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Statistics: Formula 1 drivers at the Indianapolis 500

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The specialized nature of modern motorsports means that very few drivers cross into disciplines or series that are outside of their full-time ventures. Consequently, the practice for Formula 1 drivers entering the event while still running full-time efforts was considered a thing of the past.

However, from a historical perspective, the practice is nothing new. In fact, from 1950 to 1960, the 500-mile race, then known as the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes, was a staple on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar, meaning several drivers from that era have world championship points to their name, even if they never ran any other Formula 1 events.

That brings us to Fernando Alonso’s shock announcement of his Indy 500 effort, which will see him forego this year’s Monaco Grand Prix to compete in a joint effort between McLaren, Honda, and Andretti Autosport. Alonso will join a long list of drivers who have raced at least a full season in Formula 1 and made Indy 500 efforts. Below is a selection of such drivers.

Alberto Ascari
Indy 500 starts: 1 (1952)
Started: 19th
Finished: 31st (DNF)

In 1952, Alberto Ascari won every world championship event he entered except one. That one was the Indy 500 that year. Driving an effort fielded by the Scuderia Ferrari team with which he competed in F1, Ascari qualified 19th, but retired only 40 laps into the race following a wheel failure.

Juan Manuel Fangio
Indy 500 starts: None
(note: attempted to qualify in 1958, but withdrew)

Fresh off his fifth and final world championship in 1957, Fangio elected to try his hand at the Indy 500 in 1958. However, the then 47-year old was in the twilight of his career at that point, only entering three races that year. He ultimately withdrew from the “500” prior to qualifying and retired later that year.

Sir Jack Brabham
Indy 500 starts:
4 (1961, 1964, 1969, 1970)
Best Start: 13th (1961)
Best Finish: 9th (1961)

Although the Indianapolis 500 was no longer on the Formula 1 calendar, a number of drivers still entered the race in conjunction with their full-time F1 efforts. Exhibit A of this is Sir Jack Brabham, who made Indy debut after winning back-to-back F1 titles in 1959 and 1960. His initial run was a success, starting 13th and finish ninth. However, it was to be his best effort at the 2.5-mile speedway. He failed to finish his next three attempts, although he did add a third Formula 1 crown in 1966.

Jim Clark
Indy 500 starts
: 5 (1963-1967)
Best Start: 1st (1964)
Best Finish: 1st (1965)

Arguably the greatest driver who ever lived debuted at the “500” the same year he was to win his first Formula 1 title. Clark finished second on maiden voyage. He next effort some him qualify on the pole, but a suspension failure sidelined him 47 laps into the race.

In 1965, however, Clark conquered the famed Brickyard, leading a whopping 190 laps on his way to  decisive victory. Coincidentally, he missed the Monaco Grand Prix to do so, exactly what Alonso will be doing.

Clark finished second the following year in 1966 (although a scoring controversy lingers to this day) and recorded a DNF in 1967, his final Indy 500 effort, due to a piston failure.

Sir Jackie Stewart
Indy 500 starts:
2 (1966-1967)
Best Start: 11th (1966)
Best Finish:
6th (1966)

Sir Jackie Stewart debuted in Formula 1 in 1965, but made trips to the U.S. in both 1966 and 1967 for Indy 500 efforts. His 1966 run gave a hint that great things were to come. He led 40 laps before retiring ten laps from the end with a mechanic failure, but was still credited with a sixth place finish. His 1967 effort was not as successful; he started 29th and finished 18th after an engine failure. While he went on to become a three-time world champion, he never did return to Indy as a competitor.

Graham Hill
Indy 500 starts:
3 (1966-1968)
Best Start: 2nd (1968)
Best Finish: 1st (1966)

The controversial 1966 race that cost Clark his second “500” win saw Hill record his first. What’s more, the British driver recorded his victory on debut, something that was not matched until Juan Montoya did so in 2000. The two-time world champion failed to finish each of his next two starts and elected not to enter the race after 1968.

Denny Hulme
Indy 500 starts
: 4 (1967-1971)
Best Start: 4th (1971)
Best Finish: 4th (1967 and 1968)

New Zealand’s only world champion debuted at Indy the same year he won his world championship. He struggled in qualifying that year, taking the 24th spot on the grid. But, race day was a different story and he drove up to fourth at the end of he day. His second attempt was almost identical. He qualified 20th before again finishing fourth.

His next two efforts didn’t end as well. He dropped out with clutch problems in 1970, and after qualifying an impressive fourth in 1971, retired with a valve failure.

