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Power Leads Opening Day of Practice at St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 27, 2015) – Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power kicked off the “aero era” by recording the quickest lap time in today’s initial practice session for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Power’s lap of 1 minute, 1.4709 seconds in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet breezed past the 2014 Verizon P1 Award-winning lap of 1:01.8668 produced by Takuma Sato on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

Power was among five drivers, including Team Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya (1:01.6996) and Helio Castroneves (1:01.7000), to better last year’s pole time, even without the Firestone Firehawk alternate tires that they’ll be allowed to use in the three rounds of Saturday qualifications.

As a steady rain fell through the afternoon, no drivers turned laps in the companion session. Another practice session is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday preceding qualifications for the 110-lap race Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC).

Last year at St. Petersburg, James Hinchcliffe’s lap of 1:02.9326 topped the first session.

“It was pretty straightforward for us. I think it’s just understanding last year’s mechanical balance of the car with the new aero stuff and just going through basic changes to see what they do,” said Power, who won the season-opening race in March 2014 and earned the St. Petersburg pole four straight years from 2010-13.

“The kits produce massive downforce, low drag and the cars are absolutely glued to the track. Obviously, as we go along in the year we are going to learn more and more about what we need to push for wins.”

Scott Dixon (1:01.7777) and Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.8439) also were quicker around the circuit than the 2014 pole time using the Chevrolet aero/engine package. Second-year driver Jack Hawksworth (1:01.8713) was quickest of the 12 Honda drivers.

Bourdais’ track record of 1:00.928 (106.710 mph) set in qualifying for the inaugural Indy car race in 2003 could come under assault.

Both manufacturers developed aerodynamic bodywork platforms for street/road course and short ovals along with a speedway package under INDYCAR regulations. The Chevrolet and Honda aero kits also look distinctly different.

There are multiple combinations of components that crews can utilize to tailor the package to suit drivers and a particular racetrack to optimize performance. They’ve had two weeks of on-track testing available to decipher the characteristics of the road/street and short oval package. The speedway aero kits are scheduled to be delivered to teams April 1 and make their competitive debut at the Indianapolis 500.

“There’s a noticeable speed increase from last year and that’s from downforce without a lot of drag penalty,” said CFH Racing driver Josef Newgarden, who was 10th on the time chart. “They’re very efficient packages and Chevrolet and Honda have spent millions of dollars into making the best aerodynamic pieces that they can.

“Everything on the car is lot more refined and it’s just faster. That’s the big difference in plain terms.”

Added 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Racing, first of all, is all about innovation and development and that’s what we have with the aero kits. The engine manufacturers have been tasked to put on as much downforce as efficiently as possible, and what you see is a complete transformation of this Indy car where Chevy has its own look and brand and Honda has its own look and brand and stamp on the car.

“The performance is up, track records will be broken this year, and they look like you need to wear protective gloves around them, so they look awesome. They look like they should, which is incredibly fast and somewhat scary.”

Wilson joins Andretti Autosport for Indy races

Andretti Autosport announced that Indy car veteran Justin Wilson will drive for the team in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 and the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. Wilson, a seven-time race winner in 11 Indy car seasons, will drive the No. 25 Honda. Andretti Autosport is the reigning Indy 500 champion with Hunter-Reay.

“I know that the team has everything in place to do well and I’m really confident about what the group is capable of this year,” said Wilson.

Added team owner Michael Andretti, “Having Justin on the team has been something we’ve been looking at for quite some time, so we’re excited to finally make it happen.”

Celebs have speedy experience
Mario Andretti quickly zipped around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit much to the delight of his passengers Thursday in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater. Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Major Wright and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, “SI Now” host Maggie Gray and Anthony Sullivan, a/k/a the OxiClean spokesperson, were among the riders.

“My heartrate is above 200 right now. It’s a thrill to have a legend, Mario Andretti, give me a ride,” said Sullivan, who eagerly posed with the Bucs players for photos after his ride. “The most surprising thing to me was the speed, the poise, the control entering some of those turns. I thought, ‘When is he going to brake?’ It’s a whole new appreciation for driving at that level.”

Of note

Team Penske announced that the Hitachi Group has extended its team sponsorship through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Helio Castroneves will drive the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet in nine races this season, including the season opener at St. Petersburg. Hitachi also will be an associate sponsor on the three other Team Penske cars. … Mazda Road to Indy drivers Zach Veach, Neil Alberico and Spencer Pigot visited patients at nearby All Children’s Hospital on Thursday. It’s an annual event coordinated by Racing For Kids, which also donated televisions and video game equipment to the hospital. … Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires driver Michael Johnson of JDC Motorsports remained at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg under ICU observation with fractures to the hip and pelvis, following a crash in the opening practice session this morning.

POST-PRACTICE DRIVER QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet): “It’s awesome to be at an event where times actually count. Obviously not today, but tomorrow and Sunday. Good testing, and obviously, Team Penske has definitely made ground over the winter over the other teams. I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting four-way battle amongst the team and Scott Dixon is right in there as well. I expect those five to be the championship contenders.” (Comparing the performance of the car at St. Pete from last year to today): “I think it’s just (about) understanding last year’s mechanical balance of the car with the new aero stuff and just going through basic changes to see what they do. It was pretty straightforward for us. I think we rolled off pretty good with all four cars.” (Which is contributing more to Chevrolet’s dominance, the engine or the aero kit?): “I think it’s both. I think they’re better with the engine and the aero right now. It’s hard to say which is more. I think they did a very good job with the aero kit, Chevy did.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet): “It’s a long offseason for us, but to be honest with you, the last couple months have been pretty busy for us doing a lot of testing and preparation for this. It’s fun for me, second year back and I feel a lot better than last year. I think we have gained a lot over the winter with the car and I think it made a lot of difference.” (On comparing how his car performed here last year and today): “Last year was a tough year for us at the beginning. We knew that. Normally I’m really good at remembering everything about every track and last year I think this was such a blur for me. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I didn’t really pay too much attention to details. But I felt really good straight away (this year) that all of the work we did over the winter with the car made me really, really happy. I’m really comfortable with the car.” (Did all four Team Penske drivers try different things today?) “Each engineer knows what their driver wants and it seems each one is doing his own thing. We have the data there, we have all the information. If somebody makes a change that works, we all know about it. We all drive so different. It’s not so much the driving, it’s the feeling that we want out of the car is so different. You look at us driving, it looks pretty similar but what we want the feel to be is very different. To get that feel, we achieve it in very different ways.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “Pretty happy with the first day on the Penske Truck Rental Chevy. We were fast out of the box and we also made some improvements through first practice. For us, we’ve been getting up to speed as a group and so far everything is going pretty smoothly. I’m really looking forward to qualifying tomorrow to see what we can do.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “There was some promise in our early speed; the DHL Honda was up at the top of the time charts there for the first couple of runs, but as the session went on we just didn’t get the most out of the car. We need to do some changes to react to the balance that we now have. On our new tire runs we had yellow flags in the corner so I had to slow down. I think at best we could have been P9, P8. A lot of the front runners ran three sets of tires instead of the two sets that we ran. Hopefully with our changes we can move forward tomorrow.” (On aero kits): “Racing, first of all, is all about innovation and development and that’s what we have with the aero kits. The engine manufacturers have been tasked to put on as much downforce as efficiently as possible, and what you’ve see is a complete transformation of this Indy car where Chevy has its own look and brand and Honda has its own look and brand and stamp on the car. The performance is up, the speeds – the track records will be broken this year, and they look like you need to wear protective gloves around them, so they look awesome. They look like they should, which is incredibly fast and somewhat scary.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We struggled today with brake issues, so we only had one real run there at the end of the first session. We think we have a direction on where we need to go but a lot of work to do in Practice 3 tomorrow, and then on to quals. Looking to move the Snapple car up the charts.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “First session went OK. I think as a team we are not quite where we want to be, but we are going to work really hard. For me, it was good to be back in the car; it felt okay out there, just looking at a few changes and hopefully we’ll do another leap forward. It’s great to be back here in St. Pete.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “We’re back in St. Petersburg. The second session was rained out, so our day didn’t go as planned. We have a bit of work to do. The first session tomorrow is for 45 minutes and then qualifying, so we’ll see how it goes. The important thing is qualifying, so now we are thinking and working towards that.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chevrolet): “Things weren’t too bad with the Target car. Generally the car felt pretty good. We had a lot of understeer and missed a bit on the aero setup but we’ll continue to get there. It’s not like we’re seconds off the pace. I didn’t really get a chance to put a good lap together either and there was a lot of traffic to deal with. I was glad we got some running in before the rain so all in all a good start to the weekend for us. I can’t wait to get the season started here in St. Petersburg.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet): “It’s unfortunate that we had to battle with some electrical issues during that first practice session and then weren’t able to get out for the second session with the rain. We had some things we really wanted to work on and with the issues first thing out, we just weren’t able to get any full runs in. We’ll get back out there tomorrow and work through a few things and then be ready to go for qualifying.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 GE LED Chevrolet): “Although we only got to run one session today due to rain, I feel we got a good foundation under the GE LED car for tomorrow. The goal was to just get comfortable back in the car today and not make any mistakes. We weren’t working on outright speed today. We wanted to get some good laps in, get some good data to go off of, and some more experience under my belt. This is a learning process and we’ll start looking to improve on speed tomorrow when the weather cooperates a bit more.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew is pretty happy with today. We have some improvements to make to the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet but overall it was a good start. There are probably three to four spots on the track where I need to be better coupled with the car being better, but there are a few spots where I feel really strong. So if we can just keep those strengths and fix those areas that need to be improved I think we’ll be on par.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “It was a good, solid starting day for the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet team. I was really disappointed to see the rain come because we still have some more things to try in hopes of picking up more speed, but we will have to go to work tomorrow. I’m excited about the speed in the car and I think we can challenge for the win, for sure.”

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “It was great to get out on the St. Petersburg track with all the other drivers. It was only practice and not a racing situation, but it was competitive and gave me an opportunity to learn the track and work on some things. It was a lot of fun. We know what we need to do to make the No. 4 KV Racing Technology car better, but unfortunately, because of the weather we didn’t get out for the afternoon session. The weather report is good for tomorrow, so we will make some changes for the morning practice and hopefully that will give me a really good car for my first Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying session.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “We had a pretty good day in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH machine. We thought we had learned a lot of things at the Sebring test earlier this week, but they didn’t quite carry over. So, we back pedaled quickly and went back to a more conventional street course setup that we know better. I didn’t manage to do the perfect lap, but it put us back in a position that we are familiar with, in the top-five. We obviously couldn’t make any progress in the afternoon session due to the rain. But looking forward to tomorrow, hopefully we will put it all together and have a good qualifying for the first race of the year.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “We would have liked to have gotten back on track for the second session to see if we could improve, but it didn’t make sense to run in the rain because the weather the rest of the weekend looks good so there was nothing to be gained. I thought the car was decent in the first session, but we have a little work to do to make some improvements. We are in the thick of it, but we need to find a little more speed to leap us up to the next group of guys. I feel okay about the day though. If we find ourselves a couple of tweaks, we can shuffle ourselves up the grid. There is more work to be done Saturday and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

#INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge Kicks Off 2015 Season

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Tuesday, March 24, 2015) – Fantasy racing has returned to the Verizon IndyCar Series with today’s launch of the #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone. INDYCAR’s newest fantasy game allows fans to become Team Manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race with a stockpile of prizes on the line each week as the stars of the series go wheel-to-wheel for race wins.

The rewards are substantial, highlighted by the ultimate grand prize – a VIP experience at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 2016 – and supplemented by weekly prize contributions from Firestone, Verizon, Sunoco and others.

“The #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone is a great way to further engage our fans and get them even closer to the Verizon IndyCar Series action,” said C.J. O’Donnell, CMO of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Our partners at Firestone, Verizon and Sunoco have provided a great prize package for each week and we felt the grand prize of a VIP experience at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is a great reward for our season champion. I know a lot of us at INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are already planning which drivers to pick for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”

Fans 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.

Prizes available in the #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone include replica Firestone Firehawk INDY racing tires and Verizon Vehicle – the next generation of vehicle information technology that delivers the most versatile, comprehensive service that equips drivers with real-time diagnostic updates and live assistance at the press of a button. Other prizes include autographed Firestone Racing hats, opportunities to host a guest blog on www.indycar.com, INDYCAR Nation Champion memberships and Verizon IndyCar Series official merchandise.

Sign up today, and learn more, at fantasy.indycar.com and make your selections for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will be broadcast live onMarch 29 on ABC at 3 p.m. ET and via the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213 and XM 209.

FAST FACTS – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

FAST FACTS – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Track: 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise)

Race distance: 110 laps / 198 miles

Entry List:  Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (PDF)

Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 15 seconds each

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, three sets alternate

Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @IndyCar, #FirestoneGP, #IndyCar

Event website: www.gpstpete.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2014 race winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car) 

2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing car) … 1 minute, 01.8668 seconds (104.738 mph) in Firestone Fast Six

Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais on Feb. 22, 2003 (1:00.928; 106.710 mph)

ABC race broadcast: Sunday, March 29 (3 p.m. ET)

Allen Bestwick is the lead announcer for ESPN on ABC broadcasts for the second consecutive year alongside analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhuis are the pit reporters.

Video Streaming: All practice sessions for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar andRaceControl.IndyCar.com . Qualifying for races telecast by ABC will also be available via live streaming.

Radio broadcasts: Paul Page is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com  and on the INDYCAR 15 app.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 213, XM 209,   IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 15 app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions plus Indy Lights practice and qualifying are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com, and the INDYCAR 15 app.

At-track schedule (all times local): 

Friday, March 27 (Promoter Day) 

12:30-1:45 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice) 

4:15-5:30 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)

Saturday, March 28

12:30-1:15 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice) 

4:15 p.m. (Three rounds of qualifications)

Sunday, March 29

12-12:30 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up) 

3 p.m. ABC on air

3:37 p.m. Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag

Race Notes:

* The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marks the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Cars will be differentiated by their shape on the street course as the manufacturers have designed separate aero kit specifications for road and street course/short ovals and speedways for the Dallara IR-12 chassis. References to the cars will incorporate the name of the corresponding manufacturer.

