Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Briscoe Out For Mid-Ohio But in Booth, Five More Laps at Mid-Ohio, No Winner for DTM at Norisring, Formula One's Sabbatical From India

IndyCar gets back on track this weekend, while other series handle appeals and future scheduling.

Briscoe Out For Mid-Ohio
Ryan Briscoe will be out for the IndyCar race this weekend at Mid-Ohio due to a broken wrist suffered in race one at Toronto. The Australian will however be in the booth this weekend. Oriol Serviá will be driving the #4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet in place of Briscoe at Mid-Ohio.  Briscoe plans on returning to racing competition on August 11th for the American Le Mans Series race at Road America. He was replaced for the July 21st race at Mosport by Mike Conway. It was not announced when or where Briscoe would return in an IndyCar

Five More Laps at Mid-Ohio
Earlier this year it was announced the race lengths of four races were being altered in hopes to reduce fuel mileage races. Mid-Ohio will be extended by five laps to ninety this year. The three other races to have lap counts altered were St. Petersburg (up ten laps to one hundred and ten), Long Beach (down five laps to eighty) and Milwaukee (up fifty laps to two hundred and fifty).

No Winner For DTM at Norisring
Canadian Robert Wickens will have to try again this weekend at Moscow Raceway for his first career win after what appeared to be his first career win at Norisring was vacated. Audi driver Mattias Ekström was the original winner of the race but was disqualified after water was poured into his pants in parc ferme. Ekström and Audi lost their appeal of the disqualification today and no winner for the Norisring race will be declared. It appeared second place finisher Wickens would be promoted as winner. Mercedes had a ten year winning streak at the famed Norisring street circuit entering this year. 

It is not the first time a race at the Norisring was declared with no winner. Last year, the first race of the Formula 3 Euro Series ended without a winner after Spaniard (and current Mercedes DTM driver) Daniel Juncadella was disqualified for contact with current DTM teammate Pascal Wehrlein and Raffaele Marciello. Second place William Buller was not promoted to the top of the podium and no winner was declared for race one. 

Formula One's Sabbatical From India
It was reported today Formula One will not return to India in 2014. The cause of the demise of the race held in the second most populated country was tax issues with Indian authorities. Bernie Ecclestone states a difference between Formula One and the Indian Grand Prix promoters, Jaypee over the date of the event was the cause for abandoning the event. Jaypee wanted the race to move to March with other Asian-Pacific races such as Australia, Malaysia and China. A return to India seems likely however, as the promoter did not want to have the race six months apart. The race appears likely to return to the Formula One calendar in early 2015. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Review: July 26-28

With this past weekend's NASCAR and Formula One race receiving enough attention, it's time to take a look at what happened in other series around the world.

The second round of the NHRA western swing took place from Sonoma Raceway and no driver will complete have the chance to sweep the western swing at Pacific Raceway in Seattle, Washington next weekend.

Shawn Langdon won his fourth race of the season at Sonoma defeating Morgan Lucas in the top fuel final and with the win, Langdon takes a one hundred and two point lead over Spencer Massey. Tony Schumacher was eliminated in round one by Massey on Sunday and is third in points. Doug Kalitta is fourth in points ahead of Antron Brown who lost to Langdon in the semifinals. Khalid alBalooshi, Clay Millican, Morgan Lucas, Bob Vandergriff, Jr. and Steve Torrence round out the top ten. David Grubnic is eleventh, one hundred and twenty-five points behind Torrence for the final spot in the Countdown.

Ron Capps took victory in funny car, his second win of the year, first since Phoenix in February. Capps defeated Del Worsham, Jeff Arend, Courtney Force and John Force on way to victory. Capps is twenty-seven points behind Matt Hagan in the point standings. Hagan lost to eventual semifinalist Alexis DeJoria in the first round. Cruz Pedregon is third ahead of John Force and Johnny Gray. Jack Beckman and Courtney Force are tied for sixth with Tim Wilkerson, Del Worsham and Robert Hight rounding out the top ten. Hight is three points ahead of Bob Tasca III for tenth. Hight defeated Tasca III in round one at Sonoma before being eliminated by DeJoria. DeJoria is twelfth in points, one hunded and forty-two points behind Hight.

