Will Power testing at Indianapolis. Photo: IndyCar

It’s been a hectic three weeks of activity for IndyCar since St. Pete

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Yes, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12 served as the season opener for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. But in the three weeks that have followed before Round 2, it’s worth noting that there has been an overflow of activity in the longest in-season break of the year between races.

All this occurs before NBCSN kicks off its portion of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

It’s best to break down by team, and by series, what’s occurred:

SERIES

  • INDYCAR has released two rounds of renderings of the new 2018 common kit, which hasn’t been formally unveiled yet but with this version offering the closest look yet at what’s to come (Round 1 on March 29, Round 2 on March 31).

TEAM PENSKE

  • The full-season quartet of Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Will Power have tested twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the month of May. The Chevrolet team used a Team Test on March 24 to be able to run alongside the Honda runners at a Honda Manufacturer Test; the team then tested Sunday, April 2 after a one-day weather delay for a Chevrolet Manufacturer Test. The four drivers also tested in the series’ Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 21.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya also made his first test of the year at Barber Motorsports Park with the other four in the series’ Open Test on March 21, and was immediately back on the pace. And his successor in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden, explained how cool it was to work alongside him for the first time.
  • Newgarden flew out to Long Beach on March 28 for the race’s media day.

CHIP GANASSI RACING

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

  • Not a ton to report here but Graham Rahal again has done the same three tests as most: the Barber Open Test (March 21), Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
  • Rahal also made a pit stop to Texas Motor Speedway (March 30) for that track’s preseason media day and luncheon. This comes with a bobblehead… seriously. He won a thriller there last year.
  • Rahal went to Las Vegas (April 2) for wife Courtney Force’s latest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race. A full schedule of where they will be on respective race weekends is linked here.
  • World of Hyatt was confirmed heading into St. Petersburg as an associate sponsor; the sponsorship comes into more recognizable form at Long Beach, as the Hyatt Regency hotel in the track’s infield is prominent in the backdrop of TV and photo shots. The RLL team, including drivers, crew, owners and sponsors, will stay at Hyatt-branded hotels throughout the 2017 IndyCar Series schedule. World of Hyatt members may also gain access to VIP experiences during several race weekends during the season.

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS

ED CARPENTER RACING

Carpenter at IMS. Photo: IndyCar
  • Tests: Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand at Barber for the Open Test (March 21), Sebring for a Team Test (March 28) and Ed Carpenter and Hildebrand at Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Manufacturer Test (April 2).
  • Pigot raced the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, finishing fifth in the Prototype class.
  • Carpenter has stated the team’s likelihood of only running two cars for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, although a third car may still come together late in the going.
  • Preferred Freezer Services has been confirmed for a four-race primary sponsorship deal with Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet, Long Beach this weekend, the two races at Indianapolis and Toronto in July.
  • Carpenter headed to Texas for the opening of the repaved Texas Motor Speedway the day after St. Petersburg (March 13). The reprofiled track kicks off this weekend with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race; IndyCar races there in June.

A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

DALE COYNE RACING

  • Tests: Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones at Barber for the Open Test (March 21) and Honda Manufacturer Test at Sonoma (April 4). The team, like Andretti Autosport, has not yet tested at IMS in 2017.
  • Bourdais ran one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, coming up short of a potential endurance and Florida three-race sweep.
  • The team confirmed Pippa Mann in its third car for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, again in the No. 63 Honda with the Susan G. Komen and Genetic Technologies partnerships continuing.

Road America weekend, Friday notes

Abnormal USF2000 podium of Malukas, VeeKay, Kohl. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Verizon IndyCar Series had two practice sessions today (you can see linkouts to practice one, and practice two, here). But it was far from the only action at Road America.

With seven sessions from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and three sports car sessions, two Pirelli World Challenge and the first Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires race, it was a very busy day of action.

Notes from all of those sessions are below.

MRTI

  • In USF2000, a rare occasion happened. Oliver Askew not only didn’t win the first race of the weekend, but had a mechanical issue that sent him to pit road. It opened the door for Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay (full surname of Van Kalmthout) to capture his first series win in a banner day for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Pabst Racing finished first (VeeKay), third (Lucas Kohl, in his first podium) and fourth (Calvin Ming, after starting 15th). Splitting them up was BN Racing’s David Malukas, the young Chicago native having scored a surprise pole position in the morning, finishing an impressive second place.
  • The first Pro Mazda race of the weekend saw Victor Franzoni on top over Anthony Martin, as the two championship combatants this season continued their bout. Martin (Cape Motorsports) and Franzoni (Juncos Racing) exchanged the lead early before Franzoni got past, then waltzed away. Team Pelfrey’s Nikita Lastochkin finished third for his first podium finish of his Mazda Road to Indy career, after two years in USF2000 and now into his first Pro Mazda season.
  • An intriguing Indy Lights qualifying session for race one saw Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist continue his recent form. The Brazilian rookie edged Carlin teammate Neil Alberico for the top spot, with Ryan Norman best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in third. Points leader Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) starts fourth while Nico Jamin (Andretti) is fifth, Wisconsinite Aaron Telitz (Belardi) 11th and Colton Herta (Andretti/Steinbrenner) 13th. Zachary Claman De Melo (Carlin) did not qualify due to a mechanical issue. Kaiser led practice earlier in the day.
  • The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires held three other sessions on Friday. As noted, Malukas won the pole for the first USF2000 race held earlier Friday. Qualifying for the second race took place after IndyCar second practice, and saw VeeKay on pole. In qualifying for Pro Mazda race two, the grid is jumbled after an apparent strategic error cost Franzoni a proper lap time. A red flag meant he wasn’t able to set a realistic time and he will start from 15th and last on Saturday. Meanwhile Martin will be on the pole for Saturday’s race.

