Sunday, June 30, 2013

IndyCar Takes Weekend Off; The Drivers Don't

For the first weekend since April 28th the Izod IndyCar Series is not racing, giving the teams a hard earned weekend off. But just because the teams are getting some rest and relaxation doesn't mean the drivers are.

Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson and Sébastien Bourdais are spending there off week in a race car competing in two historic races.

Pagenaud will be competing in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a race that once counted towards the IndyCar championship during the USAC-era. He will be driving a Honda Odyssey, a minivan many would think would not be a suitable for such an endeavor. However, this Honda Odyssey has been fitted with the V6 Honda Racing Developement LMP2 engine producing around five-hundred horsepower. The other notable competitor in The Race to the Clouds is nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb who will be driving a Peugoet 208 T16. Live Coverage of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb can be found on

While Pagenaud and Loeb will be making the same run up the mountain Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser and Al Unser made forty-four years ago, Wilson and Bourdais will be competing in the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, a race first held forty-five years ago. Wilson will be paired with former Firestone Indy Lights race winner Gustavo Yacamán in the #6 Mike Shank Racing. Bourdais returns to Starworks Racing, a team he won the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix with last year. His co-drivers will be former ChampCar driver Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow. Due to heavy rains Saturday, qualifying was rained out setting the grid by points. The #2 Starworks entry starts third with the #6 Shank entry starting eighth. Watkins Glen is also the second round of the three round North American Endurance Championship. The Ganassi team of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas leads those standings.

Other News:
The NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky was rained out last night and has been scheduled for noon today.

Conor Daly had a weekend to forget at Silverstone in GP3. He finished twenty-second and retired in a lap one accident in the two races. He is now third in points, eighteen back of points leader Tio Ellinas.

Alexander Rossi had a better weekend at Silverstone in GP2. He finished tenth and ninth in the two races, picking up one championship point.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Goodbye Speed. It's Been Nice

I don't remember the exact date. All I do remember is it was an overcast morning in late April 2004. As my mother tried to scurry my sister and myself out to the bus stop for another day of the fourth grade, I sat on the couch in ecstasy that Speed Channel was added to our cable package.

Nine years later, it's an overcast morning, I have just woke up after a night of work, two couches removed in the same living room that my prepubescent self became over-ecstatic for a television station. Today I say my final goodbyes to the station to that introduced me to forms of motorsport such as MotoGP, World Superbike, World of Outlaws, USAC, American Le Mans, Grand-Am, World Rally and much more.

Speed (formerly known as Speedvision) was the television version of what National Speed Sport News  had been doing for years. It was shangri-la for race fans. You could see anything and everything from all over the world. But as the world has changed and television has changed, Speed will become Fox's 24/7, sports network to compete with the likes of ESPN and NBC Sports Net.

I first saw Speed at my grandparents' house which had Directv. That's where I got to see Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain and the early days of Speed News with Connie LeGrand. As a young, eager racing fan who wanted to see it all, Speed was perfection. Once Speed became available in my house, the rest is history. A day would include me waking up in the early hours of the morning for Formula One somewhere half way round the world. Then sleep. Up at a more reasonable hour, watching the NASCAR pre-race show, then constant flipping between races whether they be NASCAR, IndyCar, ALMS, a tape-delay MotoGP or 250cc race. Speed News would air followed by Wind Tunnel with a recap of the World Rally Championship ending the day.

I quickly learned the names such as McNish, Rossi, Hayden, Bergmeister, Kinser, Lasoski, Mladin, Darland, Solberg and Loeb. It was the only place in the United States you would find television coverage of the two major 24-hour endurance races at Daytona and Le Mans, the Knoxville Nationals and the Daytona 200. It was the home to most ChampCar races after it's failed Spike TV experiment and covered both American Le Mans and Grand-Am spectacularly despite both series being "rival" sports car series. Speed's outstanding Formula One coverage would make a fan out of anyone with Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Sam Posey, Peter Windsor and Will Buxton providing a wonderful production of the international road show despite only having two men at each and every race outside the United States.

With all the good Speed did, it did have it's pit falls. No one who constantly watched the network can honestly say today that the network did not become more NASCAR centric over the years. Remember Two-Wheel Tuesdays? Now Tuesday night, like every other weeknight on Speed, has become a home for terrible original programming. From Unique Whips to Wrecked: Life in the Crash Lane to Livin' the Low Life to Hard Parts: South Bronx to R U Faster Than a Redneck to The Racing Chef to I Wanna Date a Race Car Driver. You have to give Speed some credit. They found a way to roll out turd after turd after turd with almost no end it sight. Speed did get a few shows right. Pinks was alright. Pass Time was bearable. Back In The Day was nostalgic. But if we can all agree on something, the end of Speed with fortunately bring an end to it's garbage television programming.

It's hard for me to believe those shows made Speed more money and drew better ratings than when Wind Tunnel was on four nights a week or weekly shows on open-wheel racing, motorcycle racing, sports cars, drag racing, etc. Speed's demise was not solely because of it's poor choices in programming (although looking at what they allowed on television it should be) but the big conglomerates deciding to enter the ring and challenge ESPN for top 24/7 sports network. There will be no home for motorsports on Fox Sports 1, only NASCAR. Wind Tunnel will be gone, as will Dave Despain. Speed Center will be gone, as will most of it's staff leaving many forms of motorsports without a home. A whole slew of talent will be without jobs including Bob Varsha, Adam Alexander, Marshall Pruett, John Dagys and Robin Miller to name a few. Fox Sports 1 will not give you updates on Indiana Sprint Week or show twenty-one and a half hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Who knows what will happen with United SportsCar Racing in 2014 (Update: They will be on Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports 2, as will FIA Formula E).

The major problem with sports news is contracts on broadcast rights. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, don't have contract to the broadcast rights to U.S. Supreme Court decisions or the United Nations or international news. They cover what has to be covered because it affects the people. Imagine if a news network didn't cover the Boston Marathon bombing because they didn't have the rights to cover breaking news in the New England area. Thank God that will never be the case but sports news is the opposite. Why cover something you don't have the contract to? That is why we see disproportional coverage of certain sports whether it be by ESPN or NBC Sports and that will probably be the case when Fox Sports 1 takes the air. It's a slippery, ethical slope that may never be conquered.

Back to the point. Speed will still be around for a little over under a month and a half week but it's on it's death bed. These are the final days of what was a great home for racing for so many years. People might not give a damn about Speed going six feet under but I will look at Fox Sports 1 the same way I look at Red Bull Racing in Formula One, a team whose original roots goes back to Stewart Grand Prix and an upset 1-2 with Johnny Herbert and Rubens Barrichello at the Nürburgring to Jaguar Racing who never lived up to the name and the pit crew literally waved goodbye after Christian Klien made the teams final pit stop at Brazil. When Fox Sports 1 is showing matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Major League Baseball I will remember the roots that stretch all the way back to Speedvision with a rebranding to Speed in the middle and the fact that without the network I might not have caught the racing bug and I might not be writing this blog today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Month After Indianapolis

It's been a month since the Indianapolis 500 and right before the race I took a look at drivers on Twitter, wanted to see if after the race drivers saw an increase in Twitter followers and how great would the increase be.

Here is the list of drivers and there followers entering the event and the change in the one month and six races, five of which are on ABC (Amount of Twitter followers taken from the morning of June 26):

1. Ed Carpenter- Before: 15,534. After: 17,241 (+1,707)
2. Carlos Muñoz- Before: 2,194. After: 4,893 (+2,699)
3. Marco Andretti- Before: 56,853. After: 60,267 (+3,414)
4. EJ Viso- Before: 56,114. After: 43,258 (-12,856)
5. AJ Allmendinger- Before: 105,507. After: 111,512 (+6,005)
6. Will Power- Before: 38,762. After: 41,109 (+2,347)
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay- Before: 32,041. After: 34,325 (+2,284)
8. Hello Castroneves- Before: 83,914. After: 87,987 (+4,073)
9. James Hinchcliffe- Before: 32,896. After: 36,470  (+3,574)
10. JR Hildebrand- Before: 18,658. After: 20,104 (+1,446)
11. Alex Tagliani- Before: 71,848. After: 72,379 (+531)
12. Tony Kanaan- Before: 595,437 After: 606,941 (+11,504)
13. Oriol Serviá- Before: 16,348. After: 17,158 (+810)
14. Justin Wilson- Before: 23,996. After: 25,370 (+1,374)
15. Sébastien Bourdais- Before: 6,240. After: 6,913 (+673)
16. Scott Dixon- Before: 47,568. After: 43,659 (-3,909)
17. Dario Franchitti- Before: 95,190. After: 98,635 (+3,445)
18. Takuma Sato- Before: 23,682. After: 25,041 (+1,359)
19. Charlie Kimball/@racewithinsulin- Before: 10,020/ 6,698. After: 10,925/7,095. (+905/+397)
20. James Jakes- Before: 8,840. After: 9,197 (+357)
21. Simon Pagenaud- Before: 11,638. After: 13,037 (+1,399)
22. Townsend Bell- Before: 36,670. After: 37,088 (+418)
23. Ryan Briscoe- Before: 30,565. After: 32,168 (+1,603)
24. Simona de Silvestro- Before: 24,716. After: 26,497 (+1,781)
25. Josef Newgarden- Before: 10,823. After: 12,361 (+1,538)
26. Graham Rahal- Before: 46,180. After: 47,487 (+1,307)
27. Sebastián Saavedra- Before: 12,059. After: 13,098 (+1,039)
28. Tristan Vautier- Before: 2,245. After: 2,660 (+415)
29. Ana Beatriz- Before: 36,926. After: 37,582 (+656)
30. Pippa Mann- Before: 13,894. After: 15,011 (+1,117)
31. Conor Daly- Before: 11,376. After: 12,288 (+912)
32. Buddy Lazier- Before: 151. After: 291 (+140)
33. Katherine Legge- Before: 11,612. After: 12,981 (+1,369)

What should we take away from this?

