Archives for Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires
RC Enerson Fastest as Indy Lights Teams Return to Phoenix Oval
Drivers on the Top Rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Turn Almost 2,600 Laps in Test
Drivers From 10 Nations and Four Continents Gather For Mazda Road to Indy Test
1. Montoya dons hard hat for St. Pete track construction: With just 31 days until on-track activity begins to officially kick off the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, reigning Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner was in the city Feb. 9 to oversee beginning construction of the temporary street circuit for the March 11-13 event.
Montoya, who also won the 2015 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and finished runner-up for the season championship by virtue of a tiebreaker, donned hard hats with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Green Savoree Promotions co-owners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree to commemorate the occasion.
The construction process is a carefully coordinated effort between city officials and Green Savoree to make detours as easy as possible for St. Petersburg locals leading up to race weekend. The strategy behind which areas of the track are built first depends on traffic flow. Construction begins in areas that are typically lower in traffic, such as Bay Shore Drive, where the ceremony took place, and concludes in areas closest to Albert Whitted Airport, where the track occupies one runway.
“All of us are anxious to kick off the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season and the construction is off to a great start,” Savoree said. “We couldn’t do it without our great partners that we have here to work with us to build the track, the great partners that we have with the city of St. Petersburg.”
Fresh off a red-eye flight from a Chevrolet test at Phoenix International Raceway, Montoya reminisced about his statement-making victory that kicked off his 2015 run for the title bid. With the scenery surrounding him featuring views of Tampa Bay, the Team Penske driver took a moment to appreciate the beauty that the drivers often miss as they speed around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit.
“It’s very nice to be here in St. Petersburg and see the racetrack, see the city,” Montoya said. “The city is really pretty. Preparing for the first race is huge, last year was a great race for me and a great crowd. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd and a great race weekend (this year) as well.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been conducted since 2003 (with a year’s absence in 2004). It has been the season opener seven times, including every year since 2011. Several active drivers besides Montoya have claimed wins at the track, including his Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (three times) and Will Power (twice), as well as Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe (once each).
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Montoya said. “We do about three or four street courses a year and this is one of the most fun ones, for sure.”
2. Eidson joins Cape Motorsports with WTR for Pro Mazda season: Jake Eidson, who finished second in the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, will join Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing for the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Eidson, 20, will drive the No. 3 Rising Star Racing car on the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. He has been the model of talent and consistency over the last two seasons, which includes six USF2000 wins and an amazing 25 top-five finishes in 30 starts. The impressive native of Littleton, Colo., has finished just one race outside the top 10 in two years of MRTI competition.
“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson said. “After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable. I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen.”
3. Rahal and Force hit the Super Bowl 50 party trail: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and his newlywed wife, NHRA driver Courtney Force, spent the weekend partying with the stars at Super Bowl 50.
The pair, arguably the fastest couple in the world – Rahal regularly pilots his Indy car at well over 200 mph and Force’s Funny Car speeds at more than 300 mph – were pretty much unstoppable Feb. 6 as they hit two of the hottest Super Bowl parties in San Francisco before cheering on Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos to victory the next day.
“Defense wins championships, but my God, this is cool for Peyton. Great career, Champ,” Rahal tweeted after the Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers, 24-10, in Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara, Calif.
Hours earlier, as he and Courtney reflected on their evening of party hopping, Rahal declared plans to make Super Bowl appearances an annual tradition.
“It’s fun to be a part of it and, as they say, see and be seen,” Rahal said. “It’s similar to the Indianapolis 500 in terms of pageantry, which is unique and cool.”
When Rahal and Force stopped at Maxim’s party on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, they were seated at Sardar Biglari’s head table, whose company controls Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sponsors Steak ‘n Shake and Maxim. They weren’t far from megastar entertainer Justin Bieber and they ran into Nick Cannon.
“It was stage right, so we had the best seats in the house for everything,” said Rahal. “Courtney couldn’t stop drooling over Justin Bieber.”
