Sunday, May 24, 2015

99th Indianapolis 500: First Impressions

1. That was a beautiful race as Juan Pablo Montoya won his second Indianapolis 500. He led only nine laps and had to back a comeback, twice. First, after Simona de Silvestro tapped his rear-wheel guard, causing damage. The second after running over his air hose when he slid through his pit stall. Montoya is the greatest driver of his generation. He is greater than Michael Schumacher. He is greater than Sebastian Bourdais. He is greater than Jimmie Johnson. He is greater than Lewis Hamilton. If his name was Jack Moore and from South Carolina, the mainstream media would mention him with A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti daily. He has won two Indianapolis 500s, seven Formula One Grands Prix including wins at Monaco and Monza, he won in NASCAR, he has won the 24 Hours of Daytona three times and he has an IndyCar title and is in prime position for a second. What driver in the last 25 years has had that type of success across as many disciplines? Nobody. He is our generations Foyt. He is our generations Andretti. Folks, we are witnessing something special and we don't know when it will ever happen again.

2. Will Power had a good day but came home second. It has to suck for him. Defending champion and that Indianapolis 500 victory is the last thing he needs on his résumé. As long as he keeps winning races for Penske he will have many more opportunities to win at Indianapolis.

3. The top Ganassi car was Charlie Kimball. He had a pit stop go his way. He came in, the caution came out as his teammate Tony Kanaan hit the wall and he exited the pit lane just ahead of the leaders after running at the back end of the top ten most of the race up to that point. This was a good day for him. We know he is competent but he isn't Power, he isn't Montoya, he isn't someone who dominates but he can hold his own.

4. Scott Dixon really looked in position for his second victory. He dominated the first half, trading the lead with Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud. He was rarely outside the top five. In fact, outside of during pit cycles, Dixon was in the top five all day. I think Power is the only other driver who can say that.

5. Graham Rahal finished fifth in what was another tough day for Honda. It was Penske and Ganassi domination. Honda has to be frustrated. They weren't a factor all day and now they head to Chevrolet's backyard with only one victory to Chevrolet's five. Rahal has been the top Honda driver, which is surprising considering Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was the worst team last year. Rahal could win a race this year but he will either need Honda making a great leap or catch Chevrolet sleeping.

6. Marco Andretti finished sixth. Another year, another top ten in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti. Ten starts and six top tens with three consecutive top tens. He's only 28 and has a lot of time to get that elusive Indianapolis 500 victory for his family.

7. Hélio Castroneves faded late. At one point he fell all the way to 13th but made a late charge to 7th. He was up in the top five for the first 165 laps but perhaps made the wrong adjustment on the final restart and it cost him.

8. Another year and another result J.R. Hildebrand can super-glue to John Barnes' front door. Eighth after finish tenth last year. If only Hildebrand can get a break and a full-time ride. He had a good race on the IMS road course before a mechanical failure. He is only 27. Plenty of time left for him.

9. Josef Newgarden quietly finished ninth despite starting ninth. He went up and down a few times but made a late charge and made it five Americans in the top ten. That's not bad. Sure, it would have been nice to see an American win but five of the top ten isn't that bad.

10. Simon Pagenaud nearly ran over Justin Wilson, lost a lot of time, fell to 21st and came back to finish 10th all in the final 30 laps. He led the second-most laps today behind only Scott Dixon. If it wasn't for nearly running over Wilson, Pagenaud might have been in contention for the victory.

11. Sébastien Bourdais finished 11th. He, like Newgarden, went from the back half of the top ten to just outside the top 20 at one point but recovered and got a solid finish.

12. Hats off to Ryan Briscoe finishing 12th on short notice and overcoming being run into by James Davison in turn one, lap one, causing him to spin and stall and nearly falling one lap down. How he doesn't have a full-time ride is beyond me. Will he be the replacement until James Hinchcliffe returns? He has the Le Mans test day next week as IndyCar goes to Belle Isle for a doubleheader. He is free for Texas and has to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans the weekend IndyCar goes to Toronto. Maybe he get a few more starts this season but we will have to wait and see. He surely deserves a full-time ride.

13. Takuma Sato finished 13th but if IndyCar is consistent he will take only 9 points from this race. He made a bonehead move in turn one, lap one and it ended Sage Karam's day. Sato went three laps down but ended up on the lead lap. He gets 34 points for finishing 13th since this race was worth double points while Karam gets only 10. At NOLA, Ryan Hunter-Reay took out Simon Pagenaud and he was deducted three points so he scored one point fewer than the Frenchman. Castroneves took out Dixon in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Brazilian deducted nine points so he had one fewer than Dixon. If IndyCar is consistent, Sato should have a 25-point deduction waiting for him.

14. Good day for Townsend Bell finishing in 14th. I am sure he wanted better. He was in the top ten at one point. Today was just a good outing for him and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. We need Bell to run a few more IndyCar races each year and we need Dreyer & Reinbold back as a full-time team.

15. Ryan Hunter-Reay wasn't a factor all day but he tried to go off strategy to get him into contention but it didn't pan out. It's been a frustrating season for him so far. Fifteenth at Indianapolis isn't great but it's not terrible. He just needs to put it behind him.

16. The top-rookie finisher was Gabby Chaves in 16th. He will likely win Rookie of the Year honors and he had a good month in general. At one point he was in the top ten!

17. Alex Tagliani nearly didn't make the start as he struggled to get the car fired. It did and he did lead a few laps after Kanaan's accident because of the pit cycle. Second consecutive year for him leading laps in the Indianapolis 500.

18. James Jakes quietly finished 18th and other than when she got into Montoya's rear, Simona de Silvestro had a quiet race and finished 19th.

20. Carlos Muñoz finished 20th. When the leaders made their final stops with just under 30 to go, Muñoz stayed out and lead a few laps and those were the first laps led by an Andretti Autosport car this season. Justin Wilson also stayed out and he led at least one lap as well. Both ended up pitting with two to go. They each must have done close to 40 laps on their final stints. Yes they had cautions play into their favor but they nearly made it and both nearly had top ten finishes. Muñoz was the final car on the lead lap while Wilson came home in 21st.

21. Pippa Mann finished three laps down in 22nd but it was a rough day for Dale Coyne Racing. James Davison charged into the top 20 early in the race but he was released too soon from a pit stop, made contact with Mann, which send Davison into a few of Coyne's third driver, Tristan Vautier's pit crew. Two crew members were one. One was checked and released; the other had to go to the hospital. Truly unfortunate for that team. Davison and Vautier finished 27th and 28th respectively, both retiring after the pit lane incident.

22. Sebastián Saavedra, Jack Hawksworth and Stefano Coletti all got together late in the race as the field checked up in turn four, causing Hawksworth into the back of Saavedra, spinning the Colombian into the path of Coletti and the Monegasque driver just had nowhere to go. Saavedra has a left foot contusion and will need to be cleared before getting back into the car.

23. Tony Kanaan finished 26th after his accident. He had a really good car but got caught out on cold tires after a pit stop. Last year it was Dixon who had an accident while in contention. This year it was Kanaan. He will be back.