Vincent Nobile won Pro Stock for the first time since race one at Ponoma. Nobile defeated Jeg Coughlin in the final round. Mike Edwards leads the points by sixty-six points over Allen Johnson. Johnson lost to Coughlin in the semifinals. Edwards lost to Nobile in the quarterfinals. Coughlin is third in points ahead of Shane Gray and Nobile. Jason Line, Greg Anderson, Erica Enders-Stevens, V. Gaines and Rodger Brogdon round out the top ten. Brogdon is two hundred and six points ahead of eleventh place Rickie Jones.

Hector Arana, Jr. took the win in Pro Stock Motorcycle at Sonoma over Matt Smith and extended his points lead over Smith to one hundred and forty-nine points. Michael Ray, Hector Arana, Sr., John Hall, Scotty Pollacheck, Eddie Krawiec, Adam Arana, Shawn Gann and Steve Johnson round out the top ten in points. Johnson in twenty-nine points ahead of LE Tonglet  for tenth. Pro Stock Motorcycle's next race is the U.S. Nationals from Indianapolis Raceway Park Labor Day weekend.

Tracy Hines won the USAC National Pavement Midget race at IRP on Saturday night. Kyle Larson, Tanner Swanson, Darren Hagan and Kyle O'Gara rounded out the top five. Hines has a six point lead over Hagan in the National Pavement Midget points standings. Next race for the National Pavement series will be August 9th at Illiana Speedway in Schererville, Indiana.

Tanner Swanson would win the Silver Crown race later Saturday night leading eighty-six laps. Kody Swanson finished second ahead of David Byrne, Chris Windom and Tracy Hines. Kody Swanson took an eleven point lead over Bobby East and thirteen point lead over Jerry Coons, Jr. Silver Crown races at the Belleville High Banks in Belleville, Kansas on August 2nd.

V8 SuperCars
Three different winners this weekend at Queensland Raceway. Jamie Whincup took race one from pole position ahead of New Zealander Scott McLaughlin and Mark Winterbottom. McLaughlin and Whincup flipped positions in race two with McLaughlin picking up his second win of the year who won earlier this year at his home race in his native New Zealand at Pukekohe Park Raceway. James Courtney finished third in race two. Race three did not go the way race one or two did for Whincup or McLaughlin. Whincup finished twenty-fifth with McLaughlin finished twentieth. Chaz Mostert won his first career V8 SuperCars race. Mostert did not compete in the first three rounds, missing the first nine races of the season. Will Davison and Winterbottom rounded out the podium.

Whincup maintains the points lead over Craig Lowndes by one hundred and twenty-nine points. Will Davison is third with Winterbottom and Fabian Coulthard rounding out the top five. V8 SuperCars next event is Winton Motor Raceway August 24th and 25th.

Andrew Ranger won the ARCA race at New Jersey Motorsports Park for the third consecutive year. The French-Canadian held off New Jersey native Tom Hessert, Chase Elliott, Will Kimball and Frank Kimball for the win. Frank Kimball has a one hundred and eighty point lead over Mason Mingus. ARCA races next at Pocono Raceway on August 2nd.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ryan Newman Wins Brickyard 400

Hoosier Ryan Newman won the Brickyard 400 from pole position, his first win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Newman led forty-five laps and a decision to take two tires on his final pit stop assured Newman getting out ahead of Jimmie Johnson for the lead. Johnson finished second after leading a race high seventy-three laps. The Chevrolets of Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart took the next two positions with Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five. This was Chevrolet's eleventh consecutive Brickyard 400 win.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished sixth after having to pit on lap twelve for a loose lug nut, dropping him one lap down. Jeff Gordon finished seventh with Joey Logano finishing eighth, the highest Ford. Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch rounded out the top ten. Martin Truex, Jr. finished eleventh after starting thirty-eighth. 2011 Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard finished twelfth ahead of Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and 2010 Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray. The Richard Petty Motorsports' Fords of Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola finished sixteenth and seventeenth with Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top twenty. Brad Keselowski finished twenty-first after leading five laps. AJ Allmendinger finished twenty-second with Mark Martin finishing twenty-third, the final car on the lead lap.

Jimmie Johnson remains the points leader, seventy-five markers ahead of Clint Bowyer. Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. round out the top five with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch in tow. Greg Biffle is eighth ahead of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets of Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Tony Stewart is eleventh, one point behind Gordon for the final guaranteed spot in the Chase. Martin Truex, Jr. is twelfth, five points behind Gordon. Stewart and Truex currently hold the wild card positions, each with one win to their names. The only other driver with a win from eleventh to twentieth is Ryan Newman, who is sixteenth in points after his win today. Newman is twenty-five points behind Gordon for tenth.

