Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sao Paulo: First Impressions

1. Turbo wasn't the problem Honda. Try again.

2. With that said, Takuma Sato drove one hell of a race and I was wrong thinking he wouldn't do well this weekend

3. The anti-stall has to be figured out. We can't have guys have days ruined because the actually avoided an accident.

4. To Lotus: Are you sure you want to stop supplying Dreyer and Reinbold?

5. Newgarden has shown a lot of talent as he heads to his first oval...

6. ...which happens to be Indianapolis.

7. Anyone who thinks IndyCar shouldn't race in Brazil is wrong. It looked great on TV, imagine what it would look like if a Brazilian won? Once IndyCar starts running a 20-22 race schedule I would not mind seeing Brazil getting a second race.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Morning Warm-Up: Sao Paulo 2012

Will Power broke the track record and is joined by Dario Franchitti on row one for the Sao Paulo Indy 300. Power now has won the last two poles at Sao Paulo and two poles this season as he looks to win his third straight race this season. Scott Dixon will start third after having an off in the Firestone Fast Six and he will be followed by the Andretti Autosport teammates James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay and the Dale Coyne Racing entry of Justin Wilson. The Brazilians did not fair well, as only Tony Kanaan made it in to the top 12 but starts 12th. Barrichello, Castroneves an Beatriz will start 13th, 20th and 21st respectively. Simon Pagenaud starts from the 17th positions. He has yet to show the speed he had at the first three races but, unlike the first three races where he had raced on all those tracks in either ALMS, ChampCar or IndyCar previously, this is his first race on the streets of Sao Paulo. Different from Long Beach is instead of a who's-who of drivers with 10 grid spot penalties for engine changes, only the Honda of Takuma Sato was issued a penalty for an engine change. He did not take part in qualifying and will start from the 26th position.

If there is one thing about Sao Paulo it is you can't rule anyone out after qualifying. Rain is always a possibility and can give someone starting mid pack or in the back a great opportunity to steal a victory. Honda seems to be on the same page with Chevrolet after their turbo update, although the true litmus test will be a dry race. Honda and Chevrolet split the Firestone Fast Six at three apiece and the Top 12 at six apiece. Expect Sao Paulo to wide open once again this year and don't be shocked if it rains. This has been a great start to the season with so far three exciting races and a fourth that is expected to be just as unpredictable as the three before it, all of this as we head into the month of May and teams prepare for the Indianapolis 500. You can catch IndyCar 36 at 10:30 am, highlighting Ryan Hunter-Reay's weekend at Long Beach. Pre-race coverage for the IndyCar races begins at 11:00 am and green flag will be around 11:45 am.

Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 DTM Preview

As we enter the final weekend of April, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season begins in Hockenheim, Germany. Last year, Martin Tomczyk in the older of the two Audi A4s, held off his former Abt Sportline teammate, Mattias Ekström of Sweden and the Mercedes of French-Canadian Bruno Spengler to win his first DTM championship. This season, Tomczyk and Spengler will both be driving for BMW, as the Bavarian manufacture rejoins the DTM after a eighteen year absence. Along with the new BMW M3 DTM, Audi and Mercedes will each be fielding new cars for the 2012 season. Audi replaces the A4 with the A5 and Mercedes will update to the AMG C-Coupe.

One driver BMW brings to the DTM is their American factory driver, Joey Hand. In 2011, Hand won the 24 Hours of Daytona, the GT class at the 12 Hours of Sebring, finished on third in the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and won the 2011 American Le Mans Series GT Champion with teammate Dirk Müller. Hand is the first American to race in a DTM race since 1994, when 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan ran a Alfa Romeo at the Donnington Park round of the championship. Sullivan finished 10th in the first race and 4th in the second race.

Along with Hand, BMW factory drivers Dirk Werner (Germany), Andy Priaulx (United Kingdom) and Augusto Farfus (Brazil) are all new to the DTM. The only rookie Audi driver will be Adrien Tambay, son of former Formula One driver Patrick Tambay. Mercedes-Benz will introduce two drivers to the DTM world, Canadian Robert Wickens and Spaniard Roberto Mehri. Wickens and Mehri each were champions in 2011, with Wickens winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship (beatng current Formula One drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo) and Mehri dominated the Formula 3 Euro Series, winning 11 of 21 races and defeating second place Marco Wittman by 121 points.

