INDYCAR News and Notes – Nov. 20, 2015

1. Hunter-Reay Cherishes Race Of Champions Chances
2. Andretti Thinks Fans Will Enjoy Indy Cars’ Pace at PIR
3. Dixon, Montoya Nominated for Autosport Awards
4. Trio of Holmatro Safety Team Members Promoted to Captain
5. This Barnhart-Power ‘Confrontation’ Has Hilarious Results
6. Mazda Road to Indy Teams Ready for Griffis Memorial Test

1. Hunter-Reay Cherishes Race Of Champions Chances: Ryan Hunter-Reay is driving in the Race Of Champions for the third time, which he believes will provide a level of familiarity with the format, cars and competitors.

But the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner – along with the 19 other drivers from multiple motorsports disciplines – will contend with a new track layout and racing structure today and Saturday at Olympic Stadium in London.

The event is divided into two sections: the ROC Nations Cup, in which drivers are paired in geographically centered teams, and the Race Of Champions for individual competition. Taped highlights will be televised in the United States at 7 p.m. ET Nov. 29on CBS Sports Network.

Drivers will continue to race head-to-head in identical cars on the same track, so winners will be decided by driver skill. In previous years, drivers have raced side-by-side on a parallel track linked by a crossover bridge. Now they will take part in an Olympic cycling-style pursuit race where the racers start next to each other but facing opposite directions. At the green light, they will speed off in a bid to hunt each other down.

“I got to the semifinals last year and I’m hopeful of bettering that this year,” said Hunter-Reay, Hunter-Reay, who made his Race Of Champions debut in 2012 in Thailand and also drove in the event last year in Barbados. “It’s a unique challenge to jump in and out of all the cars when you get such a short amount of seat time in each.

“I love the event and it’s an honor to be among the world’s greatest drivers. To even receive an invite is a huge compliment, and to go and compete against them is something that I cherish.”

Hunter-Reay, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has drawn two-time World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina in his first head-to-head match in the Race Of Champions. Hunter-Reay and Lopez will be teammates under the Team Americas banner in the Nations Cup. Their first match is against Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg of Team Nordic.

2. Andretti Thinks Fans Will Enjoy Indy Cars’ Pace at PIR: Marco Andretti didn’t predict an assault on Arie Luyendyk’s 20-year-old record lap at Phoenix International Raceway during the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix, but it was understood during a manufacturer test at the 1-mile oval on Nov. 18.

Luyendyk holds the track-record lap of 19.068 seconds (183.599 mph) during qualifications for the March 1996 Indy car race. Andretti said ticket-holders for the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2 (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN) will witness another high-speed treat.

“I think the coolest part to relate if you watched the (NASCAR) Cup race here (on Nov. 15) is you know Jimmie (Johnson) broke the track record here for qualifying at 25.1 (seconds),” said Andretti, whose grandfather, Mario, earned eight pole starts and won four Indy car races at PIR. “We’re going to be sub-20 seconds around here, so that’s enough to get me out to a racetrack.”

The third-generation Indy car driver joined Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe for a Honda test of road/street course and short oval aerodynamic components.

A full-scale Verizon IndyCar Series test is scheduled for Feb. 26-27 ahead of the race weekend to mark INDYCAR’s return to the track after an 11-year absence. PIR hosted Indy car races from its opening in 1964 to 2005.

Andretti, who entered the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2006 with the team owned by his father, Michael (who won at PIR in 1986), said laps during the test sessions reminded him most of the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway oval.

“I’m thinking we can get a second groove in between (Turns) 1 and 2, which I think is going to really improve the racing. If that happens, I think we’ll put on a heck of a show,” he said.

3. Dixon, Montoya Nominated for Autosport Awards: Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and 2015 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya are among the nominees in the International Racing Driver of the Year category of the Autosport Awards.

The awards in 12 categories – eight voted on by Autosport subscribers online and four selected by magazine staff and competition judges – will be presented Dec. 6 during an international motorsports gala in London. The Autosport Awards have been presented since 1982.

Lewis Hamilton, who has wrapped up his third Formula One title, and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg join F1 veteran Sebastian Vettel (a four-time winner in the category) and 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne as the other driver of the year nominees. Hamilton won the 2014 award in the category, when Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power was a nominee.

Dixon, who earned his fourth Verizon IndyCar Series title, also was nominated for International Racing Driver of the Year following his 2013 championship season.

“It’s obviously a prestigious award. You always want to win those, but there’s such great competition,” said Dixon, who is fifth on the all-time Indy car win list with 42. “To be recognized in any award format is nice, and maybe one day we can win it.”

4. Trio of Holmatro Safety Team Members Promoted to Captain: Three members of INDYCAR’s Holmatro Safety Team – Robert Cesnik, Kevin Jones and Todd Walsh – have been promoted to the rank of captain within the Indianapolis Fire Department, according to a Nov. 18 announcement from the IFD Civilian Fire Merit Board.

The Holmatro Safety Team is recognized as an industry leader in motorsports safety, consisting of 30 personnel – trauma and orthopedic physicians, nurses, paramedics and firefighter/EMTs – who travel to every Verizon IndyCar Series event, where they tend to the safety of drivers, team personnel and others associated with INDYCAR. Most members of the team also work full-time jobs in their profession within their local communities.

5. This Barnhart-Power ‘Confrontation’ Has Hilarious Results: Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR’s Vice President of Competition, has had his share of memorable interactions with 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over the years. But likely nothing similar to when Barnhart agreed to sit for an interview with Will’s brother, comedian Damien Power, for a segment of “Exclusive Look Behind the Scenes of INDYCAR.”

The latest installment of the ongoing video series will be available Nov. 21 on IndyCar.com. Check it out for the hilarious and sometimes awkward results.

6. Mazda Road to Indy Teams Ready for Griffis Memorial Test: A total of 34 drivers from 11 nations will converge this weekend on the Circuit of the Americas, near Austin, Texas, for the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test featuring all three rungs of the developmental stepladder series sanctioned by INDYCAR.

A total of six test sessions for each series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – will be conducted Nov. 21-22. Thirteen different teams representing all three levels will be seeking to gain a head start on preparations for the 2016 racing season.