INDIANAPOLIS — Story and photo by Race Chaser Online Open Wheel Correspondent Ryan Kent Jr. —
Although the original season-opening race in Brasilla was cancelled, the hype is still ramping up over the start of the 2015 season.
Verizon IndyCar Series Media Day was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tuesday, and gave a look at every team — and the fact that a thrilling new era of IndyCar racing may be just on the horizon.
The day started off with Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe discussing their 2015 ventures. Rahal started by stating that he was feeling good about 2015. Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan has hired some new personnel for the campaign and Rahal is also excited about the new aero kits.
James Hinchcliffe, coming off the signing of new teammate James Jakes, said he is excited to move to a new team and a new year.
“It’s been a really great transition,” Hinchcliffe said. “It all happened quickly after the season ended.”
The Canadian will drive the Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports No. 77 machine in 2015 after driving for Andretti Autosport last year.
The revealing of the new aero kits that fans, drivers, and everyone alike have been waiting for finally came to fruition today. Chevy executives Mark Kent, Jim Campbell, and Chris Berube introduced the new plans. The Chevy side of the aero development will contain 123 new pieces — including new end plates, variations of side pods and rear wings.
The Road/Street course package contains 91 new pieces and 40 different combinations. The car, designed in part by a 3D printer and computer graphic technology, is highly anticipated by many drivers
“It’s just an extra tool, extra information,” said Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya. “At the beginning, I’ll tell you it’s (going to be) a little bit hard because you have that much more data to look at.”
The stars of Chip Ganassi took to the microphones next to discuss 2015.
“It’s always great to be on a team like Chip Ganassi Racing, have great partners,” said Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball. “It’s always a great opportunity to come in and learn. You know you have the tools to be able to succeed. There’s pressure, because you know you have to go out and win racing.”
“Having won in 2013, last year not having won a race, something that’s high on our priority list for this year.”
Fellow Ganassi pilot Scott Dixon is feeling good about his upcoming season.
“We obviously work very hard as a team,” Dixon said. “At Chip Ganassi Racing, it’s open book, and we try to push the envelope to advance all the cars. But I’m personally excited about our program, I think we’re going to have a great year.”
While James Hinchcliffe moved away from Andretti Autosport in the off-season, the three-car team still carries a lot of momentum into a championship driven season.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending Indianapolis 500 Champion, is excited for the new aero package, and to get back behind the wheel.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for the team and for myself personally to be an Indy 500 winner,” Hunter-Reay said. “We feel like we’re hopefully getting started now. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve been busy in the whole off-season preparing for this race. It’s going to be a big hill to climb with the new car, with the aero kit and everything else. It’s going to be new problems.”
“We’re going to effectively come at it from a different angle. The drivers are going to have to be open-minded about it. Certainly it’s great to be coming back as the defending winner. But we have a lot of work to do as a team. I see in many ways my teammates as some of the best and hardest guys to beat when racing at the Indy 500.”
Marco, the son of Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti, will run a new number in 2015 — the No. 27, formerly held by Hinchcliffe. IndyCar’s most famous son also proclaimed he is ready to roll.
“Yeah, we’re very excited,” Marco expressed. “We’ve been doing a ton of off-season testing, more so than ever in my career. But I’m ready to go racing. It’s been a long off-season. We’re really excited to, as Dixon said, start to see the pace on different circuits, whoever comes out on top.”
The next generation of IndyCar is something that has been highly made possible by the development of the Mazda Road to Indy. Three current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who came from the MRTI — Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves, and Josef Newgarden — took to the stage next.
Before the trio took the stage, Sage told Race Chaser Online that he would indeed be on the grid at St. Pete. The No. 8 Chip Ganassi Chevy will be sponsored by GE LED lighting, a sponsor relatively new to the Ganassi Racing family.
“Really looking forward to that,” Karam smiled. “Looking forward to getting in the series again. Yeah, let’s get the series going.”
Sage went on to say that they are still working on a full time series deal, but that his is most certainly happy to get the ball rolling with this announcement.
Gabby Chaves, fresh off announcing he would be competing with 2011 Indianapolis 500 winning Bryan Herta Autosport told the media: “I ran a test with Bryan Herta mid-December and it went very well. Everyone was very pleased. After that everything took off. We worked very hard to secure this deal. I’m just very happy to be here and very grateful for this opportunity.”
Meanwhile Josef Newgarden, who is entering his fourth year in the Verizon IndyCar Series, comes into 2015 with new aero kits from a new manufacturer along with a newly-restructured team, CFH Racing.
“First off, I think it’s awesome that I can still pass for the young generation,” Newgarden quipped. “I’m going on my fourth year, which I can’t believe. But these are the young guns now. Sage and Gabby are such bright stars for the future. We have many more in the pipeline. The Mazda Road to Indy has done a good job at cultivating young talent. Have to keep getting young guys like Gabby and Sage into the system.”
“It’s two great teams, Ed Carpenter Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Both have very local, home grown groups, prideful for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s great putting them together, getting everyone on the same page. … We have Luca Filippi, he is going to be in the car with Ed Carpenter splitting the time. … (It’s) been awesome, fantastic getting to learn about him, to learn how a two-car team works.
“For us, that’s the challenge. You have Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, who are so successful with multi-car groups. For us, it’s about learning how to make that work. That’s the big headline for us.”
In terms of jumping into a midget at the Chili Bowl, the 24-year-old seemed as confident at making a run in Tulsa as he is during May in Indianapolis
“That’s not an easy thing to jump into,” Newgarden, who watched his team owner Sarah Fisher do so in January, admitted. “They run so many races in that series, those type of series, that it’s difficult to try and wrestle those guys and come out on top. One day I’d like to be part of the Chili Bowl though. I hear it’s a blast to be part of that event. Maybe one day you’ll see me there.”
Finally Team Penske, now a four-car team with the addition of Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, took questions from the media.
Coming off climbing to the top of the mountain in 2014, Will Power is ready to defend his championship title and talked about how it felt to finally win after three years of disappointment.
“(It was) super satisfying, something I worked really hard for for the last 15 years,” Power explained. “To finally get it, get the monkey off the back, yeah, it’s given me more motivation this year. I don’t have to worry about that now. I know I can do it.
“Man, (it was) just really cool. Really good feeling. Hope to back it up this year.”
Helio Castroneves, who will compete in his 15th Indianapolis 500 in 2015, is anxious to win another 500 and tie the greats with his fourth win in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“Last year was exciting, really cool. (I’ve heard) so many people saying what a great race (it was),” Yes, the end was terrible, but the race was really cool. To be in that challenge, fighting for the win, have that opportunity, it was just awesome.”
“Hopefully (this year) we don’t need to be 6/100ths behind,” Castroneves laughed. “But I think with the aero kit, it’s going to differentiate a lot for the fans trying to see. I think it’s going to be fast. It’s going to be cool. I can’t wait to start 2015, to be honest.”
With aero kit plans becoming slowly released, driver announcements happening, and sponsorship deals happening, St. Pete is just around the corner and today was just the beginning of the Final Countdown.
Fasten your seatbelts folks, because if today was any indication — the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is going to be one to remember.