Indy 500 Preview — SNC Performs Back Home Again in Indiana

Straight No Chaser to Sing Back Home Again in Indiana in 2015

straight-no-chaser-cropThe search is over and a follow-up act to Jim Nabors has been chosen for the 2015 Indianapolis 500.

Award-winning cappella group Straight No Chaser has been selected to perform “Back Home Again in Indiana” during the pre-race festivities for the 99th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Nabors sang the song at every Indianapolis 500 since 1972, establishing one of the most iconic traditions in all of sports and entertainment.

“One of the most cherished traditions each year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the singing of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ and we are pleased that Straight No Chaser will join us next May to perform as we lead up to the start of the 99th Indianapolis 500,” said Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Straight No Chaser was founded in 1996 at Indiana University-Bloomington and is an all-male group that is made entirely of IU alumni. It was with that trait in mind that IMS selected the group to follow in the footsteps of Nabors and continue the important aspect of race day moving forward.

“Our fans have offered us many suggestions for whom and how the song should be performed in 2015,” Boles said. :Having a group with a national following, strong Indiana roots and a true understanding of the importance of this moment make them a great fit for next year’s race.”

David Roberts is a founding member of the group and expressed his joy about the selection in a Monday afternoon IMS press release.

“It’s probably the greatest honor you can bestow on a bunch of guys from Indiana that just started doing this for fun,” said Roberts.

Nabors performed the duties for 42 consecutive years but Boles says the Speedway hasn’t decided on a permanent or annual performer beyond Straight No Chaser.

“The song is the tradition, but over time, Jim Nabors became that tradition,” Boles added.

Jack Hawksworth secures Foyt IndyCar seat for 2015

IndyCar rising star Jack Hawksworth will join AJ Foyt Racing for 2015 in a deal that marks the realisation of the team’s long-held ambitions to add a full-time second entry.

The Briton, who made his debut this year with Bryan Herta Autosport, will race alongside Takuma Sato in Foyt’s #41 car.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Hawksworth, who will move to Texas to be close to the team’s base.

“Ultimately, I want to win races and I feel that this is the place I can do that. We’ve got everything in place. so we have the potential to build something really special.

“That’s what excites me. It’s a growing project and I want to grow with it, be a part of it and be a part of its success.”

Sato, who is preparing to embark upon his third season with the team, said that he is thrilled by the team’s expansion.

“It is absolutely fantastic news that AJ Foyt Racing is expanding to a two-car team,” said Sato.

“I really feel positive about it and welcome Jack in joining us. The continuity of working with my engineer, Don Halliday, and the same crew gives us a strong momentum in learning and more confidence overall.

“We had some very successful race weekends but we need more improvement. That is just the nature of racing. So as a two-car team, it should boost these things massively.

“The track time is very limited nowadays but there are always tons of things to try. That will be especially true with the new bodywork that’s coming.”

Foyt has promoted Raul Prados, who previously worked under Halliday, into the role of chief engineer on Hawksworth’s car, and team manager Larry Foyt said that he expects the combination of Sato’s experience and Hawksworth potential to be a potent one.

“We know Takuma can win on any given weekend in the #14 car; I’m looking forward to putting what we’ve learned together the last couple of years to good use.

“As well, having who I feel is a future superstar – Jack Hawksworth – join the team gives me twice the reasons to be excited.

“And I can’t end without giving a Texas-sized thank you to my dad [AJ Foyt].

“At nearly 80 years old, he certainly doesn’t need the stress and concerns of a multi-car race team, but he has been supportive and behind me 100 per cent.

“Now we have to put the finishing pieces in place and produce because you know that with AJ, only one thing matters – winning.”

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Fittipaldi in favor of new F1 rules and the prospect of three-car teams

Photo credit: Buda Mendes/Getty Images South America

Photo credit: Buda Mendes/Getty Images South America

F1 is changing once more and Emerson Fittipaldi likes the direction it may be heading.

