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NASCAR Cup Series

SOCIAL TRACKING: Another Ride Swap?

The talk of the first off-weekend of the NASCAR season was Jimmie Johnson and Fernando Alonso‘s ride swap at the Bahrain International Circuit. It may not be the last one that we see, thanks to an idea from Kasey Kahne.

Check out the conversation that transpired on Twitter on Monday.

The conversation sparked up memories of a previous trade of tweets from last year, involving fellow NAPA sponsored competitor Alexander Rossi.

https://twitter.com/NAPARacing/status/908159701183066112

With the recent announcement that World of Outlaws and NASCAR are running the same weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it couldn’t be anymore timely than to see something like this happen. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

FANTASY HOT TIP: Sonoma

The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma means one final decision is in the way of Firestone Fantasy Challenge players for 2017.

In the previous 16 events of the Verizon IndyCar Series, most of the drivers were on the same agenda to win outright. However, in the California Wine Country, the scenarios are mixed. The quartet from Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon are vying for a season championship. Others, such as J.R. Hildebrand and Carlos Munoz for instance, need a result to maintain employment for 2018. In the case of both, neither pilot has a ride in the cards for next year.

So while some in Sunday’s 22-car lineup may choose a more conservative tact, others will view the action as a nothing to lose offering and maybe take risks that one would otherwise opt against. With those matters at hand, picking a team capable of raking in a large sum of points to close out the fantasy year could be tough.

Yours truly has thrown caution to the wind for the 17th and final outing and features a quartet of participants who have each had their own moment in the sun during the current campaign. Heading the list is current championship leader Josef Newgarden, attempting to become the first American driver to win the title since Ryan Hunter-Reay did so in 2012. Although the Tennessean arrives at Sonoma Raceway off a bad race at Watkins Glen when he came home in 18th, his ability to top the speed charts in both sessions on Friday, shows to me that he is ready to fight all out for the required crown-earning result.

Also on a bit of a roll entering Northern California is home state native, Alexander Rossi. With a win in New York and four other top-six or better placements in the last five races, the NAPA Auto Parts Honda chauffeur has to be viewed as a legit challenger on Sunday. The second-year veteran finished fifth at Sonoma a season ago.

While he has yet to return to the form he presented before his horrific accident suffered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais is worth the risk of selecting this weekend, having finished sixth at this venue for the Windy City runners in 2011. Although the St. Petersburg, Florida street circuit he won upon to open this year, lacks the elevation changes present at Sonoma Raceway, the Frenchman’s talents on road courses are well documented in previous stints in both ChampCar and Formula One.

Rounding out my squad for race number seventeeen is Spencer Pigot for Ed Carpenter Racing. The 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion may have encountered the worst luck of any regular entrant in 2017. Mechanical failures have denied him chances at top-ten placements; however, the ECR group are in major need of a good result, in hopes of a significant boost in performance for 2018, when the American young gun will contest every event on the calendar.

Even though just one player in the hunt for a title is featured on Sunday’s lineup card, the group presented may take advantage of the overaggressive nature of others to close out 2017 with a better than expected climax.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Grand Prix at the Glen 2017

The Big Picture:  The Verizon IndyCar Series and Watkins Glen International have a kind of understudy relationship with one another. Back in 1979, the series began to race at the iconic road course. By 1981, Formula One was turning its nose up at the Glen due to low attendance. So, IndyCar stepped in and filled F1’s traditional October date. In 2016, Boston was yet another US city who thought starting a street race would be easy. Upon the Boston contest circling the drain when instant riches were not forthcoming, Watkins Glen stepped in on a moment’s notice to return to the IndyCar schedule on Labor Day weekend.

Event:  And so the Grand Prix at the Glen was reborn. Of course, drivers love the natural terrain road course spanning 3.377 miles in length. It has the famed bus stop and the boot to make it unique in North America, and maybe the world. The series regularly fills the grandstands, but is also perceived to have “low attendance.”

Qualifying:  Alexander Rossi took his first series pole of his career with Scott Dixon starting next to him on Row One. Andretti Autosport had the best set up with Honda having the advantage on this track.

