2:35 p.m. ET: It’s almost anyone’s race as the field completes its final round of pit stops. Less than 20 laps remain. Frankly, words don’t do this race justice at the moment.
2:20 p.m. ET: A.J. Allmendinger continues to impress in his Indy 500 debut and made his way back to the lead at Lap 137, just 25 laps after briefly going a lap down because of a loose seat belt. But ‘Dinger had to pit at Lap 143, handing the lead over to Marco Andretti, who leads the ‘500’ with 50 laps to go.
Andretti Autosport continues to be at the front of the pack, with Ryan Hunter-Reay trailing teammate Andretti in second and rookie pilot Carlos Munoz in fourth. However, Helio Castroneves has begun to make his presence known and now runs in third. Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan are also lurking around the fifth position, trying to get themselves ready to make a late run for the Borg-Warner Trophy.
2:00 P.M. ET: The fourth round of pit stops is in the books, with two more rounds likely to go to make the finish of this year’s Indianapolis 500. As of lap 129, there had been 38 lead changes, a record for the race surpassing the 34 of a year ago.
Andretti Autosport has placed four of its five cars in the top five past the 120-lap, and 300-mile mark. The only exception has been James Hinchcliffe.
Elsewhere AJ Allmendinger made a spirited run to the lead, but was forced to pit off sequence for a belt adjustment. Allmendinger has climbed back to eighth at lap 128 from 25th, and has been a revelation thus far in his Indianapolis 500 debut.
Others of note have been Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, and Honda’s lone fighter Alex Tagliani, although Tagliani dropped outside the top 10 on the most recent pit stop sequence. Oriol Servia, in his last scheduled race for Panther DRR, has also cracked the top 10.
1:45 p.m. ET: Green flag pit stops took place shortly before the halfway point of the Indianapolis 500, with Tony Kanaan cycling back to the front of the field followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and E.J. Viso. But Team Penske rookie A.J. Allmendinger has now charged all the way to the front, passing Kanaan at Lap 99 to be the leader at 100 of 200 laps. He is the ninth different leader of the race, which has 28 lead changes so far and appears sure to break the overall race record for lead changes (34, set last season).
Allmendinger fell back into the mid-pack earlier in the race, but has come alive in this recent stint. Kanaan currently runs second, with Hunter-Reay in third. Marco Andretti continues to run solidly and has peeled off fourth position from Viso.
Helio Castroneves still is within striking distance of the front, sitting in sixth position as he tries to bring home a fourth Indy 500 title. As for pole sitter Ed Carpenter, he has begun to fall back as of late and now sits in ninth position. Chevy continues to be the top engine manufacturer so far, with Alex Tagliani as the fastest Honda in 10th spot.
1:30 p.m. ET: More than 200 miles (80 laps) are complete in the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolets have dominated the leaderboard with Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter all having moments in the front of the field.
The issue for them at the moment is that leading will burn more fuel compared to running in the draft. Kanaan pitted on lap 29 in the first sequence, at least one and sometimes two to three laps ahead of the field.
At lap 80, Power led Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, E.J. Viso, AJ Allmendinger, Carlos Munoz, Helio Castroneves, Alex Tagliani and Carpenter.
Top Honda has been Tagliani, who’s run anywhere between ninth and eleventh. Fellow Honda runner Takuma Sato, who brought out the most recent caution, has climbed from 27th to 22nd.
Pippa Mann brushed the wall in Turn 4 and is out, and apparent fuel pressure issues have sidelined 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier; that takes two fan favorite underdogs out of the running. Josef Newgarden has also been to the pits with mechanical issues.
An oddity occurred earlier in the race when Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammates Graham Rahal and James Jakes’ teams were each fined $10,000 for blend line violations. The penalty was announced over the radio.
1:15 PM ET: Takuma Sato has brought out the yellow at the Indy 500 after losing control of his car coming out of Turn 2 at Lap 57. However, his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda did not take any damage and was refired.
The spin brought out the yellow flag, and the majority of the field filed in for pit stops on Lap 58. Ryan Hunter-Reay gained two spots to lead Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter off pit road and right now, they are your Top 3 drivers under caution.
1:05 P.M. ET: We are at 50 laps in the Indianapolis 500, with Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti continuing their battle for the lead as a rhythm begins to be found on this stint. Andretti jumped Carpenter on the inside as the green flag came back out for a restart on Lap 43, but just two laps later, the pole sitter went back to the front.
Current IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has been steady so far in these opening stages, moving from seventh to third. Helio Castroneves, chasing a fourth “500” victory, is running fourth, and crowd favorite Tony Kanaan runs fifth after fighting Carpenter and Andretti for the lead in the opening laps.
Takuma Sato has been making some noise and currently is the biggest mover of the race, jumping 11 spots from 18th to seventh behind E.J. Viso. Carlos Munoz, Will Power and Alex Tagliani round out the Top 10.
12:50 P.M. ET: James Jakes is the surprise leader at lap 36, under the second yellow flag period of the day when Sebastian Saavedra crashed in Turn 4. Saavedra pushed up the track in his Dragon Racing Chevrolet and damaged his right front suspension, coming to a stop on the front straight.
Jakes, Pippa Mann, Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal pitted on lap 5 and vaulted to the front of the field, the top four positions, when everyone else had completed their first pit stop cycle.
Net leader is Ed Carpenter in fifth, who stopped on lap 30. Hondas appear to have had a fuel mileage edge on the first cycle of stops.
Lead changes have been frequent, often between Carpenter, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan, with more than a dozen in the first 36 laps.
Katherine Legge had moved forward almost 10 spots from last on the grid but had a suspension issue that cost her seven laps.
Meanwhile, JR Hildebrand offered insight on what happened to him to the ABC broadcast: “Got a little loose in the middle of the corner, caught it and it snapped. I am really disappointed; we had a car to run up front. We were dialing things in. We were pretty aggressive with downforce levels. It was too light.”
12:25 p.m. ET: We are green for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, but already yellow on lap 4 for a heavy accident for Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand.
The third-year driver lost control through Turn 1, where the back end of his No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet stepped out.
James Hinchcliffe was running right behind him at the time, and passed through the incident without being affected.
Polesitter Ed Carpenter led off the start with Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso jumping ahead of second-starting Carlos Munoz. Will Power runs fifth.
Big movers include Tony Kanaan (12th to seventh), Justin Wilson (14th to 10th), Ryan Briscoe (23rd to 17th), Townsend Bell (22nd to 18th) and Sebastian Saavedra (27th to 19th).
James Jakes, Graham Rahal, Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge and Pippa Mann all took the opportunity to pit at lap five, and Charlie Kimball pitted on lap six.
11:45 a.m. ET: Good morning from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 97th Indianapolis 500 is set to take the green flag in under half an hour. Driver introductions have just taken place and many of the special pre-race traditions that go with the ‘500’ are currently taking place as we speak.
Let’s get to a couple of tidbits before the field of 33 takes the green at the Brickyard. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing pilot Charlie Kimball, who starts 19th on the inside of Row 7, has been cleared for today’s race after suffering through what he termed “a fierce [virus]” according to The Indianapolis Star. Kimball was a no-show at yesterday’s public driver’s meeting and IPL 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis, but told the Star that he’s feeling better and didn’t need to take any IV fluids before the race.
Also, 1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier and his Lazier Partners Racing team has officially dubbed their No. 91 Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet the “Spirit of Oklahoma” in honor of those impacted by last week’s devastating tornado that hit the town of Moore and took the lives of 24 people. The team is also hoping to draw awareness to the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in the Sooner State, to which fans can donate $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Lazier starts 32nd on the grid today.
Keep watching this space as we’ll be providing updates from IMS throughout the race and, of course, after it here on MotorSportsTalk.
Chasing Baja 1000 glory, via a McMillin Racing chase truck
Last month, I had the opportunity to take in my first SCORE Baja 1000, the 49th running of the off-road classic. Trying to chronicle the experience took a bit more time than just doing a day-of report.
In part one of my reflection, I looked back at the event itself on the whole. In part two, I’ll reflect on my ride-along in a chase truck with McMillin Racing, one of the preeminent teams in Baja history. Sincere thanks go to to the team and to BFGoodrich Tires for making this all possible.
And now, without further adieu, part two…
Imagine for a moment you’re embedded with Team Penske at Indianapolis. Or Porsche at Le Mans. Or Hendrick Motorsports at Daytona.
Except you can’t really imagine it, because unless you’re either a wunderkind who is the best 20-something prospect out of university or a grizzled veteran with enough years experience to make it into arguably the crème de la crème of any of these teams, it’s probably not going to happen.
Such a tantalizing and unattainable prospect though is turned on its head when BFGoodrich Tires tells you, “you’re going to be embedded with McMillin Racing at the Baja 1000.”
This is the off-road equivalent of getting your masters’ degree at the legendary university that is Baja.
And when I heard I’d be embedded with these guys for this year’s race, my already stoked, piqued interest was taken to the next level.
BACKGROUND ON “BIG BLUE”
There is so much more to San Diego than its mere inclusion in Anchorman, with Ron Burgundy’s rather legendary/infamous description of the town far from giving the town justice.
While it’s an incredible city filled with great beaches, food and culture, it’s not particularly known for racing – at least circuit racing.
But this is the city where the McMillin family laid its roots and began its conquest. From when Macey “Corky” McMillin began to explore the local deserts near his home, they figured out very quickly this was a terrain to be conquered.
And when McMillin started a small construction company in San Diego, it wasn’t just a construction empire they built. It was also an off-road one.
This year marked BFG’s 40th year at Baja but for the McMillins, this year also held that same 40-year significance.
From the humble beginnings in 1976, for more than 30 years, McMillin and the desert have been synonymous with success. No, they weren’t the only team of dominance but they’re one of the legendary outfits.
As of 2014, the team had 667 total race entries with 303 races entered. In that span, there were 236 class podium victories, 100 race class victories, 45 overall race victories, and 40 team owned or prepped race vehicles.
The story began with an “old” hi-jumper class 9 1200cc VW Type 1 buggy in 1976; today, McMillin Racing is known for its Trophy Truck presence for third generation drivers Dan and Luke McMillin. It’s a custom tube frame truck from Racer Engineering, with a Kroyer Ford V8 engine under the hood. It exudes power and strength at every opportunity.
The unofficial “godfather,” as you were, is their father Mark McMillin, who was a standout driver and Baja winner in his own right and is now the team principal. In just a three-day period, I got to see firsthand the level of dedication to his team, his craft and his people. It was one of the most engaging experiences I’ve had in 11 years reporting and in 21 years in motorsports since I first became a fan.
Much more can be found about the team’s history in the “Big Blue” book, which does over 500 pages of storytelling. Without even really getting going, I’m already just at over 500 words here in building up the intro.
RACE DAY LAUNCH
So when you’re embedded with a race team at Baja, you become one of the crew. With a team of 53 people at this year’s Baja, I’m treated no differently than any of McMillin’s full-time crew, or its volunteers – this is to say that I’m already part of the family almost from the off.
I met the guys I’d be riding with on Thursday at contingency. The order was simple; get yourself to our hotel before 8 a.m. on Friday, race morning, and we’ll take it from here.
Race day dawns. It’s weird, first off, that you’re going to a hotel first and not to a track. Everyone loads up here and then heads out to our first checkpoint, which the trucks won’t be hitting for several hours.
“HURRY UP AND WAIT”
“Get where you need to go first, then dick around.”
This is the first lesson of race day at Baja. When you’re in a chase vehicle such as the Ford F-150 Raptor we were in, your goal is to get to your checkpoints before the truck arrives. If ever you are behind, this is bad.
I was in a truck with our driver, Shawn Huddleston, with support from Steve Schuler (co-driver, passenger’s seat) and Tom Calhoun riding with me in the backseat. In the truck, we have all sorts of supplies. It’s primarily parts for the trucks to ensure we’ve got whatever they might need out on the course, but it’s also parts for us, most notably lunchmeat and desserts.
“You’re going to be eating on the fly, and possibly doing other things on the fly, so get ready for that,” Shawn says.
The race doesn’t begin for the trucks until 10:30 a.m. local time, but the race morning preparation is already well underway hours before that.
Mark, who’d offered me a ride with the crew in a helicopter (I declined, because doing my first off-road race was enough before adding yet another variable), set off in the helicopter at 8:21 a.m. to get in position. The two chase trucks left the hotel at the same time.
More importantly, I devoured my first Clif bar.
The glamorous food you get in Mexico ends when the race starts. It’s a steady diet of ‘Merica from there.
We arrive at our first checkpoint at 9:30 a.m., slightly more than an hour after we left the hotel. In that time, we’d passed a military checkpoint, saw the bikes that were racing (they start earlier), while a car behind us honks its horn. Yes, because we were going to go ahead while the police – who were directly ahead of us – were holding us.
Once to “La Grulla,” the first checkpoint, the reality of how vastly different Baja is compared to any other race sets in.
You’re not watching a race. You’re watching men push carts trying to sell you various chotchkies or food while standing inches away from early 1990s Ford Pintos or equivalent cars. You’re watching to make sure none of your newly discovered friends are using the support truck as a temporary restroom. You’re talking politics.
At 11:30 a.m., we get our first radio call that Car 23 – Dan McMillin’s truck – was already at mile marker 20 at 11:02. Luke McMillin is in truck 83. We’re at mile marker 80 and change. So they’re on target to get here within an hour or so, likely a little longer. Things are going to plan.
Just under an hour later, our “pit” has grown as other support trucks keep parking on the side of the road. Pitting now is bad, because the race has only just begun. At this point, you’re just hoping the trucks blow past with no issues.
12:25 p.m. “Car 23, Mile 70. Everything OK.” These are the standard radio messages. If it’s anything different than this, you have a problem. If it’s the same, just with the mile marker updated, you’re good.
12:47 is when everything springs into action. Both the 23 and the 83 trucks fly by, the eighth and ninth trucks on the road, and mere seconds after they’re through the four of us scramble and jump back in the truck for our next chase to the next checkpoint.
Everything is good through checkpoint one. Of course, there’s still another 16 hours and change to go, but that’s irrelevant at this point.
THE CHASE BEGINS
At 1:06, we’ve long shifted from typical speed into “Chase Speed.” What this means is that we’re driving safely – but as quick as safely possible – through dirt roads, twisty uphill sections, some with barriers, some without, to get to the next checkpoint.
Laser focus is engaged by all four of us. The small talk stops.
This is what Baja means.
1:25 p.m. “Car 23, Mile 120. Everything OK.”
1:26 p.m. We’ve hit our first town of note, called San Vicente. The fish taco stands along the route are calling my name. Yet we cannot stop, no matter the lure of the pesca. The chase rolls on.
At 1:57, the team hits its first proverbial speed bump of the race. You’ll have issues in Baja – it’s just a question of what it is, and how or when it will hit. Luke’s truck, the No. 83, has had a flat tire and lost a brake caliper.
It’s important to note here Dan’s truck, the No. 23, runs on 39-inch BFGoodrich Tires, and have red-rimmed wheels. Luke’s are on 40s, and have blue-rimmed wheels. So we have to be extra careful to ensure the right size tire goes on the right truck.
By 2:06, the 23 was clicking along at Race Mile 160. The 83 had lost six minutes but completed a successful change of the tire and wheel.
Just over an hour later, the first official pit stop beckoned. This required us to veer off the highway onto the dirt area where the pits are set up, and where we saw the rabid Baja fans in person. The noise of the fans screaming is as loud, if not louder, than the trucks. Both the 83 and 23 trucks came through.
This offered the rare opportunity to scramble into the cooler in the back of the truck, then grab the lunchmeat, mayo, waters and soda. We had to complete this task in under a minute, because the race wasn’t stopping for us to do our best Dale Jr. mayo-and-banana sandwich imitations.
At 3:26, we witnessed the first instance where our chase would put us directly behind the No. 23 truck on the highway itself, thus watching its progress and reporting back to the co-drive inside the truck. Everything was OK.
THE RUN FROM DUSK TO DARKNESS
As the sun started to set, my note detail started to set along with them.
4:10. 83. 260. OK. 23. 280. OK.
Why write more if you don’t need to?
That brevity was briefly interrupted by my own stupidity.
When we’d made a stop along the road, I got back in the truck only to feel that my foot had an inadvertent sharp “resting pad” underneath it.
The note here reads: 4:31: Discover you stepped on a cactus.
Now the concern isn’t just whether we’ll get to our next checkpoint before sunset. It’s whether I’ll have the opportunity to take the damn thing out of my shoe in time.
Many things are changing at this point, as the race had been going about six hours or so. The temperature is dropping along with the sunset; it had been in the mid-to-high 70s ambient but was now 65. The specter of reliability issues and with most of the race run in darkness began to rear their ugly head. At least if you go out early in an endurance race, you don’t have the heartache that exists the longer it goes.
At 4:56, we’d stopped to ensure our trucks were going strong as the night was about to be long, at the southernmost tip of our journey. I used a rock to remove the cactus and by 5:00, we were set to turn around and head back north for the chase.
THE DARK RETURN HOME
Maintaining focus and composure as the night falls is extra important. We refuel as a team at 6:04 at a Pemex for gas, food and more, and are back on the road shortly thereafter. At 6:21, the 83 was at Race Mile 350, with the 23 at 380. Almost halfway in this 854-mile marathon.
Why is focus so hard to maintain? When at 6:51, your note reads of a Seinfeld distraction: “The Big Salad” spotted in San Quentin.
At 7:16, it becomes apparent that Dan’s truck, the 23, is actually in with a shout at winning this thing. “23 P4. +11 (minutes) to leader. 415.”
Billy Joel’s line from “Summer, Highland Falls” on Turnstiles enters my head a few minutes later.
“It’s either sadness or euphoria.”
The high of the 23’s potential win hopes start to erode at 7:36. The report is that the truck’s water temperature is running warm at over 250 degrees. The concern is there’s a voltage issue or a serpentine belt stalling out.
This is the mystery of Baja. Because you have no way of seeing what’s happening to the truck, you’re left to know only via radio – which you may or may not have considering you’re out in the middle of freaking nowhere and it’s pitch black out – you have to rely on whatever little information you get to ensure the truck is running well.
A mix of brief relief and new concern comes on the next transmission. “23 voltage good. We’re at 420 Race Mile. Transmission temp at 153. Possible cooling issue.”
But the 23 presses on. By 7:45, the gap is closed to just 7 minutes to the leader at Race Mile 438. The temps are a little better, but there’s a report that dirt might be creeping in. The radiator will need to be checked at the next stop.
THE LONG STOP OF DOOM FOR THE 23
At 8:44, the dream for Dan’s No. 23 team at this year’s Baja ends.
A theoretical normal stop is taking much longer, and the water pump is leaking. Meanwhile, the McMillin team has to ensure enough space is cleared for when Luke’s No. 83 truck pits not much longer afterwards.
We watch the truck numbers 3, 91, 11 and 200 go past. No. 11, Rob MacCachren’s truck, is the ultimate race winner. Even though they’re flying, the passes happen in slow motion.
At 9:03, Dan climbs out of the No. 23. The truck is taking in too much water. The hood has climbed back off.
Mark, who’s long since landed in the helicopter a few hours earlier, calls us to check the status.
It’s game over at 9:11. The note in the notebook? 23 – SHE DONE. Ouch.
BAJA GIVETH, BAJA TAKETH AWAY
At this point, we make a crew switch in the chase truck. Tom Calhoun is moved over to the transporter that’s set up where the No. 23 truck is parked, while Cameron Parrish, a likable, humorous and tall individual who’s the co-driver of that truck, will now chase with us for the remaining No. 83 truck.
Cameron is known as an eating machine around these parts, and Shawn advises me to tell him we don’t have much food left in the truck for that reason.
At 9:24, Luke’s No. 83 truck arrives in the pits. Three other trucks – the Nos. 6, 15 and 31 trucks – pass on the road. All hands are now on deck for the No. 83.
Cameron’s a mix of winded, exasperated and devastated all at once when he steps into our chase truck.
“Baja… she’s so cruel, but you just can’t quit,” he sighs, at a higher than normal octave level for a sighing remark.
EXHAUSTION TAKES OVER
Cameron makes a phone call, looks at his GPS coordinates, then passes out in the backseat.
I’m told going into the race that if you need to rest, rest, in the backseat of the truck. Having covered both Daytona and Le Mans’ respective 24-hour races, rest is part of the program there. But I was determined to make it all the way at Baja and I…
The next note in my notebook I think read, midnight: back in Ensenada, headed to Highway 3. Then ZZZ.
At this point we had to head East from the starting and ending point in Ensenada, where the course continues.
I wasn’t sure whether it was 1, 2 or 3 a.m. from there, depending on what state I was in.
Anyway, 3 a.m.: 83. 755 miles. 3:01: 83. 770. OK.
3:40: A Jar Jar Binks voice comes out. Why remains a mystery. It’s 36 degrees and freezing.
In no other race can you manage to weave in cactus, Seinfeld and Jar Jar Binks.
THE FINAL RUN TO THE LINE
The radio call comes at 4:51 a.m. “Car 83 is at the finish line.”
We didn’t know if we were sixth or seventh, but we did know we’d made it.
Cameron, much like Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, reflects a bit on his life at this moment of glory.
“There’s another two weeks of my life, gone,” says Cameron.
“And that’s with another two weeks of pre-running and prep. So that’s three or four weeks a year for maybe 15 years.”
“That’s a year of my life I’ve spent chasing this damn race.”
I ask in my somewhat awake, mostly asleep stupor whether he’d had enough of it.
“This race, you never get enough,” he replies. In that moment, Cameron Parrish is my Baja spirit animal.
Additionally, Shawn and Steve deserve thorough shoutouts at this point. Shawn he drove all 19 hours himself with no relief drivers. Steve stayed awake all 19 hours to navigate and communicate on the radio.
THE GLORY OF FINISHING
Finishing the Baja 1000 isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
Because there’s more than 260 entries into the race, roughly half finish. And if you’re not in contention for the overall win, finishing is the singular goal.
After attempting to sleep, I stumbled back down to the finish line around 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Seeing more vehicles roll in, including a couple of the Baja Challenge entries, was the pinnacle of seeing Baja at its zenith.
A chat with stunt man, tire genius and wheelman Andrew Comrie-Picard, better known as “ACP” in BFG circles, revealed the raw emotion of what finishing this race means.
His team of drivers had all got sick at some point, and their bodies were turned upside down, inside out and sideways over the near entirety of the treacherous off-road terrain.
Yet seeing his colleagues with him up there on that stage, all having given their all for each other and in the pursuit of finishing, spoke volumes of their dedication and their desire to bring it home.
His team was but one example of what it means to finish at Baja… there are many different examples.
The glory and pursuit of Baja is what keeps you coming back, or piques your interest for more.
Watching a team as prepared as McMillin undertake it gives you a sense of the operation it takes to win. Yet watching the smaller outfits finish and cross the line hours later is part of the soul of the event.
Baja will thrill you, inspire you, cut you and break you all at once.
All the while, it’s daring you to get more notebooks for the next time you head back down.
If you’ve made it to the top level of open-wheel racing – Formula 1 overall and worldwide or the Verizon IndyCar Series in the United States – you’ll have done something right from a preparation, persistence and performance process to get there.
However, navigating your way to the top weeds out a ridiculously high percentage of drivers, who don’t make it for either the lack of opportunity, timing, results or budget – or some combination thereof.
One of the ways Honda Racing/HPD is working to develop young drivers is via a new five-part video series that will launch at the start of next year, created in partnership with the Derek Daly Academy.
Daly, who raced in both F1 and IndyCar before becoming a broadcaster in both championships, and himself having helped guide a number of young driver careers, is seeking to reduce the confusion and provide more clarity for how young drivers can make it to the top in what’s a complex labyrinth of an industry to attempt to navigate.
“We’d had the academy in Las Vegas, with when it was still Barry Green and Team KOOL Green in the 1990s, and we’d put 44 young drivers through the program in two years,” Daly told NBC Sports.
“All of them are different people with different styles. Then I had it myself, with my son Conor starting to come through the ranks, and I had parents ask me, ‘How do you do it?’
“I realized very early on we have a very unstructured sport. Stick-and-ball sports feature talented athletes, scouted from the early days in high schools, then into college, and then they get drafted into the pros. It has all the finances and coaching right there, and it’s a completely structured sport. We don’t have that.”
Daly explained that making it to the next step of competition beyond a driver development program or ladder series requires foresight and the five-year model, which is where the video series and the “X Factor” comes into play.
The “X Factor” targets grassroots racing in particular, aiming for young drivers to build their resumes and their accolades early on so they’re a well-rounded driver after five years.
The breakdown is talent and matrix for year one, technical and funding in year two, communication and branding in year three, marketing and mental growth in year four, and finally sponsorship and physical strength in year five (see visual of it below).
“You have to figure out early on to ask the question of how you’re going to raise the money,” Daly explains. “Figuring out the structure of approaching people to convince them to support your racing program early on is key. You need to have the driver skills, but you also need the support skills; that’s how the whole ‘X Factor’ came about, before they converge down the road. It took on its own natural growth.”
One of the areas I wondered about – and I’m sure others do as well – is whether “branding” has taken precedence over performance for younger drivers trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Not so, Daly says, because in his view it’s highly challenging to become a “brand” without having the results on track first.
“To me, branding… is part of the peripheral. It’s still talent and winning races that drives everything,” Daly explained. “That’s why my concentration is more on becoming the fastest possible driver. That drives everything.
“You have to get yourself started. Your on-track success drives your off-track success. In that order! Most think it’s off-track driving the on-track. But without the on-track, you can’t drive your off-track, because you haven’t got any results. Most people mix that up.”
The video series is targeted to hit the natural progression of growth over five years.
Concentrating on hitting the ground in the first year then shifts to a greater technical understanding of the car and focusing on raising money from friends and family. By year three, with the building blocks from the previous two years, interacting with engineers becomes the start.
Daly would like to see new parents understand the racing business and environment better, for them to appreciate the experience as much as their kids can.
“It’s a huge guessing game, because it’s so unstructured,” Daly said. “But Honda have become more and more invested and more interested in, ‘How do we give grassroots families a realistic chance to get their highest return on investment.’ Let’s face it: families are the first investors in these careers. The hope is whatever you invest, there’s good value in it.
“So the goal for us is, ‘How do we lay a platform for a family to understand the basic high performance principles?’
“The X Factor got developed into something real, and with the video series, they can sit here and say look, here’s the steps it takes.”
A pre-release of the video screening is part of Daly’s annual “What If It’s You?” seminar, which will be Saturday, December 10, at 8 a.m. in Room 244 of the Indiana Convention Center. The seminar is free of charge and requires neither a show credential nor pre-registration. This year’s seminar focuses on budget raising.
PRI almost here…Seminar Focus is How to Raise the funding for racing-and introduction of new Honda Grassroots Video series pic.twitter.com/VkxmYsomSj
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has announced a marketing and digital partnership with CoForce for 2017. The SPM team looks to enhance its digital media and marketing platforms and has brought on the newish company to do so, founded by Anders Krohn and Jonny Baker. CoForce has made a name for itself in the industry at a quick rate with a mix of driver, team and manufacturer clients across several series this year.
“We look forward to partnering with the young, energetic and creative team at CoForce,” Sam Schmidt, team owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports said in a release. “I have worked with Anders (Krohn) in the past and have been impressed with his integrity, work ethic and ability to think outside the box. How our fans and partners view content and value ROI is changing rapidly. CoForce will assist SPM in meeting those demands in an innovative and technologically advanced manner.”
“Working with Sam and the entire SPM organization is the culmination of many years of building a great relationship,” added Krohn, co-owner of CoForce. “Personally I owe a lot to Sam as he gave me my first Indy Lights test in 2008. From a business perspective, SPM has done a great job placing itself in a unique spot within the tech industry and we can’t wait to build upon that in 2017 and beyond.”
Oriol Servia will race Indy 500 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (AP) Oriol Servia will race in Indianapolis 500 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with the possibility of adding more races during the 2017 season.
The 2017 Indy 500 will be Servia’s ninth in the showcase race and fourth with RLL (2009, 2014, 2015). His best finish overall was fourth in 2012 with Dreyer & Reinbold and his best start was third in 2011 with Newman/Haas Racing.
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal praised Servia’s experience as well as his ability to be part of “a one-car team fighting the multi-car teams.”
The Spaniard has made 195 starts in CART, Champ Car and the IndyCar Series since his rookie season in 2000. His Indy car highlights include one win (Montreal 2005) and one pole (Australia 2005) as well as 101 top-10 finishes.