De Ferran on Derrick Walker and finding the “balance”

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This is the second in a series of posts stemming from a Tuesday interview with Gil de Ferran. The first one, which focuses on his 2003 Indianapolis 500 win, can be found here. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a new installment.

IndyCar has been praised in recent days following its appointment of longtime team manager and owner Derrick Walker to the role of head of competition. In his introductory press conference this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he talked of finding a better balance between speed, innovation, and cost that can help the sport reclaim its past glory.

Gil de Ferran – who drove for Walker’s Champ Car squad in the late 1990s – has an idea of what that balance is all about, given he has had stints as a team owner in both the American Le Mans Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“The balance needs to be achieved, otherwise, you’re driving everyone out of business,” said the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner. “However, for me, the biggest thing that I would focus on is appeal. One assumes that speed and innovation is appealing and I personally believe they are…You can cut costs until you’re blue in the face and if there’s no appeal – you can cut your costs to zero and you still will not be successful.”

Considering that De Ferran is the world record holder for the fastest lap on a closed course – a lap at 241.426 miles per hour achieved in October of 2000 at Auto Club Speedway – it’s no surprise that he believes that the series needs to keep in mind that particular “brand” of speed as it moves forward into the future.

“My gut feeling is that IndyCars have a brand of being very radical machines,” he said. “That’s the original IndyCar brand, where the cars used to achieve incredible speeds when compared to anything people were used to. They had this kind of an “extreme” motorsports sort of appeal. I think anything that IndyCar does going forward has to be in keeping with this brand, which separates IndyCar from anything else.

“IndyCar is not a junior series, IndyCar is a premier series in motorsport and the cars and racing has to portray that, as do the drivers and the teams. Otherwise, there’s no appeal to it.”

His old boss, Walker, surely understands this. In his 19 years as a team owner in American open-wheel racing, he fielded programs for the likes of De Ferran, Christian Fittipaldi, Alex Tagliani, Will Power, Paul Tracy, Simon Pagenaud and Sarah Fisher. In addition, he has experience going back to Formula One, working for both the Brabham and Penske camps, and in sports cars.

Now, in his first-ever senior management role with a series, Walker will be counted on to draw upon his wealth of knowledge in order to help IndyCar continue to make strides.

De Ferran has faith in Walker, who was critical in developing his career and taught him how important persistence and focus can be.

“I guess one of the things I’ve really admired about him – he’s like a Rottweiler,” said De Ferran. “He’s a very persistent person, so when you had that to his focus, I think they’re both qualities I’ve very much admired about him and I guess they’ve stuck with me.”

New Jersey Supercross Preview: Webb Rolls On, Forkner Returns

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Two races remain in the 2019 Supercross season and the handwriting is on the wall. Cooper Webb’s magic number is now five; all he needs to do in the final two races is finish fifth or better. Since he has finished worse than that only twice this year – and not since Week 5 in San Diego – it’s a fair assumption that he will keep his momentum alive through the end of the season.

Webb’s competition is not going to let up, however. Last week in Denver, Eli Tomac won his second consecutive race after Webb got off to a slow start. There was a glimmer of hope while Webb was outside the top five on Lap 1, but the points leader meticulously picked off the competition and settled into second. Third in the standings, Marvin Musquin finished third to keep his title hopes alive as well.

But this is Supercross. Anything can happen. Just two weeks ago in the 250 class, Austin Forkner tweaked a knee and failed to start the Feature in Nashville. His one-race cushion evaporated in an instant and his advantage over the field is only three points with two races remaining in that division.

After battling his way back into contention with back-to-back top-five finishes at Houston and Nashville, Dean Wilson crashed in Denver and injured his shoulder and kidneys. He’ll miss the final two races of the season.

Two weeks ago at Nashville, Tyler Enticknap and Ronnie Stewart crashed hard and will be missing from the New Jersey lineup.

In 250s, it took an injury for the field to catch up to Forkner. He’ll be back in competition this week and forced to answer the question of whether he is in full form after undergoing therapy on his knee for the past three weeks. Since none of the 250 East riders have beaten him on the track, the answer would seem to be a simple one.

But now the competition senses weakness which is likely to be compounded by Forkner’s propensity to struggle in practice and qualification. Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper have been racking up top-fives, but now they need to step up and win. If either rider can do that this week in New Jersey or next week in the East/West Showdown in Vegas, that should allow him to snatch the championship away from 2019’s dominator.

MORE: The Other Guys Versus the Big 4  

Schedule:

Qualifying: 11 a.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 5 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac scored his second consecutive victory at Denver over Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin.
In 250s, Adam Cianciarulo beat Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols.

Last Year:

New Jersey was not on the schedule in 2018. In 2017, Ryan Dungey beat Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson.
In 250s, Zach Osborne beat Dylan Ferrandis and Adam Cianciarulo.

Winners

450s:
[6] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, and Houston)
[5] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit, Daytona, Nashville and Denver)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

250 West:
[5] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta and Denver)
[2] Dylan Ferrandis (Seattle and Houston)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[5] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington, Detroit, Daytona and Indianapolis)
[1] Martin Davalos (Nashville)

Top-5s

450s:
Cooper Webb (13)
Marvin Musquin (12)
Eli Tomac (12)
Ken Roczen (10)
Blake Baggett (8)
Joey Savatgy (5)
Dean Wilson (4)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (2)
Justin Bogle (2)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)
Cole Seely (1)
Zach Osborne (1)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (9)
Dylan Ferrandis (7)
Colt Nichols (6)
Shane McElrath (5)
RJ Hampshire (5)
James Decotis (4)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)
Chris Blose (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)

250 East:
Justin Cooper (7)
Chase Sexton (7)
Austin Forkner (6)
Martin Davalos (4)
Jordon Smith (3)
Alex Martin (2)
Mitchell Oldenburg (2)
Kyle Peters (1)
Brandon Hartranft (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (332)
Eli Tomac (314)
Marvin Musquin (309)
Ken Roczen (283)
Blake Baggett (255)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (208)
Dylan Ferrandis (200)
Colt Nichols (163)
RJ Hampshire (145)
James Decotis (128)
Cameron McAdoo (128)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (151)
Chase Sexton (148)
Justin Cooper (144)
Martin Davalos (115)
Mitchell Oldenburg (105)

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