Auto Racing (113)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- James Hinchcliffe went from finishing first to ... finishing first.
Hinchcliffe got the worst of it when several cars made contact in the opening lap of Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, setting off the race's only caution. Then, he said "something let go in the left rear" while he was warming up the tire and he got stuck at Turn 5.
That's where the St. Petersburg race winner spent the rest of the race since there weren't any more cautions allowing him to escape the track. He grumbled after the race he wish he'd followed NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski's lead and had his cell phone inside his car for entertainment.
"It was just shockingly painful and frustrating, because we were only four corners from pit lane," Hinchliffe said. "I mean, I could almost see pit lane. And you're watching everybody else just palling around and having a great time. You never want to watching, especially when you're sitting in a car right beside the race track watching.
"It's tough but the crew kept me smiling over the radio. We were having some fun banter, just trying to make light of the situation because at that point, that's all you can do."
Hinchcliffe had hoped for a much better follow-up to his first IndyCar victory two weeks ago.
Instead, he completed all of three laps after starting back in the 20th spot in what became a rough weekend all around. He didn't advance in qualifying and accused Will Power of blocking him and spoiling his lap, which Power denied.
Hinchcliffe was still smiling once he got clear of the car and made it back to the trailer. That's how racing goes sometimes, after all.
"The highest of highs and the lowest of lows, that's what this sport's all about," he said. "Unfortunately, every driver on earth, you're going to lose more races than you win. That's a statistical fact. But it's the good days like two weeks ago that keep you plowing through the bad days. We still have 17 races to go. We've got a lot of time left to have some good days."
Meanwhile, IndyCar said it left Hinchcliffe on the track because it didn't want to extend the caution period just to get him towed back to pit lane.
He was hooked to the tow truck when series officials noticed his car was missing one wheel, and they didn't want to risk further damage to his car. Hinchcliffe said his team was "happy to keep going."
"At the same time we were getting ready to go green as the track was clear so Race Control made the decision to leave the No. 27 car, and try to bring it back during the next yellow, which never happened," IndyCar said.
Scott Dixon, who was left on course for a large portion of last year's race at Long Beach, could understand Hinchcliffe's frustration. He said he was grateful a fan brought him an umbrella when he was stranded last year "so I could sort of cool off a bit."
But Dixon said the rule book is confusing.
"The rules state, they will tow you back till the last 10 laps of the race, so I don't know what the deal is with that," Dixon said. "I know I was (mad) when that happened to me, and Hinch should be as well. There's a whole lot of the race to go. I thought they were going to tow him back, but we already had a yellow ... I think they get worried about these yellows being too long.
"It needs to be in the rule book or they need to tow you back."
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- James Hinchcliffe watched the 2011 season-opening race at St. Petersburg from the sidelines because he didn't have a deal yet to drive in the IndyCar Series. Out of work again at the end of the year when his race team closed its doors, the Canadian was pondering his future in the Indianapolis house he shared with a bunch of roommates when his big break finally came.
Michael Andretti was on the phone in need of a driver to fill Danica Patrick's seat. The ride had gone to Dan Wheldon, who signed to drive the GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport but was killed shortly after in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas.
Hinchcliffe was both honored and humbled - feelings that came flooding back Sunday when it all came full circle for him as he picked up his first career victory on the street course in Wheldon's adopted hometown of St. Pete.
"This is his hometown; this is his car," said Hinchcliffe, who will be added now to the Wheldon monument unveiled Thursday at Turn 10 on the course. "Knowing my face will be on that memorial, that's really special."
He drove the bright green No. 27 to the win in front of Wheldon's wife, two sons, and sister, who have become like family to him and gave him the blessing to accept the job when Andretti called.
"It was a tremendous amount of responsibility I felt to honor Dan and do a good enough job to honor what he would have done in this car," Hinchcliffe said. "So to get the first win here in his hometown with his family here, who I've grown quite close to, it means so much more, to be honest. There's nowhere that I would have rather had my first win I don't think in this car than right here in St. Pete."
Hinchcliffe passed Helio Castroneves on the final restart to take the lead and held on to win by 1.09 seconds over the defending race winner. He became the first Canadian to win since Paul Tracy's 2007 victory at Cleveland in the CART Series, and Hinchcliffe waved the Canadian flag as he climbed from his car.
The win showed Andretti didn't lose a step over the offseason, when the organization turned it up a notch even after Ryan Hunter-Reay's championship.
It paid off Sunday when Hinchcliffe got the first IndyCar win for sponsor GoDaddy, who was with Patrick in the series before her 2012 move to NASCAR, and it was the 44th win for the organization.
The team also celebrated Marco Andretti's third-place finish, and was satisfied with new addition E.J. Viso's seventh-place finish considering he came back from a hard crash in Saturday's practice after his suspension failed. Hunter-Reay might have also been in the mix if not for a mechanical problem.
"We worked so hard over the winter because we knew it was going to be that much harder to be competitive this year," team owner Michael Andretti said. "To come out the way we did, I think all weekend all of our cars were showing they had strength.
"For Hinch, especially, he just was on it from the first practice on. He did not put a wheel wrong all weekend. He drove his butt off."
So did Andretti's son, Marco, who picked up his career-best finish on the downtown street course after using the offseason to study what he's been doing wrong in the race car and to rebuild his confidence. He used a late surge to pass Simona de Silvestro with two laps to go to get the podium finish.
"I've been working so hard in the offseason, not just physically, but on places where I've been lacking and these places have been a weak point for me," said Andretti, who praised de Silvestro but said in the closing laps, "I had to muscle her a little bit. I needed a podium."
De Silvestro lost two more spots - to Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon - before the checkered flag. She settled for sixth but was thrilled about her debut race for KV Racing Technology, which went fourth and sixth with Kanaan and de Silvestro.
Mario Andretti was among the many people who stopped after the race to congratulate the Swiss driver.
"We were running up front the whole day and it was really cool to be keeping up with them," she said. "I think we can really learn from this and try to be better next week. We all know we can be fast and qualify fast and run up front. Now we just have to minimize mistakes so we can win races."
It was a huge opening weekend for Chevrolet, which swept the top four spots in its first race since capturing the driver and manufacturer championship in last year's return season to IndyCar.
Dixon was the highest-finishing Honda for team owner Chip Ganassi, who minced no words Saturday when he openly questioned Honda's desire to win in IndyCar. The Honda teams had been slow all weekend, and Ganassi's comments sent a clear message he's not satisfied with engine performance.
Honda had only three drivers in the top 10.
"Obviously, it was a disappointing start to our IndyCar season," said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development. "But we will learn from this and everyone ... will work, together with our teams, to get back to the top of the podium."
The race was dominated early by Will Power, who led the first 26 laps but lost the lead to Penske Racing teammate Castroneves on a restart and then lost another position to Hinchcliffe on another restart. It put him back in third for a huge chunk of the race until a bizarre incident under caution with JR Hildebrand, who inexplicably drove on top of Power's car.
The contact damaged Power's side mirror and caused a flat tire, forcing him to pit road for repairs that dropped him to 16th, where he finished.
Hildebrand took the blame.
"We were getting ready for the restart, I was dialing my knobs back and talking to team about the start," Hildebrand said. "Guys just slowed up, and I ran into the back of him. It was totally my fault. As soon as I hit him, I couldn't help from going anywhere. It was totally my fault.
"I'm super sorry for Will. We were just trying to get back on lead lap. I was doing too much all at once when the field slowed up there."
But Power was more bothered by the restarts, and said he's spoken to race director Beaux Barfield about protocol in the past.
"What are we going to do about second-place taking off? He just keeps allowing people to do it," Power said. "And then JR just ran over the back of me to ruin the day. He said he was just looking at the steering wheel. Just a mistake, man, it happens."
Castroneves said he did nothing wrong on the restart that got him past Power on the restart on lap 27. Power never led again.
"I went between the cones where we talk about it; but I understand that he also has got to keep the pace," said Castroneves, who led a race-high 42 laps.
"They said this is going to be the start of the race, you've got to be ready. I was ready. So in this situation, everybody wants to win and go for it. I think I was doing my job."
With the onset of the IndyCar season this weekend I wanted to set-up an interview with Canadian and Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe to preview his upcoming junior year (and for us Canadians his third year) in the sport.
This was going to be a story about Hinchcliffe’s hopes and expectations for the upcoming season (his second at Andretti Autosport), but the more I spoke with him and the more I looked at the state of IndyCar, I realized that IndyCar’s future success might hinge on this humble yet extremely charismatic personality.
Let’s first look at the recent history of the sport. IndyCar has tried to claw back to the state it was in before the IRL–CART split in 1995, but the progress has been slow. They’ve made strides since reunification in 2008, but the overall loss of interest in open-wheel motor racing to NASCAR has been devastating especially in the United States.
For years, IndyCar got plenty of mainstream media attention from starlet Danica Patrick. Showcasing her at any opportunity, but their biggest chess piece will soon be two years removed from IndyCar and has started her second year in NASCAR. IndyCar’s hope of showcasing Target Chip Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti and Team Penske’s Will Power has seemed to fizzle. The Franchitti–Power battles over the years have been entertaining to watch from a racing fans perspective, but it hasn’t catapulted IndyCar to the level it needs to be at.
IndyCar receives most of its publicity from its showpiece race the Indy 500 held at the end of May. Otherwise, the media push is only on when the race is coming to your backyard or when there’s a big change up top which happened once again this off-season with the ousting of CEO Randy Bernard. Ownership changes and boardroom politics are not the media attention that fans care about and any more instability might just turn loyal fans away. When at the track, fans have a great time watching their local spectacle and seeing their favourite drivers’ compete. The key is getting them to follow IndyCar year round on television.
The answer – well in my opinion he’s sitting right in front of me in Canada’s own James Hinchcliffe. What IndyCar needs is a major personality that can resonate with many and introduce new followers to IndyCar. An American would probably be preferred by the powers that be to take the mantle and lead the charge, but Canada is close enough and his team is owned by the all-American Michael Andretti anyways.
Hinchcliffe doesn’t take himself too seriously outside of the race car and is famous for being the self-appointed mayor in his fictitiously created town called “Hinchtown.” Hinchtown was created when he was still working his way up the ladder in the Indy Lights series producing and starring in a number of videos addressing his citizens. Hinchcliffe has furthered his video star this offseason with parody videos called The Offseason co-starring Power, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden and Chip Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball. These videos are just some examples that showcase Hinchcliffe’s personality and why he can be the star that IndyCar longs for.
Whether Hinchcliffe knows it or not – a big showing in this year’s IndyCar season will catapult him to stardom. However, as the saying goes “you have to crawl before you can walk” and Hinchcliffe understands he has to win his first race before he can even think about the driver’s championship.
“I absolutely want to get the win out of the way, but I also want to eliminate mistakes. That’s the goal. I think if our car is competitive enough and if we eliminate all mistakes – we can finish in the top three at the end of the season,” said Hinchcliffe.
Hinchcliffe should no longer be viewed as just a nice Canadian story in the field. It was suitable when he won Rookie of the Year honours with Newman/Haas Racing edging Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand. It was also a nice story last year with seven top-six finishes in his first eight races last year, but the rest of the season was filled with mishaps and bad breaks. Those things happen in your first full season with a new team, but it’s time for Hinchcliffe to shine considering his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay won the driver’s championship last season.
Hinchcliffe needs to elevate to the next level and the continuity with the same team under the leadership of Michael Andretti should be the ticket. Andretti Autosport is the first team that Hinchcliffe has been with for more than one season and he cherishes the time he has had with Andretti to soak up his knowledge. Andretti Autosport has retained their drivers for another year including the aforementioned Hunter-Reay, Michael’s son Marco Andretti, while adding E.J. Viso into the fold from KV Racing.
“Continuity is huge. If you know the people you’re working with and you’ve had that experience together, you’re in a much better position to make certain decision on the race track,” explains Hinchcliffe.
Marketing yourself is not what you grow up thinking as a young race car driver coming up the ranks, but it looks like that’s what it has come down to. There are many great ambassadors of the sport including Franchitti and long-term stalwarts KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who have all done their part in promoting IndyCar over the years. Unfortunately, IndyCar is at a point where they need more than talented ambassadors and all three of them are getting a bit long in the tooth. There’s a need for fresh faces to attract an additional fan base with a combination of youth, talent and personality. If you google IndyCar, a section of people related to your search pops up showcasing Danica Patrick and Randy Bernard – wouldn’t that signify a need to promote the current stars of IndyCar?
Ryan Hunter-Reay is a great story filled with determination and perseverance, but why hasn’t Hunter-Reay taken off? He’s the perfect all-American talent that the series thrives for, yet still his thrilling championship win over Will Power in the last race of the year created no buzz outside of the racing world.
That leaves you with James Hinchcliffe. He’s a master in marketing himself and he’s backed by Go Daddy, the most recognizable sponsor in the sport. He has been featured in television commercials and billboards not just in his native Canada, but throughout the United States. All that’s left is for him to do is win a few races and the path for glory is set in a sport that’s desperate for personalities.
Hinchcliffe is not the only IndyCar driver that can lead this push. His parody co-stars Power and Newgarden, as well as Hunter-Reay should be the new wave of drivers headlining their marketing efforts.
In Canada, specialty sports television channel Sportsnet have already tried to capitalize on Hinchcliffe’s personality by showcasing the mayor in commercials, television shows and in their new magazine.
With the promotion and hopeful success of James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar can grow the sport in Canada and draw the attention it deserves. IndyCar will never get to the level of attention it received before the split of IRL and CART in the 1990’s, but it can definitely do better than its current state. Now James only has to do his part on track, so no pressure…
Getting to know James Hinchcliffe a bit more
First car? 2005 MINI Cooper S
Last song sung in the car? “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
The longest road trip you’ve ever taken? 18 hour drive to Denver.
Favourite vacation spot? Turks and Caicos Islands
Favourite sports team? Toronto Maple Leafs
Favourite Movie? Snatch (2000)
Is there any one motto that you live by? Life is too short.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Kimi Raikkonen won Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, jumpstarting Lotus' bid to challenge the series' bigger teams for the 2013 championship.
Raikkonen took the lead for good on lap 43 of 58 in a race that had seven different leaders, and had the luxury of driving conservatively in the closing laps while Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel scrambled in vain to keep up.
The Finn needed only two pit stops compared to three stops for each of the six men who followed in his wake, and he became the 15th driver in F1 history to record 20 grand prix wins.
"Our plan was to do two stops and though it's always difficult in the first races to know when to stop and not go too early, we got it exactly right," Raikkonen said.
"We followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us. I could save the tires and go fast if I needed. It was one of the easiest races I have done to win and hopefully we can have many more of these races."
Alonso looked like he had a chance when he trailed Raikkonen by 6.2 seconds with 12 laps to go, but could not make up ground. Still, he was satisfied with where Ferrari stands compared to the poor performances to start last season.
"I am extremely happy," Alonso said. "We had a difficult start of season two years ago and last year, too, and this year is very different. We feel much more comfortable, the car is responding well and we have a good season ahead of us."
Pole sitter and three-time reigning world champion Vettel was third in a Red Bull. He was forced to pit after just seven laps due to worn super-soft tires and never threatened thereafter.
"The first few laps were okay but then the tires were falling apart and we could not go as far as other people," Vettel said.
"We have to admit sometimes that other people are faster than us but it's a long season so we have some good points to start with and we have no reason to be disappointed."
While Vettel was accentuating the positive, the race performance was a disappointing one, and the rapid tire degradation is a headache for a team which had precious few reliability issues over recent years.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fourth in an encouraging performance that indicated he had carried the strong form of late 2012 into the new campaign.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth in his first race for Mercedes, having to ditch his plans for a two-stopper and switch to three because of tire degradation. The Mercedes race pace was underwhelming and the dominant performances of preseason testing are already a distant memory.
Mark Webber of Red Bull was sixth. The Australian local favorite qualified second on Sunday morning -- qualifying was postponed from Saturday due to heavy rain -- but yet again made one of his frustrating slow starts off the line, was seventh after lap one, and still has not finished on the podium in his home race in 12 attempts.
Force India pair Adrian Sutil -- who twice led the race and was the man overtaken by Raikkonen for the lead -- faded to seventh as he struggled on the super-soft tires in the closing stages, and finished ahead of teammate Paul di Resta. McLaren's Jenson Button and Lotus' Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10.
While Lotus was acknowledged even in preseason testing to have a pace comparable to the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari, there was a nagging doubt whether it would have the depth of financial resources to challenge its bigger rivals throughout the season.
Raikkonen was not yet eyeing off the championship but was hoping more money would arrive to sustain a challenge.
"It's not going to be as easy for us," Raikkonen said. "We have the people and the tools to make it, but the money is the big part of the whole thing.
"Last year we did pretty well on the money. If we can get more money it will help and a better chance for fair play against the big teams."
McLaren had been off the pace of its rivals throughout practice and qualifying, paying the price early in the season for a radical overhaul of the car in the hope of having more development upside in the second half.
That continued in Sunday's race with Jenson Button an uncompetitive ninth and Sergio Perez leaving empty handed in his McLaren debut, finishing 11th.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who set the fastest time in first and second qualifying sessions, retired on lap 27 due to an electrical failure, while Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg did not even start the race due to a fuel-system problem.
It’s been a long winter of waiting, but it’s finally time to start the 2013 Formula One campaign. It all starts this weekend in Melbourne, Australia and there’s a lot of anticipation for another tight championship race.
It’s an exciting time for Formula One with more parity than ever before. Last year’s season began with seven different winners – which in Formula One terms was unthinkable. Long gone are the years of Ferrari, well I guess I mean Michael Schumacher and McLaren domination which put into question the overall excitement of the sport.
With all this parity you would think the big question would be who would win the championship? But that’s only secondary to how Lewis Hamilton will fare with his new Mercedes team. All eyes will be on the Brit who surprisingly jumped ship from McLaren-Mercedes to see how he can turn a two second slower car into a contender. Mercedes were tremendous in the final preseason tests in Barcelona and Hamilton hopes the team can turn that into a strong showing to start the year. Realistically, it might take a few years before we can tell if Hamilton’s move was justified.
Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is once again the driver to beat after winning the last three championships as well as helping his team win three straight constructors’ championships along with teammate Mark Webber. In pre-season testing, Vettel has not been at the top, but consistently in the top tier of drivers and without many changes to the Red Bull car, Vettel should continue his mastery at least in the early going of the season.
The challenge for Vettel will mostly come from two veterans, Ferrari’s risk-taker Fernando Alonso and McLaren-Mercedes’ Jenson Button. Last year, Alonso came close to remarkably capturing the championship after a sluggish start. With a more advanced and consistent Ferrari, Alonso’s driving skills might be the difference. On the other hand, Button campaign should be more challenging as McLaren has overhauled their car for the new MP4-28 to be more reliable and therefore competitive in all 19 races.
Other notables in the field are two potential championship contenders in the above mentioned Hamilton and Lotus-Renault driver Kimi Räikkönen. The more talented drivers who can pull out a few wins here and there are Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Button’s new teammate Sergio Perez formerly of Sauber, and Räikkönen’s Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean.
One major change that every team will have to deal with are the new Pirelli tires. For Australia, Pirelli are using P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft compound tires that will be generally softer and faster than their predecessors. The new tires will allow for at least two pit stops for each race creating a bit more drama for the fans.
So, the Hulman & George Co. paid a consulting group to evaluate the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and now die-hard open-wheel fans are screaming they could have done a better job for free.
Granted, there are ideas bandied about Internet message boards that are better than some proposed by the Boston Consulting Group in the 115-page `Hulman & Co. Motorsports Strategy' report obtained by The Associated Press, which reported on a handful of the concepts last week.
But, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said in a statement that BCG prepared many documents and what was obtained by AP was an early version of "suggested elements" for the long-term strategic growth of the company.
Regardless, some of the suggestions were no brainers:
- Improve television ratings by "avoiding TV competition with other sports, particularly NASCAR and the NFL."
- To avoid competition for viewers, "check for local event conflicts before setting dates."
- Increase the value of sponsor partnerships by targeting "companies with large sports ad budgets and companies predisposed to motorsports (i.e. NASCAR levels).
- In scheduling international races, cut costs for teams by running multiple races on regional trips; maximize viewership by avoiding conflicts such as F1 and Carnivale and target countries with a "high affinity for racing."
You don't say!
Hulman & Co. is under no obligation to follow anything in the report, including BCG's recommendation that the Hulman-George family hang onto IndyCar and the speedway.
Where the consulting firm may have erred, though, is in declaring that IndyCar was "the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S." then offering a handful of ideas that essentially gimmick up the series.
Among the most polarizing suggestions are a 15-race U.S. schedule held over 19 weeks, a three-race playoff at the end of the season and a finale on the IMS road course.
Purists don't want a playoff. They don't want a second IndyCar race at IMS, and they certainly don't want Long Beach moved from its traditional April date to a mid-September playoff race.
According to the report obtained by AP, the top 15 drivers in points would automatically qualify for the 18-driver field. The other three spots would be filled the day before the Texas event via a "sprint wildcard" race open to any driver who participated in at least one event during the season. The top three finishers would round out the field.
Points would be reset to zero for the playoffs and would be awarded as usual for the first two races, Texas and Long Beach. The finale on the road course at Indy would receive double points, likely making it a winner-take-all race.
Yeah, purists should love that.
The 15-race hypothetical schedule, by the way, includes seven cities not currently on the IndyCar schedule. It dumps Barber, the Alabama road course that's been good to IndyCar, stalwart Milwaukee, which Michael Andretti rescued last year, and Iowa, where the passionate fans fill the stands every year.
Then there's BCG's marketing ploy of paying a "big personality" to join the series.
Not only would that enrage the purists, it's probably the most flawed idea in the entire report. The only way a paid A-list driver would have any long-term affect on the series is by being competitive, and there's a pretty shallow pool of talent willing and capable of jumping into an Indy car and running up front.
Formula One drivers don't really count because the key is getting a driver who moves the needle with the American audience. So that leaves who? The Busch brothers? Brad Keselowski? Remember, it's got to be someone fans will tune in to watch and someone who will be competitive.
And there's got to be an incentive for the driver to go to IndyCar. That's going to cost the series money. A lot more money than the check BCG cashed.
Let's assume Kurt Busch took no salary from James Finch last season and agreed to drive for only 50 percent of his race winnings. That would have earned him $1.7 million driving for a low-budget team. Without a salary.
How many IndyCar drivers make $1.7 million a year, winnings and salary combined? Not many.
None of that takes into account how dangerous having one big personality would be in marketing the rest of the drivers. Perhaps nobody at BCG ever heard of Danica Patrick.
Still, not everything in the report is outlandish, and some of it makes sense. The ticketing structure at IMS probably does need to be overhauled. If the most expensive seats sell and the mid-priced tickets don't, then raise the cost of the stuff in high demand and adjust the price of stalled inventory.
The report contains pages and pages on restructuring team costs and sanctioning fees with tracks, diagrams on rewarding performance with purse money, observations on how to improve operating efficiency through eliminating redundant positions at IndyCar and IMS and targeting key sponsors not currently involved with the series.
In the end, the BCG report is just a road map Miles, the CEO, could choose to follow for two aspects of the Hulman & Co. businesses.
He doesn't have to do anything BCG suggested. He can tear the report up, use it to line the bottom of a bird cage, or, the more likely scenario, sit down with IndyCar's key stakeholders and use portions of the report to kick-start discussions on what direction the series and the speedway should go.
That's what he indicated he'll do in his Friday night statement, saying: "The work BCG has done provides conversation points around several important areas of our business as we shape our thinking about the future, but our strategy has not yet been finalized."
Hired in November to run the Hulman & Co. businesses, Miles' most difficult task will be righting IndyCar. It's going to be a monumental task that he won't be able to do alone, he won't be able to do this year and he won't be able to do with a report.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Formula One team Force India says Adrian Sutil will be its second race driver this season.
The German rejoins pilot Paul Di Resta after both drove for Force India in 2011.
The 30-year-old Sutil competed with Jules Bianchi through the first two preseason tests for the right to take the place of Nico Hulkenberg, who moved to Sauber.
Sutil will continue preseason testing for Force India on Friday and Saturday at the Catalunya Circuit.
He says "I'm delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well."
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Jimmie Johnson went two years without a title and suddenly became an afterthought at the Daytona 500.
All the attention went to Danica Patrick and a handful of other drivers.
Not that it mattered Sunday, because look who pulled into Victory Lane.
Five-time is back. Not that he ever went away.
Johnson won his second Daytona 500 on Sunday, a year after he completed just one lap in the race and three months after falling short in his bid for a sixth Sprint Cup title. That so-called drought had made him something of a no-name during Speedweeks.
"In my mind, I didn't feel like I was under the radar," he said. "I felt like we were working hard to put the best product on the track. I guess I was quiet in the overall spectrum of things from the media side. I think people in the garage, people knew we were sitting on a lot of speed and had a very good race car."
But in winning the biggest race of the year, the No. 48 team wasn't sending a message to the competitors.
"I don't think we went anywhere; anybody in the garage area, they're wise to all that," Johnson said.
Johnson's win came on the same day that Patrick, who became the first woman in history to start a Sprint Cup race from the pole, again made history as the first woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500.
She ran inside the top 10 almost the entire race, kept pace with the field and never panicked on the track.
Her only mistakes were on pit road, where she got beat on the race back to the track, and on the final lap, when she was running third but got snookered by the veterans and faded to eighth. That's going to stick with Patrick for some time.
"I would imagine pretty much anyone would be kicking themselves about what they coulda, shoulda have done to give themselves an opportunity to win," she said. "I think that's what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that."
There were several multicar crashes, but no one was hurt and none of them approached the magnitude of the wreck that injured more than two dozen fans in the grandstand at the end of the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the same track a day earlier. Daytona International Speedway workers were up until 2 a.m repairing the fence that was damaged in the accident, and track officials offered Sunday morning to move any fans who felt uneasy sitting close to the track.
Several drivers said the accident and concern for the fans stuck with them overnight and into Sunday morning, and Johnson was quick to send his thoughts from Victory Lane.
"I just want to give a big shout-out to all the fans, and I also want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everybody that was injured in the grandstands," Johnson said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose father was killed in this race 12 years ago, was involved in Saturday's accident but refocused and finished second to Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
"Me personally, I was just really waiting to get the news on how everybody was, how all the fans were overnight, just hoping that things were going to improve," Earnhardt said, adding that he "wasn't really ready to proceed until you had some confirmation that things were looking more positive."
The race itself, the debut for NASCAR's new Gen-6 car, was quite similar to all the other Cup races during Speedweeks in that the cars seemed to line up in a single-file parade along the top groove of the track. It made the 55th running of the Daytona 500 relatively uneventful.
When the race was on the line, Johnson took off.
The driver known as "Five-time" raced past defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart and pulled out to a sizeable lead that nobody challenged over the final six laps.
Johnson and Keselowski went down to the wire last season in their race for the Sprint Cup title, with Johnson faltering in the final two races as Keselowski won his first Cup championship.
Although it was a bit of an upset that stuck with Johnson into the offseason, it gave him no extra motivation when he found himself racing with Keselowski late Sunday for the Daytona 500.
"As far as racing with Brad out there, you really lose sight of who is in what car," Johnson said. "It's just somebody between you and the trophy. It could have been anybody."
Once Johnson cleared Keselowski on the last restart he had a breakaway lead with Greg Biffle and Patrick behind him. But as the field closed in on the checkered flag, Earnhardt finally made his move, just too late and too far behind to get close enough to the lead.
Earnhardt wound up second for the third time in the last four years. But with all the crashes the Hendrick cars have endured in restrictor-plate races - teammate Kasey Kahne was in the first accident Sunday - team owner Rick Hendrick was just fine with the finish.
"We have a hard time finishing these races. Boy, to run 1-2, man, what a day," Hendrick said. Jeff Gordon, who was a contender early, faded late to 20th.
And Johnson considered himself lucky to be the one holding the trophy at the end.
"Man, it's like playing the lottery; everybody's got a ticket," he said. "I've struck out a lot at these tracks, left with torn-up race cars. Today we had a clean day."
Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Keselowski, who overcame two accidents earlier in the race, wound up fourth in Penske Racing's new Ford. Ryan Newman was fifth in a Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing and was followed by Roush-Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle, who was second on the last lap but was shuffled back with Patrick to finish sixth.
Regan Smith was seventh for Phoenix Racing, while Patrick, Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley rounded out the top 10.
Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish. When the race was on the line, she was schooled by Earnhardt, who made his last move and blocked any chance she had.
Still, Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in the 500 when she passed Michael Waltrip on a restart on Lap 90. She stayed on the point for two laps, then was shuffled back to third. She ended up leading five laps, another groundbreaking moment for Patrick, who as a rookie in 2005 became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and now is the 13th driver to lead laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.
"Dale did a nice job and showed what happens when you plan it out, you drop back and get that momentum. You are able to go to the front," Patrick said. "I think he taught me something. I'm sure I'll watch the race and there will be other scenarios I see that can teach me, too."
Earnhardt was impressed, nonetheless.
"She's going to make a lot of history all year long. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress," he said. "Every time I've seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She's got a great level head. She's a racer. She knows what's coming. She's smart about her decisions. She knew what to do today as far as track position and not taking risks. I enjoy racing with her."
Johnson, one of three heavyweight drivers who took their young daughters to meet Patrick - "the girl in the bright green car" - after she won the pole in qualifications, tipped his cap, too.
"I didn't think about it being Danica in the car," Johnson said. "It was just another car on the track that was fast. That's a credit to her and the job she's doing."
The field was weakened by an early nine-car accident that knocked out race favorite Kevin Harvick and sentimental favorite Tony Stewart.
Harvick had won two support races coming into the 500 to cement himself as the driver to beat, but the accident sent him home with a 42nd place finish.
Stewart, meanwhile, dropped to 0-for-15 in one of the few races the three-time NASCAR champion has never won.
"If I didn't tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I'd be lying to you," Stewart said.
That accident also took former winner Jamie McMurray, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne out of contention.
The next accident - involving nine cars - came 105 laps later and brought a thankful end to Speedweeks for Carl Edwards. He was caught in his fifth accident since testing last month, and this wreck collected six other Ford drivers.
The field suddenly had six Toyota drivers at the front as Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing drivers took control of the race. But JGR's day blew up - literally - when the team was running 1-2-3 with Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch setting the pace.
Kenseth, who led a race-high 86 laps, went to pit road first with an engine problem, and Busch was right behind him with a blown engine. Busch was already in street clothes watching as Hamlin led the field.
"It's a little devastating when you are running 1-2-3 like that," Busch said.
Hamlin's shot disappeared when he found himself in the wrong lane on the final restart. He tried to hook up with Keselowski to get them back to Johnson, but blamed former teammate Joey Logano for ruining the momentum of the bottom lane.
Hamlin offered a backhanded apology to Keselowski on Twitter, posting that he couldn't get close enough because "your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time."
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Move over, Danica.
NASCAR will unveil nine original commercials featuring more than two dozen drivers during the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The spots will be broadcast in English and Spanish as the race is shown live on FOX and FOX Deportes.
The advertising campaign centers on NASCAR drivers who bring to life the unpredictability and drama of stock-car racing on and off the track. NASCAR calls the spots the "most comprehensive and integrated campaign" the sanctioning body has ever launched.
There was no immediate word on how many ads will include Daytona 500 pole-sitter Danica Patrick, the former IndyCar star who gained fame for sexy photos and GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercials.
"The campaign was created to excite existing fans while engaging with new audiences, and is representative of where NASCAR is headed as a sport" said Kim Brink, NASCAR's vice president of marketing. "In developing the spots, we wanted to celebrate the heart of what makes our sport unique, challenge existing perceptions, inspire the entire industry and do it all as authentically and confidently as possible."
Why reaching the pinnacle of open wheel racing requires more than just raw talent
If you ask any amateur hockey player what the most important attribute is to make it to the NHL, they would say talent. If you ask any amateur football player what the most important attribute is to reach the NFL, its talent. If you ask any amateur race car driver what the most important attribute is to reach Formula 1, it isn’t about talent at all; instead, the attribute focuses on money. Sadly, this is more than just a theory.
It’s an unfortunate but true statement that becoming a professional race car driver requires much more than just skill and talent behind the wheel. If you don’t have the financial backing, then you’re more than likely going to be racing Formula 1 or NASCAR on the video game circuit.
Very rare instances have occurred where a driver has received the required funds from an outside source (not related to him/her) to compete on the professional level. For example, Canadian DTM driver Robert Wickens became a role model for younger drivers who currently compete in the karting circuit. Wickens managed to continually acquire sponsorships through hard work and dedication moving up the ranks of the open wheel world. Ultimately, he landed himself a gig at Mercedes-Benz as a Junior Team driver under the wing of the man himself, Michael Schumacher.
Wickens’ exceptional talent and dedication to his sport helped him push his dream forward, but he’s still trying to clear the final hurdle in making it as a Formula 1 driver.
These young race car drivers like Wickens have had exceptional careers thus far and deserve a chance on the Formula 1 stage, but in most cases they will have to pay their way up the ranks. Formula 1 rookie seats are mostly offered to the drivers who are willing to help contribute to the annual budget by bringing in their own personal sponsors and money. No longer are we seeing Formula 1 teams pulling drivers from the lower ranks and paying them, as these teams need as much funding as they can to survive. Sadly, more and more teams have started to take this approach which ultimately weakens the Formula 1 grid.
Why is it that the teams need funding? This question can have many different conclusions and is a very complicated one to answer. Research and development, driver and team salaries, cost of transportation, cost of hospitality all has an effect on the teams’ budgets. Formula 1 teams rarely publish their budgets and they can be a guarded secret amongst the big teams such as Ferrari and McLaren. Publications have speculated that Ferrari has spent well into the hundreds of millions for an annual budget while Caterham and Marussia have to make good with limited wind tunnel access and hindered engineering work on new components.
In all of my years being involved in motorsports, I’ve observed one thing that stands out from the rest. To move up, you have to kiss quite a lot of ass! If you’re not part of a wealthy family then you have some serious ground to worship. Despite what you want to believe, you won’t make it to Formula 1 just on skill alone. My good friend and ex-race car driver once perfectly said this to me:
“Do you want to race in Formula 1?”
“Do you have a million dollars set aside to get started?”
“Well there you go.”
This stuck with me. Why it stuck with me is baffling but it stuck all right. It made an impression, because it opened up my eyes to the truth that in order to move up you gotta move down…to the ground so you can polish whoever’s millionaire shoe and request that he/she pays for your next race or that upcoming test with the top team in Indy Lights or GP2. It’s this kind of shmoozing that is unfortunately necessary, but is also contributing to the decay of the sport. The wealthy families move up the ranks with little to no outside help, while average racing families struggle to find sponsorship year-after-year in order to succeed. The biggest problem facing these young drivers today is the economy, as it’s becoming more difficult to find someone or a group of people willing to hand over the necessary funds.
There’s a common saying that goes around the racetrack. If you want to become a millionaire racing cars, start with a billion!
Soon we will find out whether Robert Wickens can find enough sponsorship and make the right connections to fulfill his life-long dream. Let’s hope he doesn’t become another talent that didn’t shmooze the right people to get into the exclusive Formula 1 club. Either way, we should still be proud of our Guelph born Robert Wickens and all that he has accomplished up to this point.
How do you really reach the pinnacle of motorsport racing? What is the best way for the average driver to climb the ladder? The truth is, is that it’s all part of knowing the right people and going into their inner-circle to convince them to invest in you and your racing career. You have to prove to them that you’re truly something unique and special and worthy of representing them in the racing world. I wish more than anything that I could say that it really was all about talent, that it was all about racing teams sending scouts to pick the young drivers and nurture them into the next Alain Prost, but in the real world it’s only and always about the money.