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Commentary Open Wheel

EMBURY: Indy 500 Grid-a-tology Version 1.0

With 30 confirmations and at least two more likely soon, it is time to rate the 101st Indianapolis 500 field.
 
The purpose of Indianapolis 500 Grid-a-tology is to give an idea on who’s trending upward in the battle for being Firestone Fast Nine eligible.
 
One month out from opening weekend at Indy, there is an increasing bias toward anyone featuring a Honda engine and aero kit. Although Chevrolet has normally trumped Honda since Dallara’s DW12 debuted in 2012, Honda took pole position last year with James Hinchcliffe. Add to that, HPD has opened 2017’s Verizon IndyCar Series season with two victories.
 
So as you will notice, the upper half of list number one is full of Hondas. Chevrolet still could be heard from, yet most of the burden could be placed on Team Penske’s quintet, unless former back-to-back pole winners Ed Carpenter Racing make some progress at the Phoenix Grand Prix later this month.
 
NOTE: Drivers yet to be officially confirmed, are listed in parentheses.
 
FRONT ROW
 
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing: It is almost laughable to consider that Dixon and CGR have failed to advance to Pole Day Shootout phase of qualifying at Indy in two of last three years. The Iceman did win the 500 pole two years ago, but remember that due to a safety concern, the cars were run in race trim. The resume does not release confidence, but Honda’s early wins are enough to place the New Zealander in P1 for now.
 
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Hinch unleashed required pace when it mattered in 2016 and the gap between Honda and Chevrolet seems to be widening further from last year’s perceived edge. While odds are stacked against his teammates’ chances to join him in Firestone Fast Nine, the Mayor should play a role when the shootout begins.
 
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske: When practice opens, Newgarden will have had five starts with Penske under his belt, enough to remove nerves and gain a necessary focus. The Dallara he will use this year should be better than what ECR gave him a year ago when he qualified second. The key factor, will be whether Chevrolet can hold a candle to Honda.
 
ROW 2
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport: Hard to fathom how Andretti Autosport has been unable to earn a pole position at Indy since 2005. RHR has made front row twice during the DW12 era and probably rates as best chance to challenge for pole position.
 
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing: TK was a regular front two rows qualifier for several years at Indy, but has struggled to regain his magic touch during the current decade. Could be projecting him a little high here, but we will see things play out during practice week.
 
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske: The most successful pole day among active drivers, yet three-time Indy 500 champion has struggled to make front row recently. Always a factor during qualifying weekend, so it is impossible to ignore him.
 
ROW 3
 
Alexander Rossi, Andretti Herta Autosport: Defending Indianapolis 500 champion should have made Firestone Fast Nine last year. Early fast run, plus an extension of Saturday qualifying by one hour knocked him out in final moments. Should be a greater threat with one year of experience.
 
Will Power, Team Penske: Lack of pace from Chevrolet, coupled with bad returns at Long Beach raise some concerns. Scratch latter issue and Power would be Penske’s best chance to win pole position next month.
 
Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport: 2006 Indy 500 runner-up fought hard to earn a Firestone Fast Nine spot last year but ultimately fell short. More muscle under cowling could be what is needed to make the shootout.
 
ROW 4
 
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske: Pagenaud sneaked into final qualifying phase last year, but may not be as fortunate with Chevrolet more vulnerable in the speed department. Regardless, it is tough to get five or six cars from one team in the shootout.
 
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport: Few get as close to touching the wall as this Japanese veteran does. However, he now has a car capable of reaching Firestone Fast Nine. That at least puts him in range.
 
Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Last second run put him in position for the pole last year, but stronger challenges from both Ganassi and Andretti once again makes a first three rows appearance a long shot.
 
ROW 5:
 
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport: It is unfair to expect a top-nine effort from someone who has never driven an IndyCar this close to pole day. Even though Nigel Mansell managed to qualify eighth as a 500 rookie in 1993, the British Lion had more oval track testing miles than Alonso will have. This is around where Kurt Busch ended up three years ago and should be a realistic target for the McLaren F1 pilot.
 
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing: In 2013 and 2014, this guy was a top-nine lock. However, since his accident on pole day two years ago, Carpenter has failed to make an impact. While ECR gets most of its results on ovals, Chevrolet’s current handicap makes the task even tougher next month.
 
Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing: Unless Coyne makes a dent in qualifying for Phoenix, this is as good as it will get for Bourdais and DCR in time trial mode. If Bruno Junqueira and Justin Wilson could do no better than this, why will Bourdais?
 
ROW 6:
 
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske: Unlike his teammates, qualifying has been an oil and water exercise for the Colombian. Inconsistent pace dashed hopes to make Firestone Fast Nine last year, and that was before a trash bag messed up his decent run one day later.
 
Carlos Munoz, A.J. Foyt Racing: Qualifying was kryptonite for Super Tex and company during the DW12 era and despite a go for broke style of Munoz, pieces are missing to allow for a realistic chance to make the top-nine cut.
 
Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing: Has been a consistent top-ten finisher at Indy for CGR, but form has not transferred to qualifications. Despite featuring Honda power, a mid-field effort is expected.
 
ROW 7
 
Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: 2011 Indy 500 front row starter has consistently outpaced his full-time teammate in qualifying and stands a good chance of doing so next month.
 
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing: Hand injury aside, it has been a rough return to full-time service for this Indy-specialist. Generally projects higher than here, but unknowns of Chevrolet’s pace are concerning.
 
Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Not a strong qualifier; however, Karam’s stock could rise with semi-teammate to compare information with. Would match qualifying run from 2015.
 
ROW 8
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: The son of 1986 Indy 500 champion has yet to master four-lap qualifying and has wound up in the bottom of the starting grid as a result. At this point, out-running his teammate Servia would be a success.
 
Jack Harvey, Andretti Autosport: Good to see 2015 Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires runner-up in a car this month. While Andretti is a solid car provider, Harvey’s limited race participation will make it difficult to reach the top half.
 
Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing: Situation for the Dubai-based rookie is similar to Bourdais’. If DCR shows potential at Phoenix, row eight will not be Jones’ likely home. A spot higher up will be.
 
ROW 9
 
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing: Pole day accident last year, prevented him a chance to experience the full qualifying weekend. That could negatively impact his output in 2017.
 
Conor Daly, A.J. Foyt Racing: Does not have momentum on his side as was present last year. Early struggles with Foyt may continue into Indy 500 festivities.
 
Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing: Alliance with DRR and presence of team manager Larry Curry are nice to have, but low expectations are reasonable for any new team.
 
ROW 10
 
Pippa Mann, Dale Coyne Racing: If indeed DCR has upped its game, 2017 could be Mann’s best chance to line up higher on the starting grid, than she ever has before. Phoenix efforts from Bourdais and Jones will significantly influence thinking here.
 
Zach Veach, A.J. Foyt Racing: Indy Lights veteran finally gets a chance to race in IndyCar. Foyt’s early performances predict a tough road ahead though.
 
Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Long layoff for Howard regarding Indy 500 participation means he will likely be playing catch-up once practice opens next month.
 
ROW 11
 
(Kyle Kaiser), Juncos Racing: New team, plus a young driver. Cannot be expected to be a winning combination right out of the starting gate.
 
Buddy Lazier, Lazier Partners Racing: Loss of Larry Curry makes mission impossible even harder for family-run operation. Will be tough to avoid back of starting grid.
 
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 Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Long Beach

Indycar_Power_Rankings_logo

Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Following James Hinchcliffe’s win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, there are noticeable ranking changes. It is time to say adios to Team Penske’s Will Power at number two, following a second bad finish. It is also farewell to Scott Dixon’s placement on top of the rankings after St. Petersburg last month.

Rarely has a power rankings list ever placed a Dale Coyne Racing pilot on top, but there is a first for everything.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (+1)

The efforts from both Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud are just enough to keep them ahead of an ever-improving Dale Coyne Racing. However, the inability for Helio Castroneves to back up his pace from qualifying, coupled with a second consecutive bad finish from Will Power, means the storyline is far from flawless.

2. Dale Coyne Racing (+2)

Bourdais now has two podiums to open his second foray with DCR, and Ed Jones managed to earn a top ten result after fading in the second half of last month’s season opener. Alabama should continue the trend upward; however, Phoenix remains the final exam in terms of whether this team permanently cements itself as a regular front runner.

3. Chip Ganassi Racing (-2)

Scott Dixon continues to provide the good vibes for Ganassi, but problems rest with the remainder of CGR’s foursome. Kanaan and Chilton were relatively quiet on Sunday, and Kimball suffered from another early race incident. Remember, one driver carrying a team is not always enough concerning their ranking.

4. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

Hinchcliffe was handcuffed by the full course caution at St. Pete. So essentially, he picked right off from that point and came away with a victory at Long Beach. Can’t quite move them ahead of Ganassi based on Mikhail Aleshin’s 12th-place finish though.

5. Andretti Autosport (-2)

Sunday was painful for Andretti. It was not that its team was severely outclassed as mechanical woes were to blame for the lack of results. With nightmares looming from a difficult 2016 season, they need to bounce back at Barber.

6. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (No Change)

A top ten earned by Graham Rahal was alright. but lackluster. Barber was the start of their big surge in 2016, so not a bad place to start another rally.

7. Ed Carpenter Racing (No Change)

Eighth-place deserved from Spencer Pigot, however late exit for J.R. Hildebrand keeps ECR behind Rahal. This is a team that maybe wishes Phoenix was next, rather than Barber.

8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

Carlos Munoz was mid-pack for most of Sunday and took advantage of the late shuffling to finish seventh. Now for Conor Daly, still scratching head regarding sub-par results so far. While Munoz was the clearly forecasted higher for 2017, the gap between them should not be this large.

Driver Rankings:

1. Sebastien Bourdais (+2)

No kidding here friends, a DCR driver has reached the pinnacle of IndyCar driver rankings, and not by default either. The Frenchman overcame qualifying shortcomings for podium finishes in the opening two events. Bourdais sits on top of the points table and it is time to reward an early performance.

2. James Hinchcliffe (+2)

As previously mentioned, what happened after the controversial St. Pete caution flag can be omitted. The Long Beach victory simply backed up his opening round performance.

3. Scott Dixon (-2)

A pair of topfives is nice, but when compared to what Bourdais and Hinch have offered, no justification to keep Dixon in the top two. The Iceman could ultimately become a top driver, but not at this point.

4. Simon Pagenaud (+1)

Pagenaud sneaked up to secure another top-five on Sunday. Of course, one can imagine what he could have done with a better qualifying result. That part of the equation is still not adding up.

5. Will Power (-3)

Power is on the verge of joining the “Missing Drivers Club.” A 13th-place finish is an unusual territory for this road racing ace. Perhaps Phoenix could jump start his season.

6. Josef Newgarden (+2)

The podium finish may remove a heavy burden off of Newgarden’s shoulders. The next challenge is simple: when will victory number one with Penske occur?

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-1)

A second win at Long Beach appeared possible, until bad luck struck the Andretti Autosport driver.

8. Helio Castroneves (-2)

Spider-Man did well to take pole position, but could not back up the effort on Sunday. Still, a ninth-place result merits his ranking.

9. Spencer Pigot (Not Ranked)

Pigot may not have a ride for next month’s Indianapolis 500, yet he continues to show muscle in his road racing-only schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing. The top-ten at Long Beach merits his move onto the list.

10. Ed Jones (Not Ranked)

The defending Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion has taken to IndyCar competition well. Back-to-back top-ten’s are enough for his inclusion after Long Beach.

Dropped Out: Takuma Sato (No. 7 post- St. Petersburg), Tony Kanaan (No.8)

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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IndyCar Open Wheel

FANTASY PICK BREAKDOWN: St. Petersburg

For several years now, the Verizon IndyCar Series website has offered a fantasy league, similar to those provided by NASCAR and several other sports, allowing fans to compete for cash and prizes. As the first green flag of the season is fast approaching at Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, yours truly has taken a head-first dive right into the fun.      

Like most leagues, there is no fee to enter, all that is required is basic information and a contact number if you are indeed a winner at the end of the year. All finished? Okay, let’s get to the fun stuff.

For each of the 17 races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, you must pick the four drivers who you believe will achieve the best result when the race is over. However, in this game, there is a catch. You are limited to a budget to only 100 fantasy dollars, and with every driver set at a certain value, which can fluctuate up or down during the season based on performance, you are forced to strategize on which legal quartet of drivers will garner the most points. Now for the St. Pete road course, filling your roster with those pilots that can handle left and right turns swiftly is a good place to start and here’s how I have my current roster setup to tackle the combination of public roads and airport runways.

