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Kanaan Leads Opening Day of Practice at NOLA Motorsports Park

AVONDALE, La. (Friday, April 10, 2015) – Tony Kanaan, who will make his 296th career Indy car start this weekend, posted the quickest lap in the first practice session for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

It was a good first day for Kanaan as he shoots for the Verizon P1 Award in qualifications Saturday, then goes for the win in the 75-lap race Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at NOLA Motorsports Park.

Kanaan, driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 18.8753 seconds (125.058 mph) on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course during the 90-minute session early in the afternoon. A heavy rainstorm delayed the second practice session and limited track time in dry conditions, so no one was able to surpass Kanaan’s best lap from the opening session.

“It’s still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling,” said Kanaan, who earned his 119th career top-five finish in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29.

“The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it’s been when we’ve tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower, but the track is still really good. Like I said, we still have a ways to go before the race, but it’s definitely a good start.

“The track looks good,” continued Kanaan. “Big props to the people in New Orleans. People know about the race, people know what’s going on and those are the places we want to come.”

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who was runner-up to Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya two weeks ago on the St. Petersburg street circuit, posted the second-quickest lap (1:18.9292) today. Kanaan’s teammate, three-time series champion Scott Dixon, was third on the time chart (1:18.9662). KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais (1:19.2563) was fourth and first-year Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud (1:19.2782) was fifth.

Chevrolet-powered cars took the top seven positions in practice, with James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports the fastest Honda in eighth (1:19.4764). Fifteen of the 24 drivers were within one second of Kanaan’s quick lap.

A 45-minute practice is scheduled Saturday preceding the three rounds of qualifications (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

NOLA Trophies Take on Local Flair

The trophies to be presented to the podium finishers and winning team owner following the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana capture the personality of the Big Easy, state and – through extension – venue owner Dr. Laney Chouest and his wife, Ruth.

There’s a bit of whimsy, too. On the translucent turquoise body of the champion’s trophy are two alligators biting each other’s tails. An alligator preparing to take a bite out of a tire is on the second- and third-place trophies. A red fleur de lis is atop all the trophies. Local artist Marshall Gaudet was commissioned to create them.

“I’ve been in the art community for a long time and, when I’m thinking about a trophy, I’m going to the art community,” said Ruth Chouest, a jeweler by trade. “I don’t want to go to a trophy maker. I just love the strength of it and it conveys the ferocious, wild nature of this sport.

“To me, turquoise became an obvious choice because turquoise and red are complementary colors. Also, it brought in this funky Indian, Louisiana feel. I’m sure that the racing community in general doesn’t see this kind of stuff.”

Coletti Eager to Race for Louisiana-based Sponsor

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Stefano Coletti is excited to be racing at NOLA Motorsports Park this weekend for a couple reasons: He enjoys the track and he’s carrying the colors of a locally based sponsor.

Coletti is piloting No. 4 Variable Bore Rams-KV Racing Technology Chevrolet in the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. The genesis of the sponsorship dates to a chance vacation meeting between KVRT co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and VBR president Hines “Chip” Marshall, Jr. Kalkhoven invited Marshall to the 2012 Indianapolis 500, which led to VBR becoming an associate sponsor on Tony Kanaan’s Indy 500-winning car in 2013.

Marshall decided to sponsor Coletti’s car for the inaugural NOLA event to thank Louisianans for their support of VBR, based in Broussard, La., and celebrating its 35th anniversary in June.

“I thought this would be a great way to show my appreciation to the people of Louisiana, the way I feel about them,” Marshall said. “And do something fun for a change.”

Coletti is eager to attack the NOLA track. He was among the many who tested here in the pre-season, but there have been a host of safety improvements addressed since then.

“All the changes they made on the track were great,” Coletti said. “They put a lot of gravel beds around (in runoffs) and I think they moved some tire barriers and they made it a lot safer. I like the track. The first time I came here, I thought the track was a lot of fun to drive. I think it’s going to be better this way. I think there’s still some improvements to do, but they came a long way and I think we have to thank the people from the track for doing all this effort.”

Of Note:

A black flag indicator (text and/or light) is mandatory in the dash/steering wheel configuration for each Verizon IndyCar Series entry starting this weekend, according to the rulebook. It will be triggered through the timing transponder by race control. … All Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda cars are carrying “Get well soon MJ” stickers for their weekend races at NOLA to honor Pro Mazda driver Michael Johnson, who was injured in a practice session crash at St. Petersburg on March 27. Kyle Connery, teammate of Johnson’s at JDC MotorSports, has a sticker on his helmet that reads “Get Well Michael.”


TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, fastest of the day): “It’s still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling. The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it’s been when we’ve tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower but the track is still really good. Like I said, we still have a ways to go before the race, but it’s definitely a good start for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet.”

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, second fastest of the day): “It’s really cool (NOLA Motorsports Park). Really fun. The two road courses that I absolutely love are this track and the Indy road course. They are just a lot of fun and have very similar flows to them.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We tried a lot of things today on the Verizon car. I wasn’t really happy with the balance of the car this morning. We still have a ways to go. It was a lot of fun to get out there and get some laps when the track was drying. We don’t know what the weather will do tomorrow or Sunday, so we’ll just have to see what it brings for the rest of the weekend.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “To be honest, we still have some work to do here at NOLA. We are close but we still need to find a little more. We did want to make a few changes to the Hitachi car between the morning practice and the afternoon session, but the rain kind of hurt that. It was good to get back out there for a few laps after the track dried, but we weren’t able to do too much with it. We will try to see what we can do on Saturday.”

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KVRT Chevrolet): “We have had a great day in the No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KV Racing Technology car. We worked through a lot of things in the first practice session and ended up finishing P6. The second session was shortened due to the rain and the track was still half wet and half dry, but we were able to get a few good laps in at the end and finished P4. We still have some work to do in Practice 3 tomorrow and then hopefully we will have a good qualifying session in the afternoon.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We went out to get a baseline feel for the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet in the first session to better the car and the balance. At the end of the session, I was pretty pleased with the car. We took a new set of black tires, but I struggled to get a clean lap. It’s good to know there’s speed in the car. The track had rubbered in a bit this morning for more grip, but with the rain all that will be gone for tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): “In the first practice session we worked on balance overall. The Brita car was too loose on new tire runs, but I think that will translate to faster lap times when we go to the alternate red Firestone tires. We had a fair amount of traffic at the end when we tried to put a lap together, so I think there is more left in the car. Overall the team has good speed in all four cars and that’s a great way to unload here at NOLA and get started.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good day. We thought we were going to get rained out and that didn’t happen, at least for the first practice. I am really happy with the Mistic E-Cigs car. The crew did a really good job. We unloaded pretty strong. Then we tried some things and it didn’t make it better. We had other ideas for this afternoon, but the weather decided otherwise. Overall, I am pretty optimistic for this weekend.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a difficult first day for NOLA. The first session, we were struggling with the grip level and the balance when the track was dry and we had to go through a lot of items and data to figure out why. In the second session, the track conditions were a little tricky because it was damp but towards the end it was 80-90 percent dry but there were still a couple damp spots. It’s relative but the car improved a lot and the car is in the ballpark. It was a good improvement and we were very happy that we were able to run the second session to check it out.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): “We didn’t have the best first session, but I really do feel that we learned a lot and figured some stuff out with the car. We’re going to go back more towards what we ran here at the test, which will probably help us. The track temp was so much warmer today than when we tested here. It’s really kind of hard to tell exactly where we need to be with the car setup but I think we’ll be OK. We have learned a lot and the guys are doing a great job. We’ll just keep working hard on this thing and get it better and better. We’re not far off, it’s just so competitive. We’ll be there; we’ll be fine. There wasn’t much to be learned in the wet session, but we had a couple of things we wanted to check and were able to do that.” (On racing in the rain): “Racing in the rain is always a different art. I think the biggest thing here is to see how the drainage will be. We’re going to have to see how that plays out. It is a permanent road course so that should help versus some of the street courses.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “This morning was OK. I think the pace was decent even though we had a bit of problem on the second set of tires. It was a bit unfortunate I couldn’t improve my times. There were a lot of red flags; I even spun myself. I don’t really know what happened when I spun. I lost the rear before the apex, which is quite strange. Maybe I touched the grass under braking or something. Overall, it was a good session. It is interesting because the track was really different from when we tested here, but I think we have a good dry setup.”

