The future Felipe Nasr envisions for himself includes IMSA and IndyCar, with the latter looking more likely as part of Carlin Racing’s Chevy-powered outfit.
The 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title winner and former Formula 1 driver has been pushing hard to get a shot in IndyCar since visiting the Watkins Glen race in 2017, and with an open seat in Carlin’s No. 31 car, the possibilities are tantalizing.
Having raced and won for Carlin in Formula 3 and GP2, the 27-year-old is well known to the outfit owned by Trevor Carlin and managed by Colin Hale. A test last summer with the Arrow McLaren SP team proved to be immensely frustrating for Nasr, who left Mid-Ohio wanting another chance to demonstrate his skills. With his pace on display Wednesday morning at Circuit of The Americas where the Brazilian ran inside the top 3, a stronger representation of Nasr’s potential could make it hard for Carlin to look elsewhere.
“I think it’s all pretty positive already,” he told RACER. “Just to get another test in IndyCar, together with Carlin, which are long-time friends; I’m going back to the times when I raced for them in British F3, when we won the championship together. Then we moved on to do GP2 and we were pretty successful as well; we won a couple of races and finished third in the championship.
“So I’ve got a pretty good history. The team, they trust me as a driver. As a team, I’ve learned a lot from them in past; all the basics I know as a driver, and all the knowledge, all the technical side of racing, it started in the F3 days with Carlin.”
Although he’s only been nominated for testing, Nasr arrived at COTA in a brand-new Carlin firesuit, which could suggest the team has bigger plans for the No. 31 Chevy. Having won the 2018 IMSA Prototype title in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, he could represent General Motors in two series with the same car number.
“When I got the call from Trevor and Colin Hale about the opportunity about putting something together, I was pretty happy,” Nasr said. “And we’re still working on every side to put the program together. But for now, I’m just looking forward to testing, and then I’m here to help the team as much as I can with my experience and knowledge. I’ve driven all different cars in my career so far, and I feel IndyCar is a place that I still want to explore. There is nothing concrete yet but we have to start somewhere.”
If a deal to race comes to pass, Nasr would be able to contest all but one IndyCar race. A full season in the No. 31 DPi will dominate his year, but with the AXR team giving its support for Nasr to pull double duty, it would be possible to stay incredibly busy in 2020.
“Just looking at the calendars, there are three clashes with Detroit and Long Beach, but both series race together on the same weekend, where we race in IMSA on Saturday and IndyCar is on Sunday,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t see an issue there. And then there will be Richmond IndyCar, which is conflicting with Watkins Glen IMSA.
“So possibly I would have to miss the IndyCar race at Richmond, but again, it’s all in the air. As a race driver, I want to do as many races that I can. That’s including road courses, streets, and oval. But it depends really on the funding of the team and see if we can get everything together. I know a lot of the tracks — but not all them — from IMSA. I can feel already everyone is pushing very hard to succeed in that aspect. And if that means I can help, I’m here to help.”
With A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan set to wind down his 20-plus years as an IndyCar full-timer, Nasr is also cognizant of the need to maintain Brazil’s long and proud presence in the series. The native of Brasilia would love nothing more than to take the baton from Kanaan and continue his country’s winning ways.
“I’ve always watched Tony Kanaan race and I have total appreciation of all his work and his success in the IndyCar Series,” he said. “You can’t talk about IndyCar without mentioning Tony, and I’m hoping that he can have a great result in those five oval races with the Foyt team. So those are my wishes for him, because he’s someone I consider to be pretty high on a level of drivers and I respect him a lot for everything he has achieved. He’s for sure one of the guys who contributed to the history of IndyCar and Brazilian drivers.
“I would for sure would love to be involved on this series and help to extend that history — and most of them were pretty successful. So again, I’m here. Being here at the test, I think it shows pretty good signs that we can start something here in the series and go from there. I would love to put my energy and my efforts in this series together with the team and fight for victories and championships in the future.”