IndyCars - The off-season: Series news and comment until the March 2014 kick-off


#460

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And yet another CONFIRM for USF2000 in 2019…

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…as the championship-makers at Cape Motorsports announced that they have their first “get” for 2019 in Reece Gold. Reece is the 2018 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series Champion, winning the title with 5 WINS in his first season of racing cars. Gold was on the podium in over 80% of the 16 main events.
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The Cape Brothers with Reece Gold
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Reece, a 14-year-old from Puerto Rico and now living in Florida, brings with him a stellar 7-year karting career. He scored three straight Florida Winter Tour championships between 2014 and 2016, winning the crown in the Micro Max and Mini Max categories. In 2016, he also won the Mini Swift title in the highly-competitive United States Pro Kart Series and topped the ROK Cup Midwest series. Reece was the Mini Swift vice-champion on the SKUSA Pro Tour in 2017 and was also the runner-up in the ROK Cup Florida Winter Tour Mini Rok category.

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Gold in his element
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In 2018, he raced both karts and cars, winning at the SKUSA SummerNationals in the X30 Junior class in August while also WINNING his Lucas Oil School of Racing title, and the $100,000 scholarship that goes with it.

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Reece and his big day big check
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Said Reece, “I am so excited to be starting my USF2000 career with Cape Motorsports. Having won numerous championships, they are the ‘“go-to”’ team. After several test days, I am so honored that they had the confidence in my abilities to give me this chance. I also would like to thank the Lucas Oil School of Racing for the scholarship towards USF2000 and, of course, my sponsor, The Ticket Clinic, for their unwavering support. I am looking forward to being part of another championship season.”

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Expect the Capes to make other driver announcements soon.

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#461

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It’s time to visit again with IndyCar driver Jack Harvey…

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…through his get-to-know-me series, “You Don’t Know Jack”. We last checked in with Jack in post # 353. In this episode Jack shows how his seat for his # 60 Honda for Meyer Shank Racing w/ Arrow SPM is made - with the more-expensive but safer “bead” method:

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#462

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The most popular IndyCar driver without a season ride just got “good newsed”…

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No, make that “great newsed” as Conor Daly will drive for Andretti Autosport at the 2019 Indy 500. The 27-year-old veteran from Noblesville, Indiana will drive a fifth Honda, alongside good friends Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, the last two both Indy 500 WINNERS. Sponsorship for the # 25 machine will come from the Air Force - Daly’s 2018 sponsor at the race, when he drove for Dale Coyne Racing.

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Conor Daly

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Said Conor, “It’s a fantastic opportunity. No one doubts Andretti Autosport’s record at the Indianapolis 500. It is my best ride ever in the Indianapolis 500.”

Said Michael Andretti, “We’ve been working for quite a few years to figure out how to get Conor in our family. We highly rate him as a driver. We started working with him for a little while, and to bring the Air Force on is very exciting.I think he is going to work well with his other four teammates, and that was a big thing as well. Everybody working here as one is a big thing for the team, and I think he will fit in well with us.”

Conor’s best friend in IndyCars is Andretti’s Alexander Rossi, whom he met while both raced for years in Europe. The two even shared the experience of CBS television’s reality series, “The Amazing Race” in 2017 / 2018 where the pair became among the most popular competitors, as “Team IndyCar”.

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Amazing Racers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly

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Not only is this Daly’s best-ever shot at the Indy 500, but according to Michael Andretti the Air Force will become an associate sponsor for the team for the rest of the year on the 4 regular cars and additional races may be in the offing for Daly, as well.

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#463

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Helio Castroneves CONFIRMS a ride in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for 2019…

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The popular Brazilian SportsCar driver will not only drive in the 2019 Indy 500 for Team Penske, but will also tune up for the race by competing in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, in early May and on the IMS road course - just as he did in 2018.

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Helio Castroneves

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Despite an almost complete unfamiliarity with the new aero kit in 2018 Castroneves qualified 10th at the GP in 2018 and went on to finish sixth, less than 15 seconds behind WINNING teammate Will Power.

