Archive for May, 2012

Hinchcliffe answers Indy 500 questions

- May 18th, 2012

On the day before Pole Day at Indianpolis Motor Speedway in preparation for next week’s Indy 500 Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe sat down to answer some questions about the big race and his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara Chevrolet.

What are your impressions of the month so far?

Hinch: “The guys have done a tremendous amount of work to get the cars ready for the Speedway. The teamwork, the team, you’ve been hearing a lot from us not only this month, all season long, this is not some company line we’re spewing, we’re working together and you’ve seen the results. It’s been awesome.
“To come here with five cars now, sticking to the program that we laid out before the month even started, I’ve been super impressed that we’ve managed to do that. Normally you make a plan on a race weekend, within about 15 minutes of the first practice, you’ve deviated off it. We’ve remained on target.
“Today it’s like opening day all over again with the extra boost. There’s going to be some more questions to be asked and answers for today and tomorrow. I think we have pretty quick cars in race trim and we’re sitting in a pretty good position for this weekend and next.

Will the new boost affect the closing rate on the track? Will you close even faster?

Hinch: “It’s a bit irrelevant because we’re not going to have that boost on race day. Today everybody’s focus is qualifying with the more boost, with Pole Day coming up. So I think it will be easier to get a little bit of clear track space. You’re not going to see guys out there purposely running in packs for 30 laps. You’re going to see guys going out there for four laps and parking it.
“In terms of how the cars will race with the extra boost, it’s not really a factor. The draft is much bigger, especially the last sort of like five, six car lengths, it’s like it gets an afterburner and really sucks you up, but lures you into a sense of I don’t have quite enough to make a move. Then you get extra boost, it’s last-minute dive-out passes on one and three that we’re going to have to look for on race day.”

There’s a lot of talk about the switch to Honda with their boost situation. Do you feel underpowered?

Hinch: “I don’t think we’ve ever been underpowered. We’ve had four poles and four wins. We’ve been quick on our own, quick if in the pack. We can’t change other people’s programs. We’re working harder than ever to stay on top because that’s where we’ve been.”

Carroll Shelby built the cars for the American dream

- May 12th, 2012

Carroll Shelby was more than a race car builder extraordinaire.
He was an American institution. Shelby brought to life the dreams of a generation who worshipped fast times and faster cars.
He practically invented the American muscle cars with their sports car physique and big block V8 Detroit horsepower.
And he took his own Shelby Cobra over to Europe and beat the crap out Enzo Ferrari’s super cars in both speed and endurance races.
His death this week at age 89, in his home state of Texas was not unexpected.
For all the accolades he will get over the next few days and weeks, Shelby also holds a record few, except for family and friends remember: He was the longest surviving heart transplant patient in North America, having received his hew ticker back in 1990, allegedly from a Las Vegas gambler who met and untimely death.
But his claim to fame was certainly in the design and building of street-legal hot rods.
Here are a few of his accomplishments:
— In 1959, he helped Aston-Martin capture the World Manufacturing Championship by winning the 24 Hours of LeMans with Roy Salvadori as a co-driver.
— In 1961 after he learned that AC Bristol, a British auto manufacturer, was discontinuing a certain chassis, he had some shipped to him at his new base in Los Angeles. Then he talked his friend Lee Iacocca, then a Ford executive, into building a car that would “blow the Corvettes into the weeds.” That car with the light European-style chassis melded with a big American V8 engine became into the Shelby Cobra.
— Starting in 1963 the Cobras won Sports Car Club of America manufacturing championship for three consecutive years.
— In 1965 the Shelby Cobra beat out Ferrari, the first and only time an American-conceived car won the world championship. A year later, European rule makers banned the 7-liter engine used by Shelby.
— In 1982, Lee Iacocca, chairman of Chrysler Corp., brought Shelby back into the car designing and marketing business. Shelby served as a performance consultant for Chrysler sports car programs and helped introduce the Viper, a 400-horsepower, V-10 product that emphasized power.
— In 2011 Ford re-hired Shelby to work on the concept for the new 2013 Mustang GT500.

 

Herta and Tagliani finally get that Honda engine

- May 10th, 2012

Honda and Byran Herta Autosport finally made it official on Thursday.
The Japanese auto giant will supply engines for Canada’s Alex Tagliani in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosports/Barracuda Dallara DW12 for the Indianapolis 500 and through to then end of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Tagliani and BHA/Barracuda started the season using Lotus power, but after three hugely disappointing results the team was let out of its contract after numerous engine failures.
Tagliani won the pole as last year’s Indy 500 — the first Canadian to do so — with a Honda engine.
Honda Performance Development vice-president Steve Eriksen announced the deal Thursday morning.
“We’re pleased to be able to renew our relationship with Bryan Herta and his team. Bryan has long been associated with Honda and HPD, and he served as our primary development driver during the last era of IndyCar manufacturer competition,” Eriksen said in a HPD release. “His team’s victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 was the stuff of legend, and all of us at HPD and American Honda are delighted to have a hand in helping him defend that championship.
“Beyond that, we look forward to a successful partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport through the remainder of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.”
For Herta it was a home coming for sorts as he has a long history with the manufacturer.
“My time as a Honda driver in both the IndyCar Series, as well as the time spent driving factory Acura LMP2 in the American Le Mans Series, were among my most rewarding and memorable years in racing,” Herta said. “So, it is with great personal pleasure that we are returning to the Honda family for the remainder of the 2012 season.
“We look forward to joining the other Honda-powered teams on track this weekend in preparation for the 2012 Indianapolis 500, and working to defend last year’s memorable and popular win by Dan Wheldon. I know that Alex Tagliani and the entire Team Barracuda – BHA crew are brimming with confidence and excitement going into the ‘Month of May.’
Team co-owner Steve Newey also expressed his delight at the engine contract.
“We are very proud to be joining our friends at Honda again and renewing our successful partnership from previous IndyCar programs,” Newey said. “Bryan and I were also fortunate to be part of the Acura LMP2 racing project that won the class in its very first race at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2007. Partnering with Honda makes us even more confident as we head into the month of May, and Team Barracuda – BHA is working hard to help Alex Tagliani put the No. 98 car in Victory Circle again.”

Ask what Tony thinks and he will tell you, sort of

- May 7th, 2012

Tony Stewart often goes out of his way to poke the media when he thinks some — or all — of them are on the wrong track when it comes to asking questions after a race.
On Sunday Stewart was in full blown sarcastic mode when he was asked about his impressions of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, a race where about a third of the grid were involved in two of the big wrecks that pretty much define racing at the 2.66 mile banked oval.
Here is transcript of Stewart’s questions and answer session with the media:

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE RACE?

Stewart: “We didn’t quite crash half the field which is what we normally look to do here. I was excited about it. I thought it was a pretty good race. I made it further than I thought I would before I got crashed. I call it a successful day.”

A LOT OF TEAMS WERE HAVING TROUBLE WITH FUEL INCLUDING YOURS. WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THAT?

Stewart: “I wasn’t sure to be honest. I’m not quite sure what the fuel issue was. The racing was awesome. It’s fun to be able to race and have to watch the gauges at the same time. It makes us as drivers have to do so much more. Being able to make yourself run on the apron and everything else to try to get clean air, it makes it fun. I’m sorry we couldn’t crash more cars today. We didn’t fill the quota for today for Talladega and NASCAR.”

JEFF GORDON SAID HE THOUGHT THEY SHOULD OPEN UP THE GRILL OPENING FOR WHEN WE COME BACK HERE AND POSSIBLY DAYTONA IN JULY. DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

Stewart: “I think they need to close it down. Honestly, I think if we haven’t crashed at least 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars because it’s not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more torn up cars. We still had over half the cars running at the end and it shouldn’t be that way.”

THE WRECKS WEREN’T CAUSED BY THE OVER HEATING?

Stewart: “No, not at all. I don’t think any of the wrecks were an overheating issue. That is why I say I think we ought to just tape them off solid and run them until they blow up anyway. I think it would make it a lot more exciting for the fans.”

WOULD THIS BE BETTER IF IT WERE A SHORTER RACE?

Stewart: “I don’t think it really matters. I think if you made it 20 laps we would all still crash with five to go or eight to go. If we did that we would be able to fill the time that the fans deserve. I mean they deserve to see us run 500 miles. Like I said if we don’t crash half of the field by the end of the race they really need to extend it because that is what the fans want they want to see that excitement. I feel bad that as drivers we couldn’t do a better job of crashing enough cars for them today.”

I CAN’T FIGURE OUT IF YOU ARE HAPPY OR YOU ARE UPSET WITH YOUR TONE…

Stewart: “I’m upset that we didn’t crash more cars. I feel like that is what we are here for. I feel bad if I don’t spend at least a $150,000 in torn up race cars going back to the shop. We definitely have to do a better job with that.”

WHY DO YOU HAVE THAT IMPRESSION THAT IS WHAT THE FANS ARE LOOKING FOR?

Stewart: “Well, I don’t know that is what they are looking for, but I feel like that is the show we deserve to give them. That is what has made Talladega, Talladega.”

DID YOU HAVE FUN OUT THERE?

Stewart: “Absolutely. I had a blast. It would have been a lot more fun if I could have gotten caught up in one more wreck. If I could have done that it would have been perfect.”

DID YOU HAVE THE ISSUE OF RUNNING OUT OF FUEL AT ANY POINT?

Stewart: “I didn’t wreck because I ran out of fuel, but I ran out of fuel twice.”

THE RADIO GUYS WERE SAYING THAT MAYBE (GUYS RUNNING OUT OF FUEL) HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE EFI (ELECTRONIC FUEL SYSTEM) HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE IN YOUR FUEL MILEAGE SINCE YOU WENT TO THAT ENGINE PACKAGE?

Stewart: “I mean we have only ran two restrictor plate races so it is hard to say. There were definitely guys that were running out of fuel today ahead of where they thought they would.”

IS IT SAFE TO SAY THAT YOU PREFER THE PACK OVER THE TANDEM DRAFTING?

Stewart: “I think we ought to make it a figure eight. I mean if we could make it a figure eight it would be perfect. It would absolutely be perfect here. It would be better than what we have. That is going to be my vote next week is that we make it a figure eight and/or we can stop at the half way make a break and turn around and go backwards the rest of the way. Then with 10 to go we split the field in half and half go the regular direction and half of them go backwards.”