Pitbull’s Trackhouse Entertainment Group Launches NASCAR Cup Series Program for International Drivers

Pitbull is revvin’ things up…

Trackhouse Entertainment Group, a venture of former driver Justin Marks and the 41-year-old Cuban American Grammy-winning rapper, has launched a program that will field a NASCAR Cup Series entry for renowned international drivers.

PitbullPROJECT91 could make Trackhouse a destination spot for global stars eager to compete in America’s most popular racing series.

PROJECT91 will enter the No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro at least once during the current Cup season and has plans to expand the program in future years. The first driver and race will be announced soon.

Trackhouse Racing, a division of Trackhouse Entertainment Group, currently fields cars for Daniel Suárez (No. 99) and Ross Chastain (No. 1) in the Cup Series.

IndyCar, the American open-wheel series, has become a popular destination for former Formula One drivers. NASCAR has a heavily American roster of drivers and has not seen a similar influx for its stock cars, but Marks said he believes his team has now “opened the door for global champions while beginning the process of scaling into an internationally recognized racing brand.”

“I truly believe the NexGen car represents an opportunity for NASCAR to enter the global professional motorsport conversation,” Marks said. “We now have a race vehicle with international technological relevance where world-class drivers from other disciplines can compete at NASCAR’s highest level without the steep learning curve that the previous generation cars required.”

Tatiana Calderon to Become First Woman to Compete for AJ Foyt Racing in This Year’s IndyCar Series

Tatiana Calderon ready to fill a void in IndyCar racing…

The 28-year-old Colombian racing driver will drive for AJ Foyt Racing this season as the first woman to compete regularly in the IndyCar Series since 2013.

Tatiana CalderonCalderon will drive a third Indy car for Foyt on the street and road courses alongside Dalton Kellett and Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood. A driver for the oval races in the No. 11 was not announced Monday.

Calderon will be sponsored by ROKiT Group, a media company that has also committed to sponsoring fellow rookie Kirkwood this season.

IndyCar has not had a female driver consistently compete in the series since Simona de Silvestro in 2013, although de Silvestro did run the Indy 500 last season for a team comprised primarily of women.

Calderon becomes the first woman to compete for Foyt, the iconic four-time Indianapolis 500 winner who turned 87 on Sunday. Foyt was one of the very few who showed grace to Janet Guthrie when she began her quest to become the first woman to run the Indy 500 almost 50 years ago.

As Guthrie attempted to prove her readiness to series officials during a 1976 test in a slow, uncompetitive car, Foyt kindly allowed her to turn laps in his backup. The faster machine allowed Guthrie to get up to speed and earn the right to attempt to qualify for the 500, although Foyt never fielded a car for the trailblazer.

With support from the ROKiT Group, Foyt will now have a woman in one of his cars. ROKiT has supported Calderon since 2020 when she competed in the World Endurance Championship and Super Formula Japan.

“One of our fundamental principles in the overall marketing of the ROKiT brand worldwide is our support and promotion of women in motorsport and, as part of that principle, we’ve supported Tatiana for a long time now,” CEO Jonathan Kendrick said. “We recognized her talent and charisma early on, which we’ve seen grow and develop.

“We know Tatiana is already a role model to many young female drivers around the world and we think the huge exposure of the IndyCar Series will serve only to increase her reach even further to become an inspiration to many more women to get involved in motorsports.”

Calderon spent the last two seasons competing in Super Formula in Japan for Threebond Drago Corse and for Richard Mille Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. She has also been a Formula One test driver for Alfa Romeo the past four years.

Born in Bogota and currently living in Madrid, Calderon tested the No. 14 Chevrolet at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Ohio last July to start the process for her to join IndyCar.

“Ever since I started my single seater career in the United States 11 years ago, IndyCar has been a reference for me and it’s a dream come true to be on the grid this year,” she said. “I’m well aware of the challenge ahead, but this is the chance of a lifetime and I’m keen on making the most of it.”

