Monday, February 8, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Age of Maturity

The Denver Broncos are Super Bowl champions. Records fell at Bathurst. The Formula E season resumed in Argentina. A Brit is one step closer to a title in New Zealand. Someone scored their first victory of the Supercross season in Phoenix. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Age of Maturity
Max Chilton will be driving for Chip Ganassi Racing this upcoming season in IndyCar. Sage Karam, after an abbreviated rookie season, has the Indianapolis 500 on his plate and a still to be determined schedule with Lexus' GT3 program in IMSA.

Did Karam deserve to lose his IndyCar seat? Do we have enough to go by?

Some think Karam's IndyCar career should be over because they aren't impressed from his first 13 starts. Think about that. Thirteen starts. Not even a full season but enough to be deemed not good enough by some.

Thirteen starts aren't enough. Whether it is this generation or previous generations.

Motorsports have changed a lot from the generation of Foyt, Andretti, Jones and Gurney. Karam entered IndyCar with 52 starts in four years in the Road to Indy system. He ran only five races in 2014, including a ninth in the Indianapolis 500, the year after taking the Indy Lights championship. Let's not forget that Karam doesn't turn 21 years old until next month. When Foyt, Andretti, Jones and company entered IndyCar they were much older and had hundreds of races under their belts. They were way more prepared. Of those three, Foyt was the youngest when making his IndyCar debut. He was 22. Andretti didn't debut until he was 24 and Jones was 27.

If you look at other drivers through 13 starts, you will see that isn't enough time to judge what a driver will be.

Let's note that Karam has one podium, two top fives, three top tens and an average finish of 15.3 from 13 starts and has three retirements and one could be pinned on Takuma Sato.

"Driver A" had a podium and eight top tens in his first 13 races, good enough for an average finish of 9.76 and that driver didn't have an accident in any of those 13 starts.

"Driver B," in 13 starts had one top ten and an average finish of 17.3 and retired from four races due to accidents.

"Driver C" had six top tens from 13 starts, averaged a finish of 12.76 and had only two accidents in that timeframe.

Then there is "Driver D" who had just two top tens, averaged a finish of 17.23 and had six accidents in his first 13 starts.

"Driver E," like Karam, had one podium in his first 13 starts and four top tens but averaged a finish of 14.61 and retired from four races due to accidents.

"Driver A" would only go on to run 40 more IndyCar races and score only one more podium and eight more top tens with an average a finish of 14.825 in those 40 races. This driver never won in IndyCar That driver would be Hideki Mutoh.

However, "Driver B" went on to win four championships, three Indianapolis 500s and is considered one of the best of his generation after his first 13 starts and that driver would be (if you haven't already figured it out) Dario Franchitti.

"Driver C" would win his first career IndyCar race in his 23rd career start but would only have three podiums and nine top tens in his final 43 IndyCar start average a finish of 15.76 over those 43 starts. He had 11 of those 43 races end because of accident. He is Jaques Lazier.

"Driver D" would finish second in his 15th career start and then win his 16th start. He would go on to win two championships, finish runner-up in the championship twice and third in the championship. He would also win an Indianapolis 500. This driver is Gil de Ferran.

Finally, "Driver E" hasn't won a championship and didn't score his first victory until 46th career start but this driver has won three Indianapolis 500s, has 29 career victories and is the active leader in career starts with 311. And by know you know this is Hélio Castroneves.

Thirteen starts aren't enough, 20 starts aren't enough; heck 30 starts aren't enough. The make or break point is about start 50 when you consider only 28 drivers have scored this first career victory in their 50th start or later and even then 50 might not be the best barometer when you consider age. I truly believe actual maturity plays a role into a driver. Look at Graham Rahal. Until last year, everyone thought he was a disappointment. Rahal is still 27 years old and Franchitti didn't win his first "500" and title until he was 34 years old.

Patience people. Hopefully, Karam gets another chance at IndyCar. If only IndyCar grid had a half a dozen more cars that way Karam, Chilton and J.R. Hildebrand could show what they have got at the same time.

When Denver was Last Super Bowl Champions
The Denver Broncos won their third Super Bowl championship last night. Denver's last Super Bowl title came on January 31, 1999. I thought I would look back on what the motorsports world looked like on the day of Super Bowl XXXIII.

The American open-wheel landscape was split and the 1999 IRL season was already a week old. Eddie Cheever won at Walt Disney World Speedway in a race that saw 28 drivers take the green flag.

Speaking of Eddie Cheever, he won the Indianapolis 500 the year prior.

In CART, Alex Zanardi had just won his second consecutive title but he was heading back to Formula One. Kenny Bräck was defending IRL champion.

While the 1999 IRL season opener had 28 starters, the 1998 CART finale also had 28 starters.

Juan Montoya had yet to make his first IndyCar career start.

Scott Dixon had yet to race in America.

Bobby Rahal had just retired.

Team Penske hadn't won an IndyCar race since May 24, 1997 when Paul Tracy won at Gateway, the first race at that track.

Engines in CART were Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Ford-Cosworth and Toyota. In the IRL, it was nearly 90% Oldsmobile with the rest Infiniti.

The Hawaiian Super Prix was still 25 days way from being announced.

Mika Häkkinen was fresh off his first World Drivers' Championship.

Rubens Barrichello was a driver at Stewart Grand Prix.

Other teams on the Formula One grid besides Stewart were Jordan, Prost, Benetton, Arrows and Minardi.

Tyrrell had just run its final race.

BAR had yet to debut.

Red Bull was just a sponsor on the side of Sauber.

Jenson Button was defending British Formula Ford champion.

Fernando Alonso was still two months away from running his first single-seater race.

Porsche had just won Le Mans for the 16th time. Porsche added its 17th Le Mans victory last year.

Audi had yet to win at Le Mans. They now have 13 Le Mans victories.

Tom Kristensen had one Le Mans victory.

Scott Pruett won the 24 Hours of Daytona only once.

Bill France still ran NASCAR, Winston sponsored the Cup Series and the Chase format had yet to ruin the world.

Dale Earnhardt was the defending Daytona 500 winner.

Jeff Gordon had just won his third NASCAR Cup championship.

NASCAR raced at Rockingham twice, Darlington twice and Atlanta twice.

Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson had all yet to make NASCAR Cup debuts.

Pontiac was still a NASCAR manufacture.

Valentino Rossi was a 250cc rider.

Mick Doohan had just won his fifth consecutive world championship.

The top manufactures in the World Rally Championships were all Japanese: Mitsubishi, Toyota and Subaru.

Max Verstappen was one year, four months and two days old.

How things have changed.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the Bathurst 12 Hour but did you know...

Sam Bird won the Buenos Aires ePrix over Sébastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi.

Lando Norris won two of three Toyota Racing Series races from Bruce McLaren Motorsports Park in Taupo, New Zealand. Jehan Daruvela won the other race.

Ken Roczen won the Supercross race from Phoenix.

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR runs the Shootout (or whatever it's called) on Saturday night and Daytona 500 qualifying will be Sunday.
AMA Supercross returns to San Diego.
WRC are tentatively scheduled to run Rally Sweden.
The Toyota Racing Series concludes the 2016 season with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Autocourse.