Archive for the ‘Indy Lights’ Category

Two-time champ Brabham aiming for title sweep

Friday, January 10th, 2014

1.10.14 (via IndyCar.com) – “Improvements” are chief among Matthew Brabham’s references from an Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Open Test, which leads the 2013 Pro Mazda and 2012 USF2000 champion to add encouraging and optimistic to his preseason lexicon.

Brabham, driving the No. 83 MAZDASPEED/United Fiber & Data car prepared by Andretti Autosport, totaled 86 laps in two sessions at Sebring International Raceway. Overall, 10 drivers participated in the Jan. 7-8 Open Test.

Teammate Zach Veach topped the combined time sheet on the 1.68-mile circuit, followed by 2013 series championship runner-up Gabby Chaves in a Belardi Auto Racing car and Brabham. The best lap times of the top eight drivers were less than a second apart.

“It’s definitely a step up compared to Pro Mazda,” said Brabham, who turns 20 on Feb. 25. “So far it’s been challenging to get used to more power and more grip, but fun to drive. I’m slowly getting there, and it should be a good year for us.”

It was Brabham’s second outing in the car as he prepares for the third rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

“It gives us a jump up on everybody, and that definitely helps,” he said. “That’s what we did last year. We got ahead and managed to sort things out before everybody else did. It’s great to get out early and nice to have everything signed so I can just focus on testing and getting comfortable before we go out and start getting ready for the racing season.”

That starts March 30 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Other full-scale tests are scheduled for late February at New Orleans Motorsport Park and Barber Motorsports Park.

For driver and crew, sorting out variables created by the switch from Firestone Firehawks to Cooper tires is an important aspect of the early testing program.

“That’s a big challenge for us,” Brabham said. “We have to re-do all the setups and rethink our theories a bit.”

For Brabham, who made his karting debut in June 2001 in Australia, the Mazda Road to Indy is a proving ground with long-term benefits.

He set Pro Mazda single-season records with 13 victories (seven in a row), 15 podiums, 10 poles and 13 fastest race laps while driving for Andretti Autosport. The teen, who before the season was named a British Racing Drivers’ Club “Rising Star,” led 81 percent of the laps over the 12 races.
A year earlier, he earned the USF2000 championship and rookie of the year award with four victories and seven other podium finishes competing for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Brabham earned a Team USA Scholarship to compete in three British Formula 2.0 races in the offseason.

 

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Why third-gen Brabham could be next-gen IndyCar star

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

12.10.13 (via RACER.com) – It took far too long, but at Fontana in October, I finally met Geoff Brabham, albeit briefly, just before the press conference announcing his son's graduation to the Indy Lights series next year. My colleague Marshall Pruett kindly introduced us and I was about to tell Mr. B. that he'd been a hero of mine, but I restrained myself because 1) it's a bit tragic to be saying stuff like that at my age; 2) I didn't want to embarrass the man himself who, at 61, seems as self-effacing as ever; and 3) it isn'tquite as true as it should be…

You see, Geoff, eldest son of the great Sir Jack Brabham, has become a hero of mine only in retrospect. At the time when he was dominating the IMSA Camel GT Championship driving the Electramotive Nissans, he was actually more of an anti-hero for this pimply-faced youth. I couldn't get my head around how the legendary Porsche 962s and the beautiful Tony Southgate-designed Jaguar XJRs could have their asses kicked so regularly and so comprehensively by a car that looked like it was styled by a 10-year-old with a cardboard box and a blunt knife.

By 1991, on the back of Brabham's fourth straight Camel GT title, I'd come to accept that the Electramotive/Lola design was as effective as its engine was powerful…and that the dude doing the driving was pretty damn special. While Geoff modestly said at the time, “There are a lot of drivers who could win in the Nissan,” eventual two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk wasn't so sure. After sampling the Nissan in 1989, the Dutchman remarked: “It's a lot harder to drive this car to the maximum than Geoff appears to make it….” Surely the sign of a true artist.

