Monday, May 12, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Crowds, Bluffs, A Gift From God, Canopies

The month of May is in full swing. IndyCar is at Indianapolis, Formula One is back in Europe, NASCAR has their All-Star Race next week. Plus the weather is gorgeous, can't complain this time of year.

Grand Prix of Indianapolis Recap
The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was a success. The month of May opened up with more than a few thousand people wandering the Speedway waiting for cars to get on track to shakedown. It wasn't a bad change at all.

A few things:
1. Can we stop trying to estimating crowds? 30,000 to one looks like 45,000 to another. Of course the easiest way to alleviate this problem would be for the track to release the attendance figures. I never understood why tracks are so gun shy to give those figures out when every other sports arena give them away like clockwork. I know for a baseball game, attendance is normally announced around the seventh-inning stretch. Soccer matches release it in the final ten minutes or so of a match. Why couldn't a race track release attendance with 10 to go for a road/street course race and 20 to go for an oval race? That type of transparency would a breath of fresh air in motorsports.

2. Whether the changes to the IMS road course were good or bad lie within the eye of the behold. Juan Pablo Montoya liked the changes, Rubens Barrichello did not.

To be fair to Barrichello, he thought running through oval turn one led to a better passing opportunity and I even said I'd like to see IndyCar run oval turn one.

As for the tire concerns dating back to the 2005 United States Grand Prix, I think we need to go back and absolve Michelin of some of the blame. The first four times Michelin ran at Indianapolis, no problem. The fifth time they go, Toyota had a couple problems, Ralf Schumacher had another big accident and red flags were raised. To be honest, I have always thought it wasn't necessarily a Michelin issue as much as it was Toyota maybe running too much camber or got the setup wrong and it caused the tires to wear quicker.

Remember that season in-race pit stops for tires were banned and tires could be changed only if there was a puncture, weather change or it was proven the tires were dangerously worn. Hindsight being 20/20, maybe the teams should have been allowed to make one tire change during the race and the whole protest and sight of six cars competing would never be edged into our memories.

Time For Chevrolet to Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
AJ Foyt is a gift from God. Racer.com's Marshall Pruett reported yesterday Katherine Legge is looking for a ride for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and AJ Foyt maybe the one to step up to the plate and hire her for the 34th entry to the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

This would be Honda's 19th entry to the Indianapolis 500 while Chevrolet is at 15 and appears unlikely to be adding anymore. During the offseason Chevrolet said they feared being underrepresented on the grid and are ready to supply additional entries. Guess what Chevrolet? You are.

In one calendar year, you lost four full-time entries (2 Dragons, Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold). When you have teams struggling to survive, get behind them instead of letting them go down with the ship. I'm not saying throw them wads of cash but help them talk to sponsors to keep going.

The one thing Chevrolet needs are single car teams. Honda has every single car team but Ed Carpenter Racing. Single car teams round out the grid and provide jobs for many. Imagine if the three teams listed above each had one car full-time in addition to the cars already on the Indianapolis 500 entry list? There would be plenty of bumping, plenty of drivers getting opportunities and crew members working.

As with everything else, easier said than done but I got to call Chevrolet's bluff. If you fear being underrepresented than you got to do more than just sitting on the sidelines waiting for people just to come to the door and take an engine.

Canopies
James Hinchcliffe suffered a concussion during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis after being hit in the head with a piece of debris while Martin Plowman was also hit in the head with a piece of debris. Canopies have been brought up in all forms of open-wheel racing for a while now but no one has acted upon them. I can live with them. With the age of aero kits upon us, if someone's aero kit has includes a canopy over the driver, so be it.

Now I'm not sure if canopies should become a mandatory component with every aero kit. While it would prevent any further incidents such as Hinchcliffe's this past weekend or Felipe Massa at Hungary 2009 or Henry Surtees the week prior to Massa's accident, these accidents aren't frequent, surprisingly in a way. If in three years there are a dozen canopy cars in the Indianapolis 500 and another 21 open-cockpit, I wouldn't oblige.

Some believe canopies would go against what any IndyCar is suppose to be. I don't believe there is anyone image of what an IndyCar is. It is ever-changing. If we go back over a century, what an IndyCar is was no seltbelts, no mirrors, riding-mechanic, a good four feet off the ground. Today's IndyCar looks nothing like that and for good reason, evolution. Look at sports cars. There is no single image of what an LMP1 car is suppose to be. When Audi entered, it was open-cockpit, petrol-engines. Then it became diesel-engines, then closed-cockpit, diesel-engines now closed-cockpit, diesel-hybrid engines and no one has scoffed Audi for building cars that aren't true LMP1 cars. They have evolved. The same way IndyCar has evolved from the Marmon Wasp to the Maserati 8CTF to the Kurtis Krafts to the Cooper-Climax to the Lotus 38 to the Lotus 56 to the McLaren M16C to the Chaparral 2K to the Penske PC-23 to the current DW12.

Winners From The Weekend

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made it another Mercedes 1-2 at the Spanish Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo scored his first career podium. Sebastian Vettel went from 15th to 4th and scored fastest lap.

Jeff Gordon is in the Chase with his win at Kansas. Kyle Busch won the Truck race.

Road to Indy winners: Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia in Indy Lights, Scott Hargrove swept Pro Mazda, Will Owen and Adrian Starrantino in U.S. F2000.

Jari-Matti Latvala won Rally Argentina. His Volkswagen teammate and World Rally Championship points leader Sébastien Ogier finished second with Kris Meeke in third.

Sébastien Loeb won the only WTCC race in Slovakia. Race two was cancel due to heavy rain.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike weekend at Imola and took the points lead by four over defending champion Tom Sykes.

Coming up this weekend:
Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
MotoGP runs the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte.
DTM at Oschersleben.
V8 Supercars at Perth.
Blancpain Sprint Series at Brands Hatch.
European Le Mans Series at Imola (Imola is busy this month).
Super Formula plays two at Fuji.