Monday, December 31, 2012

IndyCar Wishes For 2013

I made predictions the other day, now, on the final day of 2012, I have a wish list for 2013.

1. Nobody get hurt and we all get to see 2014.

2. No bickering from car owners.
I had enough in 2012.

3. IndyCar moving forward in 2013.
Let's keep the schedule together for 2014 and add more ovals and natural terrain road courses. I know I have said it a million times before but Phoenix, Michigan, Road America, Richmond, Watkins Glen, Austin, Kentucky and New Hampshire please.

4. A third Penske all season or a third Penske at Indianapolis that moves the needle.
Either hire Ryan Briscoe back or hire the likes of Townsend Bell. If that can't happen, go all out at Indianapolis. Tony Stewart said no, call Keselowski. Sébastien Loeb is running a limited World Rally schedule and some sport cars. Give him a call. I know it seems ridiculous but it's better than Penske not running a third car at all.

5. Chevrolet stepping up it's game.
And I mean on the promotional side. They won the manufacturer's and driver's championships. No ads featuring IndyCar, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Marco Andretti, Roger Penske, etc. Hell, dream commercial, have four Chevrolet NASCAR drivers (Stewart, Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr.), four Chevrolet IndyCar drivers (Hunter-Reay, Power, Kanaan and Hinchcliffe) and four Corvette drivers (Milner, Taylor, Magnussen and Gavin) and have them each talk about why there form of racing is best with all saying in the end the best reason is that they drive a Chevrolet and have the final five seconds be two cars of each light up the tires and drive into the sunset. Even better, make that your Super Bowl commercial. Perfect.

6. Doubleheaders work out for everyone involved.
I want the promoters to make money, the format not being too demanding on the drivers, each race get good ratings and most importantly the fans getting more than what they paid to see.

7. No sunburn when I go to the Pocono race.
I usually do not get sunburn and it normally takes a lot of sun for me to get any type of color. With that said, I should be fine and should have sunscreen on the ready.

8. The 2014 Lights car being damn affordable and larger fields.
We cannot continue having 11 car fields with 7 ride buyers. We need more graduates from Star Mazda, more support from IndyCar teams and the ladder system producing young American talent.

9. The same close racing we had in 2012.
Whatever everybody did last year, do it again. I want the great races we saw at Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana again, surprises in races such as Barber, Long Beach and Baltimore, with improvements at Sonoma, Mid-Ohio and Belle Isle.

10. People who know nothing about racing stop telling me what "real racing" is.

11. People stop labeling all racing as NASCAR.
It's really ignorant.

12. Aero Kits.
It makes no sense why they weren't allow in the first place. The teams were not and are not going to be forced to buy them. If one team buys an aero kit and the rest do not, than so be it but at least give the teams the option instead of forcing everyone to run the Dallara aero kit.

13. This finally being IndyCar's year.
IndyCar survived the apocalypse. It is now time for the series to pick it self up and start living out it's potential. Car owners, drivers, officials united for the sport as a whole. Contracts with sponsor who want the series to succeed and be profitable. I want the TV broadcast to be the best damn broadcast possible, regardless of the ratings and if it's cable or network. Everyone one who has a reason to care about IndyCar should work together because divided the series is not going anywhere.

I would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year and I hope I get to see you at a race track.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Racing Predictions

Before I look toward 2013, I first would like to congratulate Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife Beccy on the birth of their first child. The child was born on December 28.

Also, there where a few gifts I forgot to put on the IndyCar Christmas List. For Bob Varsha a buyout from his SPEED contract, allowing him to join NBC Sports Net with the ability to be loaned to whoever covers the Barrett-Jackson classic car auctions. For IndyCar, two races added for 2013. One in mid-August, the other in mid-September. The August date preferably being Road America and the September date being an oval. And last but not least, on-board starters for all IndyCar drivers.

With that all wrapped up, predictions for 2013.

1. An American Will Win The Indianapolis 500.
It will have been seven years since Sam Hornish passed Marco Andretti coming to the line to win the Indianapolis 500 and since that day the closest an American has come to winning was JR Hildebrand exiting turn four in 2011. After the momentum of the first American champion in a unified series since Al Unser Jr. in 1994, I think 2013 will finally be the year. Marco Andretti had a great shot last year slip through his fingers and Graham Rahal teamed with Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing could give the multi-car teams a run for there money. Josef Newgarden was impressive for all the month of May and started seventh in his first time at the Speedway. The IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay started on the front row in 2012 before a mechanical failure ended his day. And let's not forget the native Hoosier Ed Carpenter who won the 2012 season finale at Fontana and was in a threatening position late in the Indianapolis 500 last year.

With all that said it will not be easy for any of the Americans. Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves are still going to show up, Tony Kanaan is itching to add an Indianapolis 500 victory to his résumé and Scott Dixon has not finished worse than sixth since 2005. Last year was the first time an American started on the front row since 2006 and first time an American led the most laps since 2005. While the powerhouse teams of Penske and Ganassi combine for only one American driver, Andretti Autosport and Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan are on the rise after 2012, so are the minnows of Carpenter Racing and Fisher-Hartman Racing. This is the best shot for the Americans.

2. First Time Winners and Returning Winners Will Be A Theme For IndyCar.
Simon Pagenuad, Graham Rahal, Sébastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe will all win a race in 2013. You heard it here first. Pagenaud was damn close at Long Beach, showed he could hold his own on ovals and has the stones to go for it (see lap 37 restart at Baltimore). While many (including myself) thought Rahal would have won a fistful of races at Ganassi, he came up empty with the toughest second place finish of 2012 after brushing the wall coming to the white flag, allowing Justin Wilson to catch and pass the Ohioan. Rahal had a slow start to 2012 but Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan were on a roll in their first year back in IndyCar full-time, had six great chances at wins last year only to come up with naught. A win would be great for the team and they can dedicate it to the late Scott Roembke.

Bourdais finished ninth in a Lotus. I will say it again, Bourdais finished ninth in a Lotus. While Bourdais only scored one top-ten in seven races with Chevrolet, a full season with the bow-tie brigade should be enough for the four time champion to get a win under his belt. Hinchcliffe was on fire to start 2012 before a disastrous summer. He is a threat everywhere and if Andretti can keep up it's game on the short ovals, Hinchcliffe very well could win Milwaukee or Iowa.

3. Toyota Will Be A Legitimate Threat at Le Mans... But Audi Will Win Again.
Toyota was unbelievably impressive out of the box at Le Mans in 2012 and won three of the first six races with the TS030 Hybrid. But those were six hour races and the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a totally different animal. Just ask Peugeot. Sure they won the race in 2009 but they were the fastest car from 2007-2010 and outnumbered Audi 3 to 1 with sixteen hours to go in 2011 and still could only win once. Audi have a stranglehold on the event. Granted Audi can't dominate Le Mans forever, but I do not see Toyota winning Le Mans for at least another year and by that time Porsche is scheduled to return to LMP1 racing.

4. The Red Bull-Ferrari Rivalry Will Continue, With Räikkönen and Button Making Cameos.
After seeing what Alonso did in 2012 with what was predicted to be a dog of a car, one has to think he won't disappoint in 2013. Vettel has been on top for three seasons now and fourth consecutive championships have only happened twice before. Räikkönen had a tremendous year after being out of Formula One for two seasons and many expect the Lotus to be even better come 2013. With Hamilton heading to Mercedes, McLaren is Button's team for the taking and the 2009 World Champion has the best opportunity to supplant Hamilton as the best British driver in Formula One.

5. Penske Racing Will Bolster Ford And End Chevrolet's Ten Year Reign.
Ford has not won a NASCAR manufacture's title since 2002. Chevrolet's dominance stems from the Hendrick Empire and once GM loyal Joe Gibbs Racing. Chevrolet may still have Johnson, Stewart and Gordon, but Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing will carry Ford to the manufacture's title in one of the closest battles ever. Roush Fenway Racing will turn around what happened in 2012 and both Biffle and Edwards will join Keselowski in the Chase, while Stenhouse Jr. and Ambrose will each win a race in 2013.

6. Ducati Will Win A MotoGP Grand Prix.
After the failed Valentino Rossi experiment, Ducati looks to get back to it's winning ways. Andrea Dovizioso was impressive with the factory Honda squad only to be bounced when the team contracted from three bikes to two and held his own on the Tech3 Yamaha. Nicky Hayden has not won since the United States Grand Prix in his 2006 World Championship winning season and failed to score a podium in 2012 ending a streak of scoring a podium in every season of MotoGP. The Kentucky Kid has shown consistency but has yet been able to compete for wins like he did at Honda. Ben Spies and Italian Andrea Iannone will compete on the costumer Ducatis for Pramac Racing. Spies had a rotten 2012 where it seemed nothing went the Americans way.

Why will Ducati win you ask if I have listed the trials and tribulations the riders have faced? Casey Stoner is now retired, Dani Pedrosa has a tendency to get hurt and Yamaha is a team ready to implode and it's not even 2013 yet. Dovizioso found ways onto the podium last year and is on the brink of his second MotoGP win. For the Italian rider, why not do it on an Italian bike?

7. Yamaha Will Implode.
The Jorge Lorenzo-Valentino Rossi pairing has Senna-Prost written all over it. However this is the sequel. Lorenzo is a double MotoGP World Champion and clearly believes Yamaha is his team and is not sharing the spotlight. Rossi is the seven time MotoGP champion who believes he still got it after all these years. They are two massive egos and only one can survive. Rossi is in the twilight of his career but that is not going to stop the Italian from pushing his Spaniard counterpart to the limits. Rossi will not settle for the "number two treatment." He wants to win and Ducati did not provide that opportunity.

