Marco Andretti

Dixon on pole for Grand Prix of Baltimore (VIDEO)

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Scott Dixon scored his second Verizon P1 Award of the season and 20th pole position of his IZOD IndyCar Series career Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

Dixon only barely made it into the Firestone Fast Six when Graham Rahal, who had been quicker, lost his two fastest laps for causing a red flag in the second qualifying session comprising the top 12 cars from Q1. Once into the Fast Six, the New Zealander lapped the 2.04-mile, 12-turn circuit in 1:18.0838 on his final lap in the Fast Six.

“Q1 went pretty smooth, tried to get quite tricky in Q2 and run the same set of tires but unfortunately we had a censor go on the engine, so I had no straight line speed in 2,” Dixon said. “Luckily we were able to fix the censor come Q3, and the car was pretty decent. I made a mistake, actually, on my quick lap. I lost a couple of tenths on the hairpin, so the car seems to be racked in pretty well here.”

Dixon’s time edged Will Power’s best lap of 1:18.1171; Power had the pole but did not improve on his final attempt to retake the point. Power estimated he lost five tenths of a second on the lap before locking his brakes at the Turn 3 chicane, removing any chance he had to score his third Baltimore pole in as many years.

“Yeah, still pretty happy to be on the front row, it seems like the Honda guys have got it,” Power said. “I’m the only Chevy guy here, so waving the flag for them. Hopefully, we can wave it real high tomorrow.”

Behind them it was a bit of an odd Fast Six with three drivers making their first appearance in the final portion of road or street course qualifying this season.

Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden all have their best starts of the season. For Newgarden, it’s his first ever Firestone Fast Six appearance and his best career qualifying effort (seventh on three different occasions was his prior best). Newgarden started second at Long Beach a year ago, and was promoted to the position thanks to five Chevrolets with engine change grid penalties ahead of him.

Tristan Vautier rounded out the Fast Six but it was an odd qualifying session for the Frenchman from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

In Q2, Vautier hit Graham Rahal’s crashed car at the Turn 8 barriers – Rahal had nosed in moments earlier – but Rahal was docked his two fastest laps for causing a red flag during the session. Vautier’s times held up even though he hit Rahal’s rear. The session was not immediately red flagged when Rahal hit the barriers.

Also knocked out in Q2 were championship contenders Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mid-Ohio winner Charlie Kimball, Long Beach winner Takuma Sato and three-time 2013 winner James Hinchcliffe. Rahal will start 12th.

Rahal’s teammate, James Jakes, led those knocked out in Q1 in 13th but will take a 10-spot grid penalty for switching to his sixth engine of the season, one over the maximum five allotted. It’s an unfortunate situation because Jakes had an engine issue the previous round, which would ordinarily allow for a change without a grid penalty.

Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti were the bigger names that also failed to advance from Q1.

The final three qualifiers were E.J. Viso, who only completed one lap before pancaking the wall on exit to the Pratt Street chicane; series debutante Stefan Wilson, who continued to find time in the second Dale Coyne car; and Sebastien Bourdais, who also crashed over the same chicane and didn’t complete a single lap.

Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT
Unofficial Qualifying Results

BALTIMORE – Qualifying Saturday for the Grand Prix of Baltimore IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.04 mile(s) Baltimore Street Circuit, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.0838 (94.053)
2. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.1171 (94.013)
3. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.4307 (93.637)
4. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.8698 (93.115)
5. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.9022 (93.077)
6. (55) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 01:19.0380 (92.917)
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.0288 (92.928)
8. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.0367 (92.919)
9. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 01:19.0523 (92.901)
10. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:19.2216 (92.702)
11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.3182 (92.589)
12. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:22.2045 (89.338)
13. (16) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.6398 (93.388)
14. (98) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Honda, 01:19.1242 (92.816)
15. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.6694 (93.353)
16. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.3051 (92.604)
17. (4) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.8075 (93.189)
18. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.4738 (92.408)
19. (78) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.9829 (92.982)
20. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.5694 (91.151)
21. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 01:19.2440 (92.676)
22. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 02:16.3120 (53.876)
23. (18) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:20.1871 (91.586)
24. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, No Time (No Speed)

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