INDIANAPOLIS (December 9, 2019) – INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway. Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start…
Archives for NTT IndyCar Series PR
SEBRING, Florida (November 5, 2019) – INDYCAR continued its Aeroscreen development program Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway with Arrow McLaren SP and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan participating in the fourth and final test session of the year. The conditions for the one-day test could only be described as ideal for testing the safety innovation, with…
Acquisition to include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. (November 4, 2019) – The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company announced today that it has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation, will acquire all Hulman & Company principal operating assets, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The transaction will close following receipt of applicable government approvals and other standard conditions.
The acquisition by the Penske organization will carry the future of the legendary Speedway and the IndyCar Series forward for the next generation of racing fans.
It was the vision of Carl Fisher to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in 1909 and the track hosted its first races later that year. Eddie Rickenbacker later purchased the Speedway in 1927 before selling it to Tony Hulman and Hulman & Company in 1945. IMS has been the host of the world’s largest single-day sporting event – the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race – for more than 100 years. The iconic venue has also hosted NASCAR, Formula One and other racing series events throughout its storied history. The NTT IndyCar Series continues to be the premier open-wheel racing series in North America and is one of the most competitive championships in the world. IMS Productions is a leading video services and production company.
“We recently approached Roger Penske and Penske Corporation about this opportunity and began working to put an agreement in place,” said Tony George, Chairman of Hulman & Company. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the centerpiece and the cathedral of motorsports since 1909 and the Hulman-George family has proudly served as the steward of this great institution for more than 70 years. Now, we are honored to pass the torch to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation, as they become just the fourth owner of the iconic Speedway. There is no one more capable and qualified than Roger and his organization to lead the sport of IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the future.”
Penske Corporation has a rich history of managing major motorsports properties, beginning with the acquisition of Michigan International Speedway in 1973. Over the course of its history, Penske and its subsidiaries have also operated the Grand Prix of Cleveland, Nazareth Speedway and California Speedway, along with investments in North Carolina Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Penske Corporation currently promotes and operates the Detroit Grand Prix, hosted annually at the Belle Isle Park street circuit.
“My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father,” said Roger Penske, whose race team celebrated its 50th anniversary of first competing at IMS this year. “We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of IndyCar racing. I want to thank Hulman & Company for the opportunity to build on this legacy and it will be an honor for Penske Corporation to help lead these great institutions forward into a new era.”
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the NTT IndyCar Series have enjoyed considerable growth over the past decade, with significant increases in television, digital and social media audiences combined with record attendance at many of our race venues,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Hulman & Company. “With their track record of business success, their venue, operation and event experience and their passion for motorsports, Roger Penske and Penske Corporation will help us take the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of our properties to new heights. Everyone on our team looks forward to working with them to capitalize on the momentum that the Series and the Speedway have achieved.”
Hulman & Company’s financial adviser was Allen & Company LLC, and its counsel was Ice Miller LLP for this transaction.
About Penske Corporation
Penske Corporation is a closely-held, on-highway, transportation services company whose subsidiaries operate in a variety of industry segments, including retail automotive, truck leasing, transportation logistics and professional motorsports. Penske Corporation manages businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $32 billion, operating more than 3,200 locations and employing more than 64,000 people worldwide.
About Hulman & Company
Hulman & Company is committed to worldwide leadership in motorsports competition and entertainment through its three entities, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), INDYCAR and IMS Productions. IMS is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility and the most famous racetrack on Earth. INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body for the fastest and most competitive open-wheel racing series, the NTT IndyCar Series. IMS Productions is a leading provider of motorsports and sporting entertainment experience solutions.
The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company are announcing the sale of the company and certain subsidiaries, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions (IMS Productions), to Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation
The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company are announcing the sale of the company and certain subsidiaries, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions (IMS Productions), to Penske Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Penske Corporation
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RICHMOND, Virginia (October 15, 2019) – INDYCAR took another important step in the development of its cockpit-protecting Aeroscreen with Tuesday’s two-car test at Richmond Raceway, a 0.75-mile short oval that will play host to the NTT IndyCar Series next June. This was the third of four scheduled Aeroscreen tests this fall and it went so well…
INDYCAR, IMS Tap Schafer Condon Carter to Create National Brand Campaigns
Chicago Cubs and Indiana Pacers among Clients of Award-Winning Chicago-Based Agency
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 – INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have named Chicago-based Schafer Condon Carter (SCC) as their comprehensive creative agency of record, charged with developing aligned national promotional campaigns surrounding the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
SCC, founded in 1989, creates award-winning campaigns and strategies for a diverse, impressive range of local, regional and national clients in sports and consumer products, including the Chicago Cubs, Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Procter & Gamble, Danone, Portillo’s restaurants and more.
