Thursday, September 19, 2019

Track Walk: Laguna Seca 2019

Another IndyCar season concludes running through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca
The 17th and final round of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season will be the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey from Laguna Seca. This is IndyCar's first visit to the 2.238-mile, 11-corner racetrack since 2004. This will be the ninth time Laguna Seca has hosted the IndyCar season finale but the first time since 1996. Since 1979, no racetrack has hosted more IndyCar season finales than Laguna Seca. This will be the 23rd IndyCar race to take place at Laguna Seca but at 90 laps and 201.42 miles this will be the longest IndyCar race held at Laguna Seca. There have been 14 different winners at this course. This weekend we are guaranteed a 15th different winner but the main story will be about four drivers competing for the Astor Cup as the NTT IndyCar Series champion.

Coverage
Time: Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday September 22nd with green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET.
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Marty Snider and Robin Miller will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule 
Thursday:
Open Test: 12:15 p.m. ET (2 Hours)
Open Test: 4:30 p.m. ET (4 Hours)
Friday:
First Practice: 1:30 p.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Second Practice: 5:10 p.m. ET (90 minutes)*
Saturday:
Third Practice: 1:00 p.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Qualifying: 4:30 p.m. ET (Live coverage on NBCSN)
Sunday:
Race: 3:15 p.m. ET (90 laps)

* - All practice and qualifying sessions are available live with the NBC Sports Gold IndyCar pass.

Championship Picture
Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon head to Laguna Seca alive for the Astor Cup. Pagenaud, Newgarden and Dixon are responsible for the last three championships while Rossi is attempting to win his first IndyCar title.

Newgarden enters holding serve with a 41-point lead over Rossi, a 42-point lead over Pagenaud and 85 points over Dixon.

All Newgarden has to do to clinch the championship is finish in the top four regardless of where any of the other three championship contenders finish. In 2019, Newgarden has finished in the top four on ten occasions, however he had not finished in the top four in the last four races.

Rossi's best chance at the championship will be a race victory. However, a race victory is not even the simplest route to the title. If Rossi wins and only scores one bonus point for leading a lap, all Newgarden has to do is finish fifth to clinch the championship should Newgarden not score any bonus points. If Rossi finishes second with no bonus points, all Newgarden would have to do is finish tenth or better to clinch the title. A third place result for Rossi means Newgarden can win the title with a 20th place finish. The worst result Rossi can score and win the championship is seventh but he will need to score at least two bonus points in that case.

With only a point separating Rossi and Pagenaud, Pagenaud's championship aspirations follow a similar path. A 101-point victory for Pagenaud means Newgarden just has to finish fifth. If Pagenaud is second, Newgarden clinches the title with an 11th-place finish. A third place result for Pagenaud allows Newgarden to take the title with at least a 21st-place finish. The worst result Pagenaud can score and win the championship is seventh with at least two bonus, the same as Rossi.

If Newgarden starts the race, Dixon can only with the title with a race victory. A 101-point victory for Dixon means Newgarden can win the title with a 22nd-place finish. If Dixon scores 104 points in a maximum points victory, he forces Newgarden to at least finish 20th. Even if Dixon gets the result he wants for Newgarden, he will need Rossi's day and Pagenaud's day to go a certain way.

A 104-point victory for Dixon means Newgarden will have to finish 21st or worse, Rossi would have to finish fifth or worse with no bonus points and Pagenaud would have to finish fifth or worse with no more than one bonus point.

The bad news for Dixon is Newgarden's worst finish this season was 19th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and he has never finished outside the top twenty since joining Team Penske. His last finish outside the top twenty was at Texas in 2016, the race where he broke his clavicle and wrist. In his IndyCar career, Newgarden has finished outside the top twenty on 19 occasions in 133 starts. Only five of those 19 results occurred on natural-terrain road courses, including three times at Sonoma in 2012 (23rd), 2013 (24th) and 2015 (21st). The other two were at Mid-Ohio in 2013 (23rd) and the 2016 Grand Prix of Indianapolis (21st).

Entering this race, the tiebreaker is advantage Newgarden as he wins all tiebreaker because he is guaranteed to have more victories than Rossi and Dixon and he is guaranteed to have more runner-up finishes than Pagenaud. Newgarden had four victories while Pagenaud has three victories and Rossi and Dixon have each won twice. Newgarden has two runner-up finishes while Rossi has three, Dixon has six and Pagenaud has zero.

There is no possible way there could be a four-way tie but there are eight possible outcomes that lead to a three-way tie:

Outcome #1:
Dixon wins the race but only scores 101 points AND Newgarden finishes 22nd with no bonus points AND Rossi finishes sixth and scores one bonus point. In this case, Newgarden would be champion, Dixon would be second and Rossi would be third.

Outcome #2:
Dixon wins the race but only scores 101 points AND Newgarden finishes 22nd with no bonus points AND Pagenaud finishes sixth with two bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be champion, Dixon would be second and Pagenaud would be third.

Outcome #3:
Dixon wins the race but only scores 101 points AND Newgarden finishes 23rd with two bonus points AND Rossi finishes sixth with one bonus point. In that case, Newgarden would be champion, Dixon would be second and Rossi would be third.

Outcome #4:
Dixon wins the race and scores 102 points AND Newgarden finishes 22nd with one bonus points AND Pagenaud finishes sixth with three bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be championship, Dixon would be second and Pagenaud would be third.

Outcome #5:
Dixon wins the race and scores 103 points AND Newgarden finishes 21st with no bonus points AND Pagenaud finishes fifth with no bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be championship, Dixon would be second and Pagenaud would be third.

Outcome #6:
Dixon wins the race and scores 103 points AND Newgarden finishes 22nd with two bonus points AND Pagenaud finishes fifth with no bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be championship, Dixon would be second and Pagenaud would be third.

Outcome #7:
Dixon wins the race and scores 104 points AND Newgarden finishes 21st with one bonus point AND Rossi finishes fifth with no bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be championship, Dixon would be second and Rossi would be third.

Outcome #8:
Dixon wins the race and scores 104 points AND Newgarden finishes 21st with one bonus point AND Pagenaud finishes fifth with one bonus points. In this case, Newgarden would be championship, Dixon would be second and Pagenaud would be third.

In every possible three-way tie, Newgarden is champion with Dixon in second and either Rossi or Pagenaud in third. There is no possible three-way tie that does not involve Newgarden and only involves Rossi, Pagenaud and Dixon.

History is on Newgarden's Side
Laguna Seca hosted the IndyCar finale eight times, from 1989 to 1996. On all eight occasions the championship leader entering Laguna Seca left Laguna Seca as champion.

In four of those eight years, the championship had been clinched prior to Laguna Seca with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989, Al Unser, Jr. in 1990 and 1994 and Nigel Mansell in 1993.

In the four years the title was undecided entering Laguna Seca, the championship leader extended the gap with Michael Andretti doing it in 1991 and Jimmy Vasser doing it in 1996.

In 1992, Bobby Rahal entered Laguna Seca with a 12-point lead over Michael Andretti but the final championship margin was four points as Andretti finished second and Rahal was fourth. In 1995, Jacques Villeneuve had a 16-point championship lead entering the race over Al Unser, Jr. and the final championship margin was 11 points, as Unser, Jr. finished sixth and Villeneuve finished 11th.

Championship Ifs
If Josef Newgarden wins the championship Newgarden will be the only Team Penske driver with multiple championship this decade.

If Newgarden wins the championship he will be the first American driver with multiple championships since Sam Hornish, Jr.

If Newgarden wins the championship he will be first driver with multiple championships before the age of 30 since Scott Dixon.

If Newgarden wins the championship he will be the first driver to win the championship after winning the season opener since Will Power in 2014.

If Newgarden wins the championship it will be the fourth consecutive season the driver leading the championship entering the finale won the title. It would be the longest stretch where the championship lead did not change in the finale since the first 13 years of the IRL from 1996 to 2008. The championship lead also did not change in the finale in the 2000-2007 CART/Champ Car seasons.

If Alexander Rossi wins the championship but does not win the race Rossi will be the first champion with fewer than three victories since Gil de Ferran won two races and the championship in 2001.

If Rossi wins the championship it will be the first time since Scott Dixon in 2008 that the vice-champion from the previous season won the title the following year.

If Rossi wins the championship it will be Andretti Autosport's fifth championship joining Tony Kanaan in 2004, Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012.

If Rossi wins the championship he will be the tenth Californian to win the championship and the first since Jimmy Vasser in 1996.

If Rossi or Newgarden wins the championship it will be the first time there will be two American champions in a three-season period since Greg Ray, Buddy Lazier and Sam Hornish, Jr. combined to win four consecutive championships from 1999-2002.

If Simon Pagenaud wins the championship Pagenaud will be the first driver to win the championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year since Dario Franchitti in 2010.

If Pagenaud wins the championship he will be the first Team Penske driver to win the championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year since Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006.

If Pagenaud wins the championship he will be the only Team Penske driver with multiple championship this decade.

If Pagenaud wins the championship but does not finish on the podium it will only be the second time the champion has had fewer than five podium finishes since 2000 joining Scott Dixon's four podium finishes in 2015.

If Pagenaud wins the championship but does not finish in the top five his six top five finishes will be the fewest top five finishes for a championship since Buddy Lazier had six top five finishes in a nine-race season in 2000. It will be the lowest percentage of top five finishes for a champion at 35.29% since the CART-USAC split in 1979.

If Scott Dixon wins the championship it will be Dixon's sixth championship, putting him one behind A.J. Foyt for the all-time record.

If Dixon wins the championship it will be the first time Dixon has won championships in consecutive years and it will be the first time a driver won consecutive championships since Dario Franchitti won three consecutive from 2009-11.

If Dixon wins the championship he will be the oldest champion at 39 years old since Nigel Mansell won the 1993 championship at 40 years old.

If Dixon wins the championship it will be the first time the champion has had at least ten podium finishes since Franchitti had ten podium finishes in 2010.

