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Feb 27, 2013
Wednesday
INDYCAR News and Notes – Feb. 27, 2013
Press Release

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INDYCAR Logo
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1.      If you missed it: Hichcliffe-Veach conference call

2.      Pro Mazda kicks off 2013 season in Texas

1. If you missed it: Hichcliffe-Veach conference call: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers James Hinchcliffe and Firestone Indy Lights driver Zach Veach participated in the conference call to preview the 2013 season.  Selected quotes from the interview are below.

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Q. Zach, let’s talk about climbing the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. You started in 2010 in the USF2000. You won the Winter Series there in 2011 and last year competed in Star Mazda. So now this year you’re ready to move up to Firestone Indy Lights. What will it mean to you to be the first driver to compete in the three ladder series?

ZACH VEACH: It will be a really special achievement for us. I’m really proud to be part of the Mazda Road to Indy program, and being able to be starting my fourth season with Andretti Autosport. It has been a real honor to be under their wings and developing as a driver now that’s turned 18 and going to be in the Firestone Indy Lights series.

But I’ve learned so much from the time I started in 2010 with USF2000 and worked my way up until now, that there’s no way I’d be able to drive a Firestone Indy Lights car at 18 if it wasn’t for the Mazda Road to Indy series.

So it’s a very unique experience, and it’s helping a lot of drivers like me and all across the world to achieve the dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500 one day.

Q. You said you just turned 18. It happened right before the New Year, so it’s kind of been a rapid rise up the development ladder for you. Do you plan on a couple of years in Firestone Indy Lights or do you think you’re ready to be an IndyCar driver?

ZACH VEACH: For me, I really want to be in IndyCar, but Michael (Andretti’s) goal is he never wants to move any of his drivers up too fast. So I think it’s best for me and Michael thinks as well that we take our time working our way up to the (IZOD) IndyCar (Series). So, yeah, probably two years at least in the Firestone Indy Lights series and just taking our time learning as much as we need to be able to move up to the IndyCar Series.

So definitely dreaming big, but I’m just focused on this year right now, and we’re going to go for hopefully the championship and see where we are at the end of the year.

Q. You mentioned that you’ve had about 10 test days in the Firestone Indy Lights cars to prepare for the season. A couple more test days before the season starts at St. Pete. What is your feel for the car and how you’ve done in comparison to your teammate Carlos (Munoz), who ran well in the championship last year? Does that set high expectations for you for the season?

ZACH VEACH: Yes, I’m very fortunate to have such a strong teammate this year like Carlos. Like you said, he was very successful last year, and he’s really putting a lot of pressure on me this year and definitely making me drive a lot harder. Throughout testing the past couple of times, we’ve been in tenth or hundredths of Carlos. So I have a feeling that we’ll be really prepared as we go into the season, and I’ll be pushing really hard to get K12 some wins this year.

Now we’ve just got to take it one race at a time and make sure that we’re learning and improving on the areas that we need to. I’m very confident in my team and my engineer, and I think that we really have a great program at Andretti Autosport for the season.

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Q. James, can you talk about what a comfort it is for a driver to return to a team for the 2013 season?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think, for any driver, continuity is a huge part of it. If anything sitting here listening to Zach thinking I’m jealous. He’s been with the same team over different series for the last couple of years, and I’m finally going to get to experience that.

We had a strong first year with Andretti Autosport in 2012 in the GoDaddy car. And for me now it’s important to build on that and try to improve on the areas where we were a little weak last year, and even on the areas we felt were strong. This is a competitive series and there is always room for improvement. And we’re looking forward to just getting 2013 underway.

Q. You mentioned continuity. You’re actually going to be reunited with Craig Hampson this year, who engineered you when you won the Rookie of the Year in 2011. Does working with Craig add to the comfort you have with the team?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Certainly. The blow we were dealt in January with my engineer, Tino (Belli), from last season leaving that late in the offseason, it makes it very difficult. And I guess when a door closes, a window opens. And we were so fortunate that Craig Hampson was available and sort of a weird twist of events, and everything happens for a reason, you know?

So, for me, the driver‑engineer relationship is so, so critical, and for me to come with a different engineer from last year but at least one I’ve worked with in the past is such a big step forward.

I think Craig is a tremendous engineer and will be a huge asset to the whole team. But, certainly, everybody on the 27 car is very excited about the opportunity to work with him. I’m over the moon about the opportunity to work with him again. So hopefully we can replicate and better some of the success we had two years ago.

Q. You had a test day last week at Sebring, and I know there is the open two‑day test at Barber in a couple of weeks. But it is some limited testing compared to last year in the preseason. Does last week’s testing leave you itching to get back in the car and get the season started?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think the checkered flag in Fontana left me itching to get the 2013 started. And we know it’s been a long offseason, and with the limited testing compared to last year, all of these things made it probably the longest offseason of my life.

But on the other hand, like I said, it’s good to know at the end of last season what I’d be doing this year. And we’ve been filling some of the time with other things, such as racing the Rolex 24. I’ve gotten back to my roots a little bit and doing some go‑karting in the offseason to stay sharp. But I’ve been keeping my butt in the seat at the end of the day.

The test last week went really well, and I think everybody’s anxious to get this year going.

Q. One of the goals this year for you talking to everybody is that first win. Hinch, you’re pretty good at disciplining yourself not to let things play on your mind. But does that play on your mind? Let’s get that first win or do you go about it methodically event to event knowing you have the resources there when it happens?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: That is the biggest thing. We know we’re a team that’s capable of winning and especially now bringing that experience of Craig on board. The working relationship that we already have. We know each other, and we’re going to put our heads down and get to work.

With how hard that guy works, he’s motivating me and the team to work harder than we did last year, which is saying something. I think if we do our jobs right, eventually it’s going to fall our way one day.

So we’re not worried on it must be done by this race or this day or anything like that, but if we do our jobs right, then hopefully that day is going to come.

2. Pro Mazda kicks off 2013 season in Texas: The 2013 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will commence with a pair of races at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 1 and 2.

A mix of returning veterans and talented newcomers will convene at the challenging 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

Matthew Brabham, of Manalapan, Fla., must be regarded as one of the favorites for top honors. The grandson of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham and son of sports car champion Geoff Brabham is looking to maintain the momentum that saw him win the 2012 USF2000 crown and earn a scholarship from Mazda to graduate into Pro Mazda competition.

“The track is fantastic,” said Brabham, who set the pace during pre-season test sessions at Palm Beach International Raceway, Sebring International Raceway in Florida and Circuit of The Americas in the No. 83 Team Andretti Autosport entry. “It is definitely one of the best tracks I have driven on. It is incredibly smooth and has some great elevation changes that are so much fun to drive on.

“Pre-season testing has been going really well for us. We have sorted out the new Cooper tires quite quickly and I have gotten on really well with the guys at Andretti. We have had great speed all through testing and I don’t see why we can’t carry that into this weekend. I’m trying to keep an open mind going into the first race and not have too many expectations. However, we are in a good position going into the first race and my goal as always is to try and win.”

Three other front-runners from last year’s strong USF2000 field have moved up for 2013. Spencer Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., finished seven points adrift of Brabham, despite winning eight races, and has been snapped up by defending champion Team Pelfrey to join sophomore Pro Mazda racer Petri Suvanto, who placed fifth in 2012 with 10 top-five finishes after winning the USF2000 championship in 2011.

Scott Anderson, who won two USF2000 races in 2012, and Shelby Blackstock who finished eighth in last year’s championship, will continue their progression with Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively.

Returning Pro Mazda veterans include Diego Ferreira and Juan Piedrahita, who placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in 2012, and Zack Meyer, who finished 15th. Ferreira finished among the top five in each of the final five races. Piedrahita will remain with 2011 championship-winning team JDC MotorSports alongside teammate Meyer, who claimed four top-10 finishes last season.

Californian teenager Kyle Kaiser – the quickest in testing at COTA on Feb. 23 with World Speed Motorsports – and California-based Welshman Lloyd Read will graduate from the West Coast Formula Car Challenge, where they have excelled in almost identical Pro Mazda cars.

Others to watch include another couple of South Americans – Venezuela’s Francisco Cerullo who won the 2012 LATAM F2000 Challenge Series and finished second in the Panam GP Series and Colombian National Karting Champion Juan Acosta, who also contested two Panam GP Series races last year, winning once.

***

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, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.

Source: INDYCAR, Press Release




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