The first campaigns of the multiyear partnership will be unveiled before the start of the 2020 racing season.
“SCC is the right choice to help the INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 brands gain an even greater national profile and continue their trend of year-over-year growth in media consumption and ticket sales,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of INDYCAR and IMS. “SCC’s outstanding work speaks for itself, with its creativity and energy earning many national awards, recognition and success for all kinds of clients. We believe they can help us more effectively and aggressively position the NTT IndyCar Series, our teams and drivers and all of our world class sporting events at IMS.”
SCC will work to elevate the brands and accelerate the momentum of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, closely aligning the synergies and strategies between the world’s most competitive racing series and the world’s largest single-day sporting event.
One particularly recognizable campaign SCC executed for the Chicago Cubs is the “Fly the W” campaign that was a hallmark of the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 world championship season.
“We are extremely honored to have been selected by INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to become their strategic and creative partner,” said David Selby, CEO of SCC. “The opportunity to help steward and grow the iconic INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 brands is exceptional. They are unique in the world of sport, and among an elite group of brands with such rich history and legacy. All of us at SCC look forward to playing a critical role in elevating their positioning and driving deeper fan engagement with the NTT IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and all of the exceptional events and experiences at IMS.”
SCC is an independent creative and technology agency that connects humans and brands through insight-fueled experiences. A simple mission drives SCC’s entrepreneurial, people-first, results-obsessed culture – We work for humans. SCC’s work is based on deep human insights and an understanding of the communities and cultures within which brands compete.
SCC’s integrated practices include SCCdigital, SCCprism, SCCdesign, SCCmedia, and MAKE247 content studio. The company also operates a private equity portfolio, SCCventures, with holdings in the food and tech sectors. SCC is privileged to work with outstanding partners that include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, The Chicago Cubs, Ideal Industries, Portillo’s Restaurants, Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market and Solo Cup.
The independent agency is a fully integrated shop employing over 120 creative, energetic, passionate professionals based in the eclectic West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. To learn more about SCC, visit www.schafercondoncarter.com.
INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Oct. 2) – INDYCAR, in collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, staged its first on-track test of a revolutionary Aeroscreen on Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the officials and drivers involved couldn’t have been more pleased. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and 2014 series champion Will Power…
‘What They’re Saying’ from the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Race
1st – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “Yeah, it was a perfect race. Whenever you win an INDYCAR race, it has to be a perfect race. You can’t really make mistakes and get away with it, just because there’s always two or three other guys on that day that can win. For sure there was a few guys that could win today, and we just outdid them. We had the pace on them, and we were definitely the best today, so we definitely deserved to win.”
2nd – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was very impressive. Yeah, I mean he (Colton Herta) does a great job. I was hoping he would make a little mistake, but no mistakes. Man, I was giving it everything I got. I think we had a slightly quicker car, but he hung on. Yeah, he’s going to be tough when he gets a bit of experience.”
3rd – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The car was by far better on the red Firestone tires than the black primaries. There was a ton of tire degradation and it kind of threw us for a loop. Great result for PNC Bank, great for Honda winning the manufacturer title and great for Felix for the Rookie title. It was a hard-fought battle with Simon at the end and hope it was a good show as we haven’t been back at Laguna Seca for some time.”
4th – SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Overall I thought it was an amazing race. I thought we gave a great show for the fans, and it was a great crowd out here today, and there’s nothing to be disappointed about. I tried as hard as I could all weekend. You saw me drive with my heart. I won Indianapolis this year. There’s nothing to be disappointed about. We finished second. That’s the second time we’re second in the championship. We won the championship in ’16. I think the numbers talk for themselves. Do I want to win the championship? Of course. But I’m just equally happy for Josef and the whole team, to wrap up the Indy 500 and the championship in one year is just absolutely incredible. I had a blast. I had a blast today. It was disappointing not to get Dixon because I really thought I had a shot for the win and Herta. But it is what it is. I tried everything I had and it didn’t work out.”