* Aero kit competition complements the fourth year of engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet and Honda with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. It will be another season testing speed and durability to determine the Manufacturer Champion.

* Five drivers will make their first start at St. Petersburg – Stefano Coletti, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves, Luca Filippi and Francesco Dracone. The first three are Sunoco Rookie of the Year award candidates. Filippi has competed in eight Verizon IndyCar Series races and makes his debut with CFH Racing. Chaves was the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, while Karam, who be the youngest driver to start an Indy car for Chip Ganassi Racing, won the 2013 title. Dracone competed in two races in 2010.

* Will Power, who had earned consecutive poles at St. Petersburg in 2010-13, won the 2014 season opener at St. Petersburg after qualifying fourth. He went on to win his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Power also won the race in 2010. Team Penske has won the pole position in five out of the last eight Grand Prix of St. Petersburg races.

* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 234th consecutive race, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 175 consecutive starts.

* Dixon, the longest-tenured driver for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, is tied with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 35. He has three runner-up finishes at St. Petersburg but has not won.

* Helio Castroneves, who has won the race in  2006, 2007 and 2012, has been the Verizon IndyCar Series championship runner-up the past two seasons. Castroneves finished third at St. Petersburg in 2014.

* Simona de Silvestro, who made 65 starts over four Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, returns to the series in an Andretti Autosport Honda after a year absence to pursue a Formula One career. 

* There were a record-tying 11 different winners in the 18 races of 2014, and equally tight competition is projected for the 2015 season.

* With six victories in 11 races at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Team Penske is the winningest team in the history of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Three different Team Penske drivers have visited Victory Lane at St. Petersburg. Helio Castroneves has won three times at the venue (2006, 2007, 2012, more than any other driver), while Will Power has two St. Pete wins to his credit (2010 and last season). Ryan Briscoe opened the 2009 season with a victory for Team Penske. Chip Ganassi Racing has won four of the last 10 Verizon IndyCar Series openers (Homestead: 2006, 2007, 2008; St. Pete: 2011).

The 2015 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the 12th Indy car race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction. Sebastien Bourdais, entered in this year’s race, started from the pole. On March 21, Bourdais co-drove to the overall victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. He is a St. Petersburg resident. 

Pre-Race Quotes:

Will Power (No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race winner): “I’m really excited to get the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series started and represent the sport as the champion throughout the year. Even though I was able to break through last year and win my first title, I am preparing to go into this season just as hungry as I was before I became a champion. The drive to win multiple championships is just as strong as the drive to win one. To do that, it’s important to get off to a good start at St. Pete. Winning there last year in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet was critical to the championship push. Now that I’m in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy for 2015, we need to put the new number in Victory Lane as well.” (About debut of aero kit competition): “As we are starting to understand the new Chevrolet aero kits, it’s clear that they have done a proper job in the design and development of them. The kits produce massive downforce, low drag and the cars are absolutely glued to the track. Obviously, as we go along in the year we are going to learn more and more about what we need to push for wins. That is where having a new, fourth car with Simon Pagenaud will be key. His ability to communicate what a car is doing and what it needs is really impressive. He’s going to add a lot to Team Penske and I look forward to racing as his teammate for quite a while.”

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet): “The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season was one of a lot of adjustments for me getting re-introduced to these cars again after 13 seasons away from the series. The race at St. Pete was a bit of a struggle for me last year, especially since I had never been on the ‘red’ Firestone tires until the race started, and it took some adjusting. Toward the end of the year, though, we were really competitive, leading laps and running at the front of the field. With that year under my belt I really think we can get the season started strong at St. Pete. The No. 2 Verizon Chevy has been solid in our preseason testing and with a couple more days on track before we get to St. Pete we should be able to dial it in even more.”

Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “While we would all have loved to race in Brazil this year, there is something cool about keeping the tradition of opening the Verizon IndyCar Series season in St. Pete. This is a track that has been very good to Team Penske, and to me personally. Even though we are introducing new aero kits to the series this year, I think you will see Team Penske and Chevrolet at the front of the field when the laps are winding down in the race. I have been encouraged with the speed in the No. 3 Hitachi Chevy during our testing over the last couple of weeks. Team Penske is always strong in qualifying at St. Pete as well. If we can get a good starting spot I believe we can keep the car up front all day and challenge for the win. A fourth win at St. Pete would be awesome. And then, who knows, maybe a fourth win in another race later on in the season at Indianapolis.”

Stefano Coletti (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I am really excited to start the championship and the challenge of learning all the new tracks. I have done a few tests now with KV Racing Technology and gathered some valuable data, which I’m looking forward to being able to use this weekend at St. Petersburg. I have been able to watch some past races, so I have an idea of what the track will be like and especially what to expect in Turn 1, which looks extremely tight. Having such an experienced teammate as (Sebastien) Bourdais has been really helpful and we work well together, so I am looking forward to having a great first season to my Indy car career.”

James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “St. Pete is like the first day of school, providing that you like school, that is. I love going there. The race is awesome, the track is fun and it’s a place that I’ve always run well at. It’s been nice getting back in the cars to go testing but I think the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team just wants to get back to racing and see what we can do in the Arrow car. It can’t come soon enough.”

James Jakes (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I’m very excited about starting the season in St. Pete this weekend, and really looking forward to driving the No. 7 MediaTech SPM Honda around there. We’ve had a busy few weeks leading up to the race and hopefully everything we’ve learned will benefit us for the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener. We’re looking to start the season strong so that we have a good baseline for 2015.”

Sage Karam (No. 8 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I can’t tell you how excited I am to get the season started. When I signed as a development driver with the team last year, I was able to get in and help out the IMSA team, but now it’s time to get the INDYCAR season started. St. Pete is a track I’ve had success on before in the ladder series and I’m ready to go. We’ve been testing a lot the past few months and I’ve really been trying hard to absorb everything I’ve learned from my teammates and our driver coach Dario Franchitti. I can’t wait to get the GE LED car out for practice and start working on the car with my team and my engineer Eric Cowdin. It’s a dream come true to be racing for Chip and this team and I’m going to be ready to go.”

Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “St. Petersburg is one of the best places to kick off the season. It’s around spring break time, they do a fantastic job of getting the community in and obviously the party atmosphere there too with different things going on during the day. All the different classes of cars that race there and all the variety of things to do in St. Pete make it pretty fantastic for a lot of people. I live in Indianapolis and we finally get to have some sun and get hang out in some warm weather. The track itself is always fantastic racing with big braking zones going into Turn 1. It’s also very wide, great for starts, restarts and overtaking throughout the race. I think it’s definitely been some great racing over the years and this year I expect the same. I haven’t won there either, so I need to work on that one. I’ve had three or four podiums but have never won.”

Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the new Chevy aero kits over the last month, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m ready to get back on track for the season opener in St. Petersburg this weekend. I’m loving my new colors representing NTT DATA this season and it’s been a seamless transition working with my new lead engineer Todd Malloy. I think everyone at NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing is just excited to get out there to start the new season and really see what these new cars can do.” 

