Happy New Year! I’m ready for another great year of sharing my racing thoughts with you. Thank you all again for a wonderful 2019. I just published a new piece on Wildfire Sports about some procedural changes at certain tracks. I’ll be reporting from Daytona this weekend about the Roar. Here is the link for Wildfire Sports:
Photo from Team Penske
From the Team Penske news release yesterday:
“Team Penske and XPEL, Inc. (NASDAQ: XPEL) a leading provider of automotive paint protective film and window tint, today announced a multi-year partnership. XPEL will be the primary sponsor of the No. 1 Dallara/Chevrolet driven by reigning and two-time NTT IndyCar Series Champion Josef Newgarden for two races in 2020. XPEL will also serve as the “Official Protective Film Partner of Team Penske.
The partnership with Team Penske – the most successful team in motorsports history – represents the first racing sponsorship for the San Antonio, Texas-based company. Newgarden will race the No. 1 XPEL Dallara/Chevrolet in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 9 and in the Texas Indy 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on June 6. XPEL will build on the partnership and become a primary sponsor for a third IndyCar Series race with Team Penske in 2021 and beyond.”
This is a nice looking car with hints of a Shell livery from a few years ago.
It’s always good to see another sponsor in Indycar. I am also glad to see the Newgarden will carry the No. 1 on his car. I think the series should require the champion to do so every year.
McLaughlin Will Test Indycar at Sebring
Photo: Team Penske
Back to back Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will drive a Team Penske Indycar at a January 13 test at Sebring. McLaughlin drives for DJR Team Penske in Virgin Australia Supercars. He won a record 18 races this year. Since joining the team in 2017, McLaughlin has won 35 times to go along with 44 poles in taking series title in 2018 and 2019.
I don’t expect an Indycar ride to happen from this test. Right now It is a reward for achievement in Supercars, but with of Penske’s current NTT Indycar Series drivers approaching retirement, maybe he’ll be in the series in a few years.
The link to the full story:
That was quite a bold move Alexander Rossi made to take the lead over Colton Herta. Then an F 1 race broke out.
Rossi did what he needed to get done today- f inish ahead of Josef Newgarden and Cut into the lead as much as possible.. The gap is down to seven points.
Dixon is not quite out of the points race, but he is edging closer to waiting another year for title number 6.
There was great racing and action in position three through six most of the day.
Will Power and Newgarden knew they had nothing for Rossi. Power said, “I never saw Rossi all day. A yellow or rain might have helped.”
Newgarden was satisfied that he got all he could out of the car and third was the best they could do.
Simon Pagenaud had an impressive drive finishing ninth after starting 16th.
Dixon made a great comeback for a top five after spinning on the opening lap.
Turn five was a very busy, action packed area today.
Santino Ferrucci finished a lap down, the third lap he hasn’t completed this season.
Rossi has now won the three crown jewels of Indycar circuits- Long Beach, Indianapolis, and Road America.
Look for my full report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. I will also have a Road America postscript with photos in this space Tuesday. Thanks for following along this weekend.
Scott Dixon had the fastest lap in the opening practice session for the Detroit Grand Prix. His best lap was 1:16.7418, a speed of 110.240 mph. Four Hondas and two Chevrolets occupied the top six spots. Will Power was second, 0,3464 seconds behind Dixon.
The rest of the top six – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, and Colton Herta. Spencer Pigot was the only other Chevy driver in the top 10, in ninth place. Alexander Rossi, one of this weekend’s favorites, was eighth quickest.
The session was green until Sebastien Bourdais found the runoff area in turn seven with about eight minutes left. He tried to spin the car around and continue, but the car stalled. The session resumed with about five minutes left. Felix Rosenqvist spun into a runoff area, but the session continued.
The next practice is at 2:50 and the results will determine tomorrow’s qualifying groups. Pit stop practice follows the practice session.
Above: Spencer Pigot is on the provisional pole, beating Will Power by 11 ten thousandths of a second.
I find it difficult to get excited about the Fast Nine or being in the top 30 when there is still a chance to make the field tomorrow. Granted, it’s a small chance, but today isn’t the end of the world.
The cars are behaving consistently in crashes, which I think is a good thing. It shows the safety features built in are performing correctly. The wrecks have looked very scary, but the drivers have all walked away from the cars.
