Indy 500 winners meet the press during IndyCar winter meetings

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Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves – the four current IndyCar Series drivers that have won the Indianapolis 500 – looked ahead to the upcoming new season in a special press event today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum.

As part of the event, Dixon received a miniature version of the Astor Cup, which has been presented annually since 2011 to the IndyCar Series champion. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver bagged his third series title with a fifth-place finish in last October’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

This year, he’ll be out to defend the championship with Chevrolet power behind him on the No. 9 TCGR machine after running a Honda powerplant for the last eight seasons.

“In some ways, change is enlightening,” Dixon said of the switch today. “Over a two-year period – if you look at the previous four or five years with Honda, it wasn’t the same because there was no [engine] competition – the last two years was a short time, but it was relationships you’d be working on for quite some time.

“The change is what it is, but it makes it interesting, too. The engine is totally different, even though they are very close and competitive on track. The ways they have reached that power and driveability from different directions and that’s quite exciting.”

Also joining Dixon this season at TCGR is Kanaan, the reigning Indy 500 champion, who himself is due a mini-trophy within the next 24 hours.

“…Tomorrow, I go to Detroit to finally get my Baby Borg,” said Kanaan, who recently had his face unveiled on the big version of the Borg-Warner Trophy. “I don’t have my [winner’s] ring yet, which I’m waiting for quite anxiously. A lot of things have happened since [last May]. But I have to say, all the good things that happened was because of the win.”

Kanaan will get his first taste of driving the No. 10 TCGR Chevy – the former ride of good friend and recently retired Dario Franchitti – during a Bowtie manufacturer test on Friday at Sebring International Raceway.

Montoya, the 2000 Indy 500 winner, is returning full-time to open-wheel this year with Team Penske, and after facing the Speedway for the past seven years as a NASCAR driver, he’s eager to get back in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this May.

“Every year you came here and you’re not in an Indy car, it’s cool, but you want to come to the Museum to see the Indy cars,” he explained. “It’s not the same. The Brickyard [400] is a big deal, but it’s not the Indy 500.

“I never thought I’d be back here to try to get another win. I’m excited and to race here for Team Penske is a hell of a chance [to win].”

Then there’s Castroneves, who will make another bid for his fourth Indy triumph on Memorial Day weekend. He likened the ongoing IndyCar winter meetings to “coming back to school,” and also expressed his hope of making more history at the Speedway.

“It would be amazing and a dream come true to be in the same group as [four-time Indy winners] Rick [Mears], A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr,” he said. “I know it’s a big task, but I have big dreams as well.”

Recap: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Hundley takes in Kohler Grand Prix

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When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.

The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.

Will Power shows Brett Hundley a steering for a Verizon IndyCar Series machine. Photo: IndyCar

The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.

Mari Andretti takes Brett Hundley around Road America in the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater. Photo: IndyCar

“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.

However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.

Hundley stayed through Sunday and dawned a photographer’s bib in order to take in more of the action.

In fact, he even inadvertently photobombed second-place finisher Josef Newgarden during his post-race interview.

A video chronicling Hundley’s visit can be viewed here and additional photos from his weekend can be found on his Instagram page.

 

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Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku F1 clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.

“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”