Thursday, October 31, 2013

Which Halloween Candy Is Each IndyCar Driver?

In what has to be the most ridiculous post of this blog's history, I match each IndyCar driver to treats you are likely to find trick-or-treating tonight. I'll be honest, this was a ridiculous idea I thought of when planning for tonight. I'm not even sure how I started matching IndyCar drivers to candy. It just happened and I couldn't stop.

Some pairings make more sense than others. Don't take any of this pairings too seriously. This is just for fun. No harm is meant in this post.

Let's start with our champion.

Scott Dixon: Snickers
Like a Snickers bar, what makes Dixon arguably the best driver out there is he has it all. Great on ovals (chocolate), great on road courses (nougat), great on street courses (peanuts) and great at qualifying (caramel). This combination is what every driver wants to be. It will satisfy any team owner and sponsor everyday of the week.

Tony Kanaan: Reese's
Remember that commercial (probably the only commercial besides the APEX Brazil and IndyCar Nation commercials Kanaan has been in) featuring Kevin Harvick and Kanaan? This is why Kanaan is a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Also, like Reese's, who doesn't like Tony Kanaan? Everyone likes Tony Kanaan.

(Except those with peanut allergies who we match with xenophobes for this purpose. It's a joke people. Don't take it seriously.)

Ryan Hunter-Reay: M&M's
You can't go wrong with either Hunter-Reay or M&M's. They are both the go-to candy and driver when in need. Just as how you hope grandma has M&M's in candy dish over anything butterscotch, Hunter-Reay is the driver you want on your team. Whether it's a single car effort or a four horse stable, Hunter-Reay is a driver you will not be disappointed with just like M&M's.

Marco Andretti: Kit Kat
Andretti made great strides in 2013 but you can't help but feel something was missing. Kit Kat bars are the same way. They are great but they are missing something. Sure you enjoy them but they aren't the Snickers bar that is Scott Dixon. You won't turn down a Kit Kat but every now and then you need that little bit more.

James Hinchcliffe: Jolly Ranchers
Hinchcliffe makes everyone happy and is a colorful character. He can be... well... jolly as can be, doing impersonations and making you laugh. But every now and then you get a lemon Jolly Rancher and you see the honest side of Hinchcliffe that will disagree with a bonehead move or executive decision.

Dario Franchitti: Hershey Bar
The traditional chocolate bar you can't go wrong with. Simple. No one will be disappointed with a Hershey bar or Dario Franchitti. You will take a Hershey bar eight days a week just as you'd take Dario Franchitti as your driver.

Justin Wilson: Twix
The Twix bar is as underrated a candy bar as Justin Wilson is a underrated driver. How Twix bars aren't the go-to candy bar just like how Justin Wilson isn't the go to driver of choice is beyond me. No one would turn down a Twix bar just as no one would turn down Justin Wilson yet he is still at Dale Coyne and is turning Coyne's team into a formidable pair of cars on the grid.

Simon Pagenaud: Starburst
Pagenaud is a Starburst. After back-to-back finishes in the top five in points, Pagenaud is a great choice and so are Starburst. Pagenaud's success on every circuit matches the juicy flavors that Starburst offers from cherry to watermelon, you can't go wrong with Starbursts (except lemon).

Josef Newgarden: Skittles
You never know what you are going to get with Newgarden, same with Skittles but this is all in a positive way. Skittles have character and so does Newgarden. He is the young driver keeping everyone entertained and has what it takes to be around for a long time.

Sébastien Bourdais: Life Savers
Not sure how to explain this but Bourdais' success matches that of Life Savers. You always seem to bump into someone with Life Savers. They are a successful candy in everyone will eventually have Life Savers on their person, same way you will find Bourdais at a race track, whether it be in IndyCar, Le Mans Prototype or a Formula One car and you will be happy he is there.

Charlie Kimball: Milky Way
Milky Way is a good chocolate bar but not the best. Charlie Kimball is a good driver but not the best. But if offered you'd take Charlie Kimball the same way you'd take a Milky Way. There is nothing wrong with it, it just isn't your first choice.

Graham Rahal: Tootsie Roll Pop
1...2...3... How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? How many races until Graham Rahal gets career win #2? Hard to believe it will be nearly six years between wins for Rahal when the 2014 season starts up at St. Petersburg but he will only be 25 years old when the season starts. He could go another year without winning a race and still have a successful career with many wins and a championship and who would remember his drought? Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't win his title until he was 31, Ed Carpenter didn't win a race until he was 30, hell Johnny Rutherford went over eight years between his first and second win and didn't win his first race until he was 27 and still won three Indianapolis 500s and a title. Plenty of time for Rahal.

Ed Carpenter: Mr. Goodbar
Not much to complain about either Carpenter or a Mr. Goodbar. Both are sufficient. Carpenter does lack on road and street courses but he sure makes up for it on ovals. A Mr. Goodbar is only chocolate and peanuts but that's all you need at times to be a successful candy bar.

Tristan Vautier: Dots
You aren't sure if Dots are good or not but you will try them for a while before you have a definitive answer. At times you think they are really good, other times you wonder what you are eating but are not completely turned off to the point you will never have them ever again.

Simona de Silvestro: Toblerone
Swiss chocolate, Swiss driver. You won't complain about either one of them.

Takuma Sato: Nestle Crunch
Self-explanatory.

AJ Foyt: Jawbreaker
Once again, self-explanatory.

Will Power: Sour Patch Kids
Sour then sweet. He will give you two middle fingers and then come off as the nicest guy on the planet.

Helio Castroneves: 3 Musketeers
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner that is promoted towards women. Seriously think about. Nothing against either but 3 Musketeers commercials always feature women and Castroneves was on Dancing With The Stars (don't get me wrong, I watched every episode he was on. Didn't vote though. Sorry didn't care enough to vote. He still won so don't take it personally).

James Jakes: Mounds
It's one of those candies that you really don't know who eats it but they are popular enough to stay around. Jakes is the same way. He's one of those drivers who won't be the predominate favorite on race day but is good enough to get results and remain on the grid.

Oriol Servià: Hershey's Kisses
You don't realize how good they are until you are eating them. You don't realize how good Servià is until he is in a race car. Remember he missed all of 2010, returned in 2011 and finished fourth in the points behind Franchitti, Power and Dixon. He is way more talented than he gets credited for.

Mike Conway: Twizzlers
Cause he only races on the twisty road and street courses and their is nothing wrong with that.

Luca Filippi: Kinder Bueno
Most of you have never heard of Kinder Bueno but it is produced by the Italian company Ferrero. Just like Filippi, Kinder Bueno looks like it has the potential to be a really good chocolate bar with it's hazelnut filling.

Ryan Briscoe: Tim Tams
They aren't candy, rather a chocolate biscuit, an Australian delicacy. Briscoe brought some home from his V8 Supercars trips and they look delicious.

JR Hildebrand: PayDay
This is what JR Hildebrand needs. After losing his ride at Panther and only getting two starts with Herta late in 2013, Hildebrand has a lot to prove and was arguably the best Honda all-time at Fontana.

Alex Tagliani: Gummy Bears
Everybody likes gummy bears. Everybody likes Alex Tagliani. But are they anyone's first choice? The answer is very rarely.

EJ Viso: Candy Corn
You get excited about each at the start of the season but then realize they are only acceptable on rare occasions yet they keep returning each year.

Sebastián Saavedra: Apples
Apples are good and you should never turn down an apple but when it comes to Halloween, save them for Thanksgiving pies. Saavedra is the same way. Good driver but he has yet to show his speed in IndyCar. If a driver could make a living in Indy Lights, Saavedra would likely become what Jason Keller was to the NASCAR Nationwide/Busch Grand National Series and there is nothing wrong with that.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Twinkies
Both are making comebacks. Twinkies have been back for a little while now and who isn't happy Twinkies are back? Montoya is returning and who isn't happy Montoya is returning?

With that said, Happy Halloween. Don't eat too much candy tonight. Remember everything is good in moderation.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

IndyCar Offseason Questions

It's been ten days since the 2013 season ended at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and there really hasn't been much news when it comes to teams, drivers, manufactures and other on-track entities. And there probably won't be. Maybe a driver signs here and there but for the most part, you won't hear much during November and you might hear more news in December but until the calendar turns the newswire will be mostly inactive.

Let's cover what we know: Andretti Autosport and Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing will be Honda teams with most of their drivers returning. Carlos Muñoz is likely to join Andretti Autosport with the future of EJ Viso hanging in the balance. No one is 100% sure on what Tristan Vautier will do but all signs point to him staying.

Penske and Ganassi will both be Chevrolet teams and both are making additions with Juan Pablo Montoya to Penske and Tony Kanaan to Ganassi.

After that, we don't the manufactures for anyone else but we know Sébastien Bourdais is heading to KVSH, Graham Rahal is returning to RLLR, Josef Newgarden is returning to SFHR and, in the surprise of the offseason, Ed Carpenter Racing is bringing back driver Ed Carpenter for a third consecutive season.

After that, we don't know much. RLLR may be getting National Guard sponsorship from Panther Racing. Where does that leave those teams? Will RLLR stay at two cars or maybe expand to three? If they do lose the sponsorship, can Panther find funding to remain on the grid?

What about Dragon Racing? Jay Penske is expanding his operation to run Formula E beginning in September 2014. Will his two cars remain on the grid full-time?

Where does Simona de Silvestro go?

It would seem the competent thing for Dale Coyne Racing to do would to bring back Justin Wilson and fill that second car with a driver capable of keeping up with Wilson on all tracks.

Who is Bryan Herta going to hire, Luca Filippi or JR Hildebrand? Or could it be someone else?

Is AJ Foyt going to keep the accident-prone Takuma Sato?

Who remains in IndyCar? Alex Tagliani? Oriol Servià? Sebastián Saavedra?

