The Justin Wilson giant-killing act is set to occur, yet again, in IndyCar

Leave a comment

If this story’s been written tens if not hundreds of times before, it’s because it has been.

It shouldn’t still need to be, but yet, no matter the success level Justin Wilson achieves at a mid-level to borderline top IndyCar Series team, like Led Zeppelin once opined, “The Song Remains the Same.”

It seems hard to believe Wilson is entering his 11th season of IndyCar racing in 2014, and it remains hard to believe that save for maybe two or three seasons, he’s never had the machinery at his disposal to consistently threaten for wins and championships.

That he only has seven career wins almost beggars belief, but consider two have come with Dale Coyne Racing – two of the team’s three wins in 30-plus years in the sport – and that showcases Wilson’s talent level on its own.

And so 2014 is likely going to be yet another year of “Wilson and Dale Coyne overachieve – again – to challenge the establishment.” It’s not a bad story line; it’s just a chapter that’s been written over, and over, and over again. The difference is in some minor details.

The key for making 2014 a slightly altered story line, compared to the general one outlined above, is how well the push for driver and team to make the necessary improvements actually comes to fruition. As Wilson said yesterday, he and his eponymous team owner have had numerous conversations over the winter to see if they can analyze better; attack better; be more consistent more often.

Key to the Wilson-Michael Cannon driver-engineer balance will be the start of the season. St. Petersburg, traditionally one of Wilson’s stronger tracks, was a place the team struggled in 2013, while Barber was a challenge to master for the pairing in 2012.

“Last year was actually my worst year at St. Petersburg competitive‑wise,” Wilson said. “Before that I’ve always run really well. But we seemed to miss the setup last year and had a slow start to the year. But we recovered well after it. I’d like to think we’ve learnt a lot since then and can come back this year and be near the front again.”

He’s fully recovered from his Fontana injuries, and he’ll get his first bit of racing for 2014 in this weekend at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It’s hard not to consider Wilson one of the top five overall drivers in the series. Perhaps this is the year that Wilson’s overall standing and results matches his ability level.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.