Brake Glow

An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.

Road America Returning to 2014 IndyCar Schedule?

As reported yesterday on Twitter, George Bruggenthies is expected to attend the Long Beach round of the IndyCar series in April.

George Bruggenthies, the President of the 4.048-mile Road America circuit, has long been in talks with the IndyCar series to return to the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin track. The two have been unable to come to an agreement since IndyCar merged with Champ Car in early 2008.

Sources suggested Bruggenthies plans to meet with IndyCar officials at the legendary street-circuit layout in Long Beach but would not speak publicly as the information is not yet public.

Road America and IndyCar last hosted talks with then-CEO of IndyCar, Randy Bernard, looking to replace the Chinese round of the calendar that fell through. Talks posed a combined weekend of the American LeMans Series and IndyCar in August of 2012. Ultimately, Bernard decided to do away with the round altogether and, instead, extend the distance of the 2012 season finale at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, CA, to 500 miles.

With the recently finalized plans to merge the American LeMans Series and the Grand-Am Championship to form United Sports Car Racing in 2014, one can only ponder the massive opportunity Road America may have to host a United Sports Car round alongside of IndyCar next year.

Road America last hosted a major open-wheel race in 2007, the final year of the now-defunct Champ Car series. 4-Time Champ Car champion, and current Dragon Racing driver, Sebastien Bourdais won the race on his way to his final championship in the series.

Check back for more updates as they become available.

Five Guys to Watch in 2013 That You Probably Aren’t

Just weeks away from the season-opening event in St. Petersburg, FL, we examine a few prospects for the upcoming season. Aside from the usual suspects in the hunt for the championship, here are a few dark horses who may take the IndyCar title in 2013.

1. Sebastien Bourdais 

In his second year with Dragon Racing, Sebastien Bourdais is due for a return to his winning ways. The Frenchman won the final four titles of the now defunct Champ Car series in dominant fashion and showed all the potential in 2012 that he displayed from 2004-2007. Battling engine gremlins with the underdog Lotus power-plant, Bourdais was largely hindered from showing the Jay Penske owned team’s potential. With a committed effort for 2013 and Chevy power, Bourdais banks on his best bet to compete for wins and podiums since his Champ Car days.

2. James Hinchcliffe

Hinch enters his third year in the IndyCar series coming off a solid sophomore year performance with Andretti Autosport. The young Canadian moved into the prime GoDaddy seat vacated by Danica Patrick at the end of 2011. Following a year of steady results highlighted by a few podiums and, at one point, running as high as second in the standings, The Mayor looks as a prime candidate to grace the top step of the podium this season. With Andretti Autosport’s knack for colluding (and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s championship-winning experiences from last year,) there’s plenty of potential for Hinch to threaten the veterans in 2013.

3. Josef Newgarden 

A rookie in 2012, Newgarden showed flashes of brilliance at times. Driving for the underdogs Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden moved mountains on a shoestring budget. The American put his DW12 on the front row at Long Beach, just his third race. His aggression got the better of him, however, as he put it in the wall trying to overtake past champion, Dario Franchitti, in the opening laps of the race. Reliability issues and rookie mistakes hampered the 22 year-old as his best finish was only 12th at Mid-Ohio. Heading into 2013, Newgarden has gained invaluable experience and could easily see the front of the pack this season.

4. Oriol Servia

Servia, the always underrated Spaniard, signed on with Dreyer Reinbold Racing for 2012 after the untimely and unfortunate demise of Newman/Haas Racing. Making the most of Lotus power, Servia placed 11th in the Sao Paulo round, one of the highest placings for any of the Lotus powered cars. After Sao Paulo, DRR dumped Lotus and signed on to a joint effort with Panther Racing. With the partnership, Oriol welcomed the shift to Chevy power. In his first race with the new engine maker, Servia placed fourth at Indy. Servia added a few more fourths to the season tally. Although never on the podium in 2012, Servia remained consistently in the top-10 for much of the second half of the season. In 2013, Servia looks to build on the moderate successes of the previous year and could be a serious threat in the points when the circus arrives at Fontana.

5. Simon Pagenaud

In his full-time return to American open-wheel racing since Champ Car’s demise, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud put in some amazing drives for the one-car effort of  Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. Few picked Pagenaud to immediately join the front runners when he emerged as the Honda-powered team’s driver at the opening of last year, but they should have. In his first start, Pagenaud finished sixth. Pagenaud frequented the top-10 in 2012, finishing as high as second at Long Beach. Despite his consistent finishes on road and street courses, Pagenaud seemed to find difficulty in figuring out the oval side of the IndyCar schedule. He managed to muster out a top-5 at Iowa as his best finish on an oval in 2012. After a year to gain confidence on the ovals, however, Pagenaud’s building chemistry with his team could prove a formidable threat to the usual front-runners in the championship.

One Year Later, Wheldon is in IndyCar’s Memory

Dwelling on the past prevents progression. Reminiscing, however, is vastly different from dwelling. Reminiscing involves reflection and remembrance and insight. The IndyCar paddock this week did not dwell on the past but reminisced about the life of Dan Wheldon. From his triumphs to his tragedies, from his extraordinary racing talents to his extraordinary family talents.

Few have accomplished what Wheldon had. Two Indianapolis 500 victores, an IndyCar championship, 16 wins in 128 IndyCar starts. For those keeping track, that means Wheldon won nearly 13% of all of his IndyCar races. His talent was profound. His likability was incomparable. But all that was taken from the IndyCar paddock just over a year ago.

Anyone who watched the IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of 2011, remembers that race. I remember exactly the scenario when the massive, 15-car pileup unfolded.

I was helping the girl who I was going to marry in less than a month fold laundry. I was DVRing the race but still had it on in the living room. I heard the announcers’ voices escalate and peeked my head into the living room to see its cause. After watching IndyCar racing for 23 years, I witnessed the most rabid and vicious scene to come from a racetrack I had seen.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Allow me to jump topics a bit. I admittedly blog infrequently. I have barely been at a racetrack since the birth of my daughter. Just three times. Once at Chicagoland Speedway for a private Firestone test, again for the NASCAR race there and, lastly, at the Milwaukee Mile this June. The void that has arisen from my lack of time in the paddock over the past few years often makes it somewhat saddening to come write a blog. Frankly, I find it counter-productive to write about a topic when I cannot provide visual media to stimulate my own story lines. I miss racing and this often makes it worse. But, this week, I began looking through old pictures of mine from the 2008 and 2009 IndyCar season. I realized I was dwelling on the past.

On a personal note, I need to take my own advice and reminisce. The only way to develop anything further with a career in motorsports is to continue to cultivate the seeds already planted. My degree will finally be complete in under six months. From there, and in the meantime, I must continue to write in this setting. This blog provides the only opportunity, albeit on a personal level, to continue growing as a writer/photographer in motorsports. There are many motivations behind this. But one is IndyCar’s own lesson on how to move on and grow.

IndyCar has used the tragedy that took Wheldon from their own paddock and used it to grow. The new chassis, the DW12, is named such in respect of Wheldon. Through this season the DW12 has proved itself with an impeccable safety record. IndyCar moved away from “pack-racing” and brought back oval races that were more than just engineers competing on aerodynamic setups. Drivers drove the cars. IndyCar used what happened in Vegas as a lesson and largely moved away from the 1.5-mile ovals. In fact, only Texas Motor Speedway remained of the venues.

As painful as Wheldon’s loss was, it pushed the series into motion. That motion is leading into safer, more skilled racing. 2012 provided arguably the best season in IndyCar’s 16-year history and one of the safest. With Wheldon’s influence in setting up the DW12 for the paddock, this year’s phenomenal racing can largely be attributed directly to him. Although he has left us, he has provided many lasting legacies that will long outlive the brashness that surrounded his death.

Although but a fraction of his IndyCar career, I decided to post a sampling of Dan Wheldon from my personal collection, despite some flaws. As we mark a year since his passing, reflect and reminisce on the fantastic talent that was Dan Wheldon. Enjoy.

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New Form of Motorsport Emerges from Italy

Red Bull F1’s Mark Webber recently tweeted a link to a video from Italy. The video shows the emergence of a new sport combining racing with boxing.

Okay. All kidding aside, we have no idea what’s going on here. Unfortunately, we don’t speak Italian. The only explanation we can offer is the driver who spun obviously blamed the other driver for causing his spin.

We don’t advocate violence, but on occasion it can provide some off-the-wall entertainment.

Milwaukee Confirmed for 2012

IndyCars will indeed return to the Milwaukee Mile in 2012. (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

As reported by Brake Glow on February 4th, the IZOD IndyCar Series announced a deal has been agreed upon to bring the series back to the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Few formal details were released with the announcement but the race is scheduled for Father’s Day weekend, June 15th & 16th.

Talks were ongoing between the Mile and IndyCar as late as last week when concerns were raised regarding a suitable promoter for the event. Michael Andretti’s Andretti Sports Marketing answered the call and was announced as the promoter of  “Milwaukee IndyFest.”

The series is trying a different approach from years past with the race taking place on a Saturday. The motive behind the Saturday race is the hope it might draw more fans from the Chicago area. Typically, the race has been held late Sunday afternoon. The late starting time made the race somewhat undesirable for Chicago IndyCar fans trying to return home at a decent time. The hope is the change will entice Chicago fans out of the woodwork and out to the racetrack.

The Firestone Indy Lights will also race the same weekend with other series possibly being added to the weekend ticket.

Tickets for Milwaukee IndyFest go on sale March 1st.

F-1 and IndyCar Notes

Raikkonen Leads Tuesday Testing at Jerez: Despite meaning little for actual 2012 pace, Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen returned to the controls of a modern Formula One car in style. The Finn paced the field on Tuesday at Jerez in the new Lotus E20. The Iceman seemed  to lack surprise after topping the charts. “The lap times don’t matter today. I’m happy with the balance of the car, which feels good, and the fact that we didn’t have any major issues. Also, I did more than a race distance today and did not have any physical problems at all, which is good,” he said. Raikkonen also touched on Formula One’s Drag Reduction System, or DRS, which allows a car within one second behind another car to open the rear wing and reduce aerodynamic drag– to enable easier passing. “You just put the wing down and go past easily. The guy in front can’t really do anything,” said the 2007 World Champion. “But I agree that at least it makes the show better,” he added.

Barrichello to Decide Future Next Week: Brazilian Rubens Barrichello expects to announce a decision regarding his racing career sometime next week. The former Ferrari F1 driver was interviewed by a Brazilian radio station Tuesday and addressed the situation. “We have spoken with many people and there are things to be resolved, including the family aspect,” Barrichello said in reference to the promise he made to his wife to stay away from American ovals. Barrichello tested a new DW12 IndyCar for KV Racing last week at Sebring and seemed to enjoy the experience. The 39 year old elected to stay for a third day of testing after only being scheduled for two. Although he may not be asking for advice, many are offering it to Barrichello. The likes of Emmerson Fittipaldi and Eddie Jordan have cautioned the Brazilian from entering IndyCar. David Coulthard, however, stressed Barrichello should follow his heart with any racing decisions.


IndyCar “Pretty Positive” for Milwaukee Return

The 100 year tradition of racing at the Milwaukee Mile may still be alive in 2012. (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Fair Park (home to the Milwaukee Mile), say he is “pretty positive” Milwaukee will return to the 2012 IndyCar schedule.

In recent weeks, speculation has increased that IndyCars will race again on the legendary one mile oval. The Mile was initially left off the 2012 IndyCar schedule but that looks set to change. In interviews with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Kallman, both the CEO of IndyCar and the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Mile indicated talks are ongoing and moving in a positive direction. But there is tension over one aspect of  contract negotiations that might ultimately derail talks of returning to Milwaukee. That tension revolves around longevity.

IndyCar in the past few outings at Milwaukee have only re-upped on one year contracts. The uncertainty around the future of the race seems to make it more difficult to sign the dotted line for Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of Wisconsin State Fair Park– home to the Milwaukee Mile. “The hard part with us is with the uncertainty of something being there forever and being positive because you watch the (IndyCar) schedule go out this year and they changed a number of tracks,” Frenette said.

Some complaints on IndyCar’s end is that the venue needs significant updates which becomes something of a Catch-22 for Milwaukee. “If we ever got some more certainty (. . .) Right now we’re not spending a lot of capital improvement dollars on the track either because we’re not going to put money into something that won’t pay me back,” said Frenette. IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, was equally bullish as well as optimistic. “We’d love to have Milwaukee, but it’d have to make sense for a promoter to be able to go there,” he said. ” If the opportunity exists,  we’d like to try to do it. But I don’t think we’re any further. Until we sign that dotted line, we’re no further,” Bernard added.

If a deal is put together, sponsorship would have to be finalized inside of five months. That may sound insurmountable but, Bernard says, procuring sponsorship would have to come down to existing relationships anyways. “If you didn’t have it by October (when IndyCar was finalizing its race contracts), it’s going to take relationships. Hopefully some sponsors will still have some money in their budgets to make this work.” Time to promote the race to ticket-buyers was also not a top concern for Bernard. “Most of your fan base for any sport today will buy their ticket in the last 18 days,” he said.

Bernard also clarified the addition of Milwaukee would not be based out of desperation. Currently the 2012 IndyCar schedule only holds 15 events, an amount deemed lacking by most of IndyCar’s fan-base. “If we have to live with 15 events this year, we can live with 15 events.” Bernard indicated there is another racetrack, in addition to Milwaukee, holding interest in securing a 2012 race but would not disclose which track it might be.

Bernard admitted the Milwaukee Mile’s future is bleak without a big-name event like IndyCar. “We owe the Milwaukee people. We owe the track,” Bernard said. “If we don’t do this, the chances of that track becoming mothballed, I think, is a possibility.”

Frenette felt similar. “We hope that we can get it back and have a successful event, a little better than last year, and they will continue to come back. It gives the Milwaukee Mile some activity. There’s not much else out there,” he said.

Sato in at RLL

In evaluating the numerous prospects campaigning for a seat in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda-powered Indy car for the 2012 season, the Indianapolis-based team was searching for the right balance of speed, success and experience to lead it into the new era of IZOD IndyCar Series competition.


With his glittering Formula 1 resume and strong recent results demonstrating his continuing climb up the IndyCar Series grid, Takuma Sato proved to have all of the tools for the job, as the team named the Japanese veteran to pilot the team’s #15 Dallara/Honda/Firestone – one of its two Indy cars in 2012.


Sato, who made 91 starts over seven seasons in F1, joins RLL after making great strides in IndyCar in 2011. A two-time IndyCar Series polesitter last year, Sato looks to build on a successful sophomore season that saw him earn three top-five finishes, seven top-10s and lead 61 laps on his way to a 13th-place finish in the point standings.


“RLL is extremely pleased to welcome Takuma to our IndyCar Series team for 2012, and we anticipate having a very strong season together,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “While we were determined to have an experienced driver for this season, we also needed someone that knew how to get to the front and Takuma has shown that he can do that, and we expect to have a great opportunity to win races this year. He has made great strides through the last two seasons in IndyCar and I have no doubt that we can produce a strong effort with him leading the team.”


Takuma made his Indy car debut in 2010 and made great improvements in 2011, gaining speed and positions as he visited the circuits of the series for the second time. In 2011 the IZOD IndyCar Series competed on 11 tracks that were also on the 2010 schedule, and Sato improved his finish from 2010 on seven of those circuits.


“I’m very proud, motivated and excited to be chosen by Bobby to join his big project,” Sato said. “This team I feel has got huge potential. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has got a great history and record of winning so my motivation is ever so high and I am extremely thrilled to start the new season. With a new car for everybody, I am confident that we’ll be up to speed very quickly.”


RLL returns to full-time IZOD IndyCar Series competition in 2012 for the first time since 2008. That season saw Ryan Hunter-Reay finish seventh in the final series standings, marking the 11th consecutive year that a RLL driver finished the year in the top-10 in driver points. The winners of the 1992 IndyCar championship as well as the 2004 Indianapolis 500, RLL Indy cars have finished in the top 10 in more than half of its 587 career series starts.


The RLL squad is currently readying the car for its first preseason tests and expects to participate in the IndyCar Series open testing at Sebring in March. The team is also finalizing its plans for a second car and intends to have it ready for preseason testing as well. The final sponsor and driver lineup for 2012 will be announced in the near future.

The above posting is the work of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Ferrari, Force India Unveil 2012 Cars

Despite massive snowfall at Ferrari’s Italian headquarters, the famous marque unveiled their 2012 challenger early Friday. Force India joined Ferrari by launching their new car at Sliverstone.

Ferrari’s launch was expected to be quite lavish but, after the snow fell, the Italian team made the decision to cancel the formal launch and release pictures of the car on their own. Meanwhile, Force India held a major press conference in the pit area of the U.K. circuit.

As expected, both cars possess the unsightly “bumped” nose to meet this year’s new height requirements on the nose of the car imposed by the FIA.

Ferrari's F2012 (Photo Courtesy of Ferrari F1)

Ferrari’s F2012: Ferrari released the justification behind the change in shape and how they feel the rule changes for 2012 will impact the Scuderia.

Scuderia’s interpretation of the technical and sporting regulations that apply this year: the main changes when compared to 2011 concern the height of the front section of the chassis, the position of the exhaust pipes and the mapping for the electronic engine management. Practically every area of the car has been fundamentally revised, starting with the suspension layout: both the front and rear feature pull-rods, aimed at favouring aerodynamic performance and lowering the centre of gravity. The front wing is derived from the one introduced on the 150º Italia in the final part of its racing life and has been evolved from there. Further evolutions are planned in this area for the opening races of the season. The nose has a step in it that is not aesthetically pleasing: with the requirement from the regulations to lower the front part, this was a way of raising the bottom part of the chassis as much as possible for aerodynamic reasons. The sides have been redesigned, through modifications to the side impact structures, the repositioning of the radiators and revisions to all aerodynamic elements. The lower part of the rear of the car is much narrower and more tapered, a feature achieved partly through a new gearbox casing and a relocation of some mechanical components. In recent years, the area of exhausts has been crucial in terms of car performance and much effort was expended on this front, based on changes to the regulations introduced this year. The rear wing is conceptually similar to the one used in 2011, but every detail of it has been revised and it is now more efficient. Naturally, it is still fitted with DRS (a drag reduction system,) which is operated hydraulically. The front and rear air intakes for the brakes have been redesigned and work was carried out in collaboration with Brembo to optimise the braking system.



Force India’s VJM-05:

Force India's 2012 car, the VJM 05 (Photo :Sahara Force India Formula One Team)


Force India also touched on the changes made to this year’s car in their press release:

Sahara Force India unveiled its 2012 challenger today as Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg pulled the covers off the VJM05 at Silverstone. They were joined by reserve driver, Jules Bianchi, as the team’s new car was presented for the first time.
The VJM05 is the second car to be created under the watch of Technical Director, Andrew Green, as the team seeks to build on its on its sixth place finish in the constructors’ championship and take the fight to the teams that lie ahead.
“We have set our sights on challenging for fifth place,” explained Team Principal and Managing Director, Dr. Vijay Mallya. “To do so we will need to begin the new campaign by delivering the kind of form we showed in the second half of 2011. I believe this is a realistic goal and that we have the talent and determination to realise these ambitions.”
Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, echoed those sentiments as he praised the team’s efforts to develop the VJM05: “The new car has come together nicely over the winter. We don’t know what our competitors have done, but we’ve made some gains over the winter and believe we’re in reasonable shape. It’s going to be difficult in the midfield, but our focus is on starting strongly and improving our position from last season.”
Summing up the approach to 2012, Andrew Green added: “The car looks more refined; a lot racier and a lot more purposeful. You can start to see the aerodynamic concepts coming through now. It looks quite a bit different to the previous years, and so far the performance in the tunnel has been encouraging.”
The drivers were delighted to get their first glimpse of the new car and set out their hopes for the season ahead:
Paul Di Resta: “Seeing the new car built and complete for the first time is always an exciting moment. It’s when you realise that all the waiting is finally over and the season is beginning for real. I’ve had a good winter and I’ve recharged my batteries, but now I’m fully focussed on 2012 and looking forward to the start of testing. There’s a really positive feeling in the team, good stability and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at the end of last year.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “I saw the new car in the wind tunnel a few times and followed its progress during the winter. It looks aggressive and fast, but we won’t know where we stand until we get out there and compete against the others. Preparations for the new season have been full-on with simulator sessions and lots of fitness training. I feel ready to get back to racing and I’m excited to find out what the new car feels like next week.”

Once again the Sahara Force India cars will be powered by the Mercedes engines with gearbox supplied by McLaren Applied Technologies. This will be the second season with the Mercedes KERS.

Sutil: Hamilton is a coward, changed phone number

Adrian Sutil had some harsh words for his (former?) friend Lewis Hamilton after Sutil’s appearance in a Munich court.

The German lashed out in Germany’s Bild am Sonntag, calling the McLaren driver a coward and “not even a man.” The harsh words come after Sutil’s suspended 18-month sentence and EUR 200,000 fine. Sutil had called Hamilton to testify in the case, but because of Hamilton’s prior commitments to McLaren’s launch of the MP4-27, Hamilton was unable to attend.

With Hamilton’s absence, the German had no official witnesses in the trial against him. Sutil indicated he felt Hamilton’s testimony would have cleared himself of any wrongdoing in the nightclub fight that left Lotus co-owner Eric Lux badly cut.

Sutil took Hamilton’s absence personally. “Lewis is a coward, I do not want to be friends with someone like that,” Sutil said. “(Hamilton’s) father sent me a text message written and wished me luck for the process” but that was all the help that came from the Hamiltons, said the former Force India driver. Sutil alleges Hamilton took another step to ensure the German’s legal troubles could not bother the 2008 World Champion: he changed his phone number. “(Hamilton) has changed his phone number. I could not reach him anymore,” Sutil said.

The legal troubles have left Sutil’s career and reputation badly damaged. Sutil’s manager said a 2012 F1 seat is now “almost impossible.” But, his manager said, the FIA allowing Sutil to keep his super license has helped the German’s confidence.