 Race:   As with most road course competitions, a great deal of this contest was decided in qualifying. The first and second place qualifiers also finished that way in the race. The third and fourth place starters were unable to continue this as Newgarden choked on a pit exit and Sato had a spin that threw him way down the leader board.

Biggest Surprise:  When Rossi was able to recover the race lead by Lap 29 after he had a fuel probe issue. Great recovery.

Biggest Disappointment:  The bad call made by Team Penske to go with a wet set up when the rain was over.

Best Team:  Andretti Autosports because they took the pole, the win, and the final spot on the podium and the Penskes didn’t.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  NAPA is good to motorsports. They just re-signed Rossi, and he delivered a win within days.

What We Learned:  That even Team Penske can make bad calls on set up. That Scott Dixon must be setting record for finishing second in so many races this year, and this may win him the championship

Schedule:  The season finale is in Sonoma, on September 17th!

Quotes of the Weekend:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Hitachi Chevy was so awesome today, and it was a great job by the No. 3 car guys. We were really fast out there – it’s been a long time since I was able to go flat out through the carousel in the race, but we were doing that today. We had some issues on the black Firestone tires, but we were able to recover and really pushed hard there to finish fourth. I feel really bad for Josef (Newgarden) with his incident. It’s unfortunate for the team, but it’s mixed feelings for me because it tightens up the championship. We definitely have a good chance heading into Sonoma and I feel really good about our setup there. We’ll be ready to go for it and finish strong.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “It was definitely an exciting day for the No. 9 NTT Data car. I locked up the tires on the first stop and I don’t think we got any fuel. We had to save fuel on the next stint as a result and battled our way back. I think we passed a lot of cars today and it was fun to contend with (Alexander) Rossi there for the win. Big congrats to him and good to see Honda run strong at Watkins Glen.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “We made a good start. Coming up to the hill P2, we were all set very nicely and I felt, basically, no power. We tried to figure out what was going on. I tried to reset the car on the track, it failed. Everything went zero. We pitted, then came back a few laps down and found a waste gate problem. After that, we were back up to speed, but I think at the time we were three laps down. Nothing we could do, but at the end of the day, we had one of the fastest laps. Big congrats to my teammate Alex (Rossi) for his win on the road course and to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) for getting a strong showing. It’s a shame, but as a team, I think we showed trim in the speed so that was a good weekend.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): “An amazing job by the whole team today. We had an issue in the beginning with some fuel, the fuel (probe), but whatever. It doesn’t matter, the team recovered. We had the pace to do it, but it’s pretty amazing. It’s a huge team effort. I’ve talked so much about how much we’ve improved, I’m so happy we’re finally able to win.” (About battle with Scott Dixon at end of race): “We had a fast car. I knew we had a fast car because we were hitting a fuel number before the final stop and we had pace. I knew he was going to be pushing like hell at the end, and so it was really 12 qualifying laps, and I had the car to do it. We had time, we had the pace, the performance, the tire life, everything was going our way. A huge hats off to Andretti Autosport. Thank you to NAPA Auto Parts, thank you to Honda. We’re coming really hard for 2018.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Title Battle Thickens Following Watkins Glen

Following Josef Newgarden’s bad early strategic move and an overzealous move to exit pit road late in Sunday’s IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship fight has changed drastically.

After starting on the inside of row two, he ran just outside the top-10 throughout the event. However, after the incident, the Tennessean’s 18th-place effort is the worst finish posted by the Team Penske pilot, since carding a 20th at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

With only the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma left on the slate, what seemed to be a comfortable 31-point lead when the green flag flew in upstate New York, is now reduced to only three. 

As Newgarden succumbed to adversity, four-time series champion Scott Dixon delivered the clutch performance Sunday that has earned him the nickname: the “Iceman.” After the New Zealander also lost ground early in the 60-lap distance at New York’s Thunder Road, Dixon recovered to secure runner-up honors at a venue where he has won on four previous occasions.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s team leader, however, was not the lone beneficiary on Sunday. Newgarden’s teammate Helio Castroneves moved to just 22 points out of first with a fourth-place finish. Simon Pagenaud, a victim of the winning pass completed by the Tennessee-prospect at St. Louis, also is back in play with the double points offering at Sonoma, after placing fourth.

