Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Chevrolet to power Andretti Autosport in 2012
2. Bell to contest final two races of 2011
3. National Guard Panther Racing changes No. 4 livery to honor servicewomen
4. Belardi adds Wilson, third entry for final two races
1. Chevrolet to power Andretti Autosport in 2012: Chevrolet will provide Andretti Autosport entries with its new IndyCar V-6 racing engine for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.
The Andretti and Chevrolet brands were synonymous for many years in Indy car racing with Michael and Mario collectively scoring the most wins (20) for Chevrolet from 1987 to 1991. Michael recorded the most Chevrolet wins in a season when he scored eight victories on the way to winning the 1991 CART/PPG IndyCar World Series championship. Mario earned Chevrolet's first Indy car victory at Long Beach in 1987.
"I am so excited to work with Chevy once again," said Andretti, the third-winningest driver in Indy car history. "We won 15 races and a championship with Chevy in just three years. The 1991 season was magical. Now, Andretti Autosport and our sponsors have the opportunity to win again with Chevrolet. This will prove to be a tremendous association. Chevrolet is committed to motorsports and they are proven winners."
Andretti Autosport has recorded 39 victories, including two Indianapolis 500 wins, and three driver championships since entering the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2003. Chevrolet has totaled 104 Indy car wins, including six series crowns and seven Indy 500 championships.
The 2012 Chevrolet IndyCar 2.2 liter, V-6 will have an aluminum block and cylinder heads, direct injection and twin-turbochargers.
"We are very proud to announce that Andretti Autosport is now part of the Chevrolet family and that they will compete with Chevy's new twin-turbo V-6 beginning in 2012," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "Michael and his family have won many races for Chevrolet and we intend to continue winning with our new partnership.
"We are anxious to have Andretti Autosport begin testing the 2012 engine in the near future."
Engine manufacturers will commence on-track testing in earnest in early October. Teams are scheduled to take delivery of their first chassis in mid-December, and team testing will begin after the first of the year.
2. Bell to contest final two races of 2011: Townsend Bell patiently waited for a rain cloud to drift south of Kentucky Speedway so he and 11 other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers could get in some testing Sept. 23 on the 1.5-mile oval.
It wasn't a bother, really; patience is synonymous with his professional racing career.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced earlier in the day that Bell will drive the No. 22 Valspar entry in the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2 and the No. 22 Dad's Root Beer car in the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"Especially after a promising run not fully realized at Indy it's hard to sit and not have a chance to come back out and keep improving, so this is really exciting to be back with Dreyer & Reinbold," said Bell, who competed in seven races with the team in 2008. "This is a great group of guys and I've been impressed with how hard they've work in what is the final era of this car and to make big investments in resources to continually improve right up to the end in Vegas."
Bell started fourth in the No. 99 Herbalife Schmidt Pelfrey Racing car in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 in May and finished 26th after contact on Lap 157. He has a best finish of fourth in 2009 in five starts in the '500.' He has nine top-10 finishes in 22 IZOD IndyCar Series races.
"I wouldn't be out here if I didn't want to do this more often," said Bell, who takes over the wheel for the injured Justin Wilson (back). "Next year with the new car and engines coming in it would be a lot more difficult to just show up at Indianapolis and do well. It's really never been my primary desire to do just one race, but it's what made the most sense the last few years.
"If there's any way to get an early start on doing more races in the future, that's what we're here to do and mostly to put in solid results for this race team and help them finish on a high note as well. I'm hopeful that Justin continues to have a speedy recovery and I appreciate him letting me borrow his rocket ship for a couple of weekends."
The California native worked his way up to the Barber Dodge Pro Series and then onto the Indy Lights championship, where he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and the Indy Lights championship in 2001. He went on to compete in CART for nine races and the in FIA Formula 3000 in 2003, earning tests with the BAR-Honda and Jaguar Formula One teams.
"We've both grown significantly since we worked together in 2008 and we feel Townsend will represent DRR and our partners very well to close out the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said.
3. National Guard Panther Racing changes No. 4 Livery to honor servicewomen: Panther Racing and driver JR Hildebrand are turning pink for the month of October to honor female Soldiers in the National Guard during the last two IZOD IndyCar Series races of the season.
The team will change the livery of the team's No. 4 National Guard entry to pink ACU camouflage, and Hildebrand and his Panther teammates will also wear pink crewshirts and firesuits at the season's final two races at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an effort to recognize female personnel in our Nation's military.
"I don't think a majority of the general public understand how large of a role females play in the military," Panther Racing Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. "The National Guard is an unbelievably diverse group, and we can't highlight the sacrifices everybody associated with the military makes for our freedoms enough. It's our responsibility to honor everybody in the National Guard, but we wanted to take the last two races of this season to give special thanks to the women of our Armed Services."
Women currently make up roughly 20 percent of the American military, and since the September 11th terrorist attacks, females are the largest growing demographic in the National Guard.
Female Soldiers are now reaching increasingly higher rankings in today's military and are an integral component of the country's fighting force. During this weekend's event at Kentucky Speedway,
Panther will honor a female "Hometown Hero" who will sit next to Hildebrand during the IndyCar Series autograph session, and be honored in front of the crowd on the pre-race stage prior to the event. The team has also purchased a 30-second commercial that airs on the VERSUS broadcast to highlight its Hometown Hero.
"I've said it all year, but I'm in awe of the sacrifices that Soldiers in the National Guard make for our freedoms," Hildebrand said. "And like John said, I don't think a lot people realize how many female Soldiers are out there fighting for us as well. I'm not sure how good I'll look in pink, but with this being Breast Cancer Awareness month and if this is our way of saying thanks and recognizing all the female Soldiers out there - then I'm stoked to be a part of it."
4. Belardi adds Wilson, third entry for final two races: Short-track racer Jacob Wilson will join Belardi Auto Racing for the final two events of the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season following successful completion of his rookie test at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 22.
"I feel that my rookie test went extremely well," The 21-year-old Wilson said. "Being relatively quick on track by ourselves and not having any problems when we were working with traffic really gave me a confidence boost. Passing the rookie test was crucial for me to join Belardi Auto Racing in the final two races of the year. It'll be a great opportunity to learn the ropes of Indy Lights and hopefully come away with some impressive results."
Wilson, a native of Crawfordsville, Ind., has been racing for more than 15 years. He started with go-karts and midgets and has most recently raced in the USAC Silver Crown series, National Pavement Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series.
Wilson ran 225 miles in the #19 machine at the track in Sparta, Kentucky, and was officially granted his rookie license, enabling him to drive in his first Lights race next week.
"After yesterday's test at Kentucky Speedway, we are all very excited to have Jacob on board for the last two races because he proved he could do well in a Lights car," said Brian Belardi, owner of Belardi Auto Racing. "He will be a great addition to the team, and I can't wait to see what he, Anders and Jorge do in these last few races. It'll be interesting having three cars in the field."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Kentucky 100 on Oct. 2 at the Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised by VERSUS at Noon (ET).