AJ Allmendinger’s return to the IZOD IndyCar Series with Team Penske has been confirmed Friday. The 31-year-old native of Los Gatos, Calif. will contest at least two races, at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7, and the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, in the No. 2 IZOD Dallara-Chevrolet.
Rumors had swirled for the better part of a month, since Allmendinger tested for Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway on Feb. 19, that a return to IndyCar was brewing. Allmendinger last raced in open-wheel competition in 2006, winning five times in the Champ Car series.
Allmendinger then departed for NASCAR with Red Bull support prior to 2007. He worked to get his opportunity with Penske Racing before 2012, replacing Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge (right), before failing a random drug test at Daytona International Speedway in July. Roger Penske released him from his NASCAR contract but remained in contact with Allmendinger for the rest of the year.
“It is exciting to welcome AJ back to Penske Racing,” Penske said. “He obviously went through a tough time last year but he has done everything he needed to in order to get back to racing at the top level of the sport. We have always believed in AJ and his ability and he deserves this opportunity. We think he will be a strong competitor this season in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Team Penske and we look forward to racing with him in the IZOD car at Barber and at the Indianapolis 500.”
Allmendinger will test at next week’s IndyCar official open test in Barber.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to my roots and racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series,” said Allmendinger. “I have to thank Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric) and everyone at Team Penske for this opportunity. I think it’s every driver’s dream to race for Team Penske at the Indy 500 and that experience is going to be incredible. I also have to thank IZOD for their support and for giving me a chance to show what I can do. I definitely intend to make the most of it.”
Further IndyCar races are possible for Allmendinger. Sponsor IZOD, which first entered IndyCar supporting Ryan Hunter-Reay, shifted to Team Penske ahead of the 2011 season with Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe, who won the pole for the 2012 Indianapolis 500 in an IZOD-sponsored car, does not have a full-time ride in IndyCar this year.
Yamaha Tech3 has confirmed that rising German talent Jonas Folger will make his MotoGP debut with the team in 2017, stepping up from Moto2.
Folger, 22, finished sixth in last year’s Moto2 riders’ championship, and already has one pole position and two podiums to his name after four races in 2016.
The Kalex rider will make the jump up to MotoGP for 2017, joining the Yamaha satellite team on a one-year deal with an option for a second.
“I am super excited about the news and I still can’t believe this is happening,” Folger said.
“I have been racing for years in the motorcycling world championship and to make the move up to the premier class is a dream come true plus I’d like to thank all my sponsors that have stuck by me all these years.
“Furthermore, it’s an honor to make this step with Yamaha, Hervé Poncharal and Tech3 team who have such a long and deep history in the paddock. I will try my absolute best to repay the faith the team has put in me, and I’m really looking forward to the new adventure.
“However, I will remain completely focused for the rest of the year in the intermediate class but I can’t wait for Valencia where I will sample the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time.”
Folger will get his first taste of the Tech3-run Yamaha bike at the traditional end of season MotoGP test in Spain this November.
Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has called on his fans to trust and respect the Mercedes team amid unfounded allegations of sabotage in the past two races.
Hamilton suffered an issue on his power unit in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian Grands Prix, helping teammate Nico Rosberg on his way to a streak of four successive victories to start the season.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff responded to claims on social media that the team was deliberately hindering Hamilton’s efforts by calling the accusers “lunatics”, before Mercedes itself wrote an open letter to its fans in response to the claims.
Hamilton has now issued a message of his own via his Facebook page on Friday:
I want you to know how grateful I am for all of your support. I’d like to ask that you please trust in my team, as I do. This is my family. These guys have been the greatest, hardest working people for me, and that is why I am now 3x World Champion.
Please don’t put any more thought into my team doing anything unjust towards me, and understand that it would be in no ones best interest for that to be the case. We’ve had the best 3 years together, and whilst it’s not going to plan right now, all will unfold in its own time.
I trust these guys 1000% and my mechanics are incredible, the best in the business. I respect them so please do the same. They are the guys that are going to make winning this championship possible.
Thank you once again.
Hamilton will bid to end Rosberg’s winning streak and get back into the title hunt when F1 arrives in Europe next weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix.
2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button questioned Red Bull’s decision to drop Daniil Kvyat for Max Verstappen as of the Spanish Grand Prix, saying the team has “short memories”.
Red Bull announced on Thursday that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso, its B-team, as of the next race in Barcelona, with Verstappen moving in the opposite direction.
The decision sparked mixed reactions on social media, with many pointing out that Kvyat had been on the podium just three weeks ago in China.
Button made the exact same point in a couple of tweets sent from his Twitter account on Thursday.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have confirmed Friday that the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will have a sellout crowd, with confirmation all reserved seats have been sold.
“Every Indianapolis 500 is special, but the buzz surrounding the 100th Running has been building for nearly a year, ever since the checkered flag fell on the 99th,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “Our fans are the best in sports and their incredible support of this year’s race will make it a truly historic day for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”
Further information is linked here, via the IMS website.