Monday, January 31, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Conor Daly

Conor Daly dominated the Star Mazda ranks last year. He won 7 out of 10 races, won two championships, and set records for number of wins, podiums, laps led, and poles for the series. He's tested in GP3 and Indy Lights, and obviously we're hoping to see more of what he can do in 2011. Conor was kind enough to answer Six Quick Questions for us.

First, could you clear up the situation in regards to you being in Indy Lights in 2011? It was announced you'd be driving a partial schedule at State of IndyCar, but that was a bit of a surprise to you, correct?

It was a big surprise to me. I wish I knew more about it but unfortunately I don't. It would be awesome to be a part of what they announced but as of right now I'm not sure what the details are on an Indy Lights program.

For you, what's the most exciting item to come out of the recent developments in IndyCar and the Mazda Road to Indy?

I think EVERYTHING is exciting about Indycar and the MAZDA Road To Indy! There are an unbelievable amount of good things happening for American open wheel racing right now. I think the future for young drivers in the MAZDA Road To Indy is very bright.

Which direction will Conor take?
What's been your best moment in racing thus far, and why?

Winning at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Star Mazda was my best moment in racing. It was the first time I had ever raced a car in my hometown before and the fact that it was the night before the 2010 Indianapolis 500 was incredible. I also had a huge amount of family and friends there to see me race which meant a lot to me.

Who's the best or toughest driver you've faced? What makes them so good?

My friend Connor De Phillippi has definitely been a tough driver to race against. He's a very talented driver and battling with him is always epic!

If you could design a perfect scenario for yourself in racing for 2011, how would it play out?

Well I think a perfect scenario would involve me making some money at some point! Haha! In all seriousness though, I think a main European racing program alongside a secondary American racing program is what I'd like to put together.

I have to ask, you've long had aspirations to go to Formula 1. Is there any scenario where you see yourself progressing into IndyCar and being happy in that decision?

I do indeed have aspirations to make it to Formula 1. However, my main goal in motorsports is to make a living doing what I love which is driving race cars. How I get to that point is all in the works at the moment!
  
(Photo provided courtesy of IndyCar Media) 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

IndyTube Weekend: Simona Edition

In honor of HVM Racing and Simona de Silvestro's big sponsor announcement this past week, here's a little tribute to the awesomeness of the Swiss Miss, from her rookie go-round at Indy:

Friday, January 28, 2011

IndyCar To Houston?

From 1998 to 2001, and again in 2006 and 2007, ChampCar hosted the Grand Prix of Houston. Winners included Paul Tracy and current defending IZOD IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti. Pole sitters included current road/street champ Will Power. With the CCWS/IRL merger, Houston was dropped. Now, a group in Houston is working hard to get this course back on the schedule for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Houston isn't exactly in Texas Motor Speedway's and Eddie Gossage's backyard, but I'm not sure he'd exactly be thrilled with this event being added. That said, anyone who's ever met a Texan will tell you their state's big enough to handle just about anything. The last race at Houston had over 168,000 in reported attendance. Of course, attendance figures are always shifty, but it's an interesting point of reference.

An interesting point in this story is that Bernard is quoted as saying several city stops on the current IndyCar schedule might be dropped. I would hope that any move to Houston is marked as expansion, or at least the betterment of the series. It's possible this race joins as a replacement for one of the current road/street courses. Or, if IndyCar expands with another oval in 2012, adding Houston as well could help maintain the balance in the series.

As a fan, I love consistency, but I also want the best events on the schedule. Those two are often at odds, as less successful events are discarded in search of better fits. Do I know where Houston fits in overall?  No, but I'm willing to listen.

In any case, here's from footage from the last Grand Prix of Houston. I think you'll find some familiar names about. See what you think:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plowey's Haircut: The Wounded Warrior Project

As you may have heard, Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman received a buzz cut during the Indy 500 Centennial Tour. It wasn't just because he was looking for something low-maintenance and practical; it was for a great cause.

Martin's haircut was part of a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, and Help For Heroes, organizations dedicated to helping US and UK war heroes in rehabilitation and support for their injuries. Even if you missed Plowey's haircut, you can still donate right here.

This is an excellent cause; in fact, IndyCar Advocate will be giving some sidebar real estate to a link for donations to the Wounded Warrior Project in this endeavor, because, honestly, I can't think of a better cause for this site to become involved with. The Indianapolis 500 is run on Memorial Day for a reason; it's a chance to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives for their country and for freedom through an amazing, one-of-a-kind event. This is a chance to support our veterans along with our IndyCar friends in that same vein. Check out the links or our sidebar to help a vet today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Dream Field Of 33 For The Indy 500

Over a year ago, smack in the middle of the Centennial era, I decided to pick my “Field of 33”, of the 33 drivers that made the Indianapolis 500 what it is. My choices weren’t made just in terms of wins and laps led, but also in terms of the heart and personality they added to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. I agonized over my list, knowing I was leaving off some amazing, historical, one-of-a-kind drivers.

Looking For The Best To Ever Cross The Bricks
 Now with thegreatest33.com, this spring will see fans picking their choices for the 33 biggest legends of Indy out of a pool of 100 accomplished 500 drivers. I plan on going over to tweak my list again and again between now and then, but for now, you can view it below. Oh, and by the way, cheers to the 500 folks and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a great Centennial idea.


Zack’s Legendary 33
(In only the vaguest sort of order, so don’t get hung up on that)

1 AJ Foyt--4-time winner, and one of the most memorable personalities to ever grace IMS.
2 Al Unser, Sr.--4-time winner, oldest driver to win the 500.
3 Rick Mears--4-time winner, broke the 220mph barrier at Indy.

4 Louis Meyer--3-time winner, started the milk tradition.
5 Wilbur Shaw--3-time winner, and savior of the track after WWII.
6 Mauri Rose--3-time winner, 6 Top 5 finishes.

7 Johnny Rutherford--3-time winner, Active 1963-1992.
8 Bobby Unser--3-time winner. Won in 3 different decades.
9 Helio Castroneves--3-time winner, only active driver on list.

10 Tommy Milton--First 2-time winner of the 500.
11 Bill Vukovich--2-time winner, killed in his prime during the 500.
12 Rodger Ward--2--time winner, 6 Top 5 finishes.

13 Gordon Johncock--2-time winner, part of one of the closest finishes in 500 history.
14 Al Unser, Jr.--2--time winner, part of the Unser dynasty.
15 Emmeron Fittipaldi--2-time winner, 3 other Top 10 finishes.

16 Arie Luyendyk--2-time winner, 3 other Top 5 finishes.
17 Parnelli Jones--1963 winner, driver of the famous 1967 Pratt & Whitney Turbine.
18 Jim Clark--represents the "British Invasion"; 1965 winner, runner-up twice; first rear-engine winner.

