IndyCar’s Mark Miles: Honda will get new aero kits; Boston race concerns

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In a Wednesday morning media teleconference, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman Motorsports, parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expressed confidence in both Honda’s application for a new aero kit package for 2016, as well as that lingering logistical issues for next September’s inaugural street race in Boston will be worked out.

Honda has requested an alteration of its aero package for 2016, citing Rule 9.3 in the Verizon IndyCar Series rule book.

“(Rule 9.3) is in the rule book and has been in the rule book,” Miles said. “It anticipated the possibility that one manufacturer would outperform the other to the extent that there was a competitive disadvantage and that that could result in a situation that’s detrimental to the series.

“So the rule has this two-part test. It says, in the event that an aero kit is not competitive to such an extent that it would be detrimental to the series, then IndyCar may permit a manufacturer to make modifications in its kit related to what they ran in the various configurations in 2015.

“IndyCar has notified both Chevy and Honda that our conclusions from that testing and our subsequent thinking about whether the situation is detrimental to the series was that, in part, we are going to allow Honda to make adjustments or changes, or to propose making specific changes under Rule 9.3. In short track, street and road courses, the Honda was not competitive. However, on superspeedways, that was not the case, Honda was competitive. This is designed to give them an opportunity to catch up, but not exceed (Chevrolet).”

IndyCar made its determination using a variety of statistics culled from the entire season, including qualifying, laps led, races won and the overall results in the championship.

Honda has already proffered the parts it would like to include in the 2016 aero kits.

“Honda has provided us with parts we are to consider approving,” Miles said. “We will be going back into the wind tunnel this weekend with the parts and we’ll examine how we will reply.

“We are following the letter of our rule. We’re walking the line to follow our rule.”

Miles added that Honda has willingly agreed to follow all of IndyCar’s guidelines in proposing changes to the aero kits.

“We never felt like there was a gun placed to our head by Honda,” Miles said. “They never said to us, ‘You’ve got to deliver this result in terms of an opportunity for us to change our aero kits and accept these changes or we’re not staying in the game.’

“I think they’re committed to IndyCar. It’s probably worth noting for the skeptics that they still don’t know, we still don’t know, we still haven’t determined what changes they’ll be able to make.

“We determined they’re not making changes to the 2015 superspeedway kit, full stop. But with respect to what they may or may not be able to do for the other configurations, those are still decisions to be made and will only be made after we get back in the (wind) tunnel and have the next round of work there.”

Not completely unexpected, Chevrolet officials disagree with IndyCar’s decision.

“All manufacturers received the same set of aero regulations and subsequent updates,” Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Chevrolet Performance Vehicles and Motorsports said in a statement. “I am proud of how our Chevrolet engineering team and partners worked continuously for nearly four years to prepare our kit for the optimal combination of downforce, drag and engine performance to give our teams the best opportunity to win poles, races and championships.

“The existing rules already allow each manufacturer the opportunity to improve on the performance of their aero kit and engine for 2016. So, we are disappointed in the decision to invoke Rule 9.3. Chevrolet remains 100 percent focused on preparing for 2016 competition to again give our teams the best opportunity to win.”

Miles also addressed Honda’s return as an engine supplier is getting closer to fruition.

“The answer to the question is that it’s all systems go,” Miles said. “This week we expect to receive a mark-up of the agreement that Honda will be ready to sign and we’ll be reviewing that and hoping we can get it done in the next several days.”

As for next September’s inaugural Grand Prix of Boston, Miles remains upbeat that remaining issues will soon be resolved.

Promoters of the Boston race have already reached agreement with city officials on the race, but have lagged in reaching consensus agreement with several state agencies upon whose property is part of the proposed two-mile-plus street course.

“(Boston officials) want this race to happen,” Miles said. “I think they’re making it clear that they expect everybody to fall in and get these agreements done to eliminate any uncertainties about it happening. … Our expectation is that everything will be worked out and the race will happen and delight IndyCar fans.”

Miles also discussed concern about possible opposition to the race from local community and civic groups.

“We and all concerned understand that threading the needles and getting the approvals to have a street race in a major metropolitan area is difficult, difficult to sustain even after you have it,” Miles said. “We’re aware of the challenges but think that the risk/reward to have the opportunity to do something great in Boston is there.