In all honesty, not much. I am sure most drivers aren't sitting at home watching if they are losing or gaining followers. Sure, it can be used as a monitor to see if the sport is growing, is catching new eye balls and making more invested fans but if a driver had seen a boom after Indianapolis and gained a hundred thousand followers, a quarter of a million followers, a half million followers or a million followers is that going to drive people to buy five tickets to the races closest to them or demand the track closest to them to bring IndyCar to town? Probably not. Making fans is a look term process and cannot be solely gaged by Twitter.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Motorsports' Inadequate Appreciation in The American Sports Landscape

In 2011 and 2012 IndyCar raced Saturday night at Iowa Speedway and it was the only major motorsport event going on in the United States that time of night. Sure it was on NBC Sports Net and was a fairly late start time but if you were a racing fan, it was the only option.

The quality IndyCar oval racing that Iowa Speedway provides was showcased on ABC this year however the start time was moved. From Saturday to Sunday. At 3:00 p.m. ET. The same time as the NASCAR race at Sonoma.

If you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen a stream of tweets expressing displeasure about IndyCar's chronic one step forward, two steps back. IndyCar went head-to-head with the big dog that is NASCAR when it really didn't have to and could have been avoided. The IndyCar race did finish about an hour and a half before the NASCAR race did but it could have avoided all together. If someone could please explain to me why ABC would broadcast IndyCar at the same time as NASCAR when it had been avoided for the past two year that would be great. The series can't always avoid going head-to-head with one another and it is going to happen but should occur as least as possible.

What is really a kick to the crotch is that next week, when IndyCar is off, NASCAR is racing Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway leaving Sunday afternoon wide open. The 2013 NASCAR schedule came out September 25 five days prior to IndyCar's 2013 calendar. There wasn't it much time for IndyCar to pick out all the open dates but the only changes from 2012 for NASCAR were Kansas Speedway and Talladega swapping dates in October.

When the IndyCar schedule was reveal there was some angst about four consecutive weeks; a nonstop tour from Indianapolis to Detroit for two shows to Texas to Milwaukee to Iowa. Instead of slinging blame around to ABC and IndyCar and Randy Bernard and Iowa Speedway and on and on and on, let's put it on the chalkboard, circle it and write underneath "Never Again!" Yes, IndyCar could have had off this past weekend, allowed a few drivers to go to Le Mans, had Iowa and Pocono, ABC's final two races, back-to-back before the doubleheader at Toronto leading into a two week break. Oh well. The ball was dropped on that one. For 2014, these missed opportunities have to be caught. IndyCar needs to try and work with NASCAR to avoid scheduling conflicts. Yes I know Brian France said working on allowing a Indianapolis 500-Coca Cola 600 double was "not on our front burner" so why would he be interested in helping IndyCar get an open television window for Iowa? I don't know but instead of living in a cut-throat world where everyone is against one another for the money of the consumer and trying to get as much of the pie as possible, there should be a mindset change to coexistence. Both parties and their media partners should work together so races are not head-to-head. I highly doubt ABC intentionally scheduled Iowa head-to-head with Sonoma to take a ratings hit for IndyCar and benefit TNT. That doesn't make sense at all. The two series, the television partners and the race tracks need a liaison to work out the best situation for all. The series should avoid starting head-to-head as much as possible and should negotiate dates with tracks so we don't have one series going to a track with the another showing up three weeks later. Spreading out the dates would give the local fans a better chance to financially budget going to the tracks and seeing as much racing as possible.

A liaison can only do so much and there are somethings they would not be able to correct. As usual, I turned on SportsCenter early this morning and caught up on the world of sports. I watched the bottom line and saw a mention of Nik Wallenda successfully crossing the Grand Canyon. For the next half an hour I watched the bottom line, waiting for a mention of James Hinchcliffe winning his third IndyCar race of the season with maybe a mention of the rest of the top five. I waited and waited. The core cycle on the bottom line was "The Lead" (headlines of games from the day before), MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR and Soccer. Every other cycle, "Results" was added and the only results shown were those of the golf tournaments this weekend. The Travelers Championship, BMW Open, Champions Tour, LPGA, etc. A cycle later college football was added mentioning the Big Ten signing deals with two new bowl games and tennis was added as today is the opening day at Wimbledon. I waited and waited and IndyCar got zilch.

To be fair, IndyCar wasn't alone of being left out of ESPN's bottom line. There was no mention of the #2 Audi driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and no mention of the results from the NHRA New England Nationals (another series shown on the ESPN family on networks). The death of Allan Simonsen was on the bottom line most of Saturday leading me to ask two uncomfortable questions: What do motorsport series that aren't NASCAR have to do to get a sniff of coverage from ESPN? And what does ESPN consider newsworthy from motorsports? No one would arguing the death of Simonsen should not have been mentioned but to leave it at that and not mention anything else that happen during the race does not seem fair to the race organizers, the other competitors involved and does not seem fair to the people going to ESPN for news from the world of sports. Imagine if ESPN had only talked about Kevin Ware, guard for the University of Louisville basketball team, breaking his leg an NCAA tournament versus Duke University and failed to mention anything else about the game including the winner. Now that would never happen with one of the big four North American team sports but if it did there would had a public outcry of a lack of professional journalism by ESPN. Shouldn't the standards, especially when covering injuries and death, for professional journalism stay consistent regardless of the content?

Clearly this isn't an IndyCar-only issue. It is most forms of motorsports that struggle to get basic sports news coverage. If arguably one of the biggest auto races in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, can't get a sentence mentioning the overall winners, then there is a problem. I am not asking for an one show breaking down the race, hell I am not even asking for mentioning all the class winners and their countries of origin on the bottom line, I am only saying, "hey, can't we get a quick sentence saying who won?" If in ESPN's eyes the winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans do not deserve a mention on the bottom line they are just as guilty of dropping the ball as IndyCar is for allowing one of their races to be moved from an open television window to head-to-head with NASCAR.

The lack of basic coverage has left average sports fans with a lack of appreciation for all forms of motorsports. Other than NASCAR, the average sports fan knows little about motorsports and that lack of knowledge does not help anyone. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is as physically grueling a test as any other sporting event in the world of sports, let alone motorsports and, like we unfortunately saw Saturday, motorsports can humble us to remember how precious life can be. Basic coverage from the "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" could slowly improve motorsports' position on the American sports totem pole. Until then, it appears the only way motorsports can make ESPN's bottom line is by the one thing no one wants to see happen.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Iowa 2013: First Impressions

1. What a dominate day for today's winner James Hinchcliffe. The Andretti dominance at short tracks continue as they have won seven of the last eight short track races with four different drivers and has won the last four races at Iowa with four different drivers. This is what Hinchcliffe needed to get himself back in the championship hunt but he now has to be consistent for the rest of 2013.

2. Despite beginning on a low note, Ryan Hunter-Reay turned the weekend around and narrowed the championship gap to Helio Castroneves with a second place finish. Only nine points, the amount Castroneves received for winning heat three, separate the two drivers.

3. After retiring from the first three Iowa races, Tony Kanaan has finishes of first, second, third and third at the 7/8 mile oval. Not bad. Kanaan heads to Pocono in a fortnight looking to win stage two of the Triple Crown and $250,000. Should Kanaan go two for two, he would have a shot at one million dollars and join Al Unser as the second driver to complete the IndyCar Triple Crown.

4. Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal each scored their second top five finishes of 2013 with fourth and third respectively. Can Rahal turn around what has been a dismal 2013? He didn't qualify well but he had a great heat races to get him to the final and was racy there as well. As for Carpenter this is only the second time in his career he has scored multiple top fives in a season. In 2008, Carpenter had a pair of fifth place finishes (Homestead and Indianapolis).

5. Simon Pagenaud has had a respectable 2013 after it appeared his rookie teammate was going to show him up in the beginning of the season.

6. Great run for Oriol Serviá in a part-time ride. The driver for Pocono has yet to be announced. It will be interesting to see who Panther Racing puts in the car.

7. Helio Castroneves keeps his streak alive of completing every lap in 2013 but finds his points lead down in the single digits. Penske and Andretti have had the best cars on ovals in 2013 and if one team get the set up correct at Pocono, it could swing the championship in one teams favor once and for all.

8. Marco Andretti has had speed all season, he just needs to finish races better. He isn't out of the championship hunt but he needs to start winning races.

9. EJ Viso bookended the top ten for Andretti Autosport as all four cars cracked the top ten. Viso has been the biggest improvement of 2013.

10. Honda had only two cars in the top ten but took eleventh through thirteenth and fifteenth. Justin Wilson just missed out with Charlie Kimball being the top Ganassi driver ahead of Tristan Vautier.

11. Scott Dixon's perfect attendance in the top ten at Iowa comes to an end with a fifteenth as Ganassi Racing takes two steps back this weekend. Dario Franchitti was behind the eight ball all weekend and his twentieth place finish proves it.

12. Will Power also took two steps back. Everything looked great for Penske after their one-two in the heat races but didn't translate to the race.

13. I bet Simona de Silvestro cannot wait until IndyCar gets back to road and street courses.

14. Tough weekends for Takuma Sato and Alex Tagliani. Sato raced his way into a top ten starting position but an engine change negated that and his raced ended early. Tagliani hasn't scored a top ten since week one at St. Petersburg. The only accident of the day ended Tagliani's shot at his second top ten of the year.

15. IndyCar earned it's week off. I cannot wait until Pocono on July 6th and 7th. I will be at Pocono for the first IndyCar race at the tricky triangle since 1989 and hopefully I'll be able to make it to time trials.

Time To Take Heat Races To The Next Level

In a time when IndyCar is in a position to try anything to garner attention and hopefully create more fans, the heat races to set the field at Iowa Speedway are not a bad idea. However a lack of coverage and lack of meaning have put the heat races between a rock and a hard place.