If Dixon finishes on the podium but does not win the championship it will be the first time a driver had at least ten podium finishes but did not win the championship since Dixon had ten podium finishes in 2009 and Ryan Briscoe had 11 podium finishes in 2009.

If Rossi, Pagenaud or Dixon wins the championship it will be the sixth time in the 12 seasons since reunification that the championship lead changed in the final race of the season.

Rookie of the Year Battle
While four drivers will battle for the championship, three drivers are contesting the Rookie of the Year honors for the 2019 season.

Felix Rosenqvist heads to Laguna Seca seventh in the championship, top rookie, with 365 points. Santino Ferrucci rounds out the top ten in the championship on 339 points. Colton Herta is still alive, 13th in the championship on 316 points.

Rosenqvist picked up his second podium finish of the season last time out in Portland and it was the eighth time Rosenqvist was the top finish rookie this season. Ferrucci has been the top rookie in four races this season but all of those have been oval races. Marcus Ericsson cannot win Rookie of the Year but he could still be the second best rookie and he has been the top rookie in three races. Herta has only been the top rookie in one race this season, his victory at Austin.

Another runner-up finish for Rosenqvist would guarantee him Rookie of the Year honors. For Herta to have any shot of Rookie of the Year, he will need Rosenqvist to finish outside the top seven.

Laguna Seca Experience
IndyCar has not been to Laguna Seca since 2004 and that means few drivers competing this weekend have experience at the track in the top level of North American open-wheel racing.

Only four drivers race at Laguna Seca in CART/Champ Car: Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Laguna Seca is the location of Kanaan's first career podium finish, which came in the 1998 race when he finished third. Kanaan's average finish in five Laguna Seca starts is 13.2.

Dixon, Bourdais and Hunter-Reay all have two starts at the track. Dixon ran the 2001 and 2002 races and he finished fourth and sixth in his two Laguna Seca starts. He started third and ninth in those two races. Bourdais and Hunter-Reay each ran the 2003 and 2004 races. Bourdais retired from the first race because of a turbo issue but he eighth in the next race. Hunter-Reay was a lap down in the 2003 race in 12th but he finished fifth in 2004. Hunter-Reay won at Laguna Seca in 2002 in the Alantic Championship.

Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones, Jack Harvey, Max Chilton and Zach Veach all ran at Laguna Seca in Indy Lights when the series used the track as its season finale in 2015 and 2016. Pigot swept the 2015 races.

Jones and Chilton each finished third in the 2015 races while Harvey finished fifth in both 2015 races. Jones returned in 2016 where he finished second and fourth and clinched the Indy Lights championship.

Prior to Chilton's Indy Lights starts at Laguna Seca, he ran in the 2007 Star Mazda race at the track and he finished 15th after starting fourth.

Veach finished third in the first 2016 race and he followed it up with a victory in the second race. Veach also competed at the track in Star Mazda in 2012.

James Hinchcliffe has victories at Laguna Seca. He won the 2005 Star Mazda race with Jonathan Klein in second and Graham Rahal was third. Hinchcliffe's other victory was the 2008 Atlantic Championship race at the track.

Marco Andretti was also in that 2005 Star Mazda race but was disqualified from a sixth place finish due to a technical infringement.

Simon Pagenaud is a two-time winner at Laguna Seca in the American Le Mans Series. He won the 2009 race with Gil de Ferran as his co-driver and he won the following year with David Brabham and Marino Franchitti in what was a six-hour race.

Graham Rahal's first major outing at Laguna Seca was in A1GP in 2005 when he drove for Team Lebanon. The Lebanese-American driver retired in the first race and ended up in 21st and he had an accident in the second race and was classified in 20th. Notable drivers in that A1GP weekend were Salvador Durán, who swept the races, Nicolas Lapierre, Álvaro Parente, Patrick Carpentier, Timo Scheider, Bryan Herta, Ryan Briscoe, Mathias Lauda, Christian Fittipaldi, Jos Verstappen, Tomáš Enge and Max Papis.

Conor Daly returns to Andretti Autosport for the IndyCar finale and Daly has recent experience at Laguna Seca. He swept the Lamborghini Super Trofeo races with Brandon Gdovic this past weekend in support of the IMSA weekend from the track. Daly had previously won at Laguna Seca in Star Mazda in 2010.

Alexander Rossi got his start at Laguna Seca in Skip Barber competition but he also ran at the track in Formula BMW Americas in 2008. His best finish was second to Canadian Gianmarco Raimondo.

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series have championships left unclaimed but it could be over very quickly in Indy Lights.

Oliver Askew heads into Laguna Seca with 442 points and he has a 41-point lead over Rinus VeeKay.  All Askew has to do this weekend to clinch the championship is score 23 points, which could be done simply by starting both Laguna Seca races this weekend or he could clinch it with a runner-up finish in the first race.

The battle for third in Indy Lights is a little tighter. Ryan Norman sits on 328 points, eight clear of the most recent winner Toby Sowery and Robert Megennis is 14 points behind his Andretti Autosport teammate for third.

Indy Lights will race at 6:10 p.m. ET on Saturday September 21st and at 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday September 22nd.

Kyle Kirkwood has won six consecutive races and eight of the last nine races and that has lifted Kirkwood to the Indy Pro 2000 championship lead on 382 points, 20 points clear of Rasmus Lindh. While Kirkwood has been strong, his work is not done yet. Kirkwood needs to score 46 points this weekend to clinch the title. A runner-up finish and a third place finish would be enough for Kirkwood to claim the championship.

Parker Thompson is third in Indy Pro 2000 on 300 points, six points ahead of Daniel Frost and Sting Ray Robb is fifth on 280 points.

The first Indy Pro 2000 race will be at 7:10 p.m. ET on Saturday September 21st with the final race of the season being at 6:15 p.m. ET on Sunday September 22nd.

While Askew and Kirkwood could have each title wrapped up before the second race of the weekend, the U.S. F2000 championship will likely come down to the final lap of the season.

Hunter McElrea has won four consecutive races and he has taken the championship lead from Braden Eves. McElrea heads to Laguna Seca on 316 points, six points ahead of Eves. Eves has won five races this season but he has not won since Road America in June. Eves has only two podium finishes since that Road America victory, both were runner-up finishes to McElrea at Portland. McElrea has started on pole position for four consecutive races and Eves has not won a pole position since the second race during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend.

Eves is looking to give Cape Motorsports its ninth consecutive U.S. F2000 drivers' championship, although that record does deserve a note that the 2014 champion Florian Latorre ran the first seven races with Belardi Auto Racing before running the final seven races with Cape Motorsports.

Darren Keane is third in U.S. F2000 on 241 points, four ahead of Colin Kaminsky and 16 points ahead of Christian Rasmussen.

U.S. F2000 will race at 8:05 p.m. ET on Saturday September 21st and the final race for U.S. F2000 is scheduled for 1:25 p.m. ET on Saturday September 22nd.

Fast Facts
This will be the 12th IndyCar race to take place on September 22nd but first since Gil de Ferran won at Rockingham in 2001 over Kenny Bräck.

This year's race will come 28 years to the day Michael Andretti won at Road America in what would be his lone championship season.

Team Penske has the most victories at Laguna Seca with six victories. Truesports has the second most victories among teams with four. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Newman/Haas Racing and Forsythe Racing all have three Laguna Seca victories. Chip Ganassi Racing has two victories at the track.

Chevrolet has five Laguna Seca victories while Honda has three Laguna Seca victories.

The only Chevrolet victory at Laguna Seca that was not a Team Penske entry was Michael Andretti in 1991 driving for Newman/Haas Racing.

Dallara has never won a Laguna Seca race.

American drivers have won 12 of 22 Laguna Seca races but only three of the previous 12 Laguna Seca races have had an American winner.

The only other nationalities to win at Laguna Seca are Italian, Canadian and Brazilian.

Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier combined for four Canadian victories.

Teo Fabi, Alex Zanardi and Max Papis are the three Italian winners.

Gil de Ferran, Hélio Castroneves and Cristiano da Matta are the three Brazilian winners.

Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Cristiano da Matta each won in IndyCar and Indy Lights at Laguna Seca.

Jimmy Vasser and Patrick Carpentier each won in IndyCar and the Atlantic Championship at Laguna Seca.

An American driver has not finished on the podium in the last five Laguna Seca races and American drivers have a combined for three top five finishes and seven top ten finishes in those five races.

The last Laguna Seca race with multiple American drivers on the podium was in 1996 when Bryan Herta and Scott Pruett were second and third behind Alex Zanardi. That 1996 race is also the last time a Laguna Seca race had multiple Americans finish in the top five as Jimmy Vasser also finished fourth in that race.

This year's Laguna Seca race has 24 entries. Only three Laguna Seca races have had fewer than 24 entries, 2001-2003.

The average starting position for a Laguna Seca winner is 2.681 with a median of one.

The pole-sitter has won 14 times at Laguna Seca. The winner has started on the front row 18 times. The winner has started in the top three 20 times.

The only Laguna Seca races where the winner did not start in the top three were in 1997, when Jimmy Vasser won from sixth, and in 2001, when Max Papis won from 25th.

The average number of lead changes in a Laguna Seca race is 2.863 with a median of three.

There have been six Laguna Seca races with zero lead changes, all coming in the last 17 Laguna Seca races.

In the 17 Laguna Seca races after the track reconfiguration there have been four races with five lead changes or more.

The average number of cautions in a Laguna Seca race is 1.818 with a median of 1.5. The average number of caution laps is 7.681 with a median of eight laps.

Six Laguna Seca races have had no cautions.

Six Laguna Seca races have had three cautions or more.

The most cautions in a Laguna Seca race is eight in 2001 and the most caution laps is 29, which also came in 2001.

Possible Milestones:
If Scott Dixon takes the green flag, he will make his 321st start, moving him ahead of Al Unser, Jr. for sixth all-time.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 47 laps to reach the 2,700 laps led milestone.

Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead 55 laps to reach the 1,600 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 800 laps led milestone.

Alexander Rossi needs to lead 81 laps to reach the 800 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 12 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Predictions
Alexander Rossi finishes ahead of Josef Newgarden but Josef Newgarden wins his second championship. Newgarden will also finish ahead of Ed Jones. Scott Dixon gets a top five finish. A Honda driver wins Rookie of the Year. Graham Rahal does not run into anyone at the start. Takuma Sato does not run into anyone at the start. There will be at least one notable pass in turn three, turn five and into the corkscrew. Tony Kanaan will finish worse than his car number. Jack Harvey will not advance to the second round of qualifying. One of the drivers with an Indy Lights podium finish in the IL-15 chassis at Laguna Seca will finish in the top ten. The race winner will make at least three pit stops. Sleeper: Max Chilton.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Musings From the Weekend: Sweep Away

Spain is world champions. Marc Márquez won his seventh race in 2019 and this one came after the lead switched three times on the final lap between him and Fabio Quartararo at Misano and that wasn't the only last lap change of the lead at Misano. History has been made in Australia involving one of Roger Penske's drivers. Speaking of Team Penske, the team is already winning silverware in Laguna Seca a week before the IndyCar finale. The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship fight is over! The World Rally Championship title fight might be getting interesting. NASCAR ended a regular season, started a playoff and ended a playoff round this weekend at Las Vegas. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Sweep Away
When watching nearly a dozen previous IndyCar races from Laguna Seca during one of the races the marbles developing off line were mentioned and it was noted how the marbles would make it difficult for a car to make pass.

This has been a problem for a while and there is no simple solution. You could develop a tire that does not wear but that can lead to a dull race. With no tire degradation you do not see cars coming and going. A caution could be thrown every ten laps to sweep the track but nobody wants race manipulation at that level. People also don't want a race being delayed for a significant chunk of laps because of sweeping. We saw it at Gateway. On an oval, about two laps after pit stops are completed people start to get impatient. On a road course, anything more than five laps under caution turns the oldest fans into children.

What if there was a way to have the track swept during the race?

It is a difficult proposition. There was a time when safety vehicles were constantly on track when the race was going on at speed. There was a time when corner workers would be on the edge of a racetrack while cars whizzed by, albeit at a slower speed with a local yellow but 50% of 120 MPH is still 60 MPH, a lethal speed to any bystander.

You cannot have people go out on the track and sweep in the brief moments when cars are not going through certain corners. There is too much risk there and no series or track would take it but what if there was a sweeper that could be on the track at all times? What if there was a sweeper that could keep up with the pace and make more of the track surface usable for longer periods of a race?

My idea is IndyCar has at least two cars in each race and the purpose of those two cars is to run off the racing line. Those cars are not competing for points or position but are simply there to run off line and pick up marbles on a road/street course and on an oval the purpose is to develop a second line.

It sounds crazy but let's walk through it. You cannot have men with brooms or one of the hulking sweepers on the track when the cars are going at racing speed but a race car can do the same thing. The tires can pick up the marbles, clear a line and make a passing zone on a road course usable or at least make it more enticing to faster drivers.

These cars can run at race pace. They would not be running at unsafe speeds. Even better, the driver of these cars would know where to drive and know what other drivers are looking for. If you had two cars those drivers could work in tandem and clear the line into a corner and 30 seconds later the leaders could be coming through and a pass for position may be more likely to occur.

It is not unheard of for sporting events to have competitors competing but those competitors not actually be competing. Track and field, distance running and cycling all use competitors in a support role to the race.

In middle- and long-distance running events a pacemaker is used to keep the pace up and prevent tactical races. The goal of the pacemaker is to run at a reasonable pace and force the leaders to match it. Pacemakers can also be used for world record attempts, running at the pace necessary for someone who is looking to break a record. Pacemakers do not necessarily complete a race but run until the agreed upon distance and then either drop out or drop the pace significantly and let the leaders complete the race.

In cycling, a team employs a domestique. This is a rider that is not competing for race victory or a stage victory but whose role is to support the other riders on the team. A domestique can be used for drafting purposes but can also be used to transport water and food to other riders on the team and will help out if a teammate suffers a mechanical issue. Some domestiques will give up their bike to a fellow teammate to allow that rider stay in the race while the domestique waits for the replacement.

How could any motorsports series, not just IndyCar, employ sweepers?

There are plenty of drivers. It would not be a case of not having enough available hands. The problem would come in getting the equipment.

It is not cheap to run a race car. This isn't something that would only cost a couple thousand dollars to do. It is hundreds of thousands of dollars each time.

Then there is where the race cars come from. There are teams out there with equipment that is not being used but if those teams are already not out there competing then why should we think they will be able to take to the racetrack in a support role?

Here is how I think it could work: This is something IndyCar would have to pay for but it could use the real estate on the cars for series sponsors. The cars would be purely billboards. IndyCar would have to use part-time teams, Juncos Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, DragonSpeed, etc. You could not employ a car from an existing team due to conflict of interest. You need cars out there without any teammates that way this role could not be exploited for a gain in race results.

These teams would basically be doing a test program. They wouldn't need the same amount of tires and they would not be running the same number of miles as the teams competing.

These teams would not start the race but come on when the track is clear after about five or six laps. The main goal would be to run off line and keep the track clear. When faster cars are coming the goal would be to stay to the edge of the racetrack or come down pit lane to get out of the way. The cars could go out and run ten laps at a time then pit, let the race continue and then come out and do another 15-20 laps before coming in again and seeing how the race develops before being deployed one more time and then with about ten laps to go the cars could be removed for the track and that would be the job done for these drivers and teams.

In theory, these teams would not need more than a set of tires and they might only need a tank and a half of fuel.

There are veteran drivers out there such as Oriol Servià, J.R. Hildebrand, Carlos Muñoz, Stefan Wilson, Gabby Chaves, even drivers that have moved into sports cars such as Ryan Briscoe, James Davison and Katherine Legge, that would fit this role. They would know where to run and where drivers would be looking to set up passes. It could also be a case for some younger drivers to get extra seat time and experience an IndyCar in race conditions such as Kyle Kaiser, Aaron Telitz, Zachary Claman and Matt Brabham.

It is not what any of these drivers want. I am sure they want to be competing but it is keeping a driver in the discussion and if a driver is out there, even if he or she is not competing for anything those drivers would still be getting seat time and seat time is valuable.

There is also the case that some tracks you would not need this role so it would not be something IndyCar would need to bring to all 16 events. It wouldn't be needed in the Indianapolis 500 nor Iowa but it would probably help at Gateway, Texas and Richmond. Will Power was adamant that a second line could develop at Gateway if two or three cars ventured up the racetrack. Here would be the two cars that could focus on running the high line and maybe after 40 or 50 laps of two cars running the top the leaders would be able to venture up there without having a worry.

It would not be needed at Road America, Circuit of the Americas and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It might be something that the drivers would have to be asked about. If the drivers think it is necessary than it will be used. If the drivers think it will be fine without them then IndyCar would not have to worry about getting the cars, the crews and the drivers ready.

This is an idea to make sure we get the most out of the on-track product. No driver or team competing for points is going to sacrifice itself for the sake of the show and run off line. That is understandable but if that is the case then lets use the resources available to put a few cars out there with the hopes of making the race better and do it without having to hope for a caution and then have that caution last 10-15 minutes. Let's be efficient and take care of the track and the marbles while the race is green.

A push back would be understandable because extra cars mean extra risks. You run the risk of these cars getting in the way even if those cars are trying to stay out of the way. The last thing any of us would want to see is one of these cars, cars that are not competing for anything, ruining the race of a leader. This is not as simple as a referee being caught in the middle of the action in a soccer game or hockey game and having the ball or puck make contact unintentionally and change possession.

I would say the risk is worth it and with a system of spotters working with race control this can be done with the cars hardly being noticed. Everyone can work together to make sure these cars are on the opposite side of the circuit from the leaders. These cars will know to get out of the way when other cars are coming through. These drivers will know their roles.

This is motorsports; something can arise and cause a problem when not intended. One of these in-race sweepers could cause a caution that turns a race on its ear. It would not be the first time an extraneous circumstance brought out a caution. We have seen cautions for wild life on the racetrack and fans climbing catchfences. I am sure IndyCar can do the best it can to make sure that doesn't happen and it can also have a fail safe to protect the race from having a problem with one of the in-race sweepers change the outcome.

There is nothing wrong with trying something different and thinking outside of the box. IndyCar has tried a lot of things to improve the racing: Alternate tires, push-to-pass, closing the pit lane under caution, allowing traffic to hold up the leader because of the dirty air, which allows second place to close in and create an illusion of a close race.

IndyCar has done a lot but there are still a few things the series has yet to find a solution for. One of those is marbles and the answer might be to put a few extra cars on the track that are racing for nothing but making sure the race is adequate for the people watching and the track is best suited for the drivers competing.

Champion From the Weekend
René Rast clinched the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship with finishes of first and third from the Nürburgring. Jamie Green won the second race of the weekend. It is Rast's second title in three seasons.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Marc Márquez, René Rast and Jamie Green but did you know...

Augusto Fernández won the Moto2 race from Misano, his second consecutive victory and his third victory of the season. Tatsuki Suzuki won the Moto3 race, his first career victory. Matteo Ferrari swept the MotoE doubleheader.

Martin Truex, Jr. won the NASCAR race from Las Vegas, his fifth victory of 2019. Tyler Reddick won the Grand National Series race, his fifth victory of the season. Austin Hill won the Truck series race, his second consecutive victory and third victory of the season.

The #6 Acura Team Penske Acura of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya won the IMSA race from Laguna Seca, the team's third victory of 2019. The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson of Matthew McMurry and Dalton Kellett won in the LMP2 class. The #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won in the GTLM class. The #48 Magnus Racing Lamborghini of Corey Lewis and Bryan Sellers won in the GTD class.

