Overheard at Mid-Ohio – Saturday

Kyle Kaiser
Kyle Kaiser

We chatted briefly with IndyCar rookie Kyle Kaiser. The 2017 Indy Lights champion scored a best finish of 16th at Long Beach in four starts this season with Juncos Racing. Kaiser noted that he has nothing lined up at the moment but that he is working to be back in the series for 2019, and told us he would likely know more in a few weeks.

If you read yesterday’s Overheard, you know we mentioned the cost of Indy Lights. Lights, of course, has seen incredibly small fields this year (there are 7 entries this weekend), as the series has lost entries from Carlin and Team Pelfrey amongst others in recent years.

One person in the know told us that a season of Lights could cost up to $1.5 million with crash damage. We followed up on this a little today and we learned that there is currently dissatisfaction with the costs involved in the series, and that these costs have increased significantly in the last 4-5 years with the advent of the new car.

Now, we’re also hearing that Andersen Promotions has a plan to bring costs down, however, there are at this point many skeptics who remain incredibly unsatisfied with the current state of affairs. This is a story we’ll be following in the coming weeks.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding Andretti Autosport for 2019, particularly in light of the McLaren to IndyCar rumors, and the possibility that McLaren may run in conjunction with Andretti Autosport. However, we do hear that the possibility Andretti runs 5 cars, with or without McLaren in 2019 is very real. We do know they will run at least 4, as all of their current drivers are under contract for 2019.

Pietro Fittipaldi may have a difficult day ahead of him tomorrow
Pietro Fittipaldi may have a difficult day ahead of him tomorrow

Pietro Fittipaldi, of course, has returned this weekend after suffering two broken legs this past May at Spa. While the Dale Coyne team and Fittipaldi have been insistent that he will be fine to race tomorrow, the young Brazilian has been moving around very gingerly this weekend with a significant limp in the rare moments he isn’t on his scooter. Also, it is a major struggle for him to get in and out of the car. Going off these visuals, we have to imagine that a 100-minute race on a notoriously physical racetrack is going to be very demanding tomorrow.

Last evening, we had the pleasure of attending a cookout at Andretti Autosport where we spent a few minutes talking to Alexander Rossi. We asked the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner and Mid-Ohio pole winner what he attributed to the increase in performance of all 4 Andretti Autosport cars.

Two things, according to Rossi:

  1. The change to the universal aero kit helped them sort out their handling issues. Of course, the Honda aero kit lagged behind the Chevy kit from 2015-2017.
  2. The hiring of new technical Director Eric Bretzman from Chip Ganassi Racing. According to Rossi, Bretzman did not make immediate changes rather observed the existing dynamics of the team. From there, Bretzman started to make suggestions for improvement and it seems the results are beginning to show.

We also talked to Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden following qualifying. All three mentioned the fact there will be no morning warmup tomorrow. INDYCAR, of course, eliminated the morning warmup on permanent road courses this year, in part because the teams had opportunities to test on these tracks. While none of the drivers said anything begrudgingly, we got the sense from their statements and others we have heard this weekend that they would prefer to have a warmup. In particular, this weekend there is a fair amount of uncertainty regarding how tires will perform tomorrow on full fuel load.

This is something we will follow up on in the morning.

Congratulations to Cape Motorsports driver Kyle Kirkwood. Yesterday, the 19-year-old Jupiter, Florida native scored the victory en route to clinching the 2018 Cooper Tires U.S. F2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title. Today, Kirkwood followed up with his ninth victory of the season and 8th in a row.

“This point of the season is the most important," said Kirkwood. “We’ve won the championship but we have to prove that we won’t let up. If we relax, that would show that I’m not extremely focused and that’s not the case. This is just the beginning of my career so I’m going to keep charging."

Brian Carroccio and Lucille Dust reporting from Mid-Ohio

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