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Barber Test A Honda vs. Chevy Power Struggle

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 23 2017

Will Power showed big power Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Team Penske’s Will Power led a parade of 22 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers turning test laps at Barber Motorsports Park Tuesday in advance of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama _ third of 17 races on this year’s schedule, set for April 21-23.

A total of 1,147 laps were run on Barber’s 2.3-mile/17-turn permanent road-course in Birmingham, Ala. And while Power _ a two-time Barber race-winner and three-time pole-sitter _ wound up fastest after six hours of practice, the result was by no means decisive. The top 14 drivers on the combined speed chart were separated by less than a half-second.

Power set the day’s best lap at 1 minute, 7.7518-seconds/122.211 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The Aussie edged second-year series driver Max Chilton and his No. 8 Gallagher Honda by less than a hundredth of a second.

“It just shows how tight it is between Honda and Chevy now,” Power said. “It’s tough, man. We just went through a bunch of stuff to see what it does and I think we got some good answers here. I think we’ve got a good car for here; I feel good about my setup.”

Chilton, driving for the Chip Ganassi Racing team that switched to Honda from Chevrolet in the offseason, put down a lap of 1:07.7591-seconds/122.198 mph to finish second on the leader board.

“Good day apart from Power spoiling the fun at the end of the day, but it’s all good fun,” Chilton said. “We got a lot done. We actually were struggling a lot with the car all day, that’s why we took a long, long lunch break to sort of change the car. Then we definitely made steps forward, did a few fine-tunes. It’s amazing, you make a few changes and you jump yourself up the board.”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and fourth, respectively, on the chart. Newgarden is in his first full season with Roger Penske’s team, ironically replacing Montoya, who will drive for “The Captain” at the two Indianapolis Motor Speedway races in May.

Newgarden, whose fast lap was 1:07.8402-seconds/122.052 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy, admitted it took him time to adapt to the new tire supplied by Firestone for the Barber circuit.

“Very different feeling from the car today than I’ve ever had at Barber, and that requires a lot of work,” said Newgarden, the 2015 Barber race-winner for Ed Carpenter Racing. “But we had a good day and the Verizon No. 2 car was fast. I think it has a lot of speed in it, it’s just a matter of how we get that out of the car and how to make it consistent so that I can put the lap together for qualifying.”

Montoya was fourth-quick in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:07.8406-seconds/122.051 mph despite it being his first time in an Indy car since the 2016 season-finale six months ago. For the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, it really was like riding a bike.

“I feel like I drove the car yesterday,” Montoya said. “It’s kind of fun. I’ve been out of the car since September but I feel fine. I have a new crew, new guys, new engineer. It’s working really well.”

Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively. Sato was fastest in the three-hour first session, but was among the 19 drivers who improved their times in the second practice as teams honed-in on setups. Push-to-pass also was activated on all cars for the final hour of the second practice, giving a 60-horsepower boost whenever it was used.

Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the March 12 season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, was 13th-fastest overall in his Dale Coyne Honda. Defending Barber winner and series champion Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske ran 10th.

Next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The famed Southern California street-course event will air live at 4 p.m. (EDT) April 9 on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama follows two weeks later at Barber Motorsports Park, airing at 3 p.m. (EDT) on the same networks.

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Two of the most recognizable names in motorsports history are the newest inductees into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and legendary driver/constructor Bruce McLaren have been voted into the IMS Museum by a panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

Franchitti won 31 races during his illustrious Indy car career, including victories in the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012. The Scottish-born driver won four Verizon IndyCar Series championships (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and lost a fifth on a tie-breaker in 1999. Franchitti also was part of a winning effort at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2008.

“Dario Franchitti’s winning performances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are some of the most memorable in IMS history,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “His three wins in a five-race space, coupled with four front-row starts and six top-seven finishes in just 10 starts, prove Dario understood how to compete at IMS. In addition, Dario was a fan-favorite because of the combination of his mastery in the car coupled with his understanding and appreciation of the history of the Indianapolis 500. He, more than most, will understand the honor of becoming a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame.”

The two inductees were chosen from a ballot of 16 nominees, seven of whom received at least 50 percent of the vote. A nominee needed to be named on 75 percent of the ballots, or finish first in his or her voting category, to be inducted.

“Quite apart from having compiled an exceptional and well-documented driving career of his own,” IMS historian Donald Davidson said, “Dario continuously displays the most profound respect for those who went before him, along with pure passion for the history of motorsport, not only by collecting memorabilia, but even to the point of having taken a course in car restoration.”

McLaren was a highly successful driver, designer, constructor and engineer, whose name lives on in the eponymous Formula One team that has captured eight constructor’s championships and 12 driver’s titles. As a driver McLaren won four Formula One races, two Can-Am Series championships and co-drove to a win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon.