Shane Van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin split the Supercars races from Pukekohe Park Raceway. It was Van Gisbergen third victory of the season and McLaughlin's 17th victory of the season, a new single-season record.

Yvan Muller won the first and third World Touring Car Cup races from Ningbo with Norbert Michelisz winning the second race.

Sébastien Ogier won Rally Turkey, his third victory of 2019 and his first since Mexico in March.

Coming Up This Weekend
The IndyCar finale from Laguna Seca.
All three Road to Indy series end at Laguna Seca.
The Singapore Grand Prix.
MotoGP will back in Spain and in Aragón.
NASCAR has a night race in Richmond.
The European Le Mans Series will be at Spa-Francorchamps.
Blancpain World Challenge America will be at Road America.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Look Back: IndyCar at Laguna Seca

We are less than two weeks until the IndyCar finale from Laguna Seca and it is the first time IndyCar has been to the track since 2004.

This has been a period of returns for IndyCar. In 2016, Phoenix returned after 11 years and Road America after nine years; in 2017, Gateway returned after 13 years and last year, Portland returned for the first time since 2007.

The past few years we have looked back at some of IndyCar's previous visits to these new but yet familiar places. We did it for Gateway and Portland and now it is Laguna Seca's turn to receive some attention.

I went back and decided to watch 11 races from Laguna Seca. After doing this for Portland last year, I thought about what races to watch and while I feel it is important to give a complete picture of how the races have been it does not necessarily translate to what we will see in 2019. The races of the 1980s and 1990s were different in terms of attrition and fuel rules. In Laguna Seca's case, the entire track layout was different. Of these 11 races, six were from the last nine years Laguna Seca hosted a race.

We will start with the first time IndyCar made its way to Monterey in 1983.

1983
This was a much different circuit compared to what we see today and it was really an oval except for the corkscrew and the right-hand penultimate corner. The 1.9-mile circuit had very little run-off area and it had little in terms of actual walls to keep the cars within the race course. Parts of the circuit were right against the berm where fans overlooked the circuit.

Teo Fabi started on pole position and he flew from the rest of the field at the start. Because of the nature of the circuit, the corkscrew was actually a passing zone. The cars built up a lot of speed going up hill and it allowed for cars to make a move to the inside into the corkscrew, including Al Unser, Jr. on his father Al Unser.

Of course, because the corkscrew was such a prime position for action, it led to mistakes including Pancho Carter spinning on exit and Derek Daly and Steve Chassey getting together into the corner. Kevin Cogan was second but had an incident with Roger Mears in the final corner of the course. It was game over for Cogan.

Fabi won the race in a runaway, 22 seconds clear of Mario Andretti and Chip Ganassi rounded out the podium with Unser, Jr. finishing fourth.

The 1980s were a different time and in this race only nine of 27 cars finished the race. This allowed for Unser, Jr. to finish fourth from 12th on the grid, Howdy Holmes to finish fifth from 17th and two laps down and Roger Mears to finish sixth from 16th and four laps down. It also allowed Bobby Rahal to finish seventh, five laps down despite having an early pit stop for repairs.

Unrelated Notes:
I enjoyed this circuit and I wonder how a race with today's car would play out. There are a few tight corners but would it race closer to an oval? There was not much side-by-side racing through the first few corners going uphill, I wonder if that would be possible today.

1986
This was the third of Bobby Rahal's four consecutive Laguna Seca victories, all of which came on the original track configuration but this race had six lead changes, the most on the original track.

Mario Andretti started on pole position and led at the start ahead of Rahal. Michael Andretti moved up to third in the corkscrew with a pass on Rick Mears on the first lap. On lap nine, Rahal made a move up the inside of Mario Andretti into the corkscrew and took the lead.

Outside of Rahal's pass into the corkscrew, the other lead changes came from pit cycles. Geoff Brabham had a hard battle for sixth with Emerson Fittipaldi with the two trading the position. Fittipaldi got sixth on the front straightaway after Brabham was slowed in traffic but Brabham got the spot back into the corkscrew.

This was a fast race, in fact, the fastest race at Laguna Seca with an average speed of 119.693 MPH. The speed of the race led to fuel concerns for the top two and between fuel conservation and the lapped traffic it led for Danny Sullivan to close on Rahal in the final laps. Rahal held on for the victory by 1.41 seconds over Sullivan and Michael Andretti finished third.

Unrelated Notes:
Geoff Brabham had to switch from Honda to a Cosworth engine for this race because the team did not have enough Honda engines to complete the season.

There were two notable instances that did not bring out a caution. Tom Sneva spun in the middle of the straightaway before the corner that leads to what is now the Rahal Straight. There was no caution despite the car being stuck with very with runoff room. Randy Lewis had a fire on the front straightaway, no caution. My, how the times have changed.

1988
This was the first Laguna Seca race after the reconfiguration and creation of what we now know as the hairpin and turns three, four and five. Johnny Rutherford was in the booth for this race and he noted that the drivers liked the new configuration and it was more fun than the previous layout.

Danny Sullivan started on pole position in what could have been a coronation ceremony as he entered the race leading the championship over Bobby Rahal by 25 points. All Sullivan needed to clinch the title was a finish of tenth or better.

Sullivan kept the lead from the start but Teo Fabi spun in the hairpin on the first lap. It was a single-car incident and he continued.

Dale Coyne had a rough accident entering the corkscrew after he squeezed Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. and it brought out a caution early.

The racing was close. The field didn't really spread out but it remained single-file and all the lead changes came through pit cycles. However, there were eight lead changes and statistically that is the most lead changes in a Laguna Seca race, regardless of track configuration.

What passing we did see was on lapped traffic and there was a notable amount of it occurring into the corkscrew.

Sullivan cruised to a championship-clinching victory with Michael and Mario Andretti rounding out the podium and Rahal finished fourth after struggling with brake issues.

Unrelated Notes:
The sub-story of this race was the Marlboro Challenge, which would be held at the next race in Miami, and Derek Daly made the field as well as Teo Fabi. I kind of wish something like the Marlboro Challenge still existed but it would feel unnecessary.

Before the race, ESPN pit reporter John Bisignano was sitting on the right front tire of Daly's car while the car was on the grid. I know IndyCar is not the most restrictive series but I cannot imagine anyone allowing this today.

Al Unser, Jr.'s race was disrupted when he hit a rabbit and it broke his front wing. It dropped Unser, Jr. to a sixth place finish.

1989
The second race on the revised layout saw seven lead changes, the second-most in a Laguna Seca race. Danny Sullivan took the lead from the start from pole-sitter Rick Mears but Sullivan's and hopes for a second consecutive victory vanishes on lap three when he slows in Rainey Curve and Mears took the top spot.

Al Unser, Jr. closed in on Mears and remained on Mears' rear wing. Derek Daly, Scott Pruett and Teo Fabi had a tight three-way battle for eighth.

Mears and Unser, Jr. stopped on the same lap. Mario Andretti took the lead and ran a few more laps before his first stop. He and Michael Andretti stopped on the same lap but he lost time, as the tight nature of the pit lane made it difficult to get out around his son. Despite running longer and the additional time spend on pit lane, the Andrettis both exited ahead of Mears and Unser, Jr. but Mears would get around Michael Andretti for second on the straightaway before the corkscrew on Michael's out lap.

Mario Andretti made his second stop before the other leaders and two laps later Fabrizio Barbazza stopped on course to bring out a caution. Mears made it to the pit lane for his second stop but Unser, Jr. stayed out and inherited the lead. Kevin Cogan moved up to second. Unser, Jr. and Galles Racing felt Mears and Andretti were not in a window where they could comfortably make it to the end on fuel.

After the restart, Mears and Mario Andretti dispatched Cogan in the hairpin and turn five respectively. Unser, Jr. pulled away as he had to try and open a gap over Mears and Andretti. Unser, Jr.'s first stop came on lap 62 but he came out in third behind Mears and Andretti.

Pruett again found himself in a good battle for fifth with Bobby Rahal and Emerson Fittipaldi was behind him. Rahal lost those two spots when he dropped his right side tires off exiting turn six.

It did become a fuel conservation race between Mears and Mario Andretti. Andretti was six seconds behind Mears with three laps to go. With two laps to go, Andretti took a second out of the gap to Mears and he took another second out coming to the white flag. Mears held on to take the victory by 1.846 seconds over Andretti. Unser Jr. held off Pruett for the final podium position.

This victory tied Rick Mears with Rodger Ward for sixth most victories in IndyCar history and Ward was in attendance.

Unrelated Notes:
Noted during the broadcast was some of the fuel rules dated back to the gas crisis of 1973 and teams were talking about changing it so teams would have enough fuel and not have to worry about not having enough to make it to the finish.

Most of the final laps were spent on Rick Mears' wife and Paul Newman. I can understand why this practice was done to show the drama and emotion to the perimeter players because you cannot show it on the face of a driver who is in a full-face helmet and in the tight confines of a cockpit but man it has not aged well and you missed a lot of what happened on track.

1992
This race was the third of three consecutive Laguna Seca with zero lead changes. So why watch it? Because I want to get a feel if it was a case of there was no passing anywhere or the leader was able to pull away with the rest of the positions being jockeyed for.

It was noted that a record crowd was on hand for what would be the championship-decider. Bobby Rahal entered leading Michael Andretti by 12 points. Andretti was leaving for McLaren the following season and he started on pole position with Rahal in sixth. Andretti needed Rahal to finish fifth or worse.

Andretti held onto the lead from the start and he and the Penske cars of Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi pulled away. Rahal would be gifted fifth position when Scott Goodyear suffered a mechanical problem and prior to the halfway point Fittipaldi would also slow, moving Rahal up to fourth.

The leaders weren't passing each other but there was some action in the middle of the field. Jimmy Vasser spun passing Christan Danner into turn five and Danny Sullivan and Raul Boesel had a battle into the hairpin with Sullivan losing the spot on entry but gaining it on exit when Boesel ran wide. The one notable pass between the leaders was Rahal on Mario Andretti in the hairpin. This occurred after Andretti was balked in lap traffic entering the final corner and it allowed Rahal to get a run down the straightaway.