Of the drivers outside the top ten needing to win a race to have any shot at a wild card, Brad Keselowski is thirteenth, six points behind Gordon for tenth, Kurt Busch is thirteen behind Gordon, Jamie McMurray is twenty-two back of Gordon. Aric Almirola is seventeenth in points, thirty back of tenth with the only other wild card eligible drivers of Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Jeff Burton being thirty-five, thirty-nine and sixty points back of tenth respectively. The only other championship eligible driver with a win is David Ragan. He is twenty-eighth in points, one-hundred and forty-seven back of Burton.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway next weekend.

Hamilton Wins Record-Tying Fourth Hungarian Grand Prix, NASCAR at Indianapolis, Schneider's Endurance Dominance

Lewis Hamilton won a record-tying fourth Hungarian Grand Prix today, matching the mark set by seven-time World Driver's champion Michael Schumacher. This was Hamilton's first win since the United States Grand Prix last year and his first win for Mercedes. Hamilton defeated 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen by 10.9 seconds and defending world champion Sebastian Vettel by 12.4 seconds. Mark Webber climbed six positions from his starting position of tenth to finish right behind his Red Bull teammate in fourth. Fernando Alonso started and finished fifth with Romain Grosjean falling to sixth from third after a drive-through penalty for putting four wheels off course. Jenson Button picked up six positions to get seventh place ahead of Felipe Massa and his McLaren teammate Sergio Perez who finished where he started in sixth. Pastor Maldonado finished tenth, scoring his and Williams F1's first point of the season. 

Vettel extended his championship points lead to thirty-eight points over Räikkönen with Alonso thirty-nine back. Hamilton remains fourth, forty-eight behind Vettel. Webber is fifth in the standings ahead of Nico Rosberg, Massa, Grosjean, Button and Paul di Resta. With his first point of the season, Maldonado is the sixteenth driver to score this season. In the Constructors' standings, Red Bull has a sixty-nine point lead over Mercedes. Ferrari is fourteen back of the German manufacture with Lotus in fourth. Force-India is fifth, two points ahead of McLaren. Scuderia Toro Rosso is seventh ahead of Sauber and Williams. Marussia and Caterham have yet to score. 

GP2 and GP3 at Hungary
Britain's Jolyon Palmer and France's Nathanaël Berthon won the GP2 races in Hungary. Despite not scoring any points this weekend, Monaco's Stefano Coletti keeps the points lead but his gap to Brazilian Felipe Nasr is only six points. Americans Alexander Rossi and Jake Rosenzweig scored no points this weekend. Rossi finished thirteenth and sixteenth, Rosenzweig twenty-fifth and fifteenth.

In GP3, Aaro Vainio of Finland and Romanian Robert Visoiu won. Same as Coletti, Cypriot Tio Ellinas scored no points this weekend but kept the points lead, however he owns only a one point lead of Argentine Facu Regalia. Vainio, Brit Jack Harvey and Estonian Kevin Korjus are all tied for third in the standings with seventy-five points. Vainio owns the tiebreaker with two wins to Harvey's one and Korjus none. American Conor Daly is sixth in points, four off the three-way tie. Daly finished in the points in both races in Hungary. He finished second, only a little over a quarter of a second off Vainio in race one and finished eighth in race two. 

NASCAR at Indianapolis
Hoosier Ryan Newman is on pole for the Brickyard 400. It is Newman's fiftieth career pole, putting ninth on the all-time list ahead, breaking a tie with Bobby Isaac. Next to Newman will be four time winner at Indianapolis, Jimmie Johnson. Carl Edwards starts third, Ford has not won at Indianapolis since Dale Jarrett in 1999. Chevrolet has won the last ten races at Indianapolis, with Bill Elliott winning in a Dodge in 2002 being the last time another manufacture won. Denny Hamlin starts fourth driving a Toyota. Toyota has one win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That was the 2003 Indianapolis 500 when Gil de Ferran won driving for Penske Racing. Two-time winner at Indianapolis Tony Stewart starts fifth ahead of Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, four-time winner at Indianapolis Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose. 

