Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Inclusivity Please

What a difference a week makes. It was much sunnier for IndyCar. Much rainier for NASCAR. Much more Kimi in Formula One. There was contact in MotoGP, the Brits continue to dominant World Superbike, Pirelli World Challenge struggles to get green flag racing and André Lotterer continues to be one of the best drivers in the world. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Inclusivity Please
This is going to sound like a broken record. The Indianapolis 500 struggles to draw more than 33 cars. We know plenty of drivers are interested but Chevrolet and Honda don't want to field more than 17 engine programs. This year, it appears we might get a bump. A.J. Foyt Racing apparently is going to field a third-car and Alex Taglaini is the leading candidate, Conor Daly is the leading candidate for the third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports seat and that would get Honda to 17 entries while Chevrolet is already at 17.

KV Racing apparently was interested in fielding a fourth entry but Chevrolet said no. That sucks and until something changes (IndyCar offering massive bonus points in the Manufactures' Championship for putting more cars in the Indianapolis 500 than the other or a third manufacture joining) the most cars we will see enter the Indianapolis 500 is 34.

We all want the Indianapolis 500 to have a lot of bumping and all the drivers working on deals and then some showing up to attempt to qualify. The current framework is too rigid and the regulations need to become more inclusive. Do we really care if every engine in the field is a 2.2 L twin-turbocharged V6? On the contrary, I think we'd prefer if the Indianapolis 500 had an assortment of engines. In LMP1, Audi uses a 4.0 L turbo-diesel V6, Toyota uses a 3.7 L V8, Porsche uses a 2.0 L V4 and Nissan will use a 3.0 L turbo V6. Four manufactures, four different displacements, three different amounts of cylinders and if you watched Silverstone last week, you probably saw the race of the year.

Instead of being rigid, saying 2.2 L, twin-turbocharged V6 or nothing, why not relax the regulation and say no more than six cylinders and no larger than 3.0 L in displacement? Just by relaxing the regulation, the Super Formula engines, which are 2.0 L turbo inline-4s built by Toyota and Honda are now eligible as are the Porsche and Nissan LMP1 engine. Now the Indianapolis 500 has gone from two possible engine manufactures to five.

Getting a common chassis for the teams would be the next hurdle. You all know I'd love to see Dallara work with IndyCar and Super Formula to come up with one chassis for both series and makes it possible for every Super Formula team to come to Indianapolis in the month of May. If every Super Formula team entered the Indianapolis 500 and you still have 34 IndyCars with Chevrolet and Honda engines enter, the total entry list would feature 53 drivers. You don't even need every Super Formula team to enter. If just the big names in Super Formula such as André Lotterer, Kazuki Nakajima, James Rossiter, Bertrand Baguette, Kamui Kobayashi, João Paulo de Oliveira, Narain Karthikeyan and Naoki Yamamoto showed up, the entry list would still be over 40 entries and I am sure we would all be fine with it.

IndyCar needs to realize there is nothing wrong with loosening the grip so more teams and drivers can compete. When the American Le Mans Series grid size started to shrink, they allowed the Le Mans Prototype Challenge cars and GT Challenge cars to compete. In 2012, European Le Man Series had 13 cars show up for a race at Donington Park. What did they do to increase grid size? Allow GT3 cars to compete. Last week, ELMS had 31 cars compete at Silverstone. Look at how Pirelli World Challenge has succeeded by simply allowing GT3 cars to compete. MotoGP was struggling to break 18 entries in 2011. They created Claiming Rule Teams for teams working on smaller budgets. In 2012, the MotoGP grids started breaking 20 entries and for the last three seasons MotoGP has had the average grid hovering around two-dozen bikes.

Other series have taken the initiative to increase the entry list. IndyCar can do the same for the Indianapolis 500.

Under Caution
Amount of races to end under caution across IndyCar and the three NASCAR national touring divisions from 2008-2014.

