Hawksworth praises Road America, wonders why IndyCar isn’t there

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s a story that’s as frequent to write as rain in the spring, traffic construction in the summer and snow in winter in Wisconsin – the wishes of someone involved with IndyCar, racing at Road America in another championship, to hope that one day IndyCar will return to the picturesque 4.048-mile permanent road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Bryan Herta Autosport rookie Jack Hawksworth is making his track debut this weekend, again filling in for Alex Tagliani at RSR Racing in the team’s No. 08 Oreca FLM09 in the Prototype Challenge class. Tagliani is racing the NASCAR Canadian Tire event at Trois-Rivieres this weekend for his Tagliani Autosport team.

I caught up briefly with Hawksworth just before Saturday’s practice for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race here – the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase – merely to gauge his initial impressions of the track. He was fastest in PC practice on Friday.

“I absolutely love this place,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk. “Best track I’ve been to in North America. I can’t believe IndyCar isn’t here. It’s a bit like the Nurburgring.”

While Road America is long – the 4-plus miles makes it one of North America’s longest tracks – it only has 14 corners to the 174 you’ll find at the original “Green Hell.” Still, given the trees lining the track and the reverence most people have for the joint, a still apt comparison.

Let’s face it. Hawksworth echoes the wishes of many, but until IndyCar and Road America could ever find common ground on a sanctioning fee and suitable date for turning on the TV cameras to cover this 4-plus mile track and share the costs, it ain’t gonna happen.

My colleague from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dave Kallmann has reported extensively on the long-running saga of “will they, won’t they” return for the first time since the 2007 Champ Car race there. And as of this weekend, IndyCar is no closer to a date at Road America for 2015 than they were earlier this year, or last year, or on down the line.

IndyCar won’t share on the track’s NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend in June, and the TUDOR Championship has made it clear it will only partner with IndyCar when it’s the only way to get onto a race weekend. TUDOR wants to be its own lead show and on an IndyCar weekend, they simply aren’t.

So if Hawksworth and any other IndyCar driver wants to run at Road America, they need to figure out a way to race here in another championship that doesn’t conflict with a regular IndyCar weekend. A shame, but it is what it is.

In the meantime, Wisconsin race fans better do their part to support the sole remaining Wisconsin race, and a rare oval left on the IndyCar calendar – tickets are still available for next week’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018