Monday, August 24, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Mishmash

The weekend ended on a less than positive note but a lot of other things happened around motorsports world this weekend. Stoffel Vandoorne and Alexander Rossi won at Spa. NASCAR ran under the lights. Miller Motorsports Park was saved. A German brand was victorious in Germany. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

A little hectic this weekend after attending the Pocono race so this week will feature mostly quick comments about a few different topics. Note: All this was written on Friday and Saturday.

Penalty Revisited:
Remember at the start of the IndyCar season when Ryan Hunter-Reay was penalized three points at NOLA for the incident between himself, Simon Pagenaud and Sébastien Bourdais so the American left the event with fewer points scored than the two French drivers? Remember how at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Hélio Castroneves ran into the back of Scott Dixon and was penalized eight points so he would leave the race with one fewer than Dixon but that penalty was decreased to three points so it would be "in line with a similar penalty issued earlier this season?"

To be fair, the original penalty to Castroneves was in line with Hunter-Reay's penalty as it gave him a points total that was one less than the driver wronged in the incident. While Castroneves lost more points than Hunter-Reay, it was in line and to be frank, eight points isn't even close to the greatest amount of points a driver lost. Back in 2003, Tora Takagi finished third at the June Texas race behind Al Unser, Jr. and Tony Kanaan. However, with ten laps to go, Takagi caused an accident that took out Scott Sharp and Felipe Giaffone. Takagi was not penalized on the track and after the race he was penalized 23 points, nearly triple of Castroneves' original penalty, which gave him 12 from the Texas race instead of 35 and was two fewer than Sharp's points total from Texas and one fewer than Giaffone's.

I said at the time and I stand by it that if IndyCar was going to be consistent and penalize drivers so they would score less points than a driver they took out on track, than I would support it. With the championship coming down to the final race, who knows if those five points that Castroneves were given back could play a significant role, not just for the Astor Cup but for any finishing position in the championship as there is a difference for what one teams makes finishing second, third, fourth or fifth. IndyCar should have stayed by their guns and not reduced the penalty. Now it may cost a team a significant difference of pay at the end of the season.

Bowyer to Foyt:
Could you imagine if Clint Bowyer joined A.J. Foyt Racing next year? They are pretty much cut from the same cloth. Bowyer cut his teeth on dirt in the Midwest and just seems to have a don't-give-a-damn type personality. He would be great for IndyCar and A.J. Foyt Racing seems like a naturally fit for him. Plus, it could be a great way for Foyt's team to expand back into NASCAR and allow Bowyer to run a handful of Cup races. And with NASCAR just giving out waivers to make the Chase, Bowyer could probably run 19 of the first 26 races and still make the Chase, seeing as how Kyle Busch only needed 15 races to be Chase eligible.

And Bowyer could run the full Chase as the IndyCar season will probably be over by Labor Day because that's what Mark Miles wants and he wants the IndyCar season to end in Boston so badly that he killed Fontana like, a track that actually wanted to host an IndyCar race!

This could legitimately work. If 5-Hour Energy is going to stay with Bowyer, he could run all those Cup races as 5-Hour Energy is only sponsoring two dozen Cup races this year so the funding could be there for a Cup car with Foyt only needing to find Cup sponsorship for a few other races. If Foyt could partner with Penske to help on the Cup side, then Bowyer would definitely be a Chase contender. Foyt could also work out a deal where 5-Hour Energy sponsors their two dozen Cup races and then gets to sponsor Bowyer for 2/3 of the IndyCar season, including the Indianapolis 500, for free with an option to pay for the other third of the season or allow Bowyer's car to be sponsored by another company (i.e. ABC Supply). Heck, the Penske-Foyt Cup partnership could see Foyt become a Chevrolet team in IndyCar and in exchange, Honda gets CFH Racing and Takuma Sato could move to fill a Dale Coyne Racing seat.

IndyCar should get behind bringing Bowyer to IndyCar. Signing a driver with a following would not be a bad thing for a series that needs more eyeballs. Clint Bowyer wouldn't be a messiah that would all of a sudden cause attendance at every race to jump above 45,000 or the average television audience to increase to 2.5 million but he would add a familiar face and name to the series.

What Could Have Been Done to Keep Fontana:
You know I am upset that IndyCar will not returning to Fontana in 2016 and I am sure I am not alone. As you know, I don't believe finding the right time or date was the reason why Fontana fell off the schedule. I believe Mark Miles is muleheaded and wants to end by Labor Day and killing off Fontana was the only way he could get what he wants. But that's not what I am here to talk about.

Let's just say the date and the time the race started are the reasons why Fontana won't be returning next year. I think I could have come up with a way to solve the issue. The real issue was the start time because of sunset, which was too blinding for the drivers. While I think the series should have turned it into a sponsorship opportunity and formed a partnership with Sunglass Hut and given the drivers sunglasses so they could race, let's just say sunset was the issue. Looking into the future and looking at when sunset would be for the date I put Fontana at, sunset is scheduled to be at 6:45 p.m. PT on Saturday September 24, 2016. If the race would go green right at sunset, it would be 9:45 p.m. ET and if it's going to take three hours to complete 500-miles, than the race wouldn't end until nearly 1:00 a.m. ET, something that IndyCar wants to avoid and that is understandable.

While you would just think you could move the start time of the race up to 5:00 p.m. PT and just have the drivers through the sunset and deal with it, perhaps let's look at it another way. IndyCar could have used it to spread out its season finale. The ideas I came up with is either IndyCar split the races into two, 250-mile races with one on Friday night and the other on Saturday or instead of running twin 250s, the first half of the 500-miler could be run on Friday and on Saturday the field would line up as they were running when they hit the 250-mile mark on Friday night and resume the race with 125 laps to go. So for the second option, if a driver were to be one-lap down at the end of Friday's portion than they would start one-lap down on Saturday. It would kind be like the Gulf 12 Hours where they run a 6-hour race, have an intermission that lasts two hours and 45 minutes and then run the final 6-hour race.

The race(s) could start at 6:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. ET) each day and since they would only be 250 miles in length, they would take around an hour and a half to complete, meaning the checkers would fly around 11:00 p.m. ET. Look at it this way, NBA Finals games start at 9:00 p.m. ET and go past 11:00 p.m. ET. World Series games go beyond 11:00 p.m. ET. 11:00 p.m. ET is late but it's not too late. Look at Iowa from earlier this year. That race ended at 10:53 p.m. ET and it was one of the best races in terms of TV audience this year.

The plus side would be IndyCar would get on two days and the racing could start as close to sunset in Fontana while not worrying about ending at 1:00 a.m. ET. Considering how long the IndyCar offseason is, racing on two nights would give everyone their fill before going into hibernation.

Depending on the race format, the points format varies. If the one race, split over two days format is chosen, the race could be worth double points but there could be bonuses for those who are at the front at the 250-mile mark. Say the leader at halfway gets 20 bonus points, second at halfway gets 10 points and third at halfway gets 5 points. If the twin-250s format is chosen, the races could be normal points payout with 50 for a win and so on but the drivers with the best average finish between the two races could get a bonus. Say 20 points for best average finish, 10 for second-best and 5 for third-best.

Having the season finale be spread across a Friday and Saturday has its risk. What if five drivers enter eligible for the title and on Friday night, four of them are taken out? It would make Saturday less interesting. While it would probably be highly unlikely 80% of the contenders would be taken out in the first half of the weekend, it's still a possibility but I think it would be a risk worth taking.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Ryan Hunter-Reay, Stoffel Vandoorne and Alexander Rossi but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix.

Joey Logano won the NASCAR Cup Series night race from Bristol.

Johnny O'Connell swept the Pirelli World Challenge GT races from Miller Motorsports Park. Mark Wilkins and Michael Cooper split the GTS races.

Chaz Mostert won the bookends of the V8 Supercars weekend from Sydney Motorsports Park. Jamie Whincup won the second race of the weekend.

The #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won the IMSA race from VIR. Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler won in GTD.

Hiroaki Ishiura won the Super Formula race from Motegi from pole position and extended his championship lead.

Sébastien Ogier led a VW 1-2-3 at Rallye Deutschland ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.

Emil Bernstorff and Luca Ghiotto split the GP3 races from Spa.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Grand National race from Bristol. Ryan Blaney won the Truck race.

Coming Up This Weekend
The Astor Cup champion will be decided at the IndyCar finale at Sonoma.
Pirelli World Challenge will run their penultimate round of 2015 at Sonoma.
MotoGP heads to Silverstone with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi tied for the championship lead.
The FIA World Endurance Championship returns to competition at the Nürburgring.
Super GT runs the 44th Suzuka 1000km.
DTM invades Russia.