With two Sebring 12 Hours wins and a Le Mans 24 Hour win (with Peugeot in 1993), Brabham will be remembered as a sports car ace worldwide; but it's the four straight IMSA titles, that has earned him truly legendary status in U.S. sports car racing. A big question for me, and I suspect countless others – including maybe Geoff himself – is whether he could have become a star in Indy cars, too? He certainly starred in them on occasion, but that's not the same thing.

Part of the problem he encountered in his six years running full time in the CART series was his past. At the time Brabham was trying to make it in this rarefied branch of the sport, the CART series was split around 50/50 between road racing and ovals, with any bias tending toward the latter. That hardly worked in Geoff's favor, for after leaving his native Australia in 1976 as domestic Formula 2 champion, he headed to Britain for two years. After then moving to America in '78, he put his heart and soul into Super Vee, both the short-lived USAC-sanctioned Mini-Indy Series and the more significant and prestigious Bosch/Valvoline series, winning the latter title in '79. That gave him his first oval starts in low-powered open-wheelers, but he then returned to his road racing roots, spending two years in Can-Am. That ultimately proved successful, too, as he took the 1981 championship…but added nothing to his minimal oval experience.

That '81 season, Geoff had simultaneously become an Indy car rookie and, driving for Dan Gurney's All American Racers, he stunned the series regulars with pole at his second race, Riverside, and second on the grid for his third race, in Mexico City. We're talking about a pretty remarkable talent, then. Yet his debut Indy car race had been the season opener at Phoenix, and that was his first taste of an oval while having more than 200hp at his back…and he now had 900-plus.

Could Brabham have succeeded, actually got to the point where he could say he'd masteredoval racing? Almost certainly. Ultimately, it comes down to application and willingness to learn. And just as Rick Mears had forced himself to become a strong road racer, progress only stymied by his horrendous leg injuries incurred at Sanair in '84, there's no reason to believe Brabham's skill set couldn't have expanded in the opposite direction, given more time. Time, however, was not on Geoff's side. Aged 29 when he made his Indy car debut, he was always going to be playing catch-up with the kids for whom oval races had been ingrained since the first time they could turn a wheel.

Although curiously adept at both the Pocono tri-oval and the Michigan superspeedway, and twice finishing top-five in the Indy 500, the fact remains that of the 10 podium finishes Brabham achieved in his 92 Indy car starts, eight came on tracks requiring right turns as well as left. By the end of 1987, despite taking eighth in the CART points standings (for the third time), he was out of a ride. Team owner Rick Galles was going to be running a one-car outfit in 1988, and he had his sights set on a driver 10 years Geoff's junior, a superstar in the making by the name of Al Unser Jr.

Brabham was gutted at having to leave Galles Racing, especially with brilliant race engineer Tony Cicale now on board to help turn the squad into winners. But the Florida-domiciled Aussie had too much pride to hang around just to be part of the Indy car scene, and so avoided the mistake so many drivers in their mid-30s make when their best opportunity slips away. Instead of spending a few bitter years licking his wounds while driving an inferior car, Geoff changed disciplines, started over…and became the best sports car racer in the country.

There's little chance of Geoff's son Matt needing to make that career switch. Right now this American of Australian descent is hot property because he's not only seriously fast but also because, in or out of the cockpit, he displays maturity that belies his 18 years.

A karting hotshot in Australia, Matt then showed his potential in Australian Formula Ford where, despite competing in only nine of the 23 races in the 2011 FF championship, he won two of them and finished runner-up in two more. His first experience of slicks and wings came this side of the Pacific in USF2000…and he promptly won the 2012 championship.

Now, to be fair, another very talented American, Spencer Pigot, who was his teammate at Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, won eight races to Brabham's four that season. But it's difficult to emphasize enough how much these junior formulas are about learning on the job at a huge rate – and Pigot was in his second year in the category. Also, by the time Pigot dominated the final event, the double-header at Virginia International Raceway, Brabham had only to nurse a healthy lead in the championship, which he did adequately with cautious runs to fourth and eighth that weekend.