Lorenzo wants to be the clear number one but Rossi will not concede easily. Lorenzo will be brought down to Earth after a dominating 2012 and will not be happy about it. He knows Honda is a dangerous threat and Dani Pedrosa is running out of opportunities to win a MotoGP Championship. Meanwhile, Dovizioso is a number one ride at a factory team and wants to be considered a top tier rider. Something will have to give at Yamaha. With that said, Yamaha fans, enjoy the 2013 season, because things will change for 2014, despite whatever the team says.

8. The American Sports Car Merger Will Be Much More Peaceful Than IndyCar.
And there are numerous reasons why.
1. They didn't throw everything together a month before the season began.
2. There is no sense of "we won and you lost" in this example.
3. Both sides are getting a democratic say, where as IndyCar was more of a military dictatorship marching in.
4. They are looking at what is best for the sport as a whole. What tracks are important? What classes are important? And what is important TO THE FANS!? Are all questions being asked. God, they are using common sense.

But with that said, there are still many things to be worked out. While the Rolex Sports Car Series provide affordable cars on both the prototype and GT side of things, ALMS fans do not want their technological beasts being dumbed down. The 24 Hours of Le Mans has to be the highlight for the teams here in the US, despite the fact their is the 24 Hours of Daytona. The schedule has to somehow be comprised of events such as Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans, Road America, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen and Austin; while somehow also allowing room for nontraditional circuits such as Kansas Speedway, Baltimore, Barber Motorsports Park, Belle Isle and Indianapolis; and of course allowing enough time for Le Mans. This will be fun to watch.

9. If He Enters, Tony Stewart Will Win The Truck Race At Eldora.
No one is sure what type of wild cards will enter the Wednesday night event at the Rossburg, Ohio track but if Stewart is one of the entrants, he is the favorite hands down. Sure the likes of Kyle Larson and others from USAC and the World of Outlaws will try to enter and give the Truck regulars a run for their money but Stewart would want the honor of first NASCAR dirt win in over forty years on his résumé maybe more than Daytona 500 winner (I will admit that's a stretch).

10. IndyCar Will Get a New CEO. And Whoever It Is, They Will Have Work To Do.
I do not know when Mark Miles will hire the new CEO of IndyCar and removes the interim tag from Jeff Belskus, but it will be done before 2014 and the fans want a little less talk and a lot more action. The fans want aero kits figured out, deals worked out with engine manufactures, more support from the TV partners, a title sponsor lined up if Izod does not renew and favorite races brought back to the schedule. The CEO needs to lead the car owners and set them straight when needed.

No more, we are talking to Phoenix, we are talking to Road America. The fans want deals done. The fans do not want to hear about owners whining about money or turbo regulations. No more talks of revolt and more talks of unity. Cleaning house of anybody with a bone to pick (and Brian Barnhart I am directing this one at you) and hiring bright minds who want IndyCar to succeed because they love the sport with all there heart (like Donald Davidson. If they are not like Donald Davidson, show them the door). The time is now for IndyCar to shed the past and dive head first into the ocean that is the future.

While I do not know if any of these predictions will come true, I do know that racing cannot begin soon enough and I am looking forward to 2013 like nobody else. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

IndyCar Silly Season Review

Christmas is now behind us, a New Year is approaching, and we are still 87 days until the start of the season. Teams and drivers are going to be looking to wrap up deals in the next couple months.

Chevrolet had thirteen engines on track post-Indianapolis and Honda had eleven. The lone Lotus of HVM is no longer with us and with that known, the rosters for each manufacture tentatively look something like this.

Chevrolet: Total- 12 (-1 from 2012).
Andretti- Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Hinchcliffe.
Penske- Castroneves, Power.
Panther- Hildebrand.
KVRT- Kanaan, de Silvestro.
Dragon- Bourdais, Legge.
Panther/D&R- Servia.
Carpenter- Carpenter.

Honda: Total- 9 (-2 from 2012)
Ganassi: Franchitti, Dixon, Kimball.
Foyt- TBA (Sato or Daly).
RLLR- Rahal.
Herta- Tagliani.
SFHR- Newgarden.
Schmidt- Pagenaud.
Coyne- Wilson.

Looking at this list, IndyCar would have a 21 car grid, down four from what was seen most of 2012. However, this appears likely to change. Dale Coyne Racing always finds a way to run two full-time cars. Talks of the fourth Ganassi entry being filled are still on the table. Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing wants to run a second car. Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports have been trying to expand for two years now. Should the extra spots at Ganassi, RLLR and SHM come to fruition, the grid would be 24 strong, only down one from the year before.

While teams look to expand their operations, talented drivers are the outside looking to capitalize on a seat for 2013.

Notable free agents:
Ryan Briscoe- Rumored Destinations: Ganassi, RLLR, Penske.
James Jakes- Rumored Destinations: Coyne, RLLR.
EJ Viso- Rumored Destinations: New Team/Partnership with Herta.
Tristan Vautier- Rumored Destination: Schmidt.
Esteban Guerrieri- Rumored Destination: Was rumored to KVRT before 2012.
Gustavo Yacaman- Rumored Destinations: Ganassi, Shank Racing.

Along with Shank Racing, new/returning teams are AFS Racing and Conquest Racing. Since the contract with Lotus has been terminated, Chevrolet and Honda agreed to be available to field 60% of the grid, possibly opening more opportunities for these teams to receive the engine desired, unlike last year.

Indianapolis 500-only done deals to date are Chase Austin with Foyt and Carlos Muñoz with Andretti. Bryan Clauson won the USAC scholarship for a third straight year in 2012 and it has not been announced whether that will turn into a one-off at Indianapolis like it did this year. Mike Conway in a road course only effort has been rumored also. The third Penske seat had been offered to Tony Stewart for the Indianapolis 500, but he declined. The future of the entry, whether it be for Indianapolis-only or full-time is unclear moving forward.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The IndyCar Christmas List

As I sit here, looking at my Christmas tree, I can not help but ask myself what do those in and around IndyCar truly want? I have thought long and hard about this and came up with a list.

Where should I start? How about with the champion?

For Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife Beccy, a year supply of baby supplies. Diapers, wipes, clothing, you name it, you got it. Also, as garage stuffers, a KTM X-Bow, Dune Buggy and an Audi R8 LMS so he can practice for next year's Race of Champions.

It's tough to figure out what to get Roger Penske. How about enough to field a two-car Lights operation for young Americans?

For Brad Keselowski, that third Penske seat for the Indianapolis 500 that Tony Stewart said no to.

For John Judd, some one willing to step up and fund his IndyCar engine program for 2014. Ford, Nissan, Dodge, Fiat, VW, somebody.

Simona de Silvestro got a proper engine and ride way before Christmas. I guess that best thing for her would be a proper oval coach to help her gain confidence. So I will give her Johnny Rutherford as her coach.

For Tony Kanaan, better results in qualifying.

For Ryan Briscoe, a full-time ride and a little more respect. He might not be an all-time great, but he is a fine racer.

For James Hinchcliffe, a camera to catch the highlights of what seems to be an interesting life.

Not sure what Dario Franchitti needs or wants. Four championships, three Indianapolis 500s. How about a few races at Force India with his cousin Paul di Resta? Of course those that do not coincide with IndyCar. So let's go with Hungary, Italy, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, United States and Brazil.

To Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher, a little more funding.

For Graham Rahal, a time machine to back and correct that final lap and a half at Texas.

With all those who have been good, there are those who have been bad and get a nice helping of coal.

John Barnes, Kevin Kalkhoven, Al Speyer, Jeff Belskus and Chip Ganassi all get a ton of coal for what they did over the course of the year.

Tony George, you have enough coal already. I think you are partially misunderstood and I hope my Christmas gift will help. Tony, I am getting you an advisor, Humpy Wheeler. He will help you use the money you and your investment group offered to buy the series with to bring back and promote oval races for IndyCar. You can bring back Phoenix, Michigan, New Hampshire, Richmond, Kentucky and fund a revival of Nazareth.

The Circuit of the Americas gets boat load of coal after canceling all track days in 2013.

Now, after handing out all that coal, back to some actual gifts.

Bryan Clauson shall get a week of road course training from IndyCar's best, a full season of Indy Lights and a ovals only season in IndyCar.

For JR Hildebrand, somebody who has a passion for IndyCar moving forward and wants what is best for the series as a whole, who pays a pretty penny to buy Panther Racing.

To Ed Carpenter, some road course training as well.

For Scott Dixon, an IndyCar race in January or February close to home in either Australia or New Zealand.

For whoever hires EJ Viso, all the carbon fiber imaginable.

Something Will Power can share with all the drivers and fans, the turbocharger being turned up to 800 horsepower on ovals and 900 on road and street courses.

Aero kits being allowed and many independent manufactures such as Oreca, Eagle, Penske, Dyson, etc. taking part.

An open rule book at the Indianapolis 500 and the other Triple Crown races to allow the DeltaWing and others to show up and try to qualify.

For Simon Pagenuad, a French teammate, Tristan Vautier.

For Mark Miles, a consultant and a Twitter account to keep an open relationship with the fans.

For Kevin Lee, Townsend Bell and David Hobbs, a weekly, one hour NBC Sports Net show covering all that happened in the world of open-wheel racing with special reports on the ladder systems.

For Alex Tagliani, since Montreal is off the Nationwide schedule, a car for the Nationwide road course races and the Cup race at Watkins Glen and an IndyCar race somewhere in Quebec.

For Robin Miller, Marshall Pruett and Alex Lloyd, a weekly, two hour internet radio show. Also for Alex Lloyd, a full-time IndyCar ride.

For Paul Tracy, the job of CEO of IndyCar.

For Sébastien Bourdais, a guaranteed full-time season. None of this road/street course only schedule.

For Randy Bernard, an IndyCar team so he can be a car owner.

For Alex Zanardi, a ride for the Indianapolis 500, enough insurance to cover him God forbid something were to happen, and a Bombardier Global 8000 so he and his family can commute to and from Italy.

