Notes: Enerson tops busy day on track for Indy Lights

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports showed the way around Phoenix International Raceway.

RC Enerson topped the one-day Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires test at the 1-mile oval, recording the fastest lap of the day, 168.294 mph, in the morning session.

“We learned the track on Monday and were able to get flat out,” said the 18-year-old from New Port Richey, Fla., who finished fourth in the series point standings in 2015. “Today we worked on qualifying setups and did most of our time running together as a group, trying to figure out what to do in traffic during the race. To be able to come in this morning and be quickest was very encouraging. I’m happy to have my teammates with me, running 1-2-3 overall and that gives us just that much more confidence going into the race weekend here.”

Rookie Santiago Urrutia, the 2015 Pro Mazda champion, was second fastest, clocking a lap at 167.341 mph in the No. 55 Mazda-sponsored SPM car in the afternoon session and a third SPM car driven by newcomer Andre Negrao was third fastest at 167.139 mph.

“We concentrated on setups this afternoon, doing qualifying and race simulations,” Urrutia said. “I worked with my teammates, doing 80 laps together. It’s a very physical track, quite hard, but the setup of the car was good. Running with my teammates, it seemed as though it was very hard to pass. That will mean that qualifying for the race will be very important.”

14 drivers turned nearly 2,600 laps of testing during the 6½ hour session.

Chaves to fill in for Aleshin at Phoenix Test

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced that Gabby Chaves, the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Verizon IndyCar Series, will fill the seat of the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda entry during the Feb. 26-27 promoter test at Phoenix International Raceway. Mikhail Aleshin, the contracted driver for the No. 7 car, is unable to attend the test due to last-minute work visa issues in his native Russia.

"While we wish Mikhail was able to participate in this test with us, we're confident that he'll get up to speed quickly when he returns," said Piers Phillips, general manager for Schmidt Peterson. "Gabby had a solid rookie season and we appreciate his willingness to step up quickly for this important test. We have high expectations for SPM's 2016 season and our goal is to use these test days at PIR to set us up for success."

Chaves finished 15th in the point standings last year with Bryan Herta Autosport, completing the second-most laps of any driver. The 22-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia, drove for Schmidt Peterson’s Indy Lights program in 2013.

“I’m happy and pleased to be able to help out Sam (Schmidt, team co-owner), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and the HPD Honda family,” said Chaves, who was also named the Indianapolis 500’s top rookie in 2015. “I’ll do my best out there and see how I can contribute to the team. It’s a difficult situation for the team and Mikhail, but I’m always ready to go when needed. I’m happy to help a team that I’ve worked with before.”

Newgarden’s livery features commemorative Fuzzy’s bottles

Josef NewgardenFuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, primary sponsor for Ed Carpenter Racing, is releasing two commemorative, limited-edition bottles of vodka to commemorate the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade. ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet driven by Josef Newgarden will feature a special livery depicting the commemorative bottles at this weekend’s promoter test. The paint scheme was unveiled on social media today.

"I'm so excited to be able to represent Fuzzy's Vodka," said Newgarden, a two-time race winner in 2015 who led the most laps (345) of any driver last season. "They're a great partner and are very engaged in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but also with everything we're doing at ECR. It's going to be very cool to run the 100th Running edition bottle on my car leading up to the month of May. The car is absolutely gorgeous!”

The commemorative Fuzzy's Vodka bottles will be available in April. The first will be a 750ml bottle paying homage to the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and past Indianapolis 500 winners. For the second bottle, Fuzzy's has created a truly unique vodka that has been filtered through charcoal and lava 100 times, presented in a 1.75 liter bottle. Online retailers may be found at www.fuzzyvodka.com.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise to sponsor Pagenaud’s car in five races

Team Penske and Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced a multiyear extension of their partnership that will see HPE serve as the primary sponsor for Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Chevrolet in at least five races in 2016.

Pagenaud, starting his second season with Team Penske, will race the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy in the Verizon IndyCar Series events at St. Petersburg, Belle Isle, Texas, Boston and Sonoma. HPE will continue as an associate sponsor on the No. 22 car for the other races.

Wilson’s Indy 500 bid adds SolarAir partnership

Stefan Wilson’s #ThinkSolar campaign for the 100th Indianapolis 500 took another step forward with announcement of a partnership with SolarAid to help offset Wilson’s racing carbon footprint through a unique social community, Speed of Light, that essentially pays solar forward to off-grid communities without access to electricity.

SolarAid addresses the significant problems of poverty and climate change through an innovative and award-winning distribution model that gets solar lights into off-grid communities. In Africa, nearly 600 million people have zero access to electricity.

“A small solar light saves a family money, protects the environment and enables children to study after dark. One solar light improves the lives of approximately six people, saving a family $180, enabling an extra 1,200 hours of study and averting one ton of (carbon dioxide),” said Tom Moore, digital marketing and communications manager for SolarAid. “We create new markets that transform communities and leave a lasting energy legacy.” 

Through SolarAid’s Speed of Light social sharing platform, Wilson is leveraging his network to convince people to donate solar lights. The platform shows donors where their lights “landed” and where the impact of their giving is focused in Africa. The activity is attributed back to Wilson and #ThinkSolar, effectively offsetting the carbon emissions resulting his bid to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May.

For more information on the program, visit LetsThinkSolar.com.

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