IndyCar: 18 out of 121 races (14.876%). 
Races: 2008- Milwaukee, Texas, Nashville. 2009- Edmonton. 2010- Indianapolis. 2011- Indianapolis, Loudon. 2012- Indianapolis, Iowa, Toronto, Fontana. 2013- Long Beach, Indianapolis, Toronto 2, Houston 1 & 2. 2014- Barber, Houston 1.
Average amount of races ended under caution per year (2008-2014): 2.57.

NASCAR Cup: 25 out of 252 races (9.92%).
Races: 2008- Daytona, Loudon, Michigan, Talladega, Fontana. 2009- Daytona 500, Charlotte, Loudon twice, Martinsville, Talladega. 2010- Pocono, Talladega. 2011- Daytona, Watkins Glen. 2012- Fontana, Daytona, Pocono, Talladega. 2013- Fontana, Talladega. 2014- Daytona twice, Bristol, Talladega.
Average amount of races ended under caution per year: 3.57.

NASCAR's Second Division: 21 out of 238 races (8.82%).
Races: 2008- Bristol, Charlotte, Loudon, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Fontana. 2009- Darlington, Charlotte, Daytona. 2010- Talladega, Chicagoland. 2011- Talladega, Richmond, Dover, Road America. 2012- Daytona. 2013- Daytona, Talladega, Kentucky. 2014- Phoenix.
Average amount of races ended under caution per year: 3.

NASCAR Truck: 18 out of 166 races (10.84%).
Races: 2008- Martinsville. 2009- Martinsville, Kansas, Phoenix. 2010- Bristol. 2011- Dover, Michigan, Homestead. 2012- Daytona, Dover, Talladega. 2013- Daytona, Mosport, Talladega. 2014- Martinsville, Charlotte, Texas, Phoenix.
Average amount of races ended under caution per year (2008-2014): 2.57.

In conclusion, whether it's IndyCar or one of NASCAR's three national divisions, anywhere from two to four races will end under caution a year in each series. Some years it is more, some years it is less. There are much more important things to worry about in life than two races ending under caution. It's not the end of the world nor is it the majority of races run.

Also, think about what was said last night during the NASCAR race. The officials are trying to have a green flag finish for the fans. Imagine if it was the NBA and it was said the officials are trying to have a buzzer-beater finish for the fans. Think about how the latter sentence would be received. People would be pissed. It sounds like match-fixing.

Officials, whether it be motorsports or a stick-and-ball sport, should never care about how the fans feel. If they did, the home teams would almost never lose a game. Every league in the world would be like the Nigeria Premier League. Basketball fans don't want the officials calling the game in a certain way so it ends with a buzzer-beater, they want a game to end organically.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott Dixon and Lewis Hamilton but did you know...

Valentino Rossi won the MotoGP Argentine Grand Prix.

Jordan and Ricky Taylor won the IMSA race from Long Beach. Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner won in GTLM.

Olivier Beretta won his third race of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season at Long Beach.

Ed Jones remains undefeated as he won the Indy Lights race from Long Beach.

André Lotterer won the Super Formula season opener at Suzuka.

Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup race from Bristol.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike weekend from Assen.

Kenan Sofuoglu won his second consecutive World Supersport race of the season at Assen. P.J. Jacobsen finished fourth.

José María López and Yvan Muller split the WTCC weekend in Morocco.

Ryan Dungey won the inaugural AMA Supercross race from Santa Clara.

Johann Zarco won in Moto2 and Danny Kent made it consecutive victories in Moto3 as they were the winners from Argentina.

Stoffel Vandoorne and Rio Haryanto split the opening weekend of the GP2 season from Bahrain. Alexander Rossi finished third and fourth and is third in the championship.

Joey Logano led every lap in the NASCAR Grand National race from Bristol.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads back south to Barber.
All three Road to Indy series and Pirelli World Challenge join IndyCar at Barber.
NASCAR heads to Richmond.
World Rally heads to Argentina this weekend. I jumped the gun last week.
AMA Supercross will race on Saturday afternoon from East Rutherford, New Jersey.