Photo: SRT Motorsports

SRT, Dodge Challenger Coming to Trans-Am with Tommy Kendall

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SRT ® (Street and Racing Technology) Motorsports will make its debut into the Trans Am Series when Miller Racing fields two all-new Dodge Challenger SRTs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Aug 15-16. Four-time series champion Tommy Kendall makes his re-entrance and first Trans Am start since 2004 in the TA2 series class this weekend.

As SRT Motorsports partners with Miller Racing to enter Trans Am competition for the balance of the 2014 season, Kendall will drive the No. 11 Dodge Challenger SRT while teammate and TA2 points leader Cameron Lawrence will drive the No. 1 Challenger beginning at the Mid-Ohio race, an event Lawrence won in 2013.

The mid-season manufacturer switch by Miller Racing will give the team a more-robust support base. It also brings Kendall back to the series where he won four championships in the 1990s (1990, 1995-1997). The move will also mark Dodge’s debut into the TA2 class of the Trans Am road racing series.

Kendall, who last competed in the Trans Am Series in 2004, is best known for winning championships in Trans Am and IMSA, as well as his victory in the 1995 Rolex 24 At Daytona. The heralded driver also serves as a television analyst for Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports.

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Photo: SRT Motorsports

“I’ve wanted to return to Trans Am competition for the longest time and then I finally kind of accepted that it wasn’t going to happen,” said Kendall. “It’s funny how things work. Being coaxed back into the Viper GTS-R program back in 2012 helped pave the way to my return. Over the last 10–15 years, I’ve committed to only doing things that are fun. Trans Am was a huge part of my professional life and to get to play a small part in keeping up the visibility here is really exciting.”

Kendall has the third most Trans Am victories with 28, while Lawrence has captured 14 wins in 21 series starts since 2012.

As Miller Racing switches manufacturers to Dodge, Lawrence will retain his TA2 class points. The 21-year-old driver currently holds a 35-point margin over second place.

“We definitely want to continue the success we’ve had and we’re really excited to bring Dodge on board,” said Lawrence. “We want to stay on top and keep the season rolling with the momentum we’ve had. It’d be really cool to get some wins for Dodge and SRT Motorsports this season, and although it’s going to be tough adapting halfway through the season, we’re going to do our best to get the Dodge Challenger SRT to victory lane.”

Miller Racing was formed in 2012 and the team captured the 2013 Trans Am TA2 class title when Lawrence won eight of 10 events, including the last seven-consecutive races. The team has captured 18 Trans Am victories in 26 races over three seasons.

In addition to the Trans Am partnership with Miller Racing, SRT Motorsports also fields two Dodge Viper SRT GTS-Rs in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, and supports a customer racing program with the Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R in the IMSA TUDOR series, Pirelli World Challenge and Supercar Challenge.

The Miller Racing Dodge Challenger SRTs and Kendall will first compete in The 3-Dimensional Services Next Dimension 100 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday, Aug. 15. Round seven of the 2014 Trans Am Championship will take place alongside the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Lawrence will look to defend his 2013 Mid-Ohio victory, which was his fourth of eight victories en route to the 2013 title.

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Tommy Kendall

Tommy Kendall, driver, No. 11 Dodge Challenger SRT, Miller Racing

Are you excited to team with Cameron Lawrence and Mike Miller?

“I’ve been following the series and, needless to say, I’m quite familiar with Cameron (Lawrence). I didn’t realize it was the same Mike Miller that used to run the Roush cars way, way back. I’ve watched Cameron. I always ran the No. 11, so he ran the No. 11 and we became friends on Facebook. I was kind of cheering him on because he’s a hell of a young talent. It’s a little interesting to be coming back with a fair amount of anticipation, but to me he’s the guy to beat. I’m really glad he’s my teammate because I think that will help me get up to speed and remove a lot of the variables to get going again. To have Cameron and Mike Miller’s team is really helpful.” 

How do you feel to be returning to Trans Am in the TA2 class?

“What’s so cool about the TA2 class is that the cars really do look like what they are supposed to be on the street. I’ve just seen the Dodge Challenger SRT body for the first time and it’s beautiful. I’m glad we’re going with a retro paint scheme. They captured the essence of the original car so well and it still really holds up well.”

How do you feel about continuing your relationship with SRT Motorsports?

“In driving the Viper GTS-R it was nice to be part of such a small and energetic group and I thought there was a lot of cool stuff happening with Chrysler Group in general. You have this group of people who felt like underdogs and that alone is powerful, but when it’s a bunch of smart, creative people, it’s that much better. I was excited to be a part of that. Fast forward a few years to now and SRT Motorsports is definitely on a roll. The Viper GTS-R program has gone back to the historic red and white livery and they’re starting to get some wins in IMSA TUDOR Championship and at the same time, the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is coming out for the street. It’s cool to be a part of something that has some energy behind it.”

Chilton says IndyCar test debut went “swimmingly well”

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 12:  Max Chilton of Great Britain and Marussia speaks with members of the media during the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom on October 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Along with new Chevrolet aerodynamic components being tried out at the “it’s green in February and it’s never this green the later into the year we get” Sonoma Raceway, the other interesting storyline out of Wednesday’s six-car Verizon IndyCar Series test was that it marked Max Chilton’s testing debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 8 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chevrolet.

Chilton’s made the announcement, addressed the media and had his sponsor confirmed within the last week-plus.

But it was on Wednesday that the talking stopped and the driving restarted, for what was not only the 24-year-old Brit’s first time in an IndyCar but also his first time at Sonoma.

“It’s a bit of a shock today,” Chilton said, via a track-issued release. “I haven’t been in a racing car in six months and that was an Indy Lights car, so I’ve got to learn the track today and the car.

