By: Spencer Neff and Tanner Watkins
February 15, 2019 | 6:27 AM
The long offseason has begun drawing to a close. As we are three weeks away from the opening practice in St. Petersburg, on-track testing continued this week.
In advance of their inaugural race at the track in March, the NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights tested at Circuit of the Americas.
Assistant Editor/Senior Contributor Spencer Neff and Owner/Editor Tanner Watkins provided recaps of all three Indy Lights test sessions and four NTT IndyCar Series sessions.
Watkins also detailed the positive reactions the 3.4-mile road course has earned from the field. Highlighted in this group are Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, two of the four winningest drivers in the series.
Before testing begun, Harding Steinbrenner Racing made the headlines for a variety of reasons. On Monday, the team announced 2018 Indy Lights Champion Pato O’Ward had mutually agreed to part ways with the team.
All the drama surrounding HSR prompted a strong reaction from former Indy Lights star Santi Urrutia. On Tuesday, Watkins caught up with Urrutia to discuss his experience with the team.
The team also formally announced a technical partnership with Andretti Technologies earlier that day. The team’s remaining driver, Colton Herta, led three of the four test sessions at COTA. Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi led the final session.
With Indy Lights beginning their testing, Andretti Autosport announced the addition of Oliver Askew to the team. Askew brings a wealth of success, including a USF2000 title in 2017.
During testing, Askew led the final two sessions at COTA. Fellow rookie teammate Julien Falchero led the first session. On Thursday, their teammate Robert Megennis talked with our own Tanner Watkins about his first Indy Lights season on-deck for 2019.
There was also driver lineup news from the Indy Pro 2000 series, as Exclusive Autosport announced Danial Frost as a driver for their 2019 program.
In the USF2000 Series, several teams announced drivers for the 2019 season. Newman Wachs (Nolan Siegel), Pabst Racing (Hunter McElrea) and Jay Howard Development (Christian Rasmussen) all announced drivers for their programs. After a win in the Road to Indy Shootout in December, McElrea joins the series for the full season.
This week, Spencer Neff also released another edition of IndyCar Flashback. On Thursday, Neff provided a recap and analysis of the 1998 Pep Boys Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Lastly, there was a bit of Indianapolis 500 news released on Monday. In what has become a race weekend tradition, the IMS Museum will hold the 21st annual Historic Racing Exhibition from May 23 to 25.
With the 2019 season drawing closer, catch up on the latest developments with INDYCAR and Road to Indy. Here is this week’s IndyCar Roundup.
Alexander Rossi led the way as Honda pours in a solid effort for day two of IndyCar testing from Circuit of the Americas.
While the week didn’t start so well for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, the Indianapolis-based team did more than enough over the last two days to prove they are ready to fight in 2019 with rookie Colton Herta.
The 2018 Indy Lights runner-up topped the time charts in combined practice speeds for both days of the NTT IndyCar Series open test at Circuit of the Americas on Tuesday and Wednesday. A recap of Tuesday’s festivities can be found here.
For Wednesday morning’s two-hour session it was Herta, 18, who led series veterans Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon with a lap of 1m46.640s (115.116 mph). The California native turned only 11 laps in the A.M. session but made the most of his time on-track.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, part-time Meyer Shank Racing driver Jack Harvey, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist, veteran Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais and Carlin rookie RC Enerson rounded out a very diverse top-10. READ MORE
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.
Having marked himself as a rising young star in American open-wheel racing over the past two years, Oliver Askew continued to make his presence felt as two days of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires testing concluded this morning at Circuit of The Americas.
Askew, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., today announced his program to join the defending champion Andretti Autosport team for 2019, then took advantage of cool, dry conditions – plus a fresh set of Cooper tires – to post the fastest time, 1:53.8017, an average speed of 107.872mph around the 3.41-mile road course situated just a few miles from downtown Austin.
The challenging, 20-turn venue will host the third and fourth rounds of this year’s championship alongside the NTT IndyCar Series on March 23/24.
“The track’s amazing,” said Askew, who also set the best lap yesterday at 1:54.3065. “It’s a complete rhythm track. You have to be super-smooth, especially from Turn Three through to Turn 10; it’s all connected, so if you get Turn Three wrong it translates through that whole complex. I really enjoyed the test. The car feels like it’s on rails and the crew worked really well all week, so I’m super-happy.” READ MORE
Release and images courtesy of Road to Indy.
