New bonus prize available for IndyCar doubleheaders

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A new partnership between IndyCar and Germany-based car care company SONAX has led to a special award that will be up for grabs during the doubleheader weekends at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit (pictured, June 1-2), Honda Indy Toronto (July 13-14), and Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (Oct. 5-6).

The “SONAX Perfect Finish Award” will pay $50,000 to the driver that wins both feature races during any of those three weekends. But should no one be able to win both races in those weekends, the prize will carry over to the next doubleheader. If no one sweeps at Detroit, the bonus will jump to $100,000 at Toronto, and if no one sweeps there, the bonus goes to $150,000 at Houston.

Talk from drivers and team owners has been generally mixed regarding the doubleheader format — some of it optimistic about providing a better fan experience, some of it critical about the increased demands it will place on teams. But a chance at a substantial bit of cold, hard cash ought to help.

SONAX is also planning to utilize show car and driver appearances at select Sam’s Club outlets starting at the Indianapolis 500, and also work with venues on creating “car corrals” during event weekends to draw in automotive enthusiasts and collectors.

The company is already involved in motorsports as an official supplier for Formula One champs Red Bull Racing, and its brand can also be spotted on the No. 20 Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter. Carpenter’s step-father and series founder Tony George (now a co-owner at Ed Carpenter Racing) holds their American distribution rights.

In addition to backing the doubleheader award, SONAX will now become the series’ “Official Automotive Detail Partner.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.