Archive for September, 2018

Classic Chris Economaki …

Posted: September 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

Scott Dixon gets congratulated by Mike Hull on pit lane after clinching the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship at Sonoma Raceway — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

SONOMA, California (Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018) – Ryan Hunter-Reay knew what he had to do to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma. Scott Dixon knew what was needed to wrap up a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Hunter-Reay led 80 of 85 laps at Sonoma Raceway in a commanding performance to win the 2018 season finale from the pole position. Dixon started second and finished there, which was more than enough to secure the season crown.

“Man, this is so awesome!” said Dixon, whose five championships leave him behind only another legend, A.J. Foyt with seven, in Indy car annals. “I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool!”

Dixon entered the race with a 29-point lead, knowing he essentially only had to finish ahead of second-place Alexander Rossi in the double-points race. When Rossi damaged the front wing on his car and punctured a tire in first-lap contact with teammate Marco Andretti, it tipped the scales clearly in Dixon’s favor. From there, the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was content to trail Hunter-Reay and bring home the crown that earned Dixon another Astor Cup and $1 million prize.

“The whole race I was thinking about things that were out of our control, cautions that were going to flip the field,” said Dixon, whose 44 race wins rank third in Indy car history. “None of that happened.

“It was a very smooth race, but mentally tough and draining. Yeah, it’s amazing to be in this situation, fifth championship. What this team has achieved, I’m a very small piece in that whole wheelhouse of what’s going on at Chip Ganassi Racing. I feel very lucky to work with the people that I do.”

With the achievement, Dixon moved ahead of Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti – each of whom has four titles. All of Dixon’s championships have come in his 17 seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, which laid claim to its 12th Indy car driver’s title.

“He’s the guy on the track, off the track,” team owner Chip Ganassi said of Dixon. “If you take a piece of stone, inject some brains into it, chisel it out, it’s Scott Dixon. He’s just the man.

“When you talk about records – A.J., Mario, all these guys – obviously Scott’s name is in that group now.”

Alexander Rossi comes in for tires, fuel, and a new nosecone on pit lane after early contact during the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma — IndyCar Image by Joe Skibinski

Rossi dropped to lastplace in the 25-car field following the Lap 1 incident. But much like the Andretti Autosport driver did all season, he charged back in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda to finish seventh. It left the 26-year-old Californian 57 points short of Dixon in the quest for his first series championship.

“It was unfortunate because I thought we got a good start,” Rossi said of the contact with Andretti heading up the hill in Turn 1. “Just two cars going for the same spot type of thing.

“At the end of the day, the (No.) 27 NAPA team did an amazing job of getting us back to a point where we could at least be in contention if something did happen to Scott. I knew it was probably a 1 percent shot at getting anything done at the end of the day. I just tried to attack it, move up as many positions as we could.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay wins the 2018 INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

Hunter-Reay commanded the race on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course from the outset, surrendering the lead briefly through pit stop cycles. When the driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda crossed the finish line, he collected the 18th win of an Indy car career that began in 2003. It moved the Andretti Autosport driver into sole possession of 26th place on the all-time Indy car wins list.

It was nice to go from pole(to) win, lead the most laps, the whole thing,” Hunter-Reay said. “That’s an ideal race. May not be the most exciting thing for the fans at times, but from a race car driver’s point of view, team owner, race team, it’s the ideal race.

“Felt like the race just didn’t want to end,” Hunter-Reay added. “I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front. Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leapt out to a lead (and) I was able to maintain that.”

Hunter-Reay won by 2.7573 seconds over Dixon. Will Power finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to secure third in the point standings. Hunter-Reay ended up fourth in the championship, with Josef Newgarden fifth following his eighth-place race finish.

Patricio O’Ward, the newly crowned Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires making his IndyCar Series debut, was one of eight rookies in the field and finished ninth in the No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet.

The 2019 IndyCar Series season will again consist of 17 races, opening for the 9th straight year with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. The schedule includes a visit to a new track, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 24; season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California, on Sept. 22; and anchored by the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

Drivers who participated in the first NASCAR test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1992 — Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Jeff Majeske

Special Correspondent to Speedway Sightings

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The phone call came bright and, from the perspective of a 24-year-old sportswriter who treasured his sleep, much too early. The gist, from my editor: Get up, get dressed, get down to Indianapolis.

There’s a NASCAR “tire test” at the Speedway. Go cover it. Now.

What had been rumored finally was taking shape on this June day in 1992. Nine of stock-car racing’s top stars – Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irvan, Mark Martin, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip – were going to drive on the famed 2½-mile oval.This was much more than a tire test. (“We get as many as we want, right?” I heard Irvan quip on pit road.) It really was the first step in determining the feasibility of a NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As someone who grew up on the west side of Indianapolis, literally within earshot of the track, I always was interested in the Indianapolis 500. In addition to attending the race, I went to practice, qualifications and Carb Day, and also closely followed the IndyCar races throughout the season.

Unlike others, I wasn’t necessarily opposed to “sharing” the track with stock cars. I found this first test extremely interesting, even with only a handful of cars circling the track at once.

One of my main takeaways that day was how deep the NASCAR talent pool was – and it only seemed to be getting deeper. Keep in mind, this test, which drew several thousand interested spectators, was before NASCAR’s popularity was about to skyrocket. Big time. And before IndyCar’s was about to wane. Big time.

Part of the reason why NASCAR started to overtake IndyCar during this timeframe was because of it’s growing driver star power backed by legions of passionate fans. IndyCar, on the other hand, couldn’t keep up.

By the time the first Brickyard 400 was held in August of 1994, the following popular/legendary Indianapolis 500 drivers had officially retired or were within a year or two of doing so:

And although neither former winners Tom Sneva nor Gordon Johncock had officially retired, as it turned out, their last Indianapolis 500 starts were in 1992.

IndyCar temporarily staved off NASCAR’s oncoming surge thanks to the arrival of Nigel Mansell for the 1993 season. The reigning World Champion demanded global interest and attention throughout the season, capped by him winning the IndyCar title as a rookie.

Still, “Mansell Mania” only temporarily masked a problem in the IndyCar ranks: A growing lack of star power. And when Mansell left the series after the 1994 season ended, it became even more apparent.

The pipeline of American IndyCar drivers began to dry out, something Tony George promised to fix with the subsequent formation of the Indy Racing League. Those who did make it to the Indianapolis 500 before the infamous split, like Jimmy Vasser, Robby Gordon and Bryan Herta, found it tough to displace the departed legends in the hearts of fans.

NASCAR, on the other hand, found a new hero in Jeff Gordon. Gordon, who moved from California to Indiana to pursue his racing dreams, shined in USAC’s midget, sprint and Silver Crown divisions – once the key training ground for future Indianapolis 500 champions – before taking his talents to NASCAR. Without any offers from IndyCar owners, by the way.

His first Cup start was … wait for it … in 1992. After winning the inaugural Brickyard 400 two years later, the popularity of Gordon and NASCAR seemed intertwined. And almost unstoppable. NASCAR truly became a nationwide phenomenon, with new events at new tracks across the country.

By the end of the decade, Gordon was joined by Tony Stewart, another former open-wheel star from Indiana who had served the same old-school apprenticeship even more successfully, winning the midget, sprint car and Silver Crown national titles (all in 1995), plus the 1997 IRL championship.

Today, though, Gordon and Stewart, who combined to win 7 Cup titles and 7 Brickyard 400s, are retired. So is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Carl Edwards stepped away. Retirement seems imminent for Kasey Kahne, too.

Like IndyCar in the early 90s, NASCAR has seen several of its most popular drivers retire the past few years. And based on declining TV ratings and vast expanses of empty seats in the stands, it seems that NASCAR fans are not as passionate about the new breed of drivers.

That’s not a dig at Brad Keselowski (the most recent Brickyard winner), Joey Logano or any other young(ish) driver. Several are tracking toward very respectable careers. But they, like their IndyCar counterparts from more than 20 years ago, seem to lack the “it” factor.

Regaining that star power, rather than changing dates, is what truly will revitalize the Brickyard 400. Once a guaranteed full house, attendance has dropped steeply the past few years. Part of the reason, it was thought, was because people didn’t want to sit in aluminum seats under a glaring sun during the heat of the summer. So this year, the Brickyard 400 was moved to September.

Moving the event to later in the season also meant the race was the final one of the “regular season,” so potentially playoff spots were on the line for NASCAR’s “Chase.” That, too, was expected to juice up interest.

Because of rotten weather, we’ll never know if these changes would’ve worked. The Brickyard 400 finally was run on Monday before an understandably sparse crowd. Next year, weather permitting should be much better in terms of attendance. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe Indianapolis residents will abandon their beloved Colts in any great numbers to head to the race.

Maybe NASCAR should try this: Push the Brickyard 400 back another couple of weeks until after the IndyCar season. Then guarantee spots for the Indianapolis 500 winner and the IndyCar champion. It just might be the injection of interest the Brickyard 400 needs.


INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 – Race fans should renew their tickets now for the 2019 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line and Lilly Diabetes 250 to get the best prices and seat choices possible for the annual NASCAR races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Fans are encouraged to renew or upgrade their Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line event weekend tickets at The renewal window will continue through Monday, Sept. 24.

These will be the best prices of the year, only available during the renewal window. Prices will increase when tickets go on sale in the fall.

“Our loyal fans are the best in the world, and we’re happy to offer them the opportunity to save on tickets and other products for our exciting NASCAR weekend next September,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “While everyone was disappointed with Mother Nature’s lack of cooperation this year, there were two competitive races with thrilling finishes in much more comfortable temperatures, and we can’t wait to see that again in 2019, hopefully with plenty of sunshine.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season once again will come to a thrilling conclusion Sept. 6-8, 2019, with the field for the NASCAR Playoffs set after the race. NASCAR Xfinity Series racing also will take place during the race weekend on the historic, 2.5-mile oval.

Fans who have included tickets for other products in their 2018 order also can reorder at discounted prices during the renewal period. Those products include:

•Lilly Diabetes 250 Race Day tickets

•Friday General Admission tickets

•Parking (including ADA parking) and camping permits

•Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard pre-race pit passes

Those who take advantage of the renewal period also will be first in line for ticket upgrades and are eligible for other presale offers for all IMS events.