NAPA, “P-Cap,” and pressers highlight busy Friday morning at IMS

Louis Schwitzer Award winners. Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – The few hours before Fast Friday are also fast with plenty of events of off-track activity.

Because there’s so much to recap, we’ll hit the items as they’ve come down in quick hitters:

NAPA Auto Parts is involved in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with Ron Capps and has made a comeback in a big way to Sprint Cup this year, with Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports.

It’s also going to be a big part of the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, as NAPA was announced as primary sponsor of Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Honda at Andretti Autosport.

NAPAcar

The No. 98 car, which had been white and black earlier this year, rolled out in yellow and blue colors on Thursday for practice but with no stickers.

It joins Marco Andretti (No. 27 Snapple Honda) and Townsend Bell (No. 29 California Pizza Kitchen/Robert Graham Honda) as yellow and blue cars at Andretti. Additionally, with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda in yellow and red, Andretti Autosport’s paint schemes this year at the Indy 500 are basically the IndyCar version of Minions.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: A general view is shown at the premiere of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's "Minions" at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Not exactly, but Andretti, Bell and Rossi’s cars look kinda like this. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

From the official team release:

Tip Tollison, President of NAPA Balkamp in Indianapolis, stated, “Andretti Autosport symbolizes the excellence NAPA AUTO PARTS has maintained for nearly 100 years. With this being the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, I cannot think of anything that makes the historic event more complete than the joining of a premier racing family and a premier auto parts company.”

“We’re excited to begin a relationship with another storied American brand for this landmark event,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “This will be NAPA’s first time serving as a full primary sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and I’m honored to have Andretti Autosport chosen to represent their brand.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has a new PR ace, having made one of its best hires in recent memory.

Veteran PR rep Pat Caporali, who has been with Player’s/Forsythe Racing, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and also spearheaded Vision Racing’s early tenure (the team was arguably a social media pioneer) has spent recent years with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in the NHRA series.

INDYCAR Communications has added Caporali to the team as Senior Manager, Media Relations.

She’s pumped, and the reaction on social media has been positive and immediate.

Busy morning for press conferences. Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and KV Racing Technology all brought their teams and drivers into the media center.

Naturally, nothing groundbreaking was said beyond the usual platitudes. Quotes from the pressers will likely be peppered into posts throughout the coming days.

The Louis Schwitzer Award winners were announced (see top photo), in Tino Belli of INDYCAR, Alex Timmermans of Dallara and Arron Melvin of Pratt & Miller for the rear wing beam flap introduced to cars in superspeedway trim this year.

INDYCAR released the rules and breakdown of qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500, with qualifying set to occur on Saturday and Sunday with pole day on Sunday:

INDYCAR has updated the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book to account for any car entered in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil unable to complete a guaranteed qualifying attempt due to a mechanical condition or on-track incident on Saturday, the first of two scheduled days of qualifications.

Per Rule 8.4.3.4.4, when there are 33 entries for the Indianapolis 500, any car that fails to complete its guaranteed qualifying attempt on the first day of qualifications because of a mechanical condition or on-track incident, and does not make a second attempt, will be listed at the back of the field after Saturday qualifying and placed in Group 1 second-day qualifying Sunday.

CLICK HERE: Indianapolis 500 qualifications infographic

If multiple cars cannot complete their guaranteed attempt Saturday due to those conditions, they will be ordered at the back of the field for Group 1 qualifying based on entrant points. If multiple cars with no entrant points do not complete their guaranteed attempt Saturday, they will be ordered for Sunday qualifying by a blind draw.

First-day qualifying runs from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET Saturday. Cars may make multiple attempts throughout the day. Only the first time through the qualifying line – determined by a random draw today – is guaranteed.

At the conclusion of Saturday qualifying, the fastest nine cars based on their four-lap qualification attempts advance to Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout to determine the Verizon P1 Award pole winner and the rest of the starting positions in the first three rows for theMay 29 race. The remaining 24 cars from Saturday move on to Group 1 qualifying Sundayto determine race starting positions 10-33.

All qualifying times from Saturday are erased for Sunday qualifying. Group 1 qualifying runs from 2:45-4:45 p.m. ET Sunday, with each car making one four-lap attempt in order of slowest to fastest based on Saturday’s times. The Fast Nine Shootout takes place from 5-5:45 p.m. ET Sunday, with each car making a four-lap attempt in order of slowest to fastest based on Saturday’s times. The top qualifier in the Fast Nine Shootout wins the Verizon P1 Award and will start on the pole position for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Fast Friday practice is underway. Take the downforce off, turn the boost up and see what happens.

In the opening hour of practice, several drivers ticked over 230 mph. Townsend Bell was first in the 231s at 231.038 in a no-tow situation; Will Power later surpassed that at 231.476 mph, but with a tow. That marked the first Chevrolet over 230 mph this month.

More later.

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”