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IndyCar Preview: Drivers love new throwback track in Louisiana

Discussion in 'IndyCar' started by Rob, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium Member

    Personal playground now major motorsport venue
    By Dave Lewandowski
    Published: Apr 6, 2015

    A poster of the periodic table in Dr. Laney Chouest’s modest office at NOLA Motorsports Park is a symbol of information, which the business magnate/entrepreneur/former family practitioner sees as the key to the facility he founded and developed hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series race.

    Such a concept wasn’t his original intent, but when the idea was broached back in 2012 he didn’t immediately discount count it either. The big-picture Louisianan saw an opportunity to showcase the state and the 750-acre facility that sprung up on the west bank of the Mississippi River, about 15 miles from Downtown New Orleans, to satisfy one man’s penchant for driving fast without getting a ticket.

    He just needed to collect information, complete his due diligence, much like his family's offshore oil and gas exploration company. This weekend, NOLA Motorsports Park will host the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (2:30 p.m. ET April 12, NBCSN).

    “The whole track process some people have said is somewhere between visionary and nutty guy with an obsession. We’ll let people decide, especially when they visit the facility,” Chouest said.

    The 2.74-mile, 13-turn course, which was designed by Alan Wilson – also the architect of Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and Miller Motorsports Park in Utah – and opened in 2011, has provided Sundays of sanctuary for men and women with driving memberships.

    Operational growth followed with regular team-building and car manufacturer events, a safe driving program and karting competitions on a separate serpentine course.

    “I picked up high-performance driving as a hobby when I was 40 years old and I really enjoyed it,” said Chouest, 60. “I was looking for a facility because there was no facility nearby where I could do safe high-performance driving. Where can I do this within 30 minutes from downtown New Orleans?

    “I started by calling the economic development entities of five regional parishes and talking to real estate people. I started looking for 200 to 300 acres and ended up with about 750. I didn’t have any commercial thoughts. There were more than a couple of people who asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ’’

    A similar refrain could be heard after the August 2014 announcement that NOLA Motorsports Park would host a major motorsports event within a year.

    Chouest is unabated. Through a public/private partnership with the State of Louisiana, which contributed $4.5 million, and Chouest spending $3 million-plus in addition to the estimated $70 million initial investment, the event will draw tens of thousands of spectators, many of whom will witness the speed and excitement of the Verizon IndyCar Series for the first time.

    “We like to say, ‘We’re not bringing the race to New Orleans but bringing New Orleans to the race,’ ’’ Chouest said. “Our location is the only (road course) that is this close to a convention destination center. We’re unique.”

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  2. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium Member

    For Immediate Release

    Track: 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course (clockwise)

    Race distance: 75 laps / 205.5 miles

    Entry List: Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (PDF)

    Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 20 seconds each

    Firestone tire allotment: Eight sets primary, three sets alternate

    Twitter: @GPofNOLA, @IndyCar, #GPofNOLA, #IndyCar

    Event website: www.gpofnola.com

    INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

    2014 race winner: New event

    2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: New event

    Qualifying lap record: New event

    NBCSN race broadcast: Sunday, April 12 (2:30 p.m. ET)

    NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 11 (5 p.m. ET)

    Brian Till will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN's broadcast of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kelly Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

    Video Streaming: All practice sessions for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar and RaceControl.IndyCar.com .

    Radio broadcasts: Paul Page is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Qualifying and all Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR 15 app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 15 app.

    At-track schedule (all times local):
    Friday, April 10
    12:15-1:45 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
    4:15-5:35 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)

    Saturday, April 11
    12:30-1:15 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
    4:15 p.m. (Three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifications)

    Sunday, April 12
    11-11:30 a.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up)
    1:30 p.m. NBCSN on air
    2:37 p.m. Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana green flag

    Race Notes:
    * The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is the first Indy car race at NOLA Motorsports Park and first major auto race in the state of Louisiana since a 1995 IMSA GT race in downtown New Orleans.

    * Juan Pablo Montoya started the Verizon IndyCar Series season by scoring the win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Can he continue his strong start by adding another win at NOLA Motorsports Park?

    * With a third-place finish at St. Petersburg, Tony Kanaan has finished on the podium in six of his last eight races. Now the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner looks to add a win at NOLA Motorsports Park. Can Kanaan keep up his podium streak?

    * Kanaan seeks to start his 235th consecutive race, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 176 consecutive starts.

