AJ Allmendinger

Penske’s pair highlights those who just missed a top five in Indy

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Behind the top five finishers, Team Penske fell short of its first Indianapolis 500 since 2006 even though two of its drivers had a good shot in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

All three Penske pilots led the race, and AJ Allmendinger had the chance to make an off-sequence strategy play dividends as the race evolved. Allmendinger ended seventh, one spot behind teammate Helio Castroneves, and ultimately for both drivers it was a case of what could have been.

Allmendinger, in particular, identified a few first-time Indy deficiencies that he thought hurt him.

“The first issue I was sissy on the start. That might have been worst Indy 500 start ever,” he said. “I went from like fifth to 20th in one lap. But once I calmed down and thought about what I needed to do to get around these guys, the IZOD Chevy was just a missile.”

The Los Gatos, Calif. native made several drives through the field and was in a good position before his seatbelt came loose and he needed a stop on lap 113 to fix it. From there he still had two more planned stops to go, but ultimately would cycle in the 20s and come up after pitting 10-12 laps earlier than the leaders.

Castroneves, meanwhile, seemed relatively happy with sixth – even though he hadn’t had a great race.

“It was very nice; a lot of people behaved, so it was great,” he said. “The race actually went really fast. I was just having issues with the (rev) limiter. We finished top six, which is great championship-wise for points, and that is what we are looking for, as well.”

Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball – who were each in Milwaukee earlier this week for the nationwide media tour of drivers – ended right behind the Penske pair in eighth and ninth. Pagenaud backed up his thoughts about how strong his No. 77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda was in race trim, while Kimball rallied a day after missing the public driver’s meeting due to sickness. As the Californian described it, it was a better day in the car than out of it.

“I’m not dehydrated but I’m definitely not 100 percent,” said Kimball. “I still have a lot of rebuilding to do. Luckily the car was pretty good, even despite an electronics issue. It took us a few laps to diagnose it but we got it fixed. Then we drove through the field and past our teammates; I think we had a top-five with another 15 or 20 laps.”

Polesitter Ed Carpenter struggled to 10th with a car that fell off in the second half of the race. He had been in the top-five throughout the first 100 laps, and still managed to lead the most laps with 37.

“We were a little conservative early and didn’t have the right amount of downforce compared to some guys, and that did us in the end,” Carpenter said. “But overall, I’m very happy for the team and the month we had.”

Zach Veach confirmed with Belardi to start 2016 Indy Lights season

Photo: Belardi Auto Racing
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Two-year Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series veteran Zach Veach will return to the series in 2016 following a year’s hiatus. At the moment, it’s for the start of the season only but with the intended plan of making it a full-season effort.

The young American joins the Belardi Auto Racing team, which he narrowly lost out to in his last full-time campaign in 2014 when he finished third in the points.

Veach, who turns 21 next month, is Brian Belardi’s first confirmed driver for the 2016 season. Perhaps one of the single most experienced drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy, Veach has been on all three rungs (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) since 2010 and spent 2015 as a color commentator for the IndyCar Radio Network.

He tested for the team last month at Sebring, and will have several other tests before the St. Petersburg season opening weekend March 11-13.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Brian Belardi has given me,” Veach said. “After racing against his team for so many years, I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, his crew, and of course, his cars. Belardi Auto Racing competes to win championships and I would love to give them their second Indy Lights title.

“Right now, we only have a partial program in place, but with a great amount of effort on both sides. We will be doing everything possible to try to get funding together for an entire season, so we can put a championship fight in place. I look towards winter testing, and 2016, with a lot of hope and excitement.”

“We’re really happy to have Zach confirmed with us for next year, and we’ll work closely with him to make sure that we can get the funding we need to run him all season,” Belardi added.

“He’s a supreme talent both in and out of the car, and his initial test outings in the car were just as we expected.  Zach was on-pace very early in Sebring after familiarizing himself with the new Indy Lights car, and I know that we’ll challenge for race wins and the championship next year.”

ARCA releases 2016 schedule; Mobile out, Madison (Wisc.) returns

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The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have only minor changes to the 2016 season, the sanctioning body said Wednesday after revealing next season’s schedule.

The biggest change is Mobile, Alabama is off the schedule, to be replaced by a return to Madison, Wisconsin.

As ARCA enters its 64th consecutive year of racing, the schedule will once again feature 20 races for the third consecutive year, starting at Daytona International Speedway on February 13 and ending on Oct. 14 at Kansas Speedway.

ARCA 2016 sked



All told, there will be nine races on short tracks, eight on superspeedways, two on dirt and one on a road course.

“We are pleased to announce our full and complete schedule,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “We feel we have once again put together a schedule that highlights the diversity of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. We are excited for the start of the new season.”

Other changes include:

* The annual Chicagoland Speedway race will be moved to Thursday night, Sept. 15, kicking off the opening weekend of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* The road course race at New Jersey will be moved to Saturday, May 28, rather than its previous Sunday afternoon date.

* The annual dirt race at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois will shift from an afternoon to an evening race.

* The series will mark milestone events with the 75th series event at Toledo Speedway and the 99th and 100th races at southern Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

* The series will have companion races with all three of NASCAR’s pro touring series, as well as one weekend as the undercard for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in July.

* As for the return to Madison, Drager said, “It was important for us to schedule a race in the Menards market. Last year, we did not have a race in either Minnesota or Wisconsin and this year, we decided to go back. We are definitely looking forward to racing again at Madison and the upper Midwest.”

* The annual awards banquet takes place Dec. 12 in Indianapolis.

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Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.