Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Dickerson primed for success with rare 2-year deal in place at NWR

Leave a comment

Two-year deals in open-wheel junior series racing are about as frequent as 30-degree weather in San Diego. They occasionally happen, but it’s usually once in a blue moon, at best.

Luckily for San Diego native Dakota Dickerson, he got that “30-degree weather day” equivalent to kick off this month, with confirmation of a two-year deal coming with Newman Wachs Racing.

Newman Wachs Racing starred during its four-year run in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship from 2006 through 2009, with drivers such as John Edwards, JR Hildebrand, Simona de Silvestro, Jonathan Summerton and Markus Niemela among those who raced for them. Edwards won the 2009 title in the last year of Champ Car Atlantic, before the series came back to life under a new promoter several years later.

NWR however dipped off the radar in the years since. Team co-owner Paul Newman died in fall of 2008 and Eddie Wachs only carried on as a team owner into the following year. But the opportunity to come back arose following the USF2000’s launch of the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis, and NWR is one of the marquee teams entering the championship as a result.

In Dickerson, a past Team USA Scholarship winner and Mazda scholarship recipient who made big strides over the course of his first USF2000 campaign this year with Afterburner Autosport, the team has found a driver they can grow with who already has experience.

And Dickerson has the peace of mind knowing he’ll be set for two years, with USF2000 this year and Pro Mazda set for 2018, in the new Tatuus PM-18.

“Yeah, I know, it’s awesome. Especially this early in my career. It’s really nice,” Dickerson told NBC Sports. “The credit goes to the team for believing in me and wanting to put something together like this. A large portion of it, too, is the fact the USF 2000 Pro Mazda chassis going to be the same, so if we’re putting all our time and resources into developing the USF car, it just makes sense to go up and do the Pro Mazda car together, as well.”

Dickerson met team manager Brian Halahan in August when the team announced its return plans. He visited the shop following the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, met Wachs, and clicked rather instantly. He was signed following a successful private test.

While Dickerson, who turned 20 on December 2, was in his early teen years when NWR was racing in Atlantics, he paid attention to their pedigree.

“When they were in Atlantics, I was running go-karts and one of their Atlantic drivers, Markus Niemela was a good friend,” Dickerson said. “So it was kind of weird to hear their name when I was 12-years-old and now getting to run with them.

“And everybody in the series, since Newman Wachs is running in the Atlantics, they told me a bit about their background and it all kind of clicked and made sense.”

Dickerson’s first season in USF2000 turned a corner starting at Lucas Oil Raceway end of May. He had an eighth place on debut in a crash-marred season opener in St. Petersburg but only finished better than 13th once in the next five races. From Lucas Oil through the end of the year, Dickerson was 12th or better in 10 straight races, with a best stretch of fourth in Toronto race two, then two fifths and a sixth at Mid-Ohio. He ended ninth in points.

“A lot of it was a learning process. I didn’t get to spend as much time with the Afterburner team as I would have liked to in the offseason,” Dickerson explained.

“So we were learning a lot together throughout the season and a lot of it clicked, a lot of things started to come together. We brought on a driver coach, Barry Waddell, and he was real helpful at Mid-Ohio and kind of just getting me used to running with this team. A lot of it just came together in the last half and I think a lot of our success was due to that.”

The new, wider Cooper Tires on the new USF-17 car will require a bit of adapting but Dickerson seems to have a good handle on it.

“The tires are a lot wider, a lot more mechanical grip,” he said. “It seemed like it was hard to tell between whether it was the brakes that were more efficient or the tires in general. But overall, just so much more grip overall with the new tires, the bigger tires. I don’t know what’s different with the compound, but just a lot more grip.”

Dickerson should be the team leader as Newman Wachs plans to run at least three cars, engineered by Alan O’Leary, look set to tackle the series next year.

“We can get after it now. We’ve taken care of the logistics for the next two years and it’s just nice to focus on the driving aspect for as much as we can and I’m really excited to get preseason testing going.”

MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook

Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.

Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.

COMBINED TIMES

INDY LIGHTS (Best Session)Full Results

Jamin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 5-Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173 (Session 2)
2. 98-Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.7808 (Session 8)
3. 23-Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.7953 (Session 8)
4. 3-Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.0900 (Session 5)
5. 4-Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.1419 (Session 5)
6. 31-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:16.1585 (Session 8)
7. 31-Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491 (Session 4)
8. 48-Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285 (Session 4)
9. 27-Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185 (Session 4)
10. 2-TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.8124 (Session 5)
11. 21-Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.1931 (Session 5)

PRO MAZDA (Best Session); Full Results 

Askew. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 8-Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8142 (Session 5)
2. 79-David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:19.9394 (Session 5)
3. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:19.9815 (Session 5)
4. 1-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236 (Session 2)
5. 3-Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268 (Session 4)
6. 81-Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.1928 (Session 5)
7. 18-Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.2141 (Session 5)
8. 2-Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:20.6289 (Session 5)
9. 91-Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001 (Session 2)
10. 80-Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930 (Session 4)
11. 82-Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey, 1:21.2144 (Session 8)
12. 78-Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:21.3713 (Session 8)

USF2000 (Best Session); Full Results

Keane ended head of queue in USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 36-Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.1424 (Session 5)
2. 22-Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618 (Session 3)
3. 27-Callan O’Keefe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295 (Session 2)
4. 21-Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:25.7021 (Session 5)
5. 31-Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:25.7791 (Session 5)
6. 81-Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, 1:25.8514 (Session 5)
7. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743 (Session 2)
8. 23-Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:25.9792 (Session 6)
9. 37-David Osborne, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.9996 (Session 8)
10. 20-Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.0042 (Session 6)
11. 80-Michael D’Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2295 (Session 8)
12. 37-Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452 (Session 4)
13. 25-Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.3668 (Session 8)
14. 32-Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557 (Session 2)
15. 38-Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5058 (Session 2)
16. 33-Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.6004 (Session 8)
17. 90-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:26.6460 (Session 5)
18. 82-David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824 (Session 2)
19. 34-Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.9362 (Session 6)
20. 38-Oscar DeLuzuriaga, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:27.7455 (Session 8)
21. 92-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750 (Session 3)
22. 24-Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.5449 (Session 8)
23. 93-Jayson Clunie, Exclusive Autosport, No Time

NOTES

Old USF2000 teammates Jamin and Telitz share a high-five. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
  • There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
  • The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
  • Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
  • Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
  • Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
Veekay. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.

Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.