Jochen Rindt
Indy 500 starts: 2 (1967 and 1968)
Best Start: 16th (1968)
Best Finish: 24th (1967)

Jochen Rindt’s Indy 500 efforts were surprisingly poor given his driving talents. He qualified 32nd in 1967, barely making into the field, and fell out of the race with a valve failure (he is credited with 24th). Qualifying went better in 1968, as he took the 16th spot on the grid. But, he fell out of the race five laps in due to a piston failure (he is credited with 32nd).

Rindt did not compete in the 1969 and 1970 races before he was tragically killed at the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. However, even if he had survived, it is not a certainty that he would have tried running Indy again, as he was rumored to be considering retirement after the 1970 season.

Mario Andretti
Indy 500 starts: 29 (1965-1978; 1980-1994)
Best Start: 1st (1966, 1967, 1987)
Best Finish: 1st (1969)

The Andretti patriarch was already a mainstay in the American racing scene when he made his Formula 1 debut in 1968 (he entered the Italian and U.S. Grands Prix that year). But, his 1969 Indy 500 win, on the heels of his 1967 Daytona 500 triumph, catapulted him into the stratosphere of stardom. He continued to enter the event even while doing full-time F1 duty (this includes 1978, the year he won his world championship). Though he missed the 1980 event, he returned in 1981 and never left until he retired in 1994.

Mark Donohue
Indy 500 starts
: 5 (1969-1973)
Best start: 2nd (1971)
Best Finish: 1st (1972)

Not many know that Roger Penske and Mark Donohue fielded a Formula 1 effort. In fact, the combination even scored a podium in 1971 at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Still, they’re best known for their time in the United States. The Penske era in IndyCar arrived in 1969 when Roger Penske and his team, with driver Mark Donohue, entered the Indianapolis 500 for the time. Interestingly, it was not until their fourth attempt that they went to victory lane. But, it was a “breaking of the dam” moment for Penske, whose operation has gone on to win 15 more “500s,” along with a host of other accomplishments. Donohue was tragically killed in 1975, but his legacy lives on as the driver who helped spark the Penske dynasty.

Emerson Fittipaldi
Indy 500 starts
: 11 (1984-1994. Note: 1995 was the 12th time he entered, but he failed to qualify)
Best Start: 1st (1990)
Best Finish: 1st (1989, 1993)

Fittipaldi’s Formula 1 career ended in disappointment (he never won a race after he left McLaren following the 1975 season). But, upon embarking on an IndyCar venture in 1984, his career was reignited, particularly after he joined Patrick Racing. In one of the most famous battles ever, Fittipaldi secured his first “500” triumph after dueling with Al Unser Jr., a duel that ended with Little Al up against the wall. Fittipaldi added another win in 1993 with Team Penske (he controversially declined to drink milk in Victory Lane that year, opting for orange juice instead). He was on his way to a possible third win in 1994 before a late-race crash, which ironically allowed the aforementioned Little Al to win. Fittipaldi failed to qualify in 1995 before his career ended in 1996 following a crash at the Michigan 500.

Danny Sullivan
Indy 500 starts
: 12 (1982; 1984-1993; 1995)
Best Start: 2nd (1988)
Best Finish: 1st (1985)

Some may be surprised to learn that Danny Sullivan has Formula 1 experience. Following his IndyCar debut in 1982, Sullivan signed with Tyrell Racing (then known as Benetton Tyrell Team) for the 1983 Formula 1 campaign. Though he had a best finish of fifth, the season was largely a disappointment and he returned to IndyCar in 1984.

Sullivan’s career flourished, its signature moment being his 1985 “Spin and Win.” Sullivan continued through 1993 before a brief sabbatical in 1994. He returned in 1995, but his career ended with a crash at the Michigan 500 that year.

Roberto Guerrero
Indy 500 starts: 14 (1984-1988, 1990-1999, Did not qualify in 2000 or 2001)
Best Start: 1st (1992)
Best Finish: 2nd (1984, 1987)

Guerrero spent two fruitless F1 campaigns with Ensign and Theodore in 1982 and 1983 before coming Stateside to IndyCar, where the Colombian made his name for the better part of two decades. Guerrero’s run of four consecutive top-fives in his first four ‘500s is one of the best in history, including runner-ups to Rick Mears in 1984 and Al Unser in 1987. He recovered from a devastating testing accident in 1987 but had heartbreak strike twice more at Indy – crashing on the pace lap from pole in 1992 and crashing on the last lap in the Eliseo Salazar/Alessandro Zampedri mess in 1996. That fifth place in 1996 ended a nine-year drought outside the top five, but it was also his last best finish at Indy.

Teo Fabi
Indy 500 starts
: 8 (1983-1984, 1988-1990, 1993-1995)
Best Start: 1st (1983)
Best Finish: 7th (1994)

Fabi’s F1 career ran for parts of five season in the 1980s and his 1983 and 1984 Indianapolis 500s were intriguing ones. He qualified on the pole as a rookie in 1983 and then scored his first F1 podium at Detroit in 1984, not long after racing at Indy. The quiet Italian posted three straight top-10s to end his Indianapolis 500 career from 1993 to 1995.

Derek Daly
Indy 500 starts
: 6 (1983-1985, 1987-1989)
Best Start: 9th (1988)
Best Finish: 12th (1985)

Daly’s F1 career featured five on-and-off seasons between 1978 and 1982 and his IndyCar career followed, including six qualifications for the Indianapolis 500. Never a world-beater on the track, Daly’s career flourished afterwards with a successful commentary career for F1 and IndyCar races, his Derek Daly Academy, driver coaching and seminars, and of course, his son Conor who now races in the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time today.

Nelson Piquet
Indy 500 starts:
1 (1993. He entered the 1992 race, but withdrew following a practice crash)
Started: 13th
Finished: 32nd (DNF)

The three-time World Champion was near the end of his career when he arrived at the Indianapolis 500 in 1992. In fact, his career nearly came to an end that year after a devastating practice crash left him with badly injured legs and feet. However, he was able to return the following year to make a full effort. Unfortunately, he was saddled with the powerful but fragile Buick V-6. An engine failure on lap 38 sidelined him, leaving him 32nd in his only “500” start.

Nigel Mansell
Indy 500 starts
: 2 (1993-1994)
Best Start: 7th (1994)
Best Finish: 3rd (1993)

Few drivers have entered the Indianapolis 500 with as much fanfare as Mansell did in 1993. The defending Formula 1 world champion at the time, Mansell left F1 to race IndyCars with Newman/Haas Racing, which rivaled Team Penske for status as the strongest team on the grid.

Mansell won the ’93 IndyCar World Series championship, but his “500” effort fell just short. He finished third after an error on a late-race restart allowed both Emerson Fittipaldi and Arie Luyendyk to pass. Dennis Vitolo infamously eliminated Mansell from the 1994 race by crashing with him under caution.

Mansell returned to Formula 1 at the end of 1994 and retired the following year.

Jacques Villeneuve
Indy 500 starts: 3 (1994-1995; 2014)
Best Start: 4th (1994)
Best Finish: 1 (1995)

Before he became a world champion, Jacques Villeneuve was an IndyCar star, bursting onto the scene in 1994 and winning “Rookie of the Year” at that year’s Indy 500 by finishing second. He then won the 1995 race after a controversial restart, in which then leader Scott Goodyear passed the pace car before the race restarted.

Villeneuve then departed for Formula 1, where he won the 1997 world championship. However, his career fizzled from there and he left F1 in the middle of 2006. Since then, he has competed in several one-off events, including the 2014 Indy 500, where he finished 14th.

Stefan Johansson
Indy 500 starts: 3 (1993-1995)
Best Start: 6th (1993)
Best Finish: 11th (1993)

The Swede shifted Stateside from his successful Formula 1 career in the 1980s, where he scored 12 podiums in 79 career starts and finished as high as fifth in the World Championship in 1986, driving with Ferrari. Johansson made three Indy 500s with Bettenhausen Motorsports, the first two in year-old Penske chassis and the last one, in dramatic fashion, bumping Emerson Fittipaldi of Team Penske from the starting field… while in a backup Reynard chassis. He’s won overall at Le Mans and now has gone onto a successful post open-wheel career in sports cars, as a driver manager and as a watchmaker.

Mauricio Gugelmin
Indy 500 starts: 2 (1994-1995)
Best Start: 6th (1995)
Best Finish: 6th (1995)

After his F1 career, “Big Mo” made a pair of 500 starts with Chip Ganassi and PacWest Racing, the latter where he led a race-high 59 laps but faded to sixth at the checkered flag. One of the more underrated 500-mile drivers of his day, Gugelmin was rewarded with the first closed-course lap of more than 240mph at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway when the track opened in 1997. True to his luck though, Gil de Ferran beat it in 2000, and that record stands to this day.

Christian Fittipaldi
Indy 500 starts: 1 (1995)
Best Start: 27th
Best Finish: 2nd

After his few seasons in F1, a then 24-year-old Christian was the only Fittipaldi to qualify for the 1995 ‘500 as uncle Emerson didn’t, and little did we know at the time it would be the last time a Fittipaldi would race at the Speedway with the split the following year. In Derrick Walker’s second car, Christian started 27th and made it to second.

Eliseo Salazar
Indy 500 starts: 6 (1995-1997, 1999-2001)
Best Start: 3rd (1996, 2000)
Best Finish: 3rd (2000)

The Chilean raced in F1 in the 1980s and made it to Indianapolis for the first time in 1995, posting an unheralded fourth place finish for Dick Simon Racing. Under the Team Scandia banner a year later, Salazar got caught up in the last-lap crash with teammate Alessandro Zampedri and Roberto Guerrero. His best start and finish came in 2000. Salazar became a driver manager after his racing career and recently worked with Indy Lights driver Santiago Urrutia.

Michele Alboreto
Indy 500 starts:
1 (1996)
Started: 12th
Finished: 30th

The likable Italian, Alboreto was a Grand Prix winner in the 1980s for Tyrrell and Ferrari, and finished second in the 1985 World Championship. His F1 career ended after 1994 and a couple years later Alboreto made his first and only Indianapolis 500 start, part of Team Scandia’s record seven-car lineup (an ex-Ferrari driver in a six-car lineup? You don’t say…). His race ended with a gearbox issue. Alboreto, tragically, lost his life in a testing accident with Audi in 2001.

Vincenzo Sospiri
Indy 500 starts:
1 (1997)
Started: 3rd
Finished: 17th

Vincenzo Sospiri is infamously known for being one of the ill-fated MasterCard Lola drivers in 1997. The woefully under-prepared outfit quickly folded after an abysmal outing at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but Sospiri landed on his feet. With IndyCar experience from the previous year (he contested several events in the newly formed Indy Racing League), he returned to the U.S. in an Indy 500 effort with Team Scandia. He qualified an impressive third, but faded to 17th during the race. He contested sporadic events in both IRL and CART over the next two years before turning his attention to sports cars. He retired in 2001.

Juan Montoya
Indy 500 starts
: 4 (2000; 2014-2016. Scheduled to contest the 2017 race)
Best Start: 2nd (2000)
Best Finish: 1st (2000, 2015)

Chip Ganassi Racing was the first of CART teams to return to the Indy 500 following “the split.” Ganassi did so in 2000 with drivers Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya. Montoya was on the heels of the 1999 CART championship, and his Indy 500 effort was all-conquering, as he led 167 laps on his way to victory.

After winning races in full-time efforts in Formula 1 (2001-2006) and NASCAR (2007-2013), Montoya returned to full-time IndyCar competition in 2014. A speeding penalty hampered his 2014 Indy 500 return, though he did rebound to finish fifth. But, he triumphed again in 2015, outlasting Will Power, Scott Dixon, and Charlie Kimball to do so. Montoya crashed out in 2016, but is entered in a fifth Team Penske car for 2017.

Sebastien Bourdais
Indy 500 starts
: 6 (Scheduled to compete in the 2017 race)
Best start: 7th (2015)
Best Finish: 7th (2014)

One of the best drivers currently on the IndyCar grid, Sebastien Bourdais made his Indy debut in 2005 with Newman/Haas, who fielded one-off entries for Bourdais and teammate Bruno Junqueira in addition to their full-time Champ Car efforts.

Bourdais subsequently spent the better part of two years in Formula 1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso. His best result, though, was seventh (twice, in 2008) and he departed F1 halfway through 2009. After spending time with Peugeot Sport’s LMP program, he returned to IndyCar on a part-time basis in 2011 before making full-season efforts from 2012 onward.

For all his success, Bourdais has struggled at Indianapolis, only finishing inside the top ten twice in six starts (7th in 2014, 9th in 2016).

Enrique Bernoldi
Indy 500 starts:
1 (2008)
Started: 29th
Finished: 15th

A forgotten man of sorts, Bernoldi contested two seasons with the fledgling Arrows outfit before the team folded in the middle of the 2002 season.

He came to the U.S. in 2008, presumably to compete in the Champ Car World Series with Conquest Racing. However, reunification saw he and the team make the move to IndyCar. His Indy 500 effort that year was the only one of his career. He started 29th and finished 15th, and a troublesome season eventually saw him part ways with the team with two races remaining on the schedule.

Takuma Sato
Indy 500 starts: 7 (2010-2016)
Best Start: 10th (2011)
Best Finish: 13th (2013, 2015)

Takuma Sato made his name as a hard-charger in Formula 1, first with Jordan Grand Prix, where he finished a stellar fifth at the Japanse Grand Prix in 2002. He moved to BAR Honda, where he continued to in 2004 before fading in 2005. But, his hard-charging nature remained, as evidenced by his 2007 season with Super Aguri Honda, an effort highlighted by a sixth-place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix, where he coincidentally passed Fernando Alonso to do so.

