Here’s a look at how IndyCar’s recent one-off numbers have fared

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Conor Daly is swapping the No. 18 on his usual Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda for the No. 88 this weekend, to pay tribute to the late Bryan Clauson.

It also gives Daly an opportunity to join the list of those drivers who for one reason or another have made recent temporary number swaps in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Here’s a quick look at those who have done it in the last several years:

  • FullSizeRender (3)Charlie Kimball, 2016 Indianapolis 500. Kimball’s usual No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet switched to No. 42 for this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500, as his sponsor Tresiba lasts at least 42 hours after first use, and also will honor 42 pioneers within the diabetes community. Kimball started 16th and finished fifth, following a chaotic day of racing when his car was hit by debris but he soldiered on, actually running the same fuel strategy to the finish as race winner Alexander Rossi did.
  • Josef Newgarden now in Century 21 colors. Photo: INDYCAR
    Josef Newgarden now in Century 21 colors. Photo: INDYCAR

    Josef Newgarden, 2013 Indianapolis 500, 2015 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis & Indianapolis 500. Before Newgarden’s No. 67 switched to No. 21 full-time for 2016, Newgarden made the one-off switcheroo on two occasions when driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and CFH Racing, owing to one-off sponsor Century 21. But he needed better realtor advice apparently in those three races, because they all ended with nondescript performances. The 2013 ‘500, he started 25th and ended 28th. In 2015, he started 12th and finished 20th in the Grand Prix after getting caught up in the Turn 1 mess, and at the ‘500, he started and finished ninth. Things have gone better with the No. 21 solely this year, but they didn’t when it was a one-off.

  • Dario Franchitti, 2012 Indianapolis 500. Franchitti went from the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to No. 50 for the 2012 Indy 500 owing to Target’s 50th anniversary (above). And for the inevitable cliche line that follows next, he hit the bullseye. Franchitti won the race despite starting 16th, and held off Takuma Sato’s last-lap pass attempt to do so. It marked the only time in Franchitti’s Ganassi IndyCar career he ran a number other than 10, and also his final victory of his career.
  • Lloyd in the No. 40202 car in 2009.(Photo by Darrell Ingham/ Getty Images)
    Lloyd in the No. 40202 car in 2009.(Photo by Darrell Ingham/ Getty Images)

    Alex Lloyd, 2009 Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead. The driver who’s developed quite a sense of humor and has made a career in writing about cars after not racing them full-time anymore is the answer to an obscure trivia question – who was the first driver to drive a car with five numbers in IndyCar? Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing turned to Lloyd for a one-off start at the 2009 season finale and the team’s usual No. 06 car, then driven by Robert Doornbos or Oriol Servia, adopted the No. 40202 owing to a breast cancer awareness promotion – and Lloyd has the tweet from 2009 to prove it. The driver who earlier that year was known as “Pink Lloyd” when he drove the No. 99 HER Energy Drink pink Honda in a Sam Schmidt/Chip Ganassi mashup effort at the Indianapolis 500 took the then-white-and-pink No. 40202 car to fifth on the grid, and eighth in the race. In a more conventional No. 19 car for Dale Coyne Racing, he was fourth in the Indianapolis 500 and series rookie-of-the-year the next year.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”