IndyCar media day 2016: Rolling updates

Photo: Tony DiZinno
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INDIANAPOLIS – We are off and rolling at the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series media day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Contrary to last year, it’s semi-warm for February and there isn’t snow on the ground. The coffee is both good and needed.

The first press conference of the day has concluded and featured the four confirmed drivers with the least amount of combined experience: Mikhail Aleshin, Max Chilton, Spencer Pigot and Conor Daly.

Daly, who had his firesuit all ready to go, was told he needed to put it on in advance for some of the media commitments today. Seeing as the other three did not have a suit on, one could be forgiven for thinking Daly had been the setup of some “rookie hazing” as a practical joke.

Quick quotes from the four of them:

  • Aleshin on missing the 2015 season while in the European Le Mans Series: “It was an interesting experience. I tried to watch every race when I could. But of course, I missed IndyCar a lot. It’s one of the best series out there and I’m so happy to be here.”
  • Chilton on his conversations and dialogue with Ganassi: “It all kind of came up in July at Iowa, to win my second ever oval race was something. I’d had (conversations) with every team bar one. I got it down to two (teams) pretty quick. I had signed a few weeks ago.”
  • Pigot on whether he has any further confirmed races beyond the three he is already set with: “The plan is to do as many races as we can. I’ve been patient answering all the questions. I’ve been to testing with Graham Rahal at Sebring. I’ll only have one or two days testing before the first race.”
  • Daly on the power of Jonathan Byrd’s: “We were having fried chicken and then we thought, maybe we can put this deal together. So fried chicken and meat loaf for everyone this year. We’re gonna have a lot of American-ness this year, even though my suit is in Irish colors.”

The next batch of four drivers came through were branded as the “young guns and future legends,” and featured Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and a slightly delayed Marco Andretti. Hinchcliffe took the opportunity to joke that considering he’ll turn 30 in December and heads into his sixth season, he’s appreciative of still being called a “young gun.”

There weren’t a ton of season-worthy items discussed, more so their obvious presence on social media. Much laughter was exchanged. Quotes will follow later today.

Honda was next up and has confirmed their extension with INDYCAR. The big news isn’t that they have extended, but rather that they disclosed the length. Usually, “multiyear” is the de rigueur term used in these type announcements.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles is now up and discussing the updates thus far at IMS, for “Project 100,” as the Speedway continues to improve and innovate the iconic, historic facility heading into 2016. Again, quotes will follow later today.

Four words about the livery reveal for Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 9 Chevrolet at IMS: The Bolt is Back.

A separate post will follow on this for the car that ran from 1995 to 2001, and won IndyCar or CART championships four years in a row from 1996 to 1999, and the 2000 and 2001 Indianapolis 500s.

Here’s a gift from IMS to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and an unusual one at that.

A new season means new firesuits. Here’s one from Josef Newgarden, who will start the year in a Fuzzy’s Vodka livery in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power are reliving the finish of the 99th Indianapolis 500. I’m not 100 percent sure why.

Mark Miles had his comments and didn’t reveal anything Earth-shattering.

We went onto more informal press sessions, one-on-one, after that. Ed Carpenter took time to elaborate on the change in the ownership status within Ed Carpenter Racing, now back to ECR after the end of CFH Racing last week.

“It’s not huge internally,” Carpenter told assembled media. “We’d operated as ECR from 2012 through 2014. We merged with SFHR in 2015 to form CFH Racing. As we got into this offseason, all sorts of things we don’t need to get into, happened. Some partnership changes precipitated us going back to ECR for 2016.

“The important thing for me to have everyone understand, is that plans are the same now as for CFH. We’re running Josef full-time, I’ll run ovals, and hopefully have the 20 on roads. There’s still a little time to make it happen. That’s the biggest thing. We’re in good shape. Have all our people back in key positions.”

Carpenter didn’t rule out a return for Luca Filippi but said all options remain on the table for the second car on road and street courses, if it happens. He also maintains continual dialogue with JR Hildebrand in hopes of the young American continuing for another season. The tentative plan for the Indianapolis 500 for ECR is two cars, although that could change.

Regarding a strategist for Josef Newgarden, absent one with Andy O’Gara’s departure, Carpenter said it has been determined but not publicly named. The strategist, who currently resides within the team, would provide continuity rather than if it was Carpenter himself doing it on occasion.

We banked a number of interviews during the day and will roll those out in the days and weeks to come. Thanks for following.