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Chevrolet): “I am looking forward to the start of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. We have had a long time off and it will be good to be back racing in the No. 11 Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet car. We have had some good tests during the offseason and collected some valuable data, but you never know how you stack up until you are on the track when it counts. I wish we would have had more time with the new aero kits, but it is the same for everyone.” (About racing in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg): “St. Petersburg is my home race, but unfortunately, other than a pole in my first race (2003), I haven’t really had the success I would have liked. We had a good race going last year and I think we were in a position to finish in the top four or five, but things just didn’t go our way. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well in St. Petersburg…but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.”

Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “I just naturally feel good about St. Pete. In 2013, the tire’s characteristic was quite different from the previous year but we were able to find a good balance very quickly and that was why we were quick. Last year, it was a tricky condition from damp track to drying for every segment of qualifying but I was able to commit every timed lap, so it was a quite special moment when we got the pole. Hopefully we can repeat another front-row start.”

Graham Rahal (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “I’m excited to race again in St. Petersburg. For me, St. Pete has always been one of the best tracks, one of the best places we go all year, a place that I just love. Because of the fact that I got my first win and my first pole there, it has always had a sweet spot in my heart. The town has always embraced the racing and I’ve enjoyed that. More than anything, I’m ready to just get this season going. It’s such a long offseason that I feel like we’re kind of behind. The team has been doing such a great job and I’m just thrilled to get this thing going. I think it’s going to be a great year. I’m excited and ready to go. St. Pete is going to be interesting because it will be our first hard run with the new aero kits. The car seems to be handling everything pretty well. Durability seems to be pretty good. At the end of the day, I think everybody is ready to get to St. Pete. Honda is ready to perform and I think we can lead the charge for them and hopefully do a great job. It’s going to be tough, tricky to see how this all plays out. We’re going to have to be very cautious of contact and make sure that we are staying clean and sharp. All in all, I’m really excited to get going.”

Luca Filippi (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “We are all very excited for St. Pete. It will be my first race with CFH Racing and I really can’t wait to get there. Obviously, it’s been a long winter for everyone, but it’s good that we had an opportunity to test the car with the old package and the new aero kit. I think Chevy has done a great job and we are really looking forward to seeing where we are. I think we are going to be competitive and the entire team is really excited about it.”

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “To say that I’m ready to get to St. Pete would be a huge understatement. I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve ready to go with my new No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevy team. Making the move to Team Penske has been everything I thought it would be. The resources available to us are second to none, but I also feel that both (engineer) Ben (Bretzman) and I can contribute a lot to the team as well. We’ve already been quite busy with testing over the last few weeks, trying to really hone in on the new Chevrolet aero kit. Chevy did an amazing job with it and we will continue to improve as the season goes along. I have to say, though, that it is really an honor to have Team Penske start a fourth team for me, something that has never been done in team history. That gives me a lot of confidence to go out and do my job, which is to win races and compete for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.”

Simona de Silvestro (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “I’m really looking forward to St. Pete. It’s a place I’ve always done pretty well, and I really enjoy the track, the atmosphere. It’s the first race of the season, so it’s always really exciting, and especially for me, I’m going there after a year away from INDYCAR… It’s going to be great; especially with Andretti Autosport – it’s going to be a new challenge but I can’t wait to start the season with them. Hopefully we’ll get a good result, and I think we’ll do that.”

Carlos Muñoz (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “These three days of testing (at Sebring International Raceway) are only going to help us going into St. Petersburg. We have a little more work to do, but I think we are going to be right there when we arrive to St. Pete. I’m really looking forward to this weekend; this is the start of my second Verizon IndyCar Series season and I like the St. Pete track a lot. I have been fast in the past there, and last year I did quite a good job qualifying (seventh). There are a lot of cars running today in Sebring, so we are going to have a good reference for the race weekend ahead.”

Marco Andretti (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I can’t wait to be back in race conditions this weekend. As always, St. Pete will be a great setting to start the season and I’m excited to see where things ultimately shake out with the new aero kits.” 

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It’s a new era in INDYCAR with the introduction of the aero kits and I’m really looking forward to the season opener on the streets of St. Pete. We’re still developing the new package and will be for quite some time, but the DHL team is focused on the challenge ahead. We’ve been on the St. Pete podium too many times in the past without a win, now we have our sights set on a victory and starting the 2015 season the best way possible.”

Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “The (St. Pete) track is a lot of fun and pretty technical, especially the middle sector. It’s a track I have won at twice in Pro Mazda and in Indy Lights so it has always been good to me. Couple that with the great weather and it’s certainly one of my favorite events. I also lived in St. Pete during my first year in the States, so I know the city quite well and really enjoy going back there. It’s a great place to kick off the season.”

Josef Newgarden (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I am really excited to get to St. Pete with the whole team. We’ve had a great winter getting to know one another. It’s been a really good marriage between two fantastic groups (Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing). Chevy seems to have brought us a great package with their new aero kit. It’s been fun developing that and working with Luca (Filippi) to try to figure out what we need to win races. I feel that CFH Racing is as prepared as we can be rolling into the first round of the season. We’re obviously looking to start it off right and score good points. I think starting off on a high note and taking care of the equipment is the priority. Hopefully that will snowball into more success throughout the entire year.”

Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “After a long offseason and some productive test days these past few weeks, I think we’re all more than ready to take the green flag on Sunday. The entire Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team has been working really hard over the winter in preparation of the new Team Chevy aero kits. Now that we’ve had on-track time, it’s about soaking up as much as we can to make small gains here and there that add up to big results. We’ll be looking to have the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen car on the podium this weekend to get the momentum going. I can’t wait to see how things shake out once we’re in a real race setting at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg; I think the fans are in for a treat this season.”

Gabby Chaves (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “We have been making progress every time we get on track and I expect nothing less heading into the race weekend. It is an incredible opportunity that I have here and I will do all I can to get the results we want and deserve. It will be a steep learning curve for me as a rookie but I have a great team around me that will help me with that process. I have complete confidence in them to get us to our true potential.”

ESPN Player Expands INDYCAR’s International Live, On-Demand Coverage

  • All 16 races, including the Indianapolis 500, will be broadcast live on ESPN’s online streaming service for fans across Europe, the Middle East and Africa
  • All qualifying sessions, race highlights and Indy Lights races available on-demand

ESPN Player will bring fans across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (excluding the UK, France, Italy and South Africa) live and on-demand coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series season as a new channel on the digital subscription service.

The eagerly-anticipated first race of the Verizon IndyCar Series will be held on March 29in St. Petersburg, Fla. The race schedule includes challenging, technical road and street courses, short ovals and superspeedways that are sure to provide another gripping campaign of competitive racing. The showpiece event on the race calendar, the world renowned Indianapolis 500, is also part of the package available for racing fans across the EMEA region. The full race schedule can be found here.

Last year, Will Power of Team Penske earned his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship in a memorable season which featured a record-equaling 11 different race winners. French driver Simon Pagenaud, Brazilian Helio Castroneves and New Zealander Scott Dixon are amongst the pack who will hope to challenge Power again this year. Other drivers include former F1 stars Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato. The champion of the Verizon IndyCar Series has been decided by the outcome of the final race for the past nine seasons – viewers can expect it to be just as tight this year. ESPN Player users can enjoy comprehensive coverage of all 16 races.

