Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. IndyCar Series bids Clarke adieu
2. Dixon nominated for New Zealand award
3. Castroneves welcomes New Year with appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Show
4. Patrick to appear at Consumer Electronics Show
1. IndyCar Series bids Clarke adieu: Robert Clarke, who has been the guiding force at Honda Performance Development since its inception in 1993, began a new chapter with the company Jan. 2 that will allow a smooth transition for his successor, Erik Berkman. Clarke, a 27-year Honda associate, will hold the executive advisory role until his retirement June 30.
"Robert's been a good open-wheel supporter and a fan of Indy car racing and that's a great tribute to him in itself," said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions of the sanctioning Indy Racing League. "He's very much responsible for an unbelievable increase in the level of performance and reliability in regards to engines in Indy car racing in the last decade.
"The performance and reliability of the Honda engine is unparalleled, and that's much to Robert's credit. The fact that we've run the last two Indy 500s without an engine failure, and it's the only two Indy 500s ever without an engine failure, speaks much to this."
The Honda Indy V-8 will be the power plant for all IndyCar Series cars during the 2008 season, including the 92nd Indianapolis 500.
HPD's operations have expanded from an engine-rebuild and trackside-support operation to a self-sufficient motorsports R&D company of more than 125 associates. HPD's activities include engine design and development, prototype- and production-engine manufacturing, chassis R&D, material analysis, and race team support.
For the 2007 season, all IndyCar Series cars ran on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol -- a first in motorsports and no small feat of transition for an engine manufacturer. For the previous three-plus decades, methanol had been the fuel of choice.
"Robert has guided HPD in a strategically right direction to allow us to capitalize so that we could introduce 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol," IndyCar Series senior technical director Les Mactaggart said. "It's been a very enthusiastic response from HPD from a league standpoint."
Added IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch: "With all the knowledge and experience he brought and the people he was able to put around him, the transition was seamless. Anytime you do something major like that, you expect there to be two or three times to run the car and get it sorted out. We ran the car the first time and had zero problems. They're able to accomplish just about anything you ask them to. They have a no-lose attitude, so when they bring a product out they've spent the time and effort to make sure it was superior right out of the box. A lot of times you have to spend time in development."
In its first three years of IndyCar Series competition against multiple manufacturers, Honda drivers and teams compiled an unmatched record of two Indianapolis 500 victories, two Manufacturers' Championships (2004, '05) and 28 race victories. Resting on its laurels won't do for Clarke and HPD associates.
"Robert loves open-wheel racing and wants it to reach its full potential," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League. "He, in a very positive way, pushed the IndyCar Series to try to be as good as it can be in terms of competition, technology and forward thinking about the business."
Undoubtedly, Clarke will continue to present concepts and plans over the next six months as he gets Berkman up to speed. Berkman, a 25-year Honda associate, most recently had been executive engineer, Honda R&D Americas, Inc., based in Raymond, Ohio. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, and began his Honda career at the Honda of America Mfg., Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, in 1982.
"Robert has been instrumental to the success of the IndyCar Series," Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti said. "He has always been a strong supporter of the series, its drivers and especially to Andretti Green Racing's IndyCar Series and ALMS programs. Robert's accomplishments at Honda will be difficult to match."
2. Dixon nominated for New Zealand award: Scott Dixon is among the nominees for the 2007 Westpac Halberg Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement by New Zealand athletes at home and abroad.
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who won four IndyCar Series races and had nine other top-five finishes in 17 events, finished second in the championship.
The awards -- for sportsman, sportswoman, coach and team -- will be announced Feb. 19.
3. Castroneves welcomes New Year with appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Show: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2007 "Dancing with the Stars" champion Helio Castroneves will open the New Year as a guest on the Jimmy Kimmel Show on ABC when the program returns to original programming on Jan. 2.
Castroneves also was busy during the recent holiday week, acting as co-grand marshal of the Spherion Orlando Citrus Parade presented by Delta Airlines on Dec. 29.
The Team Penske driver joined PGA Tour regular Chris DiMarco, a resident of the Orlando (Fla.) suburb Heathrow and a University of Florida graduate, as grand marshal of the event.
"Participating in the Orlando Citrus Parade was a lot of fun," Castroneves said. "It reminded me of the 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis, which is always great because you get to see the reaction on people's faces in response to all of the parade participants. The reception I received was great, and hopefully through my appearance on "Dancing with the Stars" and the upcoming tour as well as some of the other appearances that I have coming up, I'll be able to bring some new fans to the IndyCar Series. That's the ultimate goal in all of these events."
4. Patrick to appear at Consumer Electronics Show: Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick will attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7. Patrick will be at the GoDaddy.com booth. The show is expected to attract 140,000 people over a four-day period.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the SpeedJam Indy 300 on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on 11 ovals, three permanent road courses and two temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ABC Sports/ ESPN. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.