Andretti Autosport Making A Run

(photo courtesy marcoandretti.com)

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series was supposed to be all about “the big two” for wins and championships.  “The big two” are the teams of Penske Racing and Team Target Chip Ganassi. It did start out as just that.  Penske drivers won the first three races and Penske and/or Ganassi drivers have won six of the first seven races in 2010.

But over the last four races there is an underdog sneaking into the fracas, that underdog is none other than Andretti Autosport.  With Andretti Autosport’s move into the championship fight, there appears to be a little worry inserted into the minds of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi.

Marco Andretti, one of the AA drivers has stated it simply, “The reason that we have been getting it right, is just that we have been getting it right, no magic.”

The lone “non-big two” race winner this year was Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. He got that victory at the Long Beach street race. After that race, the series moved to oval tracks and it has been there that Andretti teams and drivers have been moving to top-five finishes en masse.

Andretti has been the hottest of the team’s drivers. He is heading to this weekend’s Iowa Corn 250 in Newton after consecutive third-place finishes at Indianapolis and Texas.

“Yeah, confidence is good,””he said during a phone call this week. “”With the team, some good stuff’s been happening. We’ve been getting some good results. And we’re doing nothing different, really. I know as a driver, I have been doing nothing different. We’ve just been doing it right the last couple weekends. Making a couple sensible changes during race weekend. And, I’ve had good cars underneath me the last couple of races and that’s been a lot of fun.”

Andretti Autosport had a lot of people wondering what would happen with the team when the season started. Team owner Michael Andretti bought out his two partners and did some restructuring.

“He’s a guy with just a good feel. He knows how to manage a team,” Marco Andretti said. “He’s a very personable person who is good at talking to people and settling problems within the team and that creates a lot of camaraderie. He has a good feel for, like, crew member placement and just has a good feel for things.”

Gone from Andretti Autosport under Anderson, Marco said, are “crazy setups”. Setups, he said, which in the past have put the cars on such a thin edge that, “I didn’t even know how to drive those cars.”

So it has been back to the basics this year and the result has been progress on the track.  The Indianapolis 500 was evidence of the vast improvement from within the team.

Andretti says he feels good about continued improvement this weekend in Iowa.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Changes Coming To The IRL

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar League)

By the end of this month, June, the officials of the officials of the IndyCar League will decided on the way that their race cars will look and sound for 2012 and far beyond.

The group led by Randy Bernard, IRL CEO, and the nine member ICONIC (Innovative, Open Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost Effective) advisory committee has been spending time discussing new chassis proposals.  The committee has received proposals from BAT engineering, Dallara, DeltaWing Racing Cars, Lola, and Swift Engineering that range from evolutionary to down right extremely radical!

Additionally, Bernard has announced that the ICONIC committee has made  decision to come full circle in the engines.  That full circle is to return to the pre-CART split of having turbochargers instead of normally aspirated engines.  The new platform is a turbocharged 2.4 liter 6 cylinder engine, that will produce between 550-700 hp to fit the diverse tracks on the new schedule.

It is quite interesting that the IRL is going back to turbocharged engines.  One of Tony George’s reasons for changing to normally aspirated engines, when he created the IRL and split from CART, was to cut the cost and even the playing field among the race teams!

So it looks like the 2012 IndyCar season will look and sound very different than the 2010 season.  A radical change is coming to this racing series, which will essentially take it back to where it was in 1995.  The more things change, the more that the stay the same!

What do you think of the proposed changes for the IRL in 2012?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

2010 Indy Recap: Franchitti $2.75 Million

(photo courtesy IZOD/IndyCar Series)

Dario Franchitti, the 2010 Indianapolis 500 winner, Mr. Ashley Judd, and the driver of the Target-Chip Ganassi #10 Dallara Honda, scored a very nice pay day Sunday to the tune of $2,750,000 dollars!  Not a bad payday for two weeks of fast work!

Mike Conway, on the other hand, has a very tough three months of rehab to go through after his horrifying airborne crash and catchfence shredding of his race car on lap 199.  Conway has already went through one surgery on his ankle, with the prospects of possibly one more surgery on that ankle.  Additionally, Conway has been fitted with a back brace to help the healing and recovery of his compression fracture of his spine.  That injury should heal without any surgical assistance. That is the word coming from Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of  Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has under gone surgery on his thumb.  That injury occurred in a pit road accident when he got tangled up with Scott Dixon mid-race.

Davey Hamilton,(Madera Raceway fame) lost his ride with the team that is co-owned by Gil de Ferran, de Ferran Dragon Racing team.  That team will concentrate on repairing the race car of teammate Rafael Matos.  The de Ferran Dragon Racing organization is a smaller budgeted race team and will concentrate on keeping Matos in a car.

