INDYCAR News and Notes – Feb. 23, 2016

1. Rossi fills out Andretti Autosport driver quartet for 2016
2. All teams ready for first full test of season
3. Firestone creates Indy 500 tire design commemorating its winners
4. Of note

1. Rossi fills out Andretti Autosport driver quartet for 2016: Alexander Rossi has been named as the fourth driver to compete for Andretti Autosport in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. The 24-year-old American will drive the No. 98 Honda, following a merger last week with Bryan Herta Autosport that moved the entry into the Andretti stable.

Rossi boasts an impressive racing portfolio. He drove in five Formula One races in 2015 for Manor while also finishing runner-up in GP2, the top developmental series for aspiring F1 drivers. The California native has made 209 career open-wheel starts, with 42 wins, 75 podiums, 36 poles and an impressive win percentage of 20.1 percent.

“I’m very much looking forward to making my (Verizon) IndyCar Series debut this season and am proud to be racing with a team of such high caliber and pedigree as that of Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said. “As a racer through and through, I cannot wait to get started. Our goal is to be competitive immediately at the first race in St. Petersburg.”

To watch Rossi talk about his opportunity with Andretti Autosport, click here.

Rossi will not participate in the Feb. 26-27 promoter test at Phoenix International Raceway, instead getting his first time in an Indy car March 1 in a private test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. He becomes part of the team that features the last three American-born drivers to race in Formula One, along with team owner Michael Andretti and Andretti’s Global Rallycross driver Scott Speed.

“We’re really excited to have Alexander join the team,” Andretti said. “His credentials speak for his ability and we’re confident he’ll transition seamlessly into Indy car racing. It’s neat to have the last three American F1 drivers in 25 years to be under one roof. I think it speaks to the level of talent we have.”

Rossi joins Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz as the team’s drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Herta, a former driver for Andretti, will serve as Rossi’s pit strategist.

“I’m really pleased at how well all these pieces have come into place for this group,” said Herta. “Adding Alex as a driver is going from strength to strength for us. We can’t wait to get on track together and start our preparation for the 2016 season.”

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship begins with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC) and includes the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29 (11 a.m. ET, ABC).

2. All teams ready for first full test of season: The first full complement of Verizon IndyCar Series entries for 2016 will be on track together Feb. 26-27 for the promoter test at Phoenix International Raceway. The “Test in the West” features 21 car/driver combinations on the entry list. To view the full entry list, click here.

Scott Dixon returns this year to defend his 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Other past champions participating in the test include Tony Kanaan (2004), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012), Will Power (2014) and Sebastien Bourdais (2004-2007 in Champ Car), as well as three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time and reigning Indy 500 victor Juan Pablo Montoya.

The two-day test on the 1-mile oval in Avondale, Ariz., will provide the first opportunity for the public to view the updated aerodynamic bodywork kits that manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda have provided to their respective supplied teams. The second day of the test is “Prix View Day” and open to fans free of charge and includes an all-driver autograph session.

Test sessions both days run from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. ET. Live timing and scoring will be available for all sessions at racecontrol.indycar.com . The promoter test will assist teams in preparations for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to PIR for the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

3. Firestone creates Indy 500 tire design commemorating its winners: Firestone Racing unveiled a special tire sidewall design for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil that honors the drivers who contributed to the brand’s 66 victories at the world’s most renowned race.

Firestone has carried more drivers to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway than all other tire manufacturers combined – starting with Ray Harroun in the first race in 1911 and continuing through Juan Pablo Montoya’s victory last year.

“The Firestone brand solidified its place in motorsports history at the first running of the Indianapolis 500 with driver Ray Harroun,” said Lisa Boggs, director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “More than a century later, we are honored to celebrate all of the legendary drivers who have taken Firestone to victory circle at the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’

“From the beginning, Harvey Firestone believed in the power of motorsports and the Indianapolis 500 as a showcase for our company’s performance, innovation and technology. That legacy is at the core of everything we do and we are proud to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

The special sidewalls feature the names of every driver who won the Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tires. Also displayed on the sidewall is the 100th running logo and customary Firestone brand markings, including red and white Firestone “F shield” logos unique to the Indianapolis 500 tire because they identify the right- and left-side race tires, respectively.

The tires for the Indy 500 feature an updated right-front construction designed to improve driver confidence in the corners, a softer left-rear construction to add overall grip and a more heat resistant left-side compound. Firestone will produce more than 5,000 tires to be used in May for practice, qualifying and the historic race.

Of note: Country music superstar Blake Shelton will headline the annual Firestone Legends Day Concert on May 28, the day before the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Current IMS customers can purchase tickets now through a pre-sale while an official on-sale date is slated for Feb. 29 at 9 a.m. General admission tickets for the concert are $40 and access to the Firestone Concert Pit near the front of the stage is $75. Ticket information can be found at www.ims.com/blake or by calling (800) 822-INDY. Fans with tickets for the concert will be admitted free to Legends Day activities. … Belardi Auto Racing has added reigning European Formula 3 champion Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden to its driver roster for the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season. Rosenqvist, 24, won 13 of 33 F3 races in 2015, plus the Masters of Formula 3 and Macau Grand Prix. He will team with American Zach Veach this season … Team Pelfrey announced that Scott Hargrove will drive for its Indy Lights team in the opening two rounds at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12-13.