Archive for May 23, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS — In what many IndyCar racing fans will surely see as very positive news, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR President of Operations and Competition Derrick Walker announced today that INDYCAR will open the door to increased technical innovation in its cars, along with continuing its longstanding effort to improve safety in open-wheel racing.

Why is this good news? Simply put, the powers to be are putting INDY back in IndyCar.  For several years the sanctioning body had allowed the series to evolve into a “spec” series. One that had a sole engine supplier (Honda), a sole tire supplier (Firestone) and virtually a sole chassis supplier (Dallara).

That began to change in 2012, when IndyCar introduced the Dallara DW12 chassis. Although Dallara remains the sole supplier of chassis equipment, the racing has never been better with the new car’s design. Then a new engine supplier, Chevrolet was added to the mix and again the competition ratcheted-up. Firestone still remains the sole tire supplier, but it appears the technology has never been better.  No “competition yellow flag” debacles have occurred due to tires in IndyCar, as they have in NASCAR.

New aero-kits are also on the horizon for 2014 with their use initially set for the three “Triple Crown” events, those being run at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.

With those changes ensuing, Derrick Walker will now be responsible (beginning May 27th) for identifying specific technology improvements and guiding their implementation, with the goal of managed increases in … wait for it … speed.

“In the short term, we’ll look for incremental changes to our cars through components such as aerodynamics, horsepower and tires,” Walker said. “In a way, we’re going back to the future. Indy cars have always been about innovation and speed, and our goal is to open the door for that again. We’ll start with our current car platform and give our teams and suppliers more ability to affect how they race. We always have to be mindful of costs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t manage improvements to create more exciting racing and at the same time do it safely.”

Miles said “There have been many breakthroughs in Indy car speeds over the decades, but it has been 17 years since Arie Luyendyk set the last record at Indianapolis.”

Many may remember that Luyendyk, known as the “Flying Dutchman” not only recorded the fastest average speed for the 500 mile race of 185.981 mph in the 1990, which still stands, but also owns the one lap qualifying record of 237.498 mph and the four-lap qualifying average of 236.986 mph, both set in 1996.

“We’ve achieved a great car platform, so now we can move forward to explore what’s next,” Miles said. “By managing improvements in certain components, speeds will gradually increase, and we could break the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record by our 100th running in 2016.”

“We already race the fastest closed-circuit cars in the world, and we continue to strive for further innovation that ultimately results in increased speed and safety,” said 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. “This is an opportunity for us to go back to our roots. Indy car is all about the progression of speed and pushing the performance barrier, and I strongly feel that this needs to be a big part of the future of our sport. The sooner we can get going, the sooner we can have a shot at Arie’s record. It’s been standing for far too long.”

Walker and Miles made the announcement against a backdrop of IMS historical innovations in speed & safety: the roadster Parnelli Jones used to break the 150 mph barrier in 1962, Tom Sneva’s 1984 March/Cosworth that first broke 210 mph at IMS; Luyendyk’s Reynard/Ford Cosworth he set the one-lap track record of 237.498 mph in 1996 and the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series-winning car driven by Hunter-Reay. Also present were a section of the SAFER Barrier, a revolutionary track safety development initiated by INDYCAR & IMS, and fire suits, which drivers at IMS were among the first to use. 

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Walker said the technical staff at INDYCAR, teams & suppliers — with support from members of the newly formed Competition Committee — will be engaged in the measured innovation efforts. Walker said the first substantive announcement, likely about aero kits, will be made soon.

Potential safety innovations could come in the form of new types of track fencing to protect drivers and fans, more precautions on pit lane and continued driver compartment safety enhancements.

In March, INDYCAR announced the formation of an advisory Competition Committee to formalize communications among industry stakeholders on competition and technical matters. The committee, which met earlier today, will advise INDYCAR on competition-related matters such as rules, technical specifications and safety initiatives.

Members of the INDYCAR Competition Committee for 2013 have been finalized. They are:

  • Derrick Walker (chair), incoming INDYCAR President, Operations and Competition
  • Roger Griffiths, Honda Performance Development Technical Division Director
  • Chris Berube, Chevrolet Program Manager, IZOD IndyCar Series
  • Andrea Toso, Dallara Head of R&D and U.S. Racing Business Leader
  • Dale Harrigle, Firestone Senior Project Engineer, Race Tire Development
  • Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver (Honda)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Driver (Chevrolet)
  • Tim Cindric, Penske Racing President (Chevrolet team)
  • Bryan Herta, Bryan Herta Autosport Owner (Honda team)
  • Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR Senior Vice President of Operations
  • Will Phillips, INDYCAR Vice President of Technology   

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The  1968 Indianapolis 500 pole winner Joe Leonard and legendary chief mechanic and engineer Louis “Sonny” Meyer Jr.,  are the 2013 inductees to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Leonard and Meyer  will be inducted in two ceremonies during Race Week of the 97th Indianapolis 500 in May. 

A public Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Friday, May 24 on the Pagoda Plaza Stage during Coors Light Carb Day. The invitation-only 29th Annual Oldtimers Recognition Dinner and Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.

Leonard competed in the Indianapolis 500 nine times from 1965-73 and won two USAC National Championships after making a successful transition in the early 1960s from motorcycle racing to auto racing. He captured American Motorcycle Association national championships in 1954, 1956 and 1957. His auto racing career started as a driver for famed IndyCar and Stock Car builder; Ray Nichels. Leonard joined Nichels Engineering in 1964 and drove his way to Rookie-of-the Year honors in the ultra-competitive USAC Stock Car Division.

The versatile Leonard won the pole for the 1968 Indianapolis 500 with track records of 171.953 mph for one lap and 171.559 for four laps driving one of Andy Granatelli’s turbine-powered four-wheel-drive Lotus “wedge” cars and was leading the race when forced out with nine laps to go. He placed third in the “500” in 1967 and again in 1972.

Leonard captured the National Championship over his high-profile Vel’s Parnelli Jones teammates, Al Unser and Mario Andretti, in 1971 and 1972. He also won the 1971 Ontario 500 and the 1972 Pocono 500, plus three USAC races at The Milwaukee Mile and one at Michigan International Speedway.

Meyer, son of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer, was a wizard of racing engine preparation. It is estimated that he was directly involved with preparing the winning Indianapolis 500 engine 15 times, most notably in 1973 with Patrick Racing, driver Gordon Johncock and crew chief George Bignotti. Meyer also led engine development with Vince Granatelli Racing and was the development engineer of the potent V6 turbocharged Buick engines fielded for many years by John Menard’s team.

Meyer joined Meyer & Drake Engineering shortly after his father and Dale Drake purchased the Offenhauser engine business from Fred Offenhauser in early 1946. In addition to his engineering duties, Sonny Meyer also served as a “500” crew member, becoming a chief mechanic for the first time in 1958 when veteran Tony Bettenhausen finished fourth after leading the very first Indianapolis laps of his storied career.

When Louis Meyer sold out to Dale Drake in 1964 to become the distributor for Ford’s double-overhead camshaft V8 racing engine, Sonny Meyer relocated to Indianapolis, where he mentored many future chief mechanics who trained under his leadership during the next five years.

The Auto Racing Hall of Fame, established in 1952, is located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. The greatest names in Indianapolis 500 history – drivers, team owners, crew chiefs, designers, officials and more – earn racing immortality through induction into the Hall.

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2013 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 26 at IMS.

Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.ims.com/tickets by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2013 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

Region Racers at the Indianapolis 500 — The Rathmann Brothers
Speedway Sightings

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — Chicago Sun-Times Media Company —May 23, 2007

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Racing greatness usually comes from years of commitment and challenge.

It is because of this, that history has recorded some great stories of families who have gone on to excel in American racing. It is often common that great drivers are the offspring of their father’s own racing careers, developing into a legacy of sorts. Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti, Al Unser, Jr. and P.J. Jones were all “born into the trade” if you will.

But even more uncommon is the development of great racers, who happen to be brothers. Bobby and Al Unser surely come to mind for many. But for two brothers to have outstanding parallel careers is not often seen, especially those whose family had no connection whatsoever to racing in the beginning.

Such was the case with James M. Rathmann (born 1924) and R. Richard Rathmann (born 1928.)

The Rathmann boys were the offspring of Cecil Rathmann, born in Porter County, Indiana in early 1902. Cecil Rathmann’s parents, Henry and Lizzie were farmers, with their youngster eventually becoming a meat cutter by trade. The 1920s found young Cecil employed in a retail grocery store in Los Angeles, California, a city where he had started a career and a family.

Brothers Jim and Dick, as they were originally christened, became infatuated with automobiles in car-crazy California at a young age. Speed on the streets proved intoxicating. Jim was quoted as saying “I think I held the record for the most speeding tickets in Los Angeles. At one time, I had accumulated 48 outstanding tickets, four of which I managed to collect in one lunch hour.”

It didn’t take long for both brothers to take up jalopy and hot rod racing in their teens, and this is where the story takes a unique turn. Dick, the youngest (born in 1928,) signed an entry form for a race at Carrell Speedway in Gardena, California. The problem was that Dick was only 17 years of age and not old enough to legally enter the race. So without hesitation, he signed in as his older brother Jim, listing his age as being three years older. To make matters more interesting, Dick (now Jim) began to race with great results. His older brother Jim, upon learning what was going on, figured he might as well join in the fun and started signing in for his races as Dick. In a matter of a couple months, as the brothers raced at different California tracks Dick had become Jim, and Jim had become Dick.

As they both began to race nationally the names stuck. Only the most astute racing fan knew the real story. From then on, there was no turning back. Dick was Jim and Jim was Dick.

In 1947, Jim Rathmann moved to the Midwest and became active racing in the Chicago area, a hotbed for midget, sprint and stock car racing. His performance soon gained the attention of the owners of GRANCOR Racing, the Granatelli Brothers; Andy, Vince, and Joe. Not only did the Granatelli Brothers race, but they got into the business of staging and promoting races, most prominently at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Before Jim Rathmann knew it, he was not only winning his fair share of those races, but he also entered into several business partnerships with the Granatellis, who always seemed to have a knack for making money. These opportunities continued into the early 1950’s

In 1949, Dick began to race selected AAA Indycar races. He ran in his first Indianapolis 500, in the City of Glendale Special (also known as the “Pots & Pans Special”) in 1950. A year later, he moved to a young, new race sanctioning body to race in called, NASCAR. His 5-year stock car odyssey saw him register a stellar performance of 13 race wins, 13 Poles, and 79 Top Tens, from a grand total of 128 races.

In the meantime, Brother Jim ran at Indianapolis three times with fair success. In 1949, he was really only 20 years old when he drove in his first Indianapolis 500. In 1952, he joined the Belanger Team of Lowell, Indiana to chauffeur the No. 99 Belanger Special on the AAA racing circuit.

With the Rathmann Brothers seemingly racing everywhere, the popular racing quote of the day was “Which has the best racing, AAA or NASCAR?” The answer “Looks like a standoff, they both got a Rathmann!”

Dick Rathmann returned to Indianapolis in 1956 and proceeded to run eight Indianapolis 500s in a row, with the high point being the pole sitter for the 1958 Indy 500. He continued Indy car racing through 1964, starting 40 races, gaining 21 Top Tens, with a career best finish 2nd at Daytona in 1959.

In 1957, Dick Rathmann became an integral part of the Daytona stock car project managed by Ray Nichels that saw Nichels Engineering capture both the Pole with Banjo Matthews, and the NASCAR Beach Race victory with driver Cotton Owens. Rathmann’s stock car experience along with the engine and chassis knowledge of Dale “Tiny” Worley proved to be an unbeatable combination.

In 1959, Jim Rathmann too worked for Ray Nichels as part of the Nichels Engineering Firestone Test Team. The Nichels team consisting of drivers Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, Paul Goldsmith and Rathmann set a series of closed-course speed records on the newly constructed Daytona International Speedway. Rathmann stunned the racing world, when behind of the Nichels Engineering, Pontiac-powered, Kurtis-Kraft roadster clocked laps at 170 miles per hour, unheard of high bank superspeedway speeds at the time.

Jim Rathmann’s focus was always Indianapolis and he ran 11 of them in a row. From 1957 through 1960, Jim Rathmann ran Indy was well as anyone, garnering a fifth place finish, two second place finishes and winning what some believe to be the most exciting Indianapolis 500 ever run, the 1960 classic battle with Rodger Ward. In all, it was estimated that from 1949-1963, Jim ran 7,000 competitive miles at the legendary Brickyard. He also was the victor in the 1958 “500 Miglia Di Monza,” known also as the “Race of Two Worlds'”

In the 1940s, their father Cecil Rathmann returned to live on his own farm on US 30 in Valparaiso. It was said that at the end of every race season, Jim and Dick (Dick and Jim) would return the Calumet Region to sit with their father and talk of their accomplishments. Cecil had gotten to see his sons become two of the most respected racers in world. Cecil Rathmann passed away in Florida, near his sons, in January of 1983. Dick (James) Rathmann passed in February of 2000 in Melbourne, Florida.

James (Dick) Rathmann was the oldest living winner of the Indy 500 till his passing in 2011