Andretti Autosport

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Ryan Norman set to take next ‘Journey’ in debut Indy Lights season

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One of the more unheralded drivers entering this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires campaign has been Ryan Norman, the 19-year-old out of Cleveland who has made strides in his rookie campaign.

Norman was the only one of Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights quartet new to the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires this year. Teammates Nico Jamin, Dalton Kellett and Colton Herta have all been in the MRTI before, while Norman has undergone a significant learning process of taking on new tracks and a new championship.

But Norman’s been one of the year’s more pleasant surprises with methodical growth and improvement over the course of the season.

Through 12 races, Norman has improved his starting position by the end of the race in nine of them, and scored 10 top-10 finishes overall – a number that is tied for second in the series with Zachary Claman De Melo, behind only season points leader Kyle Kaiser who has been in the top-10 in all 12. He’s also won multiple Tilton Hard Charger awards for advancing the most positions in a race from his grid position, and additional Staubli Awards.

Norman ranks 10th in the points standings, ahead of two three-year veterans and two rookies.

Incidentally, it’s been the few races where Norman has qualified in the top five – fourth at the Freedom 100, third at Elkhart Lake race one and fourth in Iowa – where his results haven’t measured up to his starting position. A first lap accident took he and Herta out at the Freedom, while he still banked solid fourth and eighth place finishes in the other two races.

Norman heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend for the next step of his journey on his rookie season – literally.

After running in a vibrant orange-and-black livery the first 12 races, Norman will now step aboard the No. 48 Journey Mazda for Andretti Autosport this weekend, as the legendary rock band formed in 1973 comes onto the car, and the livery changes along with it for the balance of the season.

Not far from Norman’s hometown of Cleveland, the same city of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Lexington, Ohio course will see Norman debut the new livery. ORACAL’s new 970 Premium Special Effect Cast in Sunset Shift, a color-changing wrap like Norman’s Red Bull Global Rallycross teammate Scott Speed’s race car. The new design echoes Journey’s iconic logo, featuring giant wings on the side pod and nose cone of Norman’s Dallara IL-15.

It’s an orange livery with yellow and blue stripes. Needless to say Norman is ready to rock out on home turf this weekend and look to continue his rapid growth in his first season this weekend.

“I am very excited to have Journey on board for the rest of my 2017 season,” Norman said in a release. “It’s unique to have a rock band sponsoring a race car. Journey was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which is my hometown, so it makes the next race at Mid-Ohio very special to me. I love Journey’s music and having “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the side of my car is very fitting. This song has inspired a lot people including athletes like myself.”

Norman isn’t the only Andretti Autosport driver with a story this weekend at Mid-Ohio; teammate Jamin looks to snap a rough patch of results and extend his own personal winning streak at Mid-Ohio from its current run of five races between USF2000 (three races in 2015) and Pro Mazda (two in 2016) while Herta looks to keep his championship hopes alive. Kellett has had the opposite bit of luck as Norman this year; he’s qualified significantly better but had a rough run of results in the races themselves that haven’t matched his potential.

Indy Lights race coverage from Mid-Ohio airs Sunday, July 30, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rossi’s second, Marco’s fourth lead Andretti’s strong Toronto day

Rossi and Hinchcliffe on podium. Photo: IndyCar
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It seemed only a matter of time before Andretti Autosport could bank a result worthy of their drivers’ improved performances this year, and it came Sunday in the Honda Indy Toronto with a bit of luck and a bit of pace.

Alexander Rossi was unlucky to roll off eighth in his No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda – he and Takuma Sato were both caught out when the qualifying session restarted and it knocked them out of the Firestone Fast Six. Meanwhile from 11th and 16th, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay needed some help to make it up the order on Sunday.

Luckily it came in the form of a Lap 23 caution Sunday in the race. Once Tony Kanaan nosed into the Turn 1 wall, it brought out the yellow after a handful of the Andretti contingent had been into the pits for their first scheduled stops.

Sato was among those caught out by the yellow in fifth as he hadn’t pitted, but Rossi (10th), Andretti (13th) and Hunter-Reay (15th) had and suddenly found themselves poised to capitalize as a result of the jumbled sequence that would follow.

Rossi rebounded to a net second after the restart, behind leader and eventual race winner Josef Newgarden with Ed Jones and Charlie Kimball ahead but needing to stop, with Andretti and Hunter-Reay also into the top-10 following the shuffle.

They were able to stay there the rest of the race. Rossi wasn’t able to close enough on Newgarden to make a proper passing attempt, but was pleased with his first podium finish in IndyCar that wasn’t, well, that one at Indianapolis last May. Rossi hadn’t finished better than fifth in an IndyCar race outside of last year’s Indianapolis 500 so second was a needed result for him and the team.

“It’s been a long time coming. Now we can go to chase more wins,” Rossi told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt post-race. “I’m relieved we got the monkey off our back. To get this car where it needed to be was a huge effort. Very proud of Honda for their effort, and a huge shoutout to the fans.”

