Saturday, December 9, 2017

Welcome The Age Of Callaway Competition In America's 2018 Pirelli World Challenge

Sideview of the Corvette C7 GT3-R, designed, manufactured and homologated on behalf of General Motors by Callaway Competition. Image Credit: Callaway Competition (2017)

Welcome The Age Of Callaway Competition In America's 2018 Pirelli World Challenge

Thursday morning at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, Team owner Reeves Callaway and Pirelli World Challenge President and CEO Greg Gill opened the press event alongside a matte black carbon Corvette C7 GT3-R, one of two that will be entered as full season factory efforts in the GT class. The GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R will compete in the GT class in both the sprint races, as well as the two driver format SprintX races. Drivers for the SprintX events will be announced at a later date.


"We are proud to have Daniel and Michael on board for our 2018 effort," said Callaway. "Both drivers have won several championships and will be excellent brand ambassadors for the Corvette C7 GT3-R's debut year of American Competition. Daniel brings with him a wealth of knowledge about our team and the car, and Michael has years of experience on the tracks we'll be competing on. Together, with the team we're assembling, this will be an excellent program to show our future customers what the Corvette C7 GT3-R is capable of."

While Daniel Keilwitz may be new to competition in the United States, the 28 year old German is no stranger to sports car racing or Callaway Competition.

Keilwitz began his career in go karts in 2000, spending four years there before moving up to the German Production Car Championship in 2005. After finishing tenth in the championship, he competed in the ADAC Procar series, finishing second in the 2006 championship. In the three years to follow, he continued his driver development in the Mini Challenge, twice finishing in the top five championship results.

Image Credit: Callaway Competition (2017)

The first of three championship titles came in 2010 when he clinched the FIA GT3 European Championship with Callaway Competition.  Keilwitz joined the ADAC GT Masters series in 2011, and has risen to become the most successful driver in the series with 19 overall race wins.

Together, Keilwitz and Callaway clinched the 2013 championship, and have finished in the top three in the 2014, 2016, and 2017 championship standings. In 2017, Keilwitz earned the ADAC GT Masters team title, with teammate Jules Gounon also on the effort.

Although Keilwitz will be new to all the tracks on the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge calendar, his eight years of experience with Callaway Competition and two years behind the wheel of the Corvette C7 GT3-R will prove invaluable to Callaway Competition USA's North American Debut.

"I'm really looking forward to join Callaway Competition for the Pirelli World Challenge in 2018," said Keilwitz. "I have done a lot of races for them in Europe and now I'm really happy to join them also in the USA for my ninth year with the team. The car is really amazing and was performing really well in Europe against all the big manufacturers, so I'm sure that it will perform also well in USA. Of course we have to get some experience with the car on the new tracks, but we also bring a lot of experience from Europe to the USA from the past two years racing with this car. We clearly want to show that the Callaway C7 GT3-R is a great performing and winning car. I'm really proud to be part of this team."


Image Credit: Callaway Competition (2017)

Fresh off winning the 2017 SprintX Championship, American racer Michael Cooper joins the team, bringing with him four championship titles in six years of competition.

The 28 year old began his racing career in the 2010 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge, earning two wins and three podiums in his rookie season. In 2011, he clinched the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup championship title, and the following year, the Pirelli World Challenge rookie again wheeled his way to the top of a championship, as the 2012 TC champion.

In the two years to follow, Cadillac racing twice tested with Cooper, and in 2015, made him a GM Factory driver in their Pirelli World Challenge efforts. Cooper wasted no time proving himself, earning the 2015 GTS championship title with Blackdog Speedshop, and finishing third in the 2016 GT championship with two wins and seven additional podiums representing Cadillac Racing.

Cooper returned to the GT class with Cadillac Racing in 2017, finishing second in the driver championship, and earning the inaugural SprintX Championship alongside Jordan Taylor.

"I'm very proud to be joining Callaway Competition USA for their factory effort next year," said Cooper. "The Corvette C7 GT3-R has already proven itself on track in Europe, and I'm eager to start testing. The team that is being assembled by Callaway is top-notch, and will no doubt put us in contention for the championship. This will be an exciting year for the car's debut in the Pirelli World Challenge."


Image Credit: Callaway Competition (2017)

Introduced to competition in 2016, the Corvette C7 GT3-R, designed, manufactured and homologated on behalf of General Motors by Callaway Competition GmbH produced a successful debut and sophomore season, winning the 2017 ADAC GT Masters Series Driver and Team Championships with Jules Gounon and Daniel Keilwitz.

Now available for competition in the United States, the Corvette C7 GT3-R will no doubt be a championship contender again in 2018. The American season will begin March 9-11, 2018 on the streets of Saint Petersburg, Florida ... along side of the season opener for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
[Reference Here]

Looking forward to having a local Southern California racecar manufacturer back in the saddle of competition on it's home turf - welcome the age of Callaway Competition in America's 2018 Pirelli World Challenge.

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: Callaway Competition, Pirelli World Challenge, Corvette C7 GT3-R, Daniel Keilwitz, Michael Cooper, SprintX Championship, ADAC, Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, The EDJE

Monday, December 4, 2017

2019 KIA Sorento - Refreshed & Ready For LA Auto Show

KIA Sorento unveiling at AutoMobility LA ... formally the LA Auto Show Press Days. The Sorento sits on the presentation stage next to the recently introduced, and nominated as finalist for 2018 Car Of The Year Stinger GT (left) and the 2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid (right). Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

2019 KIA Sorento - Refreshed & Ready For LA Auto Show

Kia Motors America (KMA) today unveiled the refreshed 2019 Sorento SUV at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Refined, rugged and roomy, the Sorento remains as capable as ever, but touts a number of visual and feature enhancements, inside and out.

Aside from new front and rear fascias, which help achieve a more sophisticated appearance, the cabin is now decidedly more upscale and integrates newly-added technology, including Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keep Assist1 and QuantumLogic™ Surround Sound.

In addition, the Sorento now pairs its available 3.3-liter V6 with a new 8-speed automatic transmission for an even smoother and more seamless driving experience.
[ht: KMA]


See the 2019 KIA Sorento conquer the Gates Of Hell in Moab Utah.

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: AutoMobility LA, LA Auto Show, KIA, KIA Motors America, Sorento, Moab, Utah, Gates Of Hell, Kia Tech Talk, The EDJE

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tony Kanaan Signs Multi-Year Deal With AJ Foyt Racing To Stay In IndyCar

Tony Kanaan signed with Chip Ganassi Racing in the hopes of filling out the role Dario Franchitti had driving the No 10 car, but all did not turn out as planned with the focus being diverted through team expansion and Scott Dixon's success with Mike Hull. It has been 49 races since Kanaan had his last win. Image Credit: Ken Manfred (2014)

Tony Kanaan Signs Multi-Year Deal With AJ Foyt Racing To Stay In IndyCar

In what may seem an uncomfortable transition from Chip Ganassi Racing, Tony Kanaan (TK) finds a home where the owner has spent more time winning as a driver than a team owner but has a history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) that is undeniable.

At 42 years old, TK still has the thirst to make more history in the most dynamically competitive open-wheel racing series found in professional driving. With one IndyCar Series championship in 2004 (Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara) and one INDY500 win (KV Racing Technology Chevy Dallara) Tony felt driving for a team where he was always behind the leading driver of Scott Dixon wasn't where he was going to receive his best chance at closing out a career on top.

