Auto Racing (80)
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there have only been a handful of names that have consistently dominated the IRL/IndyCar series. Your first answer might not be New Zealand native Scott Dixon, but he has been a main stalwart on podiums for almost his entire career with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Dixon isn’t that flashy and won’t be the loudest voice in the room, but he has a quiet confidence and an unflappable determination to succeed. Over the years, he might have been lost in the shuffle of IndyCar attention with media and fans flocking to Dancing with the Stars winner Helio Castroneves, the Go Daddy girl Danica Patrick, and his own teammate Dario Franchitti, who happens to be married to Hollywood star Ashley Judd. Regardless of Dixon’s popularity, he has always been there for Ganassi at the top of the driver’s title race and will be competing in his 131st consecutive start this weekend in Edmonton.
Dixon’s reliability and consistency has been a significant reason for his envious 12-year stay at Ganassi. IndyCar is not known for its long-term job security and stability, as championship-level drivers such as the 2003 CART Champion Paul Tracy, the 2004 and 2005 IRL IndyCar Champions Tony Kanaan, and the late Dan Wheldon, respectively, have had trouble finding jobs over the years. But Dixon understands his luck and is thankful every day. “I’m very happy and lucky to have had a job and drive for a great team for so long, while other drivers have not,” said Dixon. He sees his team as a second family for the past 12 years and wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s not just a healthy relationship and luck that has secured Dixon’s career at Ganassi. He’s earned it in every way possible. His statistics are hall-of-fame impressive (if there actually was one) as he sits 11th all-time in career victories with 28, one behind the legendary Rick Mears; has been on 68 podiums; and has won 18 poles.
The most impressive part is that Dixon is still only 31 years of age (he will be turning 32 this Sunday) and one again in the running to win the 2012 IndyCar Series title. Heading into the Edmonton Indy, Dixon sits fourth in the driver’s standings with 281 points, trailing Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay by 54 points. The points difference seems large, but with five races to go anything can still happen.
The gap in points doesn’t show Dixon’s exceptional performances in 2012 and without a few mechanical mishaps in Long Beach and Toronto, Dixon could be leading the way for his third Indy car driver’s title. If you look deeper into the numbers, you will see that Dixon has led the most races of any other driver in 2012 with seven, and has by far led the most laps throughout the campaign with 405 to the next-best Team Penske’s Castroneves with 241.
Dixon recognizes that a lot of the top drivers have had similar unlucky breaks and knows in order to win this year’s title he’s got to go for wins over consistent finishes. He has to dominate like he did from start-to-finish at the faulty-track shortened Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in which he led every-single lap.
Over the last two seasons, Dixon has been overshadowed by his teammate Franchitti, who has won the last three IndyCar titles, totalling four in his career. It’s difficult to overshadow Dixon, but he praises Franchitti’s consistency, top-level driving abilities, and knack for always putting himself in a position to win. Dixon does agree that he’s the front-runner for Ganassi this year and hopes all of his bad luck is in his rear-view mirror.
If there’s ever a course to start that charge it would be at the Edmonton Indy held at the Edmonton City Centre Airport. Dixon has found his way on the podium in the last three out of four years with two victories coming in 2008 and 2010.
A focal point at the Edmonton Indy will be the re-installed overtake assist feature known as push-to-pass, which made its return in the last race at the Honda Indy Toronto. Push-to-pass provides each car with 100 seconds of turbocharger power boost at any point in the race with a press of a button. When asked about the feature, Dixon questions the timing of the decision to implement it after the half-way point of the season and preached a need for consistency. “If my engine blows because its got more boost I would be pissed. They [IndyCar] didn’t have to implement that and I’m sure the engine manufacturers didn’t plan on having it for this season,” explains Dixon. However, he’s quick to see the other side, and ultimately, he says, “for fans it creates some excitement and we are here for a show, so on that side it’s a good thing. It can be gimmicky, but you can understand what they are trying to do in today’s economy.”
Dixon speaks his mind when it matters and the Ganassi-Dixon combination seems to be as strong as ever. Flashy, he's not, but the combination of skill, determination, and ice in your veins is a triple threat that very few have and every team dreams for. "I hope to continue and stay with Ganassi as my career team. I’m not even thinking about retirement and I don’t want to go anywhere else, Dixon explains, adding, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Tune in to TSN in Canada and the NBC Sports Network in the United States at 2pm EST to see if Scott Dixon can win his second race of the year and third in Edmonton to inch closer to Hunter-Reay and his third IndyCar title.
Rubens Barrichello’s name is no stranger to any true racing fan. Chants of Rubinho (Portuguese for “little Rubens”) would fill the grandstands of any Formula One race by travelling Brazilians and local fans. The São Paulo, Brazilian born race car driver has been around the block a few times after a successful 19-year Formula One career amassing 11 victories with the likes of Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Brawn, and Williams to name a few of his teams. He is the most experienced Formula One driver of all-time, a record of 322 starts that will be hard to break.
After his contract was not picked up by Williams after the 2011 season, the 40-year-old Barrichello agreed to a couple track-testing invites by long-time best friend Tony Kanaan of IndyCar’s KV Racing team. Barrichello fell in love with the car, which led to many discussions and eventually signing on to be a full-time KV Racing driver alongside Kanaan and Venezuelan E.J. Viso – instantly becoming the oldest rookie in the field.
With nine out of the sixteen races complete and Barrichello sitting in 15th place in the driver’s championship standings, we felt that the Honda Indy Toronto would be a great opportunity to sit down and chat with Rubinho on his first visit to Toronto to see if he’s enjoying his stay in IndyCar and whether it was more of a challenge than expected.
“An IndyCar is a different animal to drive than a Formula One car. It’s very competitive and it’s taken me a little longer to learn than I originally thought,” says Barrichello. “I’m still not 100% familiar with everything, but I’m very open-minded and willing to learn and I see improvements with every race.”
Every race car driver wants to win, but Barrichello understands that as a rookie learning each new track takes time and he has yet to find the perfect car set-up that can adapt to his smooth style of driving. “The IndyCar steering wheel is very heavy. As a smooth driver, it’s been very tough to introduce my style of driving to a tough steering wheel,” explains Barrichello.
Barrichello’s teammate Kanaan has been there for him throughout the year assisting in any way he can from ovals to single and double-file restarts that occur during a race following a caution. Both Kanaan and Barrichello share similar histories in the world of racing with Kanaan taking 15 checkered flags in a 16-year professional career previously in the now defunct Champ Car Series and the current IndyCar Series.
Barrichello might be facing some challenges on the track, but socially he’s having the time of his life being re-united with Kanaan, who he calls his brother. “Life is good!” Barrichello says with a smile. “Tony and I are enjoying our motor homes and spending time with our family and friends.”
In addition to his exciting new social life, Barrichello is enjoying the interaction he’s having with IndyCar fans compared to the more restricted ways of Formula One. At every race, IndyCar fans are able to meet their favourite drivers at scheduled autograph sessions and he’s having a lot of fun with it. He tells us that he loves when the fans cheer for him, because it gives you a celebrated feeling and provides that extra incentive to push harder.
Barrichello has been around for many changes in the sport of racing including KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System) both recently brought into Formula One, so the IndyCar addition of push-to-pass to the Honda Indy Toronto and for the rest of the year doesn’t faze him at all. “As long as any change is not artificial, it will be good for the show,” he said.
Half-way through the year goals can change, but Barrichello feels hopeful that his determination and focus can guide him to a top-ten finish in the driver’s standings. Barrichello strongly believes in learning from his own mistakes and improving from them whether that’s on the race track or off. “There will always be difficult times in life, but it’s our job to improve as a person and as a professional.” says Barrichello. He goes on to state that over 100 people told him that he made a big mistake in his first race victory for Ferrari at the 2000 German Grand Prix in Hockenheim by going with his instincts and staying on track with his slick tires while everyone else ducked into the pits for wets. Somehow Barrichello came out victorious, but learned a lot from that race. However, it’s safe to say now that Barrichello’s judgement at Hockenheim was clearly not a mistake.
The future is open for Barrichello, but for now he’s enjoying life and soaking in any information he can to better himself in IndyCar. Change is always tough, especially after 19 successful seasons, but it’s possible that Barrichello might have to slightly change his style to adapt to the tough steering wheels of IndyCar. The Honda Indy Toronto goes off at 12:30 EST today and Barrichello is hopeful that his first visit to Toronto will provide a podium result which he deeply desires.
Rahal is a name that is synonymous with racing. Bobby Rahal is one of the most famous American drivers of all-time finishing with 24 Champ Car wins including an unforgettable 1986 year taking six checkered flags including his only wins at the Indy 500 and the Toronto Indy. These days, the racing torch has been passed to his son Graham, who currently competes in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Graham is no stranger to the track being around it since childhood and later competing in the now-defunct Champ Car and current IndyCar series for the past five seasons. If you’re looking for an up-and-coming American superstar – look no further than the young, charismatic, and energetic Graham Rahal. At only 23 years of age, Graham is living his racing dream for arguably the best racing team over the past decade in Chip Ganassi Racing.
This season has brought about many changes to IndyCar including the new DW12 car coupled with an engine battle between Honda, Chevy, and (technically we can still say) Lotus. None of these changes have phased Graham, who’s confident that his #38 Service Central sponsored car and team are ready to challenge the front-runners during each race, well at least the street/road courses.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with the young star before the 26th running of the Honda Indy Toronto on his earliest memories of racing as a child, the dynamics of Chip Ganassi Racing and his relationship with his three teammates, the challenging track of Toronto, and of course, his collection of personal cars.
DM - When you hear the Rahal name, you think racing- what was your earliest memory of racing?
GR - I’m asked that question often and it’s a hard one to answer. I’ve always been around a race track as a kid – for me a race track is being at home.
I spent a lot of time at the Mid-Ohio and Cleveland race tracks as those two were close to where I live. But my first driving experience was at five years old where I did a couple of laps at Circleville Raceway just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
DM - Let me go a little further in your life, when did you know you would be a race car driver?
GR - When I was 3-4 years, there’s a video of me at a bowling alley saying I want to be a race car driver. That’s always what I wanted to be and I’m fortunate that I am. I don’t think I’m that good at anything else.
DM - Do you feel added pressure to win, because you are Bobby Rahal’s son?
GR -There’s added pressure, there’s no doubt about it! You fight it and I always will. No matter what success I achieve, you’re always going to be son of…
DM - You’ve had a good history at Newman/Haas Racing, bounced around a bit in 2010, are you happy to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing for the past two seasons?
GR - I’m fortunate to be here. Certainly I’ve been with some great teams in my young career. In 2009 with Newman/Haas, I truly felt we were on the cusp of greatness. We could have won a lot of races if I was driving like I am today. We would have at least been in the hunt for the championship. It really felt like we were looking to be one of the most promising teams and unfortunately things fell apart for 2010.
Fast forward to now, I’m with another great team and Chip’s support means a lot. We’ve had fights and battles like all teams, but I hope I’m here for many years to come.
DM - For stretches last year, you were really competitive and challenging in most races, how close is the #38 car in reaching its first podium?
GR - This year has been even better than last year. At the start of the year, we were competing in the top five every race. At St. Pete’s we had bad strategy and moved back to 12th; at Barber we got the result finishing 4th; at Long Beach we had a competitive car and we got into it with Marco [Andretti]; finally in Brazil, we were running up at 3rd in front when there was contact in front of me and I had to go straight through the run-off and lost 12 spots. Bad luck has contributed to poor results and we’ve had so many of these instances that have built-up against us that people don’t realize. Yet we are still 10th in points and on a streak of three top-tens in a row.
The speed has been better this year – it just doesn’t show.
In terms of confidence level at the end of last year I felt pretty good. In Baltimore, we were neck-to-neck with Will [Power] and we were the class of the field by a mile, but again bad pit strategy landed us around 10th.
This year, I like the car a lot. It seems to suit my style and in pre-season testing we were really fast and we have struggled slightly to re-gain that form. I feel happy that we are back on the street courses starting here in Toronto as it suits are style for whatever reason over the ovals.
DM - Considering you don’t feel your car is suited to ovals you were definitely in contention in Texas – what happened?
GR - If you would have asked me two re-starts from the end if we would have been challenging for the win, I would have said no. We were positioned in sixth on that last re-start and I just thought we are either going to crash and burn or win this thing. I drove it hard and I was hanging on – there were five other instances during that race that I thought we lost, there were many big saves. Unfortunately, I made a mistake at the end and I’m still in amazement that I hit that wall. I truly didn’t think I was that close.
If I didn’t hit the wall – Justin [Wilson] wouldn’t have been able to pass me.
DM - In IndyCar or any circuit, it’s hard to win. You won your first IndyCar race back in 2009 at St. Pete’s and you came so close to winning your second at Texas, how frustrating does that feel?
GR - I hope that’s not the closest I’ll ever come to winning again. But I’ve put Texas behind me and I haven’t thought about it for a while. We finished second; it was a great result for the team and for the standings.
I feel that there were other places this year, where if breaks went our way, such as Detroit, we would have won as well. I feel that I’m driving well and I remain positive and hopeful that if I keep this up we will have another win coming soon. We just have to find a way as a team to be better, especially on the oval tracks.
DM - Let’s talk about the Chip Ganassi team – you have four cars, but there have been some issues in the past that it’s separated into two separate groups? How’s your relationship with Dario [Franchitti] and Scott [Dixon] as well as Charlie [Kimball]?
GR - Last year in Toronto in particular there was some built-up anger over a certain situation. Ultimately, it was taken out on me, which was not deserved and I believe they would agree with that statement today.
Right now, we don’t have any issues and we’re working well as a team and it’s getting better. However, it’s tough to have four cars and find a way for communication to work smoothly out of two different shops. It’s a difficult group to balance considering the amount of engineers, mechanics, and personalities.
In terms of strategy, Charlie and I do our own thing. We get an idea of where Dario and Scott are going to be on race day and vice versa.
DM - So is it a team within a team or one big unit?
GR - On a race weekend or when we’re back at home working on the cars, we operate as two different teams. Charlie and I debrief and we share data and set-ups. On the flip-side there engineers are not working on my car, so the whole group doesn’t need to come together on that. It’s not the same as Andretti Autosport, where all three cars are built in the same shop – we have two separate shops.
DM - I look at a team like Newman/Haas last year with a rookie in James Hinchcliffe and a veteran in Oriol Servia. James learned a lot from Oriol which helped him mightily throughout the year. You and Charlie are both fairly young – does that help or hinder the development of the team?
GR - At Ganassi, we get to see Dario and Scott’s data and of course and if I have any questions I ask them. Does that make it easy? No.
I was a teammate of Oriol’s for just the last three races in 2009 and I learned more from him in three races than from all I learned leading up to that point.
Dario and Scott have won several Indy 500s and are two of the best drivers in IndyCar and around the world. They have two different styles and my style is more similar to Scott, but I’ve learned a lot from the both of them. I’ve learned a lot on how to put a lap together or make a race last for the whole distance, and how to avoid mistakes throughout each race.
We are young, but Charlie and I have come along the way. He has a good understanding of the sport through Indy Lights and racing in Europe. We work awfully hard to find an edge to compete against the Target boys next door.
DM - Switching gears to Toronto, why is this race known for being the most challenging tracks?
GR - To me the surface changes and the bumps are the most challenging aspects of Toronto. They re-paved lakeshore, but then on Turn 3 it goes back to concrete which causes fits for the car. To go fast at Toronto you feel on edge – it’s a track that takes a lot of effort and you have to be strong to do well.
I love coming here though – some great memories and some bad ones. Being on pole during my time in Champ Car Atlantic back in 2006 was a great memory and I was running in third last year until I was taken out of the race with just a few laps left.
DM -Talk about the city of Toronto and their fans.
GR - The fans make this race what it is. The fans have a passion and love for open-wheel racing and they’re knowledgeable about it. We go to many places throughout North America and many fans are excited, but they might not know about the cars and drivers as they do in Toronto or especially Indianapolis.
I much rather go to the crappiest race track in the world and have 100,000 fans cheering than go to the greatest race track and have nobody there. The fans make the event! Ultimately, they're the ones that keep me employed, as fans produce sponsors.
DM - Last question, I’ve heard that you have a great car collection. What’s in your garage and are you close to having the best collection amongst the other drivers?
GR - [Big laugh] I definitely don’t have the best collection – that belongs to Dario or [Tony] Kanaan. It’s really the three of us that are the car nuts of the group who happily buy new cars.
I’ve got a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that I love the most. It’s the greatest road car ever and that’s why I had to buy it. I have it more as an investment than anything else. I actually just sold both of my McLaren MP4-12C’s, as I just bought a bigger home and I’m trying to be more responsible. So you are asking this question at the wrong time.
Currently, I have 5-6 unique cars, but I’m always buying and selling. My collection includes a 1964 MINI S that I re-stored myself and a 1969 Fiat 500 that needs a lot of attention, but I still love it.
Cars are my passion, so if I’m not on the race track or working at the shop – I’m probably doing something with cars.
The Rahall’s have always been collectors of cars and own a lot of dealerships. We also have a car barn where we store a lot of our cars including my dad’s collection of Porsches and Ferraris, my brother’s muscle cars, and I seem to be more into modern vehicles.
Associated Press - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said Thursday that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead next week as scheduled — unless national authorities decide to cancel the race.
Pressure has been growing for the April 22 race to be canceled for the second straight year because of ongoing clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters. The crackdown has left at least 50 people dead.
Ecclestone, however, said ahead of the Chinese GP that there had been no change of plans.
"The race is on the calendar. Unless it gets withdrawn by the national sporting authority in the country, we will be there," he said.
Ecclestone plans to meet with the F1 teams on Friday for discussions, but stressed that wouldn't change the situation.
"I don't see any difference between here (China) and Bahrain," Ecclestone said. "It's the same. It's another race on the calendar."
Bahrain's Sunni leaders and race organizers remain committed to going ahead as a way of showing the divided Persian Gulf island nation is moving past the strife of the past year.
Bahrain's circuit chairman said earlier this week that extremist groups are using "scare-mongering tactics" to make the unrest seem worse than it is to force the cancellation of the race.
Last year, Bahrain organizers canceled the race after an attempt to reschedule it by motor sport's world governing body (FIA) was criticized by rights groups, F1 teams and fans.
Amid the ongoing turmoil in the country, human rights groups have criticized the race being reinstated this year. Protesters have galvanized supporters by incorporating anti-F1 chants in their marches, putting anti-F1 posters on walls and criticizing Ecclestone and F1 drivers in online posts.
Amnesty International is also planning to release a report next week on the eve of the race detailing the numbers of protesters in Bahraini jails and the human rights violations that it says are still being committed by security forces.
Many drivers avoided talking about the situation on Thursday. When six of them were asked at a news conference whether they had any moral problems with competing in Bahrain, all six sat completely still and didn't say a word.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel also deflected questions about the race.
"No Bahrain questions. Ask the people in the paddock," he said. "Maybe I don't watch enough TV."
Mark Webber of Red Bull, however, noted the difficulty of the position the drivers have been put in.
"Ultimately, we are all human. We have morals, we have ways we see things," he said. "We like to think that people and situations are fair and everything is, as I suppose, correct as we would like it to be.
"As a grand prix driver, I'm contracted to the team, they're contracted to the FIA. They hold a 20-round world championship. We go to those venues and race. And that's where it is."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who is coming off a victory at the Malaysian GP last month, said any decision is out of the drivers' hands.
"I think we need to trust the FIA in which the people that have all the information," he said. "As personal point of view, the sport is made to help some kinds of these situations. If doing the race, the sport can help the people there, that can be a good thing — we will be good to go. If it is the opposite, if the sport can be a problem, so it is no good to go. We will accept any decision."
Webber was asked if he thought the country would be safe for drivers, officials and workers.
"We need to trust the people making the decision that they know how these people are going to operate," he said. "That's what it comes down to at the end of the day. You and I don't know. And that's what we're going to find out."
HOUSTON, TX (AP) — IndyCar added a race in Houston for the first weekend of October 2013, a step toward expanding the circuit's reach in the United States.
The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will be run on a temporary street course on the parking lots near Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans. Champ Car hosted a race there in 2006 and 2007, on a 1.7-mile course set up in the massive parking lots adjacent to the stadium. The race was cancelled when Champ Car merged with the IndyCar circuit in 2008.
Roger Penske and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves joined officials from Harris County and Shell to make the announcement. Penske said Houston is a major market that is ideal for IndyCar's plans for expansion in the U.S.
"We need to have date equity, we need to be in places in cities that will support it," Penske said. "Racers give a lot back, and the opportunity to support many of the venues within the city will also be important."
The announcement was made at Redstone Golf Club, site of this week's Houston Open, also sponsored by Shell. The oil company and Penske entered into a cross-business alliance before the 2011 racing season.
CART, the predecessor of Champ Car, hosted a race on a street course in downtown Houston between 1998-2001. Increased construction in the city forced the cancellation of the race, but Champ Car announced it would return in 2006, at the Reliant site south of downtown.
"For me, it feels like we're going to a place where we're welcome," said Castroneves, who won last week's season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I don't know why we left Houston. But the timing is right now to start all over again, and it's an important market. You're talking about the American and Latin-American community, and you're just expanding to areas that worked in the past."
Drivers in the Champ Car races complained about the rough, bumpy surface at Reliant Park, but Castroneves said organizers have plenty of time to work out the kinks.
"We have a long way to go, maybe the city can help, and we can find lines that can be suitable for the cars," Castroneves said. "Even with that, they were still able to bring it back here. I'm sure we're going to have a great time."
IndyCar chief executive officer Randy Bernard said the circuit is not only looking for more American venues, but specific markets that will make a "big difference" to sponsors, team owners and television partners.
This year's schedule has 16 events, and Bernard said the circuit wants to add up to three more races by next year, all in American cities.
"There is so much energy here in this market, we feel like we can really capitalize and make this one of the premier events on the circuit," Bernard said. "We're an American-based racing body, and I think we have a lot of momentum building. Our job is to create big events, and we feel like this can be one of our big events."
The city of Houston created a local organizing committee two years ago, and the efforts culminated in Wednesday's announcement. Mike Lanigan, the former lead promoter of Champ Car races in Houston and Cleveland, is the chairman and CEO of the new Houston race.
Bobby Rahal, a co-owner of a racing team with Lanigan, said the addition of the Houston race is exciting news for the circuit.
"I joined Mike several years ago to speak with the business community about the potential of having a Grand Prix," Rahal said, "and it was clear that there is a tremendous amount of local support for the event, which is critical for long-term success. It will be a marquee event for the series."
Shell and Pennzoil entered a multi-year agreement to sponsor the race, though race officials would not confirm how long the deal runs.
It's been a long wait, but the 2012 IndyCar season is finally upon us. The 16-race schedule will kick off with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25th. Unlike the last few seasons, there's been a plethora of changes – from the cars to the engines to the drivers and to the venues – that have opened the door to many unknowns heading into the first race.
The series has introduced its first redesigned car in nine years in the new spec Chassis from Dallara, named the DW12 in memory of the late Dan Wheldon, who spent a portion of last year testing it before his death in the final race in Las Vegas. Safety was the focus, and it appears that they have delivered in that department: driver seats are surrounded by three inches of foam to reduce the impact of a crash, and wider side pods have been placed on all cars in order to prevent wheel-to-wheel contact (this in addition to a rear wheel-well that will keep the cars from going airborne. Not only is the DW12 considered the safest car, but it is also lighter and faster, with a reduction in weight due mainly to the change from steel to carbon brakes.
Two new engine manufacturers will also join the fray this year. Chevrolet and Lotus will compete with Honda, breaking the latter's monopoly on engine supply. It's hard to tell who will have the upper hand, even though Chevrolet has had more success during its testing at Sebring. Which manufacturer has the upper hand on any given day will most likely be determined by whether the race is on an oval or a road course. Lotus, the last manufacturer to sign on, has lagged behind in developing its engine. In a changing IndyCar landscape with an increasingly level playing field, it's possible that the four teams and five drivers with Lotus could find themselves on the outside looking in, leading to a significant gap between them and the rest of the field (not unlike another high-profile racing series: Formula One).
Every new season brings driver changes, and this year has been no different: eight drivers have switched teams, and four new full-time drivers have been welcomed. The most anticipated debut will be Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello, who signed on with KV Racing. He will bring a lot of much-needed fan and media attention to fill the void after the departure of media-darling Danica Patrick, who left to join NASCAR full time.
Both full-time Canadians, Alex Tagliani and rookie-of-the-year James Hinchcliffe, have found new teams in Team Barracuda and Andretti Autosport, respectively. Late in the year Tagliani found himself the odd man out at Sam Schmidt Motorsports and had to make a change while Hinchcliffe landed a dream ride at Andretti Autosport with the most recognized sponsor in the series, GoDaddy.
The battle for the title is wide open, but it seems likely that we'll once again see four-time IndyCar Series-champion and Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti together with two-time bridesmaid Will Power of Team Penske neck and neck near the top of the driver's standings at year's end. In the past, Power has had less success on oval tracks, so with only five tracks out of sixteen on the schedule being ovals, it's quite possible that he will finally dethrone Franchitti and earn his first well-deserved championship.
Other contenders will be the usual suspects, including Franchitti's teammate, Scott Dixon, KV Racing's Tony Kanaan and Barrichello, Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal. However, there are plenty of young wild cards in the pack, lead by Hinchcliffe, his teammate, Marco Andretti, and the runner-up for rookie of the year, J.R. Hildebrand, representing Panther Racing.
IndyCar needed time to heal after the loss of Wheldon, but it has recovered and made plenty of changes, with safety as the paramount objective. Each driver has been hesitant to make predictions given all the unknowns leading into the 2012 campaign, but one thing is certain: this promises to be one of the most action-packed seasons in recent memory.
Below is a list of drivers competing in the 2012 IndyCar season, along with a list of their teams and engine manufacturers:
2 Ryan Briscoe Sydney, Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
3 Helio Castroneves Sao Paulo, Brazil Team Penske Chevrolet
4 JR Hildebrand Sausalito, Calif. Panther Racing Chevrolet
5 E.J. Viso Caracas, Venezuela KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
6 Katherine Legge Guildford, England Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus
7 Sebastien Bourdais Le Mans, France Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus
8 Rubens Barrichello Sao Paulo, Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
9 Scott Dixon Auckland, NZ Target Chip Ganassi Honda
10 Dario Franchitti Edinburgh, Scotland Target Chip Ganassi Honda
11 Tony Kanaan Salvador, Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
12 Will Power Toowoomba, Aus. Team Penske Chevrolet
14 Mike Conway Bromley, England A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda
15 Takuma Sato Tokyo, Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
18 Justin Wilson Sheffield, England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
19 James Jakes Leeds, England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
20 Ed Carpenter Indianapolis, Ind. Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
22 Oriol Servia Pals, Spain Lotus – DRR Lotus
26 Marco Andretti Nazareth, Pa. Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
27 James Hinchcliffe Toronto, Ont Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
38 Graham Rahal New Albany, Ohio Service Central Ganassi Honda
67 Josef Newgarden Hendersonville, Tenn. Sarah Fisher Hartman Honda
77 Simon Pagenaud Poitiers, France Schmidt-Hamilton Honda
78 Simona de Silvestro Thun, Switzerland Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus
83 Charlie Kimball Camarillo, Calif Novo Nordisk Ganassi Honda
98 Alex Tagliani Lachenaie, Que. Bryan Herta Autosport Lotus
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — McLaren driver Jenson Button won the Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, taking the checkered flag Down Under for the third time in four years.
Button beat reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull by 2.1 seconds after the race turned into a 17-lap shootout after Vitaly Petrov stopped on the main straight, bringing out the safety car.
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was third, just ahead of local hope Mark Webber of Red Bull.
With a strong performance, McLaren showed it had closed the gap on the Red Bull team which dominated 2011, and set the stage for a more competitive season.
"It was an amazing day," Button said. "Starting the year strong for this team is really important. The past two years for us have been tricky for us coming into the first race. It points us in a great position for the next few races and on the right foot."
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was fifth, with Williams' Pastor Maldonado crashing hard into a wall on the final lap while on the tail of the Spaniard.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi overtook Maldonado for sixth, and teammate Sergio Perez was eighth after starting 22nd, last on the grid. They were separated by Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen.
Toro Rosso's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth, and registered points in his first home race, by overtaking teammate Jean-Eric Vergne on the final sequence of corners. Vergne was shuffled to 11th, with Force India's Paul di Resta taking the last points-paying position in 10th.
Button got off the line better than Hamilton and immediately took the lead, which eventually grew to 11.8 seconds on lap 23 of 58. That lead was negated when Petrov stopped on the main straight.
"The biggest problem was the safety car. As soon as the safety car comes out and its six o'clock in the evening, its difficult to keep temperature in the tires," Button said. "I was a little on edge, but I was able to keep the heat in the tires."
Button mastered the restart, opening a 3.5-second lead on Vettel after just one lap and comfortably holding on for victory.
Vettel leapfrogged Hamilton thanks to a clever piece of Red Bull strategy, holding off on a pit stop as Hamilton went in, and taking over second behind the safety car. The German was tacked onto the back of Button, and it appeared he could pull off a victory that had seemed McLaren's for the taking.
"I thought I would be in a good position to have a shot at Jenson but I didn't," Vettel said. "He was too quick — two corners and he was gone."
"There was no way we could have stayed with him — he completely deserved to win today."
A downcast Hamilton saw little to be enthused about with his finish.
"It was a bit of a tough day, but there's plenty more races to do so I just have to keep my head up," he said. "It was still a positive to come here with good pace and hopefully we can take that on to the next race."
Lotus' Romain Grosjean started a surprise third, but was shuffled back quickly after a poor start and by lap three he was gone after breaking his right front axle bumping wheels with Maldonado.
Mercedes' Michael Schumacher was third for the first nine laps but ran wide over the grass at turn one under pressure from Vettel, and soon after retired with a gear problem.
"We've never had an issue with the gearbox all winter long, so it's a bit strange," the seven-time world champion said. "But they're prototype cars, you can never have total reliability."
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IndyCar is hoping a turbo-charged snail can finish No. 1 at the box office and help draw younger fans to the Indianapolis 500.
IndyCar is teaming up with DreamWorks Animation to make "Turbo," which is slated to hit theaters in the summer of 2013.
The animated movie features an ordinary garden snail that dreams of winning the Indianapolis 500, and gets a chance to do just that after a freak accident leaves it with extraordinary speed.
The film is scheduled for release July 19, 2013, and is the biggest deal yet for IndyCar's Entertainment division. Filmmakers hope the racing snail can become as big a hit as the "Cars" series that featured a talking, NASCAR-style race car.
James Hinchcliffe seems to be on the quick path to stardom in the racing world. This time last year, he was testing with Newman/Haas Racing at Sebring on the outside looking in hoping to land a sponsor for the 2011 campaign. Fast forward one-year and he’s the reigning IndyCar Rookie of the Year and now drives for not only the well-respected Andretti Autosport team, but the most recognizable sponsors in IndyCar – GoDaddy.com.
Entering his sophomore season, Hinchcliffe has literally some small shoes to fill in taking over for Danica Patrick, but figuratively some large shoes that comes with a lot media attention, commercials, and on-track expectations.
The new IndyCar season brings about many unknowns for every driver with a new DW12 car for all teams, as well as an engine battle between three manufacturers: Honda, Chevrolet, and Lotus. We had a chance to sit down and speak with the 25-year-old sophomore at the 1st Hinchtown Go-Karting Media Challenge. We spoke about the challenges that come with being on a new team, his relationship with Michael Andretti, his off-the-track commitments with Go Daddy, and his expectations for the upcoming season.
The Driver: Coming off an impressive year that culminated with winning the Rookie of the Year– how are you settling in with the Andretti Autosport group?
James Hinchcliffe: It’s been a match made in heaven, right from the first day the chemistry of the team has been fantastic. I’ve raced against Marco [Andretti] when we were 12 years old in go-karts and I’ve also raced with him in Star Mazda series some years back. I’ve also gotten to know Ryan [Hunter-Reay] over the past season, as well as in Indy Lights.
Michael [Andretti] has provided lots of help and support. I’m now getting to know the engineering staff – they are a super experienced group of guys and are very successful at what they do. Andretti Autosport is a big organization and I’ve been taking my time in getting to know the entire crew.
TD: I wanted to talk to you about Michael Andretti, a living legend in IndyCar. What advice has he provided you so far and what do you expect to learn from him throughout the year and the foreseeable future?
JH: The big thing for us as a team with having Michael around is the accomplishments and achievements that come with him. Not many teams have that nor do they have recent racing experience. His last race was only in 2007. His knowledge and data base of experience is very recent and relevant. For us it’s that extra mind, that extra successful driver on the team that allows us to pull all of those extra resources together and I feel it’s an advantage.
TD: There’s been lots of talk about the new DW12 car, what are your thoughts on the look and the safety aspects of it? How has testing gone so far?
JH: The looks are growing on me. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan at first, but once you start testing and seeing the different teams’ cars – you see it as an IndyCar again.
In terms of the testing, when you have a new car and especially a new engine there are so many things to get through. It’s the first time in my life I have had to develop a new car. In the past, testing was immediately focused on set-ups and the next track. Now we are on the basics, such as checking reliability on certain components, and properly testing new development pieces which is a big task. It’s been a lot of fun taking part in something new like that and it’s pretty cool that my feedback is having a direct effect on which direction this car will be developed.
TD: It’s a brand new year with new manufacturing battles. Will this help improve the sport? And what are your thoughts on your partnership with Chevy thus far?
JH: Absolutely this will help IndyCar! I love how competitive it was when we were all with the same engine, but now it brings us back to an era where different technology and engines makes for a race within a race. As a driver, you now have another tool to play with. We are going to see races potentially being determined by reliability and that’s exciting to me. That’s what racing is all about!
The relationship with Chevy is a new one and we’ve enjoyed working with them and building that partnership up. I’m excited to see what we can achieve. However, it’s too close to call whether Chevy has the upper hand as of now.
The open-test at Sebring will paint a closer picture, but it won’t be until qualifying at St. Petersburg when you will notice the differences between the engines. You might not see who is better until the first oval, as St. Petes is not a huge motor track. It will be a battle all year long, as different tracks will favour different manufacturers.
TD: Coming off your rookie year, you’ve already landed yourself with Andretti Autosport and a big sponsor in Go Daddy, which is a massive jump. Are you ready for the racing and marketing challenge with these two giants? Is this the best role for you?
JH: First of all, joining the Andretti Autosport team is just a natural progression, so I feel that it’s the right spot for me. As for Go Daddy, it’s a tech company and I’m a bit of a nerd, so that works for me. They are also edgy, which go hand-in-hand with the off-the-wall things I’ve done with Hinchtown. So I think my personality and the company ethos fit very well together and the more time spent working the more prevalent that becomes. We’re really excited about some of the opportunities we’ve had and for them it’s the first time they have worked with a guy. We won’t be seeing any bikinis, but it brings about a whole new list of opportunities for what they can do with a guy.
We’ve done some photo shoots so far and we’re doing the creative for the TV commercials, so we’ll be shooting those towards the end of March.
TD: You are coming into the always-tricky sophomore year. What are your expectations coming into this year?
JH: There are just so many question marks coming into this season. Nobody knows which team will get a handle on this new car the quickest; nobody knows which driver style will suit the new car the best; nobody knows which engine is the fastest and most reliable. It’s just too tough to make predictions at this point in time. It’s totally up in the air what can happen. The big goal however is not to have that sophomore slump that seems to happen often especially in motorsports.
We just need to work harder than everybody else. In a year with so many unknowns, so many new factors, it will end up being the team and the drivers that put in the most work who will get rewarded in the end.
I could be competing with the Wills [Power], Darios [Franchitti], and Scotts [Dixon], but on the other hand I could be in the 15-20 position range – you just don’t know as it’s so open and that’s what makes this upcoming season so exciting.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Rubens Barrichello is bringing his Formula One experience to IndyCar in 2012, and the veteran Brazilian driver can't wait to start his rookie season in the series.
After 19 years and a record 325 races in F1, the 39-year-old Barrichello announced Thursday he has joined KV Racing Technology on a one-year contract. He will make his IndyCar debut at the season opener on March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I'm loving the idea I'm going to be a rookie," he said. "That makes me young, and I'm loving that."
Barrichello will participate in all 16 IndyCar races on the calendar, including the Indy 500 in May and the other four races on ovals.
"I am thrilled, it is something very new to me," he said. "I'm very competitive and I'm not doing this just for fun, but I'll keep my feet on the ground in the beginning because I'll be a rookie despite of all my previous racing experience."
Barrichello is the biggest name to move to an American-based open-wheel series since F1 champion Nigel Mansell joined CART in 1993. Mansell won five races and the series title that season. Barrichello finished second in the F1 drivers' championship in 2002 and 2004, both times behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Ferrari.
"This wasn't expected at all at first," Barrichello said. "But it kind of evolved after the first test, and now I'm really happy to be starting this new phase in my life."
KV Racing co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser also were at Thursday's news conference to announce the deal, along with new teammate and old friend Tony Kanaan. E.J. Viso of Venezuela will be the team's other driver this season.
"We are kind of pinching ourselves, it's a dream to be bringing Rubens to our team," Vasser said. "We raised our level when we brought Kanaan, and now with Rubens even more. The sky is the limit for our team."
KV Racing announced that Kanaan's contract was extended for another two years. He had been signed by KV Racing just before last season on a one-year deal.
The arrival of a well-recognized name in racing is welcomed by IndyCar, which is trying to revamp its image after ending last season on a low following the death of Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas.
"The entire series will get a boost with Rubinho's presence, it's another great name added to our grid," said three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, a fellow Brazilian. "He will be fighting for the title and the championship will only gain from that."
Izod IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard went to one of Barrichello's test sessions to meet the Brazilian. He said Thursday it was an exciting day for the series "and a positive step to start" the year.
"There's not a person in the world who knows racing that wouldn't tell you that Rubens Barrichello is one of the greatest drivers of all time," he said in a statement. "That will create great competition and expands our international platform."
Barrichello brings with him an ardent fan base — his 1.47 million followers on Twitter is one million more than Kanaan's, who leads all IndyCar drivers with 448,000 followers.
His move to IndyCar had been widely expected after Kanaan invited him to test for KV Racing following the announcement that Barrichello lost his F1 drive with Williams.
The Brazilian drove well again in a later test session and got the invitation to join the team, but the deal wasn't finalized until Barrichello was able to find a few Brazilian sponsors to help pay for his season.
And there was another problem he had to overcome: Barrichello's wife, Silvana, didn't want him racing on ovals. The family plan was to have him race 25 years in Formula 1 and then retire.
"What happened is we were watching an oval race and there was a crash and she looked at me and said 'You are never going to do that, right?'" Barrichello said. "And I told her at the time, 'Of course not, don't worry.'"
He said it took a while to get her on board, but in the end she understood how passionate he was about the idea of continuing his racing career.
Initially, Barrichello thought about racing only at the Indy 500, but realized it wouldn't make sense to skip the other four races on ovals.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable sitting at home and watching someone else driving my car," said Barrichello, who acknowledged he has "no idea" how to set up a car on an oval.
Former driver and team owner Michael Andretti expects the ovals to be a challenge to Barrichello, but is confident the Brazilian will enjoy his move to IndyCar.
"He's done it all in Formula One but he's going to have new challenges for himself and I think he's really going to enjoy that with these ovals," Andretti said. "Because he's going to find out that it's not that easy."
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report from Charlotte, North Carolina, and AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins contributed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.