None of this is a slight against Spencer who, unfairly under the radar, is one of the most accomplished open-wheel racers on the Mazda Road to Indy system. But it does highlight the fact that young Brabham, in only his second full season racing cars, could drive with his brains in the manner of a wily veteran in order to seal the deal.

 

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Zach Veach nabs community service award

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

10.31.13 – RePLAY XD driver Zach Veach has been selected as the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights KeyBank Community Leader for being the driver who "best displays a passion for community service and community outreach." The 18-year-old is active in many public outreach campaigns and continues to pour his energy into philanthropy all throughout the year. Just in 2013, Veach was involved with organizations such as STEM, Racing for Kids, Racing for Cancer, No Bull (anti-bullying campaign), Miles Ahead and much, much more. Along with the honors of being a leader in the community, the Ohio native will receive a check for $3,000 for his efforts. Veach will return to Andretti Autosport for his sophomore season of Indy Lights in 2014.

United Fiber & Data Announces 2014 Sponsorship Plans

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

10.19.2013 – Current sponsor United Fiber & Data (UFD) announced today that they will expand their current associate sponsorship role with the reigning champions by becoming the primary sponsor on the No. 27 IndyCar driven by James Hinchcliffe as well as Indy Lights driver Matthew Brabham for 2014.

IZOD IndyCar Series multiple race winner James Hinchcliffe will return to the team with which he captured his first career victory. The reigning series champions, Andretti Autosport, confirmed today that the Canadian fan favorite will pilot the No. 27 machine which will don the colors of UFD, a tech company, founded by three members of the multi-platinum rock band LIVE and their Think Loud Development company.

UFD will also serve as a major associate on the No. 25 and No. 28 cars piloted by Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay, respectively. In addition, Andretti announced earlier today that the company will serve as the primary sponsor for Pro Mazda Champion Matthew Brabham as he transitions to Indy Lights in 2014. The third-generation racer will also showcase the colors of UFD.

Based in York, Penn., United Fiber & Data offers a complete suite of all-fiber networking and broadband solutions and also served as a major associate sponsor of the No. 25 machine of Marco Andretti for the 2013 season.

United Fiber & Data will feature a 400-mile fiber optic line running between New York and Virginia and will operate out of different data centers across Pennsylvania (Allentown, Lancaster, Reading and York).

 

 

Don’t Miss Out: Week of October 14, 2013

Monday, October 14th, 2013

10.14.13 – Want in on the action? This is the place to find where you can see the Andretti Autosport drivers in action OFF the track. Be sure to show us your photos by sending them to our Twitter – @FollowAndretti or Facebook. (All times are in PACIFIC Time Zone)
 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16

E.J. Viso at Neiman Marcus
6550 Topanga Canyon Blvd,
Woodland Hills, 91303
@ 5 – 7 p.m.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17

Marco Andretti at Albertson's
8850 Foothill Blvd,
Rancho Cucamonga, 91730
@ 4 – 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18

Zach Veach Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 3:15 p.m.

Zach Veach & Carlos Munoz
Firestone Indy Lights Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 3:30 – 4 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19

Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
Chevy Q&A
Chevy Display in INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 12:45 p.m.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
IZOD IndyCar Series Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 1 – 2 p.m.
 

Zach Veach’s column: Learning the Texas way

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

10.2.13 (via RACER.com) – They say everything is bigger in Texas, but that's not the case for the Houston Grand Prix around Reliant Park! With it being a 1.7-mile, 10-turn course, it'll be one of our shortest courses we've ran on this year in Firestone Indy Lights. This means it going to be very physical; the straightaways are pretty much corners as well so you wont have too much time to catch your breath. And with the Houston heat of 90+ degrees it's going to make a great proving ground to see how conditioned drivers are.

It's been over a month since our last race at Baltimore, since then I have had a lot of time to look ahead for the next race. Baltimore was a tough weekend for me as whole, when our race was decided for us just after the start when the electrical coils on the right side of the engine failed exiting Turn 1 on lap 1. After a quick pit stop, the problem was fixed and I was sent back out, but by that time our day was pretty much over. That's racing though, sometimes you're just going to have a bad weekend, and once you take away what you learned from it, there is no sense dwelling on it for too long.