Bouncing through the bump strips in Turn 5 at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Tony Kanaan was able to finish the race a disappointing P15 - best finish was a Podium P3 in 2009, his first time racing in IndyCar at the track. Image Credit: Ken Manfred (2017) 

Since joining Ganassi Racing in 2014, TK was still on a team supplied with Chevy-power ... that is until last year where Chip had his cars become Honda-powered and this did not place Tony where he was use to being at the end of a season - P10 after averaging between P5 and P6 during fifteen previous years.

At AJ Foyt Racing managed by Larry Foyt, he will be the lead driver in the No. 14 (AJ Foyt's famous number) Chevrolet-powered Dallara with an engineer, Eric Cowdin - who was there when TK won the INDY500 with Chevy-power, TK's 2004 IndyCar title, and 15 of his 17 victories overall - he is very comfortable with while driving a new chassis that has less downforce and becomes more driver dependent.



IndyCar Media Conference Transcript - Thursday October 5, 2017

A.J. Foyt - Larry Foyt - Tony Kanaan

Press Conference Begin:

MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar media conference call. Earlier today, AJ Foyt Racing announced that Tony Kanaan, the 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, will be the driver of its No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet IndyCar in 2018. We're happy to be joined this afternoon by the team owner of AJ Foyt Racing, racing legend AJ Foyt; the team's president and AJ's son, Larry Foyt; and the driver of the No. 14 car, Tony Kanaan.

Cresting the hill after coming out of Turn 3 during his last race for Chip Ganassi Racing in the No 10 NTT Data Honda-powered Dallara at the GoPro Grand Prix Of Sonoma. Ken Manfred (2017)

AJ, we'll start with you: Your team has competed against Tony Kanaan in IndyCars for at least the last 15 years. What made him the pick for the No. 14 car for 2018?

A.J. FOYT: Well, obviously, you know, I've always had the 14. I think Tony can put it up there where the 14 is used to running, that's first, so I think he can do that -- I don't say easy, but I know he can do it.

MODERATOR: Larry, in the press conference you had earlier today, you said that you've had discussions with Tony in the past about coming over to the team. How did it finally all come about for 2018?

LARRY FOYT: Well, I think it just -- both of us were at a position where we could make it happen, and so that's really what it came down to. We both knew each other and had talked and had said if the time ever came available that we could do something together that we would look at it seriously. So that's really what happened, and I think everybody was just ready for a new challenge, and that's what it was. We know it's going to be a challenge, but we felt like together we could really put something together and start winning again, so that's what brought it together.

MODERATOR: Tony, joining a legendary name like Foyt, getting back with your friends at Team Chevy, which you took to the Indy 500 win, how excited are you for the 2018 season?

TONY KANAAN: Very excited. Obviously we know we have a lot of work to do to build the team to where we want it to be. I mean, I'm coming off of a very difficult season, so I think it was a time for us to get together here with -- I'm bringing my engineer, Eric Cowdin, which was part of the win with the 500 Chevy, and we're excited. It's a great time for me. I think driving for a legend like AJ and all the stories and what I can learn from him still, it will be something that I'm going to take it for the rest of my life. So I'm really excited about it. Hopefully we'll put that 14 car where AJ wants me to put it, which is going to be in first place.

MODERATOR: You mentioned the 14 car, and AJ wanting it to be in first place. You've driven the No. 11 was associated with you, you've driven a famous No. 10. What about driving the No. 14? Is there any extra pressure just because it's the 14 and you drive for Foyt?

TONY KANAAN: Big time. I mean, I think out of all the numbers that I've driven through my career, that is definitely the one that puts a lot more pressure on me, so I'm going to have to make sure that I keep up the tradition of that number and hopefully we will do that. But we'll definitely -- I was thinking about that the other day. I mean, I can't wait for opening day at the 500 and put the 14 car to do a lap like that, especially me driving. Having garage 1 for me, it's like -- it's kind of cool.

It's one of those things that I've always looked around and said, AJ can do this here, AJ can do that. He basically owns the Speedway, so hopefully we'll be able to keep the 14 where it belongs.

Tony Kanaan three-wheelin' through Turn 5 at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

Q. Motorsports Report - This is kind of an exciting change. How do you feel the team will respond to your style of driving and what you brought to the series all these past 15, 20 years?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think the cars are changing, so how the team is going to respond to that is basically what we're going to build. Bringing my engineer in, I think it's a big help because he knows the way I like to drive. He knows the way I like to set up the car. So I would say for me, it's a big step. We can come in and try to introduce my driving style. Obviously we don't know how the new car is going to perform. We've still got to go test and see how is it going to behave, so everyone is pretty much starting from scratch.

Q. Motorsports Report - We also heard recently that your great friend Helio Castroneves won't be on the circuit full-time, just Indy 500. How is that going to feel without Helio in the field?
TONY KANAAN: Well, he's definitely going to be missed. I think he was a big name in IndyCar, like I am. We started together back in '98, so obviously he chose to pursue another career as far as racing, go to another series, so I wish him the best, and obviously I think, like I said, he will be missed.

Q. Rico Ramirez, Area Grande - It's been a long time since we haven't seen you in Victory Lane, and we also have noticed that Team Foyt hasn't been too successful. How are you planning to bring victories to another team with new aero kit, new teammates and everything?
TONY KANAAN: Well, I think that's why we got together. We both needed a change. We both needed some boosts to put this team in Victory Lane, and we're doing everything we can. We have just a great sponsor backing us with ABC that's been with the team for 14 years, and they're giving us every tool that they can to be able to make it happen. I think with the new car, like everybody starting from scratch, I think that's our chance. It's our chance to get ahead of the game with all the resources that we have and the people that we have working for us, and to put it back there. We both need it to go back to Victory Lane, and that's why there's a reason that we actually came together with this partnership to be able to do it.

Leaving the pits at the GoPro Grand Prix Of Sonoma, Tony Kanaan will be driving the Red, White, and Blue No. 14 car sponsored by ABC Supply. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

Q. Rico Ramirez, Area Grande - You were talking about Helio a little bit earlier, and it's kind of a different-looking IndyCar Series now. You're basically kind of the last man standing from the old CART era, you and Helio were. Is there any point where it kind of makes you look back and go, wow? It's an interesting feeling, I guess, in a way, being really the longest tenured guy in the IndyCar Series nowadays.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I guess the only good people are the only ones that last, and I guess I'm the last man standing, so I'm pretty proud of my career. Of course if I would go back 20 years ago and would have said that I was going to be here for this long, I don't think I could predict that, but obviously year in, year out, people keep saying, the old guys here and there, but we keep delivering, so I think it doesn't matter what age you are. If you're winning races, I don't think people care. All we care is about winning. I still think I can win, and I'm glad that I'm still around so we can keep the tradition of the old timers, that we can still do it. We'll be here to represent.

