Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Marco Polo Motorsports Nicolai Elghanayan Post PWC Lime Rock Grand Prix Interview

Nicolai Elghanayan driving the Marco Polo Motorsports, Reiter Engineering, Muellerized, Performance & Racing Tech Talk No. 71 KTM X-Bow captures a nearly perfect weekend of performance with Pole starting position for both Round 5 & Round 6 races in the Pirelli World Challenge Lime Rock Grand Prix topped by 1 hour and 56 minutes of dominating driving performance. Elghanayan raises the trophy he earned in Round 5 for winning the race in front of 30 other GTS SprintX GT4 class cars. Image Credit: PWC (2018)

Marco Polo Motorsports Nicolai Elghanayan Post PWC Lime Rock Grand Prix Interview

Welcome Nicolai Elghanayan ...

You are a first year race car driver for a first year team competing in the Pirelli World Challenge in the GTS SprintX Class driving an Austrian manufactured KTM X-Bow GT4 and have been able to drive at two event venues in the 2018 season. We are conducting this interview after a fairly successful two-race event weekend at Lime Rock Park at the Lime Rock Grand Prix - but more about this later.

The first venue was the two-race weekend of the Grand Prix of Texas at the Circuit Of The Americas (COTA). A quick review of the event shows that a field of 38 cars participated and that in the first practice your car was P30 and the second practice had you placing at P21 and Qualifications at P25 of 37 cars. Tell us about your impressions on being at and preparing to race at COTA before any races were run after driving in the Lotus Cup USA Series where you were Champion for 2016 and 2017.

The racing at COTA was probably a bit tougher than all of the build up and preparation given that at Race 1 the Marco Polo Motorsports KTM X-Bow finished at P28 of 37 cars.

Race 2 had the Marco Polo Motorsports No. 71 KTM X-Bow Grid at P30 and finish at P25.

You needed to complete your studies at USC in Architecture, and graduate - then it is off for preparations for the Grand Prix of Lime Rock.

Marco Polo Motorsports two KTM X-Bow Pirelli World Challenge GTS SprintX GT4 cars preparing for Rounds 5 & 6 to be run at Lime Rock Park. The cars sit around the garages at Willow Springs International Raceway. Image Credit: Thomas Stahler via Facebook (2018)

The shake down preparations were held at three tracks. Two in California and one in Oregon [at Portland International Raceway]. The two sessions in California were held at Willow Springs International Raceway and Buttonwillow in California's Central Valley. In both of these sessions you were joined by former Formula One and KTM staff driver, Tomas Enge as a driving coach.

What core precepts did you learn from Tomas and what is your best memory of those three days of Grand Prix of Lime Rock preparation?

You arrive at Lime Rock Park [in Connecticut] - what are your first impressions achieved from the track inspection walk?

In Practice 1 you place P6 of 33 cars, Practice 2 a P4, and in Qualifications a Pole position at P1. Through the two practice sessions, did you feel you had the car and set up given the improvement from the two sessions to race for the Pole position? Walk us through this.

Race 1 was a fairly close race, without telling us the result, review with us the basics of transition of starting from the Pole and having to defend this position at a place like Lime Rock Park.

Yes! You won your first Pirelli World Challenge race and did it by a margin of only 3.3 seconds. How was that?

Race 2 / Round 6 started off really tight for the first stint of the race. Before you had to come in for the mandatory pitstop, a pair of Audi R8s were dogging you at .1 to .5 for the laps leading up to the stops. Tell us what you learned by being in such tight quarters since they were basically in your tailpipe?

Through 56 minutes of a 1 hour race, you were able to pilot the No. 71 KTM X-Bow to as much as a 16 second lead then something went wrong. Tell us your thinking over the last 4 minutes as you struggled to finish the race.

Still, you finished at P9 in a field of 31 cars. It would have been nice to capture both races in a two race weekend but heck, there are 2/3rds of a field that would still loved to have your race at the end, and more than this many drivers would have loved to have the full weekend.

Next up - Road America - basic thoughts on another first time track.

Nicolai Elghanayan, thank you and safe travels.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Marco Polo Motorsports, Pirelli World Challenge, GTS SprintX, GT4, KTM X-Bow, No. 71, Nicolai Elghanayan, @engeracing, #marcopolomotorsports, #reiterengineering, #muellerized, #limerockpark, Willow Springs International Raceway, Buttonwillow, Portland International Raceway, @The_EDJE

Monday, May 21, 2018

#TeamIndyCar Secures Historic Place In The INDY500 11th Row Society Side-By-Side

Opening title shot of the helicopter that was ferrying Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan to the introduction and starting point of the 30th season of The Amazing Race. One might say that the Month of May and the INDY500 in itself after 101 editions looking to add one more Sunday, May 27th 12:00 PM ET, is The Amazing Race. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

#TeamIndyCar Secures Historic Place In The INDY500 11th Row Society Side-By-Side

CAN'T ... make this stuff up - #TeamIndyCar - Alexander Rossi | Conor Daly - of the 30th season of The Amazing Race are side-by-side again this year at the INDY500 after starting the 2018 season side-by-side at viewing parties in several locations throughout the nation earlier in the year.

So how did Alex and Conor end up on the 30th season of The Amazing Race? Host Phil Keoghan put it this way:

"The idea was: what would happen if you brought together the most competitive teams in Amazing Race history? Where you had an eclectic mix of hyper-competitive people who are used to winning in their chosen field. What would happen if you brought them all together in a race? So you’ve got such a mix of bonified champions, like Indy 500 winners. Then you’ve got world champion eaters. You’ve got the best of the best, the hot dogs and the hot shots. Team Big Brother [consisting of season 19 contestants Cody Nickson and Jessica Graf] was kind of the paprika thrown in for good measure. They’re a bit of a polarizing choice; they’re a couple whose fans absolutely adore them and some are absolutely not warmed to them. We’ve put together a really interesting mix. I say it at the starting line, it’s the most competitive group of teams we’ve had at the start of an Amazing Race."
[ht: AMG/Parade]

Alexander Rossi & Conor Daly appear as #TeamIndyCar during the opening scenes of Season 30 Episode 1 on a monitor during a viewing party on the Sunset Strip. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

This last weekend saw a most unusual occurrence happen during qualifications for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Alexander Rossi has had a very strong season so far, in that he has placed P3, P3, P1, P11, and a P5 in five races and sits just 2 points away from leading in the season championship points at P2 going into the INDY500. During qualifications on Day 1 (and all through practice leading up to Day 1) Alex had great pace and just missed out at re-qualifying for the pole on Day 2, where only the top nine positions are eligible to compete, by 4/10th's of one-second after 10 miles at P10.

RaceControl graphic from IndyCar.com - Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Conor Daly, on the other hand, was not able to secure a full season ride but was able to put together a sponsorship deal with United States Air Force for a Dale Coyne Racing and Thom Burns Racing No. 17 Honda Dallara for the biggest race of almost any season. This late deal, without having the kind of testing and experience with the new Universal Aero Kit Dallara that was introduced this year, had Conor clinging on to make the show at the end of Day 1 of qualifications at P33 of the limit of thirty-three positions allowed to race in the INDY500 no matter how many cars show up.

The unusual occurrence was that on Day 2 final qualifications, Conor Daly was unable to improve upon his starting position of P33 with another four-lap run, but Alex, who was expected to repeat his strong run at the top of the P10-P33 grouping in the Field of 33, was sent out with a right front tire set at an under-inflated level causing his NAPA Auto Parts No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara to decrease in speed in each lap of his four-lap run placing his car at the back of the field at ... P32.

RaceControl graphic from IndyCar.com - Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Joined at the hip yet again, race car drivers and friends Alex and Conor of #TeamIndyCar share the final row at P31 with British auto racing driver, and a former member of McLaren's Young Driver Programme Jack Harvey piloting the Meyer Shank Racing With Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 60 Honda Dallara as members of the "11th Row Society" which is an integral part of the culture surrounding this amazing 102 year (being run Sunday, May 27th 12:00 PM ET) race.

To honor this society and its new members, the 46th Annual charity event known as the "Last Row Party" will be held on Thursday, May 24.

Race car fans can meet Indy 500 drivers at the Last Row Party on Thursday, May 24 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. This annual event — in its 46th year — honors and roasts the three drivers who make up the last or 11th row of the Indianapolis 500 race.

This year's honorees are Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly.

In partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Last Row Party is in the 160-foot-high Pagoda, which sits at the start and finish line of the Indianapolis 500.

One of the 500’s best events, fans can eat, drink and laugh as drivers are roasted at the Pagoda. (4790 West 16th Street -- enter through Gate 2 off 16th street). Last Row Party T-shirts will be sold for $20 each.

Past years' last row drivers have included Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ana Beatriz, Sebastian Saavedra and Takuma Sato. All were Last Row Party honorees and instant crowd favorites.

Tickets are $60 per person. Attire is casual.

Tickets include entertainment and food. There will be two cash bars. Tickets can be ordered through this website at Eventbrite.com. Questions: Call 317-701-1130 (ask for Jenny) or 317-439-2252 (ask for Linda).  A portion of each ticket is tax-deductible since the event benefits the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, which provides journalism scholarships, awards and fellowships for Indiana college and university students.

For more information, please visit our website at: www.indypressfoundation.org/last-row-party

Facebook: Last Row Party

Twitter: @LastRowParty

$45 of each ticket is tax-deductible since the event benefits the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: #TeamIndyCar, Historic, INDY500, 11th Row Society, @The_EDJE, @TheEDJE, @LastRowParty, Last Row Party

Sunday, April 29, 2018

ArtCenter Meet-Up With Recognized Automotive Designer Frank Stephenson

Frank Stephenson enjoys sharing the passions of the folks he designs solutions for. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

ArtCenter Meet-Up With Recognized Automotive Designer Frank Stephenson

An absolutely enthralling late morning and afternoon was spent with friends, scholars, fans and colleagues of "Rock Star" &  ArtCenter College of Design​ educated designer of the BMW MINI, rebirth of the Fiat 500, BMW X5 SUV, certain models of Ferrari​ - Maserati - Alfa Romero, and for the last 7+ years Design Director at McLaren Automotive - Frank Stephenson.

Listing of the documentary that Salon Pictures, with a distribution partnership through Lionsgate, found as an active project on the Salon Pictures website. Image Credit: Salon Pictures (2018)

A meet-up was arranged at ArtCenter for a few lucky folks to help give some background to a documentary being produced (Salon Pictures/Lions Gate) about Frank with a working title of ... My Design Life.

Simeon Panda and Frank Stephenson share some treasured stories, on camera, about body-building, challenges, perseverance, and cruising on Frank's wood hulled electric water craft in and around London. Good times. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

During this time that was shared, a production crew interviewed many of those who showed up at the gathering that was announced, almost in passing, through a Facebook posting on Frank's FB timeline.

Frank Stephenson signed several passenger side dash board panels of iconic designs he placed back into our motor culture consciousness. Here, Frank has signed the dash of a silver BMW MINI and is about to sign the corresponding accessories card the owner plans on mounting on the wall of his home. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Beyond the engaging nature of Frank and the interesting design critiques of his own collaborative result of his produced road-worthy works, the breadth and nature of the people gathered stood as a testament in a most interesting wake trailing behind a designer's life lived.

Top of the line Fiat 500 Abarth brought to the meet-up by Grant Delgatty co-founder of the personal transportation device known as URB-E. Another winning design, another signed dash, and another story of the joy Frank's Design Life brings to all it touches. We all know - this is the easy part. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

On the critique side, Frank took on a recently purchased McLaren 720S, owned by @garagegoals.official, that graced our meet-up. The critique was entertaining, informative and insightful given the nature of our gathering.

With motion back and forth across the horizontal design element, Frank Stephenson illustrates his point that visually, and functionally, this area could have been handled differently. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

First, was the trailing "bubble" or accent-line indent just behind the front wheel and under the rear-view mirror. Frank's attitude from further reflection is that "less is more" and that the horizontal element that began at the wheel well accent curve should not be there - it was unnecessary and too busy. The finished look should be a continuation and fade out blending of the wheel well accent curve and that would be that.

Triangle in satin finish. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Second, the triangle support guide at the leading, or front of the door, where the cabin side window is mounted should have been covered in a gloss black, as opposed to a satin finish or murdered out black, in order to repeat the reflective nature of the glass. After-all, the pillar that forms the roof structure is gloss black - notice how it fades into the background. McLaren offered as the reason for not changing the finish of this triangle element ... cost.

Two-piece vent finish solution. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Lastly, along the McLaren's "signature" side body channel airflow vent access, this should have been a single defining piece, or cover. The two-piece cover that was the final solution leaves an eyebrow style edge or line that left the designer in Frank less than comfortable.

Ahhh, the ever-pursuing mind of a design perfectionist.

Frank Stephenson looks skyward as he waits for the production crew of My Design Life to finish another interview of some of the folks who had gathered at this impromptu meet-up at ArtCenter. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

A grounded career takes flight.

Frank Stephenson's next designing chapter will begin May 7th, 2018 for a Munich, Germany company who brought him on to shape a five seat version of their two seat prototype of a vertical takeoff and vertical landing 150+ mph autonomous air transport taxi.

As Frank was overheard saying when asked, Why? "Look up, there's a lot of room up there!" ... as he smiled and looked skywards.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Frank Stephenson, @artcenteredu, Stewart Reed, @_Garagegoals, @simeonpanda, @urberides, Grant Delgatty, #FSACCD, #ACCD, #salonpictures #lionsgate #film #mydesignlife #la #california #design, @The_EDJE

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Andretti Autosport's Rossi Grabs Hold Of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season In P3, P3, & P1 For Season Points Lead

Alexander Rossi attacks Turn 6 on his way to nailing down his third Podium finish in as many races in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season with his first win at the 44th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach - starting from the pole position. This win became his third in three years, along side his winning finishes at the 2016 INDY500 and 2017 IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen - also, from the pole position. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Andretti Autosport's Rossi Grabs Hold Of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season In P3, P3, & P1 For Season Points Lead

Nevada City, California's own Alexander Rossi, after beginning the year as a member of the #TeamIndyCar promotion of Season 30's The Amazing Race paired with the future INDY500 driver for Dale Coyne Racing/Thom Burns Racing Air Force sponsored No. 17, Conor Daly, Alex has been on a strong and steady march to the front.

In the Amazing Race, teams work through challenges, in much the same manner as a "Scavenger Hunt", going from location to location to perform tasks and challenges ... throughout the world. The biggest #TeamIndyCar challenge imagined that would be encountered in this set up, because even though they are a part of a team, what they do on the track is ultimately in their control, is being a performance team sharing the performance through their shared functioning against each task against other paired teams in this reality TV series race.

Team IndyCar did very well completing many of the stages at P1, finished P4 behind the Professional Skiers #TeamExtreme at P3 - Kristi Leskinen and Jen Hudak, Dating Debaters #TeamYale at P2 - Henry Zhang and Evan Lynyak, and the $1,000,000 winning team #TeamBigBrother of houseguest showmance couple Jessica Graf and Cody Nickson.

Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly (L) have a chat with NBC Sports IndyCar race analyst Townsend Bell in front of Rock & Reilly's Sunset Strip, location of The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 1 viewing party. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Many would say that this is a great start to 2018, but Alexander Rossi was just beginning to make improvements. The impression one gets is that this is a driver who has taken what he has learned in his Freshman and Sophomore years in the IndyCar Series as a matter of team building, and with the freeing up of the racing platform, is staged to make a kind of racing history and domination during his Junior year that hasn't been seen since the ChampCar World Series racing days of Sebastien Bourdais and Newman-Haas.

After chasing and moving aside race leader, Schmidt Peterson's Rookie driver, Robert Wickens, on the final restart at Saint Petersburg, to hold on and finish P3 ...

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Rookie and Canadian driver, Robert Wickens (L) shares a kidding moment with Alexander Rossi during the Phoenix Grand Prix post race press conference. Wickens celebrated that he finished P2 with Rossi who finished in P3. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

... then chasing the brightest beginning for a Rookie joining the Verizon IndyCar Series by qualifying strong and leading the most laps through two races - yes, Robert Wickens again -  to finish a consecutive P3 at the first oval race of the season, the  Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway, Alexander Rossi rolled into Long Beach loaded for bear.

The weather was perfect for the now Forty-Four year year old rites-of-spring event and the team of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda Dallara was well oiled by placing the car in the top classification throughout the three practices and nabbing the Verizon P1 Pole Award at the end of the three round Knock-Out Qualifications process ending with the Firestone Fast Six.

Before driver introductions and the command for "Drivers! Start your engines!", Alexander Rossi walks along pitlane and other teams pit boxes to get ready to race after qualifying at position one yesterday, along side of Team Penske's two-time TGPLB winner (2008, 2012) Will Power. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

In the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Alexander Rossi and his support team, headed by the engineer who has been with Alexander for the two previous years, Jeremy Milless, were rarely ever challenged, even when the field was tightened up on restarts after four Full Course Yellow Flag caution periods for problems on the track. Alexander's car and his situational race awareness had him out front quickly and plenty of space by the time Turn 1 came upon the field. Alexander and the No. 27 led every lap, save for the times he relinquished the lead on pitstop rotations - he led 71 laps of the 85 lap race.

Q. You didn't turn a wheel wrong all weekend, and to have a weekend like that, is that as close to perfection as you can ever hope to have? --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: I suppose so. You know, you always look back on things, on what could have been better, but yeah, I think that the car was (pause) we nailed the setup really every session, which is very hard to do in this championship with the changing conditions and the different rubber that gets laid down.

My engineer Jeremy Milless and the entire engineering department led by Eric Bretzman was really on top of their game this weekend. I think we had two cars to win for sure, and I feel very sad about stuff that happened to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) kind of from yesterday afternoon, but Zach and Marco showed the strength of the cars in race condition, as well, today, and it would have been pretty cool for Zach to be able to get his first podium. He was really close (at P4).

This image was captured from the photographer's riser about the same time Alexander Rossi's attorney, Michael Maroney shot his Instagram image & message (look above & closely). Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Q. Last year Andretti Autosport came here, all ran strong, all four retired with mechanical or electrical gremlins, and this year you all had incredible pace again, three of you ended up in the top 10, you won. That's got to be a little bit of extra sense of satisfaction to kind of get one back after last year. --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: Hugely. This was one that was circled on the calendar for us for a while, and last year was heartbreaking. I mean, if I wasn't -- didn't have the opportunity to win, Ryan had the opportunity to win. And to have all four drop out with mechanical issues, that's the way of the sport sometimes, and I'm glad that the balance of luck, if you will, kind of came back to us a little bit this year.

Yeah, I mean, there's a huge sense of satisfaction that we were able to still have the strength that we had last year, especially when we look back three years or two and a half years to 2016, when street courses were kind of the bane of our existence. To make that kind of strides forward that we've made in the past two years is pretty special, and very cool to be a part of on the inside, and as a driver to go from pretty much coming here and it being an undrivable situation to coming here and Friday through Sunday you have an awesome race car under you is a very special feeling.

Team Selfie - Alexander Rossi joins the crew of his NAPA Auto Parts No. 27 Honda Dallara in a new media Victory Lane celebration using the camera from a phone set out for all to see. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Q. So you won at Indy - and Watkins Glen - and Long Beach --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: Those are three good ones, huh? Is that your question? (Laughter)

Q. That was pretty much the question, yeah. What does it mean to you? --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: I realized that when I was told on the podium that that was the case, and that's pretty spectacular. I certainly hope I haven't peaked too early with those three. But yeah, no doubt about it, I mean, if you're going to hit the wish list, those are the three. And yeah, I don't really have anything more to say than it's kind of hard to believe and hard to understand, and it's something that will definitely take a lot of time to appreciate, but we don't have that much time to appreciate it because this series just likes to keep us going, so we're on track here in another four or five days, and you're only as good as your last time on track, so we'll have to go re-prove ourselves again on Friday (next race at Honda Indy Grand Prix Of Alabama).

Top six in the season points standings after St. Petersburg and the Southwest Spring Swing (Phoenix Grand Prix & Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach). Image Credit: INDYCAR

As the points race begins to shape up early in this new age of the Universal Aero Kit with less downforce, there are only a few other teams and drivers that seem poised to be able to challenge the strength of the Andretti Autospot team of Alexander Rossi - assuming full race runs.

In the top six in the 2018 season points standings, one finds a broad diversity of outright challenges from three past IndyCar Series champions representing 9 season titles in P2 Penske Racing's Josef Newgarden (2017), P4 Dale Coyne Vasser Sullivan Racing's Sebastien Bourdais (2004-2007 in ChampCar), and P6 Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 in IRL & IndyCar).

Add to this mix, veteran drivers from advancing teams as P3 Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal who finished a season high 4th in the points in 2015, and P5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe who has had one of his most steady season starts and seems poised to make a statement while being pushed by his longtime friend and current teammate Canadian Rookie Robert Wickens.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: @IndyCar Verizon IndyCar Series, Andretti Autosports, Alexander Rossi, NAPA Auto Parts, #TGPLB, #TGPLB44, Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Honda, @hondaracing_hpd, @TheEDJE

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Verizon IndyCar Series Immerses Hinchcliffe For Media Event

Posted at Instagram with the following caption: James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports winner of last year's Long Beach Grand Prix of Long Beach meets up with large Sea Bass. #whatablast #IndyCar@indycar #tgplb #tgplb44@hondaracing_hpd @honda Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

The Verizon IndyCar Series Immerses Hinchcliffe For Media Event

IndyCar performs its first ever underwater media event with sport diver and racecar driver Schmidt Peterson Racing's Mayor of Hinchtown, Canadian James Hincliffe. The Verizon IndyCar Series in concert with The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA and American Honda Motor Co., Inc., set up an interview session with members of the motorsports media in advance of the 44th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach with last year's winner James Hinchcliffe, who drives the No. 5 SPM Honda, and the appreciation bubbled up all over this Southern California treasure.

Blue Cavern - Aquarium Exhibit - presented by American Honda Inc.

Modeled after Blue Cavern Point, a kelp forest along the northeastern coast of Santa Catalina Island. This exhibit represents the underwater habitat you would find along our coast and around local islands.

Kelp forests provide shelter, food, and breeding grounds for many species, including other algae, marine mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, and plankton. Some animals to look out for are leopard sharks, California moray eels, California sheephead, giant sea bass, and our divers!

This was a great promotion upon which to begin the second chapter of IndyCar's Southwest Spring Swing, having just completed its second round of a seventeen round racing series season at ISM Raceway with the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix.

James Hinchcliffe managed to lead 20 laps last Saturday before fading on the final restart to finish sixth. Combined with his fourth-place effort in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11, it has the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda sitting sixth in the standings. However, even after strong performances on two different track disciplines – street circuit and short oval – the 31-year-old Canadian isn't ready to anoint his team as a championship contender.

“We got two out of four,” said Hinchcliffe, who readies for the next round as the defending race winner of the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, set for this weekend beginning Friday with its first practices, Saturday Knock-Out format qualifications ending in the Firestone Fast Six with the Verizon P1 Pole Award going to the top qualifier, finishing off on Raceday Sunday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

“We’ve still got a road course and a superspeedway to try, but we’ll see. Between short ovals and street circuits, that’s half the calendar and Detroit is a doubleheader. Who knows, St. Pete was one race, it was everybody’s first race. We can’t be too confident going into Long Beach," continued Hinchcliffe.

“There are a lot of great cars and there is still a lot for us to learn. But as a team, considering how much we had to overcome in the off-season with new people, dealing with the new car, coming off the back of being one of the (Honda) development teams, we didn't get much of an off-season to regroup, refocus and get everybody integrated. So honestly, I just can’t say enough about the team and all the guys and girl at the shop.”

This weekend, The Mayor of Hinchtown will try to do what no IndyCar driver has done in more than a decade - return to Victory Lane at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach which is in its 44th year.
[ht: Aquarium of the Pacific & IndyCar]

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Honda, IndyCar, Aquarium of the Pacific, Blue Cavern, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, The EDJE

Saturday, April 7, 2018

French Front Row Will Start Phoenix Grand Prix

"I mean, obviously he [Dale Coyne Racing race engineer Craig Hampson] knows me very well.", said Sebastien Bourdais in the post qualifications press conference. "I think everybody is very conscious of, trying not to upset my wife too much, meaning, keeping the thing on the black stuff, away from the walls. I don't think they really want to do anything too crazy. Honestly, when the weekends go like that, because we unloaded the car we had at the test, and we tried something, didn't get a really good read on it, so we came back and really did some very fine-tuning to it. We got through the qualifying line, and I really knew what I had. That's the best possible way to go qualifying." Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

French Front Row Will Start Phoenix Grand Prix

Champions - 2 from France and one from Austrailia - crowd the first three positions of qualifications at Phoenix Grand Prix.

In a oval qualifications each-by-each session at ISM Raceway held between 5:00pm and 6:00pm with the sun and desert temperatures dropping, Team Penske teammates and IndyCar season champions, driving Dallara Chevys, Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Will Power (2014) held down the top two positions over the rest of the field until the last Dallara Honda, prepared by  Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, took to the track.

Four-time season champion Sebastien Bourdais deaccellerated through pit entrance topping the speed charts at 188.539 creating an all Frenchman front row for the side-by-side start of the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway.

Qualifications Results >>>

Important career points achieved by Sebastien Bourdais with the ability to know what he needed to do to capture the pole due to knowing he was the last car to take the track in a qualifications run:

** Career best start at ISM Raceway (former best was 10th)

** First Pole earned in nearly 12 years. His last pole on an oval was in 2006 at Milwaukee.

** 34th career pole – breaks tie with Dario Franchitti (now 8th) for 7th on all-time poles list

** 2nd pole ever for Dale Coyne Racing

This excerpted and edited from IndyCar -

Bourdais qualified in preferred cooler conditions under the setting sun. It helped the 39-year-old from Le Mans, France, earn a pole position on an oval for the first time since Milwaukee in June 2006, when he was in the midst of winning four consecutive Champ Car titles. It was also the second pole in the 35-year history of Dale Coyne Racing, following Mike Conway at Detroit’s Belle Isle in 2013.

“That SealMaster No. 18 Honda was really solid,” Bourdais said. “As soon as that track temp cooled off, it just gives you all the grip you need to make it happen. It’s high tension, high pressure, really listening to the car and making sure you don’t overdo it.”

Simon Pagenaud, last year’s race winner at ISM Raceway, qualified second with a two-lap average of 188.148 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate and 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power was third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, at 186.852 mph.

“I think we did a really good job considering the conditions,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “The car, she was really nice, it was perfect. The No. 22 Menards team did a really good job. I think we’ve got a really good race car, so I’m excited.”

Alexander Rossi qualified fourth for Andretti Autosport in the No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda (185.741 mph). Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe and rookie Robert Wickens locked up the third row of the starting grid: Hinchcliffe qualifying fifth at 185.741 mph in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda and Wickens sixth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (185.362 mph).

“A huge credit to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys because we did not have a great test here back in February,” Hinchcliffe said. “Obviously things have changed a lot conditions-wise, but we went back (after the test), had a big think about it, a big look inside ourselves. I just can’t thank those guys and gal enough for getting us good cars and getting us both up there. It’s awesome.”

Several drivers expected to contend for the pole struggled in qualifying. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing led every session of the Phoenix open test in February, but drivers Graham Rahal (No. 15 One Cure Honda) and Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) qualified 12th and 13th, respectively. Four-time series champion and 2016 Phoenix winner Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was 17th, Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) was 18th and Marco Andretti (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda) was 20th.

Andretti’s crew discovered a mechanical issue with his car after the run that hindered his effort.

“We were a lot too low on our qual run – we weren’t expecting the big pace gain,” Andretti said. “I was just bottoming everywhere and at the limit of the deck of the car. After qualifying we found that the skid (plate) was pulling down and we were bottoming in third gear. That caused our struggle and lost time. We’re going to need to make some headway and work our way back in the race.”

Saturday’s 250-lap race will be the 64th for Indy cars at the historic mile oval outside Phoenix dating to when the track opened in 1964. The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix airs live at 9:00pm ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
[Refence Here]

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Verizon IndyCar Series, ISM Raceway, Phoenix Grand Prix, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Team Penske, IndyCar, The EDJE

Friday, March 23, 2018

Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi Speaks About IndyCar And The Southwest Spring Swing

Andretti Autosport's standout driver Alexander Rossi sits calmly before starting pre-season test sessions with the new Universal Aero Kit (UAK) all teams racing in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Rossi begins his third year in IndyCar and holds high hopes at capturing a season championship. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi Speaks About IndyCar And The Southwest Spring Swing

Alexander Rossi participated in a media blitz on March 22, 2018 in advance of the Verizon IndyCar Series beginning its Southwest United States spring swing with back-to-back races at ISM Raceway with the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (Friday April 6 - Qualifications 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM PT / Saturday April 7 - Race 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM PT) and then the rites-of-spring 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Thursday April 12 - Long Beach Motorsports Walk Of Fame - 11:00 AM PT / Sunday April 15 - Race 1:00 PM PT).

#RossiTakesLA this morning we stopped by KTLA 5 Morning News for a 10:30 am talk about all things racing, with the second and final stop at KNX radio for podcast Talking About Cars with Randy Kerdoon. In between studios, Alexander Rossi spoke to Brittany Frederick, Edmund Jenks, and Eric Smith via phone. Although rainy, it was a super successful media tour! #TGPLB #44YearsStrong - Credit: TGPLB

Alexander Michael Rossi is an American professional racing driver. He currently races in the IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport. Rossi won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie.

Alexander Rossi began his professional racing career first with a Skip Barber National Scholarship after showing success at driving Karts. He became the youngest winner in Skip Barber National Championship history, at age 14.

As with many who wish to drive professionally, he ventured on to Europe where he was able to remain a top contender through International Formula Master, GP3 Series, World Series by Renault, GP2 Series, and on into Formula 1.

After not getting a full season seat with Marussia/Manor, he was able to sign with Andretti Autosport where he won one of the biggest races in all of motorsport, the Indianapolis 500. 2018 will begin his third year in the Verizon IndyCar Series where he ended 2017 seventh in the overall standings out of 37 drivers listed (21 full-season drivers).

Alexander Rossi was born in Auburn, California and raised in Nevada City. He is a fan of the New England Patriots. Rossi appeared on the 30th season of The Amazing Race, teaming with fellow IndyCar driver Conor Daly where they finished fourth.

At the time of this interview, the Verizon IndyCar Series has held one race of a 17 race season - the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg temporary street/airport course. The next two races on the schedule are called the Southwest swing and feature the Phoenix Grand Prix at the asymetric oval of ISM Raceway and the rites-of-spring Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach through the streets of Long Beach - a race similar in conditions to St. Petersburg.

Welcome Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi -

The last time we saw you in action in the Southwest United States was the Phoenix Prix View oval track test of the new Universal Aero Kit. The last 90 minutes of the two-day, four session test brought on a very intense nose-to-tail run from most all of the cars on the track - now that there has been one race held with this Universal Aero Kit what changes did you learn about the new Universal Aero Kit - First, for the Phoenix Grand Prix? Second, for the venerable street circuit of Long Beach?

How did you find the trailing turbulence behind the car you were following, in other words, was the mushroom effect of the turbulence higher or lower from 2017 car?

Now that you have 2 years in the Verizon IndyCar Series, both with the same team that had an INDY500 win in your rookie year, and a solid P7 sophomore year - behind Team Penske, Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal - in 2017, and having a strong finish with a P3 Podium points paying finish in the first race of the season at St. Petersburg - sharing the podium with repeat race winner 4-time champion Sebastien Bourdais, and runner-up Graham Rahal ... does a championship seem within reach?

There have been some shuffling within the Andretti Autosport team match-ups - Marco Andretti is driving the #98 Herta car and You're driving the #27 car. In the change to the #27 car, how instrumental was it to have Chief Engineer Jeremy Miless (pronounced Mill - ISS) and most of the rest of the crew during this transition? Is this crew expected to be there for the rest of the 2018 season?

Alexander since you have tested & raced a full race at Saint Petersburg - what do you like about the 2017 car over your new car setup? Then conversely - what do you like about your new car setup over the 2017 car setup?

Given the discussion between the drivers at Andretti Autosport, how does the new car favor the Andertti Autosport team, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach, as a whole?

You have raced side-by-side with Schmidt Petersen Motorsports Rookie Canadian driver Robert Wickens before in Europe. Everyone is aware of the end of race incident at the last restart at St. Petersburg. Given what you had seen from his testing at ISM Raceway and the Phoenix Prix View, how do you think he will fare on this oval track challenge? What will you be looking for in his line around this aysemtric venue?

Now on to some serious questions ...

How do you like being recognized as a Reality TV star since your pairing with Conor Daly as #TeamIndyCar on Season 30 of the world traveling competition series, The Amazing Race & is it any different than being a IndyCar standout as an Indy500 Winner?

Phil Keoghan, the Host of The Amazing Race, is quite a fan of racing and race car drivers, having participated in the process and competing in the venerable Toyota Pro Celebrity Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - how did you get along with Phil, and what is your favorite Phil Keoghan story from your Season 30 experience traveling and competing around the world?

Last question - what's harder, being a Racecar Driver, or being a Reality TV Star?

We look forward to seeing you during the Southwest swing before the Month Of May activities at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: #IndyCar, #TGPLB, #PressDay, #RossiTakesLA, #AndrettiAutosport, @ISMRaceway, #DesertDiamondPGP, @IndyCar, The EDJE

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

MPG March Meeting - How To Survive As A Freelance Automotive Journalist - Panel Discussion

Second luncheon meeting of 2018 and it brought forward an interesting group of panelists who primarily focused on Freelance Automotive journalism surrounding the driving and review of automobiles. Other subjects not covered were issues based upon deadline freelance coverage of  motorsporting events and specialized car shows. Also, the presentation would have allowed a greater impact if time were factored in for a Question & Answer session, post panel discussion. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018) 

MPG March 2018 Meeting - How To Survive As A Freelance Automotive Journalist - Panel Discussion

Overall, it is always great to get together with like-minded, like-focused folks on a consistent and repetitive basis. Such is the best of experiences shared at the luncheons put on by the Motor Press Guild (MPG).

One of the elements that seemed to be missing from the order of things, that were tradition in previous year's meetings, was the logo'd tradeshow type pop-up. When placed properly, adds to everyone's photo album and let's most everyone know the meaning and context of the images taken by all who attended - great for instant Social Media postings.

After ample time for everyone to gather around and meet, lunch was served and the room was filled with its usual joyous and involved banter.

The Motor Press Guild began in 1984 as IMPA West, an affiliate of the New York-based International Motor Press Association. It is an association that has room, and meets monthly, by tradition, for all. To better serve “specialty” writers and photographers in the Motor Press Guild, The Motorsports and Car Culture Committee has been formed in 2018 ... chaired by Tom Stahler, pictured here third in from the right. Image Credit: Myles Regan (2018)

Then, promptly at 1:00pm, the panel discussion was enjoined. If there were new members, or folks who were invited guests, a time for this kind of Motor Press Guild tradition of introduction and announcements concerning MPG business wasn't placed into the calculation and management of the meeting.

That observed, the planned educational panel to discuss “How To Survive As A Freelance Automotive Journalist”, was a great success. Much was shared from issues that included transitioning from staff positions with publications, what an average work load/project base would look like, to the breadth of what editors look for in a successful Freelance relationship at high level publishing portals and print outlets.

The discussion was moderated by Manuel Carrillo III, Motor Press Guild Secretary for 2018.

Discussion included the following panelists (L to R):

•Elana Sherr - Freelancer, formerly Roadkill magazine (freelancing for Hagerty, Dodge, and Hot Rod)

•Bradley Iger - Freelancer (Hot Rod, Autoblog, Motor1, Autoweek, and Digital Trends)

•Christian Wardlaw - Freelancer, (Car Gurus, J.D. Power, and manages Freelance team at  New York Daily News)

•Basem Wasef - Freelancer (Autoblog, Men’s Journal, Robb Report, and Wired)

•Karl Brauer - Executive Publisher at Kelley Blue Book, has 10+ Freelancers on his team


Manuel Carrillo III: A Porsche 911 S brought Manuel Carrillo III home from the hospital after he was born, so it's no surprise his lifelong trajectory has centered on cars, leading him to a robust career creating rich automotive media for publications such as Robb Report, Luxury Life and DUB Magazine. Manuel got his start writing about cars for Autofiends.com, and that led him to four years as the Automotive Content Editor at Internet Brands where he helped manage a team of 31 freelancers contributing across 25 websites.

Elana Scherr: Over the past six years, Elana Scherr has been an editor for HOT ROD and during a good chunk of that time, Editor-in-Chief of Roadkill Magazine. Recently she’s become a freelancer. When MPG President Michael Harley asked her to be on this panel, she joked with him that she hardly felt she should speak as an expert freelancer when (at the time he reached out to her) she had been doing it for only two weeks. “Are you paying your bills?” he asked. She said yes. He said, “You’re qualified.” Elana currently works with Hagerty, HOT ROD, Sports Car Market, Dodge, Driving Line, and Fuel Curve.

Bradley Iger: From stealing his brother's Hot Wheels as a toddler to wrenching on his own vintage daily drivers as a teen, Bradley Iger has always had a passion for cars. Over the years he has contributed to publications like Hot Rod, Autoblog, Motor1, Autoweek, and Digital Trends, providing car reviews, technical features and event coverage with a specialized focus on high performance and motorsport. He currently resides in Eagle Rock, placing him just a few minutes away from the twisting tarmac of the Angeles National Forest.

Christian Wardlaw: Writing professionally about cars since 1994, Christian Wardlaw started at Edmunds before the company had a website, and ended at J.D. Power before launching Speedy Daddy Media and freelancing his writing, editing, photography, video, copywriting, and consulting services. Currently, he is the editor and business manager for New York Daily News Autos, and his company also provides content to J.D. Power and CarGurus. Family affair: Christian’s wife, Liz Kim, is also a freelance automotive journalist and automotive copywriter.

Basem Wasef: Basem Wasef been afflicted with the car and motorcycle bug since he was a tyke, but didn't fall into automotive journalism until long after he realized it could be a viable career. He got his start contributing to a now-defunct LA-based lifestyle magazine, and now counts Automobile, Autoblog, Men's Journal and Robb Report as clients. He's also currently finishing up his third book for Quarto Publishing.

Karl Brauer: Karl Brauer is the Executive Publisher at Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book and Dealer.com. He’s been in the industry since 1994, starting as the editorial assistant at Hot Rod Magazine, and he’s held multiple editorial and publishing roles at Petersen Publishing, Edmunds.com and Autotrader’s parent company, Cox Automotive. Between you and me, his secret pet title for himself is “Master of the Universe.”
(ht: Motor Press Guild)

At this moment, there is not a planned MPG Luncheon for April, but what is confirmed is the DROPTOPS & DIRT event - on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018.

Once again, the MPG will return to the rugged trails and twisty roads surrounding beautiful Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California.

Combining competitive comparisons on challenging roads and trails in off-road vehicles as well as drives through scenic, twisty canyon roads on the road in convertibles, the day will feature lots of driving with excellent photo locations and a tasty lunch.

This event is open to all current MPG members, however only Journalist and Analyst members may drive. All other active members, photographers and guests may ride along and join us for lunch.

Here's to a great start to the 2018 MPG Luncheon & Event Meeting season.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Scott Martin, Fatt Al, Elana Scherr, John Grafman, Stephen Harvey, Dicken Wear, Manuel Carrillo III, Basem Wasef, Brandy A. Schaffels, Scott Martin, Dave Wolin, Bradley Iger, Dicken Wear, Christian Wardlaw, Karl Brauer, Stefan Pagnani, Tom Stahler, The EDJE

Friday, March 16, 2018

McLaren F1 Says "HALO" & G'Day To Gandys In Australia

A brilliant first move by a shoe manufacturer in an effort of cross-promotional branding. McLaren, as with all other F1 racing teams, have to field a car with the new cockpit protection superstructure known as a HALO. Image Credit: Gandys

McLaren F1 Says "HALO" & G'Day To Gandys In Australia

McLaren teams up with the adventurous British lifestyle brand for next week's Grand Prix in a brilliant sponsorship deal.

Today’s announcement marks the first brand, Gandys, to take advantage of the unique shape of the new-for-2018 Halo cockpit protection structure, which has frequently been compared to the distinctive upper of a flip-flop. For the Australian Grand Prix, Gandys branding will be a feature on the front part of the HALO on both McLaren cars.

Gandys logo clearly sported on the joining section of the protective HALO superstructure. Image Credit: McLaren

Additionally, Gandys and McLaren will collaborate to create a limited-run ‘Halo-edition’ flip-flop, with 100 per cent of all profits going directly to the Orphans For Orphans foundation. They will be available from gandyslondon.com and all Gandys' London stores, as well as through mclarenstore.com.

Gandys was founded by brothers Rob and Paul Forkan, who were inspired to start the brand after tragically losing both their parents in the Tsunami that affected much of southeast Asia in December 2004.

The Gandys brand began with a single flip-flop design, with its initial success enabling Rob and Paul to achieve their goal and open the first Orphans For Orphans foundation kid’s campus, in Sri Lanka in 2014.

F1 champion driver Felipe Massa had this reaction he posted on his Facebook page which was latter shared with the social media platform Reddit. Great minds think alike but it was McLaren and Gandys that made this promotiona dream come true. Image Credit Felipe Massa via Reddit

Alongside their charitable foundation, the Gandys brothers have continued to grow the brand since its inception in 2012. Gandys introduced full menswear and womenswear collections to the brand in 2016, and continue to support Orphans For Orphans by donating 10 per cent of their profits to the foundation. The second campus was opened last year in Malawi, with plans to open more across the world.

John Allert, McLaren Chief Marketing Officer, said:
“We’re delighted to have Rob, Paul and the team at Gandys join us for the Australian Grand Prix. The placement of the logo, on the MCL33’s Halo, was not only perfect from a branding perspective, but also a great opportunity to underline Gandys’ charitable commitment to providing a safer, more protective environment for those at risk.

“Collaborating with Gandys on a limited-edition co-branded product was also a meaningful step for us. By giving 100 per cent of all profits to the Orphans For Orphans charity, McLaren is also able to help a very deserving good cause.

“Showcasing this partnership in Australia, where we race just a stone’s throw from Melbourne’s beautiful St Kilda beach, just felt like the best possible opportunity for Gandys to showcase its brand and noble cause on the international stage.”

Gandys co-founder Rob Forkan said:
“We were absolutely thrilled when McLaren came to us with this idea. When the brand was created, Paul was living in Melbourne, and I went out to surprise him on his birthday to tell him about the idea for Gandys. After managing to persuade him to return to the UK and start the brand, it’s really exciting to be going back. In fact, it will be the first time we’ve returned to Melbourne, so it’s great to feel we have come full circle!

“By putting Gandys’ branding on the car’s Halo, we can help to strengthen the message behind our Orphans For Orphans initiative; creating a protective and inspiring environment for children at risk. It is a step in the right direction for the safety of the drivers and a great step for Gandys.

“When we started Gandys we started working on a small scale, helping a few children. Now we are helping more and more vulnerable children all around the world. We hope the halo will have a similar impact in Formula 1, as we know that even if it only saves one life to begin with, it will go on to have a wider impact.”

“On a personal note, as huge fans of Formula 1 and McLaren, this was an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up. We can’t wait to see Fernando, Stoffel and the whole team in action in Melbourne next weekend.”
(ht: McLaren)

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: McLaren, Gandys, HALO, Flip Flop, Felipe Massa, Formula 1, #F1, Facebook, Reddit, Melbourne, Australia, The EDJE

Monday, March 12, 2018

VICS 2018 At St. Pete - Funny Thing Happened On The Way To A Champion's Coronation

The nose graphic that appears on the wasp-like livery on the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan - No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda Dallara of the first winner of the first race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series today at Saint Petersburg - Sebastien Bourdais. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2018)

VICS 2018 At St. Pete - Funny Thing Happened On The Way To A Champion's Coronation

The tenth edition of the best carry-over (non IMS) race from the original schedule of the Indianapolis Racing League (IRL), the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, featured twenty-four very capable cars and drivers filling the field packed with seven past Indy Car champions representing thirteen season championships riding along side seven rookies where three of them made it into the 3rd Round Firestone Fast Six in Knock-Out qualifications is a really, really big deal. Last year's winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (replay) was 4-Time IndyCar season champion, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais.

The Verizon IndyCar Series, in order to make racing more competitive and in control of the driver in this top level of American motorsport, tightened up the body skin specification on the Dallara DW12 chassis by introducing the two year project now known as the Universal Aero Kit (UAK).Welcome the age of the UAK on the DW12 Dallara.

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden describes the 2018 Universal Aero Kit on stage during the 2018 INDYCAR unveil at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit. Image Credit: Joe Skibinski

The past Verizon IndyCar Series season champions include Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012), AJ Foyt Racing driver Tony Kanaan (2004), Chip Gannasi Racing driver Scott Dixon (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015), Team Penske drivers Will Power (2014), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Josef Newgarden (2017), and the aforementioned Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver Sebastien Bourdais (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) - 7 series champions covering 13 season titles.

The rookies entering into the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season's first race are Firestone Grand Prix P1 Verizon Pole Award winner, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Canadian driver, 29 year old Robert Wickens, Firestone Fast Six P3 Qualifier AJ Foyt Racing Brazilian driver, 19 year old Matheus Leist, Firestone Fast Six P4 Qualifier Ed Carpenter Racing British driver, 24 year old Jordan King, Andertti Autospot American driver, 23 year old Zach Veach, Michael Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports British driver, 24 year old Jack Harvey, Dale Coyne Racing Canadian driver, 19 year old Zachary Claman DeMelo, and Juncos Racing Austrian driver, 26 year old RenĂ© Binder.

The traditional first race of the season, for nine years now (since 2009, the race has served as the season opener, with the exception of 2010, when it was the second race of the season), held around the airport, streets and harbor of Saint Petersburg, Florida proved to all what everyone had suspected. A different kettle of fish from most of the Dallara DW12 era racing - less downforce, great body strength, very fast in a straight line. The UAK is very pleasing to drive - from the opinion of most all of the drivers.

Most observers assumed that experience held within championship winning teams, the teams with the greatest financial backing, history, testing, and experienced drivers would hit this opening opportunity with suffocating domination.

To nearly everyone's surprise this was not the case when the rookies, took the Verizon P1 Pole Award (Wickens became the third rookie in 25 years to win the pole for his IndyCar debut), and two additional positions in the Round 3 Firestone Fast Six in road/street format Knock-Out qualifications. Left out to watch from the sidelines were such impressive champion drivers as Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, and last year's champion Josef Newgarden.

Robert Wickens affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem on his car after winning the pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Image Credit: Chris Jones

The cars slip and slide ... the in-car camera shots show that the steering wheel gets as much a workout as peddles in a spinning class. More driving is required from all of the drivers in this series making the product on the track more entertaining than it has been in recent history. And, to be honest, the racing has been very good since the introduction of the first Dallara DW12 platform.

EXAMPLE - Opening Laps:

On the first lap of the race, Will Power attempted a Turn 1 pass and through Turn 2 became lose and spun without contact, Tony Kanaan gets lose in Turn 5 and as he straightens out, taps Zach Veach with wing parts flying. Lap 2 has RHR coming out of the pits ahead of traffic after a quick controller change because the one installed did not allow for accelleration and Charlie Kimball becomes unsettled after bouncing on the curb entering Turn 13 and comes to a stop off of the track at Turn 14 - Full Course Yellow.

Restart on Lap 6 has three rookies leading in P1, P2, and P3 - King, Wickens, & Leist - Beginning Lap 7 Spencer Pigot spins going into Turn 1 bringing out a Full Course Yellow.

Restart Lap 11 has Jordan King leading the field to the third start of racing at St. Pete, followed by Wickens, Rossi, Leist, and Hinchcliffe ... not a champion in the bunch - and only one fully established driver of over three seasons in the series.

Wickens passes in Turn 1 as King goes wide ... Rossi loses a place back to P4. The first Champion is settled in at P7 with Scott Dixon  ... now at Lap 13.

So the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season begins on the temporary street circuit at St. Petersburg.

To give one additional insight on just how busy, or as Eddie Cheever on the broadcast put it ... CHAOS filled, the events of the Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg race were, just take a look at the video shot list released as a usable media asset by the Verizon IndyCar Series after the race.

Shot List:
Aerial of St. Petersburg
Grand marshal Helio Castroneves gives the start command
Green flag
No. 12 Will Power spins
Power replay
No. 14 Tony Kanaan spins
No. 15 Graham Rahal and No. 21 Spencer Pigot incident
Replay of Rahal and Pigot incident
No. 23 Charlie Kimball goes off track
No. 6 Robert Wickens leading
No. 4 Matheus Leist incident
Team owner A.J. Foyt reaction
No. 18 Sebastien Bourdais leading
No. 9 Scott Dixon and Sato incident
Replay of Dixon and Sato incident
Wickens passes Bourdais for the lead
No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay on-board view of No. 60 Jack Harvey going off track
Harvey parked in the last turn
Wickens leading with No. 27 Alexander Rossi in pursuit
Wickens passes Rahal
Rossi gets wide in Turn 4
Slow-motion replay of Rossi wide
No. 32 Rene Binder incident
No. 59 Max Chilton incident
Final restart, Rossi and Wickens incident, Bourdais takes the lead
Replay of Rossi and Wickens incident
Checkered flag, Bourdais wins, crew reaction, Bourdais does donuts

Sebastien gives race winning TV interview before he exits the car in the Victory Circle. Image: INDYCAR (2018)

Bourdais pulls into pit lane and gets congratulated
Bourdais sound

Almost covers it except the race was really even more eventful than the shot list would indicate.

Image 1) Alexander Rossi cooks it in Turn 4 and hurts his attack - Robert Wickens in the foreground. Image 2) Rossi rejoins the hunt and passes Charlie Kimball in Turn 5. Images: INDYCAR (2018)
With the laps winding down, and Canadian driver Robert Wickens in the lead, being chased down by third year American driver and 2016 Indy500 winner Alexander Rossi, it looked as though the race was comfortably in hand, especially when Rossi, who was reducing the distance between Wickens and himself, slid and overshot the apex point at Turn 4, losing and attacking advantage (depicted above). 

"It was going to be pretty hard to reel him back in there," Alexander Rossi said - except the chaos wasn't over.

That is, until Rookie Rene Binder with 10 laps to go brought out a FULL COURSE Yellow (FCY) after his car went into the tires to set up one uneventful restart.

Max Chilton stalled moments later to set up a second FCY with two laps to go. Bourdais, sitting comfortably in third and happy to start the year on the podium, wasn't that happy; he thought someone would make a risky maneuver and wreck the field.

"Normally they don't allow push-to-pass on restarts," added Alexander Rossi at the post race media conference. "You'd normally have to do a timed lap before you did it, but because of the late call to go green that lap, they allowed it, and I actually got the call when I was in the middle of Turn 13 and 14. So I had a big jump on Rob (Wickens), and he got to the push-to-pass pretty late. The run was perfect for me going into Turn 1, and I knew there wasn't going to be many other opportunities. Obviously (Wickens) had a good car all day, and they did a great job. I made the pop. He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner." Image: INDYCAR (2018)

Sure enough, Rossi contested the lead, hit Wickens going into Turn 1, and ended both of their victory hopes. Rossi recovered to finish third, while Rookie Wickens got stuck and finished 18th in the 24-car field.

Lost in all of this was the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver and past winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (2008) Graham Rahal, who had one of the worst performances in Knock-Out Qualifications for a road/street race. Graham Rahal ended up starting the race dead last in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, had a strong race with good strategy with clean pit stops and ended up on the podium in P2!

"The United Rentals guys did a great job out there," said Graham Rahal in a post race interview. "Certainly, yesterday wasn't what we expect of ourselves, isn't what we hoped for. Last night, what can you do. Put your heads down, you work hard. Even this morning the car wasn't phenomenal in practice. With Tom (German, engineer) and the boys, they made great changes. Our guys had good pit stops and frankly good strategy. We had the pace when we needed it, we could save a lot of fuel when we needed it, we could make passes if we needed to. It just kind of all played out for us. We will take second (place) any day. It's the best start to a season I have had since I won here in 2008. Thank you to all the fans, the turnout was great this weekend. I hope you guys enjoyed the new car. We are going to put on some great shows this year as you can see."

For a coronation to happen, one needed aggressive racing, sliding cars, just a bit of side-to-side bumping along the way - the crown is then served to a four-time series season champion and, to add insult to injury, repeat Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner, Sebastien Bourdais.

The Verizon IndyCar Series is beginning its Southwest United States spring swing with back-to-back races at ISM Raceway with the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (Friday April 6 - Qualifications 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM PT / Saturday April 7 - Race 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM PT) and then the rites-of-spring 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Thursday April 12 - Long Beach Motorsports Walk Of Fame honoring Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves - 11:00 AM PT / Sunday April 15 - Race 1:00 PM PT).

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, #INDYCAR, Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, @StPeteFL, @IndyCar, #FirestoneGP, #VICS, Verizon IndyCar Series, The EDJE