Bill Pappas set to replace Will Phillips at INDYCAR

Pappas with Graham Rahal in 2013. Photo: INDYCAR
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INDYCAR has made a key change in its competition department, with Bill Pappas set to replace Will Phillips within the organization.

Pappas, who worked well with the late Justin Wilson and was most recently with KVSH Racing, will start as Vice President of Competition, Race Engineering.

The full release is below:

INDYCAR announced that veteran racing engineer Bill Pappas has been named Vice President of Competition, Race Engineering. Pappas brings more than 30 years of motorsports experience to the position and has cultivated strong relationships throughout the racing community.

“We are very pleased to have someone with Bill’s vision and experience join our team at INDYCAR,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. “His deep engineering expertise and long history of accomplishments in Indy car racing have earned him the respect of team owners and drivers alike. We look forward to the immediate impact and advancements Bill will bring in strengthening our safety initiatives while also enhancing our racing.”

Pappas will be responsible for all engineering and technical operations, including chassis and engine development, safety enhancements and aerodynamic initiatives. In addition, he will manage relationships with chassis and engine suppliers.

Pappas has worked with some of the most respected teams in the INDYCAR paddock, including Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and, most recently, served as technical director for KV Racing Technology. Pappas, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., helped guide Juan Pablo Montoya to his first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race win in 2000 with Ganassi.

“Being able to join the INDYCAR team is a great opportunity,” said Pappas. “I hope my racing experience and perspective can be utilized to enhance an already great level of competition.”

Pappas is replacing Will Phillips, INDYCAR Vice President of Technology, who will be leaving INDYCAR in March.

“Will has contributed a great deal to the series during his tenure,” Frye said. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”