The 2012 DTM season will contest of 10 rounds from this Sunday until October 21. The Hockenheimring bookends the season with the remaining eight rounds being hosted in 5 different European countries with one non-championship round. The four non-Germany rounds of the championship take place at Brand Hatch (UK, round 3), the Red Bull Ring (Austria, round 4), Zandvoort (Netherlands, round 7) and Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo (Spain, round 9). Other than Hockenheim, the German DTM race will take place at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, the famous Norisring on the streets of Nuremburg, the Nürburgring and Oscherleben. The non-championship round takes place between the Norisring and Nürburgring races at Munich's Olympic Stadium, host of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games, 1974 FIFA World Cup final and the UEFA Euro 1988 final. This event uses a similar format to the annual Race Of Champions held each December.

I predict that BMW will have their struggles but will ultimately win a race late this season will have at least one driver on th podium in thre races this year. Audi and Mercedes will be in a strong fight with one another at each round and I think the Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller will win the championship in 2012. Rockenfeller started the 2011 season well, winning at Zandvoort but his accident at Le Mans sidelined him for one DTM race and he never has as racy as he was before the accident. I think Rockenfeller's toughest competitors for the championship will be fellow Audi drivers Timo Scheider, Mattias Ekström and Filipe Albuquerque and the Mercedes driver Gary Paffett.

The first round of the DTM championship can be seen in the United States on SPEED2 at 8:00 am EST, Sunday morning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Track Walk: Sao Paulo 2012

The final race before the month of May takes place on the streets of Sao Paulo. For the third consecutive year, IndyCar will roar down the Anhembi Sambadrome and Will Power looks to remain the only winner of this event. Power comes off a great drive from 12th on the grid to hold off a late-charging Simon Pagenaud at Long Beach. Power leads the points ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves in second, Pagenaud in third, Scott Dixon in fourth and James Hinchcliffe in fifth. Other notables: Hunter-Reay is 6th, Barrichello is 9th, Kanaan is 11th, Franchitti is 14th and the highest Lotus driver in points is Sebastien Bourdais who is 17th. The great news heading into Sao Paulo is that the race is nearly sold out, as Rubens Barrichello will run his first IndyCar race in his hometown.

The most important thing at the two previous Sao Paulo races, and expected to come into play this weekend, is the weather. In 2010, rain saw Simona de Silvestro lead her first laps in her first IndyCar race and Will Power make a late race pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay for the win. Dario Franchitti started from pole and led 29 laps, but fell back and finished 7th. The race was held under a red flag for 36 minutes and ended at the 2-hour time-limit with 61 laps completed. 2011 saw Power and Hunter-Reay start 1st and 2nd but a heavy rain on Sunday saw only 14 laps over a little more than 40 minutes and after a two and a half hour rain delay, the remaining hour and twenty minutes were run on Monday morning. On Monday, to the surprise of many, Takuma Sato and EJ Viso put KV Racing Technology in a great opportunity to win the race but poor timing saw Sato drop to 8th after leading 23 lap and Viso end up 13th. Power once again took the lead as the field neared the two hour limit and held on to win. IndyCar is only on track at Sao Paulo on Saturday and Sunday and both days call for scattered thunderstorms.

Lotus Debacle
No Bryan Herta Autosport this weekend and this is the final race for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Lotus as the series heads to Indianapolis after Sao Paulo. Both teams are expected to look for deals for the remaining of the season with either of the other two manufactures. It would make sense that the defending Indianapolis 500 champions will go back to Honda, especially after Bryan Herta's long history with the Japanese manufacture. One question is what will become of some of the "TBAs" on the Indianapolis 500 entry list? It looks like Ed Carpenter will not run a second car which will leave an open Chevrolet package.

Speaking Of Indy
It was announced on Monday that Michael Shank and Jay Howard have a deal for the Indianpolis 500 but do not have an engine. Shank was believed to be lined up to run the full season with Lotus but the team has yet to enter a race this season. Michel Jourdain Jr. will drive the #30 Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing entry. The entry was believed to be the beginning of a deal for the rest of the season for Luca Filippi. It is not clear if Filippi has a deal for any races after Indianapolis.