For all the Speedway Motorsports tracks, new catch-fences with the poles on the outside.

Something for IndyCar as a whole, more promotion of their races. Commercials for NBC Sports races on NBC during prime time, commercials on ESPN the week before races on ABC and live reads during other live sport events on ESPN, NBC, NBC Sports and ABC.

Last but not least, everybody in IndyCar, upper management, drivers, owners, fans, crew members, everybody needs a break from the uncertainty and want peace. No more back stabbing, no more animosity between owners and the sanctioning body. Peace and teamwork is what is need moving forward.

I wish everybody a safe and Happy/Merry Christmas. I hope everyone is able to have a calm day with their loved ones and all goes as well as planned.

Happy Christmas and Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

If This Is It, Let's Clear The Air

Depending on what you believe, today shall be the last day of life on Earth. I do not necessarily believe that but if it is it, there are somethings I would like to say. I want to get it out their so no stone is left unturned.

Here we go:

I enjoyed the split from the standpoint I could see ten decent road/street course events and ten decent oval events. If only we could do that today under one united schedule.

Deep down, I always thought Richie Hearn could have been a really good driver if he was given a full-time ride.

I was devastated when Versus got the rights to IndyCar.

I was devastated when ABC kept the rights to the Indianapolis 500.

I was not rooting for Buddy Rice during the 2004 Indianapolis 500. I was pulling for Tony Kanaan that day.

I like Buddy Rice and it is sad he was casted aside by IndyCar and I wish he was in the series today. HE IS AN AMERICAN, INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER!

I thought if Raphael Matos did not get an IndyCar ride after winning the Atlantics and Lights title in back-to-back he would have been a winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

I think Alex Lloyd should be a full-time driver in IndyCar and he should be given open reign to say whatever he wants. I suggest you follow him on Twitter.

I am disappointed in the Indy Lights series and what it has been for the last three seasons. A lot of young drivers were tossed aside before even being looked at. James Davison, Daniel Herrington, Jonathan Summerton, Logan Gomez, Dillon Battistini, Jonathan Bomarito, Robbie Pecorari and let's go back to those who were stuck in Atlantics, John Edwards, Carl Skerlong, Dane Cameron, etc. Were all these drivers going to be winners in IndyCar, probably not but they were all not given the best shot at the ladder system and overlooked for ride buyers.

I do not like Formula One racing where the money is (Singapore, Bahrain, South Korea and China) over places where the fans are (France, Imola) and having long time Grand Prix under constant threat of being removed from the schedule (Germany, Britain, Australia).

I once thought a sports car race at the Speedway would not be a bad thing to try. I was very wrong.

Originally I was not for an IndyCar race at Iowa. I was very wrong and now I look forward to Iowa every year.

I never thought Joey Logano was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It wasn't until Nicky Hayden won the 2005 US Grand Prix that I really got into bike racing.

When I was younger, I use to work my schedule around every NASCAR race. Cup, Busch/Nationwide/Truck. I think in a three year span, I only missed about five or six races from the three series combined.

I only watched three Truck races in 2012.

IndyCar and Formula One races are much easier with my schedule today.

I have skipped school just to watch Carb Day on TV. Not go to Carb Day but watch it on TV.

I was rooting against Bertrand Baguette at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Nothing against him as a driver or a person. I think he is very talented and could have been in Formula One (sadly money got in the way) but for the 100th anniversary of the race it would have killed any shot of the race being mentioned on SportsCenter or any other major American media outlet. Sadly that is the world we live in today.

After 2007, I have never been a big Fernando Alonso fan.

After finding out about the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, I was never a big Nelson Piquet Jr. fan.

Since the 2012 Nationwide race at Road America, Nelson Piquet Jr. has started to grow on me.

When Felipe Massa missed out the World Title in 2008 I was emotionally drained for him. He was so close.

I was excited when I heard the idea of the movie Turbo. I was less excited when I heard Ryan Reynolds was going to be the main star. He just doesn't do it for me.

I still do not understand how Andrew Ranger is still in NASCAR's Canadian Division.

I am OK with the number 99 still being in use. I feel it is more of an honor to keep the number available than to retire it. Imagine if James Hinchcliffe gets the opportunity to race the number 99. How special would that be for him?

My future brother-in-law likes the movie Driven. After I found that out I really did not know what else to say to him.

With all that said I think it is a good point to end it. If this is the end, it's been fun. If there is a December 22, Merry Christmas and be sure to check back here. I will be Santa Claus and giving out some Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 For The Love of Indy Awards

It is the end of the year and it is a time to reflect on the year that was. A lot of great memories from this motorsports season, from two wheel to four, Eau Rouge to Eldora, many men and women raced all over the globe. This awards ceremony/award post is to commemorate the racers and events that shined the most during 2012. I have many different categories to cover.

Racer of the Year
Description: Given to the best racer over the course of 2012.
Winner: Kyle Larson
Larson raced and won in it all in 2012. From the NASCAR East division to sprint and midgets, Larson had a successful 2012, notably winning the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Perris Auto Speedway. Larson started 2012 with a third place finish at the Chili Bowl. He ran stock cars for the first time in 2012 and won in his first event at New Smyrna Speedway. Larson won the NASCAR East Division championship in his first season after winning two races, one pole, eight top-fives and twelve top-tens in fourteen starts.  He made his debut in Camping World Truck Series where he scored three top-tens in his first three races, including a near win in his third race at Phoenix. His best Truck start of 2012 was a second at Homestead.

Despite not being in NASCAR, Formula One or IndyCar, Larson ran a diverse schedule and had success in all he raced. With what seems a bright path in the world of NASCAR, Larson has expressed interest in IndyCar and as a fan, I only hope he keeps to the varied schedule and runs multiple series on everything from paved ovals to dirt, road to street courses for years to come.

Honorable Mentions: Sébastien Loeb, Sebastian Vettel, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jorge Lorenzo, Brad Keselowski, Fernando Alonso.

Race of the Year
Description: Best Race of 2012.
Winner: Indianapolis 500
The first Indianapolis 500 for the DW12 chassis was a great success with a record number of lead changes and more passing at the Speedway than with the IR03/07. After Chevrolet dominated the qualifying days, the Hondas showed up on race day and other than Marco Andretti leading early in the race, Chevrolet's best chance was Tony Kanaan late but he could not hold off the Ganassi's of Franchitti and Dixon. The two Target cars started fifteenth and sixteenth and lead a total seventy-three laps. The Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Honda of Takuma Sato was consistent all day and was in a position for the possible win. Sato made his move in turn one a la Al Unser in turn three on Emerson Fittipaldi and the result was the same. Franchitti won his third Indianapolis 500 with Sato finishing seventeenth. Six of the top ten finishers started outside the top ten.

Honorable Mentions: Malaysian Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Auto Club 400, German motorcycle Grand Prix.

Achievement of the Year
Description: Best success by a driver, team, manufacture, etc.
Winner: DeltaWing
After over two years of talk and rejection from IndyCar, Ben Bowlby's brain child made it to the race track. It was invited to race at Le Mans and it made the grid with help from Nissan and Michelin. It was running respectably before a collision with the Toyota TS030 of Kazuki Nakijima. The DeltaWing would see the track again at Petit Le Mans where the car made it to the finish, only six laps between the winning Rebellion Racing Lola, fifth place over all. The DeltaWing hopes the regulations allow it to compete in the 2013 American Le Mans Series, with hopes of being invited back to Le Mans. The DeltaWing group has also expressed interest in become in the new Indy Lights chassis.

Honorable Mentions: Audi R18 Hybrid wins Le Mans, Roger Penske wins first NASCAR Championship, Dodge wins first NASCAR Cup championship since 1975, Robert Kubica beginning his return back to racing.

Moment of the Year
Description: Best Moment in the World of Racing.
Winner: Alex Zanardi
It may have been a hand cycle but Alex Zanardi's two gold medals and silver medal were the most celebrate medals to come from either the Olympic or Paralympic games by the world of racing. Almost ten years to the day, Zanardi won his first medal in the individual time trial by over twenty-seven seconds. He would go on to win gold in the road race with a late pass and he and his Italian teammates finished second only to the Americans in the mixed relay.

Honorable Mentions: Kimi Räikkönen on the podium after his victory at Abu Dhabi, Ryan Hunter-Reay with the Astor Cup and American flag after winning the IndyCar championship, Casey Stoner winning his final Australian Grand Prix.

Pass of the Year
Description: Best pass of 2012.
Winner: Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore. 
He went from sixth to first on a restart, on a street circuit. Enough said.

Honorable Mentions: Marcos Ambrose on Brad Keselowski final lap at Watkins Glen, Sebastian Vettel on Jenson Button lap 66 of the German Grand Prix (illegal or not, that was a pretty petty call by the stewards. We have all seen a lot worse not called.), Lewis Hamilton on Mark Webber in turn 12 at United States Grand Prix, Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato passing Scott Dixon on lap 199 at Indianapolis.

The Eric Idle Award
Description: "Cheer up boy. You Know What They Say. Somethings in Life Are Bad. They Can Really Make You Bad. Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse. When You're Chewing on Life's Gristle, Don't Grumble, Give a Whistle, And This'll Help Things Turn Out For The Best, and...  Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."
Winner: Ben Spies
A year to forget in Moto GP. When he had great runs going, some how they come undone. Always Look On The Bright Side of Life Ben and to a better of 2013.

Honorable Mentions: Randy Bernard, Simona de Silvestro, Shane Van Gisbergen, Tom Sykes.

Broadcast Team of the Year
Description: Best broadcast team.
Winner: Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Will Buxton.
2012 was the final year for the SPEED F1 team, as the rights head over to NBC Sports. While Hobbs, Matchett and Buxton will all head to NBC, Varsha will stay at SPEED. What has been a great team will come to an end but we will always have our memories.

