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Rules for sportscar prototype getting closer

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During late January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, opening race for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, that sanctioning body, together with the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO, sanction for the 24 Hours of Le Mans) announced the formation of a single class to govern WEC and IMSA prototype competition.

bottom Pierre Fillon, Jim France; top Gerard Neveu, John Doonan, Ed Bennett

The LMDh category, standing for Le Mans Daytona hybrid, is just beginning to come together, with regard to its rules, as there needed to be distinct rules and technical regulations formulated to interest automotive manufacturers and chassis constructors. This week, on May 6, a draft of initial technical regulations was released by all three governing entities, recognizing that this is a starting point for the class and understanding that, with current and exceptional conditions around the globe, steps need to be taken carefully.

The three entities revealed more than a dozen vehicle manufacturers and the four nominated chassis constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and Oreca – are collaborating in this formation of regulations. The unveiling of new regulations was intended to occur during SuperSebring, a gathering of both WEC and IMSA competitors at Sebring International Raceway. Due to the novel coronavirus, that extraordinary race meeting never occurred.

Meeting through the use of remote group software that allowed the interested parties to work together, the LMDh platform has evolved to the point where all three sanctioning groups have decided the prototype will be a common car created by ACO and IMSA, with the capability to race in both WEC and IMSA. LMDh is a cost-capped prototype that has the common spine as the next  generation of LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2), no matter the constructor or engine manufacturer, which means it’s a complete car without bodywork, engine and hybrid system.

The LMDh prototypes, at this time scheduled for introduction in both WEC and IMSA’s 2022 racing seasons, will only be homologated by a mainstream automotive manufacturer who is associated with one of the four chassis builders. Cars will feature manufacturer-branded and stylized bodywork, a manufacturer-branded engine, a common, single-source rear-wheel-drive hybrid system and a minimum homologation period of five years, which will allow proper development and to add to cost containment.

The joint regulations governing the new LMDh prototype category allow a minimum car weight of 1030 kg (2270.76 pounds), with peak combined power of 500kW from both an internal combustion engine and the common hybrid system. There will be a single bodywork package with identical aerodynamic performance, a single tire provider and global balance of performance (BOP) to, as the ACO and IMSA put it, “harmonize the overall performance of the LMDh and LMH (Le Mans Hyper) cars.”

It’s expected that the top category of WEC competition, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its cornerstone event, will integrate the LMDh and LMH race cars to lead to similar performance parameters. IMSA will welcome WEC-based LMDh cars while being open to LMH participation from mainstream automotive manufacturers. This would result from performance at IMSA circuits being validated for acceptance by ACO and WEC.

While the timeline states a start date in 2022 for LMDh racecars, the ACO, WEC and IMSA are keeping their eyes on the current medical crisis exacerbated by the novel coronavirus, which has created the COVID-19 pandemic. A delay in introduction could become necessary. Even so, final regulations are anticipated to be release prior to, or during the September 2020 postponed running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

Ford announces Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 for straight-line racing

Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400

More than a year after Chevrolet debuted its all-electric prototype eCOPO Camaro at the season-starting NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, where that 800-horsepower machine met its objective of running under 10 seconds in the quarter-mile, Ford has unveiled its all-electric Mustang Cobra Jet 1400.

The Ford machine, projected to hit the quarter-mile in the low eight-second range at more than 170mph, is the perfect accompaniment to Ford’s Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV road car that debuted last fall, and which drew hordes of admirers at last November’s Los Angeles auto show, achieving maximum reservations once the ability to purchase was unveiled.

Ford Performance’s battery-powered Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 prototype is expected to deliver 1,400 horsepower and more than 1,100 lb-ft of on-demand torque. It’s being produced to demonstrate the capabilities of all-electric powertrains in drag racing, acknowledged as one of the most demanding motorsports environments.

Ford’s global director of Ford Icons, Dave Pericak, who is involved in the company’s motorsports activities, said the company elected to promote this vehicle in order to show off Ford’s motorsports trends. “Electric powertrains give us a completely new kind of performance and the all-electric Cobra Jet 1400 is one example of pushing new technology to the absolute limit. We’re excited to showcase what’s possible in an exciting year, when we also have the all-electric Mustang Mach-E joining the Mustang family.”

The project was enhanced by assists from several specialty suppliers including MLe Racecars, which designed and built the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 and tuned it for the quarter-mile. Watson Engineering built the roll cage and provided chassis support and development, while AEM EV’s software and motor calibration and controls were integrated with Cascadia’s motor and inverter.

