Carlin picks RC Enerson for Mid-Ohio IndyCar contest

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – The revolving door of drivers at Carlin Racing now includes former Indy Lights star RC Enerson, who will take over the No. 31 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Sage Karam drove the No. 31 Chevrolet to a 22nd-place finish and Conor Daly drove the No. 59 car to a 13th-place finish in Sunday’s morning’s Iowa 300.

Patricio O’Ward began the season in the No. 59 and was set to run a partial schedule. He has since moved on from the team because of lack of sponsorship. Max Chilton remains the team’s primary driver in the No. 31, but announced in June that he no longer wanted to compete on the ovals.

This week’s race is on the permanent road course at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Enerson had six podiums and one win in 2015 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Halfway through the 2016 Indy Lights Series season, Enerson left to pursue a seat in the NTT IndyCar Series and made his INDYCAR debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He went on to compete in two more races of the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series season recording a top 10 with a ninth-place finish at Watkins Glen. Enerson participated in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Spring Training with Carlin in February.

“It’s really great to be back driving with Carlin after completing Spring Training earlier this season with the team,” Enerson said. “We’ve been working really hard to get something together to get me back in the seat at some point this season and I couldn’t be happier that it’s all come together for Mid-Ohio.

“Mid-Ohio has always been one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. I’ve just always loved the elevation changes and all of the high-speed flowing corners. I’m also excited to be able to carry the Lucas Oil School of Racing logo on the No. 31 this weekend. They are the official school of the Road to Indy Series and it’s been so rewarding to share my love of racing and to be able to instruct some of the future stars of INDYCAR. I know we have some work to do this weekend, but I’m confident that with both my experience and the team’s at Mid-Ohio we can put together a solid result.”

Enerson began karting at the age of five and eventually made his professional debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series, the entry level of the Road to Indy ladder series, in 2012. During his three-year career in F2000, Enerson had five wins and 11 podiums before he moved into the Indy Lights Series in 2015, where he spent the next two seasons of his career.

“We’re excited to have RC Enerson and the Lucas Oil School of Racing on-board this weekend in the No. 31 entry at Mid-Ohio,” team owner Trevor Carlin said. “RC really impressed us at Spring Training at COTA at the beginning of the season and we were very hopeful that something could come together at some point that would put him back in the car,” said Team Principal Trevor Carlin. “RC has spent a lot of time with our team this season and he has quite a bit of experience at Mid-Ohio, including an INDYCAR start a few years back, so he should be able to jump right back in and make the transition a smooth one.”

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will take place on Sunday, July 28that 3:30 pm ET and will be televised on NBC.

 

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500