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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: IndyCar Stars Who Have Conquered The Rolex 24

The wheels are not exposed and the cars feature roofs, yet many veterans of the Verizon IndyCar Series have taken well to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And while proving road racing savvy is not limited to one series of competition, a few big names of the current or recent fulltime fleet have managed to put a Rolex Chronometer on their wrists as an overall champion.

The biggest benefactors to this over the last decade have been drivers associated with Chip Ganassi Racing, who have achieved similar success in sports car racing as they have over the years in IndyCar competition. Former IndyCar veteran and 1995 Michigan 500 winner Scott Pruett has won the Rolex 24 overall on five occasions, four coming with Ganassi. With the larger than normal driving teams at Daytona sometimes requiring as many as five different pilots for one car, the former driver and current team boss has often opened the door to his drivers from both his IndyCar and NASCAR operations to participate in the famous endurance race and several have made the most of the opportunity.

The most successful of those one-off runners is two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia, who has reached the top step of the podium in the Rolex 24 at Daytona three times.  Multi-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has collected two overall wins at Daytona, while current teammate Tony Kanaan paired up with Dixon to the race in 2015, while Charlie Kimball teamed up with Pruett to earn first place in 2013. In addition to the three members of the four drivers currently featured on Ganassi’s fulltime openwheel racing team, former team members Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon have also tasted success at the Rolex 24.

Of course, IndyCar drivers succeeding at Daytona, have not been limited to Chip Ganassi Racing, however. For instance, current Dale Coyne Racing team member Sebastien Bourdais joined forces with former Newman Haas Racing pilot Christian Fittipaldi to win the race for Action Express Racing in 2014. Reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona champion Scott Sharp, won the inaugural Indy Racing League title in 1996 and won the pole position for the 2001 Indianapolis 5oo. Also, 2004 Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice won at Daytona in 2009 as part of the famed Brumos Racing team.

In addition to the above listed names, since 1990 fellow Indy 500 veterans Davy Jones, P.J. Jones, Mark Dismore, Rocky Moran, John Paul, Jr., Arie Luyendyk, Didier Theys, Chris Kniefel, Johnny O’Connell, Max Papis, A.J. Allmendinger, and the late Justin Wilson have also won the overall race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Among those veterans, the efforts from Luyendyk, Theys, and Papis stand out the most in the history of the twice around the clock challenge. Luyendyk and Theys made up half of the driving quartet that delivered longtime driver and entrant Dr. Gianpiero Moretti his first and only Daytona triumph in 1998, after the Ferrari runner had come close earlier in the 1990s on several occasions. Papis teamed up with Theys to win the race in 2002; however, the Italian may be more remembered for his late race surge to within a lap of the overall win over the final three hours of the event in 1996.

Although the chances of another current IndyCar driver claiming overall victory in 2017 appears limited at this point, there could be plenty of action in the lower grand touring classes. Paul Gentilozzi’s new GT Daytona class Lexus team will feature Pruett, three-time Indy 500 starter Sage Karam, and former A.J. Foyt Racing driver Jack Hawksworth. Michael Shank Racing’s new Acura NSXs will have current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay behind the wheel, while Scott Dixon will team up with 2012 Indy 500 pole sitter Ryan Briscoe in a Ford GT for Chip Ganassi in the GT Le Mans class.

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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

EMBURY: The Five Most Action Packed Corners in IndyCar

 Races at the highspeed ovals such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Texas Motor Speedway generally draw the most attention among those who follow the Verizon IndyCar Series. However, the road and street circuits which make up a larger portion of the current slate of events each have their own “action” hot spots where several memorable moments have occurred. Now some of these have been more tilted toward the positive side, while some have been not so good.

In this week’s commentary, I take a look at the five wildest corners currently in IndyCar and why each deserves its top billing.

 

5. St Petersburg Street Circuit’s Turn One:

The first braking zone of the season has often seen three and fourwide passing attempts work out great for some, yet poorly for others. Marco Andretti’s recent wild ride comes to mind here, among several others most commonly occurring at the opening of the new year. The off camber nature of this oddly angled righthander, plus its bumpy nature and the funnel down effect at the apex makes contact here sometimes unavoidable.