He moved to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2010 and has contested every Indy 500 since then. Perhaps the 2012 race most exemplifies his career. Sato had one of the fastest cars and pushed leaders Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti for the win. On the final lap, he tried diving inside Franchitti for the lead, only to crash in turn 1. He was credited with 17th that year, but gathered a lot of praise for his efforts.

Rubens Barrichello
Indy 500 starts
: 1 (2012)
Started: 10th
Finished: 11th

It was Barrichello’s long-time friend Tony Kanaan who brought him into the IndyCar mix in 2012. The two became teammates at KV Racing Technology, with E.J. Viso also running a third car. The effort saw Barrichello contest his only Indy 500 effort. The former grand prix winner started 10th and finished 11th in a quietly solid outing. However, he left IndyCar after the season ended and currently races stock cars in his native Brazil.

Jean Alesi
Indy 500 starts
: 1 (2012)
Started: 33rd
Finished: 33rd

Like Barrichello, another ex-Ferrari F1 man raced the Indianapolis 500 but unless you had good memory of the first nine or 10 laps of the race, you’d have probably forgotten it. Alesi was saddled in a woeful, if good-looking, Lotus entry with the Fan Force United team, and subsequently was black flagged just nine laps in owing to a lack of pace.

Max Chilton
Indy 500 starts: 1 (2016. Scheduled to enter the 2017 race)
Started: 22nd
Finished: 15th

Max Chilton was a rising star in Europe and eventually contested two full-season campaigns for the Marussia F1 team. He moved to the U.S. in 2015, when he ran Indy Lights, and joined IndyCar in 2016. His only “500” start saw him finish an unspectacular 15th, though his career is still young, meaning he’ll likely have plenty of chances to better that.

Alexander Rossi
Indy 500 starts: 1 (2016. Schedule to enter the 2017 race)
Start: 11th
Finished: 1st

Technically, Rossi does not have a full season of F1 experience to his name. But, as the defending Indy 500, his mention is more than noteworthy.

Last year’s unlikely winner was a possibly more unlikely participant when the year began. The Californian spent most of racing career in Europe and contested a handful of races with the Manor Marussia F1 Team at the end of 2015. Funding issues pushed him out of the seat, and it was a merger between Bryan Herta Autosport and Andretti Autosport that brought Rossi to the IndyCar ranks just before the season started. Yet, he made the most of his opportunity, using fuel strategy to score an upset win. Improved form in 2017 means he likely contend again this coming May.

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Herta, Telitz rivalry in Indy Lights has Yankees, Red Sox DNA embedded

Herta (far left) and Telitz (center) aren't just rivals on the track. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Today marks the first time the New York Yankees (11-7) and Boston Red Sox (11-8) square off in the 2017 Major League Baseball season, 7 p.m. ET tonight at Fenway Park.

Back down on the farm, however, they’ve already battled twice this year in St. Petersburg and Birmingham, Ala.

The tangential connection that manages to see this lede weave into a racing story comes courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ proverbial triple-A affiliate, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and two of its top young American prospects: Colton Herta and Aaron Telitz.

Herta’s Yankees connection is well-documented, if not directly related to his own family roots, as Bryan Herta’s son is only 17 years old and hails from Valencia, Calif.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team principal George Michael Steinbrenner IV (pictured above), just 20, is the grandson of the iconic owner of the New York Yankees; he’s the son of Hank Steinbrenner, part-owner and co-chairman of the Yankees now. George Michael’s mother was a cousin of the late Tony Renna, a talented up-and-comer who died in 2003. Renna’s teammate in Indy Lights in the 1990s was Chris Simmons, who’s now Scott Dixon’s race engineer in IndyCar. George Michael’s stepfather is Sean Jones, Bryan Herta’s long-time friend and business partner. It’s confusing at first glance, but when you put the pieces together there’s a huge passion and amount of racing blood for these families.

Herta in St. Petersburg, near the adopted winter hometown for the Yankees of Tampa. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

He drives the No. 98 Deltro Energy Dallara IL-15 Mazda for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing and while his car isn’t exactly painted in pinstripes, it’s blue and white.

Birchwood, Wisc.’s Telitz, 25, by contrast, has a lesser known but direct family lineage with the Boston Red Sox. His great grandfather was Fred Thomas, a third baseman for the Red Sox, who was on the 1918 World Series-winning team – the last Red Sox team to win it all before the team broke its 86-year drought in 2004 (the Yankees oh so happily won 26 of their 27 World Championships between 1923 and 2000 during this period).

Thomas was born in Milwaukee and was more known for a couple things he did beyond playing on the diamond itself. While on furlough from the Navy, Thomas coined the idea of playing the National Anthem at sporting events. Telitz explains it more in an April 2015 blog he wrote after winning the 2013 Team USA Scholarship, which also has a further explanation about Thomas’ and the National Anthem from linked within that blog.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 22: Members of all four branches of the United States military stand on the field for a pregame ceremoiney before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox on May 22, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Before this series, the two teams haven’t played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Thomas founded a resort in Northern Wisconsin in 1924; the Fred Thomas Resort stands proud today more than 80 years later, and it’s one of several associate partners (Rice Lake Weighing Systems primary among them) you can see on Telitz’s car this year. In no small coincidence, it helps that Telitz’s No. 9 Soul Red Mazda for Belardi Auto Racing isn’t that different a shade of red from the Boston Red Sox colors.

Telitz’s Soul Red isn’t much different from Red Sox red. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Among the cool items Telitz notes from his great grandfather’s lineage is that he had a “real life The Sandlot situation” come to life with one of the mementos from that 1918 World Series.

“Because of Fred, my Grandpa was always interested in what the Red Sox were doing. So they watched quite often,” Telitz told NBC Sports. “In 2004 when they won the World Series, I watched it with my whole family. We get mementos from Red Sox all the time and that year, they sent us an American flag, in honor of Fred’s service to the country.

“One of the funny things from 1918 was that Fred had two game balls and had everyone on the team sign them. He took them back home with him to Birchwood. They sat in the main lodge of the resort in a basket, and kids used to be able to play baseball with them… as they had no idea these’d be worth anything. Eventually my Grandpa did save one of them and put it in a case and our family. I think the other one got lost!

“It was a real-life Sandlot situation. But back then it wasn’t a big deal! Then it became, oh, it’s a huge deal.”

Telitz’s family has Red Sox roots. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

With Telitz having the Red Sox connection, finding out Herta – and more importantly, the Steinbrenners – were coming to Indy Lights this year as well, it was hard for him not to be excited about that. It would also rekindle a rivalry the two started to have on their own in their rookie season of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2014, when Telitz won a race for ArmsUp Motorsports while Herta, then 14, scored a couple top-five finishes in a learning year.

“When I heard the Steinbrenners were coming in I was like, that’s so cool!” Telitz laughed. “It’s funny; Colton doesn’t exactly have a real connection, whereas I’m a direct descendent of the third baseman that won the 1918 World Series. So now here we are, and our paths have crossed again.”

Herta won Indy Lights’ 400th race Sunday at Barber. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Lest Herta be one to let the friendly jab come at him without a comeback, young “Hertamania 2.0” was quick with a comedic rebuttal.

“Well he’s running the red car, and I’m running a blue and white car. So, it’s kind of similar in that point as well. I think, just like many years before, we’ll see the Yankees emerge victorious over the Red Sox!” Herta laughed. “But no, I didn’t know that (about Aaron)! That’s actually really cool to see the baseball connections coming into racing.”

Herta expanded on his own upbringing and how the longtime Dodgers fan has adopted a different shade of blue.

“As a child, I grew up watching the Dodgers, with living just 40 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “Being the home team, that’s who I was always rooted for and growing up, that’s who my dad rooted for as well. I wasn’t as a child, but I’ve grown to be a Yankees fan this year.

“I’ve been able to go to quite a few Spring Training games, and have been fortunate to go behind the scenes with the Yankees and it’s really impressive. Plus, obviously, I kind of have to like them – I’m driving for their team! It’s not a bad team to like, they win a lot!”

On the scoreboard in Indy Lights this year, where the big league prize to graduate to IndyCar is $1 million from Mazda as an advancement scholarship for three races, Herta has won twice – including Sunday’s 400th race in Indy Lights history at Barber Motorsports Park – while Telitz can always say he beat Herta to winning in his series debut, as he dominated the season opener from St. Petersburg. Herta leads the points with 101 while Telitz sits fourth on 74.

So, it’s play ball between these two drivers with likely baseball’s most iconic rivalry as an intriguing subplot for the rest of the year.

BOSTON – JULY 24: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees walks to first base with hitting coach Don Mattingly #23 after a fight with Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox in the third inning after Rodriguez was hit by a pitch by pitcher Bronson Arroyo on July 24, 2004 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Both Rodriguez and Jason Varitek of the Red Sox were ejected from the game. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Red Bull GRC: 2017 Preseason Q&A with Anders Krohn

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross prepares to kick off its 2017 season this weekend at Memphis on the NBC Sports Group networks. Qualifying takes place at midnight ET on Sunday on NBCSN with the race itself airing Sunday at 1 p.m. on NBC.

We checked in with NBC Sports analyst Anders Krohn, who will again call selected Red Bull GRC Supercars and GRC Lites races, for his take looking ahead to the new season (2016 midseason review linked here):

MST: A lot of change is coming to Red Bull GRC this year, with a number of different lineups. Do you see Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross well positioned to win its third straight title or are they vulnerable this year?

Anders Krohn: “The Beetles will definitely be hard to beat, but Honda and Subaru have stepped up their game, big time. It’s cool to see it becoming such a big fight between manufacturers, and one can only hope that 2017 is closer than in years past. Andretti Autosport recently took delivery of two brand new cars for Scott Speed and Tanner Foust, and I’m pretty certain the 2017 spec cars will be another noticeable step forward.”

MST: Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE should be much better in its second season. What are some of the goals and expectations here for this talented trio of drivers in the second year of the Honda Civic Coupe program? 

AK: “Almost to the detriment of their program last year, they got a podium at their first race weekend in Phoenix, so the expectations were already quite high from that point on. This year it’s quite simple, they need to win races. Last year they were quite a bit overweight, so if they’ve been able to shave those extra pounds off the car, they could be in good shape.”

MST: Subaru has made big improvements in the offseason with Patrik Sandell moving over and Chris Atkinson on for the season. Do you think they can return to winning races? 

AK: “Subaru have done more testing than any other manufacturer and this week we’ll get to see if the investment paid off. They’ve had a couple of tough years, and I know they are gunning for the title this year. With Patrik Sandell and Chris Atkinson they have a truly lethal combination and I like what each of them bring to the team. In 2016 we were left wondering too often if the lack of pace was down to driver or car, but for this year that certainly will not be the case.”

MST: There’s a lot of excitement with new faces coming into the series… Cabot Bigham, Oliver Eriksson and Mitchell DeJong all set to make their full-season debuts. Having covered them a bit in GRC Lites what is their potential like when they step up to Supercars? 

AK: “Mitchell DeJong obviously crushed the GRC Lites field in 2014, so his chance in a Supercar is well overdue and I give credit to Honda, Red Bull and OMSE for trusting in such a talented, young American to get the job done for them. Cabot Bigham and Oliver Eriksson finished first and second in what was probably the most competitive GRC Lites season ever. Having talked with Cabot’s new team owner Bryan Herta, he’s been massively impressed with Cabot’s outright pace and feedback so far. Oliver will be a natural fit within his already familiar OMSE home, albeit with an additional 350 horsepower under the bonnet. I genuinely feel as though these guys will turn some heads this year and show just how strong of a feeder series GRC Lites is.”

MST: Memphis kicks off a different schedule this year with a lot of new venues. What are some of the places for fans/series observers to be excited with this year? 

AK: “GRC is turning into a manufacturer dogfight and that is a great thing for the overall health of the sport, and should provide plenty of entertainment for the fans. I also like that the privateer teams of Rahal Letterman Racing with Austin Dyne, Loenbro Motorsports with Steve Arpin and Bryan Herta RallySport with Cabot Bigham, will have a chance to slug it out. All these guys are in Ford M-Sport Fiesta’s, which, under the right circumstances, could very well take it to the big teams with manufacturer support.

“Memphis looks like a super fast track, and using the oval part of the raceway means the wear on the tires will likely be extreme. With only 17% dirt, I expect a relatively stiffly sprung, low car to be the way to go, something that VW is obviously well known for. I’ve personally never been to Memphis, but it sure looks like a great chance to get some good BBQ, enjoy cars jumping 100 feet and banging into each other.

“If we can have three different manufacturers on the podium at the opening weekend, I think we’ll be in for a great season.”

Alonso gets seat fit, visits Borg-Warner Trophy in Indy

Photo: Michael L. Levitt/LAT Photo USA
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Fernando Alonso’s quick first visit to the U.S. before this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix continued Monday with a trip to Indianapolis with his Andretti Autosport team, following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

After a jam-packed Sunday packed with media commitments and observing from the pits, Alonso went to Andretti’s shop on Zionsville Rd. where he made his seat fit for his upcoming first test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the only time this could be worked into his schedule before he heads to Sochi to resume his Formula 1 commitments in his day job, lead driver of the team’s McLaren Honda.

Alonso also met the trophy he hopes to win as part of his quest to capture the Triple Crown, the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Andretti Autosport is the defending champion team at Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi. Rossi follows Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Dan Wheldon (2005) as winners for the team in the ‘500.

“It’s a beautiful trophy that I would be proud to take home if I won the Indianapolis 500. There are so many familiar faces on the trophy from the past and present that represent the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said, via BorgWarner. “Can I please get a full-sized trophy to take home if I win the race? The small ones (Baby Borgs) are nice but a big one would be wonderful!”

As Alonso is a two-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off an Indianapolis 500 victory. Others that have done so are listed below:

  • Jim Clark – Formula One World Champion in 1963 and 1965, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1965
  • Graham Hill – Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1966
  • Mario Andretti – Formula One World Champion 1978, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969
  • Emerson Fittipaldi – Formula One World Champion 1972 and 1974, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1989 and 1993
  • Jacques Villeneuve – Formula One World Champion 1997, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1995

NBCSN videos from Alonso’s Sunday at Barber are linked below.

Press Conference

Grid Interview with Townsend Bell


Haas goes for first three-in-a-row scoring streak in Russia

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After back-to-back eighth place finishes from Kevin Magnussen at China and Romain Grosjean last time out in Bahrain, Haas F1 Team has its second chance to score points three races in a row for the first time in its F1 career – and arguably a more realistic chance at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix (Sunday, 8 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

Grosjean’s shock sixth and fifth place finishes to open his 2016 account in Australia and Bahrain were unexpected but the team hit a bump in the road in China. Russia, however, saw the Frenchman return to the points with an eighth place, and bring his season tally to 28 points to conclude the remarkable start of results in flyaway races.

Now, with a car that could theoretically be considered the fourth best in the field behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, hopes are high for either Grosjean or Magnussen to extend the team’s scoring streak to what would be the longest yet in its short history.

The team did well to note the Olympic tie in at the Sochi circuit, linking “Super G” and how fast the new 2017 Formula 1 cars are.

From the release: “The first time we saw Super-G in Sochi was in 2014 when the Russian city hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud beat American Andrew Weibrecht by .3 of a second on the 2.096-kilometer (1.302-mile) course with a 622-meter (2,041-foot) vertical drop to nab gold in the alpine slalom event.

“Three years later, a Super-G of a different sort returns to Sochi, but instead of taking place on the white slopes of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, it will happen on the black asphalt of the Sochi Autodrom as the fastest cars in Formula One history rocket around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit for the April 30 Russian Grand Prix.”

Grosjean described the physical uptick in training he’s needed to do. The 31-year-old is in his sixth full season and seventh overall in F1, since his midseason debut in 2009.

“The cars are brutal to drive – we are not far from 8G with the peak in high corners – so it is pretty good fun, but it is hard on the body, it is hard on parts, it is hard on the cars,” Grosjean said. “You better not miss the turning point on some places. The speed we go through the corners is insane compared to the past. You need to be more precise, more accurate, more on it.

“We’re going through more g-forces, so the neck is stronger and the core is stronger,” Grosjean added. “Your whole body had to adjust to these high speeds.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner explained the importance of needing to bank points early in the crowded midfield. Haas sits seventh in the championship now, just nine points behind Sahara Force India in fourth, who have scored with both drivers in each of the three races so far in 2017.

“It’s always good to come back from two races with points, and it shows that the car is capable to score points at each race. Then again, it’s always difficult because it’s a tight midfield and we all went testing after Bahrain and everyone has learned something,” Steiner said.

“It’s as tight as it’s ever been. With four to five teams so close together, I cannot remember when that happened, and every weekend it’s mixed up in a different way. Any of these teams can go into Q3 and get into the points. It’s a very tense battle, but I think a nice battle and it keeps the constructors championship pretty open for the midfield.”

Grosjean added, “It was good to score points in Bahrain. Clearly, we deserved them – since race one, actually. I think the most encouraging fact for now is that the car is performing well everywhere we’ve been. So now we go to Russia, which was a bit of a tough one for us last year. We’ll see if we’ve made progress and if the car is working well at every type of circuit. If so, then pretty much everywhere we could score points.”

For Magnussen, the chance of a score comes after he delivered his best 2016 result here last year – seventh for Renault. He was also fifth in 2014 with McLaren, and has a chance to score for a third different team here this weekend.

“I think it’s a good track and I’ve had some good races there. Hopefully, I can have another good one there this year,” he said.

“I know last year I had a good first lap. Quite a few people messed up and lost things like front wings and so on. I made up lots of positions with that. I then had a really good race after that to finish seventh.”