Nearly 20 IndyCar-related 2013, 2014 drivers set for Rolex 24 next week

2 Comments

More than a dozen IndyCar or IndyCar-related drivers from 2013 and 2014 will be participating in next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round to the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The confirmed 2014 IndyCar drivers in action include:

  • Simon Pagenaud (No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports, HPD ARX-03b, P class, 2nd start)
  • Sebastien Bourdais (No. 5 Action Express Racing, Corvette DP, P, 5th)
  • Justin Wilson (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 7th)
  • James Hinchcliffe (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 3rd)
  • Scott Dixon (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 11th)
  • Tony Kanaan (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 3rd)
  • Ryan Briscoe (No. 3 Corvette Racing, Corvette C7.R, GTLM, 7th)
  • Graham Rahal (No. 56 BMW Team RLL, BMW Z4 GTLM, GTLM, 6th)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 91 SRT Motorsports, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM, 8th)
  • Mikhail Aleshin (No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

That’s 10 drivers right there. Then add in these drivers who competed in one or more IndyCar Series events in 2013:

  • Katherine Legge (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P, 2nd)
  • AJ Allmendinger (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 9th)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 2nd)
  • Alex Tagliani (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 2nd)
  • Conor Daly (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 1st)
  • James Davison (No. 007 TRG-AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, GTD, 1st)
  • Townsend Bell (No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

After those seven, the top two from Indy Lights in 2013 are making their Rolex 24 debuts:

  • Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P)

Aleshin, Karam, Chaves, Daly, Davison and Bell are all making their Rolex 24 debuts. Considering Bell has been active in North America since the 1990s, his name on that list is the biggest surprise.

Four of the above drivers, Dixon (2006), Rahal (2011), Wilson and Allmendinger (2012) have overall wins at the Rolex 24. Dixon will be making his 11th straight Rolex 24 start with CGR.

Some other interesting tidbits: Hinchcliffe, by running a Mazda prototype, will have run three different types of Mazdas in three classes in three years (Mazda RX-8 in GT in 2012, Mazda6 in GX in 2013). Kanaan makes his third class appearance in as many starts, after running a GT1 Ford Mustang Cobra in 1998 and a Porsche GT3 Cup last year. Briscoe (six prior starts) and Hunter-Reay (seven) have only driven Daytona Prototypes; this year marks their first run in a GTE-spec car. Tagliani will start his first Rolex 24 since 2007, when he debuted in a Ford Mustang Cobra in the GT class.

Other IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball were part of the overall-winning team in 2013, but neither returns for 2014. Allmendinger has shifted back fully to NASCAR for 2014, but we’re including him in this list after his six races with Team Penske’s IndyCar program in 2013. There are others in the full entry list with past IndyCar or Indy Lights experience, but that would drag this post out even longer.

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
1 Comment

Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”