Not much of a wild prediction but I expect rain this weekend. Will IndyCar finally run the scheduled 75 lap distance? Sure, I will go out on a limb on that one. I am going with "Rubinho". After years are trying to win at Interlagos, Barrichello finally gets a win in Sao Paulo. Will Power will run up front and end on the podium as well as Graham Rahal on his six race probation. All three Andretti Autosport cars are in the top ten as well as Kanaan and Justin Wilson. I see the Honda's of Pagenaud and Franchitti doing well but Sato will end up mid pack. Sleeper: JR Hildebrand.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Howard, Shank Enter 500; Engines Influx

Michael Shank Racing has signed Jay Howard to attempt the Indianapolis 500. Shank had planned to contest the whole 2012 Izod IndyCar season with Lotus but through four races has yet to run a race. Paul Tracy was reported to have been working with Shank to field him in 2012. Jay Howard was in the abandoned Las Vegas race last October and the last official race he raced was Texas where he finished 15th and 20th in the twin 275's. Last year at Indianapolis, Howard qualified for his first Indianapolis 500 after failing to in 2008 and 2010. He qualified on the first day of qualifications and started 20th before his day ended after only 60 laps in the 30th position.

Even with the Shank-Howard entry, the whole field is influx. Lotus' announcement that they will stop supplying Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport leaves further questions. Speculations over whether the two teams will sign with Chevrolet or Honda has to leave people wondering about the rest of season and the security of one-off entries by Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing and Schmidt Hamilton Racing for the Indianapolis 500. I expect both RLLR and SHR to field cars but according to a tweet from Curt Cavin, Ed Carpenter will not be fielding a second car. This seemed to be the only hope for a few drivers (Buddy Rice and Tomas Scheckter come to mind) of trying to qualify for this year's race. In Cavin's article on the Indianapolis Star's website, Randy Bernard said a resolution will come out "in a day or two."

Friday, April 20, 2012

No Carneval for Tagliani and BHA

Bryan Herta Autosports and driver Alex Tagliani are going to skip the upcoming Brazil round of the championship. This is after back-to-back did not finishes at Barber and Long Beach, falling out of the top 22 in points and not being apart of the TEAM Fund this season. One factor in the decision to skip Long Beach seems to be the larger Lotus situation of limited parts and an under preforming engine. This brings the Sao Paulo entry list down to 26 entries from 27. Ana Beatriz is scheduled to be running her first race of the 2012 season next week.

To spin this another way, last year Bryan Herta Autosport skipped Brazil. Look how that turned out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Indianapolis 500 Entry List

With the entry list for the Indianapolis 500 expected to be released today, here is what we have so far.

26 full-time teams (11 Chevrolets, 10 Hondas, 5 Lotuses)
Sebastian Saavedra and Ana Beatriz (Andretti Autosport, 13 Chevrolets)
Either Luca Filippi or Michel Jourdain Jr. (Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing, 11 Hondas)
Wade Cunningham (Foyt Enterprises, 12 Hondas)

That is thirty so far and we have heard speculation on the following:
Townsend Bell (Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports, 13 Hondas)
Bryan Clauson (Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing, 14 Hondas)
A possibe third RLL entry (Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing, 15 Hondas)
Jean Alesi (Lotus-Newman-Haas Racing, 6 Lotuses)

Those would bring the total to 34. Chevrolet and Honda are expecting to field 14 apiece and the list of above has only 13 Chevrolets. A lot of people are saying Buddy Rice with run a second Ed Carpenter Racing entry and that makes sense seeing how he ran for Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka for a few races last season, including the Indianapolis 500.

Now it is not out of the question that Davey Hamilton may run a third Schmidt-Hamilton car seeing how he is a partner in the team.

Prediction:  I think we will see 33 of the guys mentioned in the two lists above and a 14th Chevrolet and I do think it will be Buddy Rice driving for Ed Carpenter. I am on the fence about Davey Hamilton. Part of me thinks he is going to do it, another part of me thinks he made his mind to retire at Las Vegas. In the end though I don't think he wants to end like that and will enter the race. That brings the entry list to 35. I don't see a third RLL right now and to be honest I don't see it happening if Davey Hamilton decides to race. I think the entry list is set at 35.

