Notes: INDYCAR drivers turn plenty of laps at Rolex test

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A multitude of drivers with Indy car connections – including six who have full-time rides in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – participated in the Roar Before the 24 sports-car testing over the weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The Team Penske Acura program – loaded with INDYCAR drivers in Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya – grabbed many of the headlines going into the three-day test in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance races. But the best that the two Acuras could achieve in Sunday’s “qualifying” session to determine pit and garage location for races weekend were fifth and sixth in the Prototype class.

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport (shown above) is part of the driver lineup for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi that was fourth on Sunday with Renger van der Zande at the wheel. The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, which counts former INDYCAR race winner Mike Conway among its drivers, set the fastest lap of the test at 1 minute, 35.806 seconds on the 3.56-mile road course.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Ford GTChip Ganassi Racing set the pace in the GT Le Mans category, with the defending class champions including Sebastien Bourdais clicking the fastest lap (1:43.610). The team’s sister car that includes Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe among its drivers was third fastest in class.

More than 25 drivers with Indy car or Mazda Road to Indy experience are scheduled to compete in the Rolex 24, which starts on Jan. 27. Among those on the entry list are Fernando Alonso, Spencer Pigot, Colton Herta, Townsend Bell, Katherine Legge, AJ Allmendinger and Scott Pruett, who has announced his retirement after the Rolex that will conclude a 50-year racing career.

It was also announced during the test that team owner Chip Ganassi will serve as grand marshal for the twice-around-the-clock race. In addition to fielding 11 Indy car season champions and four Indianapolis 500 winners, Ganassi’s cars have won the Rolex 24 (overall or in class) a total of seven times in the past 12 years.

"This is a really big honor for me to be recognized by a race that has meant so much to me over my career, both as a driver and an owner," said Ganassi. "The Rolex 24 At Daytona is one of motorsport’s truly significant races. There are so many great cars, great drivers and manufacturers that all come together to make this a unique event. But it also requires so much work and coordination that, when you ultimately make it to victory lane, there is no greater satisfaction. I couldn’t be more proud to be named the grand marshal of this great race."

Watch maker Omologato partners with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Omologato, maker of one of the world’s largest and finest collections of motorsport-inspired watches, has become a partner with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the team announced today.

The distinctive Omologato logo will appear on SPM’s Hondas driven by James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens in all 17 rounds of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Omologato founder Shami Kalra is excited at the opportunity to give his London-based brand exposure in the United States market.

“I’m thrilled that (SPM co-owners) Sam (Schmidt) and Ric (Peterson) have put their faith in Omologato and welcomed us to their portfolio of established partners,” Kalra said. “It’s a hugely important program for us as we aim to further promote the Omologato name in the U.S. Having a presence at every INDYCAR round during 2018, at which James and Robert will help activate the brand, will be quite something.”

As a complement to the partnership, Omologato will produce a limited-edition of 500 "Indianapolis®" watches that will feature the SPM logo laser-engraved on the back.

“Shami and his team have a long history of designing watches for some of the most iconic names in motorsport, and we look forward to sharing the world of INDYCAR with their passionate and loyal customers,” Peterson said. “We can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on the exclusive SPM Omologato timepiece.”

IMS co-founder Fisher, winning car owner Patrick inducted into hall of fame

Carl Fisher, one of the founders of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Indy 500-winning car owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick are among seven new inductees into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. They will join the likes of NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon and billionaire aviator Howard Hughes as part of the Class of 2018 to be inducted March 13 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Fisher joined with James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler to build IMS in 1909 as a testing ground for the fledgling automobile industry. Two years later, the first Indianapolis 500 was conducted. This year will mark the 102nd running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Patrick, a wildcat oilman, was the winning car owner three times in the Indianapolis 500 – with Gordon Johncock in 1973 and ’82, and again with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989. He was one of the founding members of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and was elected its first president. Patrick was also instrumental in founding what is now Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top level of the INDYCAR development ladder – in 1986.

Racing art exhibit debuts in IMS Museum gallery

For the first time since opening its new gallery in 2016, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will present a specially curated exhibition of auto racing art highlighting the work of the late John Orfe. Born in Philadelphia, Orfe began a lifelong love affair with motor racing after seeing his first race at the famous Langhorne Speedway in 1932.

He established himself as a commercial artist specializing in automotive and aircraft design for Ford, Chrysler, Volkswagen and Boeing, and his historic auto racing paintings were seen in numerous publications. Paintings on display in the IMS Museum gallery depict racing legends including Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue, Parnelli Jones and Joe Leonard.

"John Orfe's paintings cover a period that many believe was the Golden Age of automobile racing in America," said Betsy Smith, executive director of the nonprofit foundation that runs the Museum. "We are thrilled to share his work with our visitors in a gallery setting where they may be truly appreciated."

The exhibit will remain on display through March in the museum's gallery, which was part of a 2016 expansion of the popular facility. The IMS Museum is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET through February and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. beginning in March. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger.

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