At first sight, the top of Josef Newgarden’s helmet could look like a jumble of letters and numbers that predict some sort of Mayan prophecy.
Josef Newgarden's new helmet.
But get him talking about it and he can decode each and every symbol, all representing someone special that he takes with him every time he steps into the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.
“The top of the helmet has the letterings and initials, with middle name, for each mechanic, each person that’s on the team and that touches the car,” he explained. “Anyone that touches the car is on top of this lid. Anyone that has placed their hand on the car is basically on here.”
Throughout a long journey that took him over to Europe and ultimately back to the U.S., where he won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship, Newgarden learned to appreciate his crew members. To him, those were the people that really fueled his career and helped him attain his goal of racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Beginning in December, days after he signed with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden made it a point to immerse himself in everything he could around the team shop in order to familiarize himself with his new crew members. He gathered lists of everyone’s name and birthday to accumulate on his first helmet for the season opener in St. Petersburg.
“I didn’t really know everyone super well at that point, and through exchanging emails I left a few people out by accident on my first helmet,” Newgarden said. “So it became kind of a joke around the shop, like ‘Hey! You left me off the helmet!’ The guys were joking with me that they got left off. It was all fun and games, but I made sure to get the names right on the second one.”
He’s confident he’ll be sporting the complete list on the Brett King Design helmet in Brazil this upcoming weekend, and is honored by the idea of having his career enablers with him every step of the way.
“I think I liked the idea of having them on the helmet with me, just because we bonded really well, really quickly,” he said. “I think because we had all that chemistry, it was really important for me that they have a place on the helmet as well. It was something that meant something.”
Owning Scott Dixon’s ride in Car Town could earn a bonus if the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver wins an IZOD IndyCar Series race.
The bonus, which includes other drivers, is part of Car Town’s 2012 Indy 500 Challenge.
Featuring the new Dallara chassis, players can build and tune up their car for optimal performance on the popular Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the other 15 racetracks that are part of the season schedule.
The popular Facebook game was developed by Cie Games.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Walk past the large building at 215 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg for a glimpse of the city’s foundation.
According to local lore, city co-founders John Williams and Peter Demens devised a simple way of assigning names to the town and its first hotel in 1888. Demens, a Russian aristocrat, won a coin toss and christened the burg after his hometown of St. Petersburg. Williams, a railroad exec, did the same with the Detroit Hotel.
Many a celeb and politician have occupied rooms at the hotel during its heyday. Now a residential condominium, it’s on the National Register of Historic of Places.
The new Dallara chassis features a hand clutch and two pedals – one each for the throttle and brake that are on either side of the steering column. Such a setup requires IZOD IndyCar Series drivers to left-foot brake, which many have done in junior formulas and racing in Europe.
Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti equated the move to a right-handed tennis player or golfer who’s been told they have to switch to playing left-handed. It’s “hard to unlearn” decades of muscle memory braking with his right foot, he said.
So, upon request, Dallara designed a kit – which will be produced for any driver upon order — that shifts the brake pedal to right to provide right-foot braking, and INDYCAR approved. No modifications were made to the chassis.
“It’s important to me that we got that done,” said Franchitti, who tested the pedal configuration for the first time last week during the Open Test at Sebring International Raceway. “It makes a big difference driving the car. It will help me get just that last little bit and extract the maximum out of the car.”
Other drivers, such as Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, who also haven’t left-foot braked since early in their careers, are adapting to being left-foot brakers.
“A lot of other guys have made that transition over the years, but for performance purposes I felt the way I did it suited my style and it worked well for me,” Franchitti said. “You can change it, but I felt I would have been at 95 percent. I think it would have taken a few more tests to get to where I was as a right-foot braker.
“For me and the team, it was easier to (ask for a change). It also gives us some advantages as a right-foot braker that I wasn’t ready to give up.”
Franchitti begins defense of his series championship March 25 in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – a 100-lap race on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit that requires a fair amount of braking that he won in 2011.
In inset, the pedal configuration that allows for right-foot braking.
Firestone Indy Lights driver Jacob Wilson talks about his experience in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Media Karting Event Feb. 28 at Andersen RacePark.
St. Petersburg, Fla. What a beautiful city. Hopping off the plane from frigid Indianapolis into the 80 degrees we had Monday was a welcoming “Hello,” but the real hospitality was still to come.
Jacob Wilson on the track.
This was my first INDYCAR media event of this kind and it was a blast. The Andersen RacePark crew had everything done up very professionally and the karts were ready for everything we gave them, which was a severe beating at times. I was there representing Firestone Indy Lights, the final step before the IZOD IndyCar Series on the Mazda Road to Indy development program, as was my friend Peter Dempsey.
Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud were reppin’ the IZOD IndyCar Series, and Shannon McIntosh, Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham were there for USF2000. We also had Shea Holbrook from the Acura World Challenge and former Firestone Indy Lights driver Anders Krohn there, too.
After the press conferences and interviews wound down it was nice to meet and visit with some of the other drivers. The big personalities of drivers made this event a great time for me. Having the opportunity to hang out and just kid around in a relaxed setting made the great weather that much more enjoyable.
I was given the honor of being the “pro” driver for the Bay News 9 Team. Not many teams had a member with a personality more outgoing, friendly and competitive than my correspondent, Virginia Johnson. Virginia unfortunately couldn’t participate because she is expecting her first child, so I gave her a rain check on this one (knowing that this would in turn bring more track time for me). “First or last” was our official team motto while most of us had decided that “miss the jet dryer” was more hip.
On to the action …
The Le Mans style start made for an interesting first lap. Being quick on my feet, I won my first and only race of the day, as I quickly surrendered positions to the Irish man Peter Dempsey, and the Viking Anders Krohn. I did have a nice battle with Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot for a few laps, which featured numerous attempts by Marco to shut other drivers’ engines off, and ended with Simon making a new path across the track, which the track steward deemed illegal. I liked his innovation … as you’ll hear about in a minute.
As the action heated up, so did the trash talking between news crews. At one point I thought we were moments away from having an “Anchorman” throw down Ron Burgundy style. Things quickly settled once lunch was served.
For those of you who have seen Brad Keselowski’s tweets from the car, that is nothing compared to Marco’s video tweeting while kart racing.
Deep into the race, the Bay News 9 mobile had worked itself into fourth position with the final two stints remaining. Making little to no progress on Spencer Pigot’s twp-lap lead in the fifth stint, I decided to lay my cards on the table in the final run. Some on-track hand signals with Simon allowed us to get hooked up as drafting partners. Creatively, we mastered the circuit in half the time of the other drivers. Unfortunately, after the third consecutive lap of short cutting half of the track, we got busted and ultimately had to settle for fourth. Ricky Bobby would have been proud though.
Thanks to INDYCAR and Andersen RacePark for the opportunity.
Yang Ou, 22, is the champion of iRacing.com’s IZOD IndyCar Premier Series.
The spoils of Ou’s many online racing victories include a cash prize.
Yang Ou and Tim Doyle
A native of Wu Han, China, Ou resides in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he is studying media technology. It goes without saying that Ou is a fan of the real world IZOD IndyCar Series. He also follows Formula One and the NFL and, when not studying or sim racing, plays a bit of football (soccer and American-style), not to mention rock/heavy metal on his electric guitar.
Ou amassed 16 wins in 25 starts (the iRacing format features multiple races at a given track each week) to beat Finland’s Aleksi Elomaa and Germany’s Andre Boettcher for the road course title and Tim Doyle (Winchester, Va.) and Elomaa for the oval crown.
Although he owns a variety of iRacing cars, the IndyCar Dallara – and the IZOD IndyCar Series – are Ou’s preferred choices.
“IndyCar is what I know best and my favorite car to race as well,” he says. “I appreciate the diversity in different type of circuits, as drivers have to master road/street courses, short ovals, 1.5-mile ovals and superspeedways. The car handling, setups and styles of racing are very different with every car configuration, which is of course also the case in the real world IndyCar Series and it is a cool challenge.”
That challenge appeared particularly daunting early in the 2011 season, as Ou suffered disappointing results in the opening races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and MIS. On the oval side, he got into high gear in the second week of competition at Phoenix International Raceway with a pair of wins. Similarly, he visited the winner’s circle in the second round of the road racing championship, and from then on was virtually unbeatable, scoring consecutive victories at Road Atlanta, Sebring, Road America, Mid-Ohio and in the finale at Infineon.
“It did feel like a slow start (on the ovals),” he concedes, “but it was an unfortunate incident that prevented me from leading the season from start to finish. I got run over by the second-place car while pitting from the lead with eight laps to go, but he apologized for that later on and even with a lot of aero damage for the rest of the race I still finished third so it’s not too bad.
“On the road side I definitely got a slower start . . . I was relatively off pace from Team My3id’s Klaus Kivekäs and Aleksi at Laguna Seca. The car balance was good in qualifying and only slightly lacked downforce, but the race setup was very unstable and I had to drive conservatively. By Week 2 at Barber Motorsports Park, I already figured-out the most important setup settings. With .3 sec in reserve, I was still .25 sec faster than the second fastest qualifier, so it was a great improvement (and) I continued to learn about road course setup for the Dallara throughout the season.”
As has been well documented, iRacers are liable to find themselves competing with “real world” racers at any moment. Yang Ou is no exception.
“I’ve raced against Will (Power), Oriol (Servia), Tscheck (Tomas Scheckter), Justin Wilson and also Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” he says. “They drive in iRacing the same way they do in real life. Will and Tomas were incredibly aggressive; Justin was less aggressive and made very calculated moves.
“Junior was fantastic at avoiding spinning cars as there were many ‘big ones’ during that race. Yet, every time, when the smoke clears, he was almost the only one that made it through. In the end, there were only a few cars left in the race and the two of us had a great battle. Junior won, but I learned a lot and it was fun battling with him.”
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira were victorious in a different type of race over the weekend.
“Now I can say I’m an Ironman,” Kanaan relayed a few hours after crossing the finish line in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Kanaan and countryman Meira completed the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 24.2-mile run in under 13 hours. Both had competed in Ironman 70.3 events, but this was their first full-scale endurance race.
“The day after a car race doesn’t feel this bad,” said Kanaan, who checked in at 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.
Meira completed the race in 12 hours, 24 minutes, 2 seconds. A total of 1,918 male and female triathletes who qualified or participated via a lottery jumped in the Pacific Ocean in Kona for the start of the event.
“This was awesome, and painful,” said Meira, who along with Kanaan is resting and recovering before getting in the race car Oct. 13 for the initial practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda. “The pros are unreal.”
Maybe this will spur on the 36-year-old Kanaan and the 34-year-old Meira: Craig Alexander, 38, of Australia, won the event for the third time and set a course-record 8 hours, 3 minutes, 56 seconds in the process. How awesome is that? After completing the consecutive swim and bike, he ran a 2:44.03 marathon.
This coming week will mark the IZOD IndyCar Series’ final round of the season at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For the occasion the boys at ArtRotondo.com decided to break the walls down and unleash one of their finest works yet — Graham Rahal’s Sin City helmet.
This helmet was produced to pay tribute to the Indycar’s arrival to the city and to the city’s great attributes. Hoping that this helmet will be enough of edge that Graham will need to lead the final lap of the race and take the checkered flag to end his 2011 on a high note.
The end of season marks a lot of other end of season helmets for many others, including Vitor Meira’s latest helmets that he will also be sporting in Las Vegas along with Sebastian Saavedra’s upgraded more colorful Colombian influenced helmets.
In the DTM series, Mercedes top driver Gary Paffett unveiled his end of season helmets which include a special matte “Bizarro” version of his classic helmet which is already making head waves throughout the racing world.
Finally US racing prodigy Alexander Rossi hopes to finish on top of his World Series by Renault season with his brand new modified helmet style complete with his trademark ghost pattern palm trees to pay tribute to his native of California, so that the entire world see’s what he’s accomplishing and most importantly where he comes from as being the only american with a valid Formula Super License in the world.
The end of season is always a sad time for us as before everything else, we are avid racing fans, but work never stops and which is why you have to stay posted on the Indycar blog throughout the off season for our full updates on all of our upcoming projects and remember to also check in to www.artrotondo.com for day to day updates and on our Twitter and Facebook fan pages.
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard wants to hear YOUR thoughts on the IZOD IndyCar Series! Every Monday for the rest of the season, he will post a poll here on the INDYCAR Blog asking for your opinion. Today, he wants to know what you enjoyed most about the Kentucky Indy 300! Answer below, and follow him on Twitter to hear his response later today!
I am on my flight to San Jose for my first dirt car experience. There are a lot of things going through my mind right now. I am thinking about the experience of 900 horsepower in the dirt with massive wings, sliding sideways on a quarter mile track and in a completely foreign seating position. Overall I am pretty excited. It feels almost like when I got on my flight from Europe to Las Vegas for my first test in an IndyCar in 2001.
I have spoken to a lot of my friends, some of them drivers, and they all have had the same reaction: you are crazy. My only response for them is: you knew that a long time ago. Some people think I am an adrenaline junky and will do anything that is risky. This is not true. I am definitely aware of the risks I take and make sure I know all the details before moving forward. Sky diving is not for me, jumping out of a plane with a canvas on your back is risky but I also think it’s crazy. Sitting behind the wheel of something that is completely new to me and that I might have control of for at least 50 percent of the lap, or so I hope, is something that I consider exciting and not risky (well, less risky).
Don’t worry I am not making a career move just yet, I love indycars and have a lot of things going on in that aspect, but after I went to Eldora to watch a dirt car race, I could not help myself. Soon after I called around to see how I could get into a car. It amazed me to see these drivers sideways, inches away from from the wall on the high side, and I needed to have a go. I called my good friend, PJ Chesson, about the only driver who is as insane as me, and asked him how I could get in a car. He has numerous wins in the World of Outlaws and thought this would be a good place to start. PJ then put me in touch with Bud Kaeding and we set a date for my first test. The Kaedings have a rich racing heritage and I am very fortunate to have been put in touch with them and have access to first class equipment. I am not going to kid myself and go into this thinking I am going to break track records my first time out. As much as I would love to, it is going to be an entirely different world. One thing I have learned over the years is that the key to success is managing ones expectations. I also realize the danger involved with driving this machine. In unexperienced hands, sprint cars can be deadly.. From what I hear, if a driver hits the “cush” in the wrong way it can send the car over the fence and into the hot dog stands (as my old spotter Pancho Carter used to say). Does it make me me nervous? Of course! But this feeling is what makes me feel alive. I am looking forward to finishing the rest of this blog on Sunday evening on my way back to Indy. If this is as far as it goes then you guys will know I am probably in the hot dog stand.
I am now on my flight back to Indianapolis. I stop in Atlanta and will arrive Monday at 10am. Right now I’m pretty exhausted but I can’t refrain from writing the last part of this blog about my first experience on dirt.
Saturday night I went to watch Brent Kaeding race. It was incredible. Brent was able to win his heat and dash but lost to his son Tim in the final. It was an unbelievable racing experience; a group of about 20 cars with around 900 horsepower running sideways. As I watched from the grand stand, the cars roaring off of 2 was an unbelievable experience, and if you have never been to a World of Outlaws event then I highly recommend it. It’s a different crowd (maybe some people I would not socialize with in normal situations) but we all have one thing in common: the love of pure racing. This bond is what tied me to the crowd and people around the track. After the race we had to go to a promotion of the KWS series test track, based off the Antioch track. It was very similar to what I saw the night before but by the time I got to the motel in this tiny town, I had been up for 14 hours. I was pretty beat but still struggled to sleep knowing that I was going to be in one of these beasts the next day. Bud Kaeding, National Sprint Car Champion and the other son of Brent, picked me up from the hotel, we got a quick bite to eat, and were off to the track. We made some modifications to the seat to make sure I fit in properly. Bud was very helpful in making sure I fit comfortably and safely. They watered the track for the last time to pack the dirt.
The first problem for me was getting into the car. I did not know the standard process of legs first, arms first, body first and it was an awkward experience. After getting in everything felt good. There is a fuel line that runs past your legs that you have to turn on as they push you off. I thought to myself- “this is a car that takes me at least 30 seconds to get in and out and I have a fuel line running over my knee… forget about it dirt racing.” This is a pure raving machine made from Molly chrome bars, a 900 hp engine, and a huge wing that weighs about 1400 pounds. You are pretty much strapped to a rocket ship. The first couple of laps were for me to pack the track some more and get the engine temps into the optimal range. As most of you know, I get bored quickly and was so anxious to see what this beast had. I started to get on it in a couple corners and then brought it in. As a result I was told off because the engine temps were not right.
Scheckter getting "dirty" in the World Of Outlaws Sprint Car
I went back to packing the track down. After a few laps I was finally given the go-ahead to mash the throttle. The track was still too wet at the exit of 2 and the back straight was splashing. The car had zero tracking but 3 and 4 were coming in nicely and it blew my mind as to how much speed I could carry into the corners. I’d run in wide open, crack throttle a bit, swing the rear end out and jump back on the power. I don’t think I’ve ever corrected a car so much in 5-8 laps, except for maybe in video games. I got out of the car sweating as if I had just completed 500 miles. At this stage I was driving on pure instinct, pushing and trying different things to get a feel for the limit. The next run got better. Bud and I took the quad around and he showed me some different lines to try and use. They also changed the spacer on the right rear to give me some more rear end bite (yes you heard that right: rear end bite), as in traction, and it worked. We also then put on a new set of tires. We did two runs following another car. Bud wanted to give me a chance to get a feel for the car in traffic. Then I got back out on my own. Brent showed me how to use the electronic rear wing and I tried two settings. Once I got it on the forward setting things started to feel really good. I had smooth lines, no sawing on the steering wheel and was using the throttle slightly coming off corners just so the car would set and then I would gradually add more throttle. I felt very smooth and not out of control, more like a consistent slide carrying momentum through the corners. My times, from what Bud told me, were very competitive and I felt comfortable in the car. I still was not completely consistent but was putting some good laps together. I came in and the right rear was a couple laps away from exploding. The tire looked like a slick, it had zero tread remaining. The track was getting rubbered in and there seemed to be good grip. The combination of pure power, tons of downforce, and earth shaking sound is about as American as racing can get. Not to mention it was on dirt. It was clear the team knew exactly what they were doing. They knew what direction the track goes and what changes to make to make sure the car felt balanced at all times. This gave me a ton of confidence behind the wheel.
Scheckter stepping out the rear
We finished up testing and Bud took the car out. He is an extremely talented driver with a personality to match. We packed the cars away and there was only one thought on my mind- how do I get back into a car. I had a brief conversation with Jimmy Vasser and he was proud I gave it a go but hesitated when I said I wanted to race. I know I still have a ton to learn but having a great team with great equipment and being able to cross over from Indy to dirt would be awesome for both sports. Maybe we would see more Indycar drivers, instead of playing tennis, golf, and sitting at their country clubs, getting out and mixing it up at their local dirt track. Yes it’s risky but so is walking across a busy street. I live for this kind of risk. Racing Sprint Cars is obviously risky. Take two minutes to look on YouTube and you’d see these guys flip right over the fence but it sure beats sitting at home playing with my with my xbox.
Scheckter looks over the car
It was great to attend a race. The fans and the crowd gave me a lot of respect and it was a pleasure to be there. I doubt many of them understood my accent and they probably needed subtitles when I spoke but it was a friendly pit area. Different teams coming to lend or borrow stuff, Brent stayed till almost 1am signing autographs for kids and families and I stood back and watched. I realized this is an unbelievable sport where they care about one another and really look after their fans. At one point he started to throw out free t-shirts into crowds of kids. I can’t explain how happy some of these kids were. The series needs to get more exposure and Indycar drivers should not be scared to venture out and do new things. It would raise the respect of what we do and cross into new fan bases; a win-win for everyone. Let’s be honest, what driver does not want to be wheel to wheel sideways in the dirt? I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun! Well… other than the other weekend but that probably isn’t appropriate for here.
I can’t say it enough but I am so appreciative of the support from the Indycar fans and the Sprint Car fans for accepting me and allowing me to do this. I truly would love to put a program together to sync with my 2012 Indycar program. I love being in the car and I am now not only a huge fan of dirt sprint cars but also the people I met through this experience. I am looking forward to telling you more about my next couple Indycar races and my plans for 2012. I hope it consists of a lot of races and I don’t mind if I finish those dirty or clean…