Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The IndyCar Post I Am Writing As Therapy

I write this as therapy. I write this because deep down in all of our souls there is optimism. Optimism that the grandest picture we can paint in our minds is a possibility. Painting this picture becomes a warm blanket, wrapped around us, keeping the wind and snow from giving us hypothermia.

You need to share your thoughts. You need them to allow to be oxidized and not be preserved in your conscious. Otherwise these thoughts can agonize you. They will always be there. The elephant in the room. You will never be able to move on unless you break the glass vacuum and let others hear what is on your mind. 

What I am about to write is not going to happen. I know this but I need to write it. It gives me hope. This isn't something obscure. This isn't dreaming of Cleveland returning. This isn't a prediction IndyCar will have a magical 2015 where ratings and attendance will multiple like fish and loaves of bread and the names Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Will Power and Scott Dixon will galvanize the nation. 

With so few full-time seats remaining, I wish IndyCar could carefully choose who would be rounding out the group of drivers that will be traveling to all 16 Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2015. Each year it is a game of musical chairs as there are always more participants than there are seats and there are going to be at least four or five drivers on the outside that will make you sigh in disappointment.

If you are keeping score at home, you know 18 seats have been confirmed and no more than six remain unclaimed. Team Penske will run an unprecedented four cars. Andretti and Ganassi each have their own trios confirmed. Foyt is expanding to two cars. The newly merged Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing has two cars. Bryan Herta Autosport will be back after there were moments over the winter where we wondered if that would be the case. Rahul Letterman Lanigan Racing has one car confirmed and that will probably be it from them. KV Racing Technology and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports each have one confirmed. 

Those seats still empty: Andretti and Ganassi each have an open fourth seat. KV and SPM have second seats to fill and Dale Coyne is doing what Dale Coyne does best: Having two seats open with no great feeling of who he will hire and we are just over a month away from the start of the season. 

These remaining half a dozen seats are precious. They should be filled with care because the IndyCar driver line-up is only as strong as it's weakest link. This does beg the question if no one in IndyCar is recognizable, does the weakest link matter anymore than the strongest? Filling the driver line-up with a name that the causal IndyCar follower (oxymoron I know) might have the slightest idea who they are would be better than having fans do a reenactment of the scene in Major League where everyone is saying "Who are these fucking guys?"

Sage Karam makes the most sense for the fourth Ganassi seat and it looks as if Karam is the only driver Ganassi is pursuing for that seat and that is likely to become a reality. The other five though? Your guess is as good as mine as who will be sitting behind their wheels and shifting gears. 

I'd put Justin Wilson in the fourth Andretti and that is the hot rumor. Wilson to Andretti would come about five years too late. Wilson should have had this opportunity with a big team a long time ago. What the record book would look like if he had been hired by Penske to substitute for Hélio Castroneves during the Brazilian's tax evasion trial or if Ganassi hired him to replace Dan Wheldon in the #10 and the money had not dried up on Dario Franchitti's NASCAR excursion. Wilson could get great results at Andretti and his experience would lift all three current members on that team. 

Conor Daly would get the Schmidt Peterson seat and while this could become reality, it is much less likely compared to Karam to Ganassi or Wilson to Andretti. I think we are all waiting on SPM to get that bigger check from another driver sending Daly back to the sidelines. He has the support of current SPM driver James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti and let's put it this way, if salary cap constraints were not a factor and Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy went to the Green Bay Packers front office this offseason praising Demaryius Thomas and saying they need him, you bet your ass they would do everything in their power to make sure Thomas was in green and gold this autumn. The support is behind Daly's talent, now we need to see if the financial support is behind him as well. Imagine how much he could shine if he was given the stage to do so.

I'd bring Simona de Silvestro back to join Sébastien Bourdais at KV. She left IndyCar on a high note. She had just finished a career best in a championship, she had five consecutive top ten finishes, the longest such streak in her career which included her first career podium and first career top ten on an oval. 2014 was setting up to a break out season for the Swiss driver. Her talent hasn't vanished just because she decided to chase a chance at Formula One with Sauber. Hindsight says it was a mistake but we all make mistakes. A return of de Silvestro could lead to that break out season just a year later than expected. 

Which brings us to Dale Coyne Racing. They were talking with Alexander Rossi and I would love to see the Californian get an opportunity in any major series at this point. For the second seat, why not make Dale Coyne Racing "Team California" and hire J.R. Hildebrand? Hildebrand deserves a second chance at IndyCar after being treated like trash by Panther Racing. Coyne is a proven race winner,
being one of just four teams to win in each season of the DW12-era and a young, aspiring driver line-up could elevate them to an upper echelon IndyCar team. 

Even by filling the seats with personal preferences, I am leaving out so many talented drivers. Oriol Servià should be a full-time driver, as should be Ryan Briscoe. I have always wondered what Townsend Bell could do in a full-time season. I'd love to see Jean-Érice Vergne get a full-time opportunity. Tristan Vautier should have gotten a second season in IndyCar because you can't expect any driver to show everything they have in just one season. There are plenty of other drivers who deserve a better crack at IndyCar: Wade Cunningham, James Davison, Bertrand Baguette, Alex Lloyd, Richard Antinucci. 

As stated in the beginning, I know this is not going to happen. Some of it might but not all of it will. De Silvestro will likely never be in an IndyCar ever again in her career. Hildebrand will be lucky if he does any IndyCar race after the Indianapolis 500 this season and while Daly is part-Irish, he clearly doesn't have any leprechauns in his family and will likely be on the sidelines once again. 

Like I said, I wrote this as therapy. You have to share what you are thinking every now and then. Doesn't matter how far-fetched it is as long as you admit from the beginning it is far-fetched. We got to get things off our chest and that is what this blog is at times. A place where I can air out thoughts like socks on a clothes line. I hope you enjoyed looking at my mental laundry.