Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. IZOD IndyCar drivers sweep podium at Rolex 24
2. Super Bowl matchup creates wager between INDYCAR events
3. Conway to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan at Long Beach
4. Miller shifts gears, becomes driver coach
1. IZOD IndyCar drivers sweep podium at Rolex 24: Charlie Kimball leaned over the pit lane wall to cheer on Juan Pablo Montoya during his final stint in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car. There was still an hour remaining in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but the drama was as thick as the morning fog that brought out a caution for nearly two hours.
Kimball was soon joined on the pit stand by co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas for the duration of the 51st event on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn circuit, which featured an event-record 72 lead changes. The last and most important came with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left when Montoya inherited the lead as Max Angelelli in the No. 10 VelocityWW car for Wayne Taylor Racing ducked onto pit lane for a splash of fuel.
Minutes later, Kimball joined the Victory Circle celebration in his first major touring car race.
“It’s pretty special,” said Kimball, who enters his third IZOD IndyCar Series season in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car. “I just had to come in and learn and not get into too much trouble and let them keep us in the race. Having these guys as teammates took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.
“The event was incredible. I was sitting there with four hours to go and thinking we have a whole Indy 500 left as far as time and why do they only run this event once a year. For the Ganassi group to be able get together with different cars, different drivers, all different walks of life and yet all from one team … We do our job in the car and in the pits, and to come away with a win is just overwhelming.”
It was the fifth victory in 10 trips to Daytona International Speedway for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and a record-tying fifth victory for Pruett (tying Hurley Haywood). It also was the 151st victory for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
“We knew we had good cars and my hat off to all our guys in Indianapolis who put the cars together,” Ganassi said. “I’m very proud of our team’s fifth victory.”
Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, co-driving the VelocityWW car, and Justin Wilson, who co-drove the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing car, completed an IZOD IndyCar Series podium sweep. Wilson co-drove the car to victory in 2012.
“It’s a good way to start the year,” said Hunter-Reay, who bested his previous Rolex 24 high of third place in 2010. “The execution was top notch, and to be here with Chevrolet after everything we accomplished last year was special. I really love being a part of Team Chevy, and it’s a big part of my career.”
It was the fourth podium finish for Wilson at Daytona. The No. 60 car was seven laps down early in the race because of a mechanical issue.
“You always want to do your best for Mike,” said Wilson, who this week will attempt to finalize his 2013 plans with Dale Coyne Racing. “He’s just so enthusiastic that it rubs off on everyone. If you’d have told us after the first hour that we’d have a chance of finishing third we’d have been over the moon.
“As you’re standing on the podium you’re thinking, ‘There’s nothing quite like being first,’ but third place after everything we’ve come through in this race is a great result.”
The podium finishers were the only ones on the lead lap (907 laps completed).
Other INDYCAR drivers and their finish:
• Sebastien Bourdais, No. 2 Starworks Motorsport with Alex Popow, sixth overall in Daytona Prototype.
• Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, 37th overall and 11th in Daytona Prototype.
• Simon Pagenaud, No. 42 Team Sahlen, 21st overall and ninth in Daytona Prototype.
• Tony Kanaan, No. 21 Dener Motorsports, 46th overall and 28th in GT.
• James Hinchcliffe, No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Speedsource, 53rd overall and fourth in GX.
• Tristan Vautier and Spencer Pigot, No. 00 Visit Florida Racing/Speedsource, 56th overall and sixth in GX.
2. Super Bowl matchup creates wager between INDYCAR events: Officials from Sonoma Raceway and the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT have entered into a friendly wager over the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.
The wager between the two IZOD IndyCar® Series race hosts will feature each putting up local fare. Race On, the promoter of the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT, will offer some delicious crab cakes from Maryland as well as Berger cookies from the famous bakery in East Baltimore, and Sonoma Raceway, in true wine country fashion, will offer some of Sonoma Valley’s world-class wine.
“I spent a few of my younger years in a suburb of Baltimore called Washington DC, and I know how tasty those Chesapeake Bay crabs can be,” said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “I appreciate the generous offer and look forward to sharing those delicious crab cakes with our staff… Go Niners!”
Sonoma Raceway, located just 45 minutes from San Francisco, will root on its home team, which is looking for its sixth Super Bowl win in as many attempts.
“The biggest sporting event of the year is even more unique in 2013 with head coach Jim Harbaugh of our San Francisco 49ers versus his older brother, John Harbaugh, but the real story revolves around the players,” said Dwight Clark, former 49ers wide receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion. “Who wants to be Super Bowl Champion the most? I say it’ll be 49ers 28, Ravens 21. Go Niners!!”
The Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT will back the Ravens, who won in their only visit to the Super Bowl in 2001, and will be joined in the wager by former Ravens Michael McCrary. McCrary, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and defensive standout on the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV, expects his hometown team will be the one to maintain its flawless Super Bowl record.
“This is going to be a fantastic game between two exceptional teams,” said Race On Manager J.P. Grant. “I think it’s going to come down to the wire as the Harbaugh brothers and their players look for that single opportunity that will put them over the top. In the end, though, the Lombardi trophy is coming back to Charm City and the victory parade will wind its way down the front straightaway of our great street course!”
“The 49ers are a great team and an amazing organization, but the Ravens are riding an emotional high that is going to take Baltimore to another Super Bowl victory,” McCrary said. “Ray Lewis is going to celebrate his retirement with a second championship ring, and when the team returns to Baltimore, I’m going to toast their victory with a glass of fine Sonoma wine!”
The Super Bowl will take place Feb. 3, in New Orleans.
3. Conway to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan at Long Beach: Mike Conway will drive a second entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at the IZOD IndyCar Series event at Long Beach on April 21.
Conway, 29, of England, who recorded his first IZOD IndyCar Series win at Long Beach in 2011, will drive the No. 30 Honda-powered car as a companion to regular driver Graham Rahal’s car.
“The team has proven their speed and technical excellence in the past and I can’t wait to start working with everybody,” Conway said. “I worked with (RLL race engineer) Eddie (Jones) indirectly when he was Marco’s (Andretti) engineer at Andretti Autosport so we would debrief as a group. He knows his stuff and has been around a long time so it should be fun working together. I hope to add more races for the upcoming season but in the meantime, I look forward to getting back on a circuit that I previously won on.”
Conway has made 53 IZOD IndyCar Series starts with A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. In addition to his win at Long Beach, he finished on the podium at Toronto in 2012 and Sonoma in 2009.
“I am really pleased to welcome Mike to the team,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. ”In 2011, Mike Lanigan and I met with Mike and his representatives, and were really working hard to get him into the team but it didn’t work out. Fortunately, we are able to do so now. Mike is a very good driver and I think he will be very competitive in our environment. He and Graham get along well so it’s a real one-two punch for us.”
4. Miller shifts gears, becomes driver coach: Joel Miller has won karting and Skip Barber National championships, was runner-up in the Star Mazda championship and competed in Firestone Indy Lights – all since 2005.
Now the 24-year-old from Hesperia, Calif., undertakes a new role in racing as driver coach for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda – two rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder. Miller will work alongside technical and driver consultant Johnny Unser, who will return for his fourth season.
Miller, also an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School, holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California-Riverside.
“Joel will be a great driver coach,” said Spencer Pigot, who moves up to Pro Mazda with Team Pelfrey this season. “He has experience in both series and has won a lot of races.”
The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM and www.indycar.com. The 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season begins March 23 on the Streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 11 a.m. (ET) on March 24.