Evernham mixed on NASCAR’s efforts to help Gen-6 race better

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When it comes to NASCAR’s attempts to improve the racing on its intermediate ovals with the new Gen-6 car, three-time Sprint Cup champion crew chief Ray Evernham sees some things that he likes. He also sees some things that he doesn’t like.

Evernham, who now works as a NASCAR television analyst, called into Performance Racing Network’s “Fast Talk” earlier this week, where he gave his thoughts on the matter to host Doug Rice and former Cup driver Kyle Petty.

On the positive side of things, Evernham liked the fact that the sanctioning body is experimenting with not having a minimum ride height requirement in place on the cars – which he believes would allow more tailoring to a driver’s specific style.

“I’ve never agreed with having to hold all those heights the same because then, you’re limited to the springs, shocks, and bump stops, and not everybody likes to drive a car the same way,” he explained.

“These cars are so [aerodynamically] dependent right now that how it gets to that perfect height has really got a lot to do with driver feel, that transitional handling.”

But he also cautioned NASCAR not to add more aerodynamic pieces to the Gen-6 such as bigger spoilers.

“I really feel that we need to be going the other way,” he said. “The drivers will yell and scream and I’ve already made ’em mad at me when I’ve said that, but they need to take as much aero off the car as they can and let ’em go back to running a softer tire…I just feel like when we get so aero-dependent, it hurts our racing.”

After running through possible aero changes back in mid-October at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR will return to the 1.5-mile oval on Dec. 9 for further testing that could finalize its 2014 intermediate package.

As for Petty’s thoughts on the test, they weren’t quite as in-depth as Evernham’s but he made the observation that the good races in Sprint Cup have been coming not from the 1.5-milers, but from restrictor-plate tracks, road courses, and short ovals.

“That’s what the heart and soul of the sport is – those intermediate tracks, the mile-and-a-half tracks,” he said. “And it’s funny, because that’s where we used to have some of the greatest racing that the sport had.

“It’s gravitated and moved to the edges – Talladega and Daytona on one side, road courses on the other side and Bristol and Martinsville right in there. Those are our better races now.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.