IndyCar

With Circuit of the America’s announcement, IndyCar’s Mark Miles keeps hitting it out of the park

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If we didn’t know better, one might guess that Mark Miles is in the baseball business, rather than IndyCar racing.

Over the last six months, the CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has been on a hot streak, hitting one home run after another.

First was the signing in March of NBC Sports Group to televise all IndyCar races for the next three seasons (2019-2021), including most notably, the Indianapolis 500.

Eight of the 2019 season’s races will be televised live over the air on NBC, while the other nine will be carried live on NBCSN.

Plus there’s an exciting additional component with NBC Sports Gold that will give race fans additional content they haven’t been able to get before.

Miles hit another home run in mid-July when it was announced that IndyCar would return to the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway for at least the next three seasons, starting with 2019.

We saw another bases-clearing round-tripper over the weekend with the near-sellout crowd as IndyCar returned to Portland International Raceway for the first time since 2007

Tuesday morning, Miles swung and connected again, putting another one over the fence, announcing that Circuit of the Americas will be added to the 2019 IndyCar schedule.

“I tell you, the effort that Mark and all of his staff put in to putting a great product together, giving the fans a great show, wanting the teams to have a great experience, is really impressive,” said COTA founder and chairman Bobby Epstein. “They really listen to the fans and drivers and sponsors, and they make I think perhaps an under-appreciated, under-recognized effort to put together and deliver a season of exciting racing and great venue experiences. They really wanted this to happen, and they really put together a great product.”

But wait, there may be another home run on the horizon, and this could potentially be a grand slam, arguably the biggest news to hit the IndyCar circuit since, well, since the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Only this time, it would be for keeps, rather than a one-off.

That’s right, if Fernando Alonso comes to race in IndyCar – he is testing Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park as a potential prelude to running full-time in IndyCar next season – Miles and the rest of the sport will absolutely hit it out of the park if they can lure the 2-time Formula One champ.

While NASCAR and Formula One continue to struggle, everything has been on the upswing in IndyCar, with Miles arguably the biggest force driving things.

During a Tuesday afternoon media teleconference, Miles readily admitted that Alonso would help take IndyCar to the next level on a global stage, not just increasing series popularity here in the U.S.

“We sure hope it happens,” Miles said of Alonso. “We’re trying to be helpful to that. If it happens, I think it will be another affirming step for IndyCar in its trajectory and growth. We’re hearing that right now in terms of additional interested parties, prospective international broadcasters. It might be bigger news than it might be in the States, his joining IndyCar.”

Who can forget the Fernando-mania during the month of May last year when Alonso made headlines everywhere from Indy to China to Russia to Brazil to his native Spain.

Never before had IndyCar been talked about so much on an international scale, picking up countless new fans across the Atlantic and Pacific ponds thanks to Alonso’s appearance in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

And if Alonso indeed comes to IndyCar next season – which is increasingly looking like it may happen – the circuit could give F1 a serious run for its money in terms of worldwide popularity and media attention.

Also during Tuesday’s teleconference, Miles also suggested that while he feels IndyCar is at the right balance in terms of number of races remaining the same for 2019 – 17, just like this season – he would also welcome adding perhaps one or two international races to the schedule in the future.

That would include potential venues such as Mexico, and maybe South America, where the weather and the racing could both be potentially hot in the month of February.

“You know our philosophy: we’re not looking to grow the number (17 races) at this point,” Miles said. As our economics improve that would be great, but for now I think this is about the right (number of races), we think it’s about the right length.

“Although we’re still of a view that if we could find one or two really strong international races that add value for the series and the competitors in February, that’s something we would look at. That would be an exception to the idea that we’re big enough as we’re sized right now. That would give us a reason to look at growing the number of events.

“Generally we don’t want to go too long in September. We’d like to start earlier in February if it was out of the U.S. I want to see more people in seats and more impact in the markets where we race. I think that’s generally happening and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve on that.”

And let’s not forget about Australia.

It would be awesome to see Indy cars once again return to the great down under, particularly when you have an Aussie like Will Power, who won this year’s Indianapolis 500, and also Scott Dixon, going for his fifth IndyCar championship next weekend, from nearby New Zealand.

Yes, these are good and exciting times for IndyCar, with the likely promise that they will only to continue to get better and more exciting as time moves forward.

But it makes you wonder, given all the home runs Mark Miles has hit of late, and if he gets Alonso to join the series next season, what does Miles do for an encore?

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to see what Miles has up his sleeve for the next potential homer he and IndyCar are going to hit.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.