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The morning session was positive and the car is doing really well. Carlos (Huertas) has been very fast and consistent. From my side, I made a few mistakes and my good laps were ruined by red flags. It is difficult waiting for the track to dry because I just want to go out and run. I think we had a good setup this morning due to the testing we did here. Unfortunately, I was not able to drive as fast as I had hoped, but the car is great and the team has done a great job.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “This morning was a bit of a messy session with many yellows and red flags so it was a bit difficult to find a rhythm. I feel confident that we didn’t really express our potential. Josef (Newgarden) did well and I think we were able to get close to him, so it’s good that we are working toward the right direction. The car is getting where we want. We have to be positive and tomorrow I think will be a good day for us.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “This afternoon’s session was much better, definitely. It was a little short, but I think we improved a lot from the first session. We still have some work to do, but looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Our day on track was a bit shortened because of the weather conditions, and the first session had a lot of red flags, so we didn’t get as much green time as we would have liked. For sure, we are already more competitive than we were in St. Petersburg. In the second session, when the track was drying up, the people who got the most laps out of it, of course, were quickest in the end. Anyways, we have to focus on tomorrow. Tomorrow the weather also looks really inconsistent – a chance of rain again – so we’ll see what happens.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda): “With the delays, the second session was extended a bit and we ended up running out of fuel when the track was under the best conditions. We just never really got the clean laps we needed to gauge things and get quick times. We were on a good lap when (James) Jakes spun in front of me – I was on a lap for a quick time right there. We’ll pull together and hope for more tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was an incomplete day for us with the DHL Honda. In the first session we never really got going in our changes. We were trying some big experiments with some of the aero package that didn’t end up panning out for us, so we ended up going fastest in our first outing – which was unfortunate. But we were able to get a little track time at the end of the day and I think we have a potential direction for tomorrow.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We didn’t roll off in the direction we should have, but we wanted to try something that we thought was the way, but we found a new direction the second session and I think it made a big difference. Both cars are looking a little bit better now and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Today was good. We unloaded off the truck better than where we were at the test here, so I think we feel more confident than we were in the offseason around this track. Everyone did a good job just trying to get up to speed quick. We didn’t get the second session in, but the first session was really clean for us and we learned a lot. I think we’ve got a pretty good mindset going into qualifying tomorrow and we’ll just try and make the most of that so we don’t have to start at the back here.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “There are definitely some things that we need to improve on before qualifying tomorrow. We had some mechanical issues that held us back and I had a little spin about halfway through the practice. The good thing is that the pace of the (Nos.) 9 and 10 cars during that first session was pretty fast, so we can learn a lot from both of them and continue to better the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet. We’re really close and I’m feeling really good about where we are heading into tomorrow.”

INDYCAR Mandates Structural Upgrades to Manufacturers’ Bodywork Components

INDYCAR Mandates Structural Upgrades to Manufacturers’ Bodywork Components

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, April 9, 2015) – INDYCAR announced it has mandated structural upgrades to strengthen designated Honda and Chevrolet bodywork components in advance of this weekend’s inaugural race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. The modifications include the addition of components that will improve the overall strength of the bodywork for both manufacturer entries. The components have been redesigned by each manufacturer and approved by INDYCAR for implementation for the balance of this season.

“We applaud both Honda and Chevrolet for their efforts to implement these changes,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. “With a quick turnaround from St. Petersburg, our partners were very diligent in making these enhancements in time for this weekend’s event. We will continue this collaboration and expect additional improvements in the future.”

The structural upgrades announced today were implemented to minimize the amount of damage to bodywork components in the event of car-to-car contact, which will benefit teams, manufacturers and Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

“INDYCAR delivers a quality racing product and we will always be proactive to implement changes that benefit our fans,” Walker continued. “These upgrades are a good first step that will make immediate improvements to the race this weekend at NOLA Motorsports Park.”

The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana will be held April 12 at NOLA Motorsports Park and will be broadcast live on NBCSN (2:30 p.m. ET) and the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213 and XM 209.

Pro Mazda, USF2000 on Deck as Mazda Road to Indy Heads to Louisiana

PALMETTO, Fla. – Drivers from two of the three steps that comprise the Mazda Road to Indy, a scholarship laden development ladder which leads from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, will be on stage this weekend at the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana. Both the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which kicked off their 2015 campaigns two weeks ago on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will continue with two more races this weekend, April 10-12, at the 2.74-mile NOLA Motorsports Park road course situated just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans.

Californian Alberico Looks to Build on Perfect Start in Florida
Neil Alberico did not contest the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest pre-season mini-series, which visited NOLA in February, but he did take part in the eye-opening Mardi Gras activities earlier in the year and was present for the Winterfest in an advisory capacity with his team. The personable Californian showed no ill effects from the lack of seat time as he dominated both of the opening two races in St. Petersburg for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Consequently, he holds a commanding points advantage as the 16-race series heads to the Mazda Grand Prix of Louisiana.

The runner-up placings in Florida were shared by Uruguayan debutant Santi Urrutia, who showed an impressive turn of pace for Team Pelfrey, and Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, who is looking to build on a solid rookie campaign in 2014 which netted one race win for defending champion team Juncos Racing.

Team Pelfrey, which guided IndyCar rising star Jack Hawksworth to the Pro Mazda championship in 2012 and won two of the three Winterfest races at NOLA with Englishman Jack Aitken, who used the events as a training exercise for his primary campaign in Europe, will field a second car for Pato O’Ward. The 15-year-old Mexican, who is based now in San Antonio, Texas, also was fast in St. Petersburg, finishing fourth in Race One, and is anxious to rebound from a mistake in Race Two which ended his day early.

