IndyCar Round-Up for February 8, 2018

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IndyCar at Phoenix, 2017

As teams settle in for this weekend’s “Prix View” test at the newly re-named ISM Raceway, it is finally time to transition from offseason to preseason!  The annual test in the desert has signaled the unofficial start of the season for the last couple of years, and with an increased streaming emphasis for this year’s Phoenix test, fans will have even more content to enjoy!

While the offseason may be coming to a close, it certainly did not slow down.  This week there were a bevy of sponsorship announcements made public throughout the series, Dale Coyne Racing locked in their split driver line-up for the No. 19 car, and the ESPN on ABC broadcasting team was confirmed for the 2018 season.

Catch back up on all things IndyCar before testing begins today with rookie orientation laps and Scott Dixon’s testing of a new windscreen driver protection device.  Here is the Open-Wheels IndyCar Round-Up for February 8.

INDYCAR expands live streaming coverage of ISM Raceway test

Building on a single-camera effort at last year’s Phoenix preseason test, INDYCAR and the IndyCar Radio Network are expanding streaming coverage of this weekend’s on-track action at ISM Raceway.

Over the course of two days (Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10), teams will be on-track for four separate testing sessions that will each be streamed live on IndyCar.com.  For those looking to add live timing and scoring to their experience, visit racecontrol.indycar.com for updated lap times shown along with the audio and video stream available.

Fans will have the opportunity to watch the live steam on multiple INDYCAR social media outlets, including Facebook, YouTube, and the official IndyCar Mobile App powered by Verizon.

The two daily sessions, to be run from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. Eastern, will feature two new camera locations for the 2018 Prix View test that fans will enjoy over last year’s set-up.  In 2017, a single camera was mounted to the top of the commentator’s booth on the front stretch with limited clarity.  For this weekend’s test, the stationary camera has been relocated to the top of turn 1 at ISM Raceway for more exciting streaming angles, and a camera has been added to the pit lane in order to mix up coverage shots.

On the grounds in Arizona, the sanctioning body has assembled various members of the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network to supplement the video feed.  Mark Jaynes, the radio network’s lead anchor, will be joined by fellow IndyCar Radio Network reporters Dave Furst, Katie Hargitt and Jake Query.  The crew will call the day’s action while providing the latest news and interviews from pit lane.

INDYCAR is looking to seize another prime streaming opportunity after the overwhelmingly positive response they received from live streaming in 2017.  The semi-formal production from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Formula One star Fernando Alonso’s first IndyCar test produced ludicrous viewership numbers, while last year’s Prix View also generated interest.

Per IndyCar.com, last year’s February test in the desert pumped out over 57,000 live or same-day views of the event.  With approximately 12 hours of live streaming over two days of action, the sanctioning body calculated that nearly 862,000 minutes of live action were consumed by INDYCAR fans across the globe.

Open-Wheels will have contributor Spencer Neff on the grounds to offer streaming coverage of his own on our Facebook page, as well as end-of-day reports from ISM Raceway.

Multiple teams cash in on sponsorship agreements

In a banner week for INDYCAR teams and their respective partnerships, the series continues with positive momentum as many organizations announced new sponsorship agreements.  Announced in the last week, drivers from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing each received either new sponsors or were fortunate to have strengthened their relationships with existing partners.

From Andretti Autosport, the satellite No. 98 team led by car owner Bryan Herta and driver Marco Andretti locked in a six-race deal with U.S. Concrete.  The deal includes April’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the entire month of May including the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 102nd Indianapolis 500, the Texas Indy 600 in June, Pocono Raceway’s ABC Supply 500 in August and the season finale Grand Prix of Sonoma in September.

PNC Bank joins Chip Ganassi Racing

PNC Bank joins Chip Ganassi Racing to be the primary sponsor of Scott Dixon’s No. 9 car in 2018.

For Chip Ganassi Racing, they scored by big securing PNC Bank to primary sponsor four-time series champion Scott Dixon and his No. 9 entry for 2018.  A Pittsburgh connection through and through, team owner Chip Ganassi stated at the February 6 press conference that his first checking account as a youth was with PNC Bank.  The company, then a regional banking chain, has now blossomed into a global institution with more than 2,500 branches nationwide.

After the team was left to scrap together any possible sponsorship they could in 2017, Dixon and his No. 9 crew will have the full support of PNC in 2018.  With a creatively-designed blue, orange and white paint scheme, this particular UAK-18 IndyCar is sure to pop at the race track and on television screens in 2018.

Dale Coyne Racing solidified its driver lineup, uncharacteristically, well before the season-opening race at St. Petersburg by announcing that Zachary Claman de Melo and Pietro Fittipaldi will share driving duties in the team’s No. 19 entry this season.  The duo of youngsters will be paired up with veteran open-wheel driver Sebastien Bourdais, who will pilot the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan entry.

Paysafe, a global provider of “end to end payment solutions,” has partnered with Claman de Melo in the past when the Canadian driver got his shot in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s No. 13 entry at Sonoma last September.  The company stepped up its involvement and will combine to offer sponsorship assistance for not only Claman de Melo, but third-generation driver Pietro Fittipaldi in his 2018 IndyCar slate that includes the Indianapolis 500.

Last but certainly not least, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has flexed some muscle in the past ten days.  The two-car effort has bolstered its partnership for the No. 15 machine driven by Graham Rahal, the son of former Indianapolis 500 winner and team owner Bob Rahal.