Rossi’s pre-race entrance. Photo: IndyCar

Rossi expanded on how many changes the team made from Friday to Saturday to even get the team in a good position.

“We were really at the bottom of the barrel, staring into the bottom of the barrel, I guess, Friday afternoon. We were really lost. We were the slowest, Andretti Autosport cars. Here is a tough place to be coming from to start off strong,” he explained.

“We had a lot of soul searching Friday night. We stayed quite a bit later at the in a long time. We just really analyzed everything that we could, and made some pretty solid changes overnight that suited me really well Saturday.

“If you look at where we were last year, the last four cars in qualifying, to having three cars in the top 10, really having something to fight for today, it’s a testament not only to this weekend and the strength the team has shown, but also this off-season and how much better 2017 has been for us, has been for Honda.”

Photo: IndyCar

Andretti admitted a bit of luck in ending fourth, but couldn’t express how much it was needed for both himself and the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda team, led by strategist Bryan Herta.

“It’s refreshing for sure. A trophy would have been fun. But I had fun today,” Andretti told NBCSN’s Anders Krohn. “The UFD car was great. It’s starting to put the fun back in this sport for me. Next goal for me is more hardware in the trophy case. He gave me the old go faster and save fuel, Bryan has put some fun back into it. It’s time to make this a regular occurrence going forward.”

Hunter-Reay ended sixth. Photo: IndyCar

Hunter-Reay enjoyed a combative bout with polesitter Simon Pagenaud in the final stages, Pagenaud finally making the pass in the final few laps for fifth place. The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda then held off a bunch of others in the final couple laps as his car and tires fell off.

Speaking to NBCSN’s Robin Miller, Hunter-Reay said about the battle, “Yeah he gave me a nudge, I got back by him, I was loose in Turn 6, and I got in there pretty deep, he got by me. He was quite a bit quicker than me. But all in all, a good day. 2-4-6. Considering we started 16th, it was a good day.

“Some of the worst pickup I’ve ever experience with marbles It took four laps to get rubber off the car. It wounding turn! All in all I’m thankful to bring it home P6.”

Takuma Sato, who fell to 16th on Sunday, still is the best of the Andretti quartet in the championship, but has all but lost any title hopes after a rough patch of four races where he’s not finished better than 10th.

He sits seventh in points, 72 back of points leader Scott Dixon. Rossi is eighth, Hunter-Reay 13th and Andretti 14th.

Hunter-Reay: IndyCar’s 2018 car ‘heading in right direction’

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With the Verizon IndyCar Series a little under two weeks away from its first scheduled test of its new 2018 universal aero kit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay is pleased with the car’s near final renderings and potential “shield” addition.

The 36-year-old American, the 2012 series and 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion, has been a proponent of enhanced cockpit safety for some time and looks forward to seeing how the series gets on with its initial tests over the next couple months.

“I’ve only seen the preliminary mockups, but I think it’s heading in the right direction,” Hunter-Reay told NBC Sports on Wednesday.

“That’s something we need to put at the forefront. I love the new car challenge, getting behind the wheel and figuring it all out.”

Hunter-Reay has a long-term contract to drive Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 car – currently a Honda – through the 2020 season and will be one of the drivers who will likely lead the development of the new kit later this fall once testing ramps up.

As INDYCAR considers the potential of adding a shield design to the existing Dallara DW12 tub, with potential testing to begin later this fall according to Motorsport.com, Hunter-Reay described the challenges that come with that.

“The problem of a canopy is retrofitting one to an existing car, which is more difficult than building a car around it,” he explained.

“And then you have the cooling issue. At Iowa, we’re racing on a 92-degree day, and if the canopy would be up too high, there’s no air to the cockpit, so there’s cooling things they have to get around.

“But we have the best people in sport. I’m glad it’s progressing. I’ll say that I’m looking forward to ending the aero kit era.”

The 2018 car is an exciting new prospect for Hunter-Reay to think about since any championship hopes for 2017 are dashed – again – after a consistent spate of bad luck. Mechanical failures and incidents not of his own making have dropped one of the best overall drivers in the series to an unrepresentative 14th place in points.

Hunter-Reay is winless since Pocono in August 2015, a stretch of 28 races, and heads to Toronto this weekend looking to build off a third place finish this past weekend at Iowa.

Hunter-Reay noted how difficult street races are to call from the strategy box. Ray Gosselin, his race engineer, also doubles as RHR’s strategist.

“With street course strategies, I do not envy that,” Hunter-Reay admitted. “It’s unreal how tight the competition it is. And sometimes on a street course, from the car, you have no idea where you are in the big picture.

“In the long term, big picture side of it, I think we may need to address it as a sport. It can be so complicated as a sport. This guy’s leading, this guy’s second, there’s good battles for position, and then the yellow comes out and field gets completely flopped.

