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Allmendinger’s Next Opportunity

June 1, 2013 Comments off

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit:  USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit: USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger steps out of a Roger Penske machine after finishing seventh Sunday in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 wondering what will be his next opportunity in racing.

The 31-year-old Allmendinger has dipped his helmet in different series throughout his 2013 racing season including the IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. An offering he was not positive he would ever receive after his NASCAR suspension due to the use of banned substances, Adderall, in 2012 while driving for Penske.

Opportunities materialized for Allmendinger this season in open-wheel and stockcar racing. In NASCAR’s premier series, he has made the most of his chances in James Finch’s No. 51 Chevrolet with an average finish of 13.5 and worst finish of 16th.

His IndyCar performance is highly anticipated after his successful finishes of five wins in 2006 in Champ Car, but his best finish was at Indianapolis after leading 23 laps.

The rookie’s first race at Indianapolis was impressive on many accounts. He was forced to pit twice off-sequence mid-race due to a possible flat tire, and later in the race due to his racing-belts coming loose. Rallying to a seventh place finish was a success.

“With seven or eight laps to go, I thought we still had a shot to win it,” Allmendinger said. “We had just passed three or four cars the lap before and I thought we were right there. But we just didn’t have enough at the end. It was a great experience, but I really thought our car was good enough all day.”

It was not until earlier this morning that it was announced of Allmendinger’s future plans for Penske. Prior to the Indianapolis 500, he noted this could be his “last chance” and needing to make the most of it. But Penske released today Allmendinger will drive the No.22 Nationwide Series car at the road course events at Road America and Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course.

”There’s nothing I could do to come even close to repaying him,” Allmendinger said. ”So, I just try to give everything I’ve got and hopefully it’s enough.”

Allmendinger is not in a car this weekend at Dover in NASCAR, but is racing in Detroit’s grand prix in IndyCar, but look for him to only accept a competitive ride in IndyCar or NASCAR. His best option is to have a chance to win, but he has a different opinion.

“I’ve always really enjoyed the road course racing in NASCAR, so to get the opportunity to compete in two events in the Nationwide Series with Penske Racing is amazing,” Allmendinger said. ”I’m just happy to have the opportunity to drive something.”

Wheldon’s crash fatal from “unsurvivable injuries”

October 17, 2011 Comments off

Dan Wheldon signing autographs for kids during their field trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May. Credit: Thomas Hitch

The danger of motorsports is prevalent around the world; however, with the improvements in safety over the past 10 years, it makes it impenetrable for the racing world to swallow the passing of Dan Wheldon yesterday.

The chase for the championship between Dario Franchitti and Will Power quickly disintegrated and thoughts and prayers went to Wheldon and other drivers involved in the fiery crash.

Wheldon is survived by two sons and wife. He was 33.

During the IZOD IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 15-car wreck on lap 12 included many cars getting airborne. Wheldon was one of many in the wreckage.

Also involved were the cars driven by Will Power, Paul Tracy, Buddy Rice, Alex Lloyd, E.J. Viso, Charlie Kimball, Tomas Scheckter, Jay Howard, Wade Cunningham, Pippa Mann, JR Hildebrand, James Jakes and Vitor Meira.

Reports had shown promise for the 2005 IndyCar champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. For Wheldon, who raced twice in 2011 at the Indianapolis 500 and at Las Vegas, his career could have only been beginning again.

According to sources, Wheldon’s plan was to sign a contract to replace Danica Patrick’s ride in 2012 with GoDaddy as a sponsor.

Dan Wheldon won his second Indianapolis 500 in 2011. Credit: USA Today

If there was a cheerleader for IndyCar, it was in the hands of Dan Wheldon. As said by Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s historian, Donald Davidson, “Wheldon was like a politician on election day. He wanted to shake everyone’s hand and talk to them.”

From someone who has seen Wheldon’s demeanor in the spotlight and outside of the cameras, he was what every sport needs. There was no bigger supporter for the IndyCar Series and IMS, and who understood the importance of the series and company that made his living.

During the 2011 season, Wheldon began working for VERSUS’ station during a few telecasts. He had an idea to use the Grid Walk most used by Robin Miller before the race began.

Throughout the season, Wheldon was the sole research and test driver for the new car the IndyCar Series will be use starting in 2012. The new car features enhanced safety features which will hopefully leave part of his legacy.

His legacy can include an extensive amount of elements. In short, he was an ambassador for the sport and was known as a loving, bubbly man who cared about everyone more than himself.

When listening to drivers throughout the 2011 season about Wheldon, each driver will say that he deserved a ride more than anyone else in the garage. Not many would argue how underrated as a racecar driver he was.

One of the best drivers to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the past few decades and is underrated, despite winning twice in nine races.  For a driver who finished second in 2009 and 2010 before winning in 2011 at the Indianapolis 500, it was amazing Sunday’s race was Wheldon’s second race of the season.

He was a legend before his career and, possibly, his second effort at it was over. In the world of motorsports, we lost a great champion, but more importantly an amazing man.

In the final words, there is nothing nobody can say better than Marty Reid yesterday during ABC’s signoff.

“People ask me, why do you sign off with ’till we meet again?’ Because ‘Goodbye’ is always so final. Goodbye Dan Wheldon.”

History could be made on Pole Day at IMS

May 21, 2011 Comments off

Helio Castroneves looks to set a record of three consecutives poles today on Pole Day. Credit: IndyStar.com

Helio Castroneves could be the first driver to win three consecutive poles for the Indianapolis 500, and all he needs to do is turn the fastest lap of the day during his first four lap qualification (goes 54th) and then the “Fast Nine” shootout.

Castroneves turned the fastest lap of the month during Happy Hour of Fast Friday at 228.611 mph. Teammates Ryan Briscoe (fourth) and Will Power (ninth) were also in the top-10 for speeds yesterday.

Pole Day will decide the first 24 cars entered into the 95th running of the “500.” With 40 cars taking the track today, and speeds being so close, it makes us wonder who will miss the show? Will it be a rookie such as Scott Speed? Will it be a veteran such as John Andretti?

There are a lot of fast cars this year and yesterday proved it. There were 11 cars over 226 mph, and there were seven cars over 228 mph. Good news for the fans looking for a show for the pole. Last year’s pole speed set by Castroneves was 227.970 mph, and the slowest was Simona De Silvestro at 223.634.

So who will win the pole for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500?

Watch out for a Penske, Schmidt or Ganassi car to lead the field to the green next Sunday.

——————–

Qualifications begin today at 11 a.m. and the “Fast Nine” shootout begins at 4:30 p.m. until the track closes at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the day.

Fast Friday could be just as implied

May 20, 2011 Comments off

Will Power Indianapolis 500 Practice

Will Power during practice for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on Thursday. Power turned the fastest lap of the month at 227.778 mph. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

Finally, the IZOD IndyCar Series took the track for the third time out of six days yesterday, and Team Penske’s Will Power turned the fastest lap of the month of 227.778 mph.

Rain washed out most of practice days Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but teams still were hard at work in the garages without any track time.

However, rain did not scare away kids coming to the speedway for a field trip as the sun came and they filled the stands and behind pit road screaming for an autograph from drivers such as Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan.

Through the six days of practice, no one driver or team has taken control of the month before Pole Day on Saturday and Bump Day on Sunday. Ed Carpenter, Alex Tagliani and Power have turned the fastest laps each practice session and they all drive for separate teams in Sarah Fisher Racing, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Penske Racing.

Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon signs autographs during practice for kids. Wheldon's fastest lap Thursday was 225.716 mph. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

Surprising there is a rookie near the top of the speed charts in J.R. Hildenbrand, and he has shown speed since the Rookie Orientation Program. Yesterday he turned the sixth fastest time of 226.527 mph.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the team that has not shown the dominance as usual so far, but Dario Franchitti is not worried. Yesterday, during and interview, he was quoted that the car was not ‘terrible, but needed work.’ Scott Dixon was eighth fastest and Franchitti was outside the top-10.

Happy Hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was just as implied yesterday. Within the final 30 minutes of practice, the speeds increased with Penske cars taking over three of the top four spots.

So with speeds increasing on a Thursday, what will Fast Friday bring fans?

Hopefully, more speed, drama and excitement.

History behind the 1911 Indianapolis 500

May 13, 2011 Comments off

BAJA Sports

1911 Indianapolis 500 winner Ray Harroun won the first 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car can be seen inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

There came a time when cars exceeded speed the roads could no longer handle for a comfortable ride for passengers. So, when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 it was seen as a way for car manufacturers to find the weakest points in their vehicles at top speed.

Carl Fisher envisioned a large testing facility – later to be a 2.5 mile rectangular shaped oval – in Indianapolis, where the automotive industry was at large. Fisher and his three partners James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler began was has become the most famous venue in the world.

Two years later, the speedway was paved with over 3.2 million street bricks and was given the nickname “The Brickyard.” Previously before the bricks were laid, the speedway’s racing surface was filled with crushed stone and sprayed with tar, but the cars needed a safer racing surface.

Ray Harroun won one of the 18 events held in 1909, also a 200-mile race on May 29, 1910 and a 50-mile race May 30, 1910.

In 1911 the inaugural Indianapolis 500 was ran with 46 entries, including the eventual winner Harroun driving the No. 32 Marmon Wasp. Harroun ran the full 500 miles at an average of 74.602 mph.

During the month of May, Harroun was not one of the most popular drivers. He was criticized for being a single-seated racecar while most others raced with a riding mechanic. He was called a safety hazard without a second pair of eyes to look over his shoulder, so before the race held on May 30 he installed what is believed to be the first automobile with a rear-view mirror.

Ray Harroun cockpit

Ray Harroun's cockpit of the 1911 Indianapolis 500 winning Marmon "Wasp" racecar. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

The same year, Carl Fisher believed standing starts were needed to be taken away, as many historians believe the race introduced the first sight of a pace car to lead the field to the start of the race.

The history of the first Indianapolis 500 was the small start to a long, bright future for the auto industries, motorsports and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Seeing the stars aligning for Danica toward a first Sprint Cup race

March 10, 2011 Comments off

Danica Patrick's No. 7 Go Daddy Chevrolet sits after the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Credit: celebritymagz.com

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has talked about moving JR Motorsports to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series if the stars aligned whether it was him behind the wheel or Danica Patrick.

Patrick finished a career high 4th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday by nearly running the car out of fuel. By doing so, she etched herself into another racing record book as the highest finishing woman in a national NASCAR event that stood since 1949 by Sara Christian.

After the first three races, Patrick has improved drastically over the previous year. At Daytona she ran 14th, an unexpected 17th at Phoenix and then 4th at Las Vegas.

Before Danica Mania starts shooting fireworks and celebrating, they should understand what improvements need to be made before the jump to the Cup Series is discussed.

Consistency.

Learning to drive stockcars, coming from open-wheel backgrounds, has been beaten into our heads for years that it does not happen overnight. She will have her up and down races where she may struggle with the track, car or drivers around her.

Producing top-25 finishes is the consistency she needs when she switches from the IZOD IndyCar Series to NASCAR over the next eight months.  With the equipment supplied by JR Motorsports, Patrick will be capable of running inside the top-15 every time she sets behind the wheel of the No. 7 Go Daddy Chevrolet.

If consistency is shown over the next three months, it is possible Danica will drive at least one Sprint Cup race in 2011.

The question is where will she make the attempt?

Of course the answer is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400.

There is not a better place for her to start her career in the Cup Series than the speedway she first set a record in IndyCar being the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500. It is likely after the 2011 Indianapolis 500, she will have driven over 3,000 miles in the prestigious event.

If the stars aligned, it could be fitting for Go Daddy to sponsor her in a car provided by JR Motorsports with a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.  Since Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Go Daddy.com Chevrolet, will be sponsored by Quaker State at the Brickyard, it opens up the possibility.

She would need to qualify the car on speed, but with the experience and team she would have could set up for a fitting weekend.

Luckily for her, the IndyCar Series has an off week the weekend of the Brickyard, allowing the possibility of something to come.

Call me crazy, but I am a part of Danica-mania.

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