Hanley, DragonSpeed set for St. Pete race

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The 10Star DragonSpeed team announced plans Monday to compete in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first race of the upcoming NTT IndyCar Series season.

DragonSpeed is a race-winning sports car team, and it made its NTT IndyCar Series debut last year, competing in three races with Ben Hanley driving the No. 81 Chevrolet-powered Dallara. Hanley, an Englishman, will again drive the car in St. Petersburg.

DragonSpeed delivered a strong first-race performance in last year’s season-opening IndyCar Series race. Hanley advanced to the second round of qualifying and started 12th in the 110-lap race. He finished 18th.

Ben Hanley

Hanley and DragonSpeed also were impressive last year in qualifying for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, earning the 29th starting position. They experienced a mechanical failure on race day, finishing 32nd. Their other IndyCar race of 2019 was the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is March 13-15 on the streets of the coastal Florida city, will be Hanley’s fourth in the series. Thus, he maintains his rookie status in the series.

“I can’t wait to get back in the No. 81 machine for another crack at St. Pete,” said Hanley, who turns 35 next week. “After the thrash required just to make it to the track last season, we’re coming back in a much more settled situation. I don’t know if we can repeat the combination of luck and timing that put us 12th on the grid in 2019, but we will be much better prepared this time around and should be stronger throughout the weekend.”

DragonSpeed is led by team principal Elton Julian, a former driver.

“The continuity represented by having Ben in the car at St. Pete is a real boost and for the fifth year in a row he remains the lead driver across all of our programs,” Julian said. “That said, the realities of life as a young IndyCar team might see us running other drivers at the same level as Ben, perhaps with more IndyCar experience, during the year. But committing to Ben as the test and race driver for the launch of our 2020 effort is clearly the best way to get our season off to a strong start.

“We haven’t had the head start of some teams in testing the new IndyCar Aeroscreen and are pushing hard to get it in time to maximize the limited track testing allowed to us as a part-time entrant while making some time in between for data analysis and shaker rig testing.”

DragonSpeed will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance classic Jan. 25-26, where it will defend its 2019 LMP2 class victory after setting the fastest time at the recent official pre-race test.

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