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Busy week of testing ahead for IndyCar teams out West

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The old saying “Go West, young man” is apropos for the Verizon IndyCar Series this week, ahead of a busy week of testing for teams and drivers at three key tracks on the left coast.

The action starts today with seven drivers from three teams out at Phoenix International Raceway.

Team Penske’s fearless foursome of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud will join now Ed Carpenter Racing’s Carpenter and Josef Newgarden for a Chevrolet manufacturer test. Despite being listed, KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais will not test.

Others such as Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti have been out in Phoenix already this offseason. “TK” and Rahal tested for Firestone, with “Hinch,” “RHR” and Andretti out there in a Honda test in November.

Here’s some buildup to the test on social media:

On the team plane to Phoenix… First time in car for 16

A post shared by Will Power (@12willpower) on

The latter post appears to be a teaser of Newgarden’s temporary Fuzzy’s Vodka colors on what will be his No. 21 Chevrolet.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the other four-car powerhouse in the series – Chip Ganassi Racing – will have a four-car test of its own.

New signing Max Chilton is set to join the usual trio of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, with the Englishman set for his first test in an IndyCar at Sonoma Raceway.

Chilton, who’s been in the U.S. for media day and then stayed in the run up to Sonoma as he prepares for his debut, has been taking in the sights and sounds of San Francisco.

Honda won’t be devoid of testing this week as down the road in Fontana, Calif., at Auto Club Speedway, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz will be doing a Honda manufacturer test day on the 2.0-mile oval. While the track won’t see an IndyCar race this year, it remains a good testing location.

Chilton will also have his oval rookie test later this week at the same track, on Saturday. The Englishman failed to start at Indianapolis due to a fuel cell issue, but then promptly won his second oval start at Iowa within the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Sonoma was one of the few tracks Chilton didn’t learn from his training within the Mazda Road to Indy, but he should pick it up pretty easily.

Report: Auto Club Speedway president on no IndyCar in 2016: “It’s quite a shame”

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Late last week it was confirmed that the Verizon IndyCar Series would not be returning to Auto Club Speedway in 2016.

The news came not even two months following this year’s race, which was one of the most spell-binding in IndyCar history, won by Graham Rahal.

INDYCAR released a statement last Friday, noting that while it reached out to the track to run later in the year as it had in 2012 and 2013, it was unable to reach a window that would not adversely impact East Coast television viewership.  A portion of that statement reads:

“INDYCAR explored several options to retain the event as part of its 2016 calendar, including plans to race later in the season to comply with the track’s request to host the season finale. Ultimately the two sides were unable to identify a start time and broadcast window that would not adversely impact television viewership on the East Coast.”

Auto Club Speedway track president Dave Allen expanded with a statement of his own released this weekend. It reads:

“As an open wheel fan who watched one of the best races I’ve ever seen, it is with deep regret we were unable to come to terms with INDYCAR for the 2016 MAVTV 500. We worked hard to land on a date that made sense for Auto Club Speedway, our sponsors, our fans and the sanctioning body. We hope to revisit schedule opportunities with INDYCAR in the future. In the meantime, we are committed to exploring options to add to our existing year round schedule.”

Allen opened up further in an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, speaking to veteran Southern California reporter Louis Brewster.

“It’s quite a shame. We don’t like it at all,” Allen told Brewster. “Personally, I love open-wheel racing and thought we had some of the best races. It was great for the sport, for our fans and our track.

“It was strictly a business decision. We had to do what we thought best for our fans and for us. Hopefully, open-wheel racing will return in the future.”

Allen told Brewster that INDYCAR offered the track three post-Labor Day dates, which would have put a potential ACS event in Fontana after the Sept. 2-4 weekend slated for Boston.

Sources also told Brewster the race was a financial loser, with an estimated financial loss of $500,000 for the year.

But none worked for the track’s bottom line; Allen said there were conditions which didn’t work for the track, and he felt the track should have been treated better by INDYCAR.

Allen took over as track president last winter, replacing Gillian Zucker, who’d also worked hard to bring the series back to the track after a seven-year hiatus from 2005 to 2012.

Auto Club Speedway out for IndyCar in 2016

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Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. hosted arguably one of the most exciting races in recent IndyCar memory on Saturday, June 27.

It won’t have an encore for 2016.

A track spokesperson has confirmed it won’t be on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, unable to find a suitable date and time that works for its schedule.

