INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

Conor Daly confirmed for Arrow Schmidt Peterson at Portland

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PORTLAND, Oregon – Conor Daly, IndyCar’s “Super Sub” is coming off the sidelines, once again, this time with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Daly, who has split time this season between the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport and four races with Carlin. The 27-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana will take over the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ride that is normally driven by Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson.

That driver returns to Formula One this weekend to compete in the Grand Prix of Belgium at Spa for Alfa Romeo, where he is the team’s third driver.

Alfa Romeo, however, has denied that Ericsson will be in the driver’s seat of one of its two cars this weekend at Spa.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson released a statement early Thursday morning that said, “Following a request from Alfa Romeo Racing for Marcus Ericsson to be on the ground at this weekend’s Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has granted Marcus a release from his driving duties for the NTT IndyCar Series race weekend in Portland. Conor Daly will pilot the No. 7 Arrow SPM Honda at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland.”

The battle for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship heats up this weekend with the penultimate race of the season at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway in Portland, Ore., as NBC Sports presents coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Pre-race coverage on NBC begins at 3 p.m. ET.

Daly is coming off his best race of the season in last Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway driving a Chevrolet for Carlin.

In that race, Daly started 18thand raced his way to as high as second place before finishing sixth.

“I’m super happy with our result tonight,” Daly said afterwards. “The No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet was so strong and consistent the entire night. We just kept fine-tuning it and making it even better every time we came into pit lane. Anytime we got in clean air we made progress and we were able to run people down.

“I really thought we were going to be on the podium tonight and that’s really hard to take. The strategy game of INDYCAR is just crazy and we just got a little bit unlucky, but to be unlucky and finish sixth is pretty awesome. I’m thankful to close out this oval run with Carlin on such a high note and thankful to Gallagher for giving me a chance to show what I could do for their program with Carlin.”

Ericsson, who has competed in 97 Formula One World Championship events, has had a challenging rookie season with Arrow SPM. He finished second in the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, but after finishing 16that Gateway last Saturday night, he is 17thin the NTT IndyCar Series points.

His agent was in attendance at last weekend’s race. Ericsson has shown flashes of potential in his initial IndyCar Series season and has said numerous times he wants to return to the series in 2020. His contract, however, is up at the end of this season.

Last month, McLaren announced it had reached an agreement with the current Arrow SPM team to become Arrow McLaren Racing SPM, a two-driver effort in the full NTT IndyCar Series. The team’s other driver, James Hinchcliffe, remains under contract to that team for next season, but Ericsson’s future in IndyCar remains uncertain.

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”