Cindric proposes IndyCar champion Will Power will run No. 1 in 2015

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Team Penske president Tim Cindric has taken the first step to indicate a number switch for newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power in 2015.

Power has run the No. 12 since joining Team Penske in 2009, with his Verizon Team Penske entry full-time since 2010.

But with the title he claimed Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway, Power appears set to adopt the champion’s No. 1 for 2015, which is available to be utilized but hasn’t been taken up as often as it used to be.

A fan asked the question of car numbers on Twitter Saturday night, and Cindric responded thusly:

Assuming Power makes the switch, he’d join teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves in numerical order of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in 2015.

Ryan Hunter-Reay took the champion’s No. 1 in 2013 but struggled through an up-and-down year.

Prior to that, the most recent No. 1 usage was by Sebastien Bourdais in Champ Car, from 2005 through 2007 (after titles from 2004 through 2007), and Scott Dixon in 2004 after his 2003 IndyCar title.

Dixon opted to retain the No. 9 for his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this season, as he has had the same number since 2003.

On one hand, it makes a lot of sense for Power to run the 1. It’s 15 years in the making as Power has grown in his career year-by-year, and now finally be rewarded with the champion’s number. It also would see Team Penske run the 1 for the first time since Gil de Ferran did in the 2001 CART season, after claiming the 2000 championship.

On the other, it would be a bit of a shift as Power and the 12 are about as synonymous in IndyCar as any driver-number pairing this side of Dixon in the last several years. In a series that struggles for the same visual driver/number recognizability as NASCAR drivers tend to have, Power and the 12 are well established. Verizon and Power have been linked by the 12 for all their marketing and promotional materials; show cars have the 12 as well. Power’s Twitter handle is @12WillPower, so there’s that, too.

Still, we know how smart and savvy Cindric and Team Penske are. The benefits of running the 1 for one year would likely outweigh the negatives of the alterations needed – and given the title drought for the team that’s now ended, it would be just reward for their accomplishments.

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne