Ilott grateful for Aeroscreen Protection
Callum Ilott quietly kicked off the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this season even as a video put his #77 Chevrolet Juncos Hollinger in the spotlight.
Ilott’s car was hit by a flying piece of steel last month in Jack Harvey’s crash at Texas Motor Speedway. Video showed that the debris hit the aeroscreen, not only protecting Ilott but not even leaving a mark on the car.
Ilott said the reaction to the photo on-board camera he posted on social media after the XPEL 375 in Texas drew an almost universal “thank you” from his supporters, and he met INDYCAR President Jay Frye on Friday at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach for the thank for the innovation introduced in 2020.
“Three years ago, an incident related to someone else’s accident may have sent me to the hospital,” Ilott said. “So yeah, I’m incredibly grateful (for that)…and to be here today without any damage.”
Ilott, a 23-year-old Englishman, said at the time of the incident “it was quite imperceptible”, but he knew he had hit something solid. He asked the JHR crew to check the car. It took a review of the video to see it.
“Yeah, it’s a lifesaver,” he said of the aeroscreen.
Said Frye on Twitter: “This incredibly high-tech game-changer has done its job again.”
Ilott is 16th in the INDYCAR SERIES standings and ninth out of 26 drivers in Friday’s first practice. Because he competed in the last three races of last season, he is the only rookie among the six entered this weekend to have raced on this temporary 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard (Honda #30 Shield Cleansers) leads the rookies in points, four ahead of Ilott.
Ilott said this weekend will be a good indicator of the progress the Indianapolis-based organization has made over these few months.
“Obviously we hope to have done a lot of development with the #77 Chevrolet JHR since then, so I’m excited to see what we can accomplish,” he said.
Team co-owner Ricardo Juncos said the team saw “a lot of potential in our growth” in the first two races of the season.
“We finished every race and were able to lead laps which was great for our momentum as we go forward,” he said. “It’s (is) the first time Callum can compete at a track he has experience at, so it will be a great test to see how far he’s come since the end of the 2021 season.”
RRDC finally gets to honor Mears
It took three tries due to the pandemic, but Rick Mears was honored Thursday night in Long Beach by the Road Racing Drivers Club.
Mears is still noted as a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, but he won road races at Watkins Glen International, Riverside Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, among others, in his INDYCAR SERIES career.
Joining him on stage was Mears’ longtime team owner Roger Penske. The annual event is hosted by Bobby Rahal, NTT INDYCAR SERIES team owner and 1986 Indy 500 winner.
- Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) said he was under surveillance as his wife, Ashley, was due to give birth to their first child – a boy – later this month. “I hope he stays on time and I don’t get caught,” Newgarden said.
- It has certainly been hot in Southern California. At the start of Friday practice at 3:15 p.m. local time, Firestone reported an ambient temperature of 95 degrees with a track temperature of 133 degrees. The good news is that temperatures are expected to drop significantly over the weekend, with a forecast high of 60 degrees for Sunday’s race (3 p.m., NBC, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network).
- Turn 6 has a new look this year after officials replaced two straight portions of the wall to the left of the driver with a more rounded one. The wall now extends deeper into the corner. In years past, INDYCAR SERIES cars have cut the wall and hit the tires on the exit of the corner.
- This is the 100th INDYCAR SERIES event for Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport (#27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda).
- NBC reported that Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson (#8 Huski Chocolate Honda) dislocated his thumb at the Long Beach race last year when his car hit the tire barrier during a battle with Rossi. He dealt with the injury for most of the offseason.
- Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport rookie Devlin Defrancesco (No. 29 PowerTap Honda) will be six positions short of qualifying due to an avoidable contact penalty in last month’s XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Generally, a penalty can be applied at the next INDYCAR SERIES race if the penalty cannot be served at the event where the violation occurred.
- Saturday’s schedule includes practice two at 11:45 a.m. (ET) and NTT P1 award qualifying at 3:05 p.m. (ET) – both on Peacock Premium.
- Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires is not competing at Long Beach this weekend, but series points leader Matthew Brabham, winner of the season-opening race in St. the Stadium Super Truck Series double race (Saturday and Sunday races). Brabham have won the last three championships in the series.
- NBC has announced that it will broadcast both days of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Open Test on April 20 and 21 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Peacock Premium.