Last night saw three heat races provided as much action as nine car racing can provide but there was something missing. While the heats set the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 they have to have more meaning. Just setting the grid with a few extra championship points isn't enough. And while it is nice to see the heat races were streamed live on, if you have cars racing, getting them on television would be preferred. Whether it be ABC, NBCSN, ESPN, ESPN2, hell even ESPNEWS would be an improvement. The races were exciting but there was no sense of urgency. Once Will Power got to second place in the final heat he took it easy on his teammate Helio Castroneves handing the Brazilian the win and nine championship points. More should be done to prevent this from happening.

If IndyCar is willing to do doubleheaders on street courses, you mind as well take a shot on ovals. Turn the Saturday night Iowa heat races into a full championship event where winning pays fifty points and last pays six. If it's put on the schedule as a full championship race then it will end up on television. The format of three, fifty lap heats is not bad but here is an idea to condense them for a television window:
  • No one automatically qualifies for the final heat. Two, forty lap heats of twelve. 
  • Top four from each heat advance to the A-Main with the remaining sixteen drivers going to the Last Chance Qualifier.
  • Twenty lap, LCQ with the top two advancing to the A-Main.
  • The fourteen drivers who fail to advance to the A-Main receive championship points as finishers eleventh through twenty-four.
  • A one-hundred lap A-Main with championship points being paid for first through ten place.
There is more on the line with this format. Fans would get to see a total of two-hundred laps with full championship points on the line and another full race on Sunday. Not bad for IndyCar at a short track. You think Will Power is laying back in a championship race where the difference between first and second is ten points? Think again. Under the format above, no one is guaranteed anything, you have to race for everything. Whether the heats set the starting grid for Sunday under the format above can be debated but making it it's own show is crucial if heat races want to survive. Another problem is a possible rain out. If it rains Saturday night, when are the heats run? Sunday before the full race? After the full race? Do you shorten the heats if they get postponed? Do the heats get cancel? You can't cancel them. That would be a terrible decision by IndyCar and it would screw the fans out of racing. Something would have to be done so the heat races get in. That's one problem that IndyCar would have to prepare for. 

However, if IndyCar can turn short tracks into two-day shows with heats counting towards the championship on Saturday night and a full race Sunday, they just might be able to sell IndyCars returning to places such as Richmond and Phoenix and might strengthen the Milwaukee IndyFest weekend. As stated in the beginning, IndyCar is in a position to try anything. Why not try this?

Morning Warm-Up: Iowa 2013

Helio Castroneves dominated the final heat race Saturday night, leading flag to flag and picking up nine more points to pad his championship lead and pole position for today's Iowa Corn Indy 250 but an engine change will forced the Brazilian to take a ten grid spot penalty, dropping Castroneves to eleventh.

Elevated to first from second will be Will Power who looks to make a charge for the championship. The Australian is currently tenth in the points standings. James Hinchcliffe will roll off second ahead of his Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti who entered Iowa third in the point standings. Ed Carpenter will start fourth. He finished second in heat two to advance to the final. Tony Kanaan rounds out the top five with heat two winner Graham Rahal starting in sixth positions.

Oriol Serviá starts seventh in his second race for Panther Racing. Ryan Briscoe raced for Panther Racing at Milwaukee last week leaving Serviá without a ride. Starting eighth will be Simon Pagenaud who finished fifth last year after starting dead last. The Hondas of Alex Tagliani and Justin Wilson round out the top ten. Castroneves starts eleventh ahead of second place in the championship Ryan Hunter-Reay who failed to transfer from heat one. Last year's Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier starts thirteenth ahead of fellow Honda drivers Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon. Dixon won heat one and finished fifth in the final but is serving a ten grid spot penalty for an engine change. EJ Viso will join Dixon on row eight.

Takuma Sato starts seventeenth after an engine change. He finished second in heat one and seventh in the final. Sebastián Saavedra starts eighteenth ahead of his Dragon teammate Sébastien Bourdais in nineteenth. Simona de Silvestro starts twentieth after a dreadful heat race which saw the Swiss driver finish three laps down. Dario Franchitti didn't finish three laps down but did not have any more success than de Silvestro did in his heat and starts twenty-first. Josef Newgarden starts twenty-second after an engine change ahead of fellow Hondas Ana Beatriz and James Jakes. Beatriz and Jakes also changed engines. Jakes suffered an accident at the end of heat two but walked away.

Weather forecast for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit and a chance of precipitation at 15% with the likelihood increasing to 40% during the race. ABC's broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with green flag around 3:05 p.m. ET.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Castroneves on Provisional Pole for Iowa Heat Races

Chevrolet dominated IndyCar qualifying at Iowa Speedway, sweeping the six automatic qualifying positions for the final heat and having the seven fastest times. Points leader Helio Castroneves assured he will pad his lead with a lap of 17.3324 seconds to put him on provisional pole. He beat out Marco Andretti and his Penske teammate Will Power. Indianapolis 500 winner and 2010 Iowa winner Tony Kanaan was fourth with James Hinchcliffe fifth and Oriol Serviá a surprise sixth.

Ed Carpenter was seventh quick and was bumped out of heat three by the final qualifier James Hinchcliffe. Carpenter will be the pole-sitter in heat two with Scott Dixon leading the field in heat one.

Behind Dixon will be former Iowa pole-sitter and fellow Honda drivers Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden. Alex Tagliani will start fourth in heat one ahead of Sébastien Bourdais who will be making his first career start at Iowa. Bourdais' Dragon teammate Sebastián Saavedra will join him on row three for heat one ahead of two-time Iowa winner Dario Franchitti and last year's winner at Iowa Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ana Beatriz will start last in heat one after not making a qualifying attempt due to an engine change.

Carpenter is joined by rookie Tristan Vautier on the front row for heat two. Charlie Kimball will roll off from third ahead of James Jakes. Andretti Autosport driver EJ Viso starts fifth next to Simon Pagenaud who finished fifth and on the lead lap last year after starting dead last in his first career start at Iowa. Graham Rahal will start seventh next to former Newman-Haas teammate Justin Wilson with Simona de Silvestro rounding out heat two.

The top two from each heat race will advance to the final heat. All ten participants in heat three along with the third place finishers from heat one and two will receive points with winner of heat three scoring nine points and each following position receiving one fewer point. Ninth and tenth place in heat three and the third-place finishers from the first two heats will each receive one point apiece.

The Iowa heat races can be seen at 6:45 p.m. on

Kanaan Fastest; Allan Simonsen Dies at Le Mans

Danish driver Allan Simonsen succumbed to injuries suffered from a third lap accident in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Simonsen's spun driver's side into the barrier at Tertre Rouge. The #95 Aston Martin being driven by Simonsen was the pole-sitting car in the GTE-Am class and was being shared with fellow Danes Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard. The Simonsen's family asked the Aston Martin team to keep their remaining four cars on track in honor of Allan. Simonsen was competing in his seventh 24 Hour of Le Mans and had two podium finishes in the GT2 class.

In Iowa, Tony Kanaan was fastest in the only IndyCar practice session for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Only four hundredths back was Will Power with Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves making it a clean Chevrolet sweep of the top four. Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda in fifth.

Andretti Autosport's EJ Viso and James Hinchcliffe were sixth and seventh with James Jakes being an impressive eighth quickest. Ed Carpenter was ninth with Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top ten. Fellow Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais was just behind Pagenaud in eleventh ahead of French-Canadian Alex Tagliani, IndyCar's most recent winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in the thirteenth position and Frenchman Tristan Vautier in fourteenth. Josef Newgarden was fifteenth.

Two-time Iowa winner Dario Franchitti was sixteenth fastest ahead of former Ganassi teammate Graham Rahal and Oriol Serviá who returns after missing Milwaukee. Takuma Sato was nineteenth ahead of fellow Honda drivers Justin Wilson and Charlie Kimball. Simona de Silvestro and Sebastián Saavedra were twenty-second and twenty-third with Ana Beatriz bookending the field for Brazil.

A half second covered the top eighteen drivers with three quarters of a second covering the top twenty-two and 0.8849 seconds separating Kanaan and Beatriz.

Qualifying to set the starting line-ups for the heat races will be at 4:00 p.m. ET. Simona de Silvestro and her KV Racing Technology teammate Tony Kanaan will be the first two cars to set a time, followed by the Hondas of Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Alex Tagliani, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson. Other drivers to watch out for are Will Power going out eleventh, Marco Andretti twelfth, Helio Castroneves fifteenth and Ryan Hunter-Reay sixteenth. Ana Beatriz will be the final driver to qualify.

The fastest six from qualifying will automatically qualify for the final heat race and are guaranteed a top ten starting positions.

Eighth, tenth, twelfth, fourteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth, twentieth, twenty-second and twenty-fourth fastest from qualifying will comprise heat one with the top two finishers advancing to the final heat and the remaining seven drivers setting the even positions on the grid starting with twelfth.

Heat two will be comprised of seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, nineteenth, twenty-first and twenty-third fastest from qualifying. The top two finishers from heat two advance to the final with the remaining seven drivers setting the odd positions on the grid starting with eleventh.

Heat races can be seen on at 6:45 p.m. ET.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Track Walk: Iowa 2013

Ryan Hunter-Reay enters Iowa the same way he did last year, as the most recent winner. Coming off his second win of the season last week at Milwaukee, Hunter-Reay is second in the points standings only sixteen markers back of Penske's Helio Castroneves. Hunter-Reay looks to repeat his performance of back-to-back wins at Milwaukee and Iowa and possibly snatch the points lead.

Andretti's Short Track Dominance
Last week's win at Milwaukee was Andretti Autosport sixth win in the last seven races on short tracks and the team has won four of six races at Iowa including the last three with three different drivers. More importantly Ryan Hunter-Reay has won the last four races on short tracks, dating back to New Hampshire in 2011. Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are the only two Andretti drivers with wins on ovals, let alone short tracks but it would not be surprising to see one of the other two Andretti drivers picking up a win this weekend.

EJ Viso has seemed to reel in his wreckless ways and is now a sleeper at every race. Viso's best career IndyCar finish came at Iowa in 2010. Viso finished an impressive third behind Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves after starting nineteenth. Last week Viso finished fourth in what was a dominating weekend for Andretti Autosport. However, Viso's results at Iowa are less than respectable. His best finish at the 7/8 mile oval after his podium is thirteenth.