5th – FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Today was exciting with Colton starting P1 and us in 14th for the Rookie battle. He led almost every lap. We managed to pass a ton of cars and executed perfectly. Well-deserved for all the NTT DATA guys on a season-long effort. I think I used a lot of anger from yesterday to move forward. It was a great way to finish the season and I can’t wait until next year with this team.”
6th – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “It is the way it goes. We started on the used Firestones. We knew ultimately the guys were Scott (Dixon) and Colton (Herta) because we knew we needed to win the race. We went opposite of them on tire choice on the grid. It was a gamble. We made the decision this morning if we were going to go for it, we would rather finish third than second and be complacent. It is the way the chips fell. Nonetheless, I think the (No.) 27 NAPA Andretti Honda had some highlights this year. Ultimately, we just weren’t good enough. We need to regroup and work hard this offseason.”
7th – SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “It was a wonderful way to finish the season for the No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. It was a heck of a race for us. We started 19th and about lap 11 I got in a groove. The car was clearly good and we started to show our pace. Then we gained a lot of positions on the overcut (pitting later) and we did that pretty much the whole race. The yellow also really benefitted us. It regrouped everyone and at the end, we were on new red tires (Firestone alternative tire). It was a really positive note to end the season, going from 19th to seventh in a straight-up fight. We’ll definitely take that and move into 2020 looking for more success.”
8th – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m just happy it’s done with, to be honest with you. I’ve been dreading the last couple weeks because I don’t think it really hits you until you get finally to Laguna or after Portland I should say, two weeks to go, because then you really realize the points situation. It’s just such a stressful deal with double points. I hated it. I hated thinking about it, and I know we didn’t build up enough of a gap to make it super easy on ourselves, and I was just kind of dreading it, to be honest with you. Just didn’t know what was going to happen today, and I just wanted to make sure we secured the championship because I felt like our guys deserved it. Everyone works really hard in this paddock. It doesn’t matter which team or what driver you are. I think everyone works really hard. I’m pretty intimate with my guys and know how hard they work personally, and I just wanted them to be rewarded with the championship. That was weighing on me a lot. I was just happy we were able to get through today. It was kind of a chaotic event. There were moments where I didn’t think it was going to go our way. We kind of set a strategy and stuck to it, and I don’t know that it was working out part way through, but then you saw towards the end, the way things were positioned, it ended up being okay, which made me really pleased. But I think we were trying to cover our bases as a team. The most important thing was for a Team Penske car to win the championship, and that’s the way we devised our strategy, and you hope it works out in your favor, but ultimately what’s important is the team winning the championship, and that was our plan. Just really proud of everybody. I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity, and I’m just happy it’s over with, to be honest with you. I can’t wait to go into this offseason. I think it’s going to be a nice little rest before next year.
10th – RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a good start and picked up a spot. On our first stop, we had an issue where the car stalled. Not sure what the reason yet – looks like a timing issue with selecting first gear or potentially a boost issue. We fell to last and had to pass 12 cars to make it up to where we finished in 10th. We had a fun day out there and I passed a lot of cars. But it made it more work than it needed to be. We picked up a position in points but then tied with Colton (Herta).”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):
MARCO ANDRETTI (Finished 14th – No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “We just didn’t get all of the fuel in on the first stop. We had to drive a defensive race with an arm tied behind our back the whole time. The potential was so much greater. The U.S. Concrete car was hooked up. We had a monster start. We did everything we needed to do. We just didn’t get all of the fuel in on that first stop and that set the day.”
MAX CHILTON (Finished 13th – No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I felt like I drove a technically perfect race today. I was aggressive off the start and really good around Turn 2. Unfortunately we got sandwiched in (Turn) three, which gave me some damage and I got swamped a little bit. Once the race settled down three or four laps in, I did the best overtake of my life in Turn 5 around the outside of Daly, then we were on good pace and toward the end of the stint, I was able to get Rahal. Unfortunately I think that we pitted too early because then Rahal ended up getting back past us on the stops, which should’ve never happened. After that I was behind too many people and it took all race to get past them. We had one minor issue in the pits as well where we had to wait to come out that cost us some time. I think those things combined cost us a top-10 finish. The good thing is that we showed solid pace all weekend and we can be proud of that heading into next season.”
