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December 12, 2013

INDYCAR  was in the news during the first morning of the Performance Racing Industry’s (PRI) return to Indianapolis Convention Center. First Ed Carpenter highlighted the Chevrolet display, talking about his exemplary oval performance driving the #20 Fuzzys Ultimate Vodka Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone Indy car. Carpenter won the season finale in 2012 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA and came second in that venue’s season-ender in 2013, helping Chevrolet secure its second consecutive INDYCAR manufacturers’ championship.


Ed Carpenter has a new, winter beard!

Carpenter was also the pole sitter for the 2013 Indianapolis 500, yet wasn’t pleased with his 10th place result in that race. For next year, he’s planning to concentrate on the six oval races only, leaving the remaining road/street-course contests to ace Mike Conway. The intent is to concentrate on being the owner of Ed Carpenter Racing, as he realizes his time behind the wheel is finite. Good plan.

From left, Brian Bonner, Art Wilmes, Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot present Rising Star Racing

Following that press conference, Rising Star Racing presented its program to promote worthy talent up the INDYCAR ladder, which now works from karts through Indy Lights. It’s a promising idea, something that others have tried before but rarely succeeded. As Rising Star partners Brian Bonner and Art Wilmes professed, the objective is to assist deserving drivers in achieving the rides they deserve.

The first drivers this group is working with are IndyCar Series ace Josef Newgarden (as the group’s ambassador), Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico. All but Alberico were on hand to talk about the program; Neil’s testing in Florida this week as both he and Spencer prepare to contest the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.

“It can be really challenging to move up in this sport,” Newgarden explained from his personal experience. “When you are young and working so hard to make it happen, the stars have to align perfectly.”

The intent is to assist these promising drivers in every aspect of their careers. “We are looking for drivers who are long on talent but short on resources,” Wilmes explained. “Our goal is to provide talented young open wheel drivers with the support they need and allow their talent to win out. We want to help them get to INDYCAR, the highest level for American open wheel racing. Our goal is to bootstrap a few hand-picked candidates, develop their business and professional image and allow them to reach their potential.”

Wilmes, an Indianapolis-area businessman, has been a fan of open wheel and INDYCAR racing for more than 30 years; Bonner made his Indianapolis 500 driving debut in 1992 and has worked with Newgarden since 2011 through his Bonner Race Marketing company.
I’ve got to wonder what they could do to assist another young American driver, wandering the show and looking for a drive. “I’ve got nothing right now,” said Conor Daly, who’s been a standout in GP3 and drove for AJ Foyt Racing last year in the Indy 500. Faced with the prospect of trying to move up in the European racing arena, Daly is dismayed. “It takes 30-40 million Euros to make it to F1 and I don’t have even a bit of that. I have no help from my family,” he told me; he’s got to make it on his own and, at this point, has no irons in the fire. Now that’s a shame.

Tomorrow, Target Chip Ganassi Racing will announce the refocusing of its team and the new member of that squad, who will take over the No. 10 ride. I’ll get back with that INDYCAR story.

Words and PhotosBy Anne Proffit

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