Q. I am curious, I know you've done some time away from IndyCar with the Ford GT program and done some time in sports cars; is that something that you would consider maybe on a more regular basis after your time in IndyCar is done, kind of like what Helio is doing?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think I would say -- obviously we just signed a multiyear deal here, so I'm not really thinking about it, but obviously there is no secret that I would love to do the endurance races. AJ won all of them, so I've got to catch up with him. I have Daytona, but I don't have -- I have the 24 hours but I don't have a Le Mans, so I've got to try to do that. If it doesn't conflict with our program in IndyCar and it doesn't hurt the program, I would love to do it, and in the future obviously that would be something that I'm interested, but right now, it's definitely not going to be something that is going to be going through my head to do full-time.

Q. Larry, I hear the enthusiasm from listening to Tony; what kind of different dynamic do you feel like he's going to bring to the team, maybe a different sort of energy from what you guys have had in the past?
LARRY FOYT: Well, obviously he's got a lot of experiences, which is going to really pay with this new aero kit and figuring that out quickly, but the one thing I think Tony and I when we started talking about this, we looked at each other, and it's a lot of trust between each other. I had to know Tony is not just trying to ride out his last years, that he's going to give 110 percent, and wants to know that we're going to put all our resources into the race team to give him a chance to win, and that's exactly the trust that we had to -- I think when we looked each other in the eye, we both knew that this was what we wanted to do and our goals were aligned, and that's why we think it's going to work.

Q. Larry, if you could talk a little bit, obviously this is great news today, but you'll be looking to fill a second car; what are you looking to help build around Tony, what kind of driver to build a team around Tony?
LARRY FOYT: Yeah, that's -- really with the second car, we haven't made any decisions yet. We're going through everything internally and trying to figure out what direction to go there. But this is -- we've really been focused on getting this deal done with Tony and some of the big engineering pieces here in the team put together, and from there we're just having internal discussions and probably won't be too long, we'll try to come to a decision with that. Don't really have an answer on where that's headed just yet.

Q. How important was Tony's great oval success in his career to being part of this decision?
LARRY FOYT: You know, yeah, of course it's wonderful to have an Indy 500 champion on your team and someone who came close to winning a couple oval races this year. I think he leads every one of them. Obviously that's a big part, especially from our history, and the importance we hold to Indianapolis and the 500.

But you know, we want Tony because he can and wins everywhere, so that's the most important thing, and I think for us, just his experience of being on some bigger teams and what he can bring and just help -- and obviously his enthusiasm is infectious in getting all of us motivated, and I think he's going to be great with our sponsor, with ABC Supply. They do this for their people and bring hundreds of people to every event, and I think that's something Tony is going to be great with, as well, so it's just a great package all the way around.


Q. Rico Ramirez, Area Grande - You're switching from Honda to Chevy; how are you taking that difference, and how do you plan to adapt to the new car?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I mean, it's hard to tell. Obviously when I won the 500 in 2013, it was with Chevy, then we switched engines. You know, I think Chevy has over the past years caught up to the Hondas, especially at the Speedway, so we strongly believe that we're going to be extremely competitive. Of course I have some feedback probably to add and try to help them out with some of my experience.

The plan will be just to really -- I've got to drive the car to be able to tell you something more, but right now I think we have a pretty good package.

Q. Motorsports Report - With this new package that's coming out, from what little we're able to learn from statements that people make, that it's going to be a little freer, a little bit looser, I was wondering what have you heard from the people who have test drove this? Did you get any insights, any direct conversations that you had?
TONY KANAAN: No, I heard the same things you've heard, that the car has a lot less downforce, it's a little bit more sketchy and difficult to drive, which I think that's a good thing. It's going to make more difficult to the drivers. It's going to make a lot more challenging for the engineers. I heard the same things, that it's definitely a huge amount of downforce taken out of the car, and it's going to be a little bit more difficult to drive.

Q. Motorsports Report - What's your reaction to that? Is it like getting back into cart?
TONY KANAAN: We like it. You should be able to drive the car. You cannot just -- engineers should be able to help you but they shouldn't dictate who's qualifying or winning races. Anytime you have to drive the car more, I'd be all for it.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]
ENDS

In what may be Tony's final chapter at the top rung of the Verizon IndyCar Series, AJ, Larry, Eric and TK believe they all have their best shot in 2018 to strike at another INDY500 win, and with consistency, deliver another Verizon IndyCar Series championship back to Brazil (a trophy Tony's great friend and fellow Brazilian, Helio, has never been able to bring back home).

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: Tony Kanaan, AJ Foyt, Larry Foyt, Eric Cowdin, AJ Foyt Racing, Verizon IndyCar Series, INDY500, Chevrolet, Dallara, Firestone, The EDJE


Thursday, September 21, 2017

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Finale At Sonoma Was All Red, White, & Blue

First year driver for the four car Team Penske Racing, Josef Newgarden (lower right), following race winner and 2016 VICS champion Simon Pagenaud, takes the checkered flag to secure his first VICS championship in front of an enthusiastic yet sparse crowd, with television camera sweeping from the Start/Finish podium.  Simon Pagenaud repeats as the winner of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and P2 in the 2017 championship. Roger Penske stands in the Hitachi Team Penske box (lower left) as he communicates to his driver of 18 years, Helio Castroneves, who finishes at P5 - P4 in the 2017 VICS championship. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Finale At Sonoma Was All Red, White, & Blue

Yes, the pre-race that was book-ended by Americans, ended in a way some expected but never accounted for.

Many who wished for more Americana touchstones in the North American premiere professional open-wheel motorsports series had something happen that oddly reinforced their desires.

A driver who waves the Red, White, & Blue of his native country flag ... but the catch here is, it happens to be the flag of last year's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Simon Pagenaud. Yep! The tri-color of France (red, white, and blue).

Simon Pagenaud was wheeled into the Verizon IndyCar Victory Lane where he raises his arms in victorious celebration when climbing out of his car. He repeats as the winning driver of the final race of the season, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)


Penske Racing teammates congratulate each other during the NBCSN interview of Simon Pagenaud by Jon Beekhuis. Josef Newgarden, who had just secured the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, couldn't wait until after the interview, busted in between Beekhuis and Pagenaud, and gave  Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, one of the biggest victory hugs during this hotly contested 2017 season. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The race was conducted without one YELLOW Flag that would have changed up everyone's strategy. Very unusual. A very cleanly run and intense race.

Simon Pagenaud qualified in P3, so in order to win the race and have a shot at repeating as champion, he needed to get by teammates Will Power at P2 and track record holding Josef Newgarden sitting on the pole position. To repeat as Verizon IndyCar Series champion, the job was that he needed to win and have both Newgarden and Dixon finish at P4 or worse.

The Red, White, & Blue was clearly on display during pre-race ceremonies. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

This excerpted and edited from the post race Verizon IndyCar press conferences at Sonoma Raceway -

IndyCar Media Conference - Sunday September 17, 2017 - FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Simon Pagenaud - Roger Penske - Tim Cindric

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We are joined in the press conference room by race winner Simon Pagenaud, who literally did just about everything you could do today except maybe lead the most laps. I don't know that you got that part accomplished but you did just about everything else you could do and it just came up short for the championship. So is it bittersweet?

SIMON PAGENAUD: You know, at the end of the day, I think what is important to me is to perform at your best in those conditions. I think to me, the final champion is someone that can bring his A game or extra A game on a given time. I thought we did just that today as a team, myself as a driver, my engineer, my strategist, my guys, my crew in the pit stops. I think we did just that.