So now you have the 2010 Indy 500 recap!

The IndyCar series moves on the Texas Motor Speedway for a very fast and exciting Saturday night race.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Franchitti Wins 2010 Indy 500

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar series)

Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the first Scotsman, Jim Clark, to win at the Indianapolis 500.  That jovial Scotsman just happened to be Dario Franchitti’s boyhood hero.  So it was at The Brickyard on May 30, 2010, the second coming of Scotland to this hallowed grounds.

At a place where speed is king, Sunday Dario Franchitti had to slow down in order to win his second Indy 500.  The normally lightning fast Scotsman, who is married to actress Ashley Judd, had to be coaxed by team owner Chip Ganassi to lift his right foot off the accelerator to try to conserve what little fuel left in the fuel cell.  The Target-Ganassi pit box had figured that Francitti might not have enough fuel to finish the race.  In order to stretch out the fuel that was remaining in the fuel cell, they were coaching Dario to slow up and “save gas”.

Franchitti’s Target-Ganassi Racing #10 Target Dallara Honda was the absolute class of the 33 car field at The Brickyard Sunday, leading 155 of the 200 laps.  For the car that consistently ran in excess of 224 mph all day, fuel consumption had become an issue by lap 197,  Franchitti had slowed down to an average speed of 208 mph.  Futhermore, by the next lap, Franchitti has slowed all the way down to 202 mph!  That speed was more than 20 mph below his qualifying speed just a week previously.

Trailing Franchitti in second place was the 2005 Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon.  However Wheldon, driving the Panther Racing #4 National Guard Dallara Honda, was also suffering the same fuel shortage issue.  Additionally, the Target-Ganassi pit box and Franchitti wasn’t totally sure of how much fuel Wheldon had remaining in his fuel cell.  they were hoping that Wheldon would be slowing his pace as well, trying to make it to the end of the race.  The Target-Ganassi plan worked!

As Franchitti took the white flag, there was a horrible crash near the back of the pack of cars that was still in the short chute between turns 3 and 4.  Ryan Hunter-Reay ran out of fuel and Mike Conway, who led the race only 40 laps previously, clipped Hunter-Reay’s left front tire sending him airborne and hard into the catchfence!  Conway’s race car impacted the catchfence with such speed and force that it shredded the car.  There were only two sizable pieces left, the cockpit titanium tub containing the driver, Mike Conway, and the engine/rear end!  According to the Indianapolis Star, Conway escaped with some orthopaedic injuries to his left leg, most likely some fractures. Conway can consider himself a VERY luck man this morning!

So in what has, through the last few years, become a race between Team Penske and Target-Ganassi for the Indianapolis 500 victories, it was Target-Ganassi who was triumphant on May 30, 2010!

With that victory came another first in the two most prestigious levels of racing in the USA, Indy Car Series and NASCAR.  It is the first time that one car owner has won both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year!

What is your view of the 2010 Indy 500?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Indy 500: A Historical Review

Tony Kanaan heads out for his emotional qualifying run at  Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar  Series)
(Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series)
Throughout all the additions, renovations, and updates applied to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1909, much of its original atmosphere seems to shine through.  Many of the more than 3.2 million bricks are still there covered up  under the 1 1/2 feet of asphalt.  Yet the only part of the bricks that are still visible is the yard of bricks located at the start-finish line.  The concrete and steel grandstands along the front stretch offer reminders of their wooden predecessors, additionally the pagoda has had several reincarnations.  About the only casualty of progress has been the old wooden garages of gasoline alley, replaced in 1986 by the concrete structures now.
Originally built as a testing facility.  The four original partners were Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Frank Wheeler, and Arthur Newby who put their minds together to build the speedway on a 320  acre tract of farmland west of downtown.  All four were involved in Indy’s thriving, higher end, much pricier auto industry.
Fisher owned a bicycle shop, teamed with Allison to build the company that made compressed gas headlights for those early cars.  Newby owned a bicycle shop but made his name making chains, which were the key to the drive trains in cars and airplanes.  Wheeler, with George Schebler, built carburetors.  Over a campfire in November 1905 they reportedly brainstormed ideas that four years later led them to pool $200,000 (with another $50,000 borrowed from a fifth investor who eventually dropped out) to make the racetrack a reality.
Construction began March 20, 1909 for the inaugural meet in August that ended in disaster with numerous accidents, five deaths, and an outcry to shut down.  Fisher and Co. decided to pave the track with bricks from an Illinois company and subcontracted through four other firms.  The job was completed in just 63 days.
In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 was premiered for all to see and was won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon Wasp that included the first rear view mirror.  His average winning speed was 74.602 MPH!
The Speedway has changed ownership three times in its history.  The four track founders sold the track to WWII hero and former Eastern Airlines owner Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker in 1927 for about $750,000, the same price he sold it for in 1945 to Terre Haute, IN businessman Tony Hulman.  At the time that Hulman took control of the speedway, it had been dormant because of WWII.  Hulman rebuilt the speedway from the ground up, replacing the wooden grandstands with the current version.  His efforts made the month of May synonymous with the Indianapolis 500!
Whether standing or sitting in the grandstands of  the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this grand racing facility oozes history.  There is this faintly heard whispering of names from the past.  The names of Rex Mays, Ray Harroun, A. J. Foyt, Billy Vukovich, Al Unser, Sr., Bobby Unser, Andy Granatelli, Parnelli Jones, Roger Ward, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Mario Andretti, and Roger Penske are just a few that have walked in Gasoline Alley.
This Sunday is the the celebration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s centennial era, 100 years.  I can’t wait to see the Purdue marching band, to hear the singing of “Back Home Again In Indiana”, to hear those high strung V-8’s fire up!
But lest we never forget, the single most important reason that we celebrate this holiday is to honor our American military!  That is what this weekend is really all about. We must never forget about the sacrifices that we have asked of our young men and women!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The IRL Lacks Racing Personalities

(Al Unser,Jr. and Helio Castrneves photo courtesy IndyCar Series)

It was like old times Thursday night out front of the downtown Indianapolis Marriott ballroom.  There were many of the past Indy 500 racers there giving each other a hard time.  Among the drivers there  was Danny “Hollywood” Sullivan, Duane “Poncho” Carter, “Little Al” Unser,Jr., “Rocket” Rick Mears, Tom “The Gasman” Sneva, Johnny “Lone Star JR” Rutherford, and Mario, no last name needed!

The occasion for this meeting was that  the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimer’s Club was honoring the drivers of the 1985 Indy 500, won by Danny Sullivan after a mid-race while racing Mario for the lead!  It is hard to imagine that race was now 25 years ago.  More importantly, the names of the race car drivers are still fresh in most of the fans’ mind.

Most people new these drivers.  Even the casual fan knew these names, their racing pedigree, and their nicknames.

Sadly those days are long gone in open wheel racing.  Check out the starting grid and see how many of the names are recognizable.  Yeah sure, most people know Helio “Spiderman” Castroneves, Dario “Mr. Ashley Judd” Franchitti, Danica “Go Daddy.com” Patrick, and maybe Marco Andretti, Mario’s grandson.  But that may be as far as the recognizable names go.  The rest of the 33 starting grid drivers dwell in obscurity.

Most of the starting grid of the 2010 Indianapolis 500 are not from this country, and, therein lies some of the problem.  “The Greatest Spectacle In Motor Racing” has very few names that the average fan can recognize.  Hence, that is one of the main reasons that the IRL’s  popularity has reached a dangerously low level!

The bitter war that was waged by the former Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and Indy Racing League President, Tony George,  for 12 years with the former CART series, is mainly the reason for the fans  interest loss in open wheel racing.

On the plus side, this Sunday there will be approximately 250,000 people at the Indy 500, down significantly from the 400,000 people that would flock into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to the 1996 split.

The Indy 500 is still the Indy 500, nevertheless.  There is history associated with it, there is electricity associated with it, however, the marquee recognition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing” is gone.

What is your take on the difference these days?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

In-Car Camera: An Insight

The roof cam is about the size of a Big Mac from McDonald's.

(the roof cam is about the size of a Big Mac)

Have you ever wondered just how Fox, ESPN,ABC, and TNT are able to get such great shots during the race?

Broadcast Sports Inc. is the company that provides, installs and monitors onboard television cameras in all three of NASCAR’s national series — the in-car shots that capture drivers checking the mirror, the roof cameras that create a depth as if the viewer was in the driver’s seat, and the bumper cams that show bump-drafting at Daytona or a crash for the win with one car going beneath another.

For the rest of a very interesting insight on how, why, when, and where of the in car camera saga check out his link to in-car cameras.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Does Penske Have The Magic Touch?

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar series)

“The Captain”, Roger Penske has developed a strict set of guidelines for scouting and selecting race car drivers for his race teams.  A signature maneuver or victory schtick is definitely not included in his criteria.  But having said that, two of Penske’s drivers who are currently making the headlines have developed interesting post-race celebrations.  Helio Castroneves pioneered the “spiderman fence climb” at Indy, and Kurt Busch does his backwards parade lap, “the unwind”.

On Saturday Team Penske won the 2010 Indainapolis 500 pole for the 4th time with odds-on-favorite to win his coveted 4th Indy 500, Helio Castroneves.  Later that evening, Kurt Busch won a “cool million” for “The Captain” by winning the NASCAR All Star Race.  Those two feats put about $1.25 million dollars into the Penske organization for the weekend!

So the question begs to be asked; “What does it take to secure a ride with Team Penske?”  What traits do Helio “Spiderman” Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish, Jr., and “Blazingly Bad” Brad Keselowski have in common?

“Well, I think, you know, there’s three criteria that always stuck out in my mind,” Penske, 73, said during his team’s traditional Fast Friday news conference at IMS. “The first criteria, has he been a winner in some kind of racing, so he knows how to win. There are a lot of people that have been fast but don’t know how to win. So that would be number one.

“Number two, in today’s racing the ability to communicate technically, not just because you have a big right foot, but technically can you communicate with your crew, do you understand, are you engaged on the technical side of things. I think that’s very important.

“Obviously the third thing is the commercial side of it, being able to support our sponsors and the media and other things. So those three things are key. As Helio said, they’ve got to have the fire in their belly; they’ve got to want to win. We have three people here, one’s going to, we hope, win the race.

“I think the fourth point would be you’ve got to have drivers who are not just one man on one team when you’ve got three drivers. We have one team with three drivers, and I think that’s super critical. That’s one of the things that (Penske president) Tim Cindric has been able to bring into the team to continue to say that’s the mission here is one team. And (team adviser) Rick Mears obviously is a byproduct of that over the years, so that’s kind of my formula.”

It must work because racing-wise, Penske has been competing in the United Sates since 1958, scoring victories in every series in which it has run. Team Penske is the most successful outfit in domestic open-wheel history, with 141 wins and 12 national championships. Team Penske is synonymous with the 2.5-mile Speedway, where its drivers have won a record 15 Indy 500s, and as of Saturday, a record 16 Indy 500 poles.

What is your take on Team Penske and Penske Racing’s successes?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

A.J Fires A.J.IV!

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar series)

Being related by blood, you would think that A.J. Foyt IV would know better than to complain about cars built by his iconic and strong-willed grandfather, A.J. Foyt.  Nope, that was not the case Saturday.  And as a result, the grandson is out at Indianapolis Speedway today and Jaques Lazier is in.

A.J. Foyt Racing made the move after a Saturday Pole Day that did not go well for the team. With Foyt IV in the car, it did not generate enough speed to qualify.  Therefore, it must now run its way into the field on Sunday’s Bump Day.

After Saturday’s struggles, Foyt IV reportedly complained and was replaced by Lazier, a veteran at Indy who was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway looking for a ride.

“He wasn’t happy with the car,” Foyt said Sunday morning of his grandson. “If you’re not happy with your car here, you’re not going to do anybody any good.”

Asked if his grandson might be back in the car before the weekend is over, Foyt said probably not. Can’t make a change like that temporary, he said.

Lazier said he had been trying to put a deal together with Foyt’s team in the days leading up to the 500 but could not get it done.

Lazier said he got the call on Sunday morning. It came from four-time 500 winner Foyt and AJFR’s Larry Foyt.

Lazier could do no better than young Foyt, however, the car did not make the race.

So do you think that maybe A.J. IV might have had a valid complaint?  Do you think that maybe Grandpa over-reacted?  How would you like to  have a grandfather who is as opinionated, as ruthless, as egotistical as A.J. Foyt, Jr.?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Castroneves Wins The Indy Pole

(photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series)

Helio Castroneves is setting himself to make a historical run at winning his fourth Indianapolis 500.  Saturday he proved that he has a fast race car by securing the 2010 Indianapolis 500 pole in his Team Penske #3 black and orange bullet.

Castroneves, who won last year’s race, was simply dominating during Saturday’s all-new-for-2010 qualifying procedure.

He was fastest during the first segment of the qualifying session – which locked the fastest 24 cars on Pole Day into the field. And he was untouchable in the final, hour-and-a-half Fast Nine segment – in which the fastest nine drivers from segment one went for the pole.

It was his fourth pole at Indy.

Starting second in next Sunday’s race will be Will Power, who is Castroneves’ teammate at Team Penske.

Filling out the first row is Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

In Row Two of the grid will be Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske, Alex Tagliani of FAZZT Race Team and Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi.

The third row and the final Fast Nine from Saturday, will be Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Racing, Ed Carpenter of Panther/Vision Racing and Hideki Mutoh of Newman Haas Racing.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!