Other potential front-runners include Malaysian Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport), who won one of the NOLA Winterfest races, as well as two more Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entries for Canadian Daniel Burkett and last year’s USF2000 champion Florian Latorre, from Libourne, France, who graduated to Pro Mazda on the back of his hard-won MAZDASPEED scholarship prize. Both Burkett and Latorre claimed podium finishes in the season-opener.

Another Canadian, Garett Grist, who won three races in 2014, will be looking to rebound from a disappointing debut with Juncos Racing in Florida. Grist will be joined at the defending champion team by Colorado’s Will Owen, a race winner last year in USF2000, and Frenchman Timothe Buret.

The intensity of competition was demonstrated at St. Petersburg when the top 10 cars in qualifying were separated by just four tenths of a second.

The Pro Mazda contingent will begin their weekend with three promoter test sessions on Thursday, followed by a pair of official practice periods on Friday. Qualifying is set for 10:40 am local time on Saturday, followed by Race One for the Mazda Grand Prix of Louisiana at 5:50 pm. The green flag for Race Two on Sunday, April 12, will fly at 12:50 pm, immediately before the IndyCar feature event. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at

Eidson Leads the USF2000 Pack for Pabst Racing
After winning two of the three Cooper Tires USF2000 Winterfest pre-season races at NOLA in February, Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) continued that form in St. Petersburg. The 19-year-old from Littleton, Colo., climbed to the top step on the podium in both races, although he was pushed hard each time by fellow American Aaron Telitz (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing).

The pair finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 2014 USF2000 title-chase, with Eidson winning twice and Telitz once. Telitz also took home Rookie of the Year honors.

Frenchman Nico Jamin, driving a second Cape Motorsports entry, joined the two Americans on the podium in Florida. He also beat them both to the Winterfest title, winning the final race after Eidson’s quest was ended by a relatively minor mechanical issue.

The other driver to taste the spoils of victory at Winterfest was Victor Franzoni for Afterburner Autosport. The Brazilian finished fifth in the 2014 USF2000 points chase and is hungry for more success after a challenging weekend in Florida.

Three Australian rookies also will be worth watching. Two of them, F1600 race winners Anthony Martin and Jordan Lloyd, drive for the fledgling team run by former IndyCar team manager/crew chief John Cummiskey, while the third, Luke Gabin, who earned his MAZDASPEED scholarship opportunity by winning last year’s Skip Barber Championship, will drive for Team Pelfrey. The Florida-based team, which this year expands its efforts into USF2000 while enjoying much success in Pro Mazda, also will field a multi-national entry for Norway’s Ayla Agren, who won the 2014 F1600 Championship Series with the team, Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin and Pennsylvanian Garth Rickards.

A competitive field for the first rung on the Mazda Road to Indy also will include Canadian karting standout Parker Thompson (JDC MotorSports), who is coached by 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, and the youngest driver in the field, second-year racer Keyvan Andres Soori (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Cologne, Germany, who only recently celebrated his 15th birthday.

The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Louisiana will kick off with three promoter test sessions on Thursday and a pair of half-hour practices on Friday, April 10, followed by qualifying at 9:50 am on Saturday. The two 30-minute races will start at 3:30 pm on Saturday and 10:15 am on Sunday. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available at on the Mazda Road to Indy App and at


Mazda Grand Prix of Louisiana Entry List
NOLA Motorsports Park – Avondale, LA – April 10-12, 2015 – Rounds 3/4
As of March 31, 2015
2.75-mile, 13-turn road course

Track Records:
Qualifying – Jack Aitken 1:33.2006 = 105.836 mph February 19, 2015
Race – Weiron Tan 1:33.7313 = 105.237 mph February 19, 2015

No. Driver Hometown Residence Team Sponsors
1. 2 Daniel Burkett (R) Winnipeg, Man., Canada Winnipeg, Man., Canada Cape Motorsports w/WTR Granite Financial Group Inc.
2. 3 Neil Alberico Los Gatos, CA Redlands, CA Cape Motorsports w/WTR Rising Star Racing/Mobe
3. 5 Garett Grist Grimsby, Ont., Canada Grimsby, Ont., Canada Juncos Racing Lander Property Management
4. 6 Timothe Buret (R) Montpellier, France Indianapolis, IN Juncos Racing Broadsign/TRAXX.FM/Driving Koncept
5. 7 Jose Gutierrez Monterrey, Mexico Monterrey, Mexico Juncos Racing Prisma
6. 10 Florian Latorre (R) Libourne, France Auriolles, France Cape Motorsports w/WTR du Sud-Ouest/COGNY/LATORRE Menuiserie/VISEZ/K1
7. 13 Bobby Eberle* Chicago, IL Houston, TX World Speed Motorsports
8. 14 Alessandro Latif (R) London, England London, England World Speed Motorsports Corthay
9. 19 Raoul Owens (R) Pembrey, England Boston, MA JDC MotorSports Brightspark Ventures
10. 22 Weiron Tan (R) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Houston, TX Andretti Autosport Weiron Tan Andretti Autosport
11. 23 Will Owen (R) Plano, TX Castle Rock, CO Juncos Racing AMR
12. 26 Parker Nicklin (R) Las Vegas, NV Indianapolis, IN JDC MotorSports Just Let It Ring/Nicklin Property Management/OMG Media Solutions
13. 28 Dalton Kellett Toronto, Ont., Canada Indianapolis, IN Andretti Autosport K-Line Insulators USA, Inc.
14. 37 Jay Horak* Wausau, WI Mesa, AZ M1 Racing AutoEnginuity
15. 81 Santiago Urrutia (R) Miguelete, Uruguay Miguelete, Uruguay Team Pelfrey Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol
16. 82 Pato O’Ward (R) Monterrey, Mexico San Antonio, TX Team Pelfrey Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports
17. 91 Kyle Connery Stuart, FL Vero Beach, FL JDC MotorSports Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Connery Concrete
*Expert Class
R = Series Rookie


Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Louisiana Entry List
NOLA Motorsports Park – Avondale, LA – April 10-12, 2015 – Rounds 3/4
As of March 31, 2015
2.75-mile, 13-turn road course

Track Records:
Qualifying – Jake Eidson 1:36.3057 = 102.424 mph February 19, 2015
Race – Jake Eidson 1:36.6613 = 102.047 mph February 19, 2015