While Mario Andretti would get the position back on Rahal through pit stops, the title went to Rahal after a few fortunate circumstances. John Andretti was competitive and in the top five when he stalled on a pit stop and Tracy had damage after he spun the lapped car of Vasser in the final corner when Tracy was trying to pressure Michael Andretti for the lead.

Michael Andretti won the race with his father Mario in second but Rahal's third place result locked up the title by four points over Michael Andretti.

Unrelated Notes:
Nigel Mansell was in attendance and he was not a big deal. He was not shown on camera until about 2/3rd of the way through the race when he was interviewed and they showed him watching the closing stages of the race sitting on a wall on the edge of the final corner of the circuit.

Danny Sullivan was offered a role in a television movie.

Carl Hogan was trying a noise-canceling headset. We have come a long way.

1996
Entering this race it was a three-way battle for the championship between Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. This was also the first race on the Laguna Seca layout as we know it today with turns ten and 11, the final two corners of the circuit, being re-profiled before the 1996 race.

Alex Zanardi started on pole position and he got out to a comfortable lead with cars going three-wide into the hairpin behind him on the opening lap. It remained tight in the middle of the top ten with a notable battle between Scott Pruett, Vasser and Unser, Jr.

Zanardi went 27 laps on the first stint while Vasser did 29 laps. Bryan Herta started second and remained in second in the opening stint. After the first round of pit stops Herta closed in on Zanardi.

It was noted the difficulty to pass especially in the hairpin because of how dirty it was off line and the way the track sloped. Greg Moore spun attempting to pass Maurício Gugelmin in this corner.

However, on lap 43, Herta took the lead from Zanardi in the hairpin. It was noted how much tires overheated and the cars were sliding around. The blistering of Zanardi's tires in this second stint allowed Herta to open a sizable gap.

Stefan Johansson had an accident after he suffered a rear wing failure into the hairpin. Everyone made their final pit stops under this caution and the restart came with 24 laps to go.

This set up what is the most notable moment in the history of Laguna Seca and perhaps American open-wheel history. Zanardi stayed close to Herta for the entirety of the final 24 laps. He really didn't pressure Herta off the restart. The pressure increased in the closing laps and it led to a slight error from Zanardi when he dropped his right side tires exiting Rainey Curve.

Zanardi regrouped and clawed back the gap to Herta.

Then the pass.

What else can be said?

Zanardi went full send from a mile back and made it stick. It was the only passing attempt in the corkscrew all race.

Zanardi won the race, Herta was second, Scott Pruett rounded out the podium from tenth on the grid and Jimmy Vasser won the championship with a fourth place finish.

Unrelated Notes:
This is the championship-decider we should dread, none of the drivers up at the front and no chance of a change for the top spot.

However, unlike 2019, where I feel the broadcast would focus on the championship drivers even if they were 12th, 18th and 20th and when we all knew nothing was going to change, the 1996 broadcast focused on the leaders. It mentioned the championship battle but once Michael Andretti had a flat tire and spun and Al Unser, Jr. was a lap down the attention stayed on the leaders and that was the correct choice.

I am afraid that in 2019 we are too focused on selling a title-deciding race that we lose sight of a great race and don't give it the attention it deserves just because the championship drivers aren't in the fight for the race victory.

1997
Picking up from where things left off in 1996, Bryan Herta and Alex Zanardi started on the front row and it led to a competitive battle in the opening laps of the race. This allowed Jimmy Vasser to make up a few positions from sixth starting position.

The opening stint was one where Herta was in front but mostly holding up the field and Zanardi, instead of sitting back and hoping to get the position through a faster in-lap and out-lap, tried to make a move on the outside of the hairpin. This led to contact, forcing Zanardi off the road, slowing Herta up and allowing Scott Pruett to take the lead in turn three. Vasser moved up to third with Zanardi stepping off the road and he pressured Herta into a mistake into turn six on that lap to moved up to second.

Vasser would take the lead through pit stops, coming out ahead of Pruett but like the first stint the top five remained in close proximity with Vasser ahead of Pruett, Zanardi, Maurício Gugelmin and Mark Blundell. Herta lost a significant amount of ground after his off track escapades and pit stop and he was in eighth.

On the second stint, Vasser and Blundell went the longest and Vasser maintained the lead while Blundell moved up to second. Pruett lost two spots dropping to fifth. Zanardi had a quick car and tried to make a pass on Blundell on the inside of the hairpin for second but locked up and went off. Zanardi continued but he had dropped to fifth. Zanardi came under pressure from André Ribeiro and Ribeiro completed a pass on the inside of Zanardi into the hairpin for fifth.

Vasser and Blundell remained in lock step in the closing laps while cars dropped out from the race at a significant pace in the final 20 laps, including Pruett, who was spun in the hairpin by Ribeiro. This moved Zanardi up two positions. Lapped traffic came into play on the final lap, backing Vasser up to Blundell. Vasser defended the inside of the corkscrew on the final lap and the inside of the final corner to take victory over Blundell. Gugelmin went off in the final lap, handing Zanardi third and clinching Zanardi his second title.

Unrelated Notes:
This was a caution-free race and eight cars retired in the final 20 laps. The attrition allowed...

André Ribeiro to go from tenth to sixth, Gil de Ferran to go from ninth to fifth, Gualter Salles to go from 18th to seventh, Raul Boesel to go from 15th to eighth and Roberto Moreno to go from 26th to tenth.

At the halfway point, Moreno was 17th, Boesel was 16th and Sallas was 13th.

1998
Bryan Herta started on pole position and held on to the lead from the start. Outside of the first lap, there was only one pass for position between lap two and lap 14. Color commentator Danny Sullivan said it was because of how competitive the field was and how close the field was.

Herta controlled this race and seemed to get to a two or three second lead and maintain that gap. Alex Zanardi started sixth and got a position at the start, another position through pit cycle and he got up to third passing Dario Franchitti into the hairpin on a restart.

Tony Kanaan was the mover of the race. He started 14th and was only tenth at the halfway point at lap 42. However, Kanaan got up to fourth on pit strategy by lap 57 and he made a pass on Franchitti on the inside of the hairpin for third a handful of laps later.

There was restart with seven laps to go and Patrick Carpentier, Scott Pruett and Gil de Ferran got together in the hairpin. It set up a restart with two laps to go. Herta defended the inside of the corkscrew from Zanardi on the penultimate lap, learning the lesson from his past missed opportunity. Zanardi kept the pressure on but Herta held on for his first career victory and Kanaan finished third, his first career podium finish.

Unrelated Notes:
ESPN cut away from this race for Sammy Sosa at-bats because it was during the home run race between Sosa and Mark McGwire. Sosa hit his 61st home run that day.

I know steroids were involved but I was kid and I remember when home runs were a big deal and ESPN would cut away regularly for these at-bats and later Barry Bonds. ESPN doesn't cut away ay all for these type of milestone moments nor no-hitters or perfect games and I miss it.

While ESPN was cutting in for home runs, Honda provided limited commercial interruption during the closing stage of the race.

ESPN had pop-up video fun facts during this race, which were odd and the oddest of all was one that said Dario Franchitti's nickname was "Speedwagon." Who called him that?

Blundell's car had Haas sponsorship on the side.

2001
When going over the Laguna Seca results you see 20 of 22 races have been won from inside the top three with 18 races from the front row and then you have the 2001 race where the winner started 25th. How could such a thing occur?

The answer is eight cautions for 29 laps and a race that was run to a time limit.

Michael Andretti spun in the hairpin at the start, Kenny Bräck suffered damage after contact with Maurício Gugelmin in turn five and then the teammates Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier got together in the penultimate corner.

Gil de Ferran led from the start ahead of Hélio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. On lap 15, Memo Gidley was 18th after starting 23rd and Max Papis was 20th from 25th. Roberto Moreno spun three laps later exiting turn four and Michel Jourdain, Jr. got into the barrier. Castroneves made a pit stop while de Ferran and the rest of the front-runners stayed out.

Castroneves would make up some ground, including passes on Gidley and Gugelmin in the hairpin.

The rest of the leaders would not come in until around lap 34 when de Ferran came in and lap 37 when Dixon, who Parker Johnstone praised for his great fuel mileage that season, made his first stop.

On lap 42, Papis was fourth while Gidley was ninth and Shinji Nakano stopped on circuit to bring out a caution. Papis would make a pit stop under this yellow and he would restart in 15th, one spot ahead of Gidley.

This is where the time limit starts to come into play. After another Andretti spin in the hairpin the field pits under caution at lap 50, which includes Castroneves making contact with Paul Tracy on exit.

Fernández leads on the restart ahead of Papis, Gidley, de Ferran and Dixon and immediately Dario Franchitti and Cristiano da Matta get together exiting the hairpin sending da Matta into the tires. The next restart would come on lap 56, 27 laps to go or 32 minutes remaining.

At this point, Fernández has not made a stop since lap 36, Gidley on lap 37 and Papis on lap 43. Tracy would go off in turn three and Franchitti would go off moments later in a separate accident in the same corner. That would bring out a caution and bring Fernández to the pit lane.

Papis was going for it like he did at Portland in 2001 and the restart came on lap 65. Not long after, Oriol Servià would have his infamous accident climbing over Gugelmin in the hairpin and nose-diving into the sand, this launched Servià's car into a somersault, traveling some 30-50 feet. Servià was conscious and moving when the medical team reached the car and all he was being checked for was a sore neck. The HANS device was largely credited for saving Servià in that accident.

This accident would not only confirm the race would run to a time limit but that Papis and Gidley would be good to make it on fuel. The other thing in Papis and Gidley's favor was the lapped car of Andretti was in-between Gidley and de Ferran.

The final restart came with six minutes to go and Papis went unchallenged. He would take his second victory of the season while Gidley finished second ahead of pole-sitter de Ferran.

