Baron, Celis, Telitz lead Road to Indy Barber test

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The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test at Barber Motorsports Park is in the books for all of Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000. This test marked the first time all three series ran together while on Cooper Tires, as Indy Lights makes the switch this offseason ahead of 2014, and all under the Andersen Promotions umbrella.

As he did on his USF2000 debut in Monterey, when he won in his first start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Frenchman Alexandre Baron led the timesheets in Indy Lights with a best lap of 1:15.726. Andretti Autosport teammates Zach Veach (1:16.026) and Matthew Brabham (1:16.234) were next up over the times combined from two days. Four other drivers tested.

Baron (pictured) will drive for Belardi Auto Racing in Indy Lights in 2014; he won two of his four USF2000 starts this season. And no, he’s not the same driver as 1997 Formula Atlantic champion Alex Barron, who drove portions of nine seasons between IndyCar and CART.

In Pro Mazda, Mexican rookie Alfonso Celis upset the regulars with a best lap of 1:20.490 driving for Juncos Racing. One-time race winners in 2013, Shelby Blackstock (Andretti) and Spencer Pigot (Juncos) were next up at 1:20.698 and 1:21.034, respectively. Neither Celis nor Pigot has a confirmed deal yet for 2014, while Blackstock, son of country music star Reba McIntyre, will lead Andretti’s Pro Mazda effort in his second season.

The two who dueled for the USF2000 championship in 2013, Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, clocked in 11th and 12th of the 18 testing.

Skip Barber Race Series Scholarship Shootout winner Aaron Telitz led the USF2000 field in testing driving for Afterburner Autosport, with a best lap of 1:23.283. Cape’s USF2000 driver, Jake Eidson, was second at 1:23.381 with one of Belardi’s four confirmed drivers, Nico Jamin, third at 1:23.598. 20 drivers tested for seven teams in USF2000.

Cold temperatures means this won’t be a great foreshadowing of the spring, when Indy Lights races there in April, but might be a good forecast for the Cooper Tire Winterfest for the races at Barber on February 25-26, 2014. The Winterfest will also be held at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans Feb. 21-22.

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).