19 Mario Andretti--1969 winner, as famous for his failures as successes.
20 Eddie Sachs--beloved driver, the Clown Prince, 2 poles in 8 years, runner-up in 1961.
21 Rex Mays--4-time pole winner, best finish of second.

22 Ted Horn--1 pole start, 9 Top 5 finishes.
23 Lloyd Ruby--18 starts, two Top 5 finishes, 7 Top 10 finishes.
24 Michael Andretti--holds record for most laps won at Indy without winning the race.

25 Howdy Wilcox--1919 winner, Hoosier driver.
26 Tom Sneva--first driver to break 200 mph at Indy, 1983 winner.
27 Billy Arnold--1930 winner; led all but first two laps.

28 Jimmy Bryan--1958 winner; 3 Top 5 finishes in 9 starts.
29 Ray Harroun--First 500 winner, 1911, in the famous Marmon Wasp.
30 Ralph DePalma--known for heartbreaking 1912 loss; won in 1915; two poles.

31 Sam Hanks--won the 1957 500 on his 13th try, the most of any winner. 4 Top 5 finishes.
32 Duke Nalon--Forever linked with the Novi. Sat on the pole twice, high finish of third.
33 Jim Hurtubise--Failed to qualify often, highest finish was 14th, but forever a fan favorite, infamous Speedway legend, and part of the track's spirit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now Is The Time To Market Simona

OK, IndyCar. We’ve got this.

Simona de Silvestro can flat-out race. That’s the only way to put it.

Last year, Simona limped along through the last portion of the schedule with a sled that wouldn’t have been out of place as décor on the set of Sanford and Son. But before that, she showed what she could do. At Edmonton. At Mid-Ohio. At Indy, where she was Rookie of the Year.

I didn’t get the impression the last races of that season were anything but frustration, duct tape, and sheer willpower for that entire team. But Simona and HVM Racing kept at it, and yesterday, Entergy signed on for a 3-year primary sponsorship. Primary. We’re talking the key sidepod real-estate, friends. For the next three years at the least, we get to enjoy the enthusiasm, skill, and personality of a truly promising driver.

So when I go to the IndyCar online store or visit the IMS gift shop, I need to be able to get my daughter a Simona t-shirt, or a Simona hat, or add a Simona die-cast car to the collection. We need her on series promo items.
Feelin' The Entergy

We don’t know what will happen with Danica Patrick, and Sarah Fisher’s retired, but I’m not lobbying for this just because IndyCar needs a lady driver to market. We have a personable, fun driver who happens to be a woman. But as I’ve said before, as the parent of a six-year old girl IndyCar fan, I think Simona is a great driver for her to follow, respect, and learn from. Is she going to be a rock star? I don’t know, but she’s not a gimmick. She’s impressed seasoned fans, she’s impressed and drawn the notice of casual fans, and she’s even got the respect of people who normally don’t care much for IndyCar.

Simona’s got a lot of marketability, and I hope the series takes notice. We have personable, affable statesmen in drivers such as Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti, but we have a young cast of drivers that are going to be around for awhile that are great, quality additions to the series. Let’s hope IndyCar seizes the great opportunity to introduce the Swiss Miss to the masses, and gives me opportunities to spend my “racing allowance” on some wicked HVM and Simona gear. For, um, my daughter.

Image by Manningmbd. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn was able to race twice in Indy Lights last year, at Barber and at Long Beach. A native of Ireland, Niall came to Lights after spending 2009 in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series, where he drove for Team Ireland. As part of our Six Quick Questions series, he gives us an amazing look into what it's like for a driver trying to find a way to make it in racing.

Thanks for agreeing to the Q&A, Niall.  How did you arrive in the Firestone Indy Lights Series?
Quinn preparing to compete at Barber in '10.

NQ: After the collapse of A1GP at the end of 2009 I was doing a lot of looking around, and the US racing scene was something that I had wanted to explore for a while. Team PBIR were running their “Rookie Challenge” event, and I thought it would be a good way to go about getting a lights drive. The event was canceled, but I did test the teams Formula BMW at Putnam Park in March, after which they asked me to stay on, and we worked to get me in the Lights car. It was a tough few months, I didn’t have any cash so I lived in the workshop for those three months, which was an experience!

You ran two races for Team PBIR last year. How was the experience, and what sort of lessons did you take away from the partial season?

NQ: I am grateful to Team PBIR for giving me the opportunity to drive the car, but it wasn’t an ideal situation. The money wasn’t there to do it right, but as a driver you just want to get out there. Barber was looking to be a promising weekend. I arrived there having never driven the car or the circuit, and left Friday evening having paced the field by over 7 tenths in practice two. The race didn’t go quite as well! I was still in the hunt in the lead pack in 7th after about 30mins and a braking problem developed in the car. The race was a disappointment, but I had shown I could run at the front of the Lights field.

Long Beach was a disaster, start to finish. No budget meant just one set of tyres for the weekend, so I had no idea where we were going with setup as the tyres on the car on Friday were ancient! The braking problem stayed with us until Friday night when the guys found a seized caliper too, which left me with next to no track running. The race was damage limitation for me, and I progressed from 17th to 9th and took the Firestone Hard Charger award.

You're a native of Ireland, and have spent almost your entire career in UK or European leagues. How does the racing scene across the pond compare to the one here? What are some of the differences in attitudes?

NQ: The racing scene is very different in the US. The driving in the US is much less aggressive than in Europe. The “no defending” rule leaves you with very few tools to fight your corner, which in my opinion isn’t good for racing. Obviously it is needed on the ovals, but it is very hard to get your head around not being allowed to defend your position on a road course coming from Europe, where it is a skill you learn just like overtaking. I also found that the US scene is much more open for guys like me to come into and work to find sponsors. The series on the F1 ladder are spoiled with large chequebooks at the moment, and the teams wont help an underfunded driver.

What's the offseason been like for you? Working to return to Lights in 2011?

NQ: I have been back in Ireland for the off season. I’ve been working hard on my fitness to ensure I am ready for the season ahead. We have been working hard also on securing partners for the upcoming season. Yes Lights is in my sights for 2011. I feel in the right car I can fight for the championship, but the biggest issue is finding the funding at the moment. I am also working on other programs with a view to securing something that will be good for my career in the long term.

Do you have any buddies or friends you hang out with among the IndyCar and Lights drivers? What do you do for fun?

NQ:Yes there are a few of us Lights drivers who hang out together when we are all in town, which is nice when you’re so far away from home. Indy is a great city and I always have fun when I am there. Most of my free time at the moment is spent driving rFactor or iRacing. Its fun, great for keeping your mind in racing mode, and basically anything competitive counts as fun for me.

Realistically speaking, a year from now, where would you like to see yourself in terms of racing progression and development?

NQ: I would like to see myself back in a full time competitive race seat, and it is my aim to make that happen in the US.

