Today’s Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Aero kit Q&A – ”Not going to be a spec car”
2. Racing in DNA of new Mazda Indy Lights engine
3. Fisher returns to racing at Chili Bowl Nationals
4. Edwards moves to Andretti Autosport
5. Hamilton to lead Kingdom Racing venture
6. Sonoma Raceway to host fourth John’s March Against Stomach Cancer

1. Aero kit Q&A – ”Not going to be a spec car”: Beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, INDYCAR will introduce chassis competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series based upon aerodynamic bodywork designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.

Cars will be differentiated by their shape as the manufacturers have designed aero kits for speedways and road and street course/short ovals for the Dallara IR-12 chassis.

Manufacturer track testing of prototype components opened Oct. 6 and continues through Jan. 18, which is the same date as homologation. Production will ramp up to meet the March 1 deadline for one road and street course/short oval kit to be delivered to each entrant. The speedway aero kit, according to the INDYCAR timeline, will be delivered by April 1.

The initial team on-track test is scheduled for March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24 will mark the debut of the speedway aero kit.

In the Q&A below, INDYCAR director of aerodynamic development Tino Belli provides insight into the regulations of the aero kit legality boxes and options available to teams for the 2015 season:

Q. You’re one of the few who has seen both manufacturers’ aero kits on the track. Will fans notice differences from last season?

Differences between the 2014 Dallara chassis and the 2015 aero kits and between the Chevy and Honda aero kits will be quite easily spotted by an interested fan. Especially to someone who is interested in technology, they’ll see many differences between the cars. At speed and with different color schemes, it might be more difficult to see the differences.

It’s certainly not going to be a spec car, and it’s not spec even within the Chevrolet or Honda environments.

The Chevy might not always run in exactly the same configuration between a Penske and Ganassi car, and the same with Honda between, say, an Andretti and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car because teams will have options.

Q. To review, what were the legality boxes — areas open for development by manufacturers — for 2015?

The engine cover, sidepods and rear wheel guards are common between the speedway and road/street course/short oval packages. On the speedways, the manufacturers can do a new front wing main plane, rear wing end plates, front wing end plates. Teams are allowed to use optional components that fit to the sidepods, engine cover and rear wheel guards such as winglets and flicks.

The teams will have quite a lot of things they can play with if they decide that they can come up with a better solution for their particular requirements and their driver or car set-up. The car set-up is not only going to be a downforce level like a wing angle, springs, shocks, toe and camber. If a particular type of mechanical set-up needs an aerodynamic solution, they can try what they like.

We believe there will be a reasonable number of components that the manufacturers will homologate as optional that a team could investigate to see what could give it a better solution on a particular racetrack. An example is the Indy road course, which because of the length of the straights is a low-drag racetrack. You can imagine teams coming up with a hybrid speedway/road course solution. They can’t put on a speedway front wing on a road course, but they could perhaps use speedway sidepod options.

Another thing we’re allowing is all of these optional components can now be changed between qualifying and the race. A team could decide to go for a super low drag qualifying set-up and use the newness of the tires to try to get the speed and then revert to a more high-downforce race set-up, which could mean a change in some of the components on the sidepods, wheel guards and engine cover. For a long time, we had what you qualified with is what you raced.

The same will be true for the Indy 500 with the optional components. In qualifying for Indy you might put on all your lowest drag optional components or choose to emit components, and then for the race you might decide there is some sidepod winglet that might give you better handling characteristics or is more efficient.

On the road course in addition to the sidepods, engine cover and rear wheel guards is the front wing flaps and end plates, and the rear wing end plates. The rear wing is a standard Dallara main plane for all events except for the Indy 500, during which teams can choose between the Dallara or their manufacturer’s main plane. The engine air intake will be different from the Dallara chassis, too.

Q. What happens with homologation?

On Jan. 18, everything is frozen. So we require the CAD files, the weights of the components, the layer books. We don’t have to have a component in our hands by Jan. 18, but we have to have all of the designs in our hands and they will be locked down at that point.