Charly Classen, vice president and general manager, ESPN – Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “The Verizon IndyCar Series is a fantastic addition to the portfolio of sports content available to fans across the region. ESPN Player embodies our ethos of serving sports fans anytime, anywhere by providing extensive coverage live and on-demand, on multiple devices. 2015 will be a great year of sport as we look to deliver fans more content than ever before on ESPN Player.”

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said: “ESPN Player is a positive step forward to both the digital and international distribution of Verizon IndyCar Series events. The increase in both live and on-demand coverage will be valuable in showcasing the INDYCAR brand and the excitement of our on-track product to fans across the world.”

Subscribers will also be able to take advantage of ESPN Player’s on-demand service to watch all the qualifying action before tuning in to watch the resulting race live. There will also be on-demand coverage of Indy Lights, the developmental racing series which has been known to play host to exciting talent staking a claim to make the step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Fans can also catch up on all previous races with comprehensive highlight packages available on demand.

The channel is one of several new additions to the ESPN Player platform, which is now offering sports fans across the EMEA region more content than ever before. ESPN Player is available on Mac, PC, iPad, LG and Samsung Smart TVs, with high quality streaming on all devices.

Packages include an INDYCAR race pass, INDYCAR Month pass and INDYCAR Season pass. For all pricing and other information please visit ESPNPlayer.com.

About ESPN Player

ESPN Player , ESPN’s broadband platform in Europe, provides sports fans with live and on-demand sports action from the US and Europe online. It joins ESPN’s growing digital portfolio in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which includes the online and mobile websites ESPNcricinfo.com, ESPNFC, and the UK-focused sports portal ESPN.co.uk.

ESPN Player features more than 3,000 live events and thousands of hours of live and on-demand sport, including but not limited to:

  • US College Football:  Hundreds of games from the university gridiron of the US, including regular season, Bowl Games and College Football Playoff;
  • US College Basketball:  Hundreds of games from the hard courts of the USA’s top universities, including the regular season, Championship Week and March Madness
  • US College Lacrosse, Baseball, Softball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Volleyball and more
  • X Games
  • World Series of Poker

Now featuring the following new channels:

  • Verizon IndyCar Series
  • British Touring Car Championship
  • Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC)
  • BAMMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts)

ESPN Player is available on Mac, PC, iPad, LG and Samsung Smart TVs, with high quality streaming on all devices. With so many dedicated feeds users can watch two different feeds simultaneously using two devices.  Subscriptions to ESPN Player are available in various lengths, dependent on the channel.

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – MARCH 20, 2015

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – MARCH 20, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. INDYCAR increases teams’ Leaders Circle payout to $1.25 million for 2015
2. Dixon would join elite company with 12 Hours of Sebring victory
3. Allison Transmissions marks centennial with CFH Racing at IMS

4. Castrol EDGE returns as Bryan Herta Autosport associate sponsor
5. Of note:

  • Local company supports Andretti
  • Karam, Kimball to attend IMS Night with Indiana Pacers
  • Ganassi adds Global Rallycross team

1. INDYCAR increases teams’ Leaders Circle payout to $1.25 million for 2015: INDYCAR announced today an increase of $250,000 to its Leaders Circle program, which raises the total annual payment for eligible Verizon IndyCar Series entrants to $1.25 million.

A total of 21 entrants are entered in the Leaders Circle program for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“INDYCAR is invested in the continued support of its teams,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. “The Leaders Circle program rewards INDYCAR teams for full-season participation and helps each of them with an additional source of funding. The program is also an asset to our promoters as it guarantees over 20 cars at each Verizon IndyCar Series event. As INDYCAR continues to grow we’re excited about opportunities like this that are beneficial to the teams that compete in our series.”

The Leaders Circle program was established in 2002 to provide incentives to teams that participate full time in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Each Leaders Circle member is assured a minimum of $1.25 million if the entrant successfully qualifies for all of the 16 Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2015, including the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Twenty-one entrants were selected based on final 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series final entrant points.

All Leaders Circle entrants will continue to compete for bonuses that will now be paid to the top-12 finishers – an increase of two positions compared to 2014 – at each Verizon IndyCar Series race aside from the Indianapolis 500. Non-Leaders Circle entrants also will compete for payouts awarded to the top-three finishers in each race excluding the Indianapolis 500.

The Verizon IndyCar Series driver champion and championship entrant again will share a $1 million bonus, with second through 10th in the standings sharing bonuses totaling $320,000. The recipient of the Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year award will receive a $50,000 bonus.

Contingency awards will continue to be presented at all Verizon IndyCar Series events. Read the full story.

2. Dixon would join elite company with 12 Hours of Sebring victory: Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon can join an elite group of competitors by driving to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend.

Dixon co-drove the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Prototype with Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray to the overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. Only eight times have drivers won at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway in the same year.

Indy car racing luminaries A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Lloyd Ruby are on that list.

This weekend, Dixon will join full-season drivers Scott Pruett and Joey Hand in the No. 01 entry.

“Sebring is one of those iconic motor races in the world and I think we’ll have a good chance,” said Dixon, who also won the 24-hour race in 2006. “I’m looking forward to working with Scott and Joey again.”

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ entry won the 2014 12 Hours of Sebring with drivers Marino Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

Also in the Prototype class, Sebastien Bourdais returns to co-drive the No. 5 Action Express Racing and Justin Wilson will co-drive the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian entry. Both are former overall winners of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Simon Pagenaud, who earned a podium finish in the 24-hour race in January, returns to co-drive the No. 4 GT Le Mans class entry for Corvette Racing.

For more on drivers participating in the endurance race, visit IndyCar.com.

3. Allison Transmissions marks centennial with CFH Racing at IMS: Allison Transmissions will celebrate its centennial in part by being an associate sponsor on the No. 20 CFH Racing car driven by Luca Filippi in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 and by Ed Carpenter in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24.

Allison traces its corporate lineage to the founding of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. on Sept. 14, 1915.

As a co-founder of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and part-owner of several racing teams, James A. Allison established a precision machine shop and experimental firm on Main Street in Speedway called the Allison Experimental Co. to support his racing endeavors. As a race team owner, Allison won the 1919 Indianapolis with driver Howdy Wilcox.

“We’re honored that Allison Transmission chose to celebrate their centennial with CFH Racing,” said Carpenter, a team co-owner. “In addition to producing world-class products, they are great neighbors and supporters of the community.”

4. Castrol EDGE returns as Bryan Herta Autosport associate sponsor: Bryan Herta Autosport announced that Castrol EDGE has extended its associate partnership with the team for the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We are very pleased to continue our association with the Castrol EDGE brand, which includes promotion of Castrol EDGE to customers in our great new car dealer network,” team owner Bryan Herta said. “With Castrol’s support, 2015 is shaping up to be our best yet.”

Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, will drive the No. 98 Honda in the 16-race season.

“Castrol EDGE is our most advanced motor oil, providing superior motor oil strength for engines that work harder due to higher engine pressures, helping vehicles to maximize performance, ” said Dan Hanson, Castrol’s OEM workshops director. “Our partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport gives us a tremendous platform to showcase that performance and to connect with IndyCar fans.”

Click here to read more about the partnership.

