Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ryan Hunter-Reay ... from 'Rookie Move' to Indy500 winner

"GOT MILK?!!!" - Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay pours the traditional award of a post race winner's quart of milk over his head in celebration of being the 98th winner of the Indy500. Partial Caption & Image: Eric Schwarzkopf (2014)

Ryan Hunter-Reay ... from 'Rookie Move' to Indy500 winner

The Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) 2014 championship season has been a real roller-coaster ride for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay (RHR), through these first five races of an 18 race season.

The lowest point for RHR and Andretti Autosport had to have been at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. With Ryan Hunter-Reay followed by James Hinchcliffe running strong in the lead for most of the race, Josef Newgarden threatened this march to the eventual win through a superb final pitstop from his Sarah Fisher Hartman crew to leapfrog to the lead on Lap 56 in Turn1.

On cold tires, Newgarden had a little wheel spin coming out of the Fountain Turn (Turn3) and RHR placed his nose diving into the apex of Turn4 causing a crash into the wall and collecting several drivers ... ending the races of Newgarden, Himself, Hinchcliffe, Kanaan, and etc. causing Andretti Autosport team-mate Hinchcliffe to say on a post wreck television pitlane interview: "a rookie move" "sad for Newgarden, TK etc."

RHR was a total goat for the move and he even had his team owner, Michael Andretti, was visibly very upset at messing up what would have been a double-podium finish for his team at the 40th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix. Of course ... Ryan Hunter-Reay, at the time, did not apologize.

The Indy500 opening ceremony along the front straight-away at the Pagoda. Image Credit: P29 qualifying/P23 finishing AJ Foyt Racing No. 41 driver Martin Plowman (2014)

Enter Alabama and the reworked, and famed, "Month Of May" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which, for the first time, featured a dedicated road course race, The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and The Greatest Spectacle in Racing ... the Indy500.

Just four weeks ago, Ryan Hunter-Reay was crowned the winner of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

After a huge crash marred the standing start of the  inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Simon Pagenaud went on to win where Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second and Helio Castroneves was third.

So far, so good for RHR who was looking to redeem himself ... but was still points behind Penske Racing's Will Power who had benefited from Ryan's "rookie move" at Long Beach with the win and a strong position on the VICS season points lead.

Ryan Hunter-Reay shares an intimate moment with his young son, Ryden, on pitlane before the Indy500. The Andretti Autosport family had custom firesuits made for the drivers who had young ones attending the race ... duplicated down to the very logos their father's suits had on them - to scale. Image Credit: @Liz Kreutz via Twitter

This excerpted and edited from The Detroit News -

Ryan Hunter-Reay excited to follow up Indy 500 triumph with race in Detroit
By David Goricki - May 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm - The Detroit News

Ryan Hunter-Reay is giving American motor sports fans a hero to cheer for in the IndyCar series.

Hunter-Reay will take the Belle Isle race track this weekend for the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader with the prestigious title of Indianapolis 500 champion.

Basically, Hunter-Reay beats Castroneves by a mere 3 feet. Image Credit: INDYSTAR

Hunter-Reay, 33, became the first American to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish in 2006, and he earned the win in thrilling style, passing three-time champion Helio Castroneves on the final lap Sunday, then holding him off to win by less than a car length for the second closest finish in race history.

Penske Racing's 3-time Indy500 winner Helio Castroneves consoles himself just after the end of one of the most memorable Indy500 races since maybe the 1960's. An Indy for the ages. 150 laps without a yellow flag - followed by a crazy wild series of yellows and a red flag - followed by an intense battle between RHR and Castroneves. Helio started to get out of his car and then just dropped back in and held his head for a minute in complete disbelief. Somebody had to finish 2nd ... Caption & Image Credit: Norm DeWitt (2014)

Hunter-Reay talked about his win at Indy, his busy schedule and how he is excited to come to the Motor City in a few days during a phone interview Monday afternoon.

“I was running on instincts the last four or five laps, just went as hard as I could,” said Hunter-Reay, talking about how the lead changed hands several times between Castroneves and himself. “Helio knows how to win at Indy and he was tough to hold off. We ran hard but clean against each other and I felt we put on an excellent show.

