Keselowski, Logano get regular crew chiefs back

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With two-race suspensions completed, the regular crew chiefs for Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are back on top of their respective war wagons this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Both drivers had parts confiscated from the rear ends of their cars before the April 13 event at Texas Motor Speedway. That led to NASCAR delivering massive penalties to their teams, with crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Todd Gordon (Logano) initially hit with six-race suspensions. However, the suspensions for Wolfe and Gordon were later reduced to two-race spans, and now both of them are returning to action for Sunday’s FedEx400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

Perhaps Wolfe can help turn around Keselowski’s fortunes, which have not been very good as of late; the reigning Sprint Cup champion has fallen back to 10th in points after 32nd and 36th place finishes in the last two events at Darlington and Charlotte.

“It was tougher to deal with then what I thought it would be,” Wolfe said to the Associated Press about his suspension. “I am a hands-on kind of guy, and for me to be able to watch the car in practice and see how it runs around other cars is important for me, visually, to see that and make decisions on what changes to make.”

As for Keselowski, he believes that his team is ready to make a run up the table now that it is back at full strength with the return of Wolfe, as well as car chief Jerry Kelley and engineer Brian Wilson.

“Paul and I are like the quarterback and the head coach but it takes more than the quarterback and head coach and there was more than our head coach sitting out,” he said. “We lost our car chief and our head engineer too. Getting everyone back adds to the comfort level. I think we are going to have a strong few weeks, I really do.”

Logano was also happy to get his full team back as well, particularly Gordon.

“It’s been tough just talking with him away from the track and seeing him at the shop,” he said. “But the guys that filled in during the time he and everyone else was out did a great job. I think we really made the best of the situation and I don’t think we really missed a beat and that was obvious the last couple of weeks in Charlotte.

“But it will be nice having Todd back at the track for sure. I’m ready for things to get back to normal and focus on winning some of these races.”

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”