Monday, August 19, 2019

Musings From the Weekend: Final Thoughts on Pocono

Will Power won a race for a 13th consecutive season, as lightning and rain ended the ABC Supply 500 after 320 miles. There was no fairy tale ending in Bristol but there was plenty of carnage. There was a first-time winner in Japan. James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi are pairing to contest the Bathurst 1000 in a wild card entry for Walkinshaw Andretti United. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Final Thoughts on Pocono
I have to admit I had a lot on my mind heading to Pocono this year. I always have a lot on my mind leading up to this weekend.

Every year I went to Pocono came with a tinge of apprehension because there is no other way to feel as a IndyCar fan at a venue that isn't Indianapolis, Long Beach, Road America, Barber, Mid-Ohio or St. Petersburg.

As much as I love heading to the racetrack, wandering aimlessly around the garage, snapping photographs at random intervals, trying to stay out of the way but still peek over the shoulders crew members and officials; as much as I enjoyed the zooming cars and trying to keep track of pit strategy in my head, silently counting laps in my head and projecting when each car would next stop, as much as I love all of it there was always a great pain in the days leading up to the event and in the drive back and the days following until the schedule for the following year is released.

In 2015, I wrote about my fears heading into a race with no guaranteed future. Of course those words had a haunting, unintentional foreshadowing of what would proceed that afternoon. While the race has continued and we have gotten many other pleasing moments from Pocono in the years since, here we are again and instead of writing it all before the cars unloaded at the racetrack I have decided to have one post-race gathering of everything that has been on mind with an uncertain future.

This was always going to be a long look at Pocono and IndyCar before the race and after yesterday, it takes a slightly different tour than I originally anticipated.

The Morning After:
It is good to have time to think and over 12 hours and a sunrise later, it is time to take another look at yesterday's race.

I still think there are improvements that can be made, especially with catchfences. I still agree with Will Power in that these incidents could have happened anywhere and it just happens to be at Pocono. I think IndyCar and Pocono should work to make things safer and not walk away and say it is too dangerous.

There was something else Power said in the post-race press conference that caught my attention and that is Power said attendance was up 15% each year at Pocono. I don't have any evidence that is true but there is part of me that thinks this was Power being privy to information because of his ties to Roger Penske and he overheard this in a conversation with people in the know. It could be a lie but this could also be the innocence of Power coming out and this was his biggest take away from a private conversation and this is the part he decided to share with us.

If this 15% increase is true this puts IndyCar in a tough predicament because not many other tracks are up 15%. Iowa isn't up 15%. Texas isn't up 15% a year. When few venues are moving in the right direction, can IndyCar walk away from one that is trending upward? On top of that, Pocono wants IndyCar back. Not many places want IndyCar. This isn't a case of a racetrack seeing the trends and despite the increases deciding to move on from IndyCar. Pocono has said all the right things.

There may be a good reason why IndyCar has not come to terms with Pocono. Pocono might be asking for no sanctioning fee. The series cannot give races away for free but if IndyCar is not negotiating with Pocono because the series wants to move on that is a befuddling and bold decision. The series is walking from a racetrack where things seem to be going in the right direction. On paper, no series would ever do that. More than attendance is involved in the decision making process.

I still believe IndyCar and Pocono have to work with each other, not only because the track wants IndyCar but because if we truly want an improvement in catchfencing the only way that will occur is if the series works with a racetrack for improvements and why not have Pocono Raceway be that place, the base for this improvement? Improvements have to start somewhere and we should want Pocono to be where catchfencing improvements begin, the same way the early prototypes of the SAFER barrier were implemented at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The SAFER barrier started at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then spread across the country. We should want the same to be true for any catchfencing evolution and we should use the events of the last two years to push Pocono Raceway to be where the evolution begins.

The Oval Cycle:
There has been a pattern in IndyCar for close to a decade now when it comes to ovals that are not Indianapolis, Texas or Iowa.

1.) An oval venue is announced and everyone gets excited for it and the potential it brings.

2.) Oval race occurs and regardless of what happens on the racetrack everyone brings up the crowd.

3.) Venue struggles to draw a crowd to break even.

4.) People sour on the venue and wonder why things are not clicking.

5.) Oval venue is coming to the end of the contract with nothing pointing to a new deal being signed.

6.) While it appears one oval venue will be lost, have no fear because IndyCar is in talks with another oval venue and a deal is imminent so if the current oval that is struggling falls off there is another ready to step in and take its place and everyone is excited for the new venue.

7.) Repeat.

It is easy to bust IndyCar's ball when it comes to ovals and the Merry-Go-Round the series finds itself on but with Pocono appears to be heading for the exit and Richmond being the venue linked to a return to the calendar I have to ask why does anyone think Richmond will be different?

Let's really consider this:

Milwaukee returned in 2010, there was excitement to be back after a year away, the venue struggled, it tried many different dates, it somehow made it to 2015 and then was gone.

Loudon returned in 2011, there was excitement to be back after over a decade away, the venue struggled in year one, it ended with one of the more embarrassing moments in IndyCar history and it did not come back for 2012.

Las Vegas returned in 2011, there was excitement to be back after over a decade away and this was supposed to be the new home for the IndyCar finale, the free ticket idea was not as successful as people thought, Dan Wheldon was killed, both sides pointed fingers at one another and it did not come back for 2012.

Fontana returned in 2012, there was excitement to be back after nearly a decade away and this was supposed to be the new home for the IndyCar finale, year one was good, year two was better but it started late and ended late, the race moved back into summer, the race was held on a Saturday afternoon in late-June, the crowd was dismal and it was gone after 2015.

Phoenix returned in 2016, there was excitement to be back after a decade away, the venue struggled, the races struggled with single-file action on the track, it completed its three-year contract and then was gone.

Gateway returned in 2017, there was excitement and the crowd has been fantastic in its first two years back but it is still early. We have seen Iowa shrink in the decade since it was first added to the schedule. What is to say the same will not happen to Gateway?

Pocono returned in 2013, there was excitement to be back, it had a good year one, struggled in year two and many thought the July 4th weekend scared people away due to traffic in the area, the race moved to late-August, traffic was much better, the races were really good, one year was rained out to a Monday, there have been signs of growth, each year felt a little bit better but it appears at the end of the second contract with IndyCar the series is ready to move on even after encouraging attendance the last few years.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy Pocono made it to seven years but we have to wonder if IndyCar can live on three ovals sticking around annually and then having another two or three ovals rotate with tracks only staying for a range of three to seven seasons.

Why do people think Richmond will somehow be much greater than Pocono? Keep in mind that if crowd size is the problem, it appears every oval race outside of Indianapolis and Gateway only gets about 20,000 people. That is just what IndyCar draws. In Richmond's heyday for IndyCar it got about 40,000 people. Richmond's capacity is only about 60,000 now after years of downsizing and it can barely fill that for its NASCAR Cup races. Why should we expect anymore than 20,000 to go to Richmond?

Even a great crowd at Richmond might only be 30,000 to 35,000 people and that is still only be half-full. People are still going to look at the crowd and feel disappointed. I kind of want to set the bar low now so no one heads into with unrealistic expectations.

Maybe IndyCar can make this work and it can constantly rotate oval venues. I think a lot of people would not like that and people would argue that is not an effective way to establishing a fan base but that is a more likely to happen then IndyCar signing three or four tracks to ten-year deals and lock IndyCar in at a few ovals for the next decade.

Rotating might not be a bad thing. Supercross has its annual venues but it also has some venues that are on the schedule for a season, gone the next and then back for another three or four years. That could work for IndyCar. If you make an IndyCar race a one-off, a special event then maybe people will go. Some of these races might be Gateway and a track will work for a longer deal. Other tracks will have its one or two years, not draw crowds that suggests it has to have IndyCar annually but would benefit from having IndyCar every four or five years.

There are plenty of venues out there: Michigan, Fontana, Richmond, Loudon, Kentucky, Chicagoland, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Darlington, Homestead, Memphis, Kansas, Atlanta, hell even throw Bristol in there.

That is 16 venues that could possibly host IndyCar, add in Pocono and you could have 17 venues where IndyCar rotates, some yearly, others in three to five year intervals, some might stick around for 15 to 20 years if we are lucky and I don't think that is a bad thing. IndyCar could make it work. It would keep the schedule fresh each year, which wouldn't be a bad thing.

I think IndyCar is still in a place of trying to figure out what is the right choice of action when it comes to ovals. I don't think oval races, outside of the Indianapolis 500, are going to go away entirely. The series sees there is a benefit to having five or six of them but do those five or six venues have to dedicated surefire successes on the schedule or could two or three of those venues be rotating wild cards with some being around for a year, others being around for four or five years but there always being ovals stepping up and filling the gap when one is going to take a break?

Only time will tell.

What Went Wrong?
I don't know if anything went wrong. It is a mixture of things.

I look at how Pocono sold tickets, the traditional general admission and then tiered pricing for different seats with paddock passes as an add-on, and compare it to Road America, where every ticket is general admission and paddock access is included, and I wonder if Road America's model is what would work for other IndyCar venues.

