Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Format MPG Track Days Off To A Good Start

Motorsports Journal/Performance & Racing Tech Talk managing editor Edmund Jenks takes the first drive of the day at Big Willow in the new 5th generation of the just released Dodge VIPER T/A production two-seater super car. The Yorange 2015 Viper has not been outfitted with the SRT performance division’s 707-horsepower Hellcat engine (which was available in a lime green Charger and also driven at Big Willow) but its 8.4-liter V-10 engine is now rated at 645 horsepower, up 5 horses on the previous model year. Torque remains unchanged at 600 ft.-pounds. Production of this particular model in specialized colors (Competition Blue, Yorange, and Venom Black) will be limited to 96 units. Image Credit: Albert Wong

New Format MPG Track Days Off To A Good Start

The Motor Press Guild (MPG), the largest automotive media association in North America, re-launched its annual Track Days media event with an all-new program this week on Oct. 14-15 at the Hilton Pasadena, the Rose Bowl, and Willow Springs International Speedway.

Pulling in elements from business retreats and professional conferences, the re-imagined MPG Track Days program included a discussion panel led by A-list media, presentations from industry executives and exclusive test drives of more than 50 new cars, trucks and SUVs on public roads, closed courses and an historic raceway.

Chris Kersting, CEO of SEMA, the trade association representing the $33B automotive aftermarket industry, shared his insights on the latest parts and accessory trends ahead of the SEMA Show. The SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show, scheduled for November 4-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and plays host to more than 130,000 attendees and is where the industry comes to do business. For the first time in the Show's nearly 50-year history, the general public will be invited to partake in the action at a separate event called SEMA Ignited after the Show closes.

MPG Track Days “Secrets of Success in Automotive Journalism” panel shared many strongly held opinions in a lively and open, back and forth, forum. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

MPG Track Days' professional media panel this year, entitled "Secrets of Success in Automotive Journalism," was moderated by Sue Callaway, editor-in-chief of THE AUTO 100 and senior contributing editor at Fortune magazine. Callaway and the panel shared insights on what it takes to be an influential journalist in today's complex media world. Panelists included "BJ" Chris Woodyard, auto industry reporter at USA Today; "The Retiring" Mark Vaughn, west coast editor at Autoweek; "Just a grateful blogger" Michael Harley, west coast editor at Autoblog.com; "From radio to video" Micah Muzio, managing editor for video, Kelley Blue Book; and "Managing Motormouth" Michelle Naranjo, editor-in-chief at Autobytel.com. A second panel discussed the role of technology in the auto industry, from design to driving.

As in years past, MPG journalist members drove and evaluated vehicles from nearly every automaker in various environments on road, off road and on track. A back-to-back comparison test of compact SUVs and luxury sedans were staged at the historic Rose Bowl, followed by a street drive through scenic Pasadena. On-track drives at Big Willow and Streets of Willow courses were held at the historic Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. An off-road course through the hills overlooking the Raceway hosted a selection of trucks and SUVs, including the incredibly capable 550hp Lingenfelter Chevy Reaper pickup truck.

The much anticipated, limited-edition Reaper, a no-nonsense performance off-road edition of the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup, is now available at select General Motors dealerships nationwide. The heavily customized Chevy Silverado that can be ordered with a supercharged 550hp 6.2L, comes in red, white, gray and black with a long list of standard features: three-inch lift, long-travel off-road suspension; Fox Racing shocks; 20-inch exclusive Reaper wheels mounted on General Grabber LT tires; and a Lingenfelter performance exhaust system. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

"Our track event has always provided a vital comparative driving experience for professional journalists to evaluate several cars in a short amount of time," said Joni Gray, MPG president. "This year, we've stepped up our program with newsworthy speakers and hands-on instruction to provide our members with even more content to fill the stories, reviews, TV segments and podcasts they create in the automotive media space."

MPG members were treated to a special ride along in a 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO - one of only three in the country -- with 2011 Nissan GT Academy winner Bryan Heitkotter.

On the evening of Oct. 14, the gala dinner prepared by celebrity executive chef Gina Rodriguez was served. Rodriguez was a contestant on Food Network's hit show, Chopped. In the morning following the dinner, members were transported between the Hilton Pasadena and Willow Springs on Wi-Fi enabled luxury corporate coaches, which allowed members to network and be productive on the 90 minute ride each way.

MPG Track Days was open to all Motor Press Guild members, but only journalist members were credentialed to drive vehicles.

For information about becoming a member of MPG, please visit www.MotorPressGuild.org, or follow us on the MPG Facebook and Twitter pages.

Presenting Sponsors:
SEMA - Specialty Equipment Market Association
Nissan North America

Sponsor provided street drive cars lined up on the parking lot tarmac at the Southwest front entrance of the Rose Bowl complex. Journalist members had an enjoyable time driving a neighborhood street course that had all cars pass by a California Highway Patrol field office just off of the 210 Freeway. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Participating Sponsors:
Volkswagen of America
Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America
Mercedes-Benz North America
Lingenfelter
Cadillac
Chevrolet
Mazda
Ford Motor Co.
Subaru of America
Kia Motors
Hyundai Motors
Chrysler Corp.
Jeep
Fiat
Alfa Romeo
Infiniti
Honda North America
Acura
BMW North America
Volvo
Toyota
Scion
MINI
Porsche Cars North America
Jaguar
Land Rover
Tesla Motors
NVIDIA
Newspress
PR Newswire
(ht: Doug Stokes - MPG Track Days Committee)

... notes from The EDJE

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Has Tight Points Battles In 3 Of 5 Events

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The crazy-wild Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity Jet Dragster will be making a special appearance on the oval track and is scheduled to do a spectacular "burn down" (and that means to the ground) of a cast-off automobile or two during the "Night of Champions 2014" at IEC. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Has Tight Points Battles In 3 Of 5 Events

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Presented by 805 will be held this coming Saturday, October 18, 2014. Five Speedway divisions and one west coast touring series will take to the banked asphalt at Irwindale with five 2014 track championships at stake all on one exciting night.

