Carlin confirms Indy Lights entry, which provides series a huge shot in the arm

Leave a comment

Trevor Carlin’s powerhouse organization will add a U.S. program in 2015, with a new entry into the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship.

Racing director Carlin noted this will be the realization of the team’s U.S. long-term ambitions.

“We’re extremely excited to be taking the Carlin team to the U.S. and embarking on this new challenge into the Indy Lights series,” he said in a release. “We’ve had one eye on the U.S. for some time now and the time is right to widen our focus. We’re seeing more and more drivers look across the Atlantic from categories such as Formula 3 and GP2 Series to careers in Indy Lights and IndyCar and it makes sense as a European team to offer that route to our customers.

“While we remain completely focused on our race programs in Europe, it is also important to take on new challenges and projects that maintain our momentum as a company of people,” he added. “By offering new opportunities we are able to offer strong team members new goals and challenges internally and retain them within Carlin. By no means do we underestimate the challenge ahead but we believe we have a great team of people to help us be competitive in Indy Lights. We see this as an important new chapter for Carlin and the entire team are excited for the future.”

The team’s operations will be based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and feature both U.K. and U.S. personnel.

A MAJOR GET FOR INDYCAR/INDY LIGHTS

To put Carlin’s place in the European junior formula ladder into proper American stick-and-ball perspective, a comparable example would be Alabama football. Nick Saban’s team contends for national championships every year, and has produced a gluttony of current National Football League stars.

Or to put Carlin’s place in perspective on the American racing scale, it’s the competitive European equivalent of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indy Lights program – which has won a half dozen championships and promoted more than that number of drivers into IndyCar over the last decade.

The Farnham, Surrey-based team has previously worked with drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Riccardo and Nico Rosberg, as well as 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Will Power, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, Mikhail Aleshin, Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas in the junior stages of their careers.

That level of talent already has come through Carlin’s doors. The driver or drivers who get the next opportunity will be welcomed into a world-class, championship-winning operation and vault to instant title contender status.

More notable even than the talent who have already driven for Carlin is the fact Carlin himself sees the value in North American racing, and the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. Because if there’s one thing that IndyCar and Indy Lights racing has lacked in the last decade or so, it’s new blood in terms of teams.

There has not been a new full-season IndyCar team since Ed Carpenter launched his eponymous Ed Carpenter Racing in 2012. The previous two new teams before that were two other drivers branching out into team ownership, in Bryan Herta (2010) and Sarah Fisher (2008). Because it makes sense to have economies of scale, Fisher’s and Carpenter’s teams have now merged.

The lack of new blood in Indy Lights has been even greater. Until this new year with the new Dallara IL15 chassis, Schmidt Peterson, Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing and Team Moore Racing were the only four teams even keeping the series afloat on a full-time basis. New teams? About as rare as rain in a desert.

That Carlin sees the European junior open-wheel formula in transition, and with the American ladder so much more clearly defined – and, on the whole, cheaper – is nothing but a positive for IndyCar, Indy Lights and the Mazda Road to Indy on the whole.

This is one of the biggest pieces of news for IndyCar this offseason, and should be treated as such. Meanwhile Carlin’s team deserves massive thanks, and a warm welcome to these shores.

Eli Tomac wins Tampa Supercross, takes red plate home

Leave a comment

With his third win of the season, Eli Tomac took the red plate from Ken Roczen at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Entering with a one-point deficit, Tomac left with a four-point advantage in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross championship hunt.

Tomac has struggled with starts so far this season. Saturday, he was part of a four-rider separation on the opening lap. He slotted in behind Adam Cianciarulo and went to school on his teammate.

“Our starts were better,” Tomac told NBCSN after the race. “That was the key. We put ourselves in a position early so that we could go to battle and ride the way we’re supposed to ride.”

Tomac claimed his 30th career win as the riders behind swapped positions. Cianciarulo and Malcolm Stewart started out with top-five runs. Both had the podium in site before they faded and gave last year’s Big Three free reign at the front of the pack.

“Early on I was just following Adam,” Tomac said. “With these short lap times I knew we had a lot of laps under our belt tonight. So I kind of just settled tonight and then made the push just before halfway.

“And I thought I’ve go to go if I’m going to go. So I was able to switch up the sand there. That was really cool with the option. A good passing spot.”

Cooper Webb finished second. It is his fifth podium of the year, but he felt he could have challenged Tomac if he had gotten through traffic a little faster. Roosters from the sand section blinded him and forced a more cautious approach from on top of his KTM.

Roczen minimized his points loss with a third-place finish. It could have been much worse. At about the halfway point, Roczen fell. Luckily for him, Cianciarulo went down on the same lap and took much longer to right his bike, which allowed Roczen to hold onto a top-three spot. Roczen ended the race nearly 11 seconds behind Webb and 18 behind Tomac.

