MRTI: Trio of signings announced going into holiday period

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Three more driver signings have occurred for the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season in the last couple days, with a pair in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and one more in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Team Pelfrey, which won the 2015 and 2016 Pro Mazda titles with Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz, respectively, has signed Sting Ray Robb for his second season. Robb shifts over from World Speed Motorsports, as the teenager occasionally impressed throughout the year. He will drive the No. 82 Trademark Dental, Munk Family Dental, Intervention.com / Team Pelfrey Mazda. Robb tested with Juncos Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in October.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

“It’s hugely exciting to welcome Sting Ray back to Team Pelfrey,” commented Team Pelfrey General Manager, Jonny Baker. “I say back, because he tested with us a few years ago in F1600 and we immediately saw how much potential he possessed then. We have had Sting Ray in the new PM-18 for a couple of tests now, and we are convinced he will surprise a lot of people next year. He’s still only 16, and we will work hard together not only to keep developing the car, but also to get the most out of him. We are looking forward to an exciting year!”

Also of note in Pro Mazda was that Milan, Italy-based team RP Motorsport Racing has announced its intentions to race in the championship next season.

“After a successful experience in the World Series Formula V8 3.5, we immediately started looking around to fix our plans for 2018. We found a very interesting context in the Pro Mazda Championship,” said Fabio Pampado, RP Motorsport Racing team principal. “Thanks to its partnership with INDYCAR and to the new Tatuus chassis in 2018, it will receive a new boost. We believe it is the best choice for us to continue to guarantee our team the presence in a championship with international visibility, and the opportunity to compete on tracks full of charm represents a challenge with a unique flavor.”

The Pro Mazda grid includes Juncos Racing with three drivers confirmed (Carlos Cunha, Rinus VeeKay, Robert Megennis), Cape Motorsports with its first (Nikita Lastochkin, over from Pelfrey), BN Racing with David Malukas, and Oliver Askew (USF2000 champ, expected with Cape once Mazda announces). Exclusive Autosport and Pabst Racing are a couple of the other teams expected to race in the series, having tested extensively with the Tatuus PM-18 Mazda.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

In USF2000, Pelfrey has also been busy there. It has signed its first driver in South African Julian van der Watt. Pelfrey had at least one vacancy to fill with Robert Megennis moving up to Pro Mazda with Juncos Racing. The Cape Town native has tested a Tatuus USF-17 Mazda thus far and will move Stateside for his racing next year.

“Julian came over and tested with us in October, his first outing in a USF2000 car, and we immediately saw why he dominated the South African F1600 Championship,” Baker said. “Not only was he fast, but his consistency and work ethic were all on display for us to see.  Julian’s decision to move to the Mazda Road to Indy is fantastic news for Team Pelfrey and the series and we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on throughout the 2018 season.”

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Newman Wachs Racing has added its second driver in the form of Oscar DeLuzuriaga, a UK-born Singapore resident who joined the team for the first time in June, and also ran at the Griffis test in October. He joins Darren Keane in that team’s lineup.

“I’m really excited to add Oscar to our team for the 2018 season,” offered Brian Halahan, NWR Team Manager. “We began a testing program a few months back to see if he would be ready for next year and he has come a very long way in a short time. He has put in a lot of work in, so I feel he deserves a spot on the team.”

Two other drivers you can expect to see in the USF2000 field include Keith Donegan, who won the $200K Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, and will have his team revealed at a later date and Mathias Soler-Obel, a 15-year-old Bogota, Colombia native now living in Atlanta. He’s planning to move over after a year in the Formula 4 United States Championship.

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”