Muscle Milk Pickett Racing

Muscle Milk keeps 2014 cards close to vest in final ALMS pre-race release

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One of sports car racing’s most successful teams, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, has not yet chosen the direction it will go for 2014.

The team has captured the 2012 and 2013 American Le Mans Series P1 championships with drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr, and has raced the Honda Performance Development P1 car in two different iterations: the HPD ARX-03a in 2012, and the modified HPD ARX-03c for 2013.

As the team prepares to take a final bow with ALMS next week at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the team said only it “will be saying goodbye to both the series in which it has had a tremendous amount of success as well as its Honda Performance Development P1 car with which it has earned 18 podium finishes, including 14 wins, and 11 pole positions in 19 starts.”

Greg Pickett’s squad can win its ninth straight ALMS race to end 2013 if they win, which would also give Luhr 50 career series victories.

Luhr made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in a second Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry at Sonoma in August, with additional support from RW Motorsports and from Pickett directly. It is careful to note that was only an exploratory effort by Pickett to test the IndyCar waters, and was not a Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry. Luhr has said he’d be interested in a full-time IndyCar switch.

The team saying it will be saying goodbye to the HPD P1 car does not necessarily mean it is ending its relationship with Honda. Honda is known to have plans for a new P1 engine (per RACER‘s Marshall Pruett) that would race in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship, as it is the only series P1 cars can race in, and with new P1 regulations forming up for 2014. P1s are not eligible in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Additionally, of course, Honda will shift to a twin-turbocharged package for its 2.2L V6 engine in IndyCar in 2014; the manufacturer would be keen to have a team of Pickett’s caliber joining up given the recent departure of Chip Ganassi Racing to Chevrolet.

Pickett has kept his cards close to his vest since the merger of ALMS and GRAND-AM was announced in September 2012; he told this writer in the immediate aftermath last year he “would not run a Daytona Prototype,” and that’s been all he’s really stuck to on record in the 13 months since.

Whichever series, or manufacturer, gains Pickett’s operation for 2014 will be a lucky one. It will be interesting to watch how this situation develops over the offseason.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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