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Hinch-MidO-podiumDavid Malsher says…

Another year in which James Hinchcliffe proved he was the thinking man’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. And if that sounds like a jab at RHR, it really isn’t. It’s more praise of the Mayor of Hinchtown who doesn’t take the same chances as his erstwhile Andretti Autosport teammate, and therefore occasionally misses out on the Big Move, but who also doesn’t get himself into as much trouble.

Or at least, not self-induced trouble. Hinch is just a magnet for bad luck and whereas in 2013, his results chart had a Himalayas-style topography, this season was mainly valleys. And it wasn’t from lack of pace. Of the 17 races where grid positions were set by qualifying time (Toronto 2 was the exception), the No. 27 was the fastest Hinch-elevatedof the Andretti quartet eight times and only once was he the slowest, yet he finished behind Hunter-Reay, rookie Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti in the points standings. A guy who five times started from the front row of the grid ended up with just a solitary podium finish…the irony being, it came on a day when he’d started 17th!

That third place at Mid-Ohio (ABOVE) was poor reward for a season in which Hinchcliffe seemed to disprove the old Penske motto that “Effort equals results.” He was occasionally responsible for his own demise – the crash at Indy 500, while not entirely his fault, was a result of James being atypically bold and not anticipating Townsend Bell squeezing Ed Carpenter down because TB was unaware Hinch had made Turn 1 three-wide. At Pocono and Fontana, Hinch was stung for speeding in the pits, and in the former it lost him a lap, in the latter, it probably cost him another podium finish.

But making three significant errors was about par for the leading IndyCar drivers this year; Hinch’s problem was that his three came in the Triple Crown races, each of which was worth double points. Yet it would be wrong to pretend they were the only reason he finished an unrepresentative 12th in the standings. Being the innocent victim in accidents, suffering reliability issues (including in practice) and some very slow pit stops were what ultimately meant Hinch and race engineer Nathan O’Rourke were unable to fulfill the pace and potential they so frequently displayed.  

I’m sorry to see the Andretti Autosport/Hinchcliffe combo break up after three years of almost-but-not-quite achieving what each expected of the other. However, James’s move to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will surely add another coating of maturity to his form. Whoever he partners, he’ll likely be team leader, and after being in the shadow of far more experienced drivers – Oriol Servia and then Hunter-Reay – for his first four seasons in IndyCar, this extra sense of responsibility should allow Hinchcliffe to bloom. I suspect SPM will discover he’s a worthy replacement for Simon Pagenaud, and that’s a huge compliment.


Robin Miller says…

The handwriting was on the wall early for Hinchcliffe in 2014. He qualified second in three of the first five races (BELOW, Barber) and only had a seventh place to show for it.

Hinch-Barber-startAnd things never got much better for the guy who scored three wins in 2013 for Andretti Autosport. There was a lone podium at Mid-Ohio but it was mostly a season of bad breaks and bad timing for the 27-year-old Canuck.

Running third at Long Beach he got collected by a crash triggered by his teammate. During a caution at the Indy GP he was struck in the head by a part from another car and knocked out for a second before coasting to a stop with a concussion.

The Mayor of Hinchtown led 14 laps at Indianapolis after starting in the middle of Row 1 when he tangled with Ed Carpenter as they battled up front with 25 laps left. He didn’t have any more accidents the final 13 races but he didn’t have any luck either as mechanical gremlins ruined at least four races.

The spirited drive at Mid-Ohio produced more relief than joy afterwards but being able to storm from 17th to third eased a little of the pain.

Hinch did end the year on a positive note, leading 17 laps at Fontana before finishing fifth but, just like his season overall, it was a classic case of his pace not being reflected in his results.Hinch-Indy-crash


Marshall Pruett says…

James Hinchcliffe spent more time dodging the cartoon anvils that fell from the sky than showing what he could accomplish, and his lack of luck certainly showed in the final championship standings.

