Monday, 23 January 2017

This Weeks Indy Car Series News

Wrapping up a quite busy week in IndyCar Series news here is all the latest tit-bits for you all to keep you updated in the long off season break as well as getting excited in the countdown to the start of the 2017 season.

First up more announcements from the series and a new multiyear contract extension with Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (BATO), continuing its longtime partnership with Firestone as the official tire supplier of the Verizon IndyCar Series. The announcement extends the tire brand's involvement in open-wheel racing that dates to Ray Harroun's Firestone-equipped Marmon Wasp winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. 
"Firestone is part of the fabric of INDYCAR and its commitment to evolving performance, innovation and safety in the Verizon IndyCar Series has been remarkable," said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. "The Firestone brand has been part of our sport for more than 100 years and continues to be an integral partner in the growth of INDYCAR on and off the racetrack."
Firestone has been involved in racing competitions since the early days of the automobile, particularly at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Alexander Rossi's win at the 100th Running of the Indy 500 last May was the 67th for Firestone - more than all other tire manufacturers combined - in the iconic race. Firestone, which returned to Indy car racing in 1995 following a 20-year hiatus, has been the sole supplier of Verizon IndyCar Series tires since 2000 and provides teams with a known, stable and reliable platform for the future of INDYCAR. 
"For more than a century, the Firestone brand has utilized racing as the ideal stage to showcase the trusted dependability of our tires," said Lisa Boggs, director of motorsports, Bridgestone Americas. "This partnership is integral to our marketing initiatives as it allows us to engage with fans via the unique, multi-faceted platform that the Verizon IndyCar Series provides, and we look forward to building upon the brand's time-tested racing legacy."
This season, following discussion with Verizon IndyCar Series teams, IndyCar and Firestone have added to the overall tire allotment at each event to increase the amount of on-track activity during practice sessions. Additionally, teams will be permitted to run one set of alternate (red-sidewall) Firestone Firehawk tires during Friday practice sessions at all road/street course events to better evaluate their capabilities for qualifying and the race.

In the world of Drivers and who is where in 2017.

Ed Carpenter Racing announced that Spencer Pigot will retain his duties as road & street course driver for the No. 20 Chevrolet for the 2017 season. After joining ECR partway through 2016 in the same role, Pigot will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 at non-oval events for the entire 2017 season. The only owner/driver in the series, Ed Carpenter, will continue to pilot the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet at all oval races.
“I'm very excited to be staying with Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2017 season,” Pigot stated. “It's a great feeling to know that I have a secure ride for all of the road and street course races so we can start preparing for the season now. I can't thank everyone at ECR, P1 Management and Rising Star Racing enough for their help getting this deal done.”
The 23-year-old from Orlando, Fla. graduated to the Verizon IndyCar Series last season after winning the 2015 Indy Lights championship. The title came with a guaranteed three-race IndyCar program, which Pigot ran in a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Following the Indianapolis 500, Pigot transitioned to the Chevrolet-powered ECR team.
Pigot competed in the remaining seven road and street course events for ECR, scoring two Top 10 finishes along the way. In only his second event weekend in the No. 20, his ninth-place finish at Road America was the highest of all rookies. A career-best finish of 7th came at Mid-Ohio, where he was also the top-finishing ECR car. He took the checkered flag in nine out of ten races his rookie year, his streak broken only at the season finale when a mechanical issue sidelined him from competition. Pigot worked on improving from his qualifying attempts each weekend, gaining an average of six positions in every race he finished.
“I learned a lot in my rookie year and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to build on that experience. I know I have the team around me to fight at the front and that's what we'll be trying to do in 2017,” said Pigot.
Team owner Carpenter is looking forward to sharing the No. 20 with Pigot. “We are happy to have Spencer back. It was a challenging situation for him to step into the team last year mid-season as a rookie. We believe that Spencer has the potential to be a contender in this sport and we will continue to focus on maximizing that potential,” remarked Carpenter. “It is great to have some offseason left to allow us to continue that development before the season kicks off. We are anticipating a strong sophomore campaign from Spencer.”
In his second season in the Verizon INDYCAR Series, Pigot will drive all 11 road and street course events alongside JR Hildebrand, full-time driver of ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet. Since 2014, the No. 20 has been split between Carpenter on the ovals and a second driver for the road and street races. Pigot is the first driver to have the road and street course seat of the No. 20 for a second year.
As the winningest driver in the Mazda Road to Indy, Pigot earned four scholarships from Mazda to continue his career’s momentum towards the Verizon INDYCAR Series. In five years, he won four championships and 24 races in USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. Pigot is now part of a very select group of young open-wheel drivers aligned with Rising Star Racing, an organization whose mission is to ensure the most deserving drivers get the opportunities they have earned by matching them with corporate sponsors. Pigot is represented by P1 Management, LLC, who worked with RSR to finalize the agreement with Ed Carpenter Racing.
Pigot will be in the No. 20 for the first time this year when he joins Hildebrand for a test at Sonoma Raceway on February 7. Prior to climbing back in an INDYCAR, Pigot will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 28 and 29 with Mazda Racing. The 2017 Verizon INDYCAR Series season will open in St. Petersburg, Fla. on March 12.
After joining ECR after the 2016 Indianapolis 500, Pigot will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 Chevrolet at all road and street course events for the entirety of the 2017 season. Since 2014, the No. 20 has been split between Carpenter on the ovals and a second driver for the road and street races. Pigot is the first driver to have the road and street course seat of the No. 20 for a second year.

NAPA Auto Parts and Alexander Rossi drove into racing history by capturing the twin-checkers at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and the pair will again join with Andretti Autosport in 2017. The seven-race, co-primary sponsorship will see the reigning Indy 500 champion take the wheel of Andretti’s No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda starting at the 2017 Verizon INDYCAR Series season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rossi will then carry NAPA Know How for races in Long Beach, Indianapolis, Road America, Watkins Glen and Sonoma.

“We are pleased to announce our continued partnership with one of the more iconic brands in all of motorsports, the Andretti brand,” stated NAPA President, Dan Askey. “We are equally excited to partner with one of the rising stars in the sport in Alexander Rossi and proud to have Alexander representing NAPA both on and off the track. We were fortunate to come on board in May of 2016 becoming a part of history as we rode along with Alexander capturing the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Andretti Autosport remains one of the elite teams in the INDYCAR Series and we look forward to what 2017 holds.”

The blue and yellow NAPA livery first entered the Andretti stable in May 2016, just in time to claim victory at the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Rossi then carried the NAPA branding on to Detroit’s double header weekend. The Indy 500 winning car and livery of Rossi can be seen on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

“NAPA is a storied, American brand and I couldn’t be more proud to announce our partnership is continuing,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “We were pleased to have previously announced that Alexander will be returning for the full season, and now to be able to confirm that NAPA is back on board – what a great way for us to start 2017. Our relationship with NAPA came together quickly during our Month of May program last year, and it wasn’t long before the partnership was written into history books. We can’t wait to add a few more pages to history together.”

"Confirming NAPA Auto Parts is the perfect way for us to start off 2017,” said Rossi, 25. “NAPA is one of the most recognized brands in the U.S., and with over 6,000 stores, they touch every corner of our nation. In 2016, we had historic success together in the Verizon INDYCAR Series, however there is still much more to accomplish. I’m proud to have NAPA back on board the No. 98 and am motivated to carry our momentum together through 2017.”

Rossi joins teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda), Marco Andretti (No. 27 hhgregg Honda) and Takuma Sato (No. 26 Honda) as the battle for the 2017 Verizon INDYCAR Series championship. 

More changes are afoot at AJ Foyt Racing, as the team announced Tuesday that it will be powered by Chevrolet engines for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. “I am looking forward to what will be a new chapter for us that involves returning to an old friend in Chevrolet,” team president Larry Foyt said via release. “There are a lot of changes happening within our team this off-season and I won’t minimize the challenges, but I see a lot of potential with our plan.” In 2005, A.J. Foyt IV piloted the No. 14 ABC Supply Indy car with a Chevy engine, the last time the manufacturer was used by the team.
Announced earlier, Carlos Munoz will pilot the No. 14 and Conor Daly will drive the No. 4. Tests for both are scheduled at Sebring International Raceway later this month. “I’m glad to be back with Chevy,” said A.J. Foyt, the team’s owner and the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, in a release. “I’ve had a lot of success with them in the past and I’m looking forward to more success in the future.”

IndyCar kicks off its season with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12 so not too long to go now.

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