Super Weekend's 33
With the invention of Super Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway featuring NASCAR's Brickyard 400, a Nationwide race, IMSA and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, many more drivers are getting the opportunity to race at 16th and Georgetown than ever before. I'm on the fence. I have previously stated I am glad Indianapolis Motor Speedway is becoming a great home for motorsports in the Untied States rather than American motorsports' Rockerfeller Center Christmas tree, being lit up for a month, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors before closing down and having to wait eleven months to see it again.
At the same time, selfishly, I hate the Super Weekend because it slightly diminishes the Indianapolis 500. Drivers settle with victories in the Brickyard 400 and Brickyard Grand Prix and the 250-mile race on Saturday and probably even the Grand Prix of Indianapolis as substitutes for not taking the step to try and race at the Speedway Memorial Day weekend. I realize the present isn't set up for all these drivers at Indianapolis this past weekend to show up in May. Chassis and engines are limited. Track time is limited. Money is tight and contracts are ironclad. If there was only the Indianapolis 500, 95% of these drivers would probably never get to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Looking at the entry lists for the four races that comprise Super Weekend, I found 50 names that I truly believe in another universe are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, trying to make the "500." Let's start with the seven guys who ran the "500" this year alone, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sage Karam, Townsend Bell, James Davison, Martin Plowman and Kurt Busch. Add in the other drivers with Indianapolis 500 starts, from NASCAR's Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Danica Patrick and the forgettable J.J. Yeley to former IndyCar stars Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi, Scott Pruett and Scott Sharp. That's fifteen down.
Then comes a long list of guys who were in IndyCar and have turned to sports cars. I bet Ryan Dalziel would turn some heads if he returned. Jan Heylen had some decent drives in Champ Car and if Bertand Baguette taught us anything, Belgians can succeed at Indianapolis. Dan Clarke also put together some decent drives in Champ Car. Michael Valiante made only two starts in Champ Car, a real shame considering his success in Formula Atlantic. Same goes for Luis Díaz. John Edwards won a Star Mazda and Atlantic Championship and has never come close to jumping behind the wheel of an IndyCar. Jonathan Bomarito came close to winning an Atlantic's title and Dane Cameron won a Star Mazda title but like Edwards, both have never came close to IndyCar. David Ostella had a fluid career in junior formulas between Europe and North America but has been respectable in PC cars. Gustavo Yacamán would probably be more Sebastián Saavedra than Carlos Muñoz in IndyCar. How Patrick Long lost the Red Bull Driver Search to Scott Speed is the greatest fraud in American open-wheel racing history. What could have been a decent open-wheel career budded a respectably worldwide sports car career. That's twenty-six down.
A few other drivers with open-wheel roots but were smart enough to switch to sports cars before they reached the depressing point of coming so close to reaching the top of the ladder and never getting there. Joel Miller finished second to John Edwards by sixteen points in the 2008 Star Mazda championship. He made two Indy Lights starts in 2010 and that's the closest he got to IndyCar. Miller's Speedsource Mazda teammate Tristan Nunez didn't even come that close. Nunez won the Team USA Scholarship in 2012 but has yet to compete in a Mazda Road to Indy series and likely never will. Trent Hindman was racing against and beating on occasion the likes of Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach and Matthew Brabham in U.S. F2000 just a few years ago. Unlike those three, his open-wheel career is on hiatus in Continental Sports Car Challenge. Then there is Shelby Blackstock who is still in the Road to Indy and very well could be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a few years.
Finally from sports cars there are those who you think could hold their own in IndyCar. Biennially we hear the "Wayne Taylor Racing to IndyCar" rumor because it makes sense a sports car guy who has never been associated with IndyCar would abandon a sports car racing series his team is constantly a championship contender in for IndyCar. But we still wonder what his sons Ricky and Jordan would do in open-wheel. Colin Braun's career has covered all the bases but open-wheel. He made his 24 Hours of Daytona debut at 16, 24 Hours of Daytona debut at 18, won races in the NASCAR Truck Series and was competitive in a limited Nationwide Series ride and was back to sports car by the age of 23. He is 25 now, why not try IndyCar?
That's thirty-three drivers and we still got eighteen to go.
Former Formula One drivers are known for making Indianapolis 500 appearances late in their careers. Who wouldn't like to see Jan Magnussen and Giancarlo Fisichella try to qualify for the Indianapolis 500?
As much as their has been a lack of USAC drivers in IndyCar, Ed Carpenter should provide anyone with an example that with support, the drivers that made the Indianapolis 500 what it was yesterday have a place in IndyCar's future. Of course, the list of USAC guys who went to NASCAR is like the list of players Mike Milbury traded away from the New York Islanders. We all know the list, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, even Mike Bliss won a Silver Crown title in 1993. Add to that list Cole Whitt, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Dakoda Armstrong, Kevin Swindell and Chad Boat.
Casey Mears made a few starts in CART and IndyCar with some success (finished fourth on debut) and who would be against the Mears name returning to the Indianapolis 500? Brad Keselowski has the car owner (Roger Penske) and right attitude to make the double a reality. Brian Vickers was reportedly close to a deal for the 2012 Indianapolis 500 but the engine shortage killed that from happening. Then there is Jimmie Johnson. He came from off-road racing, as did Rick Mears and Robby Gordon. I think Johnson could find some Indianapolis 500 success. Forty-nine down, one to go.
Finally, I want to single out David Empringham. He is the Wade Cunningham of the previous generation. Empringham has the distinction to be the only driver to win championships in both Atlantics and Indy Lights. He beat Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Tony Kanaan, Hélio Castroneves, Cristiano da Matta, Greg Ray, Robbie Buhl and Jeff Ward. Not one, but two Atlantic championships, an Indy Lights title, winner of the fastest Indy Lights race, Empringham did it all but, unlike Cunnningham, Empringham has never made a start in IndyCar. I really would have liked to see what he could have done against a golden generation (Paul Tracy, Greg Moore, Scott Goodyear, Villeneuve, Carpentier) of Canadian drivers. He deserves more praise than he gets
Pirelli World Challenge-IndyCar Extravaganza
Remember when the V8 Supercars race at Surfers Paradise required each team to hire a driver from another series to pair with a regular for twin 300-kilometer races? It hit me this week that Pirelli World Challenge and IndyCar should do the same with the GT/GT-A class and it should be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'm not sure it could fit into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend. Maybe it could. I was thinking a pair of one hour races, one for the PWC full-times, one for the IndyCar guys with the average finishing position for each pair setting the grid for a final, two hour race.
Think of some of the pairings you could have. Johnny O'Connell paired with Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Kuno Wittmer in a Viper, Anthony Lazzaro and Tony Kanaan in a Ferrari, Pennsylvanians Butch Leitzinger and Marco Andretti in the Bentley, maybe even bring Nick Tandy back and have him and Mike Conway form an all-British assault in a Porsche. Why not do it? Pirelli World Challenge has produced some of the best racing in the nation, the series deserves a place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it wouldn't hurt anyone and fans would love it.
Formula One-IndyCar August Challenge
Formula One is taking there three week summer break and to keep those drivers fresh, why doesn't IndyCar invite some over to run Mid-Ohio and Milwaukee? Put a small prize on the line for the driver who scores the most points over two races to increase the incentive to go for it.
You don't have to invite everyone but why not invite four or five? Daniel Ricciardo and his smile should keep up the momentum after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix. Seeing as McLaren is going to have Honda power in 2015, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen should come over and get use to the Japanese power. Sergio Pérez could use his Telmex sponsor to his advantage and might draw some additional fans. And call over Nico Hülkenberg. He has put together some impressive runs and was ahead of Sebastian Vettel for a while in the championship standings.
Where would their rides come from? Rahal Letterman Lanigan has a second car that could be filled by Magnussen. Through the Telmex and Ganassi connections, Pérez could slot into the Dreyer & Reinbold chassis that has been vacant since Indianapolis. AJ Foyt could reunite the band and give Button a seat alongside his former BAR-Honda teammate Takuma Sato. Andretti Autosport loves running five cars and I think Ricciardo would slot in perfectly with that cast of characters. I was thinking Ricciardo could run with KV but he already has a teammate named Sebastian and giving him two more wouldn't seem right. But Hülkenberg would benefit from Sébastien Bourdais' experience and would make sense to land their.
It's a nice idea but reality dictates it won't happen. If it did, I'd call the two weekends the Jim Clark Memorial, in honor of the man who won at Milwaukee in 1963 and a time when drivers would come cross the pond to try something new every now and then. Trust me when I say motorsports needs that type of demeanor more now than ever before.
IndyCar Needs to Return to Laguna Seca
As some of you may know, I decided to head to California for IndyCar's off weekend. I drove along the Pacific Ocean and the salty breeze pushed my up into the hills where the marine layer was replaced by clear, blue sky.
Where it appears Heaven and Earth blend into one I bumped into something so beautiful, God himself had to of molded it from the sand with His own hands.
Laguna Seca is more than the corkscrew though. Rainey is a fast corner on the way back down the hill to the front straightaway. Turn six is a hairy corner where one misstep a car is going into the sand or spinning into the inside wall. Walking around the grounds is not for the faint of heart with all the elevation changes. Make sure you are prepared for a physically grueling trek if you want the reward of an 80% view of the circuit.
IndyCar needs to return to Laguna Seca. I love Sonoma and would like to believe there is enough room for both on the schedule. Laguna Seca could open the season in early March for all I care but IndyCar has to get back there whenever they can make it fit. The track doesn't need any changes. The DW12-era has turned a motorcycle circuit in Barber into one of IndyCar's favorite spots and made street courses that were processional into city brawls where you don't know where to look due to all the action. The DW12 can do the same with Laguna Seca. Not to fail to mention the immediate connection with the Mazda Road to Indy and Cooper Tires, who supply all three ladder series and are a predominant sponsor at the track.
It has been almost ten years since North America's premier open-wheel series has turned a racing lap at Laguna Seca and that has to change. It's bad enough the series is missing out on a crown jewel in Road America but this is one IndyCar can't neglect anymore.
Tweet of the Week
Let me start by saying, I like Clint Bowyer. Putting the incident at Richmond last September aside I like Clint Bowyer. I wish he (and Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman) were at Eldora for the Truck race but I like Clint Bowyer. After yesterday's race, he send out this tweet
No wonder them Indy car things have a push to pass button. #indyproblemsFirst thing I thought when I saw this was, "Jokes on you, IndyCar doesn't use push to pass on oval." I understand it if Bowyer doesn't closely keep an eye on the technical regulations of other forms of motorsports. I just thought it was a fun but a little uninformed tweet.
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) July 27, 2014
Winners From the Weekend
You know about Daniel Ricciardo and Jeff Gordon winning his fifth Brickyard 400 but did you know...
René Rast, Laurens Vanthoor and Markus Winkelhock won the Spa 24 Hours driving the #1 Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The #53 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci won in Pro-Am while the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Peter Mann, Francisco Guedes, Cedric Mezard and Alexander Talkanitsa won in the Gentlemen Trophy class.
Arthur Pic and Stoffel Vandoorne split the GP2 weekend at Hungary. Richie Stanaway and Patric Niederhauser split GT3.
Ty Dillon won the Nationwide race at Indianapolis and Darrell Wallace, Jr. won the Truck race at Eldora midweek.
Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads to Mid-Ohio with the whole Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge in tow.
NASCAR is at Pocono.
V8 Supercars are at Queensland Raceway.
DTM heads to the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
World Rally Championship heads to Finland for eighth round of 2014.
WTCC heads to Argentina before two months off before heading to China for two rounds in October.
Stock Car Brasil returns after two months off (thank you World Cup) at Goiânia.