Federated Auto Parts 400

Hendrick teammates, fans, rally to Jeff Gordon’s defense


With Ryan Newman getting promoted into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup as a result of penalties issued to Michael Waltrip Racing, the one driver who has gotten the short end of the stick is four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon missed out on the 10th place position in the pre-reset points standings by exactly one point to Joey Logano. Radio chatter involving Logano’s car passing another, the Front Row Motorsports Ford driven by David Gilliland, was a subject of debate on Wednesday as to whether a deal had emerged to allow Logano enough points to make the Chase.

As it is, an online petition at Change.org has emerged to see if Gordon could make the Chase and Logano, and for that matter Clint Bowyer, be bumped out. Its official title is “NASCAR: Disqualify Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano from the Chase and add Jeff Gordon.”

One key phrase from the plea reads, “While the fans appreciate the fact that NASCAR did something positive and penalized Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole, NASCAR has not done nearly enough. Jeff Gordon was affected equally by the cheating of MWR and Penske Racing, and he deserves to take a spot in the Chase over Bowyer and Logano. There is no place for cheaters in the Chase or NASCAR. Period.” More information is here.

Additionally, and unsurprisingly, Gordon’s three Hendrick Motorsports teammates who did make the Chase – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – all took time at Thursday’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup media advance at Chicago’s Navy Pier to assess the recent controversies and come to Gordon’s defense.

“We need to make some changes and look at all options,” Johnson said. “The technology is out there but we do not have it in hand. Let’s figure out a way to police stuff live-time. It’s no fun when you’re waiting for a decision on a Monday or Tuesday because the racing’s what should dictate the finishing order. Jeff Gordon’s a perfect example of that. It put its right for Ryan Newman, but not Jeff. I wish we could let racing play out in the future.

“Right now, if you’re bold enough to make the direct admission, you’ll pay the price. The vagueness of things is what allows wiggle room,” he added.

Kahne didn’t dismiss the possibility of there being another caution within the last 10 laps that wasn’t orchestrated by Waltrip’s team, but still felt Gordon was unjustly affected.

“I think Jeff really took a hit on it,” Kahne said. “More than likely there wouldn’t have been a caution, but there could have been another one if MWR hadn’t have done everything they did. I think Jeff’s the only guy that got messed with on the whole thing. He did get kind of screwed over.”

Earnhardt Jr. took a philosophical approach, noting that the impact of Truex being kicked out will have lingering after effects.

“NASCAR needed to deter this type of activity and that was a good move for the sport. It sent shockwaves through the sport,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Once you get a little further past this, you’ll see how big a deal that was for Truex to be moved out, and the impact for him, his team and his sponsors, that’ll be profound.”

IndyCar CEO: No safety changes for 2016 car, despite Wilson death

indycar ceo mark miles
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An investigation into the August accident that killed driver Justin Wilson has resulted in no recommendations for immediate safety changes in race cars, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said.

But changes could be in line by 2017, including some sort of canopy or enclosed cockpit or surrounding apron to protect drivers, Miles told USA Today.

The 37-year-old Wilson was struck in the head from a piece of debris that flew off Sage Karam’s wrecked car during a race at Pocono Raceway. Wilson died the following day in a Pennsylvania hospital.

“What the report provides is a lot of technical data about the energy involved and the forces and exactly what happened and all of that,” Miles told USA Today. “I don’t think there were any revelations. I think for everybody, with or without the report, all of us hope to be able to make progress in finding ways to make the cockpit safer and to reduce the risks.

“So for example, there may be some short-term measures like tethering some parts that weren’t this year, but could be. That’s a work in progress. But I don’t want to give the sense that was because of anything revealed in the accident investigation. What you think happened, happened there.”

One area that has received considerable discussion is the potential for enclosed cockpits or canopies in Indy cars. But the development of such a device will take time, prompting Miles to predict that if canopies or capsules are ultimately added as a safety precaution, it likely would not occur until at least the 2017 season.

“You’re not going to see a change to the car for next year in this regard just because I don’t think it’s possible,” Miles said. “… These are technical challenges and it’s hard to imagine that anything transformative will happen this year. At this point, I wouldn’t rule out 2017, but the research has to be done, the development has to be done to answer the questions as to what can be done by when.”

Addressing specifically the investigation of Wilson’s accident, Miles said, “It reinforces the risks, I think, of the open cockpit and further energizes efforts in motorsport to try to reduce those risks.”

But devising a cockpit or canopy – if either is adopted – will take considerable development and testing time. Miles said he’s had lengthy discussions with officials from groups such as NASA and the aerospace industry that provide cockpits for entities such as jet fighters.

He added that Formula 1 officials have also been studying enclosed cockpits for quite some time, particularly things such as ingress/egress from within the cockpit, as well as heat buildup inside.

“Obviously, the foundational point is whether there’s a solution which protects the driver and there may be no solution which provides complete protection if you get into a situation like in Las Vegas (where driver Dan Wheldon died as a result of head injuries when he stuck a catch fence support),” Miles said. “But it’s how much more safe can you make it while proving for not having unintended consequences.”

Miles said that in addition to canopies and enclosed cockpits, IndyCar is also looking at other variations and the potential risk vs. rewards of those as well.

“This is not necessarily about a completely closed cockpit,” Miles said. “It could be more of an apron. If something hits that … it’s possible (the object) could be propelled higher and further and an unintended consequence could be the risk of something going into the crowd.

“It doesn’t necessarily knock it down and put it on the track if something was coming at a car like that, especially something like a tire that has energy in it.

“What is clear to me is we’ve got an outside perspective as do our safety people, on the long list of things you have to address. … Hopefully something meaningful can happen.”

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.