CFH looks to add another Toronto win, avenge tough Texas weekend

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The No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet won last year in Toronto race two, in the hands of Mike Conway and courtesy of a brilliant strategic call from the Ed Carpenter Racing pit box.

That car and the team, now under the CFH Racing banner, enters its second straight Verizon IndyCar Series race as defending race champion.

They’ll be hoping it goes better than it did at Texas, where Carpenter won in 2014, but where both cars failed to finish a year later.

Hopes are high for Conway’s replacement Luca Filippi in the No. 20 car and for Josef Newgarden in the No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet.

For Newgarden, a result of any sort is needed at a track where he has come close to top-five results before (notably in 2012 as a rookie), but they went begging for various occasions. He has three finishes of 20th or worse in the last five races and has fallen from as high as fourth in points down to eighth.

“I’m really excited about Toronto. It’s a place we’ve run strong before from a speed aspect so we should have good cars there,” Newgarden said in the team’s pre-race release. “We have a really good game plan going in, the guys have been working hard and we are all really prepared.

“Luca (Filippi) likes Toronto a lot as well, so I am hoping the both of us can roll of the truck really strong. If we do that, we can carry that momentum through the weekend and secure good results. That would be great right now for everyone involved with CFH Racing!”

Filippi heads to a track that he’s been too before, as he raced the doubleheader there last year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Of his eight career starts prior to 2015, six of them came at Houston (four) and Toronto (two).

“Toronto will be the first race this year that I have previously been a part of,” he said. “I will be able to push from the beginning instead of having to learn the circuit so we can attack right from the first practice! We have found a good street course balance so I have very high expectations for this weekend.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
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Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”