24. Oriol Servià and Ed Carpenter took each other out in turn one. Both were just outside the top ten for the 112 laps they were in the race. All three CFH cars went up and down like a yo-yo and when Carpenter got into Servià he had just fallen to about 15th after being in the top ten. Both are good drivers and it's a shame they didn't get to see this race to the finish.

25. Bryan Clauson had an accident end his day. He was the slowest qualifier and he just needs more seat time. It was nice seeing the Jonathan Byrd name back in the Indianapolis 500 but if they want Clauson to be their driver and be in the race, they are going to need to get him more seat time because next year there might be 35 or 36 cars entered and it won't just take beating Buddy Lazier to make the race.

26. Sage Karam. He has to be angry seeing Sato finish 13th while he second Indianapolis 500 end after one corner. Seeing how all the Ganassi cars raced, it would have been interesting to see if he could have worked his way to the front. He needs a break. He is only 20. He has a lot of career ahead of him. Ganassi just needs to be patient.

27. Then there was Conor Daly. He had a fuel cell leak end his race before he could even take the green flag. He spent a year putting this deal together with Smithfield's and they didn't even get to see their car take the green flag. How can Daly and Schmidt Peterson defend that? Shit happens but that doesn't mean sponsors will stick around. Daly has been working so hard to break into a professional series full-time and it has yet to come. If Briscoe isn't able to race at Belle Isle due to the Le Mans test day, Daly might get to drive the #5 for a handful of races but that isn't guaranteed as Daly isn't the only driver on the outside who should be full-time. Not only is Daly fighting with Briscoe for the #5 but also Wilson, Servià, Tagliani and who knows whom else.

28. I thought Straight No Chaser did really well with "(Back Home Again In) Indiana." We had a weird moment with the command to start with Mari Hulman George. She is getting up there is age. Does she decide to step down from doing it or does she do it until her final day? And who succeeds her? One of her daughters? Tony George? We can worry about that later.

29. I liked how after the finish the ABC booth let the moment breathe. They let the natural sound of the scene take over. Allen Bestwick let it breathe. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear didn't add a stupid comment. It was nice. To be honest, this wasn't a bad race for the ABC booth. Was much better than the Grand Prix of Indianapolis but they are streaky. Next week will likely be a step back. Pit road guys did great. ABC has the right trio in Jon Beekhuis, Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl.

30. On another note, ABC has to update their graphics. Look at their side-by-side compared to NBC's side-by-side for Formula One and IndyCar. ABC wastes space while NBC makes the most of it. The ABC graphics haven't been updated since at least 2008. With the 100th Indianapolis 500 up next, it would be nice if the graphic were improved for next year.

31. I thought the racing was great. Surprised there were 38 lead changes. I thought we would see around 25 lead changes today but we got more than that. Passes didn't appear to be as easy as previous years but they could still be made. I don't think IndyCar should revert to the 2014 aero package for the remaining ovals this year. They should stick with the 2015 aero package. It was actually pretty good today.

32. I want to end by saying thank you to everyone for a great month of May. To all the drivers and team owners. To IndyCar brass and Indianapolis Motor Speedway brass. I am going to single out IMS president Doug Boles because he just seems like a cool guy who loves motorsports and cares about the fans. IndyCar needs more people like Doug Boles. To Kevin Lee, Curt Cavin and Donald Davidson for spending each night in the background. To Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett for keeping everyone updated on Racer.com. To everyone who had discussions with on Twitter about everything under the blue moon about IndyCar and other forms of motorsports. Just thank you to you all and I look forward to the rest of this season.

33. 371 days until the 100th Indianapolis 500.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ranking Potential 99th Indianapolis 500 Winners

No matter who wins the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar still has a long way to go in growing common knowledge about the series. IndyCar won't have their "messiah moment" this weekend but there are drivers who if they win would be a greater baby step forward in getting IndyCar into the public eye and then there are drivers who if they win will just go over everyone's head.

This ranking does not list drivers from who I think are least likely to win the Indianapolis 500 to the most likely to win. This ranking looks at whom I believe would be the best Indianapolis 500 winner for IndyCar and the driver who would be the 33rd best Indianapolis 500 winner for IndyCar. We will start with 33 and work our way to the best.

Just to get this out of the way, feel free to disagree. There might be a driver I think would be good for IndyCar that you might think might not be as good and vice versa. There are no right answers.

33. Sebastián Saavedra
Saavedra is not a full-time driver and his best career finish entering this year's race is ninth. He's young but after this race he isn't scheduled to appear again until the season finale at Sonoma. Saavedra winning would be an upset but not the type that would get people's attention.

32. James Jakes
Jakes is a full-time driver but outside a second at Belle Isle and a third in the abomination at NOLA this year, he's never been a contender. He has six top tens in 55 starts. Once again, Jakes winning would be an upset but not the type that would get people's attention.

31. Tristan Vautier
This could be the final IndyCar race of Tristan Vautier's career. Granted he could be in the #18 at Belle Isle but he is on a race-by-race basis. He isn't full-time and the only reason he isn't last is because of the last-minute substitution narrative. Vautier winning would be an upset and might get a little attention but will be quickly pushed to the side.

30. James Davison
With all the movement at Dale Coyne Racing in the last month explaining the story to an average person would sound like Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" Davison is a talented driver and he pace just shows how much better Dale Coyne Racing can be if he hired real drivers. However, because he is just signed for Indianapolis, it would not be good if people tuned into Belle Isle only to fine out he isn't there. He actually will be at Belle Isle but in Pirelli World Challenge, not IndyCar.

29. Stefano Coletti
Coletti is a talented young driver; a winner in GP2 but the general public doesn't have a damn clue about junior formula series. This isn't like baseball, basketball, hockey or soccer where prospects are closely followed from when they are teenagers. The diehard motorsports follower might be happy to see him win but to the infrequent observer, it would stick as much.

28. Alex Tagliani
This could be the final IndyCar race of Alex Tagliani's career. He won one race in 2004 and won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole position, other than that, he has had an average career. This would be an upset and because he is Canadian, he might get a little more attention. Plus he and his wife just welcomed their baby daughter into the world and everyone loves babies. And he drives for A.J. Foyt, another positive.

27. Oriol Servià
Servià might be the most underrated driver in the last twenty years in IndyCar but that doesn't mean the general public will get that. While he has a pretty good track record at Indianapolis, he is just a one-off and won't be at Belle Isle and it would not be good if people tuned into Belle Isle only to fine out he isn't there.

26. Gabby Chaves
Positive: Young, full-time driver who could be in IndyCar for a while. Negative: Young, full-time driver who hasn't been around for a while. Chaves could develop and have a nice IndyCar career but right now he is an unknown and I am not sure he is an unknown people want to get to know.

25. Bryan Clauson
Clauson is the longest of long shots but his nationality helps him. An American short-tracker, cutting his teeth on dirt tracks in small towns across the country and making driving a race car into a career. Plus, he is a local boy. A Hoosier hasn't won since Wilbur Shaw in 1940. That would be a nice story but the negative is Clauson probably won't be in an IndyCar again until Indianapolis next year.

24. Jack Hawksworth
Hawksworth is kind of like Chaves. Young, full-time driver who could have a nice career but the problem is he hasn't been around long enough. He is talented but will people latch on to him? Drives for A.J. Foyt, which is a positive.

