Carpenter, Scuderia Corsa Join Forces for 2019

In a just released announcement, Scuderia Corsa and Ed Carpenter Racing have combined to field the number 20 car in 2019  Ed Jones was named as the road and street course driver for the number 20 car.  Ed Carpenter will continue to drive the car on ovals. The entry is now Ed  Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa. Jones will drive a third car,number 64, in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Jones drove for Chip Ganassi Racing last season. He had several top tens on road and street courses, but struggled on ovals.

Academia Corsa entered the 500 last year with Oriol Servia , who led late in the race but needed to make a late stop for fuel. Serbia had hoped to drive for the team full time this upcoming season.

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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?

1960: The Last All Roadster Race Produces a Classic Duel

My latest adventure in memorabilia show Indy 500 program hunting yielded some more gems with hidden treasures.  The 1960 program for the 44th Indianapolis 500. Still fairly early in the white cover with the flag program era, it follows the standard format of programs since the mid 50’s. The welcome page announced a new double- deck paddock grandstand on the front stretch for 1961. Fans wishing to get seats there had to request seats by mail after 4 pm on Race Day.

The memorial page of drivers who had died  the previous year featured Jerry Unser, the first Unser brother to drive at the Speedway. He died two weeks after a May 3  crash during practice for the 1959 500. Ed Elisian also appears on the page. Elisian, sadly,  is most  remembered for two incidents at Indianapolis- stopping his car to run to the aid of Bill Vukovich after the fatal wreck in 1955, which earned the wrath of his car owner; and causing the pileup at the start of the 1958 race which took the life of popular driver Pat O’Connor.

1960 was the rookie year for Lloyd Ruby, Jim Hurtubise, Wayne Weiler, and Bud Tingelstad. Ruby would finish seventh in the race, but  Hurtubise won Rookie of the Year for his spectacular qualifying run.  Just three former winners started the 500 that year- defending champion Rodger Ward, Troy Ruttman, and Jimmy Bryan. This race was the second in a four year stretch in which Ward finished no lower than third.

The revered heroes of that era were just beginning their careers. 1960 was A. J. Foyt’s  third 500. He finished tenth in 1959 on his way to fifth place in the national championship.  Mario Andretti would not enter the race for five more years. Parnelli Jones was a year away from his first race.

The front straightaway featured the last uncovered half mile of bricks at the track. The surface that earned the track its nickname had just two races left before all but three feet was paved before the 1962 race. I was fortunate to have been at the track while the bricks were still there. The sound of the cars over the bricks added to the engine noise added to the excitement. Bricks gather dust in the crevices, so the front stretch was vacuumed the day before the race.

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A feature article about the Speedway golf course, which had nine holes in the infield, hosted a PGA event late in May before the race. The3 story discusses naming each of the holes for a noted figure in 500 history. Fifteen of the holes bor5e the names of former winners Wilbur Shaw was  the most recent winner honored. Tony Hulman, “Pop” Myers, former Speedway vice president, and mechanic Cotton Henning also have their names on holes.

Eddie Sachs won the pole with an average speed of 146.592 mph. His best lap was 147.251. Sachs was not the fastest qualifier, however. On Bump Day, rookie Jim Hurtubise shocked everyone as he flirted with what was considered at the time the impossible 150 mph barrier. Hurtubise averaged 149. 056. Because of the qualifying format in effect, Hurtubise started the race 23rd. He finished 18th, completing 185 laps and retired with mechanical issues. The qualifying order entering Bump Day:

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The race is still considered one of the best in 500 history. twenty nine lead changes among five drivers may not seem like much today, but in 1960 it was record breaking. From lap 96 until the end of the race, Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward swapped the lead. Rathmann finally took the lead for good on lap 197. Ward slowed down when he saw that his front tires were beginning to wear down to the cord. From lap 123 onward, neither driver led more than 14 consecutive laps. The 12.67 second margin of victory was the second closest at that time. Wilbur Shaw’s 1937 win by 2.16 seconds over Ralph Hepburn still held the record.

Foyt finished twenty-fifth, his second DNF in three years. He and Ward would battle for the national title for the next few years. Foyt won the 500 in 1961, beginning his legendary run.

As always in that period, fatalities overshadowed the racing at times. 1958 500 winner Jimmy Bryan lost his life at Langhorne in June. 1959 pole winner Johnny Thomson died in a crash at Allentown, PA, in September.

 

 

 

Born Racer: The Driver Is Not the Only Hero

Born Racer is a movie about heroes. Of course there is the driver, Scott Dixon, who knows the risks in his profession. But there is also his family, wife Emma and daughters Poppy and Tilly, who show outward strength while inside they are a bundle of nerves. The crew needs to get the car in perfect running condition and manage the race to achieve the best result possible. Sometimes things happen beyond their control, as in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Race Day 2017 begins at 5 am in two places. The garages at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway open and Ken Szymanski, the tire man for Scott Dixon’s car, begins checking tire pressures as he ponders what the next twelve hours will bring. In the Dixon motor home, Emma Davies-Dixon prepares breakfast for Scott, who is already focused on the day ahead. He sits quietly watching prerace coverage on a local television station. She sits with him, but doesn’t speak.