Last year’s Big Three all stood on the podium.

Speed has not been a problem for Cianciarulo. He has been fastest in qualification every week including Tampa, but he is still learning how to get to the finish without making mistakes.

Last week Cianciarulo lost the lead late at San Diego when Webb was able to study his line. This week Cianciarulo had the opportunity to study Tomac, but he refused to simply ride and gain experience.

Earlier this week, Cianciarulo told NBC Sports: “The adversity I’ve faced – the mistakes I’ve made – have all been basically caused because of not settling. Just trying to get the absolute most I can out of every race. I guess in a way you can look at that and say it was inexperience or a rookie being a rookie.”

Cianciarulo went from second at the midway point to ninth at the checkers.

Justin Barcia and Justin Hill rounded out the top five.

Stewart had one of his best runs of the season, but he faded in the closing laps. On the final trip around the track, he nipped Jason Anderson at the line.

Shane McElrath won the opening round of the 250 East division, just as he has done in his last two 250 West openers. Feld Entertainment Inc.

250 EAST: Shane McElrath won the opening rounds of his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Both of those came at Anaheim in the 250 West division. Switching coasts did not make any difference. McElrath drew first blood in the series with a 3-second advantage over last year’s 250 East champion, Chase Sexton.

“Nobody outside of my wife and I really know what went into this year and what a hit we took last year mentally,” McElrath told NBCSN. “It was a struggle. Everybody goes through their down times, and I really had a lot of growing to do last year.”

Sexton got off to a bad start on the first lap. All the news wasn’t bad. After getting mired in the pack at the start, he picked his way through the field and settled into second about halfway through the main event. Sexton made up 8 seconds as the clock ticked but simply ran out of time.

“I didn’t execute my start like I needed to,” Sexton said. “You can’t come from fifth and expect to catch them by the end of the race.”

In his first race back after a year and a half with a broken back, Jeremy Martin stood tall on the last rung of the podium

Garrett Marchbanks and Jordan Smith rounded out the top five.

450s

Heat 1: Eli Tomac is not known for his starts. It’s time to rethink that after Heat 1. Tomac bolted to a big lead on Lap 1. … Malcolm Stewart led the field to the first corner. He slid wide exiting the corner and slipped back several spots before charging back to second. … Cooper Webb backed up his win last week with a third-place finish. … Vince Friese finished ninth to grab the final transfer. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Ken Roczen stalked Adam Cianciarulo until the rookie buried his front wheel in the sand section. That stalled his momentum and allowed Roczen to take the lead. It set up a huge battle for the final battle for the top spot as the two crossed under the checkers nose to tail … Roczen won over Cianciarulo. … Zach Osborne took the final rung of the podium. … Back after a two-year hiatus, Broc Tickle finished fourth. It was like he had never been off the bike. … On Lap 1 Blake Baggett jumped into the back of Jared Lesher. They collected Joshua Cartwright, who got pinned under his bike and limped off the track. Baggett recovered to finfish eighth. … Kyle Chisholm took the final transfer position in ninth. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Chad Reed had to go through the LCQ, but he qualified for his 255th 450 Main where he would finish 19th. … Kyle Cunningham provided a lot of drama as time was running off the clock, but missed a corner and settled for second. Ryan Breece finished third. … Making his first Main of the season, Adam Enticknap swapped positions with Daniel Herrlien throughout the race and nipped him at the end.  | LCQ Results

250s

Heat 1: Shane Mcelrath grabbed the lead early and held it throughout the heat. He won by 14 seconds, but much of that was because of mistakes by the second- and third-place riders. … Garrett Marchbanks had a quick off early in the race. He recovered to finish second. … Jordon Smith struggled in the sand. He went down early in the sand section, but he held position for a while. A second mistake in the sand allowed his teammate Marchbanks to pass him. … The final transfer position was a barnburner as Nick Gaines held off a determined charge by Hunter Sayles on the final lap. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Chase Sexton told reporters before the race that he is determined to dominate. So far so good as he let the entire heat in route to the top spot on the podium. … Jeremy Martin settled into a comfortable spot four seconds back as the battle for third heated up. … Jo Shimoda held it for a while, but was eventually overrun by RJ Hampshire, who took the final rung of the podium … Shimoda faded to fifth. … The final transfer spot went to Cedric Soubeyras. … Joey Crown finished a respectable eighth and also transferred. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Jimmy Decotis made his move at the right time. With less than a minute on the clock, he caught and passed Curran Thurman. … Jimmy Decotis finished third. … The battle of the night was for the final transfer spot. Jalek Swoll made a dramatic pass in the final turn, but bogged down in the whoops and allowed Isaac Teasdale to catch him at the line in a photo finish. Teasdale took the final spot | LCQ Results

Click here for 450 Main Results | Season Points
Click here for 250 Main Results | Season Points

Next race: February 22, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter