levitt mido 0717 14188

levitt mido 0717 14188Sebastien Bourdais has been cleared by IndyCar's medical staff to return to the cockpit of his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. The Frenchman was recently cleared by his personal doctor, but the clearance from IndyCar's Dr. Kevin Scheid served as the final hurdle in a rapid recovery from the May 20 crash at Indianapolis.

"It's great, everything had to go step by step," Bourdais told RACER.

The 227 mph meeting with Indy's Turn 2 wall broke the right wing-like structure from the 37-year-old's pelvis which has, apparently, healed to a point of exceptional strength.

"Dr. Scheid said the last x-ray looks really good," he continued. "Let's put it this way  if a bone's going to break, it's going to be somewhere else and it ain't going to be this one, because it's really strong now."

After completing a successful test at Mid-Ohio, and receiving full medical approval to resume racing, the only question remaining for Bourdais is when he'll see his name on an entry list. Although he stated a desire to return for the penultimate round at Watkins Glen, the season finale at Sonoma Raceway could be a more likely option.

"I haven't spoken to Dale yet so I can't say what he has planned," he said.

Bourdais' replacement, Esteban Gutierrez, will make his first visit to Pocono Raceway this weekend to pilot the No. 18.

galstad TORONTOGP 0717 134955Sebastian Saavedra and AFS Racing are back to partner with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the No. 7 Honda formerly driven by Mikhail Aleshin. The open-wheel veteran will step into the car for this weekend's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono and return the following weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park.

"I am very excited to be back with the SPM organization," said Saavedra, who made his debut in the No. 7 last month at Toronto (pictured). "It's another late call to jump in, but I take it with pride after a promising start of our relationship in Toronto. Looking forward to a challenging event as the 'Tricky Triangle' can be, and support Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of championship points. I'm thankful to my sponsors and my continued relationship with AFS Inc."

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Saavedra had hoped to be confirmed for the final four races left on the calendar to thoroughly audition for a full-time position in the No. 7 next year, but will use the pair of ovals to try and sway the decision in his favor.

"It's great to team up with Sam after the great rivalry we had in the Lights championship," said AFS owner Gary Peterson. "After Sebastian's positive performance in Toronto, the next two events will be an opportunity to show his strength on ovals and that he is a great candidate for the 2018 season with SPM."

Recent SPM driver Robert Wickens has expressed his desire to pilot the car at Watkins Glen and Sonoma to close the 2017 championship.


Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

For the next few weeks, the Mailbag is running a special giveaway! Check the end of this week's edition to learn more.

Q: With a Silly Season that could result in significant driver movement now upon us, I'm wondering how those changes impact the relationships between owners, drivers, crews and sponsors? Take T.K., for example. Just in the last few years he's driven for Andretti, KV and Ganassi. What's his walk down pit road like when he encounters folks he's been partnered with in the past? No big deal, it's part of racing? Courtesy hellos? You're the competition now, so I won't make eye contact with you? All of the above, depending on which person it is?

Allen Smith, North Muskegon, MI

RM: Good question, because it's an interesting dynamic and, unlike stick and ball sports, you see the same people all the time at every race. I would say T.K. is a perfect study. He was all set to go with Chip back in 2009 but Michael, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree begged him to stay because it was "his" team. And that didn't sit too well with Ganassi, as you might imagine. So T.K. stayed, but by 2011 he was out of a ride because Andretti didn't have the funding. Not exactly a nice payback for staying loyal (although he did get a severance check since he had a contract). He went to KV, won Indy in 2013, and then replaced Dario in 2014 – at Ganassi. Now there are always hard feelings for a while, that's human nature, but the nature of the racing is to forgive and forget. It can be pretty cruel, but usually it's just business, not personal, and that's a fact a driver needs to embrace early on. You won letter of the week – enjoy the Parnelli shirt. RACER will be in touch.

Q: So how about that Larson kid! I just read your great piece on him and the Chipster. Mr. G did get it right, and I admire his confidence in Kyle and in his dirt track prowess. Of course I am preaching to the choirmaster aren't I? I remember the first time I heard you mention Kyle Larson on Wind Tunnel. Your comments on this new phenom piqued my interest. He is the real deal, and I've been his fan ever since. Do you think he's going to stay with Ganassi?

Deb Schaeffer, Los Angeles

RM: It was 2011 after Kyle swept USAC's Four Crown at Eldora, and Dave Despain was kind enough to let me preach about him after Speed Center let me do a video feature. Tony Stewart and I stood atop the infield tower at Eldora that night and marveled at what we were seeing, and Stew even threw in a personal $10,000 bonus check after Larson won the Silver Crown race. (Of course, he should have signed him, and knows it). But I wasn't specific enough in that story. I'm pretty sure Chip signed Kyle to a long-term contract last year, and I think part of the agreement was giving the kid his freedom to race on the dirt during the season.

Q: Didn't see you at Knoxville, but thanks to Chip Ganassi we got to see Kyle Larson Saturday night. And I honored Chip's request that us open-wheeler fans tune in and support Kyle at Michigan. In view of the positive response, do you think Chip's move will lead to more crossover participation and cross-promotion? We all know motorsports needs more eyes and butts.

Bob from Minnesota

RM: Other than Dale Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse and J.J. Yeley, I don't see any other NASCAR full-timers with any interest in following Larson's schedule, and I doubt any of that trio wants to run 25 times. Not sure what their contract status would allow, but all three run the Chili Bowl every year ,and I know Kasey and Ricky have hand-picked some winged-sprint shows this year. But what IndyCar needs is a great, young driver that can race short tracks in between IndyCar races and develop a following that loyally watches him on television. It's not going to happen in IndyCar, but Larson is quickly becoming the most popular racer in the country because he's so visible and accessible.

Q: It's great the Chipster loosened the reins on Kyle. Seat time is seat time...

David Huff

RM: It's like Parnelli said when I called him over the weekend: sprint cars keep you sharp, and in Kyle's case, they also keep you happy.


