Monday, March 6, 2017

LIGHTS: 2017 Season sees Major Team Changes...

Whilst I'll try to NOT go too Deep with the Stick 'N Ball Sports analogies; STEEE-RIKE! Especially since I'm NOT a fan 'O Baseball!  But just how will the boyz 'O Summer do, and will anybody be pullin' over for their team-mate to win the championship this year?

First off, I must say I find myself more intrigued over who'll be contesting this year's Indy Lights season, more than IndyCar at the moment; possibly since I worry about the series viability after the departure of their winningest team, the once mighty SPM, who ran roughshod over Lights for several years.

Then again, competition's always good, as I'm still stoked by the relatively new Dallara IL15 chassis mated to a Mazda badged MZRR (AER) 4-cylinder turbo 'lump with the de riggour paddle shifting technology's performance in the still burgeoning Feeder Series under Anderson Promotions.

Yet as typical, the series has many changes regarding the consolidation of teams and drivers this year. As there's currently NO brand new Lights Teams stepping up to the plate...

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Ejected!
As of December 1st, 2016, with the disappointing decision of Lights Stalwarts Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) to pull out of the series to focus solely upon Indy Cars; there were just a meager five drivers announced, with seven teams slated to contend the 2017 season.

But as typical, this was just preliminary news, as the teams personnel, and more specifically drivers were busy scurrying for seats! Thus with one month to go, I was pleased to learn that the grid's now morphed up to a total of fourteen Car/Driver combinations, representing five teams. Now A-L-L we need to do, a la IndyCar, is add further teams and more drivers!

As typical here in Nofendersville, after this story posted, for which was penned late February prior to the unknown of Homestead Open Test session to Mwah, I noticed that the teams finally got around to confirming Driver's and their respective Car numbers, for which some of Yuhs may have read previously as TBA...

Andretti's Grand Salami!
2017 Entries: 4
27. R-Nico Jamin; France
28. Dalton Kellett; Canada
48. R-Ryan Norman; USA
98. R-Colton Herta; USA

Obviously the biggest news here, is that Michael Andretti's convinced the Steinbrenner family, owners of those dreaded NY Yankees to pony up and become partners of his burgeoning Lights organization.

As reportedly this new entity Andretti Steinbrenner Racing will run Lights Rookie Colton Herta, who indeed is son of Bryan Herta, who partnered with Mikey A' last season to form Andretti Herta Autosport, which had a pretty good outing with its #98 at 16th & Georgetown last May!

While Y'all can listen to another witty interview by 'Ol r', nee Robin Miller in the following video;

Interestingly, the only returning driver to the team, Oh KanaDuh's Dalton Kellett will be surrounded by three rookie Pilotes', as Nico Jamin sounded very confident when I listened to him on Autosport Radio - Along with being super quick!

Although I've never heard of Yank' Ryan Norman before, I was even more surprised to learn he's the reigning Atlantic Championship winner; Huh? Thought Atlantics had gone by the wayside. As the teenager blitzed the field by winning 8-of-14 races last year, and will contest Lights at the ripe 'Ol age of 18!

Belardi adds to Roster
2017 Entries: 3
5. Santiago Urrutia; Uruguay

9. R-Aaron Telitz; USA
51. Shelby Blackstock; USA

This is the team I'm most interested to see who comes out on top, as Shelby Blackstock's definitely the meet in this Belardi Submarine Sandwich! As I'm most curious over how last year's runner-up Santi' does vs. reigning Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz, who fortunately split his winter testing between SPM and Belardi. Whilst naturally Urrutia will wish to atone for letting the championship slip away last year by finishing on the rostrum's top step this season.

Carlin hits Home Run!
2017 Entries: 4
11. R-Garth Rickards; USA
13. Zachary Claman DeMelo; Canada
22. Neil Alberico; USA
26. R-Matheus Leist; Brazil

Although I-T was a really, really L-O-N-G time ago, Y'all do recall Europe's Feeder Series Powerhouse Carlin winning last year's title somewhat controversially in its Sophomore season, right?

As the team's bulked up to four entries with one returning driver: Neil Alberico, whilst the driver with the longest name, Oh KanaDuh's Zackary XP-Calladrocious; Hya! Nee Monsieur Claman DeMelo moves over from Juncos Racing this year.

And two rookies of most different backgrounds will make their respective Lights debuts with Carlin. As Garth Rickards is taking the leap straight from a single season's outing in US F2000 where he finished tenth overall for Pabst Racing Services, having previously won Rookie Of the Year Honours in FF1600 with Team Pelfrey.

Matheus Leist is totally unknown to Mwah, as the Brazilian Lights rookie has jumped across thou Puddle as the reigning BRDC British F3 champion, driving for Double R Racing, founded by some guy named Kimi Raikkonen and his manager Steve Robertson. As Matheus tested for multiple GP3 teams this past November, but apparently thinks Carlin's a better shot.

Juncos Holds on Second Base
2017 Entries: 2
18. Kyle Kiser; USA
31. R-Nicolas Dapero; Argentina

Kyle Kiser will contest his third Lights season with Juncos, whom he competed with last year, his best in Lights, finishing third overall and scored his series first wins at Phoenix and Laguna Seca.

Nicolas Dapero, another foreign driver to Mwah, is part of Juncos Racing's driver stable. As the 17yr old Argentinean has steadily worked his way up the team's ladder. Having "Broken His Duck" at Laguna Seca en route to finishing fifth overall last year in Pro Mazda.

As the biggest news regarding Juncos Racing is their apparent designs to join the B-I-G' CARZ, nee IndyCar shortly, having just reportedly bought many of the now defunct KV Racing Technology assets, i.e.; Dallara chassis, Transporters, etc.

Team Pelfrey hitting Solo...
2017 Entries: 1+
2. Juan Piedrahita; Columbia
3. R-Patricio O'Ward; Mexico (Rounds 1-2)
Am hoping this was just preliminary info, regarding just one driver confirmed for Team Pelfrey when I scribbled this, as I'd still like to see KuhNuck' Scott Hargrove get a Full season's chance, as the Surrey, BC lad was replaced by fellow Kuhnaidiun Garett Grist mid-season last year, which begs the Questione what happened to Grist, eh?

After reading news 'bout the just completed Homestead Open Test session, noticed via that Mexico's Patricio O'Ward will join Team Pelfrey for the St Pete Opening weekend "double." As the Pelfrey Alum has a free weekend off from his "Day Job" running Fulltime in this year's Weathertech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge category, so don't expect to see the young Mexican lion at every Lights race this season...

As last I heard was that Grist's manager, a colloquial Bloke named Derek Daly had told him to get his Butt in his car and drive down to Indiana to test for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for last year's MRTI test - where he promptly set the test's Quickest time! So hopefully something will pan out for both of these aspiring Hosers' from Up North Eh!