“I have friends who have watched IndyCar racing for years – and there’s times I have to explain it to them. It’s a complicated side of the sport, and sometimes it’s hard to follow on that side.”

Beyond his racing commitments, Hunter-Reay will co-host The RALLY Toronto on Thursday night with James Hinchcliffe, a party with proceeds benefitting RHR’s charity, Racing for Cancer. Hunter-Reay said this event is similar to The Yellow Party, a Racing for Cancer charity event held frequently in the past.

The two have partnered together on various philanthropic events before, Hinchcliffe often taking a week out of his winter to support Hunter-Reay’s Racing for Cancer event in December. About the only thing Hunter-Reay dreads is attempting to pronounce the foundation Hinchcliffe supports, the Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation of Canada (WMFC).

Hunter-Reay, and the rest of the 21-car field, compete in Toronto for the Honda Indy Toronto this weekend. Qualifying coverage airs Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with live race coverage from 3 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC.

BMW confirms season five Formula E works role with Andretti team

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Just as Audi formally confirmed its works status within the FIA Formula E Championship last week and will take over the name of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport from season four of the electric open-wheel championship, BMW has now done the same on Tuesday morning to confirm its works status and name takeover of the MS Amlin Andretti operation.

BMW and Andretti have enjoyed a technical partnership and by season five of the series, set for 2018-2019, BMW will build an all new powertrain as the works entry into the championship.

JF Thormann, Andretti executive vice president, told my colleague Luke Smith at the Hong Kong season opener in October 2016 the partnership was a “match made in heaven.”

BMW confirmed it would be a works entry in the fifth season back in April, but didn’t specify its team partnership, although it was anticipated it would continue with Michael Andretti’s Andretti Autosport operation.

“Through our involvement in Formula E, we are addressing the development towards sustainable and emission-free mobility in the automobile industry and are also making a contribution to the brand’s progression to BMW iNEXT,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.

“This project is thoroughly driven by technology. We are using Formula E as a development laboratory, operating under the unique conditions that prevail in motor racing – with very unique demands and opportunities.

“The borders between production and motor racing development are more blurred at BMW i Motorsport than in any other project. The result is a technology transfer on a whole new level. We are certainly confident that the BMW Group will benefit greatly from the experience gained in the field of electrotechnology during this project.”

Jens Marquardt, BMW Motorsport Director, added, “The series represents a completely new challenge for us – a challenge we are happy to take on together with Andretti Formula E. Andretti is the ideal partner for this mission. The name needs no introduction in international motor racing. Our cooperation is already working very well, and we look forward to taking the next steps together.”

Michael Andretti said, “We are excited to expand our partnership with BMW i and serve as BMW’s official Formula E works team beginning in Season 5. The ongoing collaboration between BMW and Andretti Formula E has provided a strong foundation for BMW’s entry as an official manufacturer. We look forward to running BMW’s first all-electric racing drivetrain and competing for the Formula E Championship. BMW is leading the automotive future with the BMW i line and their innovation in electric car technology. I couldn’t pick a more prestigious or historic manufacturer to work with in Formula E.”

The Qualcomm New York City ePrix runs this weekend, where the pair of MS Amlin Andretti entries driven by Robin Frijns and Antonio Felix da Costa look to get back in the points after a tough weekend in Berlin.

Andretti Autosport’s four-car IndyCar team runs the Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CNBC) this weekend.

Third place at Iowa ties season-best for Hunter-Reay (VIDEO)

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Prior to Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign could be described with such words as disappointing, difficult, challenging, and troublesome.

Brief highlights in the otherwise tough year include a fourth-place finish at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a third-place at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but otherwise, Hunter-Reay’s season has featured eight finishes of 11th or worse, including three DNFs.

However, a strong history at Iowa Speedway, highlighted by three wins, left room for optimism ahead of Sunday’s 300-lap outing, and Hunter-Reay was able to deliver on that optimism.

Starting 15th, Hunter-Reay was on the move from the outset, climbing all the way up to seventh in the opening stint. He then cracked the top five just after lap 100.

Although he couldn’t quite muster the speed to challenge for the win, Hunter-Reay battled with the leaders the rest of the race and ended up in third at the end to match his best result of the season.

Speaking to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt afterward, Hunter-Reay explained that he and the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport team made a slew of changes to the chassis to improve its handling and speed, and their changes paid big dividends.

“We made a ton of changes. Credit to this team. When I got here it was so loose,” Hunter-Reay explained. “We made some changes. Only (one hour and 15 minutes) of practice. Made the most of it. Made the most for warmup and the race. Had too little front wing. But we got it dialed in there. I had the car that I needed, finally.”

Hunter-Reay added that it was nice to be fighting at the front again. “It was fun. Nice to be back on the podium. Great for DHL, Andretti Autosport and the 28 team. We’ve had two or three podiums. We just need the momentum,” he finished.

Hunter-Reay now sits 14th in the championship standings, 23 points behind tenth-place Max Chilton.

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