Following an eventful off-season, the NTT IndyCar Series began their at 2019 Spring Training at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The first of two testing days at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn road course started with a two-hour morning session.
That session would be led by Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta. Late in the session, Herta clocked a best lap of 1:48.7443. Herta would be the fastest of the Honda drivers. Just behind Herta, fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson would also turn in an impressive performance.
In his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, he recorded a best lap of 1:48.8392. Herta and Ericsson were the only drivers to run laps in the 1-minute, 48-second bracket.
Ericsson is one of three drivers with prior racing experience at COTA (Alexander Rossi and Max Chilton have also run Formula 1 at the track).
Leading the way for the field’s 11 Chevrolet-powered entries was 2017 Series Champion Josef Newgarden in third. Newgarden ended the morning with a best lap of 1:49.3531. READ MORE
Header Image By John Cote/INDYCAR Media
After a long offseason, Indy Lights made their 2019 on-track debut at Circuit of the Americas on Tuesday.
The morning session consisted of an hour and 45 minutes of on-track time. Rookie Julien Falchero led the way with a best lap of 1:54.6577 for Andretti Autosport. Teammate Ryan Norman, the only veteran driver testing for Andretti, finished second, .0580 seconds behind Falchero.
Rookies Oliver Askew and Robert Megennis completed the Andretti Autosport 1-2-3-4 in the session. 2018 Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000 champion) Rinus Veekay rounded out the Top Five for Juncos Racing.
Belardi Auto Racing’s Zachary Claman placed sixth on the charts in his return to Indy Lights. Carlin Racing makes their return to the top rung on the Road to Indy ladder after a year away. READ MORE
Header Image By Road to Indy
While it piqued the interest of NTT IndyCar Series fans around the country, no, Helio Castroneves’ appearance at this week’s Circuit of the Americas test does not mean he will be racing in March’s INDYCAR Classic in Austin.
Putting that news aside, though, it is always a breath of fresh air to have the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner on-hand for IndyCar Series activities. This week was no different as the Brazilian participated in the two-day test in support of Team Penske and his efforts to run the INDYCAR Grand Prix at this Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May.
On the time charts, Castroneves performed as one would expect for a driver who hasn’t been in a Dallara IR-18 since the “500” last May. He was 12th-fastest with 95 laps completed over Tuesday and Wednesday’s festivities, about a second off the fastest time set by rookie Colton Herta.
The focus, though, wasn’t on the time charts for Castroneves and his No. 3 Pennzoil crew. This week’s test was all about logging laps and preparing for what is to come later in the spring.
Helio Castroneves was back on track this week during testing at Circuit of the Americas, serving as Team Penske’s workhorse with his sights set on May. READ MORE
Header image by John Cote/INDYCAR.
Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day, and the feelings of affection aren’t only reserved for couples.
After the NTT IndyCar Series held their first open test of the 2019 calendar year at Circuit of the Americas this week, drivers across the circuit spoke out about their experiences from the last two days.
“It’s been fun. It’s really interesting to try and get a hold of this place in the No. 2 Hitachi Chevy,” said Team Penske driver and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden.
“It’s very different than where we’ve been. It’s a long track, kind of like Road America. It’s very smooth. The facility is really beautiful. It’s kind of like running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to be honest with you, because the facility is so immaculate.”
After the NTT IndyCar Series held their first open test of the 2019 calendar year at Circuit of the Americas this week, drivers across the circuit spoke out about their experiences from the last two days. READ MORE
Header image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR.
While the week is only a few days old, the last couple trips around the clock have been eventful for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. After confirming yesterday that 2018 Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward would not be racing for the team in 2019, Tuesday has brought a new announcement regarding a long-standing rumor.
In a press release published by Andretti Autosport it was revealed that Andretti Technologies, the advanced technology arm of Andretti Autosport, will partner with Harding Steinbrenner Racing and provide “engineering and development support” for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series campaign.
The confirmed alliance comes after Andretti provided assistance to Harding Racing when they entered both Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward for the 2018 IndyCar Series finale at Sonoma Raceway. In that event, O’Ward finished 9th while Herta placed 20th.
As part of the formal agreement, Andretti Autosport will provide engineers from their own staff to work with Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s lone entry for Herta. Furthermore, HSR will be granted insight on technical and developmental data while also having access to the Andretti Autosport damper program used by their four official full-time entries. READ MORE
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.\
During today’s festivities at IndyCar Media Day in Austin, Texas, news has emerged that 2018 Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward will in fact not be racing with Harding Steinbrenner Racing this season. TrackSide Online reported the news first.
