Will Power tops morning practice at Sao Paulo

Leave a comment

On a quest to return to Victory Lane, Will Power led the opening practice session this morning for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.

Power, who is the three-time defending champion at Sao Paulo, posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 21.8517 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He was one of two drivers to break the 1:22 mark in the session, with the other being Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden (1 minute, 21.8976 seconds) in his No. 67 Honda.

The session ended with Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud slamming the wall near Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile street circuit, causing  damage to the left side of his No. 77 Honda.  NBC Sports Network’s Kevin Lee has tweeted from Brazil that the Frenchman is OK after the incident.

Sebastien Bourdais was third-fastest for Dragon Racing (1 minute, 22.0495 seconds), followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti in fourth (1 minute, 22.0543 seconds) and Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand in fifth (1 minute, 22.1400 seconds). Tony Kanaan led the Brazilian contingent with the sixth-fastest time this morning for KV Racing Technology (1 minute, 22.1496 seconds).

Kanaan has torn ligaments in his right hand thanks to an incident two weeks ago at Long Beach, but has been cleared to race by IndyCar medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and is ready to make his 200th career start in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend in front of his countrymen.

Pagenaud, Long Beach winner Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and points leader Helio Castroneves — a native of Sao Paulo — completed the Top 10.

The IndyCars will have another practice later this morning at 11:05 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 1:35 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network will broadcast that session Sunday morning at 1 a.m. ET).

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.