Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.

Contact:

tickets@gpstpete.com

pir@portlanoregon.gov

Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video:

 

 

 

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Change Coming to ECR- New Driver, Team Partnership; Vasser-Sullivan Expands to IMSA

An announcement should come tomorrow (Wednesday) regard Ed Carpenter racing’s car 20 for 2019. Jordan King will not return to the road/street course schedule in the Fuzzy’s car. The team is expected to announce a partnership with Scuderis Corsa, which fielded Oriol Servia in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Ed Jones, who drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, will be introduced as the driver of the shared ride. Ed Carpenter will drive the 20 on all ovals. Jones will drive a third car in the 2019 500.

The partnership with Corsa puts Oriol Servia on the sidelines once again. Servia was instrumental in getting Scuderia Corsa to the 500 last season and was looking to drive for them in a full season effort in 2019. Servia would be a good candidate for the second seat at Carlin.

The Carlin seat is one of two still open. Schmidt=Peterson has an open seat while Robert Wickens continues his recovery.

I will follow up tomorrow afternoon on the details after the announcement.

Vasser-Sullivan Joins Lexus  in IMSA

Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, who joined forces with Dale Coyne Racing for Sebastien Bourdais’ ride, announced their entry into IMSA. They will field a Lexus in the GT Daytona class. No driver has been named. Vasser said this will not affect the Indycar portion of their program. Indycar owners have been expanding into IMSA at quite a clip lately.

Will Bourdais continue to drive foir Ganassi in the endurance races or will he switch to the Vasser-Sullivan ride?

Comings and Goings- The Indycar Grid Adds More Youth, and Other Notes

Chip Ganassi has never been known for his patience with drivers. Ask Darren Manning and Ed Jones. Jones was the latest one year and out at Ganassi as Felix Rosenqvist will drive the 10 car with continued support from NTT Data. To be fair, Jones did not have a bad season with eight Top tens and two podiums. It was just not as good a season as the team had hoped. He did not take many points away from Dixon’s championship rivals. 2019 will be the third consecutive season a new driver has been in car 10.

Rosenqvist won three races in 10 starts in Indy Lights in 2016, then spent 2018 in Formula E. He won twice and finished sixth in the standings. Rosenqvist does have talent and will be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year. The rookie class is quite deep with Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta already in the field.

C. J. O’Donnell to Leave at the End of the Year

C. J. O’Donnell,  Indycar’s chief marketing officer since November 2013, will leave his position at the end of the calendar year. In his five years with the series, O’Donnell and his team has grown the fan base, adding 1 million followers to Indycar social media platforms, increased television viewership by 23% and helped attendance at races grow. I had the good fortune to meet him at Long Beach a few years ago. I wish him well in his future endeavors. O’Donnell and Jay Frye are two of the best hires Indycar has made in recent years.

Coyne Fills Second Seat

Yes, it is October 1 as I write this. No, that is no a typo. Dale Coyne Racing announced today Santino Ferrucci will drive the number 19 car full time in 2019. He and Sebastien Bourdais in the 18 mean Coyne has both drivers signed about as early as I can remember. This should help with their off season testing.

Ferrucci drove four races for  Coyne in 2018, the double header at detroit and the final two races at Portland and Sonoma. He finished 11th at Sonoma. Ferrucci had been pursuing an F1 career in Europe but was suspended for on track incidents at a race in early July. There have been no issues during his brief time in Indycar.

I’m interested to see how he does over the course of a season. He has done fairly well as far as keeping the car on course. Ferrucci was hit from behind in the second Detroit race after a clean Race 1.

Seats Still Open

Three full time  rides from 2018 still need drivers. The 23 Carlin car, the Schmidt 7 (6 is reserved for Robert Wickens), and the Carpenter 20 road/street ride. Charlie Kimball, who drove the 23 for Carlin last season, reportedly does not have a full year budget and may drive the car part time. Schmidt has offered his open seat to a couple of drivers who have turned it down. Carpenter would like to re-sign Jordan King, but there has not been any news about that lately.

Carlin and Rahal Letterman Lanigan have talked about adding a third car, which could be good news for Ed Jones. Dreyer and Reinbold Racing may be close to running a part time schedule, including the Indianapolis 500. Sage Karam would likely drive.

Dragon Speed and Scuderia Corsa are still consdering their options.

Of course everyone is awaiting a decision from McLaren. I’m trying to keep my expectations low and hope to be pleasantly surprised. When they do announce their plans, I think I’ll be grateful that I gave up Track Forum a while ago.

Running the 1?

Unless sponsor PNC Bank insists on having the 1 on the car they back, look for Scott Dixon to carry the number 9 again next season. Ganassi and Dixon have been reluctant to put the number 1 on their cars following a championship. They did one year and that year did not go well.

I think the champion should not have an option and should be required to run the number 1. This is another point on which the series will not listen to me.

Mid Ohio Qualifying Day

Welcome to Day 2 at Mid Ohio. Indycar practices at 10 am and then qualifying begins at 1:35. The qualifying session will be carried live on NBCSN beginning at 1:30.

Drivers are hoping for an uninterrupted practice session this morning. Scott Dixon said last night that he was hampered by the red flags in really finding speed.in yesterday’s start and stop sessions.

The track has added some new features this year. First, the main entrance road up to the infield bridge has been repaved.  A new Victory podium has been built. There is a new digital scoring pylon located in turn 6, which doubles as a Verizon cell tower. See the photos below.

