By: Spencer Neff
December 7, 2018 | 8:10 am
The calendar has shifted to December and we are about three months away from IndyCar returning and the 2019 season. Although the March 10 opener in St. Petersburg seems far away, teams are still in constant preparation.
This week’s IndyCar Round-Up features a major announcement for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, who have already undergone several offseason changes.
Although the 103rd Indianapolis 500 is five months away, there are already multiple one-off entries cementing plans for the race. McLaren announced an engine partner for their much-anticipated return to Indianapolis with Fernando Alonso.
Meanwhile, Byrd Racing discussed their intentions to return to the race following a disappointing 2018 result.
Open-Wheels’ Tanner Watkins also caught up with Aaron Telitz as he looks to make his way into IndyCar.
On the Road to Indy front, testing was held for all three ladder series (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000).
We have coverage from the sessions and feature stories on Hunter McElrea and Courtney Crone, two drivers looking to break into the ladder series with their Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout competition this weekend.
We also have some special coverage of the Sebring test, courtesy of our friend Brian “Lanky Turtle” Wayne.
Get your weekend started off right and check out the latest IndyCar news in this week’s roundup.
If a real one-to-one partnership with Andretti Autosport was going to remain in the picture, it was clear that Harding Steinbrenner Racing would need to change engine manufacturers for the 2019 season. In a press release distributed this morning, the third-year team has done just that by giving Chevrolet its pink slip.
As rookies Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta joined HSR for 2019, there was little chance that Andretti Autosport would allow two of its most prized developmental drivers stray too far from the parent organization. O’Ward won the 2018 Indy Lights championship driving for Andretti while Herta finished second for George Steinbrenner IV’s team, which ran in partnership with Andretti Autosport.
Speculation of funding shortfalls have dangled around Harding Steinbrenner Racing this offseason while some believed the engine announcement delay was cause for concern. Fortunately for the Indianapolis-based team, the wait is over and real development for the 2019 season can begin.
“First of all, Harding Steinbrenner Racing is very appreciative of our relationship with Chevrolet in 2017 and 2018,” said team president Brian Barnhart. “However, our direction as a race team closely aligns with Honda for the near future. Therefore, we will be making a change to Honda and Honda Performance Development engines. Read More
This morning McLaren Racing formally tied the knot with Chevrolet, confirming its engine partner for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. The long-awaited news came after weeks of speculation led to the General Motors brand likely partnering with the U.K.-based motorsports organization.
In 2017, McLaren made their return to the Indianapolis 500 after a nearly 40-year absence when two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso took a crack at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” As a result of the team’s ties to Honda in Formula 1 at that time, McLaren aligned with Honda and Andretti Autosport for the 2017 race.
The partnership McLaren had with Honda seems to have dissolved completely now with the team moving to Renault power in Formula 1 while passing on an opportunity to run the Japanese power plant at Indianapolis.
“McLaren and Chevrolet have a shared pedigree in North American motorsport and the opportunity to reunite the two brands for this special event was just too good to pass up,” said the chief executive of McLaren Racing, Zak Brown. Read More
David Byrd and his family are working hard this winter to continue a long and proud legacy of racing at the Indianapolis 500.
The experienced team owner has been actively pursuing opportunities behind the scenes to bring Australian open-wheel veteran James Davison back to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing next May. While Byrd doesn’t have anything in place just yet, he notes that clarity will come once the remaining full-time seats are filled this offseason.
“Really because of the way we do things, we just kind of have to wait until the full season programs shake out,” Byrd explained to Open-Wheels. “Once those are in place then we can have conversations with the teams that will have additional seats available.”
Even though he and other one-off teams are currently stuck in a holding pattern, Byrd is optimistic about his hopes to team up with an existing organization next spring and bring Davison with them. Read More
Aaron Telitz may just be the most interesting man in motorsports. Or at the very least, the most interesting dude in IndyCar circles.