And to me, when I look at Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and all these guys that really -- obviously those guys are Formula 1 drivers, but think about some IndyCar drivers, Franchitti, these guys, when you think about these guys that have really marked the sport, the sport in general, Motorsports, I think today was one of those days for us.

It was very special to me. Of course we're not champions, we came up short by 13 points after a whole season. Am I satisfied? No, because I want to win, but we gave everything we had.

For me to finish 13 points behind in a season where we had a lot of downs, not as many ups compared to last year, I think it's quite impressive. Very happy with that.

Josef Newgarden leads the field down into the final hairpin Turn 11 before the waving of the GREEN Flag to start the race. Here, the first two rows of the side-by-side line up are Penske Racing Dallara Chevrolets. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: I don't know if these were the most difficult 85 laps of your career, but they were pretty intense from start to finish given that you were on an all-go strategy.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes. Last night my engineer texted me when I was at the Verizon dinner, and he said, We're going to do four stops. I'm like, what? Four stops never worked here; why would we do four stops? He said, well, if there's a yellow, that's the best way we can win the championship. I'm like, all right, that makes sense, but it's a long shot. If it doesn't work out, we're going to end up fifth or sixth in the championship, it's not going to look too good. But I was in a very attacking mode, attacking mood this weekend, and I thought, hey, why not, let's try. And he convinced me.

Then, you know, it was -- I was really surprised on the second stint how strong we were compared to everybody. We were able to pass a lot of cars and made some very aggressive passes, and it was starting to really work.

When I built a gap on Josef, 10 seconds, and then 11 and then 12, I was like, ooh, I think we have a chance. So then I thought, if we keep putting pressure, maybe something would happen. The strategy worked out really, really well. It was impressive. The car was just phenomenal all day. Grueling, tiring, and I'm exhausted right now. That's the most I've ever pushed in an IndyCar race.

THE MODERATOR: I think that was lap 65 when you came out in front of Josef. Talk about that one, how you stayed in front of him.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it was tough, especially on the black tires. I was thinking about it before the pit stop. I was like, man, I'm going to come out on blacks and he's going on reds. It's going to be close. The in lap the tires were really starting to get used up and starting to have a lot of oversteer out of 7, was using some Push-to-Pass, and the rear end was really coming around a lot, and I was like, man, I don't know if it's going to be enough. Then when we did it, I was like, okay, now I've got to really be smart about how I'm going to handle this, so I came out of the pit as hard as I could, took all the risks in the world, and tires came up really quick because I was so aggressive.

After Turn 7, I knew I could keep it, so then -- the nice thing is today I could be on the aggressive side and Josef had to be a little bit more on the defensive side, so I also took advantage of that.

Q. Racers are going to race, but on that lap 65, were you surprised how fierce Josef was, because basically he finishes behind you, he wins the title?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, I was. When I blocked Turn 7 and I saw him diving, I'm like, dude, be careful. Especially at the time, the thing is if he has a problem, I'm leading the race, I'm champion, so at the time we're racing, obviously I knew, I could see on the sign Dixon was fifth, so I knew we couldn't do anything stupid for the championship. But it was more comfortable for me than it was for him, I'm assuming, in my position. Yeah, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fight. It was a good fight. I thought that my out lap was outstanding for sure.

Q. I wanted you to address the consistency that you've had not only with the team, it's a great team, obviously, but you were on the track for every lap this season. The only driver to do that. And you were also coming off the championship and right in contention right until the very end, which the champion hasn't always done in recent years. Talk about how you feel about those accomplishments.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I'm very proud tonight. I'm very proud. I'm also superstitious, so 13 points behind is probably a good thing for next year. I like that number, so we'll see. But I'm very proud of my guys. Mechanically we had zero problems this year, no mechanical issues. Chevy has been incredible in terms of reliability. Also my team, we never had an issue during the race, barely any -- I don't think we had any problems in the pits at all. I didn't make any stupid mistakes, didn't break a wing, didn't have any contact at any point. So we finished every single lap of the season, which I don't know the stats, but that's insane, I think, and I'm very, very proud of that.

That's kind of my trait as a driver is I don't go off track very often, and I think this season maybe we didn't have the outright pace at every race, but at least we had consistency, and we see it pays off.

Q. Considering how you finished just 13 points behind Josef in the championship, if you look back at Gateway now, do you consider that as the crucial turning point of the title battle?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, my first start was before the podium was actually Texas when I feel like I could have won the race, but I just sat behind Will and tried to work as a team and tried to finish the race together as the race was getting crazy. So it was a smart drive, but maybe I should have been more aggressive to collect more points. That's really my first thought.

Then Gateway, that's racing. You know, Josef managed to get it done. I don't know what it is I could have done in that situation, so you can't -- I mean, I just can't go back on that and be disappointed. I think I did the best I could, the best I could pretty much all season. I don't have any regrets, no.

Q. You and Josef have had an interesting relationship; you were both with another manufacturer, you both came to Team Penske, now you've both won championships for Team Penske. Did his arrival on the team change how you raced this year or did you have a different dynamic between yourselves this year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, the first thing when a new driver comes on is understand how he works and how to integrate him within the group. The group was very dynamic, it was Juan Pablo, Helio and Will, and now we had Josef coming on board. Completely different character than Montoya. Actually Josef is really -- he integrates himself really easily, and he's a really smart -- you guys say he's a kid, but he's really smart. It's quite impressive what he can be doing at 25.

It's been really easy. He's been bringing quite an interesting vision about what he likes, and congratulations to him.

"The Captain" Roger Penske, surveys & communicates with his pit crew as they go through Friday Sonoma track set-ups. Making adjustments and taking notes that make the Chevy Dallara just so, for Helio. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: We're joined here by Mr. Penske and Mr. Cindric. Let's first just talk about Simon and the way he ran the race and how your guys worked together today.

ROGER PENSKE: I think what you didn't know is that probably two hours before the race, the drivers, we sat down, Tim and I sat down with the drivers and we talked about all the scenarios that could take place. You've been here before when there's a yellow that comes out that mixes up the field, and Simon put his hand up and said, I'll be the guy, I'll commit to come in on lap 10. And of course we take that for granted, and certainly it's lap 10 they came in, and I think that just shows you because we needed Will to be a wing man for the 2 car, for Josef, and for Helio, we had to deal with Dixon behind us. I think it was well thought out, and fortunately things went our way.

Simon came to the team, and first year he didn't maybe have the success he wanted, but he doubled down last year, and the number of wins, the number of poles, and you could see the speeded here this weekend. To me, we talk about the different team members and the drivers, I think each one of them pushes each other, and with Josef coming on board, he's aggressive, but also I think he learned a lot from Simon and Helio and certainly from Will, and I think that was the stack of information that we keep getting every weekend.

There's not a pit time we come in the pits that Helio doesn't ask what are the other guys doing, where are they braking, where are they getting back on the gas. I know Simon is the same way. So having the luxury to have the four drivers and the way we communicate makes a big difference, and as I always say, I don't have a favorite driver. Look at it today, it would have been nice to see Josef win the race, but quite honestly this is the perfect ending to a great season and a new sponsor, someone that we wanted to be in the sport for a long time, and I know Simon was this close.