“But I think the morning went swimmingly well. I was quicker than I thought I would be.  It’s a really nice kit and I can’t wait to explore it throughout the season.”

Here’s a few photos on social media, either ones he or the track shared, of his maiden day in an IndyCar.

Chilton’s next test comes later this week, still in California, at Auto Club Speedway for his first oval run in an IndyCar.

Chilton joined his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, for the test. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also tested on Wednesday.

Pabst adds Jordan Lloyd as third USF2000 driver

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Pabst Racing has added a third driver to its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda lineup, in the form of talented 19-year-old Australian driver Jordan Lloyd.

Lloyd raced the first two weekends of last year’s USF2000 season with John Cummiskey Racing before being sidelined due to financial woes, but he showed quite a bit of promise in those two weekends at St. Petersburg and NOLA Motorsports Park. He finished second in one of the NOLA races.

For 2016, Lloyd returns to the U.S. after winning the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 championship last year, and was thus awarded with the ‘Road to the World’ scholarship.

“I only touched the tip of the iceberg when I was here in 2015, so on a personal level there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be tended to,” Lloyd said in a team release. “I am looking forward to a strong season.”

Lloyd, who will drive the No. 21 car, joins the previously announced pairing of Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo at Pabst, the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based team, as the USF2000 field for 2016 continues to grow both in terms of size and talent.

Luca Ghiotto steps up to GP2 with Trident

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Friday 27 November 2015.
Luca Ghiotto (ITA, Trident) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
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Luca Ghiotto will step up to the GP2 Series with Trident in 2016 after an impressive season in GP3 last year that saw him finish second in the championship standings.

Ghiotto made his GP3 debut at the end of 2014 with a four-race run-out for Trident before remaining with the Italian team for 2015.

It proved to be a memorable year as he won five races – more than any other driver – but fell eight points short of the title as Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon was crowed champion in Abu Dhabi.

Ghiotto will remain with Trident for 2016, stepping up to its GP2 operation after a successful test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.

“I can’t wait to line-up for this new adventure,” Ghiotto said. “Last year, it was tough for me to fight so hard and not winning the title. However, it has been an extremely useful experience with the help of the excellent teamwork among the whole Trident stable.

“I want to thank once again Maurizio Salvadori and Giacomo Ricci for their support, and the Italian Federation for believing so much in me. I really look forward to be back on-track.”

Newgarden on Phoenix: “You have to be really committed”

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Phoenix International Raceway replaces The Milwaukee Mile on the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 schedule as the lone one-mile oval the series competes on.

And that’s exactly where the similarities between the two end.

While Milwaukee’s nearly all-flat banking nature rewards those who find the setup early, and punishes those who don’t, Phoenix is going to be significantly faster and has a series of rises and falls that might make for a more interesting challenge.

Josef Newgarden, who took his first laps during a Chevrolet manufacturer test Monday at Phoenix aboard his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, had high praise for the commitment level it takes to nail a lap at PIR.

“Phoenix, you don’t need as much courage to be flat,” Newgarden told NBC Sports in a phone interview on Wednesday. “It just seems more crazy. From a commitment standpoint, the commitment level is higher, for different reasons.

“From a speed and physicality standpoint, it seems more of a commitment than Milwaukee. That was interesting to me. You really had to be committed… it was almost hard to breathe. It’s a very tough lap.

“It’s easier to be flat than at Milwaukee, and you’re generally flat out, but it seems higher commitment.”

Newgarden, who won his first career IndyCar pole position and dominated at Milwaukee last year, has lamented the loss of the oldest continually operated track from the schedule.

“I loved Milwaukee. It was a very difficult track. It took a lot more courage at Milwaukee to figure out how to get flat, or to get flat,” he admitted.

Newgarden hadn’t been to Phoenix previously and comments leading in – that the track serves as sort of a roller-coaster featuring the track’s legendary, albeit changed, dogleg in the backstraight – were apt.

“The whole thing is flat all around. The dogleg, there’s actually kind of a bit of a hill,” he said.

“You exit out of (Turn) 2, you run up the banking out of 2, then you get high enough, then run down pretty far and it’s kind of a downhill run into the dogleg, then you climb back up before 3. You’re almost constantly going up and down.

“I saw some NASCAR drivers describe it as a roller coaster, and that’s somewhat true. There’s a lot of elevation changes for an oval.”

How intense is the oval on the drivers, from a G-loading standpoint?

“Easy 4 to 5. I’d say 4.2 or 4.5 depending on downforce levels,” Newgarden said.

And that might be the most interesting thing to monitor for when IndyCar arrives at Phoenix, both for the Grand Prix-view open test February 26 and 27 and the race itself on April 2, is what downforce levels teams will opt to run to try to create better racing.

One of North America’s greatest open-wheel oval drivers, Rick Mears, has long been a proponent of less downforce.

Newgarden said less downforce will certainly create more separation and make the cars harder to drive, but it might not provide as close of racing.

“It’s hard to tell. I think if you want to see the cars racing and passing constantly, you’d need more downforce. If you trim it out and guys have to pedal them, it should separate the field better. I think more downforce would equal more racing around there. But it depends on what you want.

“Take Texas for example. Take the downforce away, it’s hard to drive, and there’s no passing. But it’s difficult on the drivers. There’s not as good racing. Add the downforce back, now everyone’s (sort of) packed up, but you’ll have amazing racing action. It really depends on what you want.”

Newgarden’s test was his first day in a car since he and team principal and teammate, Carpenter, tested at Texas Motor Speedway back in October.

A video from IndyCar featuring Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya from the Phoenix test is below.