Penske, BHA add new sponsors for 2013

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Two IndyCar teams have new sponsor additions besides their primary ones, and one other team has announced a new alliance

Team Penske has welcomed back Quicken Loans, which served as an associate for the team in 2003 and 2004. Penske finished 1-2 in the 2003 Indianapolis 500 with Gil de Ferran leading the fellow Panoz G Force Toyota driven by Helio Castroneves.

Quicken Loans will serve an associate sponsor of the Team Penske Nos. 3 and 12 cars for the season. It also is the presenting sponsor of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, which is part of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on May 31-June 2.

“When you look at getting into a sport like INDYCAR, you always look at who you want to partner with, and we definitely wanted to be with Penske,” said Quicken Loans communications director Aaron Emerson. “We have a past relationship and outside of racing we have a lot of synergy as well. Obviously, Roger Penske is from Detroit and our owner Dan Gilbert has invested millions of dollars in Detroit to revitalize buildings and bring the city back to where it was. Dan and Roger are also good friends. Very excited about this and ready to get racing.”

Bryan Herta Autosport, now known as Barracuda Racing in deference to primary sponsor Barracuda Networks, has added Lassonde and Oasis Juices to its sponsor portfolio. Oasis, a Quebec-based fruit and vegetable juice manufacturer, began their foray into IndyCar as a personal sponsor of driver Alex Tagliani last season.

“Lassonde is particularly proud to support talent such as that of Alexandre Tagliani,” said Mr. Pierre L’Heureux, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director, Sales Administration, Marketing and R&D at A. Lassonde Inc. “Through his determination, perseverance and healthy lifestyle, Tag is the ideal athlete to represent Oasis brand values across North America.”

Tagliani’s striking new livery for the 2013 season was unveiled Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park (above, right).

Additionally, KV Racing Technology and SH Racing have announced an alliance that will see Tony Kanaan’s car referred to as the No. 11 KV Racing Technology – SH entry for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

SH Racing was founded in 2010 and made its debut in IndyCar in 2011, also in partnership with KVRT, at that year’s Indianapolis 500. Tomas Scheckter finished eighth in what was the No. 07 entry, and SH partnered with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for one further appearance at Baltimore.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.