Andretti Autosport becomes the hunted at Iowa Speedway

0 Comments

When the Verizon IndyCar Series brings its drama to Iowa Speedway, the narrative changes.

Despite its 2015 struggles, Andretti Autosport is the team to be feared in Saturday’s Iowa Corn 300.

“I’d like to think so,” Marco Andretti said in a team press conference Friday. “The team, for whatever reason, rolls off pretty strong here.”

That’s the understatement of the year.

In eight races at the .894-mile track since 2007, six have been won by a car owned by Michael Andretti, including the last five. It started in the inaugural race with a Dario Franchitti win. The current streak begin in 2010 when Tony Kanaan, now with Ganassi Racing, took the victory. The next four races were won by Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“I think last year we started to struggle a little bit, but they definitely pulled the rabbit out of the hat there in the end (with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning),” Andretti said of Hunter-Reay’s 2014 win. Hunter-Reay was able to overtake Kanaan on fresher tires after the Brazilian led 247 of 300 laps.

“It was frustrating to watch,” Andretti said. “Ryan and I were running together the whole time. My engine blew up, then I was watching from my bus.”

Andretti watched his teammate win his second race of 2014 (after the Indianapolis 500) and his second at Iowa in three years. The win also marked the last time Hunter-Reay visited victory lane. Through 12 races, the 2014 Indy 500 winner is 14th in points, has an average finish of 13.1 and has not finished in the top five since the fourth race at Barber Motorsports Park.

The American driver didn’t lead his first laps of the season until Fontana two races ago.

“Always love coming back to Iowa,” Hunter-Reay said. “Hopefully we can get our season turned around here.

“I didn’t want to peak too early (this season),” he joked. “(I) wanted to sneak up on everybody here. Hopefully we’re going to do that.”

Hunter-Reay was third fastest in Friday’s first practice session, but was a team high 12th in the second and final session.

Iowa also represents the last place Marco Andretti earned an IndyCar race at, in the 2011 edition. That was 73 races ago.

“That monkey is as big as anything right now,” Andretti lamented. “Just sort of what Ryan is doing for his season, I’m doing in my career right now. We’re hoping to get a bunch of race wins. We have plenty of podiums (20), plenty of laps led (986), but that’s not good enough for me or anybody, really.”

While Andretti is eager to win, his part-time teammate Justin Wilson is just happy to be racing in IndyCar in any capacity. The Engishman rejoined Andretti Autosport at Milwaukee last week to finish out the final five races of 2015.

“This is where I feel want my career to be,” said Wilson, whose best finish at Iowa is 10th in 2012. “This is what I want to do. Jumping back in just felt like being at home. Everything was familiar, I knew what to do, knew where to be at what time. It’s a much more comfortable feeling once you have that experience.”

The fourth variable in the Andretti equation is the most successful in 2015. Carlos Munoz, who earned his first IndyCar win and Andretti’s only one of 2015, in a rain-shortened race at Detroit. He makes his second start at Iowa after finishing 12th in 2014.

“I think Iowa and me, we are not really good friends,” Munoz said. “I’ve been good in qualifying here in Indy Lights (one pole), but we struggled a little bit in racing in Indy Lights. Last year was a really tough race. Like Ryan said, you have to have a really good car. It’s going to be really physical as well.”

Even if Munoz doesn’t consider Iowa a friend, he knows anything can happen after last week at Milwaukee, especially at a track his team typically holds court at.

“You never know who is going to win, Munoz said. “Milwaukee, I wouldn’t have put my dollars in on (Sebastien) Bourdais. This is IndyCar, anything can happen till the last lap.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.