James Hinchcliffe's track record on short tracks is stellar. In six races on short tracks, Hinchcliffe has five top tens with his lone non-top ten coming at Iowa last year. Just like his record finishing short track races, Hinchcliffe's record starting them are identical, with five top ten starts in six short track races with his lone non-top ten starting coming in his first short track race at Milwaukee in 2011. Hinchcliffe is coming off a fifth place finish at Milwaukee, his third consecutive top five at the Mile and Hinchcliffe looks to piece back together his season after a string of retirements. Hinchcliffe has two wins but will need more consistent finishes up front if he wants to make any challenge for the title.

Can Ganassi Turn It Around?
The only other team to win at Iowa is Ganassi Racing when they went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Neither Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti has had what would appear to be an impressive season but both are in the top ten in points and have been on fire since Indianapolis. Franchitti has finished in the top ten each race since the series left Indianapolis and other than Dixon's gearbox issue at Texas, his team has been up in the top ten as well. Charlie Kimball was the top Ganassi driver for the first four races of 2013 and has scored four top tens but has finished seventeenth the last two weekends.

Dixon has finished every race at Iowa, all being top ten finishes and has two pole positions at the track. Franchitti has the most wins at Iowa with two but since his second win in 2009 he only has one top ten finish at the track, a fifth in 2011. Kimball's record on short tracks is dismal with his best finish being eleventh at Iowa last year.

New Sanctioning Body For Indy Lights
After many questions about the future of Indy Lights, one big question has been answer. From Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, IndyCar will no longer be the sanctioning body for Indy Lights and control of the series will go to Dan Andersen, who currently controls U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda. IndyCar is believed to continue subsidizing Indy Lights during the transition period. A formal announcement will be made at a later date.

Track Facts
Of the five winners at Iowa Speedway, four (Franchitti, Kanaan, Andretti and Hunter-Reay) of them will be in this year's race. The late Dan Wheldon won at Iowa on his birthday (June 22) in 2008.

Four drivers have raced in every IndyCar race at Iowa they are Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Andretti, Castroneves and Dixon have all been running at the finish of every Iowa race. Kanaan has three did not finishes at the track. None have completed all 1500 laps run at the 7/8 mile oval.

In six Iowa races, the best starting position for a winner at Iowa is third on two occasions (2007 and 2008). Marco Andretti came from the farthest starting position to win. He started seventeenth in 2011.

Last year at Iowa six of the top ten finishers started outside the top ten, three of which started twentieth or worse. Twenty-seven of sixty top ten finishers at Iowa have started outside the top ten and seven of eighteen podium finishers have started outside the top ten.

Heat Races
I did a breakdown of the heat race format earlier in the week. Check it out if you have any questions.

In a season that has been as unpredictable as 2013, I cannot see anyone but an Andretti Autosport car winning this race. Their dominance on short track has been thoroughly impressive. I picked him at Texas and I am going to pick him at Iowa, give me Marco Andretti. All the Andretti cars will finish in the top ten. There will be only one Penske car in the top ten. Justin Wilson will be up front. Rahal Letterman Lanigan will continue to struggle. Tony Kanaan will have to race his way into the third and final heat and will then race his way into a top five starting position. Ganassi Racing will come close but fall short of their first win in 2013. Alex Tagliani will get his first top ten since St. Petersburg. Sleepers: Ed Carpenter, EJ Viso and Josef Newgarden.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2013 24 Hours of Le Mans Preview

The top sports car teams from around the world have made their annual voyage to Circuit de la Sarthe for the twice around the clock classic known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Defending overall winners Audi return looking for their twelfth victory at Le Mans, all coming since the turn of the millennium. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer look to win their third consecutive Le Mans title. From 2000 to 2002, Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro won three consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans for Audi. Kristensen and Allan McNish have a new teammate after the retirement of Rinaldo Capello. Loïc Duval joins the senior line-up. Marc Gené, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi are the pilots of the third Audi.

Toyota returns to Le Mans for their second year with two TS030's. The same driver line-ups return for each car. Two-time Le Mans winner Alexander Wurz leads the #7 Toyota with Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima while Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi pilot the #8 Toyota. Rebellion Racing's lead team of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld look to surprise the two major powers and steal one for the privateer, petrol-powered teams.

The defending LMP2-class winning Starworks Motorsport did not return to defend their title but all three Starworks drivers from 2012 do return to Le Mans. Tom Kimber-Smith is the only one defending the LMP2 title driving for Greaves Motorsport with Americans Alexander Rossi and Eric Lux. Kimber-Smith has three class victories in his four Le Mans appearances including winning in LMP2 in 2011 for Greaves Motorsport. The other two LMP2 class winners from 2012 are at Le Mans but in other classes. Ryan Dalziel is one of the drivers for the SRT Vipers in their return to Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class while Enzo Potolicchio will drive a Ferrari 458 in GTE-Am for his own 8Star Motorsports. The #24 OAK Racing Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson were the fastest LMP2 car at the Le Mans test day ahead of the Signatech Alpine Nissan of Pierre Ragues, Nelson Panciatici and Tristan Gommendy. Recent IndyCar winner Mike Conway, along with his G-Drive Racing teammates Romain Rusnov and John Martin were next on the timesheet.

Other LMP2 teams to keep an eye on are Level 5 Motorsports of Scott Tucker, Marino Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe, the #35 OAK Racing Nissan of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González and the #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Nissan of Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Maxime Martin.

GTE-Pro features what should be another 24 hour battle royal between Corvette, Aston Martin, Porsche, SRT and Ferrari. The #51 AF Corse returns to Le Mans with two of their three winning drivers from last year. Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella return but will be joined by Matteo Malucelli in place of Toni Vilander. Vilander moves to the #71 Ferrari joining six-time Le Mans class winner Olivier Beretta and Le Mans rookie Kamui Kobayashi. Corvette Racing returns with the same line-ups from last year. Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor will pilot the #73 Corvette with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook piloting the #74 Corvette. Aston Martin had the two fastest times on the test day. The #97 Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner and Peter Dumbreck led the #99 Aston Martin of Frédéric Makowiecki, Bruno Senna and Rob Bell. The third Aston Martin will be driven by Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Bill Auberlen. Five of the six Porsche drivers in GTE-Pro have class wins at Le Mans. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Pilet and Timo Bernard will drive the #91 Porsche. Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Romain Dumas will drive the #92 Porsche. Viper returns with two cars. Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and Ryan Dalziel will pilot the #53 Viper. Farnbacher has finished runner-up in class three times at Le Mans, including last year in GTE-Pro. Goossens and Dalziel team up for the second time at Le Mans. They teamed with Paul Gentilozzi in 2010 driving a Jaguar XKR. Their race ended however after only four laps. The #93 Viper features three North American drivers. Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito will be making their Le Mans debut. Bomarito won in the GT class in the 2010 24 Hours of Daytona driving for SpeedSource. They are joined by Tommy Kendall who makes his first trip to Le Mans since his one and only start in 2000.

Aston Martin had the fastest two times in GTE-Am at the test day as well. The #96 Aston Martin of Jamie Campbell-Walker, Stuart Hall and Roald Goethe led the #95 Aston Martin, an all Danish line-up of Allan Simonsen, Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard. The #77 Dempsey Del Piero-Proton  Porsche of Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long were third in class on the test day. Ricky Taylor, brother of Corvette facotry driver Jordan Taylor, will make his Le Mans debut driving for the defending GTE-Am class winner Labre Compétition. He joins the defending winners Patrick Bornhauser and Julien Canal.

Practice begins today for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with three qualifying sessions taking place over the next two days.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Iowa Heat Races

For the second consecutive year, heat races will determine the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway but this year more laps, transfers and points are new to the equation.

There will still be three heat races but the amount of laps in each heat has been increased to fifty laps. This year, a regular qualifying session will be used to determine the starters in each heat. The first heat will be comprised of the even-numbered positions from the qualifying session starting with eighth position. Heat two will be comprised of the odd-numbered positions from the qualifying session starting with seventh position. The top six qualifiers will automatically qualify for the third and final heat.

The top two from the first two heats will transfer to the final heat and have a shot to win the pole position for Sunday's race. Those who fail to transfer from heat one will occupy the remaining even-numbered positions starting with twelfth while those who fail to transfer from heat two will occupy the remaining odd-numbered positions starting with eleventh.

Points will pay out to the top twelve drivers. The six fastest qualifiers, four transfer and third place finishers from each heat will get at least one point. Winning the third heat and pole position will pay nine points with each other finisher from heat three receiving one less point than the driver ahead of them. The last two finishers in heat three and third place finishers from heat one and two receive one point apiece.

Coverage of the Iowa heat races will begin at 6:45 p.m. ET with live streaming on and the IndyCar 13 app. The IMS Radio Network broadcast will be commentating the heat races.

At a glance look at the Iowa heat race format.

Three, fifty lap heat races. Starting line-ups for the heat races set by a traditional qualifying session.

6:45 p.m. ET, Saturday June 22nd.

Who Starts Where In The Heats?
Heat One- Even-numbered positions from qualifying. Eighth, tenth, twelfth, fourteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth, twentieth and twenty-second. Top two advance to the third heat.
Heat Two- Odd-numbered positions from qualifying. Seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, nineteenth, twenty-first and twenty-third.  Top two advance to the third heat.
Heat Three- Fastest six qualifiers, winners from each heat, second place finishers from each heat.

Who Receives Points?
All participants from heat three receive points as well as third place from heat one and heat two.
1st- 9; 2nd- 8; 3rd- 7; 4th- 6; 5th- 5; 6th- 4; 7th- 3; 8th- 2; 9th- 1; 10th- 1; 11th (third from heat two)- 1; 12th (third from heat one)- 1.

