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Offseason recap: Verizon IndyCar Series

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Everyone likes to say the offseason feels shorter than it actually is, and the winter of 2016 was a case study in that for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Few seasons in recent history have seen as much movement among drivers and teams from the top of the grid all the way to the bottom, although a lot of it happened in the early stages of the offseason.

Ahead of the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, here’s a look at what happened in this whirlwind of an offseason.

  • October 5: Josef Newgarden joins Team Penske, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya will pilot a fifth entry for Team Penske at the Indianapolis 500 (announced on October 31).
  • October 7: Chip Ganassi Racing announces it will run Honda engines and aero kits after running Chevrolet engines and aero kits since 2014 (the aero kit was introduced in 2015).
  • October 11: Tony Kanaan re-signs with Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • October 12: Dale Coyne Racing signs Sebastien Bourdais to replace the outgoing Conor Daly. They also beef up their engineering staff, adding Craig Hampson as Bourdais’ engineer.
  • October 13: Larry Foyt announces that A.J. Foyt Racing will become a Chevrolet team in 2017. (The announcement is made official in January of 2017).
  • November 4: JR Hildebrand fills the seat Newgarden vacated at Ed Carpenter Racing after racing a part-time entry for the team since 2014. Spencer Pigot returns as his teammate for the road/street races, formally announced in January, and may pilot a third entry at the Indy 500. Ed Carpenter returns to run the oval races.
  • November 14: Dale Coyne Racing completes its driver lineup before Thanksgiving arrive. The team signs 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones to partner Bourdais.
  • November 15: A.J. Foyt Racing completes a massive overhaul. Gone are incumbent drivers Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth and in are young guns Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly. Will Phillips, George Klotz, and Daniele Cucchiarroni highlight the team’s structural overhaul as well.
  • December 2: Andretti Autosport formally signs Takuma Sato to replace the outgoing Carlos Munoz.
  • January 16: Rumors begin circulating that Mikhail Aleshin’s 2017 sponsorship is in jeopardy due to political conflicts with the United States and Russia.
  • January 21: Word arrives that KV Racing Technology is on the verge of closing, and won’t make the grid for 2017.
  • February 1: Aleshin’s sponsorship situation is seemingly sorted out and he formally rejoins Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. However, rumors persist that politics will impact his funding. In separate news, the team announces they will test test IMSA ace Luís Felipe “Pipo”Derani and former Auto GP champion Luis Michael Dörrbecker at Sebring in March.
  • February 2: Another of the one-off Indy 500 entries is announced. Sage Karam and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirm they will again partner for the 101st running of the Indy 500.
  • February 21: Unfortunately, KV Racing Technology shuttered its doors over the winter. However, their assets, including a pair of chassis, have been acquired by Mazda Road to Indy team owner Ricardo Juncos, whose teams have been a staple of the MRTI ladder for years. He is expected to field two cars at the Indy 500 and may run additional races this year.

Hamilton, Red Bull teammates both go to NASA before USGP

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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One of the more intriguing United States Grand Prix adventures occurred on Wednesday, as both Lewis Hamilton and the pair of Red Bull Racing teammates, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, all went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – in separate sessions – before heading onto Austin.

Hamilton posted on his Instagram story on Wednesday that he’d “quit his day job in a second” to work at NASA and become an astronaut, and the unbridled enthusiasm spoke to the three-time Formula 1 World Champion’s love of different life aspects entirely outside of racing.

“(I) had an incredible day yesterday, having a bit of a comedown today,” Hamilton said today at the FIA Press Conference. “I was just buzzed all day yesterday because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something I’ve been fascinated about, space and space travel particularly.

“So to actually go there… and I had a million questions. I’m sure the guy got fed up with me. I asked a lot of questions and I got to see a lot of great things, some of the new technology they are working on and yeah, I want to go back.”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team posted a gallery of Hamilton’s adventure on its website, linked here, and a few samples are below.

As for the Red Bull pair, the young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen were equally awestruck by the experience.

“There really are a lot of similarities between this and F1, just the technology alone,” Ricciardo said. “I had a guest come to a race last year, when they got into the garage they were like: ‘this is like a space station’. We went to mission control here and it’s really like what we have in the Ops Room in Milton Keynes. Even the safety technology is similar. The astronauts go through the same measurements, a similar kind of HANS device etc. It’s really cool.”

Verstappen added, “There are quite a lot of comparisons, if you really want to talk about it we could go on for an hour! The control center looks pretty similar to ours. We share a lot of the same technology. It was really interesting for us to see that and I bet it would be the same if they could see ours.”

Here’s a link to Red Bull’s gallery and some teaser shots below.