Consisting of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Richard Petty Motor Sports, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Roush Fenway Racing, the newly formed nonprofit Race Team Alliance (RTA) reportedly aims to investigate ways to cut costs and promote the sport to a wider audience, while presenting a unified voice on issues facing racing teams. RTA chairman, Rob Kauffman of Michael Waltrip Racing, stressed the group’s intention for collaboration with NASCAR and racetracks, with the goal of attracting more spectators. Kauffman also noted that, although teams compete on the weekend, they face common challenges, such as risk, revenue and expenses, and there is a lot of common interest among RTA members.
Reaction to the formation of the RTA has been mixed. Some teams have shown interest in joining the group and, it been reported that they will be eligible to do so if the team has attempted to qualify for 95% of the 72 Sprint Cup races in the past two years. Some have suggested that the RTA aims to push NASCAR for a larger cut of a ten-year $8.2-billion TV sponsorship deal. The RTA insists it is being, and will continue to be, transparent in what it hopes to achieve. The response from NASCAR to the formation of the RTA was an announcement by president Mike Helton in which he stated that NASCAR “will continue to do business the way we’ve done business.”
Officially founded by William France Sr. in February 1948, NASCAR has gone through various changes over the decades and today the family owned and operated business oversees more than 1500 races held at over 100 tracks located in 39 US states and Canada. Series sanctioned by NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) include the Sprint Cup Series, Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series, Whelen All-American Series, Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Local Racing and the NASCAR iRacing.com Series. NASCAR’s current CEO is the grandson of founder William France Sr., Brian France.
NASCAR will be hosting its first events as the new owner of Iowa Speedway on the weekend of May 17-18, when the Casey’s General Store 150, NASCAR K&N Pro Series, and NASCAR Nationwide Get To Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin Williams will take place. In addition to the action on the track, fans can expect loads of entertainment with a special feature being fan photo opportunities with winning drivers. Moreover, instead of being held inside the media center, drivers’ meetings will be held on the opposite side of the front stretch, giving fans more opportunities to see the competitors before the race starts.
New president of Iowa Speedway, 28-year-old Jimmy Small is reportedly determined to make a success of this new venture, and to include fans and the State of Iowa in the process. Small concedes that he’s aware that many people think he is a bit young for the position he is in, but notes that he is professional in his approach and passionate about the sport.
Born and raised in Detroit, historically the automotive capital of the United States, Small is a graduate of Notre Dame University in Indiana, not far from the renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During his senior year he applied for a position at NASCAR’s headquarters in Daytona, and was hired soon after his graduation. Starting off in series operations, Small went on to gain experience in other areas of NASCAR’s operation, and when offered the position of president of Iowa Speedway, he readily accepted.
NASCAR’s announcement last year that it was buying Iowa Speedway generated a lot of speculation, and a lot of excitement among fans and teams alike. Top notch drivers, including Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne, tested the track last week and gave it the thumbs-up. Certainly autoracing fans in this region have some thrilling racing to look forward to at Iowa Speedway this season.
Marussia Motors, a Russian sports car manufacturer, bought interests in the Virgin Racing team last year. Virgin Racing made the move to buy out Nick Wirth’s Formula 1 division of Wirth Research Technologies, but after experiencing a very disappointing start to their Formula 1 season, for a second time, Virgin Racing decided to move away from Wirth. Wirth was instrumental in designing and developing the team’s car, as well being leaders in the formulation of computational fluid dynamics, but the team believes they have a greater chance of success with McLaren.
McLaren and Virgin Racing have agreed to a technical partnership that will be a great advantage for Virgin Racing, as they will have access to various McLaren facilities, such as their test rigs, wind tunnel and even their driver simulator. Production staff and the McLaren management team will be working closely with Virgin Racing, assisting them in every technology related issue.
Andy Webb, chief executive of Virgin Racing, is confident that the technical agreement between them and McLaren will allow his team the opportunity to make the necessary changes to their car to improve their performances. This will also hopefully permit Virgin Racing to move forward in the sport. Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s team boss, has no doubt that Virgin Racing will only benefit from their agreement.
Another component to Virgin’s bid to improve and gain knowledge is Pat Symonds, who will be acting as a consultant, assisting them with technical advice, bringing them closer to their ambitions. Symonds was engineering director for Renault until his suspension in 2008.
Whitmarsh also went on to say that McLaren recognizes that the Virgin Racing Team is extremely serious about racing and developing their team to the point where they are able to be formidable Formula 1 competitors. Even though Virgin Racing will be learning from the technical advances of McLaren, they have confirmed that they will not be replacing the Cosworth engines that are presently in their cars.
On Friday night, teams prepared their cars for the practice sessions that evening, as well as the Budweiser Shootout that was held at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. NASCAR officials were monitoring the progress and speed of the cars closely. With some cars reaching speeds of over two hundred miles per hour, it was decided to implement a new change to the vehicles, of which the teams have been informed. It is hoped that the changes will benefit the cars, teams and their drivers.
The Sprint Cup Series is a prestigious championship on the NASCAR calendar, with teams preparing and making changes to their cars in anticipation of the start of the new season. Teams will have to begin making the changes to their cars after the Daytona 500, which has been confirmed by Ryan Pemberton, the Vice President of Competition for NASCAR. The changes will involve the cooling systems of the cars, with new front grill specifications being twenty inches in width and two and a half inches in height. Not only will the grills have to be altered, but teams will be expected to lower their water systems to produce thirty-three pounds per square inch, which will be achieved by altering the pressure relief valve that is located on the water system of the car. Some teams will have to adjust their radiators for the pressure relief valve, which will cause the water to flow out if the radiator beings to overheat rather than being contained within the high pressure radiator systems that most cars are fitted with. NASCAR found that the temperatures on most vehicles were running between approximately two hundred and ninety to three hundred degrees, and with the new regulations it is expected to drop to an average of two hundred and fifty.
Pemberton commented on the changes by saying that: “Right now, I think it’s more important to get some things out there. Teams have to go home and prepare (for the cooling system alteration), so it will take several hours for them to get ready for this change. The bulletin was about enabling those guys to spend the time to get prepared and come back on Wednesday.”
It seems that Fernando Alonso’s victory at Hockenheim in Germany has sparked much debate, even after the FIA made their decision to drop the charges laid against the Ferrari team. Formula 1 has always been viewed as a team sport, and yet when team decisions were made, Ferrari found themselves in trouble with the World Motor Sport Council. And while the teams might be in a battle against each other when they are on the track, rival teams stood behind Ferrari and gave them their full support while the decisions were being made about the fate of Ferrari.
The International Automobile Federation will still uphold the $100 000 fine given to Ferrari, while not taking any further steps against the team for a lack of evidence. According the federation, team orders are banned and it was felt that Felipe Massa was getting faster lap times than Fernando Alonso prior to Alonso overtaking Massa for the victory. The federation believes that after Ferrari had ordered their drivers to reduce engine speed, the order to increase engine speed again was only given to Alonso and the battle between the team drivers was ended through team orders. The FIA went on to say that it was their understanding that if team orders were not handed out, Massa would more than likely have been the winner of the race.
Ferrari denied these allegations in their defense, pointing out that based on their information Alonso was indeed gaining on Massa, and that no order was given to Massa to allow Alonso to pass him. They went on to state that giving team orders was very different to working out a strategy and tactics that would benefit the team as a whole, and that clarity on this topic needs to be made. There is no denying that other teams also make decisions on what is best for them, and devise strategies to work towards a victory. However, it is clear that the argument over team orders and team strategy is far from over, as everyone looks towards the FIA to confirm and clarify the distinction between the two.