The key to mastering this section is getting off the final hairpin cleanly to maximize the airport runway front straight. Any slip or slide will make one vulnerable to any Push to Pass aided overtake at turn one, unless one defends the inside lane and forces the trailing car to take a long way around.

4.Watkins Glen International’s Inner Loop Chicane:

While New York’s Thunder Road features several great corners, the Inner Loop chicane has been the scene of many out braking duels in both IndyCar and NASCAR. Created in 1992 to slow down cars on the fast back straightaway, the section inadvertently created probably the most opportune chance to gain positions on the circuit. Being able to complete a maneuver before entering the first part of the Inner Loop to finish off a pass successfully is required, as the curbs at all parts of this section will launch a car off the ground. As a result, a full out of control scenario where a trip to the outside gravel trap is certainly possible.

Being able to hold the accelerator wide open through the uphill Esses and turn four will open up any the door of opportunity to gain ground with Push to Pass activation most effectively done just entering the chute before the run to the braking zone.

3. Exhibition Place Street Circuit’s (Toronto) Turn 3:

Although the narrow nature of the Exhibition Place design has made passing famously difficult over the years, the run down Lake Shore Boulevard to the tight, turn three righthander serves as the area where overtaking most commonly is attempted. Although several successful passes come to mind, one of most infamous challenges gone wrong came in 1989 when Mario Andretti tried to pass Teo Fabi. Andretti moved alongside Fabi, only to find the abandoned Alfa Romeo of Roberto Guererro parked in the same area. Although Andretti managed to escape the nasty impact without suffering injury, the incident would significantly change the way the series would handle stopped cars on the track.

Minus Andretti’s unfortunate situation, the majority of incidents occurring at turn three have been much less wild. The key to gaining or holding position here is getting the braking zone right and being positioned correctly entering the corner. The closer one applies the brakes in relation to the pedestrian bridge on Lake Shore Blvd., makes one more likely to lock up or miss the sweet spot of the corner. This can result in contact with the outside tire barrier and/or position loss since the turn’s narrow nature makes side by side racing next to impossible. You also do not want to get caught on the outside line entering the corner as it is not the most efficient way to hit the entry. An approach using the middle of the road or just left of center should allow for a dive to the inside of the car in front.

2. Streets of Long Beach’s Turn One:

The braking area at the end of Shoreline Drive in its current and previous configurations has been witness to many great moments over the years. Although the infamous turn 11 hairpin draws a majority of attention, getting out of this section cleanly is the goal to make any overtaking maneuver at the conclusion of Shoreline possible. One great example came in 1999 when then CART rookie Juan Pablo Montoya made a pair of successful overtakes at turn one on the way to his first career North American openwheel victory. The section was also a controversial corner in 2016 as Simon Pagenaud appeared to cut off the pit lane exit entering turn one to maintain the lead over Scott Dixon.

Although gaining ground is certainly possible at the 90-degree lefthander, the consequences for getting the turn wrong can be nasty. The tire barrier and runoff roads have caught many drivers who elected to be too cavalier at attempting a late out braking charge and sometimes the impacts with the tires have been so wild that cars have even rolled over as a result. Even before the 1999 track reconfiguration around the city’s aquarium, the former turn one was equally memorable as a 90-degree righthander with many successful overtakes and several unsuccessful moments, including Scott Pruett’s wild shunt in practice for the 1992 race.

1. Barber Motorsports Park’s Charlotte’s Web Hairpin (Turn Three):

Although the quick turn nature of the Birmingham, Alabama layout makes most of the corners here a follow the leader exercise, the story is different when the IndyCar fleet enters the tight and tricky downhill hairpin, named for the spider statue beyond the left side barriers. The tougher braking zone makes missing the apex common here and drivers can be punished for trying to get out of the hairpin too soon. Recall earlier this year when Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal were battling, which eventually resulted in contact and the Team Penske pilot going off course, before finally reeling in and overtaking the damaged car of Rahal to secure the race win.

Getting off of the uphill turn two without spinning the tires and coupled with a pressing of the Push to Pass button on the steering wheel should allow for a passing attempt to occur at Charlotte’s Web, whether a driver takes the inside lane or even the outside lane. Unlike the other facets of the Barber circuit, the hairpin is wide enough to account for side by side racing and does offer decent grip using the longer, outside route.

