Rayhall, 8Star look to finish strong at MRLS; second crowd-funding campaign launched

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After his and 8Star Motorsports’ first win in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this year, Sean Rayhall launched a crowd-funding campaign to ensure they made it to the next race, the Freedom 100 on the IMS oval.

It worked, and Rayhall was back in action for his oval debut in the championship.

There was a couple-month hiatus for both driver and team between the Freedom 100 and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this month, but Rayhall and Enzo Potolicchio’s team, led by team manager Gary Neal, didn’t miss a beat at Mid-Ohio.

Rayhall emerged victorious in the second race of the weekend at Mid-Ohio, and as after the Indy GP another campaign has been launched to ensure they make it to the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September. A link to the new crowd-funding campaign is here.

Rayhall capitalized on the contact between Indy Lights title rivals Jack Harvey and Ed Jones in order to seize the lead at Mid-Ohio, but he’d fully positioned himself to be in that position with faster laps in the early stages of the race.

“There were times I had the pace to reel them in,” Rayhall told MotorSportsTalk after the win at Mid-Ohio. “I tried to be a bit on the conservative side, save my tires, have something to go with at the end.

“When I saw lockup at the position of track they were, I drove off deeper than I’ve driven all weekend and said, ‘We gotta go.’ Usually they stay on track. They didn’t there.”

One final restart after a spin by Belardi Auto Racing’s Juan Piedrahita meant Rayhall still had to hold off Carlin’s Max Chilton and Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot, and maintain the car’s balance over the bump on the front straight.

“It’s really hard because of the bump and that upsets the car. It’s so hard to be patient with the throttle,” Rayhall explained. “It’s a difficult place to restart. You have to play the cards right. It’s a lot of laps to be considered a sprint race. You go with an endurance strategy: tire saving and boost saving.”

In the interim two months between Rayhall’s Indy Lights starts, he was still busy. He made a pair of PC class starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, tested a Ferrari 458 Italia and IMSA Prototype Lites car, and had one additional secret test.

He is now set to test for Chip Ganassi Racing later this week in Sonoma, as part of the Indy Lights driver test.

It hasn’t necessarily been the year he drew up at the start of the year, but Rayhall has been seizing the opportunities when he has them.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).