CONOR DALY (Finished 22nd – No. 25 U.S. Air Force Honda): “After sort of getting shoved off the track at the beginning, I think we had a pretty good car. Our car conserved tires really well and treated our tires nicely to be able to make some moves back forward. I misjudged trying to go around Marco (Andretti). I thought he was giving me the position then I got in the marbles too much in the brake zone. That was my fault. It’s a shame, that’s on me. After that, I was just driving around. It was great to represent U.S. Air Force this weekend. We had a few difficult times but just tried to the best we could.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (Finished 24th – No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “We were having a good race but then on the restart I forgot to put the brake bias back to the rear, and going into Turn 1 I locked the fronts. I knew I was going to hit (Takuma) Sato, so I just tried to hit him square to do the minimal amount of damage, but sadly I ended up with most of it. I’m sorry to him and his team for messing up their race. It was my mistake. Looking back, I feel pretty good about our season as a whole. I feel it went exceptionally well. It’s just unfortunate because I think today is the only mistake I made all year. It’s not the way I wanted to end the season but overall we’ve had a great year and I think we can be proud of that.”
JACK HARVEY (Finished 19th – No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “It’s a bit obvious to say that this weekend is not how we wanted to end our year. We’ve been on such a good momentum swing and there’s really only two places where we have lacked pace. I’m just sad that we tested so well here and we weren’t able to replicate that during the race weekend. Overall we’ve learned a lot as a team this year and we’ve come a long way as a team and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
ED JONES (Finished 23rd – No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet):“It was a frustrating weekend and even though we didn’t quite have the pace, we worked hard during the race. Obviously the restarts are quite eventful, when it goes green you are allowed to pass and it seems a lot of people didn’t realize that going into Turn 11. I made up a few places, then again into Turn 2 I was making up some more. We were on the outside of the track when another car just drove straight into us. Unfortunately, it damaged the car and we had to retire from the race.”
TONY KANAAN (Finished 16th – No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was an okay race for us. I think we were actually pretty competitive in the beginning. We struggled with the race pace all weekend long, so I think by the end of the day we should have been a couple tenths quicker a lap to be able to be more competitive, but we did what we could do. Looking forward to what’s next. I want to thank ABC Supply for all the years that they helped this team. We have a long offseason now, so we have a lot of time to work on the things that we think are going to have to be better. We’ll be back next year, reset and start again.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (Finished 15th – No. 23 Tresiba Carlin Chevrolet): “A huge credit to the Carlin guys – they’ve worked so hard all year. Unfortunately we weren’t able to give them a couple of top-10 finishes to close out the season, which are the results that they deserve with all of the effort they put in week in and week out. It was a hard race. The tires degraded as we expected. I think not everyone knew what tire to be on between the Firestone alternate and primary tires, which created some really good racing. The guys did a great job in pit lane and I’m proud to be able to bring it home in 15th after starting 20th , especially with some of the on-track battles I had. I’m just really proud of the (No.) 23 crew. Everyone at Carlin works so hard from management to engineering to business ops and especially the mechanics.”
MATHEUS LEIST (Finished 17th – No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):“Overall a difficult race today, I thought we had a better pace. We made some changes after qualifying and I feel like we didn’t go in the right direction today. Our tire degradation was pretty high with both types of tires. Still it was a fun race, I think we were in the mix back there, not where we wanted to be but still in the mix and not so far off the pace. I felt that towards the end of the year we gained some pace with the car and the car setup overall. We’re still far away from where we want to be but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we will be back next year.”
SPENCER PIGOT (Finished 20th – No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “It was not a very strong race for us. I am disappointed to end the season on this kind of note. There were some positives throughout the year that we can look back on, but also some areas we need to work on. I want to thank everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing for always trying their best and making the most of every situation! We’ll work to be better next time.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (Finished 12th – No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “Today was a tough day. I thought at times that we had decent pace and at other times we really struggled with the rear of the car. We’re just missing a little something. We’ve been close this year but not quite there. I’m proud of our mechanics and all of the guys for keeping their heads down and continuing to work hard. It wasn’t the easiest of years but everyone stayed positive and fought until the end. We’re thankful for all of our partners and looking forward to 2020.”
