Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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Formula One names Stefano Domenicali as its new CEO

Stefano Domenicali named F1 CEO
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Former Ferarri chief Stefano Domenicali was named the new president and CEO of F1, replacing Chase Carey in January 2021, Liberty Media announced Friday.

Domenicali, 55, will join Formula One from Lamborghini, where he had been CEO and president.

He worked on Ferrari’s F1 team for nearly 20 years, becoming the team principal in 2008. He left in 2014 and worked at Audi before joining Lamborghini.

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“I am thrilled to join the Formula 1 organization, a sport that has always been part of my life,” Domenicali said in a release. “I was born in Imola and live in Monza.  I’ve remained connected to the sport through my work with the Single Seater Commission at the FIA and I look forward to connecting with the teams, promoters, sponsors and many partners in Formula 1 as we continue to drive the business ahead.

“The past six years at Audi and then leading Lamborghini have given me broader perspective and experience that I will bring to Formula 1.”

Carey, who had led F1 since Liberty’s Formula One Group took control of the organization in 2017, will move to the role of non-executive chairman.

“Chase has done a phenomenal job leading F1,” Liberty Media President and CEO Greg Maffei said in a statement. “He assembled a first-class commercial and sporting organization that has a long list of achievements, including broadening the appeal of the sport, growing its digital presence, establishing new technical regulations, securing a cost cap for the first time and reaching a new more equitable Concorde agreement with the teams.  His actions have reinforced F1 as the pinnacle of motorsport.”

Said Carey: “It has been an honor to lead Formula 1, a truly global sport with a storied past over the last seventy years. I’m proud of the team that’s not only navigated through an immensely challenging 2020 but returned with added purpose and determination in the areas of sustainability, diversity and inclusion.  I’m confident that we’ve built the strong foundation for the business to grow over the long term.”