Although the battle for the championship is essentially a four-man race, others a little further down the points table could also claim a top-three showing with a win or podium at Sonoma. One is perennial road course ace Will Power, who heads to Sonoma 72 out of first, but only 46 behind third. Another is Alexander Rossi, who returned the confidence shown by Andretti Autosport re-signing him for the 2018 campaign, by taking the checkered flag first at the Glen on Sunday.

As for what could happen at Sonoma, my views on Newgarden have changed considerably in seven days. The negative vibes that haunted Dixon in July and August are now squarely on his own shoulders. The No. 2 Chevrolet pilot, has finished no better than sixth in his any of his five attempts at the hilly, Wine Country-based layout, plus he has taken three placements of 20th or worse.

Dixon meanwhile, has shown the same muscle at Sonoma, that he has likewise at the Glen. Although he settled for 17th a season ago, the Iceman won the Go Pro Grand Prix in both 2015 and 2016. The former of those pair of triumphs earned him enough points to take his fourth series title.

While Newgarden looked like a sure-fire champion in the last few events, Dixon appears ready to take what would be a record fifth IndyCar championship.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Rossi Wins at Watkins Glen as Championship Tightens

WATKINS GLEN, New York (Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017) – Alexander Rossi completed a dream weekend with a win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen. Josef Newgarden endured a nightmare incident in the race that leaves the Verizon IndyCar Series championship battle wide open for the 12th straight year heading to the season finale.

Rossi won the 60-lap race at iconic Watkins Glen International from the pole position on the same weekend it was announced he would return to Andretti Autosport next season in a multiyear deal along with sponsor NAPA Auto Parts. The 25-year-old Californian led a race-high 32 laps and drove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda across the finish line 0.9514 of a second ahead of four-time Watkins Glen winner Scott Dixon.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX AT THE GLEN: Box score

Points leader Josef Newgarden finished 18th after his car sustained damage in a collision leaving the pits. The Team Penske driver saw his championship lead slip to three points over Dixon with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, offering double race points on Sept. 17, remaining. Seven drivers are still mathematically alive in the title hunt. The Verizon IndyCar Series champion has been determined in the season’s final race every year dating to 2006.

Rossi overcame a malfunctioning fuel probe on his second pit stop that left him short of Sunoco E85 ethanol and forced an earlier third stop than scheduled. From there, Rossi laid down laps at near-qualifying pace, regaining the lead on Lap 29 and building an advantage of more than 12 seconds. The full-course caution for Newgarden’s incident on Lap 46 bunched the field, but Rossi kept Dixon, in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, at bay over the 11-lap dash to the finish.

The victory was the second for Rossi in the Verizon IndyCar Series and first since his memorable triumph as a rookie in the 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“An amazing job by the whole team today,” Rossi said. “We had an issue in the beginning with the fuel thing, but whatever. It doesn’t matter, the team recovered. We had the pace to do it, but it’s pretty amazing.

“It’s a huge team effort. I’ve talked about so much how much we’ve improved, I’m so happy we’re finally able to win.”

Dixon, in search of a fifth season championship that would leave the 37-year-old New Zealander behind only A.J. Foyt (with seven) on the all-time list, had his own eventual day but was rewarded in points with the second-place finish.

“Definitely a good move in the points,” Dixon said. “I’m kind of shocked we ended up where we did.

“I locked up coming in on the first stop on the wet (tires) and it wouldn’t downshift, so almost stalled the car, got into the pits and we couldn’t fuel it. And then we had a fumble later – we lost another four or five spots – so we had to pass a lot of cars today. … Nice recovery by the team, ended up second.”