Unrelated Notes:
The big story entering the race was Honda's exit from the series and this is a bad reminder of a dark period for American open-wheel racing.

We have been lucky, one not to have the split, but two because while Lotus flamed out after one horrendous season Honda and Chevrolet have provided stability. I don't think anyone wants IndyCar to be in a position where we could be down to one manufacture again and it is kind of why everyone is eager for additional manufactures to join with the next generation engine regulations.

2003
This was the second consecutive year CART went to Laguna Seca in June opposed to September or October and this was the first time after the significant shift in power with Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green Racing moving to the Indy Racing League while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing remained straddling no-man's land.

The race weekend started with some drama when Michel Jourdain, Jr. had pole position taken away for his car being underweight and it put Patrick Carpentier on pole position while Jourdain had to start 13th.

The initial start was waved off but the race got going on lap two and Paul Tracy moved into second ahead of Bruno Junqueira. The one thing I noticed was how cars would use the pit exit lane as racetrack down into the hairpin. At the start it allowed cars to set up for the inside into the hairpin but did not cause any incidents.

This was the period of mandatory pit windows and no car could go more than 24 laps. Every car tried to go as long as they could with Carpentier, Tracy and Junqueira all coming in on lap 24. Carpentier was stuck in traffic at the end of the stint and it closed the gap considerably, making execution from the crews crucial. Everyone held their position after the first stop and Carpentier pulled away with clear track ahead.

Carpentier made a mistake into turn three, dropping his left side tires into the dirt. Tracy closed but could not get through. Junqueira would again close on the two Canadians. All three went the maximum distance on the second stint, pitting on lap 48 and this is where the race was interesting. Tracy clipped the tire in Adrian Fernández's pit stall on exit and he locked up the right front mightily rejoining the racetrack in the hairpin.

Carpentier again pulled away while Tracy struggled with tires and he dropped his right tires off exiting turn six getting on the Rahal straightaway. This allowed Junqueira to reassume second position.

Junqueira was able to close in on Carpentier and he was within a second and a half of Carpentier for the entirety of the final stint but could not put together a serious challenge for the lead. Tracy held onto third once Sébastien Bourdais had turbo pressure issues.

The notable mover of the day in what was otherwise a caution-free race except for the waved off start was Michel Jouradin, Jr. Jourdain made up two spots at the start but was only up to tenth on lap 16. He got to ninth by lap 44 and was up to eighth on lap 50 after a pass on Fernández into the corkscrew. He was up to sixth ten laps later and Bourdais' problems put him into the top five. Jourdain had another pass into the corkscrew on lap 74, this time for fourth on Mário Haberfeld.

Most of the ground Jourdain made up was through pit strategy but the passes he made on track were outstanding executions of risk.

Unrelated Notes:
It should be noted that the balance of the tires started to shift about 17 laps into a stint.

There was a flashback to when Patrick Carpentier had an accident in turn four at Laguna Seca in 2000 and he cleared the catchfence. I had forgotten that happened.

Can we talk about the career year for Michel Jourdain, Jr. in 2003? He led the championship after this race. He won two races, first at Milwaukee and later at Montreal. He had six podium finishes, 11 top five finishes from 18 starts and he won a pole position. He was never worse than third in the championship.

What other driver had all the highlights of his or her career occur in one season? Jourdain had been around for a while but he was never flashy. At the same time, he had never been in great equipment having driven for Dale Coyne Racing and Bettenhausen Racing. And he is a forgotten driver that left for NASCAR.

Unfortunately, Jourdain, Jr.'s career may be remember solely for being the one car that could not qualify for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 where he basically had six hours to find speed, never did and never bothered to make a qualifying attempt. That is all really harsh but I think we should remember his 2003 season more than what happened a decade later.

There was one name of note that was mentioned that I did not remember and knew nothing about that was Jamie Dingman, who was co-owner of Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing with Emerson Fittipaldi and who Tiago Monteiro drove for. During the broadcast, Tommy Kendall described Dingman as someone who always wanted to be an owner and not a driver, was trying to get a race in St. Petersburg... Russia and he wanted to be the next Roger Penske.

With all those ambitious, I had to Google search Dingman and the first thing that comes up is he dated Tiger Woods' ex-wife. On top of that, he could be the subject of a documentary produced by an investor that Dingman owes $500,000.

Dingman was sued by eight plaintiffs for not using the capital he as given to develop a hospitality business but on his own lifestyle of luxury travel and recreational drug use. Dingman didn't appear in court and in an email to one of the plaintiff's lawyers Dingman said he was living on the Turkish border near Syria.

Let's not forget to mention he is an heir to billionaire Michael Dingman.

I hope this documentary gets made but I really want a 30-45 minute section dedicated to the one year of Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing because there has to be some stories there. The team existed for one season! It was born during the most vulnerable time for CART! The series was desperate for cars and I bet it was taking whoever was interested but who did he make promises to and who didn't he paid?

This could be the three-part podcast series that wins Marshall Pruett a much-deserved award for all his hard work.

2004
Laguna Seca moved back to mid-September and the start was a mess with only the first row of Sébastien Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier side-by-side with the rest of the cars single-file. Tommy Kendall even called the start atrocious. On the opening lap, Rodolfo Lavín made contact with Justin Wilson in the corkscrew, ending Wilson's only start at Laguna Seca after one lap.

Bourdais made a pit stop on lap two from the lead after a flat left rear tire. Paul Tracy assumed the lead ahead of Carpentier and A.J. Allmendinger. Tracy may have his right front end plate rubbing this tire and this allowed Carpentier to challenge into the corkscrew but to no prevail.

Nelson Philippe and Gastón Mazzacane got together in the corkscrew, leaving Mazzacane parked in the famed corner. Philippe went off heading into the hairpin immediately after that accident and it brought out a caution on lap 12. There were no takers for an alternate strategy.

Bourdais made a move on Mário Haberfeld into the hairpin on the restart and two laps later Alex Tagliani moved ahead of Haberfeld in the same corner. Bourdais remained stuck behind Roberto González for eighth position and lost his right front end plate after contact on González into the corkscrew in an ambitious move on lap 26. Bourdais had to pit and González had a tire puncture after the contact.

Tracy and Carpenter remained within a second of each other for the opening stint while Allmendinger was within about 1.5 seconds. Tracy was the first to stop on lap 29. Carpentier and Allmendinger each stopped on the following lap. Allmendinger stalled but Carpentier made it out ahead of Tracy. Tracy was not happy with the call to bring him in on lap 29. He felt the team brought him in too early.

Tagliani took the lead and he stretched the stint to lap 37. Carpentier caught the leaders Tagliani and Michel Jourdain, Jr. Tracy made an unscheduled stop on lap 39 for a front wing change after the tire rub got worse and it cost him massive amounts of time. Jourdain's pit stop came on lap 40, meaning he did the entire first half of the race before his first stop.

Allmendinger's race ended when he made contact with Servià into the hairpin. Allmendinger made a move up the inside and drove over the curbs into Servià. The Spaniard continued with no damage. Allmendinger took blame for the incident and his other mistakes during the race.

Carpentier had a 15-second lead over Junqueira on lap 43 and he was only getting faster with a lead of 20 seconds at lap 51. Part of that increase may have been because Junqueira was caught behind the lapped car of Tracy.

González stopped on circuit on lap 55 and this caused the leaders to dive into the pit lane. Carpentier maintained the lead ahead of Junqueira with traffic between the top two drivers. Servià saved a set of alternate tire for the final stint and he was up to third.

With 66 laps complete, Carpentier's lead was up to six seconds and the race switched to a timed-race with uncertainty the race would reach the 80-lap distance. Not long after this Carpentier dropped his right tires off into the final corner and ran wide but did not go fully off the circuit. He did lose two seconds to Junqueira.

It was not really an eventful race and Carpentier won comfortably, 5.395 seconds ahead of Junqueira and Servià put Dale Coyne Racing on the podium in third after completing 79 laps.

Unrelated Notes:
Bruno Junqueira did 140 MPH through turn six and was going about 150 MPH into the corkscrew. He was at 167 MPH into the hairpin.

Race coverage has improved over the last 15 years. Pit strategy was not covered well at all. Pit stops were missed. They weren't really talking about strategy. It took a good three or four minutes for the Mazzacane/Philippe contact to be addressed. It just felt bad. That doesn't mean the people on screen were bad but it was a different time and watching this race and compared to what we have seen in the last few years on NBC's coverage, we should be grateful.

Oriol Servià got pulled over driving to Laguna Seca after coming from the NASCAR race at Fontana. He was doing 105 MPH.

Derek Daly was on the scene when Mike Cannon walked down to Craig Hampson discussing for the lapped car of Mario Domínguez to let Bourdais through. We don't see that broadcasted at all now but kudos on Daly for being there and putting the microphone into the conversation. I am not sure anybody would do that today.

For most of the closing laps, Jourdain, Jr. was fourth and bunched up the rest of the top ten but there were no moves for position.

What Should We Expect This Year?
I think if IndyCar has the level of tire degradation at Laguna Seca that we saw at Road America this could be a really interesting race and it seems Laguna Seca was a track where tires would fall off. It will also depend on the fuel window. If the cars can do 30 laps and it is a 90-lap race, it will be a two-stopper.

I have a feeling IndyCar instituted a distance that would mean teams could not make it on two stops and everyone would have to make three stops regardless of how much conservation. If the most a car can do is 25 laps then it opens the door for interesting strategy choices. It means cars could stop as early as lap 15 on the opening stint and make it on three stops while other cars could go as long as lap 25.

It should be noted that this would be the longest IndyCar race ever at Laguna Seca at 90 laps for 201.42 miles. I think unless there are four or five cautions for 25 laps, this is going to be a three-stop race. Now, we just saw 13 of the first 16 laps at Portland be run under caution so it cannot be ruled out but if everyone gets through the hairpin clean the first two laps that could really shape out how teams run this race.