There isn't enough of a demand to charge seats at different prices. The seats I got each year were $75 a piece and the paddock pass was an additional $20. I would argue it might be better if every seat was general admission with paddock access included and all tickets were $50 or $60. One ticket gets you everything. The suites and covered seats could be sold at a higher price point but the rest of it could be up for grabs.

Moving away from tickets and thinking about Pennsylvania, there are a lot of race fans in Pennsylvania. We talk about local short tracks all the time but I feel like any major racetrack should visit these local short tracks twice a month, bring a tent and sell tickets there. Bring an IndyCar driver or two to these short tracks and have them talk to people and just be casual. If Pocono hit a handful of these tracks, maybe it would have sold an additional 5,000 tickets. That goes a long way.

There is also the fact that Pocono is two hours away from New York City and it is two hours away from Philadelphia. When you factor that over 20,000,000 people live within 100 miles of Pocono Raceway you don't have to draw a large portion of that population to have a successful event. We are talking about drawing a quarter of percent would be 50,000 people. If you cannot get a quarter of a percent of 20,000,000 people to come out it says a lot about the interest of the people and relevance of the series.

When it came to the weekend, Pocono had a lot of down time. Outside of two years, Indy Lights was not present at the track. I get Indy Lights has a prerogative and it doesn't want to run many ovals but when you look at the Freedom 100, why wouldn't Indy Lights run Pocono? Indy Lights gets one televised race a year. An Indy Lights race at Pocono might have been too good not to be on television. The historic cars were nice to have at Pocono but even with those there was plenty of gaps in the schedule.

The good news is, as stated above, attendance reportedly was on the rise each year and maybe Pocono was on the right track. We will only know if the series returns for 2020 and beyond.

The Future:
It is not official that Pocono will not be back in 2020 and if Pocono is back in 2020 I will be there but let's not count our chickens before the eggs hatch.

The track has thrown out that it would be open to hosting a IndyCar race once every three years, similar to something I mentioned above. My biggest concern with this kind of deal is there is no long term commitment, either side can walk away out of the blue, and how can Pocono reserve a date when it isn't on the schedule for two consecutive seasons?

Let's take this late-August date? Is IndyCar going to leave this weekend open for two years waiting for Pocono to return? What happens if another track approaches IndyCar and says its best date would be late-August? I would not blame IndyCar if it gave another track that date because it committed for multiple years and consecutive years.

The late-August date has been kind to Pocono. The weather has been much more favorable compared to the July 4th weekend. There was the rain out and this year's race was rain-shortened, though if that red flag doesn't happen all 500 miles likely would have been completed. It is positioned late in the season and it is a key factor in the championship picture. There is something great about seeing an IndyCar stretch its legs and run at full song. I would hate IndyCar to lose that.

Looking at IndyCar and the fan base it is safe to say it is a Midwest series and maybe the series should embrace that. When you see the success of Mid-Ohio, Road America and Gateway it might make sense for the series to add Kentucky and Chicagoland, two places where Hoosiers and Buckeyes will drive and attend. That is fine with me. Plenty of people are still going to watch on television. I would still watch. It would suck not to have a race in the Northeast and it is not like the series is trying to add five or six Northeast races. It just has to make one race successful. If IndyCar cannot make one race successful that is a blow to the series but if staying in the Midwest means a few more better attended races and also saves the teams some money in travel expenses then the series would be foolish not to do it.

I hope IndyCar and Pocono work something out. I hope we keep the other 500-mile race on the schedule. This is biased because Pocono is a home event for me. It is in my neck of the woods. I get to sleep in my own bed. There are not many other venues IndyCar can go to where I get to stay home. It was nice to have a race effectively in my backyard and I hope it remains for many years to come. If it is time to move on then it is time to move on. Pocono will be missed.

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

Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Cup race from Bristol, his fourth victory of the season. Tyler Reddick won Grand National Series race, his fourth victory of the season. Brett Moffitt won the Truck race, his third victory of the season.

Ryō Hirakawa won the Super Formula race from Motegi, his first career victory Super Formula victory.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar has its final oval race and its final night race of 2019 from Gateway.
Formula One is back from break at Spa-Francorchamps.
MotoGP hopes to race at Silverstone.
Suzuka hosts the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season, a ten-hour race.
IMSA has another GT-only race at Virginia International Raceway.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters returns to Germany and will be at Lausitz.
World Rally Championship returns to Germany for Rallye Deutschland.
Supercars has its second race weekend in Tailem Bend.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

First Impressions: Pocono 2019

1. There are a lot to get to and we are going to start with the race first and the results and then get into the deep end at the end.

Will Power has a tendency for pulling races out when it doesn't seem to be his day. When he made his first pit stop after the first caution, the only one of the front-runners to come in, it felt like, oh well, another behind the eight ball for Power. Then the second caution fell in his favor and he was up to second and from there he was showing the most muscle. On that final pass for the lead on Scott Dixon, Power put the hammer down and was gone and maybe Dixon had more to play with and he was willing to let Power push it and potentially having to make a stop before Dixon but in a season where Power has had plenty of misfortune, his best day comes in the rain.

Nobody likes a rain-shortened race, it is incomplete in a way but I think if this race ran the final 72 laps Power would likely have still come out on top.

2. This could be a missed opportunity for Scott Dixon, as he could have won his second consecutive race and he left ten points on the table but it is still a respectable result and he has narrowed the deficit in the championship to 52 points. It is a manageable gap for Dixon. After the first lap caution, when all Penske entries are running 1-2-3 and Dixon was fourth it felt like Dixon was going to be in the mix. This wasn't going to be a race where the Penske drivers ran away with it and Dixon would drop back. Sure enough, Dixon was up at the front for the entire race and he has four consecutive podium finishes heading into the final three races.

3. We will breakdown Simon Pagenaud's start later but in another 500-mile race he was at the front. Pagenaud was not as dominant as he was in the Indianapolis 500 and when green flag runs got longer it seemed like that is where Pagenaud lost ground. Once again, we will not know how fuel mileage would have decided this race but I think the Chevrolets caught a slight break in this one and when five Hondas are taken out immediately that also helps.

4. It appears Santino Ferrucci was the darling on the day and he finished fourth again on an oval. Ferrucci has three top ten finishes in four oval starts. He hasn't put a wheel wrong this season. That is what is going to earn him rookie of the year. While every other rookie finds a way to stub a toe or two, Ferrucci has kept it clean. Don't get me wrong, there is part of me that thinks this is one good year and he has been fortunate not to face much adversity this season. We saw how he broke down in Formula Two. These results do not cancel out his previous behavior and true change has only occurred when faced with the same scenario a melt down does not happen a second time.

5. Josef Newgarden is fortunate to be fifth. This felt like a day where Newgarden could have really taken control of the championship and he didn't. This kind of feels like after Pocono in 2015 when Juan Pablo Montoya was third in the race but he could have finished first or second and just one position would have given Montoya the title. I think Newgarden, and even Ferrucci, benefitted from the likes of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Felix Rosenqvist being out at the start. It would have been an entirely different race had those five not been eliminated before completing a lap. This could have been a worse day for Newgarden than it turned out to be.

6. Outside of the top five, I do not have a strong feel on the rest of the results. Ed Carpenter was sixth and he seemed to get better as the race went along. This was a good day for him.

7. Sébastien Bourdais spent the entire day in the top ten but could not challenge the front runners and I guess seventh is right for him.

8. Tony Kanaan gets an eighth place finish and I am not sure how. At no point did it seem like Kanaan was picking off one driver at a time and was on the move forward. It is nice that he got a good result and I wish qualifying had taken place and Kanaan been given the opportunity to start further up the grid because he might have been competitive. 

9. Graham Rahal gets another top ten finish but ninth is a tad disappointing. On a day when two front runners, a Ganassi car and a teammate were taken out, I felt like this could have been Rahal's day to compete for a podium finish and possibly even a victory. The RLLR cars were strong in the Indianapolis 500 and Rahal was fighting for a top five before his accident with Bourdais in that race. Rahal has eight consecutive top ten finishes but I bet he wants more.

10. Charlie Kimball got a top ten finish. Good for Charlie Kimball. Conor Daly was 11th. Good for Conor Daly. Good for the entire Carlin organization.

11. Quickly through the rest of the field: Marcus Ericsson looked good at the start and then dropped like a rock. I guess finishing on the lead lap in your first Pocono start is a minor success. Zach Veach and Matheus Leist did nothing. Marco Andretti's rough oval results continue. Colton Herta had another spin when looking good. Spencer Pigot threw away a good opportunity.

12. This is where it gets messy and we will start with the start.

How Simon Pagenaud can be second in line long before the start/finish line, directly behind Josef Newgarden who started first, when Pagenaud was starting fourth and there be no call for a jumped start then I don't know what is a jumped start.

IndyCar has to get its starts in order. How many races have cars single-file before the line, cars three-wide before the line and it looks nothing like chaos? On top of that, the entire grid is covered by  a napkin coming to the start and with all these cars bunched up the leader is toying with the throttle and stacking the field up.