Emerson Fittipaldi has never been a stranger to the racing world. The two-time Formula One World Champion and two-time Indy 500 winner has a different view these days as President of the FIA drivers’ commission. Although it has been over 30 years since the Brazilian has graced the cockpit of a Formula One machine, the growth of the sport has never been closer for the 67-year-old.

F1 with a twist

In recent weeks, Fittipaldi has now been named as part of a panel to help investigate the horrendous crash at Suzuka involving Marussia F1 Team driver Jules Bianchi. That is just one of the many events going on in F1 this season. The new car has brought on new and different challenges, from a new V6 1.6-liter turbo power plant to a brake-by-wire system, it has been a season to reward those who have figured it out the quickest.

With a new venue in Sochi, a long-awaited to Mexico in 2015, and many other tracks rumored to be in the fold to be on the Formula One schedule in the coming years, the sport is very close to possibly having 24-28 races in seasons to come. However, the biggest talking point has been if there will be three car teams next season. Now with backmarkers Caterham and Marussia missing the U.S. Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix, F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has more reason to give a third car to teams like Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, and Red Bull. Others, such as Sauber and Lotus, could find themselves in trouble if the change happens. For Marussia and Caterham, they are already facing some dire times.

The future of the F1 grid

The possibility of three cars is exciting and scary at the same time for many F1 fans. Ferrari has been clamoring to have three cars for many years now, and if Suzuka never happened it would likely have been Bianchi behind the wheel for the Maranello-based team. Many could argue that Red Bull Racing has four teams already with Toro Rosso developing its drivers, but for McLaren, it means bringing on a potential Fernando Alonso, keeping long-time driver Jenson Button, and holding onto a constantly developing talent in Kevin Magnussen. If these rules were in place entering this season, there would likely be a third combatant alongside Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

“It was the history of grand prix racing for a long time. I don’t see a problem with it.”

- Emerson Fittipaldi regarding three-car teams

The biggest thing that could happen … Imagine if three teams were the maximum allowed. This could entertain the idea of single car teams, which also means a possibility of outfits like Marussia and Sauber surviving. Lastly, Formula One could see an enormous rise in buyers if a customer car market is something they would approve.

Emmo’s take on F1’s ever-changing landscape

Fittipaldi talked briefly about the season and the direction he thinks F1 could soon be going.

On three car teams, “I think there’s a chance for the major teams to run three cars. It was the history of grand prix racing for a long time. I don’t see a problem with it. It would make more excitement with three cars on a team.”

On exploring F1 as an owner if they revert to customer cars, “Well it’s difficult to know for the future if that’s going to happen. We don’t know yet. There are a lot of stipulations, we shall see. Why not be involved in it in the future?”

On Circuit of The Americas possibly hosting a season finale in the future, “In the future, with the Mexican Grand Prix being so close to Austin, plus it will be one week after Mexico, there will be a lot of excitement there.  The racing fans can go from one to the other, the circuits are going to help each other. It’s already one of the last grand prix of the year, so why not?”

On rotating the season finale to different tracks for the fans, “It’s difficult to say, I think a lot has to do with the logistics more than anything else. It could be Brazil, Mexico, or Austin.”

On the 2014 rule changes, “I like the new rules. There is much more overtaking this season than in previous years, I think that it is more exciting for the fans. There are more overtakes, more challenges, more dicing, more wheel-to-wheel, it is much better.”

Gutierrez uncertain of return to Sauber in 2015

Mark ThompsonGetty Images AsiaPacEsteban Gutierrez may not be a part of Sauber’s 2015 driver lineup

The 2014 Formula One season has been a struggle for second-year driver Esteban Gutierrez, securing no points thus far with only three races remaining with the Sauber F1 Team. The young Mexican driver showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie campaign in 2013, including a career-best finish of seventh at Suzuka, but a combination of factors have pushed the Swiss-based team further down the grid. A new car, less resources, and a lack of funding compared to its rivals, have the once promising program fighting to stay ahead of traditional back-marker teams Caterham and Marussia.