To me, he knows as we know only one guy can win the championship and win the race, and today we had three people up front there on the podium. You think about the last race, the championship, I'd have to say that Tim and the team have done a terrific job.

THE MODERATOR: You've had three champions, three different drivers in the last four years, and this continues it, and the way Simon presented himself as a champion over the last year.

TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, without a doubt. Simon, he showed everybody the way last year, and these guys, having four of them that are all competing for the win, some days we have to talk about it afterwards, all of us, not just Simon, all of us. So yeah, there was a lot at stake today, a lot can go right, a lot can go wrong, but what I'm proud of is the team that we have at the end of the day. We've been here and been on the other end of it, and I think that today fortunately it was a green race because that helped us figure out where we needed to be and how we needed to be there, but what I didn't want is Simon and Josef fighting each other too hard and maybe got a little too close there. But for us the perfect scenario played out to where Simon could win the race and finish second in the championship and Josef get what he deserved there.

Q. What is it that you liked most about being champion, and what are you going to miss about not being champion?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I mean, I want to win. I don't want to be second. But you know, it's IndyCar racing. It's very difficult to repeat because the competition is so fierce. But you know, I think I'm very proud of how we conducted ourselves this year. I think Team Penske did a tremendous job. Chevrolet, as well. Overall, the best man won, and Josef did.

On the whole season, he was the strongest. I miss being the strongest, and I will come back next year, and I'm going to try to be the best. I think that's competition. You know, that's how it goes.

Q. Simon, what would you list as your number one accomplishment of this season? Is there any particular high moment?
SIMON PAGENAUD: This weekend, yes. I think for me, like I said earlier, when you have to be on top of your game in a very pressured moment, those are my favorite times, favorite moments. Being able to accomplish that for me is a very special thing, so I'm very proud of that, very proud of my team in general, no mistakes, perfect decisions. It was a flawless weekend for us. Just very proud that the whole team did such a good job, and also talking with my team, but also the whole organization, when you look at it, it was a flawless operation today.

You know, I think when you walk away from here, it's just what you take away and what you enjoy the most.
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Q. You missed Turn 9 a couple times; what was going on there?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Spectacle, yeah. I was trying to make it like exciting for the fans and you, as well. Nothing really. I miss that driving, so I thought it would be fun.
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Q. You've won back-to-back here at Sonoma, and I know it's a challenging race course. Tell me about what your strengths are and how you're able to master some of the challenges this track throws at you.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think I've got a fantastic car. That really helps. Yeah, Team Penske has been so strong here for many years. I think maybe it's the philosophy of our setups in general, but also just pushing each other as drivers to find the limits and work on details. I think that's key. Today was my strategist and the decision that we made as a team to have me do four stops, and I'm in that position because I think it paid off today because I was comfortable in the race car and I could go really hard on long stints. Those are my answers.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Simon.

HUM Sponsored Josef Newgarden communicates what he needs on setting up during Friday Practice. He was able to make it into the Firestone Fast Six in Knockout Qualifying then go on to set a new track record capturing the Verizon P1 Pole Award and add one point in his championship points lead. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

And this excerpted & edited from post race Verizon IndyCar press conferences at Sonoma Raceway -

IndyCar Media Conference - Sunday September 17, 2017 - FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Josef Newgarden

THE MODERATOR: From driving up the road Nashville to Indianapolis to a go-kart track to Europe to the Mazda Road to Indy to Team Penske, stops at Sarah's team, Ed's team, here you are. Welcome, IndyCar champion.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's a crazy journey. Forgive me if my words aren't so great right now. I feel like I've talked too much after this. I got definitely emotional with the whole -- just the whole ceremony process and seeing everyone there and how happy everyone else was. It's taken a lot of people to get to this point, clearly and obviously. This started a long time ago with just my parents, and they're the biggest reason that I've been able to do this. They've put everything on the line for me to make sure I had an opportunity to do this, and that's where it starts, and then it kind of falls into line with everyone else.

Everyone else, there's a long list of people that have made it happen along the way, from karts to going to Europe to coming back and to getting an IndyCar opportunity and now being here with Team Penske. It's a crazy journey. It's so cool to be able to do this, though. I'm so proud of everyone involved and everyone at Team Penske and what we were able to put together today as a group.

Red, White, & Blue! The Verizon IndyCar Series Champion for 2017 emerges. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: Everyone that's come in here since the race was over mentioned about being an American champion, and you put the flag around you up there. I think you were a little surprised by that, didn't really know how to take it, felt like a boxer. But it's important, and you know it is.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, obviously for me, I've always preached that it's great that we have the best of the best in the Verizon IndyCar Series. We don't want a championship filled with just American drivers, but it's important to have the best of America in it. You know, and I think the Mazda Road to Indy has come such a long way, and the farming system seems to be working again.

I feel like team owners and people within IndyCar are looking to the youth in America, which is a great thing. I think there's more guys that are capable that are coming up to help fly the flag in this series. But as I said, the best thing is we have people from all around the world that are the best at what they do, and we've got to continue to have that. We have to have the best from Europe and from anywhere overseas because if it's just Americans running it wouldn't mean anything. But certainly having successful Americans is a big deal, too.

Q. Just thinking back to 2012 when you strapped into the car driving for Sarah Fisher, did you ever think that you would be a Team Penske driver, let alone a champion in your first year with them?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Hard to tell. I didn't know what was going to happen. You work so hard just to get an opportunity on the professional stage, and then for it to take a turn to this point, I think you work so hard to just get to the IndyCar level that you don't really think about anything beyond that. You don't think about, well, what's the maximum at the IndyCar level you could get to.

So not really. I mean, I just always dreamed and hoped that I could have a very successful career and be good at this, but you never know if it's going to work out.

And I think the more years I drove in IndyCar, the more I thought I would never get hired by a team like Team Penske. I never thought that would really happen. It seemed like those guys didn't want me a part of their team, which was fine with me in some degree because I've worked with a lot of great groups before and we've had a lot of success, but having been a part of Team Penske for a year now, I can't tell you how amazing they are as a group. I'm so honored to drive for Roger and Tim and the entire team and all our partners. They're the best of the best. I mean, they really are. I can see why, having been a part of it. They're something special.

Q. The lap 63, 65 battle where the two of you came -- where you and Simon met after the pit stop and you raced him really hard, and at one point Tim Cindric came over the radio and said, "championship." What was it that you wanted to finish ahead of him so bad?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It was my instinct. My instinct when I saw him was I'm going to beat him, and that's just my -- honestly that's my natural instinct inside the car is just to beat whoever is in front of me. That's what I felt like. I was on reds, he was out of the pits, he was like weak prey in front of me, so I'm going to get him. But I also tried to measure it the way I was doing it. I didn't want to do something silly.

And then obviously the more that that lap progressed, Tim was very vocal and coaching me through it and telling me, this is the situation. You know, it made a lot of sense in my mind when he was over the radio, so I've got to give a lot of credit to Tim for keeping me in check and making sure that I was thinking correctly this whole weekend and certainly in that moment.

I think it's fitting, it's great for us that another car won the race, part of our team, so you've got a team car winning the race, you've got a team car winning the championship. We're all really winning this weekend. It takes a group to make this happen, and it's taken all four of these teams to bring a championship together, so it's a group effort.

