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Andretti – “I’m not even close to where I want to be”

March 27th, 2014

3.27.14 (via RACER) – A lot was made of Marco Andretti's off-season self-analysis and the driver coaching he sought ahead of the 2013 IndyCar Series championship. The third-generation driver, as most reckoned, had the talent to become a regular winner but needed to curb some bad driving habits and to amplify what came naturally before he'd reach his full potential.

 

Marco's year-to-year improvement was staggering, vaulting from 16th in the 2012 standings to fifth last year, directly behind Team Penske's Will Power and ahead of all three of his Andretti Autosport teammates, including 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

 

Andretti went away, worked on himself, and clearly prospered from the experience. But what kind of encore would help him to build upon that foundation? As the 2014 season approaches, Marco tellsRACER the next phase of his personal development is to add to the foundation he built last year.

 

"It's more of just looking at the subtle details," he said. "What last year did for me was confirm a lot of my work was in the right direction, which means a lot. Because it means that you could just keep going in that direction. A lot of it was confirmed, but I'm not even close to where I want to be. I don't think I'm far, but I'm not the kind of guy who's happy with [finishing] second or third, so if I'm not winning, I'm nowhere near where I know I should be."

 

The tools Andretti gained by working with driver coach Rob Wilson was how to lap quickly without demanding too much from his front tires under braking and on turn-in. This part of Andretti's education is well-known. But after spending seven season driving and Indy car one particular way, it would be unreasonable to expect Andretti – or any other driver – to completely master a new style in just one year.

 

 

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IndyCar’s resident court jester, Hinchcliffe rolls with more changes into 2014

March 25th, 2014

3.25.14 (via MotorSportsTalk) – Change has been the constant for James Hinchcliffe throughout most of his open-wheel career.  Often times, he’s made the best of the newness he faces.

In the 2011 offseason into 2012, he switched teams (Newman/Haas to Andretti Autosport), and switched cars (as IndyCar switched from the previous Dallara IR 03 to the new Dallara DW12). A year ago, he got his old engineer from 2011 back in Craig Hampson, but now Hampson has moved into the team’s head of R&D role.

So it should come as no surprise that although he’s into year three with Andretti, there are yet more changes the 27-year-old Canadian will need to get used to.

After re-signing with Andretti at the 2013 season finale, he’s got his third different engineer in as many seasons, in Nathan O’Rourke, formerly of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. He’s also got a new sponsor and seriously rocking new livery, in the form of the light blue-and-white colors of United Fiber & Data. And he, like the rest of the team, has a new engine partner in Honda.

But, in typical “Hinch” fashion, the story of how the changes took place took a comedic turn.

“I went to his (Josef’s) house where he normally keeps his engineer in a cage in the basement,” Hinchcliffe said during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “I broke in while he was sleeping. Nathan made a lot of noise, rattled the cage.

“It woke Josef, which made for an ugly altercation on the main floor.  I was able to use chloroform.  I said, ‘Josef, does this smell like chloroform?’  Then Nathan and I made it out the window.”

Any repercussions?

“No. We were just goofing around outside. The chloroform had a destructive effect on his memory and he thinks Nathan is still in the basement.  He hasn’t figured it out yet.”

Claaaassic Hinch.

The thing Hinchcliffe did figure out in 2013 was winning. After his promising first two seasons, Hinchcliffe took his first three wins in three dynamic, but different ways.

In St. Petersburg, he capitalized on a wide Turn 1 corner exit by Helio Castroneves to scythe through on the inside, then hold off the Brazilian to capture an emotional first victory in the then-green-and-black GoDaddy colors.

He added his two other ways in disparate fashions entirely. In Brazil, he passed Takuma Sato on the last corner of the last lap. In the corn fields of Iowa, Hinch delivered the season’s biggest colossal beatdown, leading 226 of 250 laps.

The St. Petersburg win, as it was Hinchcliffe’s first and came in the late Dan Wheldon’s adopted hometown, in what would have been his car, of course stands out.

 

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Don’t Miss Out: Appearances for week of March 24, 2014

March 24th, 2014

3.24.14 – Don't miss out on your opportunity to visit with our INDYCAR drivers from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights and the Verizon IndyCar Series! Check out the list of appearances for our weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Pete, the 2014 season opener!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thursday, March 27
 
Marco Andretti signing
Walgreens
5420 9th Street N., St. Pete, FL 33716
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
 
Carlos Muñoz LIVE Twitter chat
@FollowAndretti
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
 
Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham, Shelby Blackstock & Garett Grist
Festival of States Parade
on the streets of Downtown St. Pete
7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
 
 
 
Friday, March 28
 
Marco Andretti & James Hinchcliffe signing
ShopAndretti.com Merch Truck
12:05 p.m. – 12:35 p.m.
 
Zach Veach & Matthew Brabham signing
ShopAndretti.com Merch Truck
3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay appearance
The Yellow Party
The Vinoy
501 5th Ave. NE., St. Pete, 33701
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
 
 
 
Saturday, March 29
 
Shelby Blackstock & Garett Grist signing
ShopAndretti.com Merch Truck
9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
 
Zach Veach & Matthew Brabham signing
Indy Lights Autograph Session
INDYCAR Fan Village
11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay & Carlos Muñoz signing
ShopAndretti.com Merch Truck
12:05 p.m. – 12:35 p.m.
 
Shelby Blackstock & Garett Grist signing
USF2000/Pro Mazda Autograph Session
INDYCAR Fan Village
1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
 
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay & Carlos Muñoz signing
Verizon IndyCar Series Autograph Session
INDYCAR Fan Village
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
 
 
 
Sunday, March 30
 
Zach Veach & Matthew Brabham Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village Stage
11:10 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.
 
Carlos Muñoz Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village Stage
12:30 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.
 
 
 

Colombian rookie Carlos Munoz’s driving set to earn more headlines

March 21st, 2014

3.21.14 (via MotorSportsTalk) – Carlos Munoz’s two 2013 starts for Andretti Autosport in an IndyCar produced audible gasps more often than not.

There was no way he was going to make some of the moves and entry lines he did work. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his line of arcing in so high and then diving so low below the white line in the turns should not have ended without him in the wall. But it did, in second place in his Indianapolis 500 debut.

Then at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in October, Munoz was moving high or low with ease in an action-packed 100 laps. Then, just past the century-mark, it finally bit him.

The 22-year-old Colombian is a seriously impressive star in the making, and with a full offseason to prepare for his first full season in the championship, he’s the early favorite for rookie-of-the-year honors in the team’s No. 34 Cinsay Honda.

Don’t tell him that, though. Munoz is a quiet, introspective student appreciative of the teammates around him and his countryman, Juan Pablo Montoya, who he’ll have the chance to race this year.

“Yeah, I’m a really quiet guy. I’m really shy,” Munoz admitted during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “That doesn’t mean I’m – how you say – bad person. I’m quiet and shy compared to James (Hinchcliffe). He’s always talking, making jokes, completely different mind.

“But they treat me as one of them. They treat me really well. After Indy they treat me really well!  But it’s great to have this combination of drivers, no?”

Munoz didn’t need to produce a star turn in the ‘500 to earn his place on the grid, but it didn’t hurt. He showed enough aggression, poise and pace in his two full seasons in Indy Lights that he was projected to move up this year, despite not winning the championship a year ago.

“That race just gave me the opportunity to be here in a full season,” he said. “I have another chance to go get that race. I’m focused on this year. But now I have my chance and I have to think and work for it.”

At least initially, he may have a slight pace edge on his two countrymen, Montoya and Sebastian Saavedra. Montoya will need to shake the rust off after his extended open-wheel hiatus, while Saavedra acclimates to a new team at KV/AFS Racing.

Munoz said Montoya wasn’t so much his idol, as much as a symbol of what could be achieved when Munoz was growing up. But he plans to consider him just “one of the guys” once on track.

“I don’t like the word ‘idolized,’ but he was a symbol for me when I was a kid, an example for me and many Colombian drivers, to follow him,” Munoz said.

 

 

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Kurt Busch making plans to run — and win — Indy 500

March 14th, 2014

3.14.14 (via SportingNews.com) – Kurt Busch, the first driver in 10 years to attempt the Memorial Day double of running both major auto races on the same day, thinks he could win the Indianapolis 500 and still get to Charlotte in time for the Coca-Cola 600 that night.