Q: Just to reinforce what you wrote about Kyle Larson this week, the kid sold every sprint car shirt he had after just one night in Pennsylvania for 410 Sprint Car PA Speedweek this year. He had to apologize to the capacity crowd that came to see him win at Lincoln Speedway that Monday night because he couldn't print more on a holiday weekend. Chip did the right thing letting him run Knoxville on Saturday. Yeah, sprint cars are still dangerous, but the thrill for the drivers (and us fans) seems to far outweigh the danger. He's making new fans everywhere he goes. They are definitely turning out when he's in the sprint car (where races are affordable to attend, I might add...), and I have to imagine that's also carrying over some to the NASCAR races, both Saturdays and Sundays.

Like Clauson, Kahne, Dave Blaney, and Stewart before him, among others, he gives me someone to root for in the big cars every week because if you can win in a sprint car, you've got my utmost respect and attention. Not to take anything away from the current IndyCar stars as I really like these guys a lot, but I'm always going to root for the likes of a Kyle Larson just that little bit harder because I know where he came from and saw him win there in a difficult crucible of both skill and danger.

Dave Long, Reading, PA

RM: That's what I was preaching to Randy Bernard when we were coming back from Kokomo in 2010 following a USAC sprint show. People become invested in a favorite driver and follow him everywhere, and feel a connection. But Larson's adaptability to wings, non-wings, midgets and stock cars is also what makes him popular. And the fact he's a great kid.

Q: I need to publicly admit I was wrong. I have been wrong about Chip Ganassi. I was never a fan of him, his IndyCar team or of his drivers, but I have a change of heart towards him. His decision to allow Kyle Larson to race Saturday night at Knoxville was awesome. As a lifelong sprint car and midget fan, I love seeing Kyle, Christopher, Rico and Ricky doing what they do. (I dearly and deeply miss B.C.). So for all the bad things I have said about Chip, I'm sorry, I wish he and Kyle continued success, and Robin, keep doing what you do, you're an open-wheel treasure.

Steve Bennett, Fond du Lac, WI.

RM: Well don't be too hard on yourself Steve, it's easy to cuss Chip and writing that positive column about him was tough (smile). But he's made a lot of fans with his attitude on Larson and Ganassi is a racer, first and foremost, so it's a nice partnership.

Q: I had an idea that may be able to get more butts in the seats, at least at Iowa next year. On the Saturday night the week before the Iowa race, IndyCar should head to Knoxville with a major presence: have drivers interacting with fans, show cars, give away some tickets. The main piece, though, would be to offer the winner of that night's 410 A-main a ride in the Indy Lights race at Iowa the follow Sunday. The winner would also get a test day that week to familiarize themselves with the car. I'm not suggesting it would make the race a sellout, but I do think giving the Knoxville fans a chance to see one of their guys run with the Lights could have a decent impact on ticket sales. What do you think? Thanks and keep racking up those restraining orders so you can keep up informed.

Zach Gardner

RM: I think it's a great idea, and it's also why I've been prodding IndyCar to have a booth at the Chili Bowl with drivers, hats and schedules – mingling with open-wheel fans from across the country that don't know them. I think your Indy Lights' idea might bring a couple extra thousand to the race (just make sure it's not up against the weekly Knoxville show), but if you simply gave the Knoxville 410 champ an IndyCar test it would be a good start. IndyCar has to take its product and personalities to the fans and be aggressive.

Q: To my horror, I saw Global Rallycross is on NBC Sunday at 3:30. They were on Saturday mid-afternoon also. Really? NBC doesn't show IndyCar, but they'll show Global Rallycross? Why can't IndyCar be on the primary network? Why NBCSN only? The audience and ratings would definitely be higher, and IndyCar is a million times better than Global Rallycross. This is hard to understand.

Don, Minneapolis

RM: It's very simple. ABC's current contract forbids any other network telecasts of IndyCar, so NBCSN is NBC's only option. And Rallycross is a time-buy on NBC.

Q: Maybe I'm just a Luddite. Or old. (I'm several weeks older than you, Miller). But I just can't get behind this cockpit protection stuff. Shield, Halo, whatever. Protection for the driver's head has been in place for decades. It's called a helmet. If the helmet didn't do its job for Justin Wilson (or Felipe Massa), improve the helmets. Don't further clutter up the car. I think a major part of open-wheel racing isn't just the wheels being open. The cockpit needs to be open, too. Seeing the driver at work is important. So, especially in this age of protectionism, is the danger. The willingness of the driver to accept or even take on the risk counts. It is one of the things that make them different than the rest of us. Ask Sebastien Bourdais, after his big crash at Indy this year. Don't further diminish that aspect. I'm guessing my position will generate plenty of comments. Bring 'em on.

Chad R. Larson, Phoenix

RM: Many of the people I've heard from on this topic side with you and me – it's open-wheel for a reason, and that sets it apart from NASCAR and sports cars. Yes, it's dangerous and not everyone can do it, so those are two more hooks that have identified it forever. Justin's death was a fluke, which doesn't make it any less tragic, but it's always been a badge of honor and courage to be an open-wheel, open-cockpit racer and I'd hate to see that go away.

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Q: I'm a big fan of the Mailbag and read it every week. Thanks for all of your honesty and straightforwardness! With all the Silly Season rumors, one driver no one is talking about is Oriol Servia (pictured). That surprises me, considering he's currently helping develop the new bodywork. He's usually quick and almost always brings the car home in one piece! I would think he would be first choice if RLL decides to run a second car since he and Graham seem to have a good working relationship. Are there any rumors about Servia?

Jason Paul, Green Bay, WI

RM: Haven't heard his name mentioned in all the potential openings, but I do think if Rahal had the budget for two cars that Oriol would be his first choice because he's a great teammate who provides great information. And he and Graham get along real well.

Q: I don't quite understand all the angst over the original DW12 bodykit. The current ones have wings on top of wings on top of wings, which is a bit silly, but it still looks like a proper single-seater race car. The most recent versions of the IR07 looked a bit dated and out of style. The new body kit looks no better or worse to me than the old one. I just don't understand all the angst that has filled the Mailbag about the car over the years. Now for my question: How many people complimenting the looks of the new car are going to have a meltdown when an aero screen gets installed? I'm guessing all of them.

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: Like I said in the previous question, the majority of fans I hear from don't want the driver covered up by a halo or canopy, but we'll just have to wait and see how obtrusive IndyCar's solution is or isn't before people start weighing in.