Honorable Mentions: Bob Jenkins, Wally Dallenbach, Jan Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Townsend Bell, Robin Miller and Marty Snider (IndyCar on NBC Sports Net), Ralph Sheheen, Jeff Emig and Erin Bates (Supercross on SPEED).

Most Improved
Description: Racer Who Improved The Most from 2011 to 2012.
Winner: Esteban Guerrieri
He may have only finished second in Indy Lights in but had many accidents in 2011while in good positions and avoided that for most of 2012. May not be the greatest thing since sliced bread but has talent and may be competent in the next step in the ladder system.

Honorable Mentions: Sergio Pérez, Álvaro Bautista, Stefan Bradl.

With that I think it is time to call it a night and congratulate all those who stood out in racing in 2012 and wish everyone the best in 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mark Miles, An Idea For A Big Event

Last week I proposed the United States hosting the Race of Champions. After watching the event this past weekend, thinking about Mark Miles proposing a playoff and looking at what Miles did with the ATP, something popped into my head.

Why couldn't IndyCar have a Race of Champions style stadium event at the end of the year?

My thought process:
Make it a non-point event for lots of money.
Miles ran the ATP, which uses the ATP World Tour Finals as a season ending event for the top eight players in the world. This could be IndyCar's version.
Not a lot of racing this time of year, could give racing fans their fix while drawing people in who have never seen IndyCars before and are interested in seeing them at a stadium environment. It may also interest those watching at home.

If, and it seems unlikely, the Race of Champions come the United States, it would be very smart of IndyCar to partner up with the event and run it the same weekend, before the Race of Champions. If that does not happen, what is stopping IndyCar from doing this event on their own, preferably in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium? The DTM had a stadium at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, but that was a midseason exhibition.

How Could It Work?

If IndyCar was doing the event on their own, it could be a one-day show, a Saturday night under the lights. Have the stadium open all-day, practice in the afternoon for two hours, then have a giant meet and greet with the fans and the drivers. After that another hour of practice before the event begins. Work out a deal so whoever broadcasts the event so they make it a big deal in prime time.

A big pay day is a must. Make it $1,000,000 for the winner, with a $250,000 bonus if a driver can go undefeated. Looking back on October 16, 2011, putting what happened aside, the idea of giving a fan a shot at a nice pay day if their driver wins the event is actually a good thing for IndyCar to do. Each driver would represent a fan and the winning driver wins their fan a prize of $250,000. IndyCar is looking for younger fans, than it might be smart if the drivers represented college students who could use the money for tuition, room and board, books, etc. Just an idea.

Who Would Be Involved?
Unlike the ATP, closing down an NFL stadium for the top eight IndyCar drivers to go head-to-head is not going to be as good of a draw as if all IndyCar teams were involved. This year there were 26 regular drivers and my feeling is all should be included. Just like the Race of Champions, I would have a round robin leading to a knockout round. Two or six drivers could be added to create either seven groups of four or eight groups of four.

If only two drivers are to be added, I would suggest letting the top two drivers from Indy Lights be promoted to the event as a reward for their season, gives them seat time in an IndyCar while giving these drivers a shot at the grand prize, which would help pay for a full-time IndyCar ride.

If you're adding six, then along with the top two from the Indy Lights season, add the likes of Townsend Bell, hell even invite the likes of Tony Stewart. Look at it this way, Stewart would have no excuses this time for saying no. It's an exhibition for cash-only. The track would be new to every driver and their would be practice sessions the day of the event and they could probably do one the before.

Using this year and a 28 driver event as an example, rank the regulars by points, followed by the Lights drivers and the event would look like this.
Group A: Hunter-Reay, Sato, Wilson, Guerrieri
B: Power, Servià, Andretti, Vautier
C: Dixon, Barrichello, Tagliani, Legge
D: Castroneves, Hildebrand, Carpenter, Bourdais
E: Pagenaud, Rahal, Kimball, de Silvestro
F: Briscoe, Kanaan, Viso, Newgarden
G: Franchitti, Hinchcliffe, Conway, Jakes.

If it was a 32 driver event:
A: Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Tagliani, Invitee 4
B: Power, Wilson, Carpenter, Invitee 3
C: Dixon, Sato, Kimball, Invitee 2
D: Castroneves, Servià, Viso, Invitee 1
E: Pagenaud, Barrichello, Conway, Guerrieri
F: Briscoe, Hildebrand, Jakes, Vautier
G: Franchitti, Rahal, Newgarden, Legge
H: Hinchcliffe, Kanaan, de Silvestro, Bourdais

The top two from each group advance to the knockout round. For a 28 driver event, the top two third place drivers would also advance to fill the knockout round. Each round would be a single elimination with a best-of-three final round to decide it all.

A playoff is something very, very few people are for, but a season ending, winner-take-all may get people's attention.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Race of Champions Preview

The field is now officially set for the 2012 Race of Champions after today's qualifying action. Nattavude Charoensukawatta and Tin Sritrai will represent the host nation Thailand and Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok of India won the ROC Asia qualifier.

The Nations Cup
Around 8am (EST) tomorrow the eight teams will compete in the Nations Cup. The dominate pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher has won the last five Nations Cups for Germany. They will be joined in Group B by the Australians Jamie Whincup and Mick Doohan, Thailand and India.

Group A figures to be much more competitive with the likes of France (Romain Grosjean/Sébastien Ogier), Great Britain (David Coulthard/Andy Priaulx), the Americas (Ryan Hunter-Reay/Benito Guerra) and the All-Stars (Tom Kristensen/Jorge Lorenzo).

Behind Germany with their five Nations Cups is France and Finland, both with two, and Spain, the United States, Scandinavia and an All-Star team all with one.

The Race of Champions
The head-to-head Race of Champions will be Sunday around 8am (EST). Sébastien Ogier looks to defend his title and he will be joined in Group A by Whincup, Coulthard and Guerra.

Kristensen and Priaulx will be joined in Group B with a driver from India and Thailand while the second Thai driver will joined a World Championship heavy with the likes of Vettel, Lorenzo and Doohan.

Group D is round out by Schumacher, Hunter-Reay, Grosjean and the second driver from India.

Ogier looks to join Stig Blomqvist, Didier Auriol and Mattias Ekström as the only men to win back-to-back Race of Champions. Despite success in the Nations Cup, a German driver has never won the individual event.

The Cars
This year's Race of Champions will feature an Audi R8 LMS, Volkswagon Scirocco, Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo, Toyota GT86, the ROC Dune Buggy, KTM X-Bow and a Stock Car.

Most Interesting Match-Up
Who is not looking forward to the head-to-head between the regaining World Champions? Vettel v. Lorenzo. It would be fun to see that in either the Dune Buggy or the KTM.

For the Nations Cup I will take France and the Americas out of Group A and Germany and Australia out of Group B. I see a Germany-France final with the French team pulling it out 2-1 thanks to Ogier.

For the Race of Champions on Sunday I will take Ogier and Whincup out of A, Kristensen and Priaulx from B, Vettel and Lorenzo from C and Schumacher and Hunter-Reay from D. If they do it like last year than Ogier-Priaulx, Kristensen-Whincup, Vettel-Hunter-Reay and Schumacher-Lorenzo. I will take Ogier, Whincup in an upset, Hunter-Reay in an upset (call me a homer, I don't care) and Schumacher. Ogier will get back to finals and defeat Whincup, Hunter-Reay defeats Schumacher and sets a France-USA pair for the Final. Unlike 2011, Ogier does not win the Race of Champions in a two race sweep, rather Ryan Hunter-Reay takes it over the Frenchman 2-1.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mark Miles: Please Step Away From IndyCar

Mark Miles, a man who's resumé includes a Pan-American Games, the ATP and a Super Bowl has the respect of many including myself... but he has to step away from IndyCar... for a moment. Not for good but he needs to talk to the fans, drivers, team own... nah skip the team owners for a moment and hire someone else (Derrick Walker or someone like Derrick Walker) to talk to them, and learn what the core wants.

IndyCar does not have much but the product has been damn fine since reunification in 2008. Car count is up, we have a new car, multiple engine manufactures, racing was at a all-time high level this past season, the current field of drivers is the most impressive since the 1990s, not a lot Miles has to change.

But the report he wants a PLAYOFF! That sets me off. First and foremost, if you are copying NASCAR, I ask this: If NASCAR jumps off a cliff, do you jump as well? NO!

Racing and playoffs should not exist. It is an aggregate season just as most soccer leagues are around the world. Each race matters. Plus we have an oval championship, road and street course championship and the Triple Crown is back. No playoff needed.

If you look at NASCAR and golf's Fedex Cup, you will see two playoffs that fans either are not that hot about or do not care about. The "Chase" produces some final race drama but for the most part, it feels fake. You can go from getting in by the skin of your teeth to winning two or three races and suddenly be a "deserving champion." And the nobody takes the Fedex Cup serious as deciding golf's champion. There are four majors and plenty of other tournaments to decide who is the best golfer around. Let's get something straight, most playoffs are this way. They do not reward the best teams/people/drivers/competitors rather handicap them to allow someone who would be on the outside looking in a shot.

If you want to create a fake, manufactured championship, write a damn movie with a underdog story, oh wait, I think people have already done that for IndyCar.

As for lights at the Speedway, as long as that race in May begins in the late morning (11am please), I am fine.

Miles also wants to make "tweaks" to the 2013 schedule and "major changes" for 2014. As for "tweaks," if he could add a race (preferably an oval) in September that would be fine but when it comes to "major changes," a playoff should not be it. Phoenix, Road America, Austin, Richmond, Michigan, New Hampshire, that would be a major change.

