1. Desert Diamond West Valley named Phoenix race title sponsor: Desert Diamond West Valley, a new gaming casino in suburban Phoenix, has been named title sponsor of the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will take place under the lights April 2 (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) on the 1.022-mile oval in nearby Avondale, Ariz. It will mark the first Verizon IndyCar Series race since 2005 at the track bathed in Indy car history.
“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Desert Diamond West Valley,” Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway, said. “Bringing INDYCAR to PIR was a substantial goal of ours and this demonstrates the strong local support we have for the upcoming race right here in the valley. We look forward to showcasing INDYCAR here under the lights on April 2 alongside our new partner.”
The Desert Diamond West Valley opened Dec. 20, near the western Phoenix suburbs of Glendale and Peoria to enormous turnout. Amenities include a casino floor with more than 1,000 gaming devices, dining options and more.
Tickets for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix are on sale, with prices ranging from $35-70. Each ticket includes access to pit road. Tickets for children are $10 and active-duty military members and veterans will receive discounted pricing. Tickets are available online at PhoenixRaceway.com and by phone at (866) 408-7223.
PIR also announced that platinum-selling rock band Better Than Ezra will perform on the track’s main stage on race day, with admission to the concert free to fans with a grandstand ticket. Formed in 1988, Better Than Ezra has released eight studio albums, including “Deluxe,” which went platinum following its 1993 release.
2. Hinchcliffe, legends entertain in Big Apple: Three legendary drivers with multiple Indianapolis 500 wins each and joined current Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe for an entertaining discussion March 23 in New York City hosted by Car and Driver and Road & Track magazines.
“A Celebration of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500,” held at the Hearst Tower in Manhattan, ran in conjunction with the New York International Auto Show. Joining Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, were four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears and two-time 500 winners Al Unser Jr. and Arie Luyendyk.
The foursome relayed a range of quips and serious stories covering their racing exploits and memories.
On the subject of how racing has changed, Mears said, “The biggest change is safety. Cars are as safe as they’ve ever been in the history of the sport, period. That’s one of the biggest gains we’ve ever had. The other is how we get to that balance and how we measure things, and that’s the electronics.
“(When he started Indy car racing) we measured (only) steering, throttle and speed. They had just started making laptops. I didn’t even know how to turn one on. After practice, guys would load (data) on a floppy (disc), put a Post-It note that would say, ‘Stick this in the side, push this button, turn this on’ and I’d take one back to the hotel, pull up the graphs and look at them.”
To that, Hinchcliffe added, “It’s funny to hear you guys talk about the (tachometer), water temperature and oil pressure. Now I can tell you what my brake bias is, what my roll bar positions are. The technology has developed in such a way from three channels of data to about 130 channels of data. My data reading experience is much different than what Rick’s was. … Floppy disks don’t exist anymore. Eight-track (players) are on their way out, too.”
Unser then jumped in. “Really? I’m going to have to catch up on that.”
Hinchcliffe had one of the best lines of the night when discussing the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil this May.
“It’s super cool that we’re sitting up here and between the four of us, there’s eight Indy 500 wins. We’ve got two (pointing to Luyendyk), four (Mears), two (Unser) and I’m here (with zero), so it’s super cool to be a part of such an esteemed panel.”
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3. Power glad to be back behind the wheel: Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was laid back and happy after returning to the cockpit for the first time since setting the track record and winning the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12.
“It felt good, really good,” the Team Penske driver said after a daylong solo test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham on March 22.
Power sat out the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener March 13 due to effects from an inner-ear infection that prompted concussion-like symptoms including nausea, headaches and neck stiffness. It was only after a thorough battery of tests the day after the race that Power was determined not to have sustained a concussion.
INDYCAR Medical cleared the 35-year-old Australian to resume driving and, following a week to recover under prescribed medication, Power was on track at Barber. Getting back in the car was “no problem,” he reported, after running through a planned test program set up by team engineer David Faustino.
“It was basically a combination of getting back in the car with the race coming up, too,” Power said, referring to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber from April 22-24. “It all helps out. I know this track like the back of my hand.”
Power is a two-time race winner and three-time pole sitter at Barber.
4. Grandstand, club tickets on sale for Grand Prix of Boston: Premium grandstand and club tickets for the Grand Prix of Boston Powered by LogMeIn, which debuts on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule Sept. 2-4, went on sale today.
“We’ve had a huge level of interest in our tickets since they went on sale March 15,” said John Casey, president of the Grand Prix of Boston. “The excitement and support for the event has been amazing. The premium tickets and club tickets will offer additional options for our fans and corporate partners to enjoy this amazing weekend.”
The Grand Prix of Boston will take place on a 2.2-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit through the South Boston Waterfront area. The premium tickets are three-day reserved tickets in Grandstands 1 and 2, Pit Lane Club, Finish Line Club, Winners Circle Club at The Westin Boston Waterfront and the Turn 1 Club. They are priced from $150-205. Club tickets give attendees circuit access all three days, premium food and beverage options, premium view seating and paddock access.