, “The adjustments have been made. The cooling at least was very sufficient for us. Handling-wise I think the CG is a little higher, the car is heavier, definitely one of the areas we’ve really got to try and turn around because we keep adding weight to this car, which especially for accidents is not a good thing. It’s the same for everybody as far as the handling issues. We haven’t seen too much of a difference for us. Springs and dampers and things like that. But every team is unique on that side of things, too. ”

Rossi is still not sure what to expect. “… we’ve really only had at Andretti a day and a half with the weather at COTA. That was kind of a half day. Sebring is kind of its own unique animal. I don’t really know that we know, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s definitely different, but the extent of that won’t become clear to us until probably at least Friday night in St. Pete.”

Both drivers think the expansion of their teams will help them have a better season. Rossi explained,

” I think it’s really cool to be able to bring Colton on kind of into the fold full-time I guess. He was kind of already there with the Harding Steinbrenner Andretti relationship we had last year. We have already noticed a positive difference having the engineering staff back in the office and everyone kind of under the same roof, being able to just more efficiently kind of bounce ideas off each other, just progress the whole team forward. ”

Dixon added,

“We added actually a lot of people this year, probably four or five on the engineering side, then the depth of the whole GT program coming over has helped as far as management and also crew people as well. I think personnel-wise the team is probably in the best situation I’ve seen it in the last maybe five or six years. So I think off-season development has been really good. Also the change of mindset. I think we kind of got stuck there a lot of times just doing the same thing and looking for different answers, which just wasn’t working…”

On the influx of young, talented drivers entering the series, Rossi said, ” Racing is a very difficult sport in the sense that you’re only as good as your last race. You’re constantly having to go out and reprove yourself regardless of what you’ve accomplished in the past. There’s so many guys coming in, your job security really doesn’t exist.”

Dixon replied, “Never think that you know everything. I think that’s the worst position you can be in. You’re constantly learning, it’s constantly changing. I think the sport, even over the last 19 or 20 years that I’ve been a part of it, how much it evolves and changes from season to season is pretty impressive. It’s cool to see. I think it’s fantastic to see the amount of young guys coming in now. There was some pretty good influx probably five to six years ago, as well, with a lot of the guys. You can see their performance, how they’ve adjusted, how quick they’ve been. It’s extremely important for the health of the sport. Hopefully they can keep charging. ”

Electronic Flagging at Laguna Seca

One news item that came out of the conference is that Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca will use an electronic flagging system in 2020.  Formula 1 uses this system in their races and I’m glad to see it coming to an Indycar track.

 

Drivers Branching Out- A Good Thing

Photo: James Davison at Indianpolis in 2018

What used to be routine is now causing a stir. Several drivers made  news last week when they announced deals to drive a few races in a series other than their main one. To me, this is not a big deal. Drivers used to be itinerant gypsies, driving several times a week in different kinds of cars.

It wasn’t unusual to see the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in a sprint or midget race three days after collecting his check at the Victory banquet, then heading to Milwaukee the next weekend for another Indycar race. I seem to recall a year when A. J. Foyt led the standings in Indycar, USAC sprints, and USAC midgets. Foyt also won the Daytona 500 and LeMans. Mario Andretti also won Daytona and the F1 world championship. Lloyd Ruby and Dan Gurney had success driving almost anything.

Those days are pretty much gone now, but it seems as if drivers are starting to look for rides in different series again. In the past 12 months, Alexander Rossi has driven in Indycar, the Baja 1,00, and the Bathurst 12 hour race. I like that racers are starting to fill gaps in their schedules with more races. Fans find a newseries they enjoy while their favorite competes inanoher form of racing.

Outside of Indycar, Fernando Alonso left his Formula 1 ride to drive in the World Endurance Championship full time. He also drove for the winning Wayne Taylor Racing entry in the 2019 Rolex 24. Alonso has one Indianapolis 500 start on his resume and will participate n the Dakar Rally.

The most fascinating announcement last week concerned James Davison, mainly because he will have the same sponsor in both the Daytona 500 and at Indy. I think we may be seeing the beginning of a sponsorship trend.

I would like to see more arrangements like this for these two races. It gives potential sponsors two races instead of one. Sponsors also get great exposure from the two largest U.S. events on the racing calendar.  We also get to see a driver run in both NASCAR and the NTT Indycar Series.

To recap last week’s announcements:

Indianapolis 500 veteran James Davison will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The effort is part of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing. Byrd’s, led by David Byrd, has paired with Davison the last two years at Indianapolis.  Oilfire Whiskey will be the primary sponsor at Daytona and an associate sponsor in May.

