Auto Racing (80)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (AP) — With IndyCar still recovering from Dan Wheldon's death, series officials said Tuesday that double-file restarts will be scrapped at Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana and more changes to improve safety could be announced before next month's season-opener at St. Petersburg.
"Oh yeah, there will be lots more to come," IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said after the two-day state of the series summit wrapped up in Indianapolis.
Bernard didn't provide hints about what other announcements are pending.
It's all part of a plan to make courses safer and revamp IndyCar's image after Wheldon, a two-time Indy 500 winner, was killed in an accident at last year's season-finale in Las Vegas. The wreck pushed safety issues to the forefront of racing and gave the drivers who risk their lives more latitude in framing complaints.
Plenty of changes have already been made.
The series is introducing its first redesigned car in nine years, a model that is being deemed IndyCar's safest yet. Driver seats will be surrounded by three inches of foam in the cockpit, an inch of foam underneath the seat and a panel on the right side of the cockpit to help reduce the force when hitting outside walls. Wheldon, who did most of the early testing, spoke glowingly about the new safety features.
Series officials are hoping the addition of rear-wheel pods will eliminate the wheel-to-wheel contact that can send cars airborne, too.
The 16-race schedule includes only five oval races, down from eight of 17 last year, a move many racers have embraced since Wheldon's crash, though Bernard said that decision was more about marketability than safety with the obvious exception of Las Vegas.
New race director Beaux Barfield, who replaces Brian Barnhart in race control, made his decision on the restarts after talking directly with the drivers.
"I could look into their eyes and see very legitimate concerns," he said.
When Bernard brought the double-file restarts, a popular NASCAR feature, to the IndyCar circuit last season, those with stock car experience such as three-time defending champ Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick balked immediately about the dangers it would pose.
Bernard responded by instructing his drivers, which the series calls the world's most versatile, to make it work. After a dubious start in St. Petersburg, they did.
Barfield said he made his decision for two reasons: where the acceleration point is on the track and driver complaints.
It's still possible the double-file restarts could return everywhere in 2013 after series officials evaluate the performance of the new cars, but at least drivers feel like they're getting a say.
"It's an ongoing process and you're not going to fix everything overnight," 2004 IndyCar champ Tony Kanaan said when asked about the new safety measures Monday night. "I'm proud of the communication we've had between the drivers and IndyCar, but it wasn't just that aspect, either. We didn't talk among ourselves (drivers) very good, either."
A handful of drivers, including two of Wheldon's closest friends — Kanaan and three-time defending points champ Dario Franchitti, promised to change that following Wheldon's funeral.
By building a consensus, series officials are paying more attention to all of the drivers' complaints, not just on safety matters.
The series also announced Tuesday it will experiment with three 30-lap qualification heats at Iowa. The 10 fastest cars in practice will run against each other in the first heat and will take the top 10 starting spots. A second heat will determine odd numbered starting spots 11 through 31 and the third heat will determine even numbered starting spots 12 through 32.
IndyCar will not use a blind draw to determine the starting lineup anywhere, a year after it tried the gimmick before one of the twin races at Texas. Franchitti contended his poor starting spot in the second of twin races at Texas last summer cost him valuable points and could have cost him the championship.
But Bernard said the qualifying heats at Iowa are different from the blind draw.
"I think this is different because it's actual competition that will determine the start order, not a blind draw," Bernard said. "Looking in hindsight, it was probably a mistake doing a blind draw."
(Toronto, ON): Mazda Canada announced today it will support motorsports competitors across the country through an all-new contingency program. Canadian racers racing a Mazda in the Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC), including the all-new B-Spec class, and the Toyo Tires Spec Miata Championship will have the opportunity to win cash prizes.
In addition to cash, Canadian racers are now eligible to compete in the Mazda North American Club Racer Shootout. For the past six years, one American club racing champion was annually promoted to the professional ranks. Now it becomes a true North American event with Canada included. The 2012 shootout prize is a full season in the 2013 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup valued at $75,000 USD.
For the Canadian Touring Car Championship and the Toyo Tires Spec Miata Championship, Mazda Canada is paying contingency awards, for those competitors who are racing eligible Mazda race cars, for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each points-paying race in the Championship, as well as Year-end Championship awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall.
