DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 23:  A general view of Daytona Speedway during practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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Sports cars: Various confirmations, nuggets from the last week or so

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Originally, I thought about lumping the below tidbits of information in with the provisional list of 2017 FIA Driver Ratings which came out prior to last week. Then that story morphed into a column about how ratings produce more angst than not.

So, here’s some highlights of the rest of the other sports car news from the last week or so:

  • The IMSA two-day test at Daytona was completed prior to the Thanksgiving break. Recaps from Tuesday and Wednesday are linked here, via their website.
  • DragonSpeed will debut its Oreca 07 chassis at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a pretty good lineup of Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval. The Elton Julian-led team finished fourth overall with an Oreca 05 at this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. More here from Sportscar365.
  • Duval also will test an Audi RS 5 DTM car this week, along with Dutchman Nyck de Vries (21), South African Kelvin van der Linde (20) and American Dion von Moltke (26). More here from my colleague Luke. Von Moltke is a rare American to test in DTM; Joey Hand raced there a couple years ago for BMW, with limited success.
  • Another Rolex 24 entry is one from Aston Martin Racing, with Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and either Nicki Thiim or Marco Sorenson as a fourth driver. Dalla Lana confirmed the presence of a GTD-class entered Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 to Sportscar365.
  • CJ Wilson has announced a multi-level dealership agreement with British specialist auto manufacturer, Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) Limited and CJ Wilson Racing team. The partnership will see CJ Wilson Racing and Entertainment become the exclusive dealership and service facility for BAC’s Mono supercar in the Arizona and North Texas markets. More here from the team’s website.
  • TRG will make a welcome full-season return to IMSA’s GTD program, with a Porsche 911 GT3 R. Drivers will be determined at a later date. Said TRG CEO Kevin Buckler, “The Porsche support program has been second to none over all these years and it will be nice to have them by our side once again. It’s also going to be nice to be racing with some of my old friends that are still at Porsche. As we move into our 26th year as a company, the future of professional sportscar racing is strong and I am glad to be doing my part to help lead in any way I can. And, oh yeah….we really like to win!”
  • CRP Racing is the first Pirelli World Challenge race team to announce purchase of the naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car, and Ryan Dalziel will be the team’s new driver. The Scotsman nearly won the 2015 PWC title but missed a couple races due to conflicts. Nick Short’s CRP team ran Kyle Marcelli last year, Mike Skeen the year before with the previous generation Audi R8 LMS ultra. “Pirelli World Challenge is a significant part of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Program in 2017, and we look forward to supporting a premier team like CRP Racing and a top driving talent like Ryan Dalziel,” said Robert Moran, Director of Communications, Mercedes-Benz USA. “We are excited to welcome CRP Racing to the Mercedes-AMG family for 2017.”
  • Might R. Ferri Motorsport be back in PWC in 2017 after a year’s hiatus? The team posted a Ferrari 488 GT3 car with PWC number plates on its Facebook page.
  • Matteo Cressoni will join Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan in Scuderia Corsa’s lineup for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds, replacing Jeff Segal, who’s off to the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 program. More here via ItaliaRacing.net. Cressoni is Silver-rated, which leaves that car open for a Gold or Platinum-rated fourth driver.
  • Another driver likely in for the TPNAEC rounds is Shane van Gisbergen, with the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes team, according to Speedcafe. “The Giz” would theoretically join Gunnar Jeannette and Cooper MacNeil in the team’s No. 50 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Both Jeannette and MacNeil are Silver-rated; van Gisbergen is Platinum; so there’s no driver restrictions on a fourth driver there.
  • Although van Gisbergen will leave his McLaren factory role at year’s end, he still has a one-off role with them still to go. Along with PWC GT champion Alvaro Parente and Côme Ledogar, van Gisbergen will drive K-PAX Racing’s McLaren 650S GT3 at the Motul Sepang 12 Hours on December 11 – this is part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. More here from Speedcafe.
  • Flying Lizard Motorsports has entered a second car for the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, with Tommy Sadler, Andy Wilzoch, Charlie Hayes, and Will Owen in the No. 74 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR running on Toyo Tires. That joins the Audi R8 LMS in the field, which won last year. Earlier in November, Flying Lizard signed young charger Nate Stacy to a one-year deal with an option for a second, to race one of two FLM Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs in PWC’s GTS class.
  • Newly crowned Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion Sven Mueller has been promoted to become a Porsche works driver. Italian Matteo Cairoli (20) and Mathieu Jaminet (22) from France are bumped up to being “Young Professionals,” and Norway’s Dennis Olsen (20) now advances from the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland up to the next level of the Porsche motorsport pyramid to contest the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. The full release from Porsche is linked here. Porsche is set to announce its driver lineups and programs for 2017 at its year-end event this weekend in Germany.
  • Shea Holbrook, PWC TC driver/team owner, will be in this weekend’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. She’ll join Honda Racing/HPD as a development driver for the race, Dec. 2-4, for the first competition test of HPD’s 10th generation Honda Civic.
  • TDS Racing will run an Oreca 07 in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Matthieu Vaxviere. More here from Endurance-Info.

Butterball, Andretti Autosport extension is all gravy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Andretti Autosport and Butterball, a U.S.-based provider of turkey and poultry products, announced a new expansion of their partnership. The newly revamped agreement will see Butterball branding on all four Andretti Autosport entries in 2017.

“Butterball has been a great partner since 2014 and I’m really excited to have them on board again this year,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay. “They were with me when I won the Indianapolis 500 which was a really special moment for everyone involved. Hopefully we can bring them back into victory lane this year, not only at Indy, but throughout the season as well.”

The machines of Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato will feature branding just below the front suspension components. Per the announcement, the placement has created a new nickname for the assembly: “the Butterball Wishbone.”

“Butterball is extremely excited about our sponsorship with Andretti Autosport in 2017,” said Butterball CEO and President Kerry Doughty. “With the addition of the new Butterball Wishbone Sponsorship on all Andretti Autosport Indy cars for the 2017 season, we are expanding the tremendously successful relationship that began with Michael and Ryan in 2014 when we won the Indianapolis 500 in our first season.”

Butterball’s tenure with Andretti Autosport dates back to May 2014, shortly before Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500. Branding has been featured on Hunter-Reay No. 28 entry ever since.

Newgarden completes busy day in Detroit

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Josef Newgarden’s media prowess and charisma was again in full display on Thursday during a series promotional efforts for June’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Specifically, Newgarden was in town for Detroit Grand Prix night at that night’s Pistons-Hornets NBA game.

The day began with Newgarden visiting a handful of Detroit news media outlets, where his most notable venture involved duking it out with Pistons mascot Hooper.

The day continued with Newgarden exploring more of the city, and getting in touch with its rock ‘n roll history.

That, Newgarden ventured to The Palace of Auburn Hills to the big promotional event of day, Detroit Grand Prix night. There, Newgarden was greeted with his own Detroit Pistons jersey and even tried a couple of half-court shots at halftime. However, he did not make any, making it less likely he’ll pursue a basketball career when he decides to hang up his helmet.

For an additional recap Detroit Grand Prix night, visit The Chevrolet’s Detroit Grand Prix twitter @detroitgp.

Entry lists revealed for MRTI Spring Training in Miami

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Kyle Kaiser in Miami, 2015. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The first real good, if not final, looks at the season to come in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires come with next week’s Spring Training, which sees four total days of action at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for all three rungs of the ladder.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will run February 27 on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval and March 2 on the 2.21-mile road course. Meanwhile the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series will run solely on the road course over two back-to-back days, February 28 and March 1.

Indy Lights’ field seems closest to being finalized from this group, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 still have some gaps to fill.

In one other bit, Mazda will announce the teams of competition for its Soul Red-liveried drivers this year, all of whom won Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarships for their next step up this year. That’s why Aaron Telitz (Indy Lights), Anthony Martin (Pro Mazda) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) teams are listed as TBAs.

Anyway, quick notes:

Indy Lights (14 cars

All drivers on the Indy Lights entry list have been officially announced, and as noted, Telitz’s team is the only significant TBA of note. Car numbers are revealed for Zachary Claman De Melo and Matheus Leist at Carlin of 13 and 26 respectively, with the known in advance.

In terms of team breakdown, it’s four each at Carlin and Andretti Autosport (with Colton Herta’s No. 98 car an Andretti Steinbrenner Racing entry), Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing each with two official cars and Team Pelfrey the lone one-car entry.

Of the 14 drivers, the field is split exactly in half between seven veterans and seven rookies.

Questions from here are whether one or two more cars not at this test will join the grid at St. Petersburg and push the number back up. Since the debut of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in 2015, the St. Pete weekend has had 13 cars in 2015 and 16 cars last year, with this one falling in the middle.

Pro Mazda (6 cars)

In what’s very much a survive-and-advance season for Pro Mazda in the final year with its existing car, a small batch of cars come from Team Pelfrey, World Speed Motorsports and the team TBA for Anthony Martin for this test.

Within a 20-to-30-plus, multiple-class series of racing, six cars for one class wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. But six on their own for an independent series is certainly an issue. The number simply has to grow by St. Petersburg to at least eight at a bare minimum, the low-water mark last year, with 10 a significant step forward at this rate (the series had 12 cars at St. Petersburg last year).

USF2000 (22 cars)

Quite by contrast, the new Tatuus USF-17 premieres in USF2000 with 22 cars at this test and the potential of more cars by St. Petersburg (the series had 26 starters last year with two additional withdrawals).

Six returning drivers join 12 rookies and four TBAs on this list, all split among 10 teams. Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, initially announced as driving for Benik in 2017, is listed in a third Newman Wachs Racing entry for this test.

Juan Pablo Montoya samples Risi Ferrari in Sebring IMSA test

during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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One of the best drivers of his generation, Juan Pablo Montoya’s recent run of sampling a diverse amount of machinery continues with his testing debut in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at this week’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test at Sebring International Raceway.

Initially reported by Sportscar365, Montoya received the guest drive opportunity from an old colleague of his when he raced F3000. Team manager Dave “Beaky” Sims planned to put Montoya in for a few laps this afternoon to give him his first proper running in a GTE-spec car.

Montoya, a race winner in Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and past CART and F3000 champion prior to that, got into the low 2:00 range in his handful of laps before turning the car back to Toni Vilander, who will share the car for the March 18 race with Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado. Times are unofficial because this is a series test.

Montoya’s race plans this year are thus far limited to the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in a fifth Team Penske IndyCar. He won the individual portion of the Race of Champions in Miami last month. He’s been linked to the rumored (by RACER.com and others), if not yet official, Penske Daytona Prototype international (DPi) effort.

A couple social posts from the Colombian’s run are below, including from Vilander, IMSA Radio pit reporter Shea Adam and IMSA timing & scoring provider Al Kamel Systems. More info from this week’s test will follow soon.

@Regrann from @imsa_racing – Juan Pablo Montoya turns a few laps in @risicomp's 488. – #regrann

A post shared by Risi Competizione (@risicomp) on