When it comes to passing places, it seems like the hairpin is the place of choice but it is not going to be as straightforward as that. The hairpin is a place where a car has to hold the inside when making a pass. Too much momentum means that car will run wide and lose that spot immediately on exit.

Traffic could come into play especially in the final corners. If traffic ruins the rhythm of a car in the final corners it could allow a car to gain and have more momentum down the front straightaway into the hairpin.

The type of race we will want to see is some combination of the 1997 and 1998. Those were races with plenty of jockeying and we are going to want a race where a battle can continue out of the hairpin into turn three.

As for other areas of the track, turn five is a place where someone could try a pass. It is notable how the corkscrew has changed. In the early races, passes into the corkscrew were commonplace. In the final years of CART/Champ Car those attempts were few and far in-between. I am not sure we are going to see anyone try it this year and partially because I think after not racing at Laguna Seca for 15 years and living off the highlight of Zanardi's pass, no one is going to dare and try it. We will have to wait and see but I think whatever passing attempts occur come within the first three corners of the circuit.

We also have to prepare for a processional race and one where qualifying results will ultimately dictate who has a shot at victory. This is a track where 14 of 22 races have been won from pole position, 18 of 22 races have been won from the front row and 20 of 22 races have been won from a top three starting position. That doesn't give you much hope that someone can drive up from fifth or someone can go off strategy and win from eighth.

Trying to stay positive I guess the one thing to say is the past is not always precedent and many things have changed since 2004. It could be a case of this combination of the universal aero kit, push-to-pass and alternate tire creates a race we have never seen before at Laguna Seca. There will be only one way to find out and we have another week until the cars hit the track.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Musings From the Weekend: Diving into the IndyCar/NASCAR Doubleheader Hurdles

Charles Leclerc took the torch as lead Ferrari driver with his victory in the Italian Grand Prix over Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton while Sebastian Vettel playing in the sand with Lance Stroll. Meanwhile Formula Three driver Alexander Peroni took flight. Peroni walked away but with a broken vertebra. NASCAR had a sloppy race in Indianapolis and Jimmie Johnson did not make the Chase/playoffs for the first time since NASCAR adopted this championship format. World Superbike returned after two weeks off. There were some champions crowned in Hungary. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Diving into the IndyCar-NASCAR Doubleheader Hurdles
It has gone quiet on the IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader idea. Both series have announced their respective 2020 schedules and neither are getting together. This will have to wait until 2021 but with NASCAR in IndyCar's backyard this weekend it is a chance to discuss the topic.

We touched upon some of the hurdles last year but that did not cover all the hurdles. A few were missed and this is a chance to not only double-check the previous things brought up and go over the new items on the plate.

Let's go back and hit the topics brought up last year in one swoop: Track schedule, tires and weather.

Track schedule comes down to who races when. Who runs on Saturday? Who runs on Sunday? Could both run on Sunday? Which race would get the best television window? The allure to a doubleheader weekend is seeing NASCAR Cup cars and IndyCar on track back-to-back. You want to see a Cup practice and then an IndyCar practice. It can't be two one-day shows happening on one weekend with all the IndyCar stuff on Saturday and NASCAR on Sunday or IndyCar on Friday and NASCAR on Saturday.

I believe there is not necessarily one golden time and instead of having one race be seen as the undercard to the main event I think you could have two main events. I think there are certain places where an IndyCar race on a Saturday night and a Cup race on Sunday or even a case where both races are on Sunday can be two main events and not one losing out to the other.

Tires provide a problem, especially on ovals. Goodyear and Firestone tires are incompatible and with the greater number of cars on Goodyear tires the track will not set up for Firestone to race well. Once the Goodyear rubber gets down when IndyCar takes to the track it will not get to a place where Firestone rubber is laid down. The Firestone tires would lift the Goodyear rubber from the surface. A racetrack would be one groove for IndyCar and teams would struggle for grip. This would likely lead to a less than ideal IndyCar race and people would be disappointed. A road course would be better for a doubleheader because you are not worried about two grooves forming and racing appearing more processional.

Then there is weather. Rain could drown out any IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader, especially on an oval. If the doubleheader was to occur on one of those weekends where it rains for three consecutive days and it was at an oval that Monday would be a nightmare, especially if the NASCAR Grand National Series and/or Indy Lights were also on the bill. One, there would not be enough time on a Monday to fit in four races or if you did try to run all four on a Monday, someone would be racing at 9:00 a.m. and racing would have to go until at least 7:00 p.m., if not 8:00 p.m. at night. Any oval that would use this event would have to have lights just to extend the racing window.

Weather is another reason a doubleheader should be on a road course. IndyCar can race in the rain. NASCAR can race in the rain. Unless the weather was disastrous the weekend could be completed without delay if it rained at a road course.

Those were the previous points. The next one is space.

A racetrack has to be able to host all the cars and that is not asking a lot. There are 40 Cup cars on a good weekend and 22-24 IndyCars. Sixty-four cars is not a lot of cars when you consider there are NASCAR weekends that bring over 110 cars. There are plenty of tracks that can accommodate the space but it is also the quality of the venue. Some tracks have the Truck Series and Grand National Series work from the back of the hauler. They are not in garages but under tents.

If IndyCar is going to a venue where it is used to having garages and NASCAR is going to a venue where it is used to having garages both have to get what they want. Either enough garages have to be available or concessions have to be made. There is also the quality of garages. We know there are tracks with high-end garages, which are meant for Cup cars, and then your more basic garages. If both series are used to the high-end garages it is going to be difficult to get either side to accept the downgrade.

Garage space aside, there is also pit lane. How IndyCar and NASCAR used pit lane during a weekend is quite different. IndyCar teams are used to setting up the pit stand and leaving it. All the work IndyCar teams do is from the pit lane. NASCAR teams are used to working out of the garage during practice and the pit boxes are not set up until Sunday when the order on pit lane is drawn. IndyCar teams know the lineup on pit lane prior to the weekend starting.

This could cause a problem especially if there is a NASCAR Grand National Series race before the IndyCar race. However, IndyCar is able to take down the pit stands at Texas when there is a Truck race on Friday night before IndyCar races on Saturday. This might not be as big of a deal but I am sure it could cause a commotion on pit lane as some teams will be tearing down equipment while others will be trying to set up in the same space.

This clash of using the same area brings us to time because it is going to take time for one of these weekends.

It takes a certain amount of time to set up pit lane. If IndyCar and NASCAR were to race on the same day, there would need to be a decent amount of time for one series to clear out and for the other to set up. It will not be a simple as IndyCar having a race at 12:00 p.m. and having a race that ends at 2:00 p.m. and then NASCAR being ready to go at 3:00 p.m. I have to imagine it will take more than an hour for the IndyCar teams to take down their equipment and to get all the cars move from the pit area. I also have to imagine it will take more than an hour for NASCAR teams to set up a pit stall, lay out all the tires and get the cars lined up on the grid.

It might take two hours, which would create a very long lull. Fans will get restless. You will either have fans show up for the first race and leave before the second begins or fans that do not show up until after the first race ends and attend only the second race.

On an oval, it will take more time than to just set up pit lane but the SAFER Barrier needs to be adjusted as well. People might not realize this but the foam blocks inside the SAFER Barrier are moveable and the layout for a NASCAR race is different for an IndyCar race. Typically, for IndyCar, the foam blocks are more spread out to absorb blows from the car at a faster speed. This is done to reduce the amount of ricochet.

This is a process that not only would take time but also if NASCAR and IndyCar sessions were intermingled this would have to be done multiple times during a day. It might take an hour to adjust the barriers. There is also a risk when changing it. The more you alter a barrier the greater chance a mistake could occur. A foam block could be forgotten; one could be spaced too far out or too close to another. I am sure a track can take the time to make sure it is done right but if it is going to take a minimum of 90 minutes between each session that is a turn off to those in attendance.

I think the option for the least amount of headaches is a road course and I have said before that the best option is the simplest option: Just add IndyCar to the Watkins Glen weekend. IndyCar gets to go back to Watkins Glen. NASCAR would have to run the boot. It is a weekend that already draws a significant crowd. In August, the days are long enough that a race can start at 6:00 p.m. ET and end before sunset. IndyCar would take a Saturday evening race. Everybody would win.

The one thing against Watkins Glen could be the number of garages. I am not sure there are enough for everybody. What is a road course that has enough garages and is suitable for NASCAR and IndyCar?

I think it is Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Most of the Cup cars are in the Formula One garages. There are a ton of garages at the facility and likely enough to accommodate 40 Cup cars and 24 IndyCars. Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosting the IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader has already been floated out there and with the Independence Day weekend it could set up nicely for the two series together and spend a holiday together.

There is one other venue I will throw out as a possible place for a combined weekend and it is a track that neither series has raced at. It is Sebring International Raceway. It seems like a crazy idea but Sebring built a second pit lane for the FIA World Endurance Championship when it joined the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend this year. The garages were temporary but still up to standards for these top-notch teams. If Sebring can house about 40 IMSA teams and about 30 WEC teams, it can be suitable for 40 Cup cars and 24 IndyCars. Each series would get its own area and would not have to worry about stepping on each other's toes.

This might be the best place for this doubleheader weekend: A place neither can call home. A place where the track surface is unsuitable for any race car but we still find a way to make the place work. A place that is under used and could host another event.

I don't know when you could fit Sebring into the calendar. You are not going in the summer, which is when I think this combined weekend would have to occur but with 2021 being the year NASCAR has penciled in changes to its calendar, why not create a new event unlike anything that exists? Why not have this event be the season finale for each and why not have it in the middle of December as one final hooray before winter? It is crazy but the entire concept of IndyCar and NASCAR running together is crazy.

No combined weekend will be happening until 2021 at the earliest. There is plenty of time for all the kinks to be ironed out but there could be more than each series wants to handle. It could be seen as too much work or it could be something where the sides cannot come up with a compromise. Neither side will be able to get everything it desires. The biggest hurdle of all maybe the egos of the two organizations.