According to Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, “We saw the Cobra Jet 1400 project as an opportunity to start developing electric powertrains in a race car package that we already had a lot of experience with, so we had performance benchmarks we wanted to match and beat right now.” He indicated this is the first step in Ford’s electric vehicle racing program.

Ford will test this new drag racing machine before its debut later this year at a drag racing event where fans, competitors and media will get a chance to meet the car and see its capabilities on an asphalt quarter-mile race track.

A sneak peak at the new Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 is available this Sunday, April 26, on MotorTrend on Demand’s “Hard Cell,” a program that showcases electric vehicles pushing innovation boundaries.

eCOPO at speed on 2nd pass

Who knows, maybe Chevy’s eCOPO Camaro will have been tuned to produce a similar amount of horsepower as the new Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 by the time racing resumes and the latter vehicle is introduced on a racing weekend? Would there be anything more exciting than seeing a side-by-side competition between these two?

By Anne Proffit

Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

eCOPO Camaro photo by Anne Proffit

Bob Lazier succumbs to COVID-19

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Bob Lazier is the latest member of the motorsports community to be felled by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lazier, father of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy and fellow INDYCAR competitor Jaques, passed in a Denver hospital this weekend after a fervent battle against the pandemic. He was, until this virus felled him, a vibrant 81 years old.

Lazier, who had an enviable career in smaller formula cars, excelling in Formula Vee and SuperVee in the 1970s, did race some Formula 5000 before coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1981, where he earned Rookie of the Year honors, starting 13th and finishing 19th. Lazier earned the same rookie award in CART that year. He was a “one-and-done” racer at Indy, as then 14-year-old Buddy begged his father not to race in 1982 after Gordon Smiley’s horrific and deadly accident.

Known as “Easy Money” during his SCCA years for an ability to rack up the wins, Bob Lazier hung up his helmet after not racing the 1982 Indy 500, but never lost his love for the sport. When both Buddy and Jaques showed interest, their cheering section and closest advisor was their dad, who could be seen at INDYCAR races through the 2019 season, whether his kids were racing or not.

Buddy Lazier, of course won the Indianapolis 500 in 1996, the first year of Indy Racing League competition at the Brickyard. He raced with a broken back (from a Phoenix accident) and showed the world what true grit and determination looks like.

In 2013, Bob Lazier started Lazier Racing Partners to aid Buddy’s career in the latter stages of his older son’s competitive days, but with little funding and always-late entries, they never managed to finish higher than 25th and ceased to enter after 2017.

Bob Lazier built and owned Tivoli Lodge in Vail, Colorado. He was one of the first to set up stakes in the mountainous area of Vail, coming to the town in 1960 and using European ideas to construct his first hotel, which he extensively remodeled in the past decade. He considered himself a “guardian of the mountain” and made sure everyone who stayed at or visited Tivoli Lodge felt like a member of the Lazier family.

Bob Lazier, a man beloved for his kindness to everyone he ever met, is survived by his wife, Diane, Buddy and Jaques, daughter Wendy and several grandchildren, including grandson Finn, who looks to be the next Lazier to pull on a helmet at Indy.

Words and Photo By Anne Proffit

 

(I’ve known Bob Lazier since his Vee and Super Vee days; his kindness and generosity, that winning smile will help him live on in my memories)

Papadakis Racing builds new Supra for 2020 Formula Drift; Adds Ryan Tuerck in Toyota Corolla

Aasbo LB 2019

The last time Stephan Papadakis built a new race car for Formula Drift racing, the Rockstar black-and-yellow Toyota Corolla hatchback won the first time out of the box with 2015 champion Fredric Aasbo at the wheel. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, though, as the new vehicle warranted a preventative engine change after Friday practice at Long Beach that race weekend in 2018.

Winning with a new race car is nothing new for Steph Papadakis, who secured his reputation as an innovator in sport compact drag racing back in the 1990s, building the first front-wheel-drive, tube-chassis drag car then in the U.S. Since that time, his teams have earned multiple records and championships, recording elapsed times and trap speeds previously thought unattainable with a FWD drag machine.

Papadakis moved his Los Angeles area-based team to Formula Drift in 2004, building winning cars like the incredible V-8 Scion tC and the Toyota Corolla hatchback referenced above, which he converged to rear-wheel-drive and installed a 1,000-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Papadakis and Aasbo have teamed over the past half-decade to bring success to both Scion and Toyota race cars in Formula Drift competition.

When Formula Drift eventually begins its season, which was to start this coming weekend at Long Beach, Papadakis Racing and Aasbo will have a brand new 1,000-horsepower  V-6 turbocharged   2020 Toyota GR Supra ready to take on the competition. They finished second to James Deane, champion for the second year in a row with the Corolla hatch and were looking for a way to overcome the lanky Briton’s consistency, style and speed.