Mark Miles, I bet you offer IndyCar a lot of promise, but let's not do ridiculously dumb stuff. You wouldn't make Wimbledon an three day event with only eight tennis players would you? Let's not turn IndyCar into three-fourths of trying to be tenth and one-fourth of fake drama.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodbye Rubinho and Testing at Sebring

Goodbye Rubinho
After one season in the Izod IndyCar Series, Rubens Barrichello will be moving to Stock Car Brasil for the 2013 season. His IndyCar highlights will be a fourth at Sonoma, fifth at Baltimore and more importantly winning the 2012 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year with an eleventh place finish after starting tenth. He had two top-fives and six top-tens. He finished twelve in the points standings behind his teammate and "brother" Tony Kanaan (9th) and ahead of his other teammate EJ Viso (20th).

Barrichello was brought to IndyCar by longtime friend Tony Kanaan after not being able to secure a ride in Formula One for 2012. What seems as a long time goal complete, Rubinho heads to the Stock Car Brasil Series where he ran the final three events of the 2012 season with his highlight being a seventh place start in the season finale at Interlagos.

I am sad to see Rubinho leave after one season but I am happy he did come and ran one season. I hope it could potentially be in the cards that Rubinho may find a one-off for Indianapolis but that seems far off. Rubinho was linked to a second car at Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. With Rubinho heading to Brazil, where he will be able to spend more time with his family, it looks like 2012 Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier is in the best position for the second seat. He will be testing at Sebring on Thursday.

Testing at Sebring
As a nice transition, testing with be taking place tomorrow and Thursday at Sebring. Graham Rahal and Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing tested today, he first time in his 2013 ride after a test at Barber was washed out. Rahal is scheduled to test the next two days as well. Also testing on both Wednesday and Thursday are Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson. Drivers only testing Wednesday are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro, Simon Pagenaud and Oriol Servia. Along with Tristan Vautier, Conor Daly, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani are the drivers only testing on Thursday. Daly will be getting his first miles in an IndyCar  with Foyt Racing.

Could The United States Host The Race of Champions?

With this year's Race of Champions taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, I keep wondering why the event is not held in the United States? I know it is a virtually meaningless event but it is the last time we get to see any type of racing before the New Year and let's just have fun with the exhibition event.

And I understand some of the common reasons off the top of my head:

  • Not enough interest from the American fan base.
  • In the height of the NFL season, not a lot of stadiums willing to rent out their buildings.
  • Limited where you can hold the event due to cold weather.
But what if? Let's say we could work something out to get the event in the United States. What could be done.

Have the event be a two-night event on the second Friday and Saturday in December.
This way it is not against NFL games and the second Friday and Saturday are dead weekends for college football. The only major college football game was Army-Navy and there were college football playoff games for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). There is the Heisman Trophy presentation but that is over by 9pm. 

What venues can be used? Once again, they have to be in warm cities or domes. I have thought up a list of possible places.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
December Weather: Average High- 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Average Low- 49 degrees Fahrenheit.
Current Use: USC Trojans Football.
Past Uses: 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympic games, Los Angeles Dodgers (1959-196, including the 1959 World Series and All-Star Game), hosted AMA Motocross, 1982 Speedway World Championship, 2003 and 2010 X Games.
Positives of the Stadium: Once December begins the stadium will not be used until August. It has hosted motorsport events in the past. It is a legendary stadium with great history.
Negatives: If 30,000 people show up, it will look empty as the stadium holds about 92,000. Heck even 50,000 would look empty. 

Lucas Oil Stadium
December Weather: Domed Stadium.
Current Uses: Indianapolis Colts, Big Ten Football Championship game, AMA Supercross.

Past Uses: Super Bowl XLVI, 2010 NCAA Men's Final Four.
Positives: It's in a racing town and could entice a lot fans to show up as well as American racers. In past events in Paris, London and Düsseldorf, the host has had two teams, the USA very well could have two, three or four teams. IndyCar could use the event as a great promotional tool. Maybe include the Dallara IR07 or even the DW12 in the event as rally cars have been used in the past and currently a stock car is used.
Negatives: Floor space is limited and it may be tough to have a good track. The Colts may have to play back-to-back games on the road and they may not be for that in the middle of December.

Cowboys Stadium
December Weather: Domed Stadium.
Current Uses: Dallas Cowboys, Cotton Bowl Classic, Cowboys Classic, AMA Supercross.
Past Uses: 2010 NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl XLV.
Positives: Big, modern stadium.
Negatives: Ticket prices would be through the roof and, as with Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 50,000 people would still make the place look empty. The odds are next to none that the Cowboys would give up their stadium for close to two weeks in December.

SunLife Stadium (Miami)
December Weather: Average High- 77 degrees Fahrenheit, Average Low- 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
Current Uses: Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes, Orange Bowl, 2013 BCS National Championship game.
Past Uses: Florida Marlins (including two World Series), five Super Bowls (most recently Super Bowl XLIV), 2009 World Baseball Classic, 2009 BCS National Championship Game.
Positives: Not many places with better weather in December than Miami.
Negatives: Miami isn't known for drawing great attendance to events. The Orange Bowl has been struggling, the Marlins problems are well known. Plus it would be a rush time period from December to January with Dolphins games and the Orange Bowl.

Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)
December Weather: Average High- 53 degrees Fahrenheit, Average Low- 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Current Uses: Carolina Panthers, Belk Bowl, ACC Championship Game.
Past Use: 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Positives: As with Indianapolis, it is a racing town. There is no reason why they could get two or three NASCAR drivers to do the event. While the weather is not in the Miami/LA ballpark, it is in the ballpark with past hosts Paris (Average High- 46, Low- 38) and London (Average High- 47, Low- 37).
Negatives: As with Indianapolis, Dallas and Miami, it's an NFL stadium, with a bowl game. December would be a rushed month.

Sam Boyd Stadium
December Weather: Average High- 57 degrees Fahrenheit, Average Low- 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Current Uses: UNLV Rebels, Las Vegas Bowl, Two AMA Supercross events, US Rugby Sevens Tournament, Monster Jam World Finals.
Past Uses: Las Vegas Quicksilver of the North American Soccer League, Las Vegas Posse of the Canadian Football League, Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL.
Positives: It is Las Vegas. Plenty of people should be interested. Sam Boyd Stadium does a great job drawing for the AMA events and they could have a cool track design that goes out and reenters the stadium. Decent size stadium at about 40,000 seats.
Negatives: A little rushed as the Las Vegas Bowl is normally one of the first bowl games of the year.

If the event is going to be in the United States, it might as well be the largest Race of Champions to date. The event could be split as a USA/Americas vs. The World format.

For the Nations Cup, you could have four American teams with other nations such as Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. You could do four groups of four, with an American team in each group. The top two from each group advance to the knockout round. Each round is a best-of-three format.

For the Race of Champions, take the 8 American drivers, 2 Canadian, Brazilian and Mexican drivers and two drivers based in the United States but not from the Americas (Example: Will Power, Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson) and put them on one half of the bracket, and put the remaining 16 drivers on the other half. Head-to-head, one race for each round until the finals which is a best-of-three to decide the Race of Champions champion.

It seems far-fetched but it would be fun to see. Once again, a man can always dream.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Race of Champions, Lotus No More, Potential Reality Show

2012 Race of Champions
The field for the 2012 Race of Champions from Bangkok, Thailand has been set. 

Seven nations are confirmed with one to be decided by a qualifier event. Australia (Jamie Whincup/Mick Doohan), France (Sebastian Ogier/Romain Grosjean), Germany (Sebastian Vettel/Michael Schumacher) and Great Britain (David Coulthard/Andy Priaulx) were already set with two being wrapped up today. IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will team with the 2012 Production World Rally Champion, Mexican Benito Guerra as Team North America while 2012 Moto GP Champion Jorge Lorenzo and eight time overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Tom Kristensen make up an All-Star team. Thailand is the seventh team with their drivers being decided by ROC Thailand, a four driver events with the top two representing the country in the Race of Champions.

The eighth team will be decided by ROC Asia, with either India, Japan or China advancing the the Race of Champions. Formula One drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok represent India. Han Han, a rally driver, author and apparently China's/the World's most popular blogger and Ho-Pin Tung represent China, while Super GT drivers Kazuya Oshima and Takuto Iguchi represent Japan. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay was drawn into Group D for the Race of Champions with Michael Schumacher, Romain Grosjean and the second driver for the ROC Asia winner. 

Group A consists of the defending ROC champion Sebastian Ogier, four-time V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup, Coulthard and Guerra. Group B will have Kristensen, Priaulx, ROC Asia 1 and Thailand 1, while Group C will have the World Champions Vettel and Lorenzo, with five-time 500cc World champion Mick Doohan and the second driver from Thailand. 

For the Nations Cup, Group A will be France, Great Britain, North America and the All-Stars with Group B being Germany, Australia, Thailand and the ROC Asia winner. 

The event takes places December 14-16, with the ROC Thailand and ROC Asia on the 14th, Nations Cup on the 15th and Race of Champions being the 16th. 

Lotus No More
It is official, Lotus is no longer an engine supplier of the Izod IndyCar Series. After a season of turmoil that saw three teams defect by Indianapolis, Lotus continued 2012 with only one car, the HVM of Simona de Silvestro. Chevrolet and Honda will now be the only suppliers of IndyCar and each manufacture must be able to supply 60 percent of the field. With this announcement, it appears teams on the outside looking in, such as Mike Shank Racing and Conquest Racing may be able to receive an engine full-time in 2013.

Potential Reality Show For IndyCar
According to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, a pilot for a reality show featuring the wives of IndyCar drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Alex Tagliani has been shot. In the article, Ryan Hunter-Reay states he is not for the drama that comes with a reality television show. Hunter-Reay states, "One thing I know about reality TV is, to hang onto the audience, you need drama. Drama at the race track - or at home - is something you don't want. Drama sells, and I don't want drama."

Despite it involving IndyCar, I agree with the champion about the proposed reality show. Nothing against the wives but the show has nothing to do with promoting IndyCar racing. It would just add to the pile of reality shows currently on the air. In my opinion, most reality shows are garbage to begin with. 