Which teams expand to field multiple cars in 2014? Which teams contracts to a car? Who enters the series? Does anyone else besides Muñoz move up from Indy Lights? What about drivers completely outside of the Road to Indy ladder system? Is Sam Bird really serious about IndyCar and is there anyone in IndyCar really serious about him? What about Narain Karthikeyan? Karun Chandhok? Are there any other drivers currently in Formula Renault 3.5, GP2 or GP3 who could land in IndyCar in 2014?

Plenty of questions and plenty of time for the answers to reveal themselves.

IndyCar Needs A Voice... or Two
In case you missed it, Mike King resigned from IMS Radio Network yesterday after 18 years. King was lead commentator of IndyCar since the first season of the IRL in 1996 and lead commentator of the Indianapolis 500 since 1999.

If history repeats itself, it would not be crazy to predict King ends up as lead commentator for ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500, replacing Marty Reid who was fired by ABC/ESPN last month. Both Paul Page and Bob Jenkins started as lead commentator for the Indianapolis 500 on radio before making the move to television lead commentator.

I'll be honest, whoever is ABC's new commentator for IndyCar in 2014, it will either be an in-house hire or someone at a cheap price because ABC/ESPN aren't going to be spending much on someone just to cover six IndyCar races. It wouldn't surprise me if ABC/ESPN gave King an offer he couldn't refuse but was still much lower than what they were paying Reid.

I'll be honest once more in saying there are much better options to be the voice of IndyCar on television and the radio. I don't know Mike King but after listening to him for most of my life it is clear he has a love for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 but his knowledge and perception of IndyCar have been drastically altered by the CART-IRL split. From listening he knows a lot about what happened in the IRL during the split and the Indianapolis 500 as a whole but does not know much of American open-wheel racing's history outside of that. During broadcasts he would still make references to strictly-IRL statistics, which for a series that has been reunited since 2008 and has a long history beyond 1996, should not be dissociated. The history of IndyCar should be viewed as a collection of everything from AAA to USAC to CART to IRL and anything and everything in-between.

I'm not sure who will become the lead commentators at ABC/ESPN and IMS Radio Network. I'd like to see ABC/ESPN put their best motorsports commentator on the job: Allen Bestwick. Vince Welch could do it but I'd like to get him a handful of races under his belt as lead commentator before having him do the Indianapolis 500. Could Bob Jenkins be persuaded into returning by either ABC/ESPN or IMS Radio Network? Is there someone else out there with no previous role in IndyCar who could be options for ABC/ESPN and IndyCar?

Once again more questions and plenty of time for them to be answered. I guess that is the IndyCar offseason in a nutshell.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

MotoGP Title to the Wire, First Time Winners at Surfers and Ogier's Comeback

Jorge Lorenzo won his second career Japanese Grand Prix and kept his hopes alive for a third MotoGP championship. Lorenzo held off points leader Marc Márquez for the victory as the rookie Márquez will carry a thirteen point lead to the season finale at Valencia in a fortnight. Spaniards Dani Pedrosa and Álvaro Bautista rounded out the top four.

Stefan Brandl finished fifth ahead of the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith. Nicky Hayden fell from third on the grid back to tenth but not before passing his Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso for ninth on the final lap. Katsuyuki Nakasuga finished eleventh as a wild card entry, Colin Edwards was the top CRT bike in twelfth with fellow CRT competitor Randy de Puniet and the customer Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Yonny Hernández rounding out the points.

Heading to Valencia, Lorenzo and Márquez are level on wins at Circuito Ricardo Tormo at one apiece. Lorenzo's lone win came in MotoGP in his 2010 championship season with Márquez's lone Valencia win coming last year in Moto2.

In Moto2, Pol Espargaró clinched the title thanks to a victory and a first lap retirement of British rider Scott Redding. The Moto3 title will be decided at Valencia as the top three riders are covered by five points. Álex Espargaró, younger brother of Marc Márquez, won his first career race with Maverick Viñales finishing second and jumping to second in points, two behind Luis Salom. German Jonas Folger rounded out the podium. Salom and second place in the points entering Motegi Álex Rins both finished outside the points with Salom retiring and Rins finishing twenty-fourth. Rins dropped to third and remains five behind Salom.

V8 Supercars at Surfers Paradise
Thanks to a victory Saturday and a retirement of his teammate Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes now leads the V8 Supercars point standings with two rounds to go. Lowndes and co-driver Warren Luff took race one of the Gold Coast 600 weekend and the points lead from Whincup. Whincup along with his co-driver Paul Dumbrell recovered to finish fourth in race two but still lost out on the Endurance Cup to Lowndes and Luff who finished eighth on Sunday and took the Endurance Cup by seventy-eight points. Lowndes leads Whincup by six points in the V8 Supercars Championship standings.

In race two, Ford driver David Reynolds and co-driver Dean Canto picked up their first career V8 Supercars victories holding off Fabian Coulthard and Luke Youlden. Russell Ingall and last IndyCar winner at Surfers Paradise Ryan Briscoe finished third.

Ogier's Comeback
Having already clinched the 2013 World Rally Championship, Sébastien Ogier came from 46.8 seconds back to win Rally Catalunya by 32.9 seconds over Finn and Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. Citroën driver Mikko Hirvonen rounded out the podium. Catalan driver Dani Sordo was a factor all weekend before retiring from the event after an accident with one stage to go.

Robert Kubica finished ninth overall, the top WRC-2 competitor, and in do so clinched the 2013 World Rally Championship-2 title, a support championship to WRC. In seven WRC-2 rallies, Kubica has five wins, a second and a sixth.

Another Championship for Vettel

It astonishing how much has changed in Formula One since the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix.

At that time Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were tied for the points lead with the rookie Hamilton still looking for his first career victory. McLaren had just set the standard as class of the field and left the Ferrari pair of Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa down for the count heading to North America.

BMW Sauber was the third best team, staying close to McLaren and Ferrari up front but not being able to break through with the experienced veteran Nick Heidfeld and excitingly quick Pole Robert Kubica with a young German third driver named Sebastian who was dazzling in Friday first practices.

Heidfeld was the top German on grid with the young Nico Rosberg entering his second season and having displaced Ralf Schumacher as second-best German. Adrian Sutil was in his rookie season struggling to make the Spyker-Ferrari look average while his former teammate in Formula Three Lewis Hamilton sung great praise of the young German.

Renault was coming off back-to-back Constructors' Championships as they looked to continue the success of the Alonso-era with Hekki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella.

It was the beginning of the end for Honda. The factory squad with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello couldn't get out of each others way with the customer Super Aguri team having more points (1-0) after Takuma Sato took a surprising eighth place at Barcelona.

Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz were teammates at Williams-Toyota and Wurz would go on to score a third place at Montreal to extend the teams lead over the factory Toyota team in the constructors' championship.

Entering Montreal, Red Bull had only three points after David Coulthard finished fifth at Barcelona. Mark Webber had only five starts with the team but both he and Coulthard struggled with a car that was prone to mechanical failures. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso was no better with Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed having each retired from three of the first five races.

Formula One's summer of 2007 was heading to Indianapolis, Magny-Cours and Istanbul. The series was heading to Fuji for the first time in thirty years instead of Suzuka followed by Shanghai and Interlagos hosted the season finale on October 21st.

Over six years later and that young Sebastian that BMW Sauber had driving on Fridays has been the driving force to Red Bull ascent to the throne as King of Formula One and their fourth consecutive Constructors' Championship.

BMW is gone. Toyota is gone. Honda is gone but will be back shortly.

Renault is now Lotus. Spyker is now Force India. Williams is an after-thought. Sauber has another young German with loads of talent but no money to pay him.

Kubica is the World Rally Championship-2 champion. Mercedes has a factory team with Hamilton and Rosberg. Button is a former World Champion at McLaren, a team who can't get on the podium. Alonso is leading Ferrari. Räikkönen is leading Lotus but will be returning to Ferrari. There are as many Mexicans on the grid as there are Finns and Australians and there are more Mexicans than Spaniards and Brazilians.

It is October 27th. The series is leaving India for the final three races; there second race under the lights at Abu Dhabi, the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas and Interlagos hosts the season finale on November 24th. The series didn't go to France but did make stops in Singapore and Korea.

In Sebastian Vettel's six and a half seasons on the Formula One grid, the series has changed drastically and the German himself has been the flag-bearers for change. His dominance has shaken up Formula One as everyone looks to Red Bull as an unstoppable force.

Vettel has quickly craved his place into Formula One history. He leads all active drivers in championships and only Schumacher and Fangio have more. Having won 36 times, Vettel leads all active drivers and is only five behind Ayrton Senna on the all-time list.

And Vettel is only 26 and 4 months, just one example of how much younger drivers are when getting started in motorsports. At 26 and 4 months, Alain Prost was still a week away from winning his first race, let alone his first championship; Senna had four wins to his name but still had some work to do to become champion; Schumacher had already won one World Drivers' Championship and 11 wins.

Other drivers at 26 and 4 months: Jackie Stewart had two career wins; Jim Clark had just picked up his first career win; Niki Lauda had six wins and was on his way to win his first championship later that year; Piquet had only five career starts and wouldn't score his first career point until a year later; Juan Manuel Fangio was still 11 years away from racing in Europe for the first time, Jack Brabham was 3 years away from racing in Europe and was a decorated Midget car champion in Australia.

It is not inconceivable Vettel could get three more championships and match Michael Schumacher for most all time but if you are Vettel, do you want to race in Formula One for the remainder of your career? Schumacher raced until he was 43 with a three-year sabbatical. If you are Vettel, do you want to stay in Formula One for another seventeen years or do you try something new? It is really the question any younger driver has to ask themselves when they're twenty years old entering a top motorsport series. Do you want to race in the same series for most your life or do you ever consider venturing out and trying other forms of motorsport? Sure, by staying in one series you will have the opportunity to fill the record book with your name and try to set the bar higher every time you get on track but when do you hit the point of satisfaction?

