Friday, May 31, 2013

Tagliani Leads Wild First Practice

Alex Tagliani was the fastest in Friday practice with a time of 1:18.2096. The Hondas of Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden were second and third with the Chevrolets of Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the top five.

Mike Conway was sixth in his first race weekend at Dale Coyne Racing. James Jakes was seventh ahead of Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato.

Six red flags slowed Friday practice at Belle Isle. Almost immediately a red flag came out for Josef Newgarden stopping on track. Ryan Briscoe brought out the second red for a spin. The third red was thrown when ducks were walking on the race course. Scott Dixon made it four when he stalled and James Hinchcliffe was the reason for the fifth red flag when the Canadian got into the tires at turn one. With a little more than fifteen minutes remaining, James Jakes stalled on track bringing out the sixth red flag.

Due to the red flags there was a limited amount of time during practice and one second only covered the top eleven times. Justin Wilson was eleventh, ahead of the Andretti Autosport teammates EJ Viso and points leader Marco Andretti. Chevrolets took positions fourteenth through seventeenth with Sebastián Saavedra, James Hinchcliffe, Simona de Silvestro and AJ Allmendinger.

Graham Rahal was eighteenth ahead of former Newman-Haas teammate Sébastien Bourdais, who will be making his 100th start in American open-wheel racing at Belle Isle. Ryan Briscoe was twentieth in his first session with Panther Racing. Charlie Kimball was twenty-first ahead of Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. Rookie Tristan Vautier was twenty-third, Ed Carpenter was twenty-fourth with Dario Franchitti being the slowest on the timesheet. Franchitti brushed the wall just prior to the red flag brought out by his teammate Dixon.

Firestone Fast Six qualifying for race one will be at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Track Walk: Belle Isle 2013

Tony Kanaan is coming off winning the Indianapolis 500 and leads the Izod IndyCar Series to Belle Isle for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans. Marco Andretti leads the point standings after finishing in fourth at Indianapolis.

The First Doubleheader
This is the first of three doubleheaders this season for IndyCar. Two, 70-lap races will takes both starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Friday will feature a practice session late in the morning with the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session happening at 3:00 p.m. ET on Friday setting the grid for the Saturday race. On Saturday morning, at 9:15 a.m. ET qualifying for race two with take place. This session will see two, twelve minute qualifying groups. Groups will be determined by combined times from practice with odd-numbered positions making up group one and even-numbered positions making up group two. The grid for race two will be set in order of fastest times, combined from the two groups.

Race one will take place Saturday. Sunday will feature a morning warm-up at 9:00 a.m. ET before race two. This year's race will take place on a recently repaved, 2.346 mile configuration instead of the 2.07 mile configuration used since the IndyCar Series returned to Belle Isle in 2007.

Driver Changes
Mike Conway returns for his second and third IndyCar races of the season at Belle Isle. Conway will join Dale Coyne Racing, replacing Ana Beatriz who finished 15th at Indianapolis. Conway raced Long Beach for Rahal-Letteman-Lanigan Racing where Conway started 5th and finished 25th. Last year, Conway finished 9th at Belle Isle driving for AJ Foyt. Conway teams with Justin Wilson for the second time in their careers. Wilson and Conway teamed for six races in 2010 at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing before Conway suffered a season-ending back injury at Indianapolis. Conway has only been announced for this weekend, although it would not be unlikely Conway could run the remaining road and street course races. Conway does have a conflict with possibly doing the Baltimore Grand Prix. Conway drives an LMP2 car for G-Drive Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship which is scheduled to race in São Paulo the same day as Baltimore. Ana Beatriz is still trying to put together a sponsorship package to get back in the car.

The other possible driver change is Oriol Serviá stepping into the #4 National Guard Chevrolet currently driven by JR Hildebrand. This was mentioned last night on Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. Curt Cavin cited Hildebrand's accidents at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis as reasons for why Serivá may replace the 2009 Indy Lights champion. Serviá lost his ride at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing after the team closed up shop after Indianapolis. Serviá is currently 9th in points and Hildebrand is 19th in points. This possible change has yet to be confirmed.

Update: Ryan Briscoe has been announced as the driver of the #4 National Guard Chevrolet at Detroit after JR Hildebrand's contract was terminated with the team. Nothing has been announced beyond this weekend. In 37 races with Panther Racing Hildebrand had one podium, five top-fives, twelve top tens and an average finish of 14.4. Prior to Hildebrand, Dan Wheldon drove 34 races for Panther Racing where he collected four podiums, seven top-fives, nineteen top tens and had an average finish of 10.9.

Grid Penalties
Four Honda teams will be taking ten spot grid penalties for race one at Belle Isle due to engine changes made at Indianapolis. Dario Franchitti's and Charlie Kimball's team changed engines prior to Pole Day while Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden made engine changes on Bump Day.

Sweep Bonus
Should a driver sweep the weekend at Belle Isle, there team will win an additional $50,000 bonus from SONAX. Should no one be able to win the SONAX Perfect Finish Award this weekend, the $50,000 will roll over to Toronto where the prize for sweeping will be $100,000 and should no one sweep Toronto, the $100,000 will roll over to Houston where a driver has a shot to win $150,000. SONAX is the leading manufacture premium car care products worldwide.

Track Facts
The pole sitter has won at Belle Isle on three occasions, tied with fourth as the starting position to produce the most winners. Second and third has each had produced two winners. The farthest a winner has started from is tenth when Danny Sullivan won. It was Sullivan's final win of his American open-wheel racing career. The last American to win at Belle Isle was Michael Andretti in 1996 and the last Canadian to win at Belle Isle was Greg Moore in 1997. Helio Castroneves has the most wins at Belle Isle among active drivers with two.

ABC will be covering both races at Belle Isle. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET both Saturday and Sunday with the green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. both days.

Last year Honda dominated Belle Isle, sweeping the podium while Scott Dixon led every lap from pole position. Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson give Honda the best shot at success. The Ganassi cars will be near the front but will not dominate either of these two races. Despite a terrible season opener, Simon Pagenaud has finished in the top ten in each of four races since St. Pete, only Marco Andretti shares that distinction. The Chevrolets will still be strong. The Andretti Autosport cars have been spot on at each event this season and has a combined three wins, one pole, seven podiums, eight top fives and twelve top tens. I think all three Penskes will be quick with Will Power being a threat to sweep the weekend. I am going to pick Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay this weekend. Sleeper: Mike Conway.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Ridiculously Radical Way to Simultaneously Help IndyCar and Formula One That Will Never Happen

Before I type this, I know it will likely never happen but it makes some sense if you really think about.

IndyCar is struggling. There I said it. Struggling to find sponsors, struggling with TV ratings, struggling to be relevant. IndyCar needs help. And you know what, there is nothing wrong to admit you need help. I'd rather by honest than lie and say everything is alright.

Formula One is doing fine. They have a nineteen-race World Championship. Millions and millions of dollars fill the paddock like it's nobody's business. Everything is peachy. But, there is one thing Formula One struggles with. Formula One wants a larger presence in the United States.

How can IndyCar and Formula One help each other out simultaneously?

First, I have to say it is radical. Two, it is NOT unprecedented. Three, it is unlikely for many reasons.

The idea: Make the Indianapolis 500, once again, a round of the Formula One World Championship. 

There are many things preventing this from happening. Technology, conflict in schedules and conflict of interests from the two sanctioning bodies.

But could it work?

Mark Miles and Derrick Walker already made it known they want innovation and the speeds to increase at the Speedway. What better way to bring different technologies and promote innovation than to allow the Formula One teams to show up and run a car? Instead of forcing the Formula One teams to buy DW12 chassis and try to get an engine program from Chevrolet and Honda, when the Formula One regulations go to 1.6 liter, turbocharged V6 engines, allow the Formula One teams to come with their engines and their chassis, of course with different suspension and aero pieces for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and race.

There are more technical challenges preventing this from ever happening. IndyCar uses Firestone; Formula One uses Pirelli who don't make an oval tire. There is no refueling in Formula One; IndyCar does use refueling. IndyCar only allows six men over the wall for a pit stop; Formula One has at least double that. IndyCar uses a pneumatic jack; Formula One uses a hand jack. There are some things that would have to be worked out. The other issue is Formula One has expressed no interest in an oval race. That is the biggest barrier to be break down.

Formula One wants a larger presence in the United States and while the Grand Prix of America in Weekhawken and West New York, New Jersey has yet to take place and rumors were swirling at Long Beach that Bernie Ecclestone, Chris Pook and Zak Brown were going to bring Formula One back to Southern California, why not return to something that was done from 1950-1960 and have the Indianapolis 500 count towards the World Championship? While struggling, the Indianapolis 500 is still a recognizable event in the United States. At least 225,000 people attended the race this year and more might show up if they hear Formula One cars and drivers will also be there. It would increase the international profile of the race to have the names of Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Räikkönen as well as the manufactures of Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus (but this Lotus is much better than the last Lotus that showed up at the Speedway).

It makes so much sense to me. Formula One gets to be apart of one of the biggest races in the United States while IndyCar can benefit from being viewed on the world stage by Formula One television partners. Make the Indianapolis 500 a Formula One round and IndyCar, which is near impossible to find around the world, is now on the BBC, RTL and the other big networks in Europe not to mention other big networks around the world. With it being a Formula One race, there would be a conflict in TV rights for the United States and Canada. Would it be viewed as only an IndyCar race and be on only ABC and Sportsnet or would the Formula One deals make it available on NBC and TSN as well? These are kinks that would have to be worked out. Despite these kinks, the amount of international media walking the grounds would be an unbelievable plus for the series and the race. Seeing how excited Will Buxton was covering qualifying makes me wonder what he'd be like on race day and how would other members of the Formula One media react?

Formula One teams would need testing time for their oval parts to be either conducted in the United States or somewhere in Europe (Lausitzring and Rockingham come to mind). An IndyCar oval race in February or early March open to the Formula One teams could be beneficial or IndyCar oval races during Formula One's down periods in the summer could allow the teams to prepare a year in advance. Jim Clark won at Milwaukee and ran Trenton after finishing second in the 1963 Indianapolis 500. It has been done but just because Jim Clark did it doesn't mean the teams and drivers of today would.

Changes would have to be made to the calendar to allow this to happen. The current qualifying weekend would not be a problem for the Formula One teams but they would miss the first two days of practice like Conor Daly did this year. Push Monaco back a week to the first week in June to open up the weekend for the Indianapolis 500 and have a back-to-back of Indianapolis and Monaco. It is not unprecedented for Monaco to move. The Monaco Grand Prix has moved from a race in early April to early May to it's current date in late May. I don't think one week would kill the event. Just three years ago the race was held two weeks earlier than it was this year and I think it was still well attended.

Other logistical problems: Team failing to qualify. In Formula One this rarely happens and if it does, it happens to a back marker not within 107% of the fastest car. A Formula One team might not be happy if neither of its two cars makes the show. Part of me wants to say that's just how it goes but I know if a team misses they might decide not to show up for Indianapolis, the same way Formula One teams didn't show up from 1950-1960 expect for one lone exception when Alberto Ascari and Ferrari ran the 1952 Indianapolis 500. For IndyCar teams, failing to qualify and losing a spot to a Formula One team would cost them a valuable paycheck and IndyCar teams need every dime they can get. Just add this to the list of things keeping this from ever happening.

Does this mother of all pipe dreams have a shot at reality? As of now, no but IndyCar has nothing to lose by trying to communicate with the FIA and the Formula One Teams Association.

It does make some sense. Formula One would be on the biggest stage in the United States. IndyCar would be shown to larger international audience. The rulebook could be opened up to allow teams from both Formula One and IndyCar to use innovation to try and go faster than the next guy. It would be a terrific event for any racing fan. Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 would be unbelievably important. Add twenty-two Formula One cars to thirty-three IndyCars and you have fifty-five cars going for thirty-three spots. Want to talk about a hell of a bump day?

However, before I get too excited, I have to realize it's not in the cards and it will likely never happen. I wish it would though. With racing being so specialized in this day in age, just one event where all the teams from two series got together and ran a race would be a wonderful, deep breath of fresh mountain air. The idea has its flaws but there is nothing that can't be worked out, right? Through dialogue the sanctioning bodies could work out the kinks and it could be a win-win for the FIA and IndyCar but before I get too excited again, I realize it's a pipe dream.

Just the thought of it though; Formula One teams and IndyCar teams at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to race the Indianapolis 500. Before getting negative, let that thought roll around your mind and try not to smile.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Conundrum: What Is a Great Race and How to End It?

The two races that took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend saw two different ends of the spectrum.

The Indy Lights race featured 11 cars running the 40 lap race. Carlos Muñoz led most of the race with Sage Karam on his gearbox each lap he led until the back straightaway of the final lap where both Karam and Gabby Chaves made a move for the lead heading into turn three and they ran three wide through turn three, the short chute and turn four and down the front straightaway. And then Ireland's Peter Dempsey made a move on the outside around the top three and came from fourth exiting turn four to nip Chaves at the line for the win with Karam in third and Muñoz going from first to fourth in one lap.

Flash forward to Sunday. The Indianapolis 500 saw a record amount of lead changes, 68, double the record just set last year, a record for different amount of leaders (14) and was the fastest Indianapolis 500 ever with an average speed of 187.433 MPH. There was passing all day. Ed Carpenter led the most laps, a record low 37. There were only five cautions for twenty-one laps and at one point, the race saw a green flag run of 134 laps. However, after taking the green flag with three laps to go and seeing Tony Kanaan and Carlos Muñoz pass Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead and second place respectively, the caution came out for an accident involving Dario Franchitti. The race ended under caution.

And here we are.

Honestly, Friday was not a spectacular race. Muñoz, Karam, Chaves and Dempsey ran 1-2-3-4 for most of the race with the only passing coming in the final half lap of the race. Jimmy Simpson, Chase Austin and Juan Pablo Garcia raced for seventh, eighth and ninth but those three were all close to twenty seconds back of the leader. However, the final half lap changed everything. A four-wide finish, where a blanket covered the top four seem to negate the facts the race was mostly processional.

Sunday was a spectacular race. There was plenty of passing, especially for the lead. There were green flag pit stops and the pit crews shined. You had AJ Allmendinger off the strategy of the leaders after having to stop a hand full of laps early for a loose seat belt but he was still a factor and it added a wrinkle to the race. You had veterans looking to get their first Indianapolis 500, rookies looking to win on debut, three-time winners looking to become four-time winners and not to forget mentioning the impending rain held off. However, the finish has many forgetting the exciting racing over the first 197 laps. It is the finish they are upset about.

Does anyone root for a race to end under yellow flag conditions? No. It happens though. The Indianapolis 500 ran to it's scheduled distance and the final lap happened to be under a yellow flag. Was it an exciting finish? No. Does it change the excitement of the previous 197? No. Well, at least it shouldn't. A race is more than the final two laps (unless it's a two lap race). Sunday the race was 500 miles. Not 5.

If a football game is in the final seconds and it's a 6-point game and the team ahead kneels on three consecutive plays because the team trailing does not have a time out, does it change the excitement of the game? It shouldn't. Let's say the team down 6 points have the ball and they are driving down field in the closing seconds of the game with no timeouts. They throw a pass down field and it is caught and the receiver is stopped inbounds 5 yards from the end zone with five seconds to go but the team does not have any timeouts to stop the clock and the linemen and quarterback are fifty yards down field. The clock runs out before another play is run and the game ends. Should the trailing team get one final shot to score a touchdown and win the game even though time is up? No. The clock ran out. The game is over.

I have never heard a football fan arguing the situation above being unfair. A football fan would say the trailing team used poor clock management and it cost them. Why in racing does very few people look at it as a poor decision not to go for it when a driver has a chance to do so and are bitten by a yellow flag? Why is there an urge to just wait until the final lap? If anything, it is a life lesson for everyone not to put everything off to the final second and to seize the opportunity in front of you. Whether it be going for a pass for the win in the Indianapolis 500, homework in high school, mowing the lawn or doing your taxes, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MOMENT! GET THEM DONE WHEN YOU CAN!

When it comes to the argument of green-white-checkered finishes, the philosophy of why they are used has to be explored. Why are they used? To give the fans a green flag finish. Who do they benefit? The fans. What are the consequences? A race going longer than it's scheduled distance and not recognizing the leader of the race when that distance is reached as the winner. Now, before you react, are any of those statements false? If the race is scheduled for 500 miles and the race is extended five miles by a green-white-checkered, is the leader at the 500 mile mark recognized as the winner? No.

Some believe green-white-checkered finishes are racing's version of overtime. But overtime is used when there is a tie. In racing, green-white-checkered finishes are used to try and create a desirable finish. Name me one other sport that extends a match on purpose in hopes of a exciting finish? Even with green-white-checkered finishes, a race can still end under caution (see this year's Auto Club 400 or last year's fall race at Talladega). Now let me ask you this: Say in basketball, when the 4th quarter ends, Team A leads Team B by 22 points. Should there by a rule saying the trailing team gets one attempt at a half court shot worth one point more than the deficit for the win? Think about that before you react. Think about if that rule actually existed. Radical isn't it? It gives the fans a reason to tune it at the end. The course of a 48-minute basketball game would all come down to the fate of one shot. The rebounds fought for, the shots blocked, the shots made over 48 minutes could be deemed meaningless if that half court shot is made by the trailing team.

That does not exist but how is that any different from green-white-checkered? The game is being extended in hopes of an exciting finish. Imagine if a team were to make that half court shot, and imagine it's for the championship. The place would go nuts. One man, one half court shot, for the title. Talk about pressure. But that is not what is done. When 48 minutes are up, whoever is leading is the winner. If it is tied (TIED being the keyword) after 48 minutes, overtime is used to break the tie. The green-white-checkered finish is not used to break ties. It is used to create a finish, hopefully a green flag finish. But, just like a race not using the green-white-checkered rule, a race could still end under yellow conditions. What does that solve? "Well at least they gave it a shot?" is what some of you are thinking. Doesn't each race get it's shot when it reaches it's scheduled distance? Why do you have to extend a race to "give it a shot" at a green flag finish? It had it's shot when the scheduled distance is reached and it either finishes under green or yellow flag conditions. Basketball games aren't extended to have a shot at a buzzer beater. Football games aren't extended to have a shot at a Hail Mary. Baseball games aren't extended to have a shot at a walk-off home run. When each game reaches their scheduled distance the team ahead wins and the game ends. If the game is still tied, overtime maybe used but only if there is a tie and that is the only way a game is extended.

Why can't racing fans understand that? Why do racing fans feel entitled to see a green flag finish? Why don't football fans feel entitled to see the final play of every game determine the winner and loser? As a racing fan, and that is all I am, racing fans need to take a step back and not be as enthralled in the final laps and enjoy every lap of the race. There is more to a race than the finish.

My final question to you: When the 500th mile rolls around in a 500 mile race, who is the winner? It should be a simple answer.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

97th Indianapolis 500: First Impressions

1. Tony Kanaan has won the Indianapolis 500. He deserves it. I can't think of a person who is disappointed to see Kanaan finally get this win.

2. Record breaking day. Most lead changes in the Indianapolis 500, most different leaders in the Indianapolis 500, fastest Indianapolis 500 in history.

3. It is great seeing how happy everyone is for Kanaan. And it was great to see Alex Zanardi there to celebrate.

4. Rough break for Ryan Hunter-Reay. But third is still good.

5. I think Carlos Muñoz has a future in IndyCar.

6. If somebody had a problem with today's race then I don't know what we can do to make the racing better for them.

7. Great day for Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson.

8. I will repeat. Great day for Justin Wilson. THE BEST FINISHING HONDA IN FIFTH!

9. Helio Castroneves may have been the best finishing Penske, but AJ Allmendinger had the best race of any of the Penske drivers. And to think, Tony Stewart was offered the seat given to Allmendinger.

10. Great day for Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball. 8th and 9th respectively.

11. Ed Carpenter got a nice top ten. I bet he wishes he did better.

12. Tough break for Dario Franchitti.

13. I am not sure eleventh will save the day for Oriol Serviá and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing but damn did they give it their all.

14. A good day for Ryan Briscoe in twelfth.

15. Ana Beatriz finished fifteenth in an under-powered Dale Coyne car. Anyone think she is a back marker now?

16. Good day for Tristan Vautier who finished 16th.

17. As of lap 120, EJ Viso has had a great day. And then he stalled in the pit lane.

18. Townsend Bell deserved better.

19. By the way, there is a doubleheader at Belle Isle starting in six days.

20. Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan needs a veteran. Oriol Serviá would be a great hire.

21. Those who need a break after today: Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Franchitti, Sébastien Bourdais, JR Hildebrand, Honda.

22. People who I hope we get to see more of after today: Conor Daly (on a road or street course), Buddy Lazier (either behind the wheel or with someone else driving his car), Katherine Legge, Ryan Briscoe.

23. It was great to see a clean race, most pit stops coming under green flag conditions and wonderful racing and passing on a 2.5 mile oval that was not fabricated.

24. My blood pressure is finally reaching a healthy level.

25. Lindsay Czarniak did a great job. She should keep the host job for next year and maybe should be added to host all IndyCar races on ABC (although that seems unlikely).

26. ABC did a very good job. I sense a renewed interest from them in the Indianapolis 500. Now if only we can renew interest for all IndyCar races, the series would be sitting pretty.

27. A few empty seats at the Speedway today. Here is an idea with the Speedway's decision to raise ticket prices: Once the Speedway "breaks even," next objective should be to fill the place and ticket should see a reduction in price. Or allow fans with general admission tickets to fill in available grandstand seats if they choose to do so. I am sure there are logistical problems to both of my ideas but they should at least be explored.

28. We need less talk about saving fuel from the commentators and less talk of how it hurts to be leading (it happened early in the broadcast and wasn't really mentioned again after the first round of pit stops but it was still irritating). Does the Speedway still do the bonus for each lap led? If they don't, find a sponsor and let's bring it back.

29. I love the in-car cameras on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Hopefully the actually race coverage for the remaining IndyCar races on ABC will be available.

30. With next year being the third year for these engines, maybe IndyCar should permanently turn up the boost. And I'm not talking only 10 kPa. Maybe look investigate how the engine does with an increase of 30-50 kPa.

31. Another year and another request to bring the apron back please.

32. For all the talk of financial issues with teams and complaints about the low attendance numbers for practice days and how qualifying doesn't sell out anymore, it was a great month of May and though I am sad it is over, let's do the best we can to stay this excited for IndyCar through June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March and April.

33. 364 days until the 98th Indianapolis 500.

Morning Warm-Up: 97th Indianapolis 500

It's finally here. It is that day of the year where everything stands still and all eyes focus on 16th & Georgetown. The politics don't matter. The CEO doesn't matter. All that matters is 500 miles. It is the most important 500 miles of the year for 33 drivers. The winner is more than just another winner. They are forever to be remembered as one of the best to ever sit behind the wheel of a race car.

For two men, a chance to enter the penthouse suite awaits. Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti could join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Scott Dixon and Buddy Lazier look to win their second Indianapolis 500. But twenty-nine drivers look to become the 68th different winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Carpenter is on pole and looks to become the first Hoosier to win since Wilbur Shaw in 1940. Carpenter is the most recent winner of an IndyCar oval race, , 2012 season finale, a 500 miler at Fontana. The fastest rookie, Carlos Muñoz starts second, the same position fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya started when he won the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Marco Andretti completes the first row as he looks to join his grandfather Mario as a Indianapolis 500 winner.

EJ Viso is a sleeper on the inside of row two with Penske Racing's AJ Allmendinger starting fifth in his first Indianapolis 500 start and Will Power starting sixth.

Defending IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay starts seventh with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves starting eight and Canadian James Hinchcliffe starting on the outside of row three. Hinchcliffe won the most recent IndyCar race on the streets of São Paulo.

Inside of row four is 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand with 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani starting in the middle and fan favorite Tony Kanaan starting on the outside. This is Kanaan's twelfth start in the Indianapolis 500.

Oriol Serviá starts thirteenth in what could be a do-or-die day for him and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing as the team is facing financial difficulties for the remainder of the 2013 Izod IndyCar season. Justin Wilson starts fourteenth. The Brit has finished seventh two of the last three years. Sébastien Bourdais starts fifteenth. The four-time ChampCar champion started fifteenth in his rookie start in 2005, where the Frenchman was running in the top ten most of the day before having an accident end his day with two laps to go.

Three potential winners start on row six. 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon starts on the inside with defending Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti in the middle and the current Izod IndyCar Series points leader Takuma Sato on the outside driving for AJ Foyt.

Charlie Kimball is on the inside of row seven. Kimball missed the public driver's meeting and parade Saturday due to an illness. Let's see if Kimball will be able to make it through the race. James Jakes starts twentieth, the highest of the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing entries. Simon Pagenaud starts on the outside of row seven. Pagenaud was the fastest on Carb Day.

Townsend Bell starts twenty-second in what looks to be his only IndyCar race of the 2013 season. Next to him is another driver possibly in his only IndyCar race of 2013, 2012 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe. Simona de Silvestro will roll off the grid from the twenty-fourth position.

Josef Newgarden starts twenty-fifth in his second Indianapolis 500 start. Graham Rahal will start next to Newgarden in twenty-sixth with Sebastián Saavedra starting twenty-seventh.

Row ten features rookie Tristan Vautier and the two Dale Coyne Racing entries of Ana Beatriz and Pippa Mann. This is Mann's first IndyCar race since being injured in the 15-car accident that led to the abandonment of the 2011 IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas.

And on the final row will be American rookie Conor Daly, son of former Indianapolis 500 starter Derek Daly, ahead of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier with Katherine Legge starting in the thirty-third and final position.

For what it is worth, more 32 year olds (10) have won the Indianapolis 500 than any other age. 32 year olds in this year's race: Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Katherine Legge.

Chance of rain remains at 30% with a high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Honda of Simon Pagenaud paced the final practice session before the 97th Indianapolis 500, ahead of the Andretti Autosport Chevrolets of EJ Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The #9 Target Honda of Scott Dixon was fourth. Sébastien Bourdais was fifth.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was sixth ahead of the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Honda of James Jakes. The surprise of the day was Katherine Legge who was eighth fastest. This was her second day in the #81 Angie's List Honda the other being Bump Day last Sunday. Marco Andretti was ninth with Alex Tagliani in tenth. Honda took six of the top ten in practice.

Tony Kanaan was eleventh ahead of the #19 Dale Coyne Honda of Justin Wilson. The fastest Penske driver and fastest rookie was AJ Allmendinger in thirteenth. James Hinchcliffe and Will Power rounded out the top fifteen. Josef Newgarden was sixteenth ahead of pole-sitter Ed Carpenter and Oriol Serviá. Points leader Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball completed the top twenty.

JR Hildebrand was twenty-first, ahead of Ryan Briscoe in twenty-second. Briscoe had an engine fire at the end of the practice session. Graham Rahal was twenty-third ahead of the rookie Tristan Vautier and the Chevrolet of Sebastián Saavedra. Townsend Bell was twenty-sixth followed by fellow Chevrolet drivers Simona de Silvestro and Helio Castroneves. Conor Daly was twenty-ninth ahead of fellow rookie and front row starter Carlos Muñoz. Ana Beatriz was thirty-first just behind Muñoz. During practice, Beatriz got into the back of Muñoz while entering the pit lane. Both cars had minor damage. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier was thirty-second and Pippa Mann was thirty-third.

Weather forecast for Sunday calls for a few showers with a high of 66 degrees Fahrenheit. Chance of precipitation 30%, winds ESE at 10 MPH. Coverage of the 97th Indianapolis 500 will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday on ABC.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Track Walk: 97th Indianapolis 500

That time of the year has finally come again. The cold days of winter are far behind us with the brisk mornings of early spring slowly fading away. It is late May and thirty-three drivers are preparing for 500 miles.

Will Chevrolet Show Up On Race Day?
For the second consecutive year, we enter Memorial Day weekend with Chevrolet clearly faster than Honda. But if last year taught us anything, Honda will be there race day. What about Chevrolet? The bow-tie brigade took the top ten spots on the grid and thirteen of the top fifteen but after dominating qualifying last year, the Chevrolet teams fell flat on their face. Andretti Autosport and Penske Racing have brought their A-game with each team having 100% participation in the Fast Nine on pole day and Andretti Autosport spent most of their week of practice working on race setup. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don't think Chevrolet will get caught with their pants down again.

Can Ed Carpenter Keep Up His Dream Month of May?
One of the nicest guys in IndyCar has a chance to become the most known IndyCar driver on Sunday. The Hoosier is on pole and looking to become the first Hoosier to win since Wilbur Shaw in 1939. It really has been a dream month for Carpenter. Winning pole as an owner-driver over the stalwarts of Andretti Autosport and Penske Racing was a great moment for Carpenter but as I said after pole day, no one dreams of winning pole for the Indianapolis 500. Carpenter knows winning Sunday is all that matters. Carpenter has a top-five finish and two top-ten finishes in the Indianapolis 500 and won the inaugural Freedom 100 in 2003. He is the most recent winner in a oval race and is one of the top contenders on Sunday.

The Ganassi drivers of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato carried Honda last year. This year the Alex Tagliani and Justin Wilson were the top Honda qualifiers. The Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan team had a rough month with one car failing to qualify and neither James Jakes or Graham Rahal have struggled with speed all month. Ryan Briscoe is the star one-off this year but starts twenty-third. Josef Newgarden was bumped to a second day qualifier but has shown good pace in traffic and is confident. The Ganassi drivers, whether it be Dixon or Franchitti, even Briscoe and Charlie Kimball have a shot and I'd say Sato has the best shot to extend Honda's streak of consecutive Indianapolis 500 victories to ten.

Weekend Schedule
For Carb Day, IndyCar practice will be at 11 a.m. ET with the Firestone Freedom 100 taking place at 12:30 p.m and the Pit Stop Competition at 1:30 p.m. ET. All of Carb Day's activities can be found on NBC Sports Network starting at 11 a.m. ET and ending at 4:00 p.m. ET. ABC's coverage of the 97th Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. ET with driver introductions at 11:33 a.m. ET and green flag scheduled for 12:12 p.m. ET.

Weekend Forecast
Carb Day calls for sunny conditions with a high of 67 degrees Fahrenheit and zero chance of precipitation. Saturday may be mostly cloudy with a high of 64 degrees Fahrenheit and a 10% chance of precipitation. Race day could be touchy. A few showers are forecasted with a high of 69 degrees Fahrenheit and a 30% chance of precipitation. Hopefully all rain can hold off until after the race Sunday.

Some Facts
While many think Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti can repeat their run to the front, history is against them. On only two occasions has winners come from worse than row five in back-to-back years (1926 and 1927 when Frank Lockhart came from 20th and George Sounders came from 22nd. 1935 and 1936 when Kelly Petillo won from 22nd and Louis Meyer tied Ray Harroun as the farthest Indianapolis 500 winner from 28th). Dixon and Franchitti both start on row six.

Row three has not won the Indianapolis 500 in this Millennium. Kenny Bräck is the last winner from row three in 1999. Ryan Hunter-Reay is starting seventh. Seventh place hasn't won since AJ Foyt's first Indianapolis 500 win in 1961. The thing on Hunter-Reay's side is both he and Super Tex were born in Texas. Hunter-Reay was born in Dallas.

The most starts by a driver before winning the Indianapolis 500 is 13 (Sam Hanks 1957). Of the twenty-nine drivers yet to win the Indianapolis 500, Kanaan has made the most starts at 12.

Chevrolet will win. Honda will have a good day and have at least three cars in the top ten. I am pulling for Oriol Serviá and Dreyer and Reinbold because they need a great day and a win just as bad if not worse than anyone else on the grid. Of course, I am pulling for Tony Kanaan. Picking one to win is tough in this day in age. I'll take (in no particular order), Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay and I will give you the rest of the field. AJ Allmendinger will be the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of The Year. Carlos Muñoz will have a good day but I think he will fade towards the middle of the field. The Ganassi cars will be fine. Sleepers: Townsend Bell, Sébastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Which Driver Winning Would Be Best For The Indianapolis 500?

Whoever wins the Indianapolis 500 deserves it. To be the first to complete 500 miles (as long as it goes the full distance) deserves the milk, the wreath around the shoulders and their face on the BorgWarner Trophy.

But... there are some drivers who would be covered better by the media than others if they were to win on Sunday. Best example being 2011. Had Bertrand Baguette held on for three more laps, I would have been happy for the Belgian because he was a really good driver in Europe (won the Formula Renault title) but could not keep up with the money needed to make it to Formula One and choose IndyCar and was one of the best drivers to come from Europe to IndyCar in a long time. However, the media wouldn't have given Bertrand Baguette the time of day. If anything they would have made more jokes about his last name being a type of bread than acknowledge he won the Indianapolis 500.

Same thing this year. There are drivers who if they were to win on Sunday would be better for IndyCar than others.

Would it be good if Helio Castroneves or Dario Franchitti won their fourth Indianapolis 500? While it would be a historic feat, the backlash from some fans trying to diminish their four wins wouldn't be good. Yes each driver won an Indianapolis 500 during the split, some still don't think Castroneves won in 2002, Franchitti won a rain shortened race, all of Franchitti's wins were under yellow flag conditions. Those are some of the comments you will hear if either of those two drivers won and none of those comments are false. I'd like to see history happen but I'm sure the arguments from some trying to put either of these two driver's possible four Indianapolis 500 in the back seat compared to Foyt, Unser and Mears would get old. It would have it's positives but would have it's draw backs as well.

What about an American Winning?
Wouldn't be a bad thing. I am sure Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal winning would draw more eyes than if Buddy Lazier were to win his second (Nothing against Lazier. His win in 1996 with broken back was impressive and if he were to win Sunday, it would probably be the biggest upset in racing history, let alone Indianapolis 500 history). Andretti and Rahal have the names to turn heads. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending series champion and what is a better way to prove you are the best than winning the Indianapolis 500? Josef Newgarden is a young kid who is energetic and I think that can draw a younger audience and he is confident though starting 25th. AJ Allmendinger has the sponsor (Izod) behind him to promote like crazy if he were to win. JR Hildebrand would be a great win for the National Guard and because the 2011 finish is still fresh. Conor Daly is a young and upcoming star. Ed Carpenter is the Hoosier-native looking to make history. Townsend Bell has the best thing to happen to IndyCar in a long-time, Turbo, as a sponsor. Charlie Kimball's story as a diabetic is interesting and has a good sponsor in Novo Nordisk.

I say any American winning is a plus. My worry is if Conor Daly were to win or Buddy Lazier were to win (much easier said than done), it would get people saying "oh, Daly won. He's only in GP3. Imagine if a Formula One driver came to Indianapolis." Or "Lazier won after never racing the DW12 and being out of racing for four years? How hard can IndyCar be?" It's bad enough those within NASCAR think the top twenty in NASCAR could walk in and would finish 1-20th in the Indianapolis 500. We don't need the F1 guys thinking that.

Any Female Winning Would Be Good. 
If Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann or Katherine Legge were to win it'd be a plus but they'd be compared to you-know-who and some from outside of racing may try to exploit them.

What Would-Be First Time Winners Not Yet Mention?
All the Americans and women would be first timers. Tony Kanaan winning may tear down the Speedway with the amount of joy people would feel for him. Sébastien Bourdais winning would be a positive for his legacy but he isn't as well known. Ryan Briscoe would be cool as a one-off and his wife, Nicole, who works for ESPN is in the best position to get him mentioned.

Who Has The Sponsor That Would Best Promote a Winner?
James Hinchcliffe. If he were to win, you'd think GoDaddy would be featuring Hinchcliffe more often. Bell winning with Turbo on the car would be great for the movie. Will Power has Verizon who could make it known Power won. I already mentioned Allmendinger and Izod.

Who'd Be The Best Sentimental Story?
Tony Kanaan would be it but Oriol Serviá and Dreyer & Reinbold would be a close second. Winning the Indianapolis 500 probably saves Serviá and D&R from closing it's doors for the near future. Who is not pulling for the team to save the rest of their 2013 season?

Who Would Not Be The Ideal Winner For the Indianapolis 500?
Someone with a small following. I hate to say it but Carlos Muñoz and Tristan Vautier are nobodies to average fans. Though Muñoz has been spot on all month, most wouldn't give a damn if he were to win.  James Jakes hasn't had a great month and is an unknown. Same for Sebastián Saavedra. Nothing against any of these drivers. I think all have potential going forward but aren't established enough to turn heads.

It isn't fair that winning the Indianapolis 500 isn't enough to get average fans to appreciate a driver but sadly it's the world we live in and the current state of IndyCar. Some would be better than others but whoever wins deserves it and the win cannot be taken away from them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Social Media Impact of the 97th Indianapolis 500

Social media has a presence in society today and it cannot be ignored. Prior to last year's Indianapolis 500 I took a look at the Twitter accounts of the 33 drivers competing in the race and decided to take a look at if winning the race would profoundly increase the amount of followers and if it did, how large would the increase be? It's been nearly a year since Dario Franchitti won his third Indianapolis 500 and since that day, Dario Franchitti has seen an increase in Twitter followers from 61,372 to 95,190. Now a lot has happened since the last Indianapolis 500 and hopefully this year I will be able to see post a report a week after the race.

A few things about Twitter: 1. It seems really hard for someone NOT to gain followers. You have to do something really wrong to lose followers. So while you'll see every driver from 2012 gained followers, it should be taken with a grain of salt.
2. Gaining Twitter followers doesn't dictate who is the best or who is a good or bad person. As a diehard fan, it doesn't matter who wins the Indianapolis 500 or how many Twitter followers they have. Whoever wins the race deserves the recognition as a winner, the bottle of milk and their face of the BorgWarner Trophy.
3. However, if the winner of this year's Indianapolis 500 sees a huge jump in followers, it may be a sign people a.) are watching the race. b.) have interest in a driver or drivers and c.) could be interested enough to watch Belle Isle the following week and hopefully keep them interested through Texas.

Here is the list of drivers and the change in Twitter followers from prior to last year's Indianapolis 500 (all current Twitter follower totals are from the night of May 20th):
1. Ed Carpenter- 15,534 (+4948 from 10,586 in 2012)
2. Carlos Muñoz- 2,194 (2013 rookie)
3. Marco Andretti- 56,853 (+12362 from 44,491 in 2012)
4. EJ Viso- 56,114 (+37293 from 18,821 in 2012)
5. AJ Allmendinger- 105,507 (2013 rookie)
6. Will Power- 38,762 (+10,753 from 28,009 in 2012)
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay- 32,041 (+9911 from 22,130 in 2012)
8. Hello Castroneves- 83,914 (+21704 from 62,210 in 2012)
9. James Hinchcliffe- 32,896 (+15033 from 17,863 in 2012)
10. JR Hildebrand- 18,658 (+5412 from 13,237 in 2012)
11. Alex Tagliani- 71,848 (+12070 from 59,778 in 2012)
12. Tony Kanaan- 595,437 (+90610 from 504,827 in 2012)
13. Oriol Serviá- 16,348 (+4622 from 11,715 in 2012)
14. Justin Wilson- 23,996 (+6035 from 17,961 in 2012)
15. Sébastien Bourdais- 6,240 (Did not have a Twitter account until after Indianapolis 2012)
16. Scott Dixon- 47,568 (+23606 from 23,962 in 2012)
17. Dario Franchitti- 95,190 (+33818 from 61,372 in 2012)
18. Takuma Sato- 23,682 (+11138 from 12,544 in 2012)
19. Charlie Kimball- 10,020 (+3975 from 6,045 in 2012. This information is from using @charliekimball. @racewithinsulin, Kimball's other Twitter account currently has 6,698 followers.)
20. James Jakes- 8,840 (+5327 from 3,513 in 2012)
21. Simon Pagenaud- 11,638 (+5824 from 5,814 in 2012)
22. Townsend Bell- 36,670 (+31950 from 4,720 in 2012)
23. Ryan Briscoe- 30,565 (+6877 from 23,688 in 2012)
24. Simona de Silvestro- 24,716 (+7203 from 17,513 in 2012)
25. Josef Newgarden- 10,823 (+6115 from 4,708 in 2012)
26. Graham Rahal- 46,180 (+19648 from 26,532 in 2012)
27. Sebastián Saavedra- 12,059 (+4356 from 7,703 in 2012)
28. Tristan Vautier- 2,245 (2013 rookie)
29. Ana Beatriz- 36,926 (+6213 from 30,713 in 2012)
30. Pippa Mann- 13,894 (did not race in 2012)
31. Conor Daly- 11,376 (2013 rookie)
32. Buddy Lazier- 151 (Not on Twitter. Using Lazier Racing Partners Twitter account)
33. Katherine Legge- 11,612 (+4597 from 7,015 in 2012)

Some drivers have good following while others may see a giant boost if they were to win this Sunday. Overall, if one driver sees a large increase it could be a big boost for IndyCar as a whole.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bump Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The field is set for the 97th Indianapolis 500. Americans Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal qualified for the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth positions on the grid with four lap averages of 225.731 MPH and 225.007 MPH. Sebastián Saavedra rounded out row nine at 224.929 MPH.

Row ten features the lone full-time IndyCar rookie Tristan Vautier and the Dale Coyne teammates Ana Beatriz and Pippa Mann. In 2011, Beatriz and Mann both started on the same row with Mann starting thirty-first and Beatriz starting thirty-second.

The last row party will feature a rookie, a past Indianapolis 500 winner and the last driver added to the entry list. Conor Daly starts thirty-first after a rough first outing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had an accident on Thursday and had an engine failure on his first qualifying attempt Saturday afternoon. Daly finally put it in the field Sunday with a four lap average of 223.582 MPH. Buddy Lazier qualified for his first Indianapolis 500 since 2008. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner will be competing in his seventeenth Indianapolis 500, the most of any driver in the field. Katherine Legge showed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday and qualified on Sunday for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at 223.176 MPH. Legge lost her Dragon Racing ride over the winter to Sebastián Saavedra and recently ran the DeltaWing at Laguna Seca in the American Le Mans Series. This will be Legge's second career Indianapolis 500 start. She finished twenty-second last year after starting thirtieth.

Michel Jourdain Jr. failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The Mexican driver was trying to make his third career Indianapolis 500 and second consecutive start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jourdain stepped out of the car with a little over fifteen minutes remaining after the crew was not able to find the set up to make the field of thirty-three.

This will be the third Indianapolis 500 to feature four women drivers. In 2010, Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro, Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher all qualified while Milka Duno failed to make it. The following year Fisher retired to start a family but Pippa Mann qualified joining Beatriz, de Silvestro and Patrick.

Seventeen Chevrolets and sixteen Hondas will take the green flag next Sunday with thirty-three drivers representing thirteen countries (11 Americans, 4 English, 3 French, 3 Brazilians, 2 Australians, 2 Canadians, 2 Colombians, 1 New Zealander, 1 Scot, 1 Swiss, 1 Spaniard, 1 Japanese and 1 Venezuelan). Four past winners look to add their likeness to the Borg-Warner Trophy one more time and four rookies will make their first start in the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar Has To Improve Relationships With It's Television Partners

If you follow me on Twitter (@4TheLoveofIndy) you probably saw my critical comments of the situation with NBC Sports Network's Pole Day and Preakness Stakes coverage. Let me first state that NBC Sports Network is a great partner for IndyCar and have tremendous coverage but when things go awry sometimes you have to be critical. It would not be fair of me, a guy who blasted ABC/ESPN last year when the Belle Isle race was moved to ESPNEWS and was not available on WatchESPN or to let NBC Sports off the hook.

Yesterday was not the ideal situation for NBC Sports, IndyCar and the Preakness. Had mother nature held off we aren't having this conversation. With the history of rain during the month of May at the Speedway, especially during qualifying days, both IndyCar and NBC Sports dropped the ball when it came to a plan B. IndyCar should have made sure that coverage of Pole Day would have been moved to a fellow NBC Universal property. CNBC has been a suitable home for the Stanley Cup playoff when there are multiple game on at one time and other NBC Universal properties including MSNBC and USA Network broadcasted Olympic events last Summer. Yesterday, CNBC was showing a infomercial, MSNBC an episode of Caught on Camera on from 2008 and USA an episode of NCIS from 2009. If there was breaking news or a direr situation, it'd be one thing to not move Pole Day coverage to CNBC or MSNBC but that was not the case yesterday.

IndyCar must have better communication with NBC to make sure another NBC Universal property is available should a situation such as yesterday arise. Either that or make sure the NBC Sports broadcast is available online or on NBC Sports Live Extra app. And that's another bone I have to pick with NBC. The WatchESPN app features events that aren't even on one of ESPN's cable television channel and can only be found on the app or online. For NBC Sports, it's only available on the app or online if it's on television. Is this just another example of NBC's style of old practices of sports coverage such as showing Olympic events taped delayed, hours after they happened and with almost everyone knowing who won? Probably.

My question is what happens next year and I'm not talking about only Pole Day. Today is not only Bump Day but the final day of the English Premier League season which features 10 matches all kicking off at 11 a.m. ET. What happens next year on Bump Day? The NBC-EPL deal starting this August makes it sound like NBC, NBC Sports, CNBC, MSNBC, USA and all other available outlets could feature an EPL match. What will happen to Bump Day coverage? All EPL match should be over around 1 p.m. and if Bump Day coverage were to start at 1:30 p.m. it wouldn't be the end of the world seeing as there would be four and half hours until the final gun. But IndyCar has to improve communication with NBC Sports NOW so IndyCar isn't swept under the rug come 2014. There has to be more dialogue and IndyCar should not settle for television coverage being abandoned. Relocated? Sure, as long as the fans can find it.

Yesterday was really the first time in the NBC Sports/Versus era of IndyCar coverage the ball was seriously dropped. NBC Sports has been a great partner and the Pole Day coverage was fabulous. The inclusion of Will Buxton (who in my opinion is the best pit reporter in racing and maybe the best pit/sideline report in all of sports) and Gil de Ferran benefited the broadcast and they meshed well with the core lineup of Diffey, Beekhuis, Lee, Snider and Miller. The product is fine but both IndyCar and NBC Sports should make sure the coverage of Pole Day 2013 is not repeated.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pole Day at Indianapolis

Ed Carpenter won the pole (228.762 MPH) for the 97th Indianapolis 500 but he isn't settling. The pole means something to the Hoosier native but look into his eyes and you can tell he wants more. Winning the pole is nice but no one dreams of being the pole-sitter for the Indianapolis 500, they dream of greater success come the final Sunday in May. Carpenter said in the post qualifying press conference he  wants to lead his team by example and remind them of why they are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

Will Power was Carpenter's final challenger but he fell to sixth. The Colombian rookie Carlos Muñoz starts second. The last Colombian to start second, Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000. How did that turn out?

Marco Andretti starts on the front row, his first career front row start for the Indianapolis 500. His teammate EJ Viso starts fourth with rookie AJ Allmendinger starting fifth, the best Penske. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top nine.

Those who failed to make the Fast Nine include JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan and Oriol Serviá. Justin Wilson and Sébastien Bourdais start fourteenth and fifteenth while Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti joining points leader Takuma Sato on row six. Charlie Kimball is on row seven with James Jakes and Simon Pagenaud. Townsend Bell bumped his way back into the top twenty-four late and starts twenty-second, ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Simona de Silvestro.

Those who have to qualify tomorrow are Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Buddy Lazier, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Michel Jourdain Jr., Conor Daly, Sebastián Saavedra, Tristan Vautier and Katherine Legge, who was confirm to the third Schmidt Peterson entry. The number of the third Schmidt entry has changed from #99 to #81.

Weather forecast for bump day calls for partly cloudy conditions with a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Chance of precipitation is 20%, with winds SSE at 5 to 10 MPH.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

EJ Viso posted the fast average speed on the rain-shortened Fast Friday at 229.537 MPH. He led an Andretti Autosport 1-2-3 for the second consecutive day with Marco Andretti (228.754 MPH) and Carlos Muñoz (228.520 MPH) behind the Venezuelan. Chevrolet continued their dominance with Will, Power (228.401 MPH), JR Hildebrand (227.549 MPH), Oriol Serviá (227.237 MPH), AJ Allmendinger (227.199 MPH) and Townsend Bell (227.160 MPH) taking positions fourth through eighth. Dario Franchitti was the fastest Honda at ninth quickest (227.080 MPH) and Takuma Sato rounded out the top ten (227.038 MPH).

Rain hit about halfway through the practice session. Thirty-two cars took to the track with the lone driver not to take a lap was Conor Daly. Daly had an accident on Thursday. Buddy Lazier made his first official laps of practice and was thirty-first quickest at 222.464 MPH.

Other notables from Fast Friday:
Past Winners: Helio Castroneves eleventh (226.988 MPH), Scott Dixon nineteenth (226.162 MPH).
Rookies: Tristan Vautier twenty-ninth (223.369 MPH).
Others: James Hinchcliffe twelfth (226.983 MPH), Ryan Hunter-Reay thirteenth (226.919 MPH), Tony Kanaan fourteenth (226.822 MPH), Josef Newgarden eighteenth (226.372 MPH), Graham Rahal twentieth (226.152), Ryan Briscoe twenty-fifth (225.265 MPH).

No more news has come out about the #99 Schmidt Honda. The #40 Ed Carpenter Racing entry did draw the first position in line for Pole Day tomorrow however that car has never been a serious contender to actually take laps at the Speedway.

Forecast for Pole Day calls for a high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a forty percent chance of precipitation. Winds ESE at 10 MPH.

I Disagree Mr. Miller

Love him or hate him, every IndyCar fan knows who Robin Miller is. He does not shy away from sharing his opinion and won't sugar coat it to make you feel good. He has been around since front-engine roadsters were the only option at the Speedway and when he started the infield feature nine-holes of a golf course. Now only four holes of Brickyard Crossing are located in the middle of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the front-engine roadsters have retired to their cozy home in the track's museum.

Putting racing politics aside, no one can doubt Robin Miller's love for IndyCar racing. Which is why his latest column about having Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifying condense to the week before the race hits a cord with me. In his column, it sounds to me as if Miller is raising the white flag and calling it a day. He knows interest in Pole Day is gone, Bump Day is gone and wants to shorten the schedule. Miller proposed practice Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, one qualifying day on Wednesday night, Thursday as a free Fan Appreciation Day with drivers signing autographs and as a rain-date for qualifying, Carb Day on Friday with the fastest six qualifiers racing for $1 million and pole position, parade Saturday and race Sunday.

I disagree Mr. Miller but not on all counts.

I love the idea of a free Fan Appreciation Day. The Thursday before the race could become a media day of sorts for the field of thirty-three with driver and fan interactions happening all throughout the day. Open the garages, fire up the barbecue and have a Gasoline Alley party the night before Carb Day.

I disagree with shortening the schedule but I understand where Miller is coming from. Yes Pole Day will not be a sell out, yes we barely have thirty-three cars and there will probably be no bumping but things can get better. Yes I am being optimistic but I have to believe. Miller cites Mark Miles interest in increasing speed and maybe one day hearing "it's a new track record" again over the public address system but that's not the only thing that has to be revived.

Bump day should be revived. If Miles wants the nostalgia of speed why not the nostalgia of a driver coming to the Speedway for his only IndyCar race of the year and beating one of the big boys to get in the field? Why couldn't we go back to grandfathering past cars to run Indianapolis? Yes, I know those Dallara IR-03s were ugly but if someone wanted to tinkering with the car to fit in a twin-turbo Chevrolet or turbo-charged Honda, why stop them? Or if someone wanted to make the Panoz DP01 capable of racing on ovals, why stop them? Instead of having a limited selection of what chassis a team can use, it could (keyword being COULD) increase car totals. Sure, does anyone want an old IR-03 to qualify for Indianapolis? Probably not but Al Unser Sr. didn't cry when he won in a year old car in 1987. And I never heard Miller crying when Jim Hurtubise failed to qualify a front-engine roadster from 1975 to 1981, over a decade after the last roadster had successfully qualified for the Indianapolis 500. Buddy Lazier scrambled to get a DW12 for this year's race. What if there wasn't this scramble? What if (IF being the keyword) Bryan Clauson could have taken a IR-03 and qualified? Or if another five or six or seven drivers decided to try to qualify with an IR-03? Bump Day would be be Bump Day and who would be against that?

This is not a nostalgic view, calling for a magical snap of the fingers to return to the late 80's and early 90's. All IndyCar has to do for the Indianapolis 500 is realize what a slightly more open rulebook could allow. IndyCar bringing in another manufacture or two running inline-4, diesel-hybrids would be nice but that's not happening in the near future. Now that the DW12 has been developed on-track for nearly two years there must be a gap over the old IR-03 and there should be little worries of the old car showing up every DW12. But grandfathering the car to run Indianapolis and having a driver take it out and beat out six or seven DW12s wouldn't be the end of the world. Hell it's a Dallara beating another Dallara. Dallara wins no matter what. Let's not just mothball old cars but allow them to be phased out.

The way the month of May is currently set up is fine. Let's be serious for one second and let me do my best Allen Iverson impersonation; Miller, you're talking about practice. Not the race but practice, and qualifying. Who cares if only a couple of people show up for PRACTICE!? They wanted to spend their money on practice and good for them. If the Speedway wants to save some money, send out a few less yellow shirts for practice. This week of practice gives some teams needed testing time and testing time they are no longer allowed to do on their own. Sure shortening the schedule will save them some money but they will lose time gathering data.

As for the $1 million, fastest six challenge on Carb Day: This is a guy who has been crying for money to be added to the Indianapolis 500 purse and now he wants $1 million (which I guess will magically fall from the sky) to be used on a Carb Day stunt for pole? Come on, Miller.

Instead of turning the Indianapolis 500 into just another race, let's keep it the way it is and open the rulebook up by allowing teams and drivers to take a chance with older equipment.

Day Six at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Carlos Muñoz returned to the top of the speed charts on Thursday with an average speed of 225.163 MPH, leading an Andretti Autosport 1-2-3 with defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in second (225.006 MPH) and Marco Andretti in third (224.882 MPH). Scott Dixon was fourth (224.468 MPH), the fastest Honda. Chevrolets occupied the next five spots with Helio Castroneves (224.457 MPH), EJ Viso (224.221 MPH), JR Hildebrand (224.075 MPH), Ed Carpenter (224.019 MPH) and Oriol Serviá (223.995 MPH). Takuma Sato was tenth (223.660 MPH).

We had our first accident during practice week when Conor Daly made contact with the wall exiting turn one. Daly walked away from the accident with no injuries. The Inidanapolis 500 rookie was twenty-eighth quick (220.780 MPH).

AJ Allmendinger was eleventh (223.660 MPH) ahead of Simon Pagenaud (223.465 MPH) and Justin Wilson (223.460 MPH). Townsend Bell (223.182 MPH) and Dario Franchitti (222.818 MPH) rounded out the top fifteen.

Other notables: Will Power sixteenth (222.383 MPH), Tony Kanaan seventeenth (222.165 MPH), James Hinchcliffe twentieth (221.887 MPH), Simona de Silvestro twenty-second (221.776 MPH), Josef Newgarden twenty-seventh (221.152 MPH) and Graham Rahal thirtieth (220.555 MPH).

Buddy Lazier hit the track for the first time during practice week. He completed the refresher course. Still no word on the #99 Schmidt Honda but another new name has been added to the list of potential drivers. 1999 Indy Racing League champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Greg Ray has expressed interest in the open seat. Greg Ray last raced at Richmond in 2004.

Weather for Fast Friday calls for a high of 76 degrees Fahrenheit with a 60% chance of precipitation. Winds SE at 10 to 15 MPH.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day Five at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

It took five days but Honda finally showed some muscle with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti being the fastest on Wednesday at 224.236 MPH. One-off driver Townsend Bell was second (223.716 MPH) ahead of Helio Castroneves (223.699 MPH), Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.093 MPH) and Ryan Briscoe (222.803 MPH). The Andretti Autosport entries of Marco Andretti (222.741 MPH) and EJ Viso (222.727 MPH) were sixth and seventh ahead of Alex Tagliani (222.350 MPH) and Scott Dixon (222.312 MPH). Rookie Carlos Muñoz (222.268 MPH) rounded out the top ten. Fastest from Tuesday, James Hinchcliffe was fourteenth (221.670 MPH).

Ed Carpenter was eleventh (221.879 MPH), ahead of points leader Takuma Sato in twelfth (221.805 MPH) and Simon Pagenaud in thirteenth (221.677 MPH). Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing saw one car move from the bottom with James Jakes jumping up to sixteenth (221.241 MPH) but his teammates Graham Rahal and Michel Jourdain, Jr. were still down in thirtieth (219.123 MPH) and thirty-second (218.037 MPH) respectively.

Dragon Racing drivers Sébastien Bourdais was twentieth (220.949 MPH) quickest and Sebastián Saavedra was twenty-fifth (220.343 MPH). KV Racing Technology teammates Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro were twenty-second (220.721 MPH) and twenty-eighth (219.859 MPH).

Other notables: Oriol Serviá seventeenth (221.153 MPH), Will Power twenty-third (220.719 MPH), Conor Daly twenty-fourth (220.659 MPH) and Justin Wilson twenty-seventh (220.174 MPH).

The big news from Wednesday was the announcement Buddy Rice would not be competing in the third Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. Names that have been thrown around as potential drivers for the #99 Schmidt Honda are Jay Howard, Katherine Legge, Bryan Clauson, Richie Hearn, Jaques Lazier and Davey Hamilton.

Forecast for Thursday calls for a high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a sixty percent chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 MPH.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day Four at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

For the fourth practice day, we had a fourth different name on the top of the timesheet. James Hinchcliffe set the fastest average speed on Tuesday at 224.210 MPH while driving Marco Andretti's #25 RC Cola Chevrolet. JR Hildebrand was second (223.652 MPH) with Marco Andretti (223.570 MPH), Helio Castroneves (223.556 MPH) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.332 MPH) rounding out the top five. Josef Newgarden was the fastest Honda in seventh (223.123 MPH). The next Honda on the timesheet was Charlie Kimball in nineteenth (220.722 MPH).

Ganassi Racing's two Target entries of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were twenty-second (220.502 MPH) and twenty-fifth (219.848 MPH) respectively. The other Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold cars were in the top half of the timesheet with Oriol Serviá in ninth (222.093 MPH) and Townsend Bell in twelfth (221.898 MPH).

Fan-favorite Tony Kanaan was twentieth (220.645 MPH), the slowest of the Chevrolets. None of the three Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing cars were better than twenty-ninth and that was James Jakes (219.191 MPH). Michel Jourdain, Jr. was thirty-second (217.118 MPH) and Graham Rahal was thirty-third (216.633 MPH). Points leader Takuma Sato posted the slowest average speed on the day at 216.616 MPH.

Other notable names on the timesheet: Will Power fourteenth (221.654 MPH), Sébastien Bourdais sixteenth (221.088 MPH), Simon Pagenaud twenty-first (220.591 MPH), Ryan Briscoe twenty-third (220.100 MPH) and Alex Tagliani thirty-first (218.213 MPH).

1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier has yet to make a practice lap.

Weather forecast for today calls for a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit with winds WSW at 15 to 25 MPH. Chance of rain is twenty percent.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day Three at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Day three of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 saw Marco Andretti post the fastest average speed at 225.100 MPH ahead of the Chevrolets of Helio Castroneves (225.075 MPH), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.386 MPH), Will Power (223.784 MPH) and JR Hildebrand (223.624 MPH). Points leader Takuma Sato was the fastest Honda at sixth quickest (223.363 MPH). AJ Allmendinger was the fastest rookie in seventh (223.264 MPH) ahead of James Hinchcliffe (223.075 MPH), Tony Kanaan (222.833 MPH) and Josef Newgarden (222.340 MPH).

Conor Daly completed rookie orientation and was twenty-eighth quickest (219.044 MPH). Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Justin Wilson and Townsend Bell all participated in their first practice session for the Indianapolis 500 yesterday. Wilson was fourteenth (221.810 MPH), Bell twenty-first (221.137 MPH), Mann twenty-third (220.500 MPH) and Beatriz twenty-sixth (219.975 MPH). The lone driver yet to make a practice lap is 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier. He is expected to make his first appearance this afternoon.

Other notable speeds from Monday practice were Oriol Serviá in eleventh (222.069 MPH), Simona de Silvestro seventeenth (221.613 MPH), Ed Carpenter twentieth (221.154 MPH), Dario Franchitti twenty-second (220.549 MPH), Scott Dixon twenty-fourth (220.419 MPH) and Graham Rahal twenty-fifth (220.360 MPH).

Today's weather forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit under partly cloudy conditions with winds SSW at 18 MPH. There is a zero percent chance of rain.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Opening Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Two days of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 have been completed as the IndyCar teams get ready for qualifying this weekend.

Day one saw Ed Carpenter jump to the top of the timesheet at 220.970 MPH (40.7296 seconds). Josef Newgarden was second in his T-car at 220.920 MPH and rookie Carlos Muñoz was third at 220.720 MPH. Muñoz and fellow rookies AJ Allmendinger and Tristan Vautier passed rookie orientation with ninety minutes to spare. The final rookie to complete rookie orientation will be Conor Daly who was in Spain on Saturday and Sunday racing in the GP3 Series where Daly finished 3rd and 5th. Daly is scheduled to complete rookie orientation today.

On Sunday Andretti Autosport ran all five cars and all five were in the top six positions. Muñoz continued to show his pace and was quickest at 223.023 MPH, ahead of defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (222.825 MPH), EJ Viso (222.523 MPH), Marco Andretti (222.485 MPH) and AJ Allmendinger (221.279 MPH). James Hinchcliffe was sixth (220.907 MPH). Charlie Kimball was the fastest Honda in seventh on Sunday at 219.778 MPH with Carpenter (219.756 MPH), Newgarden (219.706 MPH) and Tony Kanaan (219.636 MPH) rounding out the top ten.

Drivers who have yet to take to the track for practice are Daly, the three Dale Coyne entries of Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz and Justin Wilson, Buddy Lazier and Townsend Bell.

A third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry was added to the entry list on Saturday. The #99 Honda was entered without a driver. Pippa Mann has been listed as the #63 Honda. The #40 Ed Carpenter Chevrolet is still on the entry list.

Weather for today at the Speedway calls for a high of 61 degrees Fahrenheit with winds going WNW at 12 MPH. There is zero percent chance of rain.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things I'd Like To See This May

The month of May and the Indianapolis 500 is IndyCar's only unquestionable time on center stage. When the clock hits noon on May 26th, doesn't matter what else is going on, the Indianapolis 500 will be the biggest event happening. IndyCar must capitalize not only on showing the best racing IndyCar can produce but capitalize on bringing eye balls back to the TV not only for the Detroit doubleheader the following weekend or Texas the weekend after that but all fourteen remaining events.

What I'd like to see doesn't seem over the top to me. I'm not asking for IndyCar to magically sign another two engine manufactures for 2014 or magically get the NBC Sports broadcast team to cover the ABC races as well. Rather take advantage of the current situation and get people interested with what's on the table, not fairy tale ideas. 

1. Promote the Triple Crown. During the Kentucky Derby broadcast the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes were mentioned on accident. I know the IndyCar Triple Crown returns for the first time in twenty-four years but let's not act like it doesn't exist like the Mario Andretti Road Course and AJ Foyt Oval Championships. Stating from the beginning of the Indianapolis 500 broadcast that it is leg one of the IndyCar Triple Crown with causal mentions of Pocono and Fontana is all that IndyCar should be looking for. Heck, Pocono is on ABC and we know no matter who wins Indianapolis, someone will be racing for $250,000 at Pocono. That's much more exciting than the usual $35,000 bonus a winner gets. 

2. People not being afraid to cover the Oriol Serviá/Dreyer & Reinbold situation. I am not saying turn the month into a telethon to save the team but let people know what Indianapolis means to this team for the rest of 2013. It very well could be due or die for the Catalan and D&R. Serviá had a team shut down on him in 2002 when PacWest closed up shop. Hopefully that won't happen again. When Sarah Fisher started her own team in 2008 things were shaky. She had little money and Indianapolis was her only shot. When she spun and collected Tony Kanaan it appeared her career had ended. However Dollar General stepped up and now look at Sarah Fisher's little team. They have won a race, are full-time, have a good partner in Wink Hartman and have a popular driver. Not saying Dreyer & Reinbold's season will be saved but getting the story out there doesn't hurt the team, it can only help them.

3. Let's NOT blow the Kurt Busch test out of proportion. He did it. Unless he is in the race, it was only test. Let's not turn it in to speculation for what is to come in 2014. It brings nothing to the race broadcast. If Busch is to run an IndyCar race sometime during 2013, worry about it when it happens not before it's announced.

4. Let's stop talking about a road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's the month of May and it's sickening. We can get back to this nonsense when June rolls around but one final time: NO ROAD COURSE RACE AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY! IT WOULD BE A DISGRACE!

5. An improvement in the relationship between IndyCar's television partners. Sometimes I shake my head at how ABC/ESPN and Turner/TNT have no problem cross promoting NBA playoff games but when it comes to IndyCar it's as if neither ABC nor NBC knows each other exists. I'm not sure whose arm IndyCar has to twist but they have to find them and fast. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Kurt Busch Passes Rookie Orientation

The first driver to pass rookie orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013 was Kurt Busch, though Busch has no plans to make an attempt to run the 97th Indianapolis 500. Busch completed the three phases of rookie orientation with a fastest lap at 218.210 MPH. He was testing Ryan Hunter-Reay's #1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet from 9:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. yesterday, an hour and forty-five minutes longer than previously scheduled. 

Busch said afterwards in a press conference he would not have enough stamina for not attempting the Indianapolis 500-Coca Cola 600 double this year but did not rule out the possibility of running the double in 2014. 

With Busch passing rookie orientation he is now licensed to compete IndyCar oval races and there is a possibility Busch could run one of the remaining Triple Crown races at Pocono or Fontana. The other two jewels of the Triple Crown are not head-to-head with NASCAR races. Pocono is July 7th, a day after NASCAR returns to Daytona for the second time in 2013 and Fontana is October 19th, the night before the Talladega's Chase race. Busch's NASCAR team, Furniture Row Racing attended the test as they were on their way to Darlington for tomorrow night's Southern 500.

Other News
AJ Allmendinger will compete in the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans. This will be Allmendinger's fourth and fifth starts of the 2013 season. Allmendinger will be attempting to make his first Indianapolis 500 start this month.

Another driver who could be a Indianapolis 500 rookie in 2013, Conor Daly will be making his first start of the 2013 GP3 Season in Barcelona. Daly won the GP3 sprint race at Barcelona last season and finished 6th in the final 2012 GP3 Driver's Championship.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is celebrating his 38th birthday today. The other active three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dario Franchitti will be turning 40th on May 19th.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Indianapolis 500 Entry List Set, Still Holes to Fill

The entry list for the 96th Indianapolis 500 was released last night with 33 cars and 32 drivers. Today, that number reached 34 cars and 33 drivers.

Yesterday, 17 Chevrolets and 16 Hondas were on the initial entry list, including one-offs AJ Allmendinger, Carlos Muñoz, Ryan Briscoe, Conor Daly, Townsend Bell, Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Pippa Mann. A 33rd, driver-less entry, the #40 Ed Carpenter Racing entry was a surprise. The only owner-driver in the Izod IndyCar Series, Ed Carpenter made it known the entry was meant to be removed. The #40 Ed Carpenter Racing entry has remained on the entry list.

Today, a 33rd driver and team pair was announced with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier and a family run operation, Lazier Partners Racing, Inc. Buddy's father Bob Lazier is the owner of the team. Buddy Lazier will drive the #91 Chevrolet, the same chassis driven by Jean Alesi last year as a Lotus. The last time Buddy Lazier drove a Chevrolet at Indianapolis was in 2005 for Panther Racing. He qualified 9th and finished 5th, the highest starting and finishing Chevrolet. This will be Lazier's first attempt at Indianapolis since failing to qualify in 2009.

A 17th Honda could still be in the works, however reports of a third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry for 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice appears to have hit a snag.

Bryan Clauson and Jay Howard are both reportedly trying to scrape together deals for the Indianapolis 500 and rumors are swirling that Kurt Busch, who is due to test tomorrow for Andretti Autosport, may try to do the Indianapolis 500-Coca Cola 600 double this year, a year earlier than originally stated.

As of now, 11 Americans, 4 Brits, 3 Frenchmen, 3 Brazilians, 2 Australians, 2 Canadians, 2 Colombians, one New Zealander, Japanese, Swiss, Mexican, Spaniard and a Venezuelan officially make up the entry list.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up

The first weekend in May featured a lot of racing across the globe. NASCAR had a surprise 1-2 at Talladega, Sébastien Loeb continued his retirement from full-time rallying in style, BMW had a stellar opening DTM race and lots of others series took to the track.

Front Row Takes The Front Row at Talladega
Eight years ago, a Bob Jenkins-owned car made it's first race at Bristol with Stanton Barrett. He finished 41st. Front Row Motorsports hadn't had much to brag about before last Sunday but David Ragan and David Gilliland changed that as the little team that could went 1-2, defeating the big boys of Roush, Hendrick and Gibbs. Ragan won his second career race, his first since Daytona in July 2011. The 1-2 was the 5th and 6th top ten finish for Front Row Motorsports, 3rd and 4th top five and of course the first win for the team. All six top tens for Front Row Motorsports has come on restrictor plate races, five coming at Talladega.

NASCAR races next Saturday at Darlington Speedway.

Retired Loeb Wins Again
He maybe retired from full-time rallying but Sébastien Loeb continues to win. He won his second rally of the 2013 World Rally Championship at Argentina, his eighth win in the last nine Rally Argentinas. He beat teammate, points leader and fellow Frenchman Sébastien Ogier by 55 seconds. Ogier leads the points by 54 points over Loeb, who has only competed in three of five rallies. Ogier is 65 points ahead of the next full-time competitor Mikko Hirvonen.

World Rally's next stop is Greece for the Acropolis Rally May 31st-June 2nd.

Farfus and BMW win at Hockenheim
Augusto Farfus won his second career DTM race this past Sunday at Hockenheim and leads the points for the first time in the Brazilian's DTM career. He held off fellow BMW driver Dirk Werner and Mercedes driver Christian Vietoris for the victory. This were the first career DTM podiums for both Werner and Vietoris. 2005 DTM champion Gary Paffett finished 4th while defending DTM champion Canadian Bruno Spengler finished 5th. Pole sitter and two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider finished 6th, American Joey Hand finished a career-best 7th, the Audis of Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Wittmann were 8th and 9th and Roberto Merhi rounded out the top ten. Wittmann scored points on debut and Merhi also picked up his first career point in DTM. 

The German-based series makes it's first stop international stop in a fortnight at Brands Hatch.

Spaniards dominate the Spanish Grand Prix
Dani Pedrosa won his first race of the 2013 MotoGP season at Jerez while fellow Spaniards Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo took the final two steps on the podium. Márquez out muscled the defending champion Lorenzo for the second in the final corner and in doing so the rookie took the points lead. Márquez leads Honda-teammate Pedrosa by three and Lorenzo by four points. Valentino Rossi finished fourth and is fourth in the standings, 18 markers back. Cal Crutchlow was fifth ahead of Álvaro Bautistia, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Espargaró and Bradley Smith.

MotoGP heads to Le Mans in a fortnight.

Audi Sweeps Spa
Audi went 1-2-3 at Spa, all a lap ahead of top finishing Toyota. André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Trêluyer took the win ahead of the senior line-up of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval. Marc Gené, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis finished third. The #8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi finished 4th with the #7 Toyota retiring after 99 of 168 laps. 

LMP2 was won by Pecom Racing's team of Luiz Pérez Companc, Pierre Kaffer and Nicolas Minassian. GTE Pro was won by the AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella. GTE Am was won the Ferrari of the American 8Star Motorsports of Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Águas and Philipp Peter.

Next race for the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 81st 24 Hours of Le Mans June 22nd-23rd.

Other Results
Jaime Whincup won two of three races at the V8 SuperCars weekend at Barbagallo Raceway in Perth, Australia and leads the points by 45 markers over Will Davison. V8 SuperCars will make it's first stop every stop to the United States and Circuit of the Americas in a fortnight.

Yvan Muller and Robert Huff won the World Touring Car Championship races at the Hungaroring. Muller leads the points at the WTCC heads to Salzburgring in Austria in a fortnight. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

São Paulo 2013: First Impressions



3. If that can't get people hooked on IndyCar racing than I don't know what will.

4. James Hinchcliffe deserved the win.

5. Takuma Sato should have been penalized, twice for blocking. But at least race control is being consistent with their calls.

6. Great race by Marco Andretti.

7. Please, somebody, anybody, fund Dreyer & Reinbold and Oriol Serviá.

8. All the credit in the world to Josef Newgarden. 25th to 5th. Remember when Penske said he was interested? How about now?

9. Tough day for the Brazilians. My heart breaks for Tony Kanaan. Helio Castroneves salvaged a 13th and Ana Beatriz can't catch a break.

10. Graham Rahal needs a senior teammate. Nothing against Jakes but if Serviá is without a ride, RLLR should consider the Catalan.

11. Another terrible day for Will Power and Scott Dixon didn't do much better.

12. Now we head to Indianapolis. Fantastic.

13. I think there are 29 drivers who could win at Indianapolis.

14. Was there a NASCAR race today?

15. NBC Sports has done a phenomenal job this season. Leigh Diffey is great in the booth. Jon Beekhuis did a great job in place of Wally Dallenbach.

16. It's been 12 minutes since the checkers and I still can't catch my breathe.

17. Less than a week until opening day at Indianapolis. We've waited 11 months for this.

Morning Warm-Up: São Paulo 2013

For the second time this season, Ryan Hunter-Reay will lead the field to the green flag after winning the pole position Saturday afternoon. The American broke the track record at São Paulo by setting a time of 1:20.4312. Next to the defending champion is his teammate EJ Viso. This is EJ Viso's best starting position in his Izod IndyCar Series career. Dario Franchitti starts third with Brazil's favorite Tony Kanaan starting next to the Scot in fourth position. Kanaan is making his 200 consecutive start in an American open-wheel series race. He is twelve away from breaking the record held by his car owner Jimmy Vasser. James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon rounded out the Firestone Fast Six.

Will Power got caught out by a red flag in his round 1 group and missed the Fast Twelve. The only winner for IndyCar on the streets of São Paulo finds himself starting 22nd. Sébastien Bourdais starts seventh with Simona de Silvestro in eighth. Justin Wilson starts ninth and Marco Andretti bookended the top ten for Andretti Autosport. JR Hildebrand made it two consecutive races making it to the Fast Twelve and starts eleventh ahead of the most recent winner Takuma Sato.

Oriol Serviá starts thirteenth in what could be the penultimate round of the 2013 season for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing should funding not be found for the rest of the season after Indianapolis.

Other notable starting positions: Ed Carpenter 14th, Charlie Kimball 17th, Helio Castroneves 18th, Graham Rahal 19th, Simon Pagenaud 23rd and Josef Newgarden will start 25th after an engine change.

Graham Rahal was the fastest in the morning warm-up from São Paulo. EJ Viso was second with Scott Dixon, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Sébastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti and Ana Beatriz rounding out the top ten.

Just a few quick facts: This is the first race on May 5th since 2003. Sébastien Bourdais won that day in the CART race at Brands Hatch. On two other occasions have a race been held on May 5th. In 1910, a little over a year before winning the first Indianapolis 500, Ray Harroun won at a 200-miler at Atlanta and in 1946 Joie Chitwood won the first race ever held at Trenton.

Coverage of the 75 lap Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 begins at 11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Net with green flag around 11:30 a.m. ET.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What Happens When There Is No IndyCar Practice on a Friday?

News breaks. A lot of news breaks. And news comes from out left field.

Let's start with the bombshell of Kurt Busch testing for Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis on Thursday May 9th. Only two days before the opening day for the 97th Indianapolis 500, Kurt Busch will getting behind the wheel of an open-wheel car for the first time since a test with Team Rahal in 2003 at Sebring. This test comes only a little under two weeks after Kurt Busch tested a V8 SuperCar at Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Busch has stated interest in running the Indianapolis 500/Coco-Cola 600 double but as of now the test is only a test.

Late last night, more good news concerning the Indianapolis 500 was revealed by Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett. The 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice is reportedly set to drive for Sam Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, teaming with the Frenchmen Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier and Townsend Bell is also set for Indianapolis with Panther Racing and sponsorship from the DreamWork's movie Turbo, set to be released July 13.

Miller and Pruett also reported 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier and Bryan Clauson were nearing deals for Indianapolis. Jay Howard is also working to find a seat at Indianapolis. Lazier last raced in 2008 at Indianapolis where he finished 17th from a 32nd starting position. In 2009, Lazier failed to qualify for Indianapolis. Clauson made his Indianapolis 500 debut last year and had a good month going until an accident in qualifying ended his chances of qualifying on day one. Clauson would qualify 31st on bump day and finished 30th after a spin in the race. Jay Howard finished 30th in his one and only Indianapolis 500 start back in 2011 and has not raced since Texas 2011. Howard was in the abandoned Las Vegas race.

The Rice and Bell deals would fill the starting grid of thirty-three. Any additional would ensure bumping come May 19th.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Talladega, Hockenheim and Spa

While IndyCar is in São Paulo, NASCAR, DTM and the FIA World Endurance Championship all are racing at legendary circuits.

The second restrictor plate race of the NASCAR season takes place at Talladega Superspeedway and Denny Hamlin has been cleared to race, six weeks after breaking a vertebra at Fontana. Hamlin missed four races including his home race at Richmond last week. Brian Vickers will be on stand-by should Hamlin need a substitute. Hamlin has dropped to 28th in the points standings, 71 markers back of Kurt Busch in 20th and 126 points back of Paul Menard in 10th. The Chase is not out of reach as long as Hamlin can win a race or two and gets into the top twenty to have a shot at a wild card position.

Chevrolet has a firm grasp on Talladega, winning 34 of the 50 races since restrictor plates were mandated in the 1988 season but have only won five of the last ten. Chevrolet and Toyota each have four victories this season with Ford's lone win coming at Phoenix with Carl Edwards. Hendrick Motorsports occupies three of the top four positions in the points. Jimmie Johnson is first, 43 points ahead of Edwards in second and 46 ahead of Hendrick teammates Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who are tied for third. Clint Bowyer is fifth, the highest Toyota and defending champion Brad Keselowski is sixth after his worst finish of the season, a 33rd at Richmond. Kyle Busch has won two races in 2013 but is down in seventh after four finishes of 20th or worse. Greg Biffle is eighth, ahead of Richmond winner Kevin Harvick and his Childress teammate Menard in tenth. Aric Almirola is eleventh and would be one of the two wild cards, along with Matt Kenseth, a two-time winner this season, in thirteenth. Kenseth's win at Kansas may not count towards the wild card should Joe Gibbs Racing lose their appeal of penalties handed down after the Kansas race.

Coverage of the Aaron's 499 will be Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET.

The 2013 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters begins this weekend from the Hockheimring in Baden-Württemberg. Eight BMWs, eight Audis and six Mercedes-Benzs will take part in the German based championship in 2013. Defending champion Bruno Spengler returns to BMW, along with all the 2012 BMW drivers, Dirk Werner, Martin Tomczyk, Andy Priaulx, Augusto Farfus and American Joey Hand. BMW added two German drivers. Marco Wittmann makes his DTM debut this weekend after running three seasons in Formula 3 EuroSeries where he finished runner up in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Wittmann was a BMW test driver in 2012. Timo Glock will also be making his DTM debut at Hockenheim. Glock was slated to return to Marussia F1 at the beginning of the year before he parted with the team in mid-January. Glock raced at Hockenheim three times over his Formula One career but his best finish at the track was a disappointing 18th.

Mercedes enters 2013 with two less cars than 2012. Four drivers return including Gary Paffett, last year's runner up to Spengler, Roberto Merhi, Christian Vietoris and Canadian Robert Wickens. Rookies Daniel Juncadella and Pascal Wehrlein join Mercedes in 2013. Juncadella won the 2012 Formula 3 Euro Series championship. Wehrlein finished runner up to Juncadella in 2012. After 2012, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard retired from racing. Susie Wolff left to become test driver at Williams F1 and Jaime Green has gone to the Audi camp.

Jaime Green is the only new driver at Audi, taking the vacant seat left by Rahel Frey. The other seven drivers include past DTM champions Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekström, past DTM race winners Mike Rockenfeller and Edoardo Mortara and three drivers who have scored a podium in DTM, Felipe Albuquerque, Miguel Molina and Adrien Tambay.

Green flag for the Hockenheim will be at 7:33 a.m. ET on Sunday May 5.

The second round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship season takes place at Spa-Francorchamps. Audi is coming off a one-two at Silverstone three weeks ago. Audi is entering a third car this weekend with drivers Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gené and Lucas di Grassi. In first practice earlier this morning, Audi was 1-2-3, led by the team of André Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler. The Toyota TS030s were in fourth and sixth, split by the Rebellion Racing of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld.

The fastest LMP2 car was the OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson. The Silverstone class winners Antonio Pizzonia, Tor Graves and James Walker were fourth fastest in class.

The Ferrari of Kamui Kobayashi and Toni Vilander were the fastest GTE Pro car, ahead of their AF Corse teammates Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella. An AF Corse Ferrari also held the top spot in GTE Am with drivers Jack Gerber, Matt Griffin and Marco Cioci.

Other notable names to Americans: Mike Conway was second quickest in the LMP2 class, Bertrand Baguette and Martin Plowman were fifth quick in LMP2. Chris Dyson and Michael Marsal were eighth quick. In GTE Am, the Krohn Ferrari of Tracy Krohn, Nic Jönsson and Maurizio Mediani were eight fastest in class. Green flag at Spa will be Saturday 8:30 a.m. ET.