Davison has four start in NASCAR’s Xfinity series, all on road courses. The Daytona 500 will be his first drive in a Cup Series race. Davison has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He had a career best finish of 12th in 2019.

Dixon Gets a Ride Near Home

Scott Dixon will drive in the Bathurst 12 hour in Australia. In 2019, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe teamed up in this race. Dixon will drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car sponsored by Castrol. The race is just a week after the 2008 500 winner participates in the Rolex 24 with Wayne Taylor Racing.

After the Indycar opener in St. Pete in March, Dixon will have driven in three different series in seven weeks.

Bourdais, Leist Focus on IMSA

As of now, Sebastien Bourdais will drive full time in IMSA. He may get an Indycar drive or two.

Matheus Leist, who drove for A. J. Foyt Racing the last two seasons, will join JDC-Miller car 85 as the extra driver for IMSA’a four endurance races- the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit LeMans. Leist will not drive for Foyt. I don’t see him getting any Indycar rides except possibly in May. In two Indianaolis 500s, Leist finished 13th in 2018 and 15th in 2019.

Thoughts for Bill Simpson

Safety innovator Bill Simpson suffered a major stroke this weekend. Please keep him in your thoughts.

 

Richmond Raceway Excited for Indycar Return

Photo: Team Penske car ready for the aeroscreen  test at Richmond Raceway. Josef Newgarden drove the car in today’s sessions. The  aeroscreen looks much better painted. Photo from Team Penske

You could hear the excitement in track president Dennis Bickmeier’s voice as he talked about the NTT Indycar series returning to Richmond Raceway.

“…it’s really exciting to hear the sound of IndyCars going and Richmond Raceway again. A buzz around town, a luncheon around here with some of our invited guests, some of our partners, hopefully some of our potential new partners as well that are getting a glimpse of seeing IndyCars back on the track here at Richmond Raceway after a decade. Certainly exciting. Much quicker than even I anticipated. Again, given my previous history watching open cars around two-mile tracks, this is a different experience.”

“The track has sold tickets to fans in 26 states and two areas of Canada for the June 28 race. After the season ticket renewal period ends, more seats will be available for the Indycar race.

I asked Bickmeier to explain how Indycar’s return to the schedule happened. He  said discussions began in 2018.

“But really it was about trying to find an opportunity in
the schedule. We were open to a lot of different dates.
This June date is more along the traditional date where
IndyCar raced here before. We love this date. It works
well between our two NASCAR races. For us, it really
presents kind of a big cadence to our year as we’re
promoting all of our racing events here at Richmond
Raceway…
one of the most
asked questions I got in the time I’ve been at
Richmond is, When are the IndyCars coming back? I’m
happy to say we’re able to answer that question now.
It really wasn’t that complicated. These guys made it
easy, Jay and the team, to discuss the possibilities of
having IndyCar return. I’m just thankful we were able to
get it all together.”
It looks to be a promising successful event for the series.

Morning Testing Session Focuses on Tires

The morning part of the Richmond test was mainly  dedicated to Firestone tire testing. Today was Josef Newgarden’s first time in the car with red Bull Advanced Technologies Aeroscreen. He found the transition pretty seamless

“It was my first time with the screen. Just getting a feel
for that. It honestly was pretty seamless. Honestly
didn’t feel that different. Perception-wise it was a little
different when I got in. It took maybe 30, 40 laps, after
that you’re used to it. It feels kind of normal at this
point.”
Newgarden said the track was like “a smooth Iowa.”
“I’m hoping a second lane comes in. If it does, I could see it
racing very similar to that place.”
Scott Dixon said the car felt pretty much the way it did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. he thinks the oval configuration is fine. Dixon believes lap times may be slightly down because of the added weight, but thinks overal there will be a net zero effect on performance.
The final aeroscreen test will be at Sebring  November 5 with Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe driving. The test there will be the closest the series can come to testing on a street course.

Harding Steinbrenner Releases Al Unser, Jr.

Al Unser, Jr. announced in a Tweet this morning that he has been released from Harding Steinbrenner racing. The release is part of the ongoing transition of the team as it becomes part of Andretti autosport. I wish Al well and hope he can find another team with a young driver to help.

 

 

 

Power: Car with Aeroscreen Could Race This Weekend

In a mid afternoon press conference  NTT Indycar Series Jay Frye said today’s Aeroscreen test “exceeded our high expectations. We learned a lot; we have lot of work to do but the foundation is set.” Frye said the cars will visually be different when teams do their own things to blend the new device into their liveries.