With 13 career victories, Swede Aasbo has more Formula Drift wins than any other racer in the series. He began his Formula Drift career, earning rookie of the year honors in 2010 with a Mark IV Toyota Supra, coming full circle this season as he takes the helm of the Toyota GR Supra.

Supra and Corolla

Papadakis Racing took delivery of the showroom-ready 2020 Toyota GR Supra just a few weeks after the new model appeared in showrooms last summer; when the basic black chassis arrived at the team’s Southern California base, it had about 500 miles on the odometer. They began working on the chassis in January, planning to place the B58 engine in time for the season opener.

Formula Drift dictates showroom vehicles, rather than purpose-built race cars. They’re adapted to perform in the competitive environment, most featuring engines of more than 1,000 horsepower and are chassis-engineered to deliver 65 degrees or more of front steering angle. The GR Supra is rear-wheel-drive, so did not need to be altered in that regard; from the factory it has an inline six-cylinder 3.o-liter engine rated at 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque.

Steph Papadakis at work

The B58 is a 6-cylinder turbocharged, nitrous-fed engine using the factory crankshaft and block. Steph Papadakis modified the engine to accept valve train from Supertech Performance, had the cylinder modified by Portflow Design, used forged steel Carrillo connecting rods and JE Custom 11.0:1 compression pistons,  AEM Electronic’s Infinity 708 fuel injection and BorgWarner’s EFR 9280 turbocharger. Injectors are six 2000cc units from Injector Dynamics. A Gforce GSR 4-speed dog box transmission is fed through a four-disc Tiltyon 7-1/4-in clutch, while a carbon fiber Driveshaft Shop driveshaft completes the mechanicals.

Once again, Aasbo and Papadakis have wrapped the car in the bright black-and-yellow of Rockstar energy drink.

Ryan Tuerck LB 2019

For the pending 2020 season, Aasbo has a new teammate, Ryan Tuerck, a veteran in Formula Drift who drove a Toyota 86 last year. Tuerck takes over the Toyota Corolla Hatchback with support from Gumout and Nitto Tire; this is Papadakis Racing’s first season using Nitto rubber.. Tuerck brings 14 career podiums to Papadakis Racing and his multitude of social media followers. “It’s been really hard to keep this under wraps for so long,” Tuerck said of his new partnership with Papadakis Racing.

Tuerck 2020 Corolla

Tuerck had the opportunity to check out the Toyota Corolla Hatchback race car after using a detuned version in demonstration runs for Papadakis Racing last year. He retired his Toyota 86 earlier in the new year, prompting speculation among his followers. Of the Corolla Hatchback Tuerck said, “It’s a blast and I couldn’t be more excited about the competition potential of the platform.”

Aasbo is keen to begin a partnership with the the New Hampshire resident, “It’s going to be great having Ryan working with us this year. You never want to meet your teammate in tandem, but we’ve had some great battles over the years and it’s going to be a heck of a match-up when it happens.”

To understand the complexities of Papadakis Racing’s 2020 Toyota Supra GR Formula Drift build, wiring and dyne test, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPYBTWaKYxw&feature=youtu.be

Words By Anne Proffit

Action photos by Anne Proffit; static photos courtesy Papadakis Racing

Alex Zanardi confronts all obstacles

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Hungaroring (HUN) 1st June 2018. BMW M Motorsport, DTM, Round 3, Alessandro Zanardi (ITA), BMW works driver and BMW brand ambassador

When former two-time CART champion Alessandro (Alex) Zanardi nearly lost his life the Sunday after 2001’s 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, the one thing he never did was lose his lust for life. Less than a year after the accident that severed his legs and cost nearly all his blood, there was Zanardi, using his arms alone to climb to the top of the start stand and wave green flags for the 2002 CART race in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Since that time, Zanardi has gained further athletic fame for his exploits in hand cycling, where he’s won tons of gold medals and earned respect from both handicapped and full-bodied fans around the globe, watching him achieve at para-cycling World Championships and Paralympic Games. He raced a specially prepared BMW in the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona where, as a BMW brand ambassador and works driver, Zanardi earned new fans during the winter twice-around-the-clock classic.

The results weren’t what he wanted – Alex’s always entered a race with the intent of winning – as his No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE GTLM race car finished 31st overall, ninth in class after starting 22nd on the 47-car grid. They were 40 laps behind the winners after a difficult, rain-impacted race that went just under 22 hours, not the traditional 24. That didn’t quash Zanardi’s great attitude about his racing endeavors and life in general. He simply moved forward.

