Andretti Autosport becomes first American team in Formula E

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Four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champions Andretti Autosport have become the first U.S.-based team set to compete in the FIA Formula E Championship, the all-electric racing category that will debut next season.

According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, the Andretti camp plans to create a two-car program for the series, which will compete in 10 cities around the world. The group is now the third team to sign on so far for Formula E’s inaugural campaign, joining China Racing and British-based Drayson Racing.

In comments made to the AP, team owner Michael Andretti said he felt that “relevancy” was becoming an issue for the sport as a whole, which compelled him to take a closer look at Formula E.

“The more we looked into it, the more interested we got,” said Andretti. “We like the relevancy of the series because one of the problems auto racing is starting to face – and is going to face more of in the future – is relevancy.”

“I think relevancy is going to be addressed with the electric cars. It’s a good way to hook our younger audience into racing, and I’m excited to be involved and be involved at the ground floor.”

The Andretti name and its resonance with both casual fans and racing diehards around the world could be a boost for the fledgling Formula E, a series that will feature a unique race format.

With batteries on the Renault-built cars lasting up to 25 minutes at a time, drivers will have to hop out of one car in the pits and run a 100-meter dash to a second, fully-charged car in order to finish the “e-Prix.”

The series has two American stops on its first-year schedule at Miami and Los Angeles, and that made it important for them to get a competitive, “homegrown” outfit on its roster of teams.

“Andretti is a great name in motorsport, and when we launched the championship, we said we wanted to have a geographically diversified grid and for us, the U.S and China are our two key markets in the world,” Formula E Holdings CEO Alejandro Agag told the AP.

“In the U.S., we really need a strong team to lead the way and we think there is no better name than that for America that Andretti. And globally because it’s very American, but at the same time it’s a world-known name.”

In an interesting twist, Fryer writes that Andretti Autosport plans to run one of its cars for the Formula E championship but potentially use the second as a “star car” for well-known drivers.

That could mean appearances in the new category from their stable of IndyCar pilots – defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured), Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso.

Earlier this spring, Formula E staged a demonstration of its car at Los Angeles’ Staples Center with former Formula One driver Lucas di Grassi at the controls.

Josef Newgarden wins for 3rd time in 4 years in rain-shortened Honda Indy GP of Alabama

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Given how well he’s done there, they may want to consider renaming Barber Motorsports Park to Newgarden Motorsports Park.

Josef Newgarden won for the second straight year and third time in the last four races at BMP to capture Monday’s rain-delayed Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I like it here,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We could do the whole series at Barber. That’d be great.”

Newgarden won his ninth career IndyCar race on what he considers his home track, just three hours from his home north of Nashville, Tennessee.

Monday’s race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course was a timed event of 75 minutes after Sunday’s rain-postponement after 22 laps of the scheduled 90 laps.

As it turned out, both ends of Sunday’s start and Monday’s finish, a total of 82 laps were contested.

Rain once again became an issue in about the last 15 minutes of Monday’s rescheduled event but Newgarden – who started from the pole – made a stop for rain tires with 14 minutes left and that proved to be the winning strategy. He also regains the lead in the IndyCar point standings from Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi.

“The rain made it more eventful than I would have liked,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We had good fuel mileage and good reliability, that’s what we needed to win this race.

“It seemed like smooth sailing for the most part — we had no yellows, which we were hoping for no yellows — and then the rain crept in. … Fortunately, we had a big gap, which helped us win the race, just building that gap over the beginning part. … It’s a great day for Team Penske.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second, followed by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, with Sebastien Bourdais finishing fifth.

“Solid weekend for us,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 in qualifying and two cars in the top 5 in the race. Pretty proud of these boys. It’s good to get a couple Hondas up there. Maybe not the top steps in the podium, but we took the rest of it.”

Bourdais had hoped to finish the race on slicks and win. But he was forced to pit with 7:15 left after his car became too difficult to control in heavy rain, swapping to rain tires.

Unfortunately, pitting essentially cost Bourdais the win.

“We were in the catbird’s seat for second and were hoping that he’d get some good times on the drives in the wet, but the wet just kept coming and we had to bring him in,” team owner Dale Coyne said.

Added Bourdais, “We’re in it to win it, did everything we could, it was seemingly going to be good enough. … I think we had beaten (Newgarden). Yet, the sky opened and that was it.”

Scott Dixon finished sixth, followed by Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.

Eleventh through 20th were Rossi, Matheus Leist, Zach Veach, Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Rene Binder, Gabby Chaves, Tony Kanaan, Zach Claman De Melo and Ed Jones.

Rounding out the final three finishing positions were Will Power, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* Spencer Pigot and rookie Zach Claman De Melo got into a tangle early on, but both were able to get going and damage appeared minimal.

* With 8:30 left, Rossi spun into the Turn 5 gravel but was able to get going.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* Will Power’s team was able to get his damaged car repaired and he was back on-track roughly 10 minutes into Monday’s action.

* Scott Dixon lost much of the electronics on his car with about 28 minutes left. He essentially had to handle things old school, going by feel. He wound up being penalized for speeding on pit road when his dashboard went out.

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