Carlin picks RC Enerson for Mid-Ohio IndyCar contest

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – The revolving door of drivers at Carlin Racing now includes former Indy Lights star RC Enerson, who will take over the No. 31 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Sage Karam drove the No. 31 Chevrolet to a 22nd-place finish and Conor Daly drove the No. 59 car to a 13th-place finish in Sunday’s morning’s Iowa 300.

Patricio O’Ward began the season in the No. 59 and was set to run a partial schedule. He has since moved on from the team because of lack of sponsorship. Max Chilton remains the team’s primary driver in the No. 31, but announced in June that he no longer wanted to compete on the ovals.

This week’s race is on the permanent road course at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Enerson had six podiums and one win in 2015 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Halfway through the 2016 Indy Lights Series season, Enerson left to pursue a seat in the NTT IndyCar Series and made his INDYCAR debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He went on to compete in two more races of the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series season recording a top 10 with a ninth-place finish at Watkins Glen. Enerson participated in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Spring Training with Carlin in February.

“It’s really great to be back driving with Carlin after completing Spring Training earlier this season with the team,” Enerson said. “We’ve been working really hard to get something together to get me back in the seat at some point this season and I couldn’t be happier that it’s all come together for Mid-Ohio.

“Mid-Ohio has always been one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. I’ve just always loved the elevation changes and all of the high-speed flowing corners. I’m also excited to be able to carry the Lucas Oil School of Racing logo on the No. 31 this weekend. They are the official school of the Road to Indy Series and it’s been so rewarding to share my love of racing and to be able to instruct some of the future stars of INDYCAR. I know we have some work to do this weekend, but I’m confident that with both my experience and the team’s at Mid-Ohio we can put together a solid result.”

Enerson began karting at the age of five and eventually made his professional debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series, the entry level of the Road to Indy ladder series, in 2012. During his three-year career in F2000, Enerson had five wins and 11 podiums before he moved into the Indy Lights Series in 2015, where he spent the next two seasons of his career.

“We’re excited to have RC Enerson and the Lucas Oil School of Racing on-board this weekend in the No. 31 entry at Mid-Ohio,” team owner Trevor Carlin said. “RC really impressed us at Spring Training at COTA at the beginning of the season and we were very hopeful that something could come together at some point that would put him back in the car,” said Team Principal Trevor Carlin. “RC has spent a lot of time with our team this season and he has quite a bit of experience at Mid-Ohio, including an INDYCAR start a few years back, so he should be able to jump right back in and make the transition a smooth one.”

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will take place on Sunday, July 28that 3:30 pm ET and will be televised on NBC.

 

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).