Said Helio, “Yes, I’m doing the Indy GP again to give us a little bit of a balance, little bit of a rhythm and then we’ll do the Indy 500. We need to do some changes [technically] to the car. But the good news is that IndyCar is not going to have many ovals again, which should help me to go in on a similar playing field to the guys who are full time."

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Castroneves MAY also be headed to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019, but it won’t be for Team Penske. Castroneves has been linked to the British RLR MSport squad, which is promising a big name signing for Le Mans to replace Bruno Senna, who will be occupied elsewhere. If it happens Helio will drive an ORECA 07 in the LMP2 class. Helio apparently already has the permission of Team Penske to make the drive.

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Castroneves is coming off a P3 at the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona, driving the Acura Team Penske # 7 ARX-05 in the DPi class.

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#464

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Update on the condition of IndyCar driver Robert Wickens…

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Ever since the rookie driver for Arrow Schmidt Peterson had his devastating crash at Pocono in 2018 we have been following his recovery, most importantly his recovery from a spinal cord injury. On Tuesday Robert released a quick vid of his most significant improvement yet.

Up to now all of Robert’s significant leg movement has been with the aid of electrical stimulation, replacing the stimulus that should be traveling down his spinal cord, but on Tuesday the Canadian ace demonstrated for the first time his own ability to pedal a stationary bike.

Take a look:

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Of course, he has since been inundated with congrats and well-wishes from friends all over the racing community. 2019 is starting off as a great new year.

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#465

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Changes in the finish order at the Rolex 24 at Daytona…

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Following the iconic event the numbers cruncher at IMSA checked the data and found that two team failed to meet the minimum drive time for one of their co-drivers and their results are thus disqualified.

First, the GTD-class # 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 is given a post-race penalty for a base drive time infringement from driver Toni Vilander. Due to his race-ending accident, Vilander failed to complete the adjusted minimum time of 2 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds and the car thus goes from P23 to the back of the field.

Much more significantly, however, is the penalty put on the # 29 Audi R8 GT3 for Monoplast by Land, which finished P2. Co-driver Ricardo Feller was short in the minimum drive time of the GTD-class entry and they are also sent to the rear.

As a result, the # 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RCF GT3 with Jeff Segal, Frankie Montecalvo and IndyCar drivers Townsend Bell and Aaron Telitz on board has been elevated to P2 in class, and the # 88 WRT Speedstar Audi is now third.

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Townsend Bell to P2…

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…as well as co-driver Aaron Telitz
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#466

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We have a new presenting sponsor for the Indy 500…

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The first-ever presenting sponsor for the Indy 500 has been Pennzoil, which seems appropriate, but more and more IndyCar is attracting business-to-business sponsors, rather than automotive-related sponsors. Today, it was announced the new sponsor for the 500 is Gainbridge - an online financial services company that is looking to expand its presence from a regional to a national player - and it all comes back to a life-altering conversation that IndyCar driver Zach Veach had in late 2017…

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Zach Veach

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At that time Veach, a Road to Indy ace with several victories, was trying to find a way into IndyCars. Failing to locate a sponsor on his own, Zach asked his pastor what he should do and the guy told him to call a fellow congregant, Group 1001 President and CEO Dan Towriss. Towriss met and fell in love with Veach and with IndyCars, and ended up sponsoring Zach for three years with Andretti Autosport.

The first year of that association has been so good for Group 1001 that Towriss has decided to expand his connection to IndyCars. You see, Gainbridge is part of the Group 1001 family of businesses.

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Dan Towriss (center) flanked by Zach Veach and Michael Andretti
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Gainbridge also will become the official annuity and life insurance partner of IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. For the next few year, the race will officially be “the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge” and for all of 2019 Zach Veach’s Andretti Autosport Honda will be sponsored by Gainbridge…

…and it all goes back to a desperate phone call to a friend and mentor.

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#467

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More Road to Indy CONFIRMS are coming in…

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We have a few new confirmations for the Road to Indy in 2019, including New Yorker Robert Megennis, who will drive for Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights in the # 27 Dallara IL-15. The 18-year-old has two seasons of USF2000 and one of Pro Mazda (now “Indy Pro 2000”) on his resume, with multiple WINS and podiums.