Q: I recall another lost talent that would have been perfect for the IndyCar series. We already have mentioned drivers such as John Edwards, Robert Wickens, and Dane Cameron. There is also Zach Veach, Jack Harvey, Tristian Vautier and Gabby Chaves (especially Chaves, who is racing part-time this year with Harding) who are still looking for funding and eager to race in the series. But there was another star that IndyCar should have had – Michael Lewis.

This is a driver who worked so hard at becoming the next U.S. driver in Formula 1. Before the end of the 2011 Italian F3 championship, Lewis was right there knowing that he would get a Ferrari F1 test ride if he finish in the top two. I still recall at the very last race of the season at Monza, where he battled Sergio Campana. Lewis was three laps away from winning the Italian F3 series when he crashed, giving Campana the title. But at least he got his dream ride after finishing. In 2014, he turned to sports cars and is currently in the Pirelli World Challenge. If the funding is right, could Michael re-enter the open-wheel scene in IndyCar?

JLS Chicago, IL

RM: Michael is the son of Steve Lewis, who owned the famous stable of No. 9 Beast midgets and also started the PRI Show, but I never heard either of them talk about wanting to run IndyCar. I know Michael dreamed of F1, but I think father and son were pretty realistic about how tough and expensive that was going to be, so they've settled on sports cars and seem to love it.

Q: I know money is the bottom line, but is there nothing to be done that can save Matt Brabham's IndyCar career? I know guys like Kanaan are popular but drivers like Brabham should be its future. What does the future hold for JR Hildebrand? He is obviously a good oval driver but really isn't very competitive on road courses. Will he be back, and if yes, why?

Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis

RM: I thought Matty Brabs was headed for big things after his impressive runs in F2000 and Pro Mazda. The crew loved him, but something happened between Indy Lights and making it into IndyCar and he simply didn't have the funding to keep moving up the ladder. "Crusher" Murray raised the money to get him into Indy in 2016, but right now he drives the IndyCar two-seater and Robby Gordon's truck series, and knocks on doors. Ed Carpenter told RACER last week that he had a few more long-term options with J.R. than with Spencer Pigot, so I'd say he's looking good for 2018.

Q: You mentioned the Watkins Glen sales have not been going well. I'd say $80 for a Sunday-only general admission ticket is not cheap. Watkins Glen is my home track and I love it, but for some reason it doesn't produce exciting racing. Maybe they should consider running the short course. I remember an IMSA GTP race in the early '90s that ran the short course with no inner loop, and it was one of the fastest, best road races I've ever seen. The Joest Porsche 962 set a permanent race course qualifying record.

Also, as of right now there are no support races announced, and no weekend schedule. Makes it hard to plan my trip. I attended last year and was a bit disappointed with the lack of quality support races, lack of large TV screens, lack of concessions and lack of customer support. So, am I surprised the ticket sales are slow? Not really. I'm thinking of NOT attending... ah, who am I kidding. I'll be there. First annual Miller's Mailbag meeting for breakfast?

Mark, Niagara Falls, NY

RM: Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 will all be running at The Glen so that's good, and I've had some complaints about camping and parking prices at The Glen but not so much GA. I guess the three-day pass is $90, so that seems like the bargain if you're spending the weekend. Hope to see you there, but no breakfast yet.

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Q: My 2018 Road America tickets came in the mail today. I remain totally impressed with the organization at Road America. The $100 weekend ticket is a tremendous deal. Hoping to get there for Friday through Sunday, but even if I don't get there until Saturday morning it is still a deal. And with parking and paddock access included, it is one of the best deals out there. Not that I need to sell you, but is there a better deal in racing? I think the price goes up September 1 – might be time for another reminder to Mailbag readers. And hope to run in to you at Gateway in a few weeks.

Dave from Indy

RM: Thanks Dave, you just reminded them and, no, there is no better deal and George Bruggenthies was smart enough to start it in 2016 and bring it back in 2018.

Q: Michael Printup said Watkins Glen is facing an uphill climb. What did he mean? Last year's event seemed successful. Last weekend's events seemed successful. Is it because the dates are relatively close and the surrounding population might be fatigued monetarily with dates that are only several weeks apart?

Cody from Hillsboro, OR

RM: I think he meant ticket sales are slow, and that's disappointing after seeing the mob that turned out for the NASCAR race a couple weeks ago. Last year was encouraging considering the short amount of lead time, but it may be a case of too much too soon or just not enough interest.

Q: I have read that Pocono's CEO Nick Igdalsky is open to a road course race for one of the two NASCAR races. Do you think IndyCar would be interested in running a road course at Pocono? It would be great to have a Grand Prix on Saturday and a 300-mile race on Sunday. The Saturday race could be the qualifier for the Sunday race.

Peter, Fairhaven, MA

RM: With another small crowd expected this weekend I'm not sure how much longer the IndyCar/Pocono partnership will last, but I don't think a road course would be the answer. IndyCar needs ovals, at least ones that have a chance at being successful with decent racing, and if Pocono stays, it has to be on the oval. Considering there are only 21-22 cars for 500 miles, the racing hasn't been bad.

Q: After years of following IndyCar in its many incarnations and hanging on as a fan through some dark times, I wonder when we will get back to a real racing series. I ask this from a marketing and promotion standpoint. For years (and we all know this) the Indy 500 has been the crown jewel of motorsports and of open-wheel racing, especially in North America, but what does Indy give back to IndyCar? I feel this is a problem across the series.

Recently, I was at the races at Indianapolis, Detroit, Road America and Mid-Ohio, and found it odd that there was zero promotion for the upcoming schedule. People are at the event – promote that next event, or the series. I guess I'm old-school and pine for the days when the IndyCar schedule was looked at as full season instead of a bunch of one-off events. Instead of promoting the series as a whole, each race seems too worried about driving anyone from their own event. I can remember when everyone knew Milwaukee was after Indy, there was a buzz at Detroit about Toronto or MIS, Mid-Ohio and Cleveland seemed to work together.

