IndyCar notes: Filippi closing on deal; Andretti engineering shift

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Many IndyCar folks have been here on the ground in Austin at Circuit of the Americas this weekend. To wit, we’ve already touched on Simona de Silvestro visiting with Sauber for a photo op, the series president of competition and operations Derrick Walker’s possible series changes, and circuit ambassador and racing legend Mario Andretti’s opinions on IndyCar’s 2014 schedule and Heikki Kovalainen’s settling into Lotus.

But, there’s even more bits and pieces that are emerging:

  • Luca Filippi, who starred in his cameo appearances for Bryan Herta Autosport/Barracuda Racing this year, is close to a full-time deal with the team for 2014 per multiple sources. The Italian made an incredible and indelible impression on the team at Mid-Ohio, Baltimore and Houston. He’s here this weekend with TV work with English broadcaster Sky Sports.
  • Michael Andretti joins his father Mario on the premises. The middle Andretti confirmed a RACER report that Craig Hampson will move into a team R&D role, with Nathan O’Rourke moving over from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to become James Hinchcliffe’s engineer. Hinchcliffe, who was scheduled to test Monday in Sebring, will not test now and that leaves just Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz to test.
  • Charlie Kimball was also here today, in the midst of a whirlwind offseason, as a guest of the Mercedes F1 Team. Kimball said any rumblings about who could enter the Chip Ganassi Racing fold to replace the retired Dario Franchitti was “above his pay grade.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).