DragonSpeed to make IndyCar debut with Ben Hanley in 2019

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Pietro Fittipaldi had a high speed crash during qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. He is currently in hospital with his injuries 'suspected fractures to both legs'
Credit: Craig Robertson

DragonSpeed has confirmed today that they will make their IndyCar debut in 2019, with the squad contesting five races of the seventeen-round calendar. The team’s long-term endurance racing driver, Ben Hanley, will take the wheel of the DragonSpeed Chevrolet in the five races, one of which being the 2019 Indianapolis 500 in May.

DragonSpeed, a team synonymous with endurance racing championships such as the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series, have yet to enter a single-seater racing series in their eleven-year history. Earlier this year, the team’s boss Elton Julian, confirmed in an interview with RACER that he was very interested in bringing the team to the IndyCar Series.

Julian stated back in July that the growth of the IndyCar Series over the last few years was one of the main reasons why he was so interested in entering the championship in particular. Today’s news finally confirms that this intention will become reality.

The team will become the latest team to have joined the championship in the last few years, joining the likes of Harding Steinbrenner RacingCarlinJuncos Racing, McLaren Racing and Scuderia Corsa. In today’s announcement, Julian gave his thanks to the IndyCar Series for helping them get onto the grid in 2019 and hailed the “quality of the racing” that has made the series so popular in recent years.

“INDYCAR is enjoying a major upswing thanks to the quality of the racing produced by the current regulations,” said Julian, “The fans see it, the teams see it, the manufacturers and sponsors see it, and I think NBC saw it when they decided to take on the (exclusive) television coverage.

“With so much interest from new entrants, we’re also grateful for INDYCAR’s support of our bid to join the series and to Chevy for making room for us in their engine program.”

Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography / Courtesy of European Le Mans Series

Thirty-three-year-old British driver Ben Hanley will drive the DragonSpeed Chevrolet in 2019, with the team committing to a part-time campaign of five of the seventeen races on the calendar. Hanley has raced with DragonSpeed for many years in endurance racing championships and has previously raced in single-seater championships such as the GP2 Series and Formula Renault 3.5.

Hanley and DragonSpeed’s IndyCar debut will come at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March. The team will return for the third round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama before making their oval racing debut in the biggest race of the season, the Indianapolis 500, at the end of May. DragonSpeed’s final two planned races of 2019 will come later in the year at Road America and Mid-Ohio.

Team owner Julian went on to state that he knew that DragonSpeed’s new endeavour would be a challenging one, but that he also felt confident that they would eventually get up to speed based on their past racing experiences.

“For the team, it’s a matter of our growing experience catching up to our ambitions,” Julian said. “The last few seasons of endurance racing have given us an intensive platform for developing our preparation, race engineering, pit stop and strategy skills. There are some impressive open-wheel credentials up and down the team, and Ben’s pace and exceptional detail feel for setup and tires should be a great asset.

“None of this is to underplay the difficulty of the challenge ahead, because INDYCAR is the toughest series we’ve ever contested, with the world’s biggest race as its centrepiece. On the other hand, we didn’t go from club racing a decade ago to a Pirelli World Challenge title in 2015 to prototypes at Le Mans without climbing a few mountains, and I take a lot of confidence from the talent and spirit of the people we’ve put together for the next summit.”  

The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10. Pre-season testing will officially get under-way at the Circuit of the Americas on February 12-13.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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