Who Starts Where on Sunday?
Heat three participants will set the top ten while those who fail to transfer from heat one will occupy the even-numbered positions starting with twelfth and those who fail to transfer from heat two will occupy the odd-numbered positions starting with eleventh.

How Can I Watch?
Live streaming at or on the IndyCar 13 app at 6:45 p.m. ET.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Americans Find Success In Junior Formulas

Four American-born drivers picked up victories this weekend in junior Formula racing in three different countries.

At Milwaukee IndyFest, Floridian-born, American-Australian Matthew Brabham scored a grand chelem in the Pro Mazda race, winning from pole, leading every lap and setting fastest lap. It was Brabham's fifth win of the 2013 Pro Mazda season and leads Diego Ferreira by forty-nine points. Colombian Juan Piedrahita finished second with American Spencer Pigot rounding out the podium. Brabham's Andretti Autosport teammate Shelby Blackstock is third in the points, sixty-six markers back with Spencer Pigot and Scott Anderson rounding out the top five in the standings. The Pro Mazda will be on track next at Toronto. The remaining five race weekends are all doubleheaders.

In the Indy Lights race at Milwaukee, Pennsylvania's own Sage Karam scored his first career Indy Lights victory from pole over Andretti Autosport's Carlos Muñoz and Zach Veach. Veach led the first fifty-six laps before Karam got by and took the lead once and for all. Veach scored his first career podium finishing third. It's the first win for an American driver in Indy Lights since Josef Newgarden lapped the field at Loudon. Muñoz leads Karam by eighteen points. Gabby Chaves is third ahead of Freedom 100 winner Peter Dempsey, St. Petersburg winner Jack Hawksworth, Jorge Goncalvez and Veach. Indy Lights head to Iowa next Saturday night.

Hoosier Conor Daly led every lap from pole position as he won the first race of the GP3 Series weekend at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. This is Daly's second career win in GP3. He won at Barcelona last year. Daly went on to finish eighth in race two and is second in the championship, trailing Tio Ellinas by four points. The GP3 Series heads to Silverstone in a fortnight.

In Lausitz, American Gustavo Menezes won the second race of the German Formula Three weekend as a support series for the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters race. Menezes came from fourth on the grid to pick up his first win in the German-based series. Menezes finished fifth and fourth in the first and third races of the weekend. He currently sits fourth in points, one hundred and sixty-two points back of points leader Marvin Kirchhöfer. Menezes raced the past two seasons in Pro Mazda. German Formula Three have a month off before their next round at the Nürburgring.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Milwaukee 2013: First Impressions

1. A great run by Ryan Hunter-Reay. He was up front all day. Fell about eleven seconds back when Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves were running away early but never gave up. Now is second in the points and a much bigger threat in the championship.

2. Helio Castroneves is going to be tough to beat this season. He is unbelievably consistent and had a great drive from seventeenth on the grid to second.

3. Great race for Will Power after a difficult first quarter of the season. First podium of the season.

4. An impressive weekend for Andretti Autosport. Two wins, two poles, four podiums, six top fives across the Pro Mazda, Indy Lights and IndyCar races at Milwaukee IndyFest. Great day for EJ Viso who has finally shaken the wreck bug. Another good race for James Hinchcliffe. It isn't checkers or wreckers like it was the first four races. Tough day for Marco Andretti. One bad pit stop cost him a lot of time and then a electrical failure was the knife through the heart, ending any chance of a win.

5. Great run by Takuma Sato but had trouble getting trough lap traffic and it cost them.

6. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti finished sixth and eighth respectively. If the Ganassi cars could start in the top five, they would have a much better chance at getting a win this season.

7. Justin Wilson had another top ten. Another good day for Dale Coyne Racing. No offense to Ana Beatriz but if Coyne could find a oval equivalent of Mike Conway, they would be in great shape.

8. Good for Tony Kanaan finishing tenth and giving Chevrolet six of the top ten.

9. Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastián Saavedra all had good runs.

10. Ed Carpenter finished fourteenth but he had a much better first third of the race before fading late.

11. Great job for Ryan Briscoe getting fifteenth as he heads to Le Mans.

12. I was right saying Graham Rahal would finish ahead of James Jakes but neither would be in the top ten. They finished sixteenth and eighteenth respectively with Charlie Kimball sandwiched in between.

13. ABC. Were you watching? That is how you call an auto race. Good luck with Iowa and Pocono.

14. Dear God did I miss NBCSN. There excitement is so comforting. Great to hear David Hobbs and Will Buxton. Hopefully they will be able to do more IndyCar races in the future. No offense Wally Dallenbach and Marty Snider.

15. Thank you Michael Andretti for saving Milwaukee. It is a race that must be on the schedule and it's a damn shame Loudon pulled the plug on IndyCar after one year and a damn shame Phoenix isn't on the schedule.

16. Not a phenomenal crowd but a respectable crowd for IndyFest. It is slowly getting there and it's more proof you can't go to a track for one season and hope it is a full house. Keep going back to places, keep dates consistent and fan bases will grow.

17. Noticed there was no title sponsor for this event. That's not a massive deal considering how much exposure the Andretti Autosport sponsors got but it's always nice to get a sponsor to kick in some money to help with the bills.

18. I hope Milwaukee will be back. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported it was on the fence and Road America and Chicagoland are interested in returning to the schedule. IndyCar is in a place where they need a few more races. I don't see why all three couldn't coexist although it will be tricky.

19. Seemed like this makes up for any one that was moaning over the Texas race.

20. Now it's on to Iowa and what should be another terrific event.

Morning Warm-Up: Milwaukee 2013

Andretti Autosport looks to sweep the weekend at Milwaukee IndyFest and they are starting on a good note today with Marco Andretti on pole and the other three IndyCar teams starting in the top five. Not to forget mentioning Zach Veach is starting second in the Lights race and Carlos Muñoz rolls off fourth. Matthew Brabham, grandson of triple World Driver's Champion Jack Brabham, son of overall 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Geoff Brabham, won the Pro Mazda race Friday evening driving for Andretti Autosport.

Marco Andretti is also looking to take the points lead today from Helio Castroneves and starts seventeen positions ahead of the Brazilian. James Hinchcliffe looks to pick up his third win of the season and join fellow Canadians Greg Moore and Paul Tracy as winner at the Milwaukee Mile. Will Power starts third as he looks for his first win of the season. Ryan Hunter-Reay looks to win back-to-back at the Milwaukee Mile and looks to take the points lead from Helio Castroneves and jump his teammate Marco Andretti in doing so. EJ Viso starts fifth as he looks to pick up his first career victory. He'd be the first driver to win their first career victory at Milwaukee since Michel Jourdain Jr. did it a decade ago.

Sebastián Saavedra starts a surprising sixth, a career best as he looks for his first career win as well. Tony Kanaan is going for his third career win at the Mile and second win of the season. Josef Newgarden starts on the outside of Kanaan. Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing occupy row five with Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier. Scott Dixon looks to avenge a penalty last year for jumping an aborted restart that cost him a shot at victory. He starts eleventh. James Jakes starts twelfth as he continues an impressive 2013 season. Sébastien Bourdais starts fourteenth in his first start at the Milwaukee Mile since his win there in 2006. Takuma Sato starts fifteenth. His car owner AJ Foyt will not be able to attend the race due to pain in his leg. Alex Tagliani starts sixteenth and looks to get his second career victory. His first came in 2004 at Road America.

Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves start on row nine. Castroneves is looking for his first career win at Milwaukee. Ryan Briscoe starts nineteenth as he looks to repeat his winning efforts of 2008. Ana Beatriz starts twentieth after missing the last three races. Mike Conway and Pippa Mann drove in replace of Beatriz the last two weeks. Americans Ed Carpenter and Charlie Kimball start on row eleven ahead of Graham Rahal and Simona de Silvestro.

Update: Both Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal made engine changes prior to Milwaukee IndyFest and will start twenty-third and twenty-fourth respectively.

Today's forecast at Milwaukee calls for scattered thunderstorms and a high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a sixty percent chance of rain. However the chance of precipitation drops to thirty percent around the time of green flag. NBCSN's coverage starts at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Marco Andretti Wins Milwaukee IndyFest Pole

Friday afternoon saw only one name on top of the time sheet at the end of each IndyCar session: Marco Andretti.

Andretti won his third career pole and second at Milwaukee with an average speed of 170.515 MPH. Andretti Autosport put all four cars in the top five with Will Power spoiling the party late and breaking up what would have been a 1-2-3-4 sweep for Andretti Autosport. James Hinchcliffe tied his best career starting position in second just ahead of Power in third with Ryan Hunter-Reay and EJ Viso rounding out the top five.

Sebastián Saavedra will start a career best sixth ahead of Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan in seventh. Chevrolet swept the top seven positions but Honda took the next six positions on the grid. Josef Newgarden was the fastest Honda in eighth ahead of the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton cars of Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier. Scott Dixon was just outside the top ten with the Brits James Jakes and Justin Wilson behind him. Sébastien Bourdais starts fourteenth in his first trip to the Milwaukee Mile since he won there in 2006. Takuma Sato starts fifteenth with Alex Tagliani joining him on row eight. Last year's Milwaukee pole sitter Dario Franchitti rolls off from the seventeenth position with points leader Helio Castroneves starting on the outside of row nine.

Two drivers returning to IndyCar this weekend make up row ten. Ryan Briscoe and Ana Beatriz start nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Ed Carpenter and Charlie Kimball make up row eleven with Graham Rahal and Simona de Silvestro rounding out the field.

Coverage of tomorrow's Milwaukee IndyFest begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag scheduled around 4:40 p.m. ET.

Andretti Sweeps Practice

For the second consecutive session Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay took the top two times on the speed charts in practice for tomorrow's Milwaukee IndyFest. Andretti set the fastest time at 21.6811 seconds, 0.0501 seconds ahead of Hunter-Reay. Takuma Sato jumped up to third in the second session ahead of EJ Viso and Scott Dixon.

