Allmendinger officially adds his name to the Penske file

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AJ Allmendinger’s month of June – like his last year – has been a roller coaster ride.

But if at the start of the month it seemed out of control with double first lap retirements in an IndyCar at Detroit, on Saturday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Allmendinger firmly reined in the train.

The most important of Allmendinger’s NASCAR Nationwide Series win? He’s finally put himself on a poster in the legendary halls of the Penske Racing facility, and repaid Roger Penske’s trust and belief in his ability.

“What Roger’s done for me, personally, it has meant a lot more,” Allmendinger said after the race. “After everything happened last year, he was making sure I was OK. He’s got so much going on. He kept checking up on me. I didn’t expect anything from it. It was nice to have a friend, someone to bounce ideas off of. Once the IndyCar thing for Indy got going, it was a surprise. But it was a bit of motivation to be focused.”

Allmendinger would not be denied Saturday. He had the pace all weekend but had to withstand pressure on several late-race restarts.

“The restarts started to frustrate me, but Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief) was good at calming me down,” he said.

“My confidence came from beating some guys in golf,” he deadpanned.

In that golf outing, Allmendinger didn’t hit any balls into the ocean. But his win is truly Penske material.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.