Other News
2012 Star Mazda Champion Jack Hawksworth has been signed by Sam Schmidt to race in Indy Lights in 2013. 

After pushing New Jersey back to 2014 and trying to get Turkey on the schedule, Bernie Eccelstone is pursuing a race in Austria at the Red Bull Ring (formerly the A-1 Ring). Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz purchased the circuit a few years ago, renovated and has hosted DTM races the past two season. The last Formula One race in Austria was the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix won by Michael Schumacher. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Calling Tony Stewart's Bluff

Disclaimer: This is an opinionated piece from an outsider's perspective. A lot easier for me to say this from the outside looking in.

So, Tony Stewart has turned down Roger Penske's Indianapolis 500 offer. There isn't enough time to do it right is the biggest gripe. I count a little less than six months until the race and there are two weeks of practice during the month of May. Testing is going to be suspended for a couple weeks during the Holidays and the teams are limited to how much they can test but let's not act like there is not enough time to do it. There is plenty of time.

IndyCar teams were just testing at Fontana a few days ago. Stewart could have run a shake down there. Not to mention IndyCar teams have gone to Phoenix recently to test during the winter months. Penske could easily have an IndyCar test the day after the March NASCAR race at Phoenix for Stewart. And there have been April tests at the Speedway in the past. I am sure IndyCar could have an early test at the track.

Sure, Stewart has not been in an IndyCar since 2001 and he feels he has been gone too long to be competitive. Last year, Michel Jourdain Jr. came back after eight years out of open-wheel racing and returned to Indianapolis after SIXTEEN YEARS! Jourdain held his own all month, qualified 22nd and finished 19th.

Townsend Bell disproves Stewart's assumption you cannot just show up in May and be competitive every year. He shows up each May and is always a sleeper. He has three top-tens in his last five Indianapolis 500 appearances. He has qualified in the top-ten in two of his last five Indianapolis 500 appearances.

Let's not forget Bertrand Baguette was in position to win Indianapolis as a one-off in 2011, Tomas Scheckter was also competitive as a one-off in 2011.

Bruno Junqueira has shown up in the past and been one of the quickest out of the box at Indianapolis. His only problem is his ride has been too frequently snatched out from underneath him for someone who did not qualify. 

And then Brad Keselowski comes out and says he is interested, BUT (AND THERE IS ALWAYS A BUT) Ford is in the way. Really? Ford? You're going to let them get in your way Keselowski? Don't give me this "If Ford had an IndyCar presence," how about you give Ford an ultimatum. Tell them you are doing Indianapolis and if they don't like the fact that he is driving a Chevrolet at Indianapolis then tell them they should be an engine manufacture in IndyCar.

Honest to God what is Ford going to do if Keselowski runs a Chevrolet at Indianapolis? Leave Penske's NASCAR team? Sure, you do that Ford. It's not like Penske wouldn't be able to get another NASCAR engine supplier, he's only one of the greatest team owners in the history of auto racing. The manufactures would be lining up to supply The Captain.

I wish RACERS would come back. I wish AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti would return. Racing an IndyCar on a Sunday, a sports car the following week and a stock car the week after that. I wish we had RACERS who would go out and RACE. Not letting sponsors get in the way. Does anyone really think Miller Lite would be upset if Keselowski went out and, hypothetically won the Indianapolis 500? That gets there name out even more. More exposure is what the sponsors want.

Once again, this is much easier for me, an outsider, a simple fan to say this than a driver. And if I were in their shoes would I still be saying these things? I hope I would. I hope I'd be racing in all series, running the Double, running sport cars, sprint cars on dirt, you name it but for me it is only fantasy and not reality so I cannot really say.

I guess I am at this point: Don't talk about running Indianapolis unless you're actually going to run Indianapolis. Stop teasing us! No more "ifs" and "buts." Either do it or shut up once and for all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 28 is the 1 and Sato v. Daly

Andretti Autosport Unveiling, Hunter-Reay to Drive the #1
Andretti Autosport rolled out their 2013 driver line-ups for the Izod IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Star Mazda. Ryan Hunter-Reay will run the the #1 DHL Chevrolet after winning the 2012 IndyCar Championship. DHL has signed a multiyear agreement with Andretti Autosport. The #1 on Hunter-Reay's car will feature a smaller #28 within the #1, similar to two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner who included his #27 in the #1 after his championship wins. The #28 is symbolic to Hunter-Reay as it represents the 28 million people worldwide battling cancer. Hunter-Reay lost his mother to colon cancer in November 2009.

Marco Andretti will run the #25 RC Cola Chevrolet, a change from the #26 which Andretti has used since entering IndyCar in 2006. Before Andretti, Dan Wheldon raced the #26 to an IndyCar championship and Indianapolis 500 victory in 2005. James Hinchcliffe will return in the #27 GoDaddy Chevrolet.

In Indy Lights Carlos Muñoz returns to the team for a second season, joined by American Zach Veach. Muñoz won two races in 2012 (Edmonton and Fontana) and won pole at Edmonton. He finished 5th in the overall points standings. Veach had two podiums, ten top-tens and finished tenth in the 2012 Star Mazda points standings. Veach's Star Mazda teammate Sage Karam finished third in Star Mazda last year, winning three races, ten podiums and thirteen top-tens but will only be 17 years old.

Shelby Blackstock will be promoted to Star Mazda in 2013 after one season in U.S. F2000. He finished eighth in points with two top-fives and ten top-tens. A second Star Mazda seat is still to be announced. A stated above, Sage Karam raced for Andretti in Star Mazda last year. The teams U.S. F2000 drivers are also to be announced at a later date.

Sato v. Daly
Takuma Sato and Conor Daly appear to be fighting it out for the Foyt Enterprises IndyCar seat in 2013.  Sato and the Texas based team are reportedly close to a deal but nothing has been confirmed. Sato raced lasted year for Honda powered Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing. Daly will test for Foyt on December 13th at Sebring. Larry Foyt talked to Daly at the United States Grand Prix in Austin this past November and said about the test, "depending on how it goes, we may be able to do something with him in the future." Daly won the 2010 Star Mazda Championship and ran five Indy Lights races in 2011, winning at Long Beach but has spent most of the past two season in the GP3 Series and is currently competing in the MRF Challenge in India.

Wade Cunningham, who drove for Foyt at Indianapolis and Fontana last season, is also a potential driver for the team in 2013. The team has already confirmed Chase Austin will attempt to qualify the #41 Honda for the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Isn't IndyCar Racing?

It's December, most of the country has been experiencing unusually warm weather, yet IndyCar has been off for two months, heading on three.

All other series are on a break and if there is one series that needs ratings it's IndyCar. Once again, this is an unseasonable patch of weather some are seeing and it could be snowing in the Northeast and Midwest this time next year. So the likes of Watkins Glen, Road America, Michigan and New Hampshire are out of the question. But other parts of the country rarely worry about snow.

Phoenix is pretty warm this time of the year, Florida is always an option and then there are interesting venues such as NOLA Motorsports Park and Austin which are new tracks looking for major events. We could always go international to South America, Australia or the Middle East but a race in December would most likely be the season finale; an oval and in the United States would be preferred.

Do we push Fontana back two months to December and see what type of crowd the race can get? No NFL team in the LA area there to date, no USC or UCLA game, Lakers or Clippers may have a home game but other than that, not a lot of competition for what proved to be an exciting 500 miler this year. The weather would be much cooler than it was this past September but it would probably be too cold for a night race in December.

As for fans at the track, you have to do all you can to get fans through the gate. Pre or post race concert, carnival atmosphere, whatever it takes.

Why would an event in December make sense? No NASCAR to compete with, sure there is the NFL but this Saturday there is only one college football game on network television, the Army-Navy Game on CBS. Why couldn't IndyCar work with ABC to get a race on a Saturday afternoon in December? IndyCar cannot always follow the status quo. Going there own way maybe best to draw in unlikely viewers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

IndyCar Needs To Make A Splash

Racing is not like other sports where a prospects popularity can peak before they even make it on the field.

Example: In the world of soccer, young stars such as the Brazilian Neymar is only 20 but has been the most covenant player in the world for three years now.

Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were massive names before even being drafted into the NFL and currently Johnny Manziel is a freshman at Texas A&M but is already a national star and his profile will sky rocket by winning the Heisman Trophy.

Then there is the likes of LeBron James who was a superstar before he even graduated high school.

Racing does not work that way. Kyle Larson is great and is lighting the racing world on fire. But dominating in USAC, NASCAR East Division and being impressive in a few Truck races does not get America to take notice. With racing, your only noticed once your successful on the grandest of stages.

Larson, Bryan Clauson, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham to name a few are all young up-and-coming stars but only die hard race fans care about these drivers. They could all end up in IndyCar in five years but sadly that won't get people watching.

When it comes to racing, the causal American will tune in to see stars. That's why IndyCar and Roger Penske have to get Tony Stewart to do the Indianapolis 500. We can get Bryan Clauson in a one-off entry again but unfortunately his name is only known to the die hards. The average sports fan knows Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and others just by turning on ESPN on accident. IndyCar can sign the next one hundred top American racing prospects but signing them won't get people's attention.

In 2007, David Beckham came to Major League Soccer, a league that was overlooked by almost all Americans. Since then the league has grown by seven teams, built seven soccer-specific stadiums with an eighth on the way, double the average player salary and other big name stars from Europe have come to States. Did Beckham single handily create seven clubs and build seven stadium? No he did not, but his presence got people's attention and the league has been benefiting ever since.

IndyCar needs to make a splash. IndyCar needs a David Beckham like move. Just as NASCAR picked at the American Open-Wheel talent by signing the likes AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish and Dario Franchitti to name a few, IndyCar has to go out, spend some money and sign a big name from NASCAR. They need to get them to commit for at least five years and show the public what IndyCar racing is all about. Show that these are extremely talented drivers and the racing is just as exciting if not more exciting than NASCAR.