The Italian, who’s remained at his home in the hard-struck northern area of his homeland, remains in good health, as does his family, wife Daniela and son Niccolo. He has his training center at home so he can continue working towards the Tokyo Olympics, now scheduled to take place in August of 2021. “Not everything is always negative as not everything is always positive,” he astutely notes.

“I plan my day around my sporting programs and, of course I am working a lot with the computer. I am staying connected on a professional level by sending emails, preparing stuff. Until recently,” Zanardi says, “all preparations were with regard to the most important objective of the year, which would have been Tokyo. Now I have to reconsider everything, but the way I am, it won’t be difficult to find a new objective to chase. I can focus on different projects – and I have many.”

If he qualifies to go to Tokyo next year, Zanardi will be approaching the age of 55, a time when most athletes have long since hung up their bikes, their cars, their spikes and racquets, baseballs, bats. “For sure I can tell you that, regarding my intentions [to compete], I am perfect. Regarding turning my intentions into achievements, time will tell, we will see.”

Even with his infectious positive attitude, Alessandro Zanardi understands that he’s privileged to be able to isolate from the rampant dangers of the disease that is ravaging his home country. He has his home, he has his training “home” away from

Zanardi with his para-cycle

Fuji International Speedway (JPN), 20th to 21st November 2019. BMW M Motorsport. „SUPER GT x DTM Dream Race“. BMW works driver, BMW brand ambassador Alessandro Zanardi (ITA), practicing with his hand cycle.

the main house at his compound. He has his healthy family surrounding him and making it possible to live the life of a functioning athlete. “Whenever you overcome a problem in your life, it’s an experience for which you have to develop new tools,” Zanardi advises himself and all around him.

“Once the experience is behind you, these tools can possibly stay in your repertoire to overcome other problems which you inevitably have to face during the journey of your life. I can tell that people are rediscovering the sense of community, the sense of friendships, the sense of needing each other in order to really complete themselves,” Zanardi observes. “Because we are nothing if we cannot express our emotions. The real hope is that people will be more talented from now on in looking for that type of inspiration, listening, leaning on others and allowing others to help them. Because that is what we are, and we are nothing without all of this.

“So this is the only positive aspect of what is happening and we have to make sure that this experience will teach everyone a good lesson and we will leave this all behind us, with better instruments to proceed in our life and to live a better one.” Losing his legs didn’t stop Alessandro Zanardi from finding something positive in what happened to him. The current slower pace of life is allowing him to be part of a community that follows the instructions it’s receiving without panicking and “put this enemy behind us in the right way.”

By Anne Proffit

Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport

The people of this year’s 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona

It’s easy to go out and shoot tons of car pics during the Rolex 24 at Daytona. After all, you’ve got 24 hours to get it right, right?

I thought I’d share some people pics I shot throughout the race weekend – and tell you why I chose them.

Over the years I’ve been able to do a lot of work with Corvette Racing, who were hoping for the hat-trick this year. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t happen. Their GTLM category was filled with talent equal to their own. Here are Gary Pratt (Sr VP Pratt & Miller), #3 crew chief Dan Binks, #3 car drivers Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller, photographed during the Thursday night practice session.

gary pratt of corvette racing copydan binks copyjan magnussen of no. 3 corvette copymike rockenfeller copy

The winning #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac featured four drivers but none received the media attention of two-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso. I would dare to bet he’s not had to suffer through so many interviews in his life, but ‘Nando took it all in stride throughout the weekend. He was gracious in the face of some very stupid questions, delightful to work with and, as expected, magic on the track.

fernando alonso copy

Austin Cindric is taking a master class in racing. He’s done just about everything, including help wipe down the Lexus GTD race car in his – and its – first appearance at Daytona International Speedway two years ago. Since then, he’s matured and, with new management from AIM Vasser Sullivan, the Lexus gained a podium result on Sunday. Getting rid of previous management helped. Here’s a shot of Austin in the media center before he raced the #14, followed by a pic of 1996 CART champ/team co-owner Jimmy Vasser and a shot of Townsend Bell, who co-drove the #12 in this race.

austin cindric copyjimmy vasser copytownsend bell copy

The media center became a second home to Alessandro Zanardi during practice, qualifying and race days at the Rolex 24. No matter the request, the two-time CART champ was ready to tackle it. Riding a tricked-out scooter without his prosthetics, racing the #24 BMW M8 GTE GTLM without his prosthetics, keeping a great attitude no matter the obstacles, yep, that’s Alex. Some call him an inspiration – he’s all that and more.

alessandro zanardi copyZanardi’s #24 BMW didn’t win the race this year but his #25  team car from BMW Team RLL sure did, featuring Bryan Herta’s son Colton on the four-driver squad. Colton Herta is about to undertake his first full season of NTT IndyCar Series competition with Honda-equipped Steinbrenner Harding Racing. Watch him – this kid has the goods!

colton herta copy

Rick Mayer has engineered Risi Competizione’s Ferrari entries in endurance racing for much of its existence. The team does its preview press releases by discussing the challenges of the upcoming contest with him, not the drivers. My kind of info, for sure, and Rick is amongst the best in his business. Risi’s #62 Ferrari 488 GTE finished second behind the #25 BMW.

rick mayer copy

Oliver Jarvis was magnificent behind the wheel of the #77 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P DPi on Thursday afternoon, earning pole position and breaking PJ Jones’ 26-year-old record, set in Dan Gurney’s All American Racers’ Toyota prototype. Mazda seems star-crossed in its endurance racing, first using rotary power, then diesel and now a former Le Mans-winning LMP2 engine in its DPi prototype. Results at Daytona were the same for both the #77 polesitter and its #55 stablemate: both failed to finish due to mechanical issues. Got to feel for Mazda – they try so hard.

no. 77 oliver jarvis broke track record in q copy

Four standout women racers drove the second of Meyer Shank Racing’s #57 Caterpillar Acura NSX GT3 entries in the competitive GTD class. Katherine Legge was one of them, joining Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and Christina Nielsen. Team owner Jackie Heinricher sat out the race. Here’s Kat looking at some info prior to the race. The racing gods weren’t with them – they were still classified as running in the monsoon conditions that called this event 10 minutes early, albeit in 33rd place (there were 47 starters).

katherine legge copy

When Acura Team Penske joined the IMSA DPi wars last year, much was expected of this team. So far, one win at Mid-Ohio last May is the best they’ve had for the two-car team. This year, Team Penske brought Jon Bouslog on as manager; the Indy car veteran should be able to wrench some results – the #7 car finished third at Daytona (it’s also the car that won Mid-Ohio) while the #6 finished eighth. Shown here are Bouslog and #6 driver Simon Pagenaud, the latter returning to some of his roots.

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simon pagenaud copy

The weather actually won this race, but these are a few of my favorite people that were involved in the contest. I hope you enjoy?

By Anne Proffit

 

 

 

Can Josef Newgarden take his second straight INDYCAR title?

 

Newgarden mug

It will be tough for Josef Newgarden to repeat as Verizon IndyCar Series champion in 2018, but it won’t be impossible.

The Tennesseean already has three victories to his count for the season, which is winding down with the second of three straight contests – Pocono, Gateway, Portland – in three weeks. Newgarden has won at ISM (formerly Phoenix) Raceway’s mile oval, on the confining road course at Barber Motorsports Park and at every Indy car driver’s favorite circuit, Road America’s permanent road course.

Now, despite not testing on the 1.25 Gateway Motorsports Park, Newgarden and Team Penske return to a site where they were victorious in 2017, catapulting 27-year-old Newgarden to his first possession of INDYCAR’s Astor Cup, emblematic of the champion. For the short period Newgarden’s been racing in the IndyCar Series, he’s accumulated a total of 10 victories, seven with Team Penske and the balance with Sarah Fisher’s team.

Newgarden had a mid-season malaise, not performing to his personal satisfaction in the two races at Indianapolis (11th in the road course race; eighth at the 102nd Indianapolis 500). In the two Detroit contests he was ninth and 15th, while he took a 13th-place result in Texas. From there all finishes have been in the single digits, including a fifth-place result, one lap down at Pocono last weekend.

Newgarden action

Gateway will be Newgarden’s 115th Indy car start. He’s looking forward to the possibility of going back-to-back on the St. Louis-adjacent oval. In only one visit to this track as reconstituted the pole and race winner have both come from Team Penske: Will Power won pole for the race and Josef Newgarden took the race win. Newgarden, 66 points behind Scott Dixon and trailing last weekend’s winner Alexander Rossi by 37, is glad to be back on a racetrack after last weekend’s difficult event in Pocono, where Robert Wickens suffered significant injuries, his accident causing a near-2-hour delay in the proceedings.

“The quicker you get back to the track, the better,” Newgarden said. “I think that’s just always been the case with drivers. That’s what we do. That’s what we love. Wickens would want to do the same thing, I would think. I think it’s what brings us a lot of comfort, is going back to our job and our passion. What race car drivers are good at is compartmentalizing. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand when you’re on the racetrack. I don’t think you’re able to do your job if you can’t compartmentalize.”

With his success earlier in the season at ISM Raceway, Newgarden thinks the new aero kit, UAK18 has turned out to have a good short-oval package. “I think you can confidently say 80 or 90 percent of the events we go to this year, it’s been a perfect new aero package. Now I think we need some improvement on the super speedways, I think we need to be a little bit better. But the short oval package has been really, really good and I think it’s really just down to the configuration of the wings, the downforce levels, the work that Firestone has done with the tires, everything INDYCAR has done, it’s really worked out.”

Although the Penske team elected not to test at Gateway, Newgarden isn’t thinking that will be an issue. “I’ve got to hope that it’s going to be like Phoenix, which was an improved show. It’s a nighttime race, like Phoenix, so I am hoping it’s going to race like Phoenix. But I don’t know yet,” he advised.

Always an aggressive racer, Newgarden will be on the attack Saturday night when the Bommarito 500 takes place. He knows he’s got some ground to make up, even though the championship chase is pretty darn close. And he knows there’s 100 points on offer in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, so the closer he can get to Dixon and Rossi, the better it’ll be for him in the quest to repeat and claim the No. 1 car number for another year.

“I’ve always just liked being in the attack mode. Last year I think we were pretty aggressive even when we were down in the championship and when we got in the lead we were aggressive. We kind of just stayed on it. My approach hasn’t really been different. I think if we were in the lead, we’d be attacking. That’s always my preferred way to go about it. I think Dixon, particularly, is probably going to be more safe and conventional in the way he runs. But I don’t think you’ll get that from a guy like Rossi. I think those guys will try and attack as much as Will and I will.”

The 248-lap Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline takes the green flags Saturday night, August 25 at 8PM. Weather is iffy for Friday – at this time – but looks good for race day. NBCSN is the broadcast partner.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

Foyt Family Wines launches special vintage for 102nd Indianapolis 500

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Mario Andretti started making wines in the latter days of the last century. Several other Verizon IndyCar Series entities have joined Andretti, including his perennial competitor, A.J. Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser and 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Foyt Family Wines, which produces red and white wines from Sonoma and Napa Valley grapes in California’s revered wine districts, has produced a couple of vintages honoring the Greatest Spectacle in Racing; this year it has produced its third such vintage, the 102nd Indy 500 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

“This year we wanted to produce a higher quality, small-lot offering,” said Chris Perry, the winery’s managing partner. “We used two barrels and produced a big Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. We hope this wine will mirror the intensity felt when the green flag drops [May 27] on the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 and 33 cars roar into Turn 1.”

The bottle features the race’s logo over a printed shot of the Speedway’s famed Pagoda and the Yard of Bricks finish line, the latter recalling the track’s initial surface. The bottle features a strong chrome color on its design and each bottle has been hand-dipped in metallic silver wax to help protect this age-worthy wine.

This year, 2018, marks the 60th anniversary of A.J. Foyt’s first time qualifying for this most special race, one that Super Tex calls the “crown jewel” of the Verizon IndyCar Series. As the 500’s first four-time winner, Foyt, 83, has become an icon of the event. “People know me from one race, the Indy 500. It’s what made me,” he said. Of course Foyt has also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona and NASCAR’s Daytona 500 during his estimable career.

Despite having a truly busy month of May with A.J. Foyt Racing’s on-track program, fielding three cars in this year’s 500-mile race, Larry Foyt, president of the race team said, “This year’s event is very special to us (because of the anniversary) and I want the best results for my dad.” Larry Foyt co-founded Foyt Family Wines along with A.J. Foyt IV.

“I’m really pleased with the outcome of this wine and its unique packaging,” Larry Foyt continued. “Our winemakers Tom Meadowcroft and Peter Kirilov hit the mark in my book, and continue to impress with their wine-making skills.”

While the team has its base in Waller, Texas, it has an outpost in Speedway, Ind., home to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Next door to the team’s midwest headquarters is the Foyt Wine Vault, a tasting room whose name is derived from an actual bank vault in the building.

Race fans, collectors, wine lovers and penologists who visit Speedway can take in the Indy 500 history while tasting over 10 Foyt Family Wines varietals. The Foyt Wine Vault features appetizers, sandwiches, plus charcuterie and cheese boards to accompany wine choices.

Foyt IV, a former racer in both the INDYCAR and NASCAR Cup series, and now an Indianapolis-area resident, manages the daily operation of Foyt Wine Vault. “We hope everyone comes out to see us and tastes this new wine over the next few weeks. We only produced two barrels this time so it’s going to go quick,” he said.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in a standard, 750ml bottle and in 1.5L magnums. The wine is available exclusively at the Foyt Wine Vault tasting room or directly from the winery at http://www.FoytWines.com. The 102nd Indy 500 Napa Valley Cabernet’s 750ml bottle has a list price of $85; the magnum retails for $175. Tasting notes advise to drink it now or cellar for 10-15 years.

By Anne Proffit

Two books for children, young adults introduced at Indianapolis 500

book and coloring book covers1Enticing the next generation of racing fan can be a large job. There are so many forms of entertainment available to children and, in this computer age not everyone has the kind of attention span needed to engage.

Last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 provided the impetus for Chris Workman’s latest book, “The Spectacle – Celebrating the History of the Indianapolis 500.” A 64-page non-fiction tome written and illustrated by Workman debuts this month, self-published by Apex Legends and distributed by Cardinal Publishing Group. It tells the century’s worth of stories of the 500 in bursts of dialog between a father and child.

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Chris Workman – Anne Proffit photo

From the building of the circuit, Ray Harroun’s initial win in the 500 all the way to Alexander Rossi’s rookie victory in the 100th race, Workman designed his book so that it could be read and understood in snippets. “I designed the book so [a young reader] could jump to any section and learn about facts related to that topic,” Workman said.

“If they want to learn about the closest finishes in Indy 500 history, they can jump to that. Or they can learn about ‘Offy’ engines and who has won the race four times. The book is best enjoyed when read from start to end, but a parent wanting to read it to a pre-schooler can easily break it into multiple quick readings for bedtime, waiting at a restaurant or whenever the time allows,” he said.

coloring book1Workman’s fanciful illustrations and crisp writing are certainly enticing to both children and adults. By segmenting the book into 23 partitions plus a foreword by Andretti Autosport racer, Verizon IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Workman allows the readers an intriguing look at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“The Spectacle – Celebrating the History of the Indianapolis 500” has been offered at the rational price of $19.99 and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, as well as independent retailers and through library distribution. It’s the third racing book produced by Apex Legends, following “The Longest Day – A Childhood Race Adventure” and “Josef, The Indy Car Driver,” a true story about racer Josef Newgarden, currently racing for Team Penske.

Workman has also published a coloring book of “The Spectacle” for the artistic young race fan that parallels the book, albeit in far fewer pages. Altogether, this new offering is not to be missed. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book are being donated to Hunter-Reay’s designated charity, Racing for Cancer.

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James and Christopher Hinchcliffe – Anne Proffit photo

There’s more to the Hinchcliffe family than racing and dancing, it appears. James Hinchcliffe’s older brother Christopher, by trade a teacher of legal and political philosophy has written a new book intended to appeal to the tween and teen who might be interested in motorsports – and learning about life in general.

Christopher Hinchcliffe1

The first-time author, who has a doctorate in law from the University of Oxford in England, was driven to write the fictional “Chasing Checkers” through familial research. Brother James’ far-arching Verizon IndyCar Series career started, just as fictional racer Teddy “Chex” Clark’s ascension, from karting to racing school and through ladder series to the biggest race of his life, allowing Hinchcliffe to draw on James’ experiences and flesh out his subject’s story.

“Chasing Checkers” is set, as was the brothers Hinchcliffe’s childhoods, in southern Ontario, Canada. It follows the exploits of a would-be professional racer and recounts the driver’s preparation for a race that could propel him to the big leagues. At the same time, the book looks at his personal life and the real world challenges any aspiring racer faces in trying to make it to the top of the motorsports ladder.

Chasing Checkers book cover1

Christopher Hinchcliffe has, as does his brother, a way with words that makes this book really easy to read and yet doesn’t try to appeal to those with a lower reading level. As it’s aimed for youthful readers, the wording might not be to collegiate levels, but neither does Hinchcliffe talk down to his audience.

He weaves a grand tale of this up-and-coming racer, his family tribulations and his off-track relationships, as well as Clark’s manner of approaching his racing. We get to see the good, the bad and, of course the ugly, such as when “Chex” manages to lose concentration… and the ramifications of his actions.

This writer intended to skim through Hinchcliffe’s book and do a “Cliff’s Notes” review, but was drawn into the story, enjoying it immensely. While intended for audiences that may be maturing rather than mature, this is a tale any race fan can enjoy and share. It’s easy to find oneself nodding at some of the action involved and the politics that never seem to go away.