Based on their performances driving for Team Penske in 2016, the lead driver for my team was going to be either 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud or 2014 series champion Will Power. With the Frenchman valued at 36 fantasy dollars and the Australian at just 30 for the season opener, I went with the latter to secure a little more room to take on a higher-valued driver. With my second pick, I used 22 dollars on my remaining budget to add Dale Coyne Racing’s newest driver Sebastien Bourdais.

I have to admit, I am intrigued by what a bolstered DCR squad and the multi-time ChampCar World Series title holder can offer in 2017, and at a reduced value, I felt he was worth the risk. The same strategy play was also behind my selection of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly. Daly is not known as a strong qualifier on the IndyCar circuit; however, last year he showed that he can play the off-sequence pit strategy exceptionally well, meaning a poor effort in Saturday qualifying could be wiped clean by the finish on Sunday.

With those three drivers taken, I had 30 fantasy dollars left in my 100 dollar maximum budget, enough to add a second Team Penske driver to my team in the form of Josef Newgarden. While joining a top team can be a daunting task for some, the early returns from preseason testing at Sebring seems to indicate that the Tennessee-native is up for the challenge.

Stay tuned to PopularSpeed.com every race weekend, for my team selections and if you are interested in challenging yours truly, join for free now at IndyCar.com

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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IndyCar Open Wheel

Newgarden: Expectation to Perform With Penske “Doesn’t Change”

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Getting a chance to race with Team Penske in any form of motorsport can be a career-altering opportunity, so it’s easy to think there are higher expectations as a driver for the robust and historical organization.

But Josef Newgarden doesn’t feel that way. His preparation and approach are the same with Penske as it was with his former team, Ed Carpenter Racing.

“At ECR, I felt like there was a lot of pressure to do well because any group that you’re with, everyone is working hard on the team and you want to perform for the people,” Newgarden said. “I don’t think that’s going to change much. The expectation to do well and put your best foot forward and show everything you can as a driver doesn’t change.”

Newgarden’s move to Penske during the IndyCar Silly Season hardly came as a surprise. After a pair of victories with CFH Racing in 2015 and a dominating win at Iowa Speedway with ECR in 2016, everyone could see his potential.

However, Newgarden didn’t actually like the process of switching teams. He understands it is part of the business, but it wasn’t enjoyable for him.

“Moving is not fun. I never want to do it again. I’m probably going to move again in my life, but I don’t want to do it,” the 26-year-old said. “I don’t know when that’s going to come up again — I hope it’s a long time from now.

“Being at Team Penske is pretty cool.”

With the way Penske dominated the 2016 season, Newgarden could easily be seen as an early title favorite. If his performance level is anything like Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud or Will Power’s was last year, he’ll unquestionably be in contention for the Astor Challenge Cup.

And if Friday’s test at Phoenix Raceway is any indication of where he’ll run this season, he’ll be in good shape. He put up the fastest lap time at the desert oval.

“This is an amazing group as these guys [Power and Pagenaud] can attest to, and I think we’re confident that we can come out of the gate really strong and challenge for victories,” Newgarden said.

“…When you walk into the factory at Team Penske, and you see all the heritage and all the success they’ve had there, there’s a different feeling from that aspect. The pressure to do well I don’t think is going to change.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

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

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Cindric Calling Shots for Newgarden

The big changes continue at Team Penske as in addition to bringing in Josef Newgarden this season, he’s getting a familiar face as a race strategiest.

The multi-championship organization announced that Tim Cindric will call the shots for Newgarden this season. Notably, Cindric has spent the last five and a half years with Will Power, beginning with the Honda Indy Toronto in July 2011. The pair have won 17 races over that period of time, including a championship in 2014.

“As we look back, Will and I had a lot of good times but he will continue that without me,” Cindric told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “Will has won no matter who is in his pit and I think it’s important to understand the transition. As I looked at where our strengths are and where our experience is, Myron (Bouslog’s nickname) and I talked about it and thought we should switch this thing up a bit.

“If we don’t get off on the right foot, at least we will understand why. I’m confident the (No.) 12 car group (Power) will be just fine with or without me and the (No.) 2 car group (Newgarden) is in a good place, but I want to help his transition be the right one.”

Newgarden enters his first season at Team Penske, after spending the last couple years at Ed Carpenter Racing, with a fourth place championship finish in 2016.