Vettel has already entered the conversation as one of the all-time greats and he doesn't have to do anymore. He doesn't have to win another race, set another fastest lap or win another championship. He is already in the conversation.

Setting every record does not make you undisputedly the all-time greatest. Schumacher has the most wins and titles but plenty of people put Senna, Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Prost ahead of him and some will even put Brabham, Dan Gurney and Bruce McLaren ahead of Schumacher because they competed and won in cars built by their own hands. It is a conversation that will never have one definable answer and nor should it.

Vettel could exit Formula One at thirty, spend a decade dabbling in Le Mans Prototypes, DTM, IndyCar, World Rally or whatever forms of motorsport he wants and still return to Formula One for two or three seasons to end his career.

Maybe it's because I am not a driver and maybe because I don't have millions of dollars keeping me where I am at but I would try different forms. Why wouldn't you try the 24 Hours of Le Mans a handful of times or the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar a handful of times? Think about it this way: Only one man has won a World Drivers' Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 and that's Graham Hill. What active driver wouldn't want that diverse set of accomplishments on their résumé?

One would assume Vettel is financially comfortable and can make a living and one would assume wherever Vettel would go, Red Bull would support him. Why wouldn't Red Bull support him? Vettel has turned what was a mid-pack team to the best of a generation. Money is not and may never be an issue for Vettel. He has all the means in the world to go and do what only many dream as possible. If only if we all could be so fortunate.

Vettel has many years ahead of him and not only does he have the possibility to set all the records in Formula One but of becoming one of the most decorated drivers in the history of motorsport if he so chooses to venture out and try something new.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two World Championships On The Line

The continent of Asia could see two World Champions crowned on Sunday. One in his rookie season in front of his manufactures home crowd. The other on a track he has led every lap at as he goes for his fourth consecutive title.

Marc Márquez leads fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo by eighteen points entering the penultimate round of the 2013 MotoGP season, the Japanese Grand Prix from Twin Ring Motegi. Lorenzo won pole in wet conditions earlier today with Márquez qualifying second and American Nicky Hayden rounding out the front row.

Márquez needs to outscore Lorenzo by seven points to clinch the World Championship on the track his manufacture Honda owns. If Márquez wins, he would need Lorenzo to finish third or worse. This is Lorenzo's third career pole at Motegi. He has never won from pole at Motegi and his lone win there was in 2009. Márquez has won two of the last three years at Motegi winning in 125cc in 2010 and in Moto2 last year. He finished second in Moto2 in 2011.

Other notable riders starting positions in tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix include Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso on row two. Álvaro Bautista, Stefan Brandl and Aleix Espargaró on row three with Yonny Hernández, Cal Crutchlow and Katsuyuki Nakasuga on row four. American Colin Edwards starts fourteenth.

In Moto2, Spaniard Pol Espargaró could clinch the title if he outscores British rider Scott Redding by nine points. Espargaró finished second in the Moto2 championship last year to Marc Márquez. Though unlikely, it is possible for Spaniard Luis Salom to clinch the Moto3 title at Motegi. Salom would have to outscore fellow Spaniards Álex Rins by twenty points and Maverick Viñales by three points. Salom finished second in the Moto3 championship last year to German Sandro Cortese.

The Japanese Grand Prix can be seen live at 1:00 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 2.

In India, Sebastian Vettel starts on pole for his third consecutive Indian Grand Prix as the German looks to clinch his fourth consecutive World Drivers' Championship on Sunday. Vettel's pole winning time was 0.752 seconds faster than fellow German Nico Rosberg who joins him on row one. Lewis Hamilton will start third next to Mark Webber. Former Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen will start on row three. Nico Hülkenberg and Vettel's only rival for the championship Fernando Alonso start on row four with McLaren drivers Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button rounding out the top ten.

Vettel has to exit India with at least a seventy-five point lead to clinch the title. If Alonso were to win, Vettel would need to finish at least fifth to clinch the title.

The Indian Grand Prix can be seen live at 5:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Thinking A Lot About Racing Lately

Though it's the final weekend in October, the racing season is still thriving with Formula One, NASCAR and Moto GP all on track this weekend. I've been thinking a lot about some of the news rolling out and have my ideas about the state of motorsport.

1. Toro Rosso announced Russian Daniil Kvyat as the teams second driver for 2014. Kyvat is nineteen years old and is currently second in the GP3 standings, seven behind Argentine Facu Regalia with one round to go. Kvyat has talent but has he prepared enough to make the jump to Formula One?

In this era of very limited testing, Kvyat will be starting behind the eight-ball. GP3 is a much different animal from Formula One and Kvyat skipping GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 is not the right choice.

The one suggestion I would make is with limited testing and so many young drivers in the pipe is the FIA and the teams create a series with year old cars for young drivers to get experience behind the wheel of a Formula One level car. Go to seven or eight Formula One caliber tracks that the series currently does not go to (Jerez, Estoril, Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit, Magny-Cours, Paul Ricard, Istanbul, Imola, maybe Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Zolder, etc) and with all the talk of customer cars in Formula One, allow customer teams run the young driver teams.

The series could race when Formula One is in Asia during the spring, run a few events during the summer on weekends Formula One is off and then finish the season when Formula One goes to Asia after the European season ends.

A race weekend would be set up just like a Formula One weekend with two Friday practices, a practice Saturday followed by qualifying and a full Grand Prix on Sunday. The series could be run with Formula Three as a support series. Of course there has to be some criteria for a young driver series so it isn't full of drivers who can't maintain a seat in Formula One. Maybe set a Grand Prix limit for a driver competing. Once a driver competes 50 F1 Grand Prix, they are no long eligible for the young driver series.

This series would give young drivers experience with a Formula One car, by running weekends counter to Formula One it would allow for GP2, GP3 and maybe even Formula Renault 3.5 drivers to compete and it would bring Formula One cars back to tracks that have sadly been left off the schedule for too long.

Are there some logistical issues? Sure. But putting logistics aside, doesn't it make some sense?

2. NASCAR is reportedly considering overhauling their qualifying format on ovals to mirror the group format used on road courses with Daytona and Talladega qualifying become a 60-minute open session.

First, let's realize that qualifying is not suppose to be intrinsically exciting. It is suppose to set the field. If a track record is set, fantastic but it's not suppose to be intrinsically exciting. Single-car qualifying is not suppose to be intrinsically exciting but it gives a driver a clear track to lay down a flyer and not bitch-and-moan they were balked by a slower car. How is NASCAR going to manage that on an oval? Imagine when Kyle Busch has his flyer ruined at Bristol because he nearly ran over a back maker. What is NASCAR going to do?

Keep qualifying how it is. If anything change the race format, especially on a short tracks. NASCAR is racing at Martinsville this weekend. Is there any reason why that race has to be 500 laps other than it's always been 500 laps?  Instead of 500 laps at Martinsville, take all the drivers who set a qualifying time (so no DNQs) and break them up to heats for Sunday. There are only 43 drivers entered for Sunday, break them into three heats of 11 and one heat of 10, each heat being 50 laps. Take the top four from each heat and advance them to the "A-Main." The remaining 27 drivers go to a 50-lap LCQ with the top four from the LCQ advancing to the 150-lap A-Main.

For the 23 drivers who don't advance to the A-Main, they receive points for finishers 21st-43rd with the A-Main results settling who gets which points in the top twenty.

This could be done at all short tracks and even a few mile-and-a-half tracks to liven up race day and the TV broadcast. Of course you leave the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500 and a few other events untouched.

Once again, put logistics aside, doesn't it make some sense?

3. MotoGP is at Motegi and it is foggy. Foggy enough that it cancelled all Friday track activities, could cancel all Saturday track activities and turn the Japanese Grand Prix into a one-day show. Motorsports has to schedule their trips to Japan better. Two weeks ago F1 was at Suzuka, last week FIA World Endurance Championship was at Fuji in a monsoon and now MotoGP is at Motegi. Doesn't that seem like overkill? We got to spread out the schedule to Japan.

MotoGP use to go to Japan in the spring. Maybe they should consider returning Japan to earlier in the year. No international series goes to Asia during the summer and maybe they should. Maybe WEC should reconfigure their schedule so they go to Japan in early-August because the current schedule can't possibly be the best schedule.

Doesn't it make sense to spread out scheduling Japan's major races?

4. Watching Formula One practice this morning and it dawned on me the lack of live coverage for a IndyCar practice session and qualifying isn't helping the series, especially no practice coverage. This morning, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Will Buxton had time to discuss what was going on in Formula One and let viewers know about Kyvat and some other topics.

IndyCar needs a live practice. The series needs a place where stories within the series can be discussed. You can't do that in a qualifying session, live or taped, because you have to follow what is go on; who is in position to advance to the next round, who is on what tire compound, etc. And you really can't discuss driver rumors or schedule rumors during a race. They aren't relevant to the race and the race is all that should be discussed.

IndyCar has to work with NBCSN to get one practice on live each race weekend. Honestly, if a 1 p.m. Friday IndyCar practice was shown live on NBCSN, what could NBCSN show that would get a better ratings? You have to believe a live IndyCar practice would get better ratings than anything shown taped and don't get pessimistic IndyCar fans.

Part of this is on IndyCar though. Example being Fontana. Qualifying was showed taped at 7:00 p.m. ET. What was stopping the series from holding off qualifying until that time? It could've been shown live. If IndyCar is given a time window for qualifying and it is a reasonable time when a session could be run then schedule the session so it will be shown live.

Once again IndyCar fans, instead of blaming the network for not showing qualifying live, realize IndyCar could schedule qualifying so it can be live. Doesn't that make sense?

Let me know what you think of any of these idea on Twitter, @4theloveofindy.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

2014 Mazda Road To Indy Schedule Released

The Mazda Road to Indy announced their schedule today for the 2014 season. Each of the three series will run fourteen races, all in conjunction with IndyCar events. All three series will start their seasons on the streets of St. Petersburg and end at Sonoma.