Later, they made their way to Rolling Stone magazine’s event in San Francisco’s Design District, where two-time Grammy-nominated Elle King, recording artist Travis Scott and EDM producer Avicii performed. Thousands converged on the multi-level bash, which also drew to its red carpet Vince Vaughn (“True Detective”), Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”), musician Ed Sheeran, Snoop Dogg, January Jones (“Mad Men”) and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Spencer Pigot: From the Indy Lights Title to the Rolex 24 Reigning Champ Teams with Mazda for Sports Car Debut DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship last September, Spencer Pigot became the first four-time Mazda scholarship winner having captured four titles in five years on the Mazda Road to…
Florida Driver Progresses from Karts to IndyCar Via the Mazda Road to Indy
PALMETTO, Fla. – Spencer Pigot is a poster boy for the Mazda Road to Indy. Today’s announcement that the 22-year-old from Orlando, Fla., will contest at least three rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, including the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, completes a remarkable journey that has taken him from karting all the way to the pinnacle of open-wheel racing in North America in just seven years.
“The Mazda Road to Indy has been vital for my development as a driver,” said Pigot, who has won no fewer than four scholarship prizes from Mazda – the first driver to do so – to maintain his career’s momentum. “It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be going into the Verizon IndyCar Series without the experience and support I gained from each level. Each car teaches you something new and racing at the same tracks as IndyCar throughout my Mazda Road to Indy career will only help my transition. It’s the place to be for anyone trying to make it to IndyCar.”
Pigot, who began karting at age 9, made the move into car racing in 2009, winning the Skip Barber Shoot-Out Top Scholarship Award and a season of competition in the 2010 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Series Presented by Mazda as an official Mazda Development driver. He claimed the title as a rookie to secure another Mazda scholarship prize and ensure his graduation onto the first step of the Mazda Road to Indy, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, in 2011. After consecutive runner-up finishes in the USF2000 title-chase, Pigot capped another two years in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by winning the crown and another scholarship prize in 2014 which enabled him to move on to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015.
Pigot maintained his winning ways this season, romping to the Indy Lights championship on the heels of a series-high six wins, four poles and 182 laps led from 16 races with Juncos Racing. The achievement earned him a $1 million scholarship prize leading to an initial three-race association with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, comprising the 2016 season opener at St. Petersburg, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500, which both parties are hoping will be extended into a full-season of competition.
“I am delighted to partner with Bobby Rahal and a terrific young driver for what we believe will be the beginning of a long and successful IndyCar career,” said Dan Andersen, CEO of Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy. “We at Indy Lights, along with our series partners including Mazda and Cooper Tires, are all very proud of our 2015 champion, and the training Spencer has received on all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will serve him well as he competes with the best next season.”
“Mazda’s goal when we established the Mazda Road to Indy (MRTI) was to create a clear and funded path for talented racers to get to the top,” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports in North America. “There is truly no system like this in the world. And, while we have had many Mazda drivers in the Indy 500, Spencer is the first who started with us in karts and spent time at every level of the MRTI. We have watched Spencer develop into a champion on the track and an outstanding young man off the track. Spencer is our pick for the 2016 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.”
“Cooper Tire is elated for Spencer Pigot and his family on this exciting news and opportunity for 2016 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan,” stated Chris Pantani, director of motorsports at Cooper Tire. “Not only is this great news for Spencer, but also for all the drivers in the Road to Indy, and those considering racing with us. It demonstrates everything that Dan Andersen has promised in unifying the open-wheel development series.”
Pigot is the most successful driver since the formation of the Mazda Road to Indy in 2010 with 24 race wins to his credit in USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. He becomes the 15th driver to graduate from the Mazda Road to Indy into the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2010.
“Spencer Pigot has been successful at every level of the Mazda Road to Indy development program and we’re thrilled to see him graduate to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016, which will include participation in the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company. “He’s certainly earned this opportunity and we’re thankful to Mazda, Dan Andersen, everybody at Andersen Promotions and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for their efforts to prepare and develop young talents like Spencer for the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
My Mazda Road to Indy: Sean Rayhall
A weekly series providing an inside look at drivers involved in the Mazda Road to Indy, the only driver development program of its type in the world.
Open-wheel racing, especially the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” was always a dream of Sean Rayhall’s but never one he thought was within his reach, until a conversation with Townsend Bell opened his eyes to the concept of finding sponsors interested in business-to-business connections. When Enzo Potolicchio of 8Star Motorsports – a team Rayhall drove for in sportscars – decided to enter Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Rayhall saw his chance. The two joined forces ahead of the race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in April with the hopes of putting funding together to run the remainder of the series’ schedule.
