It’s been a hectic three weeks of activity for IndyCar since St. Pete

Will Power testing at Indianapolis. Photo: IndyCar

Yes, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12 served as the season opener for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. But in the three weeks that have followed before Round 2, it’s worth noting that there has been an overflow of activity in the longest in-season break of the year between races.

All this occurs before NBCSN kicks off its portion of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

It’s best to break down by team, and by series, what’s occurred:


  • INDYCAR has released two rounds of renderings of the new 2018 common kit, which hasn’t been formally unveiled yet but with this version offering the closest look yet at what’s to come (Round 1 on March 29, Round 2 on March 31).


  • The full-season quartet of Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Will Power have tested twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the month of May. The Chevrolet team used a Team Test on March 24 to be able to run alongside the Honda runners at a Honda Manufacturer Test; the team then tested Sunday, April 2 after a one-day weather delay for a Chevrolet Manufacturer Test. The four drivers also tested in the series’ Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 21.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya also made his first test of the year at Barber Motorsports Park with the other four in the series’ Open Test on March 21, and was immediately back on the pace. And his successor in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden, explained how cool it was to work alongside him for the first time.
  • Newgarden flew out to Long Beach on March 28 for the race’s media day.




  • Not a ton to report here but Graham Rahal again has done the same three tests as most: the Barber Open Test (March 21), Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
  • Rahal also made a pit stop to Texas Motor Speedway (March 30) for that track’s preseason media day and luncheon. This comes with a bobblehead… seriously. He won a thriller there last year.
  • Rahal went to Las Vegas (April 2) for wife Courtney Force’s latest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race. A full schedule of where they will be on respective race weekends is linked here.
  • World of Hyatt was confirmed heading into St. Petersburg as an associate sponsor; the sponsorship comes into more recognizable form at Long Beach, as the Hyatt Regency hotel in the track’s infield is prominent in the backdrop of TV and photo shots. The RLL team, including drivers, crew, owners and sponsors, will stay at Hyatt-branded hotels throughout the 2017 IndyCar Series schedule. World of Hyatt members may also gain access to VIP experiences during several race weekends during the season.



Carpenter at IMS. Photo: IndyCar
  • Tests: Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand at Barber for the Open Test (March 21), Sebring for a Team Test (March 28) and Ed Carpenter and Hildebrand at Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Manufacturer Test (April 2).
  • Pigot raced the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, finishing fifth in the Prototype class.
  • Carpenter has stated the team’s likelihood of only running two cars for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, although a third car may still come together late in the going.
  • Preferred Freezer Services has been confirmed for a four-race primary sponsorship deal with Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet, Long Beach this weekend, the two races at Indianapolis and Toronto in July.
  • Carpenter headed to Texas for the opening of the repaved Texas Motor Speedway the day after St. Petersburg (March 13). The reprofiled track kicks off this weekend with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race; IndyCar races there in June.



  • Tests: Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones at Barber for the Open Test (March 21) and Honda Manufacturer Test at Sonoma (April 4). The team, like Andretti Autosport, has not yet tested at IMS in 2017.
  • Bourdais ran one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, coming up short of a potential endurance and Florida three-race sweep.
  • The team confirmed Pippa Mann in its third car for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, again in the No. 63 Honda with the Susan G. Komen and Genetic Technologies partnerships continuing.

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”