“The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team supported my decision to seek a new opportunity by releasing me from my contract and allowing me the opportunity to find a new team before the start of the 2019 season,” O’Ward said in a morning statement.
“Now, I am fully focused on finding the right opportunity and how I will use my scholarship from Indy Lights for 2019.”
O’Ward, 19, had been slated to run his first full season in the NTT IndyCar Series with the newly-formed team alongside fellow rookie Colton Herta. While Herta entered the fray as George Michael Steinbrenner IV’s driver in Indy Lights the last two seasons, O’Ward had been an Andretti Autosport driver for 2018’s Lights championship. READ MORE
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.
Amid the news that Pato O’Ward had separated from Harding Steinbrenner Racing on Monday, many IndyCar observers were disappointed with the day’s proceedings.
Fans, fellow drivers, journalists, and even series officials were left with a sour taste in their mouths during IndyCar Media Day in Austin, imagining what could have been for the second half of HSR’s all-teen team which included the top two finishers in last year’s Indy Lights championship.
Through slew of well-wishes and hopeful feelings directed to O’Ward, one driver took exception to the team’s handling of the events. It had been a story he knew all too well.
After finishing runner-up in the 2017 Indy Lights season, Santiago Urrutia had entered into advanced talks with Harding Racing to run full-time with the newly-formed team. The conversations began at the IndyCar Series season finale in Sonoma where Urrutia was taking in the action.
As news broke that Pato O’Ward and Harding Steinbrenner Racing would mutually part ways on Monday, Santiago Urrutia was frustrated. He knew this story all too well. READ MORE
Header image by Road to Indy.
Former USF2000 champion and Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout winner Oliver Askew is making the jump to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport. The Florida native will contest all 18 rounds of the 2019 championship with the reigning series champions.
“We’ve been following Oliver over the last few years in the Road to Indy and we have been very impressed with his talent behind the wheel,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti.
“We are a championship-caliber team and thrilled to continue to field championship-caliber drivers. Adding Oliver to our already-strong roster has us confident we will be in contention to defend our title at the end of the season.”
Last year, Askew drove to a third-place finish in the Indy Pro 2000 series, the middle rung on the Road to Indy ladder. The 22-year-old picked up one victory and five podiums in a steady campaign. READ MORE
Header image by Road to Indy.
In speaking with Robert Megennis, it is difficult not to get excited for the upcoming season of Indy Lights competition.
Not only will this year’s crop of top-shelf Road to Indy drivers feature one of the best Indy Lights classes in recent memory, but for Megennis in particular, 2019 marks an opportunity for the New York native to get up on the wheel and take real control over his career path.
While Megennis’ formal announcement to Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights program didn’t come until this month, the relationship is already many months old with talks beginning late in the 2018 season.
“It all started around Gateway because we wanted to do the Chris Griffiths (Memorial) Test in an Indy Lights car,” said Megennis to Open-Wheels. “We just didn’t feel like it would be worth it to do Chris Griffiths in the Pro Mazda – I drove that car the whole year. READ MORE
Header image by Road to Indy.
Exclusive Autosport signs 17-year-old Danial Frost to the team, as the young driver from Singapore will compete in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires program.
In 2018, Frost participated with Exclusive Autosport in seven rounds over three weekends in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, racking up an impressive five top-10 finishes in his Road to Indy debut with a top result of fourth in Toronto. With that experience completed, Frost elected to make the calculated jump up to the Indy Pro 2000 series after successfully testing a PM-18 car at the Chris Griffis Memorial test in September.
Danial has also completed numerous off-season tests in preparation for an attack on the 2019 series championship. In addition to testing the Indy Pro 2000 car stateside, he also competed in the first two weekends of the MRF Challenge 2018-2019 Formula 2000 Championship. Frost raced the opening events in Dubai and Bahrain, scoring one win and six top-fives.
“We are thrilled to welcome Danial back to the Exclusive Autosport program for 2019,” enthused Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal. “Danial showed very quickly that he has immense talent behind the wheel and has adapted really quickly to the Indy Pro 2000 car. We have been busy over the off season preparing on and off the track for the upcoming Indy Pro 2000 championship. READ MORE
Release by Exclusive Autosport. Image by Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Newman Wachs Racing is pleased to announce its first Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires driver for the 2019 season. American Nolan Siegel will make his debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the March 8-10 weekend, and the 14-year-old California native will be focused on learning the car and the tracks throughout the year.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Nolan this year,” said Brian Halahan, NWR Team Manager. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people throughout the season. He’s been working with Tom Dyer, our driver coach, over the winter months and has also completed a few days of testing, so he should be ready to go at the season opener in St. Pete.”
