INDYCAR Photo by James Black
INDYCAR Photo by James Black

Andretti signs Rossi, Honda to multi-year contract extensions in INDYCAR

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – The most sensational combination in the NTT IndyCar Series will stay together for at least the next three years as Alexander Rossi and Honda both re-signed with Andretti Autosports.

The agreement was finalized Friday morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, site of Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. It will be publicly announced at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday.

Watch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on NBC on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Team owner Michael Andretti has been working diligently with Pieter Rossi, the driver’s father and agent to get a multi-year deal completed by the end of July. But several other things had to happen before that could be finalized.

“We’ve been working hard on this, and I’m happy to see everything come together,” said Andretti Autosport Chairman and CEO, Michael Andretti. “Since 2016, we’ve built a strong relationship with NAPA AUTO PARTS – they’re such a natural fit for the series, Alexander and for the team and we’re pleased to be able to continue working with them into 2020 and beyond. We first met AutoNation through Ryan Hunter-Reay – and we can’t thank Ryan enough for his support and efforts in helping the continued growth of that relationship. It’s been exciting to see AutoNation grow within the sport, and to see them now welcome Alexander to their family is just great.”

The most important was reaching a new agreement with Honda Performance Development (HPD) to supply engines to the team. Honda wanted Rossi to sign a four-year deal instead of the standard two- or three-year agreement because Honda wants Rossi to be the lead driver in the development of IndyCar’s new engine 2.4-liter engine formula that is currently set to debut in 2021. The new engine platform will feature an increase to 900 horsepower.

The Rossi’s wanted a two-year or three-year deal because the 27-year-old NTT IndyCar Series star is about the begin the prime years of his career.

Ultimately, they agreed to a three-year deal with one option year being held by the driver.

That means Rossi could be with Andretti until 2024 before a new contract would need to be negotiated.

“It feels good to continue with Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said. “Over the past four years, we’ve built a very strong team with great chemistry and I believe that we have the tools necessary to win races and championships. I’m looking forward to not just calling this my team, but my home in the IndyCar Series. Michael [Andretti], J-F [Thormann], Doug [Bresnahan] and the entire team have been working very hard to put all the pieces of this deal together and it’s definitely a relief to have the future settled and be able to focus on the championship fight ahead of us.

“It’s fantastic to have NAPA AUTO PARTS, AutoNation and Honda supporting the 27 program. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a great relationship with both NAPA and Honda and couldn’t imagine not having them in my corner. AutoNation has always had a strong partnership with the team through Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Drive Pink campaign and getting to know the AutoNation team better.”

Andretti was considering a move back to Chevrolet, which would have helped the team align with McLaren on a potential full-time IndyCar Series program. Honda and McLaren cannot do business together because of an edict from Japan after McLaren’s acrimonious departure from Honda in Formula One.

The balance of power in the NTT IndyCar Series is very important and currently Chevrolet features the powerful three-car combination at Team Penske with points leader Josef Newgarden, reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud and 2014 IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power. Ed Carpenter Racing is Chevy’s No. 2 team with Carlin and AJ Foyt Racing the other Chevrolet teams in the series.

Honda features the four-car effort at Andretti Autosport led by Rossi, 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay along with Zach Veach and Marco Andretti. Chip Ganassi Racing is another Honda power team with five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist. Other Honda teams including Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

Rossi won the 100thIndianapolis 500 as a rookie driver in 2016. Counting that initial victory, Rossi has seven victories, including two this season. He is currently 29 points behind Newgarden entering Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Together, Andretti Autosport and Honda Performance Development have captured three championships and five Indianapolis 500 wins. In addition, the team has collected 55 Indy car wins with Honda power. In 2018, Honda won the NTT IndyCar Series manufacturers championship with 11 wins in 17 races. Honda currently leads Chevrolet in a tight battle for the 2019 championship – Honda with 976 points and Chevrolet with 930.

“This is an important moment for Honda Performance Development,” said Ted Klaus, President, Honda Performance Development. “Andretti Autosport is unquestionably one of the premier teams in the NTT IndyCar Series, and we are gratified to earn their confidence for the foreseeable future. At HPD, our first goal every season is winning the Indianapolis 500, and Andretti Autosport has won more ‘500s’ for Honda than any other team.  That said, HPD is fortunate to work with multiple high-caliber racing organizations.  This commitment from Andretti Autosport strengthens our entire effort, as we move into the next era of Indy car competition.”

Andretti also spoke of the team’s long and successful relationship with Honda.

“We have a longstanding relationship of success with Honda and we’re happy to continue to build accolades together” Andretti said. “All five of our Indy 500 wins have come under Honda power, and I’m looking forward to working with the entire HPD team to add to that count.”

With only five races remaining in the NTT IndyCar Series season, Rossi continues his quest to capture his first championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. NBC will cover Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio live at 4 p.m. ET.

 

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

SimMetric Labs
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No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

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The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images