Jamin with Andretti's Rob Edwards. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Four Indy Lights drivers set to test IndyCars at Road America

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The first round of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers testing in the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2017 will take place tomorrow at Road America, Andretti Autosport has confirmed on Tuesday.

Two of the team’s four Indy Lights drivers, Nico Jamin and Dalton Kellett, will be in two of the team’s IndyCars for their first runs this season.

In Jamin’s case, the Frenchman adds his maiden IndyCar test to his resume in a year where he’s won races in all of Indy Lights, IMSA Prototype Challenge in a Ligier JS P3 car, and Pirelli World Challenge GTS in a KTM X-BOW GT4.

Kellett, the Indy Lights sophomore, will have his second day in an IndyCar after testing last fall at Watkins Glen for the first time.

They’ll be joined by Carlin Indy Lights driver Matheus Leist, the Brazilian who won the Freedom 100 last month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Leist won last year’s British F3 title and like Jamin, will have his first run in an IndyCar.

The tests run alongside a current Verizon IndyCar Series driver, in this case Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, as part of INDYCAR’s rule that allows for rookie test days for Indy Lights drivers (Rule

Kellett will take over Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda, Jamin Andretti’s 27 Honda and Leist Rossi’s No. 98 Honda.

Kellett. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“Coming back for a second test in an Indy car is exciting,” said Kellett. “I can’t wait to get back on track. I intend to build on what I learned at the Watkins Glen test last year and I’m very thankful for this opportunity from Andretti Autosport. It’s one of the amazing parts of this program, getting a chance like this to test in the Dallara IR-12 at Road America. I’m honored to work with Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and the rest of the No. 28 crew – being able to use this experience as a guide will be a valuable asset during the test. The overall goal of this test is to create a learning opportunity that I can use as a stepping stone in the future.”

Jamin said of his first test, “I am extremely thankful and excited to have the opportunity to test an Indy car for the first time. As a driver in Mazda Road to Indy, it is something I have been looking forward to for the last four years, and I am only a few days away from it now. I definitely feel ready for the challenge, and I’m looking forward to learning as much as possible and making it a great experience. it will be really cool to drive the bigger sister of my No. 27, and to share the car with Marco [Andretti].”

Leist. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Leist added of his, “I’m really looking forward to the testing and Indy car with Andretti Autosport. This is going to be a mega opportunity for me. It has been a dream since I was young to drive an Indy car. Hope to have fun and learn as much as I can from the team.”

Besides these three, fellow Indy Lights driver Zachary Claman De Melo will test again for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as he did last year at Mid-Ohio. He’ll share the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda with James Hinchcliffe.

Dale Coyne Racing, following a thrash and rebuild, are also expected to test.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”