“It feels so great to be an American Indy 500 champion. I idolized the Unsers, Andrettis and A.J. Foyt, all legends while growing up, had all their posters on my wall so hoisting that flag was so cool.”

Yes, Hunter-Reay quickly IS becoming the face of the IndyCar series, winning the series championship in 2012 and now the Indy 500. He has won eight races during the past three seasons, more than any other driver, and holds a 40-point lead over Penske driver Will Power (274-234) for the top spot in the standings.

Now, it’s on to the Motor City where Honda-powered drivers have won the last two years, spoiling the party of title sponsor Chevrolet and Roger Penske, car owner of Chevrolet-powered cars driven by Castroneves, Power and Juan Montoya.

“I love coming to Detroit,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished runnerup to Mike Conway in Race No. 1 last year and 18th in the second race. “It’s 180-degree opposite from Indy (2.5-mile oval). It’s a bumpy course, physically demanding, a street course similar to Toronto or Houston. There’s also a lot of points on the line so it’s going to be important and exciting.”
Hunter-Reay ended Ganassi/Target racing’s run of four consecutive series championships in 2012 when he won four of the final six races to slip past Power by a 468-465 margin to become the first American to become series champion since Hornish in ’06.
When Hinchcliffe was asked of the Long Beach fiasco in days leading up to the Indy 500, he replied: “Every driver is competitive and will go for it (lead) when an opportunity presents itself and Ryan will make that right move nine out of every 10 times. He’s the complete package, a very rounded driver. He knows how to get everything out of the car on qualifying and brings it on race day.”

Well, Hinchcliffe was also in position to win the Indy 500 with less than 30 laps remaining Sunday when he took out pole sitter Ed Carpenter while both were in the top 5. Hinchcliffe made it a three-wide situation and the two collided, taking them both out.

When Andretti and Hunter-Reay were in the press conference Sunday, the topic of Hinchcliffe’s move came up.

“Hey, he was going for it. It’s the Indy 500,” Andretti said of Hinchcliffe. “Had he pulled that move off, he’s in position to win the race.”

“Not enough patience,” joked Hunter-Reay. “Rookie move. James is a great friend of mine (laughing).”
Yes, it is a game changer, a reason Hunter-Reay was set to open the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, then appear on “The Today Show” before heading to Dallas Wednesday to promote a future race. And, an appearance on the David Letterman Show follows the Belle Isle doubleheader next week.

“It’s been crazy, not time to take a breath yet,” Hunter-Reay said. “I only had four hours of sleep.”

Well, that’s what happens Ryan when you win the Indianapolis 500. In fact, your life will never be the same.
[Reference Here]

So there is a fully redeemed Ryan Hunter-Reay in the VICS season points lead with Andretti Autosport team-mate James Hinchcliffe pulling a "rookie move' to change the complexion of the entire event.

The finishing drivers accomplishments in the top ten positions reads like a Who's Who in American motorsport racing at its highest levels.

As stated by The EDJE on Facebook soon after the event:

What a grand race for the DW12 era - Ryan Hunter-Reay and 3-time Indy500 winner Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves battle the last six laps to the end with RHR taking the win by the 2nd closest margin in 98 years.

Look at the names in the top 10 as well - Marco Andretti on the podium, Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz gets a 4th after finishing last year in P2, Penske Racing's Juan Pablo Montoya ... fresh from NASCAR finishes ahead of NASCAR driver stand out Kurt Busch who, again, drove a car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Four-time ChampCar World Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais at 7th followed by Penske Racing's former 2014 points leader Will Power ... who seems to be getting the hang of ovals, last row starter and Mazda Ladder rookie Sage Karam in 9th with J.R. Hildebrand in tenth who was going to win last year's race until he hit the wall on the last corner of the last lap handing the win to Tony Kanaan.

W-O-W !

Ryan Hunter-Reay can now lay claim to something that Helio Castroneves can not say for himself ... with this win during the "Month Of May", RHR has an Indy500 and an IndyCar season championship in his trophy case ... nice move!

... notes from The EDJE

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mr. Hank Williams and his 289 Cobra CSX-2227

Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images (2014)

Mr. Hank Williams and his 289 Cobra CSX-2227
Article and Photographs:  Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hank Williams at the recent “2nd Annual Tribute to Carroll Shelby” held in Gardena, California. 

Williams was an aspiring musician in the 1950’s when he determined that, “there was no future in it”.  Working at USC County hospital gave him enough money to acquire his first true sports car, a black MGA, which required some work.  Taking night classes at a local school he learned metalwork and was able to fix it up.  After joining the local sports car club he discovered that he was competitive in slalom-style events.  Around this time he was becoming frustrated with the lack of performance the MGA had and soon found a 1963 Healey 3000 Mk III. Once he stiffened it up he started winning events.

Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images (2014)
By the early 1960’s he became good friends with a young lady from Oklahoma whose family was in the oil business.  Her allowance and his salary gave them a good lifestyle.  His hard work and talent was paying off in the competitive events when he noticed the Cobras that were turning up.  In 1964 he saw his Cobra at Norman Ford in Pomona.

Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images (2014)
Possibly because he is an African American he was told that in order to purchase the Cobra he needed approval by the dealership, required cash, and due to safety considerations needed to pass a high-performance driving class (this was a Shelby American requirement). By this time he had his his SCCA license and was considered a professional race driver. One obstacle down and two to go.  Thanks to some assistance from his lady friend he was able to show up for one more “negotiation” with the $6,390.00 needed in hand.  After that it was relatively easy for him to get “dealership approval” and in December he drove out of the dealership in his new Cobra.

Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images (2014)
Like all original Cobras Williams’ car (CSX-2227) was assembled by AC Cars in England and shipped sans motor, transmission, and differential  to Shelby’s Venice California facility.  The original order called for “Princess Blue” with Red interior, 1 of only 3 built in that exterior color. Although not an official Shelby color it was an AC Cars color and the car contains a certificate stating that fact.  For reasons unknown by Williams the color on his car is not true “Princess Blue” but more of a metallic silver-green shade.

The Cobra has over 140,000 miles on the odometer and shows a patina that comes with 50 years of driving. Although given a repaint in 1980 the car has never been to a body shop, rare for any car that age and even rarer for a Cobra. The car is all original down to the brass brads that attach the headlight bezels to the fenders.  Williams states that due to its originality it is used as a benchmark when judging other Cobras at Concourse events. Under the hood is the original 289 V-8 that has been rebuilt by Marvin McFee. The only competition modifications done were; “I fitted five-spoke American Mag wheels, headers, a 715 Holley, and modified the exhaust to the side.  Those English Armstrongs (shocks) were quickly swapped for Konis.  I bought all the bits from Shelby American and did the work myself.”  All the original parts he took off are still in his possession enabling him to bring the car back to original, as sold, 1964 specs.

Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images (2014)
The Cobra was a daily driver into the early 1970’s. After that time it was used solely for competition events until 1979. Williams gave up using the Cobra in competition and started attending Shelby American Automobile Club  (SAAC) events. The car is considered the “worlds winningest 289 Cobra”, had the honor of being the only original privately owned 289 Cobra at the opening of the Shelby American Museum in Las Vegas, and made history when it was the first Cobra driven by an African American around Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Mr. Hank Williams considers the car a keeper and has no intension of parting with it.  One of the reasons, “It’s always a hit with the ladies”. Did he trailer the car to the event?  No, he drove it from his home near Rancho Cucamonga, about 65 miles away.

... notes from The EDJE

Monday, May 12, 2014

Inaugural Grand Prix Of INDY road course event pleases on many fronts

Gasoline Alley and the Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, by almost any measure, was a success. The month of May opened up with more than a few thousand people wandering the Speedway waiting for cars to get on track to shakedown. This second race added in the "Month Of May" wasn't a bad change at all. Image Credit: Helio Castroneves via Twitter

Inaugural Grand Prix Of INDY road course event pleases on many fronts

Last weekend, Speedway, Indiana hosted the first of two racing events that it hopes to package and fuse into an annual "Month Of May" motorsports celebration. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), famous for the endurance test and race that grew into the INDY 500 reworked the Formula 1 road course and the Verizon IndyCar Series held its first race on the 2.434-miles 14 turn infield road course that utilizes a portion of the famed IMS oval as part of the circuit with racers driving Turns 1 and 2 of the oval as well as the a long portion of the front straight ... in the opposite (clockwise) direction.

Racing on the road course in May went from being downright sacrilegious to highly anticipated. The track has received near universal praise from everyone who has walked, golf carted, or driven it. The typical response from drivers is that it will adequately highlight the abilities of the DW12 from an acceleration, braking, and cornering perspective. Image Credit: WFOpenWheel Network

When the race broadcast and venue is watched on phones, tablets, computers, and television screens one is struck by the unfamiliar familiarity. The Dallara DW12 cars belong here at this track but they look oddly different heading down the front straight with the famed Pagoda on the car's right hand side.

For those fans that have followed American open wheel racing over this last 10 years or so, this track layout plays on broadcast a little like the Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. The G.I. Joe's Grand Prix of Portland was a Champ Car World Series race that was last held through 2007 and this venue still holds the record for the closest road course finish in Indy car racing history.

The pace and feel of a race on the road course at INDY felt a lot like watching a race on the Portland track only much larger to scale (the race held a Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport also qualifies ... but not as tight). The long front straight flowing into a contentious right-hander, followed immediately by a left with some speed at the end and, of course, some dodgey esses to contend with.

Simon Pagenaud wins third race in less than a year at the inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis and pulls to P3 ... within 6 points of VICS championship points leader Will Power. A member of the European press mentioned that the road course reminded him of Magny Cours. Simon agreed. Image Credit: Simon Pagenaud via Facebook

This excerpted and edited from Road & Track/Hearst Digital Media -

GP of Indy quiets the doubters
IndyCar's month in the motherland starts strong.
By Marshall Pruett May 11, 2014

According to the experts on the Internet, IndyCar’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was destined to fail from the beginning. What some called an exercise in trampling more than 100 years of tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—where Indy cars had only run on the 2.5-mile oval since 1911—the GP of Indy, run on a revised road course, was an unqualified success.

Fans, the Indy traditionalists maintained, would reject the event, but something north of 30,000 people turned out in beautiful weather to watch Simon Pagenaud put in a picture-perfect drive to claim the win. It marked the Frenchman’s third Verizon IndyCar Series win in less than a year, and proved that even in the huge shadow cast by IndyCar giants Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, a modest operation like Pagenaud’s Honda-powered Schmidt Peterson Motorsports outfit can play the role of giant killer at any time.

Grand Prix Of Indianapolis race start from above (Image Credit: INDYSTAR via Twitter) ...

And Grand Prix Of Indianapolis race start 6-wide from below (Image Credit: Marshall Pruett/RACER via Twitter) ...

Pagenaud’s memorable finish was overshadowed by a frightening start to the GP as pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled when the lights went green and was clobbered twice from behind—by Colombian countryman Carlos Munoz and then by Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin. All three emerged unscathed, but that couldn’t be said for a number of bystanders, including the Mayor of Indianapolis, who was hit in the shoulder by a flying chunk of carbon fiber.

More contact later in the race led popular Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe to pull off track and retire after he was struck in the helmet by a front wing endplate from a car he was trailing. Approaching 180mph on the long infield straight headed towards Turn 7, the hit was hard enough to cause a concussion, leading Hinch to sit out Sunday’s Opening Day for Indy 500 practice, if not longer.

Safety improvements are expected for next year’s race, including F1-style debris fencing on pit lane.

Racing aside, it was a welcome change to see IMS take a bold step to build new fans with a road course that some felt was little more than sacrilege. Thankfully, after seeing the positive reaction from curious fans and first-timers, IMS has a new tradition that should stand the test of time.
[Reference Here]

Track view from a position in the stands around Turns 5 & 6. Image Credit: Brandi Iaria via Twitter

The track plays well on television and if the powers that be (Drivers and Race Control) figure out how to frikken START and RE-START the dang race, some folks would be in the points and not have to spend so much time and money on car repairs.

To some, however, this is why they tune in. A venue and a race pleasing on many fronts.

... notes from The EDJE