A recap of Friday’s events and where the 2020 grid stands on Wildfire Sports:
Editor’s note: I just arrived at Winter Headquarters and saw the news. Here are some brief thoughts. I will follow up in a day or two.
Photo: Kyle McInnes
The NTT Indycar Series November of change added another shock today with the announcement of an amicable separation of Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. The news follows the November 4 sale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the series to Roger Penske and the release of Spencer Pigot from Ed Carpenter Racing. The 2020 grid will look very different from the 2019 grid. Bourdais will race for JDC -Miller in the number 5 Cadillac prototype with Jaoao Barbosa, who drove the same car last year fro Action Express.
The opening raises several questions. Is this where James Hinchcliffe will land? I’ve seen different answers from different sources. Since Honda pulled its support from Bourdais, is that money available for Hinchcliffe? Could Conor Daly take the seat? I’m not sure his Air Force money is enough for a full season. Will we see another driver from Europe driving for Coyne next year?
The 2020 grid is now missing three full time drivers from 2019- Hinchcliffe, Pigot, and Bourdais. I’m still not sure Tony Kanaan will be full time next season.
Meanwhile, the rookie battle for 2020 is set with Oliver Askew at AMSP and Rinus VeeKay at Ed Carpenter Racing. It could be close as both are on teams with fairly similar results in 2019. The outcome may depend on which team improves. AMSP with its new influx of resources or ECR, which is still looking for funding.
Goodbye to a Champion
Bourdais, who will 41 years old by the time the season begins, likely will not return to Indycar. His deal with JDC-Miller is for the next two seasons. Bourdais had a great career in Indycar. He is a four time season champion in ChampCar (2004,2005,2006,2007), has 37 wins, which ranks fourth all time, and earned 34 poles.
In late 2016 he returned to race in the last couple if races in that season after his horrible crash in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. In 2017 Bourdais won the season opener at his hometown of St. Pete and repeated the victory the following year.
I was fortunate to see several of his wins. My favorite was at Milwaukee in 2015 when Bourdais took the lead halfway through the race and ran away from the rest of the field.
Good morning from Portland International Raceway for Day two of the Grand Prix of Portland. Today’s NTT Indycar Series schedule: All times Eastern
Practice 3– 2:00 pm-2:45 NBC Gold
Qualifying- 6:00 pm- 7:15 NBC Sports
In addition to the Indycar action, all three steps on the Road to Indy run their first of two races today. Rinus VeeKay has the pole for the Indy Lights race at 4:50 pm Eastern.
Sebastien Bourdais’s practice yesterday afternoon was similar to last year’s Saturday practice here. In bot sessions he set the fastest lap then ran off course in turn 11. The difference is this year the nose of his car barely nudged the tires. Last year’s damage had Bourdais qualifying and racing a car made up of a mixture of parts.
I will try to find out about the 2020 schedule today and see if I confirm some other things I’m hearing. I’ll be back after practice 3.
Here are a couple of photos from Kyle McInnes. One is of Bourdais, the other is Simon Pagenaud preparing for next week’s BC39 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sebastien Bourdais recorded the fastest lap in Practice 2, setting the quick time with about five minutes to go in the session. Will Power had set the fast time with about 20 minutes left in the practice. Bourdais’ lap was 57.923 seconds. He bettered Power quick time by 0.0289 seconds.
After Bourdais’s fast lap, he went off track in turn 11 and slid gently into the tire barrier. There just two minutes remaining in the session. The red flag ended the practice period.
Felix Rosenqvist led the majority of the afternoon. Colton Herta was fourth after leading morning practice.
Teams are preparing for the put stop practice session, a 30 minute period.
Another great Friday crowd is on hand at Portland. This event has been embraced by the fans here.
If as much dust is kicked up tomorrow during qualifying as has been put on the track today, it will be an interesting qualifying session.
Times were faster in session one. Most teams didn’t go to the red tires this afternoon until there were less than 10 minutes left.
I hope we see more of the Oberto livery on Marco Andretti’s car next year. It’s the best livery that car uses.
In the warmup/pit stop practice session, Ryan Hunter-Reay had the best lap at 58.2729.
Indycar’s final practice is tomorrow at 2 pm Eastern and qualifying is at 6 pm Eastern.