No. Driver Hometown Residence Team Sponsors
1. 2 Nico Jamin Rouen, France Coconut Creek, FL Cape Motorsports w/WTR Synova Automotive Eco-Plastics
2. 3 Aaron Telitz Rice Lake, WI Birchwood, WI Cape Motorsports w/WTR Rice Lake Weighing Systems
3. 5 Keyvan Andres Soori Cologne, Germany Miami, FL ArmsUp Motorsports TBA
4. 6 Max Hanratty (R) Hartland, WI Milwaukee, WI ArmsUp Motorsports Juniper Networks/SynerComm Inc.
5. 12 Augie Lerch (R) Tucson, AZ Tucson, AZ JAY Motorsports Shashi/PJ’s Performance/Hi Speed Customs and Rods
6. 16 James Dayson Vancouver, BC, Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada ArmsUp Motorsports Dayhu Group of Companies/AXIUM Capital/Elite Performance
7. 17 Victor Franzoni Sao Paulo, Brazil Sao Paulo, Brazil Afterburner Autosport Novac Sports/XYZ Talents/E-QUAL
8. 22 Jake Eidson Memphis, TN Destin, FL Pabst Racing OMP/Bell Helmets/1st Bank/SafeisFast/ Team USA Scholarship
9. 23 Yufeng Luo (R) Beijing, China Los Angeles, CA Pabst Racing TBA
10. 33 Anthony Martin (R) Kalgoorlie, Australia Indianapolis, IN John Cummiskey Racing Burgess BLA
11. 61 Andrew List Rogers, MN Rogers, MN D2D Motorsports D2D Motorsports
12. 79 Santiago Lozano Bogota, Colombia Miami, FL M2 Autosport TBA
13. 80 Parker Thompson (R) Red Deer, Alb., Canada Red Deer, Alb., Canada JDC MotorSports Bell Helmets/OMP/Parker Thompson: Drive to Stay Alive
14. 81 Ayla Agren (R) Oslo, Norway St. Petersburg, FL Team Pelfrey Energima/BVR/Alt I Asfalt/Salming Hockey/KNA/CoForce/WSF
15. 82 Luke Gabin (R) Perth, Australia Indianapolis, IN Team Pelfrey MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Mandurah Panel and Paint/Colbyson
16. 83 Garth Rickards (R) Mechanicsburg, PA Mechanicsburg, PA Team Pelfrey Rahal Automotive Group
17. 84 Nikita Lastochkin (R) Moscow, Russia Los Angeles, CA Team Pelfrey Russkaya Mekhanika
18. 94 Jordan Lloyd (R) Toowoomba, Australia Toowoomba, Australia John Cummiskey Racing TBA
R = Series Rookie

INDYCAR News And Notes – April 7, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. NOLA Race Added to de Silvestro’s Slate
2. CFH Racing Adds Hildebrand for Indianapolis Events
3. Of Note:
* Penske Drivers Shine in Debut Events
* Happy Birthday Rookie

1. NOLA race added to de Silvestro slate: Initially announced as a one-race entry, Simona de Silvestro will compete this weekend in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

The 75-lap race on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn NOLA Motorsports Park road course in Avondale, La., is April 12 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

In support of the local community, de Silvestro will be carrying Ochsner Health System’s branding and the Racing For Kids logo on the car. She will be part of Racing For Kids’ visit to patients at Ochsner Hospital for Children on April 9.

De Silvestro, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, qualified 11th in her first race since September 2013 and finished 18th.

“It’s great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg,” de Silvestro said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race.”

Andretti Autosport confirmed April 2 that de Silvestro would drive the team’s fifth entry for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It will also field an entry for Justin Wilson in addition to its regular entries for defending Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz.

“She proved herself both on and off the track. The great thing about Simona is that she keeps her head down and continues to push – she fights hard. We’re happy to be able to bring her back for another round before the Indy 500,” team owner Michael Andretti said.

2. CFH Racing adds Hildebrand for Indianapolis events: JR Hildebrand will reunite with old friends and double his fun next month when he drives in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race for CFH Racing.

Hildebrand was announced today as driver of the No. 6 Preferred Freezer Services CFH Racing Chevrolet Dallara, the team’s third entry for the two Verizon IndyCar Series events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will drive alongside teammates Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi for the May 9 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course and join Newgarden and Ed Carpenter in the CFH stable for the Indy 500, set for May 24 on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Hildebrand, 27, teamed with Carpenter in last year’s Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter Racing, which merged in the offseason with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to form CFH Racing. Carpenter won the Indy 500 pole, while Hildebrand qualified ninth and finished 10th. It also marks the second straight year Hildebrand will ride with sponsorship from Preferred Freezer Services, the New Jersey-based operator of temperature-controlled, cold-storage warehouses around the globe.

“It was really great working with Ed last year at the 500 and I did a little bit of testing in the offseason with Josef; we got along really well,” said Hildebrand, aiming for his fifth Indy 500 start with a best previous finish of second in 2011. “I expect the relationship that the three of us have to be potent and for us to have great communication. That’s such a huge piece, particularly at the 500, where there is so much practice, qualifying is so intense and we’ll have the new aero kits. You need every last ounce of speed you can get out of the cars for both qualifying and race day, and we can all work together to reach that goal.”

Hildebrand, who will make his first start on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, emphasized its importance to the team’s chances of success throughout the month.

“To have the Grand Prix (of Indianapolis) added onto the 500 program is great,” he said. “Having a race under our belts going into the 500 is a huge difference from a one-off scenario. It can be tough sometimes when you have guys who haven’t done pit stops as a group during a race and you don’t have that chemistry yet. It will be great for my team of guys to have a warmup heading into the oval race and great for me to get back in a car on a road course.”

3. Of note: Penske drivers shine in debut events: Current Team Penske drivers have won the last four Verizon IndyCar Series debuts at new venues: Simon Pagenaud won on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Will Power won at Baltimore in 2011 and Sao Paulo in 2010 and Helio Castroneves won at Barber in 2010. … Happy birthday rookie: KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti turned 26 on April 6. Coletti’s car will be sponsored by Louisiana based oil field rental tool company, Variable Bore Rams, Inc. in the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.



Track: 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course (clockwise)
Race distance: 75 laps / 205.5 miles
Entry List:  Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (PDF)
Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 20 seconds each
Firestone tire allotment: Eight sets primary, three sets alternate
Twitter: @GPofNOLA, @IndyCar, #GPofNOLA, #IndyCar
Event website:

INDYCAR website:
2014 race winner: New event
2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: New event
Qualifying lap record: New event

NBCSN race broadcast: Sunday, April 12 (2:30 p.m. ET)

NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 11 (5 p.m. ET)

Brian Till will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s broadcast of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kelly Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Video Streaming: All practice sessions for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel .

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

At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, April 10
12:15-1:45 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
4:15-5:35 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)

Saturday, April 11
12:30-1:15 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
4:15 p.m. (Three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifications)

Sunday, April 12
11-11:30 a.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up)
1:30 p.m. NBCSN on air
2:37 p.m. Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana green flag

Race Notes:
* The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is the first Indy car race at NOLA Motorsports Park and first major auto race in the state of Louisiana since a 1995 IMSA GT race in downtown New Orleans.

* Juan Pablo Montoya started the Verizon IndyCar Series season by scoring the win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Can he continue his strong start by adding another win at NOLA Motorsports Park?

* With a third-place finish at St. Petersburg, Tony Kanaan has finished on the podium in six of his last eight races. Now the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner looks to add a win at NOLA Motorsports Park. Can Kanaan keep up his podium streak?

* Kanaan seeks to start his 235th consecutive race, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 176 consecutive starts.

* Team Penske, which earned its 175th Indy car win at St. Petersburg, will field a formidable four-car juggernaut in New Orleans hoping to sweep the podium after placing all four cars in the top five at St. Petersburg. St. Pete race winner Montoya is joined by reigning series champion Will Power, who finished second at St. Petersburg, Helio Castroneves, who finished fourth at St. Petersburg, and Simon Pagenaud, who finished fifth in his team debut.

