MRTI: Tony Cotman in as race director for Indy Lights

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After a year away from the post, Tony Cotman has re-assumed the role of race director for the Indy Lights series.

Cotman, the former vice president of competition for INDYCAR and Andersen Promotions’ current project manager for the Lights’ new 2015 equipment package, served as race director for the series from 2010 to 2012.

The Andersen group also announced several other new hires as it prepares to operate all three Mazda Road to Indy series this season – Lights, Pro Mazda and U.S. Formula 2000.

“I am extremely pleased with the staff we have assembled to lead an invigorated Mazda Road to Indy,” group owner/CEO Dan Andersen said in a statement. “What excites me is that not only have we been joined by individuals that bring top-flight credentials to the table but also people that are passionate and committed to the sport and find it personally rewarding to see drivers move up the ladder.

“We are on point with our aggressive schedule and ramp-up to make sure we oversee all three series to the best of our ability this season.”

Randy Hembrey, who has served in multiple race directing roles at IMSA, is now on board as the main race director for both Pro Mazda and USF2000. In addition to working as the main director for the Porsche GT3 Cup USA and Canada series and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, he also is an assistant director for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

On the technical side, Butch Winkle has been hired as assistant technical director for Lights and David Caswell will fill the same role for both Pro Mazda and USF2000. Winkle and Caswell will report to main technical director Craig Brooks.

Former American Le Mans Series driver Gerardo Bonilla has returned as primary driver coach for the Andersen group, while TUSC competitor Joel Miller will also serve as a coach when his racing schedule permits. Five-time Indianapolis 500 starter Johnny Unser is back for his fifth year as technical and driver consultant.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.