Calderon will test with Kirkwood at Sebring Raceway in Florida this week. The season opens February 27 on the street course in St. Petersburg.

Alex Palou Becomes First Spaniard to Claim IndyCar Crown

It’s a historic first for Alex Palou.

The 24-year-old Spanish racing driver has picked up the first ever championship trophy of his professional career, planting his lips on the Astor Cup while savoring a dream come true.

Alex Palou

He spent two years racing in Japan, but it was IndyCar where he wanted to be and Palou simulated life as if he drove in America’s top open-wheel racing series.

He’s now an IndyCar champion — his first title since karting as a teen — and the first Spaniard to claim the crown in series history.

Palou finished fourth in an easy Sunday drive at the Grand Prix of Long Beach to cap a smooth and steady second season in IndyCar.

“There were moments where I was just feeling like I was living my dream, and now I’m doing it,” Palou said after the race. “Oh yeah, 100% dream completed. Let’s get another one now.”

Colton Herta won the race — Long Beach is considered his home track — for his second consecutive win and third of the season. Josef Newgarden finished second and Scott Dixon, the six-time and reigning champion, finished third before turning the IndyCar crown over to Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou.

Palou had never before seen Long Beach before he arrived this weekend — the historic course was canceled last year due to the pandemic — but his consistency since winning the season-opener in his first race driving for Ganassi had him in solid position.

His 35-point lead meant a finish of 11th or better would win him the title, and once challenger Pato O’Ward was knocked out with a mechanical problem, Palou just needed to make it to the finish.

It capped a remarkable run in which Palou earned his break a year ago with Dale Coyne Racing then manifested his childhood dream to race for a championship by introducing himself to Ganassi at the Indianapolis 500. He moved into Ganassi’s No. 10 this year, won three races, finished second in the Indy 500 and led the standings 12 of 16 weeks.

“Chip told me when I joined that I had to win a championship, so that’s not too much pressure,” Palou joked. “He likes winners. If you are not one, you are in trouble.”

After climbing his way through the European ranks, Palou raced two years in Japan but had not won a title since competing in go-karts as a teenager in Spain.

“His apprentice program into racing most recently was in Japan, so I think he brings a lot of that Japanese mentality to the team, which a lot of us find refreshing,” Ganassi said. “He brought a certain fortitude that you see in that part of the world. And you know, he didn’t turn a wheel wrong all year.”

Palou has now joined an exclusive club of all-stars in Ganassi’s elite “I like winners” club. The title was the 14th in American open-wheel racing for Ganassi among six drivers and came 25 years after Jimmy Vasser gave the organization its first championship.

Palou joins Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo MontoyaDario Franchitti and Dixon as Ganassi open-wheel champions; he’s the first Ganassi champion since Montoya in 1999 not named Franchitti or Dixon, who combined for nine titles from 2008 through last year.

Franchitti is now the Ganassi driver coach and Palou is considered the best driver in the No. 10 since a head injury forced Franchitti into an early 2013 retirement. Palou is the first Ganassi driver since Franchitti to beat Dixon in the season standings.

“I think he’s raised the bar for all of us this year to keep pushing,” Dixon said. “It definitely feels like kind of the 2009 through sort of ’12, ’13 period with Dario. Super proud of what the 10 car has done. Super proud of Alex. Man, he’s done a tremendous job this year.”

Palou won the championship by 38 points over Newgarden, who bumped one spot ahead of O’Ward once O’Ward was eliminated.

Helio Castroneves Wins Record-Tying Fourth Indianapolis 500

Make that a four for Helio Castroneves.

The 46-year-old Brazilian auto racing driver, who was considered too old to race full-time, has claimed his fourth Indianapolis 500 win.

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves has at long last joined the exclusive club in a popular victory for the old guys.

Then Castroneves scaled the Indianapolis Motor Speedway fence for his trademark victory celebration at the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic.

