NASCAR’s Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year race will have a third contender for the balance of the season. Timmy Hill, 20, will run most of the remaining races starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., except the remaining restrictor plate events and Martinsville in April, for Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing.
The other two rookies, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., garnered more preseason headlines for their relationship than their on-track merits – at least until Patrick scored the pole and finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Through four races, Stenhouse ranks 11th and Patrick 28th in the Sprint Cup series standings.
Hill, while unlikely to threaten the top 20 on a regular basis, did at least manage a top-25 effort for Stoddard’s fledgling team at Kansas Speedway last October. The 22nd-place result was his best finish for Stoddard in three starts last year. Hill has also been named the rookie-of-the-year in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2011.
“He’s a good young kid,” Stoddard told NASCAR.com. “He certainly wants to do it. His dad came to me last year and asked if he could get in the car a few times, so we made an arrangement and tried to work him in there, and I thought he did a really good job. He had a top-25 finish at Kansas City. He didn’t tear the car up, didn’t put a scratch on it in the races. His feedback was good. He had as good a speed as we’ve had with anybody in the car. … So I think there’s room for him to grow and get better, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The OXYwater hydration beverage brand will sponsor the team’s No. 32 Ford. Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts as sponsor) will race in Martinsville with Terry Labonte at the three remaining restrictor plate races.
With minimal rookie participation in recent years, the last three Sprint Cup rookies-of-the-year are Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway. None has a ride for the 2013 season in NASCAR, and Lally has returned to his sports car roots racing Porsches for the Magnus Racing (GRAND-AM Rolex Series) and Dempsey Racing (American Le Mans Series) teams.
Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”