Michael Swisher, Ann Arbor, MI

RM: One of Dan Gurney's strongest points in his famous White Paper was identifying USAC's Championship Trail as Indianapolis and a bunch of other little races nobody cared about. He was spot-on, and those were the days when USAC ran twice at Milwaukee, Phoenix, Trenton and Michigan. CART's defining moment was building IndyCar into a major series with big-time events everywhere from Portland to Queensland to downtown Miami to Toronto to Cleveland to Vancouver. Today, other than Long Beach, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Barber and St. Pete, it seems like the old USAC days in that there are a bunch of races nobody cares about or goes to, with no atmosphere.

Is this IndyCar's fault? Some of it is. Verizon? Oh yeah. And the promoters also burden some blame. USAC's party line was that it was a sanctioning body and not a promoter, and that logic buried what was at one time the premier series in North America. Verizon's new boss cut back IndyCar promotions to almost nothing this year, and it shows. And without a strong sponsor and lots of marketing and promotion, IndyCar gets further lost in the shuffle. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a 7/11 or restaurant the weekend of an IndyCar race wearing an NBCSN shirt or RACER hat, and people wonder what's going on. "An IndyCar race," I tell them – and it's the first they've heard of it.

Q: Keep hearing that Chevy is pursuing Andretti and Honda is attached to Rossi and loves Hinch. Why is Chevy and Honda not falling over themselves in chasing RLL? They constantly compete with the big boys (outperforming Andretti) and Graham is a marketing dream. With some Chevy or Honda support they could add a second car, and if it were Chevy they could combine Graham and Courtney into an advertiser's dream.

Steve, Chico, CA

RM: Good question. If I were Chevy I'd certainly have made a play for Rahal, but I think Bob is pretty tied at the hip with Honda and, obviously Honda loves the job Graham has been doing the past three years. So both parties seem content.

Q: I have a thought about the possible Andretti switch to Ilmor... I think he would have switched already except for the fact that he thinks Honda gives him the best chance to win the Indy 500. I think his sole goal every year is to win the Indy 500 for both the prestige and the money it provides, and damn the championship. I don't know how much he is being offered to switch, but is it in the $4 million dollar range (which is about what all his cars won at this years Indy 500)? Any word on Aleshin? I thought for sure he was going to be the real-damn deal, but has definitely fizzled out. Is he out of SMP money for next year? Is there anything behind Servia going to SPM since he is testing the aero kit with SPM, or was that Honda's call? If not, any chance he lands somewhere? Servia holds a soft spot with me, just like Justin did.

Josh R., Salem, OR

RM: Could be, but if that were true then why not just come out and declare your loyalty? It's possible Michael is waiting to see what happens with Alonso but your Indy theory is good, I just don't know that any owner could turn down big money right now. And I suppose the logical question is, is Chevy's deal that much better than what Honda offers? We should know in a couple weeks.

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Q: I always enjoy reading the Mailbag and the passion everyone here ar RACER.com has for IndyCar. You touched an interesting subject last week when you wrote: "I always said if Alex Tagliani hadn't spun out while comfortably leading his CART debut in Brazil, his whole career could have been different. I don't care how good or fast you are, racing is confidence and if you lose it, that's hard to regain." How would you rate Alex's talent? He looked mega-fast sometimes, other times, mediocre. How was he perceived in the paddock? Same questions on Patrick Carpentier. I always was a fan, but his last season for Herta was strange with him making various stupid moves, while in his first season for Herta I thought he impressed with a small team. What happened there?

Luc, the Netherlands

RM: Alex was always very quick, just not that consistent and it seemed like he could psych himself out from Friday to Sunday. Patrick may have been the nicest driver on the planet and needed a pat on the back every now and then, but was capable of winning anywhere. Both of those Canadians (pictured together in 2001) had their moments, and Carpentier was likely pressing on a little team at the end. Neither much cared for the politics of racing, and Tag is still driving and winning (last weekend in CASCAR).

Q: You have heavily covered the possibility of Penske moving Helio to sports cars to cut back to a three-car team. Any chance something in the back of Penske's mind is also enabling the ability to bring in Alonso should the opportunity arise without the need to go to five cars? I know there is no Honda connection and I'll admit Alonso's personality may not fit the Penske mold. On the other hand, Penske would be an attractive high-quality ride for Alonso, it's a team that may be able to afford him, and Roger is a racer – and what racer would not want a two-time world champion on their team?

Joe Chaya

RM: Interesting thought, but I don't think The Captain would pass over Helio if he were going to keep running four cars. Not with how he's been driving, and not with the loyalty factor. It just sounds like R.P. wants to cut back to three cars and give Castroneves a shot at Indy.

Q: Do you think if JPM or T.K. were racing for Foyt, this year's results would be different? Even will all the changes, they seem still to be lost when they unload and pack their trailer.

Paul Hirsch, Erie, Pa.

RM: It's certainly possible since both have strong personalities, know what they want and have led teams before. I think both would have demanded more from the team and likely forced some changes. Conor and Munoz are babes in the woods when it comes to being leaders, since they've never been in that position. I think Daly is good at chassis savvy, but Munoz supposedly depended heavily on RHR's setup at Andretti and is a bit lost.

Q: I continue to wonder year after year about Marco Andretti, and what motivation he has to continue in IndyCar, and his father's dedication to keeping him on the team. It must drive Marco crazy to see JoNew, Hinch, and arguably Marco's most similar fellow racer or rival, Graham (both from IndyCar-winning fathers) getting more race wins in shorter Indy careers then Marco. This is Marco's 12th year in IndyCar with a top team, and he only has two wins to show for it. People say that Marco's time will eventually come, but let's be honest here, he will always be a mid- to rear-pack racer. Marco just doesn't have the mojo that Mario and Michael had. And Marco's flashes of brilliance in an IndyCar are few and far between.

What motivation for winning will he ever have with a guaranteed spot (no matter how poor his results) on his Daddy's team, and why does he keep sponsors when he has so little results to show? I wish Michael would cut the strings already and hire a better driver to replace Marco for all us racing fans' sake. This kid must race for the money only, and he must bring in the money for Andretti Autosport, because he has to be extremely embarrassed to have such a prestigious last name and such a horrible racing resume.

James Burton, Lanigan, Saskatchewan, Canada

RM: Well, first off all Snapple is gone and h.h.Gregg barely had the decals on before it was bankrupt, so Marco really doesn't have a sponsor. I think he's got ability and pride, but either he tries too hard in qualifying or gets too emotional once the race starts – something is definitely amiss. It has to eat at him, and every year flies by with more disappointment, so you wonder how long he'll want to keep doing it. Or how long Michael will keep him in a car. I truly thought after the first couple races this season that Bryan Herta's positive vibes were turning things around, but things are pretty much status quo again.