Somethings Is Missing?: For the first time in a long time drivers without rides are extremely talented and very well deserve to have a shot at Indy. Tomas Scheckter is a guy that comes to mind as well as Alex Lloyd, Bertrand Baguette, Bruno Junqueira, Paul Tracy, Jay Howard, Pippa Mann, Vitor Meira and John Andretti. All these drivers were in the Indianapolis 500 last year. Also missing is Mike Shank Racing. He announced before most teams he would be running a car full-time with Lotus. Now he hasn't entered a car at the first four races and was talking with Paul Tracy about running Indianapolis. It's hard for me to imagine he will enter a car with the lack of engines and while we can sit here and say "why does Dreyer & Reinbold, Bryan Herta and Panther run a second car?", it won't happen. Don't expect any 11th hour deals before pole day or a guy jumping into a car on bump day and getting into the field. Maybe (actually hopefully) next year when the three engine manufactures have more parts, spares and engines in general. This year 34 or 35 entries will be enough. Hopefully one or two cars get bumped and we have some drama. Then next year we see a turn upwards with Lotus able to field more competitive cars.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Case You Missed It

Before I dive into some news, I would like to mention that this blog is also on Twitter. You can follow this blog @4TheLoveOfIndy on Twitter.

With that out of the way here is a run down of the headlines over the past few days for all who missed them.

Graham Rahal has been placed on probation after his contact with Marco Andretti at Long Beach on Sunday. I asked chief steward, Beaux Barfield on Twitter, "What will be a violation of probation and what will the penalty then be?" To which Barfield responded, "To quote the rulebook, '...heightened scrutiny...' and '...more severe penalty...'."

Wade Cunningham will be making an announcement today. Speculation is he will be announced as driving for AJ Foyt's team at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Cunningham participated in 4 races last year for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the twin 275's at Texas, Kentucky and the abandoned Las Vegas season finale. He started 8th for race one at Texas and was in the top 10 for most of that race before contact with Charlie Kimball. For the second race he drew 2nd on the grid but was a non-factor in his backup car. At Kentucky he started 15th and raced his way to a 7th place finish. He started 12th at Las Vegas and way 22nd when the race was abandoned.

Michel Jourdain Jr. is reportedly in the running for the second Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing seat at the Indianapolis 500, which was supposedly a done deal for Luca Filippi. Prior to this season, RLL Racing talked about running three cars at Indianapolis with Sato, Filippi and Jourdain as their drivers. It is not out of the running that they do run three cars but Filippi's debut in the Izod IndyCar Series may have to be put on hold until after the month of May. Nothing official has been announced.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When Racing Should Be Second

The past year and two months in Northern Africa and the Middle East have been very well documented as millions protested and continue to protest for democracy and improved human rights. These event would seem as far as possible from the world of racing, but this week the racing world will become immersed in the situation. Formula One heads to the Kingdom of Bahrain this weekend, a nation where the protest are ongoing and the changes have been far less than those in other nations such as Libya and Egypt. King Hamad is still in charge of the island nation, even though the oppressed Shiite majority has been calling for his removal for months. Thousands have been arrested, a few protesters have been killed and the most notable activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike for (as of Tuesday) 69 days.

The Bahrain International Circuit was built by the same government that is being called to be ousted. Sports and politics cannot be separated this time. The teams have expressed concern over the grand prix taking place and I think they are right to do so. They are entering a country where it seems the majority does not want the race to take place. I believe cancelling the Grand Prix last year was the correct thing to do but choosing to go ahead with this year's race is wrong.

Formula One leadership shows greediness and lack of humility with their decision. Bahrain does not have to happen. It has world champions Damon Hill (against the grand prix) and Jackie Stewart (for the grand prix) playing "what if" situations and wondering what would be best for the Kingdom of Bahrain. In my eyes, supporting what is right for the human beings suffering is the correct thing to do. The grand prix is going to happen, will there be any disturbances? Maybe not. Will a riot break out at the track? It's hard to imagine but you never know. As I said before, Bahrain doesn't have to happen and there are plenty of other tracks suited to host a Formula One race tomorrow if needed. Magny-Cours, Imola, Paul Richard, Nürburgring and Jerez could all host a grand prix if needed to, but in the past decade Formula One has showed it does not necessarily care about where the fans are but where the money is instead.

