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Checking in with Alex Lloyd: Indy veteran shifts to Beepi

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Life is new – or certainly different – for Alex Lloyd.

Now 31, and five years out of a cockpit on a regular basis (he last raced in the Verizon IndyCar Series part-time in 2011 and also made sporadic Pirelli World Challenge starts in 2014), Lloyd has taken the more unconventional step of shifting into writing about fast production and race cars, rather than racing them.

However in recent months, Yahoo Autos announced it would be closing up shop and it left Lloyd and his team of talented colleagues needing to figure out their next step.

For Lloyd, that next step is a fairly big leap. He’s in the process of packing up his personal traveling road show, with wife Samantha, their four children and three pets, from Indianapolis and moving to Silicon Valley, where he’s taken on a new role as Head of Content for Beepi.

Beepi, a fairly new entity, is only a couple years into its lifespan but is going after the used car industry in a new way to try to buy and sell cars online and via an app – and do all the work for the buyers and sellers. More info on the company here.

Lloyd, who’s developed some excellent writing chops of his own over the last few years, joins the company as it looks to increase its digital profile and make the car buying and selling process more interactive.

He described the transition for himself as he heads into this new role:

“Honestly, this is one of the final steps in terms of transitioning from race car driver, which is a flaky career at best, to something that’s more sustainable and solid,” Lloyd told NBC Sports. “The goal here is to build something from nothing out of a new situation.

“At the end of 2011, with no ride, lots had happened. When you’ve got a family and kids to feed, you’re to the point of asking, ‘What the hell am I gonna do?’

“So I figured, why not be writing about cars and build that into something? This is like the writing equivalent of asking, ‘How can I get further up the grid?’ So this is a big move, but it was something I thought about.

“We knew a few months ago Yahoo would close Yahoo Autos and most of its media sites. Here, we’re seeing the tech world is interesting and learning about that side of the business. With videos, brand awareness and with someone doing all the work for you, this is finally using technology to enhance the car buying experience. And we’ll be providing a robust network of content.

“It’s a big transition from racing race cars, to fast production cars, to now just working out in Silicon Valley, in an office job, and really taking the career side of things serious.

“When you’re entering into a two-year-old startup company, you have to have results quickly. They’ve raised a lot in funding. It’s an exciting challenge.”

Lloyd said finding the jump-off point from full-time driver to full-time journalist and content director was a hard place, and certainly came earlier than he’d hoped. It’s a shame considering he is arguably one of the greatest racing talents who’s come to the U.S. from Europe in the last decade.

That being said, he said it was a move he had to make into entering this sphere of the industry, rather than continuing to stick it out as a driver.

“It feels to me like the final move from race car driver into a sustainable career after that,” he explained.

“When you’re a driver, you have to ask, ‘What do you do when racing finishes?’ And I wish it hadn’t at 25… I wish it had been 40. So then you say, ‘What do you do next?’

“Drivers don’t think about anything other than racing. But I’m happy to have evolved, and in moving to California. I get to go there, do it right, and it’s what my wife and I said we’d hoped to do at some stage. Here was an opportunity, with a great position to do it and put into action. It’s exciting times.”

One of the biggest learning experiences for Lloyd in this transition will be the move itself. It’s his biggest move in the U.S. since coming here prior to 2006.

Lloyd had won the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award in 2003, having come second to Lewis Hamilton in the Formula Renault UK series but having beat notables such as James Rossiter and Mike Conway.

He stormed to the Indy Lights title in 2007 but had a sporadic IndyCar career from 2008 through 2011. His timing was less than ideal, because even though he’d been recruited as a development driver by Chip Ganassi, what would have been the ideal opportunity for him in Ganassi’s No. 10 Target car for 2009 fell through once Ganassi recruited Dario Franchitti back from NASCAR after the Scotsman’s one-year sojourn. Dan Wheldon left Ganassi and went to Panther Racing; all Lloyd had for 2009 was an Indy 500 one-off in a Ganassi-supported entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, where he rocked the No. 99 and was dubbed “Pink Lloyd” owing to then-sponsor Her Energy Drink.

In that four-year period, 2010 marked his only full season. Yet in less than the best equipment with Dale Coyne Racing, Lloyd still won series rookie-of-the-year honors and finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500. His qualifying to even make the 500 a year later stands out as an even more memorable moment, driving a car with the rear wing angled waaay back and hanging on to stick the car in the field.

All the while he’s made a home in Indianapolis, raising a family and now packs them up to follow Horace Greeley’s advice of going west.

“The two oldest are girls (8 and 6), the two youngest are boys (5 and soon to be 3), plus three cats and two dogs. I got the animals before the kids. I did it backwards!” Lloyd joked.

As for the office and driving situation?

“They’re based in Los Altos and it’s a big office with 180 or so people,” Lloyd explained. “Getting used to the traffic and expense of Silicon Valley will be a big challenge. I’m in South San Jose now before I move the family out.

“You’re moving from working from home to an hour, hour and a half drive every day in an office scenario. It’ll be a big change, but a good change.”

Lloyd displayed some candor in explaining how difficult the life of a part-time driver can be, as he was with Coyne in 2011, when he last raced in IndyCar. He raced ovals only while a then-returning Sebastien Bourdais raced on road and street courses.

“I miss racing a lot… but, it’s nice when you do race to do it for fun, rather than having your next meal depend on it,” Lloyd said.

“To be honest, sometimes, I was miserable as hell trying to make ends meet, race-by-race. If you aren’t bringing money, you are paid next to nothing. All the while you hope someone signs you on.

“It’s a tough way of life. Everyone waits for the Penske drive. But unless you can do it properly, it’s a tough time.

“Of course, if I could jump in a car for the 100th (Indianapolis 500), I would tomorrow. I’m definitely not closing that door.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.