Skip Barber logoOK motorsports fans, do you recognize the name Daniel De La Calle. No? Not to worry. Outside of karting circles and the Skip Barber Racing School, even the hardest of hardcore racing aficionados would be hard-pressed to identify the 18-year-old from Burlingame, CA. But, truth be told, not many folks had heard of AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay or Ricky Taylor at a similar stage in their careers.

De La Calle took a giant step towards following in that trio’s illustrious wheel tracks at Sebring this week by besting some of the world’s top young karting talent in Skip Barber Racing School’s 2014 Karts to Cars Scholarship Shootout. For his efforts, De La Calle was awarded the RACER Magazine Top Gun trophy along with a $40,000 scholarship to either the SBRS 2014 Winter or Summer Series, springboards to success for former Shootout winners Allmendinger, Hunter-Reay and Taylor, not to mention the likes of Alexander Rossi, Michael Valiante, Jonathan Edwards and Spencer Pigot.

Daniel-de-la-Calle“This is awesome,” said De La Calle (LEFT). “It really validates the confidence people have shown in me. Not only do I have the budget to take the next step, it’s prepared me to take that step. I learned so much here these three days. So I’m going to the Summer Series not just hoping for good results, but expecting them.”

Speaking of good results, De La Calle was not alone in advancing towards a spot on the grid at Indianapolis, Sebring, Talladega or Monaco. Dakota Dickerson (San Diego, CA) and Konrad Czaczyk (Loxahatchee, FL) placed runner-up and third in the Shootout, earning $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, towards the next rung on the SBRS system.

“This is my second Shootout,” said Czaczyk. “Last year I finished fifth, and that experience plus the feedback from the instructors helped me finish third this time. I plan to use the scholarship for the Winter Series and, hopefully, run a full National season next summer, and then see where it goes from there.”

Although they scooped the prizes, De La Calle, Dickerson and Czaczyk were just three of 17 participants in the Karts to Cars Scholarship. They all gained not only a better understanding of the skills and techniques needed to become racecar drivers,Bryan-classroom but also how to harness their passion for racing, thanks to seminars with Indy 500-winning team owner, Bryan Herta and MAVTV motorsports personality Dave Despain.

The 16 young men and one woman represented a catholic cross section of ages, from 25- year-old Jordan Wallace (Annapolis, MD) and 18-year-old Lindsay Brewer (Arvada, CO) to 13-year-old Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY). All are transitioning to racecars after enjoying significant success in karting; all had done at least one Skip Barber Race School three-day course; some had done an SBRS Advanced program or two; some (like Czaczyk) had even done a Karts to Cars Scholarship Shootout before. But – by rule – none had more than a dozen days in SBRS programs prior to this week.

All were scored on an assortment of criteria including fastest lap, consistency, and seeking and responding to feedback from the instructors, while there were point deductions for spins, off-course excursions and crashes. (Happily, there were none of the latter.) And to account for the fact that some learning curves were steeper than others, everyone got a mulligan – i.e. dropped his or her worst score from the five sessions.

By the last sessions on Thursday, it had become obvious the competition was De La Calle’s to lose. Although they all would have wanted to be in De La Calle’s position, that was OK with the other participants. For example, Dickerson and Czaczyk Braden-Eveswent into the session with a gentleman’s agreement to swap track position back and forth in the hopes one or the other could slipstream his way to the fastest lap of the program.

It didn’t work, as that honor went to 15-year-old Braden Eves (LEFT) of Gohanna, OH, and Dickerson and Czaczyk were left to douse fellow teen De La Calle with sparkling grape juice on the podium. Likewise, secure in the knowledge they were out of the running for the scholarships, Pablo Carballedo (San Bruno, CA) and Neil Verhagen (Mooresville, NC) spent the balance of the final session racing one another rather than fretting about their scores.

“I came with no expectations, win or lose,” explained Verhagen (age 15). “I came for the experience and I definitely learned a lot. With the seat time and feedback from the instructors, I cut nearly a second off my best time here.”

While the focus of the Shootout is, of course, about who wins those top three precious prizes, the Karts to Cars Scholarship program is really about giving the 17 participants the skills and knowledge to become the best race drivers they can be.

“I tell these kids this isn’t about who’s the fastest or who wins the Shootout,” said Bruce McInnes, senior Skip Barber driving instructor. “It’s all about becoming a better race driver. Until the last lap of the Indy 500, you’re only racing yourself.”