Some might say, “in your dreams” as Busch would want to soak up the atmosphere and fulfill all the postrace commitments of an Indy 500 winner before making the 90-minute trip between Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25.

But even Busch knows the “dreams” are more about winning the Indianapolis 500 in his first IndyCar Series race.

“I have zero experience in an Indy car and this will be the toughest challenge, especially when they drop the green flag,” Busch said Saturday during a news conference in Las Vegas. “Single-car runs when I’m coming up to speed and doing qualifying runs, all that should handle itself.

“But when they drop the green at Indianapolis and 33 cars barrel down into turn one and all that dirty air and the movements of the cars and being able to digest closing rates at 220 (miles per hour) versus our stocks cars that average around 185, everything is different.”

Busch tried to find a way to race at an IndyCar event last year to be prepared, but never could make the logistics work where he would also have enough time to focus on his NASCAR ride.

“Sometimes you get that young dumb luck,” Busch said. “Maybe we’ll bump into that and that will help us, being naive and not having bad patterns. But those are some of those things that will bite you very quickly and that is the amount of respect you have to have for an Indy car.

“Those cars have all that rear weight with the engine in the back, that’s very different than our Cup cars that have the engine in the front with the weight distribution.”

In doing his rookie orientation at Indianapolis last year, Busch learned about throttle position and steering input, getting advice from team owner Michael Andretti, who will field a car for Busch this year.

 

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Matthew Brabham selected to receive 20th Gorsline Scholarship

March 13th, 2014

3.13.14 (via Motorsport.com) – Matthew Brabham, of Indianapolis and Gold Coast Australia, was presented the 20th Gorsline Scholarship by John Gorsline today at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh From Florida.

Brabham, 20, is part of the Brabham Family dynasty as grandson of three-time Formula One champion Jack Brabham, son of four-time IMSA GTP champion Geoff Brabham and nephew of two-time ALMS LMP champion David Brabham. With this scholarship he will work with Dr. Jacques Dallaire, Director of Performance Prime, on an individually-designed performance-enhancement program, and will benefit from a unique training program at Jim Leo's PitFit Training – all courtesy of Gorsline Company.

The Gorsline Scholarship is presented by Gorsline Company, of Rochester, N.Y., the leader in high-risk motorsports insurance. It recognizes aspiring drivers by providing programs with tools that will assist them in developing skills on and off the track to help attain their professional goals.

Two other young drivers were also considered for the Scholarship: Sean Rayhall, 19, of Winston, Ga., and Madison Snow, 18, of Lehi, Utah.

"At such a young age, Matthew is already an accomplished racer," said Gorsline, principal of Gorsline Company. "All three of the candidates for the 20th Gorsline Scholarship are worthy recipients. It was a tough decision, but we selected Matthew. We're confident he'll benefit from the performance-enhancement and fitness training programs that Dallaire and Leo will provide as he progresses in his racing career."

"I'm absolutely honored and it really means a lot to me, for sure," said Matthew, who will begin his 2014 racing season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) on March 28-30, driving for Andretti Autsport in Indy Lights. "I've known John Gorsline for a while now, through my father, and to have my name on the list with previous recipients with such outstanding pedigrees is really, really cool and special. I've worked with Jim Leo and Jacques Dallaire before and they are such massive influences, especially in American motorsports. So, to be on board with them helping me through this really, really important time of my career is going to be huge. I'm really looking forward to meeting with them and working with these programs to help me succeed in my racing career."

 

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Luck, qualifying gains could fuel a Marco Andretti title challenge

March 12th, 2014

3.12.14 (via MotorSportsTalk) – Like Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti is nearly a decade into his top-level open-wheel career, yet has not entered the prime of it.

To chronicle Andretti’s, now 27, career arc, it goes a little something like this:

A breakout rookie campaign at 19 in 2006 features the near-win on debut at the Indianapolis 500 and his first actual win at Sonoma. In 2007, it was a pair of flips (Indy and Mid-Ohio), occasional highlights but frequent frustration. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, same story, but he axed the flips.

The 2011 season was a comeback, with an authoritative drive to his second career win in Iowa. But in 2012 it was a trying, forgettable campaign featuring only three top-10 finishes from 15 starts, and a career-low 16th in points.

In 2013, the comeback, part two. A career-high fifth in points, best of Andretti Autosport’s four cars, with results consistency and a renewed focus after an offseason soul search that saw him transform his game following work with a driver coach.

So which Marco Andretti shows up in 2014? It stands a good chance of being the close-to-finished article.

Save for the last two years, Andretti finished seventh or eighth in points five of his first six seasons. He knows how bad the low can be, after the disaster of 2012. And while there were highs in 2013, the misses – the losses at Milwaukee and Pocono – stick out like a sore thumb.

Andretti made huge gains in 2013, and is primed to make even more in 2014.

“I think ’13 was a good start to the direction I wanted to go,” he said during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “We confirmed a lot of my work is in the right direction anyway. We just need to keep plugging away with that, and we have.

“I think I made gains since. I’m more confident going into ’14 than I was ’13. I was pleased with my consistency. But some of my best results of last year were on the street courses, which is where I was struggling.

“But I think this year the goal has to be to capitalize where we’re dominant, because I think that’s what really took us out of the championship the second half of the year last year.

“I think the races we know we can win we just have to win.  If we’re able to do that, string a few together, I think we can be champions.”

These are perhaps bold words from a driver who, as mentioned above, has only two career wins. But here’s why they’re not as far-fetched as you think.

Andretti is coming into 2014 with the team consistency needed to make an impression. He’s into his second year with engineer Blair Perschbacher, while teammate James Hinchcliffe has a new engineer in Nathan O’Rourke, and rookie Carlos Munoz is just new to a full-season ride.

Andretti has the confidence from his near-breakout 2013 to know he can in fact mix it in a deep field that has so many talented drivers.

 

 

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Kurt Busch to Attempt the “Double” with 2014 Indianapolis 500 Entry

March 4th, 2014

3.4.14 – It has been over a decade since it was last completed, but this May NASCAR Champion Kurt Busch will endeavor to become only the fourth driver in history to contest the “Double” – competing in IndyCar’s historic Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s 600-mile race in the same day. Busch will make his first career Indianapolis 500 qualifying attempt behind the wheel of an Andretti Autosport Indy car. His entry will complete a stable of five (5) for Michael Andretti’s championship winning IndyCar team. It is not the first pairing of Busch and Andretti Autosport, however, as in 2013 Busch completed a test day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the team and in the process passed the mandated Rookie Orientation program effectively setting the possibility of the “Double” into motion.

 

What lies in front of Busch is a grueling challenge, not only on the race day itself – scheduled for Sunday, May 25th when Busch will race 1,100 miles in two races, in two cities, in two totally different cars, but in practicing and qualifying his Andretti Autosport Indy car in addition to competing in three (3) NASCAR race weekends around Indianapolis 500 activities. The 35-year old American will start the two week Indy 500 stretch in Indianapolis May 11th, fresh from the NASCAR race in Kansas. After spending the week testing the Honda-powered Indy car, Busch will log some serious air miles traveling between Indianapolis and Charlotte so he can qualify for the 500-mile race and practice and qualify for the NASCAR All-Star race and that Series’ 600-mile race. In total Busch will likely make more than ten (10) trips between the cities – the most important and time sensitive being race day. Race day will place Busch in Indianapolis in the morning for the noon ET start time of the Indianapolis 500 before he makes the trip to Charlotte for the 6 p.m. ET green flag.

 

While the “Double” will be a new experience for Busch, it will actually be Andretti Autosport’s second time participating in the feat. Robby Gordon (who along with John Andretti and Tony Stewart are the three previous drivers to contest the “Double”) competed in both races in 2003, filling in at Indianapolis for an injured Dario Franchitti who at the time drove for Andretti Autosport.

 

Busch, an advocate for and representative of The Armed Forces Foundation, will be dedicating his Memorial Day mission to those who continue to inspire him each day – the men and women serving around the world in the United States Military. Fans can show their support by texting AFF to 50555 to pledge $10 to the cause.

 

Fans will have the opportunity to follow Busch through his action-packed month of May on AndrettiTV.com, with details coming soon.

 

For more information visit AndrettiAutosport.com or KurtBuschDouble.com.

 

KURT BUSCH:

            “This is really to challenge myself within motorsports. Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throw-back I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael (Andretti) over dinner one night on ‘what if?’ and now it’s all becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.

            “It’s great having Tony (Stewart) as the co-owner of my NASCAR team as, in the weeks leading up to the month of May, it gives me a chance to talk with him about his personal experiences with the “Double” – to anticipate what’s next and have things checked off the list so that I’m mentally and physically prepared for the challenge. I owe a big thanks to Tony, Gene Haas, and the partners at Stewart-Haas – including General Motors – for allowing me to fulfill this dream, to challenge myself in motorsports and to do something special in this day and age.”

 

On his 2013 IndyCar test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

            “That was a whole kid in a candy store moment of experiencing an open-wheel car at 220 mph.  You can definitely get a different appreciation for the track and its heritage with an open-wheel car versus a stock car that I’ve done the last 15 years. It got my mind going and the juices flowing on ‘I want to do this.’ The adrenaline and excitement was there, and it fueled the passion to work on the details and turn the dream into a reality. And now here we are.”

 

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, TEAM OWNER, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT:

            “I’m really excited to have Kurt come onboard for the Indy 500. He did a great job for us when he tested last year. He’s obviously a natural talent and we feel he is going to take to the Indy car quickly and have a competitive month with us.”

 

Brabham paces field during Cooper Tires Winterfest in Alabama

February 28th, 2014

2.28.14 (via RACER.com) – The rivalry that is developing between Matthew Brabham and Gabby Chaves continued to gain momentum when the Cooper Tires Winterfest Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series test concluded with two more days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park. As was the case last Friday and Saturday at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana, the two protagonists were rarely separated by more than a few tenths of a second during four sessions yesterday and today on the scenic and challenging 2.3-mile road course. On this occasion it was Brabham who emerged with the fastest time for Andretti Autosport.

 

Brabham, who is seeking to become the first driver ever to win all three steps on the Mazda Road to Indy in consecutive seasons after claiming the 2012 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship and last year's Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title, posted a best of 1:15.160 in bitterly cold conditions this afternoon.

 

"I'm coming out of this test a lot more confident than I was going in, that's for sure. I think we proved that we definitely have the pace to run up front. We were in the top two, fighting for the first few positions time-wise, in every single session, so I'm really, really confident and very happy with how the team's working. They're doing an awesome job. I can't thank the guys enough and I'm really looking forward to the first race in St. Petersburg. It's going to be interesting to see where everybody ends up when testing finishes and we get to the first race, but so far so good for us."

 

Chaves, who paced this morning's session for Belardi Auto Racing, ended up second overall with a time of 1:15.461 set this afternoon.

Brazilian Luiz Razia completed the test third fastest for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at 1:15.522. The veteran of GP2 in Europe headed Andretti Autosport's Zach Veach (1:15.728), from Stockdale, Ohio, who was feeling much better after being hit by a nasty throat infection last weekend, and Englishman Jack Harvey in a second Schmidt Peterson car on 1:15.806.

 

 

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Veach spends his Friday with local students

February 28th, 2014

2.28.14 – Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires sophomore Zach Veach spent his Friday visiting with eighth-grade students at Riverside Jr. High in nearby Fishers, IN. Veach spoke to six classes totaling about 180 students at the Northside school.

The high school graduate related the technology of Indy cars to what the students in Mr. Brad Bill’s students are about to begin discussing in his Technology Education classes. Zach spoke about aerodynamics, each part of the car, technology within the steering wheel and the journey that has brought him to where he is as an Indy Lights driver today.

“I am very privileged to be here today at Riverside (Jr. High) speaking to Mr. Bill’s eighth-grade classes about my passion and hopefully getting more youth involved in our sport,” the 19-year-old said. “A lot of the kids seem very interested in what we’re showing them. I’m hoping to see a lot of them make it out to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May!”

This is the fifth year Andretti Autosport has participated in a school visit with Riverside Jr. High bringing along a show car to reference to during the visit for Mr. Bill’s class.

Veach and Indy Lights teammate Matthew Brabham will next head to Milwaukee, WI this weekend for a series of appearances on behalf of the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers. Fans can meet the American Andretti Autosport duo at the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show in front of the Milwaukee IndyFest show car on Saturday from 3 – 4 p.m. CT and 11a.m. – 12p.m.  on Sunday. They will also be bowling at JB’s on 41 Sunday at 7p.m. for anyone who would like to join.

 

 

 



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