“… It’s complicated and difficult. We’re not doing this in a pasture. We’re doing it in the Seaport District of Boston. But I believe that the will of the elected leaders, the mayor in particular, and the resources and commitment of our promoter are all focused on getting this done. I thought it was important that the promoter publicly made it clear that they understand that they will not be receiving public funds from any of these public agencies or the taxpayers, if you will, and that they’re prepared to meet all their obligations to successfully stage the race under those circumstances.”

If the Boston race ultimately falls through, leaving the circuit with 15 instead of the scheduled 16 races for 2016, Miles said the sanctioning body is working on a potential contingency plan to replace Boston with another venue.

“It would be imprudent of us not to consider a fallback position for us, alternative plans, in the event we’re not successful in Boston,” Miles said. “I don’t want to elaborate. I think there’s at least a few scenarios that could be possible. I don’t think we have to have a replacement if that was the case, but it’s certainly something that we’re thinking about.”

As for other topics Miles addressed:

* IndyCar will host a safety test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 6.

“Honda and Chevy can supply 2016 superspeedway aero kits to the teams, they will be run on the track,” Miles said. “We want to do it early enough that if there’s anything to be learned about the 2016 superspeedway kits, there is time to make any adjustments so that we have the best possible 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 imaginable. This is, I think, an important addition.”

* On the search for a replacement for Derrick Walker, former IndyCar President of Operations and Competition: “We’re close,” Miles said. “I’d say in the next couple weeks; could conceivably be next week. I don’t expect it to be later than the week after. … The person won’t be an unknown quantity or stranger to the sport.

* Last weekend’s very successful Formula One race in Mexico City may be a precursor to IndyCar racing there in the near future: “It’s a great facility. It’s a big event, right? It has a big impact in Mexico City. That’s a huge market. I hope their success simply further enhances their appetite for open-wheel racing, and IndyCar in particular. They showed they can pull it off. We look forward to continuing conversation with them.”

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‘Baby Borgs’ bring special Indy 500 bonds, memories for Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi

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Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner
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THERMAL, Calif. – Winning the Indy 500 is a crowning achievement for driver and car owner, but for Chip Ganassi, last May’s victory by Marcus Ericsson had meaning even beyond just capturing one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

When Ganassi was 5 years old and growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father, Floyd, attended a convention in Indianapolis in 1963. Floyd went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to tour the track and visit the former museum that used to stand next to the main gate on 16th and Georgetown.

Ganassi’s father brought young Chip a souvenir from the gift shop. It was an 8-millimeter film of the 1963 Indy 500, a race won by the legendary Parnelli Jones.

“I must have watched it about 1,000 times,” Ganassi recalled. “More importantly than that, something you did when you were 5 years old is still with you today.

“I was 50 years old when I celebrated my Thanksgiving with Parnelli. It dawned on me that something I did when I was 5 years old took me to when I was 50 years old. That’s pretty special.”

Ericsson and Ganassi were presented with their “Baby Borgs,” the mini-replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy, in a ceremony Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club (which played host to NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing). The win in the 106th Indy 500 marked the sixth time a Ganassi driver won the biggest race in the world.

Ganassi will turn 65 on May 24, just four days before the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. The 2023 race will mark the 60th anniversary of the victory by Jones, who is now the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 89.

Jones wanted to do something special for Ericsson and Ganassi, so each was given framed photos personally inscribed by Jones.

Parnelli Jones (Steve Shunck Photo For BorgWarner)

“Congratulations Marcus Ericsson and my good friend Chip Ganassi on winning the 2022 Indianapolis 500,” Jones said in remarks conveyed by BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck. “There is no greater race in the whole world and winning it in 1963 was by far the biggest thrill in my life.”

Ganassi’s relationship with his racing hero began 60 years ago, but the two have shared some important moments since then.

It was Jones that signed off on Ganassi’s first Indianapolis 500 license in 1982. Jones was one of the veteran observers who worked with Ganassi and other rookie drivers that year to ensure they were capable of competing in the high-speed, high-risk Indianapolis 500.

