NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is official: Carl Edwards joins Joe Gibbs Racing from 2015

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For several months, the question has not been if but when it would be announced that Carl Edwards would shift from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing.

On Tuesday, we’ve finally had that question answered.

Edwards has been officially confirmed as driver of Gibbs’ new fourth entry, the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. He’ll join Gibbs holdovers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and reunite with former Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth.

The No. 19 falls perfectly in-between Busch’s No. 18 and Kenseth’s No. 20. In recent years, Gibbs’ part-time fourth car carried the No. 81 in the selected races it was entered.

ARRIS Group Inc., a global innovator in IP, video and broadband technology, is a sponsor new to NASCAR and will have a presence both on Edwards’ Cup car for 17 races and also for rising Mexican star Daniel Suarez, who will compete in the full 2015 Nationwide Series (under its new name) and selected Camping World Truck Series races.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Joe Gibbs said the remaining 19 races for Edwards’ Cup car will be announced shortly, but most deals are done. He said he was “thrilled” to have companies coming to JGR.

For Edwards, while he reiterated the focus will remain on closing out strongly with RFR, he expressed his excitement with the switch.

“This is a huge day for me. It means the world to me to have this opportunity, means a lot to have Denny, Kyle, Matt here and to be a part of this organization,” Edwards said. “It’ll be nice to finally be able to talk about this.

“Thanks to Joe and JD (Gibbs) making this possible. For AARIS, for Bob (Stanzione, Chairman/CEO) and his company to be this big right out of the gate, is huge. It’s a huge day for me and my career.”

Joe Gibbs said it was important for the timing to be right to expand to a fourth team. Most will be staffed internally, most likely including a crew chief, although no personnel announcements were made here.

“Over the years people kept asking us when we’d be adding us a third,” he said. “We added the third (in 2005), but we were a big team, it took us a long time to go to three. We want our vision and everything we’re doing with our three, so it had to be the right sponsor and right driver.

“We’re very careful with it. Mainly we were able to get Carl and ARRIS. Everything we do is team-wise. Everyone said this would be the right time. Carl brings more resources for us. We’re competing against four (cars) or more, and all we want to do is win every race.”

Stanzione elaborated on ARRIS’ decision to enter and go big.

“It’s somewhat of a coming out party for ARRIS. We’re in millions of homes, but we’re a brand that’s not that well known,” he said.

“When we just asked ‘who’s heard of us,’ maybe 4 hands went up. And that’s the reason we needed to get out there. We provide high speed data, voice and video communications to service providers. To bring you entertainment, to allow you to surf the web, you may have our product but not know it. So we wanted to get the brand out there.”

More will follow on MotorSportsTalk throughout the day on the rest of this announcement.

Indy Lights: Chad Boat to make Indy Lights debut with Belardi

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Belardi Auto Racing, which currently fields entries for Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Shelby Blackstock in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, announced on Tuesday that USAC standout Chad Boat, son of former Verizon IndyCar Series race winner Billy Boat, will make his Indy Lights debut with the Brian Belardi led-outfit. Boat will contest the July 9 race at Iowa Speedway, a track he has previously raced on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and will return for the August 26 event at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Chad Boat to our stable of drivers for the Iowa and Gateway Indy Lights oval races this summer,” team owner Brian Belardi detailed. “It’s exciting to have a second-generation driver running with us, and we’re certainly looking forward to getting Chad on track in Iowa.”

The younger Boat has become a star in his own right in USAC, winning Rookie of the Year honors in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint car divisions. The 25-year-old will pilot the No. 84 entry, with sponsorship from Pristine Auction.

“I grew up watching my dad race Indy cars, so having the opportunity to run Indy Lights this year is absolutely surreal,” said Boat. “I have to thank Belardi Auto Racing for giving me a shot behind the wheel of the No. 84 Dallara, as well as Pristine Auction for their continued support in my racing career. I can’t wait to get to Iowa Speedway.”

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Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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