Archive for the ‘ Indy Lights ’ Category

Greetings from Homestead, Fla., where it is NOT in the single digit temperatures like it is in Indianapolis! I arrived yesterday for the first Firestone Indy Lights open test in advance of 2013, and currently have a great view of the road course from race control. I’m usually sitting in the media center in the infield where I don’t have a clear shot of the full track, so our Timing & Scoring staff are giving me a treat this time around.

We have nine awesome drivers out here today. Star Mazda (now Pro Mazda) is really representing, with last year’s champion Jack Hawksworth, 2012 standouts Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves and former competitor Peter Dempsey running in the top five this morning. Carlos Munoz, who’s going into his second season in Firestone Indy Lights, has been fastest all day. Check out this story on him and his quest to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year AND earn the Firestone Indy Lights title.

It’s great to see some familiar faces on the INDYCAR tech side and the team side. Chatting with one of them during the lunch break today, I was asked, “So…what is it you actually do here?” It’s funny how much time we spend around each other without asking that, so I didn’t mind.

During a test, I find a good place to camp (qualifiers: wi-fi, a decent view, safe to leave my things behind) with a radio so I can keep posted on what’s going on. I still have to do the things I do on a daily basis, like post to our Facebook and Twitter pages and respond to my email. Also, if we have any media attend, I work with them to make sure they have what they need and get to talk to the drivers they want interviews from. This test, we weren’t able to bring a photographer out, so I went up to the spotter stands to test my artistic abilities so I can have photos to post with web stories I’ll file after the day is over.

After the session is over and I see who’s fastest, or who went notably fast, I hunt them down during the lunch break and conduct interviews. I try not to interrupt debriefs or meal time, but I’ll take an interview with food rolling around in their mouths over no interview any day! We usually haven’t seen each other in a while, so it’s also a great time to catch up for a bit before the afternoon starts up. Today’s lunch break included new photos of Zach Veach’s puppy that he’s about to get.

From there, it’s back to my post to write and prepare stories for the new www.IndyCar.com/RoadtoIndy, where we’ll be posting all of the latest Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy news from now on. Hope you enjoy its new home, our web staff did a great job getting it up and ready, and we’re excited to get more news flowing through it about these great, up-and-coming drivers.

Let me know in the comment section below anything you’d like to see from our time here at Homestead and I’ll do my best to get it to you in the second day of testing tomorrow! We have a gallery of photos up on our Flickr page. — Kate

Giving back and being thankful

Posted on: November 24, 2010 | Comments (0) | Indy Lights | By: Arni

This week, a lot of us will gather with our friends or family and give thanks for all that we have.
When it comes time for me to say what I’m thankful for, I’ll have mention the group of drivers who raced in Firestone Indy Lights. It’s pretty rewarding to work with a group of drivers who almost never say no when comes to going above and beyond the call to help others no matter what the time of year.

Earlier this month, a group of drivers participated in the Racing for Home Build for Habitat for Humanity. That home will be dedicated on Dec. 8 and the McClure family will have their very own home.

Dan Clarke paints the interior

Firestone Indy Lights driver Dan Clarke helps out at the Habitat for Humanity build

One of Firestone Indy Lights competitor who participated in that build, Dan Clarke, did his part recently as he tried to draw awareness to the Spinal Cord Injury Hope Fund and brighten the day of some of the beneficiaries. Clarke enlisted the help of his team owner Derrick Walker and along with some of Walker Racing’s former drivers – Scott Goodyear, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power  — hosted an Open House held at the Walker Racing headquarters in Indianapolis.
This wasn’t a typical Open House.

Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Derrick Walker, Scott Goodyear and Dan Clarke at the Walker Racing open house

Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Derrick Walker, Scott Goodyear and Dan Clarke at the Walker Racing Open House

Clarke, who met the organizers of the SCI Hope Fund at a golf outing, originally intended to just give a tour to SCI Hope Fund’s organizers and some of the people who have received grants from the group, which helps those who have had their lives changed by recent spinal cord injuries.  But two weeks before the event, he decided to open the tour to race fans and hoped to build more awareness for the SCI Hope Fund.

Scott Goodyear, Will Power, Dan Clarke and Simon Pagenaud with some lucky fans

Scott Goodyear, Will Power, Dan Clarke and Simon Pagenaud with some lucky fans

It gave those who attended a behind the scenes look at Walker’s team, which hopes to compete in both Firestone Indy Lights and the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011.

Dan Clarke shows fans around the shop

Dan Clarke gives fans a tour of the shop

“Organizing an event is always hard work,” Clarke said. “There’s a lot of planning ahead and pre-thinking and that’s stuff I don’t normally do. It’s the first time I’ve ever done an event like this and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. It’s nice to see everyone come out and makes all the effort that we did worth it.”

Power, who signed autographs and took pictures with fans, was grateful to meet some of the families who benefit directly from grants from the fund.  “I’m always keen to come out and support a good cause,” he said. “I had a good chat with a young guy who is in a wheelchair and listened to his story. He may actually walk again, which would be really good. Hopefully, the SCI Hope Fund will be able to keep me up on his progress. It’s unbelievable to see someone who is in that situation and I’ll always try to do what I can to help those who help others.”

Will Power and Dan Clarke chat with a lucky fan

Will Power and Dan Clarke chat it up with a fan

While most of the people looked at the tools it takes to field a winning race team, some fans tried racing on Clarke’s iRacing.com simulator with yours truly posting one of the top times at Indianapolis. In the spirit of giving, I gave up my prize to the next person in line. Given the people I was around, it seemed fitting.

Stephen Simpson gives directions to a young fan on the iRacing simulator

Fans take a spin in the iRacing simulator

Three weeks ago, the lot at 2355 Wheeler St. on Indianapolis’ east side was bare. In a few weeks, Sherry McClure and her family will be the recipient of a new home being built there by the Greater Indianapolis chapter of Habitat for Humanity and sponsored by the Indiana’s racing community.

Habitat For Humanity

The Habitat for Humanity site where the home was being built for the McClure family

“All year the racing industry competes against each other. It is great to see how the Indiana Motorsports Association and Habitat for Humanity are bringing the racing community together as one team to help a deserving family,” said Tom Weisenbach, Executive Director, Indiana Motorsports Association, which helps promotes motorsports business opportunities in Indiana.

Nov. 5 was the first day that the volunteers from Habitat’s Racing to Home Build were back on the job site after it had been turned over to professional contractors to complete the electrical and plumbing work.

The work day got a boost of speed from Firestone Indy Lights drivers Dan Clarke, Charlie Kimball and Martin Plowman and NHRA Top Fuel drag racers Antron Brown, Larry Dixon and Cory McClenathan, who joined Weisenbach to help out with the build.

Indianapolis drivers with the McClure family

Firestone Indy Lights drivers Dan Clarke, Charlie Kimball, and Martin Plowman pose with the McClure family as well as NHRA Top Fuel drag racers Antron Brown, Larry Dixon, and Cory McClenathan.

“I had the chance to meet the Sherry and her daughter when they were here earlier and they were so appreciative of what everyone is doing here,” Kimball said. “They have to put almost 400 hours in their own time themselves into the house and it’s so nice to be one piece in the really big machine that’s making a home for them. “

Clarke and Kimball joined Dixon and McClenathan to form “Indiana’s Fastest Paint Team,” which teamed with members of Indy Partnership—Central Indiana’s Economic Development Commission –  to prime the interior of the home for painting.

“I’ve never done this sort of thing before, I’ve only seen it done on television,” Clarke said. “It’s good fun and it’s nice to give back and meet the family who will move in here. It’s nice to know things like this exist and I enjoyed learning about how Habitat works and how the city of Indianapolis helps facilitate the homing of families.”

Plowman and an Irish carpenter named Tristan completed the front porch of the home. The group even recruited me to help as they installed some cabinets in the kitchen.

“I’m doing a lot of things for the first time, and with the help of my Irish friend Tristan we built the porch,” Plowman said. “In the offseason we have a lot of time on our hands and it’s good to give something back to the community. I can’t help as much as some of the professionals who work on the home, but I’m doing my part. And I’d have to say it was a success because I managed to do it without losing an eye or a finger. “

Martin Plowman makes sure everything is square

Martin Plowman and carpenter Tristan assemble the front porch

Though we were only there for afternoon shift, everyone’s hard work will all pay off on Dec. 8, when the McClure family will move into their new home.

Weisenbach plans to be at the home dedication ceremony and hopes it is the first of many homes the racing community can build in Indianapolis in the years to come.

With  2 races to go and 5th place in the series getting ever closer the heat was on us to figure out the last scraps of speed in the car on ovals and  keep the awesome streak of top 5 finishes going. Kentucky was up and another demanding 1.5 mile flat out oval challenge we had to tackle with  both hands.

Qualifying went extremely well. Once I’d gotten over the initial running around a new oval flat out at 190 mph we  managed to eek out a pretty decent setup and overall speed to place the  car 5th for the race. Things were really looking up as we figured our car’s strongest point wasn’t in outright speed on it’s own, it was  better suited for running in traffic in the race. It usually stays strong and helps me bring it home in the top 5.

Dan Clarke

Dan Clarke

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Now the road courses are over and done with, it’s time for us to knuckle  down and figure out this 1.5mile oval car. 190 mph flat out banked oval  racing in packs is thrilling stuff and you need to keep your wits about  you at all times because everybody will generally stay in a big bunch  and constantly be dicing for position. You also need a good car to be  fast in clean air and stay flat out in traffic. And that’s what we as a  team had to develop.

I’m not pleading poverty though. I’ve  probably harped on about the disadvantages we’ve faced as a team from the outset enough already. The reality is I’m more than pleased with  what Derrick and his team have provided me with at each race and the  chances I’ve had to really race hard against a lot of good drivers and  teams. I knew at the beginning of the year the advantages of being with Walker Racing would always far outweigh any disadvantages.

Chicago  was a really solid weekend us. Qualifying 11th showed again that some  of these Lights teams know something about Qualifying that we don’t. I  don’t think it comes down to engineering ability, I know I have a really  good engineer, it’s just they’ve ran this car for nearly 10years  already and we are new.

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Back Camera

After Mid-Ohio it seemed we really had some momentum going on in the team. But now an even bigger challenge was facing me; Not knowing Sonoma and having to Qualify on the first day of learning the track. The Rfactor simulator didn’t have the track for me to learn so I had to dig out my iRacing membership and shake the dust off. Some drivers also gave me some tips and heading to Sonoma, I wasn’t sure whether to feel confident or not knowing I was heading to a fast sweeping track with blind cresting turns.

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Dan Clarke is a Firestone Indy Lights driver, nicknamed “Speedy Dan,” the native of Maidenhead, England has been racing since the age of 8. Here Clarke talks about the Mid-Ohio 100 race, where he finished second.

After scoring 2 top 5’s in Canada we were now on a high and it felt like we’d found our speed finally. But next up was Mid-Ohio and a track I’d never driven and others had tested this year AND raced last year. So the most I could do to learn was watch onboard videos, play some rFactor and ask other drivers for tips.

Dan Clarke in action at Mid-Ohio

Dan Clarke in action at Mid-Ohio

The practice sessions went surprisingly well. The car felt great right and that can make your weekend a lot easier. You often hear driver’s victory speeches mention how good the car has been all weekend and it certainly helped me to spend more time putting laps in and learning the track and not having to put to fix a car balance issue. Qualifying was great. We really only just missed out on P2 but finishing top3 again was awesome. I couldn’t figure out how Plowman managed to be half a second faster but in the race expected us all to be the same pace.

It turned out to be one of the longest races so far this year. Just because I was having to drive super hard in 3rd to stop Charlie Kimball catching me for the most part. As a team, we’d missed the boat again with getting the right grip balance for the race, and once the green flag has dropped you only have your front roll bar adjuster to try and help that inbalance. And I was already maxed out on that. So I just had to hold on and maintain a gap from Kimball whilst watching the front 2 cars get away from me. Finally Kimball’s car went away with 10 laps to go and by then I was catching the front 2 a little. Seems like Hinchcliffe gifted me another 2nd place when he made a mistake in front of me into turn4 and slid off. So 2nd place finish for me was great and much needed points again.

Dan Clarke

Dan Clarke

I think the best moment from this weekend, apart from learning a track from scratch on Friday and Qualifying P3 on Saturday, was at the Checkered flag when Derrick said well done. I’ve been working hard a lot this year to change some of the reputation I picked up from Champ Car when I was alot less experienced and made mistakes. This year one of my goals was to show people I can be consistent and clean and bring the car home. Even at the beginning of the year halfway through the first race when I’d overtaken cars from 11th to 7th, Derrick came on the radio and his voice seemed to be urging me to take it easy and consolidate my position now. I remember thinking he was probably concerned I might keep pushing and make a mistake. Maybe like some people expected me to in 2007. But crossing the line on Sunday and hearing Derrick say really great job for

holding on, when he knew from lap5 I had an understeering car, gave me a big sense of relief. Like I’d really made some headway this year showing people I can be consistent.

But for the next race at Sonoma, we have to win. The wins are really what we need as a team this year. It is a tall order to be a brand new team with a car we don’t know and to try to beat the AFS and Schmidt cars but we’ve been knocking on the door for a few races now and with only 4 rounds to go it’s time to bring it all together and get on the top step. Let’s see if we can do it!

Sunday 4:48 p.m.- Thanks for keeping up with the live blog this weekend. Can’t wait for Edmonton! Here are some victory lane photos for you, see the rest here.

The Winner

Will Power #1 at Hondy Indy Toronto

Tons of confetti

Top 3 with lots of confetti!

Sunday 3:25 p.m.- After going through the predictions on both Facebook and Twitter we have two winners from the “Pick the Top Three Trifecta Contest.” Congratulations to both Michael Hannowsky and @ACDonahue for guessing the top three drivers in the right order: Will Power, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Sunday 2:47p.m.- WE HAVE A WINNER- Will Power to Victory Lane! Highlight video and tons of pictures from throughout the race to come!

Ready for racing

Will Power wins at Honda Indy Toronto

Sunday 2:34 p.m.- Sixth full course yellow of the race- Last year there were only 5! Alex Tagliani and Tomas Scheckter connect in the corner. Justin Wilson spins out and Scott Dixon loses his front suspension. All in one lap!

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Hildebrand checking out his ride

Hildebrand checking out his ride.

J.R. Hildebrand, the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, isn’t a stranger to auto racing challenges. He’ll face the next one in August — driving an IndyCar at Mid-Ohio and Infineon.

J.R. (John Randall) Hildebrand also isn’t a stranger to having a good time. A Sausalito, Calif., native/resident who enjoys sports of all sorts and looking at Alcatraz Island on a foggy morning, he provides a glimpse of the man behind the wheel in the video below.

Hildebrand recently announced his partnership with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the two IZOD IndyCar Series events with an eye on driving full time in 2011.

This weekend’s stop on the IZOD IndyCar Series circuit in Iowa is jammed packed with action. For the first time in Indy Racing League history all 4 series, leagues will be competing on the same weekend in the same city on the same oval…The IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights Series, Star Mazda Championship and the USF2000 Series. This completes the progression for up and coming drivers who are aspiring to be IZOD IndyCar Series drivers.

I’ve been to Iowa, many a times in my day…but that is a different topic. I’ve only been to Iowa Speedway once, in 2009 and I was impressed. I personally think its cool to see IndyCars on short ovals, and Iowa Speedway is short. I have a certain appreciation for people like Tomas Scheckter and Tony Kanaan who seem to be able to pass anyone at anywhere on restarts especially on tracks as tight as Iowa.

Brian Herta and Daniel Herrington Grill their Meat (2009)

But there is another reason that Iowa is so cool. I wish I could name the restaurant but I can’t. More important than the name is the style! Last year I ventured over to this unnamed restaurant with a few co-workers from IMS Productions and the IRL. We walked in the doors and behind the hostess was a large meat locker. That’s right a MEAT LOCKER. I immediately started to drool.

Then I looked around and saw 2 enormous grills. Yep, I got to grill my own dinner. Not only did I get to hand pick my meat out of a locker, but I got to grill it along side a freshly garlic buttered slice of texas toast.

So this weekend, I am watching from Indy. I’ll be on Race Control and I’ll also switch over to Star Mazda and USF2000.com for LIVE streaming of their events on Saturday evening.

If you are in Iowa, seek out the place where you can grill your own meat. Its fun and tasty!

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