Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.

Contact:

tickets@gpstpete.com

pir@portlanoregon.gov

Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video:

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix

Scott Dixon must have been an alchemist in another life. He turned what looked to be a disastrous points day into gaining points on his closest rivals.

What can I say about the Dale Coyne with Vasser Sullivan racing team and Sebastien Bourdais? Took P1 in Saturday practice, crashed the next lap, pieced a car together to qualify fourth, then finish third in the race. That team will sleep well tonight. This is the best story of the weekend.

It was a tough ending to what had been a great weekend  for Zach Veach. His top ten streak ended. I still look for great things from him next season.

Another great day for Spencer Pigot. He’s another young driver coming into his own. His fourth place finish today and his second place at Iowa show his late season maturity.

The crowd today was the largest I’ve seen for an Indycar race outside of IMS. I hope attendance figures for the weekend are released. Each day was a crowd other tracks would have been thrilled to have on race day.

For a race where not much passing was anticipated, there was a lot of drama and plot twists. Takuma Sato’s two stop strategy paid off. The yellows fell at the right time for him, while others were caught out by them.

Overall, it was a good race.

I believe Robert Wickens has clinched  Rookie of the Year. It shows what a strong season he was having. Continued hope for recovery for him.

Whos Rossi’s Rival?

At the beginning of the season the talk was of a rivalry between Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden. After St. Pete, it was Rossi and Wickens. In mid season it Rossi and everybody. It turns out that the rivalry was Rossi and Scott Dixon. They are the only two realistically with a shot at the title.

The twenty nine point difference between Dixon and Rossi is a good argument to get rid of double points. I don’t think the series needs six drivers eligible to win the championship at the last race unless the points naturally fall that wa

Notes

There is a strong buzz that COTA will be the seventeenth race. The schedule should be announced Tuesday.

After two consecutive  races with huge crowds,  Sonoma will look emptier than usual.

Fernando Alonso will test an Andretti Autosport car at Barber this coming Wednesday.

Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports later tonight or tomorrow morning.

 

Bourdais Leads Saturday Practice; Crashes on Next Lap

In two laps that encapsulated Sebastien Bourdais’ season, he went to the top of the charts in Saturday morning’s practice, then crashed into the tire barrier in turn 11 on the next lap. There were about three minutes left in the session, which was red flagged and not resumed. Earlier in the practice period James Hinchcliffe slid into the barriers. The session was clean otherwise.

Graham Rahal had led most of the session until Bourdais took the top speed with a lap of 57.470 seconds. Rahal ended 0.044 seconds behind Bourdais. Among the contenders for the title, Will Power was third, Alexander Rossi fourth, Josef Newgarden ninth, and leader Scott Dixon finished eleventh.

Bourdais’ season has had highs and lows. he won the season opener at St. Pete and the pole at the next race at Phoenix. A pit violation put him to the back of the field. He had a chance to win at Barber, but poor pit strategy pushed him to a fifth place finish. The team has struggled since. The most recent highlight was his brilliant drive from last to sixth at Mid Ohio.

Below are photos of the #18 when it was brought back to the paddock

 

 

I’ll be back here with qualifying quick thoughts later and a full story on Wildfire Sports after that.

Hello from Portland

img_20180830_161324.jpgAfter a very long travel day, I finally made it to Portland International Raceway. The track is rather flat with an interesting set of curves on either end. Turn 1 is a challenge to navigate as it comes at the end of a long, fast front stretch and the track narrows. Several drivers needed the runoff area there yesterday.

A great viewing area I discovered is grandstand K located inside the track in turn 1. From the top row you can see the Festival curves, a series of esses and watch the cars  hear to the back stretch.

Scott Dixon had the fastest time in Thursday’s test, 58. 3593  seconds. Alexander Rossi was ninth quick. Yesterday’s times mean nothing. Today’s first practice begins at 1:45 ET.

Here are a few photos from turn 1 yesterday. I hope to move around to some other spots today.

Remember, my coverage this weekend will be mainly on Wildfire Sports. I will still post my quick thoughts here tomorrow and Sunday.

IMG_20180830_161149img_20180830_161158.jpg

Greetings from the Air Heading to Portland

I’m writing this as I fly to Portland. I am  very excited for this event and to explore the city. My main coverage this weekend will be on Wildfireradiosports. My preview _Return of Another Classic_ posted this morning on Wildfire.

As usual, I will have my Quick thoughts h e re after qualifying and the race.

Indycar Drivers’ Licenses and Thoughts on the Mad Silly Season

Catching up on a few items from Indycar over the past week:

Last week Indycar in conjunction with the five year plan for Indy Lights, introduced a procedure to obtain an Indycar driver’s license. The criteria grants automatic eligibility to drivers who race in Formula 1 or NASCAR or have a predetermined level of success and/or experience in other series.

Indy Lights drivers become automatically eligible by finishing in the top three in one full season or the top five over two full seasons. Drivers in other series can get a license by accumulating a set number of points over a two year period.

The license criteria allows for exceptions. Among this season’s drivers, Robert Wickens is an example of someone who would have needed an exception and most likely would receive one based on his experience. Santino Ferucci likely would not have gotten a license.

The point values  and criteria for exceptions have not been announced.

I like that Indycar is implementing this system. It should strengthen the grid. Will it prevent ride buying? Not necessarily. It might actually force owners who rely on ride buyers to hunt for sponsorship on their own. Another possible consequence is a case where an owner needs a driver to bring money, but that driver isn’t eligible for a license. How will that exception be handled? Could it cost the grid a car? Would that owner have to sit out?  Like the Road to Indy five year plan, this is still a work in progress, but it is a step in the right direction.

The Three Headed Silly Season- Drivers, Teams, Tracks

Usually Silly Season is all about drivers. This year it is about drivers, teams, and tracks. The one key driver is Scott Dixon, who is a free agent at the end of the season. Will he stay at Ganassi, take what’s rumored to be a gigantic offer from McLaren, or move to Team Penske, as Robin Miller mentioned on the NBCSN Mid-Ohio broadcast?  My guess is he sticks with Ganassi. The McLaren money is untouchable by anyone else, but there are a lot of unknowns with a new team. Dixon at Penske would sap a lot of the rivalry out of the series.

 

Which shade of orange will Scott Dixon wear next season?

Team Shuffles?

Andretti Autosport is planning on having McLaren bring two cars to Indycar next and assumes McLaren  will be in a technical partnership with AA. That would give Andretti eight drivers. Meanwhile, Harding Racing is looking for a technical partner, possibly with Andretti. Two Andretti cars could become a part of Harding’s stable along withe the potential two cars Harding plans to run next year. Got all that? This would give Andretti full or partial control of one third of the grid.

I admire Harding and Juncos Racing going alone this year. A partnership with an established team would help speed their development. However I think eight is too many cars for one owner to have a hand in. I have thought for years Andretti Autosport was spreading itself too thin, yet they keep producing results.

Belardi Racing is looking to expand its entry beyond the 500 next year. Belardi was affiliated with A.J. Foyt Racing for the 500 this year. the car was driven by James Davison. They are also looking to expand their Indy Lights program. This is what more Indycar owners need to do- have an Indy Lights program and develop a driver in their system. It would instantly give more value to a ride in Lights.

The Schedule

We know a little about the schedule from track announcements and an assist from the recently released IMSA schedule. It’s what we don’t know that is preventing a final announcement.

What replaces Phoenix in the Spring? I can’t imagine the series would go dark for five weeks from the St. Pete opener  March 10 to April 14 at Long Beach. The gap to Phoenix was too long at three weeks. With Iowa moving to July 20, does Mid Ohio keep its date the following weekend?

Speaking of Iowa, great news that this will be a Saturday night race again. The racing has always been better there at night.

While Belle Isle got the go ahead from the advisory committee, the race is not officially on until the Michigan department of Natural resources approves it. IMSA has their Belle Isle event listed as tentative on their schedule.

Is there another new track coming on board? Mark Miles has said there will be 17 races again.

The IMSA schedule shows the sports car series at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca the week before the Indycar finale there. I don’t understand how either event will draw much of a crowd. Two major events on back to back weekends cannot help a track’s bottom line. The only remedy would be a discounted combo ticket or a season pass. This sounds iffy for a good crowd at the Indycar finale.

Notes

Colton Herta had his first Indycar test at Portland  with Harding Racing.

Sportscar driver Colin Braun has expressed interest in getting an Indycar ride for next year. The announcers on the IMSA telecast said he would be testing a car. I don’t think he has one scheduled at the moment.

Another sportscar team, Dragonspeed (not Jay Penske’s outfit) is also interested in forming an Indycar team.

With all the expansion planned by current teams and all the possible new entries, the grid could be quite crowded next year. realistically, probably not all of these will pan out, but I do look for a larger grid and even more entries at Indianapolis in 2019.

Indycar News and Notes

Programming note- Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio will be televised live on CNBC at 3 pm ET and re-aired on NBCSN at 6:30 pm Sunday.

It seems as if Indycar has a news item or two every day lately. Here are a few tidbits.

Mo Nunn

Mo Nunn died last Wednesday after battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Nunn was the engineer who helped Chip Ganassi’s team first taste success with Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Mike Hul credits Nunn for his current success Ganassi has.

A former Formula 1 driver and team owner, Nunn also owned teams in CART and the IRL. Tony Kanaaan drove for Nunn in CART before going to Andretti Green in 2003.

My friend George Phillips wrote a nice tribute to Nunn on Monday. you can read it here:

https://oilpressure.wordpress.com/

Mid Ohio Features Return of Three Drivers

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio will see the return of Jack Harvey in the number 60 Meyer-Shank racing entry. This is a home race for Michael Shank, who is looking to eventually become a full time Indycar team.

Pietro Fittipaldi, recovered from fracturing both legs in a practice accident at Spa two months ago, returns to the 19 car for Dale Coyne Racing. His absence allowed Zachary Claman De Melo toget more time in the car. DeMelo did a nice job. I’d like to see him in a full time ride.

Conor Daly will again be driving for Harding Racing. He took Gabby Chaves’ place in Toronto, giving the team its best qualifying and finishing position of the year. Chaves is still under contract with the team through 2019. He will be back in the car at some point. The team is pleased with the technical information Daly is providing. Harding is hopeful of having a two car team next season.

Rahal Says Steak n Shake May Return

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing owner Bobby Rahal said that Steak n Shake may return as a sponsor of Graham Rahal’s car in the future. The company withdrew this year to redirect funds elsewhere. It would be great to see them back. Steak n Shake did a lot of activation with signs and prerace weekend appearances by Rahal at their restaurants.

Wildfire Sports is My Home for Mid Ohio

I will be reporting for Wildfire Sports this weekend Friday through Sunday. You can find my columns at wildfireradiosports.com.

I will post quick thoughts here and live tweet during the weekend. Follow along on the blog’s Twitter account @PitWindow.

Mid Ohio usually produces some big announcements about the next season.  Stay tuned