Back later with a wrap up of the entire day.
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Conor Daly will drive a fifth car with sponsorship from the U. S. Air Force in the103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The Air Force will also be an associate sponsor on the Andretti cars of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Zach Veach for the entire season. Daly will carry number 25.
Daly drove in the 2018 500 with Air Force sponsorship as part of Dale Coyne’s team. He started last and finished 21st, completing 199 laps. This will be Daly’s sixth 500. His rookie season was 2013. He returned to the 500 in 2015. His best starting spot was 22nd in 2015. Last year was his best finish and also the race in which he completed the most laps. This is the best car and team Daly will have had for the race.
“It’s my best shot at at the race ever. I can’t wait to get to work,” Daly said.
Michael Andretti said they are working on a few things to possibly get Daly in more races this year. He has no plans to add a sixth ca for this year’s 500 entry list.
Daly drove in just one race, Mid Ohio, for Harding. He was competitive, giving Harding its best starting spot to that point. He ran well in the race but ran out fuel with two laps left and finished 20th. In2017 Daly drove full time for A. J. Foyt Racing.
Catching Up with Indycar News
Vasser Sullivan and Dale Coyne have signed a multi year agreement which has Sebastien Bourdais staying in car 18. Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan became a partnership last year. Nice to see Coyne will have some driver stability and additional resources. Bourdais won the 2018 opening race in St. Pete. It was his second consecutive win in his hometown race.
More Boost at Iowa, Gateway
The NTT Indycar Series announced cars will receive increased boost at short ovals Iowa and Gateway in 2019. The higher boost will necessitate more braking in the turns, which should allow more passing. The boost will increase to 150 kPa, the same as on road and street courses. In 2018 cars were allowed 140 kPa on the short ovals. Superspeedway boost for races is 130Pa. Please do not ask me what kPa means.
Allen Miller of HPD says the goal of 90 horsepower for the new 2.4 liter engine is “very realistic.”
The series continues to seek more ways to improve the racing. This measure sounds like a bridge to the higher horsepower in the 2021 formula.
Helio at Le Mans?
Three timne Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is close to finalizing a deal to drive in the Le Mans 24 hour race this year. Castroneves, who now drives full time for Team Penske Acura in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, will drive for the RLR group in the LMP2 class. The team uses an Oreca 07 chassis, which has been dominant in Europe.
Castroneves was one of the drivers in the third place car at last weekend’s Rolex 24.
Indianapolis 500 Ticket Unveiled
Last Indianapolis Motor Speedway revealed the design for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. I’m always excited to see the new ticket. This year’s design I find disappointing. The photo of Will Power that was used is okay, but a photo of him when he first go out of the car would have been better. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a driver express that much unbridled joy after winning.
Rolex 24 Post Script
I’ll end today with four photos from last weekend’s Rolex 24
Indianapolis Motor Speedway just announced a press conference tomorrow afternoon for a major announcement regarding the 500. I’m guessing a presenting sponsor will be named.
An announcement should come tomorrow (Wednesday) regard Ed Carpenter racing’s car 20 for 2019. Jordan King will not return to the road/street course schedule in the Fuzzy’s car. The team is expected to announce a partnership with Scuderis Corsa, which fielded Oriol Servia in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Ed Jones, who drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, will be introduced as the driver of the shared ride. Ed Carpenter will drive the 20 on all ovals. Jones will drive a third car in the 2019 500.
The partnership with Corsa puts Oriol Servia on the sidelines once again. Servia was instrumental in getting Scuderia Corsa to the 500 last season and was looking to drive for them in a full season effort in 2019. Servia would be a good candidate for the second seat at Carlin.
The Carlin seat is one of two still open. Schmidt=Peterson has an open seat while Robert Wickens continues his recovery.
I will follow up tomorrow afternoon on the details after the announcement.
Vasser-Sullivan Joins Lexus in IMSA
Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, who joined forces with Dale Coyne Racing for Sebastien Bourdais’ ride, announced their entry into IMSA. They will field a Lexus in the GT Daytona class. No driver has been named. Vasser said this will not affect the Indycar portion of their program. Indycar owners have been expanding into IMSA at quite a clip lately.
Will Bourdais continue to drive foir Ganassi in the endurance races or will he switch to the Vasser-Sullivan ride?