Archive for May 13, 2013

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday May 13, 2013 Walt Kuhn

By Wm. R. LaDow

Date: Monday, May 13, 2013

As reported for the Post-Tribune – A Chicago Sun-Times Media Company

Derrick Walker, the current General Manager of Ed Carpenter Racing and the architect of that team’s recent successes has accepted the role of President, Operations & Competition of INDYCAR, effective May 27.

In a press conference here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mark Miles, the Chief Executive Office of Hulman & Company, the parent company of the IndyCar Series, announced Walker’s appointment. In his new position, Walker will be responsible for all technical and competition aspects of the racing operations at the open-wheel sanctioning body. Walker will report directly to Mark Miles.

Reporting directly to Walker will be Brian Barnhart, who will serve as senior vice president of operations; race director Beaux Barfield; vice president of technology Will Phillips; vice president of technology, timing and scoring Jon Koskey; director of grassroots initiatives Jason Penix; and Firestone Indy Lights director Anton “Tony” George Jr.

In his opening statement, Miles said:  “We’re pleased to welcome Derrick Walker to this vital role,” We spoke with many of our constituents about an ideal person for this job, and Derrick’s name emerged early and often.”

“After speaking with many talented candidates, Derrick stood out because his decades of experience in North American open-wheel racing blend ownership and management for his own race teams and other teams. He understands how to balance the technical and financial operations of our sport, and his confident leadership will provide a firm, clear direction for long-term INDYCAR operations and competition.”

Miles continued to elaborate: “So we made the decision that we really want to strengthen this organization. It’s a good organization, but we’ve got a lot to do, and we decided to bring on the strongest horse we can find to help us with our technical and operations and racing, our product, really, and then separately to find additional leadership to help us with our commercial activities for INDYCAR.  And we sort of focused on the product first and talked to lots and lots of people. We had a number of great candidates who are interested in the job. And Derrick was one of the first I spoke to. You can’t read his résumé and talk to folks about his lifetime of experience without immediately having great respect for his journey in open-wheel racing from being a mechanic to owning a team and having enormous success all along the way. So his experience is the first thing that struck me as I got to know Derrick. But then there’s a lot about this person that I really like. He’s straightforward; he’s got great common sense. He’s got the conviction of his principles and his — we know that he’ll help make clear, firm decisions and have the strength of character to stick by them. And we’ve talked to a lot of people in the paddock. I know that Derrick’s experience is well regarded as broadly as anybody’s could be in the paddock. So we think there’s a lot to do, and Derrick is the right man to lead us through it.”

Walker has been tasked to foster improved communication with INDYCAR team owners and suppliers in these crucial areas:

•Cost management

•Enhancing innovation within the current technical platform and race formats

•Continuing to emphasize and develop safety initiatives

•Sustaining programs and avenues to develop drivers and suppliers for the IZOD IndyCar Series

•Developing plans for future technical platforms

Walker possesses a world-class résumé involving over 40 years in racing, beginning as a mechanic and culminating with the creation and ownership of a successful racing team, Walker Motorsports, Ltd., since 1990.

Born in Leven, Scotland, Walker’s career included stints with Brabham and Penske Racing in Formula One, along with a role as Penske Racing’s general manager of Penske Cars’ manufacturing facility in Poole, England. He also served as Penske’s Vice President of Racing, with the team winning six IndyCar series championships, five Indianapolis 500’s and 28 IndyCar races during his tenure. His involvement with Penske’s drivers included the likes of Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Tom Sneva and Danny Sullivan. His background also includes roles with Porsche-IndyCar and Ferrari-Sports Cars.

In Walker’s 19 years as a team owner, he fielded multi-car teams in 414 races in IndyCar, Firestone Indy Lights and Formula BMW, earning six victories and 16 poles with drivers such as Gil de Ferran, Scott Goodyear, Christian Fittipaldi, Sarah Fisher, Alex Tagliani, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Paul Tracy. The list of talented drivers who have piloted Derrick Walker racecars is too numerous to list.

In his first statement after accepting his new role, Walker said: “I have had the opportunity to participate in the business of professional racing my entire life, and I have gained valuable experience from many different angles,” Walker said. “Leading the operations and competition aspects of INDYCAR is a perfect place to leverage my experiences and relationships to help ensure that INDYCAR racing is exciting and engaging for our fans, that our drivers and owners are able to showcase their talents through our events, and that our technical partners are able to use our racing platform for innovation and development.”

“I think when you look at the quality of the field of INDYCAR, it demands a strong governing body that has a vision and the leadership that is required to match the quality of our teams.  So we have a responsibility and obligation to be as good as we can as a governing body. So hopefully I can fit into that matrix somewhere there.”

What appears to be a win-win for IndyCar as an entity, is also a loss for the team of Carpenter Racing, where Walker has had a key role. Team owner Ed Carpenter summed up his thoughts: “While we will miss Derrick being a part of Ed Carpenter Racing, we are excited about his new opportunity to join the leadership team at INDYCAR.  Derrick has done a phenomenal job for ECR.  He really was the architect of our team, and helped us establish a very strong foundation that will continue to lead to future successes.  I am confident that he will do an outstanding job at INDYCAR.  He will be an asset there that will also help the race teams within the series.  Although we wish him well, we will enjoy our last month working together, and if all goes according to plan, we will drink milk together at the end of the month before he moves on to his new responsibilities.” 

Walker will finish with Carpenter Racing after the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 is concluded.

His first challenge as Walker perceives it: “… will be to understand what we’ve currently got and how it functions from a day-to-day, and get into the long-term stuff if and when it comes up. Certainly as far as I’m concerned, but my personal opinion is INDYCAR is about competition. So unless there’s a very good reason not to have more manufacturers or more of everything that helps make competition happen, I think that would be missing the point. That’s the history of Indy car, and the sooner we can get more guys in battling it out there, the sooner the fans are going to be interested in what we’re doing. The fans come, the companies come, and everybody hopefully enjoys what we do and makes money doing it.”

Andretti Munoz

By: Wm. LaDow

INDIANAPOLIS – Partly cloudy skies and cool blustery winds made for a challenging day of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday. Late in the day however, speeds picked-up during a flourish of activity.  Despite the weather conditions, it turned into a busy afternoon as twenty-three cars took to the speedway to run 730 laps.

In discussing the weather conditions, Car owner Sarah Fisher said  “There’s a lot you can accomplish on a day like this. You have to balance it out with other readings through the week, what the differences are and then make sure you compensate. You can get a lot done even if it’s cold, especially if Race Day is like this because you really never know what Race Day will bring.

The 5pm-6pm “Happy Hour” became a high speed drafting clinic conducted by Andretti Autosport.  The five Andretti team members led by defending IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, along with Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, E.J. Viso and Carlos Munoz aggressively ran through the paces in their Chevrolet-powered Dallaras.

It was the rookie Munoz, in the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet, who garnered the “fastest of the day” honors with a lap of 223.023 miles per hour, breaking the 223 mph mark for the first time this month. Pulling Munoz to his fast lap were the other Andretti team members in a five car pack.  The Andretti team five car tow was only interrupted briefly when Munoz got too low in Turn One putting two tires on the grass and drawing a yellow flag for debris. To his credit, the rookie remained cool and righted his car without incident.

Munoz’s described his day by saying: “It is nice to be in the top (of the charts). It was in the tow, and I think I had a little bit better tow than my teammates. But, for sure, we have a long ways to go. I’m still learning a lot, especially on the grooves. I have a great car. It allowed me to be more confident. I have great teammates that helped me a lot. They say to me what I am doing wrong or stuff like that.” (About running in the grass in Turn 1): “It was just a misunderstanding. Inside the turn I went into the dirt; it was close. In the race, I’m going to have those situations. I had two tires in the grass, so I was lucky to continue. After that, I was more comfortable behind the guys.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished the day second fastest in his No. 1 DHL Chevrolet at 222.825 mph stated: “It’s just so great to be back at Indy. The feeling the first day on track is pretty special. Like you say, Andretti Autosport has had a good season so far, and we certainly had a strong run. But all of that has nothing to do with Indy. You start over here. We really don’t know where we stack up yet compared to everybody because we haven’t had a full field out there yet. Today was a good day to just check some things off the list and run through some of the bigger changes, trying to understand a few things that we were looking at during the winter. Then we had a chance to run with the teammates, which was kind of interesting at times. It was fun, though. It was fun just getting back in that rhythm of running in traffic at Indy. This place is so special for so many reasons. It really drives like no other racetrack. It was good to get back in it, shake a little rust off at Indy and get ready for the week.” (On how the team tries to forecast and plan for the rest of the week): “With these cars, the way IndyCar is now, you have no idea who’s done what in the offseason. To tell you the truth, what we saw last year from Ganassi and Honda, you had no idea that was going to happen on Race Day. I think qualifying will be one show, then the race. You have no idea what anybody has until you get there.”

Two-time race winner this season James Hinchcliffe, piloting the No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet said of the day’s action: “The last time we all ran together on an oval was last September, so to get out there with all the other guys was a good starting point. It was really just, more than anything, blowing some of the cobwebs off ourselves as drivers running in a draft at a place as tricky as the Speedway. I think it’s a good starting point. There’s obviously a lot of work to do; we’ve got some things we want to try, and I think you’ll see us running together a lot over the week.” (About different mindsets of running on ovals and road courses): “I think you’ve got to have a lot of respect for each other and the racetrack when you’re here, certainly. Because the speeds we are going are just so much greater than on a road course. Also the nature of the racetrack – it’s just one groove, and it’s a very sensitive place to race. We’re showing each other a lot of respect out there right now, but we’ve got to keep doing it and working to make sure we can be aggressive as we need to be on Sunday (Race Day).”

Marco Andretti’s day was equally solid posting a fastest lap of 222.485 mph. He summarized his day in the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet by acknowledging: “So far the RC Cola car is not quite on pace with my teammates, but I’m not too worried being this early in the month. We put in some good laps and got a lot out of today’s practice. We’re working a lot on trying to find a good setup that will put us up front. A lot of improvements have been made since last year’s DW12, so I’m pleased with where things are going right now.”

AJ Allmendinger, who ran along with Andretti Autosport pack and clocked a practice best of 221.275 mph explained “Another day in the learning process today and we got a couple different things tested in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet that should be helpful as we move on. We did a couple of short runs and a full tank run so I could see how the car would feel and I am getting more comfortable with it.”

In other IMS developments — Two drivers who just arrived at IMS Sunday were Townsend Bell, who will pilot the No. 60 Panther Racing Sunoco “Turbo” Chevrolet-Dallara and Ryan Briscoe, slated to drive the No. 8 Ganassi Racing NTT DATA Honda-Dallara. Both drivers competed Saturday in LMP2 and GT Class races in Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. Briscoe arriving via an overnight flight landed at 6am, caught a couple of hours of sleep and was able to squeeze in 12 laps, successfully shaking down his Ganassi mount.

Indianapolis Motor SpeedwaySunday May 12, 2013Walt Kuhn