Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: GP of Indy Pre-Race

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Some notes and thoughts from the field of 25 heading into this weekend’s inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis:

  • Juan Pablo Montoya has made the most number of Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course starts in the field, with six coming in Formula One from 2001 to 2006 and another one in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series in 2012.  And he digs the changes for this year’s race: “They found a great balance between being technical and being able to put on a good race. There are several parts of the track that are going to be very high-speed, which I love. The straights are so long that you are going to get huge drafts. I really think the ‘push to pass’ button is going to play a big role,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.
  • Hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years, but then-18-year-old Marco Andretti pulled off a win in the Indy Lights race on the IMS road course in 2005. After finishing second in Barber, this could be a shot for him to win this weekend: “I raced the Road Course here in Indy Lights and won – the track is a little different now but we had a good test day for the Snapple car. Now we’re looking to capitalize on our Barber finish, start building points and hopefully wins,” he said ahead of the weekend.
  • The other 9 of 11 with track experience include Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Franck Montagny (like Montoya, ex-F1 shoes), Graham Rahal (like Andretti, Indy Lights), Sebastian Saavedra (Formula BMW and GRAND-AM), James Hinchcliffe (Formula BMW), Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais (GRAND-AM).
  • Count Long Beach winner Mike Conway in the happy column for returning to IMS, despite two serious accidents in the Indianapolis 500 in 2010 and 2012. “I am actually excited to come back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sure, I think about those incidents in 2010 and 2012. But I’m coming back to my roots of road racing and the new road circuit is very good. It is cool to return to Indy to compete in the inaugural road race at Indy. And, with the ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka team, we have a good chance to score another win this year,” said the driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
  • Bourdais, another former winner (GRAND-AM in 2012) thinks the revised circuit will offer a good challenge. “It’s a challenging racetrack. You have to commit to it and the grip level, so you can challenge yourself in the car. The last section is very enjoyable. The left, right, left and right again, that’s opened up a lot more than it used to be, and they are all third-gear corners. The car digs in and goes side to side as you’re working the tires and pushing yourself. It’s quite fun and I see some passing areas,” he said.

First practice is at 10 a.m. ET this morning.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.

Marcos Ambrose will retire from racing full time

Marcos Ambrose

Former NASCAR winner Marcos Ambrose’s full-time racing career appears to have reached the finish line.

DJR Team Penske announced Monday an expansion to two cars in the V8 Supercars Championship next season with Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye running Ford Falcons on the Australian-based circuit, leaving Ambrose on the sidelines.

Ambrose, a two-time V8 Supercars champion, left NASCAR to return to his home country this season and help lead Team Penske’s international foray. But the Tasmanian stepped out of the car after the season opener and said he would focus solely on endurance racing the rest of the year.

“I fully support the team with the exciting announcements here today,” Ambrose said in a team release announcing Coulthard and Pye. “My number one priority since stepping out of the car full time was helping the team with that transition and in Fabian and Scotty, the team has a great future ahead for 2016 and beyond.”

In an interview with the Melbourne Herald Sun, Ambrose said he was mulling co-driving in endurance races next year.

“I do not intend to drive full time anymore,” Ambrose, 39, said. “I elected not to be a part of it. It’s absolutely my choice. There is no sadness. I’ve had a great run, a great career. I have my own personal reasons. I’ve got other priorities now.”

After 28 wins in V8 Supercars from 2002-05 and consecutive titles in 2003-04, Ambrose moved to the United States in 2006 and began a nine-season run in NASCAR. He started in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series before moving full time into Sprint Cup in 2009.

All seven of his wins (five in Xfinity, two in Cup) were on road or street  courses – six at Watkins Glen International, one at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal).

In an interview earlier this season, Ambrose said he struggled to re-acclimate to the cars while dealing with the news media scrutiny of his comeback.

“I want to enjoy my racing and I certainly don’t want to be in the tabloids week in and week out,” he told “That’s not what I come back for. It’s just a very difficult thing to come back to because just the opportunity to learn without being on the front page of every national newspaper is just impossible. So I didn’t want to be that guy everyone is looking at because he is running 25th and they don’t understand that you have no practice time in the car, you don’t have any tires to practice on even when you get there.

“I didn’t want to let the team down that way. So when I came down and saw the landscape and what I was facing, for me it became untenable to keep going the way I was.”