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Feb 25, 2014 - 06:57 AM
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Hinchcliffe Kicks Off St Pete Track Build; Montoya Battles Himself; Dixon In Detroit And More
Posted by: newsla on Feb 25, 2014 - 06:51 AM
IndyCar News
Hinchcliffe Kicks Off St Pete Track Build; Montoya Battles Himself; Dixon In Detroit And More


Today's IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Hinchcliffe kicks off St. Pete build
2. Montoya battles himself first before rest of the field
3. Proud to represent Colombia
4. Dixon and Astor Cup at Pistons home game March 5
5. Brabham among Gorsline Scholarship nominees

 

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1. Hinchcliffe kicks off St. Pete build: James Hinchcliffe began defense of his win of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Feb. 24 by helping with the ceremonial start of the track build for the season-opening IndyCar Series race on March 30.

More than 20,000 feet of steel-reinforced concrete block will line the picturesque but challenging 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit that incorporates a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.

"St. Pete has been a special race for as long as I've been going," said Hinchcliffe as he looked over the yacht club on Tampa Bay. "Being out there on the water, it's a cool atmosphere. It's a cool backdrop for the race. I'm pretty sure (teammate Ryan) Hunter-Reay parks his mega yacht out there for race week."
Hinchcliffe, who drives the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport, was the seventh different winner in the nine years of the race. He went on to win twice more during the 19-race season and finish eighth in the championship standings.

"Obviously, with what happened last year, it holds a special place in my heart," the Toronto native said. "It was a very emotional day last year on race day for all the right reasons. That's nice because in racing you normally have very emotional days for the wrong reasons more often than you do for all the right ones. For me, personally, on track it made a big difference because when I was then in situations later in the year where a win was on the line I felt a lot less pressure because I think there was a big amount of pressure to get that first win.

"I think it really does free your mind up a little bit when you're in those circumstances, again knowing that, 'Hey, I've been here, I know I can do it, let's focus and get the job done,' rather than make yourself over-analyze and make a mistake."

It is the first year for Firestone as the entitlement sponsor of the 110-lap "Fastest Spring Break Party," though it has been the Turn 1 grandstand sponsor since the first race in 2005 -- the IndyCar Series' inaugural non-oval race. Firestone is the Official Tire Supplier of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500.

"On behalf of Firestone, we couldn't be more proud to be the title sponsor," Bridgestone Americas director of motorsports Lisa Boggs said. "Racing is part of our company's heritage dating to the days of Harvey Firestone, who used racing to test the performance of our tires. That history continues today as the title sponsor of this great event."

2. Montoya battles himself first before rest of the field: Through a half dozen test sessions and a month before the season opens, Juan Pablo Montoya isn't looking at the depth of the field.

"Right now, I'm my biggest rival. I feel like a complete rookie right now," the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner said. "Because I feel like I got to do a job, push myself. It's good to have a guy like Will (Power) on the team that's really quick and gets the job done. Helio (Castroneves) has a lot of experience. If I have my experience plus what they do, I think it's pretty good."

Montoya expects to win, and soon, but he doesn't expect the transition from stock cars to the IndyCar Series will be as smooth as his initial foray at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He led 167 of the 200 laps on the 2.5-mile oval in winning by 7.184 seconds over Buddy Lazier.

"The NASCAR one was one that it was like, 'Where the hell am I?' The cars were very different," he said. "There was a lot of movement. This is the opposite because in NASCAR the limit of the car is very easy. You can get to the limit of the car very easy. The big thing is you're driving it too hard. In IndyCar, you can't drive it hard enough, or at least I can't yet. I'm leaving a lot on the table. I think that's the biggest thing."

Team Penske announced that Hawk Performance will be the primary sponsor on the No. 2 car driven by Montoya for three races.

3. Proud to represent Colombia: Sebastian Saavedra credits countryman Montoya with having an indirect hand in his path to reaching the IndyCar Series.

"I was only 8 years old when he won Indy 500. I was just starting my go-kart career then," said Saavedra, who embarks on his first season with KV AFS Racing. "It surely gave a little bit of, 'Hey, if you're a Colombian, you can make it happen.' Since then we've had a couple of contacts. I raced in the 500 miles (karting race) of Brazil. That was actually the first time we got to speak. I was 13. Since then we never spoke again until the Race of the Stars at the end of the year, when we became a lot closer.

"I do accept that he's one of those guys that came through on a very important time of my life, thinking, 'Is this what I want to do for my whole career?' And it was, and of course, Roberto Guerrero was another guy that came through on my first Indy 500 (in 2010). I've been very blessed with very good people around."

Montoya, Saavedra and Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz give Colombia three drivers in the series, and each referenced a fourth as a possibility for the opener.

"A lot of people are going to follow IndyCar in Colombia," Munoz added. "People are starting to talk a lot that there are three Colombians in INDYCAR. When (Montoya) won the Champ Car title and the Indy 500, there were a lot of people following him. He was a symbol for me when I was a kid, an example for me and many Colombian drivers, to follow him. I have some pictures of him when I was small. He was at a go-kart race with his brother when I was small. It's a strange feeling when you're small, you're looking at him as a big driver. But once I'm here, you just put your helmet on, everyone is the same."

4. Dixon and Astor Cup at Pistons home game March 5: Reigning IndyCar Series champion and 2012 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix winner Scott Dixon will be the guest of honor and participate in activities before and during the NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls on March 5 in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Fans can get a picture with the Astor Cup, the IndyCar Series championship trophy won by Dixon, along with the first-place trophy of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.

Fans can purchase a special Pistons "Drive to Detroit" Ticket Package, which includes two game tickets, two postgame shots on the court, two autographed photos and a meet and greet with Dixon. Purchase tickets by calling (248) 377-0100 or visiting www.pistons.com/grandprix. Any fan that attends the game will receive a $5 discount on the purchase of any single-day admission ticket to the doubleheader race weekend May 30-June 1.

5. Brabham among Gorsline Scholarship nominees: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Matthew Brabham, the 2013 Pro Mazda champion and rookie of the year, is among the three candidates in contention for the 20th Gorsline Scholarship.

The scholarship, presented by Gorsline Company of Rochester, N.Y., recognizes aspiring drivers and presents a program that provides tools that will assist the drivers in developing skills on and off the track to attain their professional goals. The winner will be announced March 13.

Brabham, who turns 20 on Feb. 25, won the 2012 USF2000 championship before moving up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to Pro Mazda, where he won a series-record 13 races and 10 poles. He's competing for Andretti Autosport this season. Other nominees are Madison Snow, who competes in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, and Sean Rayhall, who won the 2013 Cooper Tire Prototype Lites Championship.
IndyCar Series drivers Josef Newgarden, JR Hildebrand and Conor Daly are former winners of the scholarship. IndyCar Series team owner and former driver Bryan Herta was the first recipient.


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