"Mazda has a strong motorsports heritage. On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle, and we’re committed to extending that legacy to Canada,” said Don Romano, President of Mazda Canada. “To show our support, we have committed over $100,000 in contingency prize money in Canada for 2012."
Mazda Canada’s contingency payouts are as follows:
Per-race Contingency Payouts:
1st place: $1,500.00
2nd place: $1,000.00
3rd place: $500.00
1st place: $1,000.00
2nd place: $750.00
3rd place: $500.00
1st place: $500.00
2nd place: $300.00
3rd place: $150.00
Year-end Overall Contingency Payouts:
1st place: $10,000.00
2nd place: $3,000.00
3rd place: $2,000.00
1st place: $6,000.00
2nd place: $3,000.00
3rd place: $1,000.00
1st place: $5,000.00
2nd place: $2,000.00
3rd place: $1,000.00
If a 2012 CTCC championship is won in a Mazda, that driver is eligible for the Mazda North American Club Racer Shootout.
2012 Spec Miata
Per-race Contingency Payouts:
1st place: $200.00
2nd place: $100.00
3rd place: $75.00
Year-end Overall Contingency Payouts:
1st place: $2,000.00
2nd place: $1,000.00
3rd place: $375.00
The 2012 Toyo Tires Spec Miata Champion is eligible for the Mazda North American Club Racer Shootout.
"Mazda has always been a leader in both amateur and professional motorsports in the U.S.," said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. "Developing the Canadian contingency program and expanding our support to Canadian competitors is a logical extension of our motorsports program."
“This is exciting news for motorsports in Canada. We are grateful for the commitment that Mazda Canada and Mazdaspeed are making to the Canadian motorsports community,” said John Bondar, President, Canadian Touring Car Championship. “We have worked very hard to gain the attention of the automotive manufacturers and it is wonderful to see Mazda Canada showing leadership in this area. I am particularly appreciative of the commitment being made in the Canadian Touring Car Championship.”
“Spec Miata Championship Drivers Association (SMCDA) is very pleased to include Mazda Canada in the 2012 Toyo Tires Spec Miata Championship,” said Blu Vandaalen, President, Spec Miata Championship Drivers Association. “Today’s announcement, that Mazda Canada is offering a contingency program, is exciting for everyone. Mazda has been involved in motorsports for a long time and we look forward to working with them by offering incentives to those competing in this exciting new Spec Miata Championship Road Racing Series.”
For more information on MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and Mazda’s contingency programs, visit www.MazdaspeedMotorsports.com
(Reuters) Jenson Button’s body language after the first day of Formula One testing on Tuesday spoke happily of a new McLaren that was everything last year’s car was not.
A year ago, McLaren turned up at Jerez to give their new MP4-26 its first test run. It proved barely capable of stringing any laps together as well as being way off the pace, with a complicated ‘octopus-like’ exhaust system that was soon jettisoned.
Button and team mate Lewis Hamilton spent the early part of the season playing catch-up to Red Bull but ended up with three wins apiece while Sebastian Vettel romped to his second championship with 11 victories.
Although McLaren have taken a different design path to other teams this season in response to regulation changes, they were confident at last week’s MP4-27 launch that there would be no repeat of last February’s misery.
“What a beautiful day. Lovely. It’s been a good day. This morning we did our installation and system checks which probably took a bit longer than I would have wished for. But apart from that the running’s been good,” beamed Button after breezing into the team’s motorhome.
“There are no niggly areas with the car, which is nice. Quite different to last year. So I’m happy,” continued the 32-year-old Briton.
“I’m very happy in the car. I’m in a good position. I’m really low, which I always like, trying to get as low as possible, with the way that the car is.
“I’m much lower than last year. I can just about see out, which I love. I love that position, well inside the car. I feel I’m part of it. And some promising times. But we don’t know where we stand and we won’t do until the first race.”
The season starts in Melbourne on March 18.
Button completed 60 laps, including one 15 lap run, with the eighth fastest time. He said the car looked like providing a good base for improvements in the next few days.
“There’s obviously work we need to do to improve it, but it feels right, which is good. The front wheels are on the front, the rear wheels are on the back, it feels like it’s going in the right direction, and when you turn right, it goes right. Sometimes that hasn’t been the case,” he said.
Asked whether he had been at all concerned that McLaren’s army of technical experts might have ‘dropped the ball’, with the other new cars looking so different with their ‘ugly’ dropped noses, Button was relaxed.