Newgarden had just assumed the lead in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet when he made his final stop on Lap 46 under green-flag conditions. Will Power – whose pit stall was directly in front of Newgarden’s – barely beat his teammate out of the pits and onto the narrow, curving, downhill pit exit lane.

Newgarden locked his brakes avoiding Power and slid into the guardrail separating the pit exit from the track in Turn 1 of the 3.37-mile, 11-turn permanent road course. Sebastien Bourdais, also leaving the pits in the No. 18 UNIFIN Honda, hit Newgarden from behind. Newgarden continued but sustained front wing and right rear tire ramp damage. The 26-year-old Tennessean finished two laps off the pace and saw 28 points shaved from his championship lead.

“I felt like we were in a good position until that final pit stop,” Newgarden said. “No excuse for it. It was my fault. I saw Will leave right in front of us and I just locked it up and slid over into the wall. Then (Bourdais) got into the back of me.

“It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing I can do about it. We’ll go to Sonoma in a couple of weeks and race for it.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third in the No. 28 DHL Honda to give Andretti Autosport two podium finishers. Helio Castroneves placed fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet and retained third in the championship, 22 points behind Newgarden.

Other drivers with a chance of winning the title at the Sonoma finale are: 2016 champion Simon Pagenaud, fourth in the standings (-34 points to Newgarden) after a ninth-place finish today in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet; Power, fifth in the standings (-68 points) after finishing sixth in the race in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Rossi, sixth in the standings (-84 points); and Graham Rahal, seventh in the standings (-94 points) after a fifth-place race finish in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

The race at Sonoma Raceway offers 100 points to the winner, 80 for second place, 70 for third and down from there. Live race coverage of the epic finale begins at 6:30 p.m. ETSept. 17 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Rossi Speeds to First Career Pole With Late Glen Heroics

WATKINS GLEN, New York (Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017) – Alexander Rossi’s weekend of great news continued today when he won the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.

A day after it was announced he would return to Andretti Autosport next season in a multiyear deal along with sponsor NAPA Auto Parts, Rossi clocked a dramatic last lap of 1 minute, 22.4639 seconds (147.119 mph) on Watkins Glen International’s high-risk, high-reward permanent road course. It was the fastest lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the third and final round of knockout qualifying, to earn Rossi the first pole position in his 32-race Verizon IndyCar Series career.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX AT THE GLEN: Qualifying results

“It was a big lap we needed,” said Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner and driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda. “The lap before was pretty good, but they came on the radio and said, ‘You need at least a tenth (of a second quicker),’ so we went for it.

“It’s amazing to finally accomplish this, especially on the back of the announcement on Friday. I think it’s been a long time coming, so it’s just nice to finally get that. The whole team has been working so hard and they deserve this.”

Rossi was the last of the Firestone Fast Six drivers on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn circuit at the session’s end, crossing the timing line to win the pole as the others were in pit lane. The 25-year-old Californian’s best previous qualifying effort was third on two occasions, both on ovals this season at Indianapolis and Texas.

Rossi will lead the 21-car field to the green flag in Sunday’s 60-lap race (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). In winning the pole, he denied Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon the chance to edge closer to championship leader Josef Newgarden in the point standings.

Dixon settled for the second starting spot with a lap of 1:22.5168 (147.025 mph) in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda that nipped Newgarden by one ten-thousandth of a second.

“Front row is definitely decent,” said Dixon, the four-time series champion and four-time Watkins Glen race winner. “The frustrating part is that we had plenty in hand.

“We caught Helio (Castroneves on track) so quickly. I don’t know what he was doing out there, he was just sort of cruising around. We caught him way too fast with two laps to go. Maybe we should have backed off on the second-to-last lap (to open a gap). I think we had probably another three or four tenths (of a second) in the car. Definitely frustrating to lose it that way.”

Regardless, Dixon is the only driver to reach all eight Firestone Fast Six rounds contested this season and has earned a top-five starting position in each of his eight visits to Watkins Glen. Dixon also broke his year-old track record in the second round of qualifying with a lap of 1:22.4171 (147.202 mph).