Just as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball was a magnet for Chevy engine problems within his four-car team, Hinch had a bullseye on his No. 27 Honda all season, and if it wasn’t motor trouble, some other silly issue seemed to step up and ruin his chances. Mix in a few driving errors, and for a driver of Hinch’s caliber, 2014 became a season to endure rather than embrace.

And then there were the races where, for obvious reasons, he and new Andretti Autosport engineer Nathan O’Rourke struggled to find the right setup. It’s a common occurrence, and especially after Hinch and Craig Hinch-StPete-HoFHampson had developed such a strong driver/engineer relationship through the years, which made following up on his three wins in 2013 a greater challenge than some might have expected.

The outcome saw Andretti’s No. 2 driver (behind 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay) close the year at the bottom of the rotation behind RHR,  Carlos Munoz, and Marco Andretti in the championship. He also came away with just one podium visit – a career low since his rookie season in 2011.  

Coming off an impressive eighth-place championship run in 2013, Hinch obviously didn’t forget how to drive in 2014, and he’s lucky to have a change of scenery and the full might of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports behind him as he looks to prove to the world that his final go-round with Andretti was nothing more than anomaly. With so few positives to talk about last season, the best solution for Hinch is to look ahead to what’s in store with SPM.

Hinch-Pagenaud-Milw

lat levitt 500 11314Former IndyCar Series driver Davey Hamilton has lent his name and sponsorship dollars to other teams in recent years, and is getting closer to finally putting a program of his own on the grid next year.

The former IndyCar Series driver concluded a multi-year partnership with Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, and tells RACER he's finalizing plans to enter a car of his own in conjunction with an existing IndyCar team.

"I have a passion for IndyCar racing from when I was a little kid to today, and there are some things they need to improve that we all know about; but it's something I still want to be involved with, so I've been working hard to put my own program together and it's getting closer every day," said Hamilton.

"I have a show car, two complete racecars, I own a full hospitality unit, and I have a lot of the equipment to be a true co-owner, and I've built that up over the last few years. I have a vested interest in the series and want to continue to invest in IndyCar. I want to use my assets to work with a team and have them make the most of what I can bring with my equipment and my sponsors, and I'm not looking to do it all myself – from scratch – so it makes sense to partner with a team that can achieve all the goals I just mentioned and for me to be a bigger part of what's going on to deliver that success."

hamilton2A few teams come to mind for such a partnership in the IndyCar paddock, and while Hamilton wouldn't be drawn on names, he did mention it would not involve Schmidt. Asked if he would be adding a car to the grid, the Idaho native says his program will keep the series from losing an entry next season.

"It's more like filling a slot with an open spot on a team," Hamilton confirmed. "There are some teams that need a program like mine to complete things, and there's others who lost their second car for whatever reason next year, so we have good options. My program right now, it's a year-long effort and could become a multi-year deal, and the multi-year side would allow us to bring partners together to lay the foundation for years to come."

Hamilton expects to have everything concluded in the coming weeks, with the team and driver nominated shortly thereafter.

"I'd like to have a decision on where I'll be and have contracts and everything done in the next two to three weeks, but as you know, sometimes those things can take a little bit longer," he said. Tech giant Hewlett-Packard supported Hamilton's racing endeavors through the 2013 season, and it's believed he has another Silicon Valley firm committed to his new efforts.

With new growth in the IndyCar paddock close to non-existent, Hamilton's choice to create a new program based on genuine commercial backing is a refreshing change.

"It's all about ROI with the partners I'm dealing with, and after getting hurt as a driver, I really learned how important it was outside the car to make sure my sponsors were being taken care of and getting the return they need to see," he explained. "Fortunately, everything I've told my sponsors they'd receive they've gotten, so that has helped keep them involved with what I'm working on."​

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Robin Miller files his second off-season video feature for The RACER Channel on the 1968 USAC Indy car season, the incredible diversity of tracks, the lengthy schedule, and the amazing volume of drivers who took part in the championship.

