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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NASCAR Has To Be Consistent, Suspend Jeff Gordon

Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon are by far on two separate playing fields. While Busch has won many race in all three national touring series and a Nationwide Championship, Gordon has etched his name in stone as one of the greats. Four championship, third all-time in wins, no one can argue against him. However, they both should get the same punishment for deliberately wrecking a driver.

Last year, Kyle Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday in the fall Truck race at Texas by turning him right into the wall. He had to sit out the Nationwide and Cup race that same weekend. Yes, Busch has been known for pushing the envelop and being controversial, but both incidents must be looked at in the same light. Jeff Gordon deliberately turn Clint Bowyer right. It was clear payback that also took out innocent bystanders Joey Logano and Aric Almirola. Gordon also took Bowyer out of the championship hunt with his action. Granted, Bowyer would have needed a lot of help to win the title at Homestead, he still would have had a mathematical shot for the title.

NASCAR does not have a great history with consistency but now is the time to change that. Probation in NASCAR is rarely effective and is looked upon as more of a joke. Gordon's track history of bad blood is not very known. Almost a decade ago you had Gordon and Tony Stewart going at it. Matt Kenseth and Gordon getting into one another at Bristol is remembered by most and more recently Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon went face-to-face at Texas. But nothing as serious or premeditated as Sunday at Phoenix.

With retaliation a major possibility, it maybe best to sit Gordon for Homestead and give it the offseason to let things cool over. God only can imagine what the outcry would have been if Keselowski was caught up in that incident.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Moto GP Season Finale, NASCAR in Phoenix

Moto GP Ends In Valencia
Jorge Lorenzo has already locked up the world championship, but there still is one race left as Moto GP ends at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. Fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa will finish second in the standings and starts from pole tomorrow. This will be the final grand prix of Casey Stoner's career as the 27 year old Australian is set to retire. A two-time world champion, Stoner won the last race at Australia one final time. This season was marred by an injury that caused Stoner to miss three races. Lorenzo and Stoner join Pedrosa on the front row.

This will also be Valentino Rossi's final race with Ducati after two tough seasons for the Italian manufacture. He is set to return to Yamaha and team with Lorenzo. Rossi starts eleventh. Nicky Hayden out qualified his teammate for Valencia and will roll off from seventh. Hayden was fastest in a wet Friday practice. Ben Spies' season will end a little earlier then the rest of the Moto GP riders. After separating his shoulder in Malaysia, Spies missed the Australian round and will sit out Valencia as well. The 2009 World Superbike Champion will be leaving the factory Yamaha team for Pramac Racing, a Ducati satellite team.

NASCAR In Phoenix
With two races to go, Jimmie Johnson leads Brad Keselowski by seven points. Mathmatically, eight other drivers are still alive for the title. Clint Bowyer trails by thirty-six points, Kasey Kahne by fifty-eight, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon by seventy-two, Denny Hamlin by seventy-three, Martin Truex Jr. and Tony Stewart by eighty and Greg Biffle by eighty-three points.

Kyle Busch won the pole for tomorrow's race, while Keselowski starts fourteenth and Johnson twenty-fourth. In March, Denny Hamlin beat Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for the win. Keselowski's fifth in the spring was his first Cup finish better than fifteen at Phoenix, while Johnson has won at the track four times, three times in the fall.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why Bernard Was Beloved

It has been a week now since the announcement that Randy Bernard would be removed from CEO of IndyCar. Over the past week, we have reflected on his decisions and what caused his removal. Many have called out to forget the political side of the business and focus on the drivers and the racing.

Yes, the racing was fantastic last season and I cannot wait for 2013 but Randy's departure has more to do with the series' constant ability to stub it's toe at the wrong time. Randy's popularity with the fans had more to do with his ability to get things done, something IndyCar was lacking for well over a decade. Instead of having engine summits and talking to the manufactures, Bernard added Chevrolet and Lotus. He got people to sit down and get the new car done after the series had balked on it for a few years.

The ladder system was firmly established with the Road of Indy and funding is provided to ease the transition for champions from U.S. F2000, Star Mazda and Indy Lights to the next level. The USAC scholarship provides drivers a chance to move from the short tracks to the paved oval of IndyCar including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After losing Milwaukee for one season, Bernard brought it back and brought back Fontana and Pocono as well. He was doing his all to bring back old favorites such as Phoenix, Michigan and Road America. While the TV deal has not been ideal, for 2013 Bernard worked with ABC to get Texas and Iowa on network, with Texas being a prime time show.

Let's not forget the reports of a race in Italy and the possibility of FIAT joining the series. Sure, not everything worked as planned. No one could have planned the events of Las Vegas, the draw to decide the second race at Texas was not popular and failing to land China hurt but all the positives fair out weigh the negatives.

No one before him has done this much for the series. And that is the fear moving forward. Who will work as much as he did? Who will try all he can to push the profile of the series? More importantly, will anybody in IndyCar step up their game to help the series?