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NASCAR sanctioned Pick Your Part Super Late Models. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

The featured NASCAR sanctioned Pick Your Part Super Late Models division have put on great show at every race this year and now head into their final race with the first two competitors tied in points at 274 each. It just can't get any closer than a tie for first place points after completing the first six of a seven race championship season.

The leading duo: Toni McCray from Highland has won one of the six races, finished second twice and has a string of good finishes to her name, and Corona's Jason Patison has a three-race winning streak in the "Supers" going in.

Stringing together a lot of very good finishes, Linny White (Fontana) is right there in third at 272 points, only 2 scant clicks behind McCray and Patison. If anyone doesn't think that Mister White is coiled-up like a cobra and ready to strike, they've been watching the wrong races. Almost like a one-race "chase", the first points for this one have been figuratively reset to zero and there's Linny looking for a way to grab that 100* smackers and win the whole Super Late show on the very last go-round.

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Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

... And the Seidner's Collision Centers Mini Stocks division are only 2 points shy of a tie coming in on Saturday night. Covina's Dusty Morgan has not won a race all year but smart driving and a string of top finishes sees him here two (full) points up on Robby Harryman from Anaheim (316 -314). Harryman has won two races in the eight-race series, but also had a couple of not-so-hot finishes, keeping the points close and the competition (Garrett Green from Long Beach is only 4 points behind Harryman in third!) so tantalizingly tough and tight among the mighty mini stocks.

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Universal Studios Hollywood™ Bandoleros division. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Thirty-eight points separate Twin Peaks' McKenzie Eshleman from Lomita's Ryan Vargas in the Universal Studios Hollywood™ Bandoleros division. Vargas has been perfect in 2014, winning each and every one of the ten "Bando" events run thus far at Irwindale.

Under any other set of circumstances Eshleman would be said to be having a great year, the young lady notching high finishes at every event, but then there's Vargas winning every race that see the two 38 points apart first from second. Now factor in Allison Gay from Lakeside who is only 16 markers back in third. There are two races and 150 points still on the table for these youngsters (50 on Friday night and 100 for the finale on Saturday). Can Vargas go undefeated for an entire season?

Stand by (better still, the public is urged to go to www.irwindaleeventcenter.com right now and grab a whole handful of discount tickets for October 18 to witness the battle for a shot at track history).

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Irwindale Race Trucks division. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Running race nine of a 10-event 2014 season, the Irwindale Race Trucks division points leader has what looks (by the above standards anyway) like a huge 40 point jump on second place, but we must remind again that this one is for 100 (not the standard 50) points.

Already crowned as the 2104 Lucas Oil Late Model division champion, Rancho Cucamonga's own Ryan Partridge has a 40-point lead over his neighbor Christian McGhee (from Claremont) who, in turn has a 20-point advantage over rookie sensation Lacie Price from Bellflower. Partridge has won the lion's share of the IRT races this year (7 of the 9 run so far) but the Irwindale points system (and some very good driving by youngsters McGhee and Price) have kept the show close and the championship outcome to be determined on October 18.

In what is the largest lead in divisional points for the Irwindale championship events running on Saturday night, Alta Loma's Brent Scheidemantle will lead the INEX Legend Cars division onto the Speedway's low-banked (and tricky) third-mile track with a 72-point cushion over Studio City's Aaron Wells (442 to 370).

This will be the tenth and final race of the 2014 season for these very popular and very quick little motorcycle-engined replicas of early NASCAR stockers. Chad Schug (Oak Hills) is third only 20 back of Wells in the closely-matched "spec" series. There's a hundred to be had in the points pile, which means, of course, that a misstep can cost a lot to a frontrunner in terms of final placings on the points page in the big book of racing for 2014 at Irwindale.

The Spears S2 Tour Series will be back for their final Irwindale visit on October 18 with young Brandon Weaver from Bakersfield leading the points with 1,428 after the first seven of their 10-race touring season. Nastasia Dodd from Bass Lake is 129 points back at 1,299 with Bill Waters (Simi Valley) only 10 behind her. Johnny Butler from Arcadia and Kenny Smith from Oak Hills round out the S-2 top five at 1,261 and 1,180 points respectively. The S-2's are a locally-designed and built "spec" (all components and engines are identical) class and the racing is always razor-sharp and exceedingly close.

In addition to all of the above high-level championship short track competition, the crazy-wild Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity Jet Dragster will be making a special appearance on the oval track and is scheduled to do a spectacular "burn down" (and that means to the ground) of a cast-off automobile or two.
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Figure-8 Chain Racing (two cars chained together on each team). Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

The night will also feature the return of Figure-8 Chain Racing (two cars chained together on each team) in a wild exhibition event!

For those who attend and are over 21, Firestone Walker Brewing Company will be on hand with $2 beers for all of their brands on site, including their very popular 805 - hence "Presented by 805!"
(ht: IEC)

... notes from The EDJE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pagenaud Leaves Honda For Chevy's Team Penske

DSC06491.JPGSimon Pagenaud poses at The Gorve in Los Angeles with the Verizon IndyCar Series championship prize ... The Astor Cup. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Pagenaud Leaves Honda For Chevy's Team Penske

At the end of a post finale MAVTv500 race press conference at Auto Club Speedway, a question was quickly posed to Simon Pagenaud as Simon was leaving the room - "Hey Simon, great year! What are your plans for 2015, any changes? Pagenaud replied with a large smile and a twinkle in his eye, "Just wait, in a couple of weeks there will be a big announcement - there may be a surprise." Since Simon was quickly leaving the room, there was no time for a follow-up.

Fast forward to about one month later. Rumors swirled around the future of Simon Pagenaud and if he just might jump to Honda's new alliance with McLaren in F1 and campaign for Honda in this new effort in the other top professional open wheel racing series here on mother Earth.

After all, Pagenaud has been very closely associated with Honda so as to have him viewed as a factory driver for most of the company's competitive efforts. So much so, that Simon Pagenaud took on the challenge of Pikes Peak last year in a specially outfitted IndyCar powered Honda Odyssey. Sadly, the effort did not produce great results other than the promotional value ... the Odyssey's time (12:54.325) was beaten by a turbo diesel-powered Freightliner that was being promoted by Banks Power (12:49.211).

On Monday, September 29, 2014, Simon Pagenaud officially became a member of a four-car team that may just have the most talented group of drivers to grace a team in American open-wheel racing - Verizon IndyCar Series' Penske Racing.

DSC07887.JPGSimon Pagenaud as he waits to qualify his last Honda-powered Dallara DW12 at the MAVTv500 held at Auto Club Speedway. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

An Interview With:

SIMON PAGENAUD & TIM CINDRIC


MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Merrill Cain with Team Penske, and thank you for joining us today for this special media teleconference. We hope everyone saw the news this morning that Team Penske is proud to welcome aboard Simon Pagenaud in the fourth car for the organization's Verizon IndyCar Series program beginning in 2015. A four‑time IndyCar race winner with a championship pedigree who has finished among the top five in the Series Championship in each of the last three seasons, we are happy to be joined by Simon Pagenaud along with Penske Racing President, Tim Cindric, to discuss today's announcement.

Simon and Tim, thank you for joining us on the call this afternoon.

We'll begin by getting some opening comments from both Tim and Simon who are at the Penske Racing facility in North Carolina today and we'll open it up to questions for media on the call. Simon, first off, congratulations on today's news and welcome to Team Penske.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Thank you. It's a very special day in my career. This is a stepping stone in what happened for me in this life. It's an honor to be part of Team Penske, a team that I've always dreamed to drive for, so a very special day.

MERRILL CAIN: Simon, obviously, this is a great opportunity for both you and the team. Can you just talk about what this means for your career overall, and also what you're looking forward to as you complete a powerful four‑car Verizon IndyCar Series lineup for the team starting next season?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It's definitely the next step in my career. I've been working my whole life as a race car driver, and now was perfect timing for Team Penske to come and work together. I'm really excited to get to work with Helio (Castroneves), Will (Power), and Juan Montoya. So having three teammates like them is definitely a huge help as a driver to complete the steps and it's going to help the team as well. I'm really excited. I think it's a tremendous opportunity for my career.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Simon, and we hope the off‑season goes quickly for you as you get ready for 2015. Tim Cindric, why was now the right time for Team Penske to expand into a four‑car team and why was Simon the right driver to add to the lineup going forward?

TIM CINDRIC: It's the first time we've run four cars with Team Penske, so it will certainly be a challenge. But when you have someone like Simon who may seem as though maybe this has been something that we've looked at here in the short‑term, that's not necessarily the case.

Simon Pagenaud on Front Straight - LMP2.jpgSimon Pagenaud teamed with Gil deFerran to win Gil's last professional race as a driver at the 2010 ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It turns out that deFarren started his career in North America by winning his first professional race driving for Jim Hall here at MRLS. Image Credit: Motorsport.com (2010)

Simon had obviously had an association with (former Team Penske driver) Gil (de Ferran) back in the Sports Car days when we were running the ALMS program, and that's where we took notice of what his capabilities were. You know, really this has been the opportunity that we've had to bring him on board.

If that meant changing to a four‑car program, that's what we were prepared to do. We feel like any time you can expand an organization, certainly it's satisfying to know that we can continue to add to the Team Penske heritage, and bringing Simon on board was certainly an added plus to that. So, certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Open Questions:

Q. Tim, we know that each individual driver will have their own individual team, but it seems when you're going to add a fourth car to the organization, you've never had four cars before. Maybe just talk a little, if you can, about some of the logistical hurdles you guys need to jump over to add another driver and another car? It's probably a lot more difficult than it actually sounds like.

TIM CINDRIC: It's a good question. When you look at the landscape right now, and you're looking at even how Andretti runs their program and the team continues to change and develop up until the first race. Typically we don't really put our teams together year to year, even when we stay with the same group of people. We don't necessarily designate them as the No. 3 car mechanic, No. 2 car mechanic or engineer, what have you, until later in the off‑season. So I think that would be the same case.

Personnel is the first challenge that you have, and logistically how do you place four cars, how do you put them under the tent? How do you debrief? How do you put together what you need for our overseas trip now at the Brasilia race and those sorts of things? Certainly a logistical challenge, but more importantly the personnel is always what makes the difference, so that becomes your biggest focus.

Q. Simon, you seemed to thrive with a bigger team. I mean, you've got three primary guys that you can feed off of and debrief with. Talk a little bit about the wealth of experience and success that those three guys have had over the years and how you're going to use a lot of that to develop even further as a race car driver?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It's a tremendous opportunity. I've got Helio, a three‑time Indianapolis 500 Champion. I've got Juan Montoya, and Will Power who is now a champion of the Verizon IndyCar Series, so it's great. It's really going to be a very interesting season next year. Feeding off each other will be an important task. We all work for Team Penske, and that's how it works here. I'm really excited about it, and I think it's a perfect - like I said, perfect timing in my career.

Q. Simon, we started talking to you in July or August about all the people interested in you. Could you just talk about what it took to get you. As good a partner as Honda was, and maybe this is one of the few opportunities that a race driver gets or was the fact it was Roger Penske? I know it was a tough decision, but just maybe talk in your words as far as being torn maybe between staying with Honda or going to maybe one of the great opportunities a race driver gets?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's a good question. As a driver, you grow, and there are teams that you look for and there are teams that you admire. Team Penske has always been a team I've always admired. The Penske way has always been something that impressed me, and I felt like I would fit the mold really well. I don't think any driver would turn down any opportunities from Roger Penske, so it was because of my interest in this team, it was the decision I made. I have to thank Honda for the past and for everything that they helped me to do. But, like I said, I just admired this team so much, this is my decision.

Q. As far as Ben (Bretzman), the engineer that Simon has had, will he come on board as Simon's engineer next year?

TIM CINDRIC: We haven't started the process. This is the first step and we haven't spoken to anybody in Simon's team at this point in time. So after today we'll start that process. Honestly, I don't know him. I've never met him, so don't really know what that is. He hasn't contacted us either. So I really don't know what the next steps are there. We have some depth here, but we'll certainly look to add from outside where we can.

Q. It just seemed that when Will (Power) came over, he brought Dave (Faustino). It just seems like the natural progression.

TIM CINDRIC: Well, if you remember, David didn't come for a year until after Will was here. Will didn't mention David to me. I didn't know David Faustino until after the first year Will was here, and Will never mentioned his name until Derrick Walker mentioned him to me. Derrick was the one that said I should talk to David. It was never Will.

I know it's interesting, and I asked Will, I said, it's interesting you hadn't brought up David's name? And he said, well, I just wanted to be here first, and I figured you guys would figure out the rest. But if we could have David, that would be great. I said, why didn't you tell me a year ago? (Laughs)

Q. Simon, congratulations. You mentioned your teammates earlier, Helio, Juan, but Will is the big talking point. You obviously had a bit of a rivalry this year. How different will it be being teammates with Will compared to when you were rookie in Champ Car and you two were teammates at that point?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, Will is a champion. He's a tremendous driver. Yes, we've had contact on track and all that, but you need to grow as a driver. We're quite mature now. We've known each other for a long time and been good teammates. I enjoyed very much working together at the time. I think it's going to be our job to make it work for the team at Team Penske. It's a great opportunity, certainly for me, but for all of us here. I don't see any problem. I don't see any reason why it won't work well. Actually, it is going to work well.

Q. As a follow‑up, with leaving Honda, is it at all bittersweet given what they've been able to do for your career?

SIMON PAGENAUD: They've done a lot for me, that's definitely the case. It's been a great relationship. It's been a fantastic three years in IndyCar with Sam Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, but then you have to choose some decisions in life. And like I said, my dream has always been to drive for Roger, and I got this opportunity and I made this decision.

Q. Some of the feedback I've already started to get in this announcement is that now Andretti and Penske each have four cars. How do you answer that with what's good for the goose is good for the gander kind of thing as far as the overall sport?

TIM CINDRIC: I guess we didn't really look at it as car count. We looked at it more as opportunity from our end. I think you see it in all the different sports, whether it's IndyCar, NASCAR, what have you in terms of car count, obviously raises your odds in some ways. But if you don't do it right, it can also be a distraction, and we've seen that within our NASCAR program. We've been a stronger team with two guys than we were when we ran three cars. So I think it really depends on when you add those cars and what your capabilities are.

I think if there was a time for us to add a fourth car, it was now. To where we feel we've at least got people in the right places. And our focus of expanding is really just a matter of enhancing what you have, and also adding a car rather than really trying to catch up in some ways. I think what we learn from the NASCAR side of it is if you don't have the two cars right, it's hard to add a third car. When we brought back the two cars in NASCAR, it benefited us in terms of our approach. So we felt like if we were going to add a fourth driver that really there wasn't another guy to consider.

But Simon is someone that we've been interested in, as I said earlier, since he drove Sports Cars for Gil, and this is the first time we've had an opportunity to get together and who knows when the next time might be, so you just have to make a decision.


Q. Do you think this is good for the sport to have three teams so dominant in terms of their car count?

TIM CINDRIC: I think that's for somebody else to judge. You saw what the Schmidt Peterson team was able to do with one car and you look at the number of race winners they had this year, and there were two four‑car teams out there this year. You look at the number of race winners that were at IndyCar, I'm not sure it really matters.

Q. Simon, have you talked to Will since the decision was made?

SIMON PAGENAUD: No, I haven't talked to Will yet. I will certainly do that very soon. We're actually going to a Verizon event tomorrow all together with all four drivers. So we'll have time to chat about it and that will be an interesting day.

Q. Is this a Verizon car, or are we that far down the line yet?

TIM CINDRIC: No, the answer is no and no. As far as a Verizon car or are we that far down the line, we're obviously starting to work on the sponsorship package for that program, but it's not necessarily a Verizon car. It's not necessarily not a Verizon car. We haven't talked to Verizon other than letting them know that Simon is coming on board. We certainly have some sponsorship programs that we're working on, and Verizon is part of all of our cars, so that's yet to be determined.

Q. When did you seriously consider adding that fourth car, and was that decision based on the fact that a driver of Simon's caliber was available and you didn't want to miss the opportunity to lock him up for the long‑term?

TIM CINDRIC: When did we start considering it? I would say pretty much all season long it's been in the back of my head because I've known what Simon's obligations were, based on the discussions we had before. This is a business you have to be kind of looking ahead to be sure that you're prepared. So in my mind that thought had been going on throughout the season. But we really hadn't crossed that bridge or talked about it in seriously until it was time, really.

Q. Simon, have you had much interaction with Rick Mears in your time with IndyCars, and have you looking forward to benefiting the role he plays with Team Penske?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I am very much looking forward to interact with Rick. We've had a few words on the racetrack, but just as competitors and very respectful words. I'm always looking up to those kind of drivers, like I did with Gil de Ferran, so it will be really awesome for me to get to have good stories with Rick.

Q. Simon, could you talk about the resources at Penske with both what's available to you and plus the depth of all the talent that you're going to be working with when you get there?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, it's a good point to bring. The big advantage of a team like Penske is definitely all the resources that you can have and all the research and development that you have available to make the car better and improve. As you know, I'm someone very technical, and that is the side of the sport that we enjoy. What better fit for me? There wasn't any better fit. So it's pretty exciting going into 2015 that way.

Q. Do you feel that perhaps you're going to be able to add to some of the deep history of the Penske legacy?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I surely hope so. I mean, as a driver, when you walk into a team like this one, the goal is different. You're here to win. That's the bottom line. The goal is to have complete success with the contract.

Q. Congratulations, Simon, and Tim, too. There was some suggestions that Nissan approached you about possibly driving their new P1 car in Le Mans in the World Championship. Can you comment on that at all, and if you gave any serious consideration to such an offer if it came?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I've always been interested in Sports Car. I've had a great career in Sports Car. But as you can see, my goal was to go back to IndyCar in 2012, but it was a successful time and great opportunities ahead. So, yes, I've been in talks with Nissan. It's been good talks, but I was very interested in my opportunities in IndyCar, so that was the bottom line.

Q. Joining Penske in IndyCar, it would be like if you joined McLaren or Ferrari in Formula 1?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, the Penske heritage is huge in racing. What Roger Penske did for the sport is amazing in America and worldwide as well. It's truly an honor to be part of the team now, and I'm very excited to get to work with everybody here. I'm just super excited and really impressed with the organization already.

Q. Do you feel that for the timing it's a different thing to be the little French man on a smaller team than a big one and it's another thing to be part of one of the big teams?

SIMON PAGENAUD: That's an interesting question. I don't think nationality has anything to do with success. It's who you are as a person, and who you think will win. I definitely feel like on the Team Penske side and my side it could be a really good fit, and that's why we joined the two ends of the link.

TIM CINDRIC: We worked with a smaller French guy before in (Romain) Dumas.

Q. Congratulations both of you. My first question is for Tim. I know in the past there have been times where you weren't able to go from two cars up to three cars because of sponsorship considerations. Simon is a great talent. What was it about this that you feel confident that you can collectively stage a fully good four‑car effort bringing in all the financial resources it will take?

TIM CINDRIC: The fortunate thing is obviously we have an owner that is committed to winning and committed to opportunity. That doesn't mean we can't make a business case behind it, but obviously, to make this decision, we have to have those resources in place or at least to the point where we're confident enough that it can stand on its own.

So I think it's a little bit different than the Montoya situation because that one, honestly, we didn't have one discussion whatsoever. This one, I think we also have some processes in place to where we feel like there is some potential beyond our existing sponsors. But at the end of the day, that is the secondary thing for us in terms of this opportunity. I know that sounds backwards sometimes, but we've been fortunate to have a really good marketing team, and with the off‑season the way it is, we feel like we've got more time than you typically would have to raise those budgets. So, obviously we're willing to take that chance.

To have four cars, there is efficiency in doing that. The first car costs the most, and then each one after that costs a little bit less. That's not always the case for the driver, but it is the case for the sponsor, in a way.

Q. Simon, if you could talk about the path it's taken to get to this ride? Obviously one of the best rides in the history of the sport. If you could talk a little about the road and the path that it's taken for you to get here?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Of course. It's my path in America has been very interesting and challenging at times, but quite a good adventure. I came here in 2006 and won the Champ Car Atlantic championship. Then I went to Champ Car, had a good time being teammates with Will Power and unfortunately the series folded. 

So I found a home with Gil de Ferran and a great organization, and then I had an opportunity to drive Le Mans in the 24 Hours.

So I had the chance to have really good rides and to shine in those good teams. I'm really happy to get in contact, basically with Team Penske and Tim Cindric. 

So that was, I think, Sports Car was a very important moment in my career. It helped me to learn a lot by technical aspects of the car and set‑up, and also to be known as someone who could share and work as a teammate. Then the next step was coming back to IndyCar with Sam Schmidt, and I can't thank him enough for what he did and the opportunity he gave me. We had great success and it allowed me to have a great opportunity today with Team Penske.

Q. I know that you've had quite a bit of success with Sam, but how stunned were you when the initial overtures came from Team Penske?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I worked pretty hard. I worked really hard, and the goal as a driver is to go out and win races and win championships. So you always hope for the best. You always hope that you'll get the best opportunity possible. There's been a lot of interest during the winter which I truly was honored about it. Luckily enough I had a very good opportunity with the team that I always dreamed to drive for, so the decision from then on was pretty easy for me.

Q. Do you have a car number yet or something you're leaning toward?
TIM CINDRIC: 22. 22. Thanks for asking.

Q. Simon, you've been honest the last couple of years - (you've) got to upgrade (your) oval track program, and I think you've made strides. But you've never had a strong teammate that had oval experience. Now you have Montoya, Castroneves and Power, and now Rick Mears. Maybe that is the one missing piece of your career right now. As far as looking ahead, that's got to give you more optimism than anything?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes. It took time for anyone like Dario Franchitti or Will Power to win on oval, and I think it's the natural progress and natural improvement. I feel definitely ready to take on the fight on the ovals, and definitely having someone like Montoya with so much experience on the oval and Helio by my side will be huge.

I'm actually really looking forward to our first test together on an oval some day. That is definitely going to be an interesting one for me in that sense.

Q. Have you determined the first test dates for Simon yet? How different is this year's first testing program going to be considering you have the aero kits coming, but it's a little bit of a waiting period until that point?

TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, I think understanding where the aero kit test plan is probably the best answer for that as we try to work through that for Chevrolet. Chevrolet has done a lot of work on the aero kit program over the past couple years as I'm sure Honda has. But understanding what the best approach is for utilizing their days and how they plan to utilize their days, we're still working close to Chevrolet on that and trying to incorporate Simon into that at some point in time would be great if we get that opportunity.

But certainly before the year is out, we'd like to get him in our car at some point in time. We're actually pouring the seat for him here today, so we'll have that piece out of the way. Really, after that I guess I don't have a specific date, but I can say he'll be in the car before the end of the year.
ENDS

Many are now left asking ... what in the heck did Honda do to warrant such a level of defection to the manufacturer of the other engine and aerodynamic body work for the Dallara DW12 in the Verizon IndyCar Series - Chevrolet?

Last year around this time, Target Chip Ganassi Racing jumped to Chevrolet, and with the merger of Ed Carpenter Racing with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing earlier this month - CFHR will be running Chevy-power leaving Honda without rising American star driver Josef Newgarden.

And now this - Simon Pagenaud leaves Honda for Team Penske!

At least, now, Pagenaud will not have to be concerned about being bested by a 10,000 pound mule for a rolling cross-country shipping container.

In 2015, what is Honda going to do to buttress its dwindling American open-wheel prospects? Of the three four-car teams, only one is powered and supported by Honda - Andretti Autosport. Maybe their answer will lay in providing better Aero Kits!

... notes from The EDJE

Monday, September 22, 2014

60 Total Reveals, 30 World Debuts, Confirmed For The 2014 LA Auto Show


la-fi-hy-autos-cadillac-ats-v-la-auto-show-201-001.jpgThe Cadillac booth under construction at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show. GM's luxury arm has confirmed the high-performance ATS-V sedan will make its world debut at the 2014 L.A. show in November. Image Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

60 Total Reveals, 30 World Debuts, Confirmed For The 2014 LA Auto Show

Here's the breakdown of the 2014 Press & Trade Days (Nov. 18-20) at the Los Angeles Convention Center:

** Half of all unveilings will be never-before-seen global premieres
** More than 63 percent of global debuts are luxury and performance vehicles
** Technology announcements expected from OEMs across the board
** Important statements regarding several brands' evolution of their design language
** Several brands entering into new market segments
** Fastest growing SUV/CUV category to represent one-fifth of this year's global debuts

The Los Angeles Auto Show confirmed today that 30 world debuts (totaling 60 vehicle unveilings overall) will be introduced in front of a global audience during its 2014 Press & Trade Days at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Almost every manufacturer has news to make in Los Angeles, but several automakers stand out with multiple global premieres of significant new vehicles.

Audi is planning one of its biggest LA Auto Shows to date, with up to eight total debuts, three of which are global, all to be presented by chairman of the board, Rupert Stadler. Mercedes-Benz will feature three world premieres, which will be showcased alongside the brand's two North American debuts, while Porsche will hold several world reveals. Mazda will feature three global premieres, one of which is an all-new vehicle. BMW has confirmed two world debuts and three North American debuts, and Chevrolet has also committed to two global premieres.

chrysler-300-badge.jpg
Details on the 2015 Chrysler 300 are light, but the American automaker is expected to update the sedan with new styling along with numerous upgrades to the interior. Image Credit: AutoGuide/Fiat Chrysler

Cadillac has already announced its world reveal of the high-performance 2015 ATS-V, while Chrysler plans to introduce its completely refreshed 300 and 300C models.

DSC09823.JPG
An effort to establish a greater luxury perception upon Acura by Honda was the theme at a recent Motor Press Guild meeting at the Honda Collection Museum in Torrance. Michael Accavitti, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Acura Division delivered a keynote address on the launch of the all-new TLX luxury performance sedan. The Motor Press Guild (MPG) is the sponsoring association for the Los Angeles Auto Show where the MPG honors innovation with it's Innovation Vehicle of the Year, or IVY Award. The IVY recognizes vehicles that represent segment-busting technology, engineering, and other significant factors that move the industry in a notable direction. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Scion also recently announced its plans for a global premiere of an all-new vehicle. Other brands making big statements with world premieres include Acura, Lexus, Toyota and Volkswagen. A few other brands that are keeping their plans under wraps are expected to add to LA's roster of global premieres.

DSC02590 BMW i8 2013 LA Auto Show.JPG
There's little doubt that the 2015 BMW i8 is one of the most radical and groundbreaking performance cars this industry has seen in a long time. From its unique carbon-intensive construction to its 1.5-liter, three-cylinder and electric motor plug-in powertrain to its concept-car originated appearance in 2009 , the flagbearer for BMW's new i venture challenges the very notion of what it takes to be a supercar. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2013)

At least a dozen manufacturers have confirmed North American introductions, including Land Rover, who will reveal its all-new 2015 Discovery Sport crossover. Also expected are the MINI hardtop four-door and the Superleggera Vision concept, a redesigned Kia Sorrento, the convertible versions of the 228i and M235i from BMW, the Mitsubishi XR-PHEV concept vehicle and a dramatic statement by Volvo, who is re-launching its entire brand with the introduction of the second generation XC90, the company's first model in four years. Fiat, Infiniti and Nissan are also verified to make North American debuts.

Volvo's "Drive Me" autonomous vehicle will also make its North American premiere on the Connected Car Expo (CCE) show floor on Nov. 18, with executives discussing the car's progressive autopilot technology. For the second consecutive year, the LA Auto Show's CCE will take place in conjunction with Press & Trade Days and will feature 80 presenting experts, 20 conference topics and executive interviews, multiple news conferences and an expanded 50,000 square foot exhibit space. Breaking technology news from Audi, Hyundai, KPMG and several other exhibitors will highlight a full day of expert presentations. Additional information HERE.

"With this debut lineup, Los Angeles will deliver the best of what's to come in the automotive space and we're eager to see how it all unfolds," said LA Auto Show President, Lisa Kaz. "The automotive landscape is ever-changing and we continue to be at the forefront of the groundbreaking news."
(ht: LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW)

... notes from The EDJE


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Final Practice Nets Tragedy For SMP Racing And Aleshin

SMP Racing's Mikhail Aleshin as he prepares to be the first of 22 cars to run qualifying laps for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
SMP Racing's Mikhail Aleshin as he prepares to be the first of 22 cars to run qualifying laps for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Final Practice Nets Tragedy For SMP Racing And Aleshin

A crash involving three drivers happened in the final practice for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California.

Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Safety crew extracts Aleshin from cockpit of his DW12. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Wheel ensconced in catchfence. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

The three drivers were Snapple Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti, NovoLog FlexPen Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball, and SMP Racing's Mikhail Aleshin. Two of the three drivers were able to walk away but the rookie driver from Russia, Mikhail Aleshin (pronounced Ah-lotion), needed to be helped through the efforts of the Holmatro Safety Team out of the Dallara DW12 and onto a stretcher.

Aleshin being helped to the stretcher. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Aleshin being helped to the stretcher. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

The first report issued at the track is that Mikhail is conscious and being transported by Helicopter to Loma Linda Hospital in San Bernardino County complaining of right shoulder and right foot pain/injury. He is listed in Serious Condition.  

UPDATE >>>

harlie Kimball's Dallara DW12. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Charlie Kimball's Dallara DW12. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

The photos from the video feed at the track suggested something a bit more tragic than the first reports on Aleshin's condition because one of the cars was seen as flying up into the air into the catch fence.

Further images showed that a tire from a car was embedded in the fencing material with the car Aleshin was driving in shambles further down the track exiting Turn 4.

Tony Kanaan (center), Scott Dixon (right), and Helio were shaken at the images shown at the track, saying to each other  ... it looks bad. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Tony Kanaan (center), Scott Dixon (right), and Helio were shaken at the images shown at the track, saying to each other ... it looks bad. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

The last time cars flew into fences at an oval IndyCar event, the results cost us all with the life of Dan Wheldon which also happened at a season ending event.

The initial reports are promising and we all pray for a positive, and life affirming result from this final practice crash.

... notes from The EDJE

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Auto Club Speedway's President Gillian Zucker Talks All Things ACS

Auto Club Speedway’s President Gillian Zucker shares a moment with Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves during a media PR stop with the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center, Carson, California. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Auto Club Speedway's President Gillian Zucker Talks All Things ACS

For those of you who may not be familiar with folks who run and manage racetrack venues, Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker is the first female president of a track that hosts auto racing’s most popular event, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and was recently named by FOX Sports and MSN as one of the top five most powerful women in motorsports.

The Verizon IndyCar Series will be holding their third championship season ending, double points paying, 500 mile race at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, with the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships - this coming weekend, ending at night, under the lights, Saturday, August 30.

Gillian Zucker, Welcome ...

Gillian Zucker, Auto Club Speedway with IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves and players from LA Galaxy promote the MAVTV 500, August 30, 2014. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)




INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:

1) First off, what training and background does one have to have to become a person to occupy a position as president of a major racing facility? What road did you travel to get at this point?

2) Just what was the interest in this challenge - are you a fan? a good business manager, both?

3) In this economic climate ... what are the challenges to drawing fans from the greater Los Angeles/Orange County basin for NASCAR and IndyCar?

4) There are other forms of racing held at Auto Club Speedway - for example, most people seem to think the only drag-racing that takes place in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County basin is another Auto Club sponsored facility in Pomona, but there are actually a couple more ... and Auto Club Speedway is one. Please tell us more about the drag-racing program at Auto Club Speedway's Auto Club Dragway - how professional is the activity?

5) Another program at Auto Club Speedway is a bit more fan interactive - Exotics Racing gives one the opportunity to drive their choice of exotic super cars on a race track with 1-on-1 coaching from driving instructors! How has the Ă‹xotics Racing¨venture worked out so far?

6) The facility at Auto Club Speedway has a large infield, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 is held, has successfully transformed its infield into a very compelling road course race track reminiscent of the layout pace found at the track in Portland Oregon ... is Auto Club Speedway planning on attracting professional sport-car racing through a road course addition as IMS has done?

7) The IndyCar competitors resoundingly enjoy testing and racing at Auto Club Speedway but for 2015, the series management is considering different options for a venue to hold the season finale ... given the banter in the broadcast booth during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma -

Do you see the Verizon IndyCar Series remaining on the calendar as the season finale? ... or any date, for the foreseeable future?

8) Lastly, what do fans need to be on the look out for while attending MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships - this coming weekend?

TICKETS >>>
ENDS

... notes from The EDJE


Post Script:
This was written by Tony DiZinno at NBC Sports Network - Aug 27, 2014, 1:23 AM EDT - about the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season schedule where ACS President Gillian Zucker states what she said in the interview above at ... notes from The EDJE:

Lastly we come to Fontana, to come full circle from where this post began nearly 900 words ago. Frankly, and despite a strong and committed level of promotion from Auto Club Speedway, ISC, and track president Gillian Zucker, INDYCAR has done ACS zero favors in terms of a consistent date for date equity since its return to the calendar after a seven-year absence.

Yeah, it’s been the last date of the season for three years. But that last date has been September 15, 2012, October 19, 2013 and now August 30, 2014 in three consecutive seasons. How can most locals know when the race is if it changes on them three straight years?

This year, Zucker has justifiably spoken out, confirming to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin that a Labor Day date – one Miles has held firm the IndyCar Series needs to end by – won’t work for the track. It’s going to be a challenge because the NBCSN race telecast doesn’t start until 9 p.m. ET Saturday night, with the race scheduled to start at 7:20 p.m. local time (10:20 p.m. ET).

So suddenly one of the big things we have to watch this weekend is how Fontana deals with the date, and what could happen about its date changing again for the following season.

Essentially, here’s where we’re at for the IndyCar 2015 schedule.

Confirmed dates, as announced either by the track or series include:

March 16-17, Barber open test, March 29, St. Petersburg, April 19, Long Beach, May 9, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, May 16-17, Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, May 24, Indianapolis 500, May 30-31, Detroit Belle Isle, June 6, Texas Motor Speedway

Likely dates, based on projections and similar weekends as in 2014:

June 20, Iowa, August 2, Mid-Ohio, August 23, Milwaukee, August 30, Sonoma

Question marks, where the date or venue could change:

Barber (should be either side of Long Beach in April), Houston (currently last weekend in June, not yet confirmed for same date in 2015), Pocono (possible from either last weekend in June through second weekend in July), Toronto (as mentioned above, neither venue nor date is confirmed), Fontana (date TBD; we’ll see how this week shakes out)

Wild cards, either new venues and/or the proposed international races:

Canada’s date du jour. Assume the Canadian Grand Prix occurs June 7, and with IndyCar at Texas June 6, that potential Toronto-Montreal date conflict is averted. Either late June or one of the July weekends could work for a CTMP, Mont-Tremblant or other random Canadian venue date. Toronto’s streets could work June 13, potentially, but that seems a likely off weekend.

New Orleans is possible for 2015 – Michael Andretti’s group seemed keen on it happening next year during his Milwaukee pre-race media availability.

The two locations mooted for the spring international races, likely in February or early March, are Dubai and Brazil. Details on those would need to be forthcoming, but they wouldn’t feature the new-for-2015 aero kits as they’re not delivered to teams until March 1. Of course, we’ve been down the “international race” path before without it actually going anywhere.

Road America. As mentioned above, unlikely for 2015, but we can dream, right?


Friday, August 22, 2014

Ed Carpenter Talks MAVTv500, ECR Team Performance, & CFH Racing 2015

Ed Carpentet - Driver, Team Owner, Oval Track Specialist. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)
Ed Carpenter - Driver, Team Owner, Oval Track Specialist. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)


Ed Carpenter Talks MAVTv500, ECR Team Performance, & CFH Racing 2015

Ed Carpenter has been racing since he was 8 years old and balanced racing and education throughout much of his career. Carpenter graduated from Butler University with a degree in Marketing in 2003, a few weeks before he won the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carpenter always has been interested in things with engines.

Carpenter started Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2012 season and is the lone team owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He is driving in the oval races for 2014, while Mike Conway is driving the street and road courses. In their second event together, Conway won the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

This past weekend in Milwaukee Ed Carpenter finished in the top 10. Carpenter is successful at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. He won ACS's 2012 MAVTV 500 INDYCAR Race. Last year, he came in 2nd for ACS's 2013 MAVTV 500 INDYCAR race (lost to Will Power). He also won the pole position for back-to-back INDY 500 races - May 2013 & 2014. As an INDYCAR driver and team owner ... over last weekend, he announced that that his team (Ed Carpenter Racing) is merging with Sarah Fisher Hartman racing for the 2015 season.

As we go into the final two races of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) championship season, Ed Carpenter answers a few questions and expresses his hope that Ed Carpenter Racing team ends the VICS season in the Top 5 in points accumulated.

One and a half weeks before the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale MAVTv500 race at the AutoClub Speedway, Ed Carpenter attends a USC Football practice and attempts a Field Goal. Image Credit: Albert Wong (2014)
One and a half weeks before the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale MAVTv500 race at the AutoClub Speedway, Ed Carpenter attends a USC Football practice and attempts a Field Goal. Image Credit: Albert Wong (2014)

Interview Questions:


(1) This year has been a pretty good year for Ed Carpenter Racing if one looks at the points the Fuzzy's Vodka DW12 has been able to post up with only 2 races left - Mike Conway's road course at Sonoma and Your Auto Club Speedway's super oval. The two of you are ranked right next to each other - Mike Conway is sitting at P22 and you are at P23 ... but the car's total points have the effort ahead of 3 out of 4 drivers on the two 4 car teams - Ganassi and Andretti - at P7 with 1 Pole and 3 wins.

A) Has this unusual team mix of specialists delivered the results that you expected? B) Has this mix of fielding a car with specialists for a season been done before?

(2) How do you see the team/car finishing the season with these two races that are left? - First, Mike Conway's road course at Sonoma and Second, Your Auto Club Speedway's super oval performance.

Last weekend, before the race was held in Milwaukee, the announcement came out that Sarah Fisher Racing, a team you use to race for and Ed Carpenter Racing were going to merge to compete in the 2015 season and form a 2-car team.

(3) With announced merger forming CFH Racing, what do you see as the advantage in a multiple car team over your present one car/two driver efforts which are impressive on their own? (4) Did the use of the new aerodynamic kit packages for 2015 enter into your decision to merge and grow the team? (answered in context of previous question - skipped)

(5) Does this merger forming CFH Racing allow your current sponsor Fuzzy´s Vodka to gain more exposure?

(6) Do you see the multi-car teams having an advantage in this area of sponsorship and racing platform changes?

(7) Sarah Fisher's driver, Joesef Newgarden seems to be becoming a hot commodity right now in the paddock. Do you intend to try and retain Joesef Newgarden as a driver on this new 2-car team?

(8) Will you continue with the 2-driver line up in one DW12 with Mike Conway taking up duty on the road courses as part of this 2-car team? ... or will you eventually join Sarah in a team management role?
ENDS

MAVTv500 Tickets >>>

... notes from The EDJE