Pocono INDYCAR 500 - Day 1

IndyCar: Juan Pablo Montoya edges Penske teammate Will Power for Pocono pole

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Juan Pablo Montoya scored a dramatic pole this afternoon in Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying at Pocono Raceway, leading a 1-2 run for Team Penske.

IndyCar championship leader Will Power appeared to have the pole wrapped up when he threw down a two-lap average of 223.725 miles per hour late in the session.

But on the final run, Montoya out-hustled the Australian with his two-lap average of 223.871 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. The run was good enough to set both one-lap (223.920, Lap 1) and two-lap track records at the Tricky Triangle.

“It’s a first step, but we’re going in the right direction,” Montoya told IndyCar Radio after earning the 15th career pole of his open-wheel career and the first since returning to IndyCar.

“It’s nice to be on pole, and now we need to start getting some wins…I think we’ve got a good car. We’ll see what it brings.”

Montoya’s efforts made sure that Power – who leads Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in the championship by 39 points going into tomorrow’s Pocono IndyCar 500 (Noon ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) – narrowly missed out on his third pole of the season

“I probably lifted a little bit too much in [Turn] 1, but I knew Montoya was going to be tough to beat,” Power said. “He ran a little bit more downforce, so since I wasn’t flat – yeah, I think he probably went wide-open.”

Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz was the only other driver outside Montoya and Power to have an average above the 223 mph mark. He turned in an average of 223.083 in his No. 34 Cinsay Honda.

Takuma Sato qualified fourth with an average of 222.798 mph that held the provisional pole until Power made his way onto the track.

Two more Andretti drivers, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, followed in fifth and sixth. Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and a pair of Ryans – Hunter-Reay, then Briscoe – settled in Positions 7-10.

One incident took place during qualifying as Josef Newgarden slid up the track and made contact with the wall in Turn 1.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT POCONO – QUALIFYING RESULTS
Qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, team-engine, and speed
1. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy, 223.871
2. (12) Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 223.725
3. (34) Carlos Munoz, Andretti-Honda, 223.083
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, 222.798
5. (25) Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, 222.715
6. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, 222.544
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 222.517
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy, 221.970
9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, 221.950
10. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, 221.565
11. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt-Honda, 221.547
12. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt-Honda, 221.221
13. (20) Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 221.019
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Rahal-Honda, 220.747
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy, 220.604
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 220.439
17. (83) Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, 220.377
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, 219.741
19. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, 218.502
20. (18) Carlos Huertas, Coyne-Honda, 216.261
21. (67) Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, No speed
22. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Herta-Honda, No speed

Kevin Magnussen out to prove ‘many points’ with Renault

Driver Kevin Magnussen of Denmark, poses during the presentation of the Renault R.S.16 at the Renault's technocentre in Guyancourt, west of Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. French carmaker Renault returned to Formula One as a racing team after agreeing to take over Lotus, which had struggled with financial costs last season.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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Kevin Magnussen hopes that he can prove “many points” during his second stint in Formula 1 with Renault following his split with McLaren at the end of last year.

Magnussen arrived in F1 at the beginning of 2014 off the back of an emphatic Formula Renault 3.5 title success, and made an immediate impression by finishing second on debut in Australia.

The Dane was unable to sustain this form throughout the rest of the season, leading to his demotion to reserve driver to make way for Fernando Alonso’s arrival.

Magnussen was released from his McLaren contract at the end of 2015, but landed on his feet by joining Renault for its first season back in F1 as a constructor following Pastor Maldonado’s departure.

“I had a season in 2014 with McLaren and I felt it went quite well pitched against a past world champion [Jenson Button],” Magnussen said.

“To be replaced the following year was tough even if the line-up the team used was very strong. I had been racing every year since I was six so to sit to the side certainly wasn’t part of my plan.”

Magnussen now hopes that he can prove a point to his doubters by impressing with Renault in 2016 where he will race alongside British rookie Jolyon Palmer.

“Hopefully I’ll prove many points. I’m extremely motivated after a whole year away,” Magnussen said.

“I’ve been sitting on the sideline during the races for so many weekends and I’m hungry to come back and prove my worth. I’ve raced my whole life and I’m extremely hungry and keen to get in a race car again and even more so with Renault Sport.

“Without racing last year I actually had more time to train and I feel very fit because of that. I’m physically ready. I’ve not had a lot of time in a race car but the time I had, I felt good.

“I was always surprised at how quickly I re-adapted to driving after time out of the car. I was pretty much immediately on the pace when I tested the Porsche Le Mans car and I’ve been on it whenever I’ve been in an F1 car. I’m ready.”

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.