Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines

By Amy Konrath

1. Sao Paulo technical penalty update
2. SONAX, INDCYAR form partnership with ‘SONAX Perfect Finish Award’
3. Munoz receives veteran assistance in Indianapolis 500 debutIZOD Indy Car Series
4. Newgarden’s charge from back nets career-best finish
5. Hinchcliffe named honorary safety director
6. Of note

1. Sao Paulo technical penalty update: There were no technical penalties issued following the IZOD IndyCar Series race on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 5.

2. SONAX, INDCYAR form partnership with ‘SONAX Perfect Finish Award’: INDYCAR announced that SONAX, a leading manufacturer of premium car care products worldwide, has been named its Official Automobile Detail Partner.

Under the partnership, SONAX will sponsor the SONAX Perfect Finish Award — a contingency prize tied to the series’ doubleheader event weekends this year at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, Toronto’s Exhibition Place and Houston’s Reliant Park. The SONAX Award will coincide with launch of SONAX’s Perfect Finish polish.

SONAX will award $50,000 to a driver who wins both feature races during any of the doubleheader weekends. If a driver does not win both races in any weekend, the $50,000 prize will carry over to the next doubleheader weekend to increase the award that could be worth $150,000 at Houston.

“This partnership with SONAX adds another industry-leading company to INDYCAR’s portfolio of partners,” said Greg Gruning, INDYCAR’s executive vice president, corporate business development. “The fact that SONAX chose INDYCAR as the place to expand its motorsports involvement shows the international reach of the IZOD IndyCar Series brand.”

In addition to the new INDYCAR partnership, SONAX will activate special retail activities featuring show cars and driver appearances at selected Sam’s Club locations beginning with the Indianapolis 500. Other activation plans include working with selected venues on creating car corrals during race weekends to target automotive enthusiasts and collectors.

“SONAX is very happy to partner with the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2013,” said Rob McCrary, managing director for SONAX U.S.A. “INDYCAR’s racing presence brings another avenue to our customer base, while continuing SONAX’s corporate marketing path through motor racing.  We are also very excited to sponsor the SONX Perfect Finish award for the 2013 IndyCar season.  It is a great opportunity to not only help promote the doubleheader weekend races, but also our Perfect Finish Polish, the best one-step car polish in the market today.”

The SONAX brand’s history dates to the beginning of the last century in Germany.

3. Munoz receives veteran assistance for Indianapolis 500 debut: John Tzouanakis, who in his 30-year Indy car career has worked with Mario and Michael Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Nigel Mansell among others, has joined Andretti Autosport for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile race as the pit strategist for rookie Carlos Munoz.

Munoz, the Firestone Indy Lights championship points leader, will drive the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Opening Day of practice is May 11. Pole Day qualifying is May 18 and Race Day is May 26. He’ll also compete in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 24.

“After spending my career working my way up the ranks with Newman/Haas, I’m looking forward to again working with (team owner) Michael (Andretti) and taking my career to new levels,” Tzouanakis said. “The Mazda Road to Indy program features drivers with great potential, and the opportunity to work with one of those drivers for his first Indy 500 will be a great new chapter to my career.”

Munoz, 21, a native of Colombia, will have Marco Andretti (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet), James Hinchcliffe (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet), E.J. Viso (No. 5 Team Venezuela Chevrolet) and reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet) as teammates.

“TZ is a great addition to our team,” Michael Andretti said. “I had the opportunity to work with him in the past, and I think he brings a great deal of racing experience to the table.”

4. Newgarden’s charge from back nets career-best finish: Prospects of a strong result in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle for the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car and driver Josef Newgarden appeared bleak after starting 25th because of an engine change between practice and qualifications.

But the 22-year-old sophomore IZOD IndyCar Series driver advanced 20 positions through some deft racing and attrition. Other big movers in the 75-lap race May 5 on the temporary street circuit were Simon Pagenaud (23rd to ninth), Takuma Sato (12th to second) and Oriol Servia (13th to season-best fourth).

“I thought we had a really strong race and a top five is really good going into Indy,” said Newgarden, who recorded his best IZOD IndyCar Series result. “Given where we started, that’s exactly what we wanted to do, score solid points and get some momentum going into the 500. I think we’ve absolutely done that.”

Newgarden moved into contention by overtaking eventual race winner James Hinchcliffe on a Lap 60 restart – trailing front-runner Sato by .1535 of a second at the completion of the lap on the 1.536-mile, 11-turn temporary street course. He displayed patience over the next 10 laps, holding his position and staying in striking range of the Long Beach winner (.5285 of a second back on Lap 70).

Hinchcliffe regained second by passing Newgarden in Turn 11 of Lap 72, and the No. 67 car on worn tires was overtaken by Marco Andretti and Servia on the final lap.

“It was a little bit of a disappointment,” Newgarden said. “I think we had a better car than fifth. You have to take what you can sometimes. We’re really pleased at all of the hard work that gets put in from everyone here. It’s good to get representative results. We’ll try to take that momentum and do well at the ‘500.’ ”

5. Hinchcliffe named honorary safety director: James Hinchcliffe, who has won two IZOD IndyCar Series races this season including the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on May 5, will be the honorary director of the Indianapolis Public Safety Department on May 8.

The Andretti Autosport driver will visit the Indianapolis Fire Department’s “Survive Alive Village,” attend a rescue demonstration at an IFD station and watch Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department training among other events.

6. Of note: Cyclops Gear, a boutique line of recording eyewear, will be the primary sponsor of the Dale Coyne Racing entry in the Indianapolis 500 for driver Pippa Mann. The Honda-powered entry will run this month in association with Stenz Construction, Royal Spa and Bell Helmets.


The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 26, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live at 11 a.m. (ET) by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 and The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 24, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast by the NBC Sports Network live, during the network’s coverage of Carb Day.