Welcome to OpenWheelAmerica.com.

Follow us on Twitter @christopherlion or @OpnWhlAmerica
All images provided courtesy of the IndyCar Media site.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Photos From Barber Testing

Both the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights tested this past week at Barber Motorsports Park in preparation for their respective 2010 seasons. The league has set up a Flickr account with photos from the test sessions.

A new year means new paint schemes and sponsors for many drivers, and the league's photostream has collected photos of many of the new combinations for both series. Below are links to photos of this year's cars.

IZOD IndyCar Series

3 Helio Castroneves - Team Penske
5 Takuma Sato - KV Racing Technology
6 Ryan Briscoe - Team Penske
7 Danica Patrick - Andretti Autosport
8 E.J. Viso - KV Racing Technology
10 Dario Franchitti - Chip Ganassi Racing
14 Vitor Meira - A.J. Foyt Enterprises
22 Justin Wilson - Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
32 James Rossiter - KV Racing Technology
34 Mario Romancini - Conquest Racing
37 Ryan Hunter-Reay - Andretti Autosport
67 Sarah Fisher - Sarah Fisher Racing
78 Simona de Silvestro - HVM Racing
06 Hideki Mutoh - Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

Firestone Indy Lights Series

5 Carmen Jorda - Andersen Racing
17 Jan Heylen - Team E
18 Rodrigo Barbosa - PDM Racing
27 Martin Plowman - Andretti Autosport
28 Stefan Wilson - Bryan Herta Autosport
36 Richard Kent - Genoa Racing
49 Philip Major - Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Some notes:
  • The three Team Penske cars are all carrying variations of the same white, black, and red scheme this year. The only variation will be in the wings and mirrors, which will carry different colors to indicate different drivers. Helio Castroneves will carry red wings, Ryan Briscoe white, and Will Power black.
  • Two of the KV Racing Technology cars will carry the same scheme, with orange numbers for Takuma Sato and silver numbers for E.J. Viso the main difference. The black and gold scheme for the third car of James Rossiter reflects the team's partnership with Team Lotus USA; it pays tribute to the old John Player Special cars Lotus campaigned in Formula 1 from 1972 to 1986.
  • T-Mobile sponsorship now adorns the rear wing on Dario Franchitti's car.
  • The paint scheme on Simona de Silvestro's car reflects that of her Atlantic Championship car last year. Stargate Resistance is an online, multiplayer third-person shooting video game.
  • Formula Dream sponsorship will return to Hideki Mutoh's car, although their decal was not on the sidepods for the test.

IndyCar.com Undergoes Overhaul

IndyCar.com, the official website of the Indy Racing League, is currently offline for a major redesign and overhaul.

When users visit the site, they are greeted by a splash page for the IZOD IndyCar Series that says "Coming Soon: The new IndyCar.com website will be rolling out of the paddock shortly."

The new website is being built by RacerSites.com, which specializes in designing websites for race drivers and teams. Their homepage features a revolving portfolio of their work, showcasing some of the best websites in the motorsports world. Among the drivers and teams with IndyCar connections featured on their front page are Vision Racing, three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., and Graham Rahal.

Other IndyCar-related sites in their portfolio belong to Chip Ganassi Racing, Panther Racing, Team Penske, new Firestone Indy Lights team Wayne Taylor Racing, and Al Unser Jr., a two-time open wheel champion with 34 career wins to his name.

The redesign of the website coincides with the implementation of a new IndyCar Race Control engine, which underwent bug testing this past week as the IndyCar Series had its season-opening test session. The timing and scoring tracker should be fully functional and error-free in time for the start of the season in two weeks' time.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Barber Test Recaps

The season-opening test sessions have been completed at Barber Motorsports Park for both the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

The third session in IndyCar testing was again paced by Team Penske, as Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Briscoe placed 1-2-3. Power became the only driver to break the 1 minute, 10-second mark, as 14 cars topped the previous benchmark of 1 minute, 11 seconds. Takuma Sato was again the fastest rookie. 20 cars participated.

In the first Indy Lights session, Canadian James Hinchcliffe paced the field, as the only driver to break the 1 minute, 15-second mark. He topped Brit Martin Plowman and American Charlie Kimball, who took second and third, respectively. They were the only other drivers to top 1 minute, 16-second laps. 14 teams participated.

The second session was more of the same, as Hinchcliffe again beat Plowman and Kimball as the only driver to post a lap in the low 1 minute, 14-second range. Only 13 teams participated in the second session, but seven cars broke the 1 minute, 16-second barrier this time.

Click here for the full results of the third IZOD IndyCar session.
Click here for the full results of the first Firestone Indy Lights session.
Click here for the full results of the second Firestone Indy Lights session.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coyne Driver Lineup Set?

Ana Beatriz posted to her Twitter account in Portuguese that the driver pair for Dale Coyne Racing in the opening race of the season will likely be Alex Lloyd and Milka Duno.

This backs up reports in recent weeks linking both drivers to the team. Robin Miller first linked Duno to a Coyne seat in an article lamenting Graham Rahal's free agent status for the 2010 season. Duno brings sponsorship from Citgo, making her an attractive driver to an underfunded team like Coyne's.

Lloyd tweeted to his own followers this week that the phone "finally rang" for him after a supposed deal with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing fell through. He spoke of a late-night, three-hour drive to get fitted for a seat, and with Coyne's Chicago shop three hours away from Lloyd's (and many drivers') home in Indianapolis, the prediction made sense. While N/H/L also has an Illinois base, Coyne has a car with sponsorship already, from the Boy Scouts of America.

If Lloyd gets the seat, he will have beaten out American J.R. Hildebrand for the ride. Both drivers have won Firestone Indy Lights championships, with Lloyd taking the honors in 2007 and Hildebrand claiming victory last year.

Teams Prepare For More Barber Testing

The drivers and teams of the IZOD IndyCar Series will test at Barber Motorsports Park again today, in the second and final day of preseason testing. They will again battle cold temperatures at the Alabama track as they attempt to improve on yesterday's times.

Yesterday's top lap time (in either of yesterday's sessions) was posted by Ryan Briscoe. He went around the 2.3-mile track in 01:10.51, making him one of only six drivers to break the 1 minute, 11 second barrier and one of only four to post a lap of 117 miles per hour or better.

Firestone Indy Lights drivers and teams are also arriving at Barber today, as their test sessions will take place tomorrow. Only 14 cars are currently on the test entry list, with such notables as Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Andersen Racing, and Panther Racing either fielding fewer cars than last year or missing entirely. None of the driver or team combinations entered in the test have raced together before, although a handful of the drivers entered have raced in the series before.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When the Chrome Horn Speaks, People Listen

Paul Tracy, 2003 CART champion, self-proclaimed winner of the 2002 Indianapolis 500 (let's not get into it), and one of the top open-wheel drivers of the past decade, has found himself on the sidelines since the open wheel reunification of early 2008. A combination of a lack of sponsorship and the withdrawal of his old Champ Car team, Forsythe Racing, with which he had a long-term contract, have held back the Canadian-born, Vegas-based driver.

With teams beginning to test in preparation for the 2010 season, Tracy has taken his rage to the masses. He appeared on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain last Sunday night, and now he's using his Twitter account to rant about the state of open wheel racing in North America.

"(Ana Beatriz), in a 3rd car at Dreyer & Reinbold. It's so great to see guys from North America get a chance in the IZOD IndyCar Series," Tracy wrote on Wednesday. "And they wonder why no one watches IndyCar racing anymore."

"4 drivers from this continent at the first test," he continued. "I think there (are) 3 wins for all of them put together. As guys like (Graham) Rahal, (Buddy) Rice and me get to stay home and watch. If that's what you fans want, enjoy."

Today, Tracy delivered some of his most harsh words, condemning the political factions that have scorched the open wheel landscape since IndyCar ran its first race in January 1996. "Open wheel fans have been foolishly loyal over the last 15 years, as both series have dragged open wheel to the bottom of the ocean. But we have held our breath long enough. And I (implore) every fan to take charge of what you love and want from IndyCar!!!!!!!!!"

Tracy cited the departure of Philip Morris from Team Penske as both a sign of the times and an example of the difficulty a driver faces in seeking out sponsors. He wrote, "Just saw pictures of the new Penske cars, if RP does not have a primary sponsor with all his connections, that should tell you how hard (it is) to sell sponsorship in the IRL. People say just go find a sponsor and you will have a ride, if it was that easy then Penske would have one." Team Penske only has Verizon Wireless money behind one of its three cars in a primary role. Verizon also sponsors Penske cars in other racing series.

Tracy has a point. While his performance has tailed off a bit since his 2003 CART title, he remains one of the most exciting drivers to watch in North America. His antics in Champ Car before that series' demise kept the series interesting, from his injury jumping sand dunes on an ATV, to the "French helmet" controversy. He has fashioned himself the bad boy of open wheel racing over the years, and when he gets behind the wheel of a decent car, he has the talent to back himself up.

Unfortunately, in this market, talent isn't as important as sponsorship dollars. As Tracy noted, Graham Rahal finds himself without a ride, and he was one of the best drivers in IndyCar last season. 31 wins and 25 poles over the years haven't piqued the interest of any major sponsors except for GEICO, and they are only interested in fielding Tracy for Indy and the races in his home country.

While the "Chrome Horn" may not be on track until this year's running of the Indianapolis 500, we will certainly be hearing from him in the meantime - and the powers that be may be hearing from fans on his account. Tracy has pushed fans to write to IndyCar management, expressing their dissatisfaction with the ride-buying present in the series and the lack of North American drivers.

Whether or not the letter-writing campaign or Tracy's other antics will lead to a full-time deal is still up in the air. But in the meantime, if fans don't enjoy the racing itself, they can certainly look to Tracy for entertainment - behind the wheel or not, he'll put on a show.

Plenty of Drivers Sitting on the Sidelines

While most of the IZOD IndyCar Series took to the track for preseason testing today, a handful of solid talent was either roaming the sidelines or nowhere to be found.

Among the drivers pacing the pits were Ana Beatriz, Ed Carpenter, and Mario Moraes. Of the three, only Beatriz has a confirmed deal for this year, and even that is only for the season-opening race at Brazil. Carpenter is actively seeking sponsorship to get back on track. Moraes brings some money from Votorantim, the Brazilian construction company owned by his grandfather, but so far has been unable to secure a ride.

Oriol Servia has also been roaming the pits looking for a ride. He ran five races last season, with only one DNF and a worst finish of 11th in the four races he completed. Servia has mostly kept in contact with the open-wheel world via Twitter, and while he continues to search for a ride, the lack of success has proved to be a point of frustration for the Spanish driver.

Paul Tracy has been spotted at the test sessions, but his voice has been heard by the community over the past few days. He, like Servia has used his account to keep his name out there; most of his tweets bash the insurgence of foreign pay drivers and lack of North American talent in the series. He has implored fans to send a message to the league, particularly incoming CEO Randy Bernard, that the direction in which the sport has been heading needs to change.

Worst of all, popular and talented young American Graham Rahal does not yet have an IndyCar ride for 2010, and it appears he may be meeting with stock car teams in an attempt to secure a drive. Rahal scored two poles, five top-fives, and none top-10s last season on the way to a seventh-place finish in points, but has no sponsorship to bring to team owners. Multiple teams have attempted to put programs together for him, but for almost every group the hang-up has been sponsorship, leaving one of the league's most marketable young drivers on the sidelines.

Barber Test Session 2 Results (February 24, 2010)

In the afternoon IZOD IndyCar Series test session at Barber Motorsports Park, slightly warmer temperatures and more track experience allowed five more drivers to break the 1 minute, 11 second mark.

Ryan Briscoe paced the second session, with a top time of 01:10.50, 21 hundredths of a second faster than Helio Castroneves. Justin Wilson, Will Power (fastest in the morning session), Scott Dixon, and E.J. Viso also topped 1 minute, 11 seconds. Power had been the only driver to do so in the first session, with a lap of 01:10.97.

Takuma Sato again paced all rookies with a lap of 01:11.11 that put him seventh fastest in the field.

Click here for the full results of the second session.

Barber Test Session 1 Results (February 24, 2010)

Team Penske paced the field in the first IZOD IndyCar Series test session of the year, held at Barber Motorsports Park on the morning of February 24.

Drivers Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, and Helio Castroneves went 1-2-3 in the test session, with Power the only driver participating to break the 1 minute, 11 second mark on the 2.3 mile road course. He had a best lap of 01:10.97.

Takuma Sato was the fastest rookie of the session, turning a lap of 01:12.21 for fifth fastest overall. Sato also completed the most laps of any driver in the session, with 22.

17 cars completed at least one lap, with Simona de Silvestro's run voided by a spin on her first circuit.

Click here for the full results of the first session.

Timing and Scoring Still Has a Few Kinks to Work Out...

The official website of the Indy Racing League, indycar.com, launched IndyCar Race Control today in conjunction with the test at Barber Motorsports Park. While it's a beautiful looking piece of work, providing fans with a leaderboard, leader graph, pit board, fastest laps, and the entry list, it has been marred all day by technical malfunctions.

Drivers and cars that do not exist have been frequently popping up in timing and scoring due to bug logging, according to IndyCar Nation's Twitter account. In other words, while drivers and teams have used the test session as a way to prepare their cars for the upcoming season, the folks at indycar.com have been using the session as a way to make sure that Race Control will be fully functional and glitch-free for the beginning of the season. "That's what tests are for," tweeted the site.

Of course, that didn't stop fans from having fun with it. They joked about the series being overrun with cyborgs, with cars carrying numbers such as "91A" and driver names like "P2.I 9." Some cars carried words for numbers, such as "Green" and "Motorsport," single letters from the alphabet, or real team numbers followed by "$0." Some of these cars mirrored exactly what others on track did (for example, car No. 67$0 posted the exact same times as Sarah Fisher), but some produced fanciful and impossible data. One car was reported at having lapped the track in .01 of a second.

The data for the real cars, however, has been accurate - it's just been a matter of sifting through the gibberish to find the lap times. As of 4:30 PM EST, four cars have broken 1 minute, 11 second lap times as the track has warmed up somewhat.

Day One of Testing at Barber Commences

The IZOD IndyCar Series opens its 2010 season with two days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park, today and tomorrow. Twenty cars have taken to the track, with perhaps more competing tomorrow.

Early in the session the Roger Penske-owned cars of Will Power and Ryan Briscoe were fastest, posting the quickest and second-quickest laps of the session before breaking for lunch. Power is thus far the only driver to break 1 minute 11 seconds on the track, a good omen for the Aussie competing in his first full season for Team Penske.

A handful of teams are not at Barber, including Panther Racing (No. 4, Dan Wheldon) and FAZZT Race Team (No. 77, Alex Tagliani), having withdrawn due to inclement weather. Dale Coyne Racing is not present due to the impending finalization of driver contracts.