IndyCar Round-Up for January 31, 2018

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IndyCar names Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe win the GTLM class at Daytona 24.

With next week’s IndyCar testing at ISM Raceway in Phoenix on the horizon, it is a great time to catch up on some of the latest events in this long open-wheel offseason.  Headlining the past weekend, the Rolex 24 at Daytona was well-represented with IndyCar stars from the past and present, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing clinching the 200th victory for Chip Ganassi across all of his disciplines.

The sports car team – which included Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and former IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe across two cars – dominated the GT Le Mans category by leading the majority of the endurance race.

Additionally, we had the chance to speak with Schmidt Peterson Racing driver James Hinchcliffe about the transition from driving manufacturer aero kits to the 2018 universal bodywork, as well as adding driver Robert Wickens and lead engineer Leena Gade to the team.

All of that – and more – is included in this week’s IndyCar Round-Up special for January 31, 2018.  Check it out below!

IndyCar Drivers Leave Mark on 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona

It was a record pace set in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, as the Action Express prototype operation led the field to a 1-2 finish with their No. 5 and No. 31 entries, while multiple-discipline owner Chip Ganassi recorded his organization’s 200th professional victory with his No. 67 and No. 66 entries finishing a respective 1-2 in the GT Le Mans class.

Upon exiting his worn Ford GT, former IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe was visibly exhaused while explaining the tense final moments of the race while the CGR squad make a late-race driver switch.  “It is a bit of pressure, it was a close fight,” said the experienced driver.  “We needed a driver change of about 2o seconds or less and we got it done.  I’m just blown away, the race was perfect.”

In a surprising finish, the Michael Shank Racing team led by former IndyCar drivers A.J. Allmendinger and Katherine Legge finished an inspiring 2nd place in the GT Daytona class and more than left their mark on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

With those headlines and more, check out our IndyCar review of the biggest stories from the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Hinchcliffe Welcomes Change for 2018 Season

It is somewhat uncommon for a seven-year veteran of any sporting discipline to accept vast and immediate amounts of change as readily as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe has.

James Hinchcliffe at Sebring

James Hinchcliffe puts his car through its paces at the Sebring International Raceway during IndyCar testing.

About to embark on his eighth full season of competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the 31-year-old Hinchcliffe has driven three generations of IndyCar’s IR-12 chassis, and spent the 2011 season piloting the car’s older sibling in the IR-05.

In some of the early testing stages for 2018’s sexy new universal aero kit, Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew played a leading role in developing the kit over Honda competitor Andretti Autosport and even received more track time than Chip Ganassi Racing.

While the experienced Canadian driver tempered expectations when first putting the 2018 package through its paces, Hinchcliffe has quickly acclimated to his new surroundings and made the most of those fall test sessions.

“I was comfortable in the car right away,” the Canadian race-winner told Open-Wheels.  “The group at IndyCar did a great job with making the new kit very drivable, very predictable and very comfortable from behind the wheel.  All the objectives they set out to achieve, they did, so big credit to that team.”

Read more about what Hinchcliffe had to say about adding countryman Robert Wickens as a teammate and how lead engineer Leena Gade is adjusting to IndyCar life here.

Claman de Melo, Fittipaldi Stake Claim for Dale Coyne Racing Seat

With months of reshuffling among teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series behind us and less than 50 days before the 2018 season opener in St. Petersburg, one big question mark remains: who will occupy the second Dale Coyne Racing entry?

The reigning IndyCar Rookie of the Year Ed Jones was expected to return to the team alongside Sebastien Bourdais, but signed with Chip Ganassi Racing in October.  Since then, the rumored frontrunner for the spot has been Zachary Claman de Melo, who won the second Indy Lights race at Road America in June and finished fifth in the points standings.

Pietro Fittipaldi tests an IndyCar for Dale Coyne Racing

Pietro Fittipaldi tests an IndyCar for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring.

The Montreal native made his IndyCar debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at the 2017 finale in Sonoma with a 17th-place finish in September.  Claman de Melo was scheduled to test with the team at Sebring International Raceway in early January, but paperwork issues delayed that plan until last week’s two-day program.

The second day of testing would see Coyne again field two cars at the Florida road course. Claman de Melo would continue in the No. 19 car for a second straight day.  Bourdais would not be in attendance though, as he headed to Daytona to begin preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race this weekend. In his absence, the team opted to give another driver a chance.

The new driver testing the four-time champion’s ride was Pietro Fittipaldi. Pietro, 21, is the grandson of 1989 IndyCar Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, Emerson Fittipaldi, and nephew of IndyCar winners Christian Fittipaldi and Max Papis.

The Miami native won the Formula V8 3.5 championship last year.

For more on the latest update in the Dale Coyne Racing sweepstakes, check out Spencer Neff’s account of the events here.

Rules of the Road: A Look Inside the IndyCar Rule Book

While it is nice to see cars on the track last week at Sebring International Raceway testing the 2018 universal aero kit, it is the time of the off-season where IndyCar fans are so starved of action that the release of a series rule book becomes somewhat appetizing.

On January 23, IndyCar confirmed changes to a few procedures such as point distribution for Indianapolis 500 qualifying and the way in which qualifying order will be determined for oval events – news that was relayed to fans months ago.  Additional publicized changes included a finalized test date for Portland International Raceway’s IndyCar return as well as a reduction in practice days at the Indianapolis 500 (much to the dismay of IndyCar fans).

In our IndyCar rule book review, we go in-depth a bit more on those changes, but it also got us interested in some of the other bits included in the IndyCar rule book that fans may (or may not) be interested in.  Some quirks will be for the real gear heads of the sport, while some will be of assistance to the casual fan.

With all of this and more, check out Open-Wheels’ “Rules of the Road” feature to learn more.

Vintage Indy Registry Brings History to Life in 2018

While IndyCar remains one of the few motorsport disciplines that continues forward with positive momentum, interest in vintage racing automobiles is rising as well.  Pairing those two together would seem like a successful combination, and that is exactly what the Vintage Indy Registry has been able to accomplish.

Vintage Indy Registry

Vintage Indy Registry showed this A.J. Foyt Coyote at the St. Louis Auto Show this past weekend.

Self-titled the “Home of Vintage Indy Cars,” the Vintage Indy Registry is a service that dedicates itself to the history and preservation of Indianapolis championship cars (Indy cars) from the time period of 1911 through 1996.  The Registry’s goal is to help ensure that these cars are more broadly appreciated and their history is correctly preserved for future generations of racing fans to enjoy.

In a highly detailed account of each machine added to its database, the Registry represents each individual’s cars carefully and accurately to provide the best representation of the “Greatest Cars in Racing.”

In 2018, Gateway Motorsports Park and the Vintage Indy Registry are teaming up to showcase over 20 vintage Indy cars over the course of the IndyCar race weekend August 24 and 25.  Cars will be on track and on display at various times through the weekend that features IndyCar, the Mazda Road to Indy and NASCAR K&N Series racing.

The Registry will also feature cars on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Indianapolis 500 race weekend this May, with cars on track early in the morning on Carb Day (Friday, May 25) as well as through the day on Legends Day (Saturday, May 26).

Read more about the Registry and the great things they are doing here.

Images courtesy of IndyCar and the Vintage Indy Registry.

Tanner Watkins

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