For more info, check out at Niall online:

www.niallquinnracing.com
http://www.theotherniallquinn.wordpress.com/
www.twitter.com/niall_quinn1
www.facebook.com/niall.quinn.racing


(Photo provided courtesy of IMS Media)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

IndyTube Weekend: Meira's 2008 500 Pass

Today's IndyTube Weekend moment is courtesy of the 2008 Indy 500 and Vitor Meira, and a pass I didn't think he had room to make:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Newman/Haas: The Comeback Trail

Yesterday marked another chapter in the developing relationship between Newman/Haas Racing and James Hinchcliffe, with the team partaking in an open test at Sebring with the Canadian driver. There are plenty of great photos from the test over at the Newman/Haas Facebook page.

Hinchcliffe has a great personality, and I'd love to see him get his shot. With Oriol Servia still being talked about for a ride at Newman-Haas as well, I see both of them land there as an ideal scenario--Servia is an experienced, respected driver, and would be a great teammate for the rookie.

Hinch and Servia: The new faces of Newman-Haas?
Nothing against Hideki Mutoh, Newman/Haas' full-time driver from last year (no Top 10 finishes), but I don't think he was the answer for this team. That's not what people expect from Newman/Haas, even in its latter-day form. They still have great talent and great people there. This is a proud team, and if this offseason has shown anything, they aren't ready to throw in the towel.

Both Hinchcliffe and Servia bring great resumes, aside from being well-regarded. If you look at Servia's time in ChampCar and IndyCar, this is a guy who cranks out Top 5 and Top 10s consistently. He was lights-out with Newman/Haas back in his ChampCar days, and was no slouch for Forsythe Racing, either. In only 23 races in IndyCar (2008-2009), he grabbed 7 Top 5s and 11 Top 10s. He's shown consistently the ability to move up and improve over the course of a race.

As far as Hinchcliffe, he doesn't have the seasoning of Servia yet, but he won three races in Lights last year and won the Greg Moore Legacy Award to boot.  The fact that he did it with Team Moore, which is not exactly a Lights powerhouse, makes it all the more impressive.  Hinchcliffe is also personable, funny, and interacts well with the fans--something that can't be overlooked.

Of course, we'll have to see what the next couple months bring. It's frustrating to wait on official news at times, but it's looking favorable, very favorable, that James Hinchcliffe will be there when the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series arrives. I hope Oriol Servia is right there with him, but above all, I wish success to one of the most storied and historic teams in all of American open-wheel racing.

(Photos provided courtesy of IndyCar Media) 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Making The Offseason Count: Emailing IndyCar Sponsors

There’s still snow in Indy, and on the hallowed track of the Speedway. Tomas Scheckter is in England, partaking of some Scheckter OrganicEnergy, so far as we know. Paul Tracy is probably going for a ride in or on some sweet vehicle out west. Marco Andretti is hanging out and getting mentioned in US Weekly or People or some other supermarket rag. Tony Kanaan bombards us on Twitter with excited bursts of Portugese (although, to be fair, that’s not so different from the regular season). I’m not sure what Simona de Silvestro is up to, but I’ll bet she’s doing whatever it is in a wholly enthusiastic manner.

What do the rest of us do? Well, we talk about where we think drivers will end up, we wait for every new announcement, and pine away for the Streets of St. Petersburg to arrive and rescue us from the doldrums. But what about doing something productive to help out IndyCar? No, I’m not talking about evangelizing outside your workplace wearing a Panther Racing hat and a carbon fiber sandwich board sign while imploring NASCAR fans to repent (although…). I’m talking about taking the time to write some of the sponsors involved in IndyCar.

Sure, no one fan letter is probably going to convince a sponsor of their worthwhile nature of their investment. But you never know if your letter is the one that gets the attention of the right people, or makes the difference between a sponsor stepping it up or pulling back.

Whether it’s IZOD, ABC Supply, Verizon, Hot Wheels, Firestone, NTB/Service Central, Dollar General, Norvo Nordisk, HP, Venom Energy, or one of the many other sponsors that puts time and money into this series, take a minute of your offseason to thank them, and let them know the impact of their involvement. You can check out a list of sponsors via this link. Thanks, and happy writing!

And tell Hot Wheels to make a Simona car while you're at it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

History of the 500: Albert Guyot

Today's installment of History of the 500 deals with a member of the "French Invasion", one of those early French racers who excelled in the 1910s at the 500.  Along with such drivers as Jules Goux and Rene Thomas, Albert Guyot was a notable early entrant of the 500-Mile Race. Guyot never won the 500, but as we'll see, he was no slouch, either.

In the 1913 race, Guyot (who would also finish 2nd in the French Grand Prix that year) finished a solid 4th in a six-cylinder Sunbeam. The French drivers (with Goux winning the race) netted over $26,000 in prize money in 1913, and clearly found this a grand inducement for trying the 500 again in 1914. Guyot finished 3rd in his Delage, with countryman Thomas winning and Belgian (and transplanted Parisian) Arthur Duray finishing second.

However, war plagued Europe, and Guyot would not contest the 500 again for the duration of World War I. During the war, he worked as a driver on the Western Front, and then transferred to the Flying Corps as an aviation instrutor. He was involved in a water crash, but managed to survive. With then war over in 1919 (the race not being held in 1917-18), he returned to the 500 and to form, finishing 4th again.

Guyot would sit out the race in 1920, but in 1921 scored another Top 10 finish, grabbing the 8th spot. After failing to qualify in 1923 and 1925, his 1926 effort ended early with piston troubles, and would mark his worst--and last--500 finish with 28th place.
Guyot consistently finished well at Indy.

Guyot entered multiple Grand Prix races in 1920s Europe. At the 1921 French Grand Prix, when a car owner was throwing a tantrum after being beaten by American Jimmy Murphy in a Dusenberg, he is said to have silenced the raging owner with the comment "There’s only one winner in any race: the man who gets home first".

In his later years, Guyot focused on building cars. He passed away in his native France in 1947, leaving behind an impressive resume. He was an early aviator and road racer; he won the light Grand Prix at Dieppe in 1908, and obtained his aviator's license on the Bleriot monoplane in 1909. It is also a possibility he was the first aviator to fly to Russia. He was a prolific driver, but in the U.S., we only know of his entry in the Indy 500; there is no evidence to show he raced at any other American track. Still, Albert Guyot was an early contender to win the Indianapolis 500, and has a solid record there for history to remember him by.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who Will Drive For Dreyer & Reinbold?

We're still staring at a couple of months of silly season before IndyCars are battling one another, and one of the key remaining seats is the presumed 2nd seat at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. With Justin Wilson confirmed on the team, most folks seem to anticipate D&R will run one additional full-time seat--the one that belonged to Mike Conway until his horrific crash at Indy last season.

