Milwaukee IndyFest - Day 1

Mazda Road to Indy midseason review

Leave a comment

The IZOD IndyCar Series is past its official halfway point (13 of 19 races, 11 of 16 weekends now complete). The three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder though, are about at the halfway mark. Here’s a quick recap of their seasons thus far:

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS SERIES

To its credit, the actual competition level in Firestone Indy Lights hasn’t been bad in 2013. Through eight races, no one driver is dominating. Carlos Munoz (three), Sage Karam, Jack Hawksworth (two) and Peter Dempsey (one) have all visited victory lane in 2013. Dempsey’s pass to go four-wide to win at Indianapolis is in contention for the best racing finish of 2013. Points-wise, Munoz leads Karam 317-309 with Gabby Chaves (281) and Hawksworth (274) still in with a remote chance at the title.

But unfortunately for Indy Lights, the highlights have been all too rare and the focus more on the promotion and level of content – or lack thereof – within the championship. Only at Long Beach (10) and Indianapolis (11) have there been double-digit entries. A new car slated for 2014 was delayed. And just this weekend in Toronto, it was announced Dan Andersen, who’s needed to perform similar miracles to keep USF2000 and Pro Mazda afloat, will need to do likewise to turn Lights around.

Andretti Autosport’s Munoz already has starred in his two IndyCar starts this year and would be a natural to advance, even if he doesn’t win the title. But the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports trio behind him will push him as best they can the remaining four races. Meanwhile off-track, Andersen and staff will have to spend the rest of 2013 formulating a plan to get Lights back to the level it needs to be at as IndyCar’s top level on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

PRO MAZDA

Two words best sum up the year in Pro Mazda: Matty Brabham (pictured). The son of ex-IndyCar and sports car star Geoff has cut through the Pro Mazda Championship in 2013 like a knife through butter. He didn’t win his debut race at Circuit of the Americas, but he’s won the next seven in a row after that for Andretti Autosport.

He can tie the record for most wins in a season, set last year by Jack Hawksworth, if he wins his eighth this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Mosport. There’s still eight races to go.

Diego Ferreira is in a class of his own for second, while Shelby Blackstock, Spencer Pigot, Scott Anderson and Kyle Kaiser are all locked in a battle for third the rest of 2013.

USF2000

Much like a year ago, a pair of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates is dominating the USF2000 National Championship and a midseason surge by a Belardi Auto Racing driver threatens to interrupt their title bout with seven races complete, and seven to go.

Last year the Cape twins battling were Brabham and Pigot, who have moved up a rung. This year it’s Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico – who combined won the first six races for Cape. Alberico, though, lost 94 points to Hargrove in the first two weekends of the season but has since clawed back the gap to just 56 (173-117).

Sandwiched in the middle is Danilo Estrela, the Belardi rookie compared to the Cape sophomores. Estrela took his first win at Toronto this weekend and is second in points with 136. Last year it was Anderson interrupting the Cape win streak for Belardi.

Florian Latorre, Garrett Grist, Wyatt Gooden, and Jesse Lazarre have also starred at times this year. Poor luck has sabotaged the efforts of Edmonton’s Stefan Rzadzinski, while others such as Peter Portante, Jason Wolfe and Felipe Donato have shown flashes of potential.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

L to R: Grace Autosports Team Principal Beth Paretta and race driver Katherine Legge launch an all-female Indy 500 team to contest the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)
Photo: Grace Autosport
Leave a comment

One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

Jake Eidson steps up to Pro Mazda with Cape in 2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Jake Eidson came up short of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship last year, losing out to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Nico Jamin.

Now, at the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, they’ll be teammates.

Jamin was confirmed last week with Cape for his step up from USF2000 into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and this morning Eidson, the 20-year-old out of Littleton, Colorado, was confirmed as Cape’s second driver.

“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson offered.

“After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable.

“I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen. This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started!”

It’s a natural progression for Eidson, who ran two full seasons in USF2000. His first came with Cape in 2014 where he finished third in points, before he moved to Pabst Racing and was one of only two drivers (Aaron Telitz) to pose a threat to Jamin as the year progressed.

Eidson is supported in his efforts by Rising Star Racing, DA Lubricants Company, Bell Helmets, OMP, Team USA Scholarship, and SafeisFast.

The top three USF2000 drivers all moving up to Pro Mazda is important for the second rung on the ladder; they’ll race arguably the championship favorite in Garett Grist plus his three young, hungry teammates at Juncos Racing, with other driver announcements to come in the coming days.

Red Bull GRC confirms Wild Horse Pass for season opener

GRCLogo
Red Bull GRC logo
Leave a comment

Phoenix was listed as the season opener for the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, but a location was not confirmed.

Today though, the series has confirmed where the Phoenix round will be held: at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway.

It’s in Chandler, Arizona, technically, but it should still be a good spot for the season-opening doubleheader round.

The full release is below:

For the first time in series history, Red Bull Global Rallycross will visit the state of Arizona during the 2016 season. Red Bull GRC Phoenix, the season opener and first of four doubleheaders on the schedule, will take place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, one of the most diverse motorsports playgrounds in the United States.

“The southwest is a crucial market for Red Bull GRC, with many of our most passionate fans located in the region,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The opportunity to bring our unique brand of racing to the Phoenix market for the first time was something we couldn’t pass up. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the perfect setting for us as we look to open our finest season yet.”

Located just off of I-10, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is located only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, with ample parking and amenities on-site. Fans will be treated to a challenging and fast mile-long track, featuring the series’ signature 70-foot jump, and will be able to see all the action from great spectator areas overlooking the entire facility.

This will be the first time that a Red Bull GRC season begins with a doubleheader. Performing well in the opener has been a constant step towards winning a title, as no Red Bull GRC champion has ever finished worse than fourth in the first race of the year. Defending Supercar champion Scott Speed and defending GRC Lites champion Oliver Eriksson finished second and third in class, respectively, in last year’s opener; both drivers are expected to begin their title defense in Phoenix.

In no great surprise, McLaren also passes crash tests

xxxx during day four of Formula One Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 22, 2015 in Montmelo, Spain.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The new McLaren chassis, the MP4-31, has passed its crash tests ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season, the team has confirmed today.

This means all 11 teams have had their new chassis complete the crash test and thus be ready for action starting with the first test of the winter February 22-25 at Barcelona, in Spain. Sauber has already indicated it will debut its new chassis at the second test.

McLaren, of course, will be looking for a better start to its season with race drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button and reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne. Alonso’s mysterious accident last spring at Barcelona ruled him out of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.