* 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.

* Simona de Silvestro, who made 65 starts over four Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, is the only female driver entered in the race. She made her return to the series at St. Petersburg after a one-year absence, finishing 18th.

* The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Cars are 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.

* The No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara crew of Tony Kanaan won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a total pit lane time of 99.024 seconds. The NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

Pre-Race Quotes:
Will Power (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “You have to acknowledge what an amazing job Chevrolet and all of the engineers at Team Penske have done in the off-season. They have a lot to be proud of with the way we performed as a team at St. Pete. There is no reason to think that it won’t carry over to NOLA this weekend, not only because of the testing we did there in the off-season, but we have typically run very well at the new venues over the last couple of years. NOLA is wicked fast and what it takes to get around that place really suits my driving style. The grip is very tight and it should promote great racing. To me, it’s really impressive that the fans can see the entire track. That’s a cool aspect of NOLA that not many tracks have. New Orleans knows how to have a good time and I believe everyone that comes out to the track this weekend will certainly have one. Hopefully we can get our first win of the season in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy. It’s going to be a hard-fought race because I know everyone is going to want to be the first winner at NOLA.”

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader):“I’m really excited to get to New Orleans. Yes, we are coming off a win in St. Pete, which always makes you hungry to get back to racing, but I’m looking forward to getting back on the track at NOLA. From my first lap there in testing I came away very impressed with the facility. The grip level is amazingly high, especially with the new aero kits. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on the ‘red’ Firestone tires. It’s going to be very interesting with everyone flying around. I’m very proud of how my No. 2 Verizon Chevy team came out of the gate strong this season. It’s only been one race, but compared to how we struggled last year at the start it’s a night-and-day difference. It’s just the difference a year makes. We are working just as hard and we haven’t made any radical changes to the team. It just comes down to experience.”

Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “NOLA Motorsports Park is very technical. The people of New Orleans should be really excited because the racing is going to be fantastic, I can tell you that. There is a lack of elevation changes, which can make it tricky for us drivers because you don’t have any points of reference, but it means that the fans can see the entire track from the stands. Every racetrack has its own characteristics and NOLA is no exception, but with two tests there under our belt we should have a lot of it figured out. It’s different than many other tracks, but it’s very fast. Team Penske got off to a great start in St. Pete, coming really close to a 1-2-3-4 finish. That shows that all of our hard work during the off-season is paying off. The Hitachi Chevrolet was very solid in the opener and if we can find a little more speed, I think we can be in Victory Lane on Sunday.”

Stefano Coletti (No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KVRT Chevrolet): “I am really excited for this next race in New Orleans and to also have Variable Bore Rams, Inc., who are a local Louisiana company, as my primary sponsor this weekend. The track at NOLA is amazing and a lot of fun to drive. The KVRT team has had a few successful tests there over the last few months, so I think we are prepared and ready to be up front this weekend. We showed great potential in the race at St. Petersburg a few weeks ago, but unfortunately the final result didn’t reflect that. Hopefully everything comes together this weekend and I can give everyone on the team and VBR a great result.”

James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I think everyone is looking forward to going to NOLA. We love going to new tracks and seeing new races. I was lucky enough to be part of some of the build-up to the race with the Mardi Gras celebration. Seeing what I saw, I think the city is going to come out in full force and really support the event, and that’s what everybody wants to see. On top of that, it’s a cool new track and it’s fast. It’s going to be a great place to really explore what these body kits are capable of, so there’s a lot of things to look forward to. More than anything, we’re aiming to get the result on the board after the weekend in St. Pete that certainly wasn’t what we were aiming for.”

James Jakes (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “NOLA is a great addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. I really enjoyed the track when we tested there and it should be a great event all around. Our testing sessions at NOLA should put us in better position from a competitive standpoint. Our goal is to score some much-needed points for the championship after a disappointing race in St. Pete.”

Sage Karam (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We did a lot of off-season testing with the aero kits at NOLA, so I feel I’m much more prepared for a track like this than St. Petersburg. I’ve turned a lot of laps and miles at the track so far so I’m feeling pretty good about it. I think the race is going to be good. NOLA is a fast track and you’re going to see a lot of mistakes, and in turn a lot of passing opportunities. It’s a very physical track as well. The fans in Louisiana are going to get to see some raw speed with this layout. I would watch for passing in Turns 1 and 10.”

Scott Dixon (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): “I think we were one of the first INDYCAR teams to actually test at NOLA before the big test where everybody went. It was a little bumpy in some areas, but it has very long straights that are very fast. The section from Turns 1 through 6 is a lot of fun and there is another great section toward the end through Turns 10 through 14. There are also high-speed corners and some tight hairpins as well. For the fans, the coolest part is that it’s quite flat, which for a driver sometimes is not the best thing, but visually it’s fantastic – from one spot you can see the whole track. There are big braking zones and long straights, so it’s kind of a combination of all the things that you need at a new track and one that spectators are going to love. As far as the city of New Orleans, I haven’t been but hopefully we get to celebrate after the race and go down in the French Quarter and check that out. It’s a new area for us, we haven’t been to that part of the world before or that part of America, and hopefully we can get the buzz going for a bunch of people and have some good races there.”

Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was great to start the new season with NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing with a podium finish in St. Pete and be able to break up the Penske cars from sweeping those top four spots. It obviously isn’t a win, but we’ll take the third-place finish and use it to build on. We’ve had some really good test days at NOLA Motorsports Park and we’ve been able to get solid data with all four cars running and testing different things. It’ll be a lot of fun getting out onto a new track and seeing what all the teams can do when we’re starting from a more equal playing field with track experience.”

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Chevrolet): “It’s always exciting racing on a new track. We have tested at NOLA twice, but we were only there once with the new aero kits. I think we have some good data and a decent baseline setup for NOLA, but track conditions always change so you have to be able to adapt to the conditions. The NOLA track is challenging and fun. It has everything between slow-speed, medium- and high-speed corners and I think it is going to be hard on tires. I think it is going to be a challenging race for the drivers, which means it should be a fun race for the fans to watch.”

Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Turns 1 and 3 are probably the most popular places to pass at NOLA and at the end of the back straight could be another one. There will be slight modifications for Turn 1 from when we tested there so we will see, but it seemed very bumpy on the inside of the braking area toward Turn 1 so that will be a bit of a concern when overtaking. Everyone says it feels like the Indy road course. That’s because the track is very flat and has a couple of high-speed chicanes. To me, there are some bumpy, tricky corners which remind me a little bit of Edmonton’s airport circuit. NOLA’s in a big, open field and you can see pretty much everything from the grandstands. There is not much of a real runoff area and that field is a little rough if you go off, so that’s similar to Edmonton, too. However, NOLA will be installing some new gravel areas so that will improve the safety of the track. I look forward to going there.”