I hope the teams, as much as they don't want to be there, can bring awareness to the situation in the country and can win the support of the Bahraini people by coming out and making a political statement by supporting the protesters in their fight for democracy. This would definitely send the right message.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What to Think After Long Beach?

Who would have thought Chevrolet would not only win at Long Beach but take 7 of the top 10 and beat Honda in a fuel mileage derby? Not only did Will Power answer the critics who were starting to think he could not win from mid pack again but Chevrolet has the edge in the engine battle. Honda had a great day and both Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato showed their strengths as Franchitti fell back and was a non-factor as was his teammates Dixon and Rahal who both had their days ruined but in two different forms. Also, Josef Newgarden showed his speed in qualifying and showed he has stones as he tried to pass Franchitti on the outside, turn one, lap one only to hit the tires (maybe with some help from a tap by Dario).

But Honda has to be scratching their head. How do you start with the top 9 and end with only 3 in the top 10? Maybe the engine changes gave Chevrolet the far superior hand but Honda and Chevrolet split the top 12 evenly at six apiece. Let's see how the teams perform at Sao Paulo but the ball seems to be in Chevrolet's court.

Overall, the racing was pretty good in my book. The mix of strategy saw a lot of moves late in the race. Pagenaud chased down Sato and was catching Power. Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe soon caught Sato as well. Barrichello pitted late and drove his way back into the top ten. Charlie Kimball had a great end when he ran out of fuel on the pit lane. The last lap incident at the hairpin dropped Helio Castroneves out of the top ten and gave Honda their third representative in Justin Wilson, who showed his speed by leading a fair amount of laps while pulling away from the field. His teammate James Jakes kept his nose clean and ran in the top ten for a good amount of the race and came home in the 11th position. Lotus had another hard day and Bourdais could not repeat his performance at Barber. Oriol Servia was the highest finishing Lotus with a 16th place finish.

IndyCar will be off next week before heading to Sao Paulo April 27-29. Normally release around this time of the year is the Indianapolis 500 entry list and I expect it to be made public midweek. Stay tuned for more information and opinions on IndyCar as well as other racing forms during the week.

Long Beach: First Impressions

1. Chevrolet has the upper hand. They aren't miles ahead but they are clearly ahead of Honda after today's race. Will Power fuel conservation was truly impressive, especially after the worries Takuma Sato's crew had about making it to the finish when they pitted more than a half dozen laps after Power. Not to mention the drives by Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello.

2. Simon Pagenaud proved his talent once again and it would not be crazy to think he could win a race or two.

3. I disagree with the penalty to Hunter-Reay. He was clearly side-by-side with Sato and was going for it on the last lap when he could make it to the finish and Sato was stretching it.

4. Sad news: In a report from Marshall Pruett, it appears Paul Tracy has decided to retire and will not attempt Indy this year. The 2003 CART Champion appeared to try to get a deal with Mike Shank for the season but sponsorship and engine manufactures seemed to get in the way of a farewell tour for the Thrill From West Hill.

Keep an eye out for a full report on the action from Long Beach.

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2012

With qualifying in the books, we now look forward to the race.

Ryan Briscoe (top) won the pole, followed by his teammate Will Power and fellow Chevrolet driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. They will start 11th, 12th and 13th respectively due to their engine changes. Fourth-fastest Dario Franchitti will lead the field to the green flag in position one. Josef Newgarden will be second on the grid after qualifying 7th due to the the Chevy's of EJ Viso (5th) and James Hinchcliffe (6th) being penalized 10 spots for their engine changes. On the grid, the top nine will be Honda powered cars and the Lotus of Alex Tagliani will start 10th. Tagliani is the biggest, positive mover in the field, moving up eleven positions from 21th to 10th. The slowest Honda was James Jakes as he will start 14th, behind the three fastest cars from qualifying.

A complete, final grid can be found here.

