IndyCar Notes: Aleshin prepares for first oval test

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Fresh off a fourth-place finish in the GTD category yesterday at the Rolex 24, IndyCar Series rookie Mikhail Aleshin will get back to open-wheel work tomorrow at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he’ll take his rookie oval test.

The driver of the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, a product of various European series such as Formula Renault 3.5 and the GP2 Series, has never competed on an oval before. Needless to say, tomorrow should be an interesting day for him.

“It will be very important for me because I never have tested on an oval so I am looking forward to it,” he said. “We had some time working on this test with the team at the shop so I’m quite happy to say that the team has really helped me a lot to get all the details fast.

“Ovals will be something really special for me. I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”

When IndyCar Series team owner/driver Ed Carpenter won the pole position for last year’s Indianapolis 500, he became the first Indiana native to pull off the feat since Pat O’Connor did it in 1957.

Now, Carpenter has an award that’s named after O’Connor, who lost his life one year later at Indianapolis in a first-lap accident. Carpenter was given the Pat O’Connor Award from the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans group during a banquet ceremony yesterday.

The award is voted on by the group’s executive board and is given to a driver for the Midwestern U.S. that in turn gives “devotion, cooperation, and constant effort to make auto racing the sport of which they are proud.”

Past winners of the award include NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon, former Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr., and another current IndyCar team owner, Sarah Fisher.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.