Castroneves, Kanaan, Newgarden set for American Ninja Warrior

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INDYCAR has formally confirmed the appearance of Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden on an episode of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

Here’s the release from INDYCAR:

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden – each a champion in his own right – will attempt to conquer a new kind of race when they compete on the NBC obstacle course challenge show “American Ninja Warrior.”

The three racing stars will take part in the hit show’s regional competition April 27 on a specially designed course at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Any of the three who finish among the top 30 contestants or complete the course will return April 28 for Round 2. If successful then, they move on to the show’s finals in Las Vegas against qualifiers from other regional competitions. The Indianapolis episode is scheduled to air June 13 in prime time.

“I’m so excited to be a part of ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and get the chance to run such a crazy obstacle course,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner who has completed the Ironman World Championship and is driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, but I think my training that I do on a daily basis will put me in a position to perform well,” Kanaan said. “We’re constantly trying to show everyone that what we do requires us to be athletes, but sometimes it doesn’t translate as well to the general public. This will be our chance to show how physically fit we have to be to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

“American Ninja Warrior,” returning for its eighth season on NBC, will visit five cities, including Indianapolis, leading to the finals. In Las Vegas, competitors will face a daunting four-stage obstacle course that, if completed, will earn a $1 million grand prize and the title of “American Ninja Warrior.” To date, there has been only one grand prize winner.

“It’s a crazy cool opportunity because I don’t think a lot of people get the chance to try that obstacle course,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy, 2011 Indy Lights champion and a two-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner. “I’ve had one day to really prepare for it. We’ve been on the road traveling so much, and you can’t just go into the gym and do pull-ups; that’s not how you train for that type of competition. It’s very specialized. It’s all technique, it’s all specific obstacles.”

The drivers were able to train at gyms in Indianapolis and Florida that specialize in preparation for the show, but they won’t know what obstacles await them until they arrive. No matter, they know it will be grueling.

“I realized that to become a Ninja, wow, you have to sacrifice a lot,” said Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 winner and driver of the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet. “That’s not my day job so I’ve got to be really careful. You throw yourself through a lot of the areas that, if you are not prepared, you can actually hurt yourself. I was very cautious about that and do have some blisters, bruises, but right now it’s been fun.”

The 40-year-old Brazilian, an admitted “American Ninja Warrior” fan, is grateful no races are scheduled for the two weekends after the competition in Indianapolis.

“I don’t have anything the week after,” he said with a laugh. “If something goes wrong, at least I have a week to recover. Hopefully we don’t (fall into) the water, we just keep going and have a good time.”

Added Newgarden, “I don’t know how we’re going to do. Maybe one of us will miraculously do really well and represent INDYCAR. I’m hoping that’s the case, but I don’t know.”

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

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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.