The time used for the Fast Nine could be better used to give those trying to make the field multiple chances. Trying to make the last row shootout like the Fast Nine really hurts the smaller teams.
James Hinchcliffe cannot buy a break at IMS. This is his second major incident in five years.
I still think if a driver wants to requalify I think they should withdraw their time. That alone adds drama to the day.
It was quite an accomplishment for Juncos to get their car on track and make a qualifying run. It will be a great story if Kaiser gets in the race.
Because of the continuous qualifying attempts, teams haven’t had time for practice. They need to make a qualifying run to get some track time.
It was nice to see Pippa Mann at a press conference for a much better reason than why she attended one last year.
Ed Carpenter, who has all three drivers in the top nine for the second straight year, was asked if there will be team orders during the Fast Nine tomorrow. He answered, ” If there were team orders I would have been fastest today.”
Best Stories of the Day
Kyle Kaiser getting his car on track and making a qualifying run.
Hinchcliffe returning in his backup car. he’s still struggling to get into the top 30.
Colton Herta qualifying fifth as the fastest Honda.
Pippa Mann making the race after last year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Clauson Marshall, a new team, for earning a spot in the field.
Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed getting solidly in the race.
I expected a better showing from the Andretti cars. Alexander Rossi and Marc o Andretti were strong but no match for the Chevys.
Arrow Schmidt Peterson has performed below expectations all season. I hope they can find an answer overnight.
Dreyer and Reinbold has struggled all week. It took a strong late run from J. R. Hildebrand to get one car in the field.
I will have more thoughts on qualifying tomorrow morning.
What a great race. It was one of the two best of the year.
Jack Harvey had a great weekend. As I said yesterday, the secret’s out. This was his third top 10 of the year. Hard to remember this is a part time team.
A great drive today from Matheus Leist was overshadowed by Harvey and Simon Pagenaud.
Ed Carpenter Racing had two cars in the top 10. On a road course.
Attendance was pretty good considering the forecast.
Pagenaud made two incredible passes in the last 6 laps to get by Harvey and Dixon. He said they weren’t planned.
This was a lost weekend for Andretti Autosport. Zach Veach in 12th was the highest finisher for the team. Today followed a poor qualifying yesterday.
Jack Harvey was a delight in the post race press conference. He could barely contain his excitement.
Colton Herta has had a tough go of it since his victory at COTA. Two last place finishes and next to last today. I hope the 500 will be where his luck changes.
A more detailed report will be out tomorrow. Thanks for following along this weekend.
Above: Can Alexander Rossi repeat? A tall order given the event’s history the last six years.
There is no better place for a street race than Long Beach, and no better street course event. It has the feel of the Indianapolis 500. Its rich history includes Formula 1 as well as the NTT Indycar Series and the other Indycar iterations. The city completely embraces the race, one of the key elements for a successful sustainable street race.
There are some noticeable changes for the 2019 event. Acura is the new title sponsor, replacing longtime sponsor Toyota. Jack Harvey’s number 60 will carry Acura decals in place of the Honda markings. No, this is NOT the third OEM
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has seen six different teams and six different drivers win since 2013. If the trend continues we could see another win from one of the smaller teams in the 45th edition of America’s longest running street race. So far this season no one has really stood out. Josef Newgarden has been the most consistent, winning at St. Pete and finishing second at COTA and fourth at Barber. Here are some things to look for this weekend.
Penske Turnaround From Alabama?
Will Power has been frustrated the last two races. He won the pole at COTA and was leading late but was sidelined by a drive shaft problem. At Barber he failed to make the Fast Six, spun early in the race, and fought back to finish 11th. He sits an uncharacteristically low 9th in the standings. Power has won twice here. I see him back in the Fast Six and possibly on the pole again.
Newgarden qualified 17th last weekend but recovered to finish fourth and increase his championship lead. He should return to the front of the grid as he seeks his first victory at Long Beach.
Simon Pagenaud appears ready to move up in the standings. He has two top tens this season and seems to have become comfortable with the new car. This could be the weekend he returns to contention.
Rossi Needs a Repeat Victory
Alexander Rossi has been good, but not great so far this season. He has made the Fast Six every race this season and has two top five finishes but his race pace just seems a little off. Returning to the venue he dominated last year could be where he can begin challenging for the points lead.
Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay is also a past winner at Long Beach. He has made a nice recovery from his engine issue at St. Pete. with a podium at COTA and an eighth at Barber. Hunter-Reay could also figure in the winning equation this weekend
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Momentum
A pole, a front row lockout, and a win was the best the Rahal team could do last weekend. The only blemish was Graham Rahal’s throttle issue which knocked him out of the race. Takuma Sato has won two of the last five races going back to Portland last September. Sato also has won here. Look for another strong showing from both drivers.
This class continues to impress me. Colton Herta had an ignition problem at Barber which prevented another possible top ten finish. Marcus Ericsson finally earned a result without issues last weekend as well.
Felix Rosenqvist was very strong at St. Pete and should be strong again this weekend. He seems to have a knack for street courses, probably due to his time in Formula E. I could see him on the podium Sunday.
This will be the first street race for Pato O’Ward this season. Don’t dismiss his chances because of that. O’Ward has an uncanny talent for being fast around any circuit. I wpould not be surprised to see him in the Fast Six and have a solid finish.
His footsteps are getting louder already. Dixon is actually ahead of where he was at this point in the season last year. He led two laps at Barber. In 2018 he didn’t lead a lap until Detroit. He has already had one of the likely two races out of the top ten. Another former Long Beach winner, Dixon will probably finish on the podium this time. He should gain some ground on Newgarden.
GESS has moved to Pato O’Ward’s car for Long Beach. The company is supporting the younger drivers in the series by switching their sponsorship from Colton Herta. Herta, meanwhile, will carry King Taco colors for the race. King Taco usually finds its way onto a car for the race every year. I wonder if Herta’s win at COTA influenced their decision this year.
Totally In(Acura)te Predictions
Top Rookie- Rosenqvist
Back Saturday evening with Qualifying Quick Thoughts. Full qualifying coverage will be on Wildfire Sports Sunday morning.
I found out late last week about Driving for Dyslexia, a fund raising event for the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. The late Justin Wilson worked with the students who received services, once hosting a group for a tour of his transporter at the speedway before practice. I don’t know if the kids or the parents were more impressed. As always, Justin was generous with his time helping kids who had the same issue he did.
The event is April 26 from 6 pm to 9pm at Speedway Indoor Karting. Tickets are $100 to drive and $20 just to watch. Kids 8 and under are free. More information is at this link
I have signed up to drive, so for just $20 you can watch me look foolish. Or you can just read my blog and watch me look foolish for free.
More 500 Entries?
Oriol Servia has said he is close to finalizing a deal to enter the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. My guess is this will be the third car at Arrow Schmidt Peterson.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing has begun calling drivers for their second 500 entry.
If these two cars become a reality, I have thirty five entries. A. J. Foyt Racing may have a third, which would be 36. I think that will be the final number of entries.
J. R. and Salesforce?- J. R . Hildebrand and Salesforce sent out a cryptic tweet last week about their exciting plans for May. No car was mentioned, but a photo of the car Hildebrand drove in 2018 was in the photo. I’m not counting this as an entry yet.
Winning Is Good for Business
Following Colton Herta’s win at the Indycar Classic in Austin last week, Team owners Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner IV told Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star, that there is interest from possible sponsors. Harding sounded optimistic that they may have an announcement soon.
In 2010 Ryan Hunter-Reay was driving for Michael Andretti on a part time arrangement. After Hunter-Reay won at Long Beach, DHL began a sponsor relationship that kept Hunter-Reay on track the rest of the year and continues to this day. I hope HSR and Herta have the same good fortune.
Jay Frye mentioned a while ago about two game changing announcements coming in May. Everyone assumes one is the elusive third engine manufacturer. The assumption has led to wild speculation. Cosworth has stated they are not involved. The favorite seems to be a German manufacturer, Which one?
As for the second announcement, I have no idea.
Pruett- Indycar May Return to Watkins Glen
The most exciting news item last week came from Marshall Pruett who said there is a rumor that Indycar may be racing at Watkins Glen again, sooner rather than later. The Glen is a track Indycar needs to run. It is classic and fast. Going to Watkins Glen was one of my favorite race trips.
I look for some significant changes in the schedule for 2020. I’m basing this partly on Nascar’s schedule reshuffling and wondering how NBC had a hand in it. I have no knowledge of anything imminent.