THE MODERATOR: How much time did you give to the crash at Watkins Glen? It had to just be a little bit unnerving.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You know, I was just pissed. I was pissed at myself for making a mistake. I always get pissed when I make a mistake. Like Texas this year, I'm just furious. You don't want to be around me for 24 to 48 hours. My girlfriend knows it's not a good time. I try and be polite, but once I get home, you don't want to be around me. And that was kind of the case with Watkins Glen. But that's where it stopped. I was just mad at myself for my mistake and any time I do that I get mad about it. But I moved on pretty quickly.

The way I always looked at the championship was it was going to come down to Sonoma, and I don't know if it's a good way or bad way to view it but it's the way I viewed it and the way I was playing it was that Watkins didn't matter. I think everyone was telling me, you have a big point lead so you need to just protect that, finish wherever you can at Watkins Glen. I kind of thought, it doesn't really matter, why don't we just try and make more points because it's going to come down to Sonoma regardless, so if we have a wreck you're still going to have to fight for it here.

Looking back on it, I feel like that's kind of a mistake. I think I'd play it differently now after what happened at Watkins Glen, but at the end of the day, it did come down to this race, and we needed to execute, and we had the team to do it when we needed it.

Q. All year long IndyCar has been promoting next, and do you see this as a pivot point in the series in that it's now your time, it's now Alexander Rossi's time, it's now drivers in their mid to late 20s' time to begin to be big time stars, champions, Indy 500 winners? That this is going to be the generation we're going to sit and watch for the next 15, 20 years be stars in this sport?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know the answer fully. I mean, I hope that I'll be around for a long time. I'd love that. I'd love to have a long successful career like any racer at this level would. Everyone wants that as a driver. You want to be around for a long time and have a lot of success. So I hope so. I mean, I think it's going to be a natural thing. I think eventually the champions of the past are going to -- they're going to eventually be done with their careers. That's just a natural process.

You know, the youth that is coming up, I do believe you're going to hopefully see for a long time, and I think there's a lot of bright spots within the Mazda Road to Indy and some of the guys that are coming over from overseas that are young. So I think there's a lot of talent in the world that are yet to make their mark in IndyCar Series, and you're going to see that for years to come. Hopefully that includes me, too, but there's no telling what the future holds.

Q. You did a lot of silly promotional things a few years ago. You sat in the stands and had people not know who you were. We played with wind-up guitars yesterday in your press thing.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, that was fun.

Q. You've done a lot of that kind of stuff, and that's brought you to this stage and it's also brought you a lot of fans along the way. You're no longer the anonymous guy. How does that feel to not only have established yourself but made yourself a champion?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, honestly for me it's just always been about success on the racetrack. Whether that's a selfish answer or not, that's always been the most important thing to me. It's what I love. I feel committed to doing it with the people around me, and that's everyone, whether it's people that have helped put me in the car or it's the people that I get to work with every week. You feel the passion from the people that you work with. I feel it from everyone in the Team Penske shop. You feel it every weekend from the mechanics that you're getting to work with.

We all want to win, so I kind of -- I've always prioritized that. The fun stuff that I've been able to do along the way and what that's done for me is -- has been enjoyable at times, it really has. I've enjoyed that part of it, and I think it's great for our fans that they enjoy it and they want to see it more, and I feel like IndyCar has kind of pushed the boundaries more than other sports in a lot of ways sooner than other sports, too, and involving ourselves with the fans and making ourselves more just human and normal to people instead of just sports idols. I think that's a great thing. Yeah, I appreciate that. I think it's great for our fans, but whether it's a selfish answer or not, like I said, the on-track product has really been the No. 1 thing to me, so getting to this point, it's a dream come true to be able to win a championship.


Q. Obviously there's been a lot of change this year. You moved to Charlotte, you moved teams, you had three teammates instead of one or one and a half. How did all those elements, how did you deal with those elements, adapt to them and kind of grow this year in what was maybe your biggest year of change?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I would say so. I would agree it's been my biggest year of change. It's been my biggest opportunity. I've had so much to -- I think live up to in that you have champions around you, you have guys pushing you every week that are making you get the most out of yourself and you have to match them. So it's given me the biggest opportunity to grow and to prove myself in that environment, and that's been fun. It's been really fun and challenging for me.

You know, having said that, I also had those opportunities in the past, as well. I feel like starting out as a one-car team and trying to figure things out myself was very beneficial to me. I think it's given me all my strength that I have in racing is that when I first started, you know what, it wasn't the best situation. I loved driving for SFHR and they did so much for me, but I'll be honest it wasn't the easiest situation. We had our backs against the wall a lot of times. We were a brand new team, it was a brand new car. We were a one-car team, so it was hard to go through those times with no previous setups, no information, no data to look at, no real thought process. You just had to formulate it yourself. And I think all those moments prepared me to get to this point with Team Penske and being able to sort it out with the best of the best.

You know, I guess what I'd like to express is extreme gratitude to everyone that's helped me up to this point but also my teammates this year because they've really been fantastic to work with, every single one of them. I know people think we're lying when we talk so goody-goody about each other, but we have a great working relationship, all four of us did, and it was an amazing season to learn and grow from those guys, and I can't thank them enough for what they've done for me.

Q. If you're this competitive, were you just a little bit ticked off you didn't win the race?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, 100 percent. I'm not joking. I was kind of steaming inside the car, but then I thought, you know, the race win, as much as it'll piss me off that we lost the race, because it's a tough race, okay, you guys don't understand, this is probably the most grueling race you'll run every year just because of the tire degradation and the way this track drives, it is the most difficult race that you will put together, physically, mentally, it's draining. So when you feel like you've done everything to win the race and you don't win it, it's very annoying as a racer. So I hated that.

But I also just thought about the big picture, and you guys know Tim was coaching me through that thinking about it, and it's a team effort, so I had to be smart about it, and that gave me a lot more gratification, I think, than just losing the race.
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White smoke coming from the bottom of Team Penske No. 3 Chevy Dallara of Helio Castroneves. Even during the last laps of an 85 lap race, the compression caused through the combination of downforce and the elevation change experienced in Turn 1 at Sonoma Raceway causes a whiff of smoke from rub blocks on the bottom of the racing chassis. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017) 

Q. From Edmund Jenks - The EDJE - At this moment you are the oldest 25 years old you are going to be ... You're associating with Helio Castroneves and Will Power and other older drivers. Where do you see yourself in say another 10 or even 20 years from now?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know. I mean, it's important not to get too ahead of yourself. I think we've got to be really proud of what we did this year. We've got to enjoy it. You have to -- someone reminded me that you have to take time to enjoy these moments because it doesn't mean anything if you don't take the time to enjoy it and appreciate it.

We're going to do that for sure. But what the future holds, I don't think we can get ahead of ourselves. It takes a lot of work to do what we did this year, and I hope we're able to do it many, many times over. But it doesn't always work out that way, so we've got to be on our toes, make sure we're -- I think aggressive but cautious at the same time, and I hope 10, 20 years down the road we've got many more championships and hopefully some Indy 500s along the way, too.