U.S. F2000
U.S. F2000 series will run doubleheaders at each round except the Night Before the 500 at Indianapolis Raceway Park and a triple header at Mid-Ohio. U.S. F2000 will join IndyCar at St. Petersburg, Barber, the IMS road course, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma. All doubleheaders will take place on Saturday and Sunday of a race weekend except for the IMS road course weekend where the races will take place on Friday and Saturday. 

Schedule:
March 29-30: St. Petersburg
April 26-27: Barber
May 9-10: IMS road course
May 24: IRP
July 19-20: Toronto
August 2-3: Mid-Ohio triple header
August 23-24: Sonoma

Pro Mazda
Like U.S. F2000, Pro Mazda will run doubleheaders at each event except for the Night Before the 500 at Indianapolis Raceway Park and Milwaukee. Other than Pro Mazda running Milwaukee and a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio, the only other difference between Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 schedules is t Pro Mazda will run at Houston instead of Toronto.

Schedule:
March 29-30: St. Petersburg
April 26-27: Barber
May 9-10: IMS road course
May 24: IRP
June 28-29: Houston
August 2-3: Mid-Ohio
August 16: Milwaukee
August 23-24: Sonoma

Indy Lights
The Indy Lights series will run alongside IndyCar at every event except Belle Isle, Texas, Houston, Iowa and Fontana. Unlike U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda, Indy Lights will only run doubleheaders at permanent road courses. 

Schedule:
March 30: St. Petersburg
April 13: Long Beach
April 26-27: Barber
May 9-10: IMS road course
May 23: Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
July 6: Pocono
July 20: Toronto
August 2-3: Mid-Ohio
August 17: Milwaukee
August 23-24: Sonoma

Along with the normal schedules, U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda will each contest a winter series, known as WinterFest in February. On February 21-22, U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda will compete at NOLA Motorsports Park just outside of New Orleans and from February 25-26 the two series will wrap up WinterFest at Barber Motorsports Park. Each event will be a triple header for U.S. F2000 and doubleheaders for Pro Mazda.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Formula One in India, NASCAR at Martinsville, MotoGP in Japan, WRC in Catalunya, V8 Supercars at Surfers Paradise

Formula One makes it's third and possibly final trip to India for the Indian Grand Prix. In the two previous editions, Sebastian Vettel has led every lap, from pole positions and he looks to repeat those results again as it would clinch the German his fourth consecutive World Drivers' Championship. Vettel has to finish at least fifth to clinch the title.

Fernando Alonso is the only other driver mathematically eligible for the title. The Spaniard is ninety points back and he has to leave India within seventy-five of the German to stay alive. In Alonso's two Indian Grand Prix appearances he has started third and fifth respectively with finishes of third and second respectively.

Red Bull has a 148-point lead over Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship as they look to clinch their fourth consecutive title. To clinch the title, Red Bull has to exit India with a 129-point lead. The battle for second is much more exciting battle with Ferrari only ten points up on Mercedes and thirty-three ahead of Lotus.

NASCAR at Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson enters Martinsville with a four point lead over Matt Kenseth as Johnson looks to win his sixth career championship. Johnson is twenty-six up on Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, thirty-four ahead of his teammate Jeff Gordon. Johnson has eight career wins at Martinsville with five of those coming in the October Chase race.

Interestingly enough, Ford has not won a race at Martinsville in the Chase-era. In the Chase-era, Chevrolets have won seven of the nine October races, with Toyota and more specifically, Denny Hamlin taking the other two. Overall, Chevrolet has won fourteen of nineteen Martinsville races in the Chase-era, with Toyota, and once again, more specifically, Denny Hamlin having four wins and Dodge having one win during that time. Dodge's lone win came in April 2004 when Rusty Wallace won his final career race driving for Penske Racing.

MotoGP at Japan
MotoGP races for the third consecutive weekend at Twin Ring Motegi. After tire degradation issues at Philip Island forced riders to change bikes mid-race and led to the disqualification of Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo is only eighteen back with two races to go. Dani Pedrosa is the only other rider still eligible for the title, he is thirty-four back.

Márquez has two wins, one in 125cc, the other in Moto2 at Motegi. Pedrosa has won the last two consecutive MotoGP rounds at Motegi, in addition to a 250cc victory at the track in 2004. Lorenzo's one win at Motegi was in MotoGP in 2009. Valentino Rossi is fourth in points and is tied with Kevin Schwantz for most victories in Japan on the top flight 500cc/MotoGP bikes. However only one of Rossi's four Japanese wins have come at Motegi. The other three occurred at Suzuka.

WRC in Catalunya
Sébastien Ogier has already clinched the 2013 World Rally Championship with two rounds to go. Ogier's best finish in Catalunya is fifth and he has only scored points in Rally Catalunya on one other occasion. Sébastien Loeb has won the eight previous editions of Rally Catalunya but will not attempt to extend that streak as Loeb retired from full-time rallying after Rallye de France earlier this month.

Belgian Thierry Neuville is second in points and is still looking for his first career rally victory. He has finished runner-up in four of the last five rounds. Jari-Matti Latvala is third in points, only eighteen behind Neuville and won earlier this year at Greece. Catalan driver Dani Sordo is fourth in points and won his first career rally at Rallye Deutschland two months ago.

V8 Supercars at Surfers Paradise
For the twenty-second consecutive year, race cars will thunder through the streets of Surfers Paradise and for the fifth consecutive year, V8 Supercars are the main draw. For the third and final round of Endurance Cup, Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell enter as points leaders, forty-two up over their teammates Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff. Bathurst 1000 winners Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards are third in the Endurance Cup points, seventy-two back.

Whincup leads the V8 Supercars Drivers' Championship by one-hundred and fourteen points over Lowndes. Winterbottom is third, one-hundred and forty-two back. Whincup has won the last two races at Surfers Paradise, both when they were under the All-Star, International driver format and both times with Sébastien Bourdais as co-driver.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Why The Final Round of the Porsche Supercup Should Go On As Planned

Last week, driver Sean Edwards was killed at Queensland Raceway after an accident during a training session. Edwards was 26 years old.

Edwards was an up-and-coming talent in sports car racing and had shown his potential having been apart of the last two consecutive 24 Hours of Dubai winning teams, being apart of this years Nürburgring 24 Hours winning team and was leading the Porsche Supercup Championship standings by eighteen points with two races to go at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi next month. He was just at the beginning of what was going to be a very successful and decorated career in sports car racing and he will truly be missed.

A petition has been started to make the final round of the Porsche Supercup Season a non-points event and posthumously giving Edwards the 2013 Porsche Supercup Championship.

I understand the petition but I have to respectful disagree with the petition. While Edwards may have won the title, how is it fair to the two drivers still mathematically eligible to win the title to make this round a non-points events? How would be fair to Nicki Thiim and Michael Ammermüller to end their championship hopes by turning a scheduled competitive round of the championship into a exhibition?

Just because it appeared Edwards was bound to become champion, doesn't mean we should take away the chance of other to win the title. In 1968, Jim Clark won the first round of the Formula One season at Kyalami, his third consecutive race win dating back to the previous season. However, Clark would lose his life in a Formula Two accident at Hockenheim before any other round of the 1968 Formula One season was competed. You could say Clark was bound to become champion yet again in 1968 but they didn't make the remaining eleven rounds non-points events. They ran the championship as it was scheduled.

Two years later, Jochen Rindt was leading the World Drivers' Championship with four rounds to go when he lost his life during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The final four rounds were run as scheduled points-paying, championship events and Rindt still held on to posthumously win the title over Jacky Ickx. It is still possible that Edwards could still be posthumously crowned champion even if the Abu Dhabi round is counted toward the championship.

Regardless of how many rounds are remaining in a championship, they should not become non-points events to posthumously hand any driver a championship.

It is truly sad that Edwards will not get a chance to defend his points lead at Abu Dhabi but it would not be fair to deny anyone else a chance to win a championship because the points leader will not be competing in the final event.

Things should go on as scheduled and a championship should not be given to driver who is unable to participate regardless of the circumstances as to which why the driver is not able to compete.

I disagree with the petition but understand where it is coming from. I mourn the loss of Sean Edwards but do not want him to be handed the title and take away the opportunity from Thiim or Ammermüller.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013 IndyCar Season: First Impressions

1. Scott Dixon deserved to win this title. We'll say he didn't start strong and turned it around at Pocono but he finished fifth and second in the first two races. That's hardly a bad start. Ok, he had a string of three consecutive finishes outside the top ten after that but then finished fourth in both races at Belle Isle. The gearbox broke on him at Texas but he recovered for sixth at Milwaukee but then struggled at Iowa. And then he turned it on knocking off three consecutive wins. Salvaged a seventh at Mid-Ohio and then came the two races from hell at Sonoma and Baltimore. But after that he recovered winning and finishing second at Houston. As much as Dixon had to comeback from in Houston, it shouldn't have been a surprise. He was consistent all season with a few blips. He was the fastest guy all season.

2. I said it once and I'll say it again, Helio Castroneves pussyfooted throughout the season and that cost him the championship. Sure he was completing every lap but finishing sixth and seventh will never be enough to win the title. Castroneves had to be going out their and getting victories and he wasn't doing that. He was settling and he shouldn't have been. He could've put the championship away at Baltimore but instead of going for it, he knew Dixon's day was done and all he had to do was manage to finish but what he did was let valuable points go and settled for ninth. Castroneves had only five top fives all season. Dixon had five top fives in the first half and second half of the season. Dixon won the title by racing hard, Castroneves was hoping to rest on his laurels and win by just completing every lap but winning a championship takes more than that and it back fired on Castroneves.

3. And Simon Pagenaud has to improve on being more consistently up front. Pagenaud had only five top fives all season, just like Castroneves and that won't win you titles. Pagenaud did have two wins to Castroneves' one but you have to do more than that. To win the championship you are going to need at least three or four wins and nearly half your finishes in the top five. Pagenaud has the talent to do that but is Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing a team capable of have making that happen for the Frenchman?