Champions From the Weekend
The #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini of Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli won the Blancpain World Challenge Europe with finishes of fifth and fourth from the Hungaroring.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Charles Leclerc but did you know...

Kevin Harvick won the Brickyard 400, his third victory of the season and his second Brickyard 400 victory. Kyle Busch won the Grand National Series race, his fourth victory of the season, his 96th victory in NASCAR's second division and his sixth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Nobuharu Matsushita won the Formula Two feature race from Monza and Jack Aitken won the sprint race. Robert Shwartzman and Yuki Tsunoda split the Formula Three races.

The #39 Lexus Team SARD Lexus of Heiki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama won the Super GT race from Autopolis. The #60 LM Corsa/K-Tunes Racing Lexus of Hiroki Yoshimoto and Ritomo Miyata won in GT300.

Jonathan Rea won the first race and the Superpole race of World Superbike action from Algarve with Alvaro Bautista winning the second race. Federico Caricasulo won the Supersport race, his third victory of 2019.

The #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG of Vincent Abril and Raffaele Marciello swept the Blancpain World Challenge Europe races from Hungaroring.

Coming Up This Weekend
MotoGP is at Misano.
NASCAR is in Las Vegas for an evening race.
Laguna Seca hosts the penultimate round of the IMSA season.
Nüburgring hosts the penultimate round of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season.
Supercars heads east to New Zealand and Pukekohe Park Raceway.
World Touring Car Cup is back in action and is in Ningbo.
The World Rally Championship will be in Turkey.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Motorsports Promotion: Accidents or No Accidents

Motorsports can be cruel and events can occur in untimely fashion.

For about two weeks I had been thinking about how accidents and crashes are used in advertising for motorsports series. Whether it is IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One, etc., we see series and broadcasting partners include accidents in promotional material.

When used it can draw a response from a segment of audience that is dismissive. This segments reviles when accidents are used and it seems to be because they believe when accidents are shown a true representation of a race is not being given to the audience. It is seen as an exaggeration of a race and it leads to a misrepresentation of what a series is and it can draw in the wrong people. By showing accidents it draws in people who are only there for the accidents, the carnage and these people will not respect the competitors. They are there not for the competition but for schadenfreude, receiving joy out of another person's failure, in this case celebrating an accident, which can have horrible consequences.

Those horrible consequences are why people push back against the crowd only there for the accidents. It is an audience only into blood sports. They have no concern for the dangers. It is not them out there. They want to see something spectacular but do not think twice about what could happen to the man or woman behind the wheel.

Those horrible consequences were reality last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with the fatal accident of Anthoine Hubert.

It is tough to talk about accidents at this time and then to dive into the utterly meaningless nature of promotions and advertising makes you shake your head.

However, I think Hubert's accident has helped me wrap my head around this and it has simplified the debate. After seeing the worst motorsports can give us it provides clarity. When death occurs it puts into place everything that happens in life and what is important and what is not.

Knowing these are still somber times I will approach the topic from a respectful but critical viewpoint.

After last weekend, I believe there are three trains of thought when it comes to using accidents in promotions: Accidents should never be used, accidents should be used only if it did not have a serious injury or fatality, all accidents are fair game.

I am going to go over these from one polar end to the other and discuss all the pros and cons to each.

Accidents Should Never Be Used in Promotions
This viewpoint is held by those who are race focused. These people want the race to be the selling point. They want passing, quick hand movements, close quarters action and speed to be shown to the masses. They want the highest level of ability being sold to the people. They want to show the skill of the drivers and that is why they want people coming to series. They want other people who see the skill and respect it.

That is a notable thing to want and it is the same with any sport. Any sport wants to show its best athletes playing the game at the highest level. Hockey fans want the promotional material to be Sidney Crosby carving through three defensemen and putting the puck in the top corner from his backhand. Basketball fans want LeBron James chasing a defender down on defense and pinning a layup against backboard. Soccer fans want Lionel Messi nutmegging or breaking a defenders ankles and then slotting a ball into the goal.

It is reasonable for race fans to want the best of the drivers shown.

The push back I have is it is hard to show the skill of a driver and condense it to a 30-second advertisement. No 30-second advertisement is going to capture that. It can get pieces of it but sometimes when you take those spectacular moments out of context it does not look that spectacular. It is something you have to invest in to understand or have it make sense.

There are plenty of clear things that happen in a race that can be used: Passes, saves, side-by-side action, those all make up a race but accidents are part of a race as well. Not showing accidents is kind of disingenuous. Everyone knows accidents happen in motorsports. Not showing them is almost hiding it and people will call that out as well.

I think there is a happy medium and that brings us to our next train of thought....

Accidents Should Be Used Only if it Did Not Have a Serious Injury or Fatality
This is where we are today. When you see promotions for motorsports, if it has an accident or two in it, these are accidents when all the drivers involved walked away and let's be honest, about 97% of all accidents have all the drivers involved walk away. That means 97% of accidents are fair game to be used.

The promotions are not snuff films. They aren't glorying death. They are not selling death. They are selling what can happen when everyone is racing at the limit. When the drivers reach the limit there is a chance they will go over the line and the end result when going over the line is an accident. Some accidents are the back end stepping out and clipping the barrier and it is a single-car accident. Other times it is three cars getting together in one corner. Then there are the breath-taking accidents, the collision between Scott Dixon and Jay Howard in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 comes to mind.

The Dixon-Howard accident was a visual spectacle. Dixon's car floated like a kite before contact with the barrier on the inside of the short chute. It is something we cannot envision happening and it did and Dixon walked away. That is what makes it even more unfathomable. Sanity would tell us no one who flies through the air at 200 MPH in an automobile should live and yet not only did this man survive but he got out of the car seconds later and was standing on his own two feet.

Dixon's accident was used in a few IndyCar commercials and it drew some ire from the fan base. I can understand it but here is where we get to the happy medium. If a promotion is supposed to capture all aspects of a race that includes accidents but there also comes a correct representation of a race.

You can have a 30-second commercial that is nothing but accidents. The problem is that is a true representation of a race. No race is nothing but accidents, not even the races that seem like are nothing but accidents are nothing but accidents. That would be something worthy to get upset about.

If we use this year's statistics alone, 13.336% of all laps completed in the first 16 races in the 2019 IndyCar season have been under caution. Not every caution is because of an accident. Some are for debris and others are for cars breaking down on circuit but let's just use that 13.336% as a base. If 13.336% of a 30-second commercial is given to accidents than that is four seconds. That is not a lot of time. If four seconds of a commercial or even six or seven seconds is an accident or a pair of accidents I am not sure we can get upset with that.

We also need to be honest with ourselves. Majority of people that watch a race and follow a series on a regular basis do it because they love motorsports. They are not in it for the thrills. But even the most passionate fans have to admit that some of the moments that stand out in their minds are the accidents.

We remember Dixon and Howard. We remember Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay getting together at Fontana. We remember Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti getting together at Long Beach. We remember when Tony Kanaan took out half the field at Texas two years ago.

Those aren't the moments we harp on but if asked what do we remember about certain races there is a good chance we are going to remember an accident. Just because you remember an accident doesn't mean you are celebrating it or that is all you care about but it is a memorable part of a race. There are those that are visually memorable, like Dixon's and Briscoe's but accidents are memorable because they can change what happens in a race.

Look at Dixon and Colton Herta's accident at Texas this year. That will be remembered when people talk about the 2019 Texas race because it also set up the late battle between Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. This year's Indianapolis 500 was changed because Graham Rahal and Sébastien Bourdais got together in turn three. If those two do not get together Alexander Rossi most likely runs away with his second Indianapolis 500 victory.

I think there is a happy medium. Not every accident is visually jarring and if the promotion is not too heavily focused on accidents then it can provide an accurate representation of what happens in a race.

But there is another side to the happy medium.

All Accidents are Fair Game
Welcome to the other side of the spectrum. The same way showing no accidents is an extreme showing any accident is also an extreme.

The argument that can be made here is if you want a true representation of a race than you have to include everything that could happen in a race and that includes these unfortunate accidents where drivers are hurt or killed.

However, there is a moral pushback to it. The same way everyone knows accidents happen in motorsports everyone also knows fatalities can occur in motorsports. The same way everyone knows injuries can happen in other sports.

Promoting a motorsports series does not need to be surgeon general's warning. It doesn't need to show the worst of what could happen.

Other sports do the same. We do not see cheap shots included in hockey commercials or terrible leg injuries in basketball or soccer commercials. All those occur in those sports but that isn't something to sell. It occurs, we know it occurs but we don't need to see it. It is in the back of our minds.

For decades now we have had on television these home video shows and they show people getting into some hair raising situations but the key thing is they do not show a video unless everyone is ok. That is a pretty good standard to keep. We know what is in good taste and what is not in good taste. We all know where the line is and we know not to cross it.

I do think the world is changing and what I mean by that is I do not think the audience that only watches for the crashes exists anymore, or at least it is not an audience that is tuning in like they once did. We live in a world of instant gratification. Anything we want to see we can get in seconds. If we want to watch a television that has been off the air for 25 years we can find it on a number of streaming services. If we want to hear a song we can just look it up. We don't have to wait to hear it on the radio or purchase an album.

The same is true with crashes. No one has to watch a race anymore to see crashes. It is actually the most inefficient way to watch crashes. You can go to YouTube and find compilations of crashes from the last 60 years in motorsports. You don't need a current race. A current race would actually waste your time. You could spend two hours watching a race and not see what you want. The Internet has allowed you to have nothing but crashes if that is what your heart desires. You can spend two hours watching nothing but 20-minute compilations of crashes. With that existing, a series is not going to draw these fans in. The audience does not have the patience to wait and see one in real time.

I think there is an accurate way for a promotion to include all aspects of a motorsports event. Those creating those promotions know right and wrong, what to include and what is forever off limits. I believe those in charge recognize the responsibility that is in their hands and will make the correct decisions.