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Chris Griffis Memorial Test – Update #1 – Notebook from the two days of testing

 

By Steve Wittich

Consider tonight’s writings the first of two updates from the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test. For the seventh time, the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to all three steps on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

TSO Ladder has made this point each time we’ve covered this event, but we’re going to make it again and go one step further. We won’t call testing times meaningless, but we will reiterate that they are one of the last things that we look at when the two days of testing are done.

Need proof? If you take nine previous years of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test and multiply it by three, you come up with 27 drivers that have led the annual end of season test. Of those 27 drivers, only five (that’s 18.5%) have won the championship the next year.

So, what do we pay attention to?

How well does the driver progress from day to day and session to session? How does a driver that is new to the Road To Indy acclimate themselves to the car and tires? How does a driver fit in well with a new team? How ready is a driver that makes the jump to the next level? How does a driver interact with their teammates? How seriously does a driver take the test? These are all questions we attempt to answer before looking at the timesheets.

We will be back with notes from each day along with timesheets tomorrow, but for now, here is a notebook of some of the other things we learned this weekend.

The ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was blessed with wonderful fall weather (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)


If you haven’t yet, make sure you watch Road To Indy TV Episode 11 from the finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.


So, why is Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) testing with Belardi Auto Racing?

It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

From the team side, the experienced VeeKay piloting the team’s car during the test makes sense on two fronts. First, the Dutchman helped move the Juncos Racing program forward last year and should help the Brownsburg, Ind. based team do the same. Second, VeeKay is the perfect driver to showcase how competitive your cars will be against Andretti Autosport.

Rinus VeeKay provides feedback to Belardi Auto Racing engineer Kent Boyer at the 2019 Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

From the driver’s side, testing is so limited in modern racing that any extra seat time is beneficial.

VeeKay is coming off his second successful test with Ed Carpenter Racing. From all accounts that TSO Ladder has heard, the day-long outing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was very successful.

Look for news on the Dutch teenager’s future sooner than later.


Experienced newcomer?

TSO had a chance to chat with experienced newcomer Raoul Hyman, who is testing in Indy Pro 2000 with Exclusive Autosport.

Hyman was impressed with the PM-18’s torque and enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere in the paddock and especially with Exclusive Autosport. He hasn’t entirely made up his mind on where he will be racing next year but did tell us that he was leaning towards a switch to the U.S.A.

Raoul Hyman relaxes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before getting in an Exclusive Autosport Indy Pro 2000 car for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Hyman spent this past season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, finishing a disappointing 22nd in the championship. TSO doesn’t put much stock into that result. Last year was the first year for the new Dallara F3 2019 car, and the South African’s Sauber Charouz Racing System team didn’t have a handle on a car they’ve never run before.

The 23-year-old won the 2018 F3 Asian Championship, finished fourth in the 2019 Toyota Racing Series, and was a race winner in GP3 and BRDC Formula 4 Championship.

He’d be a great addition to the Road To Indy.


Lights car count and another test for the top rung of the Road To Indy

We’ve had some questions about why the Lights field is only five cars for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. There are several factors. Brand new team Exclusive Autosport is still prepping their cars. HMD Motorsports is focusing on getting their restarted USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 programs sorted.

Unfortunately, the FIA Formula 3 Championship post-season test is taking place at the same time in Valencia, Spain. That series, with a similar budget to Indy Lights, has 31 drivers entered across the three-days of testing.

Also, there will be another official Indy Lights test in a few months. The top level of the Road To Indy will join the Global MX-5 Cup and the Lucas Oil School of Racing Karting Shootout for a two-day test.

With surface changes, bumps, heavy braking zones, and 90-degree turns, the 1.6-mile, 11-turn short course does a great job of mimicking a street circuit.


Safety addition for the ‘kids’

Before next season, the USF-17, PM-18 and IL-15, will all be fitted with the Advanced Frontal Protection device. The AFP is designed to keep debris from the cockpit of the car and was added to the cars of the NTT IndyCar Series before the Indianapolis 500 last year.


IndyCar driver sighting

NTT IndyCar Series championship contender Alexander Rossi was in the USF2000 paddock on Sunday. Pieter Rossi, the 7-time IndyCar race winners father, helps guide the careers of several Road To Indy drivers. This weekend, the Rossi’s were working with Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy.

The Oconomowoc, Wisc. is coming off a successful first year of USF2000 action where he was one of only three drivers to complete every lap.


Road To Indy alum making good

At last year’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test, Igor Fraga spent Saturday wrenching on the Exclusive Autosport program in exchange for an opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Canadian team’s Indy Pro 2000 car.