 
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lat-levitt-cota-0914 02629Turner Motorsport has confirmed a two-car program in the Pirelli World Challenge GT category for next year. Turner will campaign a pair of BMW Z4 GT3s for the full 10-race season, kicking off in March at Circuit of The Americas.

The decision comes shortly after Turner Motorsport captured its seventh professional sports car racing championship since 2003 in the inaugural season of the IMSA TUDOR United SportCar Championship. Using the success in the BMW Z4 from the 2014 season with four wins and six podium finishes, the team hopes to springboard into the PWC for 2015 carrying momentum.

"I am really looking forward to getting back into Pirelli World Challenge for 2015. For me, it's where it all started," said team owner Will Turner. "In 1998 I competed in my first professional race and in 2003 we won our first championship in World Challenge."

Turner didn't rule out racing in IMSA next year as well.

"This (announcement) does not mean it's the only racing we will do in 2015 but I am happy that we can confirm this program so early... I expect to announce the drivers in a few weeks with the cars shipping from Germany any day now," he added.

Turner said the series structure and rules allowing FIA GT3-homologated cars to run as originally designed by manufacturers were key to his decision to field a full-time PWC team.

"I really like the fact that we can race the BMW Z4 GT3 as it was intended, with traction control, ABS and the proper aero for the car.," he said. "Unlike the GTD rules in IMSA , PWC allows the car to run as it engineered by BMW Motorsport."

Beginning in 1998, Turner Motorsport campaigned their iconic blue and yellow BMWs in World Challenge competition, winning the 2003 and 2004 World Challenge Touring Car Championships. From '98 to '04 Turner Motorsport captured 10 race wins, 40 top-five finishes and seven poles.

The sprint race format of PWC differs from the endurance format of the TUSCC that the team has become accustomed to. PWC race weekends include two 45-minute sprint races, allowing the team to run two entries with conceivably less operating cost.

The Pirelli World Challenge Championship confirmed its 2015 calendar last week. It includes 10 race weekends, with five standalone events.

Kubica-portraitFormer Formula 1 ace Robert Kubica is talking about reverting from rallying to racing – and hasn't given up on his "dream" of a grand prix comeback.

The Pole, who won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix (BELOW) on his way to finishing fourth in the World Championship, was considered by many to be the most complete driver on the grid at the time, has been through many surgeries since the rally accident that partially severed his right arm in the fall of 2010, and as recently as last year admitted a return to F1 was probably "impossible."

Now, after two seasons competing in both the World and European Rally Championhips, Kubica told BBC Sport: "If I decide to try and come back, I will have more surgery this winter and maybe with the help of the doctors, and with some luck, it will be possible."

Kubica has become near-infamous for being fast but accident-prone in a rally car, but won WRC-2 in 2013 and currently lies 12th in points in the WRC. He last raced a Formula 1 car in 2010, but was very quick in a DTM Mercedes he tested in January 2013, and he has said mobility has improved in his right hand even since then.

Kubica-Canada08

Lotus to trial non twin-tusk nose

The Lotus Formula 1 team will experiment running without the unique twin-tusk nose on the E22 during free practice for the United States Grand Prix. The squad will try a 2014 Ferrari/Mercedes-style low nose, as it pushes on with developments for its 2015 car.

Lotus will be forced to abandon its unusual twin-tusk design next season, following a push by F1's governing body the FIA to eliminate the aesthetically controversial nose designs that have appeared on cars this year. The team has yet to decide which of its drivers will run the prototype nose, which will be replaced with the conventional twin-tusk design for the race.

"The rules are pushing everybody in that direction, so I think pretty much everybody will be looking at a fairly low and narrow nose [for next season]," Lotus technical director Nick Chester explained. "We're going to test a nose like that in Austin, really just to gather feedback for next year - to do some aero measurements and see what that does on track compared to what we see in the [wind] tunnel."

Lotus lies eighth in the constructors' championship with just eight points scored from 16 races this season, and Romain Grosjean confirmed during September's Italian GP that Lotus had abandoned development of the difficult E22 in order to focus earlier next year's E23.

"We always have a curve where we tail off development of a current car and ramp up the new car," Chester added. "We've probably just crossed over a bit earlier.

"Once we were in June we were already putting more work into the 2015 car, and whereas we might have run some developments a little later into the season on the current car, we haven't, really – we've stopped those so we could put everything into next year's car."

END OF RENAULT ERA APPROACHING

The squad has also confirmed a switch from Renault to Mercedes engines for 2015 as it bids to get back to the front of the grid. Chester admitted there was some sadness at ending a relationship that stretches back as far as 1995, when Benetton won its first F1 world titles, but said Lotus had to do everything in its power to avoid a repeat of this year's disappointing campaign.

"It was difficult because we're good friends with a lot of the guys from Renault, particularly when we were [the] works team," Chester added. "But on the other hand we had a great opportunity to change and we have to follow where the best performance is."

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Gabby DW RD45133Gabriel "Gabby" Chaves has driven the DeltaWing coupe in all four Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup races this season, but is a relative newcomer to sports car fans. The recently crowned Indy Lights champion takes us through his history, his first impressions of the DeltaWing – and the interesting story behind his first race "behind the wheel."

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Chaves won championships as a teenager in Skip Barber and Formula BMW Americas, earned the 2010 Rookie of the year title in Formula 3 Italy and won the prestigious FIA Young Drivers Academy shootout. Returning to the U.S., Chaves finished second in Star Mazda in 2012, second in Indy Lights in 2013 and clinched this year's Indy Lights title at Sonoma Raceway.

Technically, you were in your first auto race before you were born?

My mom used to race in a spec series in Colombia. Tracks would buy 30 or 40 spec racers and rent the cars out for the championship circuit. My mom actually ran a few races before she discovered she was pregnant with me!

Your family moved from Colombia to Florida when you were eight years old – how did that affect your early years?

It was huge. You go from one place where you have your whole family to a place that's not only completely different, but you don't have friends, you don't have family, and you have to get used to a new school. The first two years were very, very hard. When you're in that situation, you're forced to make new friends and meet new people. It may have shaped a little bit of who I am now.

Gabby Karting 4Your first competitive sport was tennis. How old were you when you started competing and what made you stop?

I started playing tennis when I was four years old. In the beginning, I was just practicing and doing tournaments here and there for fun. Around seven or eight, I started playing in more competitive tournaments against kids my age. But after I moved to the States, I thought I had a chance to help with college money or even turn pro. So I started doing more competitive tournaments in Florida.

Then we went to a go-kart track – and really, that was it. My dad told me that if I beat him in a race, he'd buy me a go-kart. And guess what happened? After that, practicing tennis became a bit of a grind, a chore. I really didn't want to go practice when I got home from school. But with the kart, I couldn't wait to get home and go to the track.

One day, Juan Pablo Montoya's dad was at the go-kart track – he knew my mom from when my mom used to race. He saw me drive and told my mom "you can say goodbye to tennis."

When you drove the DeltaWing coupe (pictured, BOTTOM) for the first time at the Roar Before the 24 test back in January, what were your first impressions? Is it very different from other cars you've driven?

My first time in the DeltaWing, what blew me away was how fast it was in a straight line, especially when you compare its horsepower to the cars I was just blowing by on the straightaway. That's what really blew my mind and that's when I knew this project really had something going for it. The DeltaWing coupe handles pretty close to an open wheel car so that was very easy to get used to. It's almost like a hybrid between an open-wheel car and a go-kart. In a kart, you have a very small front wheelbase, so when you move to an open wheel car, it takes a lot more movement in the steering wheel to do the same amount of steering. The DeltaWing has a small front wheelbase, so it's similar in that respect to a go-kart – a small amount of steering goes a long way in the DeltaWing, which I thought was very cool.

Don Panoz gave me the opportunity to get into the DeltaWing at Daytona and I was able to show my skills and my potential. I might have done five laps total, in a ton of traffic. But I felt very comfortable with the car right away. I think that helped me get into the race itself. It was the opportunity to show the team that I could be a great asset so they gave me the call to do the endurance races.

I thought it would be a little challenging to go back and forth between series this season, but when I got out of the DeltaWing and into the Indy Lights car, within a couple of laps I was either one of the quickest or the quickest guy on the track. I tried to separate one from the other – when I was at a sports car weekend, I would forget about Indy Lights and vice versa.

Question from Mark Hudson via Facebook: I know the DeltaWing car already incorporates many innovations and that the designers and engineers are always refining and developing but, from your perspective in the driver's seat, what do you feel the car needs most to get those couple of seconds per lap to push it over the top?

Right now, we seem to be very good in acceleration, straight-line speed and braking. If we can keep progressing, with some different tests on downforce and handling, I think we will be very close to consistently competitive, time-wise.

Question from Yeison Gustavo Cardona Castro via Facebook: Are you going to race all the 2015 TUDOR season or try the IndyCar Series?

I'm open-minded at the moment. I have a scholarship that ensures me the Indy 500, so I'll definitely be doing that. Anything else is up for grabs.

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Brad-TalladegaBrad Keselowski kept his 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship hopes alive with victory at Talladega, as champion Jimmie Johnson was among four more drivers ruled out of title contention. The other three are also huge names in the sport – Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch.

Keselowski, who was controversially involved in post-race fighting last weekend at Charlotte, realistically needed to win to make the cut, and did so after timing his move to the front to perfection in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish. The Penske Ford driver led home Toyota duo Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer by a tenth of a second to secure a sixth victory of the season, as Ryan Newman slipped to fifth place behind fellow Chevrolet driver Landon Cassill having led the pack at the final restart.

"The adversity last week makes this win even more special," said Keselowski. "I'm not proud of last week, but I'm very proud of today. We had one job to do, and we did it."

Along with Kenseth and Newman, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon were also able to make the Eliminator Round of the Chase by playing it safe at Talladega, with Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick having already secured their spots by virtue of their wins at Kansas and Charlotte respectively.

Also playing the percentages was Busch, but he saw his title hopes evaporate when he got caught up in a multi-car pile-up that caused the second caution period just after half-distance.He was able to coax his badly damaged Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota back to the pits and rejoin the action 49 laps down after lengthy repairs, but it wasn't enough to prevent his elimination from the Chase.

Johnson was a constant factor at the front virtually throughout the race, leading for 84 of the 194 laps, but was shuffled back through the order at the penultimate restart. His already faint hopes of taking a seventh Cup title were extinguished with a 24th place finish.

Earnhardt was also one of the strongest runners in the early part of the race, leading 31 laps, but had already been swallowed up by the pack when he was caught up in a multi-car shunt during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.

Like his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Kahne also led a handful of laps early on, but after slumping to 12th at the finish, found himself bumped out of the Chase by virtue of Keselowski's win.

Another driver to enjoy a spell at the front of the pack was Danica Patrick, who led seven laps toward the end of the race before plummeting down the field during a restart en route to a 19th-place finish.

Results - 194 laps:

Pos  Driver             Team/Car                     Time/Gap
 1.  Brad Keselowski    Penske Ford              3h13m09.000s
 2.  Matt Kenseth       Joe Gibbs Toyota              +0.142s
 3.  Clint Bowyer       Waltrip Toyota                +0.187s
 4.  Landon Cassill     Hillman Chevrolet             +0.203s
 5.  Ryan Newman        Childress Chevrolet           +0.272s
 6.  Travis Kvapil      BK Toyota                     +0.358s
 7.  Kurt Busch         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet        +0.359s
 8.  Marcos Ambrose     Petty Ford                    +0.500s
 9.  Kevin Harvick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet        +0.526s
10.  Casey Mears        Germain Chevrolet             +0.559s
11.  Joey Logano        Penske Ford                   +0.579s
12.  Kasey Kahne        Hendrick Chevrolet            +0.582s
13.  Austin Dillon      Childress Chevrolet           +0.641s
14.  Reed Sorenson      Baldwin Chevrolet             +0.722s
15.  Cole Whitt         BK Toyota                     +0.727s
16.  Michael Waltrip    Waltrip Toyota                +0.830s
17.  Kyle Larson        Ganassi Chevrolet             +0.930s
18.  Denny Hamlin       Joe Gibbs Toyota              +0.932s
19.  Danica Patrick     Stewart-Haas Chevrolet        +0.938s
20.  Brian Vickers      Waltrip Toyota                +0.986s
21.  Carl Edwards       Roush Fenway Ford             +1.014s
22.  Ryan Blaney        Penske Ford                   +1.056s
23.  AJ Allmendinger    JTG Daugherty Chevrolet       +1.081s
24.  Jimmie Johnson     Hendrick Chevrolet            +1.084s
25.  Greg Biffe         Roush Fenway Ford             +1.133s
26.  Jeff Gordon        Hendrick Chevrolet            +1.188s
27.  Martin Truex Jr    Furniture Row Chevrolet       +1.273s
28.  Josh Wise          Parsons Chevrolet             +1.306s
29.  David Gilliland    Front Row Ford                +1.350s
30.  David Ragan        Front Row Ford                +1.915s
31.  Dale Earnhardt Jr  Hendrick Chevrolet            +5.164s
32.  Trevor Bayne       Wood Brothers Ford            +9.194s
33.  Terry Labonte      Go FAS Ford                    -1 lap
34.  Tony Stewart       Stewart-Haas Chevrolet        -4 laps*
35.  Jamie McMurray     Ganassi Chevrolet             -5 laps
36.  Paul Menard        Childress Chevrolet           -6 laps*
37.  Michael Annett     Baldwin Chevrolet             -7 laps*
38.  Mike Wallace       Robinson Toyota               -8 laps
39.  Aric Almirola      Petty Ford                   -28 laps
40.  Kyle Busch         Joe Gibbs Toyota             -49 laps

* Not running at finish

Retirements:
    Michael McDowell   Leavine Ford                 127 laps
    JJ Yeley           BK Toyota                     92 laps
    Alex Bowman        BK Toyota                     92 laps
PosDriverPoints
1 Joey Logano 3121
2 Kevin Harvick 3117
3 Ryan Newman 3117
4 Denny Hamlin 3100
5 Carl Edwards 3099
6 Matt Kenseth 3099
7 Jeff Gordon 3093
8 Kasey Kahne 3090
9 Kyle Busch 3086
10 Brad Keselowski 3085
11 Jimmie Johnson 3053
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3045
13 A.J. Allmendinger 2163
14 Greg Biffle 2147
15 Kurt Busch 2146
16 Aric Almirola 2101
17 Kyle Larson 967
18 Clint Bowyer 885
19 Austin Dillon 878
20 Jamie McMurray 877
21 Brian Vickers 830
22 Paul Menard 826
23 Marcos Ambrose 781
24 Martin Truex Jr. 767
25 Casey Mears 716
26 Tony Stewart 700
27 Danica Patrick 669
28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 658
29 Justin Allgaier 548
30 David Gilliland 488
31 Cole Whitt 468
32 Michael Annett 461
33 Reed Sorenson 460
34 David Ragan 451
35 Alex Bowman 372
36 Josh Wise 368
37 Travis Kvapil 211
38 Michael McDowell 205
39 Ryan Truex 193
40 Terry Labonte 88
41 Jeff Burton 87
42 Michael Waltrip 76
43 David Stremme 75
44 Bobby Labonte 54
45 Parker Kligerman 54
46 Timmy Hill 51
47 Brett Moffitt 48
48 Juan Pablo Montoya 47
49 Alex Kennedy 47
50 Dave Blaney 46
51 David Reutimann 37
52 Boris Said 28
53 Nelsinho Piquet 18
54 Eddie MacDonald 9
55 Tomy Drissi 6
56 Clay Rogers 1

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