Eddie Gossage: “Nobody wins” in NASCAR-F1 November overlap

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Still frustrated over having his track’s NASCAR weekend go head-to-head with Formula One at Circuit of the Americas this fall, Texas Motor Speedway president/GM Eddie Gossage said yesterday that “nobody wins” in the scenario.

On Nov. 2, TMS will stage a Chase for the Sprint Cup event at their Fort Worth facility, while Austin-based COTA hosts the United States Grand Prix.

“I can’t say I was surprised because Bernie Ecclestone does a lot of foolish things,” Gossage said according to the Austin (Tex.) American-Statesman while attending a TMS-hosted function in Austin that featured Daytona 500 champ Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“But the thing he unfortunately doesn’t realize is that he isn’t the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to American motorsports. The 800-pound gorilla is NASCAR.”

The American-Statesman also reports that Gossage said COTA didn’t have the experience or strength to move their USGP date, saying that “if it were the other way around, you bet your ass I could stop it and get a different date.”

Meanwhile, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come out to defend the USGP’s placement on the 2014 World Championship schedule.

In comments to the British Press Association, Ecclestone noted F1’s massive logistics effort to move around the world – saying that Gossage is “extremely lucky” he doesn’t have to deal with that in the domestic-based NASCAR.

“We’ve a small problem they [NASCAR] don’t have – we have six jumbo jets to move around all our equipment, and we have to find the most sensible way to use them to do that,” the British billionaire explained. “We have to be efficient, and bear in mind we may also encounter problems at an airport.

“There are issues that can occur, but he and other people do not realize these things. The race prior to the one in the US is in Russia, in Sochi. We’ve never been before, and we have to get out of there and into Austin. That is probably a lot easier than trying to get into Brazil, and then we have to get out of there [Sao Paulo] to go to Abu Dhabi.”

For his part, Earnhardt himself said he was excited about F1 having an American round but that he was there in Austin to help garner support for the TMS event in November.

“I think [the USGP] is a good thing, and I hope they do well,” he told the American-Statesman. “But we have a lot of fans in the Austin area, and I want to remind them that NASCAR puts on the best show.”

Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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