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Rob Megennis to Andretti Autosport in the Lights

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Said Rob, “I’m very excited to drive in Indy Lights in 2019 with Andretti Autosport,”* said Megennis. *“It’s an honor to be a part of such a prestigious and successful team. All of our offseason tests have been terrific, and I’ve been impressed with every aspect of the team. While I know Indy Lights will be a big jump up from Indy Pro 2000, I am confident that Andretti will give me a great car, and I am ready to get going."

Rob joins already confirmed Lights drivers Ryan Norman (his new teammate), Zachary Claman DeMelo for Belardi Auto Racing and Rinus VeeKay for Juncos Racing.

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In Indy Pro 2000 (formerly “Pro Mazda”) we have three CONFIRMS, as DEForce Racing has announced they will give a full season to Mexico’s Moises De La Vara and American Kory Enders.

Both drivers have several starts with DEForce, including two full seasons of USF2000 for Enders, where his best finish was P3 and he had a 50% TOP TEN rating. Moises had one season in USF2000 and 5 races in 2018 in Pro Mazda, with a best finish of P4 in 2018.

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Kory Enders

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…and Moises De La Vara

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The third new Indy Pro 2000 driver will be Jacob Abel who will drive for the family team, Abel Motorsports, which is entering two cars in 2019. Jacob, from Louisville, is a high school senior who’s already found success in several open wheel series, including a top ten run at Road America last year in a one-off race in USF2000, and podium finishes in the F3 Americas series.

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Jacob Abel

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These three join already confirmed Nikita Lastochkin for Exclusive Autosport in Indy Pro 2000 for 2019.

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What makes the entry of Abel Motorsports significant is that 2018 USF2000 Champion Kyle Kirkwood also drove to the championship in F3 Americas in 2018, and he drove in that series for Abel Motorsports. Kirkwood could very well be the 2nd driver for Abel in Indy Pro 2000 in 2019, using his Road to Indy scholarship. Time will tell.

Kyle Kirkwood - at Abel in 2019?

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#468

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We are overdue to get back to Pato O’Ward’s video series, “Behind the Visor”…

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…wherein the 2018 Indy Lights Champion recounts his full title-winning season, race by race, good and bad in this slick and excellent series. We last left Pato victorious at Iowa and headed to Toronto in post # 388, as he tries to reclaim his season from teammate Colton Herta.

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Take a look:

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So good.

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#469

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We are exactly halfway through one of the world’s great endurance races…

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…at the time of this posting, as the 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour at Mount Panorama, New South Wales, Australia is ongoing. The race is the opening round of 2019’s Intercontinental GT Challenge, and is open to 4 classes of cars, including GT3 pro classes and pro-am classes, a Porsche GT3 Cup class, a GT4 class and a class for an invited car. This year the invited car is the MARC II V8 car, a V8-powered Australian purpose-built Ford Focus race car.

There is ONE IndyCar driver in the 2019 12-Hour - Paul Tracy in the # 91 MARC Car for MARC Cars Australia. Paul is sharing the MARC Car with Supercars driver Anton De Pasquale, Keith Kassulke and Paul “the Dude” Morris.

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The # 91 MARC Car II V8 Ford Focus for MARC Cars Australia

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Broadcaster and IndyCar Champion Paul Tracy

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AT THIS MOMENT, Paul Morris is in the car and it is leading the class in a hotly-contested battle with the # 20 MARC Car for T2 Racing by Liajen Motorsport. The overall leaders of the race are the guys in the # 62 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for R-Motorsport .

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We’ll let you know how this ends.

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#470

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Clearly, this must be our fault…We jinxed 'em…

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About half an hour after we gleefully reported (see post above) that IndyCar driver Paul Tracy’s ride in the 2019 LiquiMoly Bathurst 12 hour, the # 91 MARC Car II V8 for MARC Cars Australia was leading the race in the Invitational class, the car suffered and electrical gremlin that made it impossible to shift, and that took it out of the lead and eventually out of the race.

The I class was WON by the guys in the # 20 MARC Car for T2 Racing by Liajen Motorsport. Due to attrition, Tracy and teammates Paul Morris, Anton De Pasquale and Keith Kassulke will still collect a P2 from the race.

