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IndyCar could tie record number of season winners in Baltimore

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The IZOD IndyCar Series has the opportunity this weekend in Baltimore to have its 11th different winner in 16 races this season, which would tie a mark set in 2000 and 2001, in the old CART days.

Here’s who has won thus far in the exciting and often unpredictable 2013 season:

  • James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport, St. Petersburg (first career win), Brazil, Iowa
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, Barber, Milwaukee
  • Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Long Beach (first career win)
  • Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology – SH, Indianapolis 500 (first Indianapolis 500 win)
  • Mike Conway, Dale Coyne Racing, Detroit 1
  • Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, Detroit 2 (first career win)
  • Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, Texas
  • Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Pocono, Toronto 1 & 2
  • Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, Mid-Ohio (first career win)
  • Will Power, Team Penske, Sonoma

So, who are the likely candidates to be lucky number 11 and tie that mark this weekend? Here’s some gentlemen (and women) to watch:

  • Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s driving too well to have not yet broke his winless drought of late, which dates to Indianapolis 2012 overall and on a road or street course since Toronto of 2011. He’s as fast as ever with four pole positions and has finished third four times this year. He just feels due.
  • Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing. He missed Baltimore in 2011 due to injury and started seventh and finished 17th a year ago. But he has two street course podiums this year (Long Beach and Detroit 1) and has been particularly on form of late.
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing. A double podium in Toronto was needed for both driver and team and he’s been better since the engineering change to Tom Brown. A Firestone Fast Six qualifier at Baltimore a year ago, knows his way around the circuit and a solid upset pick.
  • Simona de Silvestro, KV Racing Technology. You might not think of her off the top but she starred at Baltimore two years ago and wasn’t able to show herself last year with the woefully underpowered Lotus engine. In need of a big weekend beyond the midpack, and with St. Petersburg as her best race this year, she could surprise this weekend.
  • Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He and teammate James Jakes have each had a second-place on a street course this year but I’d peg Rahal a bit higher this weekend as he was woefully unlucky not to win, or podium, after a sensational qualifying performance at Baltimore in 2011. The key as ever for him and the RLL team is nailing the setup off the truck, because far too often in 2013 they’ve been playing catch-up. A few races into working with new engineer Neil Fife, formerly of Dragon, things might be turning around for young Rahal as he has one of his better weekends of the year last weekend in Sonoma.
  • E.J. Viso, Venezuela-Andretti Autosport-HVM. A fringe entry here but Viso’s qualifying efforts earlier this year were very stout. Any chance of a win this weekend would come with a solid run on Saturday.  After a lackluster stretch of races, this sort of feels like a weekend where Viso could pull a proverbial rabbit out of his hat.

Zach Veach confirmed with Belardi to start 2016 Indy Lights season

Photo: Belardi Auto Racing
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Two-year Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series veteran Zach Veach will return to the series in 2016 following a year’s hiatus. At the moment, it’s for the start of the season only but with the intended plan of making it a full-season effort.

The young American joins the Belardi Auto Racing team, which he narrowly lost out to in his last full-time campaign in 2014 when he finished third in the points.

Veach, who turns 21 next month, is Brian Belardi’s first confirmed driver for the 2016 season. Perhaps one of the single most experienced drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy, Veach has been on all three rungs (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) since 2010 and spent 2015 as a color commentator for the IndyCar Radio Network.

He tested for the team last month at Sebring, and will have several other tests before the St. Petersburg season opening weekend March 11-13.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Brian Belardi has given me,” Veach said. “After racing against his team for so many years, I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, his crew, and of course, his cars. Belardi Auto Racing competes to win championships and I would love to give them their second Indy Lights title.

“Right now, we only have a partial program in place, but with a great amount of effort on both sides. We will be doing everything possible to try to get funding together for an entire season, so we can put a championship fight in place. I look towards winter testing, and 2016, with a lot of hope and excitement.”

“We’re really happy to have Zach confirmed with us for next year, and we’ll work closely with him to make sure that we can get the funding we need to run him all season,” Belardi added.

“He’s a supreme talent both in and out of the car, and his initial test outings in the car were just as we expected.  Zach was on-pace very early in Sebring after familiarizing himself with the new Indy Lights car, and I know that we’ll challenge for race wins and the championship next year.”

ARCA releases 2016 schedule; Mobile out, Madison (Wisc.) returns

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The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have only minor changes to the 2016 season, the sanctioning body said Wednesday after revealing next season’s schedule.

The biggest change is Mobile, Alabama is off the schedule, to be replaced by a return to Madison, Wisconsin.

As ARCA enters its 64th consecutive year of racing, the schedule will once again feature 20 races for the third consecutive year, starting at Daytona International Speedway on February 13 and ending on Oct. 14 at Kansas Speedway.

ARCA 2016 sked



All told, there will be nine races on short tracks, eight on superspeedways, two on dirt and one on a road course.

“We are pleased to announce our full and complete schedule,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “We feel we have once again put together a schedule that highlights the diversity of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. We are excited for the start of the new season.”

Other changes include:

* The annual Chicagoland Speedway race will be moved to Thursday night, Sept. 15, kicking off the opening weekend of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* The road course race at New Jersey will be moved to Saturday, May 28, rather than its previous Sunday afternoon date.

* The annual dirt race at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois will shift from an afternoon to an evening race.

* The series will mark milestone events with the 75th series event at Toledo Speedway and the 99th and 100th races at southern Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

* The series will have companion races with all three of NASCAR’s pro touring series, as well as one weekend as the undercard for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in July.

* As for the return to Madison, Drager said, “It was important for us to schedule a race in the Menards market. Last year, we did not have a race in either Minnesota or Wisconsin and this year, we decided to go back. We are definitely looking forward to racing again at Madison and the upper Midwest.”

* The annual awards banquet takes place Dec. 12 in Indianapolis.

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Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.