Who knows? Ryan Hunter-Reay could find himself racing against a fellow Karts to Cars graduate on the last lap of the 2020 Indy 500, or in the case of d’Orlando, the 2030 Indy 500!


Virtual safety car gets thumbs up

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Formula 1 drivers have given a preliminary thumbs up to the new "virtual safety car" system that is being used to improve safety under yellow flag conditions.

The FIA ran two tests of the new concept at the end of each of the two Friday free practice sessions at the United States Grand Prix. It has come as a response to the lessons learned from Jules Bianchi's horrific crash at the Japanese GP, when he ran off the circuit under double yellow flag conditions and struck a recovery vehicle.

At Circuit of The Americas, a sector of the track was deemed to be yellow and drivers had to drive to a specific delta time through it. The aim of the concept is to slow drivers down without recourse to a safety car.

Although all drivers and the FIA agree that tweaks will be needed before the system can be introduced fully, they were happy with how the first tests had gone.

"I think I had a short glimpse at the end there. It does what it is supposed to do," said Sebastian Vettel said. "It needs some fine-tuning, but it works."

Romain Grosjean said that one of the issues that needed perfecting was making it obvious to drivers how slow they needed to be. The Frenchman said he found it difficult to keep to the delta time during the afternoon test.

"It was very, very difficult," he said. "The delta time goes plus nine tenths, minus six tenths, plus three, then minus two.

Virtual safety car gets thumbs up

"I found it very difficult to follow how you have to open a bigger gap, like two or three seconds, but when it goes green it's lost. I only did it in FP2, so I didn't have much training in it, but I found it quite hard."

But Pastor Maldonado said the use of audio tones to inform drivers if they were going too fast meant it was no problem for him to judge his speed.

"You get a dashboard display that you need to follow if you are plus and you are on the target, or you have a tone in the earpieces if you need to drop a little bit," he explained. "It's very easy. If you are plus it's OK and if you are up you just slow down so it is very easy to manage."

The FIA will assess the feedback from the Austin test and will likely continue testing the system over the final races of this year.




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Fernley: F1 chiefs driving teams out

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Formula 1 will be a totally different sport in 2015 because of the cost crisis that forced Marussia and Caterham off the COTA grid, reckons Force India chief Bob Fernley.

Only 18 cars have entered the United States Grand Prix amid the two teams' troubles, the smallest field since 2005. Fernley, who is deputy team principal at Force India, reckons there is little hope of positive action being taken because he thinks F1's owners and the bigger teams do not care about what is happening and actually want to see smaller teams gone.

"The way I feel at the moment is that we are at a crossroads," said Fernley. "There is no point looking backwards because we have been there, knowing full well that this crisis was going to happen two years ago.

"As a result we need to look at where we are today. And clearly what it shows to me is that there is a plan between [F1's commercial rights owner] CVC and five teams – which have been enriched and empowered – and they have a clear plan for the future of F1.

"F1 in 2015 will not be the F1 we have known. We are past that; the damage has now been done with the loss of Caterham and Marussia. The question for me is how many more teams do they want to drive out of F1 before they achieve their goal?

"And more importantly, what is their goal? Because for a normal F1 program, neither the three-car team nor customer car teams works."


Bob Fernley

Fernley (RIGHT) believes that the fate of F1 is now in the hands of CVC, but doubts the firm cares about the smaller teams.

"Responsibility lies with the people in control and that is CVC," he said. "I think the FIA are both impotent and powerless, and that has been proven this year in that they wished to bring in cost controls and used their best efforts to do so, but they were completely overpowered by CVC and the five teams.

"One would have thought if there was any concern the commercial rights holder would be trying to bring together the disenfranchised teams and there has been nothing at all.

"If there was any concern at all about it, you would presume the head of CVC would be here. And he is not."

He hinted that the midfield teams could now take action.

"I think the disenfranchised teams need to look very seriously at what they are going to do over the next few races," said Fernley.




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Hamilton fastest again at Austin

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Lewis Hamilton outpaced Formula 1 title rival and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by three thousandths of a second in Friday afternoon practice for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.

Rosberg initially had the advantage after both had set their first flying laps following their switch to the soft-compound Pirellis, but Hamilton found time on his second lap to jump ahead of his Mercedes teammate.

Although Rosberg did set the fastest sector time of all in the middle sector on his second quick lap, he was unable to improve overall so had to settle for second place.

The Mercedes drivers completely dominated the session, outpacing McLaren pairing Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button in the early stages on the slower medium-compound Pirellis by over 1.5sec. Their advantage over the rest of field was trimmed to 1.104sec once everyone had completed performance runs on the softs, with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso best-of-the-rest after leaving his switch to the faster rubber later than most.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest for Red Bull, while Felipe Massa jumped up to fifth shortly after the halfway mark in the session despite having suffered a minor lock-up on his quick lap and spun his Williams at the first corner early on.

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was sixth, with the Finn struggling to find a setup on his car that gave him the necessary feel to extract more pace.

One of the stars of the session was Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, who continued his impressive form of the morning to set the seventh-fastest time of the day. Behind him were the two McLarens of Magnussen and Button, who were unable to be as competitive in relative terms on the softs as they had been on the mediums.

Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10, even though he did make an error on his quick lap, just beating Valtteri Bottas to the position.

Romain Grosjean recovered from a dramatic high-speed spin in the fast Turn 5/6 to set 12th-fastest time, almost two seconds off the pace, ahead of Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez.

Like Lotus teammate Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado also struggled with the tricky-to-drive Lotus, spinning on what should have been his quickest lap and ending up 15th ahead of the two Saubers of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.

Sebastian Vettel was slowest of the depleted, 18-car field, almost five seconds off the pace. The German is focusing entirely on preparations for the race given he will start from the pits regardless of where he would qualify, but made a late start to the session because of a gearbox change.

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m 39.085s - 18
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m 39.088s 0.003s 34
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m 40.189s 1.104s 29
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m 40.390s 1.305s 30
5 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m 40.457s 1.372s 36
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m 40.543s 1.458s 32
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 40.631s 1.546s 34
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Mercedes 1m 40.641s 1.556s 38
9 Jenson Button McLaren/Mercedes 1m 40.698s 1.613s 36
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m 40.800s 1.715s 25
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m 40.828s 1.743s 37
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus/Renault 1m 41.054s 1.969s 31
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 41.110s 2.025s 36
14 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m 41.123s 2.038s 35
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 1m 41.158s 2.073s 37
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber/Ferrari 1m 41.332s 2.247s 33
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber/Ferrari 1m 41.420s 2.335s 34
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/Renault 1m 44.437s 5.352s 19



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Greg Moore Pruett 14 2014aFifteen years ago today, Greg Moore perished in a brutal crash during the CART Indy car season finale. He was just 24. Yesterday, Robin Miller highlighted Greg’s blazing talent and magnetic personality through the memories of friends and colleagues. Today, IndyCar ace James Hinchcliffe offers a personal appreciation of his boyhood hero.

lat feistman moh 0814 00165James HinchcliffeI was nine years old when I got my first go-kart. It was December, 1995. A bit cruel, giving a nine-year-old a go kart in December when you live in Canada, but I didn't care. Even though I wouldn't be able to drive it for the first time until the spring, I spent hours sitting in it in my garage, making engine noises and imagining what it would be like to drive. I wanted to race. I wanted to win. Just like my racing heroes.

By this age, I was already a fully-fledged racing fanatic. My dad and I would get up at 7 a.m. on Sundays to watch the Formula 1 races. We'd do chores the rest of the morning; have lunch, then settle in for the Indy car races in the afternoon. Those were my Sundays as a kid, and I loved them.

1995 was a particularly good year to be a Canadian open-wheel racing fan. Our boy Jacques Villeneuve had won the Indy 500 and CART Indy car championship that year. But he was leaving, off to F1, to pick up where his father left off. I was excited that now we'd have a Canadian to cheer for in F1 and in Indy car. But a big question remained; who would drive that beautiful blue and white car that I'd grown used to seeing up front?

Greg Moore Pruett 7 2014Enter Greg Moore. The bright-eyed youngster from British Columbia, fresh off his record-breaking season in Indy Lights, had gotten the nod. Perfect. Another fast Canadian. That should make the transition very easy, I thought.

In the spring of 1996 I made my racing debut. At the same time, Greg made his Indy car debut. Now, I don't mind admitting that he was much more prepared for his year than I was mine, but still, I was living my dream and getting to race, just like my heroes.

Greg was instantly one of my favorites, but it didn't take long for him to demote the rest and clearly take ownership of the number one spot in this race fan's mind. He was quick, exciting to watch, drove the prettiest car I'd ever seen, had a cool helmet (very important to a nine-year-old karter!) and his interviews were the best. He was always smiling and came across to me like a big kid who just couldn't believe he got to drive racecars for a living and loved and appreciated every minute of it. Knowing the amount of work and sacrifice it took to go racing, it was exactly how I felt about getting to race karts, and having that feeling in common really solidified why I was such a big Greg fan.

I watched as he won his first race in Milwaukee in ’97, beating none other than Michael Andretti to the line. I'll never forget that he came off Turn 4 and had his fist in the air way before the checkered flag (a big no-no, my dad told me). It was so cool to watch! I remember the Pac West cars getting it half a lap wrong on fuel and Greg going from third to first on the last lap a week later in Detroit. But my favorite race of Greg's, by far, was the U.S. 500 in 1998.

Back then they were racing with the Hanford Device, which made the racing bonkers. And by that I mean awesome for us to watch! It came down to a late restart, Greg was fourth, and the two Ganassi cars with Vasser and Zanardi were leading the way. The last few laps were a crazy, three-way back-and-forth battle for the win. It was a 230mph game of chess. Greg won the race and I remember being in awe of how well he had planned, timed and executed the pass that sealed the win. I was screaming at my TV willing him on. It was on that day that I knew Greg Moore was going to be one of the greatest racing drivers that had ever lived.

Mlevitt-moore  carpentier

Greg Moore Pruett 10 2014

At the race in Toronto in 1999, the coolest thing happened. I got to meet Greg Moore. And I didn't just get his autograph (I'd done that before) but genuinely got to meet him. My dad had found and given me the steering wheel from the F1600 car that Greg had raced in the early '90s. A friend of my dad's had bought the car off the Moore family when Greg moved up to F2000 and he had replaced the wheel before he started racing the car. It was sitting in a box in his garage. My dad gave it to me, told me where it had come from and who it had belonged to, and I knew that I had to get this wheel, Greg's wheel, signed by him that year.

Greg Moore Pruett 6 2014I brought the wheel to the race and stood outside the Player's Forsythe trailer for over three hours waiting to get him to sign it. At one stage, Greg came out and signed some autographs to my left. The next time he came out, it was some to my right. But I wasn't leaving until that wheel was signed. My family did stints standing with me, because no one wanted to endure the whole adventure. During my sister's stint, we stood behind the barriers, watching the crew guys pull the car apart. There was one other couple standing there, and the rest of the paddock was empty of fans.

After a while like this, one of the mechanics came over and said that he'd noticed we'd been standing there a while and asked if there was anything he could help us with. We explained the story and showed him the wheel. He thought it was such a cool story and told us to wait there and he'd go get Greg. Sure enough, Greg comes out and spends 10 minutes chatting to my sister and me. He loved the wheel, signed it, and couldn't have been nicer. We talked racing, karting, and Canada. It was the best. I was walking on air the rest of the day.

If he had come out and seen us when the masses were standing there, there is no way we would have got that amount of time with him. The way it worked out was absolutely perfect. I'd have waited 30 hours for that. I wish so badly that I remembered the mechanic that grabbed Greg for us. The irony is there's a damn good chance that I've worked with him in my years in the IndyCar paddock. I'll never know for sure, but I'll be eternally grateful, because I never would've gotten that opportunity again.

levitt-moore portland 97They say you shouldn't meet your heroes – that they rarely live up to your expectations. I call bulls--t. I met mine and he was an absolute legend. If your hero is a guy that has an insane fastball, or can sink a 38-yard putt, or acted the hell out of your favorite movie (but he is actually a huge jerk), you have two options. You either accept that he is a jerk or you find a new hero. Greg was my hero specifically because I met him, because he was a badass racing driver, and a really good guy. To me, that's what makes a hero. Being good at nailing three pointers doesn't give you carte blanche to be an ass. That's what set Greg apart in my mind. That's why I wanted to grow up to be just like Greg.

I'll never forget Halloween in 1999 for all the wrong reasons. I had watched the start of the race but had to leave shortly after to go to my friend's house for trick-or-treating. I saw the accident and was bummed Greg was out of the race, but that's about as far as I had taken it in my mind. I was rushing out the door. There was candy begging to be relieved from the neighbors' ample supplies. I was at my friend's house getting ready when the phone rang. His mom answered and tells me it's for me. It was a bit weird, but didn't think much of it. I grabbed the phone and can hear my mom on the other end crying. At the same moment, I happened to be facing the TV.

It was on a sports channel and as I stood, listening to my mother try and speak, I saw the rolling ticker at the bottom of the screen saying that Canadian driver Greg Moore had been killed at the season finale in Fontana. Right away, I knew why mom had called and why she was upset.

The rest of the night pretty much sucked, but I internalized everything I was thinking and feeling for my friend's sake. When I got home, I couldn't help but cry. Even at 12 years old, I knew it was a bit strange to cry for someone that you'd met once for 10 minutes. But that again made me realize how special Greg truly was. To have that kind of impact on a kid – on anyone – spoke volumes about his character and the way he attracted people to him. His attitude was contagious and it was so hard to process that it wouldn't be around anymore.

My parents struggled with letting me continue to race for a while after that, but ultimately they left the decision up to me. It's reason number 4,852,901 my parents are amazing.

As my career progressed and I finally made it into IndyCar, I started meeting a lot of people who had worked with, or raced against Greg. A lot of the mechanics on my car the last three years had worked for Forsythe during that time. I became friends with Greg's close friends Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan and Max Papis. I got to hear stories. I've spoken with his dad and met his brother. I got to know Greg better through them.

One of my favorite memories was after the Brazil IndyCar race one year. The race was done and we had hours to waste before the flight to get us all home. I sat in the bar at the hotel with Dario, TK, Scott Dixon, Jimmy Vasser and Oriol Servia – so many guys that I look up to and respect, and I sat silent for almost three hours (shocking, I know) just listening to all the stories of back in the day, with many featuring Greg.

All of these are the reasons why Greg was, and continues to be, my racing hero. I loved what he represented and what he stood for. To this day I wear red gloves (BELOW), because that's what superheroes like Greg did and because they rule. The blue and yellow checkers on my helmet are inspired by Greg's helmet design.

They are subtle ways for me to pay tribute to him as he was the guy who helped motivate and mold me into the driver and person I am today. And for that, Greg, I thank you.​

LAT Davis SONO 2014 1008

Bentley-Smith-action2The spectacular Bentley Continental GT3 made its North American debut in competition in the final five race weekends of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Championships in the capable hands of Dyson Racing Team Bentley. RACER was granted unique behind-the-scenes access by Bentley and Dyson Racing for this series of videos produced for RACER Studios by Jim Perry. Follow the team's rapid progress as it draws to a spectacular climax that positioned the team perfectly for next year's full-season Pirelli World Challenge GT class campaign.

In this seventh episode, enjoy the rush with the team as it breaks through to score the first victory for Bentley in North America at Miller Motorsports Park.

Additional episodes in the series premiere here at each Friday. Click the links below to watch the previous episodes in the series.


From Sebring, Fla., to Riverside, Calif., in its first two years, the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix finally established itself at Watkins Glen from 1961 until 1980. By then, a new venue had been found on the West Coast – the streets of Long Beach. Then came Las Vegas (’81-’82) and Detroit (’82-’88) while Long Beach switched to Indy cars in ’84, the year Dallas had its one-off fling with F1. Phoenix replaced Detroit to muted reception (’89-]91) and then for eight straight seasons, nothing.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway became the USGP's new home for seven glorious years and one shameful one (remember the six-car fiasco of 2005?) through no fault of IMS. Since 2012, F1 has visited Circuit of The Americas, and has been a success, at least in terms of crowd numbers. We hope it will thrive.

But here, let's look back at the first 21 years of the Formula 1 World Championship in America, featuring each winning driver, as captured by LAT Photographic. (Part 2, 1981-2013, will follow tomorrow.)

ABOVE: Classic Watkins Glen Turn 1 shot. Graham Hill leads, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Chris Amon, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Moises Solana, Jo Siffert, John Surtees, Mike Spence, Chris Irwin, Jo Bonnier, Jacky Ickx, Guy Ligier and Jean-Pierre Beltoise.

BELOW: Inaugural U.S. GP winner Bruce McLaren with team owner John Cooper who has extra reason to be happy – his other car, driven by Jack Brabham, has just won the World Championship.

BOTTOM: Stirling Moss drives his Lotus-Climax to victory at Riverside in 1960.




ABOVE: It's sometimes forgotten that it was Innes Ireland (here chased by Graham Hill) who scored the first victory for Team Lotus, at Watkins Glen in ’61. The marque's first four victories had come in the hands of Rob Walker Racing's privateer effort, driven by Stirling Moss.

BELOW: The Graham Hill/BRM combo scored three consecutive U.S. GP triumphs, starting here in 1963.

BOTTOM: Jimmy Clark would also win three times at the Glen, in ’62, ’66 (PICTURED) and ’67. We chose this pic because it was the rarest; this is the Lotus 43 with the BRM H16 engine. It was this engine's only triumph, as it was unusual for all 16 cylinders to be working for the entire duration of a race. The Cosworth DFV – with half that number of cylinders – could not come soon enough.




Jackie Stewart was twice a winner at Watkins Glen. The second time was in ’72, the first time was in ’68 (ABOVE) in the Tyrrell-run Matra. He's pictured leading surprise polesitter, F1 debutant Mario Andretti, driving the Lotus 49.

BELOW: Jochen Rindt broke through to Victory Lane for the first time in a championship race with this victory at the end of the ’69 season. He would go on to win the 1970 World Championship, but was dead by the time F1 next visited the Glen. His replacement, a young Brazilian by the name of Emerson Fittipaldi, stood in ably for the shell-shocked team, and won the race in his Lotus 72, helping prevent Jacky Ickx from overtaking Rindt's points tally.




Who knows what Francois Cevert might have achieved. A willing and able understudy to Jackie Stewart, he appeared just about capable of matching the three-time World Champion in their final few races together in 1973. Sadly, Cevert died in a huge accident during practice at Watkins Glen, the very circuit where he'd scored his solitary F1 victory two years earlier (ABOVE).

The gloomy ’73 race, from which the Tyrrell team withdrew beforehand, was won by the Lotus 72 of Ronnie Peterson (BELOW).

he mood was no lighter the following year, when Carlos Reutemann (BOTTOM) led a 1-2 finish for Brabham ahead of Carlos Pace, as privateer Helmuth Koinigg had crashed fatally on the 10th lap.




(ABOVE) Niki Lauda arrived at Watkins Glen in 1975 having already claimed the World Championship, but his sixth win of the season was the first for Ferrari in a U.S. Grand Prix. Here he's chased by outgoing champ, Emerson Fittipaldi whose McLaren M23 set fastest lap and finished second.

(BELOW) The first American grand prix of 1976 was not the last, as a new tradition started with the inaugural Grand Prix of Long Beach, and Clay Regazzoni's Ferrari led all the way from pole position.

In contrast, Mario Andretti scrapped hard for a win at the same venue the following year in his Lotus 78 (BOTTOM) to defeat Jody Scheckter's Wolf and Lauda's Ferrari.




In ’76, James Hunt had scored his sixth win of the season at Watkins Glen, a vital victory in his eventual World Championship triumph over Niki Lauda. In ’77 (ABOVE), Hunt held off Mario Andretti's Lotus by two seconds to claim his third win of the season in the handsome McLaren M26.

And that same day, Lauda reclaimed the title.
(BELOW) Carlos Reutemann's natural pace and the Michelin radial tires enabled the Ferrari team leader to take the championship fight to the dominant Lotus 79s in 1978. Two of his four victories came on American soil, with wins at Long Beach and at Watkins Glen (BELOW).

The following year, Gilles Villeneuve (BOTTOM) replicated that U.S. double in the 312T4.




It's become one of those classic name-association combos: think Nelson Piquet, think Gordon Murray-designed Brabham, dressed in a simple but handsome livery. Here in Long Beach in 1980, Piquet scored the first of his 24 GP career wins, and he did it from pole position and leading all the way in the BT49.

He didn't go on to win the World Championship that year, as instead the title went to Piquet's first F1 nemesis, Alan Jones (BELOW) who became Formula 1's final winner at Watkins Glen in 1980.

The victory wasn't simple, as the new champ fell off the circuit on the first lap (BOTTOM), and had to charge hard through the field. The polesitting Alfa Romeo of Bruno Giacomelli (in the foreground) obligingly blew up, however, making Jonesy's life a little easier.



80 USA 08

Tomorrow: more gems from the LAT Photographic archives, covering U.S. Grands Prix 1981-2013.





indy2015 lead3The Verizon IndyCar Series recently closed a hectic 2014 season that started on March 30, featured 18 domestic races spread across 15 weekends, and concluded on Aug. 30 – a scant 153 days after it started.

IndyCar’s new 2015 schedule extends its season as promised, adding a single visit outside the U.S. to start its championship in Brazil on March 8. No mention was made of the missing Dubai street race that had been penciled in for a mid-February date.

With Brazil as the starting point, IndyCar has concocted another abbreviated schedule that follows its 2014 plan with its domestic opener on March 29 and season finale on Aug. 30. Although the span of the 2015 season has been moved out to 175 days’ worth of a media footprint due to Brazil, it’s almost identical once teams return home from Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet. 

Within that 154-day span, 16 races will be held on 15 weekends, and there’s been plenty of movement with where events fall on the calendar. As a sidebar, Spring Training is set for a return to Barber Motorsports Park after Brazil where teams will have little time to test the brand-new aero kits that come into play after the South American trek. March is going to be an exceptionally busy month for IndyCar.

After Brazil and St. Pete (March 29), the next three rounds will have the IndyCar circus crisscrossing America on three consecutive weekends as teams race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana (April 12), sprint to the West Coast for Long Beach (April 19), and then hightail it back to the Southeast for Barber (April 26).

Teams will have a similar break between Barber and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis (May 9), yet with practice for the Indy 500 starting the next day (May 10) – just as it did in 2014 – teams are in for another tiring stretch with the GP of Indy launching seven weekends of action in an eight-week span.

Qualifying for the Indy 500 (May 16-17), the Indy 500 (May 24), the Duel in Detroit (May 30-31), Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), and the shifted Toronto (June 14) and Fontana events (June 27) will have IndyCar teams and drivers breathing a sigh of relief once they return from Southern California.

Fontana marks a tasty stretch for oval racing fans as it ushers in the first of three events after a short break. Milwaukee (July 12) moves up more than a month from its 2014 date, and Iowa (July 18) completes the oval trifecta.

Another slight pause follows Iowa as teams have almost two weeks to prepare Mid-Ohio (Aug. 2), and then an even bigger pause takes place before the final oval of the year at Pocono (Aug. 23) also serves as the penultimate round.

The IndyCar Series has held its championship finale on ovals since its inception as the Indy Racing League, yet the bold decision to move the 2015 finale to a road course has been made and Sonoma Raceway is the venue (Aug. 30).

lat masche 140629-3385Looking at the entire 2015 schedule, a few big items stand out.

2014 featured three double-headers, but with the loss of Houston and Toronto reverting back to a single round, only Detroit will host two rounds on the same weekend. Moving the championship decider from Fontana to Sonoma also comes with plenty of collateral adjustments.

IndyCar experimented with awarding double points at its three 500-mile races in 2014, and while that practice could continue next season, it leaves the series with some thinking to do on what to do with points for its new finale at Sonoma.

Double points at Fontana raised the stakes for such a long event, but with a more processional road course as the venue for its closer, IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker told RACER the subject of points for Sonoma – and the season as a whole – is still being considered.

“The subject of championship points and manufacturer points is being worked on at the moment,” he said. “We have double points at the speedway races last year, but with a different configuration of the schedule next year that ends on a road course, we have to consider other points systems to fit the schedule. We’ll be announcing a different points system very soon.”

Fan turnout for the last three season finales at Fontana could easily be described as minimal, and with Sonoma Raceway’s sprawling circuit rarely filled for anything other than its annual date with NASCAR, IndyCar’s problem with thinly subscribed finales could continue.

“That’s going to be a 10-month campaign to grow awareness for the event,” said Sonoma Raceway President Steve Page. “We need to build excitement and awareness around the event, we’ve seen incremental growth each year with IndyCar, and things are growing rather than shrinking, which is important. It’s exciting for Northern California to have an Indy car season finale back – it’s been a while since that happened – and we’re prepared and IndyCar is prepared to make it a big event.”

The biggest imprint on IndyCar’s 2015 schedule is the continued avoidance of the NFL. Shutting the season down prior to September achieves the goals established by the Boston Consulting Group, but also sends the series into another long and quiet winter where NASCAR, Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship feed racing fans with months of additional content.

Breaking from the pack to try something different is always worth trying at least once. Time will tell whether locking IndyCar into its second rapid-fire season was the right move or the repetition of an ill-conceived experiment.

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