Graham Rahal (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): “We’re looking forward to running the D-A Lubricant Company colors at NOLA. They have been a great partner so far and bring a lot of enthusiasm, so we want to have a good race weekend for them. New Orleans is tricky because it’s a very flat track so there aren’t a lot of reference markers for the drivers. When we normally race, you see a certain marker, spot on the ground or, at times, a shadow you know you have to brake right at that point. The NOLA track is very flat so it’s hard to have any of that. It’s a track that’s very demanding and it’s very important to get the maximum out of the car. It seems to be one of the most difficult tracks to put a lap time together completely and get the best out of yourself and every corner. Having said all of that, we’re looking forward to going there. Even with an 11th-place result in St. Pete, we feel we had one of the best cars in the race and the team has a lot of momentum and can’t wait to get on track again. I really think that all signs are pointing to us being able to have a great year. Our goal is to go to New Orleans and try to rack up as many points as we can, move ourselves up in the championship and kick off Long Beach and the rest of the season. For sure, the competitiveness of the teams and of the series is tremendous. Penske was very good in qualifying and they obviously had a good race, too, but I think we are seeing that there are a lot of teams that are very, very close together. You certainly can’t slip up and in qualifying we slipped up a little bit and had our worst session of the weekend and that really hurt us. We need to make sure we are on top of our game because there is no margin for error with the field as tight as it is. You have to be on it and that’s what makes the Verizon IndyCar Series so exciting right now.”

Carlos Huertas (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I tested there for two days and I like the layout of the circuit. It will be interesting to see how much overtaking this circuit is going to provide and the tire wear should come into play in the race. I hope to have a good weekend and that my 2015 really starts in NOLA.”

Francesco Dracone (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I am looking forward to getting back out there after a disappointing St. Pete race. This is the one circuit that I’ve had some time testing with the current aero package and I hope to turn that into a successful weekend.”

Luca Filippi (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to be at NOLA Motorsports Park. I really like the circuit very much, and being a new race for everybody, I think it could be a better opportunity for me. After a top-10 result at St. Petersburg, it will be good to try and raise our goal a little and get a better result. The team is doing a great job and I’m looking forward to having another successful weekend.”

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “To me, NOLA Motorsports Park is similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in terms of layout. You have to be really precise with your braking point and the speed you carry into the corners. I think fans will see good racing and a lot of passing. The new aero kits are going to put on another good show, I believe. All of us on the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet team learned a lot at St. Pete about how we can race with the new kits. As you saw in the second half of that event, we stayed off of each other a lot more. We’ll continue to get better in that regard. This is a new team and we are going to take a couple of races to really start gelling together, but a top five in our first start is definitely a positive sign and now we are ready to take the next step.”

Simona de Silvestro (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg. I’m really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race. I’m really thankful for all that Michael (Andretti) and everyone at Andretti Autosport have been doing to make all of this happen.”

Carlos Muñoz (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “It’s really exciting to be going back to New Orleans. I love the city, and I think the track is really fun. We’ve tested there (NOLA Motorsports Park) a couple of times so we know it pretty well, more or less. It’s the first time the (Verizon) IndyCar Series is going to NOLA, so everyone is really excited about it. Hopefully the weather will improve – because it doesn’t look great right now – but at least it will be the same conditions for everyone. I’m ready to get back in the car and see if we have something – see if we have improved from St. Pete.”

Marco Andretti (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda): “We’ve done some testing at NOLA. I love the track and the city, and I think it will be a great event. The track is a real commitment racetrack and one of our faster road courses with a couple passing zones. Turn 1 will be the best stop to see overtaking. We started the year with a top 10 in St. Pete and are hoping to keep climbing up from there for the Merchant First/Snapple car Honda.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We are coming off a positive test (at NOLA) a few weeks ago and are looking forward to the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana. The weather could play a major factor, and it’s something we are keeping an eye on as we consider setup options. Wet conditions will be extremely tricky at this particular track… but sometimes big risk equals big rewards.”

Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I really enjoy going to new circuits. It’s always exciting to see which teams and drivers can understand the circuit quickly with the limited track time we get over the course of a race weekend. The strategy is always very interesting as well due to the fact we have no previous race data to call on. It makes for some interesting races. NOLA reminds me of a slightly quicker version of the IMS road course; it’s very flat with a couple of quick corners and some long straights with big braking zones. Hopefully this should open up a lot of overtaking opportunities in the race.”

Josef Newgarden (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to getting back with the CFH Racing team in New Orleans. It’s an exciting new market for everyone in Indy car racing. Everyone has been putting in a lot of work to make this event successful and hopefully grow for the future. We’re going to be looking to maximize the weekend for ourselves as we continue the championship race. St. Pete wasn’t where we want to be, but we finished clearly in the points. New Orleans will be critical for us to try to maintain positive momentum and try to score solid points. That’s our goal. Hopefully we can hit the ground running when we get to New Orleans and finish strong.”

Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to going back to NOLA Motorsports Park, and this time seeing some fans in the stands. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team had a couple of good tests there recently, so we’re going in with a bit of data in our back pockets. I know they’ve made a lot of improvements to the track within the past few months as well, after the Verizon IndyCar Series teams had a chance to test, so it will be interesting to see how the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana race plays out. The No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet definitely had the speed at St. Pete, but unfortunately just not the result to back it up. Every single person on the team is focused and committed to make this a successful season; we have another shot at it this weekend.”

Gabby Chaves (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “Our test went well at NOLA and that should help us start out the weekend more competitively. Additionally, what we learned in the first race will be especially helpful for race strategy. I think that NOLA being a new track on the schedule will be a good thing for us since other drivers don’t have years of experience around here and that levels the playing field a little. We learned in St Pete about tire management, which may play a big role at NOLA, too, and allow for some close racing with plenty of opportunities to overtake.”


Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race

2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg

3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

4. Of note:

• Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons

• Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete

• Show car on display at Long Beach Airport

• HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson


1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race: The penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway has been renamed the ABC Supply 500. The racetrack in Pennsylvania and the building supplies distributor announced the entitlement earlier today.

Pocono Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series for the third consecutive year for the 200-lap race that will play a crucial role in the championship. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, won at Pocono from the pole last year.

“ABC Supply is a true industry leader and their love of racing couples our own,” said Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky. “They have been involved in motorsports for over 10 years now and we are thrilled to welcome them to our extended Raceway family. We cannot wait to work with them to promote the ABC Supply 500 this year.”

ABC Supply Co. also is the primary sponsor of the Nos. 14 and 41 AJ Foyt Enterprises cars of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth, and is the race entitlement sponsor of the July 12 race in Milwaukee.

“For a decade now, our racing program has brought thousands of our associates and customers together to celebrate and cheer for our team,” ABC Supply vice president of operations Mike Jost said. “This year we are excited to have the chance to increase awareness of both ABC racing and INDYCAR in general with our sponsorship of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.”

Wisconsin-based ABC Supply is in its 10th season as sponsor of the AJ Foyt Racing entries. Foyt won Indy car races at Pocono Raceway in 1973, ’75, ’79 and ’81.

“It means a lot to me that ABC Supply is sponsoring the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway this year,” Foyt said. “ABC Supply has been a great sponsor for me and for INDYCAR for the past 10 years, so I’m glad to see them align themselves with Pocono. Pocono Raceway has always been one of my favorite tracks because I really enjoyed racing there.