“That’s exciting to have Tim running my team,” Newgarden told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “I’m excited to work with Tim. I respect him a lot within motorsports. He has done a great job with Team Penske. Look at the history with him being a team leader – they have a lot to stand on as a group.

“It’s going to be exciting to work with him. I think he is a great leader and will probably help me be better at my craft and help me improve from what I’ve done in the past. I hope to collaborate well with him and the whole team on the No. 2 Verizon car and having success together.”

With Cindric moving over to Newgarden, Team Penske confirmed Jon Bouslog will call the shots for Power this season. Bouslog spent the past two years working with Juan Pablo Montoya.

 

“It’s a different opportunity to work with (race engineer) David Faustino and Robby Atkinson, the data guy, and the rest of Power’s crew,” Bouslog told Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “It’s probably the best overall crew of people. I think I will learn a lot, to be honest with you.

“There are so many people involved in strategy during the race, you can’t watch everything. There are so many eyes on it. It’s going to be a collective team effort just like before. I think it’s the right thing to do with a new driver in Josef. Tim knows how to handle the new drivers, the expectation level of the team. The best move is to do that for Josef so he has the best of everything to win.”

While changes have happened surrounding the No. 2 and No. 12 entry, Roger Penske will continue to call strategy for Helio Castroneves, while team manager Kyle Moyer remains with Simon Pagenaud to chase a second straight championship.

The team also has signed Juan Pablo Montoya for the Daytona 500, but has yet to announce who is calling strategy for the one-race effort. However, the team did mention it may be expanded to two races, with possibly the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course May 13.

“I would be surprised if we do anything before May,” Cindric said. “If we do anything, it would be, ‘Do we do the road course race at Indianapolis or not?’ But I don’t think we will do another race before May.”

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

EMBURY: Newgarden Hits The Big Time

Without question, Josef Newgarden was the Verizon IndyCar Series’ top free agent entering the 2016 off-season. And why not? The Tennessee-native finished a career-best fourth in the final points table and had secured his third career victory at Iowa Speedway in dominant fashion.

With Ed Carpenter Racing losing funding before last season following the pull back of support from both Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman, the future of the former Indy Lights champion seemed bleak. That reality was a bizarre one, however after Carpenter elected to keep the young prospect rather than reduce his operation to a single car. With another solid year in the bank the desire this time for Newgarden to look elsewhere for a potentially better drive had to delved into.

As each of the top three teams in INDYCAR reportedly sought new drivers (only two would bring in a new option), Newgarden immediately jumped to the top of most wish lists following the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. Ultimately, the decision for Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya to scale back his participation in the sport and the prestige that the Captain can offer for a driver’s career was too much for the popular prospect to turn down.

With the Tennessean becoming the first American-born driver to drive for Team Penske since Sam Hornish, Jr. did so in 2007, Hornish represents a decent comparison point to balance against Newgarden’s potential output in year one with the Captain.

Hornish got off to a fast start in 2004, winning his first race for Penske at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2004. Unfortunately, he then failed to find the winner’s circle for the remainder of the season. Despite winning back-to-back championships with Panther Racing in 2001 and 2002, Hornish would have to wait until his third year with the Captain to win his third INDYCAR title. The 2006 season saw him also break through to win the Indianapolis 500 with a dramatic last second pass of Marco Andretti.

The fact that Hornish did not earn a series title until year three with Penske shows the expectations should be curbed somewhat when assessing what Newgarden could achieve for Team Penske in 2017. Of course, unlike in 2006, Newgarden has three competitive teammates to do battle against while Hornish only had one in Helio Castroneves.

For 2017, Newgarden not only has the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series to deal with, but he also joins a strong set of drivers, featuring Castroneves, Will Power, and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud. So not only is winning a title a tough prospect, finishing top of the line at Team Penske could be quite the challenge.

As for Newgarden’s outcome for his new ride, the veteran should manage to find the winner circle at some point in 2017. Though as far as the championship, Newgarden will probably play a supporting role at Team Penske, with the focus regarding a title run being focused more on the efforts of Power and Pagenaud.

Stay tuned to Embury’s Outlook for further driver and team projections on the road to the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.

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

IndyCar Reveals Hints About Its 2018 Car

There was good news, and then some not so good news. Indy Car’s President of Competition and Operations, Jay Frye, revealed that there is now a development freeze for the 2017 races, which is the not so good news. That means that huge performance gaps as there were in 2016 between the aero kits of Chevy and Honda will theoretically remain.