RESULTS

Indy Lights: Weekend Results
Pro Mazda: Weekend Results
USF2000: Weekend Results

SPORTS CARS

Photo: Global MX-5 Cup
  • Patrick Gallagher edged Bryan Ortiz by just 0.0263 of a second in a new record closest finish in Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, which breaks the record for the second time in three races. After Robert Stout beat Gallagher by 0.0632 at Indianapolis, Gallagher turned the tables with his win today, moving his McCumbee McAleer Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup car to the outside of Ortiz exiting Turn 14.
  • Pirelli World Challenge had only two sessions total today, one practice apiece for GT and GTS/TC.

RESULTS

MX-5 Cup: Weekend Results
PWC: Weekend Results

Tony Stewart to race in Rico Abreu fundraiser at Calistoga

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) NASCAR is back at Sonoma Raceway and the defending race winner won’t be part of the field on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who scored the last of his 49 career victories here, is retired now and watches the Cup races as a team owner. He still plans to race this weekend.

Stewart will run at Calistoga Speedway in an event that is being largely promoted by Rico Abreu and his father, local businessman David Abreu.

The race used to be called the Wine Country Classic, but has been renamed the Boys and Girls Club Dirt Track Classic. David Abreu designed the event as a fundraiser for a facility to house after-school programs for local children in Calistoga.

“My dad and I have always wanted to promote a race to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club,” Rico Abreu said. “There is a need for it with our demographics and it accommodates hundreds of kids in our valley. It provides them a safe place to learn and grow.”

Rico Abreu, one of the nation’s top dirt track drivers, benefited from the program along with his two siblings in St. Helena.

Stewart, Abreu and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are among those entered in the Saturday night dirt track event to help draw attendance.

David Abreu, founder of St. Helena’s Abreu Vineyards, is hoping to raise $250,000 for an equipped clubhouse at the Calistoga Boys and Club location. He will give a famous “Macho Magnums” – 40 magnums from his Napa Valley 2010 collection – to the first $100,000 donor.

It will be Stewart’s first Winged Sprint Car start at the Calistoga half-mile. He did win a USAC Western Midget Series race in 1994. He also set the midget track record that same weekend and held it until USAC made its return to the venue in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to running the Calistoga Speedway since I haven’t raced there since 1994,” Stewart said. “I’m also excited to see all the improvements that have taken place at the track since the last time I’ve been there.”

Abreu is driving as well as promoting and fundraising. He’s competing Saturday night in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s and the King of the West-NARC 410’s.

“Having Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in competition will certainly be an exciting thing for all the fans in Nor-Cal,” said Rico Abreu.

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org/

Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

Photo: IndyCar
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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Sauber says it’s ‘soon’ to naming Kaltenborn’s successor

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Sauber F1 Team enters this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix without a team principal and trying to work ahead on its 2018 preparations, making it a tough weekend for one of Formula 1’s smallest teams.

Sauber team manager Beat Zahnder attempted to explain the team’s managerial structure this weekend in Kaltenborn’s absence and teased when he hoped a decision would be made regarding Kaltenborn’s successor.

“Jorg Zander, the technical director and myself, we’ve been entrusted to run the operation of the team this weekend but this is only temporary,” Zahnder explained during the FIA team principal press conference on Friday.

“It doesn’t change a lot for us because our job is to have two cars running as quickly as possible around the circuit and for me it’s a little bit more media work.”

Asked when he hoped to have a successor named, Zahnder replied, “I hope soon. We were talking to some candidates and I hope we can announce it sooner rather than later.”

Former Renault F1 chief Frederic Vasseur’s name has been floated this week, as have other former F1 team chiefs Dave Ryan and Jost Capito, after Colin Kolles’ name was floated earlier in the week.

Zahnder said he could not explain the insider workings of the team.

“I cannot, no. You’ve seen the official press statement from Mr Picci and it seems that Mr Picci and Mrs Kaltenborn had different views how to operate the company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only a race team, it’s a home team as well with 350 people or so, but I cannot give you more information because I’m not actively involved in that decision,” he said.

Sauber is still in the process of not only finishing this year but also preparing for its 2018 switch to Honda power. This is an important change and one that comes amidst the turmoil currently encapsulating McLaren and Honda’s turbulent relationship.

“We have started with the project and there is an exchange of information on the logistical side, on the set-up side and the garages,” Zahnder explained. “We have to organize computers and IT stuff and things like this so the work has started, yes.”

With the two McLaren Hondas set to start from the rear of the grid this weekend, Sauber can at least work to get into Q2 and get further up the order with its pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.