5. Of note:
Local company supports Andretti: Indianapolis-based Delivra has joined Andretti Autosport as its official provider of email marketing. … Karam, Kimball to attend IMS Night with Indiana Pacers: Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam will sign autographs and participate in activities March 21 as Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts IMS Night with the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The first 4,000 attendees will receive a co-branded Pacers/Wing & Wheel window flag, distributed by the 500 Festival Princesses. … Ganassi adds Global Rallycross team: Chip Ganassi Racing is expanding into Global Rallycross with two entries.

INDYCAR News And Notes – March 17, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1) Bestwick back with ABC in 2015
2) Teams continue development next week
3) Of note:
* Pappas joins KV Racing Technology/KVSH
* Team Penske finalist for Sports Team of the Year
* Andretti Autosport partners with global tech company

1. Bestwick back with ABC in 2015: Ticking off the multitude of storylines associated with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Allen Bestwick might have lobbied for a larger broadcast window on ABC.

Bestwick enters his second year as the chief announcer, with former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. returning as analysts. Jon Beekhuis, Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl will be the pit reporters.

ABC will telecast the season opener March 29 (3 p.m. ET) along with four other races and both days of Indianapolis 500 qualifications.

An introduction and explanation of the new aerodynamic bodywork kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda – how they work, to what benefit on the street circuit and how teams adapt — will be among the elements that the network team will convey to the TV audience.

“How does it impact the overall race? Who’s going to win and why? Does one have a half-inch over the other on a particular course or particular configuration?” said Bestwick, who along with Goodyear took in the Promoter Test on March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park.

“The bottom line is still to tell the story of the race, and that’s why we have all the excellent cameramen, all the excellent audio people and the reporters. Those are more tools to deliver that home.”

Bestwick said he felt at home last year in the booth.

“My first year was exactly what I thought it would be, which is good racing with good people,” he said. “Obviously, I wasn’t a stranger to a lot of the people involved nor was I a stranger to watching the competition so it turned out to be what I thought it would be.

“Probably the one that surprised me the most was Indianapolis because I got such a build-up from various people about how different it’s going to be and how overwhelming it’s going to be. What I found was I had been to the Speedway and broadcast so many races before that I actually felt right at home. The same booth, the same parking space and the TV trucks in the same place. I found it strikingly familiar and comfortable and the race was everything I thought it would be.

“It was a great day and great competition and I’m looking forward to season two.”

2. Teams continue development next week: Simona de Silvestro will test the Honda aero package for the first time next week at Sebring International Raceway in an Andretti Autosport-prepared car in preparation for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

De Silvestro, 26, was catching up with new teammates Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz and the crews at the March 16-17 Promoter Test at Barber Motorsports Park.

In 2013, de Silvestro qualified a career-best third on the St. Petersburg street circuit in her first race with KV Racing Technology. Fourth place in the 2011 opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course had been her career-best finish until she posted a second place in 2013 in Houston 1.

In 2014, she pursued Formula One aspirations. In 65 Verizon IndyCar Series races over four seasons, de Silvestro recorded three top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.

Multiple teams will test March 23-25:

Sebring International Raceway short course — James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports; Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power of Team Penske; Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi of CFH Racing; Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing; Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing; Stefano Coletti of KV Racing Technology.

NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. — Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone of Dale Coyne Racing; Gabby Chaves of Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian; Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam and Charlie Kimball of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Texas Motor Speedway — Andretti Autosport for a Honda speedway aero package development test.

Promoter Day sessions totaling 2 hours, 30 minutes on the afternoon of March 27 will precede a 45-minute practice March 28 before the three rounds of qualifications for the 110-lap race March 29 (3 p.m. ET, ABC).

3. Of note:
Pappas joins KV Racing Technology/KVSH: Veteran engineer Bill Pappas, most recently with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, has joined KV Racing Technology/KVSH Racing to serve as technical consultant for the Nos. 4 (rookie Stefano Coletti) and 11 (four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais). … Team Penske finalist for Sports Team of the Year: Team Penske is a finalist in the Sports Team of the Year category for the eighth Sports Business Awards. Nominees are recognized for excellence and outstanding achievement in sports business. Team Penske earned the Verizon IndyCar Series entrant and driver (Will Power) championship in 2014. … Andretti Autosport partners with global tech company: Andretti Autosport announced connectivity and sensor solutions leader TE Connectivity as a new commercial partner.

Twenty-One Drivers Top 2014 Barber Pole Speed During Two-Day Test

Twenty-One Drivers Top 2014 Barber Pole Speed During Two-Day Test

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 17, 2015) — Will Power, who has won twice at Barber Motorsports Park and was the Verizon P1 Award winner for the 2014 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, posted the quickest lap of the two-day Verizon IndyCar Series test of the new aerodynamic bodywork supplied by Chevrolet and Honda at the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, had a best lap of 1 minute, 7.3118 seconds (123.010 mph) in the March 17 morning session.

That was a full second quicker than his 2014 pole-winning time on Firestone alternate tires. Scott Dixon holds the track record with a lap of 1:06.7750 in Round 1 of qualifying in 2013, also on Firestone alternate tires that offer more grip and under cooler ambient temperatures that also add track grip.

Twenty-one drivers bettered Power’s 2014 pole lap time over the four sessions. Twenty-three drivers totaled 2,832 laps in the initial full-team testing in preparation for the March 29 season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“The aero kits produce so much more downforce and there’s a lot of grip, so the cars are faster everywhere,” Power said. “I would expect to break lap records just about everywhere.

“I think we found some good stuff as a team for St. Petersburg and when we come back to race here (April 26).”

Dixon, who has finished second or third in the five races at Barber Motorsports Park in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, recorded the quickest lap of 1:07.4805 on March 16, and bettered it in the waning minutes of March 17 (1:07.3996) to place second overall. Graham Rahal posted the quickest lap among the Honda contingent (1:07.6203) in the No. 15 Mi-Jack entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Stefano Coletti was quickest of the four rookies participating (1:07.5224), and third overall, in the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.

The high-downforce platforms, which with multiple options available can be tailored to a driver’s personal style and individual racetrack, will produce performance gains throughout the 16-race season. The radical designs also differentiate the manufacturers, who also supply the 2.2-liter, twin-turbo-charged V-6 engines.

Every team will continue development of the road/street course and short oval aero platform at two racetracks next week before reconvening March 27 for the opening of practice on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary St. Petersburg street circuit.

“As far as overall driving style we’ve been pretty pleased that the kit hasn’t greatly upset a lot of the base knowledge that we have of the car,” said 2013 St. Petersburg race winner James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “You can be a bit braver in certain corners, but I don’t think I’ve had to revamp what I’ve been doing, which is nice.

“It’s not like when we went from the IR-03 to the DW12; that was a complete change in driving philosophy for me. This has been a nice progression of more grip, more downforce, more fun.

“There is still some bit to come and a lot of development to do. This car is going to get better and better through the first half of the year as we understand more and more. To see the times we’ve been doing given the warm track conditions (at Barber), it gives you a lot of confidence heading into St. Pete to see records fall.”

A speedway aero kit will be delivered to teams by April 1 and utilized for the first time in May for the Indianapolis 500.