Leaving Baltimore, I knew that the next race on the schedule was Houston, and the one thing I've heard over and over about this place is how tough it can be with the heat and humidity. So I made it my biggest goal to train as much as possible in the heat to prepare myself for that. This idea ranged from hot yoga, sauna weight training, and long distant running during the hottest parts of the day. But with having a month off, the worry of becoming “rusty” in the car grew ever bigger.

So, I was very excited to hear that we had a test planned at MSR Houston only a week before our race. This was going to give me the perfect combination to test seeing how I was conditioning wise, and knock the cobwebs off too to be in top shape for the race.

 

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Don’t Miss Out: Week of September 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

10.1.13 – Want in on the action? This is the place to find where you can see the Andretti Autosport drivers in action OFF the track. Be sure to show us your photos by sending them to our Twitter – @FollowAndretti or Facebook. (All times are in CENTRAL Time Zone)
 
 
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2
 
E.J. Viso appearance
Neiman Marcus
2600 Post Oak Blvd, 77056
@ 6 – 8 p.m.
 
 
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay AutoNation appearance
Chevrolet Gulf Freeway Store
13800 Gulf Freeway, 77034
@ 1 – 2:30 p.m.
 
E.J. Viso appearance
CITGO
Location TBA
@ 2 – 4 p.m.
 
Marco Andretti appearance 
Kroger
5150 Buffalo Speedway, 77005
@ 4 – 6 p.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay hosting
The Yellow Party at Reliant Center
E.J. Viso, Marco Andretti
& James Hinchcliffe attending
Reliant Park Stn NB, 77054
@ 7 – 10 p.m.
 
 
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4
 
Zach Veach Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village Stage
@ 11:45 a.m. – 12 p.m.
 
Zach Veach & Carlos Munoz
Firestone Indy Lights Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 12 – 12:30 p.m.
 
Garett Grist, Shelby Blackstock, Matthew Brabham
USF2000/Pro Mazda Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 2:30 – 3 p.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
IZOD IndyCar Series Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
 
 
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6
 
Matthew Brabham & Shelby Blackstock Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 11 – 11:15 a.m.
 

A Roundtable with the Andretti stable

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

10.1.13 (via INDYCAR Nation) - No team supports the Mazda Road to Indy like Andretti Autosport. Not content to seek glory in the IZOD IndyCar Series, they are also involved in each rung of the open wheel ladder, from USF2000 through Firestone Indy Lights.

With that in mind, we asked some of Andretti’s up-and-coming drivers from each level of the ladder to give their thoughts on the IndyCar title hunt, the season finale, and their favorite memory of the year so far. We were joined by Zach Veach (Firestone Indy Lights), Matthew Brabham and Shelby Blackstock (Pro Mazda Championship), and Garett Grist (Cooper Tires USF2000) for a quick Q&A on these topics:

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Question 1: Which driver do you predict will win this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship?

Zach Veach, Firestone Indy Lights: Personally I would like to see Marco Andretti be able to take home his first IndyCar Championship. He's worked extremely hard this year, and I feel like he deserves to definitely be in the fight for it!

Matthew Brabham, Pro Mazda: I predict that Helio Castroneves will win the championship. He has a great advantage in the points over everyone at the moment, and I think he can pretty much taste being the IndyCar champion. So I think he is extremely motivated to push hard in the next three races and clinch his first title.

Shelby Blackstock, Pro Mazda: I think Helio Castroneves will win this year's IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.

Garett Grist, USF2000: I think Helio Castroneves will win the championship, but I wish it was Scott Dixon or one of the Andretti Autosport drivers.

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Question #2: Which driver do you think will triumph at Fontana?

Veach: I think we'll see all of the Andretti cars towards the front, but I have to say I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will be one of the strongest at Fontana. Andretti has fast cars on the super speedway, and Ryan showed his pace well last year being able to fight until the end to win the championship.

