Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 15, 2013

2013 INDIANAPOLIS 500 NOTEBOOK: Marco Andretti tops Indy speed chart in early week practice

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

INDIANAPOLIS — INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti posted the fastest Indianapolis 500 practice speed of the month Monday, turning a fast lap of 225.100 mph on the 2.5-mile oval.

It was the second straight day an Andretti Autosport driver held the top spot. Colombia’s Carlos Munoz, a rookie, was the fastest driver Sunday.

Warmer temperatures and brighter skies created much better conditions from the first two days of practice at Indy, and it showed. Andretti and three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves each topped 225 mph. The Brazilian posted a lap of 225.075 mph as he tries to become the fourth driver to win four times at Indy.

Defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was third at 224.386. Australia’s Will Power was fourth at 223.784 and Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand was fifth at 223.624.

Rookie Conor Daly made it onto the track for the first time after racing in Spain twice over the weekend. He passed all three phases of his rookie orientation and made it onto the track for regular practice later in the afternoon. His best official lap was 219.044.

Five rookie drivers have passed the test: the four who have rides and Kyle Busch, who tested at Indy with Michael Andretti’s team last week.

Pippa Mann also made it onto the track for the first time this month. The British driver is trying to make her first IndyCar start since she was injured in the season-ending crash that killed Dan Wheldon in 2011. Mann turned 35 laps Monday, her fastest being 220.500.

IndyCar hires Walker

as competition chief

INDIANAPOLIS  — IndyCar drivers and owners have always considered Derrick Walker to be a beacon of leadership.

Now he’s switching to what Walker calls the “dark” side.

The well-respected former team owner was hired Monday as IndyCar’s new head of competition, ending the worst-kept secret in Indianapolis. Speculation that the 68-year-old Scotsman would lead the competition department kicked into high gear last week when four-time series champ Dario Franchitti, also a Scot, said Walker had been hired.

Turns out, it was all true.

“I know I’m not going to please everybody every day,” Walker said. “There are going to be some days when some people will think I’m a jerk and there will be some days where I probably will be a jerk. I just hope there’s more good days than jerk days.”

Walker takes over May 27, the day after the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to be run and what he’ll find is an organization still trying to close the popularity gap with NASCAR.

Until then, he will continue to serve as general manager for Ed Carpenter Racing, the one-car team owned by Tony George’s stepson. George’s family owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and George was the founder of the IndyCar Series. Walker said he would no longer represent Will Power or Simon Pagenaud, last year’s IndyCar rookie of the year, as a consultant though his team would continue to run on the American Le Mans Series this season.

It’s a whole new start for Walker, who is now talking about containing costs and improving safety -- issues that have become annual themes since the series was founded in 1996 -- while fans continue to urge officials to boost speeds. Walker’s job is finding the balance between drivers’ concerns, fans’ wishes and team limits.

The good news is that drivers and owners feel like they finally have someone from their side working in the series office.

“He gives you exactly what you need from that side,” said Josef Newgarden, who drives for Fisher -- the only woman to own an IndyCar team. “There are two equations there. You’ve got to figure out how to please the fans and the outside world and you’ve got to please the inside world of the drivers and teams. I think Derrick is the perfect guy for those inside the wall because he knows how to run a race team, and I think he’s able to bridge that gap between the fans and the race teams.”

Walker started his racing career as a chief mechanic and built his reputation by working with or for some of the biggest names in racing history -- Graham Hill, Rick Mears, Roger Penske, and Al and Bobby Unser. He eventually started his own team, winning six races and 16 poles in 19 seasons. He also was a trendsetter, helping Willy T. Ribbs became the first black driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and later giving Sarah Fisher a foothold in the series.

Brown turns down IndyCar CEO job

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Zak Brown has turned down an offer to join the IndyCar Series, choosing instead to remain with the motorsports marketing company he founded.

Brown told The Associated Press on Tuesday he informed Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles of his decision not to take a job with IndyCar. He’ll instead relocate in July to England to continue the growth of his Zionsville, Ind.-based agency, Just Marketing International.

“I’m a huge fan of IndyCar, it’s a great product and it certainly would have been a great opportunity and challenge,” Brown said. “I have no doubt Mark Miles and the team he forms will lead the series down a path of success — and we at JMI will continue to do our part to support IndyCar.

“I’m committed to JMI, excited about our future and therefore unable to pursue any other opportunities. Mark is fully aware of my passion for IndyCar and my desire to contribute to the series’ success in any way I can, but at this time that cannot be in the CEO role.”

Brown had been contemplating leaving Indiana for London when discussions began earlier this year with Miles about a potential role for Brown in IndyCar. Miles, hired late last year as head of IndyCar’s parent company, had said Brown had made it clear “his only interest would be if we put the pieces together and he was the head of racing.”

The courtship dragged on for months, and on Monday the series announced longtime motorsports veteran Derrick Walker had been hired as head of competition reporting directly to Miles.