In showing the growth of Teddy “Chex” Clark’s racing capabilities, Hinchcliffe writes, “Teddy pressed on the gas and rocketed forward. He barely had to lift his foot through the first turn. So this is what downforce feels like. He remembered [his teacher] Greg explaining the concept to him. ‘Wings on a car ain’t like wings on a plane. They push you down. The faster you go, the more they push. That means more control for you, the driver. Yes, downforce is a beautiful thing.’”

“Chasing Checkers, a 298-page softcover book was initially published in March of 2017 and is available through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and your local independent book store. In paperback format it retails for $11.99 and is also available as an eBook for $2.99. One can also purchase direct by contacting the author at http://www.chasingcheckersbook.com.

By Anne Proffit

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement announcement shows him at his best

Dale mug

It’s not a normal Tuesday. I woke up, took the phone off its charger and there, greeting me at 5:30AM was the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr has decided to hang up his helmet at the end of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season in November.

We’ve all known this day would come, especially as Earnhardt missed the second half of last season, recovering from concussion-like symptoms. During that time, Junior continued to run his JR Xfinity team, got to know his wife Amy even better and considered his future. He knew he wanted to continue to race if his body permitted; his multitude of fans wanted the same thing.

The 2017 season hasn’t been kind to the third-gen driver. He’s got no race wins, no stage wins and has no points that would place him in the end-of-season playoffs. He’s 24th in points and has been a pin-ball on many occasions in the early season, scaring anyone that follows the sport and this particular driver. He crashed out of the most recent event, held Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

When Verizon IndyCar Series four-time champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti had his career-ending accident in Houston in 2013, there were many that sighed relief as the Scotsman stated his intent to retire, helped by the excellent advice of Dr. Stephen Olvey, a physician responsible, in part, for saving Alex Zanardi’s life. Franchitti was told the next hit, when there was one, might end his ability to think coherently – something that took him a long time to do after the career-ending shunt – and another bad concussion could cause even worse symptoms than those he was experiencing at the time.

No doubt, Dale Earnhardt Jr has consulted with many people prior to making his decision to retire known. Wife Amy, employer Rick Hendrick, manufacturer Chevrolet, his sister Kelley and others close to him. Earnhardt started his 600th NASCAR MENCS race in California earlier this year. He’s got 26 Cup victories, including wins at the most prestigious Daytona 500, ten years apart in 2004 and 2014.

Fourteen times voted Most Popular Driver, Earnhardt Jr will be lauded from this day forth as he sets foot to any racetrack. He should be. Not only for his driving prowess, which continues to be top-of-the-line, but also for his humanity. And humility. When Earnhardt Jr crashed out of Monday’s Bristol race, postponed due to weather, he was, as ever, circumspect as he spoke with the media. The car had an oil problem. The crew noticed spills during his pit stop. “Went into Turn 1 on the restart and the car just went straight into the wall with oil all over the tires.”

Earnhardt action

Some drivers might have whined about it; Junior just spoke of the incident in a matter-of-fact manner. “We weren’t running that great, but we were working on our car and trying to figure out how to get it to run better. And get something out of today,” he said, “but we are going to have another bad finish. We have had a lot of them this year. It’s going to be tough.”

Interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr have always been to-the-point. He never goes off-subject and never treats the media like the idiots we can often be. He bounded into the 600th race press conference at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana a bit early, answered all questions with a big smile and seemed genuinely happy to be there. He stayed later than expected and just seemed to eat it all up.

The absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr from the MENCS garage and racetrack will be even more dramatic than that of Jeff Gordon, who has, not unexpectedly, moved to the television booth. We’ve watched this son of a seven-time champion grow up and mature before our eyes. From the time he joined NASCAR’s elite drivers on-track, expectations have been huge.

Sure he didn’t win a championship – and it doesn’t look good for his final season thus far – but he’s been a meticulous racer who has given as much as he’s been able, excelling when the car and the fates cooperate, wringing the best possible result when the car bites back.

This is a stunning development for NASCAR and for Hendrick Motorsports. The team said its plans for the No. 88 will be made later, once the enormity of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s decision settles in. NASCAR chairman Brian France weighed in: “His passion for the sport will leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history. Over his 20-plus year career, Dale has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport – all the way to its roots.”

As for this writer, I’ve got to agree with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s teammates and friends in NASCAR, all of whom are happy for the driver. Over the course of his NASCAR life, Dale Earnhardt Jr has earned respect for his driving capabilities but even more for his humanity. “In sports, athletes like @DaleJr come along once in a lifetime: talented, popular, humble, honest, real – you don’t get that combo often. Well done,” tweeted Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive VP and chief racing development officer. I’ve got to agree.

Words and Photos by Anne Proffit