The Rice Lake, Wisconsin native began his career in karting back in 1998 (you know, two years before Colton Herta was born), can grow a killer mustache in “Movember,” and paints for pleasure as much as he does for profit.
In addition to all of those things, Telitz has done pretty well for himself as an open-wheel racing prospect.
In 2016, Telitz won the Pro Mazda championship with Team Pelfrey. That year he won six races while scoring 13 podiums in a title-winning year competing against drivers like Pato O’Ward, Nico Jamin and Will Owen.
The championship-winning 2016 season in Pro Mazda came after two years spent in USF2000, where Telitz won twice with 17 podiums to his name. In 2017, Telitz began a partnership with Belardi Auto Racing that remains strong to this day. Read More
The second day of the final Mazda Road to Indy Open Test of the 2018 season was brought to a premature conclusion by a heavy rainstorm which completely drenched the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course in south Florida this afternoon.
All three levels of the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – were represented at the two-day test, although the initial rung on the ladder, USF2000, was the only one to complete two of today’s final three scheduled 40-minute sessions in dry conditions.
VeeKay Edges Super-Close Indy Lights Field
Dutchman Rinus VeeKay and Juncos Racing claimed bragging rights for the day in Indy Lights by virtue of posting a best lap of 1:15.3269 this morning. The lap, representing an average speed of 105.620mph, was fractionally quicker than David Malukas (BN Racing) had managed yesterday, although all five drivers were blanketed by less than two tenths of a second. Read More
This weekend, 20 of the best open-wheel racing prospects from around the world will descend on the Bondurant Racing School to compete for a full-time ride in USF2000 next season.
Perhaps the most notable event in the Road to Indy offseason, the Scholarship Shootout brings together champions from a variety of international formula series for a grueling two-day battle for the $200,000 prize. One driver to keep an eye on is Hunter McElrea.
Winner of the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship, McElrea is an accomplished prospect at the age of 18. The young man started racing in karts at nine years old before making a splash in his first season as a car driver in 2016.
During the 2016 campaign spent racing in Australia and New Zealand, McElrea captured 13 victories and 17 podiums across a diverse set of formula racing series. He was the youngest driver selected for the 2016 New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy, and the development enjoyed to this point all culminated in a strong 2018 in the Aussie Formula Ford series. Read More
In an action-packed 17 years of life, Courtney Crone has wasted little time asserting herself as one of the newest open-wheel prospects to keep an eye on.
After winning the Formula Car Challenge’s FormulaSPEED 2.0 championship, Crone will have more than a few important individuals in the racing community watching over her this weekend. The California native is set to compete in the Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout against 19 other formula champions with a full ride scholarship to USF2000 on the line.
Crone is scheduled to be the first female driver to compete at the Shootout in its brief three-year history. Oliver Askew won the prize in 2016 – eventually taking the USF2000 championship the year after – while Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed the scholarship last December.
The road to this weekend’s Shootout wasn’t a mysterious unknown with Crone popping up out of nowhere. Hailing from Corona, the talented driver took her first laps on a small motorcycle at just over two years of age. The daughter of a former Formula Ford and Super Vee driver in the 1970s, Crone was destined for racing from the get-go. Read More
On the final scheduled test day of the 2018 IndyCar Series calendar, Team Penske and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports were hard at work preparing for another grueling season in 2019.
The veteran open-wheel teams descended on Sebring International Raceway this week to squeeze in one more day of track time before the holidays – and INDYCAR’s mandated dead period that extends from December 15 to January 6.
While it offered an opportunity for both veterans (Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power) and rookies (Marcus Ericsson) to log some winter laps, it also gave Open-Wheels friend Brian “Lanky Turtle” Wayne the chance to reel in some great testing footage.
Wayne, a Florida native, frequents Sebring when he hears cars on track and is dedicated to telling the tale of motorsport through his Sony camcorder. Last offseason, Brian was kind enough to share his photos and videos on Open-Wheels and he has done so once again for Tuesday’s IndyCar test at Sebring. Read More
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.