INDYCAR News And Notes - Feb. 7, 2013

Story posted - Feb 08 2013 7:06 AM

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. If you missed it: E.J. Viso conference call
2. Alberico sweeps Sebring rounds of Cooper Tires Winterfest

1. If you missed it: E.J. Viso conference call: Earlier today, Andretti Autosport announced it has signed IZOD IndyCar Series veteran E.J. Viso to drive a fourth full-time IZOD IndyCar Series entry in 2013. Viso will drive the No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Chevrolet in his sixth season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Selected quotes from the interview are below.

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Q. First off, congratulations on today's announcement. You have to be excited about joining a championship winning program at Andretti Autosport?

E.J. VISO: Yes, definitely. It's been a bit of a process putting all of this together. But today, I'm very excited and happy, and honored and proud that I counted with backing from my group. The sponsors, they come from my country, and they just pretty much merged together and created Team Venezuela, which later on created a partnership with Andretti Autosport.

Today is the day that we're announcing this, and I definitely have no words to thank each of the parties. Definitely, it's a very interesting and exciting day for me. I believe that I will be counting with every single with every single thing needed to have a successful 2013.

Q. Last year your three teammates, Ryan HunterReay, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti clicked really well and formed a chemistry that worked really well. How do you think you'll fit in with that dynamic that your teammates already have?

E.J. VISO: Well, I believe I'm just going to add a lot of things into that synergy that was already created in the last year. I like the three drivers and I think each one of them have their own forte. And obviously, Ryan winning the championship. That's a great momentum that the team has, that hopefully we can continue.

Q. The program also involves a partnership with HVM Racing, which is the team that brought you to the series as a rookie. Can you talk a little bit about working with Keith Wiggins and his group again?

E.J. VISO: Yeah, definitely. Keith is a person that I worked together with for two years. He has a great knowledge. He's been involved pretty much in every top category in the world, including Formula 1 and INDYCAR. And we've worked together those two years, and having him back together in the program is really nice. I like working with people that have the same passion that I do. We just are putting energy together, and I believe that this year is going to be a really good one.

Q. Tell us about who is going to call your races have you gotten that far? Tell me about the engineering.

E.J. VISO: Yeah, everything is happening pretty late. I don't want to use the word late, but all of this has just been put together. Anyways, my engineer's going to be Mike Cannon, which I worked with in 2008 and 2009. We had a lot of good moments. And I think we speak the same language and we're definitely very excited to be back together in this new organization.

Regarding who is going to be the one calling the races, that's going to be Paul Harcus. We call him Ziggy. And I think he has a good knowledge doing that, and I believe it's going to be a great combination together with the other three crews and all the more experienced drivers on this team. So I'm really looking forward to all of this team work.

Q. Can you talk about how difficult it was when you pursued a team of your own, not that this isn't a great opportunity, but how difficult it was when you went the other path?

E.J. VISO: Well, you know, more than difficult, it was frustrating. Because they're so, in every negotiation, in every aspect that you go through, there are always factors that are out of your hands, and some other people need to take a couple of decisions. Sometimes it's not only people, but companies. And probably the answer that we got from them was not quick enough.

So when I don't want to say I; I want to say we. We as Team Venezuela, when we let go of starting our own program as an independent program, and we definitely thought about what would be the best option then, and definitely where we ended up doing right now was what we considered was going to be the most beneficial partnership that we could find.

Q. Could you as Team Venezuela, could you have gotten an engine lease if you had secured everything else? Do you think you could have gotten the lease?

E.J. VISO: It's funny, because I think what is happening right now with Keith Wiggins, is exactly what we were in the talks of doing three or four months ago. So I think it was only another way of skinning the cat.

Anyways, the team that we were relying for the Leaders Circle was Keith's. So we were going to go with it. And on the other side, we had our plan B where we were requesting our own Leaders Circle (agreement), and definitely that answer didn't come as quick as we needed, so that's why we just took the conclusion that I just mentioned.

2. Alberico sweeps Sebring rounds of Cooper Tires Winterfest: If Neil Alberico hopes the rest of the USF2000 Cooper Tires Winterfest goes as easily as the first three rounds at Sebring International Raceway.

The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver, who also started on pole for each race, swept all three races at Sebring and heads to the final three rounds of Winterfest competition at Palm Beach International Raceway with a 21-point advantage over teammate Scott Hargrove.

"The Capes did a really good job with the car, obviously, giving me really good equipment," Alberico said. "It was just up to me to make minimal mistakes and focus forward. At the end of the day, that's all that made the difference. Scott [Hargrove] and my other teammates were really fast as well as some other guys. There is no better way to start the season."

Hargrove, who finished second in each round, narrowed the gap to Alberico significantly in Race 3 and also bettered Alberico's fastest race lap, but a small mistake cost him a shot for the top spot on the podium. The Vancouver, BC, Canada native is looking forward to resuming the chase in three days' time.

"It is a great feeling to be back on the podium," Hargrove said. "For sure in that race I felt like I had the best chance to try and get out of the second spot, but it was still a phenomenal weekend. The car was great all weekend long and the Cape team just did an awesome job.

"Hats off to Neil [Alberico]. The pressure doesn't affect him at all. He just always hits his marks so, like he said on the podium last time, the one that makes the fewest mistakes will win and that was him again this race. I look forward to giving it another shot next time."

Garett Grist, 17, of Andretti Autosport finished third in the final 12-lap race around the 3.74-mile road course. The rookie from Grimsby, Ontario, who finished fourth in Race 2 earlier in the day, also managed to dethrone Alberico on best lap times by posting the quickest lap of the race.

Race 2 saw an all Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing podium with James Fletcher securing his first USF2000 top-three result. The 18-year-old from Surrey, England, retired from Race 1, but also added a fourth-place result in Race 3.

Alberico leads Hargrove by 96 points to 75. The next drivers are covered by a mere 10 points with Grist in third with 47, followed by Jesse Lazare (46), Stefan Rzadzinski (45), James Fletcher (44), Jake Eidson (43), Danilo Estrela (42), Peter Portante (40) and R.C.Enerson (37).

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing holds a commanding lead in the Team Championship with 120 points. Belardi Auto Racing lies in second place with 40 followed by Andretti Autosport with 29.

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The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM and www.indycar.com. The 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season begins March 23 on the Streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 11 a.m. (ET) on March 24.

 
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