UPDATE: Engine change knocks polesitter Castroneves to 11th


UPDATE (9:35 p.m. ET): After setting a new track record in single-lap qualifying, Helio Castroneves went on to lead every lap of tonight’s third 50-lap heat race at Iowa Speedway – earning the pole position for tomorrow’s Iowa Corn Indy 250.

However, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will have to start 11th on the grid for the race because of an engine change on his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. As explained by Penske Racing president Tim Cindric on Twitter, the No. 3 team installed a fresh Chevy engine for Indianapolis but now must re-install the previous motor – which, according to Cindric, “had a problem” – and run it to the mileage threshold of 2,000 miles.

As a result, Castroneves’ teammate, Will Power, will start first on the grid tomorrow with James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport on the outside front row.

Castroneves was among the six fastest drivers in single-lap qualifying that were waiting in Heat 3 for the top two finishers in both Heat 1 and 2. Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato (who will also be penalized 10 spots on the grid due to an unapproved engine change) made it out of the first heat, while Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter transferred from the second heat.

But the third heat was all Castroneves.

“I’m very excited to be honest – the boys did a hell of a job, again,” the Brazilian said to the IndyCar Radio Network afterwards. “We learned a lot today, but obviously, tomorrow will be a different ball game. We’ll have more traffic and it’ll be a little bit hotter. There are a lot of things going on but I’m excited.”

It looked like Castroneves’ Team Penske teammate, Will Power, would mount a charge for the pole after passing James Hinchcliffe for second place on Lap 31 of 50. But Power ultimately opted to settle in for a runner-up result in the heat.

“We definitely had a good car,” Power told IndyCar Radio. “Got a bit of a problem with the tires…Maybe the car, we need to improve on a bit. All in all, it was very good. I kind of backed off at the end there. There was no use in attacking Helio. It’s just a qualifying position, so yeah, it was a good warmup for tomorrow’s race.”

As for Castroneves’ pursuer in the championship, Ryan Hunter-Reay had closed to within 16 points after his victory last weekend at Milwaukee. But the American driver was unable to advance out of the first heat, starting eighth and finishing fourth.

“We’ve been sitting on our own thumbs all day,” Hunter-Reay told IndyCar.com. The No. 1 DHL team will have to regroup because we’re starting buried in the pack. We gave up points today.”

IZOD IndyCar Series – Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by DEKALB
Unofficial Starting Lineup

Row 1
12-Will Power
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 2
25-Marco Andretti
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 3
11-Tony Kanaan
15-Graham Rahal

Row 4
4-Oriol Servia
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 5
98-Alex Tagliani
19-Justin Wilson

Row 6
3-Helio Castroneves*
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 7
55-Tristan Vautier
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 8
9-Scott Dixon*
5-E.J. Viso

Row 9
14-Takuma Sato*
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 10
7-Sebastien Bourdais
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 11
10-Dario Franchitti
67-Josef Newgarden*

Row 12
18-Ana Beatriz*
16-James Jakes*

*10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change. Sato and Beatriz changed theirs before heat races, and Castroneves, Dixon, Jakes and Newgarden changed theirs after heat races.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”