Columnist nails it: How IndyCar became a big hit in ‘Bama

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There are sports columns that are so bad that readers stop reading after the first paragraph or two – sometimes even after the first sentence.

Then there are sports columns that absolutely hit the target dead-on.

Huntsville (Ala.) Times columnist Mark McCarter falls into the latter category. His column on Barber Motorsports Park and this past weekend’s IndyCar race there absolutely, positively nailed it – with some good-natured humor thrown in.

From the headline, a reader is immediately drawn in: The preposterous notion of an IndyCar race in Alabama turns out to be a rousing success”

You can click on the headline to read the whole column, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t repeat the best part of McCarter’s outstanding piece of prose:

Just as (track founder/builder George) Barber envisioned, (Barber Motorsports Park) also was a magnificent racing venue for the daredevils on two wheels and those expensive, sleek sports cars that make so many cameo appearances in mid-life crisis dreams.

But IndyCars?

C’mon.

Too tight. Can’t pass. Too many elevation changes.

And, besides, didn’t anybody look at a map?

It’s Alabama, for cryin’ out loud.

It’s Talladega territory, the sole – and soul – of NASCAR’s Southern footprint. This is where kids are taught to count, “One … two … Earnhardt … four…”

But, look here. The Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama is in its fifth season. It’s still a hit.

Indeed, IndyCar racing continues to be a big hit and success deep in the heart of Dixie, and will likely keep doing so for many more years to come. Who knew?

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NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.