Q. When during the race did you realize, you said, I've got it?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: The final stint. Up to that point I was waiting for whatever was going to go wrong, and the final stint after I settled in with Pagenaud, I thought, you know, we've done everything we needed to do to be in position, and there's not a lot that can tilt it right now. Up until that point, I was like, man, what's going to happen. It's IndyCar racing, there's always something that can shift the platform and move you off your position, and when we were in that final stint, we had our final stop, we were fueled to the finished, I knew my fuel code that I had to hit. It was a big number, but I knew we could hit it every lap. I was like, okay, if we do our job here, we can make it happen, so probably 15 to go was when I started to feel more confident that we had what we needed.

It felt good, but I kept telling myself if it was 10 laps to go, I kept telling myself there was 15 laps to go. I just was playing it on the aggressive side because I didn't want to play it too safe. I just tried to make it seem longer than it was going to be.

Q. You got kind of choked up there at the end when you were talking about your folks helping you and so forth, and we've had an awful lot of IndyCar drivers and NASCAR and a lot of really good drivers come out of kart. Can you tell me how you got started and how your parents helped you and what made you think that was what you wanted to do once you were involved in karting and how did it go from there? Where did you start and what class?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I come from great parents to start with. I've got great, great people that guide me in life. I think me and my two sisters did. So that makes a world of a difference with whatever you're choosing to do in the world.

You know, what I'm getting at is we were given every opportunity that they could put in front of us. They wanted to help us pursue whatever we wanted. I played baseball and basketball when I was a kid. My dad, he selfishly wanted me to be a baseball player professionally in my life. He hoped that I'd become a New York Yankees player one day. I liked playing baseball like that, I liked basketball, too, but I always wanted a go-kart. I was like, Dad, please can we get a go-kart, and it didn't happen until I was 13. That's when he kind of finally caved.

My dad was always a car guy. He was always into racing. I was always exposed to it on TV. When we finally made a decision to go do that, you know, it's difficult for families to do. People ask me all the time, how do you get in racing, and it costs money. You've got to find someone to help you out, whether it's friends or families or if you somehow find a sponsor, you somehow convince someone to sponsor you. You've got to get the money from somewhere.

We had certainly a better situation than many, but not a straight-cut situation to just make it professionally in race cars. It was a long road and very difficult to go through. So they put everything on the line. They gave me everything they had. It got me to a certain point, and then others had to pitch in and make it happen. I started in, like I said, go-karts when I was 13, I raced at New Castle Motorsports Park right in New Castle, Indiana. It was a track built by Mark Dismore, who's an ex-IndyCar guy, and yeah, big karting family, and he taught me a lot about what I know today, and really the rest is history. I started there and I kept moving up the levels and had a lot of people help us along the way and put everything on the line for us to get to here.
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Q. Being champion comes with responsibilities; how excited are you for that to go out and be the face of IndyCar? You're going to be on the front of the program, be on the front of the media guide. Is that starting to sink in yet?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No. Look, I'll carry the flag happily. I love the IndyCar Series. I think it's got the whole world in front of it. It can go so many good ways. I'll do the best that I can to help spread the word and show people how great this sport is. I think people have been catching on to be honest with you over the last couple years. They're coming back to the sport. Anyone that we lost over the last 20 years, I think they've been coming back over the last five or six seasons, and we've got to make sure that we keep doing that. It's not one big step, it's going to be little steps at a time, and I think in the next five years hopefully we can be in an amazing place. I think we're in a good place right now, but we want to be in an amazing place. I'll do my best to carry that flag and help everyone in the Verizon IndyCar Series keep going up.
ENDS

Zach Veach (left) moves from color commentary on radio broadcasts and driving the 2-Seater Dallara Indy Racing Experience fan engagement employee to a three-year full time Verizon IndyCar Series driver. Zach stands here with the CEO of Group One Thousand One Dan Towriss and Andretti Autosport team chief Michael Andretti. Image Credit: Ken Manfred (2017)

Looking forward to 2018, we also had the first face-to-face chance to hear about and talk with Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, Group One Thousand One CEO, Dan Towriss, and Mazda Road To Indy ladder series driver Zach Veach on the multi-year contract to have Zach fill the seat vacated by Indy500 winner Takuma Sato (who will return to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next season) giving Andretti Autosport a four-car team of American born drivers.

Zach will be joining veteran and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, sophomore and Indy500 winner Alexander Rossi, and third generation 200 consecutive race starter Marco Andretti.

To the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, we bid adieu ... all in a flag waving flurry of ...

... RED ... WHITE ... & BLUE!

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: Verizon IndyCar Series, GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Penske Racing, Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport, Group One Thousand One CEO, Dan Towriss, American, The EDJE

Thursday, September 7, 2017

American Open-Wheel 2017 Championship Chances Book-Ended By Americans

Penske Racing's Josef Newgarden after hitting the podium (P3 - Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach) for the first time in his first year with professional open-wheel racing's elite team. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

American Open-Wheel 2017 Championship Chances Book-Ended By Americans

One of the main reasons the Indy Racing League was formed was to bring along and develop more race car drivers who were born in America to race at the highest levels of professional open-wheel motorsports.

Thirty-one years later we have come to the point in the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship that, with one double-points paying race, six (possibly seven) drivers have a chance at winning the The Astor Cup ... named maintained after one of the first major trophies in American auto racing.

Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi as he sits in the cockpit of his Andertti Autosport prepared Honda-powered Dallara in the pits at the second race of the 2017 season - the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. All four Andretti Autosport cars did not finish the race due to mechanical or electrical issues. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The six drivers, after just 16 races, go into Sears Point area of San Francisco bay at Sonoma Raceway with a mathimatical shot at the end of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma are framed by the points leader who is driving in his first year for Penske Racing, Josef Newgarden and, at 84 points down driving in his second year for Andretti Autosport, Alexander Rossi. If one wished to be a bit more generous - at 94 points behind the points leader is another American born driver, Graham Rahal driving for a single car team formed by Bobby Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

But let's be very honest, with 100 points awarded for the first car over the Start/Finish line, the top four points-holding drivers would have to NOT finish very early on in the 85 lap, 12 corner, natural-terrain road course, almost 203 mile, Grand Prix.

After 16 races of a 17 race season, the top six contenders who have an arguable mathematical chance at winning it all for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 17. Image Credit: VICS

The stack ranking by season points is as follows - listing with post race INDYCAR Grand Prix At The Glen quotations:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet) - 560  points: "It was kind of an eventful day for the DeVilbiss Chevrolet team. I felt like we were in a good position until that final pit stop. No excuse for it. It was my fault. I saw Will (Power) leave right in front of us and I just locked it up and slid over into the wall. Then Sebastien (Bourdais) got into the back of me. It's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about it. We'll go to Sonoma in a couple of weeks and race for it."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) - 557 points (-3): "It was definitely an exciting day for the No. 9 NTT Data car. I locked up the tires on the first stop and I don't think we got any fuel. We had to save fuel on the next stint as a result and battled our way back. I think we passed a lot of cars today and it was fun to contend with (Alexander) Rossi there for the win. Big congrats to him and good to see Honda run strong at Watkins Glen."

