IndyCar notes: Rahal’s engineering change, Tagliani’s beaver costume

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The IZOD IndyCar Series is in the midst of a needed – if perhaps ill-timed – break after a stretch of nine races in nine weekends, with only one off weekend (June 28-30) in-between the end of May and July 12-14 in Toronto.

So while news is at a bit of a crawl, there’s still a few other tidbits to note:

  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has made a not unexpected engineering change to Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Dallara-Honda. Gerry Hughes has been reassigned to be the team’s Head of Development, with ex-Dragon Racing hand Neil Fife stepping in as Rahal’s new engineer. The team has also added Mitch Davis as crew chief to prepare both Rahal’s and James Jakes’ entries. Jakes will continue with engineer Eddie Jones. Both teams have struggled to nail the setup this season, with only sporadic leading pace and results.
  • Alex Tagliani in a beaver suit? Believe it. The affable Canadian of Barracuda Racing will don a beaver costume and ride around the Indiana State Fair on a tricycle after a two-week online charity fundraiser versus Scott Dixon. Tagliani raised nearly for $6,000 Anaphyaxis Canada, an organization that helps people with life-threatening allergies, in the Power of 2 initiative. He was second to Dixon’s $7,036, which was raised for two groups that focus on cancer-stricken young people (CanTeen and Teens Living with Cancer). More details here from the official IndyCar website.
  • WIX Filters will join the joint DRR – SH Global Rallycross effort at the 2013 X Games in Los Angeles. The program was announced in June but driver and car details have yet to be determined for the IndyCar team that’s currently on hiatus from full-time participation.  

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”