Indy Lights announces new car for 2015 and staff updates

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From the, “this didn’t take long” department, less than a month after announcing its new promotional arm, the Indy Lights series has a new car and staff direction planned out.

On Monday, Indy Lights confirmed it will introduce a new car for 2015, as Andersen Promotions Owner and CEO Dan Andersen had hinted at previously. The current chassis will be updated for 2014, before the completely new chassis is introduced the following year.

“In an ideal world, we would be debuting a new Firestone Indy Lights car next season,” Andersen said in a release. “Unfortunately, with our very recent acquisition of the series, there isn’t enough time to accomplish this for 2014. Safety is paramount, and we also want a race car that is attractive and interesting to drivers worldwide. By enhancing the current chassis, bringing in new engine and tire partners to activate and support the series while also reducing costs and offering strong incentive programs to current and potential teams, we give ourselves time to do the job properly.”

Four manufacturers have submitted proposals with the decision due in the next 90 days. Tony Cotman will lead the process as Project Manager; the New Zealander is the President and Founder of NZR Consulting, a track design company, and the former Vice President of Competition at INDYCAR.

Meanwhile on the management side of things, Jason Penix, who has served as Director of Grassroots Initiatives for INDYCAR, has been named to a similar role under the Andersen umbrella in conjunction with INDYCAR. He’ll be the Director of Development Series, a role that oversees all three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder: Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000, which are all operated under the Andersen Promotions banner.

Much of the Andersen staff already in place for Pro Mazda and USF2000 will work with Penix, and Andersen Promotions looks to expand the staff to provide enough support for all three series.

One of the new people announced Wednesday is Sponsor Services Director Ken Burris, who has joined Andersen Promotions on a full-time basis. He will manage sponsor relations for all three levels. Recent race title sponsors and partners for the USF2000 and Pro Mazda series have included Allied Building Products, Peninsula Pipeline, Analytic Systems and USANA Health Sciences’ Rev3 Energy, the Official Energy Drink of USF2000.

Further chassis, tire, partner and staff announcements should follow within the next few months. With these elements announced so soon after the Indy Lights management change was confirmed, it shows an enhanced effort by Andersen to really pump some support into the series.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Remaining part-time drivers

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MotorSportsTalk wraps up its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017 with the remaining part-time drivers, after the 23 drivers who ran anywhere from six events to the full season.

There were 15 drivers who made four or fewer starts this season. Some overly impressed or drew major headlines in their limited opportunities.

They were, by start count:

  • Sebastian Saavedra (No. 17 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 4)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, 3)
  • Oriol Servia (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 3)
  • Jack Harvey (No. 50 MSR w/Andretti Autosport Honda, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 3)
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, 2)
  • Zach Veach (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, No. 40 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 2)
  • Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti Honda, 1)
  • Pippa Mann (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Jay Howard (No. 77 Team One Cure/SPM Honda, 1)
  • Sage Karam (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 1)
  • James Davison (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Buddy Lazier (No. 44 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet, 1)
  • Zachary Claman DeMelo (No. 13 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1)
  • Robert Wickens (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Practice Only)

Going through them, in terms of impact, Alonso’s one-off at the Indianapolis 500 easily resonated loudest. It was incredible to witness the amount of buzz, worldwide support and media attention that Alonso generated, and fueled a running joke that he was the only driver in this year’s race. It was capped off when he beat Ed Jones to race rookie-of-the-year honors, despite losing a Honda engine late while Jones dragged a broken Dale Coyne Racing car to third place.

Elsewhere, Chaves and Harding Racing’s debut was the most unexpected pleasant surprise from a driver and team standpoint. A solid ninth at Indianapolis was followed by an even more impressive fifth at Texas. Their three oval races laid the groundwork for a step-up to a full-time entry in 2018.

Montoya proved he still had it with a pair of top-10s in a fifth Team Penske car. He’ll be in Penske’s Acura prototype sports car program next year and the hope is that we haven’t seen the last of him in IndyCar.

Saavedra re-established himself on the scene after a year-plus hiatus. The likable Colombian overachieved given low expectations with two different teams. Whether it was enough to see him and longtime backer AFS Racing for further races in 2018 is unknown.

Harvey and Veach each came up to IndyCar for a cup of coffee, both rookies in the Indianapolis 500 alongside Alonso and Jones while also getting additional road course starts. Neither of them looked a world-beater in their road course outings owing to tough circumstances, but they logged key laps and miles to build for a brighter future from 2018 and beyond in recently announced multi-year programs (Harvey with Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Veach with Andretti Autosport).

Of the rest, Servia’s results left a bit to be desired, a potential top-five fading in Indy when he and Davison collided to trigger a multi-car pileup. Davison and Vautier impressed in their lone starts of the year with their pace and aggression but were unable to parlay them into results.

Mann made her usual Indy 500 one-off entry and secured her best finish in six starts, but pressed through a challenging month that she’ll be keen to improve upon in 2018. Her day was significantly better than Howard’s and Lazier’s, who both ended their ‘500 bows in the wall, and with Howard having contributed to Scott Dixon’s savage accident when he crashed in Turn 1 and then came into Dixon’s path.

“ZCD” made his debut at Sonoma in a second RLL Racing entry and did rather well, competitive on lap times as the weekend progressed on a track that’s notoriously low-grip. Wickens never got that far. Despite a preseason ride swap with his close friend James Hinchcliffe that reignited his passion for open-wheel after several years, and with Mercedes announcing it would pull the plug on its DTM program after 2018, Wickens got only a practice day at Road America before Mikhail Aleshin sorted his visa issues. The circumstances evolved in Wickens’ favor at season’s end to see him get the second seat for 2018 at SPM after all.