Ryan Hunter-Reay on COTA podium

While NTT IndyCar Series action in May doesn’t heat up until for another nine days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a number of drivers are competing in other disciplines this weekend.

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (shown above) has been named as the second driver in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest entry in the top Daytona Prototype International category for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hunter-Reay, the 2012 NTT IndyCar Series and 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion, will team with Jonathan Bomarito.

“Mazda has really put a lot into their program, and Mazda Team Joest have taken a big step up this season,” Hunter-Reay said. “The car is obviously very fast and I’m excited to race it at Mid-Ohio. Jonathan is a good friend and we’ve been teammates in the past, so it will be great to share the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P with him and fight for a win.”

Among the cars they’ll have to beat is the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi entry co-driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor. The duo won last year’s race in advance of Castroneves returning to the NTT IndyCar Series to compete in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indy 500 for Team Penske at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Brazilian will do the same again this year and believes driving a variety of cars makes him better.

“I think driving a different car, driving with different tires, expands your ability to understand the car in so many different ways,” Castroneves told IMSA.com. “I mean, after 20 years driving (Indy cars), sometimes you create habits. Obviously, technology changed over the years, tires changed over the years, power changed over the years, but you’re still in the same window of that scenario.

“So you expand your sensibility a little more about what the car does. I do feel it helps. Every time you’re behind the steering wheel, it does help.”

Meanwhile, a trio of drivers who’ll be at IMS in May will be competing in the World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Spa in Belgium this weekend.

Before he comes back to the U.S. for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with McLaren Racing, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will co-drive the No. 8 Toyota in the LMP1 class. Alonso needs to win the Indy 500 on May 26 to complete the Triple Crown of motorsports that also includes victories in F1’s Monaco Grand Prix and sports-car racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ben Hanley, who along with his DragonSpeed team made their NTT IndyCar Series debut in the March season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, will be in the team’s No. 10 LMP1 entry. Among Hanley’s co-drivers will be James Allen, whom DragonSpeed recently named as an NTT IndyCar Series test driver.

Jordan King, who returns to NTT IndyCar Series competition for the Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in May, will compete at Spa in the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 entry. King drove for Ed Carpenter Racing in NTT IndyCar Series road- and street-course events last season.

Horsepower 500 features INDYCAR drivers and fun

The “competition” starts early in May for the many NTT IndyCar Series and Road to Indy drivers who will participate in Monday’s Horsepower 500 powered by Fifth Third Bank to benefit the Children’s TherAplay Foundation in Carmel, Indiana.

Now in its fourth year, the Horsepower 500 pairs INDYCAR drivers and Children’s TherAplay clients for a fun-filled afternoon of racing three-wheel bicycles and other events, all to raise awareness and funds for hippotherapy – the equine-assisted physical and occupational therapy program. Drivers already confirmed to attend include NTT IndyCar Series stars Jack Harvey, James Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball, Conor Daly and Kyle Kaiser, as well as Road to Indy drivers Oliver Askew, Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman. More are expected to join the fun.

The public is invited to attend the event at the Children’s TherAplay stables, 9919 Towne Road, Carmel, Indiana 46032. Parking with a free shuttle service is available at nearby College Park Church, 2606 W. 96th Street. Shuttles begin running at 2:45 p.m. ET, with the event running from 3-5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for ages 13 and older, $15 for ages 3-12 and free for children 2 and younger. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Horsepower 500 website or call 317-872-4166.

Laguna Seca continues revitalization program

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, site of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series finale weekend Sept. 20-22, announced Monday the next phase of its revitalization program.

Among the current ongoing projects are: installing a temporary two-story hospitality structure in the paddock overlooking Turn 3; relocating the television broadcast compound; removal of the octagon tower overlooking the start/finish line; enhancing corner marshal stands to make them safer and provide better visibility for drivers; and completion of track safety fencing.

The 2.238-mile permanent road circuit in Monterey, California, will host Indy cars for the first time in 15 years when the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey concludes the 2019 season. For information on the race weekend or to buy tickets, visit WeatherTechRaceway.com.