Although every road and street circuit currently in the Verizon IndyCar Series has its own character and has its own signature section, the five challenges mentioned above currently provide the most excitement that open wheel racing has to offer.

Agree with my list? Believe there is another corner(s) worth a mention? Post your comment below or leave a comment on Twitter.

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

Montoya Remains With Penske

After much speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya could drive for another team in 2017, he will remain with Team Penske. However, rather than running the full schedule, there’s only one race scheduled for 2017 – the Indianapolis 500.

Initially after being notified he would not have a full-time ride with Penske in 2017, Montoya was actively pursuing a full-time ride with another team in the series. However, he ultimately decided to return to Penske to give him the best chance to win the 500, per Team Penske President Tim Cindric.

“He didn’t want to leave the team but wanted to see what else was out there,” Cindric told the INDYCAR Mobile app. “After giving it some thought, he told me the best opportunity was to run Indy with Team Penske, so if the offer still stood, that is what he wanted to do.

“The fact we are going to stay together and try to win Indy together speaks about our relationship between the team and Juan.”

In 91 career starts over five seasons, Montoya has won 15 races, including the CART championship in 1999, as well as the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015. He raced for Chip Ganassi Racing from 1999 to 2000, before spending some time in Formula One and NASCAR, before returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2014 with Team Penske. He has spent the last three seasons driving for the Captain, finishing eighth in the points standings this past season with one victory.

Shortly after the season finale, it was announced Josef Newgarden would replace Montoya behind the wheel of the No. 2 Chevrolet at Team Penske. He’ll be joined by Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves. This year’s Indianapolis 500 will mark the first time Team Penske has entered five drivers in the event.

There are also rumors reported by multiple sources that Montoya is also actively pursuing a ride in sportscar competition, with speculation also arising about Team Penske possibly putting together a program to compete in ISMA competition.

Tim Cindric told Motorsport.com earlier this week, “We can’t promise Juan a sportscar program because we don’t have one right now! But we’ve talked to him about that and should one come together, we’d certainly hope to make him part of it. Definitely. Like I say, we can’t offer him something we don’t have, but I think our odds are good. For next year? Probably not, but it’s something we’ll continue to work toward. There’s just a lot of things that need to fall into place.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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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Editorial

CALINOFF: Speeding on Pit Road is the Worst Infraction in NASCAR

Too fast entering. Too fast exiting.

It’s a violation not uncommon across all three NASCAR National Touring Series – and the penalty, depending on the juncture of the race, can ruin your day or cost you a win.

There is absolutely no excuse to speed on pit road. None. It’s a ridiculous violation.

Back in 1991, in the interest of safety, NASCAR implemented the current policy of pit road speed limits. They vary based on the size of the track and the length of pit road. NASCAR uses an electronic scoring system to monitor the speeds of cars on pit road by measuring the time it takes to get from checkpoint to checkpoint. NASCAR allows a 5 MPH cushion.

Since the cars are not equipped with speedometers, drivers rely on their tachometers to gauge their speed, which is established by the pace car on the pace laps.

And there’s more.

In recent years, the cars began to carry somewhat of a safety net. A series of lights on the dashboard that let you know exactly how far you can push the issue. If the lights are green, you’re good. One red light tells you that you’re at the max. Two red lights and you’ve gone over the limit – and that’s when you’re busted. However, if you’ve lit that second red light, you have the opportunity of slowing down and giving back some time as pit road speed is based on averages.

Regardless, the consequences are impactful.

If you violate during a caution period, you’re sent to the rear of the field for the restart. If you’ve exceeded the limit during a green flag stop, NASCAR requires that you come back to pit road for a “pass-through” penalty which mandates that you to drive the length of pit road – at the appropriate speed – and merge back onto the track. On a short track, it usually costs the team about two laps, which is a tall task to overcome — especially late in the race. It’s been done, though. In fact, @KevinHarvick almost pulled it off Saturday night. He was sent to the back twice — once for speeding — and just missed taking home the prize.

So why chance it, right?

Well, everyone looks for an advantage.

The theory is that the quicker you can get to your pit stall to be serviced, the quicker you can beat cars off pit road to gain better track position — and that’s based on the assumption that you’ve had a flawless pit stop. That’s the theory, anyway.