This is why a return to Watkins Glen would make sense next season. I’m not sure how long Iowa can remain without a title sponsor, but that is one race I hope never leaves the schedule.
Some COTA Leftovers
Some things from last weekend I didn’t get to:
I understand why the checkered flag has a Speedway logo on it. I am not opposed to having a sponsor logo on the flag, but this one seems larger than most. I found it a bit invasive on the purpose of the flag. Can we make it just a bit smaller?
NBC ran what I suppose was a promo for the Indianapolis 500, but it looked like it was more a promo for the fact Danica Patrick was going to be part of the broadcast. I get that NBC thinks she will help ratings (maybe), but to make her out to be bigger than the race I found distasteful.
I have nothing against her being on the broadcast. I’m neutral on Danica. I just thought that promo could have been done better with more focus on the race and event itself.
Back Thursday with a Barber preview. I will be reporting for Wildfire Sports on site next weekend, but will still have my notes and quick thoughts here.
Seems as if a lot has happened in Indycar since last Wednesday. I had a great time at the PRI Show. If you ever get a chance to attend, please do so. It is an amazing display of all things racing. Having the show in December helps the off-season blues. Anyway, here are some news tidbits and some thoughts on each one.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing to Use Honda Engines
The hissing sound you heard was the sigh of relief from the Indycar paddock, who had grave concerns about Andretti Autosport giving technical aid to a potential Chevy team. I have voiced concerns about this since the possibility first arose. Honda now has 14 full time entries for 2019.
In a related announcement, McLaren announced they will have Chevy power at the Indianapolis 500. Any technical partnership will be with a Chevy team. McLaren partnered with Andretti in 2017.
E85 fuel to Power Indycars Through 2020
Although Indycar will have Speedway as the official fuel supplier for 2019, E85 will remain the fuel for the next two years. There had been some talk of returning to methanol whent he new car came on in 2021 to add more horsepower. That is still possible, but keeping the same fuel formula makes sense since the engines are essentially the same.
It appears that this will be a seamless transition from Sunoco to Speedway.
BC39 Returns to IMS
The BC39 midget event will be back at IMS September 4-5 as a prelude to the Brickyard 400 weekend. this year’s event was a rousing success with great racing and sellout crowds. The race is the perfect opportunity for people like me who keep saying, “I should go to a dirt track this weekend” and never get around to it.
It was one the best events I attended in 2018. MY review of it can be read here:
Foyt to be Inducted into Houston Sports Hall of Fame
A. J. Foyt will be inducted into Houston’s Sports Hall of Fame 2019 class. Foyt is a Houston native who operates part of his racing team in Houston. This is a great honor for him. My question- What took so long? The induction comes on the 60th anniversary of Foyt’s first Indianapolis 500. While he didn’t finish that race, he did pretty well in subsequent races.
Reader Billy the Skink added an explanation about the Houston Sports Hall of Fame:
Indycar’s IMSA Invasion Continues
The Weather Tech Sportscar Series is quickly becoming Indycar’s second home. Roger Penske debuted an Acura DPi team last year. Chip Ganassi has been in the series for a long time. Bobby Rahal also has a two car team. Michael Shank was in IMSA before he entered Indycar. For 2019 Ricardo Juncos will have a DPi team as well. Many drivers participate in the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 hour events.
Graham Rahal drove for Penske last year. In 2019 Alexander Rossi will join Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in one of the Penske entries. Simon Pagenaud will co drive the other car with regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.
Rahal said the reason for the switch is that he cannot fit comfortably in the car. Ryan Hunter-Reay backed him up on that point. Hunter-Reay has driven the Wayne Taylor Racing prototype. Rossi is one of the taller drivers in the series as well. I’m not sure that this move changes much. Rossi is a bit slimmer than Rahal, but I think the height is the issue.
In related news, Alex Zanardi was confirmed for the Rolex 24 as a co driver of one of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s cars. The car will have special hand controls to accommodate Zanardi. It will be gbreta to see him in major racing again.
This weekend NBC met with nine racing series that are on their networks to work out plans to better coordinate schedules. Some things discussed were joiny events and a Racing Week in America, seven nights of racing on television. Yes, please! I will have more about the summit later this month.
After my move this week to The Pit Window’s move to winter headquarters, look for a post on another 500 mile race program and another in which I play Santa for the Indycar community. My last 2018 post will be around the 28th.