Helio Castroneves, followed closely out of Turn 6 by Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe, on his way to securing the Verizon P1 Pole Award at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. For the third consecutive year, Hélio Castroneves qualified on pole for the event, setting a new track record in the process with a lap of 1:06.2254, at an average speed of 106.98 mph (172.17 km/h). Scott Dixon qualified in second, while Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third. Finishing the Fast Six were James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, and Graham Rahal. Image Credit:Edmund Jenks (2017)

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) - 538 points (-22): "The Hitachi Chevy was so awesome today, and it was a great job by the No. 3 car guys. We were really fast out there - it's been a long time since I was able to go flat out through the carousel in the race, but we were doing that today. We had some issues on the black Firestone tires, but we were able to recover and really pushed hard there to finish fourth. I feel really bad for Josef (Newgarden) with his incident. It's unfortunate for the team, but it's mixed feelings for me because it tightens up the championship. We definitely have a good chance heading into Sonoma and I feel really good about our setup there. We'll be ready to go for it and finish strong."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) - 526 points (-34): "We fought for the best finish we could today in the Menards Chevrolet. We were really prepared for a wet race, and if it would have been run in the rain, I think we would have been tough to beat. But we just had too much downforce to run in the dry and make up the ground we needed to. Still, everyone on the team did a good job to finish ninth and we come out of Watkins Glen still in the hunt for the championship. We know what it takes to win at Sonoma and that's what we'll be fighting for (in Sonoma)."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) - 492 points (-68): "It was just an up and down day for the Verizon Chevrolet group. There were times the car was really fast, but that first set of tires didn't agree with the car at all. I thought the car was broken. It wouldn't do anything I wanted it to. After that, it was good. I can't be unhappy about sixth. I don't know what kind of legitimate chance at the championship I have, but stranger things have happened, I guess. We'll go to Sonoma and give it everything we have."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda) - 476 points (-84): "An amazing job by the whole team today. We had an issue in the beginning with some fuel, the fuel (probe), but whatever. It doesn't matter, the team recovered. We had the pace to do it, but it's pretty amazing. It's a huge team effort. I've talked so much about how much we've improved, I'm so happy we're finally able to win." (About battle with Scott Dixon at end of race): "We had a fast car. I knew we had a fast car because we were hitting a fuel number before the final stop and we had pace. I knew he was going to be pushing like hell at the end, and so it was really 12 qualifying laps, and I had the car to do it. We had time, we had the pace, the performance, the tire life, everything was going our way. A huge hats off to Andretti Autosport. Thank you to NAPA Auto Parts, thank you to Honda. We're coming really hard for 2018."

American born driver, Graham Rahal as he bounces over the rumble strips in Turn 5 at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. He qualified 6th in the Firestone Fast Six and went on to finish the second race of the season at P10. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

And bonus driver ...

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) - 466 points (-94): "It was a good day. There was a lot of passing because a lot of us expected rain and with the downforce levels being all over the board, there were some guys that were really draggy and some guys a little more rimmed. I was right in the middle. There was a lot of passing going on all over the place. We're going to fight on here. I didn't have anything to lose (in the championship fight) coming here but as we saw today with (Josef) Newgarden, things can happen so fast. We're out of winning the championship, but we're certainly not out of finishing the top three or four. We're seventh in the points. The way I look at it is, we didn't score points in the first four races of the year, but we were the hottest team through the middle of the season and it got us back in contention. We didn't score as many points as we would have liked, but we have a lot to be proud of. We're going to be in attack mode for sure. It's a shame the last two races didn't go our way when they should have because we would have been right in the middle of the title fight, but that's the way it goes. That's racing."
[ht: VICS]


All things considered, Penske Racing's Simon Pagenaud had a good outing at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Defending race winner and 2016 VICS champion Pagenaud was penalized for interfering with one of his teammate Castroneves' laps and was stripped of his two fastest laps in the session, relegating him to last place (P21) on the grid. Simon went on to finish the only other West Coast race of the 2017 season at P5. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The realistic gaming on all of this would give the highest probability at grabbing the championship to just the top three points holders at this time in the season. Newgarden, Dixon or Castroneves are all the odds on favorites ... but recent history of this double-points paying race places simple and realistic gaming at risk.

Two years ago, the top six drivers that had a shot at winning the title were Penske Racing's Juan Pablo Montoya, Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal (-34 points), Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (-47 points), Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves (-58 points), Penske Racing's Will Power (-59 points), and Ed Carpenter Racing's Josef Newgarden (-95 points).

Justin Bell and Scott Dixon share an early season conversation at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach media luncheon atop the parking structure just East of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center South of E. Seaside Way. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017) 

This excerpted and edited from Motorsports Journal -

Dixon/Ganassi Triple-Down & Double-Up To Wrest Control At The GoPro GP of Sonoma
By Edmund Jenks - Motorsports Journal - Wednesday, September 02, 2015

In the media room, around the paddocks, and campgrounds around Sonoma Raceway at Sears Point, there were speculations as to who would win the Verizon IndyCar Series 2015 season finale race and, due to a double-points award, potentially win the season championship.

At no point in the lead up to this final race was there a story line that included Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who sat at P3, 47 points behind Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM), not just winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma ... but further, the 2015 American open-wheel racing championship.

Almost all of the pre-race chatter centered on "just who" had what it would take to get the most points through qualifications, bonus points, and win the race (obviously, Will Power) ... or who had the charge to grab the championship and maybe the race from Penske Racing and JPM (obviously, Graham Rahal).

Scott Dixon, and the PR Department of Target Chip Ganassi Racing were the consummate ghosts. Little was being speculated about in pre-race press releases and interviews from this organization about their chances at the Sonoma Raceway finale and the IndyCar season.

However, at race's end and at post-race press conferences - the floodgates of strategic possibility thinking opened up ... and a few folks were surprised at the final tie-breaking results.
[Reference Here]

Penske Racing's Will Power would have been higher in the points race if he had been able to turn his 50th pole winning position into a full race performance. After a 14-year absence, the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Gateway Motorsports Park paperclip style oval, outside of St. Louis, for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. On a lap 5 Green Flag restart, Will Power slid into the wall after being passed for the lead by teammate and eventual race winner (who qualified at P2), Josef Newgarden. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

Book-ended by Americans, you say?

Well, as it turns out, the other drivers have spent so much of their professional career in the United States that they are accepted as our kindred sons in American motor culture.

Scott Dixon will be hoping to get his 5th IndyCar championship making him second only to AJ Foyt (7).

Helio Castroneves who has three Indy 500 titles - placed second in the season standings four times, third two times and fourth four times ... but still has not won the championship.

Simon Pagenaud won the Verizon IndyCar Series last year and has been racing in sports cars and IndyCar for the last eleven years with another series championship in ChampCar Atlantics.

Lastly, Will Power, a staple in American racing series since 2005, was the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion - this year saw him eclipse Dario Franchiti in total races won in the series and added to his Verizon P1 Pole awards total to 50 which tied him with Castroneves for third on the all-time IndyCar pole list.

Looks as though we all will be treated to an All-American top seven drivers competing for the Astor Cup at Sonoma during the Verizon IndyCar Series finale.

Que the band for a stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, shaped by the sound of 2.2-liter (134.35 cubic inches) V-6, twin-turbocharged, Max. bore diameter 95 millimeters engines.

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sonoma Raceway, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal, Penske Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, The EDJE