Newgarden, holding a 31-point lead over Dixon heading into Sunday’s race, will start third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet following a lap of 1:22.5169 (147.024 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six.

“I think I messed up a pole run, to be honest with you,” Newgarden said. “I lost two or three tenths (of a second) in the final corner.

“I just deuced it, totally messed it up, lost a couple tenths (in Turn 9). Great lap time, good starting position for us. I feel so silly for messing up what could have been a pole position.”

Takuma Sato, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, qualified fourth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:22.5660, 146.937 mph). Charlie Kimball was fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda (1:22.8081, 146.507 mph), with Castroneves sixth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.3350, 145.581 mph).

Newgarden, Dixon, Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud (who qualified 12th), Will Power (qualified eighth), Graham Rahal (qualified 10th), Rossi and Sato all remain mathematically alive for the championship. Drivers must be within 104 points of the leader following the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen – with only the double-points GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 17 remaining on the schedule.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Fantasy Hot Tip: Watkins Glen

Two chances are left for Firestone Fantasy Challenge combatants to improve their placement in the 2017 edition of the IndyCar.com fan game.

Yours truly has not had much luck lately, but I still have a decent chance to secure a top-ten finish after Sonoma, assuming the points output is solid. For the Grand Prix at the Glen on Sunday, I have loaded my roster with road course warriors and championship contenders.

While a $33 price tag on championship leader Josef Newgarden is more than I care to spend for a four-member group that is capped at $100, the quartet chosen is still strong. At the head of the list is Scott Dixon, currently second in the title chase, trailing the Team Penske driver by only 31 points. The New Zealander has struggled to earn top-five results in recent weeks, yet the record book rates him highly in upstate New York. The Iceman has won at this venue four times and placed outside the first ten only once.

Even if Honda is a step or two behind the Penske Chevrolets concerning outright pace over a fuel stint, the talent should be able to override the handicap enough to remain in a role among the frontrunners.

Newgarden’s teammate Will Power has also been selected for this round. The Australian took the checkered flag first at New York’s Thunder Road in 2010; however, let the buyer beware when taking him. He has also placed 15th and 20th in his other two attempts. Despite the disclaimer, the No. 12 Chevrolet chauffeur has bounced back well from a bad result and will need to back-up that reality as a crash on Lap 1 last week in St. Louis cost him precious ground to his Tennessee-based colleague in the championship.

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi has had a good track record in his last four efforts on the IndyCar circuit. He has taken two podium finishes and was sixth in the other two rounds, including last week at Gateway. Despite a dry spell in the second half of last year’s slate, the NAPA Honda driver did manage to come home in eighth in New York in 2016.

To compensate for the heavy hitters in the first three seats this week, I have taken a flyer on Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Jack Harvey, who makes his series debut on a road course on Sunday. Although the British prospect has yet to run at Watkins Glen in his open-wheel career, five of his six wins on the second tier of the Mazda Road to Indy pyramid were on the twisty layouts, as opposed to ovals.

While selecting Dixon is a must, you can afford to get creative to score big points. Good luck players!

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Rossi Remains with Andretti Autosport

News continues to filter out of Andretti Autosport as the Verizon IndyCar Series team announced on Friday that Alexander Rossi will return to the team in 2018 as part of a multi-year agreement.

The partnership renewal comes after re-signing NAPA AUTO PARTS to be the primary sponsor for 10 events. 

“It’s great to have NAPA AUTO PARTS return in support of Alexander and the team. NAPA has been a fantastic partner, and we look forward to building on the success of the relationship,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “Alexander has been a great ambassador both on and off the track and, with only two years of IndyCar experience, he’s proven that he is a true competitor as well.”   

The 2018 campaign will be his third in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Entering Watkins Glen, Rossi has five top-five’s in 31 starts, including an Indianapolis 500 victory in 2015. He placed 11th in the standings last year, and looks to improve upon that in 2017, currently seventh with two races remaining. 

“As always, this silly season is a challenging one for everyone involved, but I am very thankful to have such incredible support from Andretti Autosport, NAPA AUTO PARTS and Honda, and to extend our deal through 2019,” said Rossi. “The improvements that we have made this year and the relationships that I have built within the team over the past two seasons created the foundation for a very exciting future.  