When Ganassi turned 50, he got to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with Jones.

“We’ve been friends over the years,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “He wrote me a personal note and sent me some personal photographs. It really says what this race is all about and how important it is to win the biggest auto race in the world.”

Michelle Collins, the director of global communications and marketing for BorgWarner, presented the “Baby Borgs,” first to Ganassi and then to Ericsson.

“More special is winning the Indianapolis 500,” Ganassi said during the presentation. “It’s been a big part of my life. I want to call out my buddy, Roger Penske, and thank him for the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it means to us. It’s about the history, the tradition and, to me, it’s about the people that have meant so much in my life.

“Thanks for the trophy, Marcus.”

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi hold their Baby Borgs while posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy (Bruce Martin).

The Baby Borg presentation also came on the birthday of sculptor William Behrends, who has crafted the Bas-relief sterling silver face of each winner on the Borg-Warner Trophy since 1990. The “Baby Borg” presents each winner with a miniature of one of the most famous trophies in sports.

“I have to thank BorgWarner for everything that has happened since winning the Indianapolis 500, including the trip to Sweden,” said Ericsson, who took a November victory lap in his native country. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s memories that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.

“To bring the Borg-Warner Trophy to my hometown, seeing all the people there on the city square on a dark day in the middle of November. It was filled with people and that was very special.

“I’m very proud and honored to be part of Chip Ganassi Racing. To win the Indianapolis 500 with that team is quite an honor. It’s a team effort and a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen.

“Our focus now is to go back-to-back at the Indy 500.”


If Ericsson is successful in becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02, he can collect an additional $420,000 in the Borg-Warner Rollover Bonus. With Castroneves the last driver to collect, the bonus has grown to an astronomical amount over 21 years.

Ericsson is from Kumla, Sweden, so the $420,000 would have an exchange rate of $4,447,641.67 Swedish Kronor.

“It’s a nice thing to know I could get that if I do win it again,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “But the Indianapolis 500 with its history as the biggest and greatest race in the world, it doesn’t matter with the money, with the points, with anything. Everyone is going to go out there and do everything to win that race.

“It’s great to know that, but I will race just as hard.”

Marcus Ericsson points at the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

A popular slogan in racing is “Chip Likes Winners.” After winning the 106th Indy 500, Ganassi must really love Ericsson.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it? I’m very thankful to be driving for Chip,” Ericsson said. “He likes winners and winning the Indianapolis 500, it doesn’t get better than that.”

When Ericsson was presented with his Baby Borg, he stood off to the side and admired it the way a child looks at a special gift on Christmas morning. The wide-eyed amazement of his career-defining moment was easy to read and met with delight by executives of BorgWarner (an automotive and technology company that has sponsored the Borg-Warner Trophy since its 1935 debut).

“I noticed that immediately and I was watching him look at it wishing I had a camera to capture that,” Collins told NBC Sports. “But maybe not because we always have our phones in front of us and it’s nice to take in that moment as it is. That is what makes the moment well worth it.”

Marcus Ericsson (Bruce Martin)

Said BorgWarner executive vice president and chief strategic officer Paul Farrell: “It’s very special to have the big trophy that has been around since 1935 and to have a piece of that. Hopefully it’s something that (Ericsson) cherishes. We think it’s special, and clearly, Marcus Ericsson thinks it is very special.”

The trophy process begins shortly after the race as the winner has the famed Borg-Warner Wreath placed around his neck, and the Borg-Warner Trophy is put on the engine cover. The next morning, the winner meets with Behrends, who has been sculpting the faces on the trophy since Arie Luyendyk’s first victory in 1990. Later in the year, the winner visits Behrends’ studio in Tryon, North Carolina, for a “Live Study.”

The process takes several more steps before the face is reduced to the size of an egg and casted in sterling silver. It is attached to the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy and unveiled at a ceremony later in the year. Ericsson’s face was unveiled last October during a ceremony in Indianapolis.

That’s when it hit Ericsson, a three-time winner in IndyCar after going winless in Formula One over 97 starts from 2014-18.