“The owners, the late Doc Mattioli and his wife Dr. Rose, were and continue to be really good friends of mine. Their grandsons, Brandon and Nick, have done a great job following in their footsteps with all they have done at the track in recent years. I think the fans will see another fun and competitive Indy race there this year.”

2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg: Foremost, Juan Pablo Montoya had to be honest with himself early in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Qualifying 18th and finishing 15th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was an inauspicious start, and though he could easily have put the emphasis on acclimation to a new car and racetracks after a 14-year hiatus from Indy car racing, Montoya said he “had to grow as a driver.”

“Last year was a tough year for us at the beginning. We knew that,” said Montoya, who won the 1999 CART title and 2000 Indianapolis 500 before moving to Formula One and then on to stock car racing. “We knew it would be a process to get to where we needed to be. 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.

“It was tough not only (at St. Petersburg) but generally on the street courses. I’m a guy that always excelled at street courses everywhere I raced. To come (to St. Petersburg) and have a year with really bad street course racing, it was pretty tough.”

On balance, Montoya quickly found his footing on the diverse set of street/road courses and ovals. Two weeks after St. Petersburg, he advanced 12 positions to place fourth at Long Beach. He finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 and then strung together four top-10 finishes, capped by a victory from the pole at Pocono Raceway in early July. Claiming three consecutive top-five finishes to close the season and finish fourth in the championship standings sparked confidence that carried through the long offseason.

Now, a year after his heralded return, Montoya has come full circle by winning the 110-lap opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. He held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over a 27-lap duel of wits and will to win by .9930 of a second. All four Team Penske drivers finished in the top five (Helio Castroneves was third and Simon Pagenaud was fifth). Castroneves’ Lap 90 time of 1 minute, 01.8607 seconds in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest race lap in the 11 events under INDYCAR sanction at St. Petersburg.

“It’s a good way to start the year,” said Montoya, who qualified fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “We worked really hard in the offseason preparing for this. We wanted to hit the ground running. Our car was unbelievable. It was fast and it was fun. To win on a street course after my performance last year, I’m like ‘Oh, yeah.”’

Suddenly, championship talk has germinated. The motorsports veteran will take it in stride, looking to further hone his race craft and continue to develop the Chevrolet aerodynamic bodywork package on the upcoming road and street course at NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12, the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 before the 99th Indianapolis 500.

“The fun factor is that you can win races,” said Montoya, who celebrated the victory trackside with a sizable Colombian contingent. “I mean, I feel like I’m in the best team. I have a great sponsor. We’re performing well. What’s the downside of it?”

3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Numbers to note following the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — the opening round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

1.44 – Average running position of runner-up Will Power for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg. Power led 75 laps.

2.83 – Average running position of winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg.

4 – Positions gained by Jack Hawksworth in the final 11 laps of the race. (12th to eighth).

6 – Consecutive races at St. Petersburg led by Will Power.

7 – Lead changes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The previous 10 averaged 6.5 lead changes.

13 – Career Indy car victories by Juan Pablo Montoya, tying him with Tom Sneva for 32nd all-time…Positions improved by Jack Hawksworth (21st to eighth), most of any driver in the race.

17 – Finishing position of Gabby Chaves, the highest-placed Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate.

21.7 – Percentage of races that Juan Pablo Montoya has won in his Indy car career (13 for 60).

30 – Number of laps in which Jack Hawksworth improved his position – most of any driver in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

66 – Races led by Will Power since the beginning of 2010, a span of 87 races.

119 – Career top-five finishes for Tony Kanaan (third place in race) and Helio Castroneves (fourth place) after their finishes at St. Pete. The pair is tied with Scott Dixon, Bobby Rahal and Dario Franchitti for sixth all-time.

175 – Indy car races won by cars owned by Roger Penske. Team Penske has 97 oval wins and 78 road/street course wins.

219 – Number of total on-track passes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Rookie Stefano Coletti had 18, most of any driver.

234 – Consecutive starts by Tony Kanaan, extending his all-time record.

4. Of note: Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves and Shannon Sailes, the “Dancing Usher,” entertained fans on the Detroit Pistons’ “Dance Cam” on March 31. The duo instigated the skit during a second-quarter timeout that even caught the attention of players at The Palace of Auburn Hills. “Doing the dance with Shannon was a blast. He is a really good dancer and I like his moves,” Castroneves said. “I’m glad he wasn’t on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ when I was there. I have hung up my dancing shoes these days but I was able to bring out a few moves to keep it interesting.” … Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete: Sebastien Bourdais’ sixth place in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was his best finish in an Indy car season opener since 2006, when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on his way to the Champ Car title. It also was his best finish in five starts in St. Petersburg, where he resides. … Show car on display at Long Beach Airport: Travelers passing through Long Beach International Airport will see a Verizon IndyCar Series car in the terminal to promote the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19. … HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson: HoneyBaked Ham of Bloomington, Ind., will be an associate sponsor of the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing entry in the Indianapolis 500 driven by Bryan Clauson.

Eidson Sweeps Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Weekend in St. Pete

St. Petersburg, Fla. – Jake Eidson and his Pabst Racing team continued their fine form this morning by leading throughout the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Two and completing a sweep of the opening weekend of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Just as was the case yesterday, 19-year-old Eidson took full advantage of his pole starting position to lead into the first corner from Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin. Eidson led all 20 laps to take the victory but was pushed to the limit all of the way by Telitz. The pair of former Team USA Scholarship winners secured the top two positions for the second day running, with Frenchman Jamin once again rounding out the podium in third.

Eidson also had to contend with a full-course caution, which came after seven laps when Garth Rickards (Team Pelfrey) crashed out of seventh place in Turn Two. The race leader timed his restart to perfection but was never able to eke out a substantial advantage over Telitz, who kept the pressure on in second place. Telitz set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 19 to claim an additional championship point, but there was no way past Eidson who cemented his early series lead.

John Cummiskey Racing teammates and fellow Australian rookies Jordan Lloyd and Anthony Martin fought out an entertaining battle for fourth place. Lloyd seemed to have the edge in the early stages but it was a different story after the restart as Martin remained glued to his countryman’s tail before making a pass in Turn 10 with three laps to go. The move earned Martin, who finished fourth for the second day in a row, the Replay XD Move of the Race Award.

Sixth place was taken by Canadian karting ace Parker Thompson, who bounced back well for JDC MotorSports following an incident at the beginning of yesterday’s race.

Germany’s Keyvan Andres Soori (ArmsUp Motorsports), the youngest driver in the field at age 15, took seventh ahead of the Palmetto, Fla.-based Team Pelfrey trio of Nikita Lastochkin, Luke Gabin and Ayla Agren. Both Andres Soori and Gabin, the winner of last year’s Skip Barber Championship Shootout and a MAZDASPEED scholarship to graduate into USF2000, also had been eliminated in the first-lap incident on Saturday.

