Brake Glow

An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.

Tag Archives: 2012

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.


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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Wilson, Engineer Papas Return to Coyne

Justin Wilson will return with Dale Coyne Racing in 2012 (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

Dale Coyne Racing announced the return of their sole winner, Justin Wilson, to the Plainfield, Illinois-based team.

After a two-year hiatus from Coyne, Wilson reunites in 2012 to the team he brought their first win (Watkin’s Glen, 2009.) The duo also return in 2012 with Honda power, but the new DW12 is sure to provide some new challenges for the engineering team.

In addition to Wilson’s return, engineer Bill Papas also returns. Papas was with Wilson in 2009 for the team’s win.

Read the full media release below:

Dale Coyne Racing is proud to announce that they are “Putting the Band Back Together” with its 2009 winning combination of driver Justin Wilson and renowned engineer Bill Pappas, all powered by Honda.

After a two year absence, Wilson returns to Dale Coyne Racing after bringing the seasoned team its first win at Watkins Glen, NY back July of 2009.

“I am really excited as to how all of this has come together,” Wilson said. “Dale is committed to win, and it shows by him bringing back my 2009 engineer Bill Papas, the level playing field of a new car and the much appreciated continuation with Honda engines should make 2012 a very exciting year for all of us.”

Dale Coyne Racing will once again be powered by Honda in 2012. “Dale has shown us he is putting together a winning team,” commented Honda Performance Development President Erik Berkman. “The Honda family has a long history with DCR and we look forward to having them as a valued partner in 2012.”

Honda has been a fixture in North American open-wheel racing since 1994, and has played an active role in the growth of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Honda has supplied racing engines to the full, 33-car Indianapolis 500 field every year since 2006, and for a record-six consecutive years, the ‘500’ has not seen a single engine failure.

Wilson has shown his prowess over the years. Justin won two IZOD IndyCar races (Detroit in 2008 and again at Watkins Glen in 2009), as well as multiple wins in the former Champ Car Series. He is one of the top contenders to deal with in the pool of IndyCar driver talent.

“We are very excited about 2012 and the team we are assembling,” reflected team owner Dale Coyne. “As to this opportunity, racing is a combination of things, team, dedication, the right equipment, and engineering and of course the driver. This combination knows each other and this coupled with Honda and other improvements in our efforts for 2012 and beyond should make for a break out year for Dale Coyne Racing.”

Returning to DCR squad in 2012 will be the talented engineer Bill Papas. Papas joined DCR in 2009 for that season, which saw the team win Watkins Glen and nearly win at St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio.

“I want to thank Dale for being able to put this combination back together,” said Pappas. “I think the world of Justin and his abilities and now we can seriously get after the challenge of winning more races.”

John Dick, who has a long respected history in the sport and most recently as engineer and technical director at KV Racing will also join Dale Coyne Racing in 2012.

Details of the team’s second entry and sponsorships will be coming out sometime in February.

Milwaukee to Be Added to 2012 IndyCar Schedule?

IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, has publicly stated he would like to see a return of the legendary Milwaukee Mile to IndyCar’s 2012 schedule. The suggested date looks for a mid-June weekend. Traditionally, the Mile was always held immediately following the Indy 500.

Despite a possible date two weeks later than normal, one must wonder how much effective promoting of the event could be accomplished. The reasoning behind Milwaukee’s initial departure from the schedule was poor crowds resulting from poor promoting. So, would a last minute addition to the schedule lead to a permanent absence?

Other rumors surrounding the last minute addition of the famed 1-mile oval suggest its addition is a necessity after the mass exodus away from IndyCar’s 1.5-mile ovals following Dan Wheldon’s tragic death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Currently there are but four ovals slated for 2012: Indianapolis (2.5 miles), Texas (1.5 miles), Iowa (0.875 miles) and AutoClub Speedway (2 miles) in Fontana, CA.

