INDYCAR News and Notes – Sept. 9, 2015

1. Indy Lights Contenders Battling for $1 Million Prize for Verizon IndyCar Series Races
2. Wilson’s Funeral Set for Sept. 10 in Native England
3. Finalists Selected for Team USA Scholarship
4. Kimball’s Bonus Point Determines #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge Champion
5. Of Note

1. Indy Lights Contenders Battling for $1 Million Prize for Verizon IndyCar Series Races: There are a million reasons why the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship contenders are focused solely on the challenging 2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course in scenic Monterey, Calif., this weekend.

The series champion will be awarded a $1 million Mazda Road to Indy scholarship toward the Verizon IndyCar Series with three guaranteed races in 2016, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.


American Muscle

“It’s kind of a winner-take-all situation, and hopefully it’s us,” said Spencer Pigot, 21, of Orlando, Fla.

Pigot enters the Sept. 12-13 doubleheader finale six points behind front-runner Jack Harvey of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian. Ed Jones of Carlin is 18 points out of the top spot and RC Enerson of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian is 36 points back.

Each Indy Lights race awards 30 points to the winner, 25 for second place through six points for 15th place. One bonus point is awarded each for the pole position, most race laps led and the fastest race lap.

Champions also will be crowned after Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires doubleheaders on the road course this weekend.

Pigot, the 2014 Pro Mazda champion, has recorded four Indy Lights victories among eight podium finishes and four poles with Juncos Racing, also a first-year Indy Lights competitor.

“We’ve all been in this situation before and we just have to focus on our own car, our own race and hopefully we can get a good qualifying spot and stay out front,” Pigot said. “In the back of our minds, we know that, no matter what, we have to beat Jack (Harvey). If we don’t find ourselves out front, that will be our next goal, to make sure we gain points in the first race and see what we can do in the second race.”

Harvey won both races of the 2014 Indy Lights finale at Sonoma Raceway to tie Gabby Chaves on points for the season, but lost out on the title on a tiebreaker. This season, Harvey has earned two victories among eight podium finishes in his second season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the seven-time Indy Lights championship team.

“Last year, I had two poles and two wins in the last race weekend of the year, so I feel very confident in what I can achieve as a driver and I’ve got massive belief in my team,” said Harvey, 22, of Lincoln, England. “It’s just down to me and my team to get the job done. Winning the championship would definitely help our cause progressing forward into (the Verizon) IndyCar (Series).”

The weekend races will complete the 30th season of Indy Lights competition in what began as the American Racing Series in 1986. Its rich history includes 100-plus graduates to Indy car racing, including 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon – one of three drivers to win both Indy Lights and Indy car titles along with Paul Tracy and Tony Kanaan.

“If you look at the current Verizon IndyCar Series grid, who’s come through that, all the good guys have been through Indy Lights at some point,” said Dixon, who won six of 12 races with PacWest Racing to earn the 2000 Indy Lights title and now has four Indy car championships under his belt. “Especially for a lot of the foreign drivers, you’ve never raced on an oval (prior to Indy Lights), so that’s where I learned the majority of my race craft on ovals. What an oval means, how to set up a car on an oval, how to respect the oval, how to learn not to crash on an oval.

“There’s a long list of things that without Indy Lights would not have been possible,” Dixon added. “There were some guys who kind of jumped in (to Indy cars) but they also struggled for quite some time until they got the knack of it. With Indy Lights, I kind of eradicated that. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Indy Lights.”

In Pro Mazda, Santiago Urrutia of Team Pelfrey holds a 29-point advantage over Neil Alberico of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing heading into the Laguna Seca doubleheader. Timothe Buret (Juncos Racing, minus-47 points) and Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport, minus-51 points) are also still mathematically eligible. The 2015 Pro Mazda champion earns a $590,300 scholarship toward an Indy Lights ride in 2016.

In USF2000, Nico Jamin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) holds a commanding 50-point advantage over Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) heading to the Laguna Seca doubleheader. Jamin put himself in firm control by sweeping a weekend tripleheader of races July 31-Aug. 2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The USF2000 champion receives a $378,000 scholarship to use toward a 2016 ride in Pro Mazda.

Live timing and scoring and track audio for all Mazda Road to Indy sessions at Laguna Seca, as well as live streaming video for the races, will be available onracecontrol.indycar.com.

2. Wilson’s Funeral Set for Sept. 10 in Native England: The funeral of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson will take place Sept. 10 at St. James the Great Church in Paulersbury, Northamptonshire, England, with a reception to follow at the Silverstone race circuit. Wilson, 37, succumbed Aug. 24 to a head injury sustained in a race the previous day.

A memorial service in Indianapolis will be held later this month. Details are forthcoming.

