IndyCar Media Day: News, notes, musings and observations


INDIANAPOLIS – Tuesday’s IndyCar Media Day at a snowy, cold Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an exercise in rapid fire sessions and anxiousness, and I mean that in a good way.

The length of the 2014-2015 IndyCar offseason has, for lack of a better term, dragged.

Yes, there have been occasional news nuggets, and we’ve hit a number of features that would otherwise get overlooked during the season.

But the last race was held August 30. It will be nearly a full seven months since that point when the 2015 curtain-raiser occurs March 29 at St. Petersburg.

Alas, here were some of the nuggets from media day we didn’t hit yesterday and are looping back on today:


Depending on where you looked, the words used online in the wake of Chevrolet unveiling its aero kit on Tuesday ran to the degree of “awful,” “hideous,” “ungainly” or “extra wings that are going to cause a heck of a lot of yellows.”

A word used occasionally, but less frequently, to describe the aero kits was, “cool.”

But a word we can all agree on for aero kits now more than ever, however late it is compared to the original idea that occurred back in 2010 is, “actual.”

The aero kit implementation ahead of 2015 is proof positive of the “better late than never” mantra, and quite frankly, is a huge element of the season ahead.

The competition element of the championship is there – witness double digit winners and either 19 or 20 podium finishers each of the last two years. But without something to build on beyond the competition, we’d be looking at 2015 as a “more of the same” year without something new to discuss.

Chevrolet’s aero kit has 123 parts, and it will be fascinating to see which of those parts makes the difference in outright pace improvements throughout the year. While GM’s VP of Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, Jim Campbell, couldn’t be pressed on percentage gains, he did confirm these will make for faster speeds, as you’d expect.

The domino next to fall is Honda’s aero kit, and the fact that the two aero kits are not being launched simultaneously is a benefit for the series, which will now have two “hits” rather than one.

The anticipation will now build for a few weeks for Honda’s official reveal – tentatively slated for March ahead of the Barber Motorsports Park spring training test – although as a Honda spokesperson confirmed, “the plan is written in pencil.” It could be earlier, and it may have to, given some Honda teams will be testing after the March 13 first date but before Barber on March 16. It’s impossible pictures won’t get out.

While I was not a fan of the perpetual delay of the aero kits, I am pleased to see the timeline outlined by Derrick Walker in his first weekend with INDYCAR in June 2013 rigidly adhered to to see the aero kits actually, finally, happen for 2015.


The long offseason, as mentioned, has made a number of drivers stir-crazy and a bit anxious to actually be racing.

After a recent flurry of testing though, the engines will simmer over the next two to three weeks before it gets crazy again from March 13 until the St. Petersburg season opener.

“Being here (at IMS) is nice, but being around the guys is a tease,” said Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal. “You want to get out and get running, see what we can do.  I think it’s about a month before we hit the track again.  That’s kind of weird.”


The drivers themselves were in fine form for most of the breakout press conferences. Rahal’s counterpart James Hinchcliffe, as expected, brought the usual humor and candor he’s known for with a couple riffs.

Tony Kanaan’s “Awesome!” line in response to a question about the Brazil cancellation showed his humor is still as as fast-paced as his driving, before he addressed the cancellation head on.

Josef Newgarden seemed flattered to still be considered part of IndyCar’s “next generation” segment alongside rookies and fellow past Indy Lights champions in Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam.

Newgarden had the line of the day when he whipped out a random Australian accent ahead of the Team Penske press conference and told series champion Will Power, “Have a good press conference, mate!” to much laughter.

Then Power and the test of his Penske teammates, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and new recruit Simon Pagenaud, had what Power described as “the most un-Penske-like press conference ever,” where the quartet was basically the IndyCar version of a comedy troupe. Montoya said he “sucked” early last year, Power said JPM left and the series went down, then he came back and now it’s on the way up. As the new guy, Pagenaud also got some good-natured ribbing.

With all sessions occurring between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at a snowy Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was a hectic, fast-paced morning.


It was good to catch up with JR Hildebrand, who planned this trip to Indianapolis in advance of knowing it would coincide with media day. Nonetheless, Hildebrand’s presence was a welcome surprise. The American spent time talking and catching up with those on site and while he doesn’t have anything immediate in the works, he and fellow Denver resident Justin Wilson are both still sorting out their plans.

Meanwhile James Jakes made a cameo appearance at the start of the day, and was among several drivers present who weren’t part of the media sessions. Jakes has been called IndyCar’s version of “The Stig” before because you rarely, if ever, hear him speak – Tuesday was no different.

I guess I can’t help but sigh a little bit because Jakes – who is still a plenty capable driver – does not have near the fan interest nor name recognition of a Hildebrand. And a Hildebrand confirmation to a ride would have undoubtedly generated a better reaction on social media than Jakes’ did earlier this week.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).