4. Will Power had a fire in his eyes after his win at Fontana that I have never seen in him before. He ended up winning three races, despite not winning until Sonoma at the end of August. He finished fourth in points despite not scoring a podium until Milwaukee and not scoring another one until that win at Sonoma. Power was driving angry. Angry over his season, angry at Ed Carpenter for saying Power blowing the title the year before was "usual Will," angry this race came a year late and a championship short. The man will have five months to prepare for his 2014 campaign but he is ready to go and win that title now.

5. Marco Andretti finished a career best fifth in the championship standings but just like Power, he wants more. Andretti should have had at least two victories this year but errors, whether mechanical or poor strategy bit him. Not to mention he improved leaps and bounds on road and street courses this year. He scored two podiums on road and street courses this season, he had only two career podiums on road and street courses entering 2013. If he can match his success on road and street courses this year with the speed he has on ovals and the team minimizing failures, he will definitely be fighting at the top of the championship standings next year.

6. What was a great season for Justin Wilson ends with him in hospital with a small pelvic fracture and a small pulmonary contusion. Four podiums but no wins for the Brit kept him from vying for the title but he has turned into a respectable driver on ovals and has turned Dale Coyne Racing into a dangerous team with help from engineers Bill Pappas and John Dick. Let's home Wilson can make a full recovery and return in top form for 2014.

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay's championship defense ended when Takuma Sato ran over the back of him entering the pit lane at Pocono. Mechanical issues also plagued the defending champion all year but he still showed he has the speed and capability to run up front and contend week in and week out. With Andretti Autosport's move to Honda for 2014 one can only wonder if that will reduce the amount of mechanical issues that hinder his title defense.

8. James Hinchcliffe just edged out Charlie Kimball for eighth in the championship as both will be looking to take another step forward in 2014. Hinchcliffe had three wins but needs to be able to finish more races if he wants to finish at the top of the championship. Kimball by far had his best season and finished ahead of teammate Dario Franchitti though Franchitti did miss the final race. With the move to Chevrolet coming for Ganassi will Kimball be able to improve on his 2013 success or fade slightly and become less of a factor?

9. As 2013 comes to a close, many question about the future arise. Dragon Racing appears to not have the funding to do a full IndyCar operation as well as Formula E which they have committed to do. Jay Penske has said he is committed to do the two Indianapolis races but will we see Dragon be able to keep two cars on the grid full-time?

How committed is Honda? They have already said IndyCar needs one more engine manufacture to help them and Chevrolet carry the load and will not be sponsoring the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg anymore. It is not inconceivable that they would consider pulling out of the series in the next few years if they can't reduce their loses.

Will Simona de Silvestro return to KV? Who will be driving for Herta? Will Foyt keep Sato? What is the future of Panther Racing if they lose National Guard sponsorship? Will EJ Viso return? Do any teams expand their operations for 2014? So many questions with the answers coming at a tortoise's pace.

10. More importantly what will IndyCar do to expand their television packages internationally? I learn during last nights race from a New Zealand man that the race wasn't on in the champions home country and he was relying on my tweet-by-tweet update of the championship picture and the race.

How can a series expand internationally with a winter series if the places they are going can't find the races on television? Better TV packages for those around the globe would bring in more TV revenue for the series while also expanding the audience around the globe. The series need to be making more money and the last thing they can do is allow countries go without being able to see IndyCar race, especially ones with top IndyCar drivers such as New Zealand, the UK, France, Australia and Brazil.

And when it comes to revenue, the series has to take what it can get. Not turn down an offer because a network wants to pay less than what the series is asking for. At this point, any money coming in for the series is good for series.

11. As the season ended, I felt empty. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was all the attrition and the feeling the race would never end. Maybe because it was such a late finish. Maybe it was too much wondering about the future as the series has no title sponsor as it enters the 2014 season.

I want what's best for the series. I don't want the series to die but I wonder where the series is going? It was another great year for racing and when it comes to four-wheel forms of motorsport, IndyCar had to be producing the best product in 2013 but it still appears that isn't enough to gardner attention and sponsorship necessary to continue.

IndyCar needs partners. They need to form relationships with people who are committed for the long-term. IndyCar needs to become more. They can't just rely on the Indianapolis 500. One race isn't the entire championship and the series has to improve on all levels.

12. But how does IndyCar improve while being sensible in their spending? They need to become more recognizable than the Indianapolis 500 and every time their is a massive accident. But come to think of it, it's not like NASCAR does any better. If their races weren't on ESPN each weekend, would they get as much time on SportsCenter as they do now? It's not like NASCAR is what everyone is talking about all day Monday after a race.

Motorsports will never be a full-time cable network sports property like other major sports leagues. So all of you saying every IndyCar race should be on NBC you should just stop now. In the United States, motorsports is cable sports with it's major races getting network coverage. And that's as true for NASCAR as it is for IndyCar. Why do you think Fox is going to be moving some races to Fox Sports 1 in 2014? Why do you think the only Chase race on ABC is Charlotte and not all ten races like a few years ago? It's not that it's not profitable. I'm sure NASCAR was profitable when on ABC but it wasn't making enough and in the world of capitalism just breaking even isn't good enough, you need to be raking more and more each time out.

13. I don't want to end on that note though. IndyCar does have a lot going for it. More and more talented drivers are seeing IndyCar as an option over Formula One because of the cost. When Sam Bird, currently 2nd in the GP2 standings and Mercedes test driver says he is interested, that has to perk up your ears. Here is a guy who is on the doorstep of Formula One but realizes the entry fee is more than he wants to pay but see IndyCar as just as good of an option. Not to mention the talented drivers IndyCar already has but jewels like Bird coming over would only further the depth of an already deep field.

As much as you want the series to grow, you don't want it to grow to a point where it starts pricing drivers out, makes drivers less accessible to fans and stops being fun. IndyCar needs to find an equilibrium of those three factors. That is what the series should worry about the most.

14. Now we play the waiting game until March 30, 2014 when the cars take the green flag at St. Petersburg.



Fontana 2013: First Impressions

1. This race was an ordeal. Attrition was the word of the day. Five cars on the lead lap. Only eight running at the finish, tenth place was twelve laps down. This is the type of race Donald Davidson fancies.

2. Will Power finished fourth in the championship after winning three of the final five races. Compare to the last three years, this was a terrible year for Power but he picked up a win in a five-hundred mile race and his second career oval win. He will be carrying momentum into 2014.

3. Ed Carpenter got a well earned second. Tony Kanaan finished third in his quest for the $250,000 bonus and James Hinchcliffe finished fourth after being a lap down most of the night.

4. Scott Dixon finished fifth, directly in front of Helio Castroneves to take his third career championship. Dixon earned this title and luckily didn't have his engine go like his teammate Charlie Kimball. Dixon was on a tear all summer and it paid off winning a season-high four races to take the championship. I'll be honest, I think if you put them in the same car, Scott Dixon could hang with Sebastian Vettel anytime, anywhere and I think he could hang with any driver on the Formula One grid, anytime, anywhere. He is that good of racer and it can't be ignored.

5. As for the rest of the top ten. You have Marco Andretti two laps down in seventh, Simona de Silvestro pick up her first career oval top ten in eighth three laps down and Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie Kimball both get top tens despite retiring. You couldn't have scripted this race.


6. Can someone get JR Hildebrand a ride next year? Top Honda at the start of the race and made the full-time Honda teams and John Barnes look silly. He was in the top five until his car quit on him the same lap Kimball's did and he comes home in eleventh. Someone get him a ride.

7. Sébastien Bourdais gets twelfth in his final race for Dragon Racing as he will move to KV. He had a great day before something broke on his car. Dragon Racing's future isn't certain either. They will be fielding a Formula E team along with Andretti Autosport but that doesn't mean they will continue in IndyCar full-time. Something to keep an eye on over the winter.

8. Not a bad day for Alex Tagliani before his spin. He was a threat. I hope he can find a ride somewhere for 2014.

9. Justin Wilson went to hospital after an accident with Tristan Vautier. According to his brother Stefan, he suffered a small pelvic fracture. Still will undergo an MRI. Let's wish him the best.


10. Such a shame seeing AJ Allmendinger day ended with an accident. This will likely be his final career IndyCar start as he will be full-time in NASCAR in 2014. Maybe he runs the Double at Indianapolis but we'll have to wait and see. This part-time IndyCar gig wasn't all bad. Wasn't great but he needed more time in the car.

11. EJ Viso should get the flu for all of 2014. Carlos Muñoz is beyond ready to make the jump to IndyCar full-time next year. No in all seriousness though, Viso is sick enough to be in hospital. Muñoz accident was a tough blow for him because he was fast as anyone out there.

12. IndyCar needs a few more ovals. This car would produce great racing at Michigan, Phoenix, Loudon, Kentucky, Richmond and a few other places. There has to be a way for IndyCar and other oval tracks to find a business model to make the races profitable because the level of racing that the DW12 chassis produces on ovals should be featured more on the schedule and to different fan bases around the country.

13. Well another season in the books. I want to thank all my readers for making this a successful 2013 season. Just cause the season is over doesn't mean there isn't more racing to cover and I will wrap up the 2013 IndyCar Season tomorrow. Or later today as I can see it is nearly 1 a.m. ET.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Brisk End To The Racing Season

It's not an equinox or solstice but seasons are ending. This season does not end with leaves changing colors and falling to Earth's surface rather the waving of flags, flow of champagne and in some cases tears of joy and tears of disappointment.

The racing season is starting to come to an end this weekend. IndyCar under the lights at Fontana, DTM at Hockenheim, World Superbike at Jerez and the American Le Mans Series not only ends a season at Petit Le Mans but an era.

