Legends Trophy

Legends Trophy will bring storied field to virtual Indy for May 23 race

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There will be no race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend with the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 postponed to Aug. 23 (and broadcast on NBC).

Some of the greatest winners in Indy 500 history will be racing at the virtual Brickyard on Saturday, May 23 (noon, ESPN2), though.

The Legends Trophy series, which has featured solely road courses (such as Portugal and Malaysia) through its first two rounds, will make its debut at IMS with a starting grid that includes 12 Indianapolis 500 victories, nine championships, 148 victories and 169 pole positions in IndyCar.

REAL FUN IN SIMULATIONDario Franchitti loving Legends Trophy experience

EMMO’S RETURNAt 73, Fittipaldi has taken to sim racing

CAMARADERIE, COMPETITIONAdrian Fernandez enjoys sim racing second chapter

Dario Franchitti, Gil de Ferran, Juan Pablo Montoya, Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan will be the Indy 500 winners competing in The Race All-Star Esports Series event.

They figure to have an edge on the Formula One, sports cars and rally champions in the field, including Jenson Button, Mika Salo, Jan Magnussen, David Brabham, Emanuele Pirro and Vitantonio Liuzzi all racing at Indy for the first time.

“It’s a place that changed my life forever by virtue of my three Indy 500 victories,” Franchitti said in a release. “While the rewards are brilliant, the pressure and stress to perform and make no mistakes at the speedway can be intense.

“It is definitely the ultimate motor racing high-wire act without a safety net. This virtual return will be ultra-competitive going against my pals, but definitely less stressful if something goes awry. I’ve sipped the real milk but some virtual milk would taste pretty good winning against these legendary names from so many disciplines of the sport.”

Here’s the release from the Legends Trophy:

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Wednesday, May 13, 2020) – Some of the biggest names in world motorsport, including star drivers who have 12 Indianapolis 500 wins between them, are set to race virtually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 23.

The popular Legends Trophy stars from The Race All-Star Esports Series powered by ROKiT Phones will compete on the American Memorial Day weekend with Indianapolis 500 winners Fittipaldi (1989 and 1983), Montoya (2000 and 2015), Castroneves (2001, 2002 and 2009), de Ferran (2003), Franchitti (2007, 2010 and 2012) and Kanaan (2013) leading the pack.

While the real venue will remain idle over the Memorial Day weekend, the action from the virtual rFactor 2 version will be fierce with a number of major stars competing on the Indianapolis oval for the first time in the event created by Torque Esports (OTCQB: MLLLF) (TSXV: GAME).

2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button plus fellow ex-Formula 1 racers Mika Salo, Jan Magnussen, David Brabham, Emanuele Pirro, and Vitantonio Liuzzi will race at Indy for the first time.

The field also includes more former INDYCAR/Champ Car stars including Max Papis (who also drove in Formula 1), Bryan Herta (a two-time Indy 500 winner as a team owner), Adrián Fernández, Mario Dominguez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Oriol Servia and Tiago Monteiro.

Monteiro’s touring car rivals Tom Coronel, Jason Plato, and three-time WTCC champion Andy Priaulx will compete along with World Rally Championship title winner Petter Solberg and Le Mans ace Darren Turner.

“I’m excited about heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Legends Trophy,” Franchitti said.

“It’s a place that changed my life forever by virtue of my three Indy 500 victories. While the rewards are brilliant, the pressure and stress to perform and make no mistakes at the speedway can be intense.

“It is definitely the ultimate motor racing high-wire act without a safety net. This virtual return will be ultra-competitive going against my pals, but definitely less stressful if something goes awry. I’ve sipped the real milk but some virtual milk would taste pretty good winning against these legendary names from so many disciplines of the sport.”

The incredible star-studded line-up includes:

  • 12 x Indy 500 wins. 9 INDYCAR titles, 2,320 starts, 148 wins, 169 poles
  • 7 x F1 World Championships. 1,103 starts, 89 wins, 84 poles
  • 18 Le Mans wins, 3 x WTCC titles, 2 x World Rallycross Championships and 1 x World Rally Championship crown

Button raced in Formula 1 on seven occasions in Indianapolis, but the May 23 Indianapolis race will be his first chance to race – albeit virtually – on the Indianapolis Oval.

“I always said I wouldn’t race on ovals, but here I am competing against some of the best in the business at Indianapolis,” Button said.

“The Legends Trophy has been a lot of fun to race against great friends and rivals and guys I wished I had had the chance to compete against. Now racing on the oval will be another great challenge, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Indianapolis event will be the fourth round of season two of The Race All-Star Series, which also includes separate events for modern-day racers – the Pro Cup – and the world’s top esports racers – the Sim Masters.

The race will be seen live on ESPN2 in the US; in the UK on Eurosport; across Europe on Eurosport’s social media and digital platforms and online on The-Race.com/YouTube. Highlights will also be distributed to 71 international networks with a global reach of more than 610 million homes.

“The original event for The Race All-Star Esports Series went from concept to reality in only 72 hours, and we quickly started attracting these incredible legends who were looking for the opportunity to race virtually,” series founder Darren Cox said.

“After we launched our first exclusive Legends Trophy event, we’ve been astounded by the number of racing superstars who were keen to compete. Not only has the racing been fantastic, but the camaraderie between these drivers has been just brilliant.