Additional Quotes:

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet): “I’m happy with our testing here at Barber and all the data we were able to get from multiple cars testing multiple things. We tried some things throughout today that worked and we tried some things that didn’t work, but the things that didn’t work are just as important as the ones that do. I can’t complain at all about the Chevy aero kits and how they’re performing on-track, and I’m looking forward to get back to NOLA next week and then onto the season opener in St. Pete.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chevrolet): “We spent the morning really chasing the changing track conditions today. The track was a lot hotter today compared to yesterday and we had to adjust to that with the Target car. There are so many variables with the new aero kits as well. We worked a lot on aero and tried to do as many things as we could with the tire allotment we were given here. Overall I think it was a good test for the Target team and I’m looking forward to coming back for the race here next month.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “We had a really good day today with the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet. We’re just learning so much about the new Chevy aero kits every time we get back out on the track. The downforce and drag paired with the Chevy engine package, and then what we do with the mechanical setup has been really important and we’re able to see what things work and what don’t. We put everything we got from yesterday with our data from this morning and were able to get a pretty fast lap time this afternoon and finish up there in the top 10. We’re pretty excited with where we ended the day today heading into testing next week at NOLA and then into St. Pete.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was a pretty good day. We finished P13 and I think we were the fourth fastest Honda car this afternoon so I think we made some improvements. We need a bit more because it is so close. I think a few tenths and you drop like seven places or something. It was a good two days and I hope we will keep improving. I think that we will be able to accomplish a lot with two more days of testing even though New Orleans is a bit of a different place but we will see what happens.”

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The test was a challenge for the team and for me. The settings of the car were something the team hasn’t had to deal with before but we made the best of what we had. We had the new floor and the old aero kit on the car so we had very low downforce. It was good to get some laps in and learn the circuit and get to know the team and the engineers. Other than that there isn’t a lot to take away from the test.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil Chevrolet): “I think we got through a big list. That was the most important thing coming into this test. The aero kit was still an unknown to us as we haven’t had a lot of time with it. We needed to try a bunch of things to figure out what we liked and we got through everything pretty cleanly. We had a little incident right before lunch, but we recovered well and still managed to learn a lot. I think we’re in a pretty good position where we are at, we know what we need to do which is a comforting thought going into the season opener.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “Today we have tried many different setups. At the end we found something that I liked very much, so I was very confident with the car and was able to push and to have some consistent laps. The position on the timing sheet isn’t great because we found the setup I liked just a little too late. We came here to learn the car, it was the first time for me with the new aero kit. I had to learn the circuit, which I have to say is a very tricky circuit. It took a while to understand everything, but now we can say we are ready for the road courses.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It’s nice to finish in the top five here, which has been a place we have struggled at before. We’ve got a little work to do for sure though, but I’m pleased with our result because a lot of the guys had a lot more tires than us at the end. They just kept running new tires and we had one shot at it and to do a 1:07.62 felt nice. It should have had a five in it but that would have been about it. I’m proud of these guys. Today our objective was to try a ton of stuff as learn as much as we could about the aero and I think they’ve done a heck of a job. We test at Sebring on Monday and Tuesday and its going to be an interesting animal with the fact that it’s going to be pretty grippy after the 12 hour race, but at the end of the day I’m just looking forward to turning some laps. It’s going to be good for the durability of these cars, to test how it shakes, rattles, where any weak points are and all of that sort of stuff. At the end of the day, we’ve got to just trying to turn laps in these things and test them and Sebring’s next up.”

Aero kit testing underway at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The initial pre-season test for all 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series participants brought new excitement with the introduction of the Chevrolet and Honda bodywork aero kits.

Twenty-three drivers eagerly tested March 16 on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course.

“It’s really a new era,” Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud said before the first session.

The two-day test is designed to prepare teams and drivers for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 (3 p.m. ET, ABC), which will mark the competition debut of the road/street course and short oval aero components.

While development is still underway for each driver in the high-downforce platforms, performance gains are already noticeable as teams have begun tailoring the cars to specific preferences in conjunction with optimal track performance.

Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet, topped the morning lap time chart at 1 minute, 7.7456 seconds. His time was six-tenths of a second quicker than the 2014 Verizon P1 Award-winning time of new teammate Will Power. Scott Dixon, who has finished second or third in the five races at Barber Motorsports Park, lowered the lap time in the waning minutes of the low-80-degree afternoon at 1:07.4805. Pagenaud was second quick in the afternoon at 1:07.5329.

Dixon holds the track record of 1:06.7750 set in Round 1 of qualifying on April 6, 2013.

“I think both cars (Chevrolet and Honda) are very different, which for the fans and series will be exciting. Honestly, I don’t care what it looks like as long as it’s fast,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “It’s been a significant change in drivability or how to attack the car with all the downforce. We’re working with balance issues, weight distributions and just trying to feel out some of the changes with the aero kit and the loads changing significantly with the corner speeds. All in all, a decent day. We still have plenty to test tomorrow and try to find some extra things for when we come back for the race in April.”

Power, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet, was third overall (1:07.5495). Teammates Juan Pablo Montoya (1:07.6266) and Helio Castroneves (1:07.7703) were fourth and fifth on the end-of-day results. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who handled the bulk of the on-track development work in the six manufacturer test sessions between October and January, was the quickest Honda driver (1:07.8494).

“It’s almost like you’re starting with a new car,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 series champion. “To make the DW12 kit work in its format, you had to make it turn and do things a certain way. Now the aero kit puts load on the car in a certain way and its own way.

“It’s a work in progress, which is what testing and development is about. We have another day here at Barber and testing next week at Sebring, but you feel when you’re in the car that every lap is critical because you’re one step closer to the season beginning. Once the season starts, there’s no more testing. We have a lot of bits to work out.”

Aero kit testing will remain at Barber Motorsports Park through March 17, beginning at 11 a.m. ET and concluding at 7 p.m. ET. Teams will continue development of the package next week in private testing at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway and NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La.

Additional Quotes:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Barber is a very fast track and it’s one of the tracks where you will see the most out of the new kits. When it gets fully rubbered up and we try to run as much downforce as possible it will be very physical around this place. It’s going to be quite a challenge. I already feel it in my neck.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “Today was good. We got through a lot of things we wanted to test. It’s kind of frustrating not being the quickest Honda now that we have been a couple of times. I think we’re creeping up on this though. At the end of the day, on the theoreticals, we’re quickest so we need to put the lap together. I think one of the things we’re suffering with a little bit is the consistency of the car from one lap to the next and that’s what we’re going to have to work on tomorrow. We’re working through a lot. The guys are working extremely hard and I think things are looking pretty good.”

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – March 16, 2015

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – March 16, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

  1. A.J. Foyt makes cameo at NOLA test
  2. Huertas returns for second full season
  3. Dracone to compete in first four races for Dale Coyne Racing
  4. Foyt takes on additional family duties
  5. Wilson working to extend career starts
  6. Beekhuis to do double-duty on air


1. A.J. Foyt makes cameo at NOLA test:
A.J. Foyt is becoming more active as he continues to recuperate from triple bypass surgery in November.

“I’m doing a lot better; every day I’m doing a little bit more,” the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion said. “I’m getting more of my strength back and I’m eating a better than I was when this first happened. I’ve been on my bulldozer a couple times. Nothing to brag about, I was very weak and very tired but I have done some stuff with it. I probably should keep that quiet because I’m not sure the doctor would enjoy hearing that.”

