IndyCar confirms Derrick Walker as new President of Competition, Operations

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Derrick Walker was introduced Monday as IndyCar’s new President of Operations and Competition. The confirmation follows a report by Robin Miller on SPEED.com last week.

Walker will be responsible for all technical and competition aspects of the racing operations at the open-wheel sanctioning body. A team of six others will report directly to him, and Walker will report directly to Mark Miles, the CEO of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co.

The five key areas he’ll look after include: cost management, enhancing innovation within the current technical platform and race formats, continuing to emphasize and develop safety initiatives, sustaining programs and avenues to develop drivers and suppliers for the IZOD IndyCar Series, and developing plans for future technical platforms.

“I am going to the dark side and happily so,” said Walker, 68, who worked with Penske Racing as a mechanic, then team manager, before starting his own race team in IndyCar.

“It is a lot to learn. Fortunately there is a lot of good people at IndyCar that have been around a heck of a lot longer on this side of the fence than me. So I expect to be on a very steep learning curve and find my place in how to influence or how to help steer the governing body.

“I think when you look at the quality of the field of IndyCar, it demands a strong governing body that has a vision and the leadership that is required to match the quality of our teams.

“So we have a responsibility and obligation to be as good as we can as a governing body. So hopefully I can fit into that matrix somewhere there.”

The team reporting to Walker includes: Brian Barnhart, who will serve as senior vice president of operations; race director Beaux Barfield; vice president of technology Will Phillips; vice president of technology, timing and scoring Jon Koskey; director of grassroots initiatives Jason Penix; and Firestone Indy Lights director Anton “Tony” George Jr.

Walker will leave his post as team manager with Ed Carpenter Racing in IndyCar and begin his new role with the series on May 27.

Additionally, Walker said this weekend in Monterey, Calif. that if he took the IndyCar role, he would continue his team manager role with Team Falken Tire if the team continues into the 2014 merged sports car championship, United Sports Car Racing.

In Monterey, the No. 17 Porsche driven by Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler finished second in the GT class despite a post-race points penalty assessed for the car failing its stall test in post-race inspection.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.