    * Team Penske, which earned its 175th Indy car win at St. Petersburg, will field a formidable four-car juggernaut in New Orleans hoping to sweep the podium after placing all four cars in the top five at St. Petersburg. St. Pete race winner Montoya is joined by reigning series champion Will Power, who finished second at St. Petersburg, Helio Castroneves, who finished fourth at St. Petersburg, and Simon Pagenaud, who finished fifth in his team debut.

    * Dixon, the longest-tenured driver for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, is tied with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 35.

    * Simona de Silvestro, who made 65 starts over four Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, is the only female driver entered in the race. She made her return to the series at St. Petersburg after a one-year absence, finishing 18th.

    * The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Cars are differentiated by their shape on the street course as the manufacturers have designed separate aero kit specifications for road and street course/short ovals and speedways for the Dallara IR-12 chassis. References to the cars will incorporate the name of the corresponding manufacturer.

    * The No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara crew of Tony Kanaan won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a total pit lane time of 99.024 seconds. The NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

    Pre-Race Quotes:
    Will Power (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "You have to acknowledge what an amazing job Chevrolet and all of the engineers at Team Penske have done in the off-season. They have a lot to be proud of with the way we performed as a team at St. Pete. There is no reason to think that it won't carry over to NOLA this weekend, not only because of the testing we did there in the off-season, but we have typically run very well at the new venues over the last couple of years. NOLA is wicked fast and what it takes to get around that place really suits my driving style. The grip is very tight and it should promote great racing. To me, it's really impressive that the fans can see the entire track. That's a cool aspect of NOLA that not many tracks have. New Orleans knows how to have a good time and I believe everyone that comes out to the track this weekend will certainly have one. Hopefully we can get our first win of the season in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy. It's going to be a hard-fought race because I know everyone is going to want to be the first winner at NOLA."

    Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader): "I'm really excited to get to New Orleans. Yes, we are coming off a win in St. Pete, which always makes you hungry to get back to racing, but I'm looking forward to getting back on the track at NOLA. From my first lap there in testing I came away very impressed with the facility. The grip level is amazingly high, especially with the new aero kits. I can't wait to see what it's like on the 'red' Firestone tires. It's going to be very interesting with everyone flying around. I'm very proud of how my No. 2 Verizon Chevy team came out of the gate strong this season. It's only been one race, but compared to how we struggled last year at the start it's a night-and-day difference. It's just the difference a year makes. We are working just as hard and we haven't made any radical changes to the team. It just comes down to experience."

    Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): "NOLA Motorsports Park is very technical. The people of New Orleans should be really excited because the racing is going to be fantastic, I can tell you that. There is a lack of elevation changes, which can make it tricky for us drivers because you don't have any points of reference, but it means that the fans can see the entire track from the stands. Every racetrack has its own characteristics and NOLA is no exception, but with two tests there under our belt we should have a lot of it figured out. It's different than many other tracks, but it's very fast. Team Penske got off to a great start in St. Pete, coming really close to a 1-2-3-4 finish. That shows that all of our hard work during the off-season is paying off. The Hitachi Chevrolet was very solid in the opener and if we can find a little more speed, I think we can be in Victory Lane on Sunday."

    Stefano Coletti (No. 4 Variable Bore Rams - KVRT Chevrolet): "I am really excited for this next race in New Orleans and to also have Variable Bore Rams, Inc., who are a local Louisiana company, as my primary sponsor this weekend. The track at NOLA is amazing and a lot of fun to drive. The KVRT team has had a few successful tests there over the last few months, so I think we are prepared and ready to be up front this weekend. We showed great potential in the race at St. Petersburg a few weeks ago, but unfortunately the final result didn't reflect that. Hopefully everything comes together this weekend and I can give everyone on the team and VBR a great result."

    James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): "I think everyone is looking forward to going to NOLA. We love going to new tracks and seeing new races. I was lucky enough to be part of some of the build-up to the race with the Mardi Gras celebration. Seeing what I saw, I think the city is going to come out in full force and really support the event, and that's what everybody wants to see. On top of that, it's a cool new track and it's fast. It's going to be a great place to really explore what these body kits are capable of, so there's a lot of things to look forward to. More than anything, we're aiming to get the result on the board after the weekend in St. Pete that certainly wasn't what we were aiming for."

    James Jakes (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "NOLA is a great addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. I really enjoyed the track when we tested there and it should be a great event all around. Our testing sessions at NOLA should put us in better position from a competitive standpoint. Our goal is to score some much-needed points for the championship after a disappointing race in St. Pete."

