Monday, May 22, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: The Devalued Jewel

Scott Dixon won pole position for the Indianapolis 500 with a four-lap average of 232.164 MPH. Fernando Alonso ended up fifth on the grid. Ed Carpenter Racing proved to be nothing but a bunch of sly dogs. The Formula E season continues to be predictable. The option tires left many deflated at the NASCAR All-Star Race. Rain won Sunday at Mosport. There was an odd accident in the Moto3 race at Le Mans. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Devalued Jewel
The Memorial Day weekend is littered with historic events on the motorsports calendar. Each race could have its own respective pantheon for the winners of the esteemed events. The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race on the IndyCar schedule. The Monaco Grand Prix is the biggest race on the Formula One schedule. The 24 Hours Nürburgring is arguably the most important race to the German manufactures. Then there is the Coca-Cola 600...

The longest race in the NASCAR season has been around since 1960, just a year after the inaugural Daytona 500 but the race has lost some of its luster while Daytona remains king. It not that the Charlotte race ever really challenged for the crown but historically Charlotte is one of NASCAR's crown jewel events. 

During the Winston Million-era of NASCAR, Daytona, the Winston 500 at Talladega, Charlotte and the Southern 500 made up the four-legged series with a million dollars the prize if a driver could win three of the four races. The Winston Million was last run 20 years ago and none of the races carry the same potential financial reward but outside of Daytona the series has seemed fine with the lack of marquee races standing above the rest of schedule. 

One reason has been NASCAR's emphasis on the championship. In the series' growth, it followed the footsteps of other sports and now we have the Chase. The talk heading into Charlotte isn't about a driver adding his or her name to a list of past winners such as David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson but about locking up a Chase spot or playoff points. 

The 600-mile race came at a different period for NASCAR. Dirt was still a prominent part of the schedule. Most of the tracks were under a mile in length. Besides Daytona, Darlington had two races but it didn't compare in track size. NASCAR went to Hanford Motor Speedway in California in 1960 but it would only be the second of three times the series went to the 1.4-mile oval. Atlanta opened the same year as Charlotte.  

Charlotte came before the big track boom of the late-1960s and early-1970s. Michigan, Texas World, Talladega, Ontario and Pocono were all two miles or greater in length and built in a four-year period and all would be on the 1972 NASCAR Cup schedule, a 31-race schedule with no dirt races, marking the start of the modern-era. Besides two road course races at Riverside, 15 of the 29 oval races in 1972 were on tracks less than 1.5 miles in length. Only five races took place on 1.5-mile ovals, two at Charlotte, two at Atlanta and the kidney bean-shaped Trenton Speedway. Charlotte had the third-largest purse on the schedule behind Ontario and the Daytona 500. 

Forty-five years later and NASCAR's schedule has evolved. It has grown by five races but there are still only two road course races. Purses are no longer disclosed but in the final year (2015) purses were made public Charlotte was fifth behind Daytona, Indianapolis and the two Texas races. Thirteen of 34 oval races are on tracks less than 1.5 miles in length. The amount of 1.5-mile oval races has more than doubled, now sitting at 11 of 36 total races and one more is on the way in 2018. 

Charlotte's 600-miler no longer stands out. It is now the intermediate track race that just happens to be 100 or 200 miles longer than the other ten races on intermediate tracks. The 1990s track boom led to cookie-cutter tracks, all pretty much a clone of Charlotte. There isn't even a Trenton that stands out with a slight kink. All the tracks pretty much produce the same race almost a dozen times over.

By increasing the number of 1.5-mile race tracks NASCAR turned the Coca-Cola 600 into just another event on the schedule. It can't stand out because the same race happens about every third week in NASCAR. While Daytona has remained a must-see race and the two road course races have become favorites on the NASCAR schedule, Charlotte has become a race people can skip because another 1.5-mile race track will be coming up soon enough.

Add Indianapolis and the Brickyard 400 as another reason for the lost prestige of the Coca-Cola 600. The fight over what the triple crown in NASCAR is or what the majors are is highly contested unlike twenty years ago. Daytona's place is safe at number one. Talladega was only special because Winston sponsored the race. Now it is just another restrictor-plate race. The Southern 500 hit a snag when it was moved from Labor Day weekend but now that it is back to its traditional date I think it has returned to the second-biggest race on the NASCAR calendar. The night race at Bristol has some supporters for being considered one of NASCAR's prestigious races. 

