McLaren won’t run IndyCar team in 2019, but could still do Indy 500

McLaren boss Zak Brown. Photo: Getty Images.
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In what isn’t a complete surprise, McLaren will not mount a full-time effort in IndyCar in 2019.

After months of speculation, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced Friday that the organization will hold off on entering IndyCar until at least 2020 so that it can continue to devote more time and resources to rebuild its lagging Formula One program.

“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said, according to ESPN. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula One, so we won’t be doing that in 2019.

“We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”

However, Brown – who spoke with reporters Friday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, site of this Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix – did not rule out the possibility that McLaren could still enter a car in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

McLaren took part in a joint venture with Andretti Autosport to field Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Alonso led 27 of the race’s 200 laps, and appeared to be a strong contender to win until his car suffered engine failure late in the race. Takuma Sato ultimately won the race.

MORE: 2-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso hints Indy 500 return possible

If McLaren does field an entry in the 2019 Indy 500, it likely would be another partnership situation. Speculation has included a partnership between McLaren and Andretti Autosport once again, as well as talk of a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“As far as the Indy 500 (in 2019) is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season and it’s something Fernando would like to do.”

Alonso has announced that this will be his final season in F1, of which he’s a two-time past champion.

“Right now we’re still focused on Formula One and until we get a little bit of fresh air we’ll remain focused on that,” Brown said.

It’s unclear what Alonso will do for 2019 in terms of open-wheel racing. He tested an Andretti Autosport Indy car for a full day last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speculation on McLaren’s pullback from racing in IndyCar next season also centers about whether it would be able to get an adequate powerplant to field an entry for all 17 races in 2019.

Honda has balked at the possibility of providing engines to McLaren due to past issues involving the F1 program.

Chevrolet, the only other engine provider in IndyCar, could be a potential supplier, but there does not appear to be a current IndyCar team that would be able to field a car for Alonso.

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)