    Sage Karam (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): "We did a lot of off-season testing with the aero kits at NOLA, so I feel I'm much more prepared for a track like this than St. Petersburg. I've turned a lot of laps and miles at the track so far so I'm feeling pretty good about it. I think the race is going to be good. NOLA is a fast track and you're going to see a lot of mistakes, and in turn a lot of passing opportunities. It's a very physical track as well. The fans in Louisiana are going to get to see some raw speed with this layout. I would watch for passing in Turns 1 and 10."

    Scott Dixon (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): "I think we were one of the first INDYCAR teams to actually test at NOLA before the big test where everybody went. It was a little bumpy in some areas, but it has very long straights that are very fast. The section from Turns 1 through 6 is a lot of fun and there is another great section toward the end through Turns 10 through 14. There are also high-speed corners and some tight hairpins as well. For the fans, the coolest part is that it's quite flat, which for a driver sometimes is not the best thing, but visually it's fantastic - from one spot you can see the whole track. There are big braking zones and long straights, so it's kind of a combination of all the things that you need at a new track and one that spectators are going to love. As far as the city of New Orleans, I haven't been but hopefully we get to celebrate after the race and go down in the French Quarter and check that out. It's a new area for us, we haven't been to that part of the world before or that part of America, and hopefully we can get the buzz going for a bunch of people and have some good races there."

    Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "It was great to start the new season with NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing with a podium finish in St. Pete and be able to break up the Penske cars from sweeping those top four spots. It obviously isn't a win, but we'll take the third-place finish and use it to build on. We've had some really good test days at NOLA Motorsports Park and we've been able to get solid data with all four cars running and testing different things. It'll be a lot of fun getting out onto a new track and seeing what all the teams can do when we're starting from a more equal playing field with track experience."

    Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Chevrolet): "It's always exciting racing on a new track. We have tested at NOLA twice, but we were only there once with the new aero kits. I think we have some good data and a decent baseline setup for NOLA, but track conditions always change so you have to be able to adapt to the conditions. The NOLA track is challenging and fun. It has everything between slow-speed, medium- and high-speed corners and I think it is going to be hard on tires. I think it is going to be a challenging race for the drivers, which means it should be a fun race for the fans to watch."

    Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "Turns 1 and 3 are probably the most popular places to pass at NOLA and at the end of the back straight could be another one. There will be slight modifications for Turn 1 from when we tested there so we will see, but it seemed very bumpy on the inside of the braking area toward Turn 1 so that will be a bit of a concern when overtaking. Everyone says it feels like the Indy road course. That's because the track is very flat and has a couple of high-speed chicanes. To me, there are some bumpy, tricky corners which remind me a little bit of Edmonton's airport circuit. NOLA's in a big, open field and you can see pretty much everything from the grandstands. There is not much of a real runoff area and that field is a little rough if you go off, so that's similar to Edmonton, too. However, NOLA will be installing some new gravel areas so that will improve the safety of the track. I look forward to going there."

    Graham Rahal (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): "We're looking forward to running the D-A Lubricant Company colors at NOLA. They have been a great partner so far and bring a lot of enthusiasm, so we want to have a good race weekend for them. New Orleans is tricky because it's a very flat track so there aren't a lot of reference markers for the drivers. When we normally race, you see a certain marker, spot on the ground or, at times, a shadow you know you have to brake right at that point. The NOLA track is very flat so it's hard to have any of that. It's a track that's very demanding and it's very important to get the maximum out of the car. It seems to be one of the most difficult tracks to put a lap time together completely and get the best out of yourself and every corner. Having said all of that, we're looking forward to going there. Even with an 11th-place result in St. Pete, we feel we had one of the best cars in the race and the team has a lot of momentum and can't wait to get on track again. I really think that all signs are pointing to us being able to have a great year. Our goal is to go to New Orleans and try to rack up as many points as we can, move ourselves up in the championship and kick off Long Beach and the rest of the season. For sure, the competitiveness of the teams and of the series is tremendous. Penske was very good in qualifying and they obviously had a good race, too, but I think we are seeing that there are a lot of teams that are very, very close together. You certainly can't slip up and in qualifying we slipped up a little bit and had our worst session of the weekend and that really hurt us. We need to make sure we are on top of our game because there is no margin for error with the field as tight as it is. You have to be on it and that's what makes the Verizon IndyCar Series so exciting right now."