This should prove to be a very interesting race, especially after the Barber round of the championship. With all the Chevrolets starting no better than 11th, it will surely be fun to see if these teams can make their way to the front of the field. This car stunned the paddock with all the passing at Barber, and many hope for the same later this afternoon. The top 12 from qualifying was split 6 Chevys and 6 Hondas but only the Honda of Franchitti made it to the Firestone Fast 6. The Chevrolets appear to have a slight upper hand but if passing proves to be difficult, Honda maybe set to pick up it's first victory of the 2012 season. Weather forecast call for a clear day with a 0% chance of precipitation. Coverage of the race starts at 3:00pm EST with IndyCar 36 as this episode follows Graham Rahal's weekend at Barber. Pre-race show begins at 3:30pm with green flag being a little after 4:00pm.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday at Long Beach

Rain and wind dominated the day as IndyCar had two practice sessions. Only 18 cars took the track for practice number one and only Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon took the track for P2. Marco Andretti led the first session and Franchitti led the second one. Three cars had incidents over the two sessions. Simona de Silvestro and Takuma Sato had incidents at the same time but at separate parts of the track as the first session was coming to a close. And in the final session, Scott Dixon hit the wall under braking on a very wet track.

Add Katherine Legge and Oriol Sevia to those who have been handed 10 grid spot penalties this weekend because of engine changes.

Tomorrow, IndyCar has one more practice before qualifying, which can be seen at 6pm on NBC Sports Network.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chevorlet Has Work To Do At Long Beach

The news of the day has come from the Chevrolet camp as the American manufacture has decided to change the engines in all 11 entrants for the Long Beach race. This comes days after James Hinchcliffe had an engine failure at the Sonoma test, followed by Andretti Autosport and Penske Racing ending their days at lunchtime.

According to the IndyCar regulations, a team must have an engine last 1850 miles before a change. If it fails before that mileage mark and doesn't fail during a race, then a 10 grid spot penalty will be issued. Along with the 11 Chevrolets, Sebastian Bourdais will also be penalized 10 grid spots for changing his engine between the Barber and Long Beach rounds.

My Spin On The Story: IndyCar is following there rules. Granted we may disagree on what the rule is but they are following what the rule book says. I would much rather see a team go unpunished if their engine fails during testing before a race weekend. However, I feel if a team has an engine blow up during a race weekend, but before the race, then a penalty should be enforced. I don't think Hinchcliffe should be penalized but I agree with the other 10 Chevrolets being penalized. I say that because they are changing their engines out of fear. They are afraid of an engine blowing during the weekend or worse during the race. Fair enough, but how can a team be so certain their engine is going to blow? Just because Hinchcliffe's engine failed does not mean the engines of Carpenter, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay and Power will all fail the next time they hit the track. Sure, Chevrolet are looking over all the engines they give to their IndyCar teams and have all the data and knowledge but one engine's life is not the same as another. The wear on an engine depends on so many things.

Conclusion: I disagree with Chevrolet's choice to change the other 10 engines after Hinchcliffe's failure. I think Hinchcliffe should not be penalized because his failure happened during testing while the remaining Chevrolets should be penalized for the change because (unless Chevrolet comes out and says otherwise) those engines did not fail at the test (Hildebrand and Carpenter weren't even testing for starters so how can they go without a penalty?) and were changed in fear they would this weekend. The rule should be adjusted by IndyCar to take into consideration testing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Track Walk: Long Beach 2012

The third round of the 2012 Izod IndyCar Season takes place on the streets of Long Beach. Chevrolet and Penske Racing have won the first two races of the season with Helio Castroneves taking St. Pete and Will Power driving up from 9th position to hold off Scott Dixon at Barber two weeks ago. This will be the first race where the pits will not automatically close when a full-course caution occurs. The pits will only close if it is an emergency. Beaux Barfield announced the change on Monday along with sending lapped cars to the rear of the field on any restart in the final 20 laps of a race. Both these rule changes only apply to road and street circuits.

Last year'race at Long Beach is remembered for Helio punting his teammate Will Power out from the lead and ruining both their chances at podiums. After that Mike Conway drove past both Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe to lead the closing laps and get his first career victory in the Izod IndyCar Series.