Q: With Michael Shank wanting to enter IndyCar full-time, is there any chance that he would bring Katherine Legge with him? She's been a rock star for his NSX team, and I think from her previous time in ChampCar/IndyCar and her IMSA performance she deserves more time in IndyCar. Also, since Penske won the Acura DPi program instead of Shank, do you think Acura/Honda would be willing to help him make the move to IndyCar?

Nick Howard, Noblesville, IN

RM: I think Honda would like to help Mike if there's enough of a budget, and Katherine would be in the running for sure. She got thrown into a Champ Car with virtually no experience and that hurt her confidence, but the past few seasons in sports cars she's shown she's a racer.

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Q: After the looking at the new aero package I noticed the nose is still a little long. If I remember correctly, this was made longer due to a lack of weight distribution and downforce balance. I was hoping they would shorten this up a bit – or is keeping the nose an effective cost-saving measure?

Dino, New Hanover, Pa.

RM: From our man Marshall Pruett: "The nose is unchanged, and the length of the nose wasn't altered to in the original design to accommodate issues elsewhere. Its length provides the necessary amount of crushable structure to dissipate Gs in a frontal impact."

Q: What are you hearing about Danica Patrick's future in NASCAR? The rumor is if Stewart-Haas can't find sponsorship she may be out of a ride. While she's a marketing dream, her results don't justify her having a competitive seat. Her teammates have won, but she has not. What are the odds of her taking an IndyCar ride (I don't care one way or the other) – or will she just hand in her driver's suit and count her money?

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

RM: I haven't heard much but I don't think she's got any interest in coming back to IndyCar unless it was a big effort for just the Indy 500 – and even that would be a long shot.

Q: With Disney announcing today they are launching a digital streaming channel for sports, mainly ESPN, I think ABC just put a joker in the deck. Now ABC can offer digital service, which is where TV is headed. I can't think of anything worse than ABC keeping any portion of the IndyCar TV package, let alone the whole thing. Any thoughts?

Vincent Martinez, Arcadia, CA

RM: I agree 1,000,000 percent – ABC doesn't want IndyCar and never has (only the Indy 500), but it appears we're stuck with them for one more year before NBC mercifully takes over. As for the sports streaming channel, it won't carry any of ESPN's major players like NFL football, college basketball and football and ESPN is losing subscribers at an astounding rate, so don't expect IndyCar to get much love.

Q: How has technology helped racing? I know it's really advanced safety, but the action on the track I don't think is any better because of it. Your thoughts?

Steve Coe, Lemon Grove, CA

RM: Can't speak intelligently about technology, but I can say that because of spec cars and engine leases the racing is much tighter and better than it's ever been – just not as sexy without cool cars, engines and free thinking. Indy lost its soul many years ago, but at least won some people back with good racing.

Q: I'm skeptically excited about the "new" look IndyCars (same DW12 chassis with a uniform aero kit). According to Jon Beekhuis the new kit produces about six percent more downforce from the undertray than the previous aero kit. I hope this improves the racing as much as JPM and Servia think it will. Why do you think IndyCar continually spends money on spec equipment when attendance is decreasing across most venues (with Road America, Long Beach, and Indy as exceptions) and television ratings are decreasing year over year? Wouldn't it make more economic sense to just find one formula and stick with it?

What about the old Champ Cars from the mid-2000s? They were excellent; looked fast, sounded great, and raced great also. I bet there's a bunch of them just lying around in garages all over America. Most race fans have so many birdbrained ideas about how to make IndyCar great again, but after being a fan for 25 years and witnessing its peak in 1994 and now ever-deepening valleys, I'm not sure there's any answer except maybe to make the cars and racing awesome like they once were. I'll tell you that I miss the old days where finishing in the top 10 was a big accomplishment since there were 26-30 cars in the field. Today, a top 10 finish doesn't mean as much in a 20-car field.

Jonathan, Long Beach, CA

RM: It's pretty much the same formula and the aero kits will be paid for by Chevrolet and Honda, so there was a need and a demand to go back to a traditional-looking car, and IndyCar has done it. To revive the old Champ Cars would cost a fortune, and JPM and Servia both like the fact the new kits and downforce seem to make the car a little tougher to drive. If you look at some of those old Champ Car and IRL fields, there wasn't much talent past the top 10, and the old USAC days had some of the greatest drivers but also some of the greatest disparity in equipment and non-stop engine failures, so sometimes only one car might be on the lead lap. IndyCar isn't as cool as it was in the '60s and '70s, but the depth of competition today is pretty damn good.

Q: I will admit, I have not thought this all the way through. I keep hearing from drivers that the pit lane should always be open and never close for the beginning of a yellow. I understand this is done for the safety of all in pit lane. My question is, why not just close pit lane for the entire yellow flag period? No pitting under yellow (if you must because of fuel or repair some type of penalty would be assessed) at all. Something happens on track, through the yellow, close pit lane, clean the mess, throw the green, open pit lane. It would certainly change up strategy, because nobody would want to get caught in a yellow with less than a gallon or two of fuel. If IndyCar thinks it will take a while to clean the mess, red flag. What do you think?

Ken Roscher, Gurnee, IL

RM: The pits are closed to enable the safety trucks to pick up cars or debris (or both) and reduce the speeds, but it's not safer for the crew guys by any means. The obvious problem with closing them for a whole caution would be guys running out of fuel, and that's as hokey as a random caution deciding the outcome. Maybe a Virtual Safety Car is the answer to leaving the pits open, and I know the drivers are pushing for a change.

Q: Hey Robin, thanks for all the coverage! It looks like they are having TQ midget races on the front stretch at Pocono on Friday evening and after IndyCar qualifying Saturday. I have seen these cars run indoors at Atlantic City before, and they put on a great show! So my question is, if the IndyCar field had a 20-lap TQ midget feature, who would be the top three? Is Carpenter a shoe-in with his USAC oval experience? Maybe you can convince some of the drivers to check out the racing Saturday night?