He said he had been warned that others would follow that path, although perhaps not all of them, but McLaren were confident they had a competitive car and the early signs were certainly promising.
“It does feel very different to testing last year, which is a good thing really because it’s not like we can stick on an exhaust that will give us two seconds at the first race,” he said.
“The regulations are very different now, so I think you are going to see the cars a lot more bunched up this season, especially at the start of the year and when racing gets underway.”
Button will continue testing on Wednesday before handing over to 2008 champion Hamilton for the last two days.
(AP) The new race director for the IndyCar Series wants improved communications with the drivers, and is willing to listen to their concerns about specific racing issues.
Among the issues Beaux Barfield said Wednesday he will take under consideration is the drivers' displeasure with using double-file restarts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Double-file restarts were added to the series last season and were quickly criticized as both IndyCar and the drivers struggled through execution and policing the new practice.
The drivers also were adamantly opposed to using double-file restarts in the Indianapolis 500, but IndyCar kept them. Most drivers remain opposed to using double-file restarts in this year's race.
Barfield, hired as president of competition and race director in January, said he's in favor of double-file restarts but will listen to driver concerns.
"Double-file restarts is something that was brought in and not given an appropriate effort either by the officials or the drivers, and I think it took a worse rap than it should have," Barfield said. "The racer in me didn't like them, but when I did see the good efforts of the officials to make adjustments to them ... it brought the kind of excitement to our product that IndyCar needs to get to the next level.
"That being said, there's a couple of places that the drivers have legitimate concerns that they'd rather not do double-file restarts. I'm open-minded and going to listen to what they have to say."
Asked if double-file restarts will be used in the Indy 500, Barfield said "it's under consideration."
Communication between the drivers and race control deteriorated last season under former race director Brian Barnhart. A complex rule book that gave Barnhart discretionary power in many officiating decisions led to the breakdown, and as the season came to a close, Barnhart seemed to have lost the respect of the paddock.
He was relieved as race director during the offseason and Barfield, who spent the last four seasons as race director of the ALMS sports car series, was brought into the job at the start of the year. Barfield's first task was re-writing the IndyCar rule book, which he did with vice president of technology Will Phillips.
Barfield said he reformatted the rule book to improve both its readability and flow, which would be the most noticeable difference in what was electronically distributed to race teams late Tuesday.
But, perhaps the more important overhaul in terms of perception for IndyCar, was the elimination of nearly all instances that gave the race director discretionary power in officiating decisions.
Barfield said the rule book used last season had more than 90 instances where the discretion of the race director could be applied. Drivers complained it created unfair and arbitrary policing, and it contributed to them losing faith in Barnhart.
The 2012 rule book has only six instances where the race director can use his discretion, but Barfield said there's still a clause that allows officials "latitude to fix problems that come up that have never been seen before." But Barfield said he's striving to never have to use that power, and to rule with in a very black-and-white manner.
"It's an absolutely tighter rule book," he said. "As much as I've evolved and developed as a race official, you learn that you can't think about how a ruling or penalty will affect a race team, or a driver, or harm a race team. You can't consider those things. It's racing and if there's an incident that has to be looked at face value — blocking, contact, anything — the rules are the rules and have to be applied how they are written.
"A statement has to be made that you are in control of your paddock. You have to remove the emotion in officiating, because it's easy to have sympathy but when you do, you are going down a slippery slope."
Barfield will discuss in greater detail the 2012 rule book and introduce his officiating team next week during planned "State of IndyCar" activities. He wouldn't reveal his stewards for 2012, but said two recent hires are former drivers and race control will consist of Barfield and three other stewards.
Defending world champion team Red Bull Racing has unveiled the car with which it will attempt to stretch its title-winning run in 2012 - the Renault-powered RB8.
Having taken Sebastian Vettel to the the last two drivers' titles alongside its 2010 and '11 constructors' crowns, Red Bull's latest design is the most eagerly awaited of the new season contenders. Adrian Newey, the man generally regarded as the key to Red Bull's recent domination, is again responsible for leading the car's design.
The car appears outwardly similar to last year's all-conquering RB7, which won 12 of 2011's 19 races, but features a revised nose layout and a different exhaust to accommodate this season's rule changes.
Vettel and Mark Webber continue their driving partnership into a fourth season. Ex-Toro Rosso racer Sebastien Buemi is now RBR's reserve.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — AJ Allmendinger won five races during the 2006 season in Champ Car, then walked away hoping to launch a new career in NASCAR.