I worry that IndyCar is too focused about action and, at a place like Pocono, I worry IndyCar is too focused in re-creating seven-wide at every possible opportunity that it hurts the actual start. I think the starting grid, especially at an oval, should be spread out a little bit. Using Pocono as the example, when the leader is at the start/finish line, taking the green flag for the I think the rear of the field should still be in turn three. For starters, it would decrease the possibility of having eight cars pile up at the start but it would also allow for some margin for error. Last year we have Graham Rahal run into the back of Spencer Pigot. These cars need some room to breathe at the start of a 500-mile race.

The cars also have to stay in line. No more of second place falling in behind the pole-sitter, no more of single-file. I am not sure if it a case of IndyCar needing rules or needing to enforce its rules. The starts need to be cleaner, especially at ovals but it is also true for road and street courses. The standard has to be higher. It was not that long ago IndyCar would have waved off that start and it should have today. The standard has to be higher and that leads us to the second point of the start.

13. Where do we start with this accident, other than it wonderful that no one was seriously injured?

I have to break this down intricately because it is no straightforward and it requires a lot of thought.

It was a bit of déjà vu to have another accident in turn two almost immediately with a car grazing the catchfence and an ensuring lengthy red flag.

It did not take long for people to say IndyCar should not race at Pocono due to the danger. Of course, with any action there is an equal and opposite reaction and saying IndyCar should leave Pocono brought out just as large of a crowd defending the race's existence.

When it comes to danger there are many things to take into consideration. Do people not want to race at Pocono because the track itself is dangerous? Let's think for a second and realize Pocono is not a dangerous racetrack. The track is not falling apart. The walls are not outdated that could potentially fall over if a car made contact with it. The track does not have potholes that are a hazard. The track is up to standard.

There are many combinations that lead to the situations we have seen at Pocono. It is part track, it is par car and it is part driver.

When you are driving at 220 MPH, bad things are going to happen. You cannot completely avoid injury. If you have an accident at 220 MPH, there is a chance a driver is going to get hurt. That is just common sense the same way that injuries are possible when two football players or hockey players collide at full speed. Something is going to happen and somebody might get hurt.

Pocono is a 2.5-mile oval with long straightaway. Those high speeds are bound to happen but, while the track lends itself to speed, the car itself is capable of reaching those speeds. Is Pocono dangerous or is Pocono dangerous because of the speed? In that case, there are a handful of other circuits IndyCar goes those where those speeds are achieved. The difference is we have been fortunate not to have these types of accidents at Indianapolis or Texas. That doesn't mean these accidents will never occur at Indianapolis or Texas. Texas used to have this same linger feeling that many carried into Pocono.

Texas severely altered the careers of Davey Hamilton and Kenny Bräck but it has been a while since someone has been seriously injured at that track. It was only three years ago Josef Newgarden was hurt at Texas but he returned to the car immediately. Maybe we would feel differently if Newgarden had been hurt worse than he was that day but nobody talks about Texas the way Pocono has been talked about over the last few years.

The only push back I will give to the Pocono is too dangerous crowd is why not make it safer? It seems like the only answer for some is leave Pocono but that is in a sense giving up, as if nothing can be done and I don't think IndyCar or any series should accept that concession. In a series that has worked tirelessly to make the cars safer and it will continue into 2020 with the introduction of the aeroscreen, why are we not doing the same or demanding the same when it comes to the racetracks? When faced with this adversity the leading option should not be give up but rather evolve and improve.

There is one constant variable when it comes to Pocono, Texas, Indianapolis and mostly every racetrack where we have seen these big accidents, especially the ones that have hurt drivers, and that is the catchfence. Every year we seem to have this conversation and nothing has been done about it. Nothing was done after Hamilton and Bräck's accidents. Nothing was done after Ryan Briscoe's accident at Chicagoland. Nothing was done after Dan Wheldon's accident at Las Vegas. Nothing was done after Robert Wickens' accident last year. Why has nothing been done?

Once again, cars are going 220 MPH, not every injury can be prevent nor should we expect no injury to ever occur but if we are doing all we can to make sure the cars are safe, why aren't we doing the same at racetracks? Every year we talk about the outdated nature of catchfences and nothing is done. There has been no evolution introduced. Pocono could extend the wall around two miles of the 2.5-mile oval and that would solve part of the solution. We wouldn't have to worry about cars being shredded to pieces and the injuries that could come with that. That is going to cost money but nothing is cheap. If the series and the teams are willing to absorb extra costs for safety then the tracks have to do the same. Safety is an all hands on deck effort. Everyone has to be involved and in a way every racetrack is complicit in the lack of safety evolution of the catchfence and there is no excuse.

This isn't entirely on Pocono and Will Power and Scott Dixon came to the defense of the circuit after today's race. Power said these have been unfortunate accidents that could happen anywhere. Dixon said the drivers could do better. Drivers have to calm down at the start of these 500-mile races. There is too much of a premium of getting positions at the start and we have seen time and time again a 500-mile race playing itself out. These races need patience. There is also a fluky nature to what has happened at Pocono. If Justin Wilson is a foot to the left or right that debris doesn't hit him and he is probably still alive. That incident could have happened anywhere. It nearly happened the year prior in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis with James Hinchcliffe.

We are fortunate that there hasn't been a major accident involving a car getting into the catchfence at Indianapolis. Would there be the same level of vitriol had these accidents occurred at Indianapolis?

It seems like this is the end of IndyCar at Pocono and it seemed like it was the end regardless if an accident like the one we saw today occurred or not. IndyCar was ready to move on and a lot of it seems to come down to how the place makes people feel but what happens when another track is full of sad memories?

Yes, Justin Wilson died and Robert Wickens was severely hurt at Pocono. Those are horrible memories but drivers have been killed and severely hurt at Indianapolis and no one is protesting that Indianapolis should be removed from the schedule. Drivers have been killed at Toronto, Laguna Seca, Fontana and Milwaukee and notable drivers have been hurt at Texas and Road America. If IndyCar stops going to every racetrack where there are sad memories there are only going to be six races on the schedule.

That is the cynic in me coming out. There is going to be pain in life. We can't always run from it or avoid it or hide it. If we try to run, avoid or hide the difficult parts of life we cease to live. We stunt ourselves as individuals if when faced with pain we attempt to cut it out of our life. We have to face our pain. We have to embrace it, study it and incorporate it into who we are going forward otherwise we are not complete.

When faced with these hardships, IndyCar should not shy away when facing situations that are deemed too dangerous. We should strive to continue to improve and make all aspects safer so events such like Pocono can be able to continue. 

14. Turning back to the championship, when you see Alexander Rossi is out before a lap is completed and Josef Newgarden is second, it was quick to write off the championship but with three races to go, Newgarden is only 35 points ahead of Rossi, 40 points ahead of Pagenaud and 52 points ahead of Dixon. Let's look at it this way: the gap from Newgarden to Rossi is what it should have been if Newgarden had just finished fourth at Mid-Ohio.

Rossi is still in this and not just because of double points. There are still two races and things can change, things will change. This championship is far from over.

15. This was much more writing than I initially thought it would be. Let's get some rest because Gateway will be here soon.



Morning Warm-Up: Pocono 2019

Rain puts Josef Newgarden on Pocono pole position
Qualifying was cancelled from Pocono Raceway due to rain on Saturday and entrant points have set the starting grid for the ABC Supply 500. This is the first time the starting grid has been set by entrant points since last year at Gateway. With this development, championship leader Josef Newgarden will start on pole position. This is the third time in the last four years Newgarden has started on the front row at Pocono. Newgarden has five top five finishes and six top ten finishes in six Pocono starts. The only track where Newgarden has made at least three starts and has a better average finish is Road America, where he has a victory, three podium finishes and four top ten finishes in four starts. Last year, Newgarden finished a lap down in fifth and he has completed 1,159 laps out of a possible 1,160 laps at Pocono. There was a two-hour practice session held Saturday afternoon and Newgarden was 17th, 0.4235 seconds off the fastest time.

Alexander Rossi joins Newgarden on the front row. Head-to-head his season, Newgarden has finished ahead of Rossi in seven of 13 races but Rossi has finished ahead of Newgarden in four of the last six races. The two times Newgarden topped Rossi in the last six races were Newgarden's victories at Texas and Iowa. Rossi has not led a lap in the last three races and the last time Rossi did not lead a lap in three consecutive races he went on to win the following two races. He did not lead a lap at Road America, Iowa and Toronto last year before he went on to win at Mid-Ohio and Pocono. Rossi could join Will Power as the only drivers to win consecutive Pocono races. In three starts at Pocono, Rossi has led 228 laps, leading all drivers since 2013. While Newgarden was 17th in practice, Rossi was fourth.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon will start on the second row. Pagenaud has two top five finishes on ovals this season and his most top five finishes on ovals in a single season is four, which occurred in 2017. Pagenaud's only top five finish at Pocono was fourth in 2017 but he has five top ten finishes in six Pocono starts. Dixon enters Pocono with finishes of second, second and first in his last three races. Dixon has not had four consecutive podium finishes since the end of the 2011 and start of the 2012 season when he won at Motegi, finished third at Kentucky and then finished second at St. Petersburg and Barber. Chip Ganassi Racing is coming off a 1-2 finish at Mid-Ohio. It was the team's first 1-2 finish since Texas in 2015. Pagenaud had gremlins hamper him at the start of Saturday's practice but when things were squared away he was fifth fastest, however, Dixon was second quickest.

Will Power will start fifth. Power is one of two drivers to have completed all 1,160 laps at Pocono since IndyCar's return in 2013. Dixon is the other driver. Power has three consecutive podium finishes, four consecutive top five finishes and he has finished in the top ten in all six of his Pocono starts. He has started in the top ten in all six Pocono starts and he has led a lap in all six Pocono races since 2013. Next to Power on row three will be Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay is coming off a third place finish at Mid-Ohio. Hunter-Reay has twice won the race after Mid-Ohio. He won at Loudon in 2011 after a third place finish at Mid-Ohio and he won at Pocono in 2015 after a seventh place finish at Mid-Ohio. Hunter-Reay has won the 14th race of a season only one time in his career and that was at Baltimore in 2012. Power was 20th in practice while Hunter-Reay was ninth.

The qualifying wash out puts the two Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing cars on row four with Takuma Sato starting seventh and Graham Rahal in eighth. Sato has completed only 493 of a possible 1,160 laps in six Pocono starts. Sato has completed all 500 miles twice at Pocono but he has completed 25 laps or fewer three times at the track. To top it all off, Sato started in the top ten in all six Pocono starts entering 2019! Rahal has an average finish of 15.2 at Pocono in six starts. Of the tracks where Rahal has made at least three starts, the only tracks where he has a worst average finish than Pocono is Kentucky at 15.5 and Indianapolis at 18.2. His father Bobby won at Pocono in 1988 and Bobby had six top five finishes and seven top ten finishes in eight Pocono starts. Rahal was tenth in practice while Sato was 18th.

Felix Rosenqvist will start ninth with James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top ten. Rosenqvist is coming off his career best finish of second at Mid-Ohio but he has finished at least two laps down in his first three oval starts. His average finish in three oval starts is 18th. Hinchcliffe is coming off his 19th finish outside the top twenty in 135 IndyCar starts. On three occasions Hinchcliffe has rebounded from a finish outside the top twenty with a podium finish, including a victory at São Paulo in 2013, third in the second Houston race in 2014 and third in the first Belle Isle race in 2017. Hinchcliffe has finished 20th or worse three times at Pocono and his best finish at the track is tenth. Rosenqvist was 11th in practice with Hinchcliffe in 13th.

Sébastien Bourdais starts on the inside of row six. Bourdais has led a lap in only four races this season and the most laps he has led in a race this season was eight laps at Barber. Bourdais has not led double-figure laps in a race since he led 60 laps at Phoenix last year. Spencer Pigot will be to Bourdais' outside at the start. Pigot is looking for his third consecutive top ten finish, which would be a personal best for the California-born driver. Pigot's average finish in 500-mile races is 18.6 in five career starts. His first lead lap finish in a 500-mile race occurred back in May in the Indianapolis 500 and he picked up his best finish in a 500-mile race with a 14th place result. Bourdais was seventh in practice but Pigot was 21st out of 22 cars.

Santino Ferrucci makes his Pocono debut from 13th starting position with fellow Pocono debutant Colton Herta next to Ferrucci in 14th starting position. Ferrucci has been the top rookie finisher in all three oval races this season, which include a seventh place finish in the Indianapolis 500 and a fourth place finish at Texas. Ferrucci has not had a top ten start since he started tenth at Barber in April. Ferrucci is tied with Rossi for most laps completed this season with both drivers having completed 1,517 of 1,521 laps through 13 races. Herta has had three top ten finishes in his last four starts but he has not had a top five finish since his victory at Austin in March. Herta has yet to finish an oval race in his IndyCar career after retirements for mechanical issues at Indianapolis and Iowa and an accident in Texas. Ferrucci was the top rookie in practice; third quickest overall while Herta was sixth.

Ed Carpenter makes his fourth start of 2019 and it will come from 15th on the grid. Carpenter has led only one lap in six Pocono starts. Carpenter has not had a top five finish at a track that wasn't Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he finished third at Fontana in the 2014 season finale. Marcus Ericsson makes it three Pocono debutants within four positions on the grid with the Swede starting 16th. Ericsson is coming off a 23rd place finish at Mid-Ohio, his third finish outside the top twenty this season and his sixth finish of 20th or worse. Mid-Ohio was the first time all Schmidt Peterson Motorsports finished outside the top twenty in a race since Milwaukee 2015 when Hinchcliffe finished 21st and James Jakes finished 23rd. In this year's Indianapolis 500, Oriol Servià finished 22nd as a one-off for SPM and Ericsson was classified in 23rd. Ericsson was 19th but Carpenter was the slowest car in the two-hour session, however, Carpenter was only 0.6141 seconds off the top spot.

Marco Andretti will start 17th in his home race. Andretti has finished off the lead lap in his last seven oval starts. Last year, Andretti picked up his best finish at Pocono, finishing in seventh, but one lap down. His last lead lap finish on an oval was in last year's Indianapolis 500 when he finished 12th.
Zach Veach makes it an all-Andretti Autosport row nine. Veach has only five lead lap finishes through 13 starts in 2019 with four races to go. Last year, Veach had eight lead lap finishes from 17 starts. Veach's only top ten starting position on an oval came at Pocono last year when he started seventh. Andretti was 16th in practice while Veach was 12th.

Tony Kanaan was fastest in practice with his top lap being 41.5984 seconds, 216.354 MPH but he will have to start 19th after the qualifying wash out. Kanaan has led the third most laps at Pocono since 2013 with 147 laps led. Last year was the first time Kanaan did not lead a lap at Pocono after his race ended due to a throttle issue after only 16 laps. Kanaan has not led a lap since Toronto last year. Matheus Leist joins his A.J. Foyt Racing teammate on row ten. Leist enters Pocono with his average finish of 17.1 in 30 career starts. Leist's average finish in 500-mile races is 13th and he has completed 597 of 600 laps in his three 500-mile starts. Leist has not had a lead lap finish since he completed all 200 laps at Indianapolis in May. While Kanaan was fastest, Leist was 15th in practice, 0.4017 seconds back.

The Carlin cars round out the final row of the grid with Charlie Kimball ahead of Conor Daly. Kimball is back for his fourth appearance of 2019. Kimball has completed 99% of the laps at Pocono since 2013 but he has only two lead lap finishes in six starts at the track and he has only two top ten finishes at Pocono. Conor Daly is back for his fourth race in 2019 and his third in the #59 Chevrolet for Carlin. Daly's finish has gotten slightly worse in each race this season. Daly picked up a tenth place finish in the Indianapolis 500 but he went on to finish 11th at Texas and 13th at Iowa. This is going to be Daly's fourth different team he has driven for at Pocono having previously driven for Dale Coyne Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing and Harding Racing at the 2.5-mile oval. Kimball was eighth in practice and Daly was 14th.

NBCSN's coverage of the ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 200 laps.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Track Walk: Pocono 2019

IndyCar is back from its second summer break and it returns with a trip to Pocono
The 14th race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series takes place at Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500. IndyCar is coming off a two-week break and this is the start of the final of three periods where IndyCar has races over three consecutive weekends. The other occasions were from Indianapolis to Belle Isle to Texas in spring and last month with Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio. This is the fourth of five oval races this season with the final oval race of the season coming up next weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park. Through the first 13 races, no winner has started outside of the top ten with four winners having started on pole position this season and four winners having started outside the top five. The only starting position within the first four rows of the grid not to produce a race winner this season is fifth.

Coverage
Time: Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday August 18th with green flag scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET.
Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Dillon Welch and Robin Miller will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule 
Saturday:
First Practice: 9:30 a.m. ET (60 minutes)*
Qualifying: 12:30 p.m. ET (Taped-delay coverage on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET)*
Second Practice: 4:00 p.m. ET (60 minutes)*
Sunday:
Race: 2:30 p.m. ET (200 laps)

* - All practice and qualifying sessions are available live with the NBC Sports Gold IndyCar pass.

Championship Picture
Entering the final quarter of the season there are 266 points left on the table between the next three races and the double points finale at Laguna Seca, meaning 14 drivers will head to Pocono mathematically alive for the Astor Cup.

Team Penske's Josef Newgarden enters at the championship leader with 504 points, 16 points ahead of Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi. Newgarden suffered his second retirement of the season after he spun off on the final lap at Mid-Ohio while battling for third with Ryan Hunter-Reay and his race ended in the gravel trap. Newgarden has failed to finish in the top ten in three races this season and in the other ten races he has finished in the top five. Rossi has finished in the top five in seven of the last eight races and his worst finish in the last eight races is sixth. Rossi has finished on the podium of all three oval races this season. Rossi's only finish outside the top ten this season was 22nd in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis after he was hit from behind before taking the green flag.

Simon Pagenaud is third in the championship, 47 points behind his Team Penske teammate Newgarden. Pagenaud has finished ahead of Newgarden in five of 13 races this season with three of those being Pagenaud's victories and the other two being the races where Newgarden did not take the checkered flag. Scott Dixon's victory at Mid-Ohio, combined with Newgarden's misfortune, has Dixon 62 points off the championship lead. Dixon has three consecutive podium finishes and four consecutive top five finishes. Dixon has won at Pocono but the only 500-mile race he has won in his career was the 2008 Indianapolis 500. Dixon's victory in Pocono's return to the IndyCar schedule in 2013 was only a 400-mile race.

Will Power makes it three Team Penske drivers in the top six but Power is 148 points behind Newgarden and he has finished outside the top ten in five of 13 races this season. Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up his second podium finish of the season at Mid-Ohio and he is 171 points off Newgarden. Takuma Sato has fallen into a deep rut with his best finish in the last six races being tenth with an average finish over that span being 16.5. Graham Rahal has himself on 312 points, ten points behind Sato with Rahal entering Pocono with seven consecutive top ten finishes on the trot.

Felix Rosenqvist picked up his first podium finish at Mid-Ohio, finishing less than a tenth of a second behind his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in the third closest finish in a IndyCar road/street course race. Rosenqvist has three top ten finishes over the last four races. James Hinchcliffe rounds out the top ten on 287 points, nine points behind Rosenqvist. Hinchcliffe was 22nd at Mid-Ohio one race altering finishing third at Iowa.

Sébastien Bourdais dropped outside of the top ten after Mid-Ohio and he is 13 points behind Hinchcliffe. Bourdais has not had a top five finish since he finished third at Barber in the third race of the season. Spencer Pigot has climbed up to 12th in the championship after finishes of fifth and seventh in the last two races and he sits nine points behind Bourdais. Santino Ferrucci has not finished in the top ten in the last four races and he has dropped to 13th in the championship on 259 points. After not having a top ten finish in seven consecutive races, Colton Herta has three top ten results in the last four races and he is the last driver mathematically alive for the championship on 245 points, 259 points behind Newgarden.

Winless Drivers
The final quarter of the season is an anxious time for drivers without a victory. Only four races remain and five of the top ten drivers have not taken to the top step of the podium this season. Six of the top ten active drivers with the most victories have not won yet in 2019.

Leading the pack of hungry drivers is Power. Power enters 2019 with 12 consecutive seasons with a victory, the second longest streak in IndyCar history behind Dixon's 15 season streak that he extended last month at Mid-Ohio. This is not the latest Power has gone without having won a race. In 2013, Power's first victory of the season came on August 25th in the 15th race of the season at Sonoma. Power won that race after finishing fourth at Mid-Ohio. Power heads to Pocono off a fourth place finish at Mid-Ohio.

Hunter-Reay won last year's season finale at Sonoma and he is still looking for his first triumph of 2019. Unlike Power, this would be the latest Hunter-Reay's first victory of a season has come. In 2011, he won at Loudon on August 11th, the 13th race of the season and in 2015, he won at Iowa on July 18th in the 13th race of the season. Hunter-Reay has not won on an oval since his Pocono victory in 2015. Hunter-Reay has not finished on the podium at an oval since he was third at Iowa in 2017.

Rahal heads to Pocono off the back of tremendous results and a top ten finish at Pocono would match his personal best streak of consecutive top ten finishes at eight races. However, Pocono has not been kind to Rahal. In six starts at the track, Rahal's best finish is ninth and his average finish is 15.1667. He has completed all 500 miles at Pocono on two of six occasions.

Bourdais has won a race each of the last five seasons but he has never won a 500-mile race and he has not won an oval larger than a mile since the 2005 Champ Car race at Las Vegas. The good news for Bourdais is his Pocono results in recent years have been promising. Last year, he finished fourth after a hard battle with Dixon and prior to that he had a fifth place at Pocono in 2016 driving for KV Racing.

Tony Kanaan heads to Pocono eliminated from the championship battle and he has only scored 199 points from 13 races, leaving him 18th in the championship. Kanaan has not won since Fontana in 2014 but his last two victories have come in 500-mile races. Prior to his Fontana victory Kanaan won the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Kanaan has won 500-mile races at three different tracks. His first career victory in 1999 came at Michigan in a 500-mile race. Kanaan could become the first driver in IndyCar history to win 500-mile races at four different tracks. His last top five finish was a fifth at Pocono in 2017.

IndyCar has not had a new winner since Dixon won his first race of 2019 in the second Belle Isle race.

Penske's Oval Record
There might be a few things in Will Power's favor this weekend and that is Team Penske has been mighty on ovals since 2017. Entering Pocono this weekend, Team Penske has won all three oval races in 2019, four consecutive oval races dating back to last season and 11 of 15 oval races since Newgarden joined the team in 2017.

Newgarden is responsible for Team Penske's last two oval victories but all three Penske drivers have won in the last four oval races. Newgarden and Power have each won four oval races since 2017. Pagenaud's Indianapolis 500 victory in May was the second oval victory of his career with the other being Phoenix in 2017 and Hélio Castroneves won the 2017 Iowa race.

In the last 15 oval races, Team Penske has won eight pole positions, led 2,085 of 3,640 laps or 57.28% of all oval laps run since 2017 and Team Penske has had multiple drivers lead a lap in 12 of the last 15 oval races. In the three oval races in 2019, Team Penske has led 494 of 748 laps or 66.042% of the oval laps contested in 2019.

In those 15 oval races, Team Penske has combined to lead more than 50% of the laps on seven occasions, including combining to lead all 250 laps at Phoenix in 250, 243 of 300 laps at Iowa in 2017, 240 of 248 laps at Gateawy in 2017, 252 of 300 laps at Iowa in 2018, 144 of 200 laps at Indianapolis this year and 296 of 300 laps at Iowa this year. Penske has won six of the seven oval races where it has led 50% of the laps or more with the exception being Iowa last year.

In the four oval races Team Penske has not won since 2017, a Penske car has finished runner-up in three of those and in last year's Iowa race, Josef Newgarden was the top Penske car in fourth. Team Penske has had at least one top five finisher in 18 consecutive oval races with the last oval race not to have a Penske entry in the top five being the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016. Power was the top Team Penske finisher that day and he finished tenth.

Through three oval races in 2019, Pagenaud leads the unofficial oval championship with 174 points and he is only three points clear of Newgarden. Rossi is third on 151 points with Power and Ferrucci tied for fourth on 103 points with the tiebreaker going to Ferrucci. A Penske driver has scored the most points on an oval in five of the last six seasons. However, the last time the driver to score the most oval points in a season won the overall championship was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012.

Penske has won three of the last five Pocono races and it has won ten times at Pocono Raceway, the all-time track record, but its toughest competition this weekend is going to be Andretti Autosport. The two teams have combined to win 11 of the last 13 500-mile races in IndyCar and the two teams have combined to win eight consecutive 500-mile races dating back to Pocono 2015.

500-Mile Race Record
This weekend's Pocono race will be the 175th 500-mile race in IndyCar history and this will be the 25th 500-mile race to take place at Pocono Raceway. The only track to host more 500-mile races is Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Simon Pagenaud became the 97th different driver to win a 500-mile race with his Indianapolis 500 victory in May and he became the fourth Frenchman to win a 500-mile race joining Jules Goux, René Thomas and Gaston Chevrolet. He became the first European driver to win a 500-mile race since Dario Franchitti in the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Pagenaud could become the first driver to win multiple 500-mile races in a single year since Juan Pablo Montoya won at Indianapolis and Michigan in 2000.

Pagenaud could become the eighth driver to win multiple 500-mile races in a year and only the third to be perfect on 500-mile races. Al Unser completed the Triple Crown in 1978 with victories at Indianapolis, Ontario and Pocono and Rick Mears won at Indianapolis and Michigan in 1991.

While Tony Kanaan could make history as the only driver with 500-mile victories at four different circuits, Will Power could join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser and Johnny Rutherford as drivers with five 500-mile race victories. Power is also attempting to win a 500-mile race in his fourth consecutive season. The only other drivers to win a 500-mile race in three consecutive seasons are Bobby Unser, who did it from 1974-76 and 1979-81, and Al Unser, who did it from 1976-78.

Last year, Alexander Rossi led 180 of 200 laps, 450 of 500 miles and he became the ninth driver in IndyCar history to lead at least 450 miles in a race. Rossi was the first driver to lead at least 450 miles in a race since Bobby Unser won the 1980 California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway. It was the first time a driver has led at least 450 miles in a Pocono race. Rossi could become the first driver in IndyCar history to lead 450 miles multiple times in a career.

Chevrolet has won 11 of 17 500-mile races since it returned to IndyCar competition in 2012. Each manufacture has won at least one 500-mile race a season since 2014.

Fast Facts
This will be the 12th IndyCar race to take place on August 18th and first since Cristiano da Matta won at Road America in 2002.

Mario Andretti won at Springfield on August 18, 1969 and Michael Andretti won on August 18, 1996 at Road America.

Seventeen different drivers have won at Pocono including five different drivers in the last six years. Thirteen of those 17 drivers are Americans.

The only European driver to win at Pocono is Teo Fabi, who won the 1983 race.

The most recent IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was the 18th time since reunification where none of the podium finishers started in the top five. Dixon started eighth with Rosenqvist in sixth and Hunter-Reay in tenth. It was the third time none of the podium finishers started in the top five this season but the 2015 season had it occur four times.

The 2013 Pocono race had all three podium finishers start outside the top ten with Dixon winning from 17th, Charlie Kimball finishing second from 12th and Dario Franchitti rounding out the all-Ganassi podium from 20th.

Honda and Chevrolet have split the previous six Pocono races with three victories apiece.

Only twice has the Pocono winner started fifth and those were with Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and Will Power in 2017.

Last year's Pocono race was the fourth fastest 500-mile race in IndyCar history with an average speed of 191.304 MPH. It was the 12th 500-mile race to be completed at an average speed above 180 MPH.

Of those dozen 500-mile races, ten different drivers have claimed victory. The only driver with multiple 500-mile race victories with an average speed above 180 MPH is Tony Kanaan. All three of Kanaan's 500-mile race victories came at average speeds above 180 MPH.

The average starting position for a Pocono winner is 5.24 with a median of three.

The average starting position for a Pocono winner since 2013 is seven with a median of 6.5.

The average number of lead changes in a Pocono race is 19.192 with a median of 16.5.

Last year's race had 11 lead changes and it was the eighth time a Pocono race has had 15 lead changes or fewer.

The average number of cautions in a Pocono race is 6.625 with a median of seven. The average number of caution laps is 37.416 with a median of 34.5.

The average number of cautions in a Pocono race since 2013 is four with a median of 3.5. The average number of caution laps is 23.1667 with a median of 14.5.

If you remove the 2015 Pocono race, which had 12 cautions for 74 laps, the average number of cautions since 2013 is 2.4 with a median of three and an average number of caution laps of 13 with a median of 12 laps.

Possible Milestones:
Will Power is one top five finish away from 100 top five finishes.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is one top ten finish away from 125 top ten finishes.

Josef Newgarden needs to lead 61 laps to reach 500 laps led this season and he would become the ninth driver to lead 500 laps in a season since reunification joining Scott Dixon and Hélio Castroneves in 2008, Dixon and Ryan Briscoe in 2009, Dario Franchitti in 2010, Franchitti and Will Power in 2011 and Power in 2014.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 48 laps to reach the 2,700 laps led milestone.

Josef Newgarden needs to lead 17 laps to reach the 2,000 laps led milestone.

Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead 55 laps to reach the 1,600 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 44 laps to reach the 800 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 53 laps to reach the 700 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 12 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Predictions
Honda dominates per se and Alexander Rossi gets another 500-mile race victory, Colton Herta gets a top five finish and at least one Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car gets a top five finish. A Team Penske car will finish on the podium. There will be at least double the number of lap leaders in this year's race compared to last year's race. Tony Kanaan gets his best starting position of the season and his best finish of the season. Charlie Kimball finishes this race. At least ten cars finish on the lead lap. Sleeper: Spencer Pigot.



Monday, August 12, 2019

Musings From the Weekend: We Should Talk About the W Series

A.J. Allmendinger was not disqualified this weekend. There were a slew of drivers picking up their second victories of 2019 this weekend. MotoGP had another thriller in Austria and once again it came down to the final corner. NASCAR raced in two different states. McLaren is getting in bed with Schmidt Petersen Motorsports and people are still trying to put the pieces together. Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters made a trip to Brands Hatch and that is where we start but the main event is not what is getting the attention. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

We Should Talk About the W Series
A champion was crowned this weekend in the inaugural W Series season and it was Jamie Chadwick who took the title with a fourth place finish at Brands Hatch. Alice Powell won the season finale.

Regardless of whether or not you kept an eye on it, the W Series is a series with developing drivers and this series could lead to future opportunities for many down the road and we need to talk about it. It is a series that is no different then U.S. F2000, Indy Pro 2000, Formula Three, any of the numerous Formula 4 series around the world and more. It is a stepping-stone for drivers hoping for more.

I am going to come out at the start and say this might seem choppy and this is one person working through some thoughts in the moment. I am going to try and be nuanced as much as I can be.

The W Series was met with a fair amount of criticism when it was first announced and during its development and during the driver selection period. There was a split in the reception of the series. There were prominent people for it and prominent people who had reservations about the series, including Pippa Mann, who saw the series as segregation.

Looking at the W Series grid when it was first announced, seven names I had knowledge of: Jamie Chadwick, Beitske Visser, Alice Powell, Vicky Piria, Caitlin Wood, Sabré Cook and Shea Holbrook. A few names that stood out from the 2019 season were Marta García, who was a front-runner on a regular basis, Emma Kimiläinen won at Assen and unfortunately missed two races due to injury and Fabienne Wohlwend won a pole position, finished on the podium and scored points on a regular basis.

Chadwick, Visser and Powell all had respectable results in single-seater racing prior to W Series. Chadwick was a British GT champion before her success in British Formula Three and her MRF Challenge Formula 2000 championship. Visser was apart of the Red Bull development program and competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and had a few GP3 Series starts before shifting to sports cars in 2017 and 2018. Powell won the 2010 Formula Renault BARC championship and made it to GP3 in 2012 but her career had taken a pause for the three years prior to the W Series opportunity.

It was not really a surprise to see Chadwick, Visser and Powell excel in the inaugural W Series season but the results of García, Wohlwend and Kimiläinen suggest that some talent had been overlooked. Wohlwend had not been in single-seaters since 2016 when she ran Italian Formula 4 and since she had been driving in Ferrari Challenge. Kimiläinen had not run single-seaters since Formula Palmer Audi in 2009 and she was out of racing from 2010 to 2013 before returning to competition in Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, where she raced from 2014 to 2016. García had run mostly in Spanish Formula Four prior to W Series and even took a step back to karting for the entirety of 2018.

W Series is a great thing in that it gave women an opportunity to compete. When you look at the Road to Indy, Formula Three and Formula Two and you see between five series a grand total of two women competing that number is disappointingly low especially when we are off the heels of a decade that saw the rise of Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Sarah Fisher, Christina Nielsen, Katherine Legge and Mann all be competitive drivers in top series while winning races and championships. The W Series gave 20 drivers jobs and if you love motorsports you should want race car drivers to get the chance to be race car drivers regardless if they are a man or a woman.

On the other hand, I fear W Series will struggle to get past its greatest detractor, as Mann called it, segregation. By being an all-women series its adds to the sentiment of fans to single out that these are great women drivers, not great race car drivers because they are not competing against male counterparts. There are going to be people who look down on the W Series and all of its champions going forward because none of them are competing against men.

Separating the competition causes a riff when top W Series drivers are mentioned in consideration for greater opportunities. They will be compared with the likes fifth best driver in Formula Three or the ninth best driver in Formula Two and because it is another series where no men are competing in W Series driver will likely not be taken as seriously no matter how successful they are.

Let's put it in different terms for some of you to understand the problem with that: IndyCar fans don't want Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden and the rest of the lot to be disrespected because they are successful in IndyCar and not Formula One and immediately dismissed as not being equals to Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valterri Bottas and Max Verstappen. If you don't want IndyCar's best to be immediately written off as not great drivers because their success is only in IndyCar and not in Formula One or even NASCAR then you should understand this hurdle facing W Series' future.

I am for giving more opportunities in motorsports and I applaud W Series for what it did in its inaugural season. Hopefully we see the likes of Chadwick, Visser, García and Powell get that next opportunity, whether it be on the road to Formula One or IndyCar or possibly the highest levels of sports car racing.

Looking at the Indy Lights grid and seeing only nine cars entered for each race and the series not meeting the minimum criteria for FIA Super License points I have to think the series would benefit from adopting something similar to W Series or possibly even partnering with W Series to get four or five women on the grid.

First off, it would benefit Indy Lights, as it would make it a series where the drivers would be able to score Super License points and secondly, it would give these drivers an opportunity to compete against a higher level of competition but also a chance to standout. Who is to say someone like Chadwick or Visser couldn't enter Indy Lights right now and be a regular competitor for podium finishes and race victories? The current Indy Lights grid is not that deep and I think the likes of Chadwick, Visser, García and Powell would make that field better.

We should want the W Series drivers to move up and we should want other series to embrace these drivers and see the benefits of having them on the grid. Indy Lights needs more drivers and the series should not care if those drivers are men or women. The W Series has great potential to be a springboard for women drivers unlike anything that has existed before.

It could be a place where young drivers get their start and know they will have an opportunity to compete the following year especially if they get results. The top 12 in the W Series will be reserved a spot on the grid for the following season if they choose to take it. No other series in the world can make that guarantee that results will mean your job is safe.

Job security is great but the top drivers each year from the W Series should branch out to the Road to Indy and into the Formula One ladder system and it should be a pipeline where six to eight women a year are moving on and another six to eight drivers come in and it provides a constant flow of opportunity.

The greatest success of the W Series will come down to whether or not we are vigilant that those competitors get opportunities outside of W Series. If in five years none of the champions and race winners have been given serious opportunities whether it be in IndyCar, the Road to Indy, Formula One and its ladder system or sports car series around the globe then not only has the series failed but the entire motorsports world has failed for not recognizing talented drivers that are already competing.

Only time will tell how W Series plants itself in the global motorsports infrastructure but it has the chance to be something wonderful for greater participation in series all around the world.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell but did you know...

Andrea Dovizioso won MotoGP's Austrian Grand Prix after a final corner pass on Marc Márquez. It is Dovizioso's second victory of the season. Brad Binder won the Moto2 race with Álex Márquez finishing second. Romano Fenati won the Moto3 race, his first victory since Misano in 2017. Mike DiMeglio won the MotoE race.

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Cup race from Michigan, his second victory of the season. Austin Cindric won the Grand National Series race from Mid-Ohio, his second consecutive victory. Austin Hill won the Truck race from Michigan, his second victory of the season.

Martin Wittmann and René Rast split the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters races from Brand Hatch and each driver has four victories on the season.

David Gravel won the 59th Knoxville Nationals.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar has a 500-race at Pocono.
NASCAR has a night race at Bristol.
Super Formula has a day race at Twin Ring Motegi.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Let's Look at The League - August 2019

We are in the middle of IndyCar's final summer break and when the series is back in action we will be starting the final quarter of the season. Only five weeks cover the final four races of the season. It is going to flyby fast.

Before we get to the final quarter of the season and get into the serious nature of the championship battle, let's take another look at the fun and fictional sub-championship that could exist in the NTT IndyCar Series.

In March, we introduced the league concept to IndyCar and in June, we went over how the league looked at the halfway point of the season. This third look at the league is at what would be an important time because Pocono would be the final week of the regular season for the top division and the penultimate week for the second division.

We are going to look at this each conference at a time, go over the playoff picture and relegation picture for each, give the week-by-week results and then we will do the same for the second division.

Conference A
#2 Penske 10-3 - y
#9 Ganassi 9-4 - y
#28 Andretti 8-5 - x
#30 RLLR 7-6
#20 ECR 6-7
#18 Coyne 6-7 - e
#15 RLLR 5-8 - e
#26 Andretti 1-12 - r

x - Clinched. y - Clinched Seed. e - Eliminated from Playoff Contention. r - Relegated.

Final Week:
#9 Ganassi vs. #28 Andretti
#2 Penske vs. #26 Andretti
#18 Coyne vs. #20 ECR
#15 RLLR vs. #30 RLLR

The battle will be for the final playoff spot but lets go over the other seeds first.

Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon split their head-to-head match ups, meaning if Dixon wins and Newgarden loses at Pocono, they would have the same record but after head-to-head, the second tiebreaker is overall race victory total and Newgarden has that advantage with four victories to Dixon's two.

Dixon won the first meeting against Ryan Hunter-Reay and they face off this weekend. If Hunter-Reay wins, both drivers are 9-5 but Dixon has two race victories, something Hunter-Reay cannot match, therefore, Dixon is the two-seed.

Hunter-Reay is not safe in the three-seed. He could be tied with Takuma Sato on 8-6 records. The drivers split their head-to-head meetings and Sato has won a race, meaning if Hunter-Reay wins Pocono they would each have a victory, both have finished third on two occasions and Hunter-Reay would get the third-seed with his next best finish being fourth to Sato's seventh.

Sato is not safe, especially if Ed Carpenter finishes ahead of Sébastien Bourdais at Pocono. Regardless of what Bourdais does at Pocono, Sato owns the tiebreaker. Sato and Bourdais split the head-to-head but even if Bourdais wins at Pocono, Sato has finished third on two occasions and Bourdais has only finished third on one occasion.

However, the #20 ECR entry is 2-0 against the #30 RLLR entry. Ed Jones bested Sato at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Carpenter bested Sato at Iowa, by one position 19th to 20th. If Sato loses to his teammate Graham Rahal and Carpenter bests Bourdais, the #20 ECR entry gets the fourth spot.

Sadly, the relegation battle was decided at Toronto. Zach Veach didn't get a head-to-head victory until Iowa and sadly, he is playing for bragging rights at Pocono.

Results:
Week 1:
#9 Ganassi vs. #26 Andretti (2 to 14)
#28 Andretti vs. #30 RLLR (23 to 19)
#2 Penske vs. #20 Carpenter (1 to 21)
#18 Coyne vs. #15 RLLR (12 to 24)


Week 2:
#9 Ganassi vs. #30 RLLR (7 to 13)
#28 Andretti vs. #20 ECR (3 to 14)
#2 Penske vs. #15 Rahal (2 to 4)
#18 Coyne vs. #26 Andretti (5 to 22)

Week 3:
#9 Ganassi vs. #20 ECR (2 to 19)
#28 Andretti vs. #15 RLLR (8 to 23)
#2 Penske vs. #18 Coyne (4 to 3)
#30 RLLR vs. #26 Andretti (1 to 12)

Week 4:
#9 Ganassi vs. #15 RLLR (3 to 4)
#28 Andretti vs. #18 Coyne (5 to 11)
#2 Penske vs. #30 RLLR (2 to 8)
#20 ECR vs. #26 Andretti (16 to 17)

Week 5:
#9 Ganassi vs. #18 Coyne (2 to 11)
#28 Andretti vs. #2 Penske (17 to 15)
#15 RLLR vs. #26 Andretti (9 to 12)
#20 ECR vs. #30 RLLR (6 to 14)

Week 6:
#9 Ganassi vs. #2 Penske (17 to 4)
#28 Andretti vs. #26 Andretti (8 to 29)
#18 Coyne vs. #30 RLLR (30 to 3)
#15 RLLR vs. #20 ECR (27 to 6)

Week 7:
#9 Ganassi vs. #28 Andretti (22 to 5)
#2 Penske vs. #26 Andretti (1 to 8)
#18 Coyne vs. #20 ECR (11 to 20)
#15 RLLR vs. #30 RLLR (7 to 3)

Week 8:
#9 Ganassi vs. #26 Andretti (1 to 8)
#28 Andretti vs. #30 RLLR (4 to 13)
#2 Penske vs. #20 ECR (19 to 14)
#18 Coyne vs. #15 RLLR (9 to 7)

Week 9:
#9 Ganassi vs. #30 RLLR (17 to 15)
#28 Andretti vs. #20 ECR (5 to 13)
#2 Penske vs. #15 Rahal (1 to 3)
#18 Coyne vs. #26 Andretti (8 to 20)

Week 10:
#9 Ganassi vs. #20 ECR (2 to 22)
#28 Andretti vs. #15 RLLR (11 to 4)
#2 Penske vs. #18 Coyne (3 to 12)
#30 RLLR vs. #26 Andretti (10 to 18)

Week 11:
#9 Ganassi vs. #15 RLLR (2 to 9)
#28 Andretti vs. #18 Coyne (16 to 8)
#2 Penske vs. #30 RLLR (4 to 22)
#20 ECR vs. #26 Andretti (12 to 13)

Week 12:
#9 Ganassi vs. #18 Coyne (2 to 9)
#28 Andretti vs. #2 Penske (17 to 1)
#15 RLLR vs. #26 Andretti (8 to 7)
#20 ECR vs. #30 RLLR (19 to 20)

Week 13:
#9 Ganassi vs. #2 Penske (1 to 14)
#28 Andretti vs. #26 Andretti (3 to 21)
#18 Coyne vs. #30 RLLR (11 to 19)
#15 RLLR vs. #20 ECR (9 to 13)

Conference B
#27 Andretti 12-1 - y
#22 Penske 9-4 - x
#12 Penske 9-4 - x
#5 SPM 7-6 - y
#10 Ganassi 5-8 - e
#7 SPM 4-9 - e
#21 ECR 3-10 - z
#98 Andretti 3-10 - z

- Clinched. - Clinched Seed. e - Eliminated from Playoff contention, safe from relegation. z - Eliminated from Playoff contention, not safe from relegation.

Final Week:
Week 14
#27 Andretti vs. #12 Penske
#22 Penske vs. #21 ECR
#7 SPM vs. #5 SPM
#98 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi

This is sealed up but the relegation battle is intriguing. Rossi has locked up the top spot. His only loss was the Indianapolis 500, where he finished second overall to the guy who beat him head-to-head, Simon Pagenaud. 

Simon Pagenaud owns the tiebreaker 2-0 over Will Power with his Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory and he won the head-to-head match up at Iowa. All Pagenaud has to do is defeat Spencer Pigot and he will be the two-seed in conference B regardless of what Power does. If Pagenaud does not defeat Pigot and Power defeats Rossi then Power will be the two-seed and Pagenaud will drop to the third seed. 

James Hinchcliffe is the fourth seed. He can't move up to third, he can't get knocked down to fifth. Hinchcliffe will face Newgarden in the first round of the playoffs. 

All focus should be on the relegation battle. Marco Andretti won the first two weeks, he lost the next ten and he staved off relegation at Mid-Ohio when he defeated Hinchcliffe. The bad news is Pigot is 2-0 against Andretti head-to-head. Andretti has to defeat Felix Rosenqvist at Pocono and Andretti needs Simon Pagenaud defeat Spencer Pigot. That is the only way Andretti can stay up.

There is a chance Andretti could be 4-10, Pigot could be 4-10 and Marcus Ericsson could be 4-10. In that case, it would come down to a head-to-head amongst the three. Andretti split with Ericsson and lost both times to Pigot, so he would be 1-3, Pigot was 2-0 against Andretti and split with Ericsson so he would be 3-1 and Ericsson would be 1-1 against Andretti and 1-1 against Pigot so he would be 2-2 and Andretti would be relegated.

Results:
Week 1:
#27 Andretti vs. #21 ECR (5 to 11)
#12 Penske vs. #10 Ganassi (3 to 4)
#22 Penske vs. #5 SPM (6 to 7)
#7 SPM vs. #98 Andretti (13 to 20)

Week 2:
#27 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (9 to 23)
#12 Penske vs. #5 SPM (24 to 16)
#22 Penske vs. #98 Andretti (19 to 6)
#7 SPM vs. #21 ECR (11 to 15)

Week 3:
#27 Andretti vs. #5 SPM (5 to 6)
#12 Penske vs. #98 Andretti (11 to 14)
#22 Penske vs. #7 SPM (9 to 7)
#10 Ganassi vs. #21 ECR (10 to 18)

Week 4:
#27 Andretti vs. #98 Andretti (1 to 13)
#12 Penske vs. #7 SPM (7 to 20)
#22 Penske vs. #10 Ganassi (6 to 10)
#5 SPM vs. #21 ECR (9 to 18)

Week 5:
#27 Andretti vs. #7 SPM (22 to 24)
#12 Penske vs. #22 Penske (7 to 1)
#98 Andretti vs. #21 ECR (5 to 13)
#5 SPM vs. #10 CGR (8 to 16)

Week 6:
#27 Andretti vs. #22 Penske (2 to 1)
#12 Penske vs. #21 ECR (5 to 14)
#7 SPM vs. #10 CGR (13 to 28)
#98 Andretti vs. #5 SPM (26 to 11)

Week 7:
#27 Andretti vs. #12 Penske (2 to 18)
#22 Penske vs. #21 ECR (6 to 10)
#7 SPM vs. #5 SPM (9 to 13)
#98 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (4 to 16)

Week 8:
#27 Andretti vs. #21 ECR (5 to 21)
#12 Penske vs. #10 Ganassi (3 to 16)
#22 Penske vs. #5 SPM (17 to 18)
#7 SPM vs. #98 Andretti (2 to 6)

Week 9:
#27 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (2 to 12)
#12 Penske vs. #5 SPM (9 to 19)
#22 Penske vs. #98 Andretti (6 to 10)
#7 SPM vs. #21 ECR (7 to 14)

Week 10:
#27 Andretti vs. #5 SPM (1 to 7)
#12 Penske vs. #98 Andretti (2 to 23)
#22 Penske vs. #7 SPM (9 to 13)
#10 Ganassi vs. #21 ECR (6 to 14)

Week 11:
#27 Andretti vs. #98 Andretti (3 to 10)
#12 Penske vs. #7 SPM (18 to 20)
#22 Penske vs. #10 Ganassi (1 to 5)
#5 SPM vs. #21 ECR (6 to 15)

Week 12:
#27 Andretti vs. #7 SPM (6 to 11)
#12 Penske vs. #22 Penske (4 to 15)
#98 Andretti vs. #21 ECR (5 to 21)
#5 SPM vs. #10 CGR (3 to 14)

Week 13:
#27 Andretti vs. #22 Penske (5 to 6)
#12 Penske vs. #21 ECR (4 to 7)
#7 SPM vs. #10 CGR (23 to 2)
#98 Andretti vs. #5 SPM (15 to 22)

League Two
#19 Coyne 8-5
#88 HSR 8-5
#14 Foyt 7-6
#59 Carlin 7-6
#4 Foyt 5-8 - e
#23/#31 Carlin 4-9 - e

p - Promoted. e - Eliminated from Promotion

Week 14:
#14 Foyt vs. #23 Carlin
#4 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne
#88 HSR vs. #59 Carlin

Week 15
#14 Foyt vs. #4 Foyt
#23 Carlin vs. #59 Carlin
#88 HSR vs. #19 Coyne

League Two does not have a playoff and the best two after a 15-week round robin will move up.

It is a four-horse race and it is up for any of those four. Colton Herta faces two entries still battling for the two promotion spots in the final two weeks, the unknown #59 Carlin at Pocono and Santino Ferrucci at Gateway. Both Ferrucci and Herta could be safe after Pocono. If both drivers win and Tony Kanaan does not beat Charlie Kimball at Pocono then it is over and the final week will be for pride. Ferrucci has Matheus Leist at Pocono.

Foyt is fortunate because it has Kanaan against Leist in the final week and if this league existed and if it mattered, hello manipulation. The team could make sure Kanaan gets promoted. Can you say start-and-park for Leist? The same is true for the two Carlin entries. That would be fun to watch.

What is the root for chaos scenario?

Here are the head-to-head records and these will be important:
#19 Coyne vs. #88 HSR (1-1, meet week 15)
#19 Coyne vs. #14 Foyt (3-0 #14 Foyt)
#19 Coyne vs. #59 Carlin (3-0 #19 Coyne)
#88 HSR vs. #14 Foyt (2-1 HSR)
#88 HSR vs. #59 Carlin (2-0 #59 Carlin, meet week 14)
#14 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (3-0 #14 Foyt)

Ferrucci wins at Pocono, Herta loses at Pocono, Kanaan and the #59 Carlin win at Pocono.

Ferrucci enters at 9-5, Herta at 8-6, Kanaan at 8-6 and the #59 Carlin at 8-6.

Herta defeats Ferrucci at Gateway, Kanaan wins at Gateway and the #59 Carlin wins at Gateway and all four drivers would be 9-6.

What would happen? The results against the #4 Foyt entry and the #23/#31 Carlin entry would be dropped and it would come down to a four-team table.

#14 Foyt 7-2
#88 HSR 4-5
#19 Coyne 4-5
#59 Carlin 3-6

The #14 Foyt would be promoted and then the #88 HSR vs. #19 Coyne tiebreaker would go to head-to-head, which would be in favor of the #88 HSR entry.

What about just a three-way tiebreaker?

Herta and Ferrucci both lose at Pocono and Kanaan and the #59 Carlin entry both win. All four entries would be 8-6 entering the final week.

Week 15 could be go-or-go-home for Ferrucci and Herta. Regardless, one of those two will be 9-6 if there is a four-way tie. If both the #14 Foyt and #59 Carlin win and make it a three-way tie at 9-6, the #14 Foyt would advance and the #19 Coyne would advance.

If Herta is the 9-6 driver in a three-way tie, the #14 Foyt advance with a record of 4-2 head-to-head and it would come down to what happens at Pocono. If the #59 Carlin wins at Pocono and the #59 Carlin entry is in a three-way tie with the #88 HSR entry and the #14 Foyt entry, the #59 Carlin would get the second promotion spot with a record of 3-3 head-to-head to the #88 HSR's head-to-head record of 2-4.

A lot of hypotheticals have been laid out and there are more but we do not have the time to explore. Let's just wait and see how it actually plays out.

Results:
Week 1:
#14 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (15 to 16)
#23 Carlin vs. #19 Coyne (9 to 17)
#4 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (22 to 8)

Week 2:
#14 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne (12 to 20)
#23 Carlin vs. #88 HSR (8 to 1)
#4 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (17 to 21)

Week 3:
#14 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (18 to 24)
#23 Carlin vs. #4 Foyt (16 to 20)
#19 Coyne vs. #59 Carlin (15 to 22)

Week 4:
#14 Foyt vs. #23 Carlin (19 to 12)
#4 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne (15 to 21)
#88 HSR vs. #59 Carlin (14 to 23)

Week 5:
#14 Foyt vs. #4 Foyt (4 to 20)
#23 Carlin vs. #59 Carlin (19 to 18)
#88 HSR vs. #19 Coyne (23 to 10)

Week 6:
#14 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (9 to DNQ)
#23 Carlin vs. #19 Coyne (7 to 25)
#4 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (15 to 33)

Week 7:
#14 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne (15 to 19)
#23 Carlin vs. #88 HSR (14 to 12)
#4 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (21 to 17)

Week 8:
#14 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (22 to 12)
#23 Carlin vs. #4 Foyt (11 to 20)
#19 Coyne vs. #59 Carlin (10 to 15)

Week 9:
#14 Foyt vs. #23 Carlin (16 to 21)
#4 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne (22 to 4)
#88 HSR vs. #59 Carlin (18 to 11)

Week 10:
#14 Foyt vs. #4 Foyt (21 to 20)
#23 Carlin vs. #59 Carlin (17 to 16)
#88 HSR vs. #19 Coyne (8 to 19)

Week 11:
#14 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (17 to 14)
#23 Carlin vs. #19 Coyne (21 to 11)
#4 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (19 to 7)

Week 12:
#14 Foyt vs. #19 Coyne (10 to 12)
#23 Carlin vs. #88 HSR (22 to 18)
#4 Foyt vs. #59 Carlin (16 to 13)

Week 13:
#14 Foyt vs. #88 HSR (8 to 20) 
#23 Carlin vs. #4 Foyt (17 to 18)
#19 Coyne vs. #59 Carlin (12 to 16)