“Enzo started an Indy Lights team and we were able to put two and two together with a sponsor, so there was an opportunity there,” said Rayhall. “I’ve always counted myself a bit short because I didn’t have funding to do open wheel. But after the first practice at Barber Motorsports Park, when we were P5 in our first practice session, I thought ‘wow, I never thought I’d be able to drive an Indy Lights car!’ It was so fortunate.”
Rayhall made his presence known at the next race weekend in Indianapolis, taking a second-place finish in the first race of the Grand Prix weekend and an emotional victory in race two, from the outside of the front row. Rayhall took his second win at Mid-Ohio and finished on the podium at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca finale, but the win at Indy stands out as the season highlight.
“Mid-Ohio was great, but to win at Indianapolis was really special,” said Rayhall. “We had issues at Barber, so I didn’t really count that race weekend, it was more about getting laps. But at Indy we were on pace, qualified in the top three and won the second race. I had a penalty in the sports car race there last year when we were in the lead, so this was really redemption. It was so cool for me and so special to get the win for Enzo. I’ve won for him in sports cars and won for him in Indy Lights. That relationship is very special. He’s not just a team owner, it’s like a family.”
Rayhall arrived on the Indy Lights scene with a racing resume beyond his years. The 20-year-old Georgia native began karting at the age of 7, winning several titles before moving into cars. Rayhall drove formula cars, Legends and stock cars and was the youngest Skip Barber race winner at 13, beginning the racing diversity that would become the hallmark of his fledgling career. Moving into sports cars in 2013, Rayhall won the IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship Powered by Mazda and finished second at Petit Le Mans in a Prototype Challenge machine. He finished sixth in the PC class driver’s championship last year, driving for two different teams including 8Star Motorsports.
Rayhall has worked hard to find enough sponsorship this season, both for his Indy Lights efforts and in sports cars. He’s employed some creative methods to find that sponsorship – including a crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe.com ahead of both the Freedom 100 and the season finale.
“The idea came from my best friend, Tyler Johns, who is an engineer,” said Rayhall. “He told me I should try it and when I brought it up with Enzo, he thought that if we could get something, we could piece it all together. It’s a real testament to what kind of fans I have. Everyone really supports me and I’m really thankful for that. They did a great job getting the word out and helping me. Because of the crowd funding, Silver Arrow [a Kansas City-based IT consulting firm] is now a partner in all my racing, as is Bass Egg [a palm-sized speaker which uses everyday objects to project sound].”
As Rayhall nears a decision on his 2016 plans, he knows that the impression he’s made in Indy Lights has gone a long way toward increasing the number of available options. One of those impressions came in August, when Verizon IndyCar Series team owners invited seven Indy Lights drivers to participate in test sessions at Sonoma Raceway, including Rayhall who ran alongside Scott Dixon with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“We did well this year in Indy Lights and it’s done a lot for my career,” added Rayhall. “It opened doors with Ganassi that wouldn’t have been open before. Being on the Mazda Road to Indy is taken seriously; people look at you as a pro driver. It’s amazing, the phone calls I’ve gotten based on what I’ve done in Indy Lights, so there’s something to be said about how the ladder system works. This is where you should be if want a career in racing.”
About Indy Lights: The third and final step on the unparalleled Mazda Road to Indy debuted as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. Indy Lights has a rich history as a development step for many of today’s top drivers. Its series’ champion is awarded a three-race scholarship in the Verizon IndyCar Series including the Indianapolis 500. For more information, visit www. indylights.com.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to Indy includes USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights racing categories with Mazda power. In sports car racing, a similar ladder system involves a number of racing series, culminating with the Mazda Prototype team which races in the top level of IMSA sports car racing in North America. In the grassroots categories, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper Tire is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also been seen on the track as a sponsor of the IMSA Prototype Lites Series, and competing in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities in 11 countries around the world. This year, as we head into our second century in the tire industry, Cooper is looking toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper Tire, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.
Enerson, a native of New Port Richey, Fla., began racing karts at the tender age of 5. As the son of two former Hoosiers, racing came naturally to Enerson, who competed in club races on weekends with a few grand nationals and local winter tours thrown in. But the racing bug bit in earnest at age 14 with his first taste of a race car.