He was at the top of his game when he left open-wheel, and figured he'd make a smooth and successful transition to stock cars.
Instead, he suffered through a miserable five years.
Now, in what seems like a blink of an eye, it has all turned around for Allmendinger.
No driver has had a better offseason than "The 'Dinger," who landed the ride of a lifetime right before Christmas when Penske Racing picked him to fill the seat left suddenly open when the team split with former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.
Then he opened the 2012 racing season with an impressive victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Allmendinger was the anchor for Michael Shank Racing, and used a gritty final stint — he was behind the wheel almost three hours at the end — to give longtime friend Shank his first victory in nine tries in the prestigious endurance event.
It was Allmendinger's first major racing victory since he walked away from Champ Car at the end of the 2006 season.
"It's always cool to be me," Allmendinger quipped when asked about the last five weeks.
Then he quickly turned serious.
"No, I'm just kidding. The last five years, it's actually (stunk) to be me."
It was indeed a struggle as Allmendinger went from the top of one series to the bottom of another.
On paper, a deal with upstart Red Bull Racing seemed too good to pass up. The deep-pocketed team was making its entrance into NASCAR and it wanted Allmendinger to drive one of its two cars.
It was a disaster from the very beginning.
Red Bull wasn't ready to race in the elite Sprint Cup Series, and even worse, it had no development plan for Allmendinger, who was brand new to stock cars. Most open-wheel drivers have been eased into NASCAR with races in either the second-tier Nationwide Series, the Truck Series, or the non-NASCAR affiliated ARCA Series.
But Allmendinger was thrown right to the wolves, and it became obvious immediately that the team and the driver were in very much above their heads.
Both Allmendinger and teammate Brian Vickers struggled to even qualify for races that season, and missing out on the events further slowed Allmendinger's development. It didn't take long for him to wonder if he'd made a huge mistake in moving to NASCAR. But the open-wheel leagues were in turmoil, and not even after the merger of Champ Car with the IndyCar Series did Allmendinger know for sure where he belonged.
He called that 2007 season, "Hell. Honestly, it was the worst year of my life when it came to my career.
"There were plenty of times in my bus on Friday, (after) missing a race, it was either, 'Should I go back to IndyCar or slit my wrists?'" he said. "It sounds kind of over the top, but I knew I wanted to be in the Sprint Cup Series. That's where the best of the best was. With the two series still split, I had done what I did in Champ Car, and at the point, the IRL wasn't appealing to me. I had a great opportunity to go to the Sprint Cup Series.
Rubens Barrichello will test an IndyCar next week for KV Racing, The Associated Press has learned.
The Formula One driver is scheduled to be at Sebring International Raceway next Monday and Tuesday, a person familiar with the test told AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the 2-day test session is exploratory for both Barrichello and the race team.
Barrichello has spent the last 19 seasons in Formula One, but was replaced last week at Williams by Bruno Senna. He has no seat lined up in F1 for the 2012 season.
“I won’t be driving the Williams car this year,” he posted last week on his Twitter page. “I wish my friend (Senna) all the best. The future is wide open.”
A few days later, he responded to well-wishers again via Twitter, indicating he planned to race a bit longer.
“when I said that things were open is because I still have lot’s of speed on me,” he posted. “just like an old friend said: racing is in my blood.”
Barrichello is an 11-time winner in F1. He has 68 podium finishes, but none last season. The Brazilian notched a pair of ninth-place finishes last season, and ended the year with only four points.
Barrichello has scored the eighth highest points total in Formula One history, spent five years as teammate to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and was championship runner-up twice, in 2002 and 2004. He became the first driver to reach 300 Grand Prix entries and 300 starts in 2010, and served as chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.
He’s been quoted in the past as saying his wife would not let him race in the IndyCar Series, and it’s not clear if Barrichello was serious. He’s close friends with fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who drove last season for KV and is scheduled to return to the team in 2012.
KV Racing fielded three entries last season, for Kanaan, Takumo Sato and EJ Viso. Kanaan finished a team-best fifth in the final IndyCar standings.
Next week’s test could be a test to see if Barrichello has any interest in possibly racing in IndyCar in 2012, or if he can offer any technical assistance to KV, which has partnered with Chevrolet this season.