Matt from Philly

RM: I think if it was on dirt, for sure, but a lot of IndyCar drivers grew up in karting on pavement so it would likely be a free-for-all with a few nasty slide jobs.

MKIM 3 nazareth high 1

Q: What's the latest on Nazareth Speedway? Is it safe to assume it'll never reopen?

Derrick, Lancaster, PA

RM: All I know is some of the grandstands were sold, so I don't see how it ever reopens.

Q: Why did T.K. get a penalty during Q1 at Mid-Ohio if the person he "held up" transferred anyway? I can see that rule being held up under any circumstances where it would cause Hinch to not transfer, or cost him a spot. Anything like that, and it's 100 percent a penalty. But with no harm done, I don't see the logic.


RM: From Brian Barnhart: "The reason is because qualifying isn't just about advancing to the next segment. While that is the ultimate goal, cars that don't advance still have a lot on the line as well. Teams and drivers will tell you tires only have one ultimate lap in them, and our qualifying is extremely close. So if causing a local yellow makes another competitor slow down in that segment, it might prevent that competitor from posting the best possible lap in that session. And it might make the difference for that competitor in starting in the 11th row or starting in the seventh row. We want to make sure competitors have the best opportunity possible to post their fastest lap, and if someone is prevented from having that opportunity because of a local yellow, the responsible party will lose their best lap to that point in the segment."

Q: Andrew Toms asked last week why push-to-pass isn't available during qualifying. I strongly disagree with the belief that it should. But what about raising the boost level for the whole run, like is done at Indianapolis? Formula E is doing it, and I think it would just a little more spice, as the quali setup would differ more from race setup, leaving teams with decisions to make.

Tomasz Kubiak, Poland

RM: I'm not sure you can make qualifying on streets and road courses much more exciting than it is. Some weekends, qualifying is the best part of the show, and track records don't mean much since many times the fastest lap of qualifying is in the second session, and that driver doesn't even win the pole (e.g. Rahal at Mid-Ohio). Qualifying doesn't need any gimmicks, it's got red tires and that's perfect.

Q: I watched a clip of Arie Luyendyk when he set the lap record at Indy in 1996, and boy I wish I had been alive to see it for myself. My question to you is, do you think we'll ever get back up to those kinds of speeds? I've heard that the target speed of the new aero kits is 230, and Dixon's 232 qualifying run this year was a beautiful thing to watch, but we still aren't close to the record. Now that might not be what's best for racing, and honestly I don't know if it would be what's best for the sport. But I do know I'd love to see cars run like that.

Max Camposano, Los Altos, CA

RM: I don't think 90 percent of the fans can tell the difference between a lap of 226 or 236 mph. And I don't think new track records are going to bring back a crowd for qualifying, those days are gone. I guess if you had five or six manufacturers trying for the record it could ramp up Pole Day in terms of storylines, but when you've only got 33 cars it really doesn't matter.

Q: You quote Mr. Pruett saying, "The days of racing being the leader in its relationship with the auto industry have passed. I can only foresee this trend continuing, and racing series having to further prove their relevance to manufacturers."

In the heyday of the Offy, with an engine builder in about every garage, Mr. J.C. Agajanian reportedly said that if auto manufacturers ever took over the engine business, the National Championship would be destroyed. (I believe he was referring to Ford.) Tony Hulman historically did his best to encourage diverse entries (and hype interest in the 500), including Ferrari, Cummins Diesel, Pratt and Whitney, Porsche, and others, occasionally via liberal rule interpretations. Somehow the money and automotive interest could always be found to back such unique efforts, even before Firestone and Goodyear money battled for supremacy. And here we are in today's world. Everyone cries poor with the same cost-controlled spec equipment and leased engines. Where do Honda and Chevy take IndyCar over the next several years... and how?

Brian Boettcher, Columbia, MD

RM: Obviously there was a point in time when Indy ruled technology, and manufacturers came running from all over the world to try and make their mark. In those days USAC and IMS dictated policy, and the only power the engines had were what they produced on the track. But when engine leases came into play the manufacturers got more vocal ,and after a while they were either making demands or making the rules – or both. This doesn't happen in NASCAR or F1, but it did in IndyCar and now Honda and Chevrolet not only help call the shots, they determine how many engines they'll provide and which drivers or teams can use them.

People say get rid of Honda and Chevy and just open things up and manufacturers will come running, but that's a pipe dream. IndyCar needs Honda and Chevy because not only do they fund drivers or teams and sponsor races, they give the series a reliable product that's helped make the racing better and better. And, last time I looked, there isn't anyone in line to take their place.

Q: I found irony in Sam Hornish running the No. 22 for Roger Penske in the Xfinity series for the road races as a road racing specialist. Sam was always known as an oval master in IndyCar and his move to NASCAR coincided with IndyCar (IRL) adding road courses. Glad to see Sam dominate again with a nice win at Mid-Ohio last weekend.

Ralph Power, Indianapolis

RM: Well, not to discredit Sam but have you ever seen anything more pathetic than Xfinity races on road courses? It's like a bad Jim Russell Driving School. But say this for Mr. Hornish. He wasn't very good at road racing before he joined Team Penske, and after some in-house schooling he improved noticeably and did a very respectable job before leaving for NASCAR.

Q: I've wanted to share some driver encounters from the first race of the Detroit Belle Isle GP in 2013. For the first race of the doubleheader, we took one of our friend's sons who races karts and is a big NASCAR fan. We attended several of the driver Q&A sessions, and after each one we would stand at the side of the stage and wait for the driver to come down so we could meet them. Our friend's son asked each driver if they could give him any hints or suggestions about kart set-up. Sebastien Bourdais was very accommodating and took a couple of minutes to offer advice based on track surfaces, how to attack corners and saving tires. Sebastian Saavedra was also quite accommodating. Unfortunately, when asked for advice, Marco made an ass of himself and tried being funny in front of a number of people and it backfired. His suggestion was, "Just go faster than everyone else." No one laughed. Perhaps he should take his own advice.

Nonetheless, the driver that stood out the most and converted a NASCAR-only family to also being an IndyCar family was Ryan Hunter-Reay. He asked a lot of questions about track surfaces and where the tracks were located. He offered lots of advice about kart setup, and then began offering advice on how to get noticed and also offered advice on the business side of racing. RHR spent almost five minutes with our friend's son, all the while, his handler was telling him that they had to go and that he had other commitments. It was impressive as to how he was so focused on helping our friend's son.

