GRC Lites’ class of 2015 look to stand out

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It’s not just the Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercars season that opens up this weekend at Fort Lauderdale.

It’s also first round of the GRC Lites campaign (race airs at 4:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday June 3, on NBCSN).

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This offers the next generation of stars a chance to showcase themselves on GRC weekends, and so far, it’s already produced graduates into Supercars.

Joni Wiman, the 2013 GRC Lites champion, moved up to Supercars last year and snatched the championship at the final round of the year.

The field this year of 10 cars for the race is split evenly, half and half between returnees and rookies.

One of North America’s more versatile up-and-coming drivers, 16-year-old Austin Cindric, should be a title contender this year, now as Wiman’s Olsbsergs MSE teammate and one of OMSE’s two GRC Lites drivers.

“Joining OMSE … it’s such a powerhouse team,” Cindric told MotorSportsTalk at the Red Bull GRC media day in Long Beach. “Working with Andreas (Eriksson) is quite an opportunity. It’s a significant point in my career.”

Cindric, along with both women drivers in the series in Colette Davis and Jackie Heinricher, have past open-wheel experience and are converting over to rally. Cindric also races a Ford Mustang Boss 302R for Multimatic Motorsports full-time in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class.

“I don’t even think I could list everything I learned last year,” Cindric said. “It’s quite a steep learning curve, with the four-wheel drive car, the format, and racing on dirt.”

Davis, a former USF2000 driver who will drive the River Racing entry for Bryan Herta Rallysport, spoke of how late her deal came together for the season.

“I recently got my first taste of dirt at Dirtfish for three days earlier this year,” she told MST at media day. “It’s breaking old habits. I have to be patient to let new ones sink in. I think this year will be a lot about learning as much as I can. There’s a foundation I have deep down to push myself. There’s a lot of changes that I’ve had to learn in 30 days.”

Heinricher has a good story, having worked in the biotechnical field and serving as the founder and former president and CEO of Booshoot, before she caught the racing bug. She has some open-wheel experience and has also competed in Ferrari Challenge.

“The first time I took the car testing on slicks was an eye opener,” she told MST at media day. “It’s surprising how much grip you actually have on tires on dirt. It just adds an element to the racing that is an absolutely blast.”

Heinricher’s other big project? It’s anti-bullying, and she hopes to spread her message through her racing in GRC Lites.

“Kids today face so many challenging issues including bullying and self-esteem issues,” she said. “To have this message on my car will be a great thing to see.”

They are but three of the interesting drivers to watch in GRC Lites this season, although there will be plenty to watch.

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”