Juri Vips has been handed a IndyCar debut with RLLR, while Tom Bomqvist has with MSR after Simon Pagenaud injury.
Juri Vips –
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) announced Aug. 28 that Estonian driver Juri Vips will make his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the team’s No. 30 entry at the BITNILE.com Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday, Sept. 3 and will drive in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Vips, 23, drove an INDYCAR SERIES car for the first time Oct. 12, 2022, at Sebring International Raceway in a test for RLL and again March 13 of this year at Barber Motorsports Park. He has also performed static simulator testing for the team during the season.
“I’m super happy to get the opportunity with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and very thankful to Bobby (Rahal), Mike (Lanigan) and everyone at the team,” Vips said. “I haven’t been driving all year, so the anticipation for this opportunity has been immense, but I’m really looking forward to starting again. We tested together at the end of 2022 in Sebring, and it seemed like we just jelled. I got along with everyone, and I really like the atmosphere at the team. Bobby’s also one to give second chances, and I’m extremely grateful that he is giving me one and I really hope to bring a good result for him, Mike and the whole team.
“I hope I can prove myself and most importantly get them into the winner’s circle, which is always my main mission. I feel ready for these races, I think the tracks suit my experience and driving style and the car, as well. I’ve already integrated myself with the team this year, doing some work for them on the simulator, so I already know the people and feel very comfortable with everyone, which is a big benefit for me, as well.”
Vips last raced in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, one level below Formula One. Vips’ teammate Christian Lundgaard, who won this year at Toronto, also competed in that series before moving to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as did fellow young standouts Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing and Marcus Armstrong of Chip Ganassi Racing.
While racing for Hitech Grand Prix in F2 in 2021-22, Vips earned three victories and two poles. His best championship finish was sixth in 2021, placing ahead of Lundgaard and Armstrong. Before his climb to F2, Vips competed in a variety of European junior formula categories. He won the ADAC Formula 4 Championship in 2017. Vips also served as a Formula One test and reserve driver for Red Bull Racing from 2020-22.
“I’m very pleased for the team to enter Juri in the Portland and Laguna Seca races,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. “Clearly, he was the lead Red Bull Junior driver a few years ago and exhibited a lot of talent, which we saw during the two tests he ran with us, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do on a race weekend.”
Tom Blomqvist –
Tom Blomqvist will drive for Meyer Shank Racing in the last two races of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, Sept. 3 at Portland International Raceway and Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Blomqvist will compete in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda in the BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, substituting for Simon Pagenaud, who continues to recover from an accident in early July at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Pagenaud has not been medically cleared by the INDYCAR medical team to run the final two races.
These will be the second and third starts of Blomqvist’s young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. He qualified 20th and finished 25th in July at the Honda Indy Toronto after he was collected in a crash on the first lap. Blomqvist again will team with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves at MSR for the last two races of this season.
“Obviously the circumstances are quite tricky with Simon’s recovery and the whole situation surrounding the 60 car,” Blomqvist said. “I know the whole team and myself included are thinking about him as he recovers. I’ve got to thank Jim (Meyer) and Mike (Shank) for getting me in the car and looking ahead now to next season having been confirmed to drive with MSR next year. It’s a good thing to be getting these races under my belt before the season and working in preparation for my full program in 2024. I got a brief test in Toronto under very challenging circumstances – without any real preparation whatsoever.
“Now I’ve got a little bit more understanding and knowledge, and I’m hoping it’s going to be easier this time. I’m going to have the opportunity to get into the simulator, and I know a little bit more of what to expect in terms of the way the weekend runs. I don’t know Portland at all, and I know everyone has been racing flat-out in the summer. It’s still going to be an absolutely huge challenge. The series is so, so competitive, and I am still new to these cars. I’m not putting any pressure on myself, and I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”
Blomqvist is moving to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after a stellar career in sports cars. He won the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the DPi class with MSR. He also won the Rolex 24 At Daytona with the team in 2022 and 2023.
— Simon Pagenaud (@simonpagenaud) August 28, 2023
[Note: The story is as per press release]