Ana Beatriz will drive the #25 Ipiranga Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport in partnership with Conquest Racing at Sao Paulo and the Indianapolis 500. Beatriz will join her fellow Brazilians, Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves as the 27th entry for her home race in Sao Paulo. The signing of Beatriz, along with Sebastian Saavedra for Indianapolis only, appears to end the chances of John Andretti returning to Andretti Autosport for the Indianapolis 500. John has raced for his cousin Michael's team the past two seasons as a joint effort with Richard Petty Motorsports at the Speedway.

Also, reported late last week for the month of May is Jean Alesi driving for Lotus-Newman-Haas Racing. Newman-Haas Racing returns after announcing earlier this year their intentions not to run a car full-time. Last year at the Speedway, Newman-Haas Racing had a good month with Oriol Servia who started third, led eighteen laps and finished sixth, while then rookie James Hinchcliffe started thirteenth and retired from the race after only completing 99 laps. Alesi will be the sixth and believed to be the final Lotus driver for the Indianapolis 500.

Bryan Clauson tested for Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5th, along with fellow rookie drivers Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. All three completed their rookie oval program and will be allowed to participate in IndyCar oval races. Clauson won the USAC National Driver's Championship last year and for the second straight year was awarded the Road to Indy scholarship. Clauson looks to use that money to fund a car to attempt the Indianapolis 500.

Adding to the full-time field of 26, Saavedra, Luca Fillipi, who will run all the races from Indianapolis onward, Beatriz and Alesi bring the unofficial entry list for the Indianapolis 500 to 30. Lotus is believed to have filled their allotted amount of engine combinations for the race at 6. It is believed both Chevrolet and Honda will power 14 teams apiece and the additional two cars from Andretti Autosport brings Chevrolet's total to 13 as of now. Clauson to SFHR would be the 12th Honda team and with reports of a possible Townsend Bell/Schmidt-Hamilton combination would bring Honda to 13 entrants. If those two deals become true the total would be 32 entries. Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing have been looking to add a third car, most likely for Michel Jourdain Jr., Davey Hamilton might run a third Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports entry, AJ Foyt seems to always bring a second entry to the Speedway, Mike Shank is still a possibility and a few other teams are rumored to be looking at adding a second or third entry for the Indianapolis 500. I think we will easily see 33, maybe even 34 or 35 cars attempt to qualify.

Nick Andries (right) tweeted he will race for Bryan Herta Autosports in the Lights race this weekend. Andries finished third last year in the Star Mazda Championship behind Tristan Vautier and his 2011 teammate Connor De Phillippi after racking up 7 podiums for Team Pelfrey.

Final Points
Track opens on Friday for IndyCar with two practice sessions (1-2pm EST and 5:15-6:15pm EST). Final practice before qualifying will be at 1:25pm EST on Saturday and will run one hour. Qualifying will be at 5:00pm EST and can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 6:00pm EST. The race it self can be seen at 3:30pm EST on Sunday with green flag being sometime around 4:10pm EST. The American Le Mans Series is racing on Saturday at Long Beach and the Indy Lights race will be before the IndyCar race on Sunday.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will be victorious this weekend. He won at Long Beach two years ago, last year he started second, was up front all race long until a mechanical failure ended his day. The Chevrolet's have shown their strength and all three Andretti Autosport cars have been quick at the first two rounds. I think Will Power and the Honda's of Dixon, Rahal and Pagenaud give Hunter-Reay a run for his money but he holds on. Dario Franchitti will have a solid weekend and finish in the top five and the Lotus of Sebastien Bourdais will again race his way into the top ten. Rubens Barrichello will make the Firestone Fast Six and run in the top ten all day. Josef Newgarden will qualify in the top twelve. Tony Kanaan will run every lap and get a top ten. Sleeper: Mike Conway.

Monday, April 9, 2012

No Need To Hurry, Pits Will Only Close For Emergencies

After being mentioned as a possibility before the start of the 2012 season by Beuax Barfield, starting at Long Beach this week, pit road will only close during full-course caution periods if it is an emergency on road and street circuits. Hopefully, this will decrease the rush of a full field of cars on to the pit lane at once and decrease the amount of danger the pit crew members face during pit stops. Barfield has not mentioned leaving the pits open for oval races as well.

