Angela Ashmore is soon to make her mark on NTT INDYCAR SERIES history.
Second-year driver Marcus Armstrong confirmed Thursday at the series’ annual Content Days in Indianapolis that Ashmore will be the lead engineer on his No. 11 Honda at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ashmore will become the third woman to serve as a lead engineer for an INDYCAR SERIES team. Previously, she was the performance engineer on CGR's No. 8 car, helping Marcus Ericsson win the 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
The first woman to work as a lead engineer in the sport was Diane Holl, who served in the role from 1996-2000 for Tasman Motorsports with drivers Adrian Fernandez and Tony Kanaan, then with Della Penna Motorsports with driver Richie Hearn.
Leena Gade was a lead engineer with Schmidt Pederson Motorsports for the first six races of the 2018 season. The driver was James Hinchcliffe.
Armstrong also said team manager Taylor Kiel will be his strategist on race weekends.
“Very experienced people on the team,” Armstrong said, proudly.
Ericsson Already Thinking About Indy
The Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is still 136 days away, but 2022 winner Ericsson, who finished second to Josef Newgarden last year, expects some changes with the way the race concludes.
Ericsson said the late-race weaving down the backstretch might not change because “that’s going to be hard to sort of block that,” but he thinks driving below the pit road commit line on the frontstretch will be approached differently. He followed Newgarden in that area of the track last year coming to the checkered flag.
“I don’t think that’s a good look (for the race), and it’s been pushed more and more each year,” Ericsson said. “I think Josef took it to new extremes last year going very deep into the pit lane. I think that, for me, is the biggest one (to examine) because it goes with safety. We don’t want an accident to happen there because that would be bad.”
As for a one-lap shootout following a late caution, which happened last year, Ericsson said a driver’s preference on the matter will be based on where he is in the order at that time. Last year, he led Newgarden at the beginning of the final lap but was overtaken by the Team Penske driver on the backstretch.
But if Ericsson is in second place at the white flag?
“I’m hoping it will be red-flagged again,” he said, smiling.
On the Move
Perhaps no one in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has a busier upcoming schedule than Santino Ferrucci.
The driver lined up for a second season with AJ Foyt Racing will race a midget at the Chili Bowl Nationals on Friday and Saturday. Then he turns to wedding preparation. Vows with Renay Moore will be exchanged Jan. 20 in Palm Beach, Florida. After that, it’s a drive to Homestead-Miami Speedway for testing in the No. 14 Chevrolet.
Ferrucci arrived at Content Day sporting a specific hairstyle, an instruction from his fiancé.
“It’s the wedding cut,” Ferrucci said. “I had ‘hella hair’ two weeks ago, a full mop. It was as long as Marie’s.”
Marie Fornoro is the team’s publicist.
Teammate Sting Ray Robb said it would take “an electrical outlet and a fork” to get his hair to look like Ferrucci’s.
Young Guns Abound
When Ed Carpenter isn’t driving on the oval tracks this season, Rinus VeeKay is Ed Carpenter Racing’s most seasoned driver, as he begins his fifth season in the series. However, that doesn’t mean VeeKay is the oldest driver on the team. In fact, he is not.
Rookie Christian Rasmussen, who won last year’s INDY NXT by Firestone championship, is 74 days older.
VeeKay and Rasmussen are part of the series’ new generation. Colton Herta and Marcus Armstrong also are 23 years old. Christian Lundgaard, David Malukas and Robb are 22, rookie Kyffin Simpson is 19.
Also in the under-25 group are 24-year-olds Pato O’Ward and rookie Linus Lundqvist. Keep in mind that Dale Coyne Racing, which has not named drivers for its two-car team, could add to this list.
Armstrong: Niners the Pick
Armstrong apparently is the new source for NFL news in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock.
The Kiwi displayed a wealth of astute assessment of the playoff teams, settling on the San Francisco 49ers as the favorite to win next month’s Super Bowl.
Armstrong said a San Francisco-Miami matchup in the title game would be “a dream” to him. He also thinks the Baltimore Ravens have a legitimate chance to be playing in Las Vegas on the final weekend.
Armstrong’s dark horse to become the champion: the Cleveland Browns. He said the surprisingly strong play of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco is the reason for his support.
Odds and Ends
- Rookie Simpson will drive the No. 4 car in his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team hasn’t used the number since its Champ Car days. Alex Zanardi (1997) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) used it to win series championships. Journie Rewards will be the sponsor.
- RC Enerson arrived at Content Days wearing an Abel Motorsports uniform with the plan to return to the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The Floridian earned his first “500” start last year with the Indianapolis-based team, qualifying 28th. He described qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway “a pinch-me day.”
- An interesting statistic: Kyle Kirkwood noted that both of his career top-five finishes in this series resulted in race wins (last year at Long Beach and Nashville).
- After four years at Chip Ganassi Racing, Ericsson is wearing an Andretti Global suit that doesn’t carry the red of his longtime sponsor, Huski Chocolate, a Swedish company. This suit is dark blue. Ericsson also confirmed Olivier Boisson will be his engineer.
- Herta’s Andretti Global suit is similar to Ericsson’s, only it’s black. Herta described Ericsson as “very calm and very collected” and expects him to bring insight to how the Andretti and Ganassi teams differ. Kirkwood has a white suit trimmed in pink.
- Something to keep an eye on: The career of Sebastian Wheldon, the eldest son of Dan Wheldon, is now being guided by Bryan Herta, and both Bryan and Colton Herta are in regular communication with the 14-year-old driver who lives in Coral Gables, Florida. Colton said he spoke with Wheldon, who is in Andretti Global’s junior program, as recently as this week.
- VeeKay is among the NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers who either married or saw the birth of a child during the offseason. Count Alexander Rossi (married) and Alex Palou (father) among that group. VeeKay said things are going well. “Still married,” he said.
- The number of languages spoken in Content Days reflects the diversity of the series in 2024. In addition to English, drivers gave answers in Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and French. Pietro Fittipaldi spoke three of those languages – English, Spanish and Portuguese – in his conversations with the media.
- As NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials consider race venues for the future, Armstrong wouldn’t mind his voice being heard. “I’ve been thinking about this all offseason,” he said of the expansion subject. “(Go to) Macau (a 3.8-mile street circuit). I was lucky enough to go there a couple of months ago, and man, INDYCAR around Macau would be unreal, like seriously unreal.” Macau, which is located west of Hong Kong, is often referred to as “the Las Vegas of Asia.”
- Robb said he owns a Wheaties cereal box with A.J. Foyt’s face on the front, and he hopes to get the legend to sign it sometime this season. Robb, who recently signed with the team, has not yet met the sport’s all-time race winner.
- Felix Rosenqvist said Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Michael Shank is so committed to motorsports that he is a guy who “if he found $1 million under a tree, he’d put it back into the race team.”