Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Norman, Askew top Chris Griffis test in Indy Lights

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The eighth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test was held over the weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. And the two-day test saw a pair of Andretti Autosport drivers, one veteran and one newcomer, end each day on top in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires sessions.

Saturday saw incumbent Ryan Norman turn the quick lap of the day at 1:14.9283, which also was the fastest lap of the weekend, in relatively cool conditions. Sunday, the warmer of the two days, saw Oliver Askew, who joined the Andretti camp to test their No. 27 Dallara IL-15, lead the way with a time of 1:15.0008 – Norman and Askew went 1-2 in the combined times for the weekend.

Oliver Askew piloted the No. 27 Indy Lights entry for Andretti Autosport, the same one Patricio O’Ward carried to the 2018 Indy Lights title, at the Chris Griffis test. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Nine drivers participated in the Indy Lights session, and like Askew, it was the first time in an Indy Lights car for many of them. In fact, the entire top five from the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), Parker Thompson (Team Pelfrey), Askew (Andretti Autosport), David Malukas (Belardi Auto Racing), and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport) – all got to sample Indy Lights machinery over the weekend.

Behind Norman and Askew, Victor Franzoni, running with Belardi at the test, was third fastest at the end of the weekend, followed by Megennis and VeeKay. Malukas was sixth, followed by Thompson in seventh.

Lucas Kohl, who competed in the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda , also got to sample an Indy Lights car as he ran with the Belardi squad, ending up eighth quickest of the nine drivers. Heamin Choi, with Juncos Racing, was ninth quickest.

Along with Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 took to the IMS Road Course as well. Pro Mazda saw Darren Keane (RP Motorsport) better Danial Frost (Juncos Racing) to turn the best lap of the weekend. Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing) and Julian Van der Watt (BN Racing) were third and fourth.

Franzoni, meanwhile, pulled double duty and piloted the No. 92 Tatuus PM-18 for Turn 3 Racing – Franzoni works as a mechanic, driver coach, and test driver for the team. Franzoni was fifth on the Pro Mazda speed chart.

In USF2000, Hunter McElrea led the way with Pabst Racing, ahead of Keane – Keane also pulled double duty, in Pro Mazda and USF2000 – in a Cape Motorsports entry.

Alex Baron (Legacy Autosport), James Raven (DEForce Racing), and Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst) rounded out the top five.

Results for all three series are below.

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Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.