However, the most remarkable thing occurred later that day as we were walking through the paddock. As our friend's son walked past RHR's hauler, RHR recognized him among the fans and invited him behind the rope so that he could talk to him further about karts. Our friend's son felt really special and truly enjoyed RHR's sincere interest in helping him. In fact, our friend's son has a number of wins and championships and has continued moving up in karts. I wanted to share this so that if RHR or anyone associated with him reads your Mailbag that they will know how RHR positively impacted a young man's life and possible racing career.

James, Brownstown, MI

RM: Thanks for sharing, James. RHR has been one of the best drivers and ambassadors in IndyCar for a long time, so your story doesn't surprise me.


MarshallPruett IndyCar MidO73017 0002


For those lucky enough to receive them, Robin Miller and Steve Shunck's famed 'Legend Series' T-shirts have become an intregal part of the Month of May. Unfortunately, up to this point, the shirts have not been available to the public. And they're still not - unless you're a lucky Mailbag reader.

For the next few weeks, RACER.com will give away one of this year's T-shirts (or a sweater) commorating the 50th anniversary of Parnelli Jones and the STP turbine to the writer of the Mailbag's letter of the week, as determined by Robin. Now you, too, can stalk pitlane grilling James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan about their plans for the future while simultaneously paying homage to a great moment in Indianapolis 500 history.

Oh, and a quick warning: sizes are very limited, but we'll do our best to accommodate each winner's request. Good luck!

art-collection-leadRACER has always featured the work of the world’s foremost motorsports artists and photographers. We can now make some of this great artwork available to our readers through The RACER Store’s Motorsport Art Collection. The first prints are from long-time In Focus photographer Rick Graves and artist Ricardo Santos.

Photographer and director Rick Graves is one of the advertising world's leading automotive photographers, with clients that include Jaguar, Porsche, Cadillac, Mercedes, Infiniti, Acura, Honda, Toyota and Goodyear. Graves is an authority at capturing the brutal beauty of a racecar in the perfectly lit serenity of the studio, as well as the essence of high-energy action at the racetrack.

Portuguese art director and graphic designer Ricardo Santos is a former rally co-driver. His love for cars and motorsport has driven him to create illustrations of race cars from the 1980s and '90s, all penned in his own irresistible retro style. He focuses on shape, shadow and color to create his simple yet dramatically eye catching images.

These images are available in sizes ranging from 18 x 24 in. to 36 x 48 in. and are available as fiber-based archival photo prints or archival canvas prints. The canvas prints are available rolled or wrapped on stretcher bars ready for hanging. All prints are limited editions and prices start at just $65. The images shown here are a sample of what’s available. Visit The RACER Store Motorsport Art Collection to view the complete selection.


Porsche 917-1-storyRicardo Santos — Porsche 917

Porsche GT1-1-storyRick Graves — Porsche 911 GT-1

Tyrrell-1-storyRicardo Santos — Tyrrell 005

Bentley-3-storyRick Graves — Bentley Speed 8

Porsche 962-1-storybRicardo Santos — Porsche 962

Lotus-Turbine-10-storyRick Graves — Lotus 56 Turbine


Wickens IMS photoIf Schmidt Peterson Motorsports opens the door for Robert Wickens to drive the No. 7 Honda vacated by Mikhail Aleshin, the Canadian says he'd happily take the seat at Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway.

The factory Mercedes-AMG DTM driver got to know the Verizon IndyCar Series team when he drove Aleshin's car on Friday at Road America while the Russian was waylaid by travel visa issues, and with two open weekends to fill in September, contesting a pair of road course events would fit nicely in his schedule.

"If I was asked, I'd love to do those races, which is why I stirred the pot a bit," Wickens told RACER after posting his availability on Twitter. "Road America was a blast and I'd love to give a full weekend a shot."

Wickens isn't the only one with an eye on the No. 7 Honda. Sebastian Saavedra, who made a strong impression with SPM while filling in for Aleshin at Toronto, is said to be under consideration for the last four races of the year, and at the back-to-back ovals in Pocono and Gateway, in particular.

"Once I saw Mikhail wasn't continuing, I was 100 percent interested in stepping in to drive on an oval, which is experience I want to gain, or for the road courses," Wickens added.

With Mercedes set to exit the DTM at the end of 2018, the 28-year-old is one of many drivers in the German championship looking a few years down the road for opportunities.

"It was a shock for everyone when Mercedes announced their DTM withdrawal at the end of 2018, but I won't lose focus on what's ahead because we're in the middle of the championship as we speak," he said. "But if I'm available between races to do IndyCar, I'd like to get more miles with the team."

Having spent most of his career in open-wheel cars, where junior formula championships in America and Europe caught the attention of Mercedes, Wickens says an unexpected chance to drive his close friend's SPM Indy car reignited his interest in the series.

"Testing an Indy car during the offseason with James [Hinchcliffe] for that promotional swap really caught my interest, and I don't think I've missed watching a race all season," he added. "The IndyCar championship is looking good and I think a lot of drivers are looking to what their future may hold. After 2018, there are a lot of questions that need answering, and it could be IndyCar."

With Wickens heading off to this weekend's DTM race in Holland, only Gateway, Watkins Glen and Sonoma would be free of schedule conflicts.

Cameron levittThe first thing Juan Pablo Montoya did after learning Dane Cameron had been signed as his new Acura Team Penske teammate was ask for his number so he could reach out and make an introduction. Considering the different stages of their careers, it spoke volumes about the Colombian's mindset and motivation for what lies ahead.

As one of the biggest names in the world of racing, the Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar star could have played it cool and waited for his less heralded partner to make the first call, but the thought never occurred to Penske's 2015 Indy 500 winner. The five-minute conversation on Monday night was their first discussion, and as they build toward the first test in an Acura ARX-05 later this month, the warm and open dialogue could go a long way toward creating a hellacious driver duo.

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"I think it's very exciting for me because Dane is a young guy, is a guy that has run the series, understands the series. I think he has a lot of knowledge," the Colombian said.