Numerous fundraising initiatives for the Wilson family are ongoing, and the Justin Wilson Memorial Auction begins Sept. 14 on eBay with helmets worn by Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in the Aug. 30 race at Sonoma Raceway being auctioned first. Sign up for updates at www.wilsonchildrensfund.com.

Tribute T-shirts and stickers with the logo are available for purchase online.

Contributions to the fund may be mailed to: Wilson Children’s Fund, c/o Forum Credit Union, P.O. Box 50738, Indianapolis, Ind. 46250-0738.

Following the Verizon IndyCar Series finale at Sonoma Raceway, American Honda Motor Company and Honda Performance Development contributed $50 per lap completed in the race by each of the 13 Honda-powered drivers to the Wilson Children’s Fund, which totaled $53,950. Firestone donated $25 for each of the 1,179 tires used during the race weekend, for a sum of $29,475.

3. Finalists Selected for Team USA Scholarship: Six young American race drivers recently competed in a two-day shootout at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for the 2015 Team USA Scholarship, with the two winners traveling to England to compete this fall in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford event at Silverstone.

The finalists, chosen from a group of 12 candidates who underwent an intense assessment comprising a variety of activities both on and off the racetrack, are:

• Ben Auriemma, 17, Manhasset, N.Y., F1600 Championship Series
• Dakota Dickerson, 18, San Diego, Skip Barber Racing Series/Spec Miata
• Tommy McCarthy, 16, Fremont, Calif., SCCA Spec Miata/USAC midgets
• Austin McCusker, 17, Glen Head, N.Y., F2000 Championship Series
• Timo Reger, 18, Houston, Skip Barber Racing Series
• Michai Stephens, 23, Evanston, Ill., F1600 Championship Series

The two winners will be selected later this month. They look to join the likes of former Team USA Scholarship winners Buddy Rice, JR Hildebrand, Conor Daly, Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta and Josef Newgarden.

4. Kimball’s Bonus Point Determines #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge Champion:Thank you, Charlie Kimball.

Leading Lap 15 of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30 gave the driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet a bonus point. It also pushed Kyle Hoffman to the top of the #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone standings.

Hoffman, who finished one point ahead of his closest competitor in the season-long contest in which fans earn points corresponding to results of their four drivers selected for each race, will receive a VIP package valued at $1,000 to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May 2016.

Individual race and season-ending prizes also are awarded to top finishers.

Hoffman said he was in second place in the Fantasy Challenge following the 13th race, but could not gain ground in the next two races – remaining 52 points behind the leader heading to Sonoma.

“At that point I realized that we were possibly matching our selections each week,” he said. “After the Sonoma race qualifying was complete, I made my selections on Saturdayin Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal. On Sunday, I said to my wife, ‘If I am to have any shot at this, I need to think outside the box and find the driver outside the top six to win.’

On Sunday, I changed my selection of Josef Newgarden to Charlie Kimball and the difference in the scoring between these two drivers was 53 points. So I say, ‘Thank you, Charlie Kimball.”’

5. Of Note: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Sebastien Bourdais, who has twice co-driven to victory in the V8 Supercars event at Surfers Paradise, Australia, will compete in the three Pirtek Enduro Cup races with Walkinshaw Racing. Co-driving with Lee Holdsworth, the first race is this weekend at Sandown. Bathurst and Surfers Paradise also are part of the Pirtek Enduro Cup races. … Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe will be welcomed as an honorary police officer of the Halton (Ontario) Regional Police Service on Sept. 11. Hinchcliffe, a native of Oakville, Ontario, will be a police ambassador as part of the “Stay on Track” campaign to enhance pedestrian and road safety across the region. … The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum on the grounds of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., is undertaking a major expansion. Barber Motorsports Park has hosted the Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend since 2010. The museum, which opened in October 2003, will add more than 84,000 square feet for a total of almost a quarter-million square feet on five floors. … Charitable programs combined to raise more than $55,000 during the Verizon IndyCar Series’ championship-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Proceeds from the majority of events will benefit Sonoma County youth organizations through the Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. … Rides in the INDYCAR Racing Experience street-legal two-seater will be available during the 12th Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Motorsports Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET Sept. 10. Hosted by the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology and the Motorsports Club, Motorsports Day gives students and racing fans a look into multiple forms of motorsports and career opportunities. IUPUI is home to the nation’s only motorsports engineering program. … Green Savoree Racing Promotions, organizer of the Honda Indy Toronto, announced that Jeff Atkinson has been promoted from vice president to president of the annual event at Exhibition Place. Atkinson, who for 10 years managed sponsorship, ticket and hospitality sales, takes over for Charlie Johnstone.


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