Activity at the track continues at an ever quickening pace as race time approaches. After the Ganassi team meets, Dixon and his family walk hand in hand to the grid. As Scott dons his helmet, Emma shares her thoughts about drivers who didn’t come back and the families they left behind.

” I don’t want it to be my turn,” she thinks as the race is about to start. She can only wait anxiously for three hours to know.

Shortly after the first pit stop, Dixon collided with Jay Howard in a horrific crash which sent his car flying into the inside catch fence and wall, destroying his car. Anxious moments are reflected on Emma’s face and the faces of the crew. Dixon gets out of the car on his own. there are more tense moments as Emma waits for him to come out of the infield hospital. somehow, Dixon has a broken ankle, but no other injuries.

One of the most riveting moments of the film is a look at the team on Dixon’s pit stand staring in stunned silence in the seconds just after the accident. The camera captures the dread and concern they feel watching the replay on the video board.

Later we see Dixon return to the motor home at the track being happily met by his daughters and Emma. She talks about how the car saved Scott’s life with relief and still some terror in her voice.

The season and the championship pursuit moves on. Kate Gundlach, a new assistant engineer with the team, talks about seeking perfection in her job to give Dixon the best car possible. Gundlach grew up in a racing family. She is passionate about the sport and her role. Winning the pole and having a chance to win the 500 was exciting, but the chance to win a championship really motivates her.

With just a single win at Road America and some frustrations at other races, there is still an outside shot at the title in the final race at Sonoma. The Penske team has a big advantage with their aero package and Josef Nnewgarden cruises to the title.

Emma and Scott stand together in pit lane. She tells him, “I’m really excited about next year.” As it turns out, that was a prescient statement.

The movie is a tribute to the best current driver in Indycar, who has already established his place among the all time greats of the sport.It also honors his family and team. We get an intimate behind the scenes look at his family and the crew. We see their single focus on one goal, the support they provide each other, and their resiliency when difficulties arise.

Some of my favorite scenes:

Dixon relaxing at home in the pool with his daughters on a rare day off.

Kate Gundlach preparing the steering wheeling with total focus, care, and love,

Emma’s tension while waiting to hear that Scott is okay after the wreck.

Ken Szymanski comparing Scott to Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna, whom he also worked with. He says that three have that something extra which motivates him to work harder.

The home movies of Dixon’s karting days when he was a kid.

Ron Dixon, Scott’s father, talking of all the money he put into Scott’s racing. He worked extra hours and took out loans just to keep Scott’s career going. “It was all worth it,” he says.

Born Racer is available through Amazon. It can also be downloaded for viewing from iTunes.

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.

Some Off Season Thoughts

The first week of the off season brought the exciting news that Harding racing will partner with Steinbrenner Racing in 2019. The new Harding Steinbrenner Racing team has signed rookies Pato O’Ward, 2018 Indy Lights champion, and Indy lights runner-up Colton Herta. Very few details other than the driver announcements are known at this time. There is a technical partnership with Andretti Autosport which will provide shocks, dampers, and engineering help.

The big question is which engine will Harding Steinbrenner use? Harding had Chevrolet power in 2018, and Andretti is a Honda team. For these teams to work together, the engine needs to be the same. If HSR goes with Honda, would that rule out a possible third car at Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing?

One of the greatest things about this new team is that the two team owners come from outside of racing. My friend Steve Wittich wrote an excellent article for Trackside Online about how Indycar needs diversity in its ownership. I hope we see more owners from outside racing. they should provide a fresh perspective on the business of racing.  You can find his article on Trackside Online.com. It is a site worth subscribing to.

New Title Sponsor?

There has been no word on a new series title sponsor. Things have gone rather quiet about who it will be. That could mean it’s wrapped up ready to be announced, or Indycar is still searching. It would have been good to have an announcement at Sonoma, and have some sort of handing over ceremony to thank Verizon for their sponsorship.

The Mysterious Third OEM

Is there someone ready to jump in for 2021? There has been some talk of one or two manufacturers, with one name mentioned more than others, but again, things seem very quiet on the new engine front right now.

McLaren News in November?

We may not know Mclaren’s plans until November. It would be great to have McLaren in Indycar, but this is turning into racing’s version of General Hospital. First Honda says they will not help Mclaren, then reports have come out saying yes they still might. Alonso has not made a decision. My guess he is in for the 500 only. Stoffel Vandoorne, considered a candidate for the seat when Alonso doesn’t drive, is rumored to be close to having a contract in Formula E. That could mean McLaren will be here for the 500 only as well.   Stay tuned.

Coyne’s Car 19

Dale Coyne has talked to some former Formula 1 drivers about driving the 19 car next year. he continues his quest to have one driver for the entire season in that ride. Apparently neither Zachary Claman De Melo or Pietro Fittipaldi will return. Too bad. They both have some potential to be decent drivers.

October Coming Attractions

Next month I have several columns planned for here and on Wildfire Sports.