This year, the Brazilian was at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, where he won the final two races of the 2019 Formula Regional European Championship season. Fraga won four races and stood on the podium in ten races on the way to finishing third in the series that utilizes the Tatuus F3 chassis mated to a 265+ HP Alfa Romeo power plant.

Fraga earned his seat by winning the FIA Gran Turismo Nation’s Cup along with the McLaren Shadow Project by beating over 500,000 contestants around the world.

Fraga, who just turned 21-years-old spent the 2018 racing season with Exclusive Autosport, collecting three podiums and finishing fourth in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.


New Town of Speedway denizen 

Juncos Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, and Dallara will soon have more racing company in the town of Speedway. The walls are currently going up on the new home of Abel Motorsports. The building is being built by ABEL Construction and is a partnership between team owner Bill Abel and Bob Lazier.


Speaking of Laziers

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier spent the test in the second Abel Motorsports PM-18 alongside Jacob Abel. The Vail, Colo. native experienced mechanical gremlins on Saturday but rebounded to turn a lap within one-second of the quickest lap of the weekend on Sunday.

The Chris Griffis Memorial Test was the first time the 20-year-old had been behind the wheel of an Indy Pro 2000 car, but he is not short of open-wheel experience. Lazier joined his grandfather Bob as a Formula B/Atlantic champion at the SCCA Runoffs, winning at Virginia International Raceway last weekend. The elder Lazier won the 1971 Formula B championship Road Atlanta in 1971.

Joining Lazier at the historic track where his grandfather, the 1981 Championship Auto Racing Teams Rookie Of The Year and his father Buddy, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

That’s it for us tonight. I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – VeeKay goes wire-to-wire again.

By Steve Wittich

For the sixth time in the 2019 Indy Lights season, Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) stood on the top step of the podium. Similar to Saturday’s race, VeeKay led from the green flag to the checkered flag in a demanding fashion.

Today’s 32 point haul marked the fifth time this season that the Dutchman took home ‘max points’ for winning from the pole and leading the most laps.

Rinus VeeKay is interviewed after his sixth Indy Lights win of the 2019 season (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“The Juncos team gave me a great car, and I had a good start, though Oliver was good with the push-to-pass,” said VeeKay after the final race of the 2019 season. “I’ve learned a lot about tire management and that really came into play today. It was great to win the little battle with Oliver today, to end up with more Road to Indy wins than he has. But the Road to Indy has taught me so much. Everything I’ve learned is what I will take to IndyCar, and I can show them what the Road to Indy means to drivers. I’m so happy; it is the best way to end the Road to Indy for me. I knew the championship was not to be this weekend, so to take both wins means a lot. It shows the IndyCar teams what I can do.”

VeeKay, who won for the 16th time in the last three seasons, now leads Askew by one win across their concurrent 48 race Road To Indy careers.

The win is the fifth in the last six Indy Lights races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Juncos Racing.

Askew didn’t quite have enough pace for VeeKay and Juncos Racing this weekend but ended his Road To Indy career with his 31st career podium.

“My engineer, Doug Zister, came on the radio and said it was my last stint of the season – and I gave it all I had,” explained Askew after the race. “We just didn’t have the speed this weekend; Juncos was strong. But I’m happy with our performance, today and all year long. I’m humbled and privileged to have raced for Andretti Autosport all year and hopefully our paths will cross again in years to come. And Rinus – it’s been an honor to race against him. We’ve made each other better drivers, and I can’t wait to have more battles with him in IndyCar.”

Askew joins Patricio O’Ward (2018), J.R. Hildebrand (2009) and Raphael Matos (2008) as the fourth Indy Lights champion for Andretti Autosport.

HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey rookie Toby Sowery finished on the final step of the podium, solidifying a third-place championship finish for the Cambridge, England driver. It was the eighth time that the distinctive Gap Guard/Rich Energy sponsored No. 2 finished in a podium position.

Toby Sowery on track at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The command to fire the turbocharged 2.0L AER engines for the last time in 2019 was given at 9:09 am.

After two pace laps to get their Cooper Tire slicks up to temperature, the front row of VeeKay and Askew brought the field to the green flag.

The Soul Red No. 21 of VeeKay was the first car to get to the corner, but behind him, things weren’t so simple. Sowery was able to get to the inside of Askew, but the newly crowned champion was able to out-brake the HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey driver, grabbing the second spot back around the outside.

The biggest loser in the Andretti Hairpin was Megennis, who dropped from his fourth starting spot to sixth. The Andretti Autosport rookie was able to get back past Kellett for fifth on the run up the Rahal Straight.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: VeeKay, Askew, Sowery, Norman, Megennis, Kellett, Malukas, Kohl.

VeeKay’s lead when they crossed the line to start the third lap was 0.5 seconds, but Askew has already used his push-to-pass four times.

The front three started to pull away from the rest of the field.

On Lap 5, Andretti Autosport teammates Megennis and Norman banged wheels at the turn-in of Turn 2, with Norman holding off the Cybersecurity sponsored No. 27.

On Lap 7, Megennis got to the inside of Norman in the same spot. This time, the New Yorker was able to muscle his way past the Three Chord sponsored No. 48.

To begin Lap 9, VeeKay had a 1.475 second lead over Askew, just within push-to-pass range. Sowery was 2.0 seconds behind Askew, outside of the push-to-pass zone.

At the one-third pole, VeeKay’s gap to Askew had grown to 1.7 seconds, putting the Dutchman outside of the 1.5-second push-to-pass range. The rest of the running order was Sowery, Megennis, Norman, Kellett, Malukas, and Kohl.

At the half-way point of the 30 lap race, VeeKay’s lead over Askew had stabilized right around the 2-second mark. After hanging onto the front pair for the first five laps, Sowery fell back five seconds. His grasp on the final spot of the podium was a safe 6.2 seconds.

With ten laps remaining, VeeKay’s lead had grown to 3.5 seconds over Askew. Behind them, the closest battle was between Norman and Kellett for fifth. The Canadian, who was the only driver to start on sticker Cooper Tires was able to stay within one second of Norman. The Andretti Autosport veteran was able to hold off Kellett

VeeKay took the white flag 5.7 seconds ahead of Askew, leading all 30 laps for the second day in a row.

After the race, championship winner Askew stopped in Turn 2 to celebrate by roasting his Cooper Tires and creating a smoke show.

Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #2 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 30 LAPS
2 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport -5.2942
3 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey -17.6197
4 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport -24.6287
5 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport -37.8798
6 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing -38.8016
7 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports -46.5417
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing -69.7772

Final 2019 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires standings

RANK DRIVER TOTAL BACK
1 Oliver Askew – R 486
2 Rinus VeeKay – R 465 -21
3 Toby Sowery – R 367 -119
4 Ryan Norman 359 -127
5 Robert Megennis – R 355 -131
6 David Malukas – R 301 -185
7 Dalton Kellett 275 -211
8 Lucas Kohl – R 253 -233
9 Aaron Telitz 133 -353
10 Zachary Claman 124 -362
11 Julien Falchero – R 66 -420
12 Jarett Andretti – R 23 -463
13 Chris Windom – R 17 -469

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – Saturday – VeeKay wins the day in dominating fashion – Askew clinches 3-race IndyCar Scholarship

By Steve Wittich

Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) won the day and the first Indy Lights race of the weekend. But, it was Oliver Askew that won the season and the 2019 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Championship and the three-race NTT IndyCar Series scholarship that goes with it.

VeeKay’s dominant 9.9 second green to checkered flag victory is his fifth victory of the year and the 15th in his Road To Indy career. That means the two long-time rivals are tied with 15 wins each.

Rinus Veekay and his Soul Red No. 23 were so fast they were a blur. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The win was the fourth in the last five Indy Lights races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Juncos Racing, moving them out of a tie with Tasman Motorsports and PacWest racing as the winningest Indy Lights teams at the iconic road course.

For the fourth time this season, Toby Sowery finished on the second step of the podium. His points he gathered for his sixth podium of the year, moved the HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey rookie past Ryan Norman into third in the championship. That means three different teams represent the top three in the championship.

Sowery leads Norman by three points and Megennis by nine points in the entertaining battle for third place in the championship.

Robert Megennis was able to get past his championship-winning teammate on the opening lap and was able to hold Askew off for the next 29 laps.

“It feels good to be back on the podium,” explained the New Yorker to TSO Ladder. “It feels like we are getting back in the swing of things. This is the best I’ve driven since Road America. It’s nice to finish off the season on a strong note and let’s go get another one tomorrow.”

Askew’s fourth-place finish was enough to clinch the Indy Lights championship and three-race NTT IndyCar Series scholarship that goes with it. Unfortunately, it brought an eight-race podium streak to an end.

We’ll have more on Askew’s impressive championship run over the next couple of days.

The first Road To Indy race of the weekend, the 30-lap Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products, began immediately after an exciting NTT IndyCar Series qualifying session. The ambient temperature was 79F, and the track temperature was 114F.

VeeKay was the first driver to get to the Andretti Hairpin, getting through the 190-degree corner before the rest of the field. Behind him, Megennis got a great start, getting past his teammate Askew and looking to the outside of Sowery in Turn 2. Sowery got a better drive off the corner and held the spot.

Belardi Auto Racing rookie Lucas Kohl had a moment on the run up the Rahal Straight, dropping the seventh place that he had gained at the start.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: VeeKay, Sowery, Megennis, Askew, Kellett, Malukas, Norman and Kohl.

On the second lap, Kellett dropped his left side Cooper Tires off track at the exit Turn 4, dropping the fifth spot to Malukas.

VeeKay was the only driver to start the 30-lap race on sticker tires, and he put them to good use. He was able to build a push-to-pass safe gap of just under two seconds after the first three circuits of 30 lap race.

“It would be pretty evident that is was,” explained Sowery to TSO Ladder. “We kind knew it would be because it is a high deg(radation) track for the tires, but we didn’t realize how much it would be. We were pushing at the start with push-to-pass, but it was just shooting in the dark.”

On Lap 5, Malukas started to put pressure on Askew for fourth place but wasn’t able to get around the Index Invest sponsored No. 28.

VeeKay continued to push his Soul Red No. 23, turning the quickest lap of the race to that point and building his lead to 3.6 seconds over Sowery.

On Lap 8, it became evident that VeeKay was not taking it easy, bouncing wildly over the pyramid curb at guarding the inside of Turn 8 and sliding sideways into the second half of The Corkscrew.

The running order after one-third of the race was complete was VeeKay, Sowery, Megennis, Askew, Malukas, Kellett, Norman and Kohl.

The drivers settled in to take care of their Cooper Tires, and at the halfway point of the race, VeeKay’s lead over Sowery was 5.61 seconds. Sowery had a substantial 6.3 second lead over Megennis, who was less than a second ahead of his teammate Askew.

Askew continued to pressure Megennis for the next five laps, and with ten laps remaining he was 0.75 second adrift.

VeeKay’s lead upfront with one-third of the race remaining was an extremely comfortable 8.1 seconds.

With five laps remaining, Askew took a look to the inside of Megennis in Turn 2, but Megennis defended effectively. Not long after that, Askew was out of the extra 50 horsepower push-to-pass activations.

VeeKay took the white flag 9.3 seconds ahead of Sowery, but behind the front pair, the battle for third, fourth, and fifth was covered by less than two seconds. The drivers were nose-to-tail as they reached the iconic Corkscrew, but they held station, crossing the line within 1.1 seconds of each other.

Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 30 LAPS
2 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey -9.8874
3 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport -23.1222
4 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport -23.9875
5 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports -24.3501
6 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing -47.3334
7 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport -47.9062
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing -1 LAP
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Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – VeeKay uses last minute flyer to grab his 7th pole of the season

By Steve Wittich

Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) might need a miracle to win his second straight Road To Indy, but the Juncos Racing rookie isn’t going down without a fight. The Dutchman turned the quickest lap of the weekend, timed at 75.671 seconds, to grab pole for the second straight day at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. It will the seventh time this season that the 19-year-old will start an Indy Lights race from the pole.

Askew, who will start third in today’s Indy Lights race, improved by one spot and the presumptive champion will begin Sunday’s finale beside rival VeeKay.

Starting on the second row is Portland International Raceway Race #2 winner Toby Sowery and Askew’s Andretti Autosport teammate Robert Megennis.

After a quiet first half of the 30-minute session, the timing sheet was as follows: VeeKay, Askew, David Malukas, Sowery, Dalton Kellett, Lucas Kohl, Megennis and Norman.

With five just over three minutes remaining, Sowery turned the quickest lap of the session, briefly grabbing the provisional pole before presumptive champion Askew went to the top of the timing screens. It wasn’t by much. Askew’s lap was only three-hundredths quicker than the HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey rookie.

Askew went even quicker on his next lap, breaking the 76 second barrier for the first time in the session. But, his time on the provisional pole didn’t last long. VeeKay was able to go two tenths quicker on his final flying lap of the session.

Askew took a lap to cool down his Cooper Tires and was on a flyer that had to be aborted when the Jupiter, Fla. driver came across a local yellow in The Corkscrew.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Qualifying #2 Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE
1 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:15.671 –.—-
2 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:15.849 0.1777
3 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey 1:16.104 0.4328
4 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:16.228 0.5574
5 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:16.393 0.7218
6 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 1:16.471 0.7999
7 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:16.500 0.8292
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:16.823 1.1518
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Exclusive Autosport expands into Indy Lights – race winners in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 planning to run two cars

 

Perennial Road To Indy race winners, Exclusive Autosport will be making a move into the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. The Michael Duncalfe led team has purchased a pair of IL-15s and is planning on fielding a couple of entries for the 2020 season.

“This is truly a dream come true,” explained Duncalfe. “When I started Exclusive Autosport in 2013, competing in the Road to Indy was always the goal; however, it seemed like a distant reality. To be sitting here, announcing that we are expanding to Indy Lights and have a four-tiered ladder system after seven years of competition, is one of the proudest moments of my career. This transition is a natural fit for the Exclusive Autosport program. Dan Andersen and the entire Road to Indy organization have been incredible to work with from day one. They have been very supportive of our efforts. We are thrilled to be a part of it. I want to thank my wife and children for all of their support and my incredible crew led by Mirl Swan. We are looking forward to what 2020 will bring.”

Exclusive Autosport’s entry into the top level of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires means that the list of teams expecting to take part in the 2020 season will grow to five.

Like most, I had aspirations to be an IndyCar driver.” Duncalfe told TSO Ladder. “Obviously, that wasn’t realistic for me, because I didn’t understand the business side of things early on. I’m absolutely thrilled to still be in a sport that I absolutely love and that I’m very passionate about. It’s been an incredible journey.”

The team is headquartered in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, and the Road To Indy portion of the team will be based in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Exclusive Autosport will be one of two teams with seats available on all three rungs of the Road To Indy ladder. HMD Motorsports recently announced that their goal in 2020 is to run cars in all three series.

Exclusive Autosport will also continue their successful F1600 effort where the team has won 17 championships in Canada. That includes the 2019 Toyo Tires F1600 Championship and Formula 1600 Super Series Championship with driver Olivier Bedard.

“Running at every level of the North American open-wheel ladder gives drivers the ability to graduate within our program from F1600 to USF2000 to Indy Pro 2000 to Indy Lights,” said Duncalfe when TSO Ladder asked him about the benefits of having cars in all series. “We establish a great relationship with a driver and a family giving them confidence in the team and staff that they are working with. That only helps the driver to continue that relationship instead of having to build a relationship with a new team every year.”

Exclusive Autosport is an off-shoot of former racer Duncalfe’s driver development and management entity Exclusive Management; moving into racing and importing race cars in 2013.

The team expanded into the USF2000 Championship in 2017, running full season programs for fellow Canadian Parker Thompson and Dev Gore. Success came almost immediately with Thompson standing on the podium in the squad’s first weekend of Road To Indy action. Thompson ended the team’s rookie season in third place in the championship, collecting three wins and three pole starts along the way.

The team’s USF2000 success continued in 2018 with Igor Fraga fighting for top honors among the drivers not named Kyle Kirkwood.

Last year, the team also moved into the Indy Pro 2000 series, once again entering a new championship with Thompson. Thompson won three races, falling just short of the championship after a season-long battle with eventual winner Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay).

This year, Rookie Danial Frost extended the team’s Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires winning streak to three years, winning on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway Park and the Exhibition Place street circuit in Toronto.

“The biggest thing is our ability to recognize what makes a driver tick and our ability to understand that every driver learns differently,” explained Duncalfe when asked what separates them from the other teams in the Road To Indy paddock. “We can adapt our program to what they need every year.”

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – VeeKay dominates Indy Lights qualifying

By Steve Wittich

For the third straight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) sixth time this season and 13th time in his Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career will start a race from the pole.

VeeKay’s pole-winning lap of 66.017 seconds was a dominating 0.628 seconds quicker than outside front row sitter, HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey rookie Toby Sowery.

Presumptive Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew will start behind VeeKay on the inside of row two with his Andretti Autosport teammate Robert Megennis beside him.

Today’s pole is the second at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Speedway, Ind. based Juncos Racing. Kyle Kaiser was a pole winner at his home track in 2016.

The eight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires drivers were the first of three straight Road To Indy series to hit the 2.258-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course for qualifying.

Because passing at the iconic circuit is difficult, the average starting position of the Indy Lights race winner at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is 1.95; qualifying is critical.

Before the halfway mark of the half-hour session, VeeKay and Sowery both spent time holding onto the provisional pole.

VeeKay’s lap of 66.6809 seconds at the 15-minute mark was two-tenths of a second ahead of Sowery. Askew was another tenth behind Sowery with Dalton Kellett and Robert Megennis.

