MRTI: Freedom 100, new USF-17 launch highlight Indy oval weekend

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Mazda Road to Indy has a double dip of content this weekend with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at the Lucas Oil Raceway short oval in Clermont, Ind., outside Indianapolis.

Both events are on Friday; the Freedom 100 airs at noon ET and local time as part of NBCSN’s Carb Day coverage. Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn and Katie Hargitt will have the call for the Freedom.

The Freedom 100 is arguably the marquee race of the year for Indy Lights, and a good springboard to the Verizon IndyCar Series – no less than 24 of the 33 starters in this year’s Indianapolis 500 field have some degree of Mazda Road to Indy experience.

That being said, the randomness of the Freedom 100 has produced a variety of winners who haven’t exactly gone on to huge things in IndyCar.

Here’s the past winners list:

  • 2015: Jack Harvey
  • 2014: Gabby Chaves
  • 2013: Peter Dempsey
  • 2012: Esteban Guerrieri
  • 2011: Josef Newgarden
  • 2010: Wade Cunningham
  • 2009: Wade Cunningham
  • 2008: Dillon Battistini
  • 2007: Alex Lloyd
  • 2006: Wade Cunningham
  • 2005: Jaime Camara
  • 2004: Thiago Medeiros
  • 2003: Ed Carpenter

That’s three past winners in Carpenter, Newgarden and Chaves who are racing on Sunday. Harvey, Dempsey and Guerrieri have a combined zero starts; meanwhile all of Cunningham, Battistini, Camara and Medeiros had less than a season of in IndyCar.

Polesitters have been random too, with some surprises including Ethan Ringel (last year) and Ken Losch (2007) of note.

Traditionally Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has fielded strong entries at the Speedway, and that puts any of its four cars – talented sophomore RC Enerson, Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia and fellow rookies Andre Negrao and Heamin Choi into contention almost from the off. Enerson, in particular, is due his first win of the year after niggling turbo issues have hampered most of his season.

Belardi Auto Racing, given its engineering strength in depth, is also a strong contender and a winner here twice previously in dramatic fashion with Chaves and Dempsey. This year they have Zach Veach, who topped the 200-mph mark during testing on Monday, and Felix Rosenqvist, who will look for a significantly better second oval start than his first at Phoenix.

Either of Enerson and Veach would make it seven winners in eight races this year. The other six thus far are, in order, Felix Serralles, Rosenqvist, Kyle Kaiser, Ed Jones, Urrutia and Dean Stoneman.

Kaiser expects to be better than both he and the Juncos Racing team were here last year. Another potential surprise is Neil Alberico, who was strong in testing despite a slight incident in the first session.

Choi, replacing Scott Anderson, is the only driver change among the 16 entered for the Freedom 100. It’s the biggest field for this race since 2012, when 18 cars started – only 11 have started each of the last three years.

USF17-1
Rendering: Andersen Promotions

Arguably the more intriguing part of the weekend from the Pro Mazda or USF2000 perspective is the launch of the new Tatuus USF-17 car, which gets unveiled Friday morning, 9 a.m., at IMS.

It’s the second new car to be unveiled at IMS in recent years, with the Dallara IL-15 Mazda having been unveiled in May 2014 ahead of its race debut for 20115.

The Pro Mazda and USF2000 races occur later in the day on Friday at IMS.

In Pro Mazda, the question is whether anyone can stop the Pato O’Ward roll of awesomeness for Team Pelfrey. The young Mexican has won five of six races to date, although teammate Aaron Telitz is a past winner at Lucas Oil Raceway in USF2000. The remaining six drivers in the field will look to end O’Ward’s run of form.

USF2000 sees its field temporarily cut in half for its lone oval race of the season, down from 27 cars entered at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend to a mere 14 cars on the 0.686-mile oval.

While Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Pabst Racing have three cars entered apiece – Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin have propelled Cape to four straight wins this year -known oval setup ace John Walko will likely have Victor Franzoni’s car ready to go to contend.

IndyCar at Texas: How to watch, start times, TV info and live streaming, schedule

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The NTT IndyCar Series will head to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for its first oval race of the season and a preview of its biggest race.

After Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas, the next oval on the schedule is May 28 with the 107th running of the Indy 500. Chip Ganassi Racing dominated last year’s 500-miler at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after placing all four of its Dallara-Hondas in the top 10 at Texas.

The Dallara-Chevrolets of Team Penske also will be heavy favorites at Texas. Josef Newgarden passed teammate Scott McLaughlin on the final lap for the victory last year as Penske took three of the top four (with defending series champion Will Power in fourth).

Texas marks the first of five oval races for IndyCar, which also will visit Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. There are 28 drivers entered for the 36th IndyCar race at Texas, the series’ most at the track since 30 in June 2011.

Scott Dixon has a series-high five victories at Texas, mostly recently in May 2021. Helio Castroneves (four wins), Newgarden (two) and Power (two) also are multiple winners at Texas.

Here are the details and IndyCar start times for the PPG 375 race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway (all times are ET):


INDYCAR PPG 375 TEXAS START TIMES

TV: Sunday, noon ET on NBC and streaming on Peacock, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. Leigh Diffey is the announcer with analysts Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe (whose first career IndyCar victory came at St. Petersburg 10 years ago).

Marty Snider and Dave Burns are the pit reporters. Telemundo Deportes on Universo will provide a Spanish-language telecast. Click here for the full NBC Sports schedule for IndyCar in 2023.

Peacock also will be the streaming broadcast for both practices and qualifying and Indy NXT races. (Click here for information on how to sign up for Peacock.)

COMMAND TO START ENGINES: 12:10 p.m. ET

GREEN FLAG: 12:15 p.m. ET

POSTRACE SHOW ON PEACOCK: After the race’s conclusion, an exclusive postrace show will air on Peacock with driver interviews, postrace analysis and the podium presentation. To watch the extended postrace show, click over to the special stream on Peacock after the race ends.

Peacock also will be the streaming broadcast for practices and qualifying.

INDYCAR RADIO NETWORK: The IndyCar and Indy Lights races and all practices and qualifying sessions will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, racecontrol.indycar.com and the IndyCar app.

PRACTICE: Saturday sessions at 9 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. (Peacock Premium), 1:45 p.m.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II

QUALIFYING: Saturday, 12:15 p.m. (Peacock Premium)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the grid at Texas

RACE DISTANCE: The race is 250 laps (375 miles) on a 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, Texas

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Eleven primary sets to be used during practice, qualifying and the race. An extra set will be available to cars in the high-line practice session.

FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 67 degrees with a 71% chance of rain at the green flag.

ENTRY LIST: Click here for the 28 cars entered


PPG 375 INDYCAR TEXAS START TIMES

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, March 31

11 a.m.: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series garage opens

1 p.m.: IndyCar garage opens

3-7 p.m.: IndyCar technical inspection

5 p.m.: IndyCar drivers, team managers meeting

Saturday, April 1

6 a.m.: IndyCar garage opens

8 a.m.: Truck garage opens

9-9:10 a.m.: IndyCar two-stage pit speed limiter practice

9:10-10 a.m.: IndyCar practice (Peacock Premium)

10:30-noon a.m.: Truck practice

12:15-1:15 p.m.: IndyCar qualifying (Peacock Premium)

1:45-2:15 p.m.: IndyCar high-line practice, two groups for 15 minutes apiece (Peacock Premium)

2:30-3:30 p.m.: IndyCar final practice (Peacock Premium)

4:30 p.m.: Truck race (147 laps, 220.5 miles)

Sunday, April 2

7:30 a.m.: IndyCar garage, technical inspection open

11:30 a.m.: Driver introductions

Noon: PPG 375 at Texas (NBC)


2023 SEASON RECAPS

ROUND 1: Marcus Ericsson wins wild opener in St. Petersburg


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