Helio Castroneves was sixth leading the Hondas of Justin Wilson, James Jakes and Alex Tagliani. Sébastien Bourdais rounded out the top ten. Dario Franchitti was eleventh fastest with James Hinchcliffe in twelfth. A half second covered the top twelve in this session. Sebastián Saavedra was only three positions and a little less than eight hundredths back of his Dragon Racing teammate in thirteenth. Josef Newgarden dropped to fourteenth in the second practice with Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top fifteen.

Ryan Briscoe was sixteenth ahead of former Penske teammate Will Power. Tony Kanaan fell ten positions to eighteenth in the second practice ahead of Ana Beatriz and Graham Rahal. Tristan Vautier and Simona de Silvestro were two driver that fell out of the top ten from the first practice. They were twenty-first and twenty-second respectively. Charlie Kimball and Ed Carpenter rounded out the field. Carpenter was 1.3142 seconds back of Andretti in this session.

Qualifying takes place at 5:15 p.m. ET with NBCSN airing the session at 7:00 p.m. ET. IndyCar's most recent winner and the points leader Helio Castroneves will roll out first. Some key drivers to look out for are Takuma Sato going out fourth, Dario Franchitti going out seventh, Ryan Hunter-Reay going out ninth, EJ Viso going out tenth, Marco Andretti going out seventeenth, Will Power going out nineteenth and Scott Dixon going out twenty-first. Ana Beatriz will be the final driver to take time. 

Andretti Autosport 1-2 in Milwaukee First Practice

Marco Andretti led first practice for Milwaukee IndyFest with a fastest lap of 21.9217 seconds. Andretti Autosport teammate and defending IndyFest winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was second, just 0.0183 seconds back of Andretti. The two most recent Indy Lights champions were third and fourth quickest. Josef Newgarden was the fastest Honda ahead of Tristan Vautier. Will Power rounded out the top five.

Chevrolets took the final five spots of the top ten. EJ Viso was sixth quickest ahead of points leader and most recent race winner Helio Castroneves. KV Racing's two entries were the next two fastest on the speed charts. Tony Kanaan was eighth quickest ahead of his teammate Simona de Silvestro. James Hinchcliffe was tenth, bookending the top ten for Andretti Autosport.

Ana Beatriz was eleventh in her first race back for Dale Coyne Racing. Alex Tagliani was twelfth ahead of Scott Dixon, Sebastián Saavedra and Ryan Briscoe. Charlie Kimball was sixteenth fastest ahead of Justin Wilson and former Ganassi teammate Graham Rahal in eighteenth. Sébastien Bourdais was nineteenth with Long Beach winner Takuma Sato in twentieth.

Dario Franchitti was twenty-first ahead of Belle Isle winner Simon Pagenaud, James Jakes and Ed Carpenter. A half second covered the top twenty-two cars with only 0.6554 seconds between Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter.

Second practice will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET with qualifying starting at 5:15 p.m. ET. NBCSN coverage of qualifying will air at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Track Walk: Milwaukee 2013

Helio Castroneves took the points lead after his first win of the season last Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway and leads the Izod IndyCar Series to the Milwaukee Mile. Last year at Milwaukee Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up his first of four wins during his championship season.

The Death of Jason Leffler
Jason Leffler died last night after succumbing to injuries suffered in a sprint car accident at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Leffler, 37, is survived by a son Charlie.

A diverse racer, Leffler won three consecutive USAC National Midget Championships from 1997 to 1999 and the 1998 USAC Silver Crown Championship. Leffler made three starts in IndyCar over two years with a career best fifteenth at Las Vegas in 2000. He started the 2000 Indianapolis 500 where he started and finished seventeenth. In 2000, Leffler ran the full NASCAR Busch Series season for Joe Gibbs Racing before moving up to the then NASCAR Winston Cup Series for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2001. In his rookie season for Ganassi, Leffer struggled, failing to qualify for five races and having an average finish of 27.7. He did have one bright spot scoring the pole position in the inaugural race at Kansas Speedway. Leffler would score his lone career top ten in NASCAR's top division in 2001 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It would be another four years before Leffler got another shot at driving full-time in the top division of NASCAR.

In the interim, he drove in the Truck and Busch Series where Leffler found success. In 2002, driving for Ultra Motorsports, Leffler won eight poles, scored eleven top fives and fifteen top tens in twenty-two races and finished fifth in the point standings but did not win a race. In 2003, Leffler won the Truck race at Dover for his first career win in NASCAR. By 2004, Leffler was back in the NASCAR Busch Series driving for Gene Haas and won at Nashville Superspeedway.

Leffler's return to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was not highly successful. He only raced nineteen times for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005, scoring a best finish of twelfth at Martinsville Speedway with the low point being failing to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600. Leffler returned to the Busch Series in 2006 and ran every race from 2006 to 2011, picking up his second career win at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2007, the first first win for Toyota in the Busch Series. Leffler made his final career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, completing eight laps before retiring, finishing forty-third.

Briscoe Is Back
Ryan Briscoe will have a busy few weeks. Last week, when IndyCar was in Texas, Briscoe was in Le Mans, getting his first test laps done on Circuit de la Sarthe in preparation for the the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22nd and 23rd. This week he is flying back to the United States to drive the National Guard Chevrolet for Panther Racing at Milwaukee. This will be his third start with the team after running the doubleheader at Belle Isle. Briscoe won his first career IndyCar race at Milwaukee in 2008 and would finish second in 2009 but has not finished in the top ten at the Milwaukee Mile since it returned from it's one-year sabbatical in 2010.

Races for the rest of 2013 are up in the air for Briscoe. Next week, he will be racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Level 5 Motorsports, while Oriol Serviá will be in the #4 at Iowa. The American Le Mans Series is at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut the day before the Pocono race. Other possible conflicts for Briscoe are October 5 when the Houston doubleheader and Virginia International Raceway are head-to-head and October 19 when both series have their season finales, IndyCar at Fontana and ALMS with Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Both IndyCar and ALMS race at Baltimore on Labor Day weekend.

IndyCar in Forza Motorsport 5
The IndyCar of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon and Will Power will be included in Forza Motorsport 5, a racing simulator for the new Xbox One due to be released this fall. This is the first time open-wheel race cars will be included in the game. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will also be in the game. Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden were on hand for the announcement last night in Los Angeles.

Forecast and A Potential TV Conflict
Friday at the Milwaukee Mile calls for sunny conditions with a high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, chance of rain at ten percent. Saturday's forecast is scattered thunderstorms, a high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit and chance of rain at fifty percent.

Rain on Saturday could cause a television conflict. Green flag time for Saturday is scheduled around 4:40 p.m. ET and the NBCSN television window goes to 7 p.m. ET. The pre-game show for game two of the Stanley Cup Final follows the race with game two starting at 8 p.m. ET. Should a delay last any longer than an hour, IndyCar will be between a rock and a hard place with no backup plan having been announced. Let's keep an eye on that.

Track Facts
Andretti Autosport has won five of the last six races on ovals under a mile and a half. Active drivers who have won at Milwaukee Mile are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan and Sébastien Bourdais. Hunter-Reay, Franchitti and Kanaan each have two wins at the track.

In the last twenty races at Milwaukee, the winner has come from pole six times, with Dario Franchitti in 2011 being the most recent. The farthest back a winner has come from in the last twenty races is eleventh, done by Ryan Briscoe in 2008.

Extra Notes
25 More Laps: For the first time since Ryan Hunter-Reay led flag-to-flag in 2004, the IndyCar race at the Milwaukee Mile will be 250 laps. Since reunification, Milwaukee has only been a 225 lap race.

As of Thursday morning, the driver of the #18 Dale Coyne Honda has yet to be announced.

Give me Ryan Hunter-Reay. He has won the last two races on short tracks and Andretti Autosport has shown to be the best team on ovals the last two seasons. Last week Andretti Autosport had all four cars in the top ten. I think they will get three cars in the top ten this week. Penske Racing has not won on a short track since Briscoe's win at Milwaukee in 2008. I think neither Will Power or Helio Castroneves score a top five this week. Tony Kanaan will pick up another top five. Graham Rahal will finish ahead of his teammate James Jakes but neither will be in the top ten. Scott Dixon is the top finishing Ganassi driver and top finishing Honda. Sleeper: EJ Viso.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On To IndyFest

For the one hundredth and eleventh time, American open-wheel racing heads to the Milwaukee Mile. Milwaukee IndyFest takes place this Saturday afternoon and there are a few things to look forward to.

Who Will Be Driving For Panther And Dale Coyne Racing?
There are two vacant seats for Milwaukee as of today. Oriol Serviá and Pippa Mann drove for Panther and Dale Coyne respectively but neither have been announced for Milwaukee. Serviá has been announced for Iowa in a fortnight but has not been announced for Milwaukee, a track where he has finished in the top ten in his last seven appearances at the track, including five top fives. Mann only got to complete two laps at Texas last week before the engine expired.

Ryan Briscoe is in France testing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and it appears unlikely he will be driving at Milwaukee. Briscoe drove the doubleheader at Belle Isle for Panther Racing. Townsend Bell and Buddy Rice have been drivers linked to the National Guard Chevrolet. Bell has three starts at Milwaukee with finishes of thirteenth, sixth and eleventh. Bell will be at Milwaukee as he is one of the color commentator for NBCSN. Rice has two top tens in five starts at the Mile including a second place in 2004. Rice retired for each of his other three starts.

Ana Beatriz drove for Dale Coyne in the first five races of 2013 and finished seventeenth in her only start at Milwaukee in 2011. She was reportedly still looking to find the funding to race after Indianapolis. Other drivers who have raced recently looking for rides include JR Hildebrand and Katherine Legge. Hildebrand has finishes of twenty-first and twenty-second in two starts at the Mile while Legge finished sixth and eighteenth in two starts at Milwaukee. Legge also led her first career laps at Milwaukee in 2006 and drove for Dale Coyne in 2007.

Road To Indy Returns
The ladder system returns to racing this weekend at Milwaukee. Pro Mazda hits the track for the first time since the Night Before The 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park). Matthew Brabham has won the last four races and leads Diego Ferreira by thirty-one points. Four Americans occupy the next four positions in the standings. Shelby Blackstock is third after four straight podiums ahead of Spencer Pigot, Scott Anderson and Kyle Kaiser. This is the final oval event for Pro Mazda in 2013.

Firestone Indy Lights returns to racing after a four-wide photo finish at the Firestone Freedom 100 saw Peter Dempsey pick up his first career Indy Lights win ahead of Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam and Carlos Muñoz. Muñoz leads Dempsey by twenty-seven points. Muñoz is also coming off a great month of May which saw the Colombian finish second in the Indianapolis 500 and win Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. Chaves and Karam are twenty-eight and twenty-nine points back of Muñoz. Karam won at Milwaukee in the 2011 Star Mazda race.

A Taste of Formula One At Milwaukee
It's not Jim Clark showing up in 1963 and going head to head with the likes of AJ Foyt, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones and USAC's best but they are Brits. David Hobbs and Will Buxton will be added to the NBCSN crew this weekend. Hobbs will join Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell (should he not be racing) in the booth as Wally Dallenbach will be in Michigan calling the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race for TNT. Will Buxton will be working the pit lane for Marty Snider who will also be in Michigan working as a pit reporter for TNT. Buxton worked as a pit reporter on Pole and Bump Day at Indianapolis this year.

NBCSN's coverage of Milwaukee IndyFest begins Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It Wasn't Close But There Was Something About Last Night

Last night's Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway didn't feature a photo finish, didn't feature a last lap pass, it didn't even feature a surprise winner, which has been the norm in 2013 for IndyCar. But with all that said, last night was a really good race.

As I quickly mentioned last night in the First Impressions for the Texas race, it was an exciting race despite Helio Castroneves leading the final 132 laps and winning by 4.6919 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay. It's hard to explain but I'll try. Last night was a showcase of skill driving a race car in changing conditions which, in my opinion, is not appreciated today as it was twenty to twenty-five years ago. Five cars finished on the lead lap and that doesn't seem to be favorable to some but it clearly showed who were the best drivers last night, opposed to twenty cars finishing on the lead lap where someone going off pit strategy could jump fifteen positions at the drop of a hat. We could clearly see Graham Rahal struggled last night, we saw Justin Wilson faded after charging to the front early and we watched Dario Franchitti fade early and rally back to finish sixth. It didn't come down to late pit stops with some staying out, some taking fuel only and some getting the works. IT WAS A RACE! You had to do your all to be the best over all 550 km and those who didn't put a foot wrong all night finished up front while those who had even a minor slip up were not in contention at the end.

Part of the problem today with almost all forms of motorsport is the emphasis being only placed on the final few laps by the media. Last night was the mirror image. You had to watch most of last night's race to enjoy it. You couldn't just turn it on with five to go and appreciate the performance by Castroneves. He dominated but with that domination came the slight thought of could he hold on? Could Castroneves maintain the lead with the tires wearing down? The answer was yes but Ryan Hunter-Reay made it interesting. He was taking close to second off the interval a lap. A second here, seven-tenths there, another half second. He was reeling Castroneves in but time ran out and Castroneves won race he clearly deserved.

Think about what made the 1987 Indianapolis 500 so exciting. Was it sixty-eight lead changes? No. Was it a record number of drivers finishing on the lead lap? No. It was the unexpected. Mario Andretti had it in the bag. He dominated. It was all but over.... and then he brushed the wall and just like that it was a whole new ball game. It became a duel between Roberto Guerrero, the young Colombian who was coming off his first career win at Phoenix, the race leading into Indianapolis, and Al Unser. The veteran, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, who was a last minute substitute for the injured Danny Ongais, driving a race car turned show car back into a race car. Imagine the people who turned the race off with 50 laps to go because of the dominant performance being put on by Andretti. Now imagine when the found out Al Unser won his fourth Indianapolis 500. Sure, the backstory and the stage and the players added to the excitement but it was exciting regardless.

As much as racing is compared to other sports, it is an unfair comparison on most accounts. You can't just turn a race off when someone has a large lead. This isn't football or basketball where a team could be up twenty-eight after the third quarter and you are moving on to other programming. An enormous lead in racing can vanish in the matter of moments and at any point in a race. It's different from other sports and it will always be different. Last night wasn't on the edge of your seat action but the door was always open for something to bite Castroneves when least expected. Fortunately for him and Roger Penske everything turned out alright.

The same way every baseball game can't end in a walk-off home run and every basketball game can't end in a half court buzzer beater, every race can't end in photo finish, last lap pass. Let's just hope those who don't usually turn on IndyCar or any form of racing understand.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Texas 2013: First Impressions

1. Penske Racing has finally won a race. Everyone can calm down and Helio Castroneves is the points leader.

2. Now, Mr. Ganassi, when are you going to get back to victory lane?

3. Say what you want but this was a pretty exciting race. Yes Castroneves won by 4.6919 seconds. Yes only five cars finished on the lead lap but there was something exciting about it and I will have to explain my reasoning in depth later.

4. Great run by Tony Kanaan to pass Ed Carpenter late for third and Marco Andretti had a great run to get up to fifth.

5. Dario Franchitti and Will Power were sixth and seventh. A great day for two drivers who were having a difficult season.

6. Josef Newgarden scored his first career top ten on an oval finishing in eighth and a great run by James Hinchcliffe in ninth. His first top ten this season that wasn't a win.

7. Andretti Autosport may not have one but they had all four cars in the top ten with EJ Viso finishing tenth.

8. Late strategy saw James Jakes fall to twelfth after running in the top ten all night and Justin Wilson faded to fifteenth after quickly working his way to fifth from twentieth early in the race.

9. While James Jakes is coming into his own, his teammate Graham Rahal cannot catch a break. He finished 21st, 5 laps down.

10. Speaking of not catching breaks, Pippa Mann only got two laps tonight before her engine blew. Bummer,

11. Scott Dixon's night wasn't any better and finished twenty-third. Not to mention a few of his pit crew members were burned when gearbox fluid burst out of the car.

12. ABC's coverage gives me a brain aneurysm and makes me want to drink. Can we please have an adult conversation about how you broadcast your races ABC? Please?

13. No one had an accident in this race. Oriol Serviá spun but didn't hit anything and the other cautions were for Mann and Dixon coming to a stop on the apron. Not a bad day for Dallara after the brutal race two at Belle Isle.

13. If we can duplicate the racing at Texas at Chicago, Kentucky, Charlotte and Kansas then IndyCar can and should return to racing on more 1.5 mile ovals.

14. The race was enjoyable but I can already hear it now: The moaning over ratings, people complaining about the style of racing (though it was met so favorably after last year) and more panic.

15. But I will stay as positive as possible. It was a very good race. We have our seventh different winner in 2013 and there are eleven races remaining in 2013. Plenty to look forward to.

Morning Warm-Up: Texas 2013

IndyCar is at Texas Motor Speedway for the twenty-fifth time in the tracks seventeen year history. Justin Wilson looks to become the first driver to win back-to-back races at Texas and should he do so he would break his own record of farthest starting position for a winner. Last year, Wilson came from seventeenth to pass Graham Rahal with two laps to go after Rahal brushed the wall exiting turn four. Wilson starts twentieth tonight.

The front row is occupied by Will Power and Marco Andretti. Will Power has a win a Texas Motor Speedway. He won the second race of the Firestone Twin 275's in 2011, the only year a doubleheader was held at Texas Motor Speedway. Marco Andretti is looking for his first win since Iowa in 2011. Andretti has two top five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay starts third and looks to become the first Texas-born driver to win at Texas Motor Speedway. Hunter-Reay was born in Dallas. Dario Franchitti starts fourth looking for his second career  win at Texas. He won the first race of the Firestone Twin 275's in 2011. EJ Viso starts in fifth position. Viso is looking for his first career victory. Three drivers have won their first career race at Texas (Billy Boat, Mark Dismore and Jeff Ward) however it was the only victory of their careers.

Helio Castroneves starts sixth and looks for his fourth career victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Castroneves is currently tied with Sam Hornish Jr. for most wins at Texas Motor Speedway at three. Josef Newgarden and Charlie Kimball make up row four. Kimball's best finish at Texas is twenty-third. Ed Carpenter and James Jakes rounds out the top ten. Carpenter's best finish at Texas is ninth on three occasions.

Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe start on row six. Dixon led 130 laps last year at Texas but had an accident while running second with 54 laps to go. Hinchcliffe has two wins this season but those are his only top ten finishes of the season. Tony Kanaan and Alex Tagliani make up row seven. While Kanaan won just two weeks ago at Indianapolis, Tagliani has not won since August 8, 2004 at Road America. Sébastien Bourdais starts fifteenth in his first oval race outside of Indianapolis in seven years and four days. That race was held at Milwaukee and Bourdais won after leading 117 laps. Oriol Serviá starts seventeenth in his first race for Panther Racing. His best finish at Texas is twentieth in four races.

Graham Rahal starts seventeenth. The Ohioan is fourteenth in points and is coming off back-to-back ninth place finishes at Belle Isle. Sebastián Saavedra starts eighteenth. His only starts at Texas were the Twin 275's where the Colombian finished twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth respectively. Pippa Mann starts a career best nineteen in his fourth career start. This is her first appearance at Texas Motor Speedway. She starts on the same row as her Dale Coyne teammate Justin Wilson.

Takuma Sato starts twenty-first though not making a qualifying run. A gearbox changed prevented the Japanese drivers from making an attempt. Simona de Silvestro, Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier will round out the final three positions. All are serving ten grid spot penalties for engine changes.

Coverage of the Firestone 550 begins at 8:30 p.m. ET, live on ABC. This is the first IndyCar race shown on network TV in prime time.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Will Power Powers To Texas Pole

Will Power won his second pole position of the season and third career pole on an oval with a two lap average of 219.182 MPH almost two miles an hour over second place Marco Andretti's 217.553 MPH average. Ryan Hunter-Reay was third, only twenty-nine hundredths of a MPH off his teammate with Dario Franchitti starting in fourth position. EJ Viso starts fifth with Helio Castroneves in sixth.

The Hondas of Josef Newgarden and Charlie Kimball occupy row four ahead of Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter in ninth. James Jakes continues his streak in the right direction and will start tenth. Jakes picked up his first career IndyCar top ten last year at Texas. Scott Dixon starts eleventh. Simona de Silvestro qualified twelfth but will serve a ten grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change after Belle Isle. James Hinchcliffe will start twelfth. Simona Pagenaud will also going to the rear of the field after an engine change.

Tony Kanaan starts thirteenth ahead of Alex Tagliani. Tagliani had won the last two pole positions at Texas. Sébastien Bourdais will start fifteenth. This is the Frenchman's first start at Texas Motor Speedway. Oriol Serviá will roll off from sixteenth position in his first start for Panther Racing. Graham Rahal starts seventeenth one year after nearly winning his second career race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sebastián Saavedra starts eighteenth. The Colombian scored his first career top ten last Sunday at Belle Isle on his twenty-second birthday. Pippa Mann will start nineteenth in her first career start at Texas and second career start for Dale Coyne Racing. He Dale Coyne teammate and defending winner at Texas Justin Wilson starts twentieth ahead of Takuma Sato who did not make a qualifying attempt after a gearbox change. Simona de Silvestro starts twenty-second after her ten grid spot penalty ahead of Simon Pagenaud after his penalty and Tristan Vautier. Vautier did not make a qualifying attempt. Vautier's crew made an unapproved engine change.

Tomorrow night's Firestone 550 from Texas Motor Speedway can be seen at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Track Walk: Texas 2013

Simon Pagenaud heads to Texas as the most recent winner in the Izod IndyCar Series while Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti are tied for the points lead. Six different drivers have won this season of which Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only one to have won a race in 2012. Justin Wilson won last year at Texas.

Serviá and Mann Return
Oriol Serviá and Pippa Mann return to the IndyCar grid this weekend. Serviá will jump behind the wheel of the National Guard Chevrolet for Panther Racing while Mann will drive Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Serviá was ninth in the points after Indianapolis but missed the two Detroit races after Dreyer & Reinbold Racing shut it's doors. Mann will be making her second start of the season and her first career appearance at Texas Motor Speedway. Mann finished thirtieth at Indianapolis.

Serviá has been announced as the driver of the #4 Chevrolet for Texas and Iowa in a fortnight. No announcement has been made on who will drive the car at Milwaukee next week. No driver has been announced for the #18 Dale Coyne entry past Texas.

More Turbo For Kanaan
Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan will be driving the Sunoco/Turbo Chevrolet at Texas this weekend and at three more races in 2013. The DreamWorks Animation film "Turbo" follows the story of a snails in pursuit of making his dream come true of competing in the Indianapolis 500. The film and Sunoco sponsored Townsend Bell in the Indianapolis 500. "Turbo" will be released on July 17.

Coverage and Forecast
This year's Firestone 550 from Texas Motor Speedway will be the first IndyCar race shown live in primetime. ABC's coverage begins Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET with the command to start engines at 8:40 p.m. Forecast for Friday calls for a high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit with partly cloudy conditions and zero percent chance of rain. Saturday calls for mostly sunny with a high of 89 degrees Fahrenheit and ten percent chance of rain.

Track Facts
Alex Tagliani has won the last two poles at Texas. He looks to tie Tomas Scheckter for most poles at Texas Motor Speedway with three. Last year Justin Wilson won from seventeenth, the furthest back a winner has come from at Texas. In 25 races at Texas Motor Speedway, the winner has come from pole position six times and from the front row twelve times. Helio Castroneves leads all active drivers with three wins at Texas, his last coming in 2009. There has never been a back-to-back winner at Texas Motor Speedway

We will have a seventh different winner in 2013 at Texas. Last year saw a lot of passing and I expect that to continue in 2013. Only six cars finished on the lead lap last year, I expect more this year but no more than twelve. Scott Dixon led 130 laps last year before having an accident with just a little more than 50 laps to go. Dixon should be a contender. I am pulling for Oriol Serviá because Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said he will hand him the trophy in victory lane. I am going to take Marco Andretti for the win and retaking the points lead in doing so. Sleeper: Charlie Kimball.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Way IndyCar Could Attract Younger Fans

IndyCar's history at Charlotte Motor Speedway was left with a black eye on the night of May 1, 1999. Three spectators were killed after an accident sent a tire in the stands the last time IndyCar made a trip to the Queen City.

It's been fourteen years since that dark night and IndyCar has never been in a position to return to North Carolina. However it may be the right time to consider returning to the one and a half mile oval.

ESPN executives visited Charlotte Motor Speedway today as a possible venue for the 2014 Summer X Games. The event which has been a foothold in Southern California since 2003 is looking for a new home starting in 2014. Charlotte along with Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Chicago and Detroit are all candidates. The four-day event, which includes skateboard, BMX, motorcycles and rallycross, are looking for a new home and if I am IndyCar and if Charlotte wins the bid for the 2014 Summer X Games, I try to get on the bill. With the X Games being run by ESPN, this would be an ABC race for IndyCar, the IndyCar TV partner available to most homes. The X Games attract young fans and sponsors geared towards young fans such as Red Bull, Monster Energy Drink and GoPro sponsor the event. IndyCar can only benefit and hopefully draw eyeballs should they join the X Games bill.

IndyCar currently has two weeks off in July and two weeks off in August. These gaps have to be broken up and an oval in the summer would be perfect. What could work out the best for both the X Games and IndyCar would be to hold the event on the third weekend in July, a weekend NASCAR has traditionally taken off. It would be the highlight event on ESPN that weekend and pair it with an IndyCar race on Sunday afternoon could benefit both, especially on Sunday afternoon.

IndyCar has nothing to lose and should be open to any and all partnerships possible. A Sunday doubleheader with rallycross and IndyCar would be great for race fans and either be great lead-in programming to other X Games events or be great to wrap up the X Games. Having a few crossovers with IndyCar guys running both races or Travis Pastrana running rallycross and the IndyCar race would be cool to see and I think now that Pastrana has been running in the NASCAR Nationwide Series he could hold his own in an IndyCar. A 360-mile (in honor of extreme sports) IndyCar race on a Sunday afternoon with little competition from other sporting events would be a big step for IndyCar to get out in the public spotlight.

Instead of trying to be separate, IndyCar should embrace the X Games, back the Charlotte bid and work to become apart of the four-day weekend. It would be a great opportunity for IndyCar to widen their narrow audience to include younger fans.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Belle Isle 2013: First Impressions

1. What an amazing drive by Mike Conway. He deserves the win. A great day for Dale Coyne Racing taking two spots on the podium.

2. Great race by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Choosing the alternate tire for his second stint was a mistake but second is still great.

3. And there is a race tomorrow at Belle Isle and I am happy about that.

4. I thought this was the best race ever held at Belle Isle. The 2.3 mile configuration is much better than the 2.1 mile race.

5. Penske and Ganassi has yet to win this year. Meanwhile, Foyt, Coyne and KV have.

6. Great race for Josef Newgarden finishing seventh.

7. Tough finish for Ryan Briscoe. Had a shot at a top ten before running into the tires. Hopefully John Barnes doesn't fire him before race two.

8. Scott Dixon had a great run considering he was run over on lap one. Still finished fourth. This really speaks to the durability of the DW12 chassis.

9. Justin Wilson has finished ninth, eighth, third, twentieth, fifth and third. Not bad.

10. Will Power has finished sixteenth, fifth, sixteenth, twenty-fourth, nineteenth and eighth.

11. James Jakes has been impressive and his teammate Graham Rahal picked up his game. Rahal finished ninth, ahead of Jakes who finished tenth.

12. Tough break (hopefully not literally) for AJ Allmendinger. Hopefully he can recover for race two and hopefully tomorrow isn't his final IndyCar race of 2013.

13. Alex Tagliani didn't have much go his way today.

14. ABC needs a new broadcast crew. Murray Walker is available and turning 90 this October. I'm sure he'd be more lively than the current three in the booth.

15. Belle Isle Park looks beautiful. Track might not be the greatest but the Park sure looks like it makes up for it.

16. I cannot wait for race two tomorrow. Let's see if the rain holds off.

Race Two
1. Great win for Simon Pagenaud and a great win for Sam Schmidt, Ric Peterson and Davey Hamilton.

2. Great run by James Jakes finishing second.

3. Mike Conway might not have won the $50,000 bonus but I give him the best odds to win the $100,000 bonus at Toronto.

4. The drought continues for Penske and Ganassi.

5. Great day for Honda sweeping the top five and an even better weekend sweeping the two races in Chevrolet's backyard. Maybe Chevrolet should consider funding a second race weekend at Michigan International Speedway

6. Sebastián Saavedra got Dragon Racing their first top ten of the season on his birthday. Not a bad day for him at all.

7. How Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti are tied for the points lead and neither has won a race is beyond me.

8. This was not as good as race one.

9. This was a long day.

10. Lots of damage heading into Texas.

11. Texas can't come soon enough.

12. Thumbs up to the doubleheader format. Maybe it should be done at most if not all road and street course races. It would get IndyCar on television much more than it is now and the more you are on television the more of a chance you catch the eye of viewers. I guess. I don't know. I am just trying to come up with another positive for doubleheaders.

13. In all seriousness though, the doubleheader format was great and I can't wait until NBCSN gets to do Toronto and Houston.

14. IndyCar has to do something to get new life in the ABC broadcast. They can't leave ABC but at least ask them to get some new bloody announcers. Marty Reid, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear might all love IndyCar racing but I love IndyCar racing and would do a much better job. The pit reporters are fine. We can throw out names until we are blue in the face but not now. Let's focus on getting a new team for 2014.

15. I feel bad for AJ Allmendinger. He deserves a shot at another oval.

16. And now we are on to Texas. Which very well could be the best race of 2013.