"I've been driving all kinds of cars. As you know, I've driven everything. I've been successful in everything. I'm excited to bring something to the table, and at the same time as a driver, find something new, learn new things. I think we can work together really well and hopefully bring a ton of victories."

In Cameron, Montoya has a two-time IMSA champion who is ready to take the biggest step of his life for the sport's most successful team owner.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for me, one I'm very excited about. I think anyone who decides they want to be a racing driver, at some point I think you'd love an opportunity to drive for Roger Penske," the Californian said.

"I'm really excited to be in a place in my career and have it line up where this opportunity really came across."

Cameron was a hot open-wheel prospect in the late 2000s – at precisely the wrong time as IndyCar and Champ Car merged – which forced the son of IMSA race engineer Ricky Cameron to make an early move to sports cars. Full factory or factory-related stints with BMW, Cadillac, and Ferrari helped the 28-year-old to gain experience at a rapid rate, and with his chassis development expertise to offer, it wasn't a surprise to see Acura and Penske reach out to acquire his services.

"Obviously, kind of dabbled coming in and out of sports cars in the past, it's exciting for me to be in a good place in my career and make a return back to sports cars with Acura," he said. "[I'm] looking forward to working with everybody there, working with the brand. It's cool to see it's all come together."

While Montoya's continuation with Penske was welcome news, it's clear the nomination by Acura Team Penske to partner with the 41-year-old means the world to Cameron.

"This is kind of a gold star to put on top of it, for sure," he said. "I look forward to more success with Juan over the next couple years."

MontoyaCameronAfter a year of speculation, Team Penske and Acura will enter IMSA's Daytona Prototype international wars with Juan Pablo Montoya as the driver of one ARX-05, joined by defending IMSA Prototype champion Dane Cameron, who will depart the Action Express Racing team at the end of the season. An announcement on the full-time drivers for the second ARX-05 will follow in the near future.

"We worked together with our partners at Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development HPD to bring together drivers that we believe will help develop our program and compete for race wins right out of the gate while also serving as great ambassadors for their brands," said Roger Penske.

"Having Juan and Dane join our program brings together two drivers that have extensive sports car racing experience in the prototype class and have already won at the top levels of the sport. This represents a great beginning to our program for 2018."

As RACER first revealed, Montoya was part of a plan hatched by Team Penske last summer where he would stand down from IndyCar and move to IMSA in 2018.

"I have really enjoyed working with Roger and Team Penske over the last four years," Montoya said. "When Roger asked if I'd like to be part of starting this new sports car operation with Acura, it was an easy decision. I've always loved racing sports cars. It's definitely a challenge and it's going to be a lot of fun to develop a new car with Acura. I'm excited to start the testing of the ARX-05 next week. Team Penske started its winning tradition in sports cars and it's going to be cool to be a part of a new chapter with the team."

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California's Cameron, a two-time WeatherTech SportsCar Champion, was among the favorites listed for a seat in May.

"Getting a chance to race for Team Penske is like a dream come true for a driver," Cameron said. "To see all of the effort and resources that Acura Motorsports is putting into this new program to develop and win with the ARX-05, it's really impressive. I'm so excited for the opportunity to become part of the team and work with a guy who has done all the things Juan has done. It's going to be an awesome experience to add my name to the list of drivers that have driven for Team Penske. I'm looking forward to a busy off season and coming out of the gates strong at Daytona."

For Montoya, the Acura Team Penske project represents a continuation of an existing relationship. For Cameron, the call to drive for Penske in a factory program is the highlight of his career. It also takes one of Cadillac's most valuable drivers – one with extensive knowledge of its DPi-V.R and its performance capabilities – and places him into an incoming manufacturer that can use his experience to benchmark the ARX-05.

If the rumors are true, Cameron might not be the only American with Cadillac experience headed for the ARX-05.

Ricky Taylor, who leads IMSA's Prototype standings with his brother Jordan, has also been tipped to join Team Penske after a successful familiarization test in an IndyCar was conducted earlier in the year. Of the two Taylor brothers, only Ricky has left his father's team in the past to drive for a rival when he partnered with Richard Westbrook at Spirit of Daytona in 2013.

As RACER wrote in May: "The thought of Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron as teammates in a Penske-Honda DPi is simply ridiculous. We're talking about two Americans, two second-generation drivers, two champions, both known for their technical acumen, and both with extensive development and racing insights on Cadillac's all-conquering DPi-V.R. If we're playing the fantasy driver game, this combo is the lights-out winner."

Provided Taylor lands at Acura Team Penske alongside Cameron, two key Cadillac seats would be vacant heading into the offseason.

In the same Montoya transition scenario, Penske IndyCar veteran Helio Castroneves was positioned as being part of the 2018 IMSA migration. While it's still entirely possible the three-time Indy 500 winner could form a partnership with Taylor in the second ARX-05, he's also said to have recently inquired about driving for a different team next season in order to remain in IndyCar.

Whether that develops into anything concrete, or the original plan to shutter his IndyCar entry in favor of driving for Acura in 2018 goes forward, all will soon be revealed. The ARX-05's part-time drivers for IMSA's endurance events also await confirmation.

AXR 31 burkelatAction Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson has been preparing for the upcoming departure by Acura Team Penske-bound Dane Cameron, and says the identity of his replacement is becoming more clear.

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"We're close, but we're not ready to make any announcements on who's going to fill that spot," Nelson told RACER. "We've had a few weeks to sort out our thoughts and we have some exciting plans in place."

Cameron joined AXR in 2015 as teammate to Eric Curran in the Whelen Engineering-sponsored Corvette Daytona Prototype. Their budding relationship flourished as the No. 31 Corvette challenged the sister No. 5 AXR Corvette for IMSA's Prototype championship, and by 2016, Cameron and Curran toppled teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi to earn their first title in the red and white car.

Adding to the 2014 GT Daytona championship Cameron earned while driving for Turner Motorsport, his value as a front-running sports car driver drew the interest of rival brand Acura and Team Penske, where he'll partner with Juan Montoya next season in an ARX-05 DPi.

"First, I'd like to say that Dane, along with Eric, have made significant contributions to the success of our team, Nelson added. "Our championship last year was very memorable, and we enjoyed having Dane drive along with Eric for all they've achieved for us."

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