1. INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge puts fans in team owner’s seat
2. Filippi confirmed in Coyne car for St. Petersburg
3. Trio of Indy car drivers head up Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race roster
4. Montoya makes first visit to ESPN campus
5. Dixon visits ‘TODAY’ for ‘Guys Tell All’
6. Of note
1. INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge puts fans in team owner’s seat: The race for 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship isn’t the only season-long battle that begins on the streets of St. Petersburg with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from March 11-13.
The green flag also drops on the second season of INDYCAR’s Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone. The Verizon IndyCar Series’ official fantasy game will once again allow fans to become team manager by selecting a four-driver team for each Verizon IndyCar Series race.
A stockpile of prizes is on the line each week as the stars of the series such as Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal go wheel-to-wheel for race wins. And while fantasy players won’t be able to take home the Astor Cup presented to the on-track season champion, the ultimate grand prize for the INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge is a trip to the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in 2017.
Participants score points by selecting the fastest four-driver roster for each of the 16 races, but they’ll have to manage the salary cap as they balance their lineup between Indianapolis 500 winners, Verizon IndyCar Series champions and young up-and-coming INDYCAR stars.
Participants also can create their own league in which they can compete among friends, family and an expert panel of INDYCAR insiders and celebrities.
Sign up and learn more by visiting fantasy.indycar.com and make driver selections for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will be telecast live March 13 on ABC at 12:30 p.m. ET and via the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network available on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209 and IndyCar.com.
2. Filippi confirmed in Coyne car for St. Petersburg: Luca Filippi has completed the field for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as Dale Coyne Racing confirmed the Italian will drive the team’s No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q-sponsored Honda in the March 13event.
That sets the field at 22 cars for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener. To view the entry list, click here.
Filippi, who has made 18 starts over the past three seasons, joined the team for preseason tests at INDYCAR’s Test in the West at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 26-27 as well as a one-day team test at Sebring International Raceway on March 2.
“It was nice to test at Sebring last week before starting the season,” Filippi said. “It was my first time back on a road course in an Indy car since Sonoma last season. We had a very good test and it was a good way to get ready for St. Petersburg. We were mainly focusing on getting a good balance and a good pace. I normally always try to focus on a race pace because if you can be fast and consistent, then you have a better chance for a strong result.”
Team owner Dale Coyne indicated the plan is to have Filippi run the full season, but has not confirmed Filippi’s status beyond this weekend’s race. Filippi finished ninth in his only start at St. Petersburg in 2015.
3. Trio of Indy car drivers head up Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race roster: Former Indy car drivers Al Unser Jr., Jimmy Vasser and Max Papis, along with actors Stephen Baldwin, Frankie Muniz, Brian Austin Green and last year’s overall winner, Alfonso Ribeiro, were named today among the 21 participants to compete in the 40th and final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend.
The race will take place April 16 on the 1.97-mile street course, a day prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series event there.
“At Toyota, we wanted to do something unique for this final race,” said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “By hosting a field comprised mostly of past Toyota Pro/Celebrity winners, we anticipate this to be the most competitive race in the event’s history with a diverse field of celebrity and professional drivers.”
Unser Jr., a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and season champion, won six Indy car races and three Pro/Celebrity events at Long Beach. Vasser, now co-owner of KVSH Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is a 1996 Indy car champion. Papis, with three career Indy car race wins, is one of the three new series stewards.
4. Montoya makes first visit to ESPN campus: Juan Pablo Montoya has a long list of racing accomplishments. He’s a two-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner, 1999 Indy car champion, won seven Formula One races, two in NASCAR Cup and has a Rolex 24 At Daytona title to his credit.
You’d think, with that impressive of a resume, Montoya certainly has visited the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., before to talk about his achievements. You’d be wrong.
Montoya made the rounds March 7 at the “worldwide leader in sports” to promote the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season opening March 11-13 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Montoya, the defending St. Pete and Indy 500 champion, was a guest on “SportsCenter” and made appearances on several other ESPN and ESPN Deportes entities throughout the day.
Surprisingly, it marked the 40-year-old Colombian’s first trip there.
“Guess I’ve just been able to avoid it until now,” he said this morning with a laugh. “It’s a lot bigger place than I thought, a lot bigger than people probably realize. It’s pretty amazing.
“It’s exciting with the start of the season,” he added. “This is a great way to promote the season and get the noise out about it. The timing is very good.”
5. Dixon visits ‘TODAY’ for ‘Guys Tell All’: Scott Dixon, the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, appeared March 8 as a guest on NBC’s “TODAY” for a segment titled “Guys Tell All.”
Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, joined comedians Chuck Nice and Jared Fried and former “Bachelor” contestant Bob Guiney in the segment. Later in the day, Dixon taped a segment for NBCSN’s “NASCAR America” that will air March 10.
6. Of note: Col. Dan Tulley, 6 Air Mobility Wing and MacDill Air Force Base commander, will wave the green flag as the honorary starter for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13. MacDill Air Force Base has an active role in this year’s prerace ceremonies, with aerospace medical technician Staff Sgt. Cherrelle Warren singing the national anthem and a MacDill AFB KC-135 providing the prerace flyover. … Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich and Fussible, a duo from the Tijuana electronic music scene, will star in the April 15 Tecate Light Fiesta Friday Concert at the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The concert, free to all race ticket holders, will begin at approximately 6:45 p.m. PT on the Convention Center outdoor concert stage. … Andretti Autosport has added Indianapolis-based home appliance, electronics and furniture retailer hhgregg as a sponsor. The first appearance for the brand will be with primary sponsorship of Marco Andretti’s No. 27 hhgregg/Snapple Honda for the April 24 Honda Grand Prix of Alabama and continue with major sponsor branding throughout the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The partnership will also see hhgregg on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda and Carlos Munoz’s No. 26 Honda for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, as well as primary sponsorship of the Munoz entry in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. … KVSH Racing announced that Mouser Electronics and Molex, LLC have returned as team sponsors. Mouser offers customers 21 global support locations and stocks the world’s widest selection of the latest semiconductors and electronic components for the newest design projects. Molex is a global company with a presence in more than 40 countries. It delivers complete interconnect solutions for many industries, and automotive is one of its key markets. … For the third consecutive year, the Vintage Indy Car Celebration will be part of the Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend at Pocono Raceway. The vintage Indy cars will have track exhibitions Aug. 20 and 21, prior to the ABC Supply 500 on Aug. 21.