23. Takuma Sato
Sato is probably known by the average motorsports fan around the world and his one blip of glory in the United States is his failed attempt to take the lead on the final lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500. It would be a popular win for the folks back at Honda's headquarters and he drives for A.J. Foyt. The drawback is he someone the average viewer will be find relatable?

22. Carlos Muñoz
Muñoz is a talented driver and has finished second and fourth in his two previous 500 starts. He is fast but like Sato, is he someone people can relate to? To the full-time IndyCar follower, Muñoz winning makes sense but to the average viewer, Muñoz winning would probably just go over there heads.

21. Sébastien Bourdais
Four-time champion but he has one win since returning to IndyCar in 2011. Like Muñoz, a full-time IndyCar follower would understand Bourdais winning but the average person wouldn't. The other negative is if only his car owner was Paul Newman, then that would definitely get some coverage but Paul is gone as is Newman-Haas.

20. Justin Wilson
Starting sixth but only a one-off. Wilson is a very good driver but was shafted out of a full-time ride. He might be at Belle Isle as a substitute but that isn't a guarantee and he falls into that boat all the other one-offs are in. The Rolling Stones livery might catch people's attention but for how long? After all, like Wilson, that livery is a one-off.

19. Townsend Bell
We all love Bell as he tells it like it is but this is it for him in terms of driving an IndyCar. He will be at Belle Isle but in the IMSA race. He will be at most of the remaining IndyCar races but as a broadcaster. Being a broadcaster might be a minor positive as at least people will get to hear his voice and see his face but I am sure people would be tuning in to see him race, not talk.

18. Conor Daly
Daly benefits from being a local boy. Daly winning would be a very popular victory and it would have to put him in the catbird seat to be substitute for James Hinchcliffe at Belle Isle and would probably get him the full-time ride he has been waiting for. Plus, he knows how to use social media and that is something that the younger generation can relate to. The negative is he isn't guaranteed to be at Belle Isle and he probably won't be in a car again this year if he doesn't win.

17. Charlie Kimball
Kimball is a quiet guy. He isn't flashy. He isn't seeking attention but when people want to talk to him, he is friendly and engaging. If anything, he is the IndyCar driver who should be out there more talking to the media. A positive for him is he drives for Ganassi and that might lock Kimball down in a respectable ride for sometime to come.

16. J.R. Hildebrand
This is the redemption story we want to see. Four years after having an Indianapolis 500 victory within his grasp only to slide across the line in second with his right side tires gone, Hildebrand winning would make that memory go away. It would be the comeback story we would all love to see. The negative is he isn't full-time and while CFH Racing might be able to get him in more races, can they get him entered for the rest of the season? 

15. Simon Pagenaud
Pagenaud is undeniably talented and could be a championship in the next few years, especially since he is driving for Penske. If wins this year's 500, it could be the domino to set off an amazing career. If he wins at Indianapolis he could go on to win three or four more races this year and people love winners. At only 31, Pagenaud could be around for the next decade and someone the average person can come to know.

14. Tony Kanaan
Kanaan is a fan favorite and he tells it like it is. He is just one of the good guys. He just won and two Indianapolis 500 victories in three years would get people's attention. People love to be front-runners. They want to tune in and pull for the favorite and if Kanaan wins this year, here is their front-runner to pull for. The negative is Kanaan is 40 going on 41. How many more years will he be around? And if he is gone after two or three years, will those people find another driver to latch onto or move on to something else?

13. Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya is the greatest driver of this generation. He already has an Indianapolis 500 victory, he has an IndyCar championship, he has won in Formula One and he has won in NASCAR. Another 500 victory would just add to his legacy. Plus, he has some Verizon sponsorship on his car and while he isn't their #1 driver, if he wins Verizon has to celebrate the fact that they were on his car. The negative is I think Montoya will retire at any moment. He leads the championship and if he wins another Indianapolis 500, he would be in prime position to win another title. If he were to do that, what else would he have to prove? He is turning 40 this September and he might decide that this is it.

12. Ed Carpenter
Local boy. Kind of. He was born in Illinois but he has lived in Indiana most of his and is a Butler University graduate. He has been a staple in IndyCar for over a decade, which is hard to believe but it's true. He only races on ovals, which is a negative because he only races six times all year and wouldn't be racing at Belle Isle but he would be there as a car owner and at least he would be at every race.

11. Ryan Briscoe
Like Vautier, this is the underdog, who has the last-minute substitution narrative on his side. He is the driver who wasn't suppose to be there who now has a shot at history. The other positive is his wife Nicole works at ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor. If he wins, he will get attention. He has an in and has a hell of a story to tell. And Schmidt Peterson would have no choice but to have Briscoe be the substitute for Hinchcliffe until the Canadian is ready to return.

10. Hélio Castroneves
You are probably surprised that a potential fourth Indianapolis 500 victory for Castroneves is so low. Well, people love history and it would get people's attention but will a fourth 500 be the thing to finally get people to stop pronouncing his name "Hee-lio?" If the first three didn't do that than what makes you think a fourth will? Another negative is he is 40. How long will he be around? We all know that if he gets fourth he will want to a fifth but at what point would he settle with four?

9 and 8. Pippa Mann and Simona de Silvestro respectively
You cannot deny that the first women to win the Indianapolis 500 as a driver would be a massive story, especially if it isn't Danica Patrick. Mann and de Silvestro would go down in sports history. Neither are full-time drivers but what sponsor would say no to them if they were to win the Indianapolis 500? It would have people talking. Mann benefits from having a great cause in the Susan G. Komen on the car. I put de Silvestro ahead of Mann because de Silvestro has been a competitive driver while Mann has never been close to a full-time ride.

7. Josef Newgarden
Newgarden just won at Barber, he has a bigger sponsor on the car in Century 21, he has Sarah Fisher as a co-owner, he is young and he is an American. What else could you ask for? Granted, Century 21 will probably be gone after Indianapolis even if he wins but that would open the door for someone to bounce on the young driver and make him there own.

6. Sage Karam
Should Karam win, he would become the youngest Indianapolis 500 winner. IndyCar wants younger fans? Nothing would be better than the youngest driver winning the biggest race. Karam is someone the fans can grow up with. As they go through different stages in their life, they could have the one constant of watching Sage Karam race. He is active on social media; he is driving for one of the best teams, like Newgarden, what else could you ask for?

5. Scott Dixon
People love winners and here is the active leader in IndyCar victories who already has three titles and he is starting from pole position. Dixon has been around for over a decade but he only 34! He will be around for at least another five or six years and he could make an assault on the all-time IndyCar win list. He probably won't catch A.J. Foyt's 67 victories but he sits on 36 victories. Al Unser will be caught, as Dixon is three back of him. Michael Andretti sit son 42 and he might be caught toward the end of 2016 or early 2017. Next would be Mario Andretti. Could Dixon end his career second all-time in IndyCar victories? Perhaps new fans would want to tag along just to fine out.

4. Marco Andretti
It's all in the last name. Andretti. Andretti winning. It would turn heads. It would feel like a rite of passage, a passing of the baton. Perhaps this opens the floodgates for Andretti. Perhaps getting the Indianapolis monkey off his back will see him become a championship contender and winning on a regular basis. That isn't a guarantee but you can't pass up an Andretti winning at Indianapolis.

3. Will Power
Power is the defending champion, driving for the most successful team in IndyCar history and just happens to be sponsored by the series sponsor. If he wins, Verizon will get him attention. People love winners and at 34, he could also make an assault on the all-time IndyCar win list. He has 11 victories fewer that Dixon but who is to say he won't end with his name mingled in with the Unsers and Andrettis? And like Dixon, perhaps a few new fans would want to tag along just to fine out where Power lands.

2. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Defending Indianapolis 500 winner and an American. Having a familiar face for the public to get to know would be great for IndyCar. Not only is Hunter-Reay the defending Indianapolis 500 winner but a past champion. He already has the résumé for people to love him, now IndyCar has to promote him but a second Indianapolis 500 victory, especially if he becomes the sixth driver to win back-to-back 500s could cement him as the figure that comes to people's minds when they hear IndyCar.

1. Graham Rahal
Rahal has the name. His sponsors seem to love him. He has the wind under his wings after consecutive runner-up finishes. He has the people around him in Bobby Rahal and David Letterman. Letterman might have retired but perhaps he could use his connections to get Rahal prime television appearances. Rahal has the looks. He has the fiancé in Courtney Force, as they are the motorsports power couple. And he is young. He's been around for a while but he is 26 years old. He could easily be around for the next 15 years and become the driver for a generation.

Regardless of who wins the 99th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar has to promote them. If IndyCar wants their drivers to become public figures, show them off to the public and let them know whom the faces of IndyCar are.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Track Walk: 99th Indianapolis 500

It's That Time Again
It is happening. The 99th Indianapolis 500 features twenty-eight drivers looking to join the pantheon of legends while five look to add their likeness to the Borg-Warner Trophy one more time. Seventeen Hondas and sixteen Chevrolets will take the green flag.

Coverage
Channel: ABC
Time: Coverage beings at 11:00 a.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear will be in the booth. Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl and Dr. Jerry Punch will work the pit lane.

The Starting Grid
Row 1:
Scott Dixon
This will be Dixon's 13th Indianapolis 500 start.
2008 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #9 has won the Indianapolis 500 four times with Dixon's 2008 victory being the most recent.
Scott Dixon is the 19th driver to win multiple Indianapolis 500 pole positions. Eighteen times has the pole-sitter won the race, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2009. Dixon's 2008 "500" victory came from pole position.

Will Power
This will be Power's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best Finish: 5th (2009)
Car #1 has won the Indianapolis 500 seven times, the third-most victories but has not won since Al Unser won in 1971.
Power will start second. Eleven times has the winner started second, most recently Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000.

Simon Pagenaud
This will be Pagenaud's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 8th (2013)
Car #22 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Pagenaud will start third. Eleven times has the winner started third, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2010.
Pagenaud looks to become the third Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500.

Row 2:
Tony Kanaan
This will be Kanaan's 14th Indianapolis 500 start.
2013 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #10 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dario Franchitti 2010.
Kanaan will start fourth. Six times has the winner started fourth but not since Bobby Rahal in 1986.
This year's race also marks Tony Kanaan's 300th IndyCar start. He will become the eighth driver to make 300 career starts.

Hélio Castroneves
This will be Castroneves' 15th Indianapolis 500 start.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009)
Car #3 has the Indianapolis 500 eleven times, the most victories. Castroneves' 2009 victory is the most recent victory for car #3.
Castroneves will start fifth. Seven times has the winner started fifth but not since Buddy Lazier in 1996.

Justin Wilson
This will be Wilson's eight Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2013)
Car #25 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Al Unser 1987.
Wilson will start sixth. Five times has the winner started sixth, most recently Dan Wheldon in 2011.
Wilson looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500 joining Dario Resta, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti.

Row 3:
Sébastien Bourdais
This will be Bourdais' fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 7th (2014)
Car #11 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Tony Kanaan 2013.
Bourdais will start seventh. Five times has the winner started seventh but not since A.J. Foyt in 1961.
Bourdais looks to become the third Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500. Jules Goux and René Thomas won in 1913 and 1914 respectively. Goux won the 1913 race from seventh on the grid.

Marco Andretti
This will be Andretti's tenth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2006)
Car #27 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recent with Dario Franchitti in 2007.
Andretti will start eighth. Twice has the winner started eighth but not since Kenny Bräck in 1999.

Josef Newgarden
This will be Newgarden's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 25th (2012)
Car #21 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Newgarden will start ninth. Only once has a winner start ninth, Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993. This is Newgarden's third start from the third row in four starts.

Row 4:
J.R. Hildebrand
This will be Hildebrand's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2011)
Car #6 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times, most recently with Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006.
Hildebrand will start tenth. Twice has the winner start tenth, most recently Gil de Ferran in 2003.

Carlos Muñoz
This will be Muñoz's third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2013).
Car #26 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dan Wheldon 2005.
Muñoz will start 11th. Twice has the winner started 11th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2001.

Ed Carpenter
This will be Carpenter's 12th Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2008)
Car #20 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989.
Carpenter will start 12th. Twice has the winner started 12th, most recently Tony Kanaan in 2013.

Row 5:
Oriol Servià
This will be Servià's seventh Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2012)
Car #32 has won the Indianapolis 500 twice but not since George Souders in 1927.
Servià will start 13th. Four times has the winner started 13th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2002.
Servià attempts to become the first Spaniard to win the Indianapolis 500.

Charlie Kimball
This will be Kimball's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 8th (2012)
Car #83 has never won the Indianapolis 500. The only time a car numbered in the 80s won was Jim Clark in 1965 in car #82.
Kimball will start 14th. Only once has a winner started 14th, Bob Sweikert in 1955. Like Sweikert, Kimball is a Californian.

Juan Pablo Montoya
This will be Montoya's third Indianapolis 500 start.
2000 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #2 has won the Indianapolis 500 eight times, the second-most victories but has not won since Al Unser won in 1978.
Montoya will start 15th. Three times has the winner start 15th but not since Graham Hill in 1966.

Row 6:
Ryan Hunter-Reay
This will be Hunter-Reay's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Hunter-Reay will attempt to become the sixth driver to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500s.
His victory last year was the first Indianapolis 500 victory for car #28.
Hunter-Reay will start 16th. Twice has the winner started 16th, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2012.

Graham Rahal
This will be Rahal's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 3rd (2011)
Car #15 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently with Buddy Rice in 2004.
Rahal will start 17th. Twice has the winner started 17th but not since Eddie Cheever in 1998.
Graham Rahal looks to become the third driver to win the Indianapolis 500 after finishing second in his prior to starts. Rodger Ward did it in 1959 and Bobby Unser did it in 1981.
Rahal could tie Salt Walther and George Snider for most 33rd-place finishes this year. Rahal has finished 33rd twice.

Simona de Silvestro
This will be de Silvestro's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 14th (2010)
Car #29 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
De Silvestro will start 18th. The best finish for the 18th-starter is second in 1920 by René Thomas and in 2009 and 2010 by Dan Wheldon.
De Silvestro attempts to become the first Swiss national to win the Indianapolis 500.

Row 7:
James Jakes
This will be Jakes' third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 15th (2013)
Car #7 has won the Indianapolis 500 twice but not since Bill Holland in 1949.
Jakes will start 19th. Twice has the winner started 19th including last year's win by Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Jakes looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Alex Tagliani
This will be Tagliani's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 10th (2010)
Car #48 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Bobby Unser 1975. Car #48 is the only number in the 40s to win the Indianapolis 500.
Tagliani will start 20th. Three times has the winner start 20th but not since Al Unser in 1987.
Tagliani looks to become the second Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500 joining Jacques Villeneuve.

Sage Karam
This will be Karam's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 9th (2014)
Car #8 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Pat Flaherty in 1956.
Karam will start 21st. Only once has a winner started 24th, L.L Corum and Joe Boyer in 1924.

Row 8:
Conor Daly
This will be Daly's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 22nd (2013)
Car #43 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Daly will start 22nd. Twice has the winner start 22nd but not since Kelly Petillo in 1935.

Townsend Bell
This will be Bell's ninth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2009)
Car #24 has won the Indianapolis 500, Graham Hill 1966.
Bell will start 23rd. The best finish for the 23rd-starter is second in the 1933 race by Wilbur Shaw.

Takuma Sato
This will be Sato's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 13th (2013)
Car #14 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently with Kenny Bräck in 1999.
Sato will start 24th. The best finish for the 24th-starter is fourth in 1967 by Denis Hulme, in 1969 by Mel Kenyon, in 1972 by Sammy Sessions, in 1995 by Eliseo Salazar and in 2009 by Townsend Bell.

Row 9:
Pippa Mann
This will be Mann's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2011)
Car #63 has never won the Indianapolis 500. Twice has a car numbered in the 60s won, Mark Donohue in 1972 in car #66 and Hélio Castroneves in 2001 in car #68, both owned by Team Penske.
Mann will start 25th. Only once has the winner started 25th, Johnny Rutherford in 1974.
Mann looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Gabby Chaves
This will be Chaves' first Indianapolis 500 start.
He becomes the sixth Colombian to start the Indianapolis 500.
Car #98 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently with Dan Wheldon in 2011.
Chaves will start 26th. The best finish for the 26th-finisher is third in 1956 by Don Freeland and in 1960 by Paul Goldsmith.

Sebastián Saavedra
This will be Saavedra's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 15th (2014)
Car #17 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dario Resta 1916.
Saavedra will start 27th. Only once has a winner started 27th, Fred Frame in 1932.

Row 10:
Jack Hawksworth
This will be Hawksworth's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2014)
Car #41 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Hawksworth will start 28th. Twice has the winner started 28th but not since Louis Meyer in 1936. No winner has started worse than 28th.
Hawksworth looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Stefano Coletti
This will be Coletti's first Indianapolis 500 start.
He is the second Monegasque driver to start the Indianapolis 500. Louis Chiron started 14th and finished 7th in 1929.
Car #4 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1993.
Coletti will start 29th.  The best finish for the 29th-starter is second in 1911 by Ralph Mulford and Paul Tracy in 2002.

Bryan Clauson
This will be Clauson's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 30th (2012)
Car #88 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Clauson will start 30th. The best finish for the 30th-starter is fourth in 1936 by Mauri Rose.

Row 11:
Ryan Briscoe 
This will be Briscoe's tenth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2007 and 2012).
Car #5 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times but not since Arie Luyendyk won in 1997.
Briscoe will start 31st after James Hinchcliffe qualified 24th. The best finish for the 31st-starter was fourth in the 1951 race by Andy Linden.

Tristan Vautier
This will be Vautier's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 16th (2014)
Car #18 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Vautier will start 32nd after Carlos Huertas qualified 18th. Huertas is out with due to an inner ear condition. The best finish for the 32nd-starter is second by Jim Rathmann in 1957 and Mario Andretti in 1981.

James Davison
This will be Davison's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 16th (2014).
Car #19 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Davison will start 33rd after having Tristan Vautier qualify the car. Vautier qualified 21st. The best finish for the 33rd-starter is second in 1980 by Tom Sneva and 1992 by Scott Goodyear.
Briscoe starts ahead of Davison, despite the #19 qualifying better than the #5 because of IndyCar rule 8.1.8.6.1.

Road to Indy
A dozen cars are entered for the Freedom 100. Ed Jones enters with 168 points and an eight-point lead over Jack Harvey and 12 clear of Spencer Pigot. Max Chilton trails his Carlin teammate by 42 points with RC Enerson rounding out the top five on 117 points. Félix Serrallés sits on an even 100 points, six ahead of Scott Anderson and nine ahead of his Belardi teammate Juan Piedrahita. Kyle Kaiser and Shelby Blackstock round out the top ten with the most recent winner in Indy Lights Sean Rayhall and Ethan Ringel tied on 81 points.

Belardi Auto Racing has won the last two Freedom 100s with Peter Dempsey and Gabby Chaves. Last year's race saw a record tying nine lead changes. Wade Cunningham holds the one and two-lap qualifying records at 190.456 and 190.177 MPH respectively. The Freedom 100 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET on Carb Day.

At Indianapolis Raceway Park, both Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 will take to the track the Day Before the 500.

In Pro Mazda, Santiago Urrutia heads to the short track with the championship lead on 195 points. Neil Alberico is 24 points behind the Uruguayan. Timothé Buret is 42 points back in third. Weiron Tan sit 70 points back of Urrutia with Pato O'Ward five back of the Malaysian in fifth. Ten points separate O'Ward Florian Latorre, Will Owen, Garret Grist and Jose Gutierrez for fifth in the championship. Daniel Burkett rounds out the top ten with 99 points.

Dalton Kellett, Rauol Owens, Kyle Connery, Alessandro Latiff and Parker Nicklin round out the 15-car entry list for the Freedom 90.

For U.S. F2000's Freedom 75, Nico Jamin enters as the championship leader with 206 points and has won the last three races. Jake Eidson trails by 19 points and is six ahead of Aaron Telitz. Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson round out the top five in the championship with 145 and 110 points respectively.

The Freedom 75 will take place at 12:15 p.m. ET on Saturday with the Freedom 90 following at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Fun Facts
The last two Indianapolis 500s have been the fastest two Indianapolis 500s.

Americans have not won consecutive Indianapolis 500 since 1991-92 when Rick Mears won his fourth and Al Unser, Jr. won his first.

Should A.J. Foyt Racing or Chip Ganassi Racing win, they will move into a tie with Lou Moore for second-most Indianapolis 500 victories for a car owner at five victories.

This year's grid features:

Eleven Americans

Four Colombians.

Four Brits.

Three Australians.

Three Frenchman.

Two Brazilians.

One Canadian.

One New Zealander.

One Spaniard.

One Swiss.

One Japanese and...

One Monegasque.

The pole-sitter has failed to win the last five Indianapolis 500s, the longest streak since the pole-sitter failed to win six Indianapolis 500s from 1998-2003.

Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Marco Andretti, Sébastien Bourdais and Stefano Coletti look to join Alex Lloyd and Jack Harvey as the only drivers to win on both the oval and road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This will be the 66th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone. Firestone has won every Indianapolis 500 this millennium.

This will be the 15th Indianapolis 500 victory for Dallara. Dallara is the all-time leader in Indianapolis 500 victories for chassis manufactures.

Should Honda win it will be their 11th Indianapolis 500 victory, moving them into sole possession of third all-time in Indianapolis 500 victories for engine manufactures. Offenhauser has the most with 27. Miller is second with 12. Honda is currently tied with Cosworth for third.

Should Chevrolet win it will be their ninth Indianapolis 500 victory.

Five times has the Indianapolis 500 taken place on May 24th (1981, 1987, 1992, 1998 and 2009). Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Eddie Cheever and Hélio Castroneves were the winners. Team Penske has won three of those five Indianapolis 500s.

The last native Hoosier to win the Indianapolis 500 was Wilbur Shaw in 1940.

Sarah Fisher would become the second female car owner to win the Indianapolis 500 should Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter or J.R. Hildebrand end up in victory lane. Maude Yagle was the winning car owner of the 1929 Indianapolis 500 with Ray Keech as her driver.

Graham Rahal becomes the 12th driver to enter the Indianapolis 500 after finishing second in his previous two starts. The other eleven occasions are:
Roscoe Sarles: Second at Beverly Hills and Fresno in 1921. Finished second in the 1921 Indianapolis 500.
Deacon Litz: Second at Altoona and Syracuse in 1930. Finished 17th in the 1931 Indianapolis 500.
Mauri Rose: Second at Detroit and Syracuse in 1933. Finished second in the 1934 Indianapolis 500.
Manny Ayulo: Second at Phoenix and Las Vegas in 1954. Lost his life in practice for the 1955 Indianapolis 500.
Johnny Thomson: Second at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Sacramento in 1995. Finished 32nd in the 1956 Indianapolis 500.
Rodger Ward: Second at Daytona and Trenton in 1959. Won the 1959 Indianapolis 500.
Jim Hurtubise: Second at Phoenix in 1960 and Trenton in 1961. Finished 22nd in the 1961 Indianapolis 500.
Roger McCluskey: Second at Phoenix and Trenton in 1967. Finished 19th in the 1967 Indianapolis 500.
Mario Andretti: Second Sonoma and Trenton in 1970. Finished 6th in the 1970 Indianapolis 500.
Bobby Unser: Second at Mexico City in 1980 and Phoenix in 1981. Won the 1981 Indianapolis 500.
Bobby Rahal: Second at Long Beach and Phoenix in 1991. Finished 19th in the 1991 Indianapolis 500.

Scott Dixon needs to lead 128 laps to become the eighth driver to reach the 4,500 laps led club.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 65 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 97 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 15 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 16 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Can you name the winners of The Jigger Award?

Predictions
We are going to see a first-time Indianapolis 500 winner. We will see fewer than 34 lead changes. The first caution will come prior to halfway. Fewer than 17 cars will finish on the lead lap. At least four drivers will lead their first lap of the season this weekend.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Come Monday

IndyCar nearly screwed the pooch. NASCAR ran a race that didn't matter. Audi won a 24-hour endurance race. Johnny O'Connell swept the Pirelli World Challenge races from Mosport and I missed the MotoGP race from France. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

We Need to Talk About Qualifying
It wasn't pretty but it was completed. We could of had a disastrous situation where no cars got on track, fans would have wasted their time and left disappointed and angry and a TV window would have been wasted.

It sucks that IndyCar got way too conservative, forcing teams to race in their qualifying setup and decreasing the boost level from the 140 kPa originally scheduled for qualifying. There were three accidents but each driver walked away and was cleared to get back in the car immediately. IndyCar has to be proactive but this yesterday they acted too much like a first-time parent, panicking over every little thing that happens to their child. IndyCar should have been hands off. The teams and drivers are adults and they should have been treated as such. IndyCar shouldn't have forced every team to run their race setup and with 130 kPa. If a Chevrolet team wanted to run in their race setup and with lower boost, then fine but it shouldn't have impacted everyone.

We want the teams to take risks. That's why we tune in. We want to see the envelope pushed and watch a driver walk the line at over 230 MPH. If a driver blinks, then they will likely find themselves at the back. We don't want to see the drivers coddled. We want to see the drivers protected but at the same time we need to let drivers face the realities of being a driver. They know the risks that come with motorsports and the chance of death has been greatly reduced compared to 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 years ago. We have SAFER barriers, HANS devices, fire suits, chassis built to handle a crash better, better seats and seat belts. It's absolutely absurd to believe this current period is more dangerous than say the 1960s it's not. Once again, Hélio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter all walked away from their accident under their own power and were back in the car as soon as possible. Twenty years ago, those three would have probably been in worse condition.

It's time to realize we can take a few more risks. Yes, IndyCar has to work to make sure the cars don't get lifted each time they hit the wall (develop some type of safety flap). Yes, tracks across the country need to develop better catch fences. Yes, IndyCar and Formula One should look into canopies or screens around the drivers head. There are a few more steps that can be taken to make motorsports safer but realize motorsports will never be as safe as humanly possible. And it shouldn't be. There needs to be some danger in motorsports. I am not saying ban seat belts, helmets and fire suits but allow a team to walk the line and accept the consequences if things go wrong.

With that said, it's better that qualifying was completed than the series having postponed it until Carb Day.

Expanding Qualifying
Why keep qualifying to two days? We will never have two weekends of qualifying again and I am fine with that but why not start qualifying Friday afternoon? I was tweeting over the weekend that if rain postponed both qualifying days IndyCar should have embraced qualifying on Monday seeing as they would have no competition. They could have run a session from noon to 6:00 p.m. ET and owned the day. Other than West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET, there is nothing on Monday afternoon. No NBA playoffs, no Stanley Cup playoffs. There might be an MLB game but it wouldn't be on national TV. The whole thing could have been shown on ESPN. After all, it would be better than nine hours of SportsCenter.

But let's think this out. Why not start qualifying on Friday afternoon? Draw for qualifying on Thursday evening. Have practice from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ET on Friday. Start "pole day" at 3:00 p.m. ET Friday and go until 6:00 p.m. ET. You could get it on ESPN with little-to-no competition. Continue pole day on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET. Perhaps that could be split between ESPN and ABC. That's six hours of "pole day." From 1:00-6:00 p.m. ET, you have the second day of qualifying and could be broadcasted on ESPNews/ESPN3/WatchESPN. Then you can have bump day on Sunday from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. ET, with the final two hours on ABC, just like it was scheduled yesterday. That would be 16 hours of qualifying over three days, more than enough. The track could then reopen at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday for practice and end at 6:00 p.m. with that just being shown online like Monday through Friday last week.

The bright side to the three days of qualifying would be allowing the teams that qualified on pole day and on the second day to practice on Saturday and/or Sunday and not have to run the Monday, post-qualifying practice session.

I am just throwing it out there. If IndyCar can get a TV time slot that stands out then it might be worth it. There will always be competition on the weekends but Friday afternoon is an open time slot. This might be a change worth doing.

Speaking of Change though...
IndyCar can't keep changing the format for Indianapolis 500 qualifying. This year the format was different because of rain and all the event that went down but IndyCar needs to stick with one way to do it and not keep playing around hoping that each change will draw new fans because those changes won't draw that many new fans, if any at all.

Look at the NASCAR All-Star Race. They changed the format so much that the race is no longer special. It's now a nuisance. They should have just stuck to one format that would stand for a long time. Instead they kept changing, hoping each change would make the event better and it just made it worse.

If anything, IndyCar should consider making qualifying more like it once was. Maybe get rid of the Fast Nine session (although that's not so bad). Maybe bring back the three attempts per car  (they should absolutely do that and the should force teams to withdraw their times if they choose to make second and/or third qualifying attempt). Maybe not give away championship points for qualifying (there should be no bonus points for any race).

Change can be good but you can't just keep changing. You need to give the fans something they can easily know.

Silver Linings
Things didn't go to plan in Indianapolis 500 qualifying but there are some silver linings.

1. You know I am a proponent to IndyCar practices being shown on TV and IndyCar practice was shown on TV as was IndyCar qualifying. Yes, qualifying was moved to ESPNews but it could have been just shown online or not shown at all.

2. We did have some drama wondering if Buddy Lazier will be able to bump his way into the field. He didn't and was a mile per hour off Clauson but he got a lot closer than I thought he would. For years teams showed up to Indianapolis trying to make the race and were well off the pace. Lazier wasn't the furthest off the 33rd-fastest time and he gave it two cracks but just didn't have enough.

3. Qualifying did get it. Like I said before, IndyCar could have decided to not run and screwed out everyone in attendance and watching at home but IndyCar can't afford to screw anyone over at this point. We didn't see the qualifying runs in the 232-233 MPH range like we were hoping for but there is always next year.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott Dixon winning the Indianapolis 500 pole and Johnny O'Connell but did you know...

Jorge Lorenzo won the French Grand Prix, leading a Yamaha 1-2 with Valentino Rossi in second.

The #28 Audi Sport Team WRT of Christopher Mies, Edward Sandstorm, Nico Müller and Laurens Vanthoor won the 24 Hours Nürburgring.

José María López and Yvan Muller split the WTCC races on the Nordschleife.

Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR All-Star Race. Kasey Kahne won the Truck races from Charlotte but failed post-race tech.

Ford swept the V8 Supercars weekend at Winton. Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom split the Saturday races with Winterbottom winning Sunday's race, putting him in the championship lead.

Thomas Lüthi won in Moto2 from Le Mans. Romano Fenati ended Danny Kent's winning streak in Moto3.

The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Tristan Gommendy, Ludovic Badey and Pierre Thiriet won the ELMS round from Imola. The #7 University of Bolton Ginetta-Nissan of Rob Garofell, Jens Petersen and Morten Dons won in LMP3. Ferrari swept the GT classes as the #56 AT Racing Ferrari of Alexander Talkanitsa, Jr., Alexander Talkanitsa, Jr. and Alessandro Pier Guidi won in GTE while the #62 AF Corse Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci, Thomas Flohr and Stuart Hall won in GTC.

Kurt Rezzetano and Jack Baldwin split the Pirelli World Challenge GTS races from Mosport.

Chris Buescher won the NASCAR second division race from Iowa.

Coming Up This Weekend
The greatest weekend of the motorsports year.
99th Indianapolis 500
Monaco Grand Prix
Coca-Cola 600
Formula E heads to Berlin.
Super Formula runs at Okayama.
Blancpain Endurance Series will compete at Silverstone.
World Superbike heads to the land of its rulers and Donington Park.
World Rally returns to Europe, more specifically, Portugal.
Indy Lights will run the Freedom 100 on Carb Day. The other Road to Indy series will be at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Saturday, the Day Before the 500.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nets and Scavenger Hunts

You have probably seen Hélio Castroneves' accident from Wednesday's practice session for the Indianapolis 500. Today, Josef Newgarden went for his own wild ride. Both ended up upside down, both walked away.

When cars are going quickly as they are at Indianapolis getting airborne is an inherent risk if something goes wrong. Racer.com's Marshall Pruett wrote about why Castroneves got airborne and I recommend it. These things happen and while IndyCar should do something to prevent cars from being lifted so easily (safety flaps perhaps on the side pods?) I am not panicking about it.

However, what if it were the race and what if some debris been flung off Castroneves' car while in the air, that is going to land somewhere and there are thousands of spectators sitting between turns one and two who could be in danger. As I watch practice and I look at the catch fence, I wonder if a net could be attached to the top of the catch fence and to the top of the grandstands that why it prevents objects from getting into the crowd, somewhat like a backstop in baseball. The only difference is it would have to be strong enough to catch a tire and the suspension parts that could be still connected which weigh much more than a baseball and will likely be traveling much faster than a foul ball.

Will it be in the way of spectators' view? Yes. Will it make it unbearable to watch a race through it? Hopefully not. Will it hurt TV camera angles? Maybe but those can be fixed. Is it worth doing? Yes. You can't have spectators getting hurt. If spectators get hurt or possibly worse in this day in age at the Indianapolis 500, it would be a deathblow for IndyCar. The Indianapolis 500 is the only time IndyCar gets national attention for a race and the series and the track cannot afford a spectator injury or death from debris becoming the headline story.

Adding another layer of protection such as a backstop over the grandstands isn't the end of the world. It is something we can get use to. Nothing can be done for this year but for 2016, perhaps it is possible.

Scavenger Hunt
Watching practice and to no surprise, there are very few people at the track on a Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. I get it. People work. You can't take a day off to go to the track and not everyone can go to the track after work. People have families they have to get home to. They have to make dinner, get kids to baseball, softball and/or soccer practice and then the kids have homework. Listen, I get it. If you can make a practice session fit into your schedule, fantastic. If you can't no big deal because I am in the same boat as you are.

Whoever, what if we made it worth going to Indianapolis 500 practice. What if a fan could turn a $15 loss into a six-figure gain? What if the Indianapolis Motor Speedway turned into a daily scavenger hunt on practice days with a six-figure prize? Have a golden ticket, golden-checkered flag, whatever it the track wants hidden somewhere on the track property that is accessible to fan and the person who can find it and return to pagoda wins the prize. I was thinking $500,000 of course to get a prize of that size, the Speedway would need to find a sponsor who would be willing to participate and fund such an endeavor. Maybe to make it worth it to a sponsor have silver tickets, silver checkered flags, whatever around the track that get fans other prizes such as free products from said sponsor, t-shirts, maybe a pair of race tickets or a chance to meet an IndyCar driver.

Why a scavenger hunt? First off, if the prize is larger enough, you will get people through the door, which means more revenue for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Second, it gets people engaged with the track and potentially with IndyCar. People who may never have been to the track before could get to experience it first hand and while they look for a golden ticket/golden-checkered flag/whatever, they get to watch cars go by on track and could potentially decide to return for the race or for qualifying. Third, it's something to promote. I hate to say this but practice isn't sexy and it is tough to get people to go to practice (and I know you are thinking about Allen Iverson's famous press conference so here you go). However, promoting a scavenger hunt with a six-figure prize, is a much more interesting draw.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: She Said What?

Some fans invaded the track in IndyCar, the other Mercedes won in Formula One, rain continues to stalk NASCAR, Bruno Senna got airborne at Monaco and the British continue to their reign in World Superbike. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

She Said What?
Mari Hulman George was a very lucky lady on Saturday. She was lucky Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann and/or Katherine Legge were not in the 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Why was she lucky? She said "Gentleman... Start your engines."

For a second, it appeared she thought she made a mistake and forgot there was a female driver on the grid but she didn't. To be honest, I have gotten so use to hearing "Drivers start your engines" or "Ladies and gentleman start your engines" that it caught me off guard. She wasn't wrong with what she said but I have been wondering for sometime if it is still acceptable to say "gentleman start your engines" even if the entire field is comprised of gentlemen?

I am far from being sensitive or political correct and I don't think what Mari Hulman George said was wrong. I don't think "drivers start your engines" has to become the universal command to start engines regardless if the field is entirely male or entirely female or co-ed. Mari Hulman George is in the clear and I am sure she will nail the command to start engines for the Indianapolis 500.

So Where Going to Act Like it Didn't Happen?
A few people noticed after the Grand Prix of Indianapolis the lack of fanfare after Will Power's victory.

I think Stephanie Wallcraft, Toronto Star contributor, Racing North editor and formerly of More Front Wing fame, said it best.

It kind of felt like when the Prince of Wales Trophy and Clarence C. Campbell Bowl are presented to the conference champions heading to the Stanley Cup Final. The superstition has been a team shouldn't touch those trophies or else they won't win the Stanley Cup. Some choose to embrace, touch and lift the trophies, others stay as far away as possible.

It felt like Will Power and Team Penske didn't want to celebrate. Everyone wants to win the Indianapolis 500 in two weeks but Power and Penske may never win another race (that is very unlikely but could still happen) and that's how they choose to celebrate. At the same time, that's how IMS choose to celebrate. The Speedway wants a second race but they want to set it in it's place as being clearly less special than the Indianapolis 500 and to draw that line in the sand, they choose to do next to nothing. The winner of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis doesn't get milk to drink, a wreath place around their neck or kiss the bricks and they shouldn't get those things. It is already different from the Indianapolis 500 but it shouldn't be different with a victory celebration that was on par with a funeral procession in terms of excitement.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will always be second fiddle to the Indianapolis 500 but it shouldn't be treated as if winning it is a kiss of death. Celebrate it. You don't have to go over the top but you should still celebrate the victory. If IndyCar and the Speedway want this event to succeed, they need to at least show that winning it matters. It's the not Indianapolis 500 but it's still a race that counts toward the IndyCar championship. If you don't want to use the actual victory lane, set-up a make shift victory lane with the empty pit stalls at the north end of the pit lane. Just do it better in 2016.

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

Sébastien Buemi became the all-time leader in Formula E victories after winning at Monaco.

Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR race at Kansas after a lengthy rain-delay.

Jack Harvey and Sean Rayhall split the Indy Lights races on the IMS road course. Weiron Tan, Timothé Buret and Santiago Urrutia split the Pro Mazda races. Nico Jamin swept the U.S. F2000 races.

Stoffel Vandoorne and Alex Lynn won the GP2 races from Barcelona. Esteban Ocon and Marvin Kirchhöfer split the opening round of the GP3 season.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike weekend at Imola. He has won four consecutive races and eight of ten this season. Kenan Sofuoglu won his third consecutive World Supersport race.

Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Fjirns swept the Blancpain Sprint Series races at Brands Hatch in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.

Matt Crafton won the NASCAR Truck race at Kansas.

Coming Up This Weekend
Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
24 Hours Nürburgring.
The WTCC will run two races around the Nordschleife.
MotoGP run the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Pirelli World Challenges heads north to Mosport.
NASCAR runs their All-Star Race.
V8 Supercars are at Winton.
European Le Mans Series head to Imola a week after World Superbike.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

First Impressions: 2nd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

1. Will Power kept his nose clean and won from pole position. It is his 25th career victory, his 13th from pole position. He just dominated this one. He had the best car all weekend, what else can you say? He is the fifth different winner in the first five races. That's not bad. Remember, the last two seasons to feature five winner from the first five races saw Scott Dixon win the sixth race and then win the title.

2. Second consecutive race Graham Rahal finished secondand second consecutive race Rahal probably wishes was two laps longer. Rahal has been the best Honda up to this point. I am sure he isn't the only one who hopes Honda designed the better oval aero kit but he has some momentum on his side heading into Indianapolis 500 practice.

3. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third. This has been a really consistent season for him and he holds the championship lead heading into the Indianapolis 500. Fun fact about Montoya, he has won 13 races on 13 different tracks. Just remember that.

4. For the second consecutive year Sébastien Bourdais started seventh in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and finished fourth. He was giving Montoya a run for his money late. If only Bourdais could out qualify the Penske drivers. Then he might find himself in better contention for a victory.

5. Charlie Kimball finished fifth and was barely mentioned all day, mostly because it was an ABC race but we will get on that later. Good day for Kimball. He needed it.

6. Hélio Castroneves finished sixth in his 300th start but he took out Scott Dixon on turn one, lap one and wasn't penalized. We've seen plenty of drivers penalized for contact from behind this season and Castroneves' bump on Dixon was much worse than what Stefano Coletti did on James Jakes at Barber and Coletti got a penalty. Where is the consistency?

7. Tony Kanaan came home in seventh. He wasn't a factor at all today but kept his nose clean and it paid off with a top ten.

8. Stefano Coletti scores his first top ten of his IndyCar career. He has shown he has the speed but this was his first race where he didn't make a mistake or get caught up in something. Good for him.

9. Takuma Sato finished ninth from 22nd on the grid. This is one of the two to three great races we get each year from Sato.

10. Despite being bulldozed by Castroneves in turn one, lap one, Scott Dixon finished tenth. Imagine the type of race we could have seen if Dixon got a chance to fight with Power straight up from second on the grid?

11. Just to quickly wrap this up: Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 11th in what was a disastrous weekend for Andretti Autosport and not just in IndyCar (see Formula E results from Monaco earlier today). James Hinchcliffe got the best fuel mileage out there and came home 12th with fastest lap. This is the second consecutive race in which a Honda car scored fastest lap. Carlos Muñoz in 13th, Luca Filippi 14th, Gabby Chaves 15th. Chaves led a lap today during a pit cycle, the first lap led of his IndyCar career.

12. ABC did a crap job and it's not Allen Bestwick. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear say the same things over and over and over again. And it's as if they don't watch the race. They missed Rahal passing Montoya and Bourdais during pit stops and they didn't mention it until about three laps and a commercial break after the fact. They were saying Hinchcliffe should let Power pass when Hinchcliffe was leading do to the pit cycle and Power was in second. The broadcast is a very rehearsed. Bestwick mentioned that this wasn't Coletti's first race at the Speedway and then Goodyear chimed in with the fact Coletti won a Formula BMW race at IMS. These three should be locked into a room and be forced to watch the NBCSN broadcasts. The NBCSN races are organic. Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy just let the race flow. And when Steve Matchett stepped in at Barber, it was as if Matchett was a full-time IndyCar analyst. Do Cheever and Goodyear watch the races outside the races ABC cover? Because it seems like they don't.

13. And the start! What a crap start. It was single-file well before start-finish. I shouldn't be surprised considering Brian Barnhart is back in charge. Was he really the only option on this planet to be race director? There was no one else?

14. Another one in the books and now we can focus on the Indianapolis 500. Enjoy the day off tomorrow. I know I need it.