“On top of this, I’m very excited about the future of INDYCAR and where the whole series is headed. With the new car for next year, it is bound to be even more competitive and exciting than in years past and this is something that I am very proud to be a part of. It is an honor to race alongside such talented drivers and teams and I feel truly blessed in having the opportunity to showcase what I am capable of.” 

So far, Andretti Autosport has confirmed three drivers for their line-up next season, with Rossi joining Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti. Takuma Sato is rumored to be leaving the organization to drive a second entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

As for who will fill out the fourth seat at AA in 2018, Fernando Alonso has been mentioned following his series debut at the Indianapolis 500. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News Open Wheel

Andretti Autosport Sticks with Honda

After a myriad of rumors swirled throughout the past month, things are not changing at Andretti Autosport as they will once again be powered by Honda in 2018 and beyond, as part of a multi-year agreement.

The news was revealed on Thursday through a video on social media.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been weighing this decision for a while now,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “We’ve had strong relationships and have marked milestones with both manufacturers, but we’re pleased to continue our Honda partnership. We have a great history of success with Honda and I have no doubt that together, our collection of achievements will continue to grow.”

Last month, talks started that there was a possibility of the pair separating, despite winning three Verizon IndyCar Series championships and five Indianapolis 500s together. Discussion only picked up more once it was leaked that Takuma Sato may leave AA to drive a second-car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, as Sato has always been associated with Honda-only teams. 

The rumors are understandable with the organization failing to reach expectations, with only one victory in 15 races this year, and Alexander Rossi the highest-ranked driver in points, currently seventh. 

“We’re extremely happy to continue our successful partnership with Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport,” said Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development. “As Michael stated, his team has played a major role in our success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including victories at three of the last four Indy 500s. In addition to success at Indianapolis, 47 of Honda’s 225 Indy car victories through the years have been scored by the Andretti Autosport. Together, we’re looking forward to adding to this already impressive total in the future.”

With only two races remaining in 2017, the team has signed Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti for next year, with confirmation forth coming surrounding the “remaining drivers in the coming weeks.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

FANTASY HOT TIP: Gateway Motorsports Park

With only three races for Firestone Fantasy Challenge players, the opportunity to gain ground is getting limited.

That is certainly the case for yours truly, as my quartet for last weekend’s ABC Supply 500 failed to impress. To recover lost ground, those who fared well at Pocono Raceway’s “Tricky Triangle,” have been called upon to rake in the points as the Verizon IndyCar Series competes at the Gateway Motorsports Park oval for the first time since 2003.

Last week’s winner Will Power from Team Penske leads this Sunday’s foursome. Although known more for his exploits on road courses, the Australian has exceeded expectations on ovals in 2017. Two of his three triumphs have been oval-based, and he has a second and a fourth also on the scorecard. The only blemish suffered was a 21st-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, when Power was eliminated in a multi-car accident, not of his own doing.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan is not the same victory threat across the board that he was when he started his efforts in IndyCar in 2003. However, the Brazilian continues to remain potent on the high-speed layouts, earning a top-ten finish in every oval race so far this season. While not normally a good value concerning fantasy-wise, TK has earned his place on my team this weekend.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand unexpectedly struggled at Pocono, only placing 19th after suffering contact with James Hinchcliffe. Despite the setback, the Californian has excelled on the shorter ovals in 2017, collecting his two best finishes to date. He placed third behind two Penske cars at Phoenix and settled for runner-up honors at Iowa Speedway.

Alexander Rossi rounds out my roster for St. Louis, but may have the lowest credentials on oval tracks compared to the other members of the trio. But, the 2016 Indy 500 champion has momentum, collecting top-six results in each of the last three rounds.

With the oval portion of the schedule coming to a close, expect the edge Honda may have had on Chevrolet at Pocono to be lessened at St. Louis. If that plays out, Team Penske could take over the proceedings much as they did at Phoenix Raceway.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.