Brake Glow

An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.

Tag Archives: IndyCar

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.

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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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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.

Barrichello Chooses to Stay for Third Day of Testing

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.

Bernard Wants Barrichello in IndyCar

Rubens Barrichello was again the talk of the paddock as IndyCar testing resumed at Sebring Tuesday. The f1 veteran, with 22 years of experience in the pinnacle of motorsport, brought out some uncommon faces to see during pre-season testing. In addition to KV Racing owners, Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven, IndyCar president, Randy Bernard, was also on hand in Sebring to see Barrichello embark on his first IndyCar venture.

“(Barrichello)’s a champion,” Bernard told the Associated Press, “a driver who would be a tremendous addition to a series.” Bernard also indicated IndyCar might assist in Barrichello’s decision to move to IndyCar financially. “If there is a transition, I want him to know that we’re here to help him,” Bernard said to racintoday.com

KV Racing’s other driver, and Barrichello’s good friend, Tony Kanaan also provided insight onto Barrichello’s future. “Right now, we don’t have anyone signed for the other two cars. You can tell by his face he’s having a lot of fun,” Kanaan told Speed.com. “By the time he gets out of the car he’ll have a pretty good idea what he wants to do,” Kanaan added.

Today is the last day Barrichello is set to test with KV Racing while the majority of the IndyCar teams are set for a three day test.

On-board footage from Barrichello’s test at Sebring can be seen below.

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Weekend Round Up (Jan 20-22)

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.

Paul Tracy last drove full-time in 2007 for Forsythe Racing's Champ Car team. Could Tracy become MSR's driver in 2012 for his farewell tour from IndyCar racing? (Photo: Zach Wenzel)

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.