Foyt made a cameo appearance at the Verizon IndyCar Series team test March 14 at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La.

“I think the new cars look pretty nice. The engineers are going to have their hands full with all of the trick stuff they came up with on the new aero kit,” he said.

2. Huertas returns for second full season: Carlos Huertas is thankful for the track time ahead of the season opener.

“Last year was tough because some events I had never been to the place before and sometimes it was a two-day event of practice and then qualifying so it’s impossible to do miracles, especially on the ovals,” said Huertas, who was confirmed to drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the second consecutive season. “I think I drove really well. I finished a lot of races, I was consistent and for a first year without any testing before the first race I think it was pretty good.”

Huertas held his own throughout the season, and even won the first race of a doubleheader at Houston. Overall, he advanced a cumulative 37 positions relative to his qualifying in the 18 starts (finishing better than/tying his qualifying spot 12 times).

“I won a race in my rookie year and not a lot of other people have done that so that was pretty good, but I think I had some other good performances that I didn’t get the result because of some things that happened – like a penalty at Long Beach and a messed up pit stop at the Indy road course,” he said.

Added team owner Dale Coyne: “Carlos surprised everyone last year with his performance. The effort the team has made over the winter, as shown by our Sebring test with Carlos, gives us confidence for the upcoming season.”

The supporting cast of chief engineer Robert Ridgely, race strategist Darren Crouser and chief mechanic Greg Senerius returns, which also will benefit the second-year driver.

“We did a test a few weeks ago at Sebring where we tried out a lot of stuff that was productive and I really enjoyed my time in the car,” he said. “Coming to this test (at Barber) I know this place, how the series works and how the team works so that is a positive.”

For more on Huertas’s return to Dale Coyne Racing, read more here.

3. Dracone to compete in first four races for Dale Coyne Racing: The initial four races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season is a solid starting point in the eyes of Francesco Dracone, who will drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. He joined the team for the March 16-17 Promoter Test at Barber Motorsports Park.

Dracone made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in 2010 with Conquest Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and also competed at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’ve been seeking this opportunity since the very day after Conquest (Racing),” said Dracone, 31, of Turin, Italy, who tested with Dale Coyne Racing in 2013. “I tried last year but they had a great driver in Justin Wilson. This winter we talked again (with Dale Coyne) and it seems feasible to run at least four races. It’s great being here picking up the pace again with the Indy car at this new circuit for me. It’s just exciting.”

Dracone recorded a field-high 34 laps in the morning session on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course, and he’ll see additional on-track time March 17 at Barber and next week at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Ala., ahead of the March 27-29 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“It’s important to be here today and be part of the IndyCar Series,” said Dracone, who has competed the past four years in Auto GP. “Testing is essential with the standards and level of the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s great to have two days in a row to get started.”

“Francesco shows great enthusiasm for our sport,” said team owner Dale Coyne, who noted that plans for the No. 19 car driver beyond the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 at Barber Motorsports Park are undetermined. “We look forward to working with the rookie in preseason testing and early races as he looks to INDYCAR for his future.”

To learn more about Dracone, check out IndyCar.com.

4. Foyt takes on additional family duties: Larry Foyt recently was named president of A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

“I really enjoy the business side of racing,” said Foyt, 38, who had been team director of the Verizon IndyCar Series team since 2006. “I think all of my past experience has helped me get to this point — whether it was at TCU as a student, or managing our stock car team while I competed in NASCAR. My time behind the wheel has helped me relate to the drivers and understand their needs as well.”

A.J. Foyt Racing has the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car driven by Takuma Sato and the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. car driven by Jack Hawksworth entered for the full season.

Team manager Mitch Davis, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing over the winter, will be the race strategist for Hawksworth. Raul Prados, who has been with the team since 2012 as performance engineer, is the chief engineer on the No. 41 entry driven by the second-year driver.

Read more on Foyt’s new gig at IndyCar.com.

5. Wilson working to extend career starts: Justin Wilson, a seven-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner, was in the paddock at Barber Motorsports Park catching up with team members and other drivers.

Wilson, who will co-drive a Michael Shank Racing Prototype in the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21, is seeking to extend his Indy car career starts to at least 169. Wilson, 36, spent the past three seasons in a Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in a car and Sebring is always a lot of fun. I miss being in a car here,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of frustrating walking around and seeing all the cars and there’s not one to jump in, but that’s where it’s at sometimes. I’ll just continue to work on things and see what I can put together in the future. I’m pretty sure I’ll be in an Indy car sometime this year. I just don’t know when or how yet.”

6. Beekhuis to do double duty on air:
Jon Beekhuis has joined ESPN’s team as a pit reporter for telecasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series on ABC. The veteran motorsports reporter also will continue as pit reporter for many of the NBCSN telecasts this season. He has been with the network since 2009.

Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl also will be pit reporters for ABC’s telecasts. Allen Bestwick enters his second season as the chief announcer, while former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. return as analysts.

ABC will televise the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 (3 p.m. ET).

INDYCAR Tests On-Board Track Positioning LED Display System at Barber

INDYCAR Tests On-Board Track Positioning LED Display System at Barber

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – This week at Barber Motorsports Park, INDYCAR is testing new technology that will track each car’s position on the racetrack and display it in real time via a LED display panel on each side of the chassis. The series is targeting the implementation of the track positioning system, which will also display when a driver triggers the push-to-pass feature, for early in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“This project started over a year ago in concept and it really is about how we can get fans more engaged, allow them to see more of what’s going on,” said INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker. “If you’re not in line of sight of a video screen or a scoring pylon, it’s hard to know who’s doing what. It was a natural to do the numbering system.”

The 8-inch-wide by 7-inch-tall LED panels, which are only 3 millimeters thick, will be attached to either side of the airbox (below the cockpit camera mount) on each entry. Running order will be updated as the car crosses each of the multiple INDYCAR Timing & Scoring timelines around a racetrack.

“The LED displays are driven from a controller that is hooked into the car network,” said INDYCAR director of Timing & Scoring Jon Koskey. “The controller can talk to the car ECU and pick up information live, so as a timeline is hit that information is put on the car network immediately. You’ll see how many positions each car gained or lost live on any given lap. Red is the primary color and green will be used for the push-to-pass, which will be displayed as a pattern. Brightness of the LEDs will be modulated according to the setting.”

INDYCAR will continue to develop the technology, including adjustments to the brightness of the display, based upon multiple factors.

“We had to take into consideration the brightness of the lights because this new LED technology is extremely bright,” Koskey said. “At night you don’t have to run it at full intensity. We can make modifications to the light panels in real time through the timelines by sending control codes. There are four levels of brightness, so we put into the system what we want. When the cars come into pit lane that display is going to be right in the fuel filler’s face, so using the car data we programmed in that when the car drops below 10 mph it will dim to 25 percent. We’re putting functionality into play. We have room down the road to do others things with it.”

Additional options are also being considered, including adding an additional color, to expand the functionality.

“There are other things we can do with it as we look down the road,” Walker said. “We’ll start off small and get the fans engaged and understanding what it is doing. It’s all about the fan experience.”

Coletti at Barber By Chris Jones - INDYCAR

Stefano Coletti at Barber with LED light on roll hoop.  Photo by Chris Jones – IndyCar.

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