James Hinchcliffe cleared to drive by INDYCAR after suffering concussion

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The bad news today regarding the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda had a mechanical issue during Indianapolis 500 practice – in the words of Andretti Autosport fill-in driver EJ Viso, “the engine blew up.”

The good news is that its usual driver, James Hinchcliffe, is now cleared to drive after he suffered a concussion on Saturday in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He progressed throughout the week and was re-evaluated today.

The official medical update from INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger is that Hinchcliffe has been cleared to resume racing after being re-evaluated today & passing ImPACT test.

Here’s a statement from Hinchcliffe released by the team:

“It goes without saying, I’m thrilled to be back in the United Fiber & Data car. It’s been a long couple of days watching everyone practice, but obviously getting healthy was the number one goal. I really want to thank everyone at INDYCAR Safety, INDYCAR Medical and IU Health for their great care. Also, to Jim Leo with PitFit Training for helping with the rehabilitation, and of course a big thanks to E.J. (Viso) and the team for all the hard work during practice. The car looks fast and I can’t wait to get out there and get up to speed.”

And here was Hinch’s tweet of thanks:

Viso has filled in during the week, totaling 250 laps, and ended Tuesday’s truncated day of practice fastest.

Viso was hoping to get some laps back in later Thursday if the team put a new engine in the No. 27 car, and that could still be possible.

Alternatively, and more likely, the team could make the change back to prep the No. 27 for Hinchcliffe.

Viso said he had no idea as to whether the team would be able to put together a sixth car for him, and while backup chassis are available, Andretti’s already stretched with five IndyCars this month.

Plus, an engine lease would be Honda’s 19th, something Honda has not signed off on beyond the 18 they already have allotted this month.

Put this way – Viso has done the job he’s been asked to do, and it’s doubtful we’ll see a sixth car emerge from the stable to see him return to the track.

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.