“Until then, it was strange because you are so busy with your season right after the Indy 500 you don’t really get much time to sit back and think about what you had accomplished,” Ericsson said. “It was the offseason before I really realized what I had done.”

The permanent trophy remains on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has been known to travel with the winning driver on special tours, such as the Nov. 3-7 trip to Sweden.

“It’s been incredible to see the amount of interest in me and the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500,” Ericsson said. “The trophy tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy we did in November really made a huge impact in Sweden. I was on every TV show, morning TV, magazines, newspapers, everywhere. People are talking about IndyCar racing. People are talking about Marcus Ericsson. It’s been huge.

“I was back in Sweden last month for the Swedish Sports Awards and I finished third in the Sports Performance of the Year. Motorsports is usually not even nominated there, and I finished third. That says a lot about the interest and support I’ve gotten back home in Sweden.”


Ericsson continued to reap the rewards of his Indianapolis 500 victory last week at the lavish Thermal Club, about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, California.

Earlier in the day before the Baby Borg presentation, Ericsson, and Chip Ganassi were among the 27 car-driver combinations that completed the first day of IndyCar’s “Spring Training” on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The next day, Ericsson turned the test’s fastest lap.

The 32-year-old still seems to be riding the wave, along with his girlfriend, Iris Tritsaris Jondahl, a Greece native who also lived in Sweden and now lives with Ericsson in Indianapolis.

“Today, receiving my Baby Borg, it was another thing of making it real,” Ericsson said. “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. To get the Baby Borg and bring it home. My girlfriend, Iris, and I are house hunting, looking for a house in Indianapolis. It will definitely have a very special place in our new home.”

Marcus Ericsson and girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahlc share a kiss at the Baby Borg presentation (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

Ericsson told NBC Sports his most cherished trophy before getting his Baby Borg was for his first NTT IndyCar Series win in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was such a huge win for me and such a huge breakthrough for me and my career,” he said. “After that, it catapulted me into a top driver in IndyCar.”

The Brickyard win was another level for Ericsson, who moved to Ganassi in 2020.

“Marcus kept himself in the race all day,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “Anybody that ran a race like Marcus ran, maybe you deserve the race win, but you don’t always get it. Marcus did everything that it took, and we are really, really proud of him.”

Ericsson also proved last year to be one of the best oval drivers in the series, a much different form of racing than he experienced until he came to the United States.

“Racing in Europe and around the world, I always liked high-speed corners,” he explained. “It was always my favorite. I always had this idea if I go to IndyCar and race on the ovals, it is something that would suit me and my driving style. I was always excited to try that. When I came to IndyCar and started to drive on ovals, I liked it straight away. It worked for me and my style.

“The first few attempts at Indy, I had good speed, but it was always some small mistakes that got me out of contention. I learned from them. I’m very proud I was able to pull it off, but it was a lot of hard work behind that.”

Michelle Collins of BorgWarner presented Baby Borgs to Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi at a ceremony also attended by Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

The victory in the Indianapolis 500 is etched in history, as is Ericsson’s face on the trophy.

“It’s such a special thing,” the driver said. “The BorgWarner people and IndyCar and everyone at IMS, I get to experience so many cool things since winning the Indy 500. It’s a win that keeps on giving. It never ends. It still does.

“I can’t wait to get back to Indianapolis, the month of May, as the champion. I still have to pinch myself. It’s a dream, for sure.”

Ganassi doesn’t have to pinch himself — all he needs to do is look at his collection of Baby Borgs.

His first Indy 500 win — as a team co-owner with Pat Patrick — came in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi’s thrilling duel against Al Unser Jr.

In 1990, Ganassi formed Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012 and Ericsson in 2022.

“It’s a feather in the team’s cap for sure just to have our representation on the Borg-Warner Trophy with five other drivers,” Ganassi said. “It’s a testament to the team, a testament to Mike Hull that runs the team in Indianapolis. I just feel really lucky to be a part of it. It’s great to work with a great team of great people.

“Just to relive that moment again and again never gets old; never goes away. I’m really lucky to be in the position I’m in. It’s an honor to represent the team with the great people that it took to bring Marcus across the finish line. He and I get to celebrate events like this, but it’s really about the people at Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis that pull this all together.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500