Nearly 20 IndyCar-related 2013, 2014 drivers set for Rolex 24 next week


More than a dozen IndyCar or IndyCar-related drivers from 2013 and 2014 will be participating in next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round to the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The confirmed 2014 IndyCar drivers in action include:

  • Simon Pagenaud (No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports, HPD ARX-03b, P class, 2nd start)
  • Sebastien Bourdais (No. 5 Action Express Racing, Corvette DP, P, 5th)
  • Justin Wilson (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 7th)
  • James Hinchcliffe (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 3rd)
  • Scott Dixon (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 11th)
  • Tony Kanaan (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 3rd)
  • Ryan Briscoe (No. 3 Corvette Racing, Corvette C7.R, GTLM, 7th)
  • Graham Rahal (No. 56 BMW Team RLL, BMW Z4 GTLM, GTLM, 6th)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 91 SRT Motorsports, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM, 8th)
  • Mikhail Aleshin (No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

That’s 10 drivers right there. Then add in these drivers who competed in one or more IndyCar Series events in 2013:

  • Katherine Legge (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P, 2nd)
  • AJ Allmendinger (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 9th)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 2nd)
  • Alex Tagliani (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 2nd)
  • Conor Daly (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 1st)
  • James Davison (No. 007 TRG-AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, GTD, 1st)
  • Townsend Bell (No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

After those seven, the top two from Indy Lights in 2013 are making their Rolex 24 debuts:

  • Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P)

Aleshin, Karam, Chaves, Daly, Davison and Bell are all making their Rolex 24 debuts. Considering Bell has been active in North America since the 1990s, his name on that list is the biggest surprise.

Four of the above drivers, Dixon (2006), Rahal (2011), Wilson and Allmendinger (2012) have overall wins at the Rolex 24. Dixon will be making his 11th straight Rolex 24 start with CGR.

Some other interesting tidbits: Hinchcliffe, by running a Mazda prototype, will have run three different types of Mazdas in three classes in three years (Mazda RX-8 in GT in 2012, Mazda6 in GX in 2013). Kanaan makes his third class appearance in as many starts, after running a GT1 Ford Mustang Cobra in 1998 and a Porsche GT3 Cup last year. Briscoe (six prior starts) and Hunter-Reay (seven) have only driven Daytona Prototypes; this year marks their first run in a GTE-spec car. Tagliani will start his first Rolex 24 since 2007, when he debuted in a Ford Mustang Cobra in the GT class.

Other IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball were part of the overall-winning team in 2013, but neither returns for 2014. Allmendinger has shifted back fully to NASCAR for 2014, but we’re including him in this list after his six races with Team Penske’s IndyCar program in 2013. There are others in the full entry list with past IndyCar or Indy Lights experience, but that would drag this post out even longer.

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the driver-by-driver recaps following the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with a look at Charlie Kimball, who finished 12th this year.

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 14th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 4 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 16.3 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 12th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 21 Laps Led, 13.3 Avg. Start, 13.1 Avg. Finish

“Super Chuck” – as NBCSN’s Townsend Bell has called him in the past – had another typically “Super Chuck” season. He produced some dizzying heights, made a few mistakes, and posted a lot of consistent runs in the middle that ultimately netted him 12th in points for the season.

We wrote last year that one of the areas where Kimball most needed to improve was his qualifying, and a three-spot year-to-year gain from 16.3 to 13.3 delivered that improvement. Problem was, in a Chevrolet top-heavy grid, Kimball might have been qualifying better, but he was qualifying behind at least seven or eight more fancied Chevrolet runners. In a Honda, you worry if Kimball’s grid positions this year would have dipped into the low teens or high 20s, rather than only just missing advancing into Q2 as was often the case.

While Barber and Mid-Ohio had served as his standout races in the past, the undoubted highlight of Kimball’s 2015 season was his quiet early – then dynamic late – drive to third in the Indianapolis 500. It was a performance that was particularly impressive given he was up against past series champions Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Scott Dixon, who were all vying for the win. Another podium at Sonoma was his first on a road or street course since Detroit race two in 2014, and put him third in points in the two double points races for the year.

But mistakes occurred all too regularly in the 14 standard points events, where he ranked 14th among all drivers. Contacting Dixon in Detroit, surviving a nightmare weekend in Iowa with multiple incidents, and coming together with Graham Rahal in St. Petersburg – even though Rahal was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact – were all moments he’d like to have back.

Kimball’s five years into his IndyCar career and there’s enough evidence to suggest now his breakout 2013 season was an outlier, not the norm. But seasons like 2014 and 2015 prove he still has plenty in hand to cut it at this level, and together with his entire Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team, an overall asset to the sport.