Offseason recap: Verizon IndyCar Series

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Everyone likes to say the offseason feels shorter than it actually is, and the winter of 2016 was a case study in that for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Few seasons in recent history have seen as much movement among drivers and teams from the top of the grid all the way to the bottom, although a lot of it happened in the early stages of the offseason.

Ahead of the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, here’s a look at what happened in this whirlwind of an offseason.

  • October 5: Josef Newgarden joins Team Penske, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya will pilot a fifth entry for Team Penske at the Indianapolis 500 (announced on October 31).
  • October 7: Chip Ganassi Racing announces it will run Honda engines and aero kits after running Chevrolet engines and aero kits since 2014 (the aero kit was introduced in 2015).
  • October 11: Tony Kanaan re-signs with Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • October 12: Dale Coyne Racing signs Sebastien Bourdais to replace the outgoing Conor Daly. They also beef up their engineering staff, adding Craig Hampson as Bourdais’ engineer.
  • October 13: Larry Foyt announces that A.J. Foyt Racing will become a Chevrolet team in 2017. (The announcement is made official in January of 2017).
  • November 4: JR Hildebrand fills the seat Newgarden vacated at Ed Carpenter Racing after racing a part-time entry for the team since 2014. Spencer Pigot returns as his teammate for the road/street races, formally announced in January, and may pilot a third entry at the Indy 500. Ed Carpenter returns to run the oval races.
  • November 14: Dale Coyne Racing completes its driver lineup before Thanksgiving arrive. The team signs 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones to partner Bourdais.
  • November 15: A.J. Foyt Racing completes a massive overhaul. Gone are incumbent drivers Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth and in are young guns Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly. Will Phillips, George Klotz, and Daniele Cucchiarroni highlight the team’s structural overhaul as well.
  • December 2: Andretti Autosport formally signs Takuma Sato to replace the outgoing Carlos Munoz.
  • January 16: Rumors begin circulating that Mikhail Aleshin’s 2017 sponsorship is in jeopardy due to political conflicts with the United States and Russia.
  • January 21: Word arrives that KV Racing Technology is on the verge of closing, and won’t make the grid for 2017.
  • February 1: Aleshin’s sponsorship situation is seemingly sorted out and he formally rejoins Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. However, rumors persist that politics will impact his funding. In separate news, the team announces they will test test IMSA ace Luís Felipe “Pipo”Derani and former Auto GP champion Luis Michael Dörrbecker at Sebring in March.
  • February 2: Another of the one-off Indy 500 entries is announced. Sage Karam and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirm they will again partner for the 101st running of the Indy 500.
  • February 21: Unfortunately, KV Racing Technology shuttered its doors over the winter. However, their assets, including a pair of chassis, have been acquired by Mazda Road to Indy team owner Ricardo Juncos, whose teams have been a staple of the MRTI ladder for years. He is expected to field two cars at the Indy 500 and may run additional races this year.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III