CONCORD, N.C. - Manufacturer brand identity is back in NASCAR.
The 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup car, unveiled today as part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, was worked on by Ford designers in an effort to bring brand identity back to the sport. The result is undeniable with the 2013 Sprint Cup car mirroring the recently unveiled 2013 Ford Fusion production car.
Featuring a completely redesigned sleek new silhouette and fresh face, the 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup car was designed to be the face of a new era of stock car racing.
"We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return 'stock car' to NASCAR," stated Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. "I think fans, when they see the car, are just going to smile and cheer. It is going to reengage them with the sport and make the sport better because there is just something natural about seeing race cars that look like cars in their driveways."
This marks the third time Ford simultaneously launched production and NASCAR versions of a new model. The first dual launch came in 1968, with the sleek fastback Ford Torino. Legendary NASCAR driver David Pearson drove the Torino to back-to-back NASCAR championships in 1968 and 1969. The second time came in 2006, when the then newly introduced Ford Fusion appeared in showrooms and on the track.
Ford took a different approach with the development of the 2013 Fusion racer. Ford Design Center staff, led by Garen Nicoghosian, and Ford aerodynamicist Bernie Marcus, spent the past year doing the early design development, freeing up the Ford race teams to concentrate on weekly NASCAR competition.
"This is a seminal moment in the sport where we had a chance to get it right once again and make sure the race cars are race versions of street cars. And I am proud because I believe we have accomplished just that," continued Allison. "The 2013 Fusion is a stunning car and the 2013 NASCAR Fusion is even more stunning and I can't wait to see it perform on the track and connect with race fans."
Ford designers, led by Nicoghosian, addressed three main issues to mirror the 2013 Sprint Cup Fusion to the 2013 production Fusion found on showroom floors.
Design Features of the 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup Car
· Designers addressed the overall proportion of the race car to reflect proportions found in the production Fusion.
· Brand and design cues in the side of the vehicle.
· An identifiable front end grill with the distinctive look of a Ford.
"It looks fun to drive and very much eager to go and tear up the track. It has a very aggressive stance from the outside and the inside. From all angles the vehicle exudes performance and I think it reflects our general attitude of how we go about setting up our cars very, very nicely," said Nicoghosian. "It brings a certain level of nimbleness and lightness and agility to the NASCAR platform, much like we do in our production cars, because all of our production cars have that nimbleness and agility and eagerness about them."
Oriol Servia, coming off the best year of his career in the IndyCar Series, had every reason to believe he'd challenge for the championship in 2012.
Then a sponsorship deal fell apart in late November, and securing a ride became the bigger priority. The sudden shutdown of Newman/Haas Racing put Servia out of work in early December, when there were few quality rides available for the popular Spaniard.
He landed Tuesday with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and is optimistic he'll still have a strong year with the small but determined race team.
"I'm happy because in many ways, it's good just to have a job nowadays," Servia said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "But I really had high hopes to stay at Newman/Haas, with the same group, we thought we had a big sponsor coming and we thought we'd have a chance to compete with the top three."
Servia finished a career-best fourth in the IndyCar standings last season, behind four-time champion Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Scott Dixon. He had 11 top-10 finishes, was one of only three drivers running at the finish of all 17 races and led all drivers in laps completed.
He also was the only driver to finish in the top 10 in the first five races of the season.
So when his potential sponsorship deal fell through, Newmann/Haas was suddenly left with a 10-day deadline to come up with a $4 million pre-payment for its 2012 cars. Servia met for three days straight with Bernadette Haas, wife of ailing team owner Carl Haas, and could get no sense of which way she was leaning.
"I knew it was 50-50, I could see it in Bernie's eyes she was debating whether or not to spend the money. She was battling it every night," Servia said. "The last day, I had dinner with her before I was taking the plane to Spain. She didn't know. Then, when I landed in Barcelona, I got the call that the team was shutting down and it was time to move on."
With the top rides all spoken for, Servia and teammate James Hinchcliffe suddenly found themselves in a crowded free agent market looking for a seat.
Hinchliffe, last year's rookie of the year, landed last week at Andretti Autosport in the GoDaddy.com-sponsored car that Dan Wheldon was to drive before his death in the Oct. 16 season finale.
Servia talked with several teams before deciding on DRR, a team that scored just one top-five finish last season and put together a late deal with engine manufacturer Lotus that has created many unknowns. IndyCar will have three engine manufacturers in 2012, and Lotus was the last to put together its lineup and complete production of its engine.
While Chevrolet and Honda have been on the track multiple times with a variety of drivers, Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing turned the first laps for Lotus this week at Sebring.
Servia admitted he had concerns, but was buoyed by conversations with Justin Wilson, who spent the last two seasons with DRR, and a visit to the race shop in Indianapolis.
"Justin had nothing but good things to say about the team, and when I got inside their shop ... I was impressed. You drive by and think it's this small team, but inside, they have a lot of machinery -- more than Newman/Haas had," Servia said.
And Servia is hopeful that Lotus, which has factory deals with four small teams -- DRR, HVM, Bryan Herta Autosport and Dragon Racing -- and a partnership with upstart Michael Shank Racing, will be competitive.
"Of course this is a step back when you are trying to beat Dario Franchitti at Ganassi and Will Power at Penske. They have the best teams behind them, the best budget, the best testing and, one of the biggest things, they have continuity," Servia said.
"But if you look at Lotus' history, dating back to the '60s, it's always been a bit like this: the underdog, outsmarting the bigger and better. Is that too romantic of a thought to think that can happen nowadays? Maybe. But why can't it?"
DRR is still trying to put together a second full-time entry for 2012, and Servia said team owners Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl have assured him they won't sign a second driver just because someone brings money to the program.
Reinbold believes the team is going to have to be on its game to match Servia's skills.
"With a new engine, new chassis and a revamped engineering department, we believe it is crucial to have a highly talented veteran driver to be able to develop these new components," Reinbold said. "Oriol has always been a smart driver and has always put himself and his team in a position to win races. We are going to have to be well prepared to take advantage of his abilities and we look forward to the challenge."
Servia heads to Indianapolis on Wednesday for his official seat fitting, but he won't get his first laps in the car until late this month at Sebring. But he's done his homework and thinks the Lotus engine will be reliable this year, which will be a key component in being competitive.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (AP)—IndyCar rookie of the year James Hinchcliffe was hired Tuesday to drive for Andretti Autosport in the 2012 season.
The 25-year-old Canadian will take over the team’s Go Daddy entry, which was left vacant when Danica Patrick jumped to NASCAR in October.
The team had previously reached agreement with Dan Wheldon to take Patrick’s place late last season before Wheldon was killed in the season-ending race at Las Vegas.
After posting three top-five finishes and seven top-10s with Newman-Haas Racing in 2011, edging out Indy 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand for rookie of the year, Hinchcliffe now joins one of the best-funded and most successful teams in IndyCar.
Andretti’s drivers have won three points titles and two Indy 500s, though the last of those big wins came in 2007.
Hinchcliffe faces the tall task of replacing Patrick, IndyCar’s most marketable driver. But Andretti said the team ranked all of the world’s available open-wheel drivers in a variety of categories and Hinchcliffe came out on top.
“James is a perfect fit. He came out No. 1 (overall) on all the available rankings,” said John Lopes, Andretti’s chief marketing officer.
What really made the sale to Go Daddy, though, was Hinchcliffe’s affability. His strong online following and charming personality were exactly what company officials thought they needed to keep the momentum in the post-Danica era.
“James is tech-savvy, fast, got a good, large online presence and is that right, edgy personality we think will work,” Lopes said. “By all signs, Go Daddy seems very happy with him.”
Hinchcliffe was preparing for a second season at Newman-Haas Racing until team co-owner Carl Haas made a surprise announcement on Dec. 1 that he wouldn’t compete in IndyCar in 2012.
Suddenly, the rising Canadian star was a free agent, and after enduring a range of emotions over the past several weeks, Hinchcliffe finally landed in a spot where he feels right at home.
“I’ve known Marco (Andretti) since we were 13 years old, and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) is one of the easiest guys to get along with in the paddock,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s a strong lineup and it’s a perfect fit.”
Hinchcliffe may not be the only one trying to fit in with Andretti’s team this season.
Andretti has traditionally run four cars and still has one open seat in the lineup. The team hasn’t provided details about who might fill the spot, but adding Hinchcliffe should help.
“He will definitely grow and thrive with Andretti Autosport,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “Even in his rookie year in IndyCar, he proved to be a great competitor. I look forward to seeing what he is capable of in the next few months.”