Frye was asked whether it means Chevrolet will once again be stronger than Honda this year, and responded in theory that’s correct, but added other factors can play a part. 

“Teams or manufacturers or whatever,” he said. “So it’s not — the aero kit was one piece of the puzzle. I think the puzzle has changed some going into ’17, but the aero piece of the kit, yes, is frozen for ’20’17.”   

But, moving on to 2018, Frye displayed some interesting concept drawings to give us an idea what the Dallara IR-12 will look like.  

Notably, the drivers got to see the drawings for the first time the fan did. Josef Newgarden, being one of the drivers at the show, was pleased with the results thus far.

“One of the things I really liked hearing from Jay is that what drivers have been screaming about for a long, long time is that we want more bottom side performance from the race car, we don’t want to rely on the top,” he commented. “You have to remember the racing product has been really, really good. It’s not like we’ve had a bad racing product. We have a great racing product. I think we just want to make it what you always want to make it. You’re always striving to make the car more difficult to drive, provide more separation in the talent of the drivers, and then make the racing product better. And I think that’s — the first thing that stands out to me, it’s kind of cool looking seeing the concepts of the side pods shrinking, the floor becoming a more prominent element, again, and then obviously there’s the Kardashian discussion of the rear. I think it looks really cool, and I’m excited to see more of it next week.”

Alexander Rossi sentiments matched his fellow competitor’s at the show, noting how he liked how prominent the floor was due to the bototm side downforce it will create. 

“For those of you that don’t understand the significance of that, it’s when we’re trying to follow closely and you get to this point where the racing kind of seems stagnant because nobody is really getting closer,” Rossi explained. “It’s because the car behind us is so affected because they are going over the top of it. It’s what we call dirty, meaning it’s moving, and it’s not a flat surface, which is what the car was designed in. When you’re relying on downforce coming from the bottom, you’re not affected by turbulence or dirty air because it’s irrelevant the state that the air is in when it hits the floor. So that part is massively encouraging.”

The next step in the development of the Dallara IR-12, whose Indy Car chassis first ran 20 years ago at the track at Walt Disney World, will be revealed at Indy Car’s Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway on February 10 – 11. This display will hopefully lead to a display of the 2018 car at the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The 2017 Indy Car series will debut two months from now, at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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

2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Year in Review: Josef Newgarden

Despite an injury mid-season, Josef Newgarden put together a career season en route to finishing fourth in points.

 

Points Finish: 4th

Car No.: 21

Driver Name: Josef Newgarden

Team Name: Ed Carpenter Racing

Total Races: 16

Victories: 1 – Iowa Speedway

Podiums: 4

Top-Fives: 5

Top-10s: 10

Average Start: 9.4

Average Finish: 9.9

DNFs: 3

 

After a solid season last year, which saw Josef Newgarden catch attention from everybody, he was determined to turn even more heads this season.

Unfortunately, the year didn’t start out as planned, though, as he started the year with an electrical issue on Lap 47 of the opening race of the year, resulting in a DNF. The poor showing didn’t get him down for long, though, as he was able to put together three straight top-10 finishes, including a third at Barber Motorsports Park.

With momentum through the firs two months, everybody expected Newgarden to run strong at Indianapolis as Ed Carpenter Racing has shown tons of speed there in the past. The Indianapolis Grand Prix didn’t go as expected as he finished 21st, however he bounced back in the Indianapolis 500 with third place finish. The trip to Detroit followed, resulting in another mixed weekend of results as he finished 14th in Race No. 1, followed by a fourth in Race No. 2.

Returning back to an oval after posting a pair of top-six finishes in the first two ovals of the season, hopes were high for Newgarden to do well once again. However, the complete opposite happened. On Lap 42 of the Firestone 600, Conor Daly got loose, collecting Ed Josef Newgarden in what can only be described as one of the biggest tests of safety equipment of the IndyCar Series in 2016. Newgarden was an innocent bystander as Daly’s car swerved to the right after losing traction exiting Turn 4. His car then went up on its right side and slid along the frontstretch before hitting the SAFER barrier on its top. The accident resulted in a broken clavicle and a fractured hand for Newgarden.

