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RHR leads Andretti on second day of Indy 500 practice

May 12th, 2014

5.12.14 (via MotorSportsTalk.com) – The day felt like a Tuesday – even though to some, Tuesday has no feel – but the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice felt like a proper Indianapolis 500 practice day with plentiful running throughout the six hours and a boat-load of tows in the final hour to produce the day’s fastest speeds.

The two that emerged fastest on what was the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Monday practice session were a pair of Andretti Autosport teammates, with Ryan Hunter-Reay posting the month’s first 225-mph lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 225.025. Teammates Marco Andretti was over 224, at 224.037. Both had tows from others in the five-car Andretti brigade that also includes Carlos Munoz, Kurt Busch and EJ Viso.

Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson and Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top five. Those three and Munoz had tow-aided laps north of 223. Busch and Viso cracked the tail end of the top 10 in ninth and 10th, so all five Andretti cars were in the top 10.

Thirty drivers took laps, with the only three that didn’t Sebastian Saavedra as the KV/AFS Racing crew continued repairs on the No. 17 Chevrolet after the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and Buddy Lazier and James Davison.

Only Davison of that trio is on a short program, although Lazier’s pit garage sign was just hung in Gasoline Alley for the first time today, even later than Davison’s had been. More on both of them will follow later this week to MotorSportsTalk.

The track was busy with Hunter-Reay, Montoya, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden all completing north of 100 laps. Many others were in the 80-90 range. In total, nearly 2,300 laps were completed – 2,286 laps were turned on the day.

The third day of practice is set for Tuesday, but, with a 70 percent chance of rain there’s a possibility of a washout. Here’s your Monday times and speeds.

 

Read more here…

 

 

 

E.J. Viso slots in nicely in pinch-hit role for Hinch Sunday at IMS

May 12th, 2014

5.11.14 (via MotorSportsTalk.com) – Welcome back, EJ Viso, even if it’s in admittedly less than ideal circumstances.

The Venezuelan was forced to withdraw on the eve of the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, with Carlos Munoz drafted in as a last-minute replacement at Andretti Autosport.

Now it’s Viso’s turn to deputize for one of the Andretti quartet, with James Hinchcliffe sidelined due to a concussion suffered during the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Hinchcliffe was checked and released Satruday evening from Indianapolis Methodist hospital with symptoms of a concussion. On Sunday, the Canadian made a brief appearance, but no medical evaluation was performed today and the three-time race winner returned to his Indianapolis home to rest and recuperate. Hinchcliffe could return to the speedway for re-evaluation as early as Tuesday, however a date for his next medical visit has not yet been set. In the meantime, the Canadian is not cleared to drive in Indy 500 practice sessions.

That leaves it to Viso to fill-in in the interim. On Sunday, he was immediately comfortable and back up to speed in his first running of any kind since driving Starworks Motorsport’s Riley Dinan Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and his first running in an IndyCar since the streets of Houston last October. He ended sixth at 222.105 mph after 28 laps, most of them in traffic.

“So far things have been pretty smooth,” Viso said. “I love working with these guys. Last year I had an amazing year, an amazing experience, and I only have positive things to talk about my teammates and my team. This opportunity just showed up overnight.

 

Read more here…

 

 

 

Franck Montagny enjoying return with Andretti

May 12th, 2014

5.10.14 (via MotorSportsTalk.com) –  Andretti Autosport’s fifth Verizon IndyCar – the No. 26 Suretone Honda – is getting a ton of press for the Indianapolis 500, with Kurt Busch in the seat and set for the double run between Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend.

But the car is getting something of a test run this weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, with Franck Montagny back in North American open-wheel racing for the first time in five years.

Montagny hasn’t raced since a one-off appearance in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans in OAK Racing’s P1 Oak Pescarolo Judd (with ex-open-wheeler Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer), and his last start in North America came in a one-off in Level 5 Motorsports’ HPD P2 car at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May of that year. Prior to that, he’d been a factory Peugeot LMP1 driver before the program ended at the end of 2011.

Now he returns to an IndyCar for his first start since the 2009 race at Sonoma, in what was also a fifth Andretti Autosport entry. He also finished second in the Champ Car series finale at Long Beach 2008, driving for Gerry Forsythe.

“The thing is I haven’t driven in two years. I’ve been off working television in France, following the Formula One circus,” he told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s been since 2008 and 2009 over here… but when Andretti had the opportunity to put together the fifth car, they called me, and here I am. Easy as that.”

Montagny was seriously impressed with the depth of the field, and despite wanting to be fastest said it spoke better of the series that as a one-off entry, he isn’t able to come in and be immediately on the pace.

“Compared to anything else in the world, nowhere else there’d be seven tenths between the first guy and the last guy. Nowhere else,” he said. “I’m seven tenths off and it feels not too bad, then I look at the times and I’m almost last! But in F1 I’d be second!

“It’s very tough because one tiny mistake screws it up. The car is what is what is, but the level of the championship speaks for itself.”

 

 

Read more here…

 

 

 

Carlos Munoz primed for Indianapolis 500 success

May 11th, 2014

5.10.14 (via theindychannel.com) – As a rookie in 2013, Carlos Munoz finished second in the Indianapolis 500.

At just age 22, Munoz is a young man on the move. He began his pro career at age 15, working his way up from Formula 3 through Indy Lights to a full-time ride this season with Andretti Autosport.

"I'm really happy, especially at 22 years old," Munoz said. "A top team usually doesn't like the young drivers. Ganassi or Penske, they prefer the experienced drivers."

Munoz, a Colombian native, now lives in Miami.

"It's nice to be here. Since I was a child, I came here with my family to Miami to have holidays," Munoz said.

Munoz was fast from the beginning of last year's Indy 500 and was firmly in the race on Pole Day, qualifying second, only the fourth rookie to start on the front row in the last 15 years.

Kanaan held Munoz off to claim his first Indy 500 win.

"I don't think about it much," Munoz said. "It's in the past. I have another shot this year. I didn't cross the finish line first. You just have to stop thinking what would have happened."

Getting ready for this year's race has meant a lot of work away from the track.

"I work out five times a week, biking and running, swimming, gym sessions," Munoz said. "I also do one day of go-cart."

As an active triathlete, Miami gives Munoz plenty of places to train on land and water.

"It's not nice to be all the time in the gym. Here, I can run outside. I can do swimming in the ocean," he said.

The south Florida setting is also good for rest and relaxation.

 

 

Read more here…

 

 

Matthew Brabham scores first Indy Lights win

May 10th, 2014

5.9.14 (via RACER.com) – The Brabham family finally has a victory to its credit at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway after third generation racer Matthew Brabham made light of treacherous conditions to lead throughout this evening's fifth round of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. Brabham, who had qualified Andretti Autosport's #83 United Fiber & Data/MAZDASPEED entry on the pole earlier in the day, held off a race-long challenge on a rapidly drying track from Brazilian GP2 graduate Luiz Razia (#7 Lucas Oil with Curb-Agajanian) to score his first Indy Lights race win.

 

Brabham, 20, who was born in Florida and raised in Australia, now has added a race win at the highest level of the Mazda Road to Indy after winning back-to-back titles in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

 

The track was thoroughly soaked after a heavy rain shower immediately following the preceding Pro Mazda race, so every competitor had no choice but to start on grooved Cooper tires. Brabham, whose grandfather Sir Jack Brabham pioneered the rear-engined revolution at the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1960s and whose father, Geoff Brabham, made 10 Indy 500 starts of his own (with a best finish of fourth in 1983), led away from the pole but came under pressure almost immediately from Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, who had already won two races this season for Belardi Auto Racing.

 

Chaves slipped through into the lead at Turn One on the second lap only to later relinquish the lead once again to Brabham. Chaves' teammate, Alex Baron, moved up into second before quickly realizing his car's setup didn't work on a wet track as he fell immediately into the clutches of Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport) and Razia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian).

 

The opening stages of the 40-minute race were thoroughly entertaining as positions swapped and changed with regularity – albeit not for the lead as Brabham put his head down and led by as much as three seconds by Lap 9. By then a dry line had begun to emerge and, despite lingering dark clouds, there was no further precipitation.

 

As the track began to dry quite quickly, drivers started to seek damp patches on the road surface to prevent their wet-weather tires from overheating. Razia gradually whittled the deficit to Brabham to less than a second, but he was able to get no closer. Brabham managed the margin – and his tires – to perfection to claim a finely judged victory.

 

 

 

Read more here…

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Out: Appearances for week of May 5, 2014

May 7th, 2014

5.7.14 - 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 inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis!

 
 
 
 
 
 
Thursday, May 8
 
James Hinchcliffe
Pit Pass LIVE
Gasoline Alley at IMS or AndrettiTV.com
9:30 a.m.
 
 
Marco Andretti
Walgreens signing
1424 S. Rangeline Rd, Carmel, IN 46032
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
 
 
 
Friday, May 9
 
James Hinchcliffe
Pit Pass LIVE
Gasoline Alley at IMS or AndrettiTV.com
9:30 a.m.
 
 
Zach Veach & Matthew Brabham
Indy Lights autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
 
 
Marco Andretti, Franck Montagny, James Hinchcliffe,
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz
REV Indy
North & East Chalets – IMS
6:45 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
 
 
 
Saturday, May 10
 
Shelby Blackstock & Garett Grist
Pro Mazda autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
2:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
 
 
 
 

VEACH: My ride on the Alabamian rollercoaster

May 5th, 2014

5.5.14 (via RACER.com) – Out of all of the tracks we will compete on in the 2014 season, Barber is the one place that all of us in Indy Lights have the most testing time at. Throughout the winter, we spent a total of four days running together learning the track and preparing the cars. The only not-so-ideal thing was the Alabamian weather in December and February. At both tests, we all suffered through 45 and below temperatures… and a lot of rain, which wasn't exactly the case for us this past weekend, 75 and sunny… well, mostly sunny, but we'll get to that.

 

Coming off of our pole and second place at Long Beach just a couple weeks before, the team and I had a lot of momentum and confidence rolling into our two practice sessions on the promoter test day. Eager to get the weekend started, we were the first ones to roll onto the track as soon as it went green Thursday morning, but after the two test sessions that day, we knew we had some work to do as a team. We ended P3 in the first session and P4 in the second. With the dramatic change in the ambient and track temperature compared to the test, our cars needed a bit of a makeover to fit the new conditions.

 

On Friday, we had one early practice and then straight to qualifying. We knew we still had a chance to improve the car a bit, so we changed a good amount of things and were able to see what worked and what didn't, which led us to make a list of things to try in the 45-minute qualifying session and just keep working away hundredth by hundredth to get where we needed to be.

 

At the start we were P3, about 2.5 tenths off of pole position, but with 35 minutes to go, we didn't panic and just focused what we needed to do on the car. The next outing, we managed to get that gap down to just a tenth. We were finally dialing the car into where we needed to be, and at this point we had just about 10 minutes to go and one last change to try. My engineer told me to remember back to Long Beach and push the car as much as I could. On the out lap, I could tell we made the right change; I felt I had a car for pole – I just had to focus and make it happen. On my first timed lap, my projected was on a pole lap, but I just pushed too hard and made a mistake.

 

With the tires falling off so quickly at Barber, I knew I had only one or two more opportunities for a lap like that and I didn't want to throw that chance away. My second lap allowed me the pole by a tenth, but I knew I could get just a little more out of it. On my third, I pushed as hard as I could and snuck out five more hundredths. I couldn't believe it! We started off the weekend a step behind, and my engineer and I were able to rebound, stay positive and take our second consecutive pole of the season. It's just a starting position, but with it being so difficult to pass at Barber, it was definitely progress toward another win.

 

The way the past two Indy Lights races have gone, the race is ether won or lost in the first corner. We were 100% focused on how we could get a good start, because chances are, if you lead through Turn 1 at Barber, and have a consistent race, you can run your way to victory.

 

In the first race, I was lucky enough to be able to do just to that. Starting on the pole, I made sure I had a good run onto the front straight to give me what advantage I could take being the pole sitter into Turn 1, but it wasn't much. As we approached the brake zone, we were almost three wide again – Gabby (Chaves) looking to the inside and (Alex) Baron still hanging on the outside. After Gabby took the pole away from me at Long Beach, I wasn't going to let it happen again here. I broke later than I ever had into Turn 1 that just let me slip ahead. As I got to the exit, I looked in my mirrors and saw the two of them going off track. At first I had no idea what happened, but after review the two of them had made costly contact. From there on, I knew I just needed to build a gap up and save my tiresuntil the end. After 30 laps, I saw the checkered flags flying to drive to my second win in Indy Lights this season which ultimately helped extend our championship lead.

 

In the second race I didn't get the honor of starting on the pole. For the doubleheaders it goes off of your first and second fastest laps in qualifying; I missed pole for Race Two by just .02 hundredths of a second. Our race on Sunday was actually moved to 30 minutes earlier to try to escape the threat of strong rain, but it still looked as if, at some point in the race, we'd have to deal with it. My engineer and I decided to take a gamble and go toward a wet setup just in case, and looking back, we might have got caught out on it a bit. On the start Gabby and Baron worked really well together bump drafting into Turn 1 leaving me stuck on the outside falling back to third.

 

Right away, we just didn't have the speed with the wet setup on the car and I was left defending a lot of pressure from fourth place (Luiz) Razia, and he was making me work for it. As we got to halfway, it started to drizzle, and at first I thought our plan was going to work out, but after a few laps it stopped. With about 10 laps to go, I had to think about the championship – try not making any mistakes and just driving home our third place. Unfortunately, it was a little bittersweet. The rain came down very heavy at the end cutting the race three laps short. I could've used the rain a lot earlier, but all-in-all, I was very happy with the weekend. We have two wins, two poles and four podiums in four races, which is letting us leave Barber with a nine-point advantage over Gabby going into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

 

I want to thank my engineer and the Andretti Autosport crew for doing such an amazing job for me so far this season, as well as RePLAY XD, Young Marines, ADS IT Solutions, Zakosi Data Back Up, Bell and OMP for all of their support. Last but definitely not least, thank you for reading, and I hope to see some of you in Indy!

 

Zach

 

 

BRABHAM: Just one of those weekends

May 5th, 2014

5.5.15 (via RACER.com) – Barber, for me, was just one of those weekends. Obviously things did not go according to plan, and likewise, certain things didn't fall in our favor. The track conditions and weather were considerably different compared to the last time we tested there. The temperature was double than what it was at the test, and it was amazing how that affected our setup, so we seemed to be playing catch-up all weekend.
 

Challenging! Yes, I have to admit, but I came away from the weekend with even more determination. It has been a while since I have had to really dig deep and fight it out in the middle of the pack. Experiences like this certainly develop not only your skills, but are also character-building.

The qualifying session started OK as we were in and out of the top four, depending on who had new Cooper Tires on. But, we lost our way a little bit and did not have an extra set at the end, and as a result, I ended up a disappointing sixth.
 

My Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach was having simular problems to myself, but they made the right call on setup at the end of qualifying and captured the pole; unfortunately, we ran out of time and did not get a chance to do the same.

 

Barber is a notoriously difficult track for passing with really only one opportunity to pass at the start. Starting from the sixth position for both races was certainly not ideal… also survival through the first turn was crucial.

 

At the start of Race 1, the two Belardi Auto Racing cars hit each other in the first corner and I was able to slip through into fourth place. The changes to the setup made the car much better, and I was quicker than the car in front of me; passing was a whole other issue, and unfortunately, I spent the entire race following. I couldn't quite overcome the aero wash and the loss of down force. I could get close in certain corners but never close enough to make a clean pass for the podium position. This was rather frustrating, but it reminded me how important qualifying is in these cars.

 

The track conditions for Race Two on the following day were very different. Our race was scheduled immediately after the World Challenge cars, and along with the significant weather changes, it was going to be a guessing game for everyone. Unfortunately these factors changed the balance of the track and it seemed to affect both Zach and I negatively in the race. Although both of our setups seemed to be heading in the right direction, our balance still needed improvement.

 

Unlike the first race, the second race got off to a clean start. Although I managed to get a good jump, I had nowhere to go, and I maintained my position through the first corner. Just as in Race 1, I was having a hard time following the car in front, and I couldn't get close enough to make the lunge for the position. My only option was to continually attack and keep the pressure on… just maybe they would make that tiny error that would enable me to get by, however, I was never to get that opportunity. Earlier in the race I had the engine hesitate and I thought 'no that doesn't feel right'. But I thought luck was shining on me when the engine seemed to correct itself. With around 15 laps to go, my car completely died coming out of Turn 2 and I lost fuel pressure. The kind of luck I wasn't looking for paid me a visit, and I was forced to pull the car off to the side of the track and retire - that's my first DNF in a long time.

 

Barber is one of the prettiest circuits I have ever been to; however, when you pull off the track and have to jump the fence, the bushes on the other side are very difficult to clear. I ended up all tangled up in them, so hope nobody was filming me!

 

I know I am more motivated and determined than ever. All of us will be working even harder for that place on top of the podium. The month of May is almost here, and along with the excitement of the traditional Freedom 100 oval race for us, we also have the inaugural road course race to look forward to. What a blast! The new track looks brilliant and I can't wait to go racing again.

 

-Matty

 

 

BLACKSTOCK: Barber delivered first 2014 podium, but we’re looking for more

May 5th, 2014

5.4.14 (via MoreFrontWing.com) – The Pro Mazda Championship ran Rounds 3 and 4 at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, and it was a pretty up-and-down event for me and the No. 28 Starstruck Andretti Autosport team.

Things started out strong. We had the fastest time in the Thursday morning test session and the second-fastest in Friday morning practice, and we felt like the car was pretty on point. But our competitors started finding changes that were working for them, and from then on we were just playing catch-up.

In the first race of the weekend, we started sixth and were able to move up one spot to end up fifth. We were fine with that, but it wasn’t the first or second-place finish we were looking for.

In Race Two we started fourth and finished third to land our first podium finish of the regular season, so that was a bit more satisfying. We were frustrated that despite making some good progress on the car and some good changes, it just wasn’t enough in the end to give us the pace of the two front-runners.

If you look at the time sheets from the season so far, you’ll see there are only two teams that are consistently ahead of us: Juncos Racing – and especially the points leader Spencer Pigot – and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Some people are looking at Spencer right now and wondering if he can be beaten. The thing about that team is that it’s 100% car over there right now. Don’t get me wrong – Spencer is a good driver. But we were wondering why they were so pushy about having the new front tire brought in for this season, and now it kind of makes more sense. It’s livened their cars up quite a considerable amount and definitely helped them a lot, whereas it kind of hurt our car and left us a bit behind. We will definitely have something for them once we get a handle on what our car needs, and then we should be right there with them battling for wins.

As for Cape — congratulations to them on getting up to speed this fast in their first season of Pro Mazda. Those guys are very, very good in USF2000 and they had a good amount of testing in the off-season, so we knew they’d always be a threat, and they’ve definitely proved to be that. It’s been pretty amazing to see.

We’re getting closer and closer to those guys on car setup and that’s all I ask for. We have some good strong points on the car – it’s just that the weak points really, really hurt us. We learned a lot at Barber and are making some updates to focus on our weak points and make the whole car overall stronger for our next event.

My other racing pursuits are going well. I mentioned in my last update that I was flying to Germany to attempt to qualify for the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Well, we did it by finishing second in class in the qualifying race, so we’re very happy. I can’t wait to get back there in June. It’s going to be 200-plus cars and 24 hours on the most dangerous and hardest track in the world. Sounds like my idea of fun.

And this weekend I’m at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to race with my teammate Ashley Freiberg in the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. We took the win at Daytona but dropped out with a mechanical issue at Sebring, so it feels like it’s been an awfully long wait for our chance to get redemption from that. Laguna Seca is one of my home tracks, so I have a lot of laps here. I really like it. There have been some balance of performance updates throughout the series for this weekend, so it’ll be interesting to see where everybody sizes up.

Of course, being on the west coast means I missed out on observing the Verizon IndyCar Series open test at the new IMS road course this past Wednesday. That doesn’t concern me too much, though. The Andretti Autosport IndyCar teams were there and our Pro Mazda engineers were able to check things out, so I’ll land in Indianapolis on Monday night and go out to dinner with them to go over everything. I’ll be caught up pretty fast.

I can’t wait to get on track at IMS in a Pro Mazda car. It’s great that IndyCar is running a road course weekend there and that the entire Mazda Road to Indy will get to be part of it. It’s the Indy 500 that obviously makes that place amazing, but it’s cool to do the road course and then a couple of weeks later go into the oval race. I think overall for the entire series, it’s going to be awesome.

Regardless, in the end it’s all about actually getting on track at IMS to see whose setup is going to work the best for that place. Like you, I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. I hope the work we’ve done gets us onto the top step of the podium.

- Shelby

 

 

SCOTT SPEED – Global Rallycross Personalities

May 2nd, 2014

Heading into my second GRC season has been completely different than my first year. For one, I have a race shop I can go to to see a car. So there’s been a lot of time spent back at Indy at the workshop, shaking down cars, working on cars. Obviously, it’s quite a new program for a lot of us here. 95% of us all come from a different background, so that’s been fun—getting to know these types of cars.

But mostly, the difference from last year is I’m able to work with a team. We actually have a proper team, and we can work on the cars and prepare them for the year. We’d love to have a few more months off, because it’s all pretty new to us, and we’ll be catching up for a while for sure. But it’s been cool to have the Andretti organization, having a proper race team, and being part of that.

A lot of these guys are IndyCar guys. The main rally guy we have is Graham Quinn, an Irish feller, who I get along really well with. It’s nice to have a European in the mix—having spent so much time over there, it’s nice to talk to someone about it. I didn’t come across a lot of Europeans in NASCAR! Our team is cool, we’ve got different pieces for sure, but a lot of our guys are IndyCar guys, who I would say are at a much higher level in general because it’s a much more technologically advanced and major motorsport. What we’re banking on is that Global Rallycross is going to become a major motorsport—we have all the people in place to do it, but the majority of us don’t have experience in it yet.

We’ve been all over the place making this thing happen. We’ve been to Chicago for the announcement; I went to the New York Auto Show as well for Volkswagen. We did some testing in Europe to help develop our Beetle, which is going to be amazing once we get it. We also did some tire testing for Yokohama, to decide what kind of tire compound we’re going to go with. It was cool to be a part of that program, and I think we have a really good tire for everyone this year. I’m excited to get on technology that’s not a few decades old, ha! 

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