Stewart-Haas working to line up replacement drivers for rest of season

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In short order, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli is hoping to have interim drivers for the injured Tony Stewart finalized through the remainder of the season.

“We’re certainly looking at trying probably in the next three to four days, before we get to Bristol – everything will be ironed out for the rest of the year,” he said on Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

“We’ve had hurdles that we’ve had to get through so we are looking at that and we’re working on that. It will be two drivers probably the rest of the year…Just try to get them guys to try to build some chemistry and get the best finishes we can.”

Zipadelli said that Austin Dillon, who is replacing Stewart in the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet this weekend in the Pure Michigan 400, is a potential option going forward as Stewart recovers from breaking two bones in his right leg in a recent sprint car crash.

“We don’t have anything concrete yet,” said Zipadelli. “We’re looking at that other option and just seeing how many races that they can do. It looks like one more race at least for Austin through the rest of the year with us.”

In the meantime, Dillon is preparing for a “double duty” weekend that will also see him compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course tomorrow.

The NNS championship leader tested on Thursday at Mid-Ohio and expects to see “a pretty wild race” on the tight, winding road course.

“There are some blind corners and some elevation changes and some really slow corners where people are going to make up ground and mistakes are going to be made,” he said. “My goal always is to finish laps in these races and that will always bring positions to you.”

As for his goals for Sunday at Michigan, Dillon said that “trying to put ourselves in position at the end of the race to get a Top-15 [finish] would be great.” Earlier today, he qualified 27th for the 400-miler.

Verizon confirms IndyCar title sponsor role exit after 2018

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As perhaps expected, Verizon has confirmed Friday it will end its role as Verizon IndyCar Series title sponsor following the end of its fifth year in 2018.

Reports surfaced shortly after this year’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway that Verizon was re-evaluating its role within the series.

Indeed, as it was before becoming title sponsor in 2014, Verizon will remain a partner with Team Penske despite not also carrying the series title sponsor role.

In a statement, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles thanked Verizon for its support in this overall series role.

“Verizon has been a super sponsor and will continue to be so through all of next season. We appreciate that they reached their decision in a timely way so that we can thoughtfully and deliberately go back into the market for 2019,” Miles said in a statement, via Sports Business Journal.

Roger Penske also issued a statement, also via SBJ, saying, “We want to thank Verizon for the support they have provided the IndyCar Series and the role they have played as they helped us grow the sport as the title sponsor for the past five years. Verizon has helped the series reach new fans through their world-class activation and technology, including the Verizon IndyCar Mobile App. While they will no longer be the Series Title Sponsor after 2018, it is exciting they will still be in the sport through their relationship with our organization.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has built a wave of momentum over the last few years with its competition level, parity and enthusiasm for some revived events, with Gateway Motorsports Park and Road America standing out as highlights being brought back after an extended hiatus.

The good news for INDYCAR (sanctioning body) is that there’s a new Dallara universal aero kit that’s been busy with testing the last few months and is now in the hands of manufacturers for manufacturer testing, and the series announced long-term extensions with Dallara, Chevrolet, Honda and Firestone earlier this year. New series champion Josef Newgarden has also been busy in a number of media events and appearances since the Sonoma season finale.

With this confirmation, INDYCAR has a new entitlement sponsor to find and a new TV contract to sort, with both existing contracts up after 2018.