One other reason for the Mile’s potential addition is to cover the typically IndyCar saturated Milwaukee-Chicago market. In the past, IndyCar has run events at both the Milwaukee Mile and Chicagoland Speedway. With neither currently on the schedule, IndyCar might look to hastily put an event in place to satisfy the demographic. The addition of Milwaukee might provide a temporary solution when, in 2013, IndyCar looks to plan a double-header weekend with ALMS at the fan-favorite Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Since the unification of American open-wheel racing in 2008, former Champ Car fans have eagerly awaited a race at the 4.048 mile track through the rolling hills of Wisconsin. Open-wheel’s loss of the track has led to NASCAR’s gain as the Nationwide series has raced there for the past two years.

If IndyCar returns to Road America, the track will be the only in America to host every major racing series in the country: AMA Superbikes, Grand-Am, NASCAR, ALMS, and IndyCar.

Will a permanent departure of the Milwaukee Mile lead to a permanent return of IndyCars to the flowing Road America circuit?

Dan Wheldon: Lionheart

Legendary author, Ernest Hemingway, once wrote of but three real sports: auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing. “The rest,” the famous quote goes, “are merely games.”

When racing transforms itself from one’s interest to one’s passion, Hemingway’s words suddenly hold more meaning. The racing enthusiast, the one who knows the winner of each and every race at his home track for the past 15 years, understands what Hemingway means. Hemingway refers to the level of danger, and the corresponding arrogance, that comes along with racing. It is not a typical stick-and-ball sport. The risks that come with racing make racing what it is. For this, it appeals to all of us. For this, we watch it, we need it, we breathe it, we live it.

By now, the world knows of Dan Wheldon’s tragic and untimely passing. His death is not the first in racing– nor will it be the last– but it will be marked. The milestones made in racing safety in the past few decades came from the deaths of numerous and various drivers. None of those drivers died in vein but died doing what they loved and, in the process, making their passion safer for others to carry it on. Wheldon’s death will not hurt racing; it will help racing. It will encourage talks to improve safety.

One would find himself hard pressed to recall a time when the logistics of catch fencing were called into question. Dan Wheldon’s death has sparked that conversation. The same goes for IndyCar pack racing. A not-entirely-silent-but-rather-quiet majority whispered of the immense danger attached to 30+ cars, all covered by the length of a football field, running at 230mph or more. Dan Wheldon turned those whispers into a roar. Now, IndyCar engineers and IndyCar management are desperately seeking a way to put the driver back into oval racing and eliminate solely-aerodynamic competitions ahead of the 2012 season. 

The Brazilian legend, Ayrton Senna, sparked a safety revolution in Formula One following his death at Imola in 1994. That revolution continues today to a large degree. NASCAR great, Dale Earnhardt, did the same for NASCAR and numerous other series following his untimely death at Daytona in 2001. Prior to Earnhardt’s accident, open-faced helmets were still permitted in NASCAR. HANS Devices existed but rarely saw use before his accident. Following the tragedy, the HANS Device became a requirement in most series and recommended by all. The list of immaculate drivers taken too soon goes on and on, especially during the early years of racing and the 1960s and 70s in Formula One. The examples provided display just a popular fraction of them.

Dan Wheldon made incredible contributions to racing. He personified the image of a gentleman racer. The only time a smile failed to grace his face was when the helmet covered it. The helmet also covered the red mist that overcomes any genuine racing driver when he/she steps into their respective rocket ship. Wheldon was a 2-time Indianapolis 500 winner, an IndyCar champion, a charmer and, most importantly, a fantastic father.  Although Wheldon’s life may have come to a premature end, his contributions to the racing world have hardly started. Time will tell just how massive his influence on racing will be, but it will undoubtedly be monumental. One can rest assured, the resulting changes from Wheldon’s accident will allow for safer racing while maintaining its sport status with Hemingway. Racing is as safe as ever, but the risks remain and shall remain. If the risks vanish entirely, so will the fans (as well as Hemingway’s respect.)

Hemingway was notoriously difficult to impress, but certainly Wheldon and Hemingway are off somewhere having a drink; discussing racing and just how right Hemingway was.

Zach Wenzel stock photo)Dan Wheldon. 1978-2011 (Photo: Zach Wenzel)