Image from Brian Carroccio
Widely read AutoRacing1 columnist and one of IRR’s favorites is Brian Carroccio, a thirty eight year old family man who hails from Rockville, Maryland near our nation’s crime and politician ridden capital. Charmingly Brian or BC as we call him doesn’t know how many Twitter followers he has – it’s in excess of a thousand – though he does know good racing, has attended the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and plans to do so again. Interestingly, he said the most surprising country in which his readership can be found is the Ukraine.
Photo from Indy Race Reviewer
BC loves his family, the Washington Redskins and racing, and we say two out of three ain’t bad. He grew up a Newman-Haas IndyCar fan in a racing household with his dad doing duty in sports car pits on weekends. Brian began watching IndyCar in its latter day hey day with superstars Mears, Unsers, Andrettis, Sullivan, Rahal and Foyt battling it out on track. His favorite drivers growing up were Al Unser, Sr. and Paul Tracy. He also admits to following soccer – some club called Man U – but we’re willing to overlook that. Rooting for the Redskins however is unpardonable.
Photo from ap.org
We began the interview by asking BC about the Andrettis and their legacy in IndyCar. His response was rather surprising.
BC: “Mario’s Mario, a legendary winner. What can you say? As far as Michael, he was a vastly under-appreciated driver who had an epic career. To have raced and won against the level of competition that Michael did is amazing, and that was with the Andretti name and all its expectations. But as good as he was as a driver, he’s an even better owner. What he does for the sport, from team building to promotion to resurrecting Milwaukee, exceeds what the other owners have done.”
Photo from foxsports.com
IRR: [Blank, shocked stare as we stuttered along, recognizing the blatant blasphemy] B- Beyond even Roger Penske in terms of ownership standards and everything he’s done?
Photo from usatoday.com
BC: “From the standpoint of investing in the sport, I would say yes, beyond even Penske.”
A bit stunned, we steered the interview toward more familiar ground. Aware of our take on Ms. Patrick, Brian’s responses about Danica were notably diplomatic and measured. Looking back on it, we hope we didn’t make him nervous with the question.
Photo from si.com
IRR: What do you think of Danica Patrick’s driving skills?
BC: “Danica is a professional race car driver who belongs at the top level of racing. She can drive in IndyCar and she can drive in NASCAR. But she’s no more than that. The narrative that some paint her as a great pioneer is wrong, as is the notion that she’s only racing because of the novelty. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.”
Photo from si.com
Speaking of hot, one of the hottest stories of the 2015 IndyCar season is the introduction of aero-kits at Barber in April. We asked Brian about their effects on the racing and he mentioned a recent chat he had with Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s honcho Mike Hull. Things got interesting quickly.
Image from Indy Race Review
BC: “The story with aero kits is the fact we don’t know what to expect. There’s no real precedent for them. What effect will they have? I’m not sure. I talked to Mike Hull about them before Christmas, and he seems to think the teams are going to have their hands full. Apparently teams will have choices with multiple options and configurations. But overall they’re a real unknown for this year.”
Photo from motorsport.com
IRR: Is Mike Hull as sweet and lovable as he seems on television?
BC: “Mike’s a genuinely nice guy who has been very helpful to us at AR1. I like him.”
IRR: What team will be the one to watch in 2015?
BC: “The team that’s had the best offseason in my opinion is AJ Foyt Racing. That team has raised its game a lot over the past few years. Hawksworth and Sato are a formidable pair. Foyt signing Hawksworth, getting his sponsor to add a full-time second entry and running two cars in 2015 is a bigger story than Pagenaud going to Team Penske.”
Photo from ajfoytracing.com
IRR: [Stunned look of obvious disbelief] So you expect Foyt’s team to challenge regularly for wins, perhaps even a championship?
BC: “Occasionally for wins, yes. For all Sato’s faults – he’s mistake prone, has lapses in concentration – he can be as fast as anyone. You know he’s going to contend in three or four races, granted he may crash in all four. Foyt’s team will be one to watch because he has a sponsor for two cars, a veteran driver and in Hawksworth a young guy you can build a team around. They’re not at championship level yet, and Hawksworth needs to improve on the ovals. But they’ve taken a discernible step forward. This year I expect them to have flashes where they’re really good. The question is, can they cash in?”
IRR: [Attempting to conceal our giddy excitement] Have you met Larry Foyt, then? You seem really high on his team’s prospects.
BC: “Yes, I’ve met him, albeit only briefly. He brings organization to the team and I know guys like working for him. Foyt’s team is on the upswing.”
Image from Indy Race Reviewer
Brian indicated that he’s fascinated by what CFH Racing will do with the road course portion for Ed Carpenter’s #20 car. In the past he’d relinquished that role to Mike Conway, who’s gone this year. We asked Brian’s thoughts on the team, Ed’s challenges and if J.R. Hildebrand wouldn’t be a likely candidate for the #20.
BC: “Mike Conway is going to be nearly impossible to replace. He was a unique case of an exceptional talent in one discipline – street courses – who opted out entirely of ovals. How many guys like that are available? Conway’s loss is huge and in my opinion has been understated. It’s a huge blow. Who his replacement will be in Ed’s car will be most interesting to watch. Lucca Philippi may be the best guy out there for that job specifically if he can put a full weekend together and finish races.”
Photo from carpenterracing.com
IRR: Yes, but-
BC: “Expectations at CFH Racing are really high now – for wins. I don’t know if Hildebrand is a good fit. The problems were due to Panther more than J.R., as they never had a fast street course car. The transition will be smoother for the #67 side of the shop, as Sarah and Josef gain a team mate and that takes some pressure off of Josef.”
Needing a break due to all the insightful information, we took one midway through the interview. In part two, we ask Carroccio about the Indianapolis 500, oval track racing, Marco, Graham, Chip and Coyne.