Looking back on IndyCar’s 2014 street races before 2 in Toronto

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It’s barely mid-July, but the condensed nature of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule means we’re now starting to get into the first “lasts” of the year.

Next weekend, that’s the Honda Indy 2 in Toronto from the streets of Exhibition Place. The doubleheader wraps the eight-race street race schedule for the year.

Here’s a recap of the year on the streets thus far:

ST. PETERSBURG: Will Power opens the year on top after a pass of polesitter Takuma Sato, but causes minor stir with restart pace.

  • Podium: Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves
  • Firestone Fast Six: Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti
  • Other details: 1.9475-second margin of victory, 2 cautions/10 laps, 20 finishers (18 on lead lap), 93.572 average speed

LONG BEACH: Mike Conway comes from 17th to score surprise win for Ed Carpenter Racing, aided in part by a multiple-car pileup triggered when Ryan Hunter-Reay contacts Josef Newgarden going for the lead at Turn 4.

  • Podium: Mike Conway, Power, Carlos Munoz
  • Firestone Fast Six: Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Jack Hawksworth, Simon Pagenaud
  • Other details: 0.9005 MOV, 4 FCY/18L, 16 finishers (12 lead lap), 82.363 avg. speed

DETROIT 1: Some slight contact between rivals Will Power and Simon Pagenaud early knocks the Frenchman out; the Australian puts on an otherwise clinical drive and holds off late pressure from Graham Rahal.

  • Podium: Power, Graham Rahal, Kanaan
  • Firestone Fast Six: Castroneves, Hinchcliffe, Hawksworth, Conway, Ryan Briscoe, Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Other details: 0.3308 MOV, 4 FCY/17L, 19 finishers (15 lead lap), 90.138 avg. speed

DETROIT 2: Simpler race sees Helio Castroneves’ weekend pace rewarded in a Penske 1-2 on the boss’ – and Chevrolet’s – home turf.

  • Podium: Castroneves, Power, Charlie Kimball
  • Top six qualifiers: Sato, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Conway, Briscoe, Munoz
  • Other details: 1.6836 MOV, 4 FCY/13L, 18 finishers (16 lead lap), 93.211 avg. speed

HOUSTON 1: Bizarre race starts wet, triggers penalty for Marco Andretti failing to heed race control call to pit, features contact between Mikhail Aleshin and Sato which leads to a cursing A.J. Foyt, yields varying strategies, sees Graham Rahal punt Tony Kanaan before the last restart was due to happen and Carlos Huertas score the win. Huertas’ fuel tank later found to be 0.1 of a gallon too big, but only minor fine issued.

  • Podium: Carlos Huertas, Montoya, Munoz
  • Firestone Fast Six: Pagenaud, Castroneves, Dixon, Luca Filippi, Hinchcliffe, Sato
  • Other details: Race ended under caution (no MOV), 6 FCY/24L, 16 finishers (13 lead lap), 70.389 avg. speed

HOUSTON 2: Hotter day sees a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 1-2 led by Simon Pagenaud, with Jack Hawksworth scoring his first podium after holding off Juan Pablo Montoya and passing an ailing Will Power, who’d come from 18th to third, late in the race.

  • Podium: Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin, Hawksworth
  • Top six qualifiers: Castroneves, Aleshin, Pagenaud, Rahal, Bourdais, Justin Wilson
  • Other details: 7.2622 MOV, 5 FCY/21L, 18 finishers (11 lead lap), 78.981 avg. speed

So in six races, here’s what we’ve had from the streets:

  • Five different winners (Power 2, Castroneves, Huertas, Pagenaud 1 win apiece)
  • Four different Verizon P1 Award winners, none named Will Power (Sato 2, Castroneves 2, Hunter-Reay 1, Pagenaud 1)
  • 13 different podium finishers of 18 possible podium positions (Power 4, Castroneves 2, Munoz 2, Hunter-Reay, Conway, Rahal, Kanaan, Kimball, Huertas, Montoya, Pagenaud, Aleshin, Hawksworth all 1)
  • 20 different drivers who’ve qualified in the top six (Hinchcliffe 4, Castroneves 4, Sato 3, Pagenaud 3, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Bourdais, Hawksworth, Conway, Briscoe all 2, Kanaan, Power, Andretti, Newgarden, Montoya, Munoz, Filippi, Aleshin, Rahal, Wilson all 1). Not all those 20 have made a Firestone Fast Six, as some have made the top six in the second qualifying session of a doubleheader weekend, set by groups.
  • 2.02 average margin of victory, average 4 cautions/17 laps
  • A still respectable 16 to 20 finishers of 22 or 23 starters in every race

All told, through six races, it’s fair to say the Verizon IndyCar Series on street courses, 2014, is completely unpredictable. You’re good picking a few random numbers out of a hat heading into a weekend.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”