The A class and overall WINNER of the race was the # 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Earl Bamber Motorsports, with Dirk Werner, Dennis Olsen and Matt Campbell driving. It was Campbell who took the lead coming all the way from P5 in a great end to the contest.

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The EBM team celebrates for Porsche
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Here are the race highlights from Mount Panorama: (yes, the race always starts in the dark, wee hours of the morning)

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This is Porsche’s first WIN at the great event and also the last time this iteration of the 911 GT3 R will drive there.

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#471

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We have yet another CONFIRM in USF2000 for 2019…

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BN Racing - the only team to have cars in all three series that make up the Road to Indy ladder system - has announced their first confirmation for one of their two planned USF2000 seats for 2019. It is Venezuelan karter Anthony Famularo.

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Anthony Famularo (right) with twin brother Alessandro - both racers
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15-year-old Anthony is a multi-time champion in karting and has formula car experience in
the Italian F4 Championship in 2018, where he had an excellent coach, as explained by BN Racing’s Bryn Nuttall:

“We are welcoming Anthony to BN Racing with open arms. Anthony has proven to be fast in preseason testing, and I am confident that he will surprise a lot of people in his rookie season. He comes with a great coach and mentor in former F1 race winner and multi-time Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya.”

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Anthony in his Italian F4 Tatuus F4-T014
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#472

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Lucas Kohl is jumping past a step and heading to Indy Lights…

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The 20-year-old Brazilian has been a fixture in USF2000 for the last three years - the first with John Cummiskey Racing and the last two as one of the “Speed Boys” at Pabst Racing and speedy he was, indeed. Lucas has twenty five TOP TENS, ten TOP FIVES and five podiums, with a best finish of P2, as that first WIN always eluded him.

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Lucas Kohl

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Today, Belardi Auto Racing has announced that Lucas will drive for the team as a rookie in Indy Lights for 2019, skipping completely a season of Indy Pro 2000 (formerly “Pro Mazda”). Kohl tested for Belardi at the Chris Griffis Memorial test last September and the team apparently liked what they saw.

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Lucas at the Chris Griffis in Belardi’s # 4 IL-15

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Said Kohl, “I know that as a rookie it is going to be challenging, but with the experience that Belardi Auto Racing has I feel that they can help me to learn as much as possible as fast as possible.”

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Lucas joins already CONFIRMED Dave Malukas for BN Racing, Rinus VeeKay for Juncos Racing, Ryan Norman and Rob Megennis for Andretti Autosport and his new teammate, Zachary Claman DeMelo. Belardi is planning on a third car for 2019 - the driver yet to be named.

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#473

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For 44 years it has been known as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach…

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…but no longer. Today IndyCar announced a new title sponsor for the race, as in 2019 it will be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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AcuraGP

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One of the oldest street races in the world, the Grand Prix of Long Beach started out as a Formula 5000 race, developed for a time as a Formula 1 race and then in 1996 became an IndyCar race to this day. In all that time the race was sponsored by a group of Southern California Toyota dealers, with the support of the parent company, but at the conclusion of the 2018 event Toyota decided to bow out.

That left room for Acura and HPD - Honda Performance Development - to step in, and it is entirely fitting, as Honda was the IndyCar series Manufacturer Champions in 2018, after years of battling Chevy for that title. In addition, Acura will be represented in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race to be held on the same April 12-14, 2019 weekend as the IndyCars.

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Here’s a quick promo of the change:

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Acura has signed a multi-year agreement and we expect them to be around for a very long time, as the Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the most popular and best-attended races on the calendar.

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#474

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Dario Franchitti had a WINNING weekend…

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The four-time IndyCar Champion and three-time Indy 500 WINNER has added to the brood, as Dario and Eleanor Franchitti welcomed new baby Valentina to the family this last weekend.

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Big sister Sofia with Valentina Franchitti
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Eleanor and Dario
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Our huge CONGATS to the great Scot and MBE!

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#475

I think that it would be a rush going to one of these things.

It looks pretty cool.


#476

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Kyle Kaiser has helmet in hand and is heading to Laguna Seca…

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The 2017 Indy Lights Champion has been tapped to test the Juncos Racing # 32 Chevrolet IndyCar at the big IndyCar test at Laguna Seca tomorrow. The team has yet to announce their 2019 plans and / or driver line-up, but the fact that they are expending funds to test indicates they will have at least one car in the series. In addition, Juncos has recently readied a 2nd chassis to up-to-date aero specs, so a 2nd car in the series is possible, too.

