Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. If you missed it: Michael Andretti and James Hinchcliffe teleconference:
2. Hinchcliffe signs with Andretti Autosport
3. Tagliani joins Bryan Herta Autosport
4. INDYCAR drivers earn AARWBA honors
5. INDYCAR makes addition to technical staff:
1. If you missed it: Michael Andretti and James Hinchcliffe teleconference: Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti and IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe were guests on an INDYCAR conference call today to discuss Hinchcliffe's signing with Andretti Autosport (see note #2). Selected quotes from the interview are below. A full transcript and a broadcast quality MP3 are available at www.indycar.com/media.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're really excited to have James join. We feel like he's going to fit right in. I think he's going to be good with the chemistry of Marco and Ryan. He did an awesome job last year. He proved that he can run up front. He's a great personality. I think he's going to be perfect for our team.
Q. You mentioned his personality. How important was it to you as a team owner to get a driver as personable as James is off the track and as talented as he is in the car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: When you have a multi-driver team, it's very important that everybody gets along. We feel that the three of them are going to get along really well.
I think James' personality, you can tell he's a team player. And the other guys, asking opinions of Marco and Ryan, they both had high marks for him. That made it a no-brainer.
Q. James, it has to be a bit of a relief to you to get things settled for 2012 after a great rookie season and a difficult end of 2011 for you.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was a difficult end of 2011 for everybody. On top of that, with Newman/Haas closing their doors the end of December, a little bit of a curve ball.
For me I guess when a door closes a window opens, and this incredible opportunity has come up with Andretti Autosport and Go Daddy. Everybody is looking forward to getting going.
Q. I've seen in interviews you've done so far you have said that you have some big heels to fill. How much pressure do you feel taking that mantle from Danica and a car Dan was scheduled to drive?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: A lot of the people and headlines have said, Hinchcliffe replacing Danica in the Go Daddy car. I'm replacing her in the seat in driving it. I don't think in any way we're going to say that I'm trying to replace Danica.
What she did and what Go Daddy did with her was so unique and special, they did a good job with it. I'm kind of lucky that I'm coming in a bit of a different position being a guy rather than a woman in a male-dominated sport. Now they have a whole 'nother set of opportunities.
I think there's some cool possibilities for them to work with someone else other than Danica with them. She's obviously still part of their family with her stockcar program.
Q. A follow-up on the personality question. If each of you could talk about how important it was to get somebody with a personality in the Go Daddy seat because that is a sponsor that can potentially do a lot of good for both the driver, the team and the series.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: For sure. I mean, obviously Go Daddy had a lot of say, as well, in who they wanted to represent their product. They were very high on James right away when we brought up his name.
As you said, that personality is going to be important, as well, for that because they are a little edgy and fun. I think James can be that way.
Q. James, if you could speak on that.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think from my perspective, similar comments to Michael there, I'm excited to get a chance to work with a company that likes to be a little bit edgy, pushes the boundaries. I've never been an inside-the-box kind of guy. Anybody that goes to Hinchtown.com can see that. That's why we created that in the first place, to get my personality out there a little bit, to be a little different and stand out.
Ultimately with Go Daddy it's a bit of a match made in heaven. I think we have a lot of the same principles and ideas on that, so it could be cool.
Q. Also the value of developing a young driver's career. What is going to set IndyCar apart in the future is the ability to develop and create and market young drivers.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, for sure. It's always great and he's an example of the young talent we have, trying to develop, get him to be a major personality for the series because I think it's very important to have drivers that stand out in that way as well that are promotable and stuff. I think it's all important for IndyCar.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think it's an endorsement for the Road to Indy, as well. I came through a bunch of categories there, through Indy Lights. I've made it to this opportunity here. Like I said, it proves the value in that ladder system. I think it shows that young drivers really need to get into that program as quickly as possible if IndyCar is their goal.
2. Hinchcliffe signs with Andretti Autosport: Andretti Autosport announced today it has signed Canadian James Hinchcliffe to a multi-year IZOD IndyCar Series deal. Hinchcliffe, a young, yet accomplished racer, steps into a big role as driver of the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for 2012.
In his first year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Hinchcliffe took three top-five and seven top-10 finishes to earn the series' Rookie of the Year title despite missing the season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. Hinchcliffe, a 25-year-old from Toronto with both British and Canadian lineage, finished fourth at the 2011 Long Beach, New Hampshire and Kentucky races.
"James is a perfect addition to our team for next year," said Michael Andretti, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Andretti Autosport. "He's got a lot of talent and we believe he will be great for our driver chemistry. He will definitely grow and thrive with Andretti Autosport. Even in his rookie year in IndyCar, he proved to be a great competitor. I look forward to seeing what he is capable of in the next few months."
The well-spoken television and Internet personality makes a great match for Go Daddy, the world's largest Web hosting provider and legendary television advertiser. Hinchcliffe is a skilled driver who has been honored numerous times for his on-track achievements in open-wheel racing. Hinchcliffe was recently a nominee for the 2011 Autosport Rookie of the Year award in England and won the prestigious Greg Moore Legacy Award in 2010 for his efforts in the Firestone Indy Lights. Hinchcliffe becomes the second driver on the Andretti Autosport roster to have won the Greg Moore Legacy Award, joining 2004 winner and new teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"I saw an article that said 'Hinch was a cinch' to drive our Go Daddy car," said Barb Rechterman, senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "I guess the many reasons Go Daddy wanted to put James behind the wheel are obvious ... he's tech-savvy, personable, edgy and 100 percent competitive ... just like Go Daddy."
Hinchcliffe's path to IndyCar began with two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights. In 2009, he secured five podium finishes, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, including a second place finish at Mid-Ohio. The following year he impressed the paddock with three wins, 10 top-five finishes and a series-best four pole positions, ultimately finishing second in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship.
Hinchcliffe began his racing career in karting and captured numerous titles such as the TKC Junior Rotax Class Karting Championship, the Junior Rotax Canada Cup and TKC Winter Series Championship. After earning several more regional and national karting series and championships throughout the United States and Canada, Hinchcliffe moved on to successfully compete in the Bridgestone Racing Academy F2000 series, Formula BMW, Star Mazda series, Atlantic Championship and A1 Grand Prix series.
"I'm so excited to be driving with the Andretti Autosport team and representing Go Daddy next season," Hinchcliffe said. "Go Daddy is one of the best sponsors in sports, in terms of their activation execution ... plus Go Daddy is a world leader in just about everything they do. I have to thank Michael [Andretti] and Go Daddy for providing me this opportunity to compete for the championship and an Indy 500 victory."
3. Tagliani joins Bryan Herta Autosport: Last year's Indianapolis 500-winning team is bringing on board the Indianapolis 500 pole winner for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Alex Tagliani, who recorded six top-10 finishes and two pole starts on the way to 11th place in the 2011 championship, has joined Bryan Herta Autosport.
Team co-owners Bryan Herta and Steve Newey sought out the Canadian driver because of his experience, technical ability and overall proficiency in the race car.
"We are very proud to have Alex Tagliani join our team for our first full season of IndyCar competition," said Herta, a former IndyCar Series driver. "He brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the program, and is the perfect fit for us and our sponsor partners. Together with Todd Malloy and Brian Page in engineering, and the Don Lambert-led crew, Alex has the full support of a very talented group of professionals behind him."
BHA previously announced its status as a Factory Partner Team to Lotus, which will result in the car being run in the iconic black and Gold Lotus livery. An announcement is expected Jan. 12 to reveal the team's primary sponsorship. Veteran race engineer Todd Malloy has been re-signed to lead the team's engineering efforts and focus on the car driven by Tagliani.
"I'm really happy to drive for BHA," Tagliani said. "Having known Bryan for a long time, I recognize that he's a nice guy with genuine integrity. I believe that he and Steve Newey deserve to own a great IndyCar team, and I'm honored to be part of the building of BHA's 2012 program.
"It's also a great honor for me to represent the Lotus brand as a factory partner. Lotus has so much history in the world of motorsports. As a team, we have a lot of work in front of us and while challenging, it will be fun to be at the core of both engine and team development. BHA has a great group of people and I'm looking forward to working with them."
4. INDYCAR drivers earn AARWBA honors: IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti, series runner-up Will Power and Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden were honored as first-team members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-America team during its annual awards dinner in Indianapolis on Jan. 8
This team is selected by a vote of AARWBA members with the drivers receiving the most votes earning honors on the first team. It was the second straight year that Franchitti and Power were selected as the open-wheel recipients and the first honor for Newgarden.
"I'm very happy to be selected for the third year in a row," said Franchitti, who was unable to attend the awards dinner, but received his award at INDYCAR's headquarters in Indianapolis on Jan. 9. "I can't thank the members of AARWBA enough for recognizing the achievements of Target Chip Ganassi Racing for the past season and I congratulate all the other team members."
Newgarden was selected in the at-large category and helped present the Gorsline Scholarship to NASCAR champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
"It is such an honor to be to be voted into the All-America Race Team by AARWBA members," said Newgarden, who will move up to drive in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. "To be included on a team with these drivers from other major racing series is very humbling. Hopefully, I will be able to attend the awards again as an IZOD IndyCar Series driver in the future."
Also honored during the course of the evening were Bryan Clauson and Kyle Larson for short track; Austin Dillon and the team of Andrew Davis and Leh Keen in touring series; Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart in stock car racing; the road racing duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas and Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. Drag racers Matt Hagan and Del Worsham were honoed while Patrick Long rounded out the group in the at large category.
Tony Stewart ended Franchitti's two-year reign at the Jerry Titus Award winner, while a special award was given by the AARWBA members to Dan Wheldon's family in his memory.
5. INDYCAR makes addition to technical staff: Darren Crouser has joined INDYCAR's technical staff as an engine support engineer.
Crouser, of Dallas, has a broad base of motorsports experience from customer support for Cosworth to management at Patrick Racing. He's also been with Blair Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.
Last May, he headed the Conquest Racing effort for Pippa Mann's IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.
Engine manufacturer competition returns to the series this season with 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6s from Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus. On-track testing resumes Jan. 13.