At that point in the session, all drivers were on pit-road for adjustments and sticker tires.

The first drivers to go quicker on their fresh Cooper Tires were Sowery and Askew but were not able to surpass VeeKay who lowered the provisional pole to 66.681 seconds.

The next driver to go to the provisional pole was Kellett at 66.611 seconds. That didn’t last long before his teammate VeeKay went back to the top of the timing screen with a lap that was almost six-tenths of a second quicker than any other driver.

With just under one minute remaining the red flag and checkered flag came out for Dalton Kellett had an issue in Turn 6. The veteran Canadian was set to start on the outside of the front row but lost his quickest lap for causing the stoppage.

Qualifying results for Indy Lights race #1

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE
1 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:16.017 –.—-
2 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey 1:16.645 0.6282
3 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:16.792 0.7744
4 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:16.876 0.8588
5 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 1:17.038 1.0207
6 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:17.410 1.3926
7 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:17.439 1.4216
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:17.778 1.7609

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race #1 rolls off at 3:10 pm tomorrow.

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – Friday

By Steve Wittich

The first Indy Lights practice began promptly at 9:30 am. The skies were bright blue, and temperatures were comfortable in the mid-60s.

Oliver Askew led the early part of the session, but it was close. The top six drivers were all within a half-second of the 22-year-old.

We were able to watch the onboard of presumptive champion Askew for several laps in the first half of the session. The Index Invest sponsored No. 28 looked stable through ten of the 11 turns. Turn 6 seemed sketchy, but the high-speed left-hander should never be comfortable.

At the one-third point of the 45-minute session, VeeKay was the quickest driver at 77.286 seconds. Askew, Norman, Megennis, and Malukas made up the remainder of the top five.

With 25 minutes remaining, only Megennis was on track. The rest of the field was on pit road making adjustments before bolting on fresh Cooper Tire rubber and heading back on the track.

Megennis finally brought his Cybersecurity sponsored car to pit road and was replaced on track by his teammate Askew, who was the first driver back on track after replacing his Portland International Raceway carry over Cooper Tires.

Askew was quickly joined by teammate Norman and Belardi Auto Racing rookie Lucas Kohl.

With 20-minutes remaining in practice, Askew turned his quickest lap of the morning. The Jupiter, Fla. native went to the top of the timing screen, dropping the lowest time in two consecutive laps. He hit pit road immediately after turning a lap of 77.1958 seconds.

Juncos Racing teammates VeeKay and Kellett were the only drivers still on pit road with 17-minutes remaining.

With 10-minutes left in the session, only VeeKay and Megennis were the only cars still on the track.

With four minutes remaining, Kohl spun at the exit of the Corkscrew. The Belco Trading/Kohltrade/IVI Vision didn’t leave the tarmac, and he was able to continue.

In the last three minutes of the session, the trio of Andretti Autosport drivers lowered the quickest lap time several times. Askew was the first driver to turn a sub-77-lap and was joined by Megennis in the 76-second range.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Practice #1 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS FL
1 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:16.350 –.—- 22 22
2 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:16.545 0.1949 24 24
3 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:17.177 0.8277 20 20
4 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:17.267 0.9175 20 10
5 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:17.621 1.2709 20 8
6 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey 1:17.649 1.2989 22 18
7 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 1:18.481 2.1308 5 5
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:18.592 2.2422 26 17

Indy Lights are back on track for qualifying at 3:55 pm. You can get their autograph session in the fan village at 1:30 pm.

 

Race Weekend Basics

Race #1: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products
Race #2: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products

Race #1 green flag time: Saturday, September 21 at 3:10pm
Race #2 green flag time: Sunday, September 22 at 9:10am

Race #1 distance: 30 laps or 45 minutes
Race #2 distance: 35 laps or 60 minutes

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca qualifying track record: 74.2329 seconds by Max Chilton (Carlin) in 2015
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca race track records: 76.1633 by by Max Chilton (Carlin) in 2015

  • Each entry can utilize four new sets of Cooper Tire slicks as well as one set of used/scuffed tires from the race at Portland International Raceway
  • The timing line is located at Turn 10
  • Drivers failing to slow at least 15% in a timing sector with a local yellow will be subject to a two-place grid spot penalty
  • Drivers who fail to heed the checkered flag at the end of a session will receive a two-grid spot penalty
  • Causing one red flag will result in a driver losing their fastest lap
  • Causing a second red flag will wipe out all of drivers laps, and they will be parked for the remainder of the session
  • Driver points are distributed as follows: 30 – 25 – 22 – 19 – 17 – 15 -14 – 13 – 12 – 11 – 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – an additional one point will be awarded to the pole sitter and to the driver who leads the most laps.