Last year, Dreyer & Reinbold saw Wilson start every race, but outside of that, it was musical chairs in the wake of Conway's terrible accident. Ana Beatriz, Paul Tracy, Tomas Scheckter, J.R. Hildebrand--there was no shortage of quality drivers for Dreyer & Reinbold, but neither was it exactly the most stable of situations for the fan and viewer.

Forward to 2011, where as of this date, Mike Conway still isn't signed (as far as we know), and although Hildebrand is now with Panther, the rumor mill is in full swing for Tracy, Scheckter, and Bia possibly landing a ride at Dreyer & Reinbold. And now, we're hearing a bit more on that the idle rumor of Wheldon joining D&R that I had mentioned from State of IndyCar. Let's look at each of the prospects in turn:

Mike Conway: Conway's a heck of a story if he comes back strong from his wreck at Indy, and he still seems confident that something will be coming along. Then again, every silly season there are confident drivers who end up on the sidelines. Conway showed improvement before his injury last year, and he'd be one of the more intriguing drivers to grab a ride here.
PT: On the road to Conquest?

Paul Tracy: PT was linked strongly with a ride here early on in the season, and I'm not saying it doesn't happen. But there's been strong movement towards PT in the second Conquest seat in the rumor mill, not to mention KV Racing, and with several drivers seeming to have more concrete connections to a D&R ride, PT might be the least likely off this list to end up there.

Tomas Scheckter: Tomas Scheckter is the Man of A Million Rumors; it seems like we link him to all these programs on the offseason, and then it comes down to a partial ride or series of one-offs. As great as I think it would be to see him full-time in the series, more and more I'm thinking his 2011 will be a lot like his 2010. We'll see him at Indy with someone and perhaps a few more races here and there, but I don't think his season lies with Dreyer & Reinbold, unless it's a fourth car at Indy or somesuch.
How Many Races For Bia?

Ana Beatriz: Bia drove part-time with the team last year, and I think she's pretty solidly in with the team. If we see her in 2011, it'll be with Dreyer & Reinbold. The only question is for how many races?  I think it's going to be more than 2010, which is a good thing if she keeps up her off-season awesomeness.

Dan Wheldon: When I first heard this at State of IndyCar, I really thought this was a throwaway. But with Andy Soucek looking somewhat more likely at Andretti Autosport, I have to wonder, could Dreyer & Reinbold be Wheldon's best remaining option? There aren't many seats left, and a Wheldon/Wilson team could be golden for D&R. Of course, there are also newer rumors of Wheldon at Conquest, so even if this seat doesn't happen, there is still a little leeway left out there. January isn't the time to panic.

As Curt Cavin reported, all these options are up in the air, but the money's not finalized yet for anything.

There's no shortage of quality drivers looking for space at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. But barring some sort of madness like last year, we won't see them all. My gut tells me we'll see Conway full-time and Beatriz running a partial schedule, but as with all things in silly season, all we can do is wait and see.

How about it, IndyCar fans?  Who do you see ending up at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2011? Make your predictions now, and we can revisit this in a couple months for bragging rights.

(Photos provided courtesy of IndyCar Media) 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Jay Howard

Love it or hate it, IndyCar driver Jay Howard doesn't pull punches when you ask him a question. His no-holds-barred style of response made things interesting as he became the latest driver to sit down and answer IndyCar Advocate's Six Quick Questions:

Thanks again for doing this, Jay. The first question I have is how is the offseason going, and what's your regimen like in the winter months?

JH: The off-season for me consists of lots of training, I am very strict on my training regimen and I always have been. I play many sports, from boxing, soccer, racquetball, squash, karting and more. I also spend a lot of time driver coaching with some of the young drivers I look after in karting. I am going to do some racing personally in karts this year, January through March is the Florida Winter Tour. Karting is so fantastic for your fitness regimen and keeps you sharp and not to mention, its a ton of fun!"

When you're on a partial season schedule, how hard is it to maintain any sort of rhythm, or does that even come into play for a racer?

JH: For sure racing every week is an advantage, no question about it. Honestly, I don't think about it, I just get in the car, do my best and get the job done. I have proven over the years that I can hop into any car and win instantly, I won on my debut in every category I raced but one, this is a strength of mine, getting up to speed quickly. I plan on doing the same at the 500 this year and hoping to be drinking the milk!!

Howard looks to improve his luck at Indy in '11.
Obviously, last year's Indy 500 didn't go as you or your team wanted, though you definitely had the speed to get in. How much second-guessing is there after that, and how hard is it to move on from these sort of disappointments that come with racing?

JH: Last year was a disaster, the team made a big mistake and I still can't believe it to this day. How we do 225.9mph in the morning of qualifying and then can't do 223mph when it counts is beyond me. I think I must have set some sort of record to be fastest of the day and not qualify all in the same day! This is racing and I am back this year with a better team and better car, so fingers crossed we have a good one, geez, I'm due some luck!"

What's your favorite course/track you've driven in IndyCar, and why?

JH: There is nothing in the World like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, outside of IMS, I really love the Streets of St. Pete. The track is fantastic, something about coming onto the straight, big, wide, sun shining, packed grandstands, start of the season, everything combined, just an amazing race to be a part of. Plus, I have for the most part always done good at St. Pete. My second ever IndyCar race with Roth Racing, we qualified badly but it poored down right before the green flag, I had never driven the car in the rain, but I made my way up to 5th and was having a blast! Good memories contribute for sure, but I just love that place!

In the IndyCar paddock, who do you hang out with? Which drivers do you admire, and why?

JH: I don't hang out with many at all to be honest, I am here to do a job, not make friends. I like about 6-7 of them, but I really spend my time focusing on trying to do the best job possible with what I am given. So far in IndyCar, I have always had alot of work to do right from the second we roll off the wagon, so not much time for anything else!

Lastly, can you confirm we'll see you again at Indy, and are you looking to do any races outside of the 500 for 2011?

JH: I will be there, you can count on that!

(Photo provided courtesy of IndyCar Media)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

IndyTube Weekend: Foyt & Harroun

Thought I'd try to introduce a new feature for these off weekends to see how we all like it. If you're anything like me, you scour YouTube on the offseason, desparate to find some manner of IndyCar fix. Every weekend, I'll grab a video folks may not have seen and post it up. The result? It's an IndyTube Weekend!

I'll do my best to find videos a bit off the beaten path, and today's entry is no exception. Behold, from 1961, AJ Foyt and 1911 500 winner Ray Harroun, making gameshow history together:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hornish Update: Out Of Luck In NASCAR?

I ready yesterday over at Fox Sports that Sam Hornish, Jr. is looking less and less likely to be in any sort of NASCAR ride for 2011. Does that make him more likely to participate in this year's Indy 500? I personally have my doubts, mainly because Sam's comments in regards to it have made it clear he's only slightly more excited in regards to a return to Indy as you or I would be in getting a barium enema.

The perception for a lot of fans is when Hornish went to NASCAR, is that he was unceremoniously abandoning open-wheel racing. His defenders will often say that as a champion, he was just moving on as a champion to the next challenge. However you view Sam Hornish, Jr., his returning for a one-shot at Indy would be an interesting storyline, and one more former champion trying to make the field of 33. Interestingly enough, the Indy 500 winner only had one other Top 10 finish at Indy, despite being a 3-time IRL champion.  His other finishes? 14th, 15th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th. Sam Hornish, Jr., would be a good story at Indy, but a better one might be which Sam Hornish, Jr. shows up.

Hornish at his last Indy 500 in 2007, where he finished 4th.

Photo courtesy of Carey Atkin. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011: A Banner Year For Female Drivers?

I'll preface this article with the understanding that I don't cheer for a driver based on gender. If they're a racer, have the right attitude, and bring the speed, then they've got my respect. That said, as the father of a six year-old budding IndyCar fan of a daughter, I love the fact that she can easily reference great role models in racing like Sarah Fisher and Simona de Silvestro. Socially, the inclusion of lady IndyCar drivers is still seen as a groundbreaking, pioneering trend to much of the sporting world.

2010 was a great year for female drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series. We had the following ladies compete in IndyCar, the most ever for a season:

-Danica Patrick
-Sarah Fisher
-Simona de Silvestro
-Ana Beatriz
-Milka Duno

With the winter meetings of IndyCar, however, more credible rumors are starting to surface for next year's grid. We suspect that Milka Duno is gone to ARCA, and know Sarah Fisher has focused on being a team owner. So where does that leave us for 2011? Here's what we know about the current possibilities:

-Danica Patrick: Back with Andretti Autosport
-Simona de Silvestro: Back with HVM
-Ana Beatriz: Nothing concrete yet, but could go back at least part-time to Dreyer & Reinbold
-Pippa Mann: Speculated to run at least a couple of races in 2011.
-Katherine Legge: A surprise showing in Indy for the winter meetings! Perhaps the biggest question mark as far as what her plans are.
The Kat Comes Back to open-wheel?

So, the same number of potential female participants as last year, right?  Consider this: Milka's gone, most likely. That means that if all 5 of these ladies show up for Indy, there's at least a chance they at least tie last year's record number of female 500 qualifiers (4).  Now, obviously, it's still silly season, but that's a good group of potential drivers right there, and there's reasonable hopes of seeing them all at some point in 2011.

Simona, Danica, and Bia have all proven their talent. Pippa Mann blazed a path through the latter half of her 2010 Lights season. Kat Legge already showed her talent in ChampCar. I also can't help but idly wonder that if she's not preggers by May, perhaps Sarah Fisher might be persuaded to give Indy one last go...

Even if no records are broken for female participants in an IndyCar season or to qualify for the Indy 500, 2011 should be at least as good as 2010 was for the female driver in IndyCar. I have a feeling my daughter will approve.

Photo by Crosathorian. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The State of IndyCar Address In Photos

At the State of IndyCar Address yesterday, my lovely wife and site photographer took a number of photos for me. Here are some highlights below:

Vitor Meira arriving late for driver's meeting (which ran over)
Stage before the start. Note Flying Cocksman far left.

Justin Wilson with WISH-TV. Popular interview yesterday!

Marco likes his cell. All the drivers do, I think.

Tony George and Tony George, Jr. 
Took this one for my daughter. Big Pippa Mann fan.
Robin Miller chatting with Danica.
Helio's entrance. He and TK got the most applause, I think.
The Gordon Pipers burst in with "Scotland The Brave"
Bonnie Prince Dario arrives!
The Mazda Road to Indy, Explained
Tony Kanaan in front of me. Think he Tweeted the entire time!

All in all, it was an exciting, informative, and fun day.  I still have questions about Las Vegas, of course, but it sounds like more announcements are forthcoming. I also landed a couple of interviews I think folks are really going to find interesting. Stay tuned for more!

If you're in the Indy area and need a photographer for your event, by the way, check out my wife's work at Theresa Houghton Photography

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

State of IndyCar Liveblog!

Hello, and welcome to the State of IndyCar liveblog!  It's just after 2:30 ET, and I am seriously early.  There are already some events going on behind closed doors, with names like "Driver's Meeting" and "FIL TV Package".  Plebian that I am, I am not in these events, and am focusing on the people-watching and making sure I've got everything set up at the moment. I'll be updating below as I have updates.

Of course, featured prominently on all the screens outside is the new IndyCar logo.

Welcome!

Definitely a lot of this around!

More soon!

3:30: Driver interviews about to start, so need to make this quick. Vitor Meira was a late arrival. Randy Bernard seems to have a nonstop motor, in and out of meetings! Conor Daly is here, will try to get some words with him.Will upload more pics in a bit--internet very slow just now.

Nard Dog In Action

4:00PM: Showtime!  They are starting with a retrospective of AJ Foyt's 4 Indy 500 victories.

We only had about 15 minutes with the drivers, but I got a good Q&A with Ed Carpenter. The lights are dimmed, and the show is on!

4:05PM: MAde the announcement in regards to Starwood Hotels taking over IndyCar stays.  9 different brands, to include the Westin (hint hint).

4:10: Intro video. 14 new partners for IndyCar in last 12 months.

4:15 Big intro for Connor Daly. Fog machine. JK Vernay.

Heeeere come the 2011 drivers!

Alex Tagliani
Scott Dixon
Justin Wilson
Will Power
Helio Castroneves. (the crowd cheers harder)
Tony Kanaan (TK, too)
Vitor Meira
JR Hildebrand (and they play Born In The USA)
Charlie Kimball
Graham Rahal
Danica Patrick
Marco Andretti
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ed Carpenter

Interesting how they did international drivers, then America...

HOLY CRAP BAGPIPES

Dario had an awesome intro, played in by the Gordon Pipers.

4:20 I have been hit with confetti and serenaded with bagpipes. Danica is sitting in front of me. RB on stage...must...focus...

Bernard talking about keeping the drivers accessible and making sure they are billed as the best multi-skilled drivers.

Talks about providing stats and stories for the press.

4:26 Brian Barnhart on stage now. Talking about the new partners for equipment. Cotman will cover more.

Uh oh...just said "probably" going to Las Vegas. No confirmation?

Qualification results will determine pit box selection for next like event. Road/street will count for road/street, oval for oval...

No averaging team position for pit selection.

105% as cutoff for participation! Sorry, Milka!

4:33 Talking about moving the restart closer to start/finish. Also will be adding double-file restarts "sometime during season". No moving due to lead lap status.

4:35 Barnhart done at 4:35. Introducing Tony Cotman.

4:39 "At least 4 different aero kits in 2011".  Cotman also mentions the engine reduction from 2.4L to 2.2L.  I am so not a gearhead.

4:40 Cotman talks about using cell technology, in-car cameras, etc. for the fan experience. Two show cars for 2012 design should be at Indy in May.

4:42 Roger Bailey on to talk about the Road to Indy.
Karting>Skip Barber>USF2000>Star Mazda>Lights>IndyCar. Mention USAC as a side entryway of sorts for the National USAC Champion.

Connor Daly doing all the road/street courses for Lights that Clauson won't be doing.

4:47 Jeff Green of IMS Productions on to talk about TV.

ABC: Opener in St. Pete, 500, Milwaukee, Loudon, and Finale.
Versus: All else.

Talking about the NBC/Universal merger. The merger is on as of the end of the month.

Indy Lights on for Wednesday at 6pm after each VERSUS race.

Terry Angstadt just confirmed the Edmonton race is on!

4:56: Talking about marketing with Kasey Coler. The newly-relaunced IndyCar Nation will have both paid and free levels.

Talking about marketing to short-track fans. Scholarships for USAC for Indy Lights will continue. Full marketing partnership with USAC to ensure their fan base returns to IndyCar fans.

Also targeting NASCAR fans. And karting.

Wow, this guy is flying through stuff.  Can't keep up.

5:01PM Here are the PR people!

Sorry, these last folks are really pushing through quickly.

Introducing Denise Abbott, who is going to take on Mainstream/Business PR.

5:04: Steve Shunck talking about combining the record books back to 1905. Nice!

5:07: OK, now talking about sales.

5:11 PM Here comes Jeff Belskus! Talking about the Centennial 500: "The Most Important Race In History"

Every living Indy 500 veteran--all 269--are invited back for World's Largest Autograph Session in May.

Along with Mattel, some mind-boggling stunt planned for the 500, plus the most unique flyover ever.

5:16 Greatest33.com website in March, when you can vote for the greatest 33 drivers in 500 history.

70 of 74 winning 500 cars on display at museum during this May!

Oh my goodness guys, this Month of May is going to be amazing.

Sports Illustrated doing issues DEDICATED to Indy 500.

They will be debuting print-at-home tickets, and a new 500 Fans Program.

5:24 OK, showing sneak of new commercial for the Indy 500. Talks about bricks. I likes it.

Belskus and Bernard on stage together to highlight teamwork, etc.

Wrapping things up in a minute, guys. I'll have to run here in a minute.  Expect more in a bit, if I can.

Later: Well, it was a great day, and a great day for IndyCar. I think the IndyCar blogosphere has plenty to discuss, so I'll just wrap up with a few last minute notes:

-To new readers of this site, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you decide to subscribe or check back with us every now and then. To regular readers of this site, as always, your comments and emails are really and sincerely enjoyed.

-I went up to Connor Daly after the closing and asked him about his new Indy Lights ride. He quite honestly told me as far as he knew, there was no deal in place for him to run Lights next year yet. So that was sort of a head-scratcher.

-Grabbed audio bites with Martin Plowman and Ed Carpenter. There are a lot of genuinely nice folks in IndyCar, but those guys are at the top of my list.

-Spoke to Pippa Mann. Still nothing to announce, and it seems like she's working closely with someone, but there's just nothing there yet. She mentioned we could see a partial schedule of 5 or so races, but she didn't really have much else for us at this point. The #HirePippa Twitter hashtag will remain strong until such time as there is news.

-Ana Beatriz was in attendance, but I didn't get a chance to chat with her. When I saw her, she had a continual parade of Lights and IndyCar drivers coming and up talking with her.

-Dan Wheldon still doesn't have anything yet, but is feeling good he'll have an announcement. Someone brought up Dreyer & Reinbold, which I hadn't heard before. I'm still leaning Andretti, mainly because I don't think there are a lot of seats Wheldon would consider solid drives left. The guy's a champion, and has the pride of one.

-It was a happy, positive crowd that adjourned from the State of IndyCar Address. PR folks, drivers, press, bloggers, and team members all.

-Do whatever physically possible to attend the 2011 Indianapolis 500 and the Month of May festivities. It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Tomorrow will be an all-picture review of the State of IndyCar Address! Thanks again for stopping by!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Can Foyt, Meira Make It BackTo The Podium In 2011?

With the news last week that AJ Foyt Racing will welcome back both ABC Supply and Vitor Meira in 2011, I began to wonder about the likelihood of Vitor Meira and AJ Foyt's team finding their way to either the podium or Victory Lane in 2011.

Meira: Representing in Sao Paulo
It's no secret Foyt's team is relatively strong on the ovals, where they nabbed all but one of their Top 10 finishes in 2010. But they finished third to open the season at Sao Paolo, and just missed the Top 10 at Long Beach and Toronto.  Outside of those showings, the road and street courses continue to be a struggle for this team.

For Meira, 2010 was a triumphant return to IndyCar at Sao Paulo after breaking some vertabrae in a rough accident at the 2009 Indy 500, a story which never quite got the attention it may have deserved. Now, he's never won an IndyCar race, though he's missed it by fractions of a second. But did you know he's in the record books (IRL) as having the most 2nd place finishes without a victory with 8? (Sadly, he also has the most start in IRL history without a win, with 114, just ahead of Ed Carpenter). He's also placed 2nd at Indy twice, which is no small feat.

Honestly, if you look at Vitor's career, he's been remarkably consistent. No, he hasn't won, but he's going to race. And I think we can expect more of the same in 2011.  And who knows?  I like to think AJ Foyt hasn't somehow quite used up all his luck in racing yet. Perhaps the stars align and 2011 gets Vitor that first victory...

OK, so, this team will still be a long shot to take home the checkered flag in 2011. But I think they'll exceed their results from last year. The team will have a second full year together under their belt, and the Foyt/Meira dynamic seems to work.  Vitor doesn't have any more quit in him than his boss does. Put me down for this team getting at least two Top 3 finishes in 2011.

(Photo provided courtesy of IndyCar Media) 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The State of IndyCar Presentation

I’ve just found out that I’ve been OK’d to attend next Tuesday afternoon’s  (Jan. 11th) “State of IndyCar” press conference in downtown Indianapolis, as mentioned by Randy Bernard in his epic Marshall Pruett interview. This should be a pretty big event for the future direction of the IZOD IndyCar series, and as such, I’m thrilled to be able to bring the fan’s perspective to the coverage. I’ll be attempting not only to liveblog the announcement here, but also provide updates on the IndyCar Advocate Twitter account as well!

What this means, especially, is that I am there for every fan who reads this site. If you’ve got a question, I’m not sure what sort of opportunities I’ll have, but get it to me via the comments or via email (mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com), and I’ll see what I can do.

We’re about to find out what Randy Bernard and IZOD IndyCar have planned in terms of development, publicity, and growing the brand. I couldn’t be more excited to find out what’s coming next.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Last Year's Top 10 In Indy Lights: Will They Make The Jump?

I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at the Top 10 in points for Firestone Indy Lights in 2010 to see how their 2011 prospects are shaping up. How many have a shot at the big cars? Let's check it out:

1) JK Vernay: Won the scholarship for the Lights champ. Will end up somewhere on the grid for '11.

2) James Hinchcliffe: Considered a favorite for the Newman-Haas seat, but nothing finalized yet.

3) Martin Plowman: Buzz around him seems to be growing, but nothing definite. Stated on Twitter he may have something to announce in a few weeks, and on last night's Trackside, he said he felt that he would be in an IndyCar at some point in 2011.

4) Charlie Kimball: Making the big jump to Ganassi's new team in 2011.

5) Pippa Mann: A lot of people seem to think she'll run Lights, with possibly 1-2 chances in an IndyCar. This will be an interesting one to watch.

6) Adrian Campos, Jr.: Projected to return to Team Moore for another season of Lights.

7) Dan Clarke: A wild card right now. With Walker Racing possibly running a partial IndyCar schedule in 2011, his name has of course been linked with that seat, but the entire situation remains murky.

8) Sebastian Saavedra: ESPN Deportes seems to think he's got a crack at a seat. Possibly 2nd car at Conquest? One of the more plausible rumors that's out there.

9) Philip Major: No confirmed plans for 2011 yet. It'd be great to see him return for a sophomore year in Indy Lights.

10) Gustavo Yacaman: Confirmed as returning with Team Moore in Lights for 2011.

From the Freedom 100 to the Indy 500? Time will tell.
Really, that's a much better potential upward mobility rate then I had originally formulated in my head, but it's still too early to make any sort of judgment call. Offhand, there's 2 confirmed (Kimball at Ganassi, Vernay somewhere with his winnings), 2 very likely (Hinchcliffe, Saavedra), and a couple more like Mann and Plowman that I wouldn't be shocked to see show up for a couple of races.

Of course, on a lot of these drivers, the jury's still out on where they'll be in 2011, but if drivers such as Vernay, Hinch, and Plowman make the jump or get at least a decent shot in the big cars, it'll add to a great potential Rookie of the Year battle.

A lot of these Lights seats probably won't be determined for another 4-6+ weeks, at least not publicly. But in the meantime, it's fun to speculate and see just how many worthy Indy Lights drivers might get that shot in IndyCar in 2011.

(Photo provided courtesy of IndyCar Media)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

History of the 500: Roscoe Sarles

Today's entry for our History of the 500 series isn't exactly a well-known name, but that doesn't mean he didn't have some success back in the day. Roscoe Sarles was from New Albany, Indiana (b. 1892), and competed in 4 different Indy 500s around the early 1920s.

Sarles in 1921
Sarles placed as high as 2nd in 1921 in a Duesenberg, leading a single lap in a race eventually won by Tommy Milton. Perhaps his most infamous moment came in 1920, where he drove a car fielded by the Chevrolet brothers. A steering malfunction inherent in the car drove him into the Turn 4 wall, knocking him out of the race. He them took over as a relief driver of another car also fielded by the Chevrolet brothers, only to have the exact same thing happen in the exact same place on the track.

1921 would, in fact end up being not only Sarles' best finish, but the only time he would finish the race in four attempts. However, he did have success in other venues on the circuit, especially at the newly-created Beverly Hills Speedway, where he won two races in a 4-month span. Sadly, his first victory at that track was also the race where Gaston Chevrolet and Eddie O'Donnell were killed in an accident.

Like so many early racers, Sarles' life ended on the track. He was driving for Cliff Durant at Kansas City Speedway on September 17, 1922, when he was in a terrible accident with Pete DePaolo. His car went over the rail of the track, dropped 25 feet, and pinned him underneath, resulting in his burning to death.

Roscoe Sarles shares the AAA record for most 2nd-place finishes in a season, with 9 in 1921 (a record shared with Ted Horn for 1946). Though he never found victory at Indy, he was a respected, fearless driver in his time, a man referred to as the "clown of the races". He was well-liked, won six feature AAA races overall, and was a heavily featured driver for Duesenberg, making over 30 starts in their cars.

For more about Roscoe Sarles, check out his page at ChampCar Stats, as well as Motorsports Memorial.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Joel Miller

It'd be tough not to root for Indy Lights driver Joel Miller. After multiple wins in Skip Barber and Star Mazda, 2010 saw him work his way into his first two Indy Lights starts. After his first Lights race at Long Beach, he drove from the back of the field to finish 9th at Sonoma. He doesn't have any plans of stopping there. Joel took a timeout to answer our latest edition of Six Quick Questions, from his progress up the Road to Indy ladder system to (of course) plans for 2011. I think you'll definitely like where he's coming from and what he has to say.

What's your journey been like to the Indy Lights series so far, and how's this offseason been treating you?

JM: My journey to the Firestone Indy Lights Championship started when I first began karting at the age of 6. Since then I have progressed up the Road to Indy ladder system from karting, Formula Ford, Skip Barber National Championship, Star Mazda Pro Championship, and now the Firestone Indy Lights Championship, thus winning at every stage. The journey has been proven difficult however, never giving up has gotten me to the next stage in my career. This offseason has been extremely busy! We have been making phone calls to potential partners, reaching out, creating new opportunities and trying to make deals come together. I really want to be on the grid at St. Petersburg!

There's been some definite changes to the Road to Indy, with Mazda coming on board as a sponsor and a scholarship for the Lights champ. What do you think of the changes, and what other changes would you like to see implemented for Lights and the Road to Indy?

JM: Mazda coming on board is superb for the driver because if they win, they then get to progress up to the next level. I have managed to benefit from this ladder system greatly over the years from winning championships since karting and it is a terrific thing for drivers. For example, I won the Stars of Karting Championship in 2006 which had gotten me the scholarship for the Skip Barber National Championship for 2007. I then went on from the Skip Barber National Championship taking the Title, which landed me the Mazda Scholarship to move up to the Star Mazda Pro Championship in 2008. I won the opening round in the Star Mazda Pro Championship in 2008 and ended up finishing 2nd in the championship that year. Without the help of Mazda, it would have been difficult to make it out of karting, but by proving I could win, I was able to progress farther up the ladder. So with this example, the changes are all in the right direction for the sport. As for me, I would like the chance to show what I can do in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship and go for that scholarship for the Indy Lights champion. If I had to choose one thing to implement to the series, it would be for the Indy Car teams to field an Indy Lights car in the Championship with direct connection. This would allow a much closer link for a Lights driver to move up within the team they are already associated with and gain the knowledge of the higher series. This might enable the teams assets from the Indy Car to be shared to the Indy Lights effort in terms of funding, sponsorships and marketing.

What's it like out there for Lights drivers trying to find sponsorship right now? Do you think things are heading in the right direction for IndyCar and Indy Lights?

JM: Right now trying to find funding for Indy Lights is a huge challenge and obstacle. However, things are moving in the right direction, but at a much slower rate than I would like to see. Trying to sell signage on the side of an Indy Lights car and other marketing aspects is a very tough task, which is why I have resorted to other means of getting a great ROI for the companies/people who partner with and sponsor me. For example, we held a large charity celebrity poker tournament before the Sonoma Grand Prix last season which allowed me to compete in the event with Bryan Herta Autosport. The main promotion for the companies was to be apart of the poker tournament branding, advertising, online coverage, pr, and cross promotions with other celebrities and athletes as it reached a whole different audience. It was a tremendous success and we thus hope to extend our marketing and public relations possibilities even further this year through other new means of exposure. The number one question that is asked from every company I approach concerns the television coverage. Almost every entity wants to know if the races appear on a name/ branded broadcast station. If this was to happen amongst the Indy Lights Series, then I think the search for support would pick up drastically. Another example I can share is in 2008 with my sponsor K&N Air Filters. K&N had signed onto my program for 2008 because of the television schedule the series had, but when the series lost the television package for 2009, I had lost the sponsor.

What's been your favorite moment so far in your racing career, and if you could race at any one track, which one would it be?

JM: My favorite moment thus far in my racing career would have to be between winning the ICA Championship for Tony Kart in karting and taking my first start in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship at the Long Beach Grand Prix this past season. When I was 9 years old I attended the World Championship of Karting race in Europe as a spectator. I saw that the Tony Kart team was the best and the best drivers were racing in the Formula Super A category. At that point I told myself I wanted to win for that team in a comparable category when I was old enough. This was one such goal I was able to complete in 2006. It was a similar story and goal about the Long Beach Grand Prix which I finally got the chance to race in during this past season. As per your question of racing on any track in the world? There is still one last place in which is still a life-long dream of mine to race at and that would be the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is a track that is absolutely amazing, full of life and has the fan-base that make a drivers heart beat. I look forward to that day!

What's your drive and motivation? What pushes you to be a successful professional racer? What inspires you when you need it?

JM: My drive comes from my grandfather who started me in the sport with karting when I was younger. Nothing was ever good enough unless I won each race and even with a win I could have done something better. He was also a hard worker and believed if you work hard, believe in yourself and give it everything you have, you will achieve your goals. He never gave up on a goal and neither will I. I had grown up on his farm before I had even started racing, thus took all those traits to heart. He is definitely an inspiration to me to be a successful professional racer and he inspires me to go all the way within my career.

Lastly, you know we have to ask--how's 2011 shaping up for you? Do you see your participation in Indy Lights increasing this year?

JM: Well, positivity and hard work is what has gotten me this far. I wish I could say I have a ride in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship lined up for 2011 and look to start testing next week, but this is not the case quite yet. I am praying for a successful beginning of the year as many of the people and companies we have been talking to in December took some early holidays. We have put forth some great efforts and tremendous ideas for offering great ROI's, marketing concepts and advertising to various businesses so I hope to see a few businesses onboard soon here.

Thank you very much for your time, to all of the Indy Car/ Indy Lights Fans for your support and I look forward to seeing everybody on the grid at St. Pete!

Contact: Monarchy Media Management
brook@monarchymediamanagement.com
www.joelmillerracing.com

Visit Joel Miller on Facebook!
http://www.facebook.com/people/Joel-Miller-Indy-Racing/100001250197296


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Of My Discontent: An IndyCar Fan In January

It’s only January, but I’m preparing for the Indy 500 and the IZOD IndyCar season.

My daughter is trying to pick 3 drivers to cheer for in 2011, with more than a little well-meaning advice and encouragement from her father. She knows Ed Carpenter is one, since that’s Sarah Fisher’s driver, but the other two are up in the air. Clearly, our household has not seen a decision of this importance since my spouse decided birth control was optional. My wife is giving me looks that say any additional analysis of Which Driver She Should Cheer For will be considered an overt act of spousal abuse, if not outright war. Philosophical musings in regards to the importance of Jim Nabors, Paul Tracy getting a good ride for the ’11 season, and my epic dissertation on Why I Need To Sit In J-Stand This Year seem lost on the audience I have at hand.

I try to avoid it, honest. I try to internalize my excitement of this amazing offseason when I’m around the family. Apparently, calling my wife from work, telling her I have amazingly great news, and then talking about Charlie Kimball signing with Ganassi is wearing a bit thin. Now, I begin statements such as “You know, I really think that DeFerran should….,” before remembering that I am not among the hardcore IndyCar fandom at that precise moment and trailing off meekly. Recounting anecdotes to the family about what Graham Rahal and Tomas Scheckter said on Twitter fails to merit the proper appreciation of their humorous and interesting nature (at least in my opinion). I scour YouTube for IndyCar videos yet unseen, scavenging among the leavings like some woodland creature trying to eat grass poking out from the snow. The frigid months stand between me and my beloved IndyCar like Milka Duno on a road course, but the heart wants what it wants.

Oh, the winter wind outside is cold, but my IndyCar fervor burns hotter than ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, if I have to call the wife and tell her where I think Dan Wheldon will end up.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Look At The Castrol Driver Rankings

Since first being released last January, the Castrol Driver Rankings have been for good for a lot of heated discussion over their value, but not always much else. Still, it's a conversation starter, and any project that tries to rank 2,000+ world drivers is going to be interesting.

Here's a list of IndyCar drivers considered in the Top 100 in the world right now. IndyCar is actually pretty well-rated by Castrol (T-3 with 24 Hours of LeMans), just behind F1 and NASCAR, and ahead of everyone else:

Will Power: 6th
Dario Franchitti: 9th
Hélio Castroneves: 16th
Scott Dixon: 18th
Ryan Brisoce: 21st
Ryan Hunter-Reay: 29th
Tony Kanaan: 37th
Marco Andretti: 45th
Justin Wilson: 48th
Dan Wheldon: 53rd
Danica Patrick: 68th
Vitor Meira: 80th
Alex Tagliani: 83rd

Well, that should raise some eyebrows. If you're wondering, your top Indy Lights finisher is James Hinchcliffe, ranked 245th, just a few points ahead of J.K. Vernay.

Francesco Dracone: Protecting 1,133rd Place At All Costs.
I still have my doubts about the usefulness of this system (due to his lack of a full-time ride, Paul Tracy is ranked lower than Milka Duno), but any site that lets me see the highest-rated Estonian driver in the world (Sten Pentus of Formula Renault 3.5, of course; he rates 244th overall), what country racked up the most points (Will Power, Mark Webber, and the Aussie Mob, 39,937) or where Stefan Wilson ends up (561st) is absolute gold as a time-waster.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Drunken Indy 500 Reporting

Too, too funny not to share.

And a belated congrats to Lloyd Ruby on his miraculous 1991 return from retirement!