Indy Lights: Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe sample new IL-15

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A pair of Verizon IndyCar Series veterans have given high marks to the Indy Lights’ new car for 2015, the Dallara IL-15, after a test session yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe logged a combined 80 laps on IMS’ 2.4-mile road course with the machine. Afterwards, Dixon thought the IL-15 would serve as “a fantastic stepping stone” to the top level of North American open-wheel racing.

“The performance is very good; it is very durable and no problems,” Dixon said of his day in a release. “I actually spun a couple of times with the initial setup we had on it but going through the changes, the car reacted well.

“I think we probably went through 10 or 12 changes on the car. It reacted in a way you would think. All in all, it was good. Just a few hours, but nice to drive.”

Dixon also said that the relevance of the new car in regards to technology will make Indy Lights a stronger series than it has been in recent years.

“I think the biggest thing for us right now –  for Indy Lights and for IndyCar – is that it is updated ten-fold over the last spec,” he said, referring to the 2002-spec chassis that had been in place.

“Adding the paddle shifts and the technology that has been applied to this car makes it relative to a lot of other formulas. It will definitely attract a lot of Europeans and even more Americans to the series.”

Hinchcliffe also reported a trouble-free day inside the cockpit of the IL-15. He said that the new car will be a better way to prepare up-and-coming drivers for the demands of the DW-12, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ chassis since 2012.

“…With the DW12, it is really a good time to introduce a new chassis for Indy Lights, introduce a turbo-charged engine,” he said. “And I think the drivers are going to get a much better feel of what they are going to be jumping into with the DW12 – dealing with turbo-charged engines and the characteristics of that and a little bit higher downforce.

“For me, Indy Lights has always been a great tool to develop young drivers and really prepare them for IndyCar, and this is just the next step in that progression.”

Testing continues today for the IL-15 on the IMS oval with Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves behind the wheel. You’ll see him in the last bit of social media below.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”