Could Ryan Phinny and Casamigos be in IndyCar in 2015?

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The answer to the above headline: Quite possibly. And the odds are better than you think.

In case your first reaction to “Ryan Phinny” is “Who?” and your first reaction to Casamigos is… well… “Who?”, here’s a couple brief primers.

Phinny, 25, is an American driver out of Los Angeles who has competed off-and-on since 2005 in Formula BMW USA, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, American Le Mans Series and most recently, Indy Lights. He ran five Indy Lights races this past season, three with Bryan Herta Autosport before switching to Belardi Auto Racing for the Sonoma doubleheader season finale (best finish of sixth, but featured within top-five all weekend there in practice and qualifying).

Casamigos is an American tequila company who has three partners, George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman. Yes, that George Clooney (we elaborated a bit more on the brand when Phinny’s BHA Lights deal was announced this past summer).

The intriguing part of this potential deal that could see Phinny in a full-season ride in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series is that it’s an American driver putting together a business-to-business deal in order to further both entities’ respective goals.

And in 2014 into 2015, that’s the way drivers have to get rides – Americans doing it is a rare story these days.

“Basically that’s how you have to do it, just the way you mentioned it,” Phinny told MotorSportsTalk. “Tequila is a Mexican product but Casamigos is an American company; it’s a very pro-American business. So we sat down and it was, ‘This is what I can offer you,’ and we worked at it.

“I was basically broke for three years. But we made meetings at retail accounts. I worked hand-in-hand with distributors to make sure they had a great program. When you can do that for a company, i.e. a liquor company, and you can get in a big chain (California Pizza Kitchen in Casamigos’ instance) this helps a company get jump-started. It helps instill their confidence in me.

“The way people used to go about it was the sticker-slapping way of putting stickers on the car. But I had to go back and see this is what they need, what benefits them, and I had to get them what they wanted.”

So, B2B connection established, Phinny was a surprise name in the Indy Lights field when he returned after a three-year hiatus to the series starting at Toronto.

Phinny got reacclimated and by Sonoma, he was quickly on pace with new teammate Gabby Chaves at Belardi – Chaves, of course, went on to win this year’s Indy Lights championship. And Casamigos liked what they saw both in the driver and the series, as a new sponsor.

“I think right now, we both see there’s more potential in IndyCar now than in F1 or Europe,” Phinny explained. “They see a sport that’s ramping up. It fits their profile, which is an ultra premium beverage, and a sport that is a high-end lifestyle. I see a lot of potential in it.”

This then leads to the next part… an available team. Phinny has said he has been in talks with Chevrolet teams, and by process of elimination that rules out Penske and Ganassi, but leaves open CFH and KVSH Racing.

CFH is out though, for two reasons. One, the team’s only open seat is a partial season ride for road and street courses with Ed Carpenter driving the ovals. And two, tequila and vodka generally don’t mix well.

“That wasn’t so much an issue for Casamigos, because it’s vodka and tequila – two entirely different types,” Phinny said. “It’s just confusing for (CFH) to have both. Fuzzy’s is a great partner for them, and they’re committed to the season.”

KVSH – either as KVSH or as just KV Racing Technology – has its second seat available. A third car there also could be possible; the team has operated three full-time cars before (2010-2012).

Phinny is optimistic he’ll be testing by mid-January at Sebring and potentially New Orleans. If he does, that will be his first day in the latest Dallara DW12 chassis.

Like other drivers, Phinny’s biggest stumbling block throughout his career has been a steady, consistent full-time program, which is why he is seeking and pushing for this so hard right now.

“My issue in Lights seemed to be the inconsistencies of the program itself,” he said. “In sports cars when I had a consistent program and good testing, we were at the front of the pack.

“I’ve grown up with most guys that would be rookies. It’s been a while since (Alexander) Rossi and I raced. But people’s styles don’t change. It could be a great year.”

Casamigos has let the cat out of the bag with a teaser image posted to its social media channels (the lead image here), and Phinny tweeted this just after the holidays.

View this post on Instagram

The Casamigos Sleigh #CasamigosGear

A post shared by Casamigos (@casamigos) on

And additionally, with American rookies in IndyCar so rare these days –Josef Newgarden was the most recent one in 2012, with Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand in 2011 before that – it’s been a while since there’s been this fresh a face.

We’ll see whether this materializes in full, but the odds are good this could go down smooth.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2