Getty Images

Red Bull GRC: Loenbro Motorsports launches own Supercar program

Leave a comment

The Chip Ganassi Rallycross program will now be known as Loenbro Motorsports, owing to Loenbro’s increased commitment to Red Bull Global Rallycross and a drawdown for Ganassi to instead focus on its core programs elsewhere in racing, NBC Sports has learned.

Loenbro Motorsports announced plans to field its own multi-car effort in GRC’s Supercars class this year on Tuesday, with Steve Arpin continuing and a second driver to be confirmed at a later date in a pair of Fords.

A Ganassi team spokesperson confirmed Ganassi is no longer involved with this effort, which will still be based in Charlotte but at a different shop.

The 2017 Red Bull GRC season will be Loenbro’s third in an ownership position and fifth year overall within the series. The last two years, Loenbro was co-owner of Loenbro Chip Ganassi Racing and has now fused into the new Loenbro Motorsports banner.

“We’re excited to build upon the incredibly successful foundation that we’ve laid in Red Bull GRC,” Paul Leach, who owns the team with his brother, Jon Leach, said in a release. “We made big gains from the creation of this team in 2015 into the 2016 season, and we’re laser-focused on continuing to improve this year.”

Arpin, who won his first Red Bull GRC final at Daytona last year and finished fourth in points behind teammate Brian Deegan, has had Loenbro support for years. The Montana-based company has locations in seven Western plains states, and is an energy services company specializing in Pipeline, Industrial Construction, Insulation, Inspection, Fabrication & Oilfield Services.

He explained how he and Loenbro’s relationship has come together and how they will now move forward under this banner.

“They’ve saw the inner workings of motorsports, both good and bad,” Arpin told NBC Sports. “They saw an opportunity; they saw the potential of Red Bull Global Rallycross as well as a chance to come in and change the mindset.

“We partnered with Ganassi our first two years. As we got to 2017, we still have a great relationship. They’ll focus on their core business of NASCAR in Charlotte, and IndyCar/IMSA from their Indianapolis shop.”

Arpin said the program will continue with the same core personnel, led by lead engineer Carl Goodman. With Deegan and Arpin finishing third and fourth in points last year, the independent team was best of the rest among the privateers, behind the factory-backed Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team that went 1-2 last year.

“It’s a different shop. But the reality of it is that it’s the same exact program, where we retained our key people. Everyone came with it,” Arpin said.

“It’s the same truck/trailer and same cars; it’s just a different shop, 10 minutes up the road, and is Loenbro Motorsports instead of Loenbro Chip Ganassi Racing.

“For us, it’s an open dialogue with Ganassi. We’ll still have the potential to get together with the team in the future.”

Arpin is hopeful the Loenbro Motorsports team will get two tests in before the season opener at Memphis in late April, but if they only get one, they’ll try to have one be “extremely productive.”

Considering the strides he and the team made in 2016 from 2015, they’re optimistic of more growth and progression this year.

“We had a lot of down time between ’15 and ’16, and we weren’t able to do a lot of things yet,” Arpin explained. “With Loenbro making such an early commitment this year, we can get the bull by the horns and say ‘Let’s go do this.’ When we finished 2016, we were laser focused on the next steps and progression. Now it’s asking what we can do better at, with all the right people and the early commitment. It’s gonna be a lot of fun to get testing.”

Arpin’s relationship with Loenbro is more than just being a driver; he’s also developed a business relationship with them.

“I love it. I see it as a long-term career opportunity,” he said. “I’m intrigued by what happens behind the scenes and what makes professional race teams. So much happens to get there.

“There’s two rushes for me. First and foremost getting behind the wheel. Then it’s getting together the planning side of it, working with partners, and figuring out unique, creative ways to deliver more to the partners. That’s it’s own type of rush.”

The two-car Loenbro confirmation joins other multi-car efforts announced from Andretti and Subaru. Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE is yet to reveal its 2017 program yet, while Bryan Herta Rallysport is expected to announce its replacement for Patrik Sandell on Wednesday.

INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
Leave a comment

While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter