Day: September 3, 2013

Grand Prix Of Baltimore - Day 2

Saavedra’s best result, Kimball’s escape road skills also occur in Baltimore


IndyCar’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT had an odd top five, with winner Simon Pagenaud, second-placed Josef Newgarden, third-placed Sebastien Bourdais, fourth-placed Justin Wilson and fifth-placed Simona de Silvestro.

Behind them, the rest of the top 10 had eventful days as well and ended in better positions than they probably anticipated.

Chief among them were Sebastian Saavedra in eighth place, and Charlie Kimball in sixth.

Saavedra needed to unlap himself on track – and was able to do so on then-leader Marco Andretti – to secure a result in the No. 6 TRUECar Dragon Racing Chevrolet. His eighth-place result was his best of his IZOD IndyCar Series career, bettering the 10th at Detroit race 2 earlier this year.

The result marks the first time two Dragon Racing entries have both finished in the top 10 in the same race.

Kimball, meanwhile, earned his eighth top-10 result of the season in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after performing some excellent maneuvers to avoid three different instances of contact ahead of him.

Kimball took to the escape road at Turn 1 when the corner was blocked on Lap 48, did so again after reversing out of the blockage at Turn 1 on another restart on Lap 57, and finally needed to reverse and go out of Turn 3 on the final full course caution on Lap 63. He stays 10th in points with the result.

The others in the rest of the top 10: James Hinchcliffe somehow ended seventh, with points leaders Helio Castroneves ninth and Marco Andretti 10th despite a broken front wing.

Stewart: No deception for Newman; Smoke, Harvick, Busch will grow

NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas, shown at right with team driver Kurt Busch, may learn as early as today whether his bid for a Formula One license has been approved.

Tony Stewart took some of the time during his Tuesday press conference to eliminate the suggestion he had inadvertently “screwed” Ryan Newman as the Stewart-Haas Racing team prepares to add a fourth car for Kurt Busch in 2014.

The timing of when the fourth car came together, led by Stewart’s partner Gene Haas, was what led to the Busch signing.

“When we had the press conference at Loudon, where we were at is what we said,” Stewart explained. “I was disappointed to hear Kyle Petty say we deceived Ryan – that was the word – that we deceived him. He (Haas) addressed this last week at a Chevy dinner in Indy. That’s when it started.

“As it progressed, Gene’s not used to having partners. He’s a big success in the CNC industry as a one-man show. Going through the process, he didn’t think until talking to me about it as it progressed. Granted I was in the hospital, so that’s why he didn’t talk sooner.

“My only concern was the sponsorship about it and building a team in that time frame. We know Kurt can go out, be fast, and possibly win the race every week. But I had no idea he had this in mind for 2014 until three Mondays ago.

“As far as how it would look, to Ryan, I think Gene addressed it, he came up with it and made the decision to make a change. We’re partners in this, Gene wanted the change and I wanted to go with it. I was really 100 percent behind it, but concerned about the time frame. There was never one argument between us. I just expressed my concern about the timing.”

Stewart then unintentionally spilled the beans about another part of the SHR program coming together for 2014, Rodney Childers joining as Kevin Harvick’s crew chief for the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet.

“Well, we’ve got a crew chief. I think he will dictate the crewmembers. I think Zippy’s in tune with the details of accommodating the fourth team. But that’s more a question for Zippy in terms of what will it take to do it. He can’t wait for me to get healed up to beat the crap out of me for putting him in this position.”

Stewart says he, Harvick and Busch are all in the “growing up process.”

“It’s been inevitable that all three of us are going to start growing up,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure all three have completed the process yet. But we’ve made huge gains in that area. For Kurt it’s a new organization. Kevin and I have raced with each other. Kurt and I haven’t had chance to work together. But now we’ll have him and Kevin as a support system. That’s something that’ll help them come into the organization.”

It will be interesting to see how they all gel as a group, as three alpha males with Danica Patrick as the fourth member of the team.

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Stewart on sprint cars: He’ll cut back, but race again

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Tony Stewart said Tuesday he will race a sprint car again, but won’t attempt a similar number of races in 2014 as he planned this year.

“This year was the most aggressive schedule we planned. I wouldn’t plan on 70 races again next year. I was too aggressive on number of dates,” he said. “I’ll get back in one eventually, no time frame, but I will cut back the amount of races out of scheduling purposes more than anything. I was starting to feel tired. The Truck race (at Eldora) was a lot of stress. I’m definitely going to cut back quite a bit.”

Stewart said several safety measures are in the process of being developed around the country to enhance sprint car safety.

“Safety fixes started before my accident,” he said. “Jerry Russell of Eagle chassis has a torque tube tunnel being developed. Butler Built here in Charlotte is working on a tether system. Jimmy Carr, my crew chief, has been working on a torque tube plus tethers. It’s a movement similar to when Dale Sr. crashed and it sparked safety improvements. How can we make things better?

“There’s gonna be something,” he added, then admonishing some reporters. “Sprint car racing has had a dark cloud over it. Reading some of the articles from writers who don’t know anything about it has devastated the sprint car community. Manufacturers have got involved here. It’s not nearly as dangerous as everything thinks it is. There’s no formal group like NASCAR, but it’s independents coming together.”

Despite rumors or stories to the contrary, Stewart’s sponsors have supported him throughout the process since his accident.

“My sponsors have been amazing through this,” he said. “They want to me to be healthy. The sprint car topic has been sensitive, but they have all been supportive of me living my life.”

Briscoe, Panther to join Indy road course test session

Honda Indy Toronto - Day 1
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Ryan Briscoe and Panther Racing will be joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal for tomorrow’s IndyCar test session on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The session will see both Briscoe and Rahal testing various configurations of the 2.6-mile layout, as IMS and INDYCAR officials are seeking feedback that could lead to future modifications to the circuit.

There has been much speculation about a possible IndyCar road race at IMS in 2014 that could “kick off” preparations for the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Indy’s legendary oval. However, nothing has been made official on that front just yet.

“I thought Sonoma would be the last time I would be driving an IndyCar for some time, so to get the invite to be part of this test is really cool,” Briscoe said in a statement from Panther.

“It’s always special to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – whether it’s on the oval or any other course. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Briscoe has ran six IndyCar races for Panther this year, but his full-time commitments in the American Le Mans Series kept him out of last Sunday’s race on the streets of Baltimore (he did compete in the ALMS’ own weekend there).

Those duties will also keep him out of the remaining IndyCar events in 2013 (Houston, Oct. 5-6; Fontana, California, Oct. 19). Oriol Servia is finishing the season in Panther’s No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet.

For those that will be in Indianapolis tomorrow and wish to see the test at the Speedway, they are welcome to watch from the South Terrace Grandstands and the viewing mounds in Turn 2.

Tony Stewart speaks for first time since getting injured

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For the first time since his sprint car accident that injured his right leg, Tony Stewart has broken his silence.

Oprah, having “at least one hot nurse,” weight loss, the media, sprint car safety, Kurt Busch’s new fourth team and his own recovery were all topics of conversation.

“Oddly enough I miss you guys, which tells me I’m not feeling good,” Stewart told reporters at the Stewart-Haas Racing shop in Kannapolis, N.C. to open the press conference.

Since his accident in Iowa several weeks ago, Stewart has been largely bed-ridden, watching in his words, “Oprah and way too much other TV” and beginning the recovery process after his pair of surgeries.

The first bit of news: Stewart hopes to be back in a race car by early February, ahead of the 2014 Daytona 500, but ideally after testing.

“Early February. That’s what they’re looking at,” Stewart said. “It’s something that’s part of this process. We do not want to do something too early. Have to try to guard against setbacks. It’s going according to schedule.

Asked later whether interim driver Mark Martin could stay on to test if Stewart isn’t ready in January, Stewart replied: “I’m all for Mark doing all the testing he wants to do! It’s like watching paint dry. If that scenario happens I hope he’d be willing to do that. You couldn’t ask for someone better. He’d pay more attention than I would.”

Stewart said almost from the off that you can’t be afraid to miss out on other opportunities; in his case, the sprint car racing he so loves to do on weekends he’s not at a NASCAR track.

“Bobby Labonte was riding his bike and missed a race. It’s just life, guys. People miss a race. You’ve gotta live life. You can’t spend your whole life guarding against something that could happen. We’re all here a short amount of time in the big picture. We don’t want to guard against this, or that. If I didn’t wear a helmet or seatbelts, then that would be dangerous.”

The biggest news from a team standpoint since Stewart’s injuries, other than his injury replacements (Max Papis, Austin Dillon and Mark Martin), has been the addition of Kurt Busch in a fourth Stewart-Haas entry for 2014.

Stewart scoffed at the suggestion that he or the team “deceived” Ryan Newman – as had been suggested by former driver Kyle Petty – and said his only concern throughout the process was the time needed to put together the crew and equipment needed for a fourth car.

“It wasn’t as dramatic as (Gene) made it sound,” Stewart said. “When Gene came to me about the fourth team, he told me on a Monday, then Thursday they had a contract ready. The biggest thing was Greg Zipadelli saying we could do this and getting it done in a time frame. To find someone like Kurt and make it happen has really been encouraging to me as his partner. It was just me getting caught up. I wanted to make sure we had the time. We have a lot to get done in a short amount of time. It may not be fun and may not be easy. That was what made me give 100 percent blessing. We never argued about it.”

One other thing Stewart let slip in the press conference was the unintentional confirmation of Rodney Childers as Kevin Harvick’s crew chief for 2014. Harvick joins Stewart-Haas as Newman’s replacement in the renumbered No. 4 Chevrolet.

“Welcome to, ‘Tony doesn’t remember protocol’” Stewart joked to the team’s PR manager.

Besides addressing the on-track items and his injury recovery process, Stewart was back to cracking jokes as the press conference continued. The following was his response when asked the one thing he missed at the tracks.

“The hot girls, no doubt,” he said. “When you’re laying in bed, there’s not much traffic. You know I thought that with three Cup championships, an IndyCar championship, a USAC Triple Crown, that I could surely get one hot nurse, and instead I got Eddie Jarvis to take care of me.”

There were other sidebars to the press conference – more on the fourth team, and more on sprint car safety – that Stewart addressed. We’ll hit those in separate posts.