INDYCAR has also confirmed the news via a statement released:

INDYCAR explored several options to retain the event as part of its 2016 calendar, including plans to race later in the season to comply with the track’s request to host the season finale. Ultimately the two sides were unable to identify a start time and broadcast window that would not adversely impact television viewership on the East Coast.

“There was a tremendous amount of effort put forth to keep Auto Club Speedway on the calendar. In the end, we could not identify a compromise for 2016 that was amicable for both parties,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We’re thankful to (Auto Club Speedway President) Dave Allen for his efforts in these negotiations. We mutually agreed that our inability to identify a date for next year doesn’t preclude us revisiting these conversations in the future.”

It’s a shame as Auto Club Speedway hosted some of the most exciting races in IndyCar since its return in 2012, but has also been subject to four date changes in four years.

In 2012, the race was in mid-September, then moved to mid-October for 2013, end of August for 2014 and then end of June for this year.

Auto Club had been rumored as a possible season-ender for 2016, after Boston’s race on Labor Day weekend, but that is now not the case.

It remains to be seen whether ACS – a staple of open-wheel calendars from 1997 to 2005 and from 2012 to 2015 – will have a third life with IndyCar.

The news comes as Phoenix International Raceway is closing on a possible April return, incidentally, for the first time since 2005.

IndyCar’s Mark Miles details pros, cons and difficulties of scheduling specific tracks

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles talked with media members Wednesday about the finer points of scheduling in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

He discussed many different tracks the series has raced on in the past, present and those it could return to in the future.

Auto Club Speedway (on schedule in some form off/on since 1997, IRL, CART and INDYCAR)

Scheduling – “For them to be successful, it really can’t be in the heat of the summer, and we get that.  So we gotta take that into account and look at the whole of those trade‑offs that we just talked about.  No one individual perspective is going to trump all the others.   

Attendance – “This is the third time I’ve been there for an IndyCar race, and I wasn’t wild about the crowd three years ago, but it was reduced, and I’m sure that the schedule and the weather contributed to that. So it is something that has to be taken into account and has to be worked through. It’s certainly not just about the weather, although I’m trying to be quite clear, we know the schedule had a lot to do with it.”

Phoenix International Raceway (not on schedule, last raced at in 2005, IRL)

“I don’t know that there are a lot of options. They’re not much different than Fontana for weather, so it ain’t gonna work in the summer, and they’ve got to work around, from their perspective, understandably, their other especially NASCAR events.

“So I think the focus has to be about them being so far away from their first Cup race as possible, which puts you in early February. So the judgments, or some of the considerations for them are what kind of space do they feel like they need to have between an IndyCar race and a Cup race to make them both successful.

“We would have been there before now if there were a bunch of options to choose from. I don’t think there are. By being willing to start earlier in the year, we talked about right after the Super Bowl, it does open up at least that option from our perspective … but there aren’t it’s not like there is two months between that and their first Cup race, so I think the judgments have to be made primarily by them about whether they can find a way to make ’em both work if that’s the set up. ”

Road America (not on schedule, last raced at in 2007, Champ Car)

“It’s a traditional track that’s had great history for us. We know that a lot of our fans and stakeholders, teams, would like to be there, we would like to be there. We think it’s important to talk with Milwaukee (The Milwaukee at State Fair Park) about that and we have and we do, and I think they understand that proximity can be a good thing, especially when there is cooperation between promoters and there can be a collaborative effort in effect, to build a fan base.

“From a Road America point of view, they don’t have a lot of flexibility on date. I think it’s pretty clear they would like, if we can do it, that they would like us to allow them to combine with their World Challenge event, which they just had, so they’re sort of a target on the board, and the question is, can we hit it? But it’s a focal point of our discussions, and we’re hopeful we can figure that out for next year.”

Milwaukee Mile Speedway (on schedule since 1946 under various sanctioning bodies)

Is Milwaukee a lame duck event?  – “We’re not drawing that line in the sand. I spoke to one of the senior officers of the company that promotes it today, even, and we’re both going to do what we can to see if we can continue to have Milwaukee on the schedule. Again, that’s going to take some, I think, sponsorship and it’s going to take we’re going to have to work on the date.

“This year the date is different and their time is different, and the date is different because, as I understand it, when Labor Day, by virtue of the way the calendar works, not our calendar, but “the calendar” when that moved Labor Day about a week later, the fair sort of moved with it, and our promoters believed that (the race) needed to be after the fair, and as you probably know there are lots of other goings on civically in the summer in Milwaukee as well. So we didn’t have a lot of choice as to where to put it, and they’re trying to combine the vintage car racing with IndyCar to make a terrific weekend, and that had something to do with the date. It also has something to do with the time.