    Carlos Huertas (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I tested there for two days and I like the layout of the circuit. It will be interesting to see how much overtaking this circuit is going to provide and the tire wear should come into play in the race. I hope to have a good weekend and that my 2015 really starts in NOLA."

    Francesco Dracone (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I am looking forward to getting back out there after a disappointing St. Pete race. This is the one circuit that I've had some time testing with the current aero package and I hope to turn that into a successful weekend."

    Luca Filippi (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): "I can't wait to be at NOLA Motorsports Park. I really like the circuit very much, and being a new race for everybody, I think it could be a better opportunity for me. After a top-10 result at St. Petersburg, it will be good to try and raise our goal a little and get a better result. The team is doing a great job and I'm looking forward to having another successful weekend."

    Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): "To me, NOLA Motorsports Park is similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in terms of layout. You have to be really precise with your braking point and the speed you carry into the corners. I think fans will see good racing and a lot of passing. The new aero kits are going to put on another good show, I believe. All of us on the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet team learned a lot at St. Pete about how we can race with the new kits. As you saw in the second half of that event, we stayed off of each other a lot more. We'll continue to get better in that regard. This is a new team and we are going to take a couple of races to really start gelling together, but a top five in our first start is definitely a positive sign and now we are ready to take the next step."

    Simona de Silvestro (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It's great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg. I'm really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race. I'm really thankful for all that Michael (Andretti) and everyone at Andretti Autosport have been doing to make all of this happen."

    Carlos Muñoz (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): "It's really exciting to be going back to New Orleans. I love the city, and I think the track is really fun. We've tested there (NOLA Motorsports Park) a couple of times so we know it pretty well, more or less. It's the first time the (Verizon) IndyCar Series is going to NOLA, so everyone is really excited about it. Hopefully the weather will improve - because it doesn't look great right now - but at least it will be the same conditions for everyone. I'm ready to get back in the car and see if we have something - see if we have improved from St. Pete."

    Marco Andretti (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda): "We've done some testing at NOLA. I love the track and the city, and I think it will be a great event. The track is a real commitment racetrack and one of our faster road courses with a couple passing zones. Turn 1 will be the best stop to see overtaking. We started the year with a top 10 in St. Pete and are hoping to keep climbing up from there for the Merchant First/Snapple car Honda."

    Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We are coming off a positive test (at NOLA) a few weeks ago and are looking forward to the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana. The weather could play a major factor, and it's something we are keeping an eye on as we consider setup options. Wet conditions will be extremely tricky at this particular track... but sometimes big risk equals big rewards."

    Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "I really enjoy going to new circuits. It's always exciting to see which teams and drivers can understand the circuit quickly with the limited track time we get over the course of a race weekend. The strategy is always very interesting as well due to the fact we have no previous race data to call on. It makes for some interesting races. NOLA reminds me of a slightly quicker version of the IMS road course; it's very flat with a couple of quick corners and some long straights with big braking zones. Hopefully this should open up a lot of overtaking opportunities in the race."

    Josef Newgarden (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): "I'm really looking forward to getting back with the CFH Racing team in New Orleans. It's an exciting new market for everyone in Indy car racing. Everyone has been putting in a lot of work to make this event successful and hopefully grow for the future. We're going to be looking to maximize the weekend for ourselves as we continue the championship race. St. Pete wasn't where we want to be, but we finished clearly in the points. New Orleans will be critical for us to try to maintain positive momentum and try to score solid points. That's our goal. Hopefully we can hit the ground running when we get to New Orleans and finish strong."

    Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "I'm really looking forward to going back to NOLA Motorsports Park, and this time seeing some fans in the stands. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team had a couple of good tests there recently, so we're going in with a bit of data in our back pockets. I know they've made a lot of improvements to the track within the past few months as well, after the Verizon IndyCar Series teams had a chance to test, so it will be interesting to see how the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana race plays out. The No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet definitely had the speed at St. Pete, but unfortunately just not the result to back it up. Every single person on the team is focused and committed to make this a successful season; we have another shot at it this weekend."

    Gabby Chaves (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): "Our test went well at NOLA and that should help us start out the weekend more competitively. Additionally, what we learned in the first race will be especially helpful for race strategy. I think that NOLA being a new track on the schedule will be a good thing for us since other drivers don't have years of experience around here and that levels the playing field a little. We learned in St Pete about tire management, which may play a big role at NOLA, too, and allow for some close racing with plenty of opportunities to overtake."
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
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