F1, IndyCar seasons finally premiere in 2015’s version of crazy month of March

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The kickoffs to the new FIA Formula 1 and Verizon IndyCar Series seasons highlight what will be a busy month of March.

With F1’s preseason testing calendar complete, the focus now shifts to Melbourne, where the Albert Park street circuit will play host to the season opener for the 18th time (every year since 1996, except 2006 and 2010, when the opener was held in Bahrain).

The Australian Grand Prix kicks off the 20-race season. While the action occurs Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15 down under, the corresponding U.S. times will be late night Thursday through Saturday. We’ll have a full schedule of air times on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra out soon.

Australia kicks off the action, and Malaysia will follow at the end of the month, from March 27-29 in Kuala Lumpur.

That same weekend in March, March 27-29, will also see the Verizon IndyCar Series emerge from its near seven month-long offseason slumber, with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The event will mark the race debut of the manufacturer developed, much ballyhooed aero kits. IndyCar’s first race on NBCSN will be the second race of the season, the new NOLA Motorsports Park event in April.

Prior to that, IndyCar will have a wealth of testing from March 13 through to the 27 once teams begin testing with the aero kits. Spring training at Barber Motorsports Park will be Monday and Tuesday March 16 and 17, with the Honda aero kit to premiere before then.

The open-wheel kickoffs are hardly the only events of note from what is usually one of the busiest racing months out of the year.

Here’s what else you have to look forward to this month:

  • The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the central Florida endurance classic for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, runs March 21. Event info from IMSA.com is linked here.
  • Pirelli World Challenge kicks off its season with a standalone weekend at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas this weekend, March 6-8. Races for all seven classes – GT, GTA, GT Cup, GTS, TC, TCA and TCB – will occur with specific times and listings linked here via World-ChallengeTV.com. PWC also races with the GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS classes at St. Petersburg at the end of the month, March 27-29.
  • The Mazda Road to Indy kicks off the regular seasons for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. All three series will hold a doubleheader on the March 27-29 St. Petersburg weekend; the Indy Lights races will see that series’ new Dallara IL15 chassis make its race debut.
  • Indy Lights has another test at Barber Motorsports Park scheduled for this Tuesday, March 3, which is a makeup of a postponed date from last week due to cold weather.
  • FIA Formula E makes its first U.S. race appearance around the streets of Miami on March 14. This race is promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing and features a wide array of driving talent, including a number of FIA World Endurance Championship drivers, ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar stars, and rising talents.
  • The FIA World Endurance Championship has The Prologue test in Paul Ricard at the end of the month, again, March 28-29.
  • Trans-Am kicked off its season Sunday in Sebring. Amy Ruman captured the overall victory, while Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Daytona class winner Cameron Lawrence led the rest of the classes with the TA2 class win.
  • The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races twice this month. The traditional Gatornationals occur at Gainesville, Fla. March 12-15, with the popular 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway March 27-29 in Charlotte.
  • The GP2 Series has its first of two preseason tests March 9-11 at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. GP3 also has its first of three preseason tests this month, March 18-19 at Estoril in Portugal.
  • The FIA World Rally Championship makes its only appearance in North America this year with the Rally Guanajuato Mexico from March 5-8. Sebastien Ogier has won the opening two rallies of the year.

Bill Elliott joins Tony Stewart/Ray Evernham SRX series for 2021

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott became the eighth driver to join the Superstar Racing Experience, the short-track series being started by Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner and 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015 and was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver 16 times (his son, Chase, has received the honor the past two years). Elliott also closed his full-time Cup career driving for Evernham’s Dodge team from 2001-03, winning the 2002 Brickyard 400.

“I am excited to reunite with Ray Evernham and some of the great legends of our sport,” Elliott, who joins Stewart and Bobby Labonte as NASCAR Hall of Famers in the SRX, said in a release. “I look forward to racing at some of the most historic American racing destinations and putting on an awesome show for the fans. We have a special driver field and it will be fun competing with some of the greatest drivers of all time.”

The series, which is expecting to have a dozen drivers, also has Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves, Bobby Labonte, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Willy T. Ribbs and Mark Webber in its lineup.

SRX was co-founded by NASCAR Hall of Famers Stewart and Evernham and was unveiled July 13.

Several drivers have expressed interest in the new circuit, which is modeled on the International Race of Champions (IROC) series that matched drivers from various auto racing disciplines in equally prepared cars for an annual four-race series for 30 years.

With the addition of Bill Elliott, Superstar Racing Experience has yet to reveal a schedule or tracks, but it’s expected that Stewart’s Eldora Speedway will be on the slate.