Brabham: Ryan Hunter-Reay is my pick to win at Fontana. I feel like he’s just out of range of the championship at the moment but has something to prove to everyone being the defending IndyCar champion. I believe at Fontana he will be the one to put it all out on the line and leave nothing on the table. He will be able to take advantage of those thinking too much about their championship; it’s all or nothing for him at the moment.

Blackstock: I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will do very well at Fontana

Grist: I think it’s RHR with the triumph in Fontana.

For the final question and their answers, read more here.

Trackside Update: Grand Prix of Baltimore

Monday, September 2nd, 2013
9.2.13 – As we say farewell to the holiday weekend, let's look back at our race day in Charm City…

 

The Firestone Indy Lights duo of Carlos Munoz and Zach Veach took to the streets on Sunday afternoon for their 35-lap race. Making contact after an unknown failure on the No. 26 car occurred, the Colombian was forced to retire early. Teammate Zach Veach made an unscheduled pitstop when a suspected engine problem was causing the No. 12 RePLAY XD machine to slow, but was able to bring home an eighth-place finish.

 

Immediately following the Firestone Indy Lights race, the fantastic four of James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled their way through the carnage that was the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Although stopping on track twice throughout the 75-lap race, Hinch made his way back by finishing in seventh place for his ninth top-10 finish in 2013. Third-generation racer Andretti maneuvered his way to the front of the pack to lead 12 laps before his broken front wing befell him, and Marco was able to come the twin checkers in 10th place. Another victim of an unfortunate run-in, E.J. was poised for his first podium of the season (was as high as fifth place and on the move!) when he was hit from behind, forcing the Venezuelan to hit a competitor and break his front nose cone; Viso eventually pitted and was able to salvage a P13 finish after starting 20th. Reigning champion and 2012 Grand Prix of Baltimore winner RHR was not having the race he had hoped or even imagined. On Lap 1, the anti-stall mechanism kicked in on the No. 1 Chevy and Hunter-Reay was seen stranded on the track; he later recovered to eighth place and was plagued with a battery failure just after the halfway point and was forced to retire early in P20.

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The IZOD IndyCar Series will pack up and head to Houston, Texas for the next round of competition on October 5 and 6 where they will be joined by the full Mazda Road to Indy ladder. In the meantime, keep up to date on all things Andretti Autosport by joining us on Twitter (@FollowAndretti) and don't forget to 'Like' us on Facebook where you can enter to be our featured Fan of the Week.
 
 
 

Trackside Update: Qualifying at the Baltimore Grand Prix

Saturday, August 31st, 2013
8.31.13 – SPOILER ALERT: This Trackside Update covers IZOD IndyCar Series Qualifying from the Grand Prix of Baltimore. While the qualifying session took place this afternoon, coverage will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network at 6 p.m. Eastern today. If you are not yet prepared to discover the results of today's qualifying, we recommend saving this Trackside Update for future reading.
 

 

Day two from the Grand Prix of Baltimore is in the books and the starting grids for both the IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights races are set.
 

Champ Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way for the team's IndyCar effort and will roll off from the eighth position tomorrow — keep in mind he started 13th here last season and captured the victory, a pivotal point in his championship win. Following RHR was teammate James Hinchcliffe who will start 11th – his 10th top-10 start of the season. Marco Andretti, who has recorded 13 top-10 finishes this season, will take to the grid in the 18th position while E.J. Viso, who has clinched six top-10 finishes this year, will grid 22nd.

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In Firestone Indy Lights, Carlos Munoz will make yet another front row appearance, starting second, and teammate Zach Veach will start sixth in the RePLAY HD machine.

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Tune in tomorrow to NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) for full race day coverage from Baltimore. The broadcast begins at 2 p.m. ET with the 75-lap IZOD IndyCar Series race and will be followed by the Firestone Indy Lights race broadcast. If you can't make it to the television, listen along with the broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, on SiriusXM (Channel 211) and IndyCar.com.