“We know that the IndyCar race is a couple hours later than it has been, and we know that if you are traveling from Chicago or Indianapolis, and you’re trying to get home Sunday night, a couple of hours matters. On the other hand, the promoter definitely wanted to have the vintage racing Saturday. That means we could practice Saturday, and we got to put a lot into Sunday, including qualifying and practice, and that’s how it ended up being later. So as always, lots of moving parts. They’re not secrets, they’re not nefarious, and we hope that we can find ways to find a date where it works better for our promoter and primarily our fans.”

Importance of ovals like Fontana and Milwaukee to schedule

“Keeping the ovals on the schedule is really important to us. There are various ways we can consider helping, supporting them as you probably already know … to some extent we have showed a lot of what I will call ‘flexibility’ in sanction fee pricing in part because of that objective. Whether we can bring some sponsorship you know, there are a lot of points on the spectrum. I don’t believe that actually co-promoting when we are in their market selling tickets for them is our strength, so that seems like a bridge too far, but we care a lot about the ovals being part of the Series, along with the streets and the roads, and we’re going to do whatever we can to ensure that balance.”

IndyCar issues penalties and fines following MAVTV 500 at Fontana

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The Verizon IndyCar Series has issued multiple penalties in the wake of on and off-track incidents in the MavTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

The most notable include Will Power being fined $25,000 and put on probation through the end of the season after the Team Penske driver shoved a safety crew member after exiting his car following a two-car crash with Takuma Sato.

The team of race winner Graham Rahal was fined $10,000 ($5,000 suspended) for leaving his pit stall with part of a fuel hose.

The rest of the penalties can be seen in the below press release.

INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2015) — INDYCAR announced the following post-event infractions and manufacturer championship points updates from the MAVTV 500, which was held June 27 at Auto Club Speedway:

• Verizon IndyCar Series driver Will Power was fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of the 2015 season for violating Rule 9.3.1 (Improper Conduct) and Rule 9.3.1.8 (Improper Conduct; using improper, profane, or disparaging language or gestures in reference to any Official).

• The No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry was fined $10,000 ($5,000 suspended) for violating Rule 7.10.1.2 (Pit Safety Violation; leaving pit with equipment attached to the car – fuel hose). Additionally, a crew member for the team was placed on probation for three races for violating Rule 7.10.1.2 (Pit Safety Violation; leaving pit with equipment attached to car – fuel hose).

• Verizon IndyCar Series driver Tristan Vautier was fined $10,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of the 2015 season for violating Rule 7.10.1.8 (Pit Safety Violation; contact with personnel).

• The No. 2 Team Penske entry was fined $1,500 for violating Rule 7.10.1.5 (Pit Safety Violation; contact with equipment – air hose).

• The No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry was fined $500 for violating Rule 7.9.6 (Pit Procedures, unattended equipment – wheel nut).

• The No. 26 Andretti Autosport entry was fined $500 for violating Rule 7.9.6 (Pit Procedures, unattended equipment – wheel nut).

• The No. 67 CFH Racing entry was fined a total of $1,000 for twice violating Rule 7.9.6 (Pit Procedures, unattended equipment – wheel nut and tire).

• Chevrolet received a bonus of 60 manufacturer points and Honda a bonus of 30 points for having engines attain their life cycle during the Auto Club Speedway race weekend. According to Rule 10.6.4.2, 10 points are awarded to a manufacturer for an engine that successfully reaches its 2,500-mile life cycle. Chevrolet engines that met the minimum were the No. 1 Team Penske, No. 11 KVSH Racing and Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams entries. Honda engines that met the life cycle requirement were the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport entries.

• Chevrolet and Honda each received a deduction of 60 manufacturer points for engines that did not attain their life cycle during the Auto Club Speedway race weekend. According to Rule 10.6.4.3, 20 manufacturer points are deducted for an engine that fails to reach its 2,500-mile life cycle. Chevrolet engines that did not achieve the minimum before being changed out were the Nos. 2 and 3 Team Penske and No. 4 KV Racing Technology entries. Honda engines not reaching the life cycle minimum before being changed out were the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises and No. 28 Andretti Autosport entries.

Following the adjustments, Chevrolet has 1,108 manufacturer championship points for the season and Honda has 921.

Members may contest the imposition of penalties pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.