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Cooper to replace Firestone as new Indy Lights tire from 2014

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Cooper Tires will replace Firestone as Official Tire of the Indy Lights Series from 2014, for a five-year contract that runs through 2018. It’s a two-pronged effect as Firestone has had more than two decades worth of history with Indy Lights, including 13 years as series title sponsor in two different Indy Lights iterations (1991-’97, 2008-’13). Cooper could potentially be in line for a presenting or title sponsor role of Indy Lights for 2014 given this announcement, but nothing to that degree was indicated in the official series release.

Still, this move puts all Andersen Promotions-promoted series under one tire umbrella. Cooper is the presenting sponsor and tire partner of the USF2000 National Championship and replaced Goodyear as tire partner to the renamed Pro Mazda Championship this year.

“I couldn’t be more pleased and proud to announce that Cooper Tires will be the Official Tire of Indy Lights,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Cooper has been a terrific partner of both USF2000 and Pro Mazda and to carry that relationship into Indy Lights gives us a fantastic foundation to build upon. It is rare in today’s motorsports climate to have the luxury of a long-term partnership, and for Cooper Tires to step up its commitment across all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy is just phenomenal. I can’t thank Chris Pantani and everyone at Cooper Tires enough. Their commitment to the future talent in our sport is unprecedented.

“Tony Cotman, our project manager, and I reviewed numerous proposals from other tire manufacturers and were delighted to see so much interest, but Cooper Tires ticked all the boxes. We wanted a partner that would provide a great product with substantial cost savings for teams and, while the final cost is yet to be determined, the Cooper Tires Indy Lights tires will cost the teams significantly less than their current tire prices. Equally important, we wanted a partner that would actively promote and support the series, and our partnership comes with substantial support from Cooper Tires in event activation, series media and promotional efforts.”

Tire testing will begin in September with road course tires available to teams in October.

For Firestone, the news is bittersweet but not entirely unexpected. Firestone continued – somewhat reluctantly according to some sources, given reported higher tire bills – as presenting sponsor and tire partner to Indy Lights over the last two years since Roger Bailey, former series director, stepped aside at the conclusion of the 2011 season.

“Today is a bittersweet day for everyone at Firestone Racing,” Lisa Boggs, Director, Firestone Racing said in a statement. “The Firestone brand has been synonymous with Indy Lights for more than two decades. We believe in the importance of a strong ladder system to develop the next generation of open-wheel stars as well as mechanics, engineers, team managers and other key personnel. We are proud to have been part of developing the careers of many Indy Lights series graduates.

“We are glad to see Andersen Promotions bring its expertise and passion to reinvigorating the Indy Lights series,” she added. “The change in tire supplier will not impact Firestone Racing’s commitment to continuing to deliver the highest quality product to the teams and drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2018. We look forward to welcoming future Indy Lights drivers as they make the move to the IndyCar Series.”

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the driver-by-driver recaps following the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with a look at Charlie Kimball, who finished 12th this year.

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 14th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 4 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 16.3 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 12th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 21 Laps Led, 13.3 Avg. Start, 13.1 Avg. Finish

“Super Chuck” – as NBCSN’s Townsend Bell has called him in the past – had another typically “Super Chuck” season. He produced some dizzying heights, made a few mistakes, and posted a lot of consistent runs in the middle that ultimately netted him 12th in points for the season.

We wrote last year that one of the areas where Kimball most needed to improve was his qualifying, and a three-spot year-to-year gain from 16.3 to 13.3 delivered that improvement. Problem was, in a Chevrolet top-heavy grid, Kimball might have been qualifying better, but he was qualifying behind at least seven or eight more fancied Chevrolet runners. In a Honda, you worry if Kimball’s grid positions this year would have dipped into the low teens or high 20s, rather than only just missing advancing into Q2 as was often the case.

While Barber and Mid-Ohio had served as his standout races in the past, the undoubted highlight of Kimball’s 2015 season was his quiet early – then dynamic late – drive to third in the Indianapolis 500. It was a performance that was particularly impressive given he was up against past series champions Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Scott Dixon, who were all vying for the win. Another podium at Sonoma was his first on a road or street course since Detroit race two in 2014, and put him third in points in the two double points races for the year.

But mistakes occurred all too regularly in the 14 standard points events, where he ranked 14th among all drivers. Contacting Dixon in Detroit, surviving a nightmare weekend in Iowa with multiple incidents, and coming together with Graham Rahal in St. Petersburg – even though Rahal was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact – were all moments he’d like to have back.

Kimball’s five years into his IndyCar career and there’s enough evidence to suggest now his breakout 2013 season was an outlier, not the norm. But seasons like 2014 and 2015 prove he still has plenty in hand to cut it at this level, and together with his entire Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team, an overall asset to the sport.