Verizon IndyCar Series 2015 silly season update, Round 1


With several driver announcements in the last month, the Verizon IndyCar Series grid is coming together for 2015.

Here’s where we stand at the moment:

Team Penske (4, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud. Power’s a champion, Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman move over from Schmidt Peterson, and Castroneves and Montoya return again after top-five championship seasons. A four-headed monster.

Chip Ganassi Racing (4, Chevrolet)

Expected: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball. Although no formal announcements from the team have been made regarding any of their drivers, at least three of the same four from 2014 are expected to continue. Dixon and Kanaan ended 2014 on a high with wins in three of the last four races.

To be determined: The fourth car. Ryan Briscoe has been reported out, although the team’s said nothing as such; rookie Sage Karam is poised to step up to a full season. The car’s budget is something they’re working through, per team manager Mike Hull.

Andretti Autosport (4, Honda)

Confirmed: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz. RHR won the Indianapolis 500 and Munoz was rookie-of-the-year to provide highlights a year ago.

To be determined: The fourth car, which Michael Andretti still expects to run. Daniel Abt has tested, Justin Wilson would be a perfect fit, and Andretti has Zach Veach and Matthew Brabham potentially waiting in the wings. Andretti also remains hopeful of a fifth car, but that would be later in the offseason to be determined.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda)

Confirmed: James Hinchcliffe. Team leader, Canadian driver at a team with a Canadian team owner in Ric Peterson, and driver launch announcement made at a brewery. Sounds Hinchtown-certified.

To be determined: The second car. Mikhail Aleshin is in the driver’s seat provided he recovers from Fontana injuries and wants to return, but will still need the budget to confirm a second year. Gabby Chaves, Rocky Moran Jr. and Rodolfo Gonzalez have tested for the team this fall.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises (2, Honda)

Confirmed: Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth. Hawksworth moves over from BHA and Foyt has a full season two-car lineup for the first time since 2000. No third car for the ‘500 expected.

CFH Racing (2, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter. Newgarden stays with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as it transitions into CFH, merged with Carpenter’s fellow single-car squad.

To be determined: Carpenter’s road course ringer. Mike Conway can return only if he isn’t offered, or opts to decline an offer from Toyota Racing to join its FIA World Endurance Championship full season program. With five WEC conflicts on road and street courses, Carpenter would need another driver, and JR Hildebrand or Conor Daly would be a perfect fit for an all-American team. A third car is likely for the Indianapolis 500, and would be a natural spot for the road course driver.

KV Racing (2, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais in for year two with KVSH and looks for a multiple win season after breaking through at Toronto last year. Bryan Clauson is also confirmed for the Indianapolis 500 in a KV-run entry for Byrd Racing, as that name returns to that race for the first time in 10 years.

To be determined: The second full-time car. Also to be confirmed is the team name of said second car, whether it’s a KVSH entry, KV Racing Technology alone, or something different altogether. A wild card entry that will likely require a funded driver.

Dale Coyne Racing (2, Honda)

To be determined: Both cars. It’s only November. The season doesn’t start til the spring, so there’s no need to panic. This is standard operating procedure for DCR. We don’t know who will fill Dale Coyne’s two cars, but we do know Dale will find a way to field two like he always does.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1, Honda)

Confirmed: Graham Rahal. Set to work with Eddie Jones and reunite with Mike Talbott and Martin Pare on the engineering front, while a pursuit of a new primary sponsor continues to replace the departed National Guard. A second car ran part-time in 2014 but there haven’t been any rumblings of it coming back for 2015; the team traditionally runs an extra car at the Indianapolis 500.

Bryan Herta Autosport (1, Honda)

Confirmed: Jay Howard, Indianapolis 500, second car. Announced last week, Howard will seek to make his return to IndyCar for the first time in four years.

To be determined: First full-time car, as the winning owner from the 2011 Indianapolis 500 looks for some newness next season on the driver and sponsor front.

Lazier Partners Racing (1, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Buddy Lazier, Indianapolis 500. The 1996 race champion and his family-run team are expected to return for a third go-around in 2015.

Potential wild cards (2 cars)

Both Davey Hamilton and Fan Force United have made outliers about their hopes for getting into IndyCar in 2015. Hamilton, a previous partner with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, could support an existing team or branch out on his own.

FFU, which ran the Lotus-powered entry for Jean Alesi in 2012, had announced its intentions to run with Stefan Wilson next year, but that’s gone quiet in the last couple months. It would be great to see, though.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

GARAGE 56 SPECS: Full comparison of NASCAR Cup car to Le Mans car

BUTTON’S BIG MOVE: Hendrick drone tour was NASCAR entryway for F1 champion

France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”