“Even decades after his passing, the name Bruce McLaren instantly conjures up vivid memories for racing enthusiasts around the world,” Davidson said, “whether they be for his Formula One driving days; for his analytical approach to racing; his decision to start up his own marque when he could well have continued to drive for other people; his utter dominance, along with fellow-New Zealander Denis Hulme of the Can-Am series in the late 1960s or for the legendary organizations he left behind which compiled multiple Formula One constructor championships and Indianapolis 500 wins.”

The Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum honors and celebrates individual contribution to the sport of automobile racing. It was founded in 1952 under auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 1962 under the direction of then-Speedway President Anton “Tony” Hulman.

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American icon Mario Andretti will be honored by the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) at Watkins Glen, N.Y., with the 2017 Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Motorsports on Aug. 31.

Andretti is considered by many to be the greatest race car driver in history, having posted victories at virtually every level of motorsports in a career that spanned five decades. Andretti was named Driver of the Year in three different decades _ the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. He also was named Driver of the Quarter Century in the 1990s, while The Associated Press named him Driver of the Century in January 2000.

Andretti will receive the Argetsinger Award at a gala dinner presented by NASCAR, International Speedway Corp., Watkins Glen International and IMSA. The dinner will be at the internationally renowned Corning Museum of Glass in nearby Corning, N.Y., and precede the Verizon IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen weekend at WGI.

The 2017 award will be the fourth presented by the IMRRC. Chip Ganassi was the inaugural recipient in 2014. Richard Petty was the 2015 honoree and Roger Penske was cited in 2016. The award memorializes Cameron R. Argetsinger, founder and organizer of the first races at Watkins Glen almost 70 years ago.

“Watkins Glen’s impact on auto racing can’t be measured, and we have Cameron Argetsinger to thank,” Andretti said. “This award represents the influence he had on our sport, and to follow Chip Ganassi, Richard Petty and Roger Penske to receive the Argetsinger Award is a tremendous honor.”

The Glen was the site of Andretti’s triumphant “homecoming” in 1978, wearing the crown of Formula One World Driving Champion into the U.S. Grand Prix. Driving for Colin Chapman at Team Lotus, Andretti had become the first driver in motor racing history to win the Formula One and Indy Car titles. He joined Phil Hill as the only Americans ever to capture the FIA-sanctioned F1 world title.

Andretti has supported the work of the Racing Research Center since its opening in 1999. He serves on the Center’s Drivers Council and twice has been chairman of the annual membership campaign. “The Racing Research Center is doing valuable work, taking care of the history of racing. The collections are a great source of information, and they’re always expanding,” Andretti said. “This success shows that we in racing understand how important the work is, and I’m proud to have been involved with the Center from the beginning.”

Bobby Rahal, chairman of the IMRRC’s Governing Council, described Andretti as “an icon of the world, let alone the sport of auto racing. The name ‘Mario’ is immediately recognized around the globe, in the same way other one-name celebrities have become household words. It’s a privilege for the IMRRC to honor Mario with the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award. His impact on the sport for more than 50 years cannot be measured.”

The Cameron R. Argetsinger Award Dinner is open to the public at $250 per person. Tickets may be purchased online at http://bit.ly/2nAaWIW  or by calling the Racing Research Center at (607) 535-9044.

The Racing Research Center is an archival and research library and a 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the materials of motorsports, all series and all venues, worldwide. The Argetsinger Award was established to honor a person in the motorsports industry who is recognized universally for having advanced and improved the sport. The honoree brings prestige to motorsports and demonstrates commitment to the future of racing.

Joie Chitwood, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISC, said Andretti exemplifies those qualifications. “As the only driver in history to win the Formula One Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, Mario Andretti is in a class by himself,” Chitwood said. “His passion, skill and success in racing are legendary, and it is extremely fitting that he be recognized with the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Motorsports.”

Andretti won the Indy Car National Championship four times and was a three-time winner at Sebring, Fla. In a career that began in 1959 at the age of 19, four years after arriving in the United States from his native Italy, Andretti earned 111 racing victories. He won races in formula cars, sports cars, sprint cars and stock cars and on ovals, road courses, drag strips, dirt and pavement.

 “The label ‘living legend’ is perhaps a bit over-used these days, but when referencing Mario Andretti it’s a statement of fact,” said Scott Atherton, IMSA president and chief operating officer. “His long list of accomplishments at the highest levels of multiple forms of motorsport places him in a category all his own and has established a benchmark that is unlikely to ever be duplicated. For these reasons and many more, he is a most appropriate and deserving recipient of the Argetsinger Award.”

Michael Printup, president of WGI, praised Andretti as a racer, champion, family man and father. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better person in motorsports than Mario,” Printup said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 23 2017
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