INDYCAR News And Notes – July 8, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. Compact Milwaukee Schedule Tests Everyone
2. Dixon Set for Milestone Start
3. Wilson Returns to Andretti Team for Final Five Races
4. Short Ovals Key to Rahal’s Title Goal

1. Compact Milwaukee schedule tests everyone: Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will practice, qualify and race on the same day in the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

“It means you have to get it right quickly,” said defending race winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power of the non-stop action July 11-12 at The Milwaukee Mile.

Activity kicks off July 11 with a 75-minute Verizon IndyCar Series practice session at 6 p.m. (ET) along with practice and qualifications for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. On July 12, a 45-minute morning Verizon IndyCar Series practice at 10:15 a.m. (ET) will be followed 2 hours later by single-car qualifications to set the starting lineup for the 250-lap race that will take the green flag at 5:35 p.m. (ET). The Indy Lights race precedes the feature.

Team owner A.J. Foyt, who made 45 starts at The Milwaukee Mile, prefers the compact schedule. The ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 will mark the 113th Indy car race at The Milwaukee Mile.

“I’m glad to see it that way because it’s cheaper on the car owners and makes things easier in some ways,” said Foyt, whose accomplishments at Milwaukee include a pole while driving a upright dirt Indy car against a field of low-slung rear-engine Indy cars in 1965. “You save a lot of money, and the wear and tear on the car and on the crew. Also, you save on your tire bill because you don’t use as many tires.

“I’d like to see them get back to that way. It separates the men from the boys. Instead of just sitting there for two days looking at the computer and the mistakes you’re making, and the engineers trying to figure out what they can do to make you run faster. You’ve got to have a lot more talent to run it all in one day. That’s the way it was in the old days and I’d like to see it go back to that.”

2. Dixon set for milestone start: Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan reached milestones with their 300th Indy car starts in May. Now it’s Scott Dixon’s turn July 12 in the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

The driver of the No. 9 Cottonelle Chevrolet will mark his 250th Indy car start, which over his 15 seasons is 14th on the all-time list.

“When you see starts you definitely understand how long you’ve been around and kind of start to feel old, but the longevity is really cool as well,” said Dixon, who won at Milwaukee in 2009. “Motor racing is tough week to week opposed to foreseeing 10 years down the road and how it’s going to go. You hope for the best. Because of your passion and love for the sport, you want to be around a long time. I feel very lucky and privileged to be an Indy car driver.

“Those milestones are a lot of fun. For me, the goal now is to get to 300. Hopefully, it brings good luck at Milwaukee.”

Dixon, who turns 35 on July 22 and is the longest-tenured driver for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, ranks fifth on the Indy car career victory list with 37 over a span of 14 years, 1 month. Al Unser’s 39 wins is next on the achievement list.

Unser’s first victory came at Pikes Peak on July 4, 1965, and his 37th at Cleveland on July 3, 1983. His 39th victory also was his fourth in the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 1987. A.J. Foyt has the most victories with 67.

“As long as you work hard and work on the idea of winning championships, victory is going to come,” said Dixon, who has attained multiple wins for 10 consecutive seasons. “We’ve been fairly decent this year and hopefully we can build on it and have a crack at the end for another championship.”

3. Wilson returns to Andretti team for final five races: Andretti Autosport will add a fourth car to its stable and a 24th Verizon IndyCar Series entry for the remaining five races of the season as Justin Wilson returns in the No. 25 Honda.

Wilson, who drove the car in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May, will reunite with Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz this weekend for the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

“It’s obviously great to be back with Andretti Autosport for the remainder of the season,” said Wilson, who will continue with Rob Edwards as his race strategist, Blair Perschbacher as his engineer and Jeff Grahn as his chief mechanic. “I’m really looking forward to making the most of these five races, and just trying to help the team and Honda as much as I can and try and be successful.”

Wilson has made nine starts at The Milwaukee Mile, with a best finish of second to Sebastien Bourdais in the 2006 race. He’s led 62 laps and secured five top-10 finishes.

Races at Iowa Speedway (July 18), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 2), Pocono Raceway (Aug. 23) and Sonoma Raceway (Aug. 30) also are on the calendar.

“It’s not going to be easy jumping in toward the end of the year; everyone’s worked out what they’re looking for from the car and the aero kits,” added Wilson, who also drove an Andretti Autosport entry in the FIA Formula E Championship round on June 6 in Moscow. “But I think it puts us in good shape for learning things and trying to progress and hopefully set something up towards next year.

“We’ll have to take it one step at a time, but the great thing with Indy car racing is any weekend anyone can win; you just have to make sure you do a good job and do everything as perfect as you can, and that will lead to good results.”

Wilson, who turns 37 on July 31, has seven victories and 93 top-10 finishes over his 170-race Indy car career that has included stints with Conquest Racing, RuSPORT, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

“He did a really great job for us at the Indianapolis races and is a great addition to the team,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “The only downside of getting him back in the car is that we weren’t able to do it sooner.”

Also, Dale Coyne Racing announced that Pippa Mann and Tristan Vautier would drive its Nos. 18 and 19 Honda entries at Milwaukee and Iowa Speedway. Mann, who posted a career-best finish of 13th in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, will make her Verizon IndyCar Series debut at the short tracks.

4. Short ovals key to Rahal’s title goal: Short oval races the next two weekends figure mightily in Graham Rahal’s short-term objectives and longer-term goals.

Rahal, who is fourth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, trails Scott Dixon by 24 points and Will Power by 27. Front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya also is within reach with five races remaining, including the finale at Sonoma Raceway that carries double points.

On deck is the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

“With the pressure of the championship putting weight on our shoulders a little bit, this is going to be an even bigger weekend than I’ve ever had there,” said Rahal, who will make his seventh start at The Milwaukee Mile. “We can’t make a mistake. We have to be on top of our game each and every weekend, and with the condensed schedule at Milwaukee it’s going to make it even more difficult.”

Rahal has a pair of front-row starts at Milwaukee, including 2008 with pole sitter Marco Andretti in what was the first Andretti/Rahal front row since 1992 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and a best finish of second (after starting 12th) in 2011.

At the .894-mile, variably-banked Iowa Speedway, which hosts the Iowa Corn 300 on July 18, Rahal has a best finish of fifth in seven starts.

Rahal moved up one position in the standings courtesy of his victory June 27 in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, which featured an Indy car racing-record 80 lead changes and 3,173 on-track passes for position including 47 on Laps 6 and 155 alone. It was his second career victory.

“I haven’t really focused much on the win as much as I have been thinking about going forward and doing well at Milwaukee because this is a big part of our season right now,” said Rahal, who became the eighth different winner in the 11 races. “It’s a big turning point for us as we need to do everything that we can to maximize our points so really I haven’t thought about it too much. I have just been focused on what’s ahead of us.”