Whether the 600 or the Brickyard or another race is one of NASCAR's pinnacle races is a matter of debate and one where a consensus will never likely be established. NASCAR adding a fourth stage to the Coca-Cola 600, which means more stage points and playoff points doesn't really swing the argument but the 600 might have an edge considering the future of the Brickyard is in the air and we don't know whether it will continue on the oval or road course or if it will continue at all. I think the Coca-Cola 600 can breathe easier in third. A very distant third. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott Dixon but did you know...

Maverick Viñales won MotoGP's French Grand Prix, his third victory of the season, after a last lap pass on Valentino Rossi. Franco Morbidelli won in Moto2, his fourth victory of the season. Joan Mir won in Moto3, his third victory of the season. 

Sébastien Buemi won the Paris ePrix, his fifth victory of the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR All-Star Race. Kyle Busch also won the Truck race. 

The #8 Cadillac of Michael Cooper and Jordan Taylor won the only PWC SprintX race from Mosport as rain on Sunday forced race two to be postponed to a later date. Jade Buford swept the GTS races. 

Lucas Auer and Jamie Green split the DTM races from Lausitzring, just as they did at the season opener at the Hockenheimring. 

The #36 Lexus Team au Tom's Lexus LC 500 of Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter won the Super GT race from Autopolis. The #25 VivaC Team Tsuchiya Toyota 86 MC of Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita won in GT300. 

Scott McLaughlin and Shane Van Gisbergen split the Supercars races from Winton Motor Raceway. 

Sébastien Ogier won Rally de Portgual. 

Coming Up This Weekend
Indianapolis 500. 
Monaco Grand Prix. 
Coca-Cola 600.
24 Hours Nürburgring. 
WTCC runs a doubleheader at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. 
World Superbike will be at Donington Park. 
Pirelli World Challenge heads south to Lime Rock Park for another SprintX round. 
Super Formula heads to Okayama. 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

101st Indianapolis 500 Sunday Qualifying Preview

Can Chevrolet shock Honda again on Sunday?
Sunday's qualifying session for the 101st Indianapolis 500 will be run in two segments. Twenty-four cars will participate in Group 1 qualifying, which will start at 2:45 p.m. ET. Group 1 will set rows four through 11 of the grid and each car will have one qualifying attempt starting with the slowest qualifier from Saturday and going in reverse order and ending with the tenth-fastest qualifier from Saturday.

Zach Veach did not make a qualifying attempt on Saturday after his crew repaired his car from an accident that occurred late during Friday practice. He should be the first car to make a qualifying attempt on Sunday.

The big story from Saturday qualifying was Sébastien Bourdais' accident on the third lap of his qualifying attempt. The Frenchman's car started to step out in the middle of turn two and Bourdais' attempt to save the car caused an over-correction and his car to hit the turn two wall right front first before rolling over exiting the turn and ending up back on all four wheels before sliding to a stop on the back straightaway.

Bourdais suffered fractures to his pelvis and a fractured right hip from the accident but underwent a successful surgery on Saturday night. Dale Coyne Racing has not made it known what it will do with the #18 Honda for the rest of this weekend. Through two laps, Bourdais' average speed was 231.534 MPH, by far the fastest car of the session and he was likely to have ended Saturday as the top qualifier.

Pippa Mann was the slowest qualifier to complete an attempt at 219.282 MPH with Buddy Lazier 30th on Saturday over two miles per hour faster than Mann. Juncos Racing's two entries were 28th and 29th on the day with Sebastián Saavedra topping his teammate Spencer Pigot at 225.815 MPH over Pigot's 223.631 MPH. Conor Daly ended up 27th, less than a tenth of a mile per hour faster than Saavedra with Gabby Chaves qualifying 26th at 226.875 MPH.

Jack Harvey was 0.019 MPH faster than Chaves with Oriol Servià just over two-tenths of a mile per hour quicker than the British rookie. Carlos Muñoz was 23rd at 227.438 MPH with Jay Howard just over four-tenths of a mile per hour quicker in 22nd. Sage Karam was 21st at 227.943 MPH. Simon Pagenaud was the slowest Penske qualifier in 20th at 228.393 MPH with last year's Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe just ahead of Pagenaud at 228.557 MPH.

Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya were 17th and 18th respectively on Saturday with less than a tenth of a mile per hour between the Penske teammates. Graham Rahal ended the day in 16th at 228.835 MPH with Mikhail Aleshin ending up 15th at 229.217 MPH. Hélio Castroneves was just ahead of Aleshin at 229.390 MPH with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 13th at 229.533 MPH, the slowest of the Andretti Autosport qualifiers.

Max Chilton was the slowest Ganassi qualifier at 229.636 MPH in 12th with his teammate Charlie Kimball just ahead of the Briton at 229.713 MPH. Rookie Ed Jones ended Saturday tenth fastest at 229.717 MPH.