TAKUMA SATO (Finished 21st – No. 30 ABeam Honda): “I think the season was great. It was a little bit up and down of course but we achieved a couple of pole positions, a couple of podiums and two wins and I think it was a great season. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. We had some difficult circumstances but the team was fully behind me and I was able to push all the way through the season. In the race, we had some issues and a mechanical failure in the end. It is a shame that we couldn’t finish high and try to get fifth in the championship. In the end we dropped significantly in the standings. The No. 30 car ran beautifully this season with Graham and I pushing each other all season. We will come back even stronger next season and I’m really looking forward to that. Thank you to everyone for their support.”
ZACH VEACH (Finished 18th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “We were a bit of a pinball out there today. We made a mistake on our side, had the car way too low with the fuel load. We really struggled the first five to six laps of a stint because the bottoming was so bad. The team did an awesome job to combat that with tire pressures and other things. We figured it out after our first stop and were on our way moving forward and got up to 14th, running right behind Marco (Andretti), then was just under fire from Spencer Pigot. He just cooked it a little too hard in the corner and punted both of us off of Turn 2. That was frustrating. We lost a few spots in that incident then when I got to the Corkscrew, I got hit again and pushed off the track and lost another three spots. It was a bad lap but we did the best we could with what we had. I can’t thank Gainbridge enough for everything this year. My entire crew and Mark Bryant and everything he has done to help me for these last four races. It has been such a good end of the year for us as far as getting things done.”
MONTEREY, Calif. (September 21, 2019) – Like father, like son at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Twenty years after Bryan Herta won the third of his three consecutive Indy car poles at this 11-turn, 2.238-mile permanent road course, his 19-year-old son Colton won his first Laguna Seca pole here Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. The…
Fast Friday News, Notes & Happenings
MONTEREY, Calif. (September 20, 2019) – Fast Friday News, Notes & Happenings recaps the opening day of activity for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. On-track activity continues Saturday with a 45-minute practice and Firestone Fast Six qualifying for the NTT P1 Award. The quick-hitting, notebook-style content is designed to keep media apprised of the happenings in the NTT IndyCar Series and Road to Indy ladder program.
Andretti cars top Day 1 timesheets
Drivers working with Andretti Autosport set the early bar for the final NTT IndyCar Series race of the season, with three among the fastest four in Friday’s practices at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) led the way with a lap of 115.244 miles per hour (1 minute, 9.9105 seconds) while Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda)was third at 115.210 mph (1:09.9317) and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) fourth at 114.935 mph (1:10.0988). Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) was able to break through the organization’s dominance, recording the second-fastest lap at 115.212 mph (1:09:9305).
The Hunter-Reay/Rossi partnership that was evident Thursday when the veteran drivers drove each other’s car during the open test seemed to pay dividends Friday.
“I think (we) have been kind of been joined at the hip for a lot of years now in a lot of ways,” Rossi said. “We feed off each other really well and work well together, and it’s great to have a teammate like that. With how competitive (INDYCAR) is, you need to have guys you can rely on. The first one I go to at the end of every session is this guy.”
Three rounds of knockout qualifying for the NTT P1 Award is Saturday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. PT) on NBCSN. The pole winner from the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session will receive a bonus point, which could be significant in determining the series champion for this season.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet) leads Rossi by 41 points and teammate Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet) by 42 heading to Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, where double the usual number of INDYCAR points will be distributed for each finishing position. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Honda) also is in contention for the title, although he has an 85-point deficit to Newgarden and needs a lot to go right this weekend to snare his sixth series championship.
Rossi said there is still more work to do in Saturday’s pre-qualifying practice (1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, NBC Gold). His crew lost time Friday when a bolt broke in the car during the first practice session. He turned only four laps, none on Firestone’s standard black compound.
“We kind of sacrificed (Friday’s) second session to try and get as many runs in as we could to go through a checklist,” Rossi said. “We saved the new reds for the (third session), so I think we’re getting there.
“We used (Thursday’s six-hour test) to make sure we leave no stones unturned; I think we’ve flipped most of the stones. There’s a couple more to come tomorrow morning, but we’re just trying to make sure we have everything squared away for (qualifying) and (the race).”
Hunter-Reay vowed to help Rossi win his first NTT IndyCar Series championship.
“I think we made the car better today as we went through the day and working with Alex – I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “Hopefully we can put these two cars on the front row.”