Siegel got his start racing karts in Northern California at the renowned Simraceway Performance Karting Center, which is located at Sonoma Raceway. In 2013, as a car lover at the age of eight, he sampled a kart at the Sonoma facility and hasn’t stopped since.
The next year, Nolan continued karting at the local club level before stepping it up in 2015 and 2016, competing in the California Rotax Max Challenge and then the ROK Sonoma Series. Siegel won the ROK Junior championship in the ROK Sonoma Series in 2017, and he also competed against some of the best karters at the Superkarts! USA California ProKart Challenge.
Newman Wachs Racing announces American Nolan Siegel will make his debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship driving for NWR at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. READ MORE
Release courtesy of Newman Wachs Racing. Image by Road to Indy.
If there’s been a driver whose been beaming since late last year, it’s 19-year-old Hunter McElrea. After all, he’s coming off a terrific 2018 that saw him win the Australian Formula Ford Championship on the strength of 13 wins in a 21-race season and a triumph in the third annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout which awarded him a season scholarship in the 2019 USF2000 championship.
Excited and grateful, McElrea cannot wait for the USF2000 season to start as he joins Pabst Racing, the two-time consecutive USF2000 team champions.
“I am ecstatic to be on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship grid this year in the Soul Red Crystal No. 22 Pabst Racing car!” McElrea said. “Without the amazing support from Mazda Motorsports and my personal sponsors, Doric NZ and Miles Advisory Partners, I would not be here, so I cannot thank them enough for giving me this amazing opportunity!”
McElrea embarked on his racing career at age 9 as he competed in go-karts. By age 17, the young racer graduated to Formula Ford, winning events in Australia and New Zealand. Certainly, McElrea, who was born in the United States before moving to Australia, looks forward to his return to America in an effort to climb up the open-wheel racing ladder. READ MORE
Release courtesy of Pabst Racing. Header image by Road to Indy.
The USF2000 grid continues to expand as the 2019 season draws nearer. Moving on from the U.S. Formula 4 Series, Christian Rasmussen will dip his toe in the Road to Indy waters driving a Tatuus USF-17 machine for Jay Howard Driver Development.
“I like it very much over here, and Jay (Howard) and his team is the right place for me to grow as a race driver. Both mentally and technically,” said Rasmussen. “Taking this next step will be very exciting. We (are looking) at eight race weekends with 15 rounds – and a lot of testing in between – so I should get to know the car very well.”
Rasmussen and company will hit the track in this new role for the first time on March 2 for an official Road to Indy test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The two-day test will serve as a primer for the season-opening weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida the next weekend.
Team owner and veteran Indianapolis 500 participant Jay Howard will oversee Rasmussen’s development and coach the young prospect through his first full season in the Road to Indy. Howard is excited to see what the young driver from Denmark can do. READ MORE
Header image courtesy of Baker/Christian Rasmussen Racing.
Welcome to the latest edition of IndyCar Flashback. This week, we revisit the 1998 Pep Boys Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Although this is just the third race ever at the 1.5-mile oval, Texas Motor Speedway has seen some memorable moments. High speeds, close racing and hot tempers have become commonplace at the new quad-oval.
The Pep Boys Indy Racing League’s second visit to the track in 1998 provided more of the same.
Here’s more about the race and its impact in the nearly 21 years since its running. READ MORE
Header Image By Texas Motor Speedway
Back by popular demand, the cars of the Indianapolis 500’s past will roam the 2.5-mile Speedway once again in 2019 ahead of this year’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The IMS Museum has announced the 21st edition of the Indianapolis Historic Racing Exhibition, which will run from May 23 to 25.
Entering a car in the exhibition is open to the public (at this link) but the requirements state that all machines must be Indy cars that have qualified – or attempted to qualify – for the Indianapolis 500 between 1911 and 1994. Last year there were over 70 cars featured in the race weekend exhibition.
When the cars are not taking laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, fans can check out the cars up-close as they will be stationed in a vintage “Gasoline Alley” inside Turn 2 at the IMS Museum parking lot.
Admission to watch the exhibition laps and visit the display area is free with purchase of daily IMS admission. READ MORE
Header image by Eric Anderson/INDYCAR
Feature Image By Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR