IndyCar notes: Potential Indy 500 deals are brewing

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From those at Sebring, there’s actually been a fair bit of potential IndyCar nuggets that have emerged this week:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told MotorSportsTalk on Wednesday that a fifth car for the Indianapolis 500 is possible, but if it comes together it would likely be late.
  • On a somewhat related note, 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam also said he has not shut the door to IndyCar opportunities, as he makes his second TUDOR United SportsCar Championship start this weekend with CGR. It would not be a surprise to see Karam appear somewhere on the IndyCar grid in the month of May, as he and his management team continue to work to put at least a partial open-wheel program together.
  • At least one other Chevrolet-powered team that has not announced an extra Indianapolis-only entry yet appears close to a deal with one Indy 500 veteran.
  • A significant number of Panther Racing’s crew members have been released to explore other opportunities; some have opted to shift into sports car racing. Panther has not formalized its 2014 IndyCar plans.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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