If necessary, the AMR  Safety Team will be able to remove piece “within seconds,” Frye said. “They already have a piece they are practicing on,” he added.

The day long test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw drivers Will Power and Scott Dixon log 600 miles by 3 pm. Both drivers agreed that the test was seamless . Both drivers commented on how quiet it was in the cockpit. “I can hear my radio,” Dixon said.

Power was impressed with how quickly the project came together.  “When you’ve driven it for a day you’re going to feel naked without it, ” he said. Asked if this car could race this weekend, Power responded, “you could race this weekend; no problem, no issue.” Dixon agreed.

Power and Dixon still believe some adjustments need to be made with the tear-offs and air flow adjustments. They both think reflections need work as well.  Dixon sais there are some optional and driver’s personal preference items that need to be looked into as well.

Tire wear was not a concern today. Power said the car was more forgiving. The new weight distribution helped, he said. Dixon said on his long run the speed fall off was about the same as this year.

Following the press conference Power and Dixon returned to the track to do simulated “qualifying runs.”

I started the day skeptical of the aesthetics and how the Aeroscreen would work. I am ending the day impressed with the new safety piece. Safety is the first priority and this is a step in the right direction. As the piece blends in with the cars, it won’t be noticeable. It should be even less noticeable on the new chassis in 2022, when it is an integrated part of the car.

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Honda Indy 200

That was one of the most entertaining Mid Ohio races I’ve ever seen. There was lots of action and passing in the esses.

Will Power must have nightmares about Felix Rosenqvist coming up behind him. He passed Power twice today and also got by Power at St. Pete.

Speaking of Rosenqvist, he had the drive of the day.

I can’t remember the last time Ganassi cars finished 1-2. I’m thinking 2013 or earlier.

Who would have won if the race went 95 laps?

Horrible start of the day both Arrow Schmidt Peterson cars.

Rossi doesn’t seem to be bale to catch Penske cars. He didn’t seem to have anything for Power.

Josef Newgarden’s spin out dented his points lead significantly.  He still has a lead he can easily maintain with his usual results.

Dixon is the fourth multiple race winner this year.  Four drivers have won 11 of the 13 races.

There were some good battles between Spencer Pigot and Colton Herta all day. They seemed pretty equal in speed all weekend.

I love watching cars go side by side through turn 5 at Mid Ohio.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  I have two special features coming up this week.

 

 

Dixon Fastest in Mid Ohio Practice 1

Scott Dixon led the opening practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio. The NTT Indycar Series session ended with a mix of Hondas and Chevys in the top ten. Dixon’s best lap was 1:06.097. Spencer Pigot finished second with a 1:06.245 circuit.  Points leader Josef Newgarden was fourth quick, 0.209 seconds behind. The other championship contenders had mixed results.  Simon Pagenaud was third, 0.169 behind Dixon. Alexander Rossi ended the session 13th, more than a second down to the leader.

Jack Harvey was 11th quick in his return to the series with Meyer Shank Racing. R. C. Enerson, driving his first Indycar race in three years for Carlin Racing, was 21st. Enerson completed a session  high 24 laps.  Felix Rosenqvist was the fastest rookie. He finished eighth, 0.508 seconds off Dixon’s lap.

The next Indycar practice is at 3:15 pm EDT.

A couple more photos from this morning:

IMG_6925
Felix Rosenqvist slides to a stop between turns 4 and 5
IMG_6913
Colton Herta leads Santino Ferrucci and Max Chilton into the esses.

Dixon Leads Practice One; Turn 11 Proves Tricky

Scott Dixon led the first practice session for the Honda Indy Toronto this morning. His lap of 1:01.072 was nearly two tenths better than Josef Newgarden’s best time. Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist was third quickest. and Alexander Rossi was fourth. This is the NTT Indycar Series’ first race since Road America June 23.

Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato each spun on the exit of turn 11 causing stoppages to the session.  Newgarden bent the rear tow link in his incident. Ther is an expoxy patch in the center of the road just past the turn’s apex. if the car straddles the patch, no problem. If the tires touch it, there could be an issue.

Rossi led the session until the last five minutes when Dixon passed him. Rossi’s final attempt at a decent lap was frustrated by his being behind another car, then not not having enough tires left for a quicker lap.

Notes

It’s difficult to get used to Sebastien  Bourdais in a blue car.

Karam’s car reminds me of Paul Dana’s car.

Turn three seems even trickier than it has been.

The next practice begins at 3:15 eastern. You can watch on NBC Gold. The coverage this morning was excellent.

The top 12:

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