And this isn't something for just Mark Miles or Jeff Belskus to work on. This must be a project from the top to the bottom by those who want to see the series grow. The series, a top team (Penske) and the sponsors have to recruit a top driver and show the driver they are wanted and have support in this venture.

IndyCar wants better ratings and more new fans, they need to make a splash.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Penske Calls Out Stewart, Argentina Interested, Foyt To Lights

As the final month of 2012 begins, a few interesting stories popped up before November ended.

Penske Calls Out Stewart
Last night, at NASCAR's award banquet in Las Vegas, Roger Penske offered Tony Stewart a ride for the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Stewart has done the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double before in 1999 and 2001. In 2004, Stewart arrived to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on bump day and was looking to get in a car prepared by AJ Foyt to qualify before NASCAR sponsors negated any such attempt.

Stewart has yet to comment on the offer. What has made the double difficult to do over the past decade has been the later start time of the Indianapolis 500. The last race to start at 11am was in 2003 with the start times ranging from noon to 1pm since 2004. The Cup race at Charlotte typically begins at 5:00pm.

Argentina Interested In IndyCar
The Potrero de los Funes street circuit has expressed interested in hosting an IndyCar race. The race track is located nearly 10 miles from the city of San Luis in Central Argentina. The street circuit is 3.83 miles in length and hosted the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2008, 2010 and 2011, while also playing host to the TC 2000 Championship (Argentina Touring Cars) since 2008.

American Open-Wheel Racing does have history of racing in Argentina. In 1971, Al Unser won both heat races held at Aútodromo Ciudad de Rafaela, a 2.873 mile oval. The track is still in use and was used by the TC 2000 Series this past August.

Foyt Going To Lights
In 2014, Foyt Enterprises will field an Indy Lights car for American driver Tim Paul. Paul will compete in U.S. F2000 and F2000 in 2013. The Indy Lights series are working on a new chassis for the 2014. Foyt would join Andretti Autosport and Schmidt-Motorsports as the only teams to field cars in both IndyCar and Indy Lights. Bryan Hetra Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Panther Racing and Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing have all either fielded Indy Lights entries or had partnerships with Indy Lights teams in the past.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2014 Lights Car, F1 Controversy, NASCAR on Dirt

Lots to cover as the offseason is now in session for almost every series (V8 Supercars have one round remaining).

2014 Lights Entry
Dallara, one of six companies interested in constructing the 2014 Indy Lights chassis, has come forward with their proposal. A 7/8th scale of the DW12 chassis. Dallara also looks to have Lights car carry many of the same parts and component as the DW12. Construction of the chassis would still take place in Italy while more components will be built in Indiana. The other manufactures contending for the 2014 Lights bid are the DeltaWing group, Dyson Racing, Bryan Herta/Steve Newey/Mygale, Swift and Gil de Ferran.

F1 Championship Controversy
After a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was awarded his third straight World Drivers' Championship but recent replays have come out of the German passing the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne under yellow flag conditions. Ferrari has asked the FIA for an explanation on the call. Ferrari's Luca Colajanni said the team will look at the video and has until tomorrow to appeal. Should Vettel be found guilty of passing under yellow flag conditions a 20 second penalty will relegate Vettel from 6th position to 8th and giving Fernando Alonso the championship by one point.

Truck Series To Eldora
The 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule has been released and Eldora Speedway has been included, the first NASCAR national touring series race on a dirt track since 1970. The race will take place on July 24, the Wednesday before the Brickyard 400 weekend. The half-mile track in Rossburg, Ohio plays host notable to the World 100, The Dream late model race, Kings Royal and the Four-Crown Nationals. Tony Stewart purchased the race track in 2004 and has not ruled out possibly entering the race. He and Austin Dillon tested a truck at Eldora in October. The Truck series will also be heading to Canada and back to road racing when the series heads to Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) on September 1st.

Tony Kanaan has stated interest in taking part in the Truck race at Eldora. Any chance of IndyCar drivers racing at Mosport are in doubt as the Grand Prix of Baltimore is that day.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Sportsman: Alex Zanardi

I have no pull at Sports Illustrated with their Sportsman of the Year, nor do I thing they would listen to a simple Blogger but I think one deserves the respect of a great sportsman.

Alex Zanardi's story is very well known but race fans, after a minimal success in Europe, he came to the United States and CART where he won two championships in his first three season. He returned to Formula One for one season with no luck. He would return to CART where his results did not match what he had done in his first stint in the series but he was in position to win at EuroSpeedway in Germany. With 13 laps remaining, Zanardi spun coming out of the pits into the path of Alex Tagliani. The accident cost Zanardi his legs, but not his career or ambition.

With the help of hand controls, he would return to finish those 13 laps in 2003, where he was fast enough for fifth on the grid for the 2003 race. But those 13 laps were not the end of his career. He would go on to drive for BMW in the World Touring Car Championships. In his first season he won a race and scored another podium. Over the course of four season in the WTCC, Zanardi won four races, one pole position and ten podiums.

Zanardi picked up hand cycling. In 2007 he finished fourth in the New York City Marathon but he was not going to stop there. His goal: The 2012 Paralympic Games in London. During his training for London, he won marathons in Venice, Rome and New York. He would make the 2012 Paralympics. All events took place on the famed Brand Hatch circuit, a place Zanardi raced in lower Formula racing series. In his first race he would the time trial by over 27 seconds. His second race was the road race where a late surge gave him the victory by one second. In the team relay, Zanardi and his Italian teammates, Vittorio Podesta and Francesca Fenocchio, finished second to the American team.

Zanardi not only represents a two sport athlete who succeeded on many levels, he represents determination and the life lesson of never to give up, no matter what. He may have lost his legs but never lost his spirit or will to compete. You would think, what else does Zanardi have to do after his London success? The answer may belong in auto racing. Zanardi wants to comeback. He has stated interest in the 24 Hours of Daytona, tested a BMW for the DTM and has interest in the Indianapolis 500 with his former teammate Jimmy Vasser and former team owner Chip Ganassi first in line to help out.

Zanardi may have accomplished a lot but he is not done yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oh Where Did The Time Go?

It seems like yesterday I watched Michael Shank Racing pull into victory lane as winners of the 24 Hours of Daytona. AJ Allmendinger had won with Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri and John Pew, holding off veterans Ryan Dalziel, Lucas Luhr and Allan McNish.

It seems like yesterday Rubens Barrichello was testing an IndyCar and the rumors began of an move to IndyCar.

It seems like yesterday I was up on a Monday night, Dave Blaney was in position to win the Daytona 500 for Tommy Baldwin and had yet to lead a green flag lap. But Tuesday morning came and Matt Kenseth finally won the 2012 Daytona 500.

It seems like yesterday the DW12 debuted at St. Pete, Helio won the race and honored Dan.

It seems like yesterday that Ferrari was a dog and nobody thought it could compete for the World Championship.

It seems like yesterday Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix and the Williams' garage caught fire.

It seems like yesterday Takuma Sato went for it in turn one and Dario Franchitti came out with his third Indianapolis 500 victory.

It seems like yesterday Kurt Busch cussed out a report and was suspended one week.

It seems like yesterday Audi made history winning Le Mans with a hybrid-diesel and the Delta Wing made it's debut.

It seems like yesterday Ryan Hunter-Reay went on a tear winning three in a row.

It seems like yesterday AJ Allmendinger failed a drug test and found out at the 11th hour before the July race at Daytona.

It seems like yesterday the Super Weekend came and went at Indianapolis.

It seems like yesterday Will Power had the championship in the bag after Sonoma.

It seems like yesterday Jacques Villeneuve ran over everybody in the Nationwide Series.

It seems like yesterday the chicane was removed then reconstructed at Baltimore.

It seems like yesterday Sebastian Vettel was out of the championship hunt. 39 back heading into Singapore.

It seems like yesterday Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay had an unbelievable battle for the title at Fontana with the American coming out on top and Ed Carpenter winning as an owner-driver.

It seems like yesterday the Toyota TS030 hybrid beat the giants Audi in three of the final four rounds of the World Endurance Championship.

It seems like yesterday Jimmie Johnson was the clear favorite to win his sixth NASCAR Cup championship.

It seems like yesterday Circuit of the Americas was a pipes dream like USF1.

It seems like yesterday Dodge was entering NASCAR with Ray Evernham.

It seems like yesterday Brad Keselowski was filling in for Ted Musgrave in a Truck race at Memphis Motorsports Park, won pole and nearly won the race.

It seems like yesterday 2012 began with lots of questions to be answered and a lot of miles to drive. With Thanksgiving two days away, what is left? The Brazilian Grand Prix where the World Driver's Championship will be decided. Someone will win their third title, will it be Alonso or Vettel? I do not know but after that the year is all but over. Sure V8 Supercars have their final round in Sydney in two weeks and the Race of Champions not long after that but the season is over in the Northern Hemisphere and 2013 cannot come fast enough.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Who Should Win The NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship?

This is a debate about who will win or prediction of whose going to win, this is a matter of looking at the facts about each of the drivers and why each one would be a deserving champion.

Why Should Brad Keselowski Win The Championship?