Penske Racing's two entries start eleventh and twelfth with Joey Logano ahead of Brad Keselowski. Matt Kenseth starts thirteenth ahead of AJ Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Other notable drivers: Kyle Busch starts nineteenth, Kevin Harvick twenty-fourth and Mark Martin twenty-sixth.

Yesterday, Kyle Busch held off Brian Scott and Joey Logano to win the Nationwide Series race. Austin Dillon jumped from third to the points lead, six ahead of Regan Smith and thirteen ahead of Elliott Sadler. Sam Hornish fell to fourth from the points lead, fourteen back of Dillon. Brian Vickers is fifth in the standings.

Bernd Schneider's Endurance Dominance
Five-time DTM champion and Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider has had a dominant year in endurance races in 2013. The forty-nine year old German driver won the 24 Hours of Spa earlier today with co-drivers Maximilian Götz and Maximilian Buhk, it's Schneider's fourth win in races twelve hours or longer in 2013 alone. He won the 24 Hours of Dubai in January, the Bathurst 12 Hours in February and Nürburgring 24 Hours in May. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Formula One Qualifying, GP2 and GP3, IndyCar's New Additions, Grand-Am at Indy, NASCAR at Indy

It has been a busy final weekend of July with the capital cities of Indiana and Hungary playing host to two of the biggest racing series in the world and their support divisions.

Formula One Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton took his third consecutive pole this morning, beating Sebastian Vettel by thirty-eight thousandths of a second. Hamilton is the defending champion of the Hungarian Grand Prix and looks for a record-tying fourth win in Hungary tomorrow. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was third fastest with Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg fourth. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Felipe Massa was seventh ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Scuderia Toro Rosso, McLaren's Sergio Perez and Mark Webber.

Force India's Adrian Sutil just missed out on the top ten and will start eleventh ahead of fellow German Nico Hülkenberg. Two-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button starts thirteenth ahead of Jean-Éric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas. Paul di Resta failed to make it out of Q1 with Esteban Gutiérrez, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. NBCSN's coverage of the Hungarian Grand Prix begins at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow.

GP2 and GP3
Russian Time driver, Frenchman Tom Dillman will start on pole for today's GP2 race. This is the Frenchman's first pole of the GP2 season. His Russian Time teammate Sam Bird was slated to start second but was given a three spot penalty for impeding Spaniard Sergio Canamasas in qualifying. Fabio Leimer, Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were each promoted one position after Bird's penalty. GP2 points leader, Stefan Coletti of Monaco will start eighteenth. The two American drivers on the grid Alexander Rossi and Jake Rosenzweig will start ninth and sixteenth respectively.

For the GP3 race, Finland's Aaro Vainio took the pole position after beating American Conor Daly by 0.176 seconds. It is Vainio's first pole of the season. On row two will be the Russian Daniil Kvyat and Estonian Kevin Korjus with British drivers Jack Harvey, Lewis Williamson and Melville McKee taking the next three positions. Carlos Sainz, Jr. will start eighth ahead of the top two drivers in the championship standings Facu Regalia of Argentina and Tio Ellinas of Cyprus. Ellinas leads Regalia by nineteen points in the championship.

IndyCar's New Additions
Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing both announced new drivers yesterday. Let's start with BHA as this was expected. Alex Tagliani has been removed from his seat behind the #98 Honda and has been replaced by the Italian Luca Filippi. However, Tagliani will remain under contract with BHA for the remainder of 2013. Filippi, 27, has spend the better part of seven years racing in GP2, winning six races over his time in the Formula One feeder series and finished second in the 2011 GP2 champion to current Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean. Filippi will test the car on July 30th at Mid-Ohio where he is expected to make his IndyCar debut. JR Hildebrand is the favorite to drive the car at Sonoma with the final four races of the season still to be determined.

The surprising news from yesterday was the announcement Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will expand to two cars for Sonoma with veteran driver Lucas Luhr of Germany making his IndyCar debut. Luhr currently drives for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in the American Le Mans Series and the defending champion of the LMP1 class. Luhr and his German co-driver Kluas Graf are in great position to double-up and win the final LMP1 championship in American sports car racing for the near future as the German duo have a commanding lead over the only other full-time LMP1 team in ALMS, Dyson Racing.

Luhr's racing résumé includes two GT class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, five GT/GT2 class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 2001 GT class winner and second overall at the 24 Hours of Daytona, overall winner