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.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”