  • Five wins, thirteen top-fives, twenty-three top-tens.
  • In the last nine races, his worse finish is eleventh at Charlotte.
  • Has led in twenty-one races this year, led the most laps in two of those races.
  • Has been running at the finish in every race but the first one at Daytona.
Why You Should Be Rooting For Keselowski:

  • Drives for Roger Penske, who is going for his first NASCAR Cup championship.
  • Keselowski loves the sport of racing in general and shows good knowledge for the sport as a whole.
  • He owns a race winning truck team and a Cup championship would definitely help him expand his operation if he so chooses to do so.
  • Tough son-of-a-gun who stands for what he believes in, not shy to say what he wants to say.
  • In this ever changing world around social media, Keselowski has embraced the concept and is arguably the NASCAR driver that uses it best.
  • This is Dodge's last race in NASCAR for the foreseeable future. They have not won a Cup championship since 1975. Why not go out with a bang?
Why Should Jimmie Johnson Win The Championship?
  • Five wins, eighteen top-fives, twenty-four top-tens, four poles.
  • In the last nine races, he has finished outside the top-ten only twice, 17th at Talladega and 32nd at Phoenix.
  • Has led in twenty-five races, led the most laps in eight of those races.
  • Has been running at the finish of thirty races this season. 
Why You Should Be Rooting For Johnson:
  • He is on the verge of a sixth title, putting him on the heels of Petty and Earnhardt.
  • Consistent year in and year out. 
  • A good image for NASCAR that has become a familiar faces with even non-racing fans.
  • Has been name the most influential athlete by Forbes two consecutive years.
  • Ultimately, Johnson, regardless of if he wins his sixth title today or next year, will go down as one of the all-time greats in NASCAR. 
No matter who you root for, both drivers are deserving of being champion.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Man Can Dream, Can't He?

As thrilled as I am for Formula One in the states, I have one thing I would like to admit. I wish these were the days of one-off privateer or third car one-offs for grand prix like this. There are so many deserving guys here in the States that get over looked by the European Formula One teams.

It would be interesting seeing Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay get a shot. I am sure Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Rubens Barrichello would not mind a one-off back in Formula One. JR Hildebrand tested for Force India a couple years ago and Josef Newgarden had success in Europe before coming back to the States. It's been almost a decade since Justin Wilson raced for Jaguar.  Boy I would love to see him get a second chance. Who would be against seeing Alexander Rossi and Esteban Gutiérrez make their debuts in a one-off in what is practically a home race for the both of them?

Sadly this is only a dream. Sure a third car rule could be put in place for a race like this but in all honesty, who the hell wants to drive a third car for HRT? Besides, it would probably turn into a ride buyer frenzy with Ma Qinghua and Rodolfo González filling seats.

I am not saying the stars of IndyCar could race at Austin and beat the regulars of F1. A few may shine and others would probably struggle and be towards the back of the field but I would love to see them at least get the opportunity. Mario Andretti ran a one-off in the 1968 United States Grand Prix. It was his first time at Watkins Glen and he beat Jackie Stewart for pole. His raced ended after only 32 laps but he has on Stewart's heels for most of that time. Would Power be breathing down Vettel's neck for a win or podium? It seems unlikely but nobody will ever know if it never happens.

I keep hearing people around Formula One say how important the United States is to them. As an American, I would love to see the teams step-up and run a one-off for American drivers and American based drivers but as I already have said, it will probably never happen. But a man can dream.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big American Racing Weekend

We are under one week until Thanksgiving and two major championship are to be contested in the United States. The obvious one is the final round of the NASCAR Sprint Car Series, where Brad Keselowski leads Jimmie Johnson by twenty-points. The other is the penultimate round of the Formula One season, the United States Grand Prix taking place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Sebastien Vettel leads Fernando Alonso by ten points.

United States Grand Prix
The Circuit of the Americas opens this weekend and from what I have seen from practice, this is a really demanding race track and the race should be fun to watch. Vettel led practice one by nearly a second and a half over Lewis Hamilton and was over two seconds quicker than Alonso. If Vettel scores fifteen points more than Alonso this weekend, he will wrap up his third World Drivers' Champions with one race to go in Brazil. This weekend at Austin marks the 100th Grand Prix of Vettel's career which oddly enough began at the 2007 United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis, where the German became the youngest driver to ever score points in a Formula One race.

Circuit of the Americas becomes the tenth different venue to host a Formula One race in the United States joining Indianapolis (USGP and Indianapolis 500), Watkins Glen, Riverside, Sebring, Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Long Beach.

NASCAR's Final Race
Brad Keselowski is coming off a sixth place finish at Phoenix, which gave him the point lead after Jimmie Johnson had an accident which relegated the five-time champion to second in the points. Keselowski is looking to join Bobby Labonte as the second driver to win the NASCAR Cup and Grand National (Nationwide) Series titles in a career. Keselowski could also become the first Cup champion from the state of Michigan. This also could be Dodge's first driver's champion since Richard Petty in 1975. Ironically, Dodge is scheduled to exit NASCAR at the end of 2012 and Penske Racing will be moving to Ford engines for 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How A Decade Can Change Things

2002: CART ran 19 races, at 19 different tracks on 5 ovals, 5 natural road courses and 9 temporary circuits.
2013 IndyCar looks the same by the numbers, 19 races, 16 different tracks, 6 ovals, 3 natural road courses and 7 temporary circuits.

However the circuits are different. No Road America or Laguna Seca in 2013, who would have thought IndyCar would have a successful race in Alabama ten or eleven years ago? Milwaukee and Fontana are the only ovals on both schedule (Indianapolis was apart of the IRL, we all know that). Pocono, Iowa and Texas in, Ganassi's Chicago, Motegi and Rockingham out. No race in Europe but a race in Brazil. No races in Mexico or Australia. Long Beach is still around but fan-favorite Cleveland is gone. Toronto is the only Canadian round but is now a doubleheader. Houston and Baltimore are both on the schedule, while Vancouver and Denver and long gone.

Now it is not American open-wheel racing that has change. Look at the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
2002: 34 races, 26 tracks, all ovals. 2013: 33 races, 23 tracks, 20 ovals and 3 road courses.
IndyCar may not be at Road America, but NASCAR is and they are heading to Mid-Ohio for the first time ever. The series has already been to Mexico and Canada in the last ten years but have since left. And most noticeable: The Nationwide Series is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What the hell has happened? Why has IndyCar left the great natural road course? I know the easy answer is money but it is terrible. Since the Nationwide Series returned to road course in 2005, the quality of road course races in all of NASCAR have gone down considerably. Drivers just run over each other. Road America and Montreal take nearly three hours to complete. Over 25% of Montreal was run under caution this year, Road America surprisingly ended a lot quicker than the first two editions.

IndyCar cannot live on temporary events. Only 2 have lasted since 2002. Sure St. Pete has done well and it started in 2003. Houston has been off the schedule for five years and is returning, Baltimore is going into year three but is in a financial hole and nearly did not happen last year. São Paulo is working, For Toronto, attendance has been down since IndyCar has taken over and while Belle Isle is back, it is barely better than it was. They are talking about Fort Lauderdale but how long will that last? Every city says "it'll be just like Long Beach" or "it'll be just like Monaco." No it won't. Try all you want, these cities do not have the same type of support as the grand street races of Monaco and Long Beach.

There is a great new track in Austin and I do not care if Formula One races there. It is the best damn facility in the country and it has not even hosted a race yet. Let's hope IndyCar can get there before NASCAR does and brings back Road America, Watkins Glen and Portland while they are at it. A man can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IndyCar Offseason Fix

It has been nearly two months since the last round of the 2012 Izod IndyCar season and a lot has already happened. But this is not another look at Randy Bernard's departure, it is a look at the drivers, teams and schedule and any other developments heading into 2013.

Silly Season
We already know the following:

  • Andretti is keeping his three drivers, adding Carlos Munoz for Indianapolis.
  • Dixon, Franchitti and Kimball are returning to Ganassi.
  • Dragon is bringing back Legge and Bourdais.
  • KV added Simona de Silvestro, who will team with Tony Kanaan.
  • Panther is keeping Hildebrand, Fisher-Hartman is keeping Newgarden.
  • Ed Carpenter is returning to Ed Carpenter Racing, which may add a second car.
  • Schmidt-Hamilton and Pagenaud have a deal for 2013, with rumors of a second entry.
  • Penske will have at least Castroneves and Power for 2013, third car will most likely be Briscoe or not happen at all.
  • Foyt will enter Chase Austin for the Indianapolis, no news on the full-time entry
Listed above is 16 full-time entries, with two additional for Indianapolis. Other things we expect to happen:

  • We expected Graham Rahal to join his father's team and RLL being a two car team with most likely Takuma Sato. 
  • It appears Justin Wilson will return for Dale Coyne, no solid news yet on that second entry.
  • Dreyer & Reinbold have not announced Oriol Servia is returning yet but he is expected to returned to the team.
  • Rubens Barrichello is rumored to be heading to the second Schmidt-Hamilton entry. EJ Viso wants to start his own team in 2013. 
  • HVM's future is hazy. They are reportedly stuck in their Lotus deal and cannot get a deal with another manufacture. Simona has left the team, taking the funding with her. The team announced to be competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and American Le Mans Series in 2013.
  • Bryan Herta Autosport has not announced their driver for 2013. They are expected to keep Alex Tagliani. 
  • Mike Shank is still pursuing an IndyCar for 2013, after being shut out for 2012.
If we add two RLL, two DCR, a DRR, a second Schmidt-Hamilton, Viso's team and BHA, the number stands at twenty-four full-time entries, down one-two cars from last year. Other abstract rumors include Scuderia Coloni, an Italian GP2 team, leaving that series to run an IndyCar in 2013 and Newman-Haas Racing returning with two cars.

While it appears to be set in stone, the 2013 schedule has been rumored to have a few additions. Before the departure of Randy Bernard their were constant reports of a race in Italy, at either Mugello, Imola or Monza, sometime in mid-September. The deal was also reported to be bringing Fiat into IndyCar.

There is a rumor of a group trying to save the Edmonton race.

Boward County, Florida is voting today, Tuesday November 13, to approve hotel-tax funds to help promote an IndyCar race on the streets of Fort Lauderdale. The race could happen as early as autumn 2013 and be an IndyCar-ALMS doubleheader. IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay resides in the Fort Lauderdale area.