Monday, July 30, 2012

Brighter Times Ahead For IndyCar Ratings?

With these Olympics games, more people than ever are looking for NBC Sports Network. The US Men's national basketball team and Women's national soccer team are the two big draws for the network as well as many other events. While ads have been run by the network promoting their entities, the question is will this draw a more regular fan base for the network?

What is difficult for NBC Sports Network to do is promote their next IndyCar race. The Sonoma race is a little under a month away and due to the cancellation of China gives NBC Sports one less race to show. We may see more promotions towards the end of the Olympics as that will closer to the Sonoma, which now has a title sponsor in GoPro.

The bigger hope is these Olympic games makes NBC Sports Net into a more attractive place for sponsors. Drivers and teams have been having trouble finding sponsors for the races on NBC Sports Net due to the low ratings but a changed perception about the network would surely help.
IndyCar has been struggling for ratings, we all know that. This weekend's race at Mid-Ohio is on ABC at 12:30pm ET. It will be going head-to-head not only with the Olympics but the NASCAR race from Pocono. One thing in IndyCar's favor will be the ALMS race on Saturday at 2:00pm ET which is also on ABC. This is the perfect opportunity for in-race promotions and hopefully turn a causal fan watching Saturday into a causal fan watching Sunday.

We can only wait and see if NBC Sports Net is able to become a bigger network in the eyes of sports fans after these Olympic games and if IndyCar benefits. Until then IndyCar has to work with what is at hand.


As many racing fans may have known already, the award-winning documentary Senna was broadcast for the first time on cable television last night when ESPN2 aired the film at 10:00pm ET.

I watched it for what has to be the twentieth time and I would just like to take this time to air out my thoughts and feelings before seeing it and after viewing it again.

When I first heard about this film it was premiering in Japan. I could not wait for this film to come state-side. Sure enough, I waited and waited and waited. During that time my grandfather was suffering from esophageal cancer and we would always watching racing together. Didn't matter what it was. IndyCar to NASCAR, Formula One to MotoGP, we watched it all. My grandfather's battle was very difficult. He had stretches where he was great, really active and you wouldn't think he had cancer at all. Other times he was very tired and wouldn't want to do anything. Around January of last year we had found out that the cancer had spread and a few brain tumors where developing. He had to go back on chemotherapy and was really struggling. I continued to visit him , pretty much every weekend from when he was first diagnosed in October of 2009. We continued to watch races together. Either I would head to their house or he would come over to my house. The last race I remember watching with him was the Barber IndyCar race in 2011. I don't remember watching Long Beach with him and I am not sure why that is but anyway, in case if you are wondering this is where the film and Ayrton Senna come into the story.

The week after Long Beach was Easter Sunday and I was on the Internet one day and someone brought it up that 2011 would be the 17th anniversary to the day of Ayrton Senna's tragic accident. That stopped me for a moment. Senna is without a doubt one of my favorite drivers all-time because of who he was on and off the track. At that point my grandfather was doing well, he wasn't as good as he was before but he was OK. It hit me that it was a really real possibility that my grandfather, the best friend I have ever had, could pass on the same day as my racing hero. I didn't want that to happen but I knew how real it could be.

The Tuesday before Easter comes around and my family gets a call, my grandfather isn't feeling well. My father takes him to the hospital and I go with them. The doctor's give him treat him and he goes home. Two days later he has had to be taken to the hospital after having a stroke in the middle of the night. The doctor's say he would not make it past Easter Sunday, April 24. At this point I am at the hospital everyday. Sunday rolls around and he is still alive. Monday comes he is still alive. The doctor's say we have to get him out of hospital and put him on hospice. Meanwhile I have a student from Germany coming to my house to stay for three weeks. Anyway, the days go by and my grandfather is still here. I am attending events with this student and we have a trip to Amish country from 6am to 6pm on Saturday April 30th. We go and when we get back I decide that I have to go see my grandfather and check IndyCar qualifying from Brazil. I drop the student off at my house and my father is there. He had just gotten back from my grandfather's and tells me that he is gone. I was devastated. I try to hold back all emotions and turn on IndyCar qualifying just to gather myself. I get someone to take the German student out for the night as I am going up to my grandfather's to see him one final time in his house.

I kept thinking, "this is how it's suppose to be" and "it had to be this way." Two of the biggest people in my life were suppose to die, while years apart, but almost on the same day. I kept thinking of Senna at my grandfather's. We turned on the NASCAR races because the Cup series was at Richmond that night and it's what my grandfather and I would have been doing anyway. The days past and when the funeral was over, I could not stop thinking about my grandfather and Senna.

They had never met, nor were probably ever close to meeting. While I did not have the fortune to share this Earth with Ayrton Senna for long, only 26 days, since I first learned of the man, I have been drawn to him. Over my life I done all I can to learn about him. I watched whatever video of past races I can find to see him race, listened and read what people around motorsports have said about him. This man of deep faith and this great will to win appealed to my from the time I was young.

I really struggled with my grandfather's death and was still struggling when I went to see Senna at the Ritz at the Bourse in Philadelphia. I believe it was the Tuesday after the Sonoma IndyCar race because I was going to go that Sunday morning but Hurricane Irene came and shut everything down. I saw the film and felt the film was fantastic. My father, who knows nothing about racing, nothing about Senna, doesn't like racing one bit, went with me and he of all people enjoyed the movie. I was stunned about that.

After watching the film again last night and after all that has happened since I first saw it, my love for Senna and racing is reconfirmed. Senna wanted to race. He hated the politics, did not want money to get in the way and wanted to race at it's purest form. Any race fan can appreciate that. Senna was lightning in a bottle. I do not think any driver in my lifetime has come close to what Senna could do with a race car. And no driver may ever come close.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What A Dud

It was suppose to bring the best drivers to race, fill the stands after years of dwindling attendance. The billed Kroger Super Weekend was anything but that.

While the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge brought a very nice size field of car, the main event on Friday saw only thirty-four entries for the Rolex Sports Car Series, eleven being for the Daytona Prototype class. The race also did not entice drivers to come be apart of the first sports car race at the Speedway or car owners to field an extra car or two. Chip Ganassi added a second car for Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon but that was it for one-offs. Sebastien Bourdais raced for Starworks Motorsport and Paul Tracy for Doran Racing. That's it. Sure Indy Lights drivers James Davison and Sebastian Saavedra were in a Corvette but they do not move the needle.

No big name sports car or IndyCar drivers showed up like they do for the 24 Hours of Daytona. No All-Star, once-in-a-life time driver line-up, none of it. And the Nationwide race was not any better. The usual Cup guys who run Nationwide Series races showed up. The Busch brothers, Keselowski, Logano and Hamlin were there but it didn't draw the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart or Mark Martin. The thrill of winning the first Nationwide race at the Speedway wasn't as great as some first thought.

Moving away from Indianapolis Raceway Park (currently known as Lucas Oil Raceway) not only took a great Saturday night short track race off the Nationwide schedule but killed a pretty good Friday night Truck race as well. In an effort by both NASCAR and the Speedway to help bring more people to the track, their "Super Weekend" was not able to do what they hoped it would. It only saturated the greatest race track in the world with a few more minor events.

Can An American Win The United States Grand Prix?

Yes. Will an American win? That question does not have as easy as an answer.

With the depth of the current MotoGP field, Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies and Colin Edwards do not have their work cut out for them as they head to Laguna Seca for the United States Grand Prix. Edwards' hopes of winning are already hampered by being on a clearly slower CRT bike and a win by the Texas Tornado would rank as one of the largest upsets in sports history let alone racing history.

Hayden has won two United States Grand Prix. He held off Edwards and his current Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi in 2005 at Laguna Seca for his first MotoGP victory and would go on to win again in 2006 on his way to win his first World Championship. That 2006 victory is however Hayden's last win to date in MotoGP and his best finish at Laguna Seca since 2006 is fifth. Hayden has showed a good pace at the last two events only to end with finishes of tenth and seventh respectively. Hayden's mind should be at ease somewhat this weekend after signing an extension with Ducati through next season.

Ben Spies' mind may be at a different place. After announcing he would be leaving the factory Yamaha team at the end of the 2012 season, his plans for 2013 are not as clear. After winning last year's Dutch TT in his first year with the factory Yamaha team, he would go on to miss two of final three races after accidents at Australia and Malaysia but would rebound and finish second at the final race of 2011 at Valencia. But no momentum carried through to 2012. No podiums so far and he has finished outside the top ten in four of the nine races this season. In his three previous United States Grand Prix, Spies' best finish is fourth but that is after finishing eighth as a wild card entry in 2008 and sixth on the Tech3 Yamaha in 2010.

The 2012 season has been dominated by Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner with Andrea Dovizioso in their shadow, scoring four third place finishes in the last five races. Dovizioso's Tech3 teammate, Cal Crutchlow is fifth in the standings ahead of Valentino Rossi and Stefan Brandl, who has had two great races heading to Laguna Seca. Ducati has not won at Laguna Seca since 2006 with Casey Stoner who won last year with Honda. The last four U.S. Grand Prix have been won by four different riders, split between Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi. Americans have a good track record in the U.S. Grand Prix, winning seven of the fifteen runnings as a World Championship event.

The American riders could take their home race and steal the headlines. Spies and Hayden were fourth and seventh after Friday practice, sixth tenths of a second and a second and a third respectively off the fastest time set by Pedrosa. Hayden's 2005 win from pole was a surprise. Could another surprise be in store? We shall see.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grand-Am Afternoon Warm-Up: Indianapolis 2012

For the first time ever the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This three-hour event is the third and final race of the North American Endurance Challenge. The Gainsco/Bob Stallings Corvette DP will be on pole with drivers Jon Fogerty and Alex Gurney. The SunTrust Racing Corvette starts second with Max Angelelli an Ricky Taylor. David Donohue, son of the 1972 Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue, and Terry Borcheller start third with Antonio Garci and Richard Westbrook rounding out a Corvette DP 1-2-3-4. Championship leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas start eighth and North American Endurance Challenge leaders Darren Law and Joao Barbosa will start tenth. Notables in the Daytona Prototype class are Seabastien Bourdais starting fifth with Alex Popow, the second Ganassi entry of Scott Dixon, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya in sixth and Paul Tracy teaming with Jim Lowe in eleventh.

Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay are on pole in the GT class. The Corvette of Eric Curran and Boris Said will start second. Leaders of the GT North American Endurance Challenge John Edwards and Robin Liddell start third. The Brumos Porsche of Leh Keen and Andrew Davis are fourth. Overall GT Championship leaders Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal start seventh in class.

Race coverage begins at 4:00pm ET on SPEED.

Busch Brothers Lead Nationwide Practice

Kyle Busch led the Busch Brother one-two in Nationwide Practice yesterday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The fastest lap run by Kyle was 51.184 seconds, a little over three tenths of a second ahead of his brother and Kasey Kahne who was third. The 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner, Sam Hornish Jr. was the fastest Dodge and fourth overall ahead of the Toyota of Denny Hamlin and the defending Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard. Justin Allgaier was seventh ahead of Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top ten.

Brian Scott was eleventh and 18-year old Ryan Blaney was twelfth fastest. Danica Patrick, Ty Dillon and Joe Nemechek rounded out the top fifteen. Other notables are Joey Logano in seventeenth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in nineteenth, James Buescher was twenty-third, Travis Pastrana was twenty-sixth and Kenny Wallace was thirty-fourth.

Nationwide Series qualifying will be at 12:15pm ET on Saturday with the race scheduled for 4:30pm ET later that same day. The Cup Series does not see the race track until Saturday with two practices in the morning, one beginning a 8:30am ET, the other at 10:30am ET. Cup qualifying will be at 2:10pm ET Saturday and the race will be at 1:00pm ET Sunday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NASCAR Heads To Indianapolis

With their final off weekend in the books, NASCAR heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the nineteenth time. Joining the Cup Series for the first time ever are the Nationwide Series, Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

Matt Kenseth heads to Indianapolis as the points leader, ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson. Carl Edwards is currently eleventh in the points, forty-seven between Brad Keselowski in tenth. Following his win in New Hampshire, Kasey Kahne jumped into a wild card position joining Kyle Busch as they both look to fight their way into the Chase. Last year's winner at Indianapolis, Paul Menard is in fifteenth position and is looking for his first win of the 2012 season. Other drivers outside the top ten in points are Indiana's Ryan Newman, four-time winner of the Brickyard 400 Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and the 2010 Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray.

2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya sits in twenty-first position as he looks for a win in the Brickyard 400. He finished second in his first Brickyard 400 and won the pole for the race in 2010. In 2009, Montoya lead the most laps at Indianapolis before a controversial pit road speeding penalty cost him the win.

For the first time ever the Nationwide Series will not be racing at Raceway Park in Clermont, Indiana. The 250-mile race in scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Friday is sports car day at the Speedway with this three hour Rolex Sports Car series race being the final leg of the North American Endurance Championship. Darren Law and Joao Barbosa lead the NAEC Championship for Daytona Prototypes while Robin Liddell and John Edwards lead the Grand Touring Class. McMurray, Montoya and Scott Dixon will be competing in a second DP entry from Chip Ganassi. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will precede the main event on Friday at 1:00pm with a seventy-five car field.

Stay tuned as the weekend approaches.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Edmonton: First Impressions

I downloaded the race radio broadcast last night and finished it this morning. Even though I have yet to see the race, I know most of what happened yesterday. 1. Championship picture gets even more interesting. Should be a good battle between Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Power and maybe Dixon. 2. Nice to see Tagliani get a great run on home soil. 3. With the runs by Sato and Tagliani this week and Kimball and Conway at Toronto, one can not rule out a surprise winner in one of the final four events. 4. While he did not finish well at all, Josef Newgarden did pick up another fastest lap at Edmonton, something he accomplished at Sao Paulo and Toronto. Results aren't adding up for him but he has been showing what he can do with a single-car operation. 5. Radio broadcast was ok. Mike King isn't the greatest but Davey Hamilton makes up for it. 6. Impressive the race went caution-free after last year's race. 7. I am not sure I understand why Firestone makes a street course tire compound and a road course compound. Wouldn't it be cheaper to just make one tire meant for both disciplines? 8. Hearing Lotus might not be back for 2013. That leaves many questions that can't all be addressed now. More on that later. 9. Looking forward to Mid-Ohio.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Morning Warm-Up: Edmonton 2012

Ryan Hunter-Reay took his first pole in over eight years but will start eleventh after an engine change. The winner of the previous three pole positions, Dario Franchitti will move from second to pole for tomorrow's race. Ryan Briscoe will start second and Takuma Sato third. Alex Tagliani was the highest qualifying Canadian and will start fourth. Will Power and Scott Dixon will also serve ten grid spot penalties for engine changes and will start seventeenth and eighteenth respectively. Oriol Servia and Simona de Silvestro will also serve ten grid spot penalties and will make up the final two positions on the grid.

Other notables on the grid are Rubens Barrichello starting from the seventh position, Graham Rahal will be eighth and the other Canadian, James Hinchcliffe will roll off from ninth on the grid. Sebastien Bourdais did not make it out of round one of qualifying and starts twelfth. Tony Kanaan did not have a good qualifying session and will start from the twenty-first position.

Some Edmonton facts, the farthest back a winner come from was tenth by Sebastien Bourdais at the first Edmonton race in 2005. Only once has the winner come from pole, that was Will Power in 2009. Three times the pole-sitter has failed to finish in the top ten at Edmonton. This is the first race on July 22nd since 2007, when Sebastien Bourdais won his second Edmonton event and on that same day, Scott Dixon won the IRL race from Mid-Ohio. Tomorrow will also be Scott Dixon's 32nd Birthday.

On a personal note, I will be traveling to Pittsburgh, Pa tomorrow and may miss the Edmonton race. First impressions may be delayed a little bit in case you are wondering. I am hoping to land and be able to catch the race from my hotel room either on TV or listening to the race from my 1070 The Fan app. If I do not catch it, I hope everyone gets to see an exciting race. Coverage begins at 2pm ET on NBC Sports Net with green flag around 2:45pm ET. IndyCar 36 and the Indy Lights race can be seen prior starting at noon ET.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Track Walk: Edmonton 2012

Another off week for the Izod IndyCar Series is over and the series stays in Canada for the eleventh round of the Championship at Edmonton. Ryan Hunter-Reay took over the points lead from Will Power with his third consecutive win at Toronto as he looks to make it four in a row.

The Circuit
This is the second year for the 2.224 mile configuration of the circuit at City Centre Airport. Last year's race saw a lot of carnage at turn five with multiple accidents. This year no one can question that the drivers have done a better job on restarts and giving each other room on the race track. With 120 seconds of push-2-pass in place for Edmonton, expect passing in turn one and five, Mike Conway may try to make a move in turn twelve again, and turn thirteen as well.

The Future of Edmonton
IndyCar and the Edmonton race have a deal through 2013 but after that it appears the City Centre Airport is going to become housing developments and the race will not be able to return to it's current location. Octane Motorsport Events, promoter of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and the NASCAR race at Montreal, took over the Edmonton race after 2010 and were reportedly interested in an IndyCar race in Calgary. With recent reports of a third Canadian race for 2013, one has to think Octane will have some involvement due to the inevitable loss of Edmonton. Quebec City has also expressed interested in hosting a street race. Other less likely venues include two true road course, Mosport and Mont-Tremblant. Montreal seems very unlikely to return as long as the NASCAR race is there.

More On 2013
Quick run down: Randy Bernard is going for 19-20 race (we all know that). Depending on who you listen to (Robin Miller in this case), Phoenix is less likely to happen than previous thought, Pocono seems very likely and Kentucky is back in the running. Still no change on Michigan and Road America. Austin is not out of the discussion (personally thinking it would be a doubleheader with V8 Supercars or ALMS). Still nothing on China or any other fly-away race (i.e. Surfers Paradise).

Quick Tidbits
No NASCAR race this weekend. Even though the race is on NBC Sports Net, this is a chance for a good day in the ratings. The Open Championships should be over by green flag time around 2:45pm ET. Sebastian Saavedra will race at Sonoma for AFS-Andretti Racing, just like he did at Indianapolis. Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Will Power have won six of the seven Edmonton races. Justin Wilson won in 2006.

I see this as a great chance for Bourdais. He starts in the top six, runs strong all day and gets a podium. Charlie Kimball has a clean day and gets a top ten. Josef Newgarden has another top ten day, except this time Simon Pagenaud does not run him down to the wall and ruin it. Ryan Hunter-Reay keeps the points lead with a top five. Scott Dixon and Will Power both run well, even though Dixon has a ten grid spot penalty and, just because it is the last race in Canada for 2012, I predict James Hinchcliffe gets the victory because it would cool to see. Sleepers: J.R. Hildebrand and Rubens Barrichello.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Random Facts For An Off Weekend

With IndyCar taking the week off, not a lot of major news to talk about. For fun and because I had general interest I decided look up who was the last American to win four consecutive races? Answer: Al Unser Jr. In 1990. He won Toronto, Michigan, Denver and Vancouver. Since Little Al only three drivers have won four in a row. Alex Zanardi in 1998 (Detroit, Portland, Cleveland, Toronto), Cristiano da Matta in 2002 (Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago, Toronto) and Sebastien Boudais won the first four races of the 2006 ChampCar Season (Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey and Milwaukee). Before Little Al won for in a row, you have to go all the way back to 1970 for the next occurrence, where his father Al Unser actually won five in a row in a championship season. (DuQuion, the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Sedalia, Trenton and Sacramento). Since 1956, Al Unser is the last, and only one of two drivers to end up winning four consecutive races in a season and not win the championship. In the 1968, Al won five in a row (Nazareth, two heats at the IRP road course and two heats at Langhorne) but his brother Bobby, who won four in a row that year as well (Stardust, Phoenix, Trenton and Indianapolis) won the championship. The other driver to have it happen was the year prior in 1967, when Mario Andretti won on the IRP road course, Langhorne and two heats at Mosport. AJ Foyt won the championship that season. Other facts, Ryan Hunter-Reay has not won a pole since Milwaukee 2004. He would go on to Grand Chelem, leading every one of the 250 laps from pole, get fastest lap in the race and win the race. The winners of the Edmonton race have always alternated. In the days of ChampCar, Sebastien Bourdais won in 2005, Justin Wilson won in 2006 and Bourdais would win again in 2007. Since unification under the INDYCAR banner, Scott Dixon has won in the even years (2008 and 2010) and Will Power was won the odd years (2009 and 2011). This year's Edmonton race is on July 22, as was the 2007 race won by Bourdais and the IRL race at Mid-Ohio was held on that same day. That race was won by Scott Dixon. Last driver to win on July 22 not named Bourdais or Dixon, was Patrick Carpentier at Michigan in 2001. To bring it full circle and back to the beginning, the last driver to win on July 22 before Carpentier was Al Unser Jr. at Toronto in 1990.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Something Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia Should Like

I was thinking amount the amount of passes Oriol Servia and Tony Kanaan have made this year and that got me thinking even more. What if IndyCar awarded some type of points for positions increased by the end of a race? I am not saying IndyCar should do this but I was playing with it and thought of a way it could work. The criteria for "Improvement Points" is simple.

1. You only get them if you gain from your starting position. Example, if you start on pole and finish fifth you do not lose points but if you start fifth and win you do earn "Improvement Points."

2. Each positioned gained is a half of a point. Example, start third and finish second you earn a half a point. Start twenty-fifth and win you gain twelve points.

3. To avoid having a drive score more points than the winner of the race, make a win worth 60 points.
Here is a breakdown of each driver, what races they gained positions and the amount of "improvement points" earned.

Hunter-Reay: Gained 7 at Long Beach, 3 at Sao Paulo, 1 at Milwaukee, 6 at Iowa and 5 at Toronto. Total gained 22, points earned: 11. New points total: 346
Power: 8 at Barber, 11 at Long Beach and 2 at Milwaukee. Total gained 21, points earned: 10.5. New points total: 311.5
Castroneves: 4 at St. Pete, 5 at Long Beach, 14 at Sao Paulo, 8 at Texas, 1 at Toronto. Total gained 32, points earned: 16. New points total: 305
Dixon: 4 at St. Pete, 1 at Barber, 13 at Indianapolis, 10 at Milwaukee and 4 at Iowa. Total gained 32, points earned: 16. New points total: 297
Hinchcliffe: 13 at Long Beach, 2 at Texas, 5 at Milwaukee. Total gained 20, points earned: 10. New points total: 278.
Kanaan: 15 at Long Beach, 5 at Indianapolis, 12 at Belle Isle, 4 at Milwaukee, 16 at Iowa and 13 at Toronto. Total gained 65, points earned 32.5 New points total: 299.5
Pagenaud: 10 at St. Pete, 5 at Barber, 2 at Long Beach, 4 at Sao Paulo, 7 at Indianapolis, 1 at Belle Isle, 3 at Texas, 20 at Iowa. Total gained 52, points earned: 26. New points total: 290
Franchitti: 8 at Barber, 15 at Indianapolis and 12 at Belle Isle. Total gained 35, points earned: 17.5. New points total: 247.5
Briscoe: 4 at Long Beach, 7 at Texas and 5 at Milwaukee. Total gained 16, points earned: 8. New points total: 225.
Servia: 7 at St. Pete, 13 at Barber, 7 at Long Beach, 12 at Sao Paulo, 23 at Indianapolis, 11 at Belle Isle, 16 at Milwaukee and 9 at Toronto. Total gained 98, points earned: 49. New points total: 264
Rahal: 4 at Barber, 1 at Texas, 2 at Milwaukee and 11 at Iowa. Total gained 18, points earned: 9. New points total: 214
Kimball: 13 at St. Pete, 7 at Sao Paulo, 6 at Indianapolis, 12 at Belle Isle, 1 at Milwaukee, 3 at Iowa and 11 Toronto. Total gained 53, points earned 26.5. New points total: 230.5
Wilson: 5 at St. Pete, 4 at Sao Paulo, 14 at Indianapolis, 16 at Texas and 3 at Iowa. Total gained 42, points earned: 21. New points total: 221
Hildebrand: 15 at Long Beach, 7 at Sao Paulo, 4 at Indianapolis, 5 at Belle Isle, 18 at Milwaukee and 8 at Toronto. Total gained 57, points earned: 28.5. New points total: 227.5
Andretti: 2 at Barber, 11 at Belle Isle, 1 at Iowa and 6 at Toronto. Total gained 20, points earned: 10.  New points total: 197
Barrichello: 6 at Barber, 13 at Long Beach, 2 at Sao Paulo, 4 at Iowa and 7 at Toronto. Total gained 32, points earned: 16. New points total: 199
Sato: 22 at Sao Paulo, 2 at Indianapolis, 4 at Milwaukee and 11 at Iowa. Total gained 39, points earned: 19.5 New points total: 195.5
Conway: 6 at Belle Isle, 2 at Texas, 9 at Milwaukee and 8 at Toronto. Total gained 25, points earned: 12.5. New points total: 184.5
Viso: 4 at St. Pete, 3 at Long Beach, 4 at Sao Paulo and 3 at Toronto. Total gained 14, points earned: 7. New points total: 179
Carpenter: 6 at St. Pete, 1 at Barber, 10 at Long Beach, 7 at Indianapolis, 9 at Belle Isle, 7 at Texas,  14 at Milwaukee, 13 at Iowa and 3 at Toronto. Total gained 70, points earned: 35. New points total: 198
Tagliani: 2 at St. Pete, 6 at Milwaukee and 6 at Toronto. Total gained 14, points earned: 7. New points total: 169
Jakes: 4 at Barber, 3 at Long Beach, 2 at Sao Paulo, 2 at Indianapolis, 11 at Texas, 5 at Iowa and 16 at Toronto. Total gained 43, points earned: 21.5. New points total: 183.5
Newgarden: 8 at St. Pete, 12 at Texas and 7 at Toronto. Total gained 27, points earned: 13.5. New points total: 156.5
de Silvestro: 1 at Barber, 12 at Belle Isle, 8 at Iowa and 1 at Toronto. Total gained 22, points earned 11. New points total: 134
Legge: 2 at St. Pete, 1 at Barber, 7 at Long Beach, 8 at Indianapolis, 7 at Texas and 1 at Iowa. Total gained 26, points earned 13. New points total: 116
Bourdais: 5 at St. Pete, 8 at Barber, 8 at Long Beach, 4 at Sao Paulo and 5 at Indianapolis. Total gained 30, points earned: 15. New points total: 117.

The standings would look like this. Change from actually position is in parenthesis.
1. Hunter-Reay
2. Power
3. Castroneves
4. Kanaan (+2)
5. Dixon (-1)
6. Pagenaud (+1)
7. Hinchcliffe (-2)
8. Servia (+2)
9. Franchitti (-1)
10. Kimball (+2)
11. Hildebrand (+3)
12. Briscoe (-3)
13. Wilson
14. Rahal (-3)
15. Barrichello (+1)
16. Carpenter (+4)
17. Andretti (-2)
18. Sato (-1)
19. Conway (-1)
20. Jakes (+2)
21. Viso (-2)
22. Tagliani (-1)
23. Newgarden
24. de Silvestro
25. Bourdais (+1)
26. Legge (-1)

As you can see there would be a lot of movement in the standings. The big movers are Carpenter, Hildebrand, Kimball and Kanaan. It kind of penalizes those who start up in the top ten and finish in the top ten and helps those who start in the back two rows, keep their noses clean and gain twelve positions from twenty-fifth to thirteenth. I am not sure that is the best thing. I am not saying "Improvement Points" should be used but it would be interesting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What Else Happened Over The Weekend?

With a busy weekend at Toronto a lot of things happened this past weekend and have yet to be discussed.

AJ Allmendinger
Rough weekend for Allmendinger after being banned from the NASCAR race in Daytona for a failed drug test. He has until noon today to submit a "B" sample to be tested. If the "B" test is negative then Allmendinger may come back to NASCAR, another positive test means Allmendinger must go through the Road to Recovery program. Unlike other sports associations, in NASCAR a driver is not suspended for only two races and then they can comeback. The road back is long and all suspensions are indefinite. If the "B" test is positive, we do not know when Allmendinger will be allowed to return. It could be sometime later in 2012, it could be the beginning of 2013, it could be midway through the 2014 season, we do not know. Sam Hornish Jr. is currently scheduled to race this weekend at New Hampshire.

The news of Allmendinger's failed test was surprising. Especially when it came, just hours before the Daytona race. I hope NASCAR considers reworking their system so any suspension or ban is announced on a Monday or Tuesday of a week, that way a driver can get their "B" sample before a race weekend and there is a chance they can clear their name and be allowed to race that weekend.

2013 Schedule
Randy Bernard said at Toronto that Road America and Michigan International Speedway are out of the running for hosting a race in 2013. Bernard will be meeting with Phoenix International Raceway this week and Pocono Raceway is still a possible venue for the 2013 season. The problem with Road America and Michigan is a conflict with sanctioning fees. Phoenix feels that eight month is not enough time to promote a successful race, most likely to be held before the Long Beach race on the weekend of April 13-14, 2013. Bernard has made it known that his goal is 19 races for the 2013 season, 4 more than this season.

I really hope Bernard can work something out with Road America for 2013. It is a fantastic track, seems like everyone and their brother wants IndyCar to go there. I hope IndyCar and ALMS can help the track find a title sponsor for a doubleheader weekend and then the sanctioning fee will not be as big of a problem. As for Phoenix, go talk to Michael Andretti about promoting a race. He did Milwaukee in only about four months and took over promoting the Labor Day weekend Baltimore race in late May. Also, Phoenix, if you are worried about not having a enough time to promote a race then stop dilly-dallying and a sign deal with IndyCar tomorrow that way you have maximum amount of time.

If Bernard keeps all 15 races on the schedule for next year and has already added Houston, the series is only three away from their goal. It seemed Phoenix, Pocono and Road America were the likely three but that no longer seems certain. With Phoenix and Road America hanging on the fence, other possible venues are really unknown at this time. Even with the difficulty of bringing races, old and new, to the schedule, Bernard still has to re-sign Texas, Sonoma, Fontana, Mid-Ohio and Baltimore for 2013.

Hinchcliffe Got On GoDaddy's Homepage
This actually happened yesterday but it is great for Hinchcliffe. A good driver gets some exposure for the series and may draw interests from the average and non-fans. Ryan Hunter-Reay got some nice exposure after his third straight win in the USA Today, let's hope some more IndyCar drivers can get their names known.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How About A Wednesday Night Race?

Every summer brings the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. This traditional Tuesday night show draws the attention of the American audience as the race for the postseason begins. Then comes the following Wednesday and the lack of sporting events. It is an off day for all MLB teams, none of the other major sports leagues are in season and ESPN uses this night to host their annual sports award show, the ESPYs.

But what is a dead day for sports, very well could be a great chance for exposure. IndyCar fans complain when races go head-to-head on TV with The Masters, any NASCAR race, NBA or NHL playoffs and especially the NFL. But here is IndyCar's chance.

As I have said prior, I think a Wednesday night race at Richmond would be great and it would bring in good ratings if the race was on ABC. Sure you are going against the ESPYs but I think an IndyCar oval race would be way more exciting than an award show with terrible jokes and where all the winners are predictable. Richmond International Raceway is not far at all from downtown Richmond and if IndyCar could bring the festival environment they had at Milwaukee to Richmond, it could be a great draw. Obviously a Wednesday night race would be a one-day show. Keep ticket prices reasonable and with the racing that we have seen on the ovals the fans should be satisfied afterwards. One problem is timing. The teams just ran Toronto and two days off would not be a great break at all. But the teams would still have eight days until the Edmonton race weekend. Another possibility is move Toronto back a week but now, instead of having two days to turn the cars around for Richmond, the teams would have two days to turn the cars around for Toronto. It is really a catch-22 but the hectic schedule may be worth it in the end.

If Richmond is not possible, then Kansas Speedway would be a good alternative. With the same aero package used at Texas and considering they now have the casino in turn two, promotion and bringing people in should not be too difficult. Memphis International Raceway is not the first place IndyCar fans want to go to but it is a 3/4 mile oval, has lights, is only a half hour from downtown Memphis and is a market without any major NASCAR races kind like Iowa when it first opened. Plus Josef Newgarden is from Tennessee, why not give him a home race? Also, have busing to the track from these downtown areas; that way people don't have to worry about drinking and driving.

I have one final idea for a Wednesday night race but I have to warn you before I tell you because it is a little different than the usual. A dirt race. Now before you jump to conclusions and say no, hear me out. There has not been a major, nationally known racing series to run a dirt race in a long time. Most of the average fans have no one idea you can race on dirt. It would be something that the average fan has never seen before. The NHL has the Winter Classic, their annual outdoor hockey game and the fans love it. This could be IndyCar's version of that. A 50 lap race shown on ABC would brings the series back to it's roots and connect with the die-hard fans who grew up watching dirt races and maybe even once raced on dirt. The Indiana State Fairgrounds would be the perfect place for it. Most of the teams are located in Indianapolis, they are heading there after Toronto anyway, just have them quickly turn the cars around. Plus, a dirt race on ABC could draw in a title sponsor. Who would not want to be associated with the first IndyCar race on dirt in over thirty years?

As for the lack of experience on dirt for some of the drivers, they will either have to learn. No exceptions. Give them plenty of testing time and you will have those who learn quickly and those who will struggle no matter what. Nobody wants the field handicapped at Toronto because, for example, Ed Carpenter isn't a great road and street courses driver. Same here in this situation. If Carpenter and Clauson, if he got a one-off ride, dominate and Power, Franchitti and Hunter-Reay struggle then tough.

Whether on dirt or a paved oval, an IndyCar race the Wednesday after the MLB All-Star Game should be considered. For a fan base than complains about being head-to-head with other sporting events, here is a golden opportunity to be on center stage.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Toronto: First Impressions

1. Who had Charlie Kimball AND Mike Conway on the podium?

2. With his third consecutive win, Ryan Hunter-Reay is the first American to win three straight since AJ Allmendinger won Portland, Cleveland and Toronto in the 2006 ChampCar Season.

3. Pretty spreaded out start. Could have been called back.

4. It's going to be a tough second half for Dixon after loosing his fifth engine today.

5. Bourdais will have his chances in the next four races.

6. Tough race for Rahal and Hinchcliffe.

7. Pagenaud has had a great season but does not need to run guys to the wall. Newgarden had a great day going, had the fastest lap of the race. Now he and Rubens Barrichello have something in common and I am talking about knowing what it is like to be driven down to the wall.

8. Add Justin Wilson to the list of guys who had a rough day.

9. Dario Franchitti has not had much luck starting from pole position.

10. Championship picture is pretty interesting. Stinks that we have another off week and Edmonton is two weeks away.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2012

Dario Franchitti will be on pole for a third consecutive race. He beat Will Power and Justin Wilson for the pole. Franchitti looks to finish better though then the past two races he started in pole. He did not finish either of those races and didn't even complete a lap at Iowa. The only other Chevrolet in the top six was Sebastien Bourdais and he will start fourth, followed by Scott Dixon and Canadian Alex Tagliani. Winner of the previous two races, Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified seventh. The other Canadian James Hinchcliffe qualified ninth but both he and Tagliani will have to serve 10 spot grid penalties and will start sixteenth and nineteenth respectively. Simona de Silvestro who was to start twenty-first also changed her engine and will start twenty-fifth. It was an even split between Honda and Chevrolet in the top ten but give Honda the edge as they took seven of the top twelve.

Toronto is the first race this season with Push2Pass. Unlike the previous Push2Pass system used by IndyCar, this Push2Pass system has a time limit, just as it did when used by ChampCar. For Toronto, the teams will have 100 seconds worth of the extra horsepower. IndyCar used to limit each teams to a certain amount of pushes of the button per race.

The track itself has seen some work done to it, notably with the track being repaved at turn three and a new slab of concrete in turn nine.

While we do have two Canadian drivers in the field, this will be the first Toronto race that Paul Tracy will not be participating in since 1991, a race that was won by Michael Andretti. Five times the Toronto race has been won from the pole position, Franchitti was the last to do so in 2009. The farthest back a winner has come from was 2001 when Michael Andretti won from thirteenth position, the final of his seven Toronto wins.

Quick Note: 2010 Star Mazda Champion and Road to Indy graduate Conor Daly finished 5th and 2nd in the two GP3 Series races held at Silverstone this weekend.

Coverage begins tomorrow on ABC at 12:30pm ET, green flag will be around 1:00pm ET.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Track Walk: Toronto 2012

After a weekend off, the Izod IndyCar Series heads to Toronto for the tenth round of the championship. Will Power leads the championship by only three points over Ryan Hunter-Reay who has won the last two races at Milwaukee and Iowa. This is the first street course race since Belle Isle back on the first Sunday in June. Lot to cover so let's get to it.

How Will The Racing Be?
We saw four really good street and road course races to begin the year and then a major dud in Belle Isle. The series has brought back push to push beginning at Toronto and for the remaining street and road race in 2012. The last two races at Toronto have been pretty good, although last year's race was a crash filled event. With the "defending rule" no longer in effect, let's see how the racing goes. No one wants to see a parade. Weather looks good for Toronto. Looks like a chance of showers on Saturday and a cool day on Sunday. The Push to Pass allotment determined by IndyCar for the Toronto race will be 100 seconds.

Race Is On ABC
The penultimate ABC covered race is Toronto and this is a good chance to bring in respectable ratings. The NASCAR race is on Saturday night and there is no NHL or NBA playoffs on. You got some Major League Baseball games but only the Sunday game on TBS is a threat to take away ratings. The IndyCar race might be up against the Wimbledon Gentlemen's Final which will be on ESPN but the IndyCar race will be a lead-in to tape-delayed Wimbledon coverage on ABC meaning the end of the IndyCar race could benefit. There is some golf on CBS this weekend and if Tiger Woods is in contention it could terrible for possible viewers.

IndyCar released engine counts for each team with six races remaining. Each team is allowed five fresh engines for the season and if they go to a sixth engine, regardless if their fifth engine blows up in a race or test session or they reach the mileage limit, they will receive a ten spot grid penalty at the following event. The teams that switch from Lotus before Indianapolis are only allowed four fresh engines with their new manufacture. Five drivers are on their last engine in Toronto. Four are the Honda teams of Scott Dixon, Mike Conway, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud; the fifth is the lone Lotus of Simona de Silvestro. The only Honda team with two fresh engines remaining is James Jakes, while five Chevrolet teams, all three Andretti Autosport cars, JR Hildebrand and EJ Viso have two fresh engines remaining. All the other teams have one fresh engine remaining. More engine failures could lead us to seeing more situations like Long Beach where half the field has to serve grid spot penalties and the top five or six have to drop back and work their way to the front.

Toronto will be a good race. A sufficient amount of passing that keeps the fans into the race. I have two picks for this race. One is Justin Wilson who has won at Toronto before and has a great track record. The other is the sentimental favorite James Hinchcliffe. It would be amazing if he won his first race in front of his home crowd. If Hinchcliffe does not win, I still see him keeping up his consistency on road and street courses and getting a podium. Ryan Hunter-Reay keeps up his trng of good runs and passes Will Power for the Overall Championship lead. Graham Rahal gets a top ten, as does Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden finally gets a finish that he deserves in the top ten. Sleepers: Alex Tagliani and Sebastien Bourdais who returns after sitting out for the oval races.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Let's Keep Racing True To Form

In the past decade, racing series have been catering to the average fans. With green-white-checkered rules and the Chase in NASCAR, Push2Pass used in ChampCar and IndyCar and the DRS in Formula One, each series is trying to create more passing and excitement but some are still clamoring for more.

Bruton Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Incorporated which owns Texas Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway to name a few, said Saturday before the Cup race at Kentucky that NASCAR needs "mandatory cautions." Smith in essences feels that green flag runs are "ruining our sport."

I don't know about you but I would rather watch 100 laps of green flag racing than a wreck every 15 laps. Take the IndyCar races on ovals this year. Plenty of on-track action and these green flag runs show the cars that get better over the course of a run. Texas and Iowa are great example. Wilson was running about a tenth of a second a lap quicker than Rahal at Texas before Rahal brushed the wall. Hunter-Reay was fifth on the final restart, worked his way to third and then passed Andretti and then Dixon for the lead after 35 laps of what would be a stint of 45 green flag laps. Not only did Hunter-Reay grab a few positions, Andretti and Kanaan both got by Dixon and Simon Pagenaud moved all the way up to fifth before all was said and done.

Some had a problem with the finish of the Iowa race because it was finished under caution. Not every race can have a photo finish, same way not every football game can end with a Hail Mary or 50 yard field goal or every basketball game with a buzzer beater. I don't hear football fans displeased that a team that was leading by 21 points simply ran the ball for the first two downs and then took a knee to end the game. The leader is rarely the leader on accident. They have obviously worked their way to the front. If they are leading with four laps to go and there is an accident and the track can not be cleared in time for another restart then tough. Why should the guy in second or third get a shot at the leader when they couldn't get him after 200 miles? If a team is not leading after 60 minutes of a football game they don't get four plays to try to force overtime or win the game. They lost and the game is over.

Let's keep racing true to form. It doesn't need manufactured green-white-checkered finishes and if you have a problem when a series has too many races finishing under caution then maybe the series should look into the reasoning behind it and make a change where needed. Mandatory cautions are definitely not needed. You can see a lot of passing over green flag runs. Racing does not and should not be worrying about"being in the entertainment business." Racing is fine and entertaining enough with out that crap.