 

 

Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:

Road To Indy schedules each feature 18 races

By Steve Wittich

An increased scholarship and award fund of 2.7 million dollars will await the winners on each of the three steps on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder after an 18-race 2020 season.

The schedule looks similar to 2019 with a few minor changes. Last year, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires joined the NTT IndyCar Series in their debut at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. This year, the top-level open-wheel series in the United States will be joined by the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

The April doubleheader will be the first race appearance for the lowest rung of the ladder on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course. The Indy Pro 2000 series has made one previous appearance at the Austin, Texas track, starting their 2013 season with a pair of races.

In 2020, the Indy Lights returns to Barber Motorsports Park to contest a pair of races on the tricky and undulating 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course. The series has contested 14 previous races at the Birmingham, Alabama circuit.

“I am very happy with our calendar for next season,” said Dan Andersen, Owner, and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We’ve managed to eliminate the large break we have had in April with a return to Barber Motorsports Park for Indy Lights and the addition of Circuit of The Americas for Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000. Now all three series are racing monthly from March through September.”

2020 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
3-4 April 4/5 Barber Motorsports Park Birmingham Alabama
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 18 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

2020 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 7/8 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
Open Test April 23 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
3-4 April 25/26 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 11 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
Open Test September 3 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 7/8 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
Open Test April 23 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
3-4 April 25/26 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 11 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
Open Test September 3 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

We’ll be back more on some cost saving initiatives in a while.

Chris Griffis Memorial Test provides the perfect introduction to the Road To Indy and NTT IndyCar Series

By Steve Wittich

Since 2011, the Chris Griffis Memorial Test has introduced several notable names to the Road To Indy as well as the NTT IndyCar Series.

The temperatures were brisk, but the skies were sunny during that first test held in late October in honor of Chris Griffis, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Lights team manager who passed away suddenly that September.

Making their U.S debut during the two days of testing were a pair of future NTT IndyCar Series drivers.

Carlos Munoz, an IndyCar race winner, and two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up took part in the Indy Lights portion of the test.

In Indy Pro 2000, it was Jack Hawksworth, who made his first appearance on American Soil. The 2012 Indy Pro 2000 champion has made 49 IndyCar starts and is currently wheeling a Lexus RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Hawksworth has won twice this year and is now third in the season-long championship.

Jack Hawksworth during his first test on U.S. soil at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

“It was my first time in the (United) States for motor racing,” explained Hawksworth to TSO Ladder when asked about that test. “Indianapolis – the famous circuit known all over the world – so going there and going through the gates was very cool.”

“I had a lot of fun — it what effectively sparked my interest in the US. The test went quite well and helped me get a deal done with Team Pelfrey, and set me on my way. I raced (Star) Mazda the next year, and I’ve been racing over here ever since.”

Also appearing in the 2011 test was Nicolas Latifi, who was making his first appearance in cars before moving to Europe to chase his Formula 1 dream. The 24-year-old Canadian has won four times in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this season and is currently second in the championship table.

IndyCar drivers Kyle Kaiser and Jack Harvey made their Road To Indy debuts at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Between them, the pair of drivers have ten Indy Lights wins.

Also making their Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debuts in 2013 were:

  • Aaron Telitz, 2019 Indy Lights race winner, IndyCar hopeful and endurance driver for Lexus RC F GT3 program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
  • Jacob Edison, a professional sports car driver.
  • Nico Jamin, a professional sports car driver, piloting an LMP2 for Duqueine Engineering in the European Le Man Series.

In 2014, reigning Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward took the reins of a Team Pelfrey Indy Pro 2000 machine. The then 15-year-old led the test, using that momentum to put together a full season effort for 2015.

Patricio O’Ward gets instruction during the 2014 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Also making their debut in Indianapolis that weekend was perennial championship contender Parker Thompson. In 76 Road To Indy starts, the Canadian has a dozen wins to go along with 31 career podiums.

The following year, the annual end of season test moved to Circuit of The Americas, where a quartet of familiar names made their Road To Indy debuts. Current Indy Lights drivers Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) and Robert Megennis were joined by Indy Pro 2000 front-runners Kyle Kirkwood and Sting Ray Robb, who all tested USF2000 machinery.

In 2016, it was presumptive 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew who impressed in his Road To Indy debut.

Current USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 championship contenders Hunter McElrea and Rasmus Lindh took part in their first official Road To Indy tests during the 2017 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017.