On January 31, the team announced that international lubricants specialist TOTAL QUARTZ will become the Official Lubricant Partner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.  Included in the partnership, Total will be the primary sponsor on Rahal’s entry at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Extending on their previous agreement and expanding to a new multi-year deal, United Rentals will be seen on the No. 15 RLL entry more often in 2018.  Presumably taking over for former partner Steak ‘n Shake, the rental company will represent the team at the season opener at St. Petersburg, both the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 in May, and the doubleheader weekend in Detroit following the Indy 500.

Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan return to INDYCAR with Dale Coyne Racing

In a press release from Dale Coyne Racing, the Honda-powered team announced a slight name change for their No. 18 car driven by Sebastien Bourdais.  Now known as Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, former KVSH Racing partners Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan have joined the Dale Coyne Racing efforts for the 2018 season.

The trio will join forces for the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series campaign with the support of SealMaster, the co-primary sponsor that is set to fund the team’s efforts in nine races next season.  That includes the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, as well as races at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, the Dual in Detroit, Road America, Pocono and Gateway.

Seal Master will serve as an associate sponsor for the remaining eight races in which they are not the No. 18 car’s primary sponsor.

After a one-year hiatus from IndyCar competition, Vasser reunites with both Bourdais and Sullivan in a KVSH Racing homecoming.  The trio won five races together from 2014 to 2016, and captured the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan as their driver.  Ever grateful for the support of Kevin Kalkhoven, Vasser is excited to move forward with Bourdais and Sullivan in a new environment.

“First I want to acknowledge Kevin Kalkhoven, who gave both Sulli and myself the forum to be where we are today,” Vasser said in the team’s official press release.  “After extensive talks, I am very pleased and proud to say that we will be continuing that legacy.

“I took a year off from competition for the first time in many years and realized how much I missed it. This is the next chapter in my racing career, so I want to say thank you to Sulli, Dale, SealMaster, our sponsors and Sebastien. With their support we are focused on re-creating our prior success and again challenging for wins in 2018.”

INDYCAR poised to debut windscreen at Prix View test

In an announcement made by INDYCAR this afternoon, the sanctioning body confirmed plans to test the first on-track prototype of a windscreen at ISM Raceway on February 8.

First in line to test the windscreen prototype, Scott Dixon will have the transparent protection device fitted to his Chip Ganassi Racing machine for a series of testing laps squeezed into the rookie oval program on Thursday, February 8.  The goal is to have Dixon make laps around the 1-mile facility in multiple conditions of daylight, including mid-day, late afternoon and nighttime sun positions.

IndyCar Windscreen

The windscreen integrates itself into the current IR-12 chassis seamlessly by fitting between existing bodywork pieces.

“This has been a long process, one that’s been very methodical and purposeful,” INDYCAR president of competition and operations Jay Frye remarked in an official release from INDYCAR.  “We have been striving to create a safety piece that aesthetically looks good and works in all conditions, and this is a test of those things.  Any piece we put on an Indy car must work for multiple types of venues and different lighting conditions.  It has to be versatile.”

Unlike the way Formula One implemented its “halo” driver protection device, INDYCAR has been much more methodical in developing and testing different options in an effort to create the best cockpit safety solution.

The windscreen INDYCAR will put on-track Wednesday has been through various levels of wind tunnel testing (including scale-model and full size representations of the prototype) and Harding Racing driver Gabby Chaves put the device through its paces on Dallara’s sophisticated simulator in Indianapolis last year.

Created by INDYCAR and Team Penske partner PPG, the windscreen is composed of a “proprietary Opticor advanced transparency material,” per INDYCAR’s official media release.  This is a similar composition that is utilized in fighter jet canopies and tests as a stronger material than polycarbonate, the substance used in former driver protection devices.

While Frye oversaw much of the windscreen development project, the effort was led by Jeff Horton, INDYCAR’s director of engineering and safety, as well as the series’ medical consultant, long-time open-wheel physician Dr. Terry Trammell.

INDYCAR appoints Darren Sansum as director of engine development

In a press release from INDYCAR, the sanctioning body announced the hiring of former Toyota Racing Development lead engineer Darren Sansum to lead the Verizon IndyCar Series’ engine development program.

As the new managing director of engine development, Sansum will lead the charge in a hunt for INDYCAR’s new engine formula being explored for either the 2020 or 2021 seasons.  The 47-year-old brings a championship pedigree after winning the last two NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series manufacturer championships with Toyota.

Not entirely new to the INDYCAR scene, Sansum has had stops in his motorsport career with the Ford Motor Company, Cosworth Technology and Ilmor Engineering.  The press release stated that the veteran engineer will officially begin overseeing Chevrolet and Honda engine development within the Verizon IndyCar Series starting February 6.

“What excites me about this role is that it’s an opportunity to use my 25 years of engine engineering,” Sansum remarked. “It’s an opportunity to help develop the sport itself and it’s particularly pertinent that it’s with INDYCAR since that’s where it started for me and it’s the fastest category in North America.

“INDYCAR is going in a good direction, and I’d like to help further develop that and continue going in that direction.  The competition’s very close between Honda and Chevrolet at the moment. I’d like to contribute to the evolution in this direction with the ultimate goal of adding manufacturers into the sport.”

Happy to assign a dedicated managing director to the continued engine development plans, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, Jay Frye, hinted that Sansum was a leading candidate throughout the search for an experienced lead engineer to lead the program.

“Darren is someone we targeted early on in the hiring process,” said Frye. “There is a lot happening within INDYCAR’s engine program, both current and future projects. Darren’s background makes him a perfect fit to lead our engine program today and into the future.”

Sansum’s first major event in his new capacity will come February 8-10 when teams travel to ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona for the first open test of the season.  The Verizon IndyCar Series season opener will be on March 11 when the green flag drops on the Streets of St. Petersburg.

Images courtesy of IndyCar Media and PNC Bank.

Tanner Watkins

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