Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Clauson joins Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for Indy 500
2. Teams prepare for fly-away race to Brazil:
3. Mazda Motorsports Hour debuts on Velocity
1. Clauson joins Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for Indy 500: USAC open wheel star Bryan Clauson has been hired by Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman to drive the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Clauson, from Noblesville, Ind., is a multi-time USAC national champion and has won several races behind the wheel of his family-owned No. 39 USAC midget. He will be teammate to another young American driver, Josef Newgarden, from Nashville, Tenn.
Newgarden drives the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Clauson and Newgarden were teammates in Firestone Indy Lights in 2011.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to enter the Indianapolis 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing,” said Clauson. “It’s almost surreal just talking about it. For me to be attempting to make the race with Sarah’s team is just phenomenal. With her background in sprint car and midget racing and her continued involvement at that level, this is just a good fit for me. I’m also proud to be an Indiana boy driving for an Indiana team.”
“I’m also excited about the continuity we’re building into the program,” added Clauson. “My car number will be No. 39 and I’m bringing along some of my short track supporters with me like Rotondo Weirich.”
Clauson won back-to-back USAC National Drivers Championships in 2010 and 2011 for his performance in all three major USAC open wheel divisions. He also won the USAC National Midget Championship in 2010 and 2011and has more than 26 USAC wins.
In addition, Clauson had four top-five finishes in Firestone Indy Lights racing in 2011, when he earned a Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship for winning the USAC National Drivers Championship. His best finish was third at Iowa Speedway driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
“It’s quite an honor to bring a USAC champion to the Indianapolis 500,” said Fisher. “I am very fond of my roots in short track oval racing, and watching Bryan at some of these events really brings back memories. Personally knowing his background, I have complete confidence in his credentials, talent and capabilities, and look forward to working with him at Indy. It will be exciting to fill out our team roster with both of the Road to Indy Champions from last season, really solidifying the ladder program.”
The pairing of Clauson and Newgarden is a strong statement for the Mazda Road to Indy program. In addition to Clauson’s USAC National Drivers Championships, Newgarden won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship.
“INDYCAR continues to focus on strengthening ties with USAC as a path to the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500,” said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. “After a strong oval debut in Firestone Indy Lights last season, it made sense to utilize our USAC National Drivers Championship scholarship to enter Bryan in the Indianapolis 500. Not only is Bryan one of the most talented USAC drivers, his participation in the Indy 500 will attract the interest of short track fans across the country.”
It’s more than a coincidence that SFHR has hired two American drivers for its Indiana-based operation. The team is proud of its Indiana roots and routinely flies an American flag in its pit box.
“SFHR is happy to welcome Bryan to the team,” said Wink Hartman, co-owner of SFHR. “We’ve been working toward this program for quite some time, and I feel we are prepared to present a first-class effort for the entry. Working with young American talent fits this team and its values perfectly, and we are working hard to find a primary sponsor for Bryan to match that platform. We are also thankful to have the support of all our partners, including Honda, for this program and the excitement the total package brings.”
Not lost on Clauson is the fact he is joining an emerging IZOD IndyCar Series team that already has a victory in its portfolio.
“With its performance so far this year with Josef on the road courses, combined with the fact it ran strong at Indy and won the last oval race in 2011, SFHR is proving it is a first-class team. I can’t wait for ROP.”
Clauson and Newgarden both passed their INDYCAR rookie oval test at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5. They will both participate in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on May 10.
2. Teams prepare for fly-away race to Brazil: More than 400,000 total pounds will be swallowed by two Nippon Cargo Air 747-400F planes for the 5,000-plus-mile trip between Indianapolis and São Paulo, Brazil – the initial logistical stage of conducting the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on April 29.
Race cars, a Holmatro Safety Team truck and equipment for two more, pit and scrutineering equipment, tools, rain tires and consumables will be weighed, wrapped, stacked and set in a staging area this weekend at Indianapolis International Airport by INDYCAR and DB Schenker personnel in a free-form ballet of fork lifts and 18-wheelers.
On April 22, the two behemoth cargo planes will take off for Viracopos-Campinas International Airport in the state of São Paulo. Firestone Firehawk slicks, fuel and Dallara parts and equipment departed via ocean cargo vessel last month.
The freight is then transferred to trucks to continue the journey to the Anhembi complex in the north-central section of the largest city in South America. Manifests are checked and spot customs inspections are conducted at the venue in time for team personnel to unpack the next day and begin preparations for the race weekend.
Cargo provisions recently were made for a 27th entry, the No. 25 Andretti Autosport car to be driven by Ana Beatriz in her “home” race, as a promoter’s selection. Also, slight modifications were made to the car racks to accommodate the new Dallara chassis (most entrants will pack only one car).
“In the past we were able to mount wings on the car rack, but with different configurations this year we’re not able to do that,” INDYCAR director of operations Bill van de Sandt said. “The front wings will be on the car itself and teams have made the frames designed by Bryan Herta Autosport. The rear-wheel guard is disassembled and put in with rest of cargo.”
DB Schenker has been associated with INDYCAR since 2009, providing logistics for the Honda Accord Safety Cars between North American event venues. Its role expanded in 2010 with oversight of the event logistics for the inaugural race on the streets of São Paulo.
“It’s multiple processes, but it’s very well-organized,” van de Sandt said. “The cooperation of the governments, the help of DB Schenker and the airlines works very well. It’s a process that is very effective and efficient.”
3. Mazda Motorsports Hour debuts on Velocity: The first of 24 episodes of “The Mazda Motorsports Hour” will be broadcast at noon (ET) April 21 on the Velocity Network.
“The Mazda Motorsports Hour” will focus on the racing stars of tomorrow — drivers looking to move up the Mazda Road to Indy and the MAZDASPEED Motorsports ladders.
The inaugural show features the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 1 from Sebring International Raceway. Shows in May and June will feature Star Mazda and USF2000, which are part of the Mazda Road to Indy for drivers seeking to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series.
To watch the Velocity Network, go to http://velocity.discovery.com and type your zip code into the channel finder.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on April 29 on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 11:30 a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212) and affiliates.