Archive for December, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 – Mike Hiss, the 1972 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, passed away Dec. 19 in Evansville, Indiana, following a near-30-year battle with cancer-related issues.  He was 77.

The 6-foot, 2-inch Hiss drove in the “500” four times, his highest finish being the seventh he scored in his rookie year in 1972.

Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, and schooled in Sarasota, Florida, Hiss was bitten by the racing bug as a boy when his father took him to witness the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. He attended college in Deland, Florida, and began his racing career shortly thereafter, driving a Triumph TR3 in Sports Car Club of America competition at Marlboro, Maryland. During the next half-a-dozen seasons, he competed in Formula A and B, plus Formula 5000 before moving into United States Auto Club National Championship racing in 1972.

Driving an Eagle/Offy for a little, independent team operated by Tom and Mary Page, Hiss placed 10th in his debut in the Phoenix 150 and was seventh in the Trenton 200 before heading to Indianapolis. At the last minute, Andy Granatelli stepped in to sponsor the car, changing its number from 72 to 60 and declaring the car the STP Pylon Windshield Wiper Blade Special.

It was back to the Page Racing No. 72 after that, and after placing sixth in the Pocono 500, Hiss got the break of a lifetime at the expense of another driver.

With Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue sidelined by injuries sustained in a Can-Am accident, team principal Roger Penske needed a driver for the upcoming Ontario 500.

Hiss got the call, and he went on to finish a most impressive second behind Roger McCluskey, thus scoring his best National Championship race finish. From there, he wound up sixth in the final standings and added the USAC National Championship Rookie of the Year honors to his resume.

Just to underline his versatility, he finished the 1972 season in the final Can-Am race of the year at Riverside and finished seventh.

Hiss placed in the top 10 a half-a-dozen times for Fred Gerhardt’s team in 1973, topped by a pair of third-place finishes, but then found himself “looking for a ride” for 1974.

Donohue had recently retired as a driver (this would last about six months), and Team Penske was about to announce Donohue’s successor as Peter Revson after four seasons with Team McLaren. By this time, Penske was in the developing stages of entering the Formula One arena and since this would not come until near the end of the season, Revson was cleared to drive in F1 in the meantime for the Don Nichols UOP Shadow team.

But tragedy was right around the corner. Revson never had a single start for Shadow, crashing fatally during a private test session in South Africa.

The Penske press announcements concerning the hiring of Revson were already to go when the accident occurred.

Penske needed a driver, and once again, Hiss got the call.

Hiss qualified for the outside of the front row of the 1974 Indianapolis 500, next to A.J. Foyt and Wally Dallenbach, and he later reminisced about his surreal experiences on race morning. Staying at the old Speedway Motel, he and his wife, Arlene, joined the line to the dining room for breakfast and was soon invited by a thoughtful staff member to nip into the kitchen for some privacy. After they had finished eating in there, they then proceeded to walk through the tunnel and across the infield to the Garage Area, Mike marveling that while completely unrecognized by the masses for the time being, he would shortly be starting from the front row as one of the 33 drivers the fans had come to see.

Hiss’ 1974 “500” for Penske was not quite as spectacular as the 1972 Ontario race, but he was still around at the finish. He ran fifth at the time of his first pit stop but later lost quite a bit of time when the magneto failed, necessitating a “tow-in.” The magneto was changed, and Hiss was flagged off in 14th place at the finish, many laps in arrears.

Hiss had two other starts for Penske that summer, both at the Michigan International Speedway where he finished seventh in the July 200-miler and fourth in the 250-mile race in September.

His fourth and final “500” took place in 1975 when he was eliminated by a single-car accident after only 39 laps, and in 1976, he was unable to qualify at all with a Lindsey Hopkins entry.

But there was to be one more chapter to his Indianapolis career.

Mario Andretti finished third in the 1977 Formula One World Championship for Team Lotus and was already on his way to ultimately winning the 1978 title.

In those days of much more freedom for the drivers in their careers, Andretti was competing in USAC Championship events for Penske whenever there was no scheduling conflict with F1.

The plan was to compete in the Monaco Grand Prix on May 7, qualify for the “500” the following weekend and then head to Spa-Franchorchamps for the May 21 Belgian Grand Prix before returning to Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, the weather at Indianapolis did not cooperate in the slightest.

Saturday was a total washout, and so was Sunday.

Faced with the excruciating possibility of jetting back and forth across the Atlantic multiple times with little or no rest, United States Auto Club officials agreed to having another driver qualify in Andretti’s absence with understanding that Mario would start the race in the 33rd and final position.

The “other driver,” taking the call from Roger Penske, was Hiss, who had decided to remain in sunny California.

So back he came again, his role this time to simply work the car up to speed and get it safely “in the “show.”

He did, and in as much as he never raced again, it turns out that his final laps in a race car were the four qualifying laps he did for Andretti.

That accomplished, he assumed he would head back to California.

But not so fast!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network was looking for a driver expert since veteran Freddie Agabashian would not be returning, and Hiss accepted the last-minute invitation.

Just over two years earlier, in March 1976, Hiss had been a key factor in a moment of history. A driver was testing at the Phoenix International Raceway in an Eagle/Offy in which the partners included driver Lloyd Ruby and chief mechanic Mike Devin. Hiss was serving in the role of “coach,” and the driver was none other than his soon-to-be ex-wife, Arlene.

Arlene began turning some very respectable laps speeds. 

She qualified for the 150-mile 1976 season-opener at Phoenix in the 24th and final starting position and was still around at the finish in 14th place.

It was Arlene’s only start in a Championship car, but she did set a record which can never be broken. She was the very first female ever to start in a Championship race.

After retirement, Hiss worked for Penske for a while in association with Detroit Diesel Allison and was headquartered in Houston. An ATP-rated pilot, Hiss flew both Cessna Citation and Lear jet aircraft.

He visited IMS from time to time with his family and attended three of the United States Grand Prix F1 events on the road course as well as a Brickyard 400 and the occasional Indianapolis 500.

In 2011, he was one of a large number of drivers on hand to celebrate the 100th Running of the first “500” and, in addition to signing a large number of autographs, he was one of the 161 drivers who appeared in the huge panoramic photo taken the morning before the race in Pagoda Plaza area. There he was able to meet Tony Kanaan, who had become his hero.

Hiss is survived by Connie, his wife of 42 years, son, Brian and his wife, Getter; daughter, Jennie and her husband, Mike Freisem, plus two grandsons, Landon Anderson and Levi Freisem.

Anyone wishing to make a donation in Hiss’ memory may do so at Crossroads Christian Church, 10800 Lincoln Ave., Newburgh, IN 47630.

Dick Jordan (2nd from left) is joined by Indiana Memorial Racing Association’s Brian Hasler (far left) and Mark Eutsler (middle), plus United States Auto Club champions Tony Stewart (2nd from right) and Dave Darland (far right). John Mahoney Photo

Brownsburg, Indiana — December 29, 2018

Dick Jordan, who recently celebrated his 50th year as an employee of the United States Auto Club, was honored with his induction into the Circle of Corydon recently in Brownsburg, Indiana.

The Circle of Corydon Award is for Hoosiers who have made remarkable contributions to the betterment of Indiana and its people, demonstrating through life and service qualities exemplified by the state’s greatest citizens.

Jordan’s tireless work in the United States Auto Club News Bureau for five decades has also netted him honors as an inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the National Midget Hall of Fame among others.

One of the most respected people in all racing media, Jordan was also honored for his contributions to the series at United States Auto Club’s Night of Champions with the announcement of an award named after him. 

Jordan was also the recipient of the 2018 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Chapman Award is considered by many in the industry as the highest honor in racing public relations. It is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.

 

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018) – INDYCAR and BorgWarner Inc. have reached an agreement that will see the Michigan-based company continue as the official turbocharger supplier for the IndyCar Series through the 2020 season.

It continues a relationship that has seen the BorgWarner name become synonymous with Indy car racing for more than eight decades since the Borg-Warner Trophy featuring the sterling silver sculpted likeness of every Indianapolis 500 winner was commissioned. BorgWarner has been the turbocharger supplier to INDYCAR since 2012, currently providing the Engineered for Racing (EFR) twin turbochargers used on every IndyCar Series car.

“BorgWarner is honored to continue its partnership with INDYCAR and the IndyCar Series, America’s premier open-wheel racing series,” said Scott Gallett, vice president of marketing, public relations, government affairs and internal communications, BorgWarner Inc. “Our EFR turbochargers are the perfect match for INDYCAR, with their advanced engineering, low weight and proven durability, they truly are engineered for racing.”

Since partnering with INDYCAR in 2012, BorgWarner turbochargers have accumulated more than 1.25 million trouble-free miles on the IndyCar Series’ demanding array of racetracks that include temporary street circuits, permanent road courses, short ovals and superspeedways. Assembled in Asheville, North Carolina, the EFR turbos provide an unprecedented combination of advanced technologies, including:

    • Low-weight Gamma-TiAI (titanium aluminide) turbine wheels and shaft assemblies for quick boost response;

    • Patent-pending dual-row ceramic ball bearing cartridges for more thrust capacity, durability and turbine efficiency at low expansion ratios;

    • Investment-cast stainless-steel turbine housing for increased efficiency, improved durability and corrosion resistance.

BorgWarner’s history with Indy car racing dates to 1935 when the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy was commissioned for creation to honor the winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” It debuted at the 1936 Indy 500 and includes the likeness of every winner of the race, including Will Power, who won the 102nd running in May. Originally commissioned for $10,000, the trophy is valued at $3.5 million today.

“BorgWarner has a storied history with Indy car racing and we’re pleased to see it return as the official turbocharger supplier to the IndyCar Series for the next two years,” said Darren Sansum, INDYCAR managing director of engine development. “BorgWarner has delivered a consistent and reliable product to our teams since it became a partner in 2012, which we expect to continue and be an integral part of the competitive racing that INDYCAR has become known for.”

The 2019 IndyCar Series season features 17 races beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10 and concluding with the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22. The centerpiece of the schedule is the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, Dec. 17, 2018) – Jay Frye will become President of INDYCAR as part of Hulman & Company organizational changes announced today by Mark Miles, President and CEO of the parent company.

Frye, who has led INDYCAR’s Competition and Operations departments since November 2015, will add Marketing and Communications to his responsibilities, effective Jan. 1. Miles will continue as CEO of INDYCAR.

Frye joined Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in 2013 as Chief Revenue Officer, leading the combined team of INDYCAR and IMS in sponsorship sales, licensing and account services. In 2014, the team secured a title sponsorship agreement with Verizon as well as the addition and expansion of several other corporate partners, including TAG Heuer and Panasonic.

Mark Sibla, INDYCAR Chief of Staff, Competition and Operations, will similarly expand his role with the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body, becoming Chief of Staff of all INDYCAR departments.

The reorganization is a result of C.J. O’Donnell’s resignation at year’s end. O’Donnell has been Chief Marketing Officer at INDYCAR and IMS since November 2013.

Curt Cavin, INDYCAR Vice President, Communications, and a new role to be filled of INDYCAR Vice President, Marketing, will report to Frye.

Additional organizational changes have been made at IMS, including:

   • Jarrod Krisiloff will have his responsibilities expanded at IMS, becoming Vice President, Facilities and Events. He has been Executive Director, Events, for the past two years.
   • Dan Skiver will become Director, Operations, and responsible for the many functions related to IMS events. Pat Garlock will be promoted to Assistant Manager, Facilities and Events.
   • Alex Damron will be promoted to Senior Director, Communications, for IMS and Hulman & Company, and corporate communications will be added to his responsibilities.