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Kyle Kaiser

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Juncos will be lucky to have Kaiser in the car tomorrow, as he performed well in the 4 races he ran for the team last season - especially at the Indy 500 - but in addition, Kaiser is from nearby Santa Clara, California and considers Laguna Seca to be his home track and one he knows extremely well.

Kyle is coming off his first stab at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he was on the Juncos Racing squad in their first race of their # 50 Cadillac DPi V.R. The car had the typical teething problems of a new effort and was garaged at one point, but recovered to finish running at the end of the race in P8 in class.

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With his typical enthusiasm, here Kyle reports on his Rolex 24:

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We hope that Juncos can put the “Kalifornia Kid” back in the car for 2019. Have a great test, Kyle!

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#477

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DEForce Racing has made their first CONFIRM for USF2000 in 2019…

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Last week the team confirmed both Moises De La Vara and Kory Enders for two of their Indy Pro 2000 rides (see post # 428) and this week they have their first guy for USF2000 as they acquire the current points leader in the 2018-2019 FIA Formula NACAM series, Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman. Manuel is driving for RAM and leading the series with 3 WINS and 4 podiums in the 5 series races run so far.

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Manuel Sulaiman

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Prior to his first year of formula cars, driving in the British F4 series in 2017, the 18-year-old was a multi-champion in the Mexican karting scene.

Said Manuel, “It means a lot to me to participate in such a high-level competition of motorsport in formula cars and having a goal of winning the championship with a Mexican team (DEForce Racing). I am willing, motivated, and hungry to win and show what can we do together.”

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Manuel joins already confirmed:

Alex Baron for Legacy Motorsport
Eduardo Barrichello and Jack William Miller for Miller Vinatieri Motorsport
Colin Kaminsky and Yuven Sundaramoorthy for Pabst Racing
Christian Bogle for Jay Howard Driver Development
Anthony Famularo for BN Racing
Reece Gold for Cape Motorsports
Jason Reichert for Marotti Racing

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The grid is finally filling up!

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#478

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Charlie Kimball lays out his schedule for 2019…

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Back in post # 398 we mentioned that Charlie Kimball would be driving a limited schedule for Carlin in 2019 in the NTT IndyCar series and today Kimball let us know which races those will be. Charlie will drive at the season-opener at St. Petersburg, the season closer at Laguna Seca and the three Super Speedway races of the Indy 500, the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway and the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway - 5 races scheduled, so far.

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Charlie Kimball

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The race choices are wise choices for Carlin, as Kimball is nothing short of excellent on Super Speedways - always TOP TEN and frequently TOP FIVE. He will be sponsored by long-time sponsors Novo Nordisk for all five races.

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Nether Kimball nor Carlin has said this is definitely all he will do, so the door is open for more, if the sponsorship should arise. The car may or may not be empty for the other 12 races on the schedule. That has yet to be reported.

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#479

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There are 23 drivers attending the first IndyCar test of 2019 at Laguna Seca today…

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…and we are stoked to report that - as we surmised - one of them is Road to Indy superstar RC Enerson, driving the # 23 Chevrolet car for Carlin, alongside Max Chilton in the team’s # 59 car.

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RC Enerson

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We got a hint when Enerson showed up for a private and unannounced test for Carlin last fall at Circuit of the Americas. Then, we later saw that RC was hinting at a ride in IndyCars with a single picture at his new website (see post # 398).

As of this minute, Carlin has made no official announcements, but RC is in the car at Laguna Seca, testing it, and indeed he was laying down some of the fastest times this morning, and Carlin was crowing about it, online. Making their morning even better, Max was P1 at that time:
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Enerson drove three races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and immediately surprised and impressed all his competitors with his speed and racing acumen in the car. Since then, he has been involved in a legal dispute that has kept him out of the car, but that has been resolved and he is now free to drive, and it is looking now like indeed he will.

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The day will likely produce a lot of news and lap leaders may change all day, but this has the potential of being a very exciting start to Spring Training.

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