As I type, LMP1 cars rumble around Road Atlanta one final time for the near future as the successor to ALMS and Grand-Am, Tudor United SportsCar Championship will not feature the top class of prototype racing. LMP1 will still come to the United States when the FIA World Endurance Championship makes it appearance at Austin but gone will be the days of LMP1 cars at Petit and Sebring and the dream of seeing LMP1 cars thunder around the high banks at Daytona and through the boot at Watkins Glen will have to wait a little longer.

Most of the championships in ALMS have been locked up. Pickett Racing along with drivers Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf have already clinched the final ALMS LMP1 title. Level 5 Motorsports has the LMP2 team championship in the bag and Corvette has taken the GT title. PC and GTC are still on the line as CORE Autosport and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports are tied in PC and only two points separate Flying Lizard and Alex Job Racing in GTC.

In the drivers' championships, Scott Tucker looks to hold off Scott Sharp in LMP2. Antonio García and Jan Magnussen have a sixteen point lead on Dirk Müller in GT. Mike Guasch leads Chris Cumming by eleven and Jonathan Bennett by twelve in PC. Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil have a sixteen point lead over Nelson Canache, Jr. and Spencer Pumpelly.

Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller has already locked up the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship over BMW's Augusto Farfus. Both have clinched their position in the championship while another six driver are capable of finishing third in the standings. Christian Vietoris, Robert Wickens, Bruno Spengler, Gary Paffett, Mattias Ekström and Marco Wittmann could all finish third in the final standings when the season ends tomorrow at Hockenheim.

Bruno Spengler will start on pole ahead of fellow BMW drivers Dirk Werner, Andy Priaulx and Timo Glock. Miguel Molina was the top qualifying Audi in fifth with the top Mercedes-Benz driver being Robert Wickens in thirteenth. Rockenfeller and Farfus will start ninth and tenth respectively. American Joey Hand starts twenty-second. That race can be seen tomorrow at 7:45 a.m. ET.

World Superbike ends their 2013 campaign at Jerez. British rider Tom Sykes has a thirty-seven point lead over Irish rider Eugene Laverty. Sykes lost the 2012 title by only a half point to Max Biaggi after winning the final race and Biaggi coming home in fifth. Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli is third in the standings, only a point behind Laverty. The final round of the World Superbike Championship can be seen at 5:45 a.m. ET on beIN Sport.

There will still be Formula One, MotoGP and NASCAR and the FIA World Endurance Championship still have two rounds to go after Fuji this weekend. V8 Supercars even race into the beginning of December but for the most part the racing season is coming to a close.

But as slowly as the racing season ends, it slowly begins. The Dakar Rally starts January 5th and once that comes to a close the 24 Hours of Daytona will be a week away. After the 24 Hours of Daytona, NASCAR will head to Daytona for Speedweeks leading up to the Daytona 500. And then we will be a month from other series such as Formula One, IndyCar and MotoGP from starting their 2014 seasons and the cycle will continue.

Here is to the end of 2013 and here is to 2014. May your arrival be timely.



Morning Warm-Up: Fontana 2013

Here we are again. Five-hundred miles. Five hundred miles is all that separate us from crowning a champion. Eighteen races are behind us. Nine different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium but only two are fighting to make it to the mountain top.

Scott Dixon had a summer of a lifetime. Three consecutive wins got the Kiwi right back in the championship picture but the consistent season of Helio Castroneves was keeping him for the points lead. Until the leaves start turning color and Castroneves' fortune did a 180 with gearbox issues in both races of the Houston doubleheader while Dixon summer extended into an Indian Summer when he picked up a win and second at Reliant Park.

Dixon is leading Castroneves by twenty-five points. Castroneves will find himself fighting from behind again if he wants to win his first career IndyCar championship. Dixon finds himself on defense as he looks to pick up his third title since 2003 and Ganassi's fifth title in six seasons of reunified American open-wheel racing.

Will Power, AJ Allmendinger and Sébastien Bourdais start on row one. A ChampCar reunion of sorts, Power looks to end his season by winning his third of the final five races while Allmendinger looks to potentially end his IndyCar career with a win, something he has not done since Road America 2006. Bourdais has not won since the "final" ChampCar race in 2007 at Mexico City and looks to get Dragon Racing their first race win (I know people say Long Beach 2008 was the final ChampCar race because it was split from the IRL which was in Motegi, it featured the Panoz DP01 but it didn't count toward a ChampCar championship, the series was already dead, the sanctioning body now known as IndyCar had taken them over and knew they couldn't not race at Long Beach. Mexico City was the final race of ChampCar in my eyes).

Charlie Kimball and James Jakes are the top two Hondas. They will start on row two along with Marco Andretti. Kimball looks to win his home race at Fontana while Jakes looks to better his career-best finish of second which accomplished earlier this season at Belle Isle. Marco Andretti sits fifth in the championship points standings, only two behind Justin Wilson for fourth as the American looks to pick up his first win since Iowa 2011 and set a career best finish in the point standings.

Ed Carpenter starts seventh as he looks to win his third consecutive season finale. Last year, Carpenter passed Dario Franchitti on the final lap, just as he had done in the season finale the year before to take the win prior to the yellow flag coming out for an accident involving Takuma Sato. James Hinchcliffe will look for his four win of the season from eighth on the grid. Despite three victories this season, Hinchcliffe finds himself ninth in points. Tony Kanaan starts ninth as this year's Indianapolis 500 winner will be going for a $250,000 bonus if he can win at Fontana and take two of three legs of the Triple Crown.

Carlos Muñoz starts tenth substituting for EJ Viso. This will be the Colombian's third career starts with his previous two coming earlier this season. He finished second at Indianapolis after starting second and finished seventeenth in race two at Toronto after having to substitute for Ryan Briscoe who broke his wrist in race one that weekend. Ryan Hunter-Reay's final race of his first championship reign will start from eleventh on the grid. Helio Castroneves starts twelfth after serving a top spot grid penalty for an engine change. The most points Castroneves can scored is fifty-three. Should he do that, the Brazilian would need Scott Dixon to finish worse than seventh.

Simon Pagenaud starts thirteenth with Oriol Servià starting fourteenth. Pagenaud has two wins this season and sits third in the standings. JR Hildebrand starts fifteenth, his first race since Sonoma and first oval since Indianapolis. The Californian was fired from Panther Racing after Indianapolis. Last year at Fontana, Hildebrand led fifty-six laps and finished eleventh.

Simona de Silvestro will start sixteenth. She was tenth fastest in the final practice session as she looks to get her first career top ten on an oval. Her best career oval finish was eleventh at Pocono and scored her first career podium in race one at Houston.  Scott Dixon will start seventeenth. The Kiwi just has to keep Castroneves in his eyesight and he will likely take home his third championship tonight. For winning at Pocono, Dixon also has the shot at the $250,000 bonus for winning two of three legs of the Triple Crown. Justin Wilson will start eighteenth. He is fourth in the standings but will have some work to do in the race to keep Andretti from jumping pass him.

Pippa Mann starts nineteenth in her first appearance since Pocono earlier this year. Josef Newgarden will start twentieth. Newgarden scored his first career podium at Baltimore and the Tennessean has improved greatly in his sophomore season with four top-fives and seven top tens. Newgarden is serving a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change. Alex Tagliani will start twenty-first as he substitutes for an injured Dario Franchitti and serves a ten spot grid penalty. Tagliani has three top tens in four starts at Fontana.

Graham Rahal, Tristan Vautier and Sebastián Saavedra make up row eight. All are serving a ten spot grid penalty. Rahal has only one top fifteen finish on ovals this season. He finished fifth at Iowa. Due to being the only rookie to run a full-season, Vautier has clinched 2013 Rookie of the Year honors. Saavedra has not scored a top ten on an oval. His best career oval finish is thirteenth which he scored at Milwaukee earlier this year.

Takuma Sato rounds out the field in twenty-fifth after an engine change. The Japanese driver was leading the points after his win at Long Beach and a second at São Paulo earlier this season. Since Indianapolis, Sato has only one top ten and three finishes in the top fifteen.

NBCSN's coverage of the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series season finale, the MAVTV 500 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag around 9:10 p.m. ET.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Andretti Paces Final Practice of Season

Marco Andretti was fastest in the final practice session of the season. Another practice session where Chevrolets swept the top five positions. Less than a tenth of a second covered the top four as Andretti was only 0.0016 seconds ahead of Helio Castroneves. Ed Carpenter was third with Tony Kanaan in fourth, only 0.0006 seconds off Carpenter for third. Will Power rounded out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda in sixth ahead of the the defending Izod IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Dixon's Gannasi teammates Alex Tagliani and Charlie Kimball were eighth and ninth with Simona de Silvestro rounding out the top ten.

De Silvestro led a string of five consecutive Chevrolets. Behind her was AJ Allmendinger eleventh fastest, James Hinchcliffe twelfth, Oriol Servià thirteenth and Sébastien Bourdais fourteenth. Josef Newgarden was fifteenth.

James Jakes was sixteenth fastest in the #16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda. The Dale Coyne teammates of Justin Wilson and Pippa Mann were next on the time sheet. JR Hildebrand was nineteenth with Takuma Sato twentieth.

Carlos Muñoz was twenty-first in what will be his third career IndyCar start. Simon Pagenaud was twenty-second with Sebastián Saavedra, Graham Rahal and Pagenaud's Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing teammate, fellow Frenchman and 2013 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier rounding out the field.

Vautier only did one lap in the session while Tagliani and Servià both ran a session leading forty-one laps.

The 2013 Izod IndyCar Series season finale can be seen tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag around 9:10 p.m. ET.

Will Power on Pole For Fontana

Penske Racing showed their muscle in qualifying, sweeping the front row for the MAVTV 500. Will Power won his third pole of the season with a two lap average of 220.775 MPH with teammates Helio Castroneves and AJ Allmendinger rounding out the top three times. Castroneves will however have to serve a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change.