I will be back here later with some quick thoughts on qualifying. My full report on the day will appear on Wildrieradiosports.com later tonight. I also posted my Day 1 summary on wildfire last night. Check it out.

IMG_4007
The new Victory Lane Podium at Mid Ohio
IMG_4033
The scoring pylon and cell tower

Good Morning from Iowa

Welcome to Iowa Speedway for Indycar’s race weekend. This could be a pivotal weekend in the future of this event. Will the decent temperatures improve attendance? How will the new cars race here? Will Iowa return to a Saturday night race next year? If so, will the date change? We will have the answers to the first two questions by tomorrow afternoon. The last two will take a while.

I will have a qualifying wrapup later tonight. During the day I will be tweet updating. Follow along on @PitWindow.

The Last Gift- A Tribute

Note- I first published this two years ago in honor of my late wife, Vicki Silver. In honor of what would have been her 70th birthday today, I’m reposting it. Thanks for reading.

“I just want one thing for Christmas. “

“I know what it is and no, I won’t give you that. It’s dangerous. You could get killed and then I’d be all alone”

We had no clue how ironic that statement would become a few months later.

“What else do you want?” she demanded.

“Nothing. It can be for my birthday too,” I countered, “since it costs about what you’d spend altogether anyway.”

The discussion ended. I gave her no more gift ideas.

On Christmas morning she handed me a thick envelope.

I opened the envelope and then opened the card. A wad of cash fell out. Inside the card she had written, “ Enjoy your 2 -seater ride!”

Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe my feelings or my love for her at that moment. “Just don’t get killed,” she warned.

Ever since Indycar created their 2-seat stretch race car, I had wanted to ride in it. Now my opportunity was just months away.

I reserved a spot for early May. The morning of my ride she was quiet, fearing the worst as she tended to do. She left for work with just a nod and a reminder to call after the ride. I was about to make a joke that she would definitely get a call from someone, but thought better of it.

I arrived at the Speedway and joined the line at registration. “Please read and sign the waiver,” the girl at the table recited the mantra to each person as she handed out clipboards. No problem. I had signed waivers to get into the pits at races, so this would just take a second. But, wait.. there must be 10 pages here! Reading War and Peace would take less time than it would to get through than this waiver.

Paragraph 3, Page 1 contained the words “maimed or killed”…I checked the next page-“maimed or killed” ,the next “maimed or killed”. The phrase repeated itself throughout.

Scanning the rest of the document, I did not see a sentence saying, “I realize I am about to do something really stupid… “

After signing the waivers we went into a trailer to change into drivers’ suits. I learned that most riders were cashing in a birthday or Christmas gift as well. We had a great time sharing stories about races and tracks until it was time to head to the pits.

This is a very organized operation. The cars are lined up, head scarves, helmets, and gloves get distributed efficiently, the riders are assigned a car and order.

I watched with envy as the other riders got in the cars and returned with a huge smile on their faces. Finally it was my turn. I stepped into the cocoon and lowered myself into the seat. A Mini-Cooper seems spacious now. The crew strapped me in, asking me to scoot lower. Any lower and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. After they lowered my helmet visor, there was an eerie silence and a feeling of isolation for a brief moment before the engine started. Here we go!

We accelerated down pit road. It was fast but not too fast. I’m thinking, “This isn’t so bad”. Then we got on the track. Ignore my previous thought. Pushed to the back of the seat and holding on to the handles, I looked down the backstretch. It didn’t seem so long now. When we turned left I slid to the right side of the tub then back again as the car straightened. I was screaming for joy!

We passed the pits to begin the full speed lap. How do the drivers ever find their pits, I wondered, looking at the blur on my left. On this lap, I noticed that each turn, although supposedly identical, had a different look. The view on the right is white wall, close enough to touch.

In less than three minutes, it was over. The crew unstrapped me and I climbed from the car, wearing the same large grin I saw on the people who went before me. Of course, I dutifully called to tell her how great it was. I’m not sure she understood a word I said.

Just over a month later, the monster appeared. It would not go away; it only exerted its will over her more and more. There were small, short-lived victories, but after four months the monster won. Somehow she knew the 2-seater ride would be her final gift to me. I know it made her happy to give it to me, as we both took great joy in exchanging gifts. It was a reluctant gift given out of unconditional love.

Pre Race Notes

Good morning from IMS. Some things to note heading into this afternoon’s race:

TV Coverage-

ABC 3:30 EDT Green flag at 3:50

Bonus Point Watch- through Barber

Josef Newgarden  6

Alexander Rossi    6

Sebastien Bourdais 5

Robert Wickens       5

Will Power                4

Ryan Hunter-Reay   3

Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe, Jordan King  tied at 1

It’s not surprising that the top three in points have the most bonus points. Power earned another point yesterday with his pole for today’s race.

Another charge to the front for Rahal and Dixon?

Rahal and Dixon have had to come back through the field in every race this year either due to poor qualifying, penalties, or track incidents. From their ninth row starting spots, they may have a tough time today. A different pit strategy might help them. This has not been a race with a lot of yellow flags the last three years.

The Schmidt-Peterson Factor

Keep an eye on Robert Wickens and James Hinchcliffe. This team started the season strong and has become a cohesive unit. Their top six starting spots bode well for good results today. A first win for Wickens is not out of the question.

Has Andretti Lost Their Momentum?

Andretti Autosport had a difficult day in qualifying. Perhaps most disappointing was Rossi not making the Fast Six. Is this a temporary hiccup in their season? I expect them to be very strong when 500 practice starts Tuesday.