IndyCar: New Orleans race confirmed with April 12 date (UPDATED)

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UPDATED, 4:00 p.m. ET: It’s official. The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana will run April 10-12, 2015.

The event will be held April 10-12 and organized by Andretti Sports Marketing on a newly-configured 13-turn, 2.67-mile permanent road course layout.

The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana will feature a three-day festival combining Louisiana’s culture – including live musical acts, entertainment and local cuisine – with the excitement of a Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“We’re delighted about the opportunity to showcase the Verizon IndyCar Series at NOLA Motorsports Park and to INDYCAR fans in the greater New Orleans area,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a release. “The commitment from track owner Laney Chouest and his associates, combined with the support we received from the state of Louisiana, was the catalyst in making this come to fruition. New Orleans has a history of hosting successful major sporting events and we’re thrilled to be able to add the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana to the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.”

10:45 a.m. ET: The Verizon IndyCar Series will have at least one new domestic race on its 2015 race schedule. The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, which was tentatively announced earlier this year, will be officially confirmed later Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. CT at a press conference at the NOLA Motorsports Park track.

The date is expected to be April 12, revealed earlier Wednesday in an Associated Press report. A source confirmed that date on condition of anonymity as it had not been publicly revealed.

Those scheduled to be in attendance include President of the Louisiana State Senate, State Senator – John A. Alario, Jr., Jefferson Parish President – John F. Young, Jr., President of NOLA Motorsports Park & NOLA Motor Host Committee, Inc. – Kristen Engeron, NOLA Motorsports Park Founder and Owner- Laney Chouest, CEO, Hulman & Company – Mark Miles and Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana General Manager – Tim Ramsberger, plus other Andretti Sports Marketing officials.

Ramsberger, the former Grand Prix of St. Petersburg president, joined Andretti Sports Marketing last month.

Andretti Sports Marketing has promoted the Milwaukee IndyFest race for three years since 2012, and New Orleans replaces Baltimore as the second IndyCar race it will promote (Baltimore ended in 2013).

As for what this does to the 2015 schedule projection, IndyCar will now either open with four domestic races in as many weekends, or run three in a row in April before a single off weekend.

It all depends on the Barber Motorsports Park date in Birmingham, Ala., which has not yet been revealed.

It will either go: March 29 St. Petersburg, April 5 Barber, April 12 NOLA, April 19 Long Beach, or, March 29 St. Petersburg, off weekend, April 12 NOLA, April 19 Long Beach, April 26 Barber.

This year, March 30 was the St. Petersburg date, followed by an off weekend before Long Beach April 13 and another off weekend before Barber April 27.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is scheduled for Saturday, May 9, to kick off the month in Indianapolis. Teams are expected to have a weekend off before the GPI weekend.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.