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.
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:
St.Pete set the tone. The racing was going to be better with the new kit. It was going to be a competitive season. A rookie star emerged and would captivate fans. 2018 was all that. That rookie, Robert Wickens, unfortunately didn’t get to complete the year. Younger stars made a bold statement that they arrived, but the established stars rose to the top at the end, It was one of the most enjoyable seasons. I’ve seen.
Robert Wickens stole the pole at the opening race in St. Pete and dominated the race until a lap 108 collision with Alexander Rossi knocked him out of the race. Indycar fans suddenly had a new star to root for. Wickens followed up with a second place finish at Phoenix after leading the late stages of the race. Five consecutive top tens, including three top fives followed. Then everything came to a horrendous halt in the accident at Pocono. Whether Wickens gets back into a car again is still undetermined. He may miss the entire 2019 season. Despite missing the final three races, Wickens still finished tied for tenth in points and won Rookie of the Year. One of the highlights of last Sunday’s Sonoma finale was seeing a video of Wickens talking to the fans.
The New Aero Package
Two goals of the new aero package were to improve the racing and put the car back in the hands of the drivers. It definitely accomplished the second aim. There was better racing for the most part. Ovals definitely need some more work. Street courses showed the most improvement and road courses had more passing than last year. There is still an aero wash that needs to be tweaked. It’s fun seeing the cars slide through the corners.
A Tight Title Fight
Six different drivers swapped the lead eight times through the Texas race. Scott Dixon took the points lead with his win at Texas and led the rest of the way. His lead ballooned to 62 after Toronto but shrunk to 26 after Gateway. Alexander Rossi was third after Toronto, 70 points behind, but won two in a row at Mid Ohio and Pocono to cut into the lead. Rossi’s last chance to catch Dixon ended in the second turn at Sonoma when he clipped Marco Andretti, cutting a tire and damaging his front wing.
While Dixon’s 57 point final margin seems large, it was not an easy title to win. Dixon, Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power won three races each, and Ryan Hunter-Reay won twice. This concentration of big points days among a few drivers kept things close.
Dixon’s fifth title puts him into rarefied air. Only A. J. Foyt with seven championships has more than Dixon.
It was a strange route to the championship. Dixon did not win a pole and didn’t lead a lap until the first race in Detroit in June. He had the fewest bonus points of the four main contenders. Dixon dodged two bullets late in the season. He narrowly missed the spinning tub of Wickens’ car at Pocono. At the start of the Portland race, Dixon was involved in a scramble with four other cars, but he suffered no damage and fought back to a fifth place finish.
Carlin and Harding Racing joined the series full time. Meyer Shank Racing and Juncos Racing had part time entries. All four new teams will return next year with expanded programs. The biggest change for 2019 will be Harding, now Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Carlin is planning on adding a third car. Meyer Shank hopes to participate in ten races next season. Juncos bought a second car but is unsure if it will race during he season.
I will talk about the Harding Steinbrenner team in a post next week.
In addition to Wickens, Zach Veach had a string of four consecutive top tens at Toronto, Mid Ohio, Pocono, and Gateway. Veach had run well at times in other races but was plagued by mistakes. He was instrumental in setting up the Andretti cars in testing.
At Sonoma, Indy lights champion Patricio O’Ward got his first Indycar ride with Harding Racing. He got people’s attention with the third quickest lap in Friday’s second practice. He backed that up by qualifying fifth and finishing ninth in the race. O’Ward and Colton Herta will be full time next year for Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
Rossi put some spice into several races this year with his charges from the rear. He started 32nd at Indianapolis and finished fourth. At Phoenix he went to the back because of a penalty and came back for a third place finish. At Sonoma he used a timely caution to fight back to seventh and keep second place in the final standings.
Rossi also created some controversy with some moves where contact was involved. the most notorious was was his collision with Wickens at St. Pete. I liked the way he didn’t apologize and just went on driving. Rossi has an old school attitude I really enjoy.
I admire Mike Harding for fielding a team all season on a limited budget. Next year the team should be stronger with added resources.
Thanks to Verizon for their series sponsorship the last five years. I appreciate that unlike other series sponsors, they completed their entire contract length.
Finally, I will continue to send good healing thoughts to Robert Wickens. I hope to see him race again.
A huge thank to Dallara, the AMR Safety Team, Jay Frye, Indycar and anyone else who had a hand in designing this car. It definitely saved a life today. I hope Robert Wickens has a speedy recovery.
It looked like the front aero improvements did not help passing. I’m not sure if it the lack of the final practice, the temperatures, or effects of the accident, but it seems as if there was no improvement from IMS.
Alexander Rossi continues his meteoric rise to stardom. If anyone can overtake Scott Dixon for the title, he is the one who can do it.
Dixon showed again today why he will be tough to beat for the Astor Cup. He had an amazing drive today for the podium.
Zach Veach had an outstanding weekend. he lead the practice session, sat on the provisional pole until fewer than ten drivers were left to qualify, and had his third straight top ten finish. keep an eye on him next year.
Why did NBC have to replay the accident so many times? I could understand once or twice, but it seemed as if they were showing it over and over. It seemed as if one time they showed the replay followed by the Indycar commercial with Dixon’s accident at the 2017 500.
The repair of the catch fence looked like a shoddy patchwork job that was not up to standards. I’m glad there was not another incident there the rest of the day. The series should have paid more attention to Sebastien Bourdais.
I hope before the race at Gateway Race Control has a long talk with the drivers about starting a race. Power did start correctly, but other drivers got too anxious.
I will have a full race story on Wildfire Sports sometime tomorrow.