Also, announced today, starting officially this weekend lapped cars will move to the rear of the field on a restart in the final 20 laps on a road or street circuit.

Testing in Sonoma and More

Today, 13 cars from 5 teams will test at Infineon Raceway. All three drivers from Andretti Autosport, Penske Racing and KV Racing Technology will be at the test representing Chevrolet while the two Ganassi teams and their four drivers will be representing the single-turbo Honda engine. As with the most recent test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lotus is absent. The cars will run the same rear-wing configuration as they did for the first two rounds of the championship at the test today. The package tested last week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is only for the Speedway and Fontana. The test at Sonoma is free for fans to attend.

Rookie Test
At Texas Motor Speedway last week, rookies Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and two-time USAC National Driver's Champion, Bryan Clauson all completed their oval test program and will be allowed to race all ovals in the Izod IndyCar Series. Clauson was testing for Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing as he looks to use his Road to Indy Scholarship to fund a car for this year's Indianapolis 500. Katherine Legge is the only remaining full-time rookie yet to complete the oval program, as well as Rubens Barrichello and both will have an opportunity to do it at the May 7th test at Texas Motor Speedway.

Two More For Indy
Jean Alesi has announced that he will drive for Lotus-Newman-Haas Racing in his attempt to make the Indianapolis 500. Also, announced late last week is Ana Beatriz will race at Sao Paulo as well as attempt the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport in partnership with Conquest Racing. More information on these signings can be found in this week's Track Walk column, which will be posted by Thursday afternoon.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Moto GP Season Opener

With it being Easter weekend the racing world is pretty dead but there is one major event happening in Qatar as the Moto GP opens its season with their only night race from Losail. Casey Stoner was fastest in first practice, as he looks to defend his championship. This marks the first race of the of 1,000 cc engines after using 800 cc engines since 2007. This also marks the first race of the new Claiming Rule Teams. These are smaller privateer teams running at a much lower budget compared to the giant factory operations of Ducati, Honda and Yamaha and the larger customer teams.

Two Spaniards, factory Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Stoner's teammate Dani Pedrosa, look to challenge him for the title. Three Americans plan to be on the grid for Sunday's race. Ben Spies, Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards all return from last season with Edwards being the only one with a CRT. Spies was victorious last year at Assen in the Dutch TT on his factory Yamaha and hopes to be up front, challenging with Lorenzo for more victories this season. 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden returns to Ducati for his fourth season with the Italian manufacture. Hayden only had one podium in 2011 but only retired from two races as he and his Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi both struggled with the bike all season. The first practice seems promising for Hayden as he was third in the session between Lorenzo and Spies. Rossi was down in 10th on the time sheet but it is only the first session in a long season.

The race weekend is just beginning. With two more practice sessions Friday, qualifying Saturday and a morning warm-up on Sunday before the race. Qualifying can been seen on SPEED2 at 12:55pm on Saturday and the race is on SPEED Sundy at 3:00pm.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mission Statement

As the 2012 season is already two races in I believe I should state more about this blog and what I hope it accomplishes. I have been proactive when it comes to IndyCar but honest. Looking for the bright side of thing is what I do. Sure, TV ratings are low. Sure, there are only five oval races. Sure, ABC's coverage is not the greatest but let's turn those all around.

To start with ABC, it isn't the best coverage at all. But it is network TV. Something IndyCar needs to survive. I do agree with the majority that some changes should be made but it isn't the end of the world.

Ovals: I love ovals. Especially the short, flat ones, but the truth it is tough to get the ovals IndyCar and its fans want due to scheduling. It isn't impossible but Randy Bernard has to be willing to work with those running the tracks. I believe more ovals are coming. Will in be 50/50? I don't know but if the schedule is 20 races, with 8 ovals, that isn't bad.

TV Ratings: Patience. Look at Barber. It was a great race that no one saw coming, not even the drivers. Any true racing fan would have enjoyed that race. Sure the ratings aren't good now but how long can great racing go with out the viewers? I know NBC Sports Network is struggling but let's give it time and see how the promotion of the races on TV go.

This is just a bit of what it to come. This is a down week for motorsports in general but look for a post on the Moto GP opening weekend from Qatar in the next day or two.