James Davison, Lucca Filippi

IndyCar notes: Montoya’s sponsors; BHA, second Coyne still firmly TBD

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Several IndyCar Series news and notes to hit that have taken place in the last 24-48 hours. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Eleven of 18 races have been revealed for Juan Pablo Montoya’s primary sponsorship on his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. The eight weekends and nine races announced for Verizon Wireless, confirmed via the @PaddockInsider social media account are: St. Petersburg, Long Beach, both Indianapolis races, the Detroit doubleheader, Texas, Sonoma and Fontana. Hawk Performance was also announced Tuesday as primary sponsor for JPM at the Toronto doubleheader and Mid-Ohio.
  • Bryan Herta Autosport tested Englishman Jack Hawksworth Monday, and will again on Wednesday at Sebring. Hawksworth has had two prior tests in Honda-powered cars at Sebring, for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing. It’s just a test for now. The team is yet to confirm its commercial partners for 2014 and asked if he was concerned to not be testing, Italian Luca Filippi responded on Twitter, “No! Never! Keep the faith!”
  • Dale Coyne Racing is testing with Justin Wilson this week – his first time back in an IndyCar since his Fontana accident – and made several formal team announcements. Michael Cannon, who’s been working with the team this offseason, is officially confirmed as Wilson’s engineer. Darren Crouser has also been added as Team Manager, which could see the eponymous team owner’s role not as hands-on. The team also said of its second car, “Efforts continue for the second car and the #18 will be joining the fray at its test in early March.”
  • Mike Conway is not among those in Florida this week; the Englishman was said to be “in Italy testing a P1 sports car car.” For those who can read between the lines, that means Conway would be doing some running in Toyota’s new TS040 Hybrid; he is the team’s test and reserve driver. Conway also has a full-season FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 deal confirmed with Millennium Racing, apart from his IndyCar commitments.
  • IndyCar media day is being held today in Orlando. We’re not expecting a ton of news from that, but something big-ish could emerge. For the most part, it’s been interesting to watch Twitter for those drivers arriving either late last night or early this morning for the one-day event.

Report: No Mexico, 16 races expected on 2016 IndyCar schedule

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IndyCar chairman Mark Miles doesn’t expect the 2016 Verizon IndyCar season to begin in Mexico in February next year, according to a report by USA Today.

Though Miles said the Mexico race was “unlikely,” he believes the final schedule will 16 races at 15 venues over the course of seven months.

Miles said the series is waiting for a “highly, highly likely” event to be approved by a board around Oct. 13, going on to say it wasn’t Pocono Raceway.

“If we had to, we probably could put this out, in theory, sooner, but we want to go through the formality and respect the process of a formal approval from one of the promoters,” Miles said.

Miles said the Mexico City race has been put on hold due to concerns for proper promotion for the event, which would be the series’ first outside the United States since racing in Brazil in 2013.

“The process they needed to go through to get everything lined up has not really left a lot of time to be confident that everything can be done to properly promote the first race,” Miles told USA Today. “So I think the conversation is very much about ‘17. We just kind of ran out of time for ‘16.”

This is what is know about the 2016 IndyCar schedule so far.

Either the track, IndyCar, or an IndyCar support series (Pirelli World Challenge) have announced these dates for 2016:

March 13: St. Petersburg, Fla.
April 17: Long Beach, Calif.
April 24: Birmingham, Ala.
May 14: Indianapolis, In. (Indy GP)
May 29: Indianapolis, In. (100th Indy 500)
June 4-5: Detroit, Mich.
June 11: Fort Worth, Texas
June 26: Elkhart Lake, Wis.
July 31: Lexington, Ohio
Sept. 4: Boston, Mass.
Sept. 18: Sonoma, Calif.

These dates are not formal but are highly likely for 2016, per media reports:

April 2: Phoenix, AZ
July 17: Toronto, Ontario

These tracks have been rumored, but are yet to announce the status of IndyCar races for 2016:

Iowa Speedway
Pocono Raceway
The Milwaukee Mile
Gateway International Raceway

Williams hopes to improve on 2014 performance in Russian GP

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At this weekend’s Russian GP, Williams Martini Racing is looking for more of the same from Valtteri Bottas and a little improvement from Felipe Massa.

Last year, Bottas started and finished third while Lewis Hamilton ran away with the win, finishing 13 seconds over Nico Rosberg and 17 over Bottas in the inaugural race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Meanwhile, Massa started 18th after a fuel flow issue knocked him out of the first round of qualifying and managed an 11th-place finish.

Bottas and Massa enter the Sochi race fifth and sixth in the driver standings.

“We had a good result last year in Russia so we’re expecting another strong weekend and a good collection of points,” said Bottas in a release. “We all know the track now and it has a really good flow, with the long straights a good fit for our car.”

Bottas has finished in the top five in each of the last three races, two of which were won by Hamilton.

“Pace-wise we were close to Mercedes in Japan and I think we can be close again in Sochi, just like we were in 2014,” Bottas said, who also noted after Japan the team is set to turn its focus to its 2016 car.

Massa, who has two podium finishes this year, will try to bounce back from a DNF at Marina Bay and a 17th-place finish in Japan.

“I hope to make amends for qualifying last year and I’m confident we can have a competitive race,” Massa said in a team release.

“Russia is a very nice track with a few long straights which makes it interesting for overtaking,” Massa said of the 18-turn track. “The circuit has almost everything, starting with a straight and then moving into high-speed corners and then very slow corners in the middle sector. This makes setting up the car really important and the importance of downforce evident.”

The Russian Grand Prix can been seen on NBCSN on Sunday at 7 am ET.