Monday, October 19, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Expanding The Farm

MotoGP might have put on the race of the year at Phillip Island. Joey Logano spun Matt Kenseth and went on to win at Kansas. Jota Sport lost another championship on the final day of the season and it was just as painful as last year. Four drivers kept themselves alive for the Super Formula title after the Sportsland SUGO race. One Spaniard ended Britain's stranglehold on the World Superbike Championship. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Expanding The Farm
Andretti Autosport could expand to four cars in Indy Lights in 2016. Chip Ganassi Racing is considering a Lights operation. Considering the first year of the IL-15 chassis was a minimal gain after many expected increases by leaps and bounds, potentially four more cars on the grid in 2016 would be outstanding for the series. 

However, there is no guarantee Ganassi is going to expand to Lights and the expansion at Andretti could come at a loss of its Pro Mazda teams. 

While it would be nice to see the Indy Lights grid grow, it shouldn't come at the cost of Pro Mazda. Andretti Autosport has long had their hands in the ladder system, helping drivers up the ladder and a few into IndyCar as has Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and more IndyCar teams should have a presence in one of the three series. You wonder if IndyCar car owners care at all about the drivers that are coming through the pipeline. 

IndyCar teams don't need to go NASCAR or Red Bull crazy and contract eight development drivers only to have one make it and leave the other seven on the sidelines to fend for themselves. That system has ruined more careers than helped but help a handful of drivers develop and stay in the ladder system for a few years.

What I have been thinking of the last few days is if there was any way the ten IndyCar teams could form five partnerships and work together on developing drivers in at least the two rungs of the ladder just below IndyCar? I am not saying full-blown two cars in Lights, two in Pro Mazda but at least one in each with one team taking care of the Lights team and the other taking car of the Pro Mazda operation. Of course, if these partnerships would like to run additional entries in either series then they by all means should and Andretti and SPM should continue to run 3-4 cars if they would like. 

Since IndyCar teams are split six-to-four across the manufactures, you could have the teams pair up without having to cross the manufactures' line in the sand. Penske and CFH could partner while Ganassi and KV could team up. Andretti could buddy with Bryan Herta Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Foyt and SPM with Dale Coyne Racing. We could be looking at an addition of at least three cars on the Indy Lights grid (Penske/CFH, Ganassi/KV, RLLR/Foyt) with possibly more and at least four additional cars in Pro Mazda. 

Of course, the one thing standing in the way of all this is money. The whole ladder, from IndyCar at the top to U.S. F2000 at the bottom, needs money to be pumped into it. That won't happen over night. Mazda has done a great job providing scholarships to champions of each three of these series but there needs to be more exposure for these series to draw sponsors otherwise these top teams won't be interested in the lower rungs. 

Champion From the Weekend
Pascal Wehrlein clinched the DTM championship in the Saturday race with a ninth place finish as Timo Scheider won his first DTM race in 55 starts. Wherlein finished 21st on Sunday as Jamie Green won the dead rubber to bookend the season with victories. 

The #41 Greaves Motorsport Gibson-Nissan of Gary Hirsch, Björn Wirdheim and Jon Lancaster won the European Le Mans Series LMP2 championship with a second at Estoril. The #46 Thireit by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Ludovic Badey, Pierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre won the race.

In GTE, the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari of Mikkel Mac, Johnny Laursen and Andrea Rizzoli won the championship with a fifth. The #52 BMW Team Marc VDS of Andy Priaulx, Henry Hassid and Jesse Krohn won the race.

The #59 TDS Racing BMW of Franck Perera, Dino Lunardi and Eric Dermont won the GTC championship with a second place finish in class. The #63 AF Corse Ferrari of Giorgio Roda, Marco Cioci and Ilya Melnikov won the race. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Timo Scheider, Jamie Green, the Estoril results and Joey Logano but did you know...

Marc Márquez won the MotoGP Australian Grand Prix after passing Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone on the final lap.

Spaniard Jordi Torres scored his first World Superbike victory in race one from Qatar, ending British riders' winning streak of 22 consecutive races. Leon Haslam won race two. 

André Lotterer won the Super Formula round from Sportsland SUGO.

Álex Rins won the Moto2 race from Phillip Island. Miguel Oliveira won in Moto3.

In the LMP3 class at Estoril, the #2 Team LNT Ginetta-Nissan of Michael Simpson and Gaëtan Paletou took their first victory of the season.

Kyle Smith won his first career World Supersport race at Qatar.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Grand National Series race at Kansas. 

Coming Up This Weekend
The United States Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas.
Formula E starts their second season in Beijing. 
NASCAR ends the second round at Talladega.
MotoGP ends their Asia-Pacific road trip in Sepang. 
V8 Supercars rumble into Surfers Paradise. 
World Rally will be in Catalunya.