Castroneves wasn’t done yet. At 46 and one of the oldest drivers in the field, he ran along the frontstretch of the speedway waving to the 135,000 fans in attendance. He pumped his arms in the air and waved to the ecstatic crowd, his explosion of emotional energy stopped every few feet by a flood of rivals who rushed onto the track to congratulate him.

“I was drawn by the positive energy of everyone. For a long time these people want to see a four-time winner,” Castroneves said. “I say that because they tell me. Every time we sign the autographs, they are like, ‘I’ve never seen a four-time winner. I want to see it.’ That’s what probably made me thank all of them because they made this place special.”

Almost every member of Team Penske rushed out to meet Castroneves, including former teammate Will Power, who saw the final scoring pylon and had no idea his longtime friend won.

“I was looking up and down, ‘Who is the 06?'” Power told Castroneves in a victory hug. “You’re a legend.”

Castroneves became the fourth-oldest winner in Indy 500 history, behind Al Unser (47, 1987), Bobby Unser (47, 1981) and Emerson Fittipaldi (46, 1993).

“It means a lot,” Castroneves said of the reception. “I’ve been in the sport for a long time, and I hope I have more friends than actual enemies. And even those who don’t like me, I hope they understand that this is a very difficult place to achieve. And that meant we did something very special.”

After more than two decades driving for Team Penske, winning three Indy 500 with them, Castroneves was eventually phased over to the sports car program, where he won the IMSA championship last season before Roger Penske shuttered the team and made the business decision to cut Castroneves loose.

Spider-Man insisted he was not done racing, and Michael Shank agreed. He hired Castroneves for the Indy 500 to complement the one-car Meyer Shank Racing team. Maybe Castroneves would have a shot to win, but he would also boost a team that needed some veteran leadership at one of the most challenging tracks in the world.

His last Indy 500 win was in 2009, and Castroneves has been trying since to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, his former mentor at Team Penske, as the only four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Mears was the last driver to join the club in 1991.

“I love Indianapolis! You guys don’t understand it! The fans, you give me energy,” Castroneves said.

Penske, now the owner of the speedway, embraced Castroneves in victory lane, while Foyt welcomed the new member to the four-time winners club.

“He deserved it, he worked hard to get it, and he finally got it,” said Foyt, who was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his first Indy 500 victory. “It wasn’t given to him, and when someone works as hard as he did, I’m glad it happened for him.”

Castroneves, who also won the 500 in 2001 and 2002, was part of the winning Rolex 24 Daytona sports car team in January, taking the prestigious sports car event for the first time. This was the only IndyCar race on Castroneves’ schedule this season.

“I’ve run two races this year and won two races, I’d say that’s pretty good,” said Castroneves, who noted this might be the year for aging veterans. “I don’t know if this is a good comparison, but Tom Brady won the Super Bowl and Phil Mickelson won the golf [PGA Championship], so here you go. The older guys are still kicking the younger guys’ butts.”

It was a stark contrast to the recent theme of young drivers taking over IndyCar, which now has six different winners through six races this season. Three of them have been first-time winners, and four are drivers age 24 or younger.

Castroneves found himself in a closing duel with one of the young stars, 24-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou, but he passed Palou for good with two laps remaining and beat him by 0.4928 seconds for the victory.

“It hurts. It hurts a lot. I didn’t expect a second place to hurt that much,” said Palou, who took the series points lead.

Castroneves, who has three runner-up finishes at Indy, said Palou “had a great car and did everything he possibly could. Last year, he didn’t finish. This year he finished second, so that’s a big improvement.”

Juan Pablo Montoya to Race for Arrow McLaren SP at Next Year’s Indianapolis 500

Juan Pablo Montoya is heading back to the track…

The 45-year-old Colombian racing driver, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, will return to the iconic event next year driving for Arrow McLaren SP.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya last raced the Indy 500 in 2017. He won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” as a rookie in 2000 and again 15 years later to give him a pair of victories in five career Indy 500 starts.

