Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shooting Starz' 2015 Edition: American Chaps

Otay, Y'all know thy Drill... As once again; Hmm? May be the Eggnog gots in the way; Hya! Actually it was 'Lucy instead, but that's another Yarn for later! As this story, amongst multiple others has been aging gracefully at Thy cellars 'O Nofendersville...

Although the top rung of the vaunted MRTI, nee Mazda Road To Indy's ladder to Indy Cars Indy Lights series still lacks a large field 'O competitors, with overall entries having clung at a paltry 12! Although I believe this equals +3 over the previous year's average grid.

Nonetheless, there was an infinitesimal uptick towards the overall health of Indy Lights - Including the modest increase over 2014's series entrants, for which reigning Indy Lights champion Gaby Chaves graduated to Thy B-I-G' CARZ, nee IndyCar with Brian Herta Autosports.

Not to mention the very important debut of the new Dallara IL15 chassis mated to the turbocharged Mazda 4-banger' AER designed lump featuring de rigour Paddle Shifting, "P2P" (Push-to-Pass) turbo boost, etc, which were marked improvements over the previous series machinery!

Having chronicled my thoughts upon some of the 2014 MRTI entrants in;

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports remained as the series pillar with its traditional four car entry, along with reigning series champion Balardi Auto Racing two car entry and Andretti Autosports muted one-car entry - as Lights winner Mathew Brabham had trouble finding funding after contesting the season opener at St Pete.

Three new teams arrived: 8 Star Motorsports, Carlin and Juncos Racing. As 8 Star fought all season long to find the necessary A-L-L consuming sponsorship backing to keep its Minnowesqe one car team on Thy Grid!

Whilst Carlin is indeedy that Carlin, aka the multi championship European Feeder Series stalwarts whose Alumni's include the likes of Takuma Sato, Sebastian Vettel and his good Buddy Daniel Ricciardo; Hya! Jack Harvey, Charlie Kimball and countless others, as Carlin currently competes in several Feeder Series including GP2, GP3 and Indy Lights.

Carlin's debutante Lights season driver line-up included two former Formula 1 drivers, with Nelson Piquet, Jr. filling in for Max Chilton, who scored his maiden Lights victory of all places in "Corn Country" upon Iowa's "Bullring" Oval-track!

Meanwhile, Juncos Racing steadfastly worked away at another championship trophy - Having captured the USF2000 and Pro Mazda titles previously. As defending Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot made the climb to Indy Lights at Juncos with fellow rookie K2', nee Kyle Kaiser as his Wingman.

As the title fight was a Three Ring Circus, with Emirati rookie driver Ed Jones (United Arab Emirates) racing for Carlin blasting into Thy points lead by opening the season with a Hat-trick 'O victories before eventually finishing third overall.

After St Petersburg's Double Header and Long Beach the title fight raged on between another rookie - 22yr old American Spencer Pigot vs. sophomore Bloody Brit Jack Harvey running for perennial champions Sam Schmidt and Rick Peterson's (SPM) race-team, with Pigot vaulting to the top of the points table after his first Double trot at thee Oh, So Beautiful Barber's, i.e.; Barber Motorsports Park.

Harvey responded by winning the series marquee event, the Freedom 100 - Actually doing his own Double Dance by claiming one of the two road course races at Mother Speedway and then the prestigious Freedom 100 with 8 Star Motorsports rookie Hot-schue Shawn Rayhall the meat in Harvey's Indianapolis pie!

Pigot ultimately won the championship on the strength of claiming the most victories, six total after getting his broom out whilst sweeping three Double Headers, i.e.; Barber, Toronto and Laguna Seca, the season's final bill shared with the Pirelli World Challenge series.

Jack Harvey and Ed Jones both finished the season tied with three wins overall apiece, with Harvey once again being the Bridesmaid for the second year in-a-row, as the affable Brit now searches for an IndyCar ride, although Rooskie' Mikhail Aleshin's return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports seemingly has closed the door for 2016.

Meanwhile, Shawn Rayhall won his second race of the season by dominating Mid-Ohio's Sunday outing, whilst Puerto Rican rookie Felix Serrall├ęsclaimed his maiden Lights victory at Milwaukee - Balardi's sole victory. With SPM's RC Enerson the final driver to stand atop Thy Podium last year upon being P1 during Mid Ohio's first round of its Double Header weekend.

As hopefully we'll see the trend continue, when IndyCar teams are enticed to run promising Lights drivers during testing which entitles them to extra mileage, along with testing potential new drivers. With the Lights Boyz' getting the rare opportunity to test an IndyCar,

As two of last year's participants have now snagged partial drives in thee Big Carz'', (IndyCar) with Pigot enjoying the fruits of winning the Lights championship with a paid for three-race outing including the 100th Indy 500 next year. Having inked his deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, where hopefully some of Thy Graminator's superlative 2015 form will rub off upon him.

Andretti Autosport Alumni Mathew Brabham has signed a contract with another portion of KV Whats Yuh McCall it's ever expanding Alphabet Soup, where he'll be the chauffer of the PIRTEK Team Murray No. 61 collaboration at both Indianapolis events. As the number 61 honours his late Grandfather Sir Blackjack, aka F1 triple world champion Jack Brabham...

Having profiled the various Indy Lights 2015 participants previously, when trying to draw Attenzione to the season ending Laguna Seca double header weekend, which farcically wasn't held during an IndyCar race outing, and hence the championship's final outcome went virtually unnoticed!

It's nice to see that the 'KuhNucks ranks are being filled up again, as I had ZERO notion there were so many in the middle rung of the MRTI ladder - When I began reviewing the entry roster 'Wayback in Thy Autumn of 2015, albeit not sure if all are still competing?

Having spotted the totally unknown to Mwah name Dalton Kellett driving for Mikey A's squad, aka Andretti Autosport - Before simply having ran out of that precious commodity simply known as time! Which apparently also struck KuhNuck' Scott Hargrove early-on in his search for the ever elusive "Looney & Tooney's" needed to fun his ride at 8 Star Motorsports.

Ironically, Dalton Kellett, simply the first Hoser I spotted - Has graduated to Indy Lights and will continue racing for Andretti Autosport with Shelby Blackstock as his team-mate. Whilst another unheard of Hoser, Zachary Claman DeMelo will chauffer one of Juncos Racing's chassis, as these two Kuhnaidiun rookies battle for best of 2016 Indy Lights Canada honours...

Yet, suppose I was more intrigued by the totally unknown Santiago Urrutia of Uruguay, with the 19yr old teenager clinching his first championship on a historic weekend.

As Urrutia was Karmically winning his first single seater championship at the same venue on the same weekend where countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez perished some sixteen years ago.

As the Pro Mazda champion will enjoy a cheque from Mazda for a cool half-million dollars along with his Cooper tyres bill being picked up for a guaranteed ride in Lights this year! Whilst I'd missed the "Memo" that Team Pelfrey, whom he won the championship with has bought the assets of 8 Star Motorsports, presumably where Urrutia will drive this year?

And whilst most of Y'all won't recognize the name, sadly, I've got a strange connection to the fallen Gonzalo Rodriguez, who died whilst I was rubbing elbows with Phil Hill in Italy, whom I've briefly chronicled in;