Once the Group 1 qualifying session is complete, the Fast Nine will take place with that session scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Marco Andretti will kick off the Fast Nine session, as the Pennsylvanian was the only driver to make the Fast Nine and not break the 230 MPH-barrier on Saturday. Andretti's four-lap average on Saturday was 229.924 MPH. Tony Kanaan was eighth quickest at 230.007 MPH. Fernando Alonso was the only rookie to make the Fast Nine session with his four-lap average of 230.034 MPH putting him seventh-fastest on Saturday.

Will Power is the only Penske entry to make the Fast Nine with the Australian ending up sixth on the day at 230.072 MPH. Defending Indianapolis 500 Alexander Rossi will set a career-best Indianapolis 500 starting position regardless of where he qualifies and he ended up fifth on Saturday at 230.148 MPH. J.R. Hildebrand ended up fourth on the day at 230.205 MPH.

Scott Dixon was third fastest on Saturday with a four-lap average of 230.333 MPH. Like his teammate Rossi, Takuma Sato will also set a career-best Indianapolis 500 starting position regardless of where he qualifies as Sato was the top Honda on Saturday at 230.382 MPH. Ed Carpenter was the surprise of the session with him ending up as the fastest qualifier at 230.468 MPH. Carpenter is a two-time Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter and he could become the ninth driver to win at least three Indianapolis 500 pole positions.

Coverage of Group 1 qualifying will begin at 2:45 p.m. on WatchESPN with ABC's coverage of qualifying beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

101st Indianapolis 500 Saturday Qualifying Preview

Sébastien Bourdais enters the first qualifying day the fastest of the month
Saturday marks the first day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying. The goal of today's session is to finish in the top nine and advance to the Fast Nine session scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Each car will be guaranteed one attempt. Once the session has gone through the qualifying line each team will be able to make additional attempts to move into the top nine. The drivers that end up 10th to 33rd will take place in the first group of qualifying tomorrow afternoon and will decide the starting order from row four to row 11.

Today's session is scheduled to take place from 11:00 a.m. ET to 5:50 p.m. ET.

Honda had a dominated day on Friday as the manufacture took 13 of the top 15 overall times and 12 of the top 15 times on the no-tow report.

Sébastien Bourdais was fastest on the day with a lap of 233.116 MPH with Ryan Hunter-Reay in second at 232.132 MPH. Hunter-Reay had the fastest no-tow lap at 231.273 MPH and Bourdais was second at 231.192 MPH on the no-tow report. Takuma Sato was third overall at 231.969 MPH with Fernando Alonso making it three consecutive Hondas on the overall time sheet at 231.827 MPH. Alonso was fifth-quickest on the no-tow report at 230.966 MPH. Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth overall and the top Chevrolet at 231.682 MPH but the Colombian was only 20th on the no-tow report.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' three cars were sixth, seventh and eighth with James Hinchcliffe leading Mikhail Aleshin and Jay Howard with all three cars over 231 MPH. Aleshin was the quickest of the three on the no-tow report in ninth. Ed Jones was ninth on the day at 231.252 MPH but he was the only driver not to have a lap registered on the no-tow report. Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan round out the top 11 but Rossi and Kanaan were third and fourth on the no-tow report with each driver registering a lap over 231 MPH without a tow. Scott Dixon was 12th overall and sixth on the no-tow report.

The top Chevrolet on the no-tow report was Will Power in seventh at 230.730 MPH but Power was only 16th on the overall speed chart. Hélio Castroneves was 13th overall but was 21st on the no-tow. Simon Pagenaud was 23rd overall, just ahead of Josef Newgarden but the French was 13th on the no-tow report. Newgarden was 22nd on the no-tow report.

Ed Carpenter Racing has Ed Carpenter in 17th and J.R. Hildebrand was 19th overall but Carpenter was 12th on the no-tow with Hildebrand in 18th. Marco Andretti was the slowest Andretti Autosport car on Friday in 15th but was 11th on the no-tow report.

There were two accidents on Friday. Spencer Pigot spun in turn two while Zach Veach hit the wall exiting turn one. Pigot was 32nd fastest overall on Friday but was 28th on the no-tow report. Veach was 30th overall but 26th on the no-tow report yesterday.

Pippa Mann will be the first qualifier with Montoya second and Kanaan scheduled to go out third. Fourth on the draw will be Power followed by Howard, Jones, Castroneves and Sage Karam. Ryan Hunter-Reay will be the ninth qualifier with Dixon and Pagenaud rounding out the first-third of the qualifiers.

Veach was scheduled to be the 12th qualifier. Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly are slated to follow Veach. Graham Rahal, driver of car #15, will be the 15th qualifier. Fernando Alonso should be the 16th driver on track and Pigot is supposed to follow the Spaniard. Max Chilton is scheduled to be the 18th driver to make a qualifying attempt and his teammate Charlie Kimball will follow him. After the two Ganassi cars will be Bourdais. The Andretti Autosport entries of Rossi and Marco Andretti rounding out the second-third of qualifiers with Takuma Sato being the 23rd car in line.

Newgarden will be the 24th qualifier. Sebastián Saavedra should follow Newgarden and then should come Jack Harvey and Oriol Servia. Buddy Lazier is tentatively 28th in the qualifying line and then will be Ed Carpenter and Carlos Muñoz. The final three qualifiers should be Aleshin, Hildebrand and Gabby Chaves.

Qualifying will be shown streaming from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on WatchESPN with ABC's coverage of the final two hours of qualifying starting at 4:00 p.m. ET.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Brain Dump: May 2017

I just need to write about a handful of things I have been thinking about over the last two weeks and instead of saving it all and trying to dedicate time for a post for each I need to get it out all at once.

What Is a Good Race?
Will Power led 61 of 85 laps in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Hélio Castroneves led the other 24 laps. All four lead changes occurred during pit cycles. Power won by over five seconds. For a portion of the race Power and Castroneves was nearly ten seconds clear of Scott Dixon in third. There were no cautions. Some wanted a debris caution. 

However, beyond the front two, there was a sufficient amount of passing from third to 16th. Graham Rahal went from 20th to sixth. Spencer Pigot went from 16th to sixth back to 15th after stalling on his first pit stop and back up to fifth. As the race went on, Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud worked their ways by Castroneves. Takuma Sato went from 22nd, last on the grid to 12th. Josef Newgarden got two pit-lane speeding penalties and clawed his way back to 11th on the final stint. 

There was passing and plenty of battles but not for the lead. Most will say it was a boring race but a race isn't just the leader. Do we watch races incorrectly? Should we stare at the leader and wait for someone else to come into frame or freelance and jump from watching the leader to watching 12th to watching fifth to watching a car who makes a pit stop and is the first to do so? The problem is we can freelance while at the track and watching in person but for majority of people who view a race over television we are subject to the director. We don't get a say over what car we watch. 

That aside, if one driver dominates a race, can it be a good race? There are going to be days when a driver is clicking on all cylinders and no one can hold a candle to him or her. A race can be a beat down and be a good race especially if you look beyond the leader. 

One final thing, the hypocrisy of fans. Some wanted a caution Saturday just to mix it up. We had an untimely caution at St. Petersburg and people were aggravated, especially Scott Dixon and company because it shuffled the deck and leaders during that first stint were now mid-pack. So if people were upset that a caution cost a fast driver a victory in one race, why are they rooting for a caution to cost a fast driver in another? You can't have it both ways.

Alternate Tires
This kind of connects to the point above. You couldn't go off-strategy in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It couldn't be stretched into a two-stop race. Everyone had to make three pit stops for fuel. Everyone was forced to do the same thing. A team couldn't strategize a way to the front. Some will say that is a good thing but if people are going to complain about a race being boring then they should be ok if a team goes off strategy to have a fighting chance. 

This got me thinking about the tires. We have a primary and an alternate tire. The alternate is faster but the problem is the tires last the length of the stint regardless of compound. I can't remember what driver said this but I think it was Ryan Hunter-Reay; either way a few years ago someone said something along the lines of drivers should have to pit once for fuel but pit three times for tires. Instead of everyone trying to conserve fuel it would all be about tire conservation and that is a little more varied as tire degradation comes down to how hard a driver is on tires, downforce level and if the driver is in traffic. 

If people want to get rid of fuel conservation then the tires shouldn't last a fuel stint and the alternate compound should be gone halfway into a stint. Take the race on Saturday where the stints were about 22-24 laps for fuel. The alternate tire should be junk by about lap ten or 12 of a stint and then it becomes a catch-22. You could have the extra bit of grip for the first half-dozen laps of a stint but by halfway through they are junk and you either need to come in early and make an extra pit stop or try to tough it out and make it to the end of a tank and hope you don't drop through the field like a rock. 

Imagine how a race would change if drivers on alternate tires pulled away over the first few laps of a stint but by halfway through were running over half a second slower than drivers on the primary tire. I know the goal with the universal aero kit is to remove topside downforce from the cars and hopefully that will help the racing but the alternate tire could be much less durable. 

Trailers
Quick switch to NASCAR. I saw this story last week about NASCAR bringing back merchandise trailers after doing a giant tent for the last few years. 

Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com wrote that the tent was not popular with fans because, "they missed the interaction with the retailers and regular visits by their favorite drivers." I haven't been to a NASCAR race in a few years and it was probably a few years before the tent became the thing but my question is why did drivers stop doing appearances because of the tent? They couldn't figure out how a driver could do an hour of autograph signings at the tent? It seems like a bullshit excuse as to why drivers stopped making those visits. IndyCar and IMSA and other sports car series have figured out how to do autograph sessions without each driver having a merchandise trailer. Nobody at NASCAR could figure that out? 

I understand why the series went with the tent but the merchandise trailers were what made NASCAR different and it was fun to mosey around and when a driver or two or three came out it was fun watching people get excite and seeing the slightly disorganized chaos of it all. People would flock to a trailer getting a hat or t-shirt or die-cast car signed. 

As for giving people a climate-controlled experience, which I get because I have been to tracks when it is pushing triple-digits and you want a relief from the heat. Instead of a tent, couldn't tracks build a cover paddock area? I keep thinking of Adria International Raceway, which has an entirely enclosed paddock. Each track could have that and allow the merchandise trailers to be at the track while giving the fans a more comfortable shopping experience.

The Brickyard 400 Future
Staying on NASCAR but circling back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the Brickyard 400 appears to be one of the final hurdles keeping the 2018 NASCAR Cup schedule from being released. The cause for the delay is over whether the race should be moved to the IMS road course and whether the race will move up a few weeks in the schedule.

Moving it to the road course aside, there are a few things wrong with moving the Brickyard 400 up a few weeks. First off, it is situated at the end of July and is the fourth race in the NBC portion of the schedule. Last year, the Brickyard 400 was the highest rated race on NBCSN, which was also the highest rated Cup race on cable, third-highest rated NBC property race and this year's race will be on network NBC. Unless the race is only moving up a week or would follow the July Daytona race I can't see NBC letting this race go to the Fox portion of the schedule and there is nothing from the Fox portion of the schedule that could be moved to NBC's portion that would rival the numbers the Brickyard 400 does for the network. Unless Fox would start alternating Daytona 500 coverage every other year like it did with NBC from 2001-2006 and I don't think Fox is game for that.

Second, moving the Brickyard up a week or two would put Indianapolis-Kentucky back-to-back, the closest track to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I can't help but think this will only negatively affect attendance at both races and the Brickyard 400 attendance can't afford to get any worse. You could already say having Kentucky and Indianapolis two weeks apart is spreading the fan base thin. Unless Kentucky is moving up a few weeks or back a month or so, I am not sure where Indianapolis could go if it moves forward in the schedule.

Of course if you are moving Indianapolis and Kentucky up another race has to move back and the races in June prior to Daytona are Pocono, Michigan and Sonoma. Pocono already has a race the last week of July and Michigan has a race mid-August. Sonoma could move but perhaps Fox really wants one of the two road course races.

Numbers
Ending with the Indianapolis 500 entry list, 25 of 33 cars are numbered under 30. The only entries above 30 are Zach Veach (#40), Buddy Lazier (#44), Jack Harvey (#50), Pippa Mann (#63), Jay Howard (#77), Charlie Kimball (#83), Gabby Chaves (#88) and Alexander Rossi (#98). 

That is kind of boring. It just seems like everyone just takes the lowest available number. Somehow the #6 wasn't picked and the #13 was neglected yet again. Those are the only numbers under 20 that aren't being used. 

I want to see someone try something different. For example, the #85 has only made the Indianapolis 500 once and that was in 1971 with Denny Hulme. The #87 has only been in the Indianapolis 500 twice (1959 with Red Amick and 1987 with Steve Chassey). The #69 was last in the race in 1989. The #66 hasn't been in the race since 2001. Gary Bettenhausen was the last driver to race the #46 and that was in 1980. The #79 has only been in the race four times and most recently was in 1994 with Dennis Vitolo. 

I want to see some variety, which is why I kind of like competitors selecting numbers in Formula One and MotoGP. You get drivers choosing numbers for there own odd reason. Maybe a driver choses #72 because he or she was born on July 2nd or maybe a driver picks #64 because his or her father wore that number playing offensive tackle in college football. Maybe a driver picks #58 because he or she grew up on 58 Farm Road.

I wish teams and drivers were more creative with number selection that is all. 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: Let Them Have It

Penske won again at Indianapolis. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all had one car retire at Barcelona. Jonathan Rea did not win this weekend. Formula E returned to Monaco. A rabbit ran onto the track at Monza. There were few fiery incidents, one at Imola and one in Kansas. Thoughts and prayers to Aric Almirola after suffering a compression fracture to his T5 vertebrae in an accident. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Let Them Have It
The last month has been dominated by Fernando Alonso's Indianapolis 500 attempt. It had the world talking about the Indianapolis 500 on April 12th. The Indianapolis 500 has never had that much attention on April 12th. His appearance on Barber was just as much of an event as the Barber race. His rookie orientation program was streamed online and a couple million people watched it and it trended in many European countries.

During Alonso's initial trip to the United States, after the Barber weekend, he headed up to Indianapolis and visited Andretti Autosport's shop, got his seat fitted and got to use the simulator but he also got a glimpse of the Borg-Warner Trophy in person.

I am guessing it was his first time seeing the trophy although he may have seen it during one of his handful of appearances at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix but he got to study the trophy at the Andretti shop. He described it as beautiful and said he would proud to take the trophy home.

Of course, as most IndyCar fans know, the trophy is not something the race winner keeps and drivers are awarded the affectionately known "Baby Borg," an 18-inch replica.

While the "Baby Borg" is just as beloved by race winners as the behemoth, there is something dissatisfying with the lack of time the winning driver gets with the actually Borg-Warner Trophy. Outside of a few appearances and maybe the occasional trip to the team shop, the Borg-Warner Trophy is pretty much kept at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

We are in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and since 1994 each member of the winning team gets a day with the Cup and the trophy has had some famous moments. It has gone worldwide, took a dip in Mario Lemieux's pool, used for baptisms and even been a dog bowl. These moments have added to the lure of the Stanley Cup and each player gets a chance to have his own special moment with it.

It may be copying but there is no reason why the Indianapolis Motor Speedway couldn't allow the Borg-Warner Trophy into the hands of the race winner starting the night of the Indianapolis 500 Banquet the night after the race. A race team is slightly different than a hockey team. The driver gets the glory but there are plenty of men and women behind the scenes who work their fingers to the bone that we don't see and for a race like Indianapolis where crew members work all day and in some cases all night for at least two weeks if not more, the least they deserve is a day with the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Here is my proposal: The Borg-Warner Trophy is released to the winning team once the banquet is completed. If the Speedway wants to hire a "keeper of the Borg" to keep an eye on the trophy and the same way Phil Pritchard is "keeper of the Cup" then fine but give it to the team and the team keeps it from the banquet until let's say December 1st. On December 1st, it is returned to the museum and it is on display for six months until the next race.

In the six months the team gets the Borg-Warner Trophy, they can split it however they would like. Let the driver get it for a few days and then maybe pass it on to the front right tire changer and then the fueler and so on. I bet there are some crew members who would love to take it to their families and show it off to their father or mother who have been following the race for 60-plus years. If someone wants to take it on vacation to the Grand Canyon, let them. Think of all the great places this trophy could go and think about all the positive publicity it could be seen.

I could be wrong. Maybe the teams get more time with the Borg-Warner Trophy than we know but it should be something that is celebrated and shared if that is the case. I am sure everyone has a story worth sharing.

Let's just take Fernando Alonso as an example. Should he win, imagine if he was allowed to take the trophy to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks later and Baku two weeks after that and imagine if he was able to bring it to other dates on the Formula One schedule. That would only increase the Indianapolis 500's exposure around the world. Once Alonso was done with it, the men and women who worked on the car could get their own moments with the trophy.

The Speedway and the series seems to have become more relaxed with the Borg-Warner Trophy and with bright minds like Doug Boles in charge of the track I could see him realizing how allowing the Borg-Warner Trophy out of the track's grasp for a period could be beneficial for the race.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Will Power but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc and Nobuharu Matsushita split the Formula Two races at Barcelona. Nirei Fukuzumi and Haas development driver Arjun Maini split the GP3 Series season opener.

Nico Jamin and Kyle Kaiser split the Indy Lights races from the IMS road course. Victor Franzoni swept the Pro Mazda races. Oliver Askew swept the U.S. F2000 races again.

Sébastien Buemi won the Monaco ePrix.

Chaz Davies swept the World Superbike races from Imola. Kenan Sofuoglu won in World Supersport, his second consecutive victory. American P.J. Jacobsen finished third in Supersport.

The #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson of Ryō Hirakawa, Memo Rojas and Léo Roussel won the 4 Hours of Monza. The #19 M.Racing - YMR Norma-Nissan of Ricky Capo and Erwin Creed won in LMP3. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Jody Fannin, Robert Smith and Jonny Cocker won in GTE.

Roberto Colciago and Stefano Comini split the TCR International Series races from Monza.

Martin Truex, Jr. won the NASCAR Cup race from Kansas. Kyle Busch won the Truck race.

The #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Christian Engelhart, Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli won the Blancpain Endurance Series race at Silverstone, the team's third consecutive Blancpain Endurance Series victory dating back to last season and fourth consecutive Blancpain GT Series victory in 2017.

Tiago Monteiro and Mehdi Bennani split the WTCC races from the Hungaroring.

Coming Up This Weekend
Indianapolis 500 Time Trials.
NASCAR All-Star Race.
Formula E heads north to Paris.
MotoGP will be at Le Mans.
Pirelli World Challenge contests its second SprintX weekend at Mosport.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters heads to its second round of the season at Lausitzring.
Super GT runs its third round of the season at Autopolis.
Supercars will be at Winton Motor Raceway, its final race before a one month break.
World Rally Championship will be in Portugal.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

First Impressions: 4th Grand Prix of Indianapolis


1. Will Power dominated. He lost the lead on the first round of pit stops to Hélio Castroneves but he got it back by having the fastest car and timing his pit stops correctly. After his rough start to the season, this is a day Power deserved. He pulled away from the field and other than Castroneves for a brief third of the race no one came close to him. He is the 11th driver in IndyCar history to get to 30 career victories. He had a phenomenal drive and he will probably have another one or two of those this year.

2. Scott Dixon methodically finished second. He wasn't right at the front all day but he was consistently quick and it paid off. It was a typical Scott Dixon race and he was carving a few seconds out of Power's lead at the end but never really got close. Still a great day for him.

3. Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded after three rough races with a third-place finish. After seeming to stumble into bad luck in April, he starts May cruising at the front and making a few key moves to get to third. He had a good car all weekend.

4. Simon Pagenaud didn't have it to challenge Power but he ran around the top five all race. This was a good outing for him and he will retain the championship lead heading into Indianapolis 500 qualifying next week.

5. Hélio Castroneves looked for a moment as if he was going to challenge for the victory and then his crew kept him out for two laps after Power's second stop and his chance of victory vanished like that as Power flew by and Castroneves couldn't keep up. It was a good day but it was a Castroneves-esque day of good but not good enough.

6. I am not sure how Graham Rahal went from 20th to sixth but he did and he did it a year after going from 24th to fourth in this same race. He had a quick car after struggling with speed all day yesterday. He picked his way through the middle of the field on the first stint and each stint he just seemed to get a few more positions each time. Great day for him.

7. This might have been Max Chilton's best race of his IndyCar career and he matched his career-best finish with a seventh-place finish. He didn't put a wheel wrong and this was a day he has probably been waiting for since entering the series.

8. Alexander Rossi had a really good start but he seemed to go in fuel-save mode earlier than everyone else during each stint and was running in the high-71s/low-72s when everyone was in the mid-71s. He still managed an eighth-place finish and that isn't something to complain about.

9. Spencer Pigot was P6 at his first pit stop and then he stalled and came out in P15 but he didn't quit and picked his way back through the field and finished ninth. He has been very impressive this season and he probably should have had two other top ten finishes. This is a promising sophomore season for Pigot.

10. Juan Pablo Montoya returned to IndyCar and he finished tenth. He started fifth but didn't seem to have the race pace with the other front-runners. Not bad. Montoya probably should still be full-time in this series

11. Josef Newgarden got not one but two pit lane speeding penalties and it cost him a shot at the podium but he rallied to finish 11th. Rough but it could have been worse.

12. Takuma Sato wasn't really mentioned and finished 12th. James Hinchcliffe had a great first stint and found himself up to seventh but he dropped to 13th by the end of the race.

13. Through the rest of the field: J.R. Hildebrand was a non-factor and finished 14th. Carlos Muñoz wasn't mentioned once and finished 15th. Marco Andretti got into the back of Tony Kanaan on lap one and was penalized and he finished 16th. Conor Daly, like Hinchcliffe, was in the top ten after his first stop but lost a few spots, stalled on his second stop and finished 17th. Mikhail Aleshin did nothing and finished 18th. Ed Jones went in the grass to avoid the spinning Kanaan on lap one and he had to make an extra pit stop and finished 19th. Tony Kanaan was 20th after the spin and his car lost speed. Charlie Kimball had a mechanical issue and retired after 32 laps. Sébastien Bourdais' engine expired after three laps.

14. The racing ended up being really good from P3 to P16 for most of the race. You are going to have races where there is no action at the front but it is happening everywhere else. It happens. The crowd looked good for what was a beautiful day at Indianapolis and it was caution-free, I think that is a good thing.

15. The ABC booth was the ABC booth but it was actually better than I expected. Eddie Cheever only mentioned the Indianapolis 500 six times. They missed passes. They didn't mention Fernando Alonso until about 70 laps into the race, which I am not sure if that showed control or lack of awareness of what it means. The booth was dull at times. So this was a usual ABC race.

16. I know this is the fourth year of the event but I like calling it the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and not the IndyCar Grand Prix. I think Grand Prix of Indianapolis sounds more formal. It isn't that big of a deal but I thought I would share my opinion.

17. Indianapolis 500 practice begins Monday. I hope you are ready.


Morning Warm-Up: 4th Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Will Power is on pole position again at Indianapolis
For the third time in 2017 and 47th time in IndyCar history Will Power will start from pole position and the Australian broke another track record along the way. Power ran a lap of 67.7044 seconds in the final round of qualifying, 0.9702 seconds faster than the previous track record, which Power set in the first round of qualifying last year. This is Power's second career pole position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and he won the race from pole position in 2015. Power's pole position was the 250th IndyCar pole position for Team Penske. Power failed to finished inside the top ten in his last two starts from the first spot on the grid. Hélio Castroneves joins his teammate on the front row, as he was 0.4125 seconds off Power. This will be Castroneves' fourth consecutive front row start, the first time he has accomplished such a streak since he won fourth consecutive pole positions in 2004 at Nazareth, Chicagoland, Fontana and Texas. Power and Castroneves have split all five pole positions this season and this is the third consecutive race with Power and Castroneves starting on the front row.

Josef Newgarden swept the top three of Team Penske, the second consecutive race where Team Penske has swept the top three positions. This is Newgarden's best start of the season and his best starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Newgarden has finished in the top ten every time he has started third in his career. Scott Dixon is the top Honda on the outside of row two. Dixon has yet to finish better than his starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He did start and finish seventh last year. Juan Pablo Montoya makes his season debut this weekend with Team Penske and he will start fifth. The last two years Montoya won his first start of the season; both were at St. Petersburg. Montoya's only victory on a natural-terrain road course was at Mid-Ohio on August 15, 1999. Sébastien Bourdais rounded out the final round of qualifying in sixth position. Bourdais has never finished on the podium when starting sixth.

Simon Pagenaud missed the final round of qualifying for the third time in four occasions this year but the Frenchman will start seventh. Like his fellow countryman Bourdais, Pagenaud has never finished on the podium when starting in seventh position. Ryan Hunter-Reay joins Pagenaud on row seven. Hunter-Reay finished second to Pagenaud in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis three years ago. Hunter-Reay's worst finish in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is 11th. Alexander Rossi will start behind his teammate in ninth position. This is Rossi's third top ten start in the first five races this season. Rossi had three top ten starts all of 2016 and all three came in the final four races of the season. James Hinchcliffe rounds out the top ten. The last time Hinchcliffe started tenth in a race was Texas last year. He went on to lead the most laps and finish second by 0.0080 seconds to Graham Rahal.

Marco Andretti missed out on the top ten but the third-generation driver picked up his best career starting position in this race in 11th with his former teammate Tony Kanaan joining him on row six. Andretti's previous best starting position in this race was 13th in 2014. He is still looking for his first top ten finish in this race. This is Kanaan's worst starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Kanaan has not led a lap in a race before the Indianapolis 500 since he led 12 laps at São Paulo in 2013. Ed Jones will make his Grand Prix of Indianapolis debut from 13th on the grid with his former Indy Lights teammate Max Chilton starting next to him in 14th. Jones matches his career best IndyCar start. Chilton is coming off his third retirement in his IndyCar career after being caught up in the first lap accident at Phoenix. Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot will start on row eight. This is the first time Daly has qualified as the top Foyt driver this season. Pigot finished 11th in this race last year.

Mikhail Aleshin qualified 17th and he finished 17th after his spin at Phoenix in turn one, lap one. Aleshin's only other starts from 17th were at St. Petersburg the last two years. Carlos Muñoz rounds out row nine. He finished tenth at Phoenix two weeks ago and has improved on his finish each year in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal comprise row ten. Kimball has finished fifth in all three editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, including going from 23rd to fifth in 2014. Rahal finished fourth last year from 24th on the grid. J.R. Hildebrand and Takuma Sato round out the grid on row eleven. This will be Hildebrand's 50th career start and his first starting position outside the top twenty since 2013 at Barber. This will be Sato's 123rd start and the 21st time he has started outside the top twenty.

ABC's coverage of the 4th Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.