But I see it a little differently.

Those one or two spots you try to gain, can usually be made up on by the time you hit turn two. The double-file restarts have made that possible. Why take a chance passing two cars on pit road at the risk of having to pass 25?

Restarting at the tail of the field not only costs time but also increases the chances of being involved in a wreck. Fighting to get back near the front also puts undue stress on the tires. Nobody wants to be in the back.

During the Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Saturday night, seven speeding penalties were imposed – five for entering and two for exiting. Amongst those were some notables.

@KyleBusch got busted, but there was some confusion as to where the violation occurred. It was first explained that he was speeding in the segment where his pit box was located. That’s impossible. NASCAR later said that it was a different segment. Nevertheless, he sped.

As noted earlier, Kevin Harvick was also nabbed for speeding. He claimed that he was being pushed by @DennyHamlin and that’s what the replay showed. Well, if Harvick was speeding then so was Hamlin – but he didn’t get called out on it. It’s possible that Harvick may have sped in a different segment. But it was a good argument nonetheless.

All drivers react differently when they’re notified that they’ve committed a foul. Some insist that they weren’t speeding while others just take the blame and apologize to their team.

In 2009 at the Brickyard 400, @jpmontoya was laps away from winning the race. He had led 116 of 160 laps, had a five second lead over eventual winner @JimmieJohnson and was penalized for speeding. In fact, it was his second such offense of the race. But Montoya was adamant that he did nothing wrong.

“If they do this to me, I’m going to kill them,” Montoya said on his radio. “There’s no way. I was on the green [dash light] … Thank you, NASCAR, for screwing my day. We had it in the bag, and they screwed us because I was not speeding. I swear on my children and my wife.”

That’s a little extreme. But, I get the frustration.

Speeding on pit road epitomizes risk versus reward and being safer rather than sorrier.

And it comes with a hefty price tag.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Montoya Aims at Brickyard with Michigan Start

By Matt Weaver (FORT WORTH, Tex.) — Just as Juan Pablo Montoya started to feel comfortable in his full-time return to Indy car racing, that old NASCAR bug seemingly bit him again.

Montoya will make one of his two planned starts in the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Michigan International Speedway as he prepares for the other big race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway –the Brickyard 400.

The Formula 1 veteran and 1999 CART champion spent the previous six seasons in NASCAR before returning to his roots in 2014, switching to IndyCar with Team Penske. By in large, Montoya was a disappointment in stock cars, making the Chase for the Championship just once and winning only two races for Chip Ganassi Racing.

But the Colombian remembers his time in NASCAR as a positive one and is excited to come back with Team Penske this weekend.

“I had a great time in NASCAR,” Montoya said over the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. “I really enjoyed myself. I learned a lot. I wish ‐‐ we had too many ups and downs with those cars. When we had good cars I had a blast there, I mean, I really enjoyed myself.

“But having the opportunity to run for Team Penske here in IndyCar is a dream come true for anybody.”

Despite the success that he’s starting to show in his return to the IndyCar Series, Montoya doesn’t believe he should have made the jump sooner. He believes he is in a positive spot professionally and is hoping to have some fun in NASCAR this weekend without the stress of points racing — even if other pressures exist.

“Look at Brad (Keselowksi) — how they qualify in the top-10 every week,” Montoya said. “So there’s a little bit of pressure. It’s going to be interesting. I had only one day of testing in Nashville, so since Homestead I have driven that car only once but felt at home within five laps.

“They’re a great bunch of guys. We’re taking about having a really good car there. Talking to them they’re really excited about the car. So I’m going to get it in the race and go for it.”

Beyond contending, the goal for this weekend is to get Montoya prepared for the Brickyard — one of his best statistical events and one in which the veteran driver always coveted more than most due to his Indy car relationship with the speedway.

Montoya dominated the 2009 running, leading 116 of 160 laps before his date with the PPG Trophy was denied due to a pit road speeding penalty with 25 laps to go. He would go on to finish 11th with Jimmie Johnson scoring an improbable victory as Montoya had amassed a five second lead over the No. 48 car.

“I swear on my children and my wife that I was not speeding. There is no way,” were Montoya’s now famous words over his team’s radio after the penalty came down.

Montoya hopes to make up for it with his two NASCAR starts this summer.