The test, scheduled for October 19 and 20 should fit perfectly for drivers from around the world to have a chance to drive across the famous yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately, in the past, the test that was held in September often coincided with other worldwide series. This year, there is no conflict with the following worldwide junior open-wheel series FIA Formula 3 Championship – Euroformula Open Championship – Formula Renault Eurocup – BRDC British Formula 3 Championship – F3 Americas Championship – F3 Asian Championship – Japanese Formula 3 Championship – Italian F4 Championship – ADAC Formula 4 Championship – Formula 4 United States Championship – F4 Spanish Championship – China Formula 4 Championship- SMP F4 Championship- F4 Danish Championship – F2000 Championship Series -Australian Formula Ford Championship – F1600 Championship Series- Ontario F1600 – Quebec F1600 and BRSCC Formula Ford.

Friday will consist of an educational summit, and each series will have 4.5 hours of track time on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course throughout Saturday and Sunday.

If you are driver looking for a seat for the two-day test, you can find the team contact info at the links below.

Indy Lights teams
Indy Pro 2000 teams 
USF2000 teams 

Here is the on-track schedule:

Saturday

TIME EVENT
7:30am – 8:30am Track Walk
9am – 9:45am USF2000 Practice #1
9:55am – 10:40am Indy Pro 2000 Practice #1
10:50am – 11:35am Indy Lights Practice #1
11:45am – 12:30pm USF2000 Practice #2
12:30pm – 1:15pm Lunch
1:15pm – 2pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #2
2:10pm – 2:55pm Indy Lights Practice #2
3pm – 3:45pm USF2000 Practice #3
3:55pm – 4:40pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #3
4:50pm – 5:35pm Indy Lights Practice #3

Sunday

TIME EVENT
9am – 9:45am USF2000 Practice #4
9:55am – 10:40am Indy Pro 2000 Practice #4
10:50am – 11:35am Indy Lights Practice #4
11:45am – 12:30pm USF2000 Practice #5
12:30pm – 1:15pm Lunch
1:15pm – 2pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #5
2:10pm – 2:55pm Indy Lights Practice #5
3pm – 3:45pm USF2000 Practice #6
3:55pm – 4:40pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #6
4:50pm – 5:35pm Indy Lights Practice #6

A quick thought from Steve:

These are two of my favorite days of the racing season. I relish the chance to meet young drivers that are possibly embarking on their Road To Indy journey . It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but a the same time, it’s still serious business. It’s a little like being able to watch a first date as drivers and teams both work hard to make an excellent first impression on each other. Is that a little creepy? Yes, but I can’t deny that it’s entertaining and informative.

Current Indy Pro 2000 points leader Kyle Kirkwood made his Road To Indy debut at the 2015 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Circuit of The Americas (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Catching up with Dakota Dickerson – the 2019 F3 Americas Championship Powered By Honda champion

By Steve Wittich

TSO Ladder had a chance to catch up with Dakota Dickerson, the newly crowned F3 Americas Championship Powered By Honda champion at Portland International Raceway last weekend.

Dickerson was back in the Road To Indy paddock coaching Legacy Autosport newcomer Ayrton Ori. The 22-year-old has made 33 USF2000 starts since 2016, including two earlier this year with Legacy Autosport.

With five wins and nine podiums in the first 13 races, the 2018 F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda champion clinched this year’s championship three races early. Dickerson heads to the final event at Sebring International Raceway with a 77-point championship lead.

Dakota Dickerson on track during an F3 Americas Championship Powered By Honda race at Road America (Photo Courtesy of F3 Americas Championship Powered By Honda)

“It’s an awesome feeling being able to clinch the Championship today,” said the third-generation racer. “It was an uphill battle in the race having to start from the back, but we got a flying start and made our way up to second in the first lap. From there, it was just a matter of staying consistent and getting the points that we needed. I can’t thank the Global Racing Team enough for their tremendous effort and support. We’ll celebrate this weekend and keep our heads down to look for some wins at Sebring.”

Dickerson is using the final event of the season to raise money for Nowzad Rescue. The organization helps reunite companion animals with American soldiers that they have formed a bond with while on deployment in Afghanistan. You can find out more and donate here, please. —> Paws on Racecar – Dakota Dickerson Racing fundraiser for Nowzad 

The Californian’s dream drive is in the NTT IndyCar Series. In that light, Dickerson is working hard to put together the support to test an Indy Lights machine at the upcoming Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The former Team USA Scholarship winner is keeping his options open to sports cars though, taking part in some IMSA Prototype Challenge races. That includes a win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.

You can follow Dickerson’s journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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