Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts From The Racing Weekend September 28-29

NASCAR at Dover, MotoGP at Aragón, DTM at Zandvoort, final Grand-Am race at Lime Rock, World Superbike at Laguna Seca and some other thoughts that popped in my head during this busy racing weekend.

1. Jimmie Johnson won at Dover. No real surprise. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth finished in seventh and is still the points leader but by eight. Dover should only have one NASCAR race weekend. I wouldn't mind if it's only race was in the Chase either. Actually, besides Charlotte, Talladega and Martinsville, the other seven races in the Chase should be a tracks only Cup race. It would give the fans in those area an "important" race to go to, a track would have the first nine months of the year to promote their Chase race and all the drivers are seeing the track for the first time.

2. Marc Márquez is running away with Racer of the Year. The MotoGP rookie has six wins, has finished on the podium for every race but Mugello where he fell while running second with a handful of laps to go. He is spanking his veteran teammate, he is spanking the defending champion. How depressing it must be for Dani Pedrosa that he has been in MotoGP for eight years as a Honda factory rider and it looks like three different teammates have won title on the same bike he has been on and he has naught. Hell he nearly cost Nicky Hayden the 2006 World Championship.

Speaking of Spaniards, what the hell is in the water in Spain that make them such good bike riders? Spaniards have won 13 of 13 Moto3 races, 9 of 13 Moto2 races and 13 of 14 MotoGP races.

3. Mike Rockenfeller clinched the 2013 DTM title with a second place finish at Zandvoort. Augusto Farfus won the race could not manage to stay within twenty-five points of Rockenfeller. It's Rockenfeller's first DTM title adding it to a résumé that includes overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona and Nürburgring, class victories at Le Mans and Spa 24 Hours and 2008 European Le Mans Series championship. All that before the age of 30.

The race today reminded me how great Zandvoort is. Rumors are DTM maybe not return in 2014 and I hope that is not true. Now DTM takes three weeks off before their season finale at Hockenheim.

4. The final Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series took place at Lime Rock on Saturday and Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli won the race and the final DP championship. Seems like yesterday when the Daytona Prototype was introduced to the world but it was a decade ago. Despite their appearance and lack of shear speed, the Daytona Prototype provided some memorable racing. The one moment that will stick out in my mind was Miller Motorsports Park in 2007. Three teams could've won the title, Alex Gurney/Jon Fogerty, Scott Pruett and Angelelli all entered as possible champions for a 1000km race. It was a hard fought race, Angelelli's title hopes ended in flames and Gurney/Fogerty held off Pruett for their first title by two points. Then there was Montreal 2008. Darren Law runs out of fuel coming to the finish line as Antonio García and Mark Wilkins split him with Wilkins going from third to first to get him and Brian Frisselle their first career victories. I was fortunate enough to see Grand-Am at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2008 and 2009. One in the heat of Labor Day weekend and the other in a non-stop rain storm in early May. Both were enjoyable.

Congratulations to Alessandro Balzan winning the GT title and Jim Norman in GX.

5. World Superbike was at Laguna Seca and sadly I feel most of you reading this didn't even know. Tom Sykes won race one and finished fourth in race two to extend his point lead to twenty-three with two rounds to go. Eugene Laverty won race two at Laguna Seca and has won three of the last four. He finished third in race one and jumped into second in the points pass Sylvain Guitoli who finished fifth in both races. Three Americans participated in the Superbike races. Roger Lee Hayden retired and finished eight, Blake Young finished twelfth in both races and Danny Eslick retired and finished fourteenth. Eslick and Hayden were entered on Michael Jordan Motorsports Suzukis.

6. The Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial Street Circuit in New Jersey has been put on the provisional 2014 Formula One calendar. It has been scheduled for June 1st, one week after the Indianapolis 500 and traditionally the weekend NASCAR races at Dover. Dover and Port Imperial are 163 miles apart. I hope NASCAR either runs the Cup race on Saturday or moves Dover to another date in the season and runs another race that weekend. It would hurt both events if New Jersey and Dover went head-to-head the same day. My suggestion would be to flip Kentucky and Dover so NASCAR can run Saturday night and not hinder Formula One.

But in all honesty, all series should work to make sure these races don't conflict in the future. IndyCar is at Belle Isle that weekend for their doubleheader and I bet that race will end up on ABC like the previous two years and New Jersey will end up on NBC. I cannot imagine anyone getting a good rating if IndyCar is on ABC, Formula One on NBC and NASCAR on Fox.

7. Shocker, a full-time Cup driver won the Nationwide race. Joey Logano got another victory and Sam Hornish, Jr.'s point lead is down to four over Austin Dillon with five races to go. In the Truck Series Timothy Peters won at Las Vegas while Matt Crafton's point lead is forty-one points over James Buescher with five races to go.

8. Been thinking about IndyCar's road course and oval championships. Why not reward those champions with 100 points? It would make them worth something, add a wrinkle to the championship that wouldn't be a Chase and would've liven up this year's championship. For example, Scott Dixon trails Helio Castroneves by forty-nine points but leads the road course championship. Imagine if he were to win the road course championship? He'd likely overtake Castroneves but don't forget the oval championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves are tied but Hunter-Reay owns the tiebreaker with two runner-up finishes to Castroneves' one. Hunter-Reay is only seventy-four makers back. Should he hold on, he could take the championship.

I know many of you will think it would be gimmicky (which most of the time is a way for people say they disagree with something) but would it be? It would be reward a driver or drivers for being the best at a track discipline. It's not resetting the field after a certain amount of races. It isn't setting a starting grid by drivers turning around tires. It's a justifiably earned award. Just because it hasn't been done since the beginning of time doesn't mean it'd be wrong to do. Just a thought.

Think about this, Castroneves could win the title with only one victory this season. Remember when Matt Kenseth won the Winston Cup with one victory? That's how we got the Chase and seeing as how the man currently in charge of IndyCar Mark Miles is willing to try new stuff, why rule out wouldn't consider a Chase format. Would you rather have a Chase or the road course and oval champions being rewarded?

9. Believe it or not, next week there is an IndyCar race. As well as Formula One from Korea, NASCAR from Kansas, American Le Mans at VIR. The racing season is coming to a close and it feels like it started yesterday.

10. One additional thought: Marty Reid has been fired by ESPN. While I have been critical of ABC's IndyCar booth, it tough to hear anyone has been fired but it's part of business and when it has to happen, you have to pull the trigger. I don't know what this will mean for the IndyCar crew going forward but after thinking about it Sunday night, here is what I came up with:

If Reid is gone, maybe it's time to completely shake up ABC's IndyCar booth. A lot of people have been throwing Vince Welch's name to take over for Reid but I said it before, for the Indianapolis 500 and the remaining IndyCar races, ABC should put their best motorsports announcer on the job and that's Allen Bestwick. I know he doesn't have an IndyCar background but if their is anyone who could step in and learn and do the best job possible, it's Bestwick. I like Welch but he should stay on the pit lane. If anything, give Welch lead commentator for most of the Nationwide Series races next year.

As for the rest of the booth, it needs fresh blood. Scott Goodyear has been around for a while but I think he gave over a decade of good work and it's time to go in another direction. Eddie Cheever hasn't been around nearly as long but same thing. Watch a NASCAR broadcast, Bestwick brings out the best of Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. That booth works togethers but if Bestwick were to come to IndyCar he needs guys who are more open and well articulate. I immediately though of Scott Sharp. He's a good speaker, is an IndyCar champion and I think would fit well in a booth.

The other guy I'd call would be Alex Lloyd. It's hurt to believe Lloyd is only 28 and his IndyCar career appears over. It's sad because he is a talented driver and would do well if given the right situation. If you follow Lloyd on Twitter, you know he's not afraid to shy away from making a comment and that is something ABC's booth has needed the last few years. Lloyd has been in an IndyCar recently and that knowledge would only benefit a broadcast.

The one concern I have with both Sharp and Lloyd is they have lacked any booth experience. Townsend Bell would be a great choice if ABC were to get him on loan for a few races but I feel he would rather take and will probably have a one-off ready to go for Indianapolis and won't be thinking about broadcasting that race. The other ABC races, should a loan be manageable, would make sense for Bell. Another driver with some broadcast experience that should be considered is Sam Hornish, Jr. If he doesn't have a Cup ride in 2014, he could do the Indianapolis 500 broadcast. He was insightful on SpeedCenter and really has opened up over his years in racing.

That's just my take. I don't expect a decision to be made on ABC's IndyCar crew until March at the earliest. Just throwing my two cents out.