Livery reveals headline Thursday notes from INDYCAR GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – A pair of official livery reveals – and one other car’s livery being teased – headlined the Thursday of INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend, ahead of Round 5 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. There was no track activity today except for the three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

Harvey, Veach liveries revealed

Within the last 24 hours, two of the four rookies competing in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil have had their liveries revealed.

Jack Harvey’s No. 50 Honda for the Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport combination features a striking yellow, pink and black combination and notable sponsors AutoNation and Gap Guard among the items on the car. Of note here, Tim Keene, Shank’s general manager, will serve as Harvey’s race strategist.

Harvey, Shank and Michael Andretti all spoke at the launch, held at Andretti’s hospitalty on the IMS grounds. Fuller interviews with them will appear in the coming days on NBCSports.com.

Photo: IndyCar

The night before at the Foyt Wine Vault, Zach Veach’s No. 40 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing was released, along with the ticket for the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim, the LPGA event to be held at the Brickyard Crossing golf course in September.

While the Indy Women in Tech Championship is the primary sponsor, Sexton Companies and Alfe Heat Treating are also rather visible on this car.

Photo: IndyCar

Nearly all the Indy 500 liveries are out now, as well

The two rookies were not the only drivers who have their liveries out. There have been another three either formally released or teased, as well.

Pippa Mann’s No. 63 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing features the similar pink as she’s had the last three years, but is not primarily pink as it has been those years.

Susan G. Komen is a partner and is on for a fourth straight year. Other announced entities include Genetic Technologies (BREVAGenplus), OrthoIndy (which isn’t on car, but was announced as strong partner), Tamarack Agency, Clear Software and Boosterville, with others also including Towne Post Network, MadeInSpace, Visit Indy, and Momentum Group. Mann has also hinted at an announcement regarding MadeInSpace to come soon.

She also announced as an ambassador for #Driven2SaveLives earlier this week. Her #GetInvolved 2017 campaign is also live. The livery rendering is below, and is being wrapped by the Dale Coyne Racing crew at the Speedway.

Oriol Servia’s No. 16 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has not been formally released, but the garage sign above his garage in Gasoline Alley seems to hint at what figures to look like a similar yellow-and-white car as Spencer Pigot had last year.

Photo: Tony DiZinno

There’s been one other tease, as well. With a soft launch of a gold-and-white No. 3 Chevrolet for Shell, Helio Castroneves’ livery looks intense. It should be revealed fully next week.

Juncos Racing’s quick prep and strong engineering team

Both Juncos Racing cars are here and being prepped. To denote the separate liveries, look for more orange accents on Sebastian Saavedra’s No. 17 Chevrolet and more yellow accents on Spencer Pigot’s No. 11 Chevrolet on near identical green-and-white canvasses.

People may not be used to the size or scale of operation Ricardo Juncos assembles, but the crew and other staff brought on is strong ahead of the Argentine’s IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 debuts.

The Pigot and Saavedra deals were announced this week, and will feature three aces on the engineering front. Tom Brown, an IndyCar and sports car veteran who’s recently been with CORE autosport and Starworks Motorsport in the IMSA paddock, will serve as the overall engineering head.

Steve Newey, another who’s in sports cars with Stevenson Motorsports and has a wealth of IndyCar experience both as an engineer and team co-owner, will serve as Pigot’s race engineer. Interestingly, both Newey and Pigot were both with Ed Carpenter Racing last year, but not simultaneously; Newey was JR Hildebrand’s engineer for the month of May, while Pigot was still at RLL before joining ECR at Detroit.

David Cripps will be Saavedra’s race engineer. Another IndyCar veteran, Cripps has been in-and-out with teams in recent years, and has also been involved with the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team in recent years.

Greg Senerius, Sebastien Bourdais’ former crew chief at KV Racing Technology, is one of several ex-KVRT alumni as part of this program.

Jay Frye and INDYCAR have been incredibly helpful and instrumental in Juncos’ arrival into the series. While there is still a steep learning curve for the team to face in the new series, it’s a step they’re ready to take on and preparing to take.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds