Monday, August 3, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: What's Realistic?

There was a hometown winner in IndyCar. Fuel mileage decided the NASCAR race from Pocono. There was controversy in the rainy Austrian Alps. An American made history in Malaysia while the Brits also continue their dominance. Ford had a good weekend in Australia. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

What's Realistic?
This question could be asked about a cornucopia of things. The Brickyard 400 isn't what it once was. Some are thrilled the grandstands are mostly barren and the Grand National race has fewer people than when it was at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The first Brickyard 400 saw 85 cars enter for 43 spots. For the 22nd Brickyard 400, 46 cars were going for 43 spots.

Then the question came to my mind, "will more than three cars fail to qualify for the 100th Indianapolis 500?" Since the DW12-era began in 2012, there hasn't been anymore than one car fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. While 34 cars is the most that has entered the Indianapolis 500 since 2012, there are over 40 drivers each year who say they are interested in running at the Speedway come May.

We keep hearing that a lot of people want a shot at the 100th Indianapolis 500 but what's realistic? How many entries can we realistically expect for the 100th running? Based on the last few years, 34 is surely possible. Perhaps we can get to 35. Maybe 36. But where will the personnel come from to field a 37th entries and so on? Once again, we know there are plenty of drivers interested but there aren't enough car owners with DW12 chassis and Honda or Chevrolet engine leases. Both manufactures have talked about having more leases available for 2016 but how many more are we talking? Are they going to have 18 available engines instead of 17 or are they going to really make it interesting with 20 a piece?

Putting the manufactures aside for a second. The big news earlier this week was Alex Zanardi announcing his interest in competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500. I'd love to see the two-time champion define all odds and enter the Indianapolis 500. Despite losing his legs in 2001, Zanardi has continued racing and winning. He won in World Touring Cars. He became a Paralympic gold medalist. He tested a Formula One car. He tested a DTM car. He has raced in the Blancpain Sprint Series and he just competed in the Spa 24 Hours. And of course, he got back behind the wheel of an IndyCar and ran 13 laps around Lausitzring in 2003.

Zanardi is in better shape than most with two legs. Jimmy Vasser and Chip Ganassi are both interested in helping out their former colleague attempt the 100th Indianapolis 500. However, Zanardi made it clear there is only one person whose call he would answer.

Sorry Jimmy. Although, if I was Jimmy Vasser, who has won the Indianapolis 500 more recently than Chip Ganassi, I would think I could make a more than respectable argument why KV Racing would be more than capable of giving Zanardi an opportunity to be competitive.

Could it be realistic to see Alex Zanardi attempt the 100th Indianapolis 500? Time isn't on his side. Zanardi is turning 49 in October and we have seen older drivers compete but it is reaching the point of now or never for Zanardi running Indianapolis.

It is without a doubt realistic for Alex Zanardi to attempt the 100th Indianapolis 500 but he is going to need Ganassi to get behind him although he shouldn't shut the door on Vasser. IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway should want Alex Zanardi to attempt to the 100th Indianapolis 500 and should do what they can to make it possible. Seeing as how IndyCar closes up shop and ends their season before August becomes September, there is plenty of time to have Zanardi and others test Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the middle of September or early October. Seeing as how IndyCar can't get out of their own way with gag orders and poorly timed front office announcements, it would be nice to see them do something good for the series for once and organizing a test for Zanardi and company would be just that.

Shout Out to P.J. Jacobsen
Going to take sometime out to acknowledge P.J. Jacobsen, who won the World Supersport race at Sepang on Sunday. Jacobsen is the first American to ever win in World Supersport. He won from pole position and held off Jules Cluzel by 0.091 seconds after nearly giving the French rider the victory in the final corner. Lorenzo Zanetti rounded out the podium with championship leader Kenan Sofuoglu finishing fourth.

Jacobsen is the first big victory for an American in international motorcycle racing since Ben Spies won the 2011 Dutch TT. The amount of Americans in MotoGP and World Superbike have gone down in the last two decades as the American motorcycle landscape has faded away and is now almost non-existent. Ben Spies won a World Superbike championship and appeared to have what it would take to challenge for the MotoGP world championship but injuries derailed his career. Nicky Hayden is still around but he is with Aspar, who struggle to finish inside the points. Colin Edwards retired last year.

Jacobsen is 21 (he celebrates his 22nd birthday on Friday) and is the only American hope for the future currently in a top tier international series. Last year, Josh Herrin raced in Moto2 for Caterham but he did not return to Moto2 in 2015. Herrin is only 25 and there is still plenty of time for him to get back to a top international series but for now it's Jacobsen who is waving the flag.

Let's not forget that Jacobsen lost his ride with Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres after the team closed after Donington Park. Core" Motorsport Thailand stepped up and his last three races with the Honda team have ended with finishes of third, second and now a victory. Jacobsen trails Sofuoglu by 28 points for the World Supersport championship lead with three races to go. Cluzel is 13 back of the Turkish rider. I think it is a long shot for Jacobsen to win the title this year but hopefully another year in World Supersport could spring him to World Superbike or MotoGP in 2017.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Graham Rahal and P.J. Jacobsen but did you know...

Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono.

Ryan Dalziel swept the Pirelli World Challenge GT races from Mid-Ohio. Michael Cooper and Kris Wilson split the GTS races.

RC Enerson and Sean Rayhall split the Indy Lights races at Mid-Ohio. Santiago Urrutia extended his Pro Mazda championship lead by winning race one. However, Neil Alberico won race two and was able to cut Urrutia's lead down to 29 points. Nico Jamin swept the U.S. F2000 triple-header as that championship is his for the taking.

Edorado Mortara and Mattias Ekström split the DTM races from Red Bull Ring.

Ford swept the V8 Supercars weekend at Queensland Raceway. Championship leader Mark Winterbottom swept the Saturday races while Chaz Mostert won on Sunday.

Jari-Matti Latvala won on home soil as he took Rally Finland for the his second win of the 2015 World Rally Championship season. Championship leader Sébastien Ogier made it a Volkswagen 1-2.

Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies split the World Superbike races at Sepang.

Ryan Blaney led all but eight laps at the NASCAR Grand National Series at Iowa. Kyle Busch won the Truck Series at Pocono.

Coming Up This Weekend
MotoGP returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
NASCAR will be at Watkins Glen.
Road America hosts IMSA.
Super GT will be at Fuji.