A review of Born Racer.

A book review of Gentleman, Start Your Engines.

Look for  another month of May review via the official program for that year.

Commentary on off season news and the big announcements that could be coming will be posted as needed. In addition to a title sponsor, I am most interested to see which races will be on NBC network. I’m guessing there will be a lot in May and very early June. They didn’t ask me (again) but I think one Detroit race would be enough.

Look for a column on things Indycar might want to change for 2019.

2018- Passing Grade for New Aero; Close Points Battle; Talented Rookies

St.Pete set the tone. The racing was going to be better with the new kit. It was going to be a competitive season. A rookie star emerged and would captivate fans. 2018 was all that. That rookie, Robert Wickens, unfortunately didn’t get to complete the year.  Younger stars made a bold statement that they arrived, but the established stars rose to the top at the end, It was one of the most enjoyable seasons. I’ve seen.

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Robert Wickens at Mid Ohio. He finished second in what would be his last complete race of the year.

The Meteor

Robert Wickens stole the pole at the opening race in St. Pete and dominated the race until a lap 108 collision with Alexander Rossi knocked him out of the race. Indycar fans suddenly had a new star to root for. Wickens followed up with a second place finish  at Phoenix after leading the late stages of the race. Five consecutive top tens, including three top fives followed. Then everything came to a horrendous halt in the accident at Pocono. Whether Wickens gets back into a car again is still undetermined. He may miss the entire 2019 season. Despite missing the final three races, Wickens still finished tied for tenth in points and won Rookie of the Year. One of the highlights of last Sunday’s Sonoma finale was seeing a video of Wickens talking to the fans.

The New Aero Package

Two goals of the new aero package were to improve the racing and put the car back in the hands of the drivers. It definitely accomplished the second aim. There was better racing for the most part. Ovals definitely need some more work. Street courses showed the most improvement and road courses had more passing than last year. There is still an aero wash that needs to be tweaked. It’s fun seeing the cars slide through the corners.

A Tight Title Fight

Six different drivers swapped the lead eight times through the Texas race. Scott Dixon took the points lead with his win at Texas and led the rest of the way. His lead ballooned to 62 after Toronto but shrunk to 26 after Gateway. Alexander Rossi was third after Toronto, 70 points behind, but won two in a row at Mid Ohio and Pocono to cut into the lead. Rossi’s last chance to catch Dixon ended in the second turn at Sonoma when he clipped Marco Andretti, cutting a tire and damaging his front wing.

While Dixon’s 57 point final margin seems large, it was not an easy title to win. Dixon, Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power won three races each, and Ryan Hunter-Reay won twice. This concentration of big points days among a few drivers kept things close.

Dixon’s fifth title puts him into rarefied air. Only A. J. Foyt with seven championships has more than Dixon.

It was a strange route to the championship. Dixon did not win a pole and didn’t lead a lap until the first race in Detroit in June. He had the fewest bonus points of the four main contenders. Dixon dodged two bullets late in the season. He narrowly missed the spinning tub of Wickens’ car at Pocono. At the start of the Portland race, Dixon was involved in a scramble with four other cars, but he suffered no damage and fought back to a fifth place finish.

New teams

Carlin and Harding Racing joined the series full time. Meyer Shank Racing and Juncos Racing had part time entries. All four new teams will return next year with expanded programs. The biggest change for 2019 will be Harding, now Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Carlin is planning on adding a third car. Meyer Shank hopes to participate in ten races next season. Juncos bought a second car but is unsure if it will race during he season.

I will talk about the Harding Steinbrenner team in a post next week.

Rookies Impress

In addition to Wickens, Zach Veach had a string of four consecutive top tens at Toronto, Mid Ohio, Pocono, and Gateway. Veach had run well at times in other races but was plagued by mistakes. He was instrumental in setting up the Andretti cars in testing.

At Sonoma, Indy lights champion Patricio O’Ward got his first Indycar ride with Harding Racing. He got people’s attention with the third quickest lap in Friday’s second practice. He backed that up by qualifying fifth and finishing ninth in the race. O’Ward and Colton Herta will be full time next year for Harding Steinbrenner Racing.

Final Thoughts

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Alexander Rossi at St. Pete. He showed amazing ability to pass anywhere and also had some controversial moments.

Rossi put some spice into several races this year with his charges from the rear. He started 32nd at Indianapolis and finished fourth. At Phoenix he went to the back because of a penalty and came back for a third place finish. At Sonoma he used a timely caution to fight back to seventh and keep second place in the final standings.

Rossi also created some controversy with some moves where contact was involved. the most notorious was was his collision with Wickens at St. Pete. I liked the way he didn’t apologize and just went on driving. Rossi has an old school attitude I really enjoy.

I admire Mike Harding for fielding a team all season on a limited budget. Next year the team should be stronger with added resources.

Thanks to Verizon for their series sponsorship the last five years. I appreciate that unlike other series sponsors, they completed their entire contract length.

Finally, I will continue to send good healing thoughts to Robert Wickens. I hope to see him race again.