By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. If you missed it: Hinchcliffe, Bernard-Zucker teleconference
2. Dempsey joins Andretti Autosport for Toronto:
3. Ostella ready for his home race at Toronto
4. Jensen MotorSport featured in NAPA webisodes from Toronto:
1. If you missed it: Hinchcliffe, Bernard-Zucker teleconference: IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker participated in a teleconference today to preview the Honda Indy Toronto and to discuss the announcement that the IZOD IndyCar Series will race at Auto Club Speedway in 2012. A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at www.indycar.com/media. Selected quotes are below.
Q. James, I know racing at Toronto means a lot to you no matter what car you’re driving. Getting to drive an IndyCar in front of your friends and family must make this weekend very special to you.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, it certainly does. I’ve been telling everybody that I’ve been coming to this race since I was 18 months old. I’ve had the opportunity to drive here in a few of the different junior formulas over the years which have all been incredible in their own right, but at the end of the day I was always sitting in the grandstands with everybody else when the main show started. It’s going to be special this year to see the race from a different seat.
Q. Canadians are very prideful of their own, if it’s hockey or auto racing. You told a story of Greg Moore. What is it like to be a Canadian racing in Canada, and last year you won at Edmonton? How important is it for a Canadian to do well in his home race?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, you know, obviously Canadians are very proud people. We have a sort of small population compared to some of the other big countries in the world. When it comes to sports, we like to prove that we can still compete.
Motor racing is no different. I think there’s a big motor racing heritage in Canada, especially with open-wheel. So they’re very big fans. Even when I was racing in the junior formula, the support that you got from the fans in Toronto and Edmonton was incredible. They’re very knowledgeable, very passionate. They just love cheering on the locals.
For me certainly that win in Edmonton last year was one of the high points of my racing career. I raced in Canada a bunch of times, but it was the first time in my formula car career that I managed to take a win on home soil. So it was a nice moment, especially after rebounding from a DNF in Toronto the week before.
Q. I wanted to see could you talk about making the jump from Indy Lights to Indy, what that transition has been like for you this season?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: The transition has been certainly more difficult in some aspects than I was expecting and maybe a little smoother in other aspects. It’s been a little bit of everything.
The workload in IndyCar is certainly a lot more, and more than I was expecting. But to the other side of that, the first time I got to drive the car, I was very pleased to see how comfortable I was in it right away. I think a lot of that credit has to go to the Indy Lights Series, the time I spent there, how close that car is.
It’s a very competitive series. You really appreciate that now you are driving against the best guys in North America. It’s been a huge learning experience. Rookies don’t get a ton of testing these days, so every race weekend is basically a two- or three-day test session. It’s all about getting laps. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
We’ve had some ups and some downs. Some aspects were more difficult. At the end of the day I’ve worked very hard to get to this point and I’m learning as much as I possibly can every opportunity I get and just enjoying every single minute of it.
Q. Randy, with all the tracks available, those who have been asking IndyCar for race days, what attracted IndyCar to Auto Club Speedway?
RANDY BERNARD: It’s one of the largest markets in the United States, number one. We need more ovals. We’re trying to keep a balanced series. We also think a night race there will be very exciting. It has a lot of history with IndyCar. We think they’re some very solid partners that we can bring on to enhance the event.
I will say on a personal event, Gillian and her team have been outstanding to work with, very aggressive on wanting this event.
Q. You mentioned the balance. I know the schedule isn’t ready for release and you’re not going to give any hints to what else is out there. How important is adding another oval and keeping the balance of road and street races to the schedule?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, we want to say we’re the fastest and most versatile racecar drivers in the world. That’s what will differentiate us from other forms of motorsports. So we need to try to live up to that. It’s very difficult sometimes when you’re trying to complement road, street and ovals.
IndyCar, the tradition and history, is all about ovals. What we’re trying to do is make sure we can maintain some great racetracks for that.
Q. Gillian, it’s been nearly seven years since your facility hosted open-wheel racing. The track and area have a long history in IndyCar racing. What makes the IZOD IndyCar Series such a good fit for Auto Club Speedway?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: I think as most people know this racetrack was built by the Penskes, built with open-wheel racing in mind. In our minds, this is the most competitive place to see open-wheel racing in the country. We hold the world speed record for the fastest lap of 241 miles an hour. We know that the finishes here have been unlike any other.
We feel like this is going to provide a really excellent opportunity to provide world class racing for our fans and diversify our schedule.
Q. How important was it to add IndyCar to the track schedule for 2012?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: Well, I think Randy can attest to the fact that we wouldn’t leave him alone (laughter). I think he had a choice of taking out a restraining order or granting a race here. We’re thrilled he opted to grant the race here.
It’s not just about our staff being excited about it, wanting to round out the schedule for the community, provide the economic impacts that this type of event can bring, it’s also just about how exciting this racing is and providing something that’s truly dynamic that fans could enjoy. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have open-wheel racing back at Auto Club Speedway.
2. Dempsey joins Andretti Autosport for Toronto: Peter Dempsey will return to Firestone Indy Lights at this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto to compete for Andretti Autosport as a teammate to Stefan Wilson.
Dempsey, a 25-year-old from Ashbourne, Ireland, has three top-10 results, including two podium finishes, in four starts in the 2011Firestone Indy Lights season.
He sits 11th in the championship point standings after competing with O2 Racing Technology.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back on track,” Dempsey said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity at Andretti Autosport, and I’ll be working hard to put out a good result in Toronto.
“It’s been a great experience just prepping with the team for this weekend, so I know it can only get better from here.”
Dempsey began racing go-karts at the age of 8, eventually moving into the Formula Ford Series in 2004. In his first full year in the series, he won 33 out of the 43 races he competed in and became the Northern Irish Formula Ford 1600 champion. He was also named Motorsport Ireland’s Young Racing Driver of the Year Award winner in 2005 and 2008.
After much success in the UK, Dempsey moved to the United States to compete in the Star Mazda Championship in 2008, recording four wins in his first season, and continued his success the following year with a second place championship finish.
“We’re glad to have Peter with us this weekend in Toronto,” said J-F Thormann, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Andretti Autosport. “With him and Stefan working together, I think we’ll have a strong team effort and a great chance to go for the win.”
3. Ostella ready for his home race at Toronto: David Ostella remembers going to watch Indy car races on the streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place as he was growing up. This week, he’ll get to make some new memories.
The 19-year-old from the Toronto suburb of Maple, Ontario will get his first chance to race on the streets of Toronto during the Firestone Indy Lights races at the 1.75-mile street course.
“Toronto is my hometown and my home race. I definitely can’t wait for it,” said Ostella, who lives about 20 minutes from the circuit. “I remember going there with my dad and seeing (Michael) Andretti and all of those guys. Now I’m actually going to get to race on the track. It’s going to be pretty awesome. I can’t wait.”
Ostella, the only Canadian driver racing full-time in Firestone Indy Lights, is seventh in the point standings in his rookie season driving for Jensen MotorSport, which is owned by Canadian Eric Jensen. Ostella has finished in the top-10 in the last four races, boosting his confidence for his home race.
“I’m definitely happy with how the three oval races went,” Ostella said. “I finished them all, and learned a lot about each type track we encountered. I had a little mishap at each one, but I finished and can now look forward to the road courses.”
But more importantly, the return to a street couse is a chance for Ostella to shine in front of his friends and family.
“It is pretty important to race on home soil for me because all the big races I’ve ever done, in cars and go-karts were in the States,” he said. “To race in my hometown of Toronto – I’ve raced at Montreal and Three Rivers (Trois Riviere, Quebec) last year – means there will be a lot of family there. With an Italian background, I have a big Italian family and they will all be there cheering me on. There will be a lot of family cheering me on.”
While Toronto race may be the most important for Ostella to do well, it is the first of four races held in Canada this year.
Ostella hopes his status as a Canadian driver racing for a Canadian team will make him the hometown favorite for races in Edmonton, Alberta and Trois Rivieres, Quebec as well.
“I was at Three Rivers last year and the year before (in Star Mazda) and the fans there are pretty awesome,” he said. “They really get into racing. I’ve never been to Edmonton before, so I don’t know how it will be, but to be Canadian and racing in Canada is going to be pretty big.
“I’ve talked to (James) Hinchcliffe about it, and he told me it’s great racing back at home and having the fans and family and friends. I can’t wait to see for myself.”
4. Jensen MotorSport featured in NAPA webisodes from Toronto: NAPA Auto Parts and Cue Digital Media will bring together two of Canada’s top young media personalities to produce branded content featuring NAPA Auto Parts sponsorship of Canada’s only Firestone Indy Lights team Jensen MotorSport as it competes in the popular Honda Indy Toronto running July 8th – 10th.
Wilder Weir, co-host of Corus Entertainment’s hit television show Oh So Cosmo, and Jessie Sulidis, star of ABC network’s hit television show The Bachelor, will be the on-air talent in a series of webisodes that follow the Jensen MotorSport team through the fury and excitement of the Honda Indy Toronto.
“Getting to look under the hood of these sophisticated million dollar machines, seeing the expertise of the driver and the team, getting behind-the-scenes access to everything from glamorous racer parties to more private moments, it should all make for some highly entertaining branded content” says David U.K., CEO of Cue Digital Media. “It is terrific that NAPA Auto Parts chose Cue Digital Media to produce the webisode series to launch their new brand positioning, and we are very excited to share the content throughout summer 2011 on leading web-sites including Heavy.com and BNQT Media reaching over 3 Million Canadians online”.
NAPA’s branding will be featured prominantly on the Jensen Motorsport’s No. 16 Global Precast Team Jensen entry of 19-year-old David Ostella, the only Canadian driver racing full-time in Firestone Indy Lights.
Ostella, a native of Maple, Ontario, is currently seventh in Firestone Indy Lights points and has finished in the top-10 in the last four races.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Indy Toronto on July 10 at Streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Toronto 100 at Streets of Toronto on July 10. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at Noon. (ET) by VERSUS.