The announcement that he’ll drive a third entry for Arrow McLaren reunites Montoya with McLaren, the team for which he drove in Formula One in 2005 and 2006.

“I’m very excited to be joining Arrow McLaren SP for the Indianapolis 500,” Montoya said. “I have some great history with McLaren from my F1 days and I’m looking forward to making some more at next year’s Indianapolis 500.”

Montoya will be teammates with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, the full-time IndyCar drivers for Arrow McLaren. Montoya will be paired with veteran engineer Craig Hampson at Indy.

“Arrow McLaren SP is thrilled to have a driver of Juan’s caliber join the team for next year’s Indianapolis 500,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt. “His experience will elevate the entire team, including our young, talented lineup of Pato and Felix.”

Montoya has won in F1, CART, IndyCar, IMSA and NASCAR and has championships in CART and IMSA.

Helio Castroneves Returning to IndyCar for Six Races Next Season

Helio Castroneves is getting back into the race… 

The 45-year-old Brazilian race car driver will return to IndyCar for six races next season with Meyer Shank Racing.

Helio Castroneves

Shank will expand to a second car to accommodate Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. The popular race car driver has driven for Roger Penske for 20 years but has been in sports cars the last three seasons. It doesn’t matter it is sports car or commercial vehicle you will understand how to tune a Diesel engine here. Penske still entered him in the last three Indy 500s.

The Indy 500 is included in the six-race deal for Castroneves. He will also race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Long Beach, California, and the road course races at Indy, Portland and Laguna Seca.

“I know it’s only six races, however, one of them is extremely important for me, which is the Indy 500,” Castroneves said Tuesday.

Castroneves has said he wants to return to IndyCar, where he raced full-time from 1998 through 2017. Team Penske moved him to IMSA sports cars in 2018 but is closing that team after this weekend’s season finale.

Castroneves has driven Penske cars the last 20 seasons but raced for Arrow McLaren SP in October in the IndyCar doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Shank is expanding to a second car behind last month’s partnership with Liberty Media Corp., which became a minority investor in the team. Castroneves will be the first true IndyCar teammate for Shank driver Jack Harvey, who’ll return for a second full season.

Shank has an alliance with Andretti Autosport but is primarily a single-car organization.

Shank and Harvey first paired for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and built a six-race program for 2018. They ran 10 races in 2019 and expanded to a full schedule this year. Next season will be their second consecutive full season.

Shank will follow that same model for his new second car, with Castroneves helping to get the program running.

“The idea to start off with six races for the second IndyCar was another strategic plan,” said team owner Mike Shank. “As I’ve always said in the past, we will never bite off more than we can chew. It’s always been one of our goals to expand the IndyCar program, and this is the best way that we can start that.”

Fernando Alonso to Drive for McLaren at This Year’s Indy 500

Fernando Alonsois back in the race…

The 38-year-old Spanish race car driver will race at this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren‘s new IndyCar team.

Fernando Alonso

It’ll be Alonso’s third attempt to win the famous race, the final part of a ‘Triple Crown,’ which includes the Monaco Grand Prixand Le Mans 24 Hours. He has won both the other events on two occasions.

Were Alonso, who won the Formula One World Championshipin 2005 and 2006 for the Renaultteam, to achieve the feat, he would become just the second driver to do so, following Graham Hill‘s success in the 1960s.

Alonso drove for McLaren’s Formula Oneteam on two occasions, in 2007 and an infamously uncompetitive stint between 2015 and 2018. He stepped away from F1at the end of the latter spell and is yet to return.

“I am a racer and the Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said.

“I have maximum respect for the race and everyone who competes in it, and all I want is to race against them and give my best.”

Alonso attempted to win the Indy 500 with a poorly-managed McLaren entry last year. A catalogue of errors culminated in the two-time F1 champion failing to qualify for the event.

He fared better on his debut in the race in 2017, qualifying fifth and leading a chunk of the race until an engine issue ended his race prematurely.

McLaren has stepped up its involvement in the series, entering a full-time outfit called SP Arrow McLaren for 2020. Alonso will partner the team’s full-time drivers, Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, for the event.

Alonso will race the team’s Chevrolet-powered car, having been blocked in his attempts to race for aHondaoutfit. 

Alonso was scathingly critical of the Japanese manufacturer during his final stint at McLaren and it has since decided he will never race one of their cars — he since won the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championshipwith Toyota, a Honda rival.

Hernandez: First Latina to Win ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”

She may be a teenager, but Laurie Hernandez is already dancing royalty…

The 16-year-old Puerto Rican gymnast, an Olympic gold and silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, has been crowned the champion of the 23rd season of ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars.

Laurie Hernandez

Hernandez was crowned the belle of the ballroom alongside her dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy in Tuesday night’s finale, which also featured former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe.

Hinchcliffe was the runner-up as Johnson finished third.

At just 16 years old, Hernandez is the youngest champion in the show’s history. She’s also the first Latina to take home the coveted mirrorball trophy, and only third Hispanic competitor to claim the title in the show’s 23-season run. Brazilian IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves won DTWS in Season 5, while El Salvadoran-American actor J.R. Martinez, a former U.S. Army soldier, won the title in Season 13.

Hernandez joins Shawn Johnson as Olympic gold medalist gymnasts that have also won a season of Dancing with the Stars. Fellow gymnasts and Olympic champions Nastia Liukin and Aly Raisman have fourth place finishes on their DTWS resumes.

Other previous Olympians to win Dancing with the Stars include Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis.

Montoya Wins IndyCar Series Race at Pocono Raceway

Juan Pablo Montoya is back at the top of the podium in the IndyCar Series.

The 38-year-old Colombian racing driver won the IndyCar race Sunday at Pocono Raceway, the highlight of a triumphant return to open-wheel racing after seven years in NASCAR.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya won for the first time in the CART/IndyCar Series since 2000 and had his first major victory since he won a road-course race at Watkins Glen in NASCAR in 2010.

Helio Castroneves was second to make it a 1-2 finish Sunday for Team Penske. With double points awarded in the 500-mile races, Castroneves moved into a tie for the points lead with Team Penske teammate Will Power.

Carlos Munoz, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon completed the top five.

Montoya, who won from the pole, took the lead for good when Tony Kanaanwas forced to pit for fuel with four laps left. Montoya took it from there and continued to stamp himself a player in the championship hunt. He moved to fourth in the standings.

“As soon as we signed him, I knew he would be an asset for us, and a headache,” Castroneves said.

Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500, winner took the checkered flag to the sight of hundreds of Colombian fans waving the flag and cheering him on.

It was just the kind of scene he pictured when he decided to head home to open wheel. Montoya wanted a competitive ride again after lackluster results driving for Chip Ganassi in NASCAR. He knew his open-wheel return would have a learning curve: Montoya last ran in CART in 2000, then left Formula One midway through the 2006 season for NASCAR.

After only two top 10s in his first seven starts, Montoya reeled off a third, second and seventh in his past three. Now, he has the win needed to erase any lingering doubts that has move back to open wheel was the right one.

Muñoz Joins Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar Lineup

Carlos Muñoz is joining forces with the famous Andretti racing family.

The 21-year-old Colombian professional racecar driver has joined Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar lineup next season.

Carlos Muñoz

Muñoz will join Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the four-car team.

Andretti said sponsorship for Muñoz will be announced at a later date.

Muñoz made his IndyCar debut in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. He started from the front row and finished second.

He was a replacement driver for injured Ryan Briscoe at Toronto in July and finished fourth. He also filled in last minute for E.J. Viso in the season finale at Fontana, where he crashed and finished 23rd.

Muñoz won four Indy Lights races in 2013 and five poles driving for Andretti.