“With so many Indianapolis 500 legends in the field, it made perfect sense for us to compete on the Memorial Day weekend. Everyone is disappointed that this amazing venue is quiet during the month of May this year, but the chance for fans to watch Fittipaldi, Montoya, Castroneves, de Ferran, Franchitti, Kanaan and more compete on ESPN2, Eurosport, YouTube and more is just too good to be true.”

The Race All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones was created by Torque Esports, which expanded on Monday with the acquisition of Frankly Inc. and WinView, Inc. The soon-to-be-renamed company – Engine Media Holdings, Inc – will be at the forefront of esports, news streaming, and sports gaming across multiple media platforms.

NHRA: Top Fuel driver Terry McMillen ready to go racing again

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The extended layoff caused by the COVID-19 pandemic significantly has impacted NHRA drag racing, particularly many of the smaller teams in the sport.

Not having raced since late February, Top Fuel driver Terry McMillen has been doing what he can to keep himself and his seven-person team busy.

“Basically, our life revolves around racing,” McMillen told NBC Sports. “I’m just making money, just doing whatever I can do to keep funds coming in.

“I have a great partner in Amalie (Motor Oil), and they’ve done everything they can to not let this fail. We’re just weathering the storm, and we’re just going to keep working hard.”

NHRA Top Fuel driver Terry McMillen has been keeping busy during the pandemic hiatus, including fostering puppies. Photo: Terry McMillen Racing.

Among things the Elkhart, Indiana, resident has been doing to keep busy or bring in revenue is working on custom cars and manufacturing parts for other teams – and even fostering puppies.

“We have had about 15 puppies since we started this (in mid-March),” said McMillen’s wife, Cori. The couple already has three dogs and one cat, so the more, the merrier.

But with the NHRA expected to release its updated schedule for the remainder of the season as early as Wednesday, McMillen is ready to get back to racing.

After more than four months off, the NHRA is slated to return to competition with two races in mid-July on consecutive weekends at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.

“We’re all ready to go race,” McMillen told NBC Sports. “None of us have been used to being in the office or shop this much for this long a period of time.

“We’ve been (down) an awful long time now. But we’re forging forward. The team has been working on projects, servicing our trucks and doing a lot of things that we’ve always wanted to fix but really haven’t had the time up to now, or doing things that weren’t a priority.

“Now, we’ve gotten all those little things done. So mentally, everybody is sound, but certainly, we’re ready to get back to the racetrack.”

And with fans in attendance, though NHRA is still working on how many will be at-track.

Unlike NASCAR, which for now is racing without fans, NHRA must pay for its own TV production costs and needs paying fans to help with those costs as well as to pay expenses related to putting races on.

“We need the gate,” McMillen said. “Would I race without fans? Absolutely. But it does us no good if we can’t get some kind of TV exposure for the marketing partners, so we’re going to be predicated on race fans attending.

“If they’re able to come together, that would be great and exciting. I know we’re ready for it. We have a brand new car that we haven’t even ran yet down the track. We can’t wait to debut it, so yes, we’re extremely looking forward to it.”

Ironically, the NHRA originally announced in late April that it would return to racing this weekend in Gainesville, Florida. But because of governmental pandemic restrictions at the time, the schedule was abruptly pushed back just five days after it was originally announced.

But now, it appears NHRA is indeed ready to go forward next month – albeit with some changes.

One of the most significant is NHRA plans to cut many race weekends from three to two days, with one day of qualifying (typically on Saturday) and one day of eliminations (typically Sunday).

Doing so is kind of a dual-edged sword for smaller teams such as McMillen’s. On the one hand, instead of four qualifying rounds across the first two days of a race weekend, NHRA will reduce qualifying to only two runs in just one day. If a team struggles in those two runs, it won’t have two additional runs to improve speed and elapsed time – or potentially runs the risk of not qualifying at all.

But on the flip side, that also means a significant financial savings when it comes to travel expenses, with fewer days on the road, as well as less wear and tear – invariably slowing down replacement – on costly parts for McMillen’s 330-mph dragster.

Photo: Terry McMillen Racing

“(The pandemic hiatus has) certainly put a strain on everything in the entire motorsports industry,” McMillen said. “But then when you start breaking it down, we’re probably more fortunate than maybe Don Schumacher, John Force and the Kalittas who have multiple employees, while we just have a small core group.

“The biggest concern that you have with the program is that you really can’t afford to lose your team. Rob (crew chief Rob Wendland) and I built a team and created this foundation that we want to keep at whatever cost.

“It’s been apparent that we have to take care of that, make sure that they’re not being laid off and when it comes time to go, we’re going to have a team to go out there and do battle with. So that’s probably been the biggest thing, keeping cash flow moving and keeping the team together.”

Because NHRA has eliminated its six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs this year, every driver is eligible for the championship in their respective class, be it Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock or Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“Going without a countdown, I kind of like that,” McMillen said. “I think it’s going to make it interesting and maybe we’re going to learn something there – or maybe not. It’s part of the unknown.”

At the same time, some teams – particularly smaller teams – may try to skip a race here or there if they can still be in contention for the championship but also save money as well.

Not McMillen and his team. They’re in it to win it, all the way.

“You can’t afford to miss a race, but you can only run with what you have,” McMillen said. “Our intention is to go out and run all the races and with the schedule being reduced to one qualifying day, we might pick up some savings in other areas. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Then the 65-year-old McMillen added with a laugh, “I’m super excited to go back racing. I’ve been doing wheel stands on my lawnmower.

“I even had to get in the motorhome just to start it just to hear it run. I’m doing all these crazy things. I’m stressing out. I’m ready to race.”

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