Sébastien Bourdais was fourth fastest ahead of the Hondas of Charlie Kimball and James Jakes with Scott Dixon in seventh. Like Castroneves, Dixon will also be serving a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change. Marco Andretti was eighth fastest just ahead of the defending race winner at Fontana Ed Carpenter. Josef Newgarden was tenth but he will serve a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change.

James Hinchcliffe was eleventh ahead of Tony Kanaan who will, along with Dixon, be vying for the $250,000 bonus for taking two legs of the Triple Crown. The substitutes Alex Tagliani and Carlos Muñoz were thirteenth and fourteenth respectively ahead of the defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in fifteenth. Simon Pagenaud was sixteenth ahead of Oriol Servià and Graham Rahal. Rahal will serve a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change.

JR Hildrebrand was nineteenth in his first qualifying session since Sonoma in August. 2013 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier was twentieth ahead of Simona de Silvestro and Sebastián Saavedra. Saavedra will serve a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change.

Three drivers did not partake in qualifying. Justin Wilson's car lost power as he rolled out to beginning his qualifying run while Pippa Mann and Takuma Sato both missed after accidents in practice. Sato is also due to serve a ten spot grid penalty for an engine change.

The provisional starting grid for the MAVTV 500 should look like this (*- Ten spot grid penalty):

Row One:
1. Will Power
2. AJ Allmendinger
3. Sébastien Bourdais

Row Two:
4. Charlie Kimball
5. James Jakes
6. Marco Andretti

Row Three:
7. Ed Carpenter
8. James Hinchcliffe
9. Tony Kanaan

Row Four:
10. Alex Tagliani
11. Carlos Muñoz
12. Helio Castroneves*

Row Five:
13. Ryan Hunter-Reay
14. Simon Pagenaud
15. Oriol Servià

Row Six:
16. JR Hildebrand
17. Scott Dixon*
18. Tristan Vautier

Row Seven:
19. Simona de Silvestro
20. Josef Newgarden*
21. Justin Wilson

Row Eight:
22. Pippa Mann
23. Graham Rahal*
24. Sebastián Saavedra*

Row Nine:
25. Takuma Sato*

IndyCar final practice is tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET. NBCSN's live coverage of the 2013 Izod IndyCar Season Finale, the MAVTV 500 from Auto Club Speedway will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag around 9:16 p.m. ET.

Chevrolet Takes Top Five Times in First Practice

For most of the first practice it appeared Chevrolet and Honda were equal on two mile Auto Club Speedway but at the end of the session the bow-tie brigade ended up taking the top five and eight of the top ten in first practice.

Will Power was fastest with a lap of 32.5955 seconds (220.889 MPH), seven tenths faster than the pole lap set by Marco Andretti last year. 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan was second as he aims to take his second leg of the Triple Crown and the $250,000 bonus that goes along with it. James Hinchcliffe was third with Power's Penske Racing teammates of AJ Allmendinger and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon kept his championship rival Castroneves right in his sights as Dixon was sixth quickest, only 0.0160 seconds back of the Brazilian. Marco Andretti was seventh ahead of Oriol Servià, James Jakes and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top ten.

Honda took the next five spots on the time chart. Justin Wilson was eleventh ahead of Alex Tagliani who is substituting for the injured Dario Franchitti this weekend. Josef Newgarden jumped up to thirteenth late in the session ahead of Takuma Sato who had an accident during the session that brought out a red flag. Simon Pagenaud was fifteenth.

Just behind Pagenaud was fellow Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais. Charlie Kimball was seventeenth ahead of Simona de Silvestro. 2013 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier was nineteenth ahead of the defending Fontana race winner Ed Carpenter.

Graham Rahal was twenty-first ahead of Pippa Mann who had an early accident cut her practice session to only seven laps. She still clocked a lap faster than JR Hildebrand, Carlos Muñoz and Sebastián Saavedra.

Carlos Muñoz will race this weekend in place of EJ Viso who is "sick" with the "flu." There have been speculations that Viso is not at Fontana because his sponsor money was late arriving to the team and that Viso was not comfortable with the car during testing last month at the track. Last year, Viso struggled coming to grips with the car and retired from the Fontana race after only 65 laps.

IndyCar qualifying will take place at 5:15 p.m. ET and will air at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. IndyCar final practice will take place tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 2014 IndyCar Schedule Is...

Not that bad!

March 30- St. Petersburg
April 13- Long Beach
APril 26- Barber
May 10- Grand Prix of Indianapolis (IMS road course)
May 25- Indianapolis 500
May 31/June 1- Belle Isle
June 7- Texas
June 28/29- Houston
July 6- Pocono
July 12- Iowa
July 19/20- Toronto
August 3- Mid-Ohio
August 17- Milwaukee
August 24- Sonoma
August 30- Fontana

Are there things that you'd like to see different?

Yes.

Does ending by Labor Day weekend tie IndyCar's hand behind their back?

Yes.

Is it the worst schedule?

No.

It really isn't bad at all. There are races practically every other weekend except for the two week break in June between Texas and Houston and a few stretches of three or four consecutive weeks of races.

Isn't that what everybody wanted?

Yes but not from the last weekend of March to the end of August. Now racing every other weekend from the beginning of March to mid-October when this season ends gives me shivers of excitement but it's not practical if the season is ending by Labor Day weekend.

Barber on a Saturday is puzzling especially since NASCAR races that night at Richmond and it leaves Sunday wide open for IndyCar.

Ending by Labor Day weekend handcuffs IndyCar over future events. With Milwaukee moving to August 17th it is now the weekend after the Tudor United SportsCar Championship races at Road America. But Milwaukee's move was strategic because that is usually around the time of Wisconsin State Fair and Andretti Sports Marketing is trying to entice the fair crowd to see the IndyCar race. Can you blame them for doing that? No.

Milwaukee in August does make it difficult for Road America to return, especially as a IndyCar/TUSC doubleheader as track president George Bruggenthies would like. The hurdle preventing a schedule featuring both Milwaukee and Road America is Belle Isle. If Belle Isle is any other weekend but the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 and the weekend of Road America, Milwaukee and Road America are both on the schedule together today.

There is no reason Belle Isle has to be the weekend after Indianapolis other than that is what the race sponsor GM/Chevrolet want but what GM/Chevrolet wants might not be what is best. Belle Isle wants a doubleheader on ABC they can have it but that doesn't mean it has to be the weekend after Indianapolis. The question would then become where could Belle Isle go so it allows for IndyCar to go to Milwaukee the weekend after Indianapolis and allow for sports cars to continue to join IndyCar at Belle Isle?

When it comes to IndyCar spreading their current oval races across the schedule, it makes sense and I have said IndyCar should have an oval race a month but IndyCar shouldn't just take what they have and spread it thin. They have to add ovals and that's easier said than done. The series and ovals have to work to make them a financially viable option for both parties. Ovals cannot be ignored. IndyCar only needs three, maybe four ovals to create a better balance. This isn't CART but during CART final renaissance in the late 90s and the turn of the millennium, nine ovals was sufficient. IndyCat currently has six ovals and another three or four, especially if they are any of the following would be great: Phoenix, Michigan, Loudon, Kentucky, Kansas, Chicagoland, Richmond or Motegi.

With the 2014 IndyCar season starting in late March, it will create a five month hiatus from the end of the 2013 season. With 2014 ending on the penultimate day of August to keep a five month offseason the 2015 IndyCar season would have to start by the beginning of February. I don't think it is impractical to accomplish but it won't be easy.

Mark Miles is pursuing a international winter season but that in of it's self has it's hang ups. Miles plan is southern hemispheres races prior to the start of the North American season with races around the Pacific Rim afterward. It's not a bad idea but Miles has to get IndyCar on permanent tracks and not a world tour of street courses. São Paulo is not returning because the city doesn't want to close down the three quarter of a mile stretch of highway that is used as a straightaway. IndyCar wants to go to Brazil, look at Interlagos. I don't want to hear IndyCar can't go their because Formula One goes their because you know what? I don't buy it. Back in the earlier 1990s that might have been the case but today Formula One couldn't care less. If IndyCar is going to the Pacific Rim get permanent facilities. Zhuhai in China, Motegi, maybe even Sepang. That doesn't mean the series can't go to any street courses. Surfers Paradise would be nice but if you do go to a new street course, make sure it isn't half-assed.

The question is if Miles is looking at the Pacific and southern hemisphere, what about Europe? There has to be a market their for IndyCar. Whether the races are at the two European ovals, Rockingham and Lausitzring, two road courses such as Imola and Mugello or a road course and an oval, Europe should be considered as a destination if IndyCar is going international.

Of course whatever does become of an IndyCar international winter season, it has to be feasible for all the teams involved. You can't have an international season that is only practical for Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, Schmidt and Rahal. You have to make sure the likes of Ed Carpenter Racing or Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing are just as capable of going international as the top of the grid.

You can only hope 2014 is the final transition season for IndyCar. If IndyCar (not Mark Miles, not the teams, not the drivers, not Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi or Michael Andretti or Honda or Chevrolet), If INDYCAR as a whole, that means everyone involved from the front office to the person driving the truck for Dale Coyne Racing to and from Fontana, can work together and strive to make theses ideas become reality, IndyCar will be going forward and in a hurry.

2014 would be bad people. Let's celebrate the series and the excitement that is to come this weekend at Fontana and in the year to come.


Track Walk: Fontana 2013

The season finale for the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series Championship takes place this Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Scott Dixon has what appeared to be an improbable lead over Helio Castroneves after two podium finishes at Houston while Castroneves had gearbox issues in both races ending his streak of completing every lap of the 2013 season. As winner of the Pocono 400 Dixon, along with Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan have a chance at $250,000 for winning at Fontana and taking two of three legs of the Triple Crown.

