Notes: Phillips joins AJ Foyt Racing as technical director

Updated: 

AJ Foyt Racing has named veteran race engineer Will Phillips as the team’s technical director, replacing Don Halliday, who retired at the end of 2016.

Phillips will also be race engineer for the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet driven by Carlos Munoz in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Daniele Cucchiaroni returns as the race engineer of the team’s other entry, the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet with driver Conor Daly.

Phillips, whose motorsports career began as a design engineer for March Engineering in 1986, brings a wide range of experience that ranges from F3000 to Indy cars to Formula One. He served as the INDYCAR vice president of technology from 2011-15 and has worked as a technical director/chief engineer, race engineer or design engineer at various teams including de Ferran Motorsports, Highcroft Racing, Rocketsports and for chassis manufacturer Reynard.

Larry Foyt, Will Phillips, and A.J. Foyt“It is a privilege to join one of the most iconic teams in the (Verizon) IndyCar Series,” Phillips said. “I have missed the competition and as such am looking forward to being back on the front line. The depth of talent in the team is impressive and I look forward to working with them and helping create a cohesive engineering group to support Carlos and Conor.”

Hiring Phillips (in the middle of the photo at left with Larry Foyt (left) and A.J. Foyt) is the final piece to the puzzle to be put in place as the team overhauls its operation in the offseason. In addition to new drivers and the switch to Chevrolet power and aero kits, the AJ Foyt Racing has hired new personnel for the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet team which will be based in Speedway, Indiana, for most of the race season.

“I've enjoyed getting to know Will Phillips,” said team president Larry Foyt. “In our initial meetings, I liked his approach and demeanor and felt it would be a great fit and benefit to our current young driver and engineer lineup. Operating two different race shops poses its challenges, for sure, but I like the experienced personnel we have been able to hire to take on the challenge."

A.J. Foyt, who was familiar with Phillips as a former INDYCAR official, said, “I’m glad to have Will on our team. He’s smart and experienced and he was a close friend of Ando’s (the late John Anderson). Ando worked for me and was a good friend of mine. I don’t know Will that well yet, but if Ando respected him, that’s good enough for me. I think Will can do a great job for us.”

The team will conduct its first test with the Chevrolet power and aero kits Tuesday and Wednesday at Sebring International Raceway in central Florida. The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens March 10-12 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Newman Wachs adds Castro to USF2000 team

Newman Wachs Racing announced the signing of 18-year old racer Andre Castro for the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda season. Castro will team with fellow American Dakota Dickerson for NWR, the team bearing the name of late actor and former Indy car team co-owner Paul Newman that is returning to the open-wheel ranks this year.

“We ran Andre in our first test at Indy last October and we had some success with him right from the start,” said Brian Halahan, NWR team manager. “He was fast and he worked well with the team, so I feel we can build on that and have him running strong as soon as he is back in the Newman Wachs car. I think Andre and Dakota will make good teammates and push each other to the front.”

Castro, a New York City native whose parents are Colombian immigrants, began racing go-karts at the age of 7, winning his first race. In 2016, he advanced to racing cars and accumulated three wins, six poles and 10 podiums in the Skip Barber Championship Series. He drove for NWR at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test for Mazda Road to Indy competitors in October, posting the fastest lap of the final USF2000 session on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Newman Wachs’ return to open-wheel racing,” said Castro. “After working with the team closely in the weeks leading up to the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indy last fall, I saw that the team was incredibly serious about coming back and winning straight out of the gate.”

Free Prix Day returns to Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

“Free Prix Day,” a Detroit Indy car race tradition dating 35 years, will continue at this year’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Sponsored by Comerica Bank, fans will be admitted free to the first day of race weekend on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, Friday, June 2.

The Verizon IndyCar Series conducts its only doubleheader race weekend of the season at Belle Isle, with the races scheduled for June 3-4.

On Free Prix Day, all fans can watch practice sessions for both the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and tour the paddock area at no cost. This marks the fifth consecutive year that Comerica Bank is sponsoring the free day tradition that began with the first grand prix on a Detroit downtown street course in 1982.

From the fans