The only thing the manufacturers can do afterward is if they have some sort of reliability issue or if they could prove they could save significant money by altering a construction technique to save money they can ask for a concession. The component won’t be allowed to be any lighter and we want it to have similar stiffness.

Q. How often can any of the legality boxes be upgraded?

From a performance point of view, except for the sidepod and engine cover that have to remain fixed for two years, all of the other components are up for being upgraded. But they only are allowed to upgrade three legality boxes total in a two-year period.

Currently, they can choose to homologate a new component in one of the three boxes any time from the beginning of the 2015 season to the end of the 2016 season. If one manufacturer feels it is behind in a particular configuration, it can bring forward a box to try to catch up earlier. If you’re feeling confident or comfortable, you’ll want to delay upgrades until after you see how 2015 pans out with all the different racetrack configurations we go to.

The components that get changed, the old components are grandfathered so teams can still choose to continue to use those components or use them as spares.

Q. How will the process of policing the aero kits work?

Our task is to make sure that the component as homologated doesn’t get altered by either the manufacturer or team. We want the bodywork run as the aero kit manufacturer designed it and manufactured it. We’ll be checking the weight of components along with the shape and stiffness of the components. Like the current technical inspection, there will be a combination of jigs and fixtures, load tests, maximum and minimum height dimensions and then we’ll continue with the laser scanning that we tested last season so we can compare our record of the CAD of components against the car any time.

2. Racing in the DNA of new Mazda Indy Lights engine: Mazda’s endurance racing DNA will intersect with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires beginning in 2015.

The 2-liter, 4-cylinder turbo, dubbed the MZR-R and built in partnership with Advanced Engine Research, began its life in the American Le Mans Series as a lightweight solution for prototypes.

The MZR-R, with reliability and power as its core attributes, went on to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, powered the ALMS LMP champions in 2011 and won its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2012.

“Mazda and AER partnered on our first sports car engine starting in December of 2006 with the intent of competing in the American Le Mans series and the European Le Mans series,” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan said. “The sports car engine, over time, went through several iterations, specifically on the reliability front, and we got to a point where it was making incredible power for incredible lengths of time.

“We finished running that engine in 2012, began focusing on our SKYACTIV diesels in 2013, and with the new direction being taken for Indy Lights we felt the MZR-R could be a perfect fit to take the series into its next chapter. It’s small, it’s efficient, it can make whatever power level they need, and it has a heritage that has been proven at some of the biggest races in the world.”

Doonan believes the engine will prove to be an affordable and reliable complement to the new Dallara chassis.

“The target set by Dan Andersen and his team at Indy Lights has been 450 horsepower, which is well below its capabilities, and we know it can run for 10 or 12 hours straight without problems,” Doonan said. “Dan’s intent, and certainly Mazda’s intent, was to be able to give the teams an engine that is capable of doing a full season without a rebuild. Early testing has proven that, and we haven’t had any engine issues since testing began with the Dallara IL-15.”

With all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder program featuring Mazda engines, Doonan said a long-held desire to power Indy Lights has finally been realized.

“Mazda’s known for a lot of things: our grassroots racing programs, the Global MX-5 Cup, everything we do in sports car racing, and we also have a long tradition in open-wheel racing and supporting the drivers moving up the ladder,” he said. “Indy Lights is the top of that ladder, and we’ve wanted to be there to make sure drivers have the best engine possible that will train them for the turbocharged engines they’ll use one day in (the Verizon) IndyCar (Series).”

3. Fisher returns to racing at Chili Bowl Nationals: Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Sarah Fisher will compete in the 29th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire on Jan. 12-17 in Tulsa, Okla.

A test in October with RW Motorsports in Linton, Ind., prompted Fisher’s entry into the event. Her racing background includes success in a variety of sprint cars and midgets, but this will be her first time participating in the Chili Bowl. Qualifications are Jan. 15. She last drove a race car in competition in the 2010 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Competing in the Chili Bowl has always been a bucket list item for me and with the support of (CFH Racing co-owner) Wink (Hartman) I am able to fulfill another dream,” Fisher said. “By attending the event last year to cheer on my brother-in-law Kyle O’Gara, I was able to experience the atmosphere and see how much fun it was. I wanted to be racing in it the next time I came back.

“I have raced on dirt in the World of Outlaws and the All Star Circuit of Champions, but being in a midget on dirt is a new experience for me and I am very excited for the challenge.”

Fisher, 34, who holds the record for most Indianapolis 500 starts by a woman, will drive the No. 67RW for RW Motorsports, owned by Steve Weirich and Mario Rotondo. Hartman Oil will be the presenting sponsor, with Russell Oil, Inc., the National Cooperative Refinery Association and the Indy Trading Post as additional partners.

“We both have the same goals of putting open-wheel racing back at the forefront and certainly the Chili Bowl is an event that encompasses that goal. As we continue to work together in INDYCAR, this is a fantastic element to add to the mix,” Weirich said.

Bryan Clauson, who is scheduled to drive the KVSH Racing/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing car in the Indianapolis 500 in May, is the defending Chili Bowl champion. Clauson made his Indy 500 debut in a Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car in 2012. He kicked off the new year with a victory in the POWRi World Midget Series event in Auckland, New Zealand.

4. Edwards moves to Andretti Autosport: Andretti Autosport has hired Rob Edwards, who spent the past five-plus years as team general manager with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as its director of race operations and engineering.

Edwards replaces longtime team director Kyle Moyer, who moved in the fall to Team Penske.

“We’re really pleased with the contributions Rob has made to the team,” team co-owner Sam Schmidt said. “Under his leadership, we grew to a two-car team in the Verizon IndyCar Series and scored our first four victories in the ultra-competitive series. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Andretti Autosport has three confirmed entries for the Verizon IndyCar Series season along with entries for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

“His experience in racing will be valuable in moving our organization forward across multiple racing platforms,” team owner Michael Andretti said, while noting that George Klotz will remain the Verizon IndyCar Series team manager.

James Hinchcliffe, who drove for Andretti Autosport the past three seasons, will compete in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car this season. The team has not announced a replacement for Edwards.

5. Hamilton to lead Kingdom Racing venture: Davey Hamilton, who for the past two seasons was co-owner of the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports team that fielded the No. 77 car driven by Simon Pagenaud, has been named managing director of Kingdom Racing.

He’ll oversee racing operations and sponsorship for the team, which has been involved in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2008.

“We’ve accomplished so much over the past seven years and will continue to expand our footprint throughout motorsports in 2015,” said Hamilton, who has partnered with Kingdom Racing since its inception. “First off, we will continue our affiliation with a (Verizon) IndyCar (Series) team for the Indy 500 and will continue our Miles of Smiles events at various locations around the United States.”

6. Sonoma Raceway to host fourth John’s March Against Stomach Cancer: Sonoma Raceway will host the fourth John’s March Against Stomach Cancer on Jan. 17 to support the battle against gastric cancer, one of the world’s leading causes of cancer-related deaths.

The event is named in honor of John Cardinale, the raceway’s longtime vice president of media and community relations, who passed away in 2013 after a two-year battle with the disease, becoming one of nearly 11,000 people who die from stomach cancer in the U.S. each year.

“To be able to come together to support the fight against this terrible disease and to celebrate the spirit of people we loved is a privilege for which I am truly grateful,” said Sacramento’s Kathy Black, who attended the 2014 event. “We hope to come together every year to take time to remember and honor those we love.”

John’s March offers a unique chance to raise funds for No Stomach For Cancer (www.nostomachforcancer.org) and enjoy a symbolic “march” around the raceway’s 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. John’s March has raised more than $40,000 over the past three years and is the only major fundraiser for gastric cancer on the West Coast.

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The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens March 8 with the Brasilia Indy 300 at Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet Nelson Piquet in Brasilia, Brazil. The race will be televised live at 11 a.m. (ET) by NBCSN (Local Cable providers, Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (Local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213 and www.indycar.com)