On To NOLA: De Silvestro Gets Another Shot

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 8 2015
Simona de Silvestro will be behind the wheel of the No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda in New Orleans. (Photo courtesy INDYCAR)

Simona de Silvestro will be behind the wheel of the No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda in New Orleans. (Photo courtesy INDYCAR)

Simona de Silvestro’s Verizon IndyCar Series comeback tour will continue this weekend in a fourth Andretti Autosport entry for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

The 2010 IndyCar Rookie of the Year, de Silvestro started 11th and finished 18th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) on March 29. The Streets of St. Pete marked de Silvestro’s return to the series after a year spent in pursuit of a Formula One ride. De Silvestro previously made 65 starts over four IndyCar Series seasons.

“Simona obviously didn’t have the greatest outcome in St. Pete, but she was always up there fighting to get ahead,” Michael Andretti, president, chairman and CEO of Andretti Autosport, said in a statement. “She proved herself both on-and-off the track. The great thing about Simona is that she keeps her head down and continues to push – she fights hard. We’re happy to be able to bring her back for another round before the Indy 500.”

Andretti Autosport confirmed on April 2 that de Silvestro would drive the team’s fifth entry for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. The team also will field an entry for Justin Wilson in addition to its regular Honda-powered rides for reigning Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz.

De Silvestro again will drive the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda during Sunday’s 75-lap/205.5-mile event around the 2.74-mile/13-turn NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is the first Indy-car race at NOLA Motorsports Park and first major auto race in Louisiana since a 1995 IMSA GT event in downtown New Orleans.

“It’s great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg,” said de Silvestro, a 26-year-old native of Switzerland. “I’m really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race. I’m thankful for all that Michael and everyone at Andretti Autosport have been doing to make all of this happen.”

In support of the local community, de Silvestro will be carrying branding from Ochsner Health Systems along with the Racing for Kids badge on her car.

NBC Sports Network will air qualifying Saturday at 5 p.m. (EDT). NBCSN’s live race telecast will start Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (EDT).

Development driver Sage Karam will join the Chip Ganassi Racing Teams lineup for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. Karam’s No. 8 Chevrolet will carry sponsorship from COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records for his second Verizon IndyCar Series event with the team.

Karam signed a multi-year deal last season as a CGRT development driver, beginning with the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Karam finished 19th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in his first street-course race. In so doing, Karam became the youngest driver in CGRT history to start an IndyCar race at age 20. Team Target driver Scott Dixon previously held the mark at 22-years-old when he debuted for CGRT at The Milwaukee Mile in 2002.

Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing has signed JR Hildebrand for double duty at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month.

Hildebrand will drive the No. 6 Preferred Freezer Services CFH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, the team’s third entry, for the two Verizon IndyCar Series events at IMS. Hildebrand will be teamed with Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi for the May 9 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road- course and join Newgarden and team co-owner Ed Carpenter or the Indy 500, set for May 24 on the 2.5-mile oval.

Hildebrand, 27, teamed with Carpenter in last year’s Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter Racing, which merged in the offseason with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to form CFH Racing. Carpenter won the Indy 500 pole, while Hildebrand qualified ninth and finished 10th. Hildebrand will ride with sponsorship from Preferred Freezer Services of New Jersey for the second straight year.

Hildebrand will be making his first start on the 2.439-mile/14-turn IMS road-course during the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Hildebrand was leading the 2011 Indy 500 on the final lap when he crashed exiting Turn 4, opening the door for Dan Wheldon’s improbable second victory.

Engine supplier Chevrolet, which earned 128 points in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, has been penalized 220 points per Verizon IndyCar Series regulations.

According to Rule of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook, 20 points will be deducted for a non-minor engine repair. Eleven of 12 Chevrolet twin-turbocharged V6 engines in the field underwent repairs following the event on the Streets of St Pete.

All Chevrolet and Honda competitors are using the first of their allotted four engines covering 10,000 miles for the season. Engine manufacturers, drivers and entrants receive championship points corresponding to their finish in a race (points are awarded to both manufacturers’ top three race finishers). Bonus points are awarded to the corresponding driver who earns the Verizon P1 Award (one point) and the manufacturer leading the most laps (two points).

Manufacturers also can earn 10 points for each engine that reaches its 2,500-mile change-out limit. But 20 points will be deducted for an engine failing to complete its life cycle and 20 points will be deducted for an engine undergoing a non-minor repair that requires a component change, subject to approval by sanctioning body INDYCAR. The latter is what occurred with the 11 Chevrolet engines.

Juan Pablo Montoya earned 50 points for the St. Petersburg race win, followed by Team Penske teammate Will Power’s 40 points for second and third-place finisher Tony Kanaan’s 35 points for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Power earned Chevrolet a bonus point for claiming the Verizon P1 Award. Chevrolet-powered drivers led 105 of 110 laps to earn two additional points, for a total of 128.

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was the highest finisher among Honda drivers, in seventh place. He earned 26 points for the manufacturer, which totaled 70 points. Following the Chevrolet sanctions, Honda holds a 162-point advantage in the manufacturers’ championship heading into Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 8 2015
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