Despite the injury, the American wasn’t set to give up. He returned to the track two weeks later at Road America, battling hard throughout the 50-lap event en route to an eighth place finish. He then kept the momentum rolling to Iowa Speedway, leading 282 of 300 laps en route to victory.

“I don’t think people should feel like I did some crazy feat. The hand is still a little broken. I was able to use it, it wasn’t too painful. The clavicle feels good with the plate in [and] was stable. It was a little more uncomfortable than normal around here, but it was doable. I don’t think it was anything crazy,” Newgarden said.

As they say in racing, though, the highs of highs can quickly turn into lows and that happened. He headed to the Honda Indy Toronto where he won last year, instead posting a 22nd place finish. On Lap 59, Newgarden hopped the curb in turn five, shooting himself across the track into the outside wall.

The rest of the season would go smoothly for Newgarden as he was able to cap off the year with four straight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at Watkins Glen.

Highlight of 2016 – Dominating at Iowa Speedway. Who could imagine him leading 282 of 300 laps, while in the process of healing from a broken clavicle and a fractured hand?

Downfall of 2016 – The crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Road/Street Course Analysis – While it’s obvious he is stronger on the ovals, he really showed his strength on the road/street courses this season with three top-fives and six top-10s.

Oval Analysis – Outside of the crash at Texas Motor Speedway, Newgarden posted no finishes outside of the top-six in the remaining four events, including the domination at Iowa Speedway

Notes for 2017 – Each season Newgarden has continued to get stronger as a driver, posting stronger results behind the wheel and in the standings. However, change is coming for 2017 as Newgarden leaves Ed Carpenter Racing to join Team Penske. Given the strength of Penske and Newgarden’s ability, it looks to be a match made in heaven. It’s just a matter of chemistry and whether they put the right pieces together. If chemistry is there, look for him to run at the front of the field each week and contend for his first career series championship.

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

Newgarden-Penske Marriage Perfect Fit For Both Parties

Initially, when discussions began about the possibility of Josef Newgarden moving to Team Penske for 2017, it caught some off-guard based upon Newgarden’s partnership with Ed Carpenter Racing. However, with everything out in the open, it seems as though it’s the perfect marriage for both parties.

For starters, it’s a marketing dream if you’re looking to put together a marketing package. Roger Penske is known as an American racing icon with success in all sorts of series, including the Verizon IndyCar Series. Now you partner a young American with an American organization, and you have the perfect image for a company which wants to chase the American dream persona. It’s worth noting Newgarden will be the first American driving for Penske since Hornish in 2005. Team President Tim Cindric said it’s not why they hired the Tennessee native.

Instead, Cindric insists the hiring is based on the talent and the youthfulness Newgarden brings to the team being 25-years-old as they look towards their future.

“It’s no secret that he’s bringing the average age of our drivers down a little bit, so I think it’s somebody that we can build with and I guess the most important thing is showing that he can be successful at this level,” Cindric said. “He’s somebody that we met with when he was the IndyCar Lights champion. I remember meeting with he and Rick (Mears) and Roger after he won the Lights Championship, and he’s somebody we’ve kept our eye on from that point in time.”

Team Penske’s line-up has been full of experience, senior drivers usually. The average age of their 2016 drivers which included Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya was 37.25. Now with the addition of Newgarden instead of Montoya, it drops the average age down to 33.25.

Each of the top organizations in the series have a youth driver in their fold as Andretti Autosport has Carlos Munoz and an Indy Lights squad, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has James Hinchcliffe and an Indy Lights team, and Chip Ganassi Racing has Max Chilton. Now Team Penske has put themselves on par with these organizations in future planning with their new addition.

In theory, you could say Penske is actually in the best position in that respect. Team Penske finished 1-2-3 in points last season with Pagenaud, Power, and Castroneves. Newgarden was the fourth place finisher with ECR following a victory at Iowa Speedway, where he led 282 of 300 laps. Since 2012, he has picked up three wins and 10 podium finishes, becoming one of the biggest young prospects with a ton of success the past two seasons. With each of the top-four finishers from the 2016 season, they’re the team to beat heading into the new season.

As a young driver, Newgarden made the best move he could for his career. Team Penske has run up front over the past five years in grand fashion, winning championships with Pagenaud and Power. If he shows the talent he had at ECR, Newgarden could become the third face to be crowned under the Captain’s banner in recent years.

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.