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An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.
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.
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.
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.
Rubens Barrichello made the decision to stay in Sebring Wednesday for a third and final day of IndyCar testing.
Originally, the Brazillian was only scheduled to partake in two days of testing with KV Racing and Tony Kanaan on the Florida road course. However, the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin reported early Wednesday that Barrichello opted to stay with the team Wednesday.
Testing duties now alternate between Kanaan and Barrichello in the No. 11 KV Racing Chevrolet and E.J. Viso in the No. 5. machine.
The racing world seems united in their apprehension awaiting for Barrichello’s decision, especially the IndyCar world. Barrichello made a promise to his wife at one point to avoid racing on American ovals. But, following the development of the DW12 and IndyCar’s departure from many 1.5-mile ovals, that promise may face reneging.
Barrichello recently told Kanaan he was impressed by the friendliness and closeness of the IndyCar paddock. Kanaan alluded that may play some role in Barrichello’s decision.
For footage from Sebring testing, below is a video on-board Kanaan’s DW12 as he navigates the Sebring short-course. Check out his son’s hand prints on the back of his helmet.
I apologize for a lack of content over the weekend. I was out of town and away from computer access for much of the weekend to attend a baptism for my niece. With that in mind, here’s a brief look at what’s happening in the racing world since Friday night.
Michael Shank Racing Wins Rolex 24: After years of trying, the Michael Schank Racing team won their first Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team, consisting of A.J. Allmendinger, Oz Negri, John Pew and Justin Wilson, fought off a hard-charging Ryan Dalziel in his Starworks Motorsports entry to win the famed event by a mere 5.2 seconds. The narrow margin of victory marked one of the closest finishes in endurance racing history. The win also gives strong momentum to the Michael Shank Racing squad as they begin the endeavor into a new field of racing: IndyCar. Full results from the Rolex 24 here.
Tracy to MSR in 2012?: Speaking of Rolex 24 winners, Michael Shank Racing, there have been strong indications that a deal to sign 22-year IndyCar veteran and 2003 CART Champion, Paul Tracy, to their IndyCar program. Tracy was in Daytona competing against MSR in Doran Racing’s DP. ““I’m trying to do a deal with Michael Shank to start an IndyCar team with himself and AJ Allmendinger,” Tracy told Speed.com’s Marshall Pruett. “We have a sponsor lined up. We need to put together an engine program this week and tie up a couple of other lose (sic) ends of some other contractual stuff, and if we can do that, then we’ll get the car put together and try to get to Sebring to test.” One obstacle facing Tracy and MSR are the sponsor connections Tracy has to Honda-Canada. MSR signed an engine contract with Lotus but, should Tracy bring Honda dollars and connections, the MSR team may be easily coaxed into signing on with Honda instead. Tracy has been on the hunt for a full time IndyCar ride since the last year of Champ Car in 2007 when he drove for Gerry Forsythe’s team.
IndyCar Teams Resume Testing, Barrichello Turns First Laps: A large group of IndyCar teams have returned to a testing regimen to prepare the new DW12s for competitive action. KV Racing, Andretti Autosport, Dreyer and Reinbold and Panther Racing have all turned laps at Sebring today with more expected to join the group this week. The test marks the first time new Andretti Autosport driver, James Hinchcliffe, dons his new GoDaddy.com colors. The one stealing the spotlight in Sebring, however, is an IndyCar rookie having only turned his first laps in an IndyCar but a few hours ago. The rookie comes highly recommended though by much of the paddock, especially Tony Kanaan. Of course, we’re talking about the most experience Formula One driver in history, Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian is evaluating a potential run in the IndyCar series this year following his departure from WilliamsF1. Officially, the test is set only to allow Barrichello to provide his expertise feedback on the new car’s development. But many, including Barrichello, have left open the possibility to run in IndyCar.
Barrichello’s first departure from pit lane in an IndyCar was posted to KV Racing’s youtube channel and can be seen below.
Sutil Attempted Resolution with Lux: German F1 driver, Adrian Sutil, attempted to resolve the bar fight saga with Lotus Team Executive, Eric Lux, out of court it has emerged. Sutil realizes the outcome of the case largely determines what will become of his career. He acknowledged attempts to resolve the situation out of court with Lux, whom he cut with a broken glass in a Shanghai night club. The 28- year old talked to SID news agency about the severity of the situation. “I’m sorry, extremely sorry, I didn’t want it to happen,” Sutil said. The former Force India driver told SID despite appealing to Lux out of court, Lux had no interest and “wanted to destroy” Sutil. Lux received phone calls from Sutil in his efforts to apologize, but Lux never accepted the calls. “I expected him to come to Luxembourg and apologize to me. A call is not enough,” Lux testified. Sutil and Lux did discuss resolutions but none were agreed upon. Sutil claimed Lux’s demands were outlandish and involved a “very, very high amount” of money as well as Sutil’s sitting out of numerous Grands Prix.
The Starworks Motorsports entry that was set to drop out of the Rolex 24 has made a revival and will be on the grid later today at the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The entry was originally slated with drivers Tony Kanaan, E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Due to a cut in funding, however, Viso and Kanaan were forced out of the seat and the status of the No. 2 Starworks Daytona Prototype left unknown. Speed.com’s John Dagys reported late Friday night the car will race in the twice around the clock event albeit with a new driver line-up.
Hunter-Reay remains aboard but is the only staple from the initial driver list. The entry will now consist of Hunter-Reay, Michael Valiente, Scott Mayer, Miguel Potolicchio and the surprise, last-minute addition of Marco Andretti. Marco is already in Florida for a private IndyCar test at Palm Beach Raceway and accepted the deal less than a day prior to the Rolex 24’s starting time.
The addition to the Andretti Autosport driver’s already crammed schedule means an IndyCar test Saturday morning with a banzai run to Daytona International Speedway to take his first stint in the Riley-Ford DP. Early Saturday, the 24-year old began to realize the strain that could amount. “Do they make a 40 hour energy drink,” asked Andretti via Twitter. “Going to be a long couple days but there is no better place to be than the cockpit!”
When Marco straps in for his first stint later Saturday, it will mark the first time the third-generation IndyCar driver has seen the Daytona road course (in competition) and his first time in a Daytona Prototype. Saturday’s Rolex 24 is not the first time Marco has seen the cockpit of a sports car however. In 2008, Andretti frequented the cockpit of then Andretti-Green Racing’s Acura LMP2 car in the American LeMans Series.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off at 3:30 p.m. EST live on Speed.
Barrichello at KV Shop for Seat Fitting: After the news broke mid-day yesterday, the Twittersphere has been abuzz with talk of F-1 refugee Rubens Barrichello testing a KV Racing Technology IndyCar at Sebring this coming week. IndyCar drivers took to the social media site to voice their praise for the Brazilian and to encourage his endeavor into IndyCar. Even the great Mario Andretti tweeted at Barrichello, “good luck at Sebring test. Hope you’ll like it enough to join IndyCar. Tony Kanaan will be a great mate!” Barrichello joined in the fun early Thursday morning. Barrichello posted a picture of himself snugly tucked into the cockpit of a DW12 during a seat fitting. Since Brake Glow makes every effort to avoid copyright infringement in any form, the picture can be seen here. Barrichello is scheduled to turn his first laps in an IndyCar at Sebring on Monday.
Caterham Forced Into Early Unveiling: The Caterham F1 Team, formerly Lotus, was forced into an early unveiling of their 2012 challenger. Pictures of the aptly named CT01 emerged early Wednesday. The release to the media was initially scheduled for Thursday in an agreement with the UK-based, F-1 Magazine, but some readers received their copy of the periodical early on Wednesday. The early arrival to some fans led to pictures being lifted from the magazine and posted to the internet. Caterham relented and released a single picture for the media’s official use later in the day on Wednesday. Team Principal, Tony Fernandes, made the best out of the situation. “I am thrilled that we broke cover first and that the CT01 is the first example anyone has seen of a 2012 car,” he said. Fernandes said he expects more from the team in 2012 with points scoring being the main goal. The Malaysian pointed to the amount of development into this year’s car: “The detail right across the whole package is light years ahead of where we were when we first started out, and we are all excited about seeing what it can do when we get on track.” The public will see the CT01 on track for the first time in February as Formula One heads to Valencia for preseason testing. Photos of the CT01 are available through the team’s Flickr account here.
“Can’t Underestimate (Schumacher)” – Glock: Marussia driver, Timo Glock, recently came out to in defense of his fellow countryman, Michael Schumacher. Schumacher has brought mediocre results to his MercedesGP Team since his return to Formula One in 2010. But, Glock says, that does not mean he has lost his edge. In an interview with the German publication, Sky Sports News HD, Glock praised Schumacher’s tenacity and motivation. “He (Schumacher) is highly motivated and still someone who you always have to take into consideration,” Glock said. Glock finished his thought, “You can’t underestimate him in any way.” The 7-time World Champion and winner of 91 Grands Prix has yet to score a win, or even a podium, since his return two years ago. 2012 will be Schumacher’s third season with MercedesGP. His contract expires at the end of the 2012 season and his future plans remain unknown.
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.
Speed records might not be broken in 2012 by the new, DW12 IndyCar Dallara. But 2013 might be a different story, according to IndyCar’s Vice President of Technology, Will Phillips in an interview with Autoweek.
During initial testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the DW12 never approached the speeds set in 2011– topping out at a measly 215 mph and some change. Through wind tunnel testing, engineers found a solution for the car to reach the same speeds seen in recent years at the Speedway.
In 2013, however, as the addition of aero kits come into play, Phillips expects speeds to steadily increase and old records broken. As the aero kits are added to the cars, “the car could be exceeding expectations as they reduce drag further,” Phillips said. Phillips went on to say it’s not just about the car being capable of reaching the speeds aerodynamically, but also mechanically. The drivers always have to find the appropriate balance between the two to reach maximum performance.
IndyCar fans have patiently awaited the utterance of “a new track record” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Arie Luyendyk’s blistering lap of 237.498 mph during qualifying in 1996. Luyendyk also set an unofficial record that same year when he set a lap of 239.260 mph in practice for the Indianapolis 500.