The other championship contenders were right on Rossi’s heels. Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, had the day’s fifth-fastest lap at 114.875 mph (1:10.1353). Newgarden, the champion in 2017, was seventh at 114.729 (1:10.2066) with Dixon, a five-time series champion, eighth at 114.651 mph (1:10.2722).
Until this week, few NTT IndyCar Series drivers had much experience with this demanding 11-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course and its signature corner, the corkscrew at Turn 8.
The final challengers for INDYCAR’s Rookie-of-the-Year title believe that gives them level footing against their more experienced counterparts, though it bears noting that Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda), Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda) and Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda) have fared pretty well this season despite the noted deficit.
Herta has a race win and two poles, Rosenqvist has a pair of runner-up finishes in the past four races, and Ferrucci has been impressive on the oval tracks, with four top-seven finishes.
Rosenqvist expects the rookie class to earn strong marks during this first Indy car weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca since 2004.
“I think it resets everything,” the Swede said. “No one has a bunch of experience here. There’s no magic lines anywhere that someone has been working on for the past couple years.”
Rosenqvist said the corkscrew portion of the circuit, a sharp and winding downhill run through Turns 8, 8A and 9, is a stretch where drivers have been experimenting with different approaches. Herta’s last attempt in Friday’s first practice resulted in a spin and slide through the dirt.
“I just went in there a little bit too hot, locked the rear (tires) going over the rise in the corkscrew and that sent me spinning before I could turn in,” he said. “Just a mistake on my part, but it seems like everybody kind of has a car that’s a handful (there) and it makes it interesting to watch on TV. But it’s not so fun to do it in the driver’s seat.”
Like the championship contenders, Ferrucci said the rookies are hungry to win their own title.
“I think we’re really putting in a lot of extra work to be up front to try and win this battle,” he said. “I think it’s really showing, especially in the results, that to us it’s our championship and it’s just as important to us as if we were racing for the Astor Cup.”
The rookies were second (Rosenqvist), third (Herta) and sixth (Ferrucci) on Friday’s speed chart.
Talking TV, Aeroscreen
INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles announced Friday that consumption of NBC Sports Group’s first full INDYCAR season has approached 1.3 million viewers per race for the first 15 events (Round 16 at Portland was not available at this time). That figure is based on total audience delivery, an industry measurement standard.
“That doesn’t include the Portland data, which will contribute meaningfully, or here at Laguna Seca, both of which, as you know, are on NBC,” Miles said. “Season to date, 11 races have posted growth over their comparable race viewership numbers last year, which we think is terrific.”
Miles made the announcement alongside INDYCAR President Jay Frye and NBC Sports Group executives Jon Miller (President, Programming) and Sam Flood(Executive Producer, President, Production). Miles added that NBC’s inaugural Indianapolis 500 broadcast had a total audience delivery of about 5½ million people, an 11 percent increase from the 2018 consumption.
“A great accomplishment and something (NBC Sports Group) worked very, very hard to make happen,” Miles said. “We’ve been really pleased with the partnership, proud of the partnership. It’s worked from our perspective really well, and to be able to report the results that bear that out is the proof in the pudding.”
Flood said veteran broadcaster Mike Tirico was used as the Indianapolis 500’s host as a signal of the importance of the event.
“Mike hosts the biggest events for NBC Sports,” Flood said. “He’s been there at the Olympics as the host. He’s there at the Kentucky Derby. The big (sporting events) are signaled by Mike Tirico being there, and we made it a point right off the bat.”
Flood said Tirico insisted he wants to return to the 500’s broadcast in 2020.
Also, Miles reported that 97 percent of INDYCAR’s sponsorships are in place for next season, which allows the emphasis to be on 2021 sales.
Frye reiterated plans are in place to implement a new Indy car protective Aeroscreen for 2020, a project in partnership with Red Bull Advance Technologies and several other key companies. The next step is a series of on-track tests, beginning with one at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Oct. 2.Additional tests are scheduled for Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, Oct. 7 and at Richmond Raceway on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
“We talked earlier about data doesn’t drive (cars), drivers drive (them), so it’s going to be that point,” Frye said. “Now, we’ve got (the Aeroscreen) to where we think all the data shows it’s going to be great. The clarity, the visuals, we went through a lot of the process already, but it’s never been on the track. The track is the final send-off.”