Photo courtesy of IMSA

Race Car Coaches launches as service for drivers to find coaches

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One of the joys in covering Ryan Dalziel throughout first his open-wheel and then sports car career over the last 15 or so years is that he’s found a way to keep himself in the game by way of his tenacity to secure a number of different rides and opportunities, and establish himself on both the domestic and international sports car scenes.

Dalziel, who this year competes full-time in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi and in Pirelli World Challenge in the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, is now going to work to pay it forward to help drivers such as himself who’ve also carved out a place as a racing coach connect with other coaches, and to help fellow professionals have a singular landing place for drivers of all skill levels to seek them out.

Photo courtesy of IMSA

The result is Race Car Coaches, which Dalziel will launch this month at www.racecarcoaches.com.

It’s designed as a one-stop shop for drivers to find coaches, and is location-based. Coaches will be the site’s members, paying either a monthly ($30/month) or annual ($300/year) fee.

Dalziel explained more about the idea and the process behind it.

“One question I get asked a lot from guys I coach regularly is, ‘Do you know anyone in a certain location?'” Dalziel told NBC Sports. “The reason for that is, coaches want to make sure they’re available, but people may not want to pay for extra travel expenses, and that often doubles the fee of having a coach.

“So say, do I know anyone near Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah, Ga. or Watkins Glen? It got me thinking there wasn’t really an online location website for tracking and finding coaches. It’s in industries like golf, baseball and even the truck hauling business!”

With such a busy schedule himself, competing in both of North America’s top sports car series, he’s had to cut back on his own coaching schedule this year and winds up passing on potential clients to his “go-to guys” of drivers he trusts.

The goal for Race Car Coaches is to work to attract as many coaches to the site as possible in an effort to bring people together and cut out the middle man, so drivers and coaches can interact and negotiate directly for whatever makes the most sense for them.

“It’s only going to be as good as the people involved in it. If I have 1,000 coaches, of course I’m happy, but it makes everyone happy. The more content we have, the easier it is for a client to come on and make sure it looks legit,” he said.

“You don’t necessarily need to be a professional driver, and a lot of people were worried about that originally. A lot of coaches are drivers that were talented but never got the luck or opportunity to reach the pro level.

“So we’ll have a membership-based site. The coaches will be the members on the site. The membership fee gives them the ability to advertise their services on the site. They’ll upload coaching pictures. They will have their own page dedicated to them.”

Additionally, there is a 90 days free special promotion to coaches who sign up for the annual membership within the first week.

Dalziel has sought to make the site as simple to use and navigate as possible, cutting down on uncluttered pages and leaving it to where the first thing you do is type in the location within a certain mileage radius.

“For the clients, that will look to hire the coach, it’ll be simple and user friendly. So you can find the coaches by state. From there you contact them directly, connect the two parties and negotiate from there.”

Funnily, while ratings are a hot-button topic within the sports car world – there are four levels of driver rating in Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and lineups are often determined by a driver’s rating – ratings will be key to the eventual growth and success of Race Car Coaches.

Morad and Dalziel paired for success in PWC. Photo: PWC

Dalziel plans to introduce a rating system so clients can rate the coaches. Similar to an app like Yelp, where users rate businesses which then helps other users determine whether to visit that business, a ratings system here will help prospective clients find the coach that best works for them.

“One thing we’ll plan to add down the road is a rating system,” Dalziel said. “The online world, whether in the food industry, airlines, or whatever else, everything revolves around ratings. It won’t be live initially because no one has been rated yet. But as we go down the road, Race Car Coaches will send a survey down the line to the client for the coach, give the ability to rank out of 5 stars.”

On another rating-related note, since most gentlemen drivers that get into sports car racing start with track days, Dalziel said part of the reason for creating the site is to build more of those. And those relationships often grow into full-time driver partnerships as these gentlemen drivers look to build their careers.

“Most pro race drivers especially in the sports car world, are very much used to working with teammates and coaching our teammates,” he said. “When you look at where most of the pro/am lineups come from, they generally come from relationships outside of pro racing that were developed in amateur, club racing or track days.”

In speaking with some of his mechanics, Dalziel said a similar type of finding opportunities catalogue was around in the 1990s, and it’s where many of his mechanics got their start in racing.

Dalziel is focused primarily on the sports car world for this project, at least initially, as it’s where the bulk of his career has been spent in North America. The next step after launching beyond the U.S. and Canada is planning to expanding to other countries, with a drop-down menu planned to adjust between countries.

With a desktop and mobile site, Dalziel does not plan to create an app for Race Car Coaches at the outset owing to the investment level. If a coach plans to stay outside their usual location – say in California or Florida for a couple weeks at a time in-between races – they can update their location and the site will update along with it. Previously, Dalziel said drivers’ social media accounts or websites were really the only ways to track location.

An entrepreneurial driver by nature, Dalziel learned well from his father’s successful real estate career and has sought to open as many possible doors as he could within the sport. He’s also an advocate for Rett Syndrome awareness; October is Rett Syndrome awareness month.

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Now 35, Dalziel also is building the site as a way to take that mindset to the next level as the Florida-based Scot begins to think about life after full-time driving. Not that he’s slowing down any; he’s re-signed with Tequila Patron ESM for 2018, his fifth season with Scott Sharp’s team.

“I think it comes from my dad. My dad was a successful businessman in real estate his whole life. One of the best compliments I got my whole life was from Scott Atherton, who called me a ‘go-getter.’ And that’s just the way the business is. You can’t sit back; you have to make it happen,” Dalziel said.

“I’d love to say I’m at my peak – probably – is it gonna get better? Probably not. I’d have to look at, being 35 years old, where’s my career and income 10-15 years from here?

“I love coaching but I do a lot of things for people, advice, for free. I love this industry, cars, track days as much as race cars. It’s a way to help out. If it works great, if it doesn’t, I tried to connect people to help understand the business better.

“It’s a cool idea; it’s never been done before. I’m a little nervous because it’s a little outside my comfort zone and I spend most of my life racing cars. My dad was in real estate. I know the racing and real estate worlds but I’ve never really stepped outside the box too much!

“I think there’s a market for it that no one’s touched yet.”

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Coach example: Ryan Dalziel’s page

 

Alexander Rossi remains the story in IndyCar in 2019

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly timed move to race side by side with Herta going into Turn 1.

By Turn 2 of the first lap, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes, including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC Sports.com. “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by a full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California, has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished second three times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the front straight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution.

Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com after the race. “Juan is one of the greats, and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season, and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties lie with Honda. Both he and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told NBCSports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that? After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history, including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500?

In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races in a decade, and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, which is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist.

Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”