Andrew List (D2D Motorsports) earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award for moving up five places during the race from his 17th starting position. The PFC Award was presented to the winning car owner, Augie Pabst, and the Staubli Award to Telitz

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will return to action, once again in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, at NOLA Motorsports Park, just a few miles from downtown New Orleans, La., on April 10-12.

Jake Eidson (#22 OMP/Bell Helmets/1st Bank/ USA Scholarship-Pabst Racing): “You talk about having weekends like this, but to actually have one is definitely easier said than done. Everyone at Pabst Racing has worked so hard, especially since Winterfest. We weren’t sure what kind of results we were going to have – obviously we were aiming for the win but to actually execute it is a relief. It was close today. On the restart, I didn’t get all the way down into first gear coming out of Turn One, so when I came back to gas on the acceleration, it was a bit slow. Luckily, I was able to make it out of there without being side by side for too long. I saw the two Cape cars battling coming out of Turn Four so it gave me some breathing room. It was nerve wracking, but thankfully we didn’t have any issues.

Alberico Wins Again in Pro Mazda on the Streets of St. Pete

California Racer Secures Second Mazda Road to Indy Win for Local Team

St. Petersburg, Fla. – Neil Alberico scored his second Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires victory in as many days as he led throughout this morning’s second stanza of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The popular Californian started from the pole for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and was never seriously threatened during the half-hour race.

Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, finished second for defending champion team Juncos Racing, while Alberico’s teammate, Canadian rookie Daniel Burkett, secured his first podium finish with third.

Alberico lost no time in displaying his dominance after the first six laps were completed behind the Pace Car following a five-car incident in Turn Four on the opening lap. He led by a full 1.2 seconds at the completion of the first lap of green-flag racing, and even though his charge was halted by another caution which left time enough merely for a one-lap dash to the checkers, Alberico remained unflustered as he romped home the winner by a little less than one second.

Burkett provided one of the drives of the race as he made his way from sixth on the grid to third. Another strong run by the Canadian had ended early yesterday following an incident in Turn One, but Burkett showed no ill effects as he made up two positions at the start, then passed Saturday’s second-place finisher, Santiago Urrutia (Team Pelfrey) at the restart on Lap 7. The pass earned Burkett the Replay XD Move of the Race Award. He also slipped briefly into second place with a brave move past Gutierrez in Turn One on Lap 9, but was unable to cement the claim as Gutierrez regained the place almost immediately.

The Mexican and the Canadian continued their tussle to the flag at the final restart, with Burkett once again attempting a bold maneuver into Turn One. Gutierrez managed to maintain his advantage, leaving Burkett to fight off the advances of Urrutia, Kyle Connery (JDC MotorSports) and Garett Grist (Juncos Racing) at the line.

Brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape took home the PFC Award as the winning car owners, while Gutierrez secured the Staubli Award. The Quartermaster Hard Charger Award went to Expert Class winner Jay Horak (M1 Racing), who gained eight positions from 17th place on the grid to finish ninth.

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with another pair of races at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, La., on April 10-12.

Neil Alberico (#3 Rising Star Racing/Mobe-Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “We didn’t get much testing in the off season, since the deal came together at the last minute. We were a little behind the eight-ball, since the other drivers had more time behind the wheel and more momentum. For me, just to be on the grid to start the season was going to be great. So to have this kind of result for everyone who has supported me was incredible. This is the best start to a season I’ve ever had; I’ve had misfortune here in the past but everything comes full circle. This is a great way to start the season, for me and for the team – we had two Cape cars on the podium both days. Now we’re looking forward to NOLA in two weeks.”

Jones and Carlin Sweep Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

English Newcomers Shine on Mazda Road to Indy Debut

St. Petersburg, Fla. – United Arab Emirates-based Englishman Ed Jones continued this afternoon where he left off yesterday by dominating Race Two of the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Peninsula Pipeline. The rookie made an exemplary start from the pole for the Carlin team and led throughout the 45-lap race to maintain his unbeaten record in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Fellow Briton Jack Harvey chased gamely in second place for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, while Floridian Spencer Pigot, who has moved up to Indy Lights after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize, finished third to complete a strong first weekend on the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder for himself and Juncos Racing by holding off race-long pressure from Max Chilton (Carlin).

A large crowd and perfect weather conditions greeted the Indy Lights field for their feature race of the weekend, which was interrupted by just a very brief caution period after the Schmidt Peterson car of local driver RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., disappointingly ground to a halt after four laps.

For the first 20 laps, Jones had to contend with persistent pressure from Harvey, who must be tired of finishing second after losing the 2014 championship to Gabby Chaves on a tie-break and then claiming second again on Saturday. Jones then posted what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race, a 1:06.866, on Lap 21, and never looked back. His eventual margin of victory was a commanding 9.0708 seconds.

The battle for the final podium position was rather more entertaining. Pigot made another stellar getaway, this time from fifth on the grid, to move into third on the first lap, earning himself the Replay XD Move of the Race Award, while Chilton went in the opposite direction, falling from second to fourth. The Englishman spent the remainder of the race trying to redress the balance. He did manage to sneak past Pigot once, under braking for Turn One just four laps from the end, only for Pigot to execute a perfect over-under maneuver and reclaim the place, which he held to the end.

Kyle Kaiser drove another sensible race in a second Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda to secure fifth ahead of a titanic battle between former USF2000 champions Scott Hargrove (8Star Motorsports) and Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport). Hargrove was obliged to defend stoutly in the closing stages, and while Brabham briefly found a way through in Turn One, he, like Chilton, was unable to make the pass stick. A frustrated Brabham had to settle for seventh.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field will return for more street course action in Long Beach, Calif., on April 19.

Ed Jones (#11 Toys for Boys Miami/United Rivers-Carlin): “The car was great throughout the race. It was the longest race I’ve ever done but it felt quicker than yesterday’s race somehow. I just had to focus, keep pushing and not make any mistakes. What won the race for us was consistency, making sure I took care of the tires. But it’s all come down to the hard work and dedication the team and I have done through the past few months. The preparation for this race was massive; we did so much work so that when we got out on the track, we would be fast straightaway. I studied older on-boards, YouTube videos, made my own notes and visualized the track so that when I got here, it was almost like I’d driven it a hundred times. But it is a different kind of race for me, to be on a street circuit with concrete walls all around!”

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg results

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8 mile St Petersburg street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (4) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
2. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
3. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
5. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
6. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
7. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
8. (21) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (19) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
10. (12) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
11. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
12. (10) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
13. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
14. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
16. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
18. (11) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
19. (18) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
20. (17) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
21. (13) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
22. (20) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
23. (23) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 70, Mechanical
24. (24) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 19, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 86.735
Time of Race: 02:16:58.1079
Margin of victory: 0.9930 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 22 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Power 1 – 21
Pagenaud 22 -23
Power 24 – 48
Hawksworth 49 -53
Power 54 – 82
Castroneves 83
Montoya 84 – 110

Point Standings: Montoya 51, Power 44, Kanaan 35, Castroneves 33, Pagenaud 31, Bourdais 28, Hunter-Reay 26, Hawksworth 25, Filippi 22, Andretti 20. .

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