Andretti confirms first Indy Lights entry with Shelby Blackstock moving up

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As first reported by MotorSportsTalk, Andretti Autosport will continue with its Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program into 2015. The team has announced Tuesday morning that Shelby Blackstock will move up after two years in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for its first car.

“I am very happy to be back with the Andretti Autosport team for the 2015 Indy Lights season,” Blackstock said. “I’m extremely excited to test the new IL-15 and to see if all the great expectations are true. I want to thank Andretti Autosport for giving me the opportunity to be in one of its cars this year – this team is like a second family to me. I hope there is a lot of success to come from a completely fresh season.”

The Nashville, Tenn. native captured one win, three pole positions, 13 podiums and 18 top-five finishes throughout two seasons in Pro Mazda (2013, 2014). Blackstock becomes the third driver to take the next step up the Mazda Road to Indy through Andretti Autosport’s Pro Mazda program to its Indy Lights outfit (Zach Veach, 2013; Matthew Brabham, 2014).

The North Carolina resident will go back to his racing roots by using the first number of his racing career, piloting the No. 51 Starstruck entry, switching from 28 that he’s run the last two years.

Blackstock is the son of country music legend Reba McEntire.

“Shelby has been with us for some time now, and he’s put in a lot of hard work to make the step from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights happen,” Andretti Autosport’s Chief Operating Officer JF Thormann noted. “We are all very excited to keep Shelby in the Andretti Autosport family and look forward to watching his success continue during this new chapter of his career with us.”

No word was given in the team release whether this will be a two-car program, but it is anticipated that it should be.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.