The Championship
It all comes down to this. Scott Dixon has a 25 point lead entering Fontana as he looks for his third career title. Helio Castroneves had had at least a share of the points lead since after the first race at Belle Isle and now finds himself fighting from behind, just like 2008 when he found himself trailing Dixon entering the final race at Chicagoland for the title.

Should Castroneves score maximum points this weekend, Dixon will have to finish at least fifth or finish sixth with winning at least pole or leading a lap or finishing seventh and leading the most laps.

Should Dixon finish last and only score five points, Castroneves will have to score thirty-one points, which can be done by either finishing fifth and winning pole or leading a lap or finishing sixth and leading the most laps.

All possible point outcomes for Dixon and Castroneves can be found here.

Other Championship Battles
Dixon and Castroneves isn't the only battle for positions in the Championship.

Only three points separate Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti for fourth in the standings. Wilson is having a career year on oval, the highest finishing Honda at Indianapolis with a fifth and top tens at Milwaukee and Pocono. Andretti had a career year on road and street courses and has been a contender at all oval races this year with a mechanical failure at Milwaukee and poor fuel strategy costing him wins at Milwaukee and Pocono. Last year both Andretti and Wilson made their first career starts at Fontana. Andretti started on pole and finished eighth while Wilson started twenty-fifth and finished twenty-third.

Last year Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power were battling for the championship, this year they are battling for sixth. Just eleven back of Andretti is Hunter-Reay who is only two ahead of Power. Both Hunter-Reay and Power have two wins this season with the American having six podiums to the Australian's three. Last year at Fontana Hunter-Reay finished fourth after starting twenty-second with Power finishing twenty-fourth after an early accident ended his hopes to hold off Hunter-Reay in the title fight. Hunter-Reay averaged a 5.6 finishing position on the five oval races this season while Power has an average finish of 10.0 on ovals.

James Hinchcliffe will jump Dario Franchitti as the Scotsman will miss the season finale due to two broken vertebra, broken ankle and concussion suffered at Houston. Franchitti's Ganassi teammate Charlie Kimball will jump ahead of him with a finish of twenty-second or better and Kimball could jump Hinchcliffe if he out scores the Canadian by twelve. Kimball finished tenth last year at Fontana while Hinchcliffe finshed thirteenth. Kimball just edges Hinchcliffe on average finish on an oval this season, 11.4 to 12.

Outside the top ten, two points cover EJ Viso, Josef Newgarden and Simona de Silvestro for thirteenth. Last year Viso struggled with car control at Fontana and finished in twenty-fifth. This season Viso has an average finish of 12.6 on ovals including a top five and three top tens. Josef Newgarden finished sixteenth last year at Fontana and has an average oval finish of 13.4 this year with a fifth at Pocono and an eighth at Texas. Simona de Silvestro has never scored a top ten on an oval with eleventh at Pocono this year being her best oval finish. Last year, de Silvestro finished twenty-sixth after her Lotus retired due to a mechanical failure.

One other battle to watch out for is between Sebastián Saavedra and Oriol Servià. Despite missing seven races this year, Servià finds himself only eight behind Saavedra who has competed in every round. Servià has finished eleventh, nineteenth and seventh in his three oval races this year while Saavedra has averaged a 20.2 on ovals this season.

Possible Final Races
Two drivers could being making their final career IndyCar starts at Fontana. First is Alex Tagliani who will be substituting for Dario Franchitti. Last year, Tagliani finished twentieth after an engine failure ended his day. He led twenty-one laps and was in contention for the victory most of the race. Tagliani has three top ten finishes in his other three Fontana starts including a third in 2001 after starting on pole. As of now, Tagliani has no deal for IndyCar in 2014.

The other driver is AJ Allmendinger. The Californian has never raced at Auto Club Speedway in an IndyCar. After nearly seven years out an IndyCar, Allmendinger returned this year driving for Penske at Barber, Long Beach, Indianapolis and Belle Isle. Allmendinger finished seventh in the Indianapolis 500 after leading twenty-three laps. Allmendinger's best finish at Fontana in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is fourteenth. Allmendinger will be driving the #2 Izod Chevrolet. This race will be Izod's final race as title sponsor of the IndyCar Series. Allmendinger will be driving for JTG Daugherty Racing full-time in NASCAR in 2014.

Returning Drivers
Joining Tagliani and Allmendinger as returning drivers to the Izod IndyCar Series will be Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand.

Mann returns for her third start of the 2013 season. After a thirtieth at Indianapolis and twenty-fourth at Texas, Mann finished a career-high fifteenth at Pocono, one lap down. This will be Mann's sixth IndyCar career start on her fifth different track. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only track she has raced at twice.

Like Allmendinger, fellow Californian Hildebrand returns for his sixth start of the season and first since Sonoma. Hildebrand finished fifth earlier this year at Long Beach and started tenth in the Indianapolis 500 before retiring on lap three. Last year at Fontana Hildebrand started fourth and led fifty-six laps before finishing eleventh, two laps down.

IndyCar Manufactures' Championship
It is all tied at nine wins apiece between Honda and Chevrolet with Fontana deciding who will win the 2013 manufactures' championship. However, due to new rules saying any entrant who exceeds the five engine limit for the season is ineligible to score for the manufactures' championship, only five Hondas are eligible to score toward the manufactures' title for Honda compared to Chevrolet's eleven eligible entries.

Hondas who have exceeded the five engine limit are the #18 Coyne Honda which will be driven by Pippa Mann, both Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing entries, AJ Foyt Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and the #9 and #10 Ganassi Racing entries. The #9 will serve a ten grid spot penalty at Fontana. The Honda eligible entries for Fontana will be Justin Wilson, Tristan Vautier, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand.

The only two Chevrolet entries to exceed the engine limit are Helio Castroneves and Sebastián Saavedra. Castroneves will serve a ten-grid spot penalty at Fontana.

Realize Honda could sweep the first seven positions in the MAVTV 500 and not win the manufactures' championship.

AJ Foyt Oval Championship
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves are tied for the AJ Foyt Oval Championship at 186 points. Hunter-Reay owns the tiebreaker with more second place finishes. Tony Kanaan is third, twenty points back, Ed Carpenter is fourth, forty-one back, Marco Andretti is fifth, forty-six back and Will Power is the final mathematically eligible driver; he is sixth, forty-seven back.

Since it's inception in 2010, the AJ Foyt Oval Championship has been won by three different driver. Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon won the first two editions in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending AJ Foyt Oval champion.


Indy Lights Championship
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will win another Indy Lights championship this year. Which driver will it be is another question. Sage Karam enters Fontana up sixteen points on teammate Gabby Chaves. Karam has three wins this season, two on ovals and has finished on the podium in all four oval races this year. Chaves was inches away from winning the Freedom 100 and finished on the podium in three of the four oval races. Chaves picked up his lone win of this season at Mid-Ohio.

Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Muñoz will be eliminated from championship contention as nine cars are entered for Fontana. Hawksworth needed twelve to enter to have a shot while Muñoz needed thirteen.

Should Chaves score maximum points at Fontana, Karam would need to finish at least third and lead the most laps to win the title.

If Karam finishes ninth, Chaves has to score thirty-eight points to tie, which can be done by either finishing third, scoring pole position and leading the most laps. However, Karam owns the tiebreaker over Chaves meaning should Karam finish ninth, Chaves has to finish second.

Kyle O'Gara will be making his second career Indy Lights start driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Fontana. O'Gara made his debut at Indianapolis earlier this season where he finished eleventh after retiring due to an accident on lap two. O'Gara finished fourth in the USAC Honda National Midget Pavement Championship this year and is brother-in-law of Sarah Fisher. Giancarlo Serenelli will make his first career oval start at Fontana. Serenelli has competed in the last three rounds.


Other Tidbits
This will be the twelfth American open-wheel series race at Auto Club Speedway. Three drivers have won at Fontana multiple times, they are Jimmy Vasser, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Adrian Fernández. Each have two wins at Fontana.

Fernández came from 13th to win in 1999, the furthest starting position a winner has come from at Fontana. It is also the only time the winner has come from outside the top ten at Fontana.

Only once has the pole-sitter won at Fontana, that was Dario Franchitti in 2005.

The starting position that has produced the most Fontana winners is second. Twice has the winner from row outside the front row, Vasser in 1998 and Cristiano da Matta in 2001.

This year's Fontana race will feature a three wide initial start. This was a practice used for the Triple Crown races throughout the 1970s and was featured at Pocono earlier this year.

The last two races held on October 19th have been won by Michael Andretti and three out of the five total races held on October 19th have been won by an Andretti. Michael won the last two race on October 19th with his wins coming at Phoenix in 1986 and Laguna Seca in 1991 to cap off his championship winning season.

Mario Andretti won at Pacific Raceways just outside Seattle in Kent, Washington in 1969. Mario won the first 99-mile race of a doubleheader. The second race held later that day was won by Al Unser with Mario finishing second.

The other race held on October 19th was in 1946 and it was won by Walt Ader at the State Fair Speedway in Raleigh, North Carolina. However, my source, ChampCarStats.com says it has not found any other information on the event other than Ader was the winner.

This will be Sébastien Bourdais' final race at Dragon Racing as he will move to KV Racing Technology in 2014.

Prediction
We will see a someone pick up their first win of the season this weekend. Give me Justin Wilson, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden and I will give you the rest of the field. History is in Carpenter's favor as he has won the last two IndyCar season finales. That means the $250,000 bonus for winning two of three legs of the Triple Crown will go unclaimed.

Scott Dixon will win the championship. He will stay right behind Helio Castroneves all night and pick up his third title. In the other championship battles listed above, I'll take Andretti over Wilson for fourth;  Hunter-Reay over Power for sixth; Kimball will finish ahead of Franchitti; for thirteenth through fifteenth it will be Newgarden, de Silvestro and Viso and Servià will jump passed Saavedra.

Alex Tagliani will get a top ten with AJ Allmendinger just on the cusp of a top ten. Sleeper: JR Hildebrand