IndyCar, Brickyard hold virtual charity auction to benefit COVID-19 fight

When is Indy 500
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IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will support three nonprofit organizations fighting against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with a virtual auction from May 22-24.

Originally scheduled to be the race weekend for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 (which has been postponed to Aug. 23), the virtual auction of rare fan experiences will be presented by drivers and teams. Proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross, All Clear Foundation and Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

Drivers will be the hosts of one-day “takeovers” of the NTT IndyCar Series’ social media accounts throughout the rest of May. At the end of each day, the drivers will announce a “One Drive To Get Back on Track” auction packaged that is sponsored by their teams.

The driver/team promotion will begin Thursday with Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the first auction prize Wednesday.

The “Epic Racing Capital of the World Experience” includes the opportunity to wave the green flag on an Indy 500 practice, take a track lap in a Speedway event car with IMS President J. Douglas Boles and dinner for four with the Borg-Warner Trophy and a former Indy 500 winner. It will be awarded via sweepstakes while the rest of the items will be auctioned.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS (May 6, 2020) – The “One Drive To Get Back On Track” auction was announced by INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today to support non-profit organizations on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

The special virtual auction featuring rare and exciting ultimate INDYCAR fan experiences will take place from Friday, May 22 to Sunday, May 24 and will support the American Red Cross, All Clear Foundation and Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. Those dates were the originally scheduled Race Weekend for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, postponed until Aug. 23 due to the global health crisis.

Throughout the Month of May, INDYCAR’s athletes will take over the NTT INDYCAR SERIES social media accounts to give fans exclusive, behind-the-scenes content and access. At the end of each takeover day, drivers will announce a special “One Drive To Get Back On Track” auction package sponsored by their team. The first driver takeover is scheduled for Thursday, May 7 and will feature Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey. INDYCAR’s event promoters and partners also will join in the fun, providing experience packages for the auction.

“There’s no question this is going to be a different Month of May than we’re all used to,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “However, I can’t think of a more appropriate way for our motorsports community to come together this month, and most especially over the originally scheduled Indy 500 Race Weekend, than to join forces in support of the heroes on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. I’m excited to see the auction packages our drivers, teams, venues and partners contribute and look forward to an engaging month of content leading up to the virtual auction.”

Alongside today’s announcement, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the first auction prize available to fans. The “Epic Racing Capital of the World Experience” includes the opportunity to wave the green flag on an Indy 500 practice day, take a track lap in a Speedway event car with IMS President J. Douglas Boles and dinner for four with the Borg-Warner Trophy and a former Indy 500 winner.

Unlike additional auction items, which will be available through the bidding process beginning on May 22, this prize will be awarded through a fan sweepstakes. Details on how fans can enter the sweepstakes will be announced in the near future by Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The “One Drive To Get Back On Track” auction will be housed on in association with Legends, the official fan retail partner of INDYCAR and IMS.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
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Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”