Struggling mightily

Between Gutierrez and teammate Adrian Sutil, the duo have combined for 13 retirements this season. Neither driver has scored a point this season in the Sauber C33, leaving team boss Monisha Kaltenborn possibly on the hot seat herself, and left to decide what to do about its driver lineup entering 2015. If Sauber does decide to let Gutierrez go, they will lose a driver that has been a part of its program since 2010.

Gutierrez wants to remain with Sauber

The 2010 GP3 champion talked briefly about possibly returning to Sauber in 2015 amid uncertainty.

“My priority is to be with them, it’s important to see if we can get together in some way, achieve some better seasons together. I definitely also want to be in a good car, there’s no question about it. We are working with every opportunity we have at the moment, but always keeping the goal to be with Sauber. We have been working together quite a while now, growing together, I’ve been growing with them, so I think we can see something in the future together and I’m quite confident about it.”

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CFH Racing takes shape‏

IndyCar 2014SPEEDWAY, Ind. (October 13, 2014) – With the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series completed, the concentration now for the newly-merged CFH Racing operation is the blending of the Ed Carpenter Racing squad with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

That process is underway at the state-of-the-art 40,000 square-foot team headquarters (at 1255 Main St. in Speedway). Both teams have amalgamated their equipment and personnel and the racing shop is currently in a construction mode with additional race car bays and added office space.

“It might be the off-season for the Verizon IndyCar Series, but it is flat out for CFH Racing right now,” said Sarah Fisher, co-owner of CFH Racing and the only female team owner in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “We have moved Ed’s team into our shop and we have a game plan of merging the two one-car teams into a strong two-car organization. Things are a little hectic right now with the construction in the shop but we hope to have everything in place within the next month.”

CFH Racing is also preparing for an upcoming test at Barber Motorsports Park on Oct. 27.

“We took two ECR cars that were fitted with Chevrolet engines to Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago but the test was rained out,” said Tim Broyles, CFH Racing general manager. “We had the two complete teams there as well as Josef (Newgarden) and Mike (Conway) in hopes of working together for the first time. The weather just didn’t cooperate for us. So we’ll go to Barber later this month.”

Fisher explained that the team’s consolidation has been much easier with her team’s past experience working with Carpenter. Fisher’s team captured the 2011 Kentucky Speedway IndyCarSeries race with Carpenter in the cockpit. It was the first IndyCar Series victories for both Fisher and Carpenter.

“Ed knew how our team operated from his driving with us previously,” said Fisher. “He has run an excellent program with ECR and we are excited to be bonding our teams for 2015. We have a lot of work to do but we feel confident about this new merger.”

Broyles further explained how everything and everyone are combining efforts is taking shape at CFH Racing.

“After we returned home from the cancelled Mid-Ohio test, we took the ECR cars and trucks straight to the CFH Racing shop,” said Broyles, whose ECR effort captured three 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series races. “Now we have quite a bit of construction going on and we are moving some departments into other rooms too. We will see a lot of progress in the next two weeks with the construction and then we’ll move some of the equipment around before things will settle into our regular off-season worklist.”

Broyles said October 27 should be the final 2014 test for CFH Racing as the team prepares for the new body kits.

“We want to get Josef and the SFH crew accustomed to the Chevrolet engine program at this first test,” he said. “When Ed tested the Firestone tires at IMS a few weeks ago, some of the SFHR guys along with Josef observed the two days with the ECR crew and I think that helped. But we want them to be hands-on with Josef in the race car now.”

On Sept. 17, CFH Racing announced it will campaign Chevrolet engines and body kits in 2015.

CFH Racing currently has six chassis set for the 2015 season and Broyles believes they will be needed if the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is similar to 2014.

“It was important for our ECR team last year to utilize all three chassis throughout the season,” said Broyles. “With the tight schedule of races and some of them being doubleheaders, the extra chassis came in handy as we prepared the cars each week. It is important to keep everything as fresh as possible with the equipment. We plan is to continue that process in 2015. It also gives us an extra car for the Indy 500 as we look to expand our 500 program next May.”

With all of the changes within the new CFH Racing headquarters, Broyles admits that long hours could be possible, but the team plans to keep normal business hours.

“We want to keep everything pretty normal for the crew guys right now,” he said. “We are trying to have everyone learn about each other early in this growing process. We have experienced personnel that know what it takes to produce a successful operation. We want to have everything to be as consistent as possible. I feel good about the direction everything is going in right now. It’s a highly-competitive series and we want to be ready when testing starts in 2015 as well as with the first race.”

While the blending of two racing teams continues in 2014, CFH Racing believes it is set to battle for Verizon IndyCar Series victories in 2015.

“Our goal is to be at the front of the field on a regular basis in 2015,” said Fisher. “I think everyone here at CFH Racing believes we have the organization to win races and battle for championships.”

CFH Racing

Hinchcliffe leaves Andretti, to join Schmidt Peterson Motorsports


James Hinchcliffe is going to be racing with a new team in 2015.

INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 7, 2014) — Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner James Hinchcliffe has signed a multi-year contract with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) to drive the team’s No. 77 entry, beginning with the 2015 race season.

SPM has finished fifth or better in the series championship for the past three years, and Hinchcliffe, 27, will join the team immediately for off-season testing.

 “We’ve now won races and contended for championships, and we believe he’s going to be the person we need to keep moving forward as a team.”

- SPM on Hinchcliffe

“Despite being around in Indy Lights for years, SPM is a relatively young team in the IndyCar paddock,” Hinchcliffe said. “To see what they have accomplished in the last few seasons has been incredible. Winning races, being competitive at all tracks and finishing in the top five in the championship against more experienced teams at this level is impressive. Because they are young, there is still room for them to grow and improve, and that’s an exciting thought for me.”

Not the first time these two have teamed up

In 2009, Toronto-area native Hinchcliffe drove for SPM in Indy Lights, finishing fifth in the championship. He entered IndyCar in 2011, earning Rookie of the Year honors. His highest championship finish has been eighth, where he finished in 2012 and 2013, and his three wins came in 2013 on street courses at the Streets of St. Petersburg and Sao Paulo, as well as on the short oval at Iowa Speedway.

SPM comments

“James had great success in Indy Lights and other series on his way to IndyCar,” team owner Sam Schmidt said. “In fact, he would already be with us driving the No. 77 if he would have been available three years ago. We went after him in 2011, but it didn’t work out then.

“We know that his success in the Verizon IndyCar Series is no fluke. We’ve now won races and contended for championships, and we believe he’s going to be the person we need to keep moving forward as a team. It’s a very big compliment to the team that James wants to come drive for us and that he thinks that he can win and contend for championships with us.”

SPM has laid out clear goals for its future in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Hinchcliffe at the center of execution, according to team co-owner Ric Peterson.

“When Sam, Rob Edwards (SPM general manager) and I discussed who was going to drive our No. 77 car, it was always focused on who could help us achieve our two main goals over the next three years – winning the championship and the Indianapolis 500,” Peterson said. “James’ three victories in 2013 and his two career front row starts at the Indy 500 were evidence that he had the potential to help us realize those goals. I am also very proud to welcome a fellow Canadian to our team.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

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The Unfinished Legend of Helio Castroneves

IndyCar 2014The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season will forever be known as the year Will Power finally broke the reign of bad luck to capture the championship. The Aussie had previously been a 3-time championship runner-up from 2010 – 2012. As deserving a champion as Power is this season, lost in the joy is the heartbreaking defeat of this year’s runner-up, Helio Castroneves. Read the rest of this entry »

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