Hondy Indy 200 Practice

Charlie Kimball scores first IndyCar win at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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American driver Charlie Kimball became the fourth first-time winner in this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship after pulling away in the closing laps to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Kimball, 28, of Camarilllo, California, made the pass for the win with 17 laps remaining. Simon Pagenaud had pitted one lap previous from the lead and came out ahead of Kimball. But as the two raced down the backstretch on the 2.26-mile road course, Kimball pulled to the inside and managed to get past Pagenaud going into Turn 4.

“I knew we had the grip and we had hot tires and a little less fuel in the tank, so I knew that if I could get the run – as soon as I saw he was coming out of pit lane, I went to the overtake [boost] knowing if I could get some momentum going, I could go by him,” Kimball said to NBCSN.

“He tried to brake-check me or just go late to the throttle in the middle of [Turn] 2, but the Honda power just got me close enough to him that I could put it up the inside and take the spot. Then I just had to go clean home.”

Any chance for Pagenaud to reel Kimball back in as his tires warmed up quickly disappeared, and Kimball went on to his inaugural IndyCar win by 5.5 seconds over the Frenchman. It’s an especially impressive triumph, considering that he crashed his primary No. 83 Novo Nordisk Honda in a scary practice incident on Saturday morning and then utilized a three-stop strategy during today’s caution-free race.

“I can’t give enough credit to the guys at Chip Ganassi Racing – not just the Novo Nordisk crew but the Target guys yesterday to give me a car in qualifying to start in the Top 5 after I wrote off the primary in Turn 1 yesterday morning,” Kimball said. “They said ‘You gotta hit this target’ and all I had to do was drive the NovoLog Flexpen car to that number and she was quick. That’s all I had to do.”

Pagenaud didn’t think that Kimball would be able to pull off the move in Turn 4, but was nonetheless impressed.

“Man, that was a bold move,” said Pagenaud, one of those aforementioned four drivers who have notched their first IndyCar wins in 2013. “I didn’t think he would make it, but he did. It was a great move from him, and I can only congratulate him because honestly, I gave ’em hell today – 100 percent.”

TCGR’s Dario Franchitti completed an all-Honda podium with a solid third-place result ahead of Team Penske’s Will Power in fourth and pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay in fifth.

In the championship picture, points leader Helio Castroneves was able to come from 14th starting position to finish sixth – one spot ahead of Scott Dixon, who looked poised to gain on the Brazilian but instead lost some ground at the track where he’s won four times in his open-wheel career.

Heading into the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Castroneves now holds a 31-point lead over Dixon with five races remaining in the season.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (5) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
2. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
3. (6) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
4. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
5. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
6. (14) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
7. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
8. (7) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
9. (4) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
10. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
12. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
13. (10) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
14. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
15. (16) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
16. (24) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
17. (11) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
18. (22) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
19. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
20. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
21. (21) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
22. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
23. (18) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 88, Running
24. (19) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 64, Off course

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 117.825 mph
Time of Race: One hour, 43 minutes, 29.1371 seconds
Margin of victory: 5.5334 seconds
Cautions: None
Lead changes: Five

Lap Leaders
Hunter-Reay, 1-30
Kimball, 31-41
Pagenaud, 42-47
Kimball, 48-64
Pagenaud, 65-72
Kimball, 73-85

Point Standings
1. Castroneves – 453
2. Dixon – 422
3. Hunter-Reay – 388
4. Andretti – 377
5. Pagenaud – 350
6. Franchitti – 342
7. Hinchcliffe/Kimball – 325
9. Wilson – 320
10. Kanaan – 313

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway