Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, 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, a “What if,” and now it’s 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.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Frontstretch IndyCar Staff · Wednesday December 4, 2013
We’ve gotten over our turkey hangovers and here, without further delay, are the remainder of our 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series driver reviews!
2013 was a season of improvement for Marco Andretti. Andretti took it upon himself to step up his road course performance over the offseason courtesy of a driving coach, and the results paid dividends. Andretti transformed from a driver who could only perform on ovals to a well-rounded driver capable of gunning for wins every week. Those wins, of course, were difficult to come by, and despite a great season that saw the driver finish a career-high 5th in the standings, Andretti went winless. But with momentum and renewed confidence, Andretti looks to be a threat in 2014.
Best Finish: 3rd at St Petersburg and Sao Paulo
After winning the series championship in 2012, Ryan Hunter-Reay entered 2013 with a great deal of confidence and the swagger necessary to deliver back to back titles. However, things did not quite play out as planned for the DHL/Sun Drop team. Hunter-Reay had a bit of a championship hangover in 2013. Despite delivering two early season wins at Barber and Milwaukee, Hunter-Reay never developed the consistency necessary to develop another championship run. Despite this, Hunter-Reay proved once again that he is a top-level talent, and he will undoubtedly be back with a vengeance in 2014.
Best Finish: 1st at Milwaukee and Barber
Put simply, Scott Dixon was the best driver in the IndyCar field in 2013. Despite an early season slump that saw Dixon face a large deficit in the points standings courtesy of a car that was not up to par with other top level teams, Dixon and his team persevered midway through the season and staged an unlikely run to the championship. Dixon essentially put the team on his back along the way, forever cementing his status as a supreme talent in the world of IndyCar. Expect big things out of Dixon once again in 2014.
Best Finish: 1st at Pocono, Toronto (1), Toronto (2), and Houston (1)
Call it a rather stellar year for the Frenchman driving for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports. Though his team may read like that of a law firm, they’re not one of the ‘big boys’ so any success should take on greater weight. An ominous 24th place finish opened the season for Pagenaud, but then he ripped off 5 top tens in 6 races culminating in a win at Detroit 2. Driver and team couldn’t maintain the success and they struggled through the middle section of the year, but beginning at Mid-Ohio, Pagenaud again seemed to find his groove, going so far as to earn his second career victory at Baltimore. He finished the year third overall which is probably higher than anyone ever would have anticipated and sets him up with hope for the 2014 season.
Best Finish: 1st at Detroit 2 and Baltimore
In a way, it’s startling that Kanaan has been relegated to a lesser ride the past couple years, but then again his overall results with KV Racing have been rather similar to his last couple years at Andretti. And this year was no different. His finishes, when plotted, are like a drawing from a 2 year old with a crayon, all over the place. But if you’re going to win one race all season, why not make it count, which is what he did – earning his first Borg-Warner Trophy by crossing the yard of bricks in first place at Indy. It was his first win at the revered track, and for a while felt like a career coda until financing was found to close out the year. Next season he’ll have the chance to show what he’s really got left in the tank as he joins series champion Scott Dixon at Chip Ganassi.
Best Finish: 1st at Indianapolis
Simona de Silvestro
De Silvestro was just happy in 2013 to not have to deal with the Lotus engine. The underpowered motor completely derailed any semblance of a 2012 season. On the high speed ovals, it was a struggle just to maintain minimum speed (For instance, she was parked at Indianapolis for failure to meet the 105 percent rule).
2013 saw de Silvestro move from HVM Racing to KV Racing Technologies to partner up with Tony Kanaan. With the way 2012 went, the only way to go was up. De Silvestro responded to the move with her best season in the Izod IndyCar Series.
Traditionally, de Silvestro starts off strong. 2013 was no different with Simona putting up a top-10 finish (sixth) at St. Petersburg, which is her best track (take away last year’s 24th-place finish and her average finish would be a little better than ninth). St. Petersburg was followed by top-10’s at Long Beach and Sao Paulo. Street courses continued to be de Silvestro’s forte. Seven of her nine top-10 finishes came on the difficult and extra bumpy public roads (the others were a ninth at Sonoma and an eighth at Fontana).
The ovals were not so great for de Silvestro in 2013. Her best oval finish was eighth (three laps down) at Fontana in October. However, that came in a race with massive attrition. In addition, de Silvestro was also involved in the big crash just before halfway that eliminated Justin Wilson, amongst others. Outside of Fontana, her best oval finish was 11th at Pocono in July. Of course, Pocono may be an oval, but it doesn’t really drive like one.
For 2014, de Silvestro has not announced her plans as of yet. However, de Silvestro has shown off hats with the logos of “Areva, Inc.”: http://us.areva.com/ on her Twitter page. Areva is a Charlotte-based company that provides “solutions for low-carbon power generation” on a worldwide scale. Areva is part of the Nuclear Clean Air Energy initiative that has sponsored de Silvestro for the past three years. I would expect her to be back in the No. 78 for KV Racing Technologies next season. The only differences may be with a different paint scheme for part of the season, and a new teammate with Sebastien Bourdais replacing Tony Kanaan.
Best Finish: 2nd (Houston, Race No. 1)
The first part of the 2013 season was excellent for Sato and AJ Foyt Enterprises. Decent runs in St. Petersburg and Alabama led into a dominating performance on the Streets of Long Beach. Sato led 50 laps and claimed his first career Izod IndyCar Series victory. A couple of weeks later, Sato nearly made it two in a row. However, James Hinchcliffe had other plans, passing Sato in the last turn to take the win. Regardless, Sato and Foyt had the points lead and a butt load of momentum heading to Indianapolis. Sato, who nearly won the 500 in 2012, was very confident.
Right about there is where Sato’s season fell apart. While Sato finished the Indianapolis 500 on the lead lap in 13th, he never really contended at any time. Belle Isle was a disaster. Stalling on course resulted in a 19th-place finish in Race No. 1, while he crashed out of the second race. Milwaukee saw a strong effort where Sato led the most laps (109) before fading to seventh.
Afterwards, Sato only managed to finish one more race (and even then, it was a miserable 22nd-place finish at Mid-Ohio). Stupid things started to happen. Pocono, where Sato essentially ran over Ryan Hunter-Reay on pit road, is the most blatant example of how far off the rails that the season had gotten.
Sato won the pole for the first race in Houston, but punctured a tire during the full course caution that followed the second attempt at a standing start. This forced him to pit and drop to the rear of the field. Sato never really recovered from the setback and later crashed into the tires while racing James Jakes for position. Crushing unreliability (Sato DNF’d from races due to wing assembly failure, blown engines (thrice) and exhaust issues) resulted in Sato’s relationship with the team going in the toilet by the time the season ended.
Best Finish: Victory (Long Beach)
After two years with Dale Coyne Racing, Jakes made the move up the grid for 2013, bringing his sponsorship from Acorn Stairlifts to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s reestablished second car to serve as a teammate to Graham Rahal. Based on track record, Jakes was supposed to be the No. 2 to Rahal. However, that wasn’t always the case in 2013.
Now in his third year in the Izod IndyCar Series, Jakes has steadily improved his form in the car. 2013 was Jakes’ best season of yet. By far the best weekend of Jakes’ season was Belle Isle, where he finished a career-best second to Simon Pagenaud in Race No. 2 on Sunday afternoon. That was not a fluke result by any means. Jakes had qualified second for the race and third for the race on Saturday. In addition, he had been turning in some of the fastest laps all weekend in race trim.
Outside of Belle Isle, Jakes ran midfield for much of the season, but generally kept himself out of trouble. The two crashes that he had in 2013 were quite unusual. In Toronto, he crashed in Turn 5 after hitting the curb hard enough to knock his hands off of the steering wheel. Fontana saw Jakes run over debris from a multi-car crash in front of him and hit the wall. A half shaft just missed hitting Jakes in the head.
Overall, Jakes had some bright spots, but still could only manage 19th in points. He’s got a lot of room for improvement in 2014, wherever he might end up. As of right now, Jakes has not announced any plans for the upcoming season.
Best Finish: 2nd (Belle Isle, Race No. 1)
Saavedra was drafted into Dragon Racing’s fold to replace Katherine Legge, who was more or less responsible for bringing primary sponsor TrueCar to the team. Yeah, that didn’t go over well.
While Legge ended up landing on her feet in the American Le Mans Series with the DeltaWing, Saavedra was happy to be back in the Izod IndyCar Series full-time after only making three starts in 2012. The No. 6 that Saavedra drove was part-time as well. Dragon Racing only had the funds to start Legge in ten races.
Saavedra’s performances in 2013 were better than what Legge was able to put up (just barely), but they were still the worst of any full-time driver in the Izod IndyCar Series. The eighth-place finish in Baltimore didn’t come without issues as Saavedra was caught up in a restart crash on Lap 57. However, you should get the equivalent of a “Tommy Point” just for finishing that crazy race.
Probably the most visible moment of Saavedra’s season was when he crashed out of Dual No. 1 of the Quicken Loans Duals at Detroit after contact from Marco Andretti. Saavedra was none too pleased at Andretti’s actions and “let him know about it”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORKWckxygLU. Those gestures earned Saavedra a $30,000 fine from the sanctioning body. While Saavedra did pick up a top-10 on Sunday in Dual No. 2, that was overshadowed by Saturday’s failure.
The rest of the season was marked by a series of wrecks (Saavedra failed to finish six races due to crashes) and mediocre finishes. Saavedra only managed to finish four of the 19 races on the lead lap.
For 2014, Saavedra’s plans are currently unknown. Dragon Racing announced in September that they have submitted an entry to run in the new FIA Formula E Championship, which begins in September, 2014, after the IndyCar Series would be complete. There is a possibility that Saavedra could end up racing there, but otherwise, there has been nothing out of Dragon Racing since Fontana. There is a chance that Saavedra could be on the outside looking in for 2014.
Best Finish: 8th (Baltimore)
Kimball had a breakthrough year in 2013, his third season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He improved in every category across the board, improving his final standings position, 19th in his first two seasons, to 9th in his third for his first top ten in championship points. While he still needs to work on consistency, his average finish improved from 14.1 last year to 10.9 this year, and, likely much to team owner Chip Ganassi’s relief, he finished all but two races, also an improvement over the prior two seasons. The big highlight was of course his first series win at Mid-Ohio, a victory he scored in convincing fashion, leading a race high 46 laps on the way. He also made the podium at Pocono, joining his two teammates in a Ganassi sweep of the top three.
Best Finish: 1st at Mid-Ohio
E.J. Viso is…well…E.J. Viso. 2013 found him at Andretti Autosport and while it was his best season to date, with a 15th place final championship result and only two DNFs, after six years, it doesn’t represent much growth as a driver. Viso did score his first pole at the first Belle Isle race, but didn’t really close the deal, with no podium results. It’s not the equipment. His three Andretti Autosport teammates finished 5th, 7th, and 8th in the same cars. Viso missed the season finale at Fontana due to illness, turning over his seat to the man who would ironically replace him at Andretti Autosport, Carlos Munoz. Viso’s 2014 plans are unknown at this time.
Best Finish: 4th at Milwaukee
Conway is a specialist, racing only on road/street courses and avoiding oval tracks by choice, meaning he is limited to part-time status as long as IndyCar races on ovals. While it does mean that he will never be champion, it does not mean that Conway doesn’t have opportunities to shine, which he most certainly did in 2013. He made only seven starts but he finished top 10 in five of them, including a win and a third place at Belle Isle, and he also started from the pole in the second Belle Isle race. It may also be worth noting that he posted these results driving for Dale Coyne Racing, and not one of the series powerhouse teams. Conway has a nice opportunity lined up for 2014, teaming with Ed Carpenter to drive the road/street course portion of the schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing while Carpenter takes the oval races. Carpenters team is always a contender on the ovals so it will be interesting to see how they do with a road ace like Conway behind the wheel at the other races.
Best Finish: 1st at Belle Isle 1
Also Worth Noting:
JR Hildebrand – Hildebrand started 2013 in a full-time ride with Panther Racing, the team he’d driven for the previous two seasons, but was released following the Indy 500 in May. He’d posted a fifth place result at Long Beach, but was 15th or worse in his other four 2013 starts. Hildebrand found an opportunity with Barracuda Racing for the races at Sonoma and Fontana, and team owner Bryan Herta says he was pleased with the driver’s performance, landing him on the short list of possible drivers for 2014.
Ryan Briscoe – Briscoe found himself without a ride heading in to 2013, but wound up much busier than he probably expected. After a successful run at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Briscoe signed on to drive in the American LeMans Series full time. Then Chip Ganassi signed him to drive a fourth car in the Indy 500. Then Panther Racing parted ways with JR Hildebrand and Briscoe found himself splitting the ride with Orio Servia while also fulfilling his ALMS commitment. Panther Racing needs sponsorship for 2014 but provided they secure funds, Briscoe is expected to be named the full time driver for the team.
AJ Allmendinger – All right, so Dinger is a NASCAR guy these days, and with a ride in place there for 2014, we probably won’t be seeing him in an Indy car again, but it was fun while it lasted. But for a loose seat belt, the kind of freak luck thing that rarely happens, what might have been at the Indy 500? He still finished the big race in 7th, even with the extra stop to tighten his belts. His other outings were quite a bit less spectacular, however. He finished only two of six races, and crashed in the three events he ran after Indy, including first lap incidents in both Belle Isle races.
Carlos Munoz – If 2013 was a preview of what Munoz can do, then team owner Michael Andretti might be a very happy man in 2014. Andretti ran the rookie in the Indy 500 and he started and finished an impressive 2nd, putting in a stellar drive. Panther Racing also gave him some seat time, tapping him to fill in at Toronto at the last minute for Ryan Briscoe after Briscoe fractured his wrist. Andretti turned to the young Columbian one more time in Fontana to fill in for a sick E.J. Viso, and while Munoz looked a bit more like a rookie this time (i.e. more bold than wise), he was certainly making some exciting moves before his day ended in a crash. Munoz will drive full time for Andretti Autosport in 2014.
Luca Filippi – European GP racer Filippi made his debut in an Indy car in 2013 with Barracuda Racing as one of the drivers team owner Bryan Herta opted to try out after parting ways with regular driver Alex Tagliani. Filippi made four starts for the team, posting a best finish of 10th in Houston, and impressed management enough to get his name at the top of the list for possible drivers for 2014 alongside Hildebrand. Herta says the team considered expanding to two cars and keeping both drivers, but says now that is unlikely to happen for next year. The team expects to announce final plans, including a driver, in January.
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