Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: GP of Indy Pre-Race

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Some notes and thoughts from the field of 25 heading into this weekend’s inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis:

  • Juan Pablo Montoya has made the most number of Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course starts in the field, with six coming in Formula One from 2001 to 2006 and another one in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series in 2012.  And he digs the changes for this year’s race: “They found a great balance between being technical and being able to put on a good race. There are several parts of the track that are going to be very high-speed, which I love. The straights are so long that you are going to get huge drafts. I really think the ‘push to pass’ button is going to play a big role,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.
  • Hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years, but then-18-year-old Marco Andretti pulled off a win in the Indy Lights race on the IMS road course in 2005. After finishing second in Barber, this could be a shot for him to win this weekend: “I raced the Road Course here in Indy Lights and won – the track is a little different now but we had a good test day for the Snapple car. Now we’re looking to capitalize on our Barber finish, start building points and hopefully wins,” he said ahead of the weekend.
  • The other 9 of 11 with track experience include Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Franck Montagny (like Montoya, ex-F1 shoes), Graham Rahal (like Andretti, Indy Lights), Sebastian Saavedra (Formula BMW and GRAND-AM), James Hinchcliffe (Formula BMW), Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais (GRAND-AM).
  • Count Long Beach winner Mike Conway in the happy column for returning to IMS, despite two serious accidents in the Indianapolis 500 in 2010 and 2012. “I am actually excited to come back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sure, I think about those incidents in 2010 and 2012. But I’m coming back to my roots of road racing and the new road circuit is very good. It is cool to return to Indy to compete in the inaugural road race at Indy. And, with the ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka team, we have a good chance to score another win this year,” said the driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
  • Bourdais, another former winner (GRAND-AM in 2012) thinks the revised circuit will offer a good challenge. “It’s a challenging racetrack. You have to commit to it and the grip level, so you can challenge yourself in the car. The last section is very enjoyable. The left, right, left and right again, that’s opened up a lot more than it used to be, and they are all third-gear corners. The car digs in and goes side to side as you’re working the tires and pushing yourself. It’s quite fun and I see some passing areas,” he said.

First practice is at 10 a.m. ET this morning.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.