Firestone Indy Lights and IZ IndyCar Class Photo

When the Auto Club Speedway gates opened at 11am, the sun already felt hotter than the 81 degrees F on the thermometer. The crews were working in what appeared to be a leisurely fashion, for the 6:10pm PT start of the MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar race on the two-mile oval. No warm-ups needed.

Meanwhile, back at the Firestone Garage, all the drivers from Firestone Indy Lights and IZOD IndyCars were posing for their class picture – a photo op not to ever be repeated. IZOD is leaving as title sponsor for the IndyCar series, and Firestone is ending it 23-year history with the Indy Lights Series, which was recently acquired by DAN ANDERSON.

Dan Andersen is the owner and CEO of Palmetto-based Andersen Promotions, which will license and operate all of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series, including Indy Lights Series, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. All those series will run Cooper Tires.

Tristan Vautier's No.55 Honda
Tristan Vautier’s No.55 Honda

Saturdays IndyCar Championships for Drivers and Manufacturers just got a bit more complicated. It’s all about the numbers. Friday final practice was ill-fated for Rookie TRISTAN VAUTIER/No.55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. He turned one slow lap, the reason being his engine expired. The crew is busy changing the engine, so he will be on Engine #6, which renders him ineligible to score Manufacturer Points. It’s going to get busy at the back of the pack with all the drivers relegated to that spot due to “unapproved engine changes”, i.e. more than the allotted five engines.

Six drivers on are Engine #6 – Contender HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet; Points Leader SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Honda, TAKUMA SATO/No.14 AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda, JAMES JAKES/No.16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Vautier, and JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Two drivers are on Engine #7 -GRAHAM RAHAL/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and PIPPA MANN/No.18Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Car No.10 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda is on its eighth engine, for the substitute driver, ALEX TAGLIANI, who is filling in for the recovering DARIO FRANCHITTI.

AJ ALLMENDINGER/No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet is running the car’s third engine, but the car has only run part time this year.

The MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar race Starting Grid will be released Saturday afternoon after the Systems Check, scheduled for 12:30pm PT.

Also at stake is the opportunity for Dixon (Pocono Indy 400 or TONY KANAAN/No.11 KVSH Chevrolet (Indianapolis 500 winner) to win Saturday night and take home the $250,000 for winning a second round of the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Triple Crown.

Many folks have been expecting a big announcement coming from the Andretti Autosport team, and perhaps this will happen in the newly-scheduled Media Conference for Saturday at 2:15pm PT.

MAVTV is a cable television network independently owned and operated by Lucas Oil Products, which includes much automotive and motorsports content.

Townsend Bell
Townsend Bell
The talent for the IndyCar broadcast includes Booth Announcers TOWNSEND BELL, WALLY DALLENBACH, and LEIGH DIFFEY. In the pits will be JON BEEKHUIS, KEVIN LEE, and MARTY SNEIDER. On the run will be ROBIN MILLER.

The InCar cameras will be in the cars of the two Contenders, Castroneves and Dixon. Also with cameras will be Jakes, Rahal, and ORIOL SERVIA/No.4 Panther Racing Chevrolet. There’s one more – TBA?

INDYCAR Class Photo