1. Hunter-Reay ready for Long Beach double: Ryan Hunter-Reay has enjoyed many great experiences at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He met his future wife Beccy at Long Beach, the pair were engaged there and Hunter-Reay won the 2010 Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 1.968-mile temporary street course.
Now he’s adding another achievement. Not only will Hunter-Reay be driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport in the April 17 Verizon IndyCar series main event, but he’ll be racing the day before in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Visit Florida Racing’s Daytona Prototype Corvette.
“It’s a unique opportunity to drive for two great teams,” said the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “I’ve done it before in the past with A.J. Foyt and Level 5 (in 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway). Certainly I have (Andretti Autosport owner) Michael Andretti to thank. He looked at it from a driver’s viewpoint first and team owner’s second.”
Hunter-Reay has already driven in a pair of endurance races this season in the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette, finishing third at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and fifth at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
He explained that while “INDYCAR is my prime objective and main focus, I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it would detract from either.
“The two driving styles are extremely different,” Hunter-Reay added. “It’s a track I love. The hardest point, the prime objective, is to get that last half-second, two-tenths, out of the car; that’s what most difficult.”
Practice for the 42nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins April 15, with qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award on April 16. The race on April 17 airs on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
2. Newgarden ‘brings the heat’ for first pitch at Detroit game: Ed Carpenter Racing driver Josef Newgarden said he was going to “bring the heat” when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch April 12 prior to the Detroit Tigers’ game with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
While the Verizon IndyCar Series’ rising star didn’t exactly break the radar gun with his toss, he still had an enjoyable time in the Motor City – along with a jaunt across the Detroit River to neighboring Windsor, Ontario – to promote the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans, part of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that serves as the lone doubleheader race weekend on the 2016 series schedule.
Newgarden spent a whirlwind 18 hours visiting the historic Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle Park, site of the race weekend, along with trips to several Detroit media outlets. He ventured to Canada to attend the riverfront announcement extending the partnership between the grand prix and city of Windsor, along with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Michael Montri, general manager of the grand prix.
But the 25-year-old’s favorite stop was at the Tigers game. Newgarden exchanged jerseys before the game with Detroit pitcher Mark Lowe, whose uniform No. 21 is the same as Newgarden’s Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. He ceremonial first pitch landed a couple feet short of home plate before bouncing into the glove of Lowe.
“This was way more nerve-racking for me (than racing), just because it’s not your specialty,” Newgarden admitted. “I played baseball for 10 years but I haven’t thrown a ball for probably the same amount of years.
“I wasn’t going to throw off the mound, but then I thought if I didn’t, I was going to be mad at myself,” he added. “I’m happy that I did that but I’m so mad that I didn’t get it right. If you go out there cold turkey, especially if you haven’t thrown in forever, it’s not easy. And you don’t realize how much the nerves can take over.”
The Windsor announcement continues the partnership with the grand prix that includes direct transportation from the Canadian city to the venue on race weekend via Transit Windsor. Fans can purchase grand prix tickets and transportation at snapdwindsor.com/grandprix or by calling 311 in Canada. For more information on the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, visit detroitgp.com.
3. Pagenaud leading championship for first time: Despite having three teammates with formidable Indy car resumes, Simon Pagenaud is poised to be Team Penske’s lead driver this year.
The Frenchman spent 2015 adapting to Team Penske’s way, but with back-to-back second-place finishes to start the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Pagenaud is the team’s top driver in the point standings.
“We’ve had a great start to the season,” Pagenaud said. “After back-to-back second-place finishes, it’s an honor to be leading the points in the Verizon IndyCar Series for Team Penske. But, it’s obviously very early in the season and we are still very hungry for our first win.”
Pagenaud is the only driver to finish in the top five in both races this season and leads Scott Dixon by four points heading into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Pagenaud has three top-five finishes in five starts on the 1.968-mile street course, including a runner-up finish in 2012.
“It would be really cool to get our first victory of the year here,” he said. “Long Beach is always a tough race and it’s very important to qualify well so you can race up front. We are excited to have the No. 22 Team Penske car racing in the PPG colors this weekend. We had some really strong finishes last season in the PPG Chevy, including a couple of podium results, so we’ll try to keep the streak going at Long Beach.”
4. Of note: Charlie Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, will follow in Newgarden’s footsteps by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight at Dodger Stadium when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Arizona Diamondbacks. … Indiana Wesleyan University announced a partnership with Verizon IndyCar Series owner/driver Ed Carpenter for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. IWU will support Carpenter’s No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet as he attempts to make his 13th start in the race on May 29.