Piscitell steps into Blackhawks CJ Wilson Cayman at Road America

Photo courtesy of IMSA

One of the star qualifiers in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Justin Piscitell, will step up to a GS class entry for this weekend’s race at Road America – and a good one at that.

The ST class veteran, who’s driven and scored poles in a Porsche Cayman before, will fill in for Tyler McQuarrie alongside Till Bechtolsheimer in CJ Wilson Racing’s No. 35 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, which is adorned in a special Chicago Blackhawks livery.

The CJWR team release is below:

CJ Wilson Racing today announced that Continental Tire Series regular, Justin Piscitell will join the team for Round 7 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Road America. The 27 year old from Patterson, New York will fill in for Tyler McQuarrie in the #35 Chicago Blackhawks/Safecraft Porsche Cayman as the Californian has a clashing Formula Drift commitment. Piscitell will race alongside regular driver, Till Bechtolsheimer.

“I was extremely excited to get the phone call from Andris asking me to come and run the CJWR car with Till,” explained Piscitell. “I have raced Caymans in the ST class but never the GS version of the car. So while being somewhat familiar with the platform, at the same time, this is going to be totally different,” he added.

Like many drivers, Piscitell ranks the 4.048 mile Wisconsin track highly. “Road America is one of my all-time favorite tracks, it is high speed in places with lots of exciting and different types of corners the whole way round the track. I have really great memories of the track as my first Skip Barber title was won there in 2009 at the final race of the season. Last year in Continental ST, we didn’t get to qualify so I started the race in eighth place and I think I turned the car over with a six second lead after maybe the driving at the highest level I ever have.”

4_sign_off_blackhawksTeam Manager, Andris Laivins is confident about McQuarrie’s replacement and believes there will be no drop in performance or expectations for the #35 car. “There is a pretty short list of drivers who have the right combination of CTSC experience, attitude, and speed that we would just drop into our program. Justin has always been consistently quick in these races, and our team has gotten to know him well over these last few seasons, so it’s a natural fit. We’ll all miss Tyler this week, but I’m still expecting to have cars on the podium!”

Piscitell also sees this opportunity for him to make a major impression with the team. “I know that CJWR is a top notch team seeing as they won the ST Championship last year and we were close competitors with them all season. So I know how great an opportunity it is for me but I also hope it proves to be a great chance for CJ Wilson Racing to see what I can do.”

After Will Power extension, Marcus Ericsson among IndyCar drivers awaiting new deals

IndyCar free agents
Chris Owens, Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

FORT WORTH, Texas – Defending series champion Will Power’s name is off the board of potential IndyCar free agents, but there’s still much to be settled in the field – starting with the reigning Indy 500 winner.

Marcus Ericsson is waiting on a contract offer to remain with Chip Ganassi Racing beyond the 2023 season (his fourth with the team). The Swede said he’s made it clear to car owner Chip Ganassi that he wants to stay in the No. 8 Dallara-Honda, which has four victories since June 2021.

“Yeah, it’s up to him, basically,” Ericsson said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “He needs to give me an offer for ’24 onward. The ball is in his corner. I really enjoy it at Ganassi, and we’ve done a lot of great things together and would love to continue, but the ball is in his corner. He knows very well what I want.”

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Two days before Ericsson won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener March 5, Ganassi sang the praises of the emerging star driver to a small group of reporters.

“I want him here beyond this year,” Ganassi said of Ericsson. “He seems to have gotten more out of winning the Indy 500 than anyone else has of recent time, which is a good thing. He did a good job. He’s been everywhere. It’s been a really positive thing for Marcus, the team, the series. He’s grown with that as well.”

Ericsson didn’t sew up his current deal until late in his breakthrough 2021 season (after a memorable victory in the inaugural Music City Grand Prix). So he isn’t necessarily anxious about it but conceded he “was thinking a bit about it over the winner in the offseason and talking about it

“But now that the season has started, I told my managers and everyone I want to focus on the driving. They focus on those things. Now the season is on, and I want to try to win races, win another 500 and championship. That’s where my focus is. (A new contract) is one of those things that happens when it happens. But I’m happy where I am, and I want to do well.”

IndyCar’s two best teams, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, tend to be very tight-lipped about their drivers’ contract status.

Power confirmed Friday to journalist Bruce Martin that his new deal was for multiple seasons. That means all three of Penske’s drivers are in multiple-year contracts (unlike Power’s deal, Scott McLaughlin’s extension was announced by the team last year).

But there is more uncertainty at Ganassi’s four cars aside from Ericsson. While Scott Dixon has a ride for as long as he wants (and the six-time champion has given no indication of retiring), Ganassi’s other two other seats have yet to be solidified beyond 2023.

The No. 11 is being split this year by rookie Marcus Armstrong and veteran Takuma Sato this season. In  the No. 10, Alex Palou is believed to be in his final year at Ganassi before heading to Arrow McLaren.

That expected move would cast doubt on the future of Felix Rosenqvist, who returned to Arrow McLaren when the team was unable to bring in Palou (who was embroiled in a contract dispute with Ganassi).

Aside from Penske, virtually every other IndyCar team (including Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, which has Helio Castroneves in a contract year) has seats that potentially could open for next season, and even drivers who appear to be under contract for next year still could be on the move (via buyouts and option years).

Though Juncos Hollinger Racing announced a “long-term, multiyear contract partnership” last July with Callum Ilott, but the second-year driver was cagey Friday when asked about how long the extension ran.

“It’s for whatever I want it to be,” said Ilott, who finished a career-best fifth at St. Petersburg. “I’ll say that.”

Before returning to JHR, Ilott turned enough heads as a rookie to draw interest from several teams, and he indicated Friday that he still would be listening.

“I’d love to talk to some other big teams,” Ilott said. “Nothing stops me from talking. Look, you’ve got to be fair. I agreed to (the deal), but it’s pretty obvious that I’m quite interested as people are interested in me as a driver, but I need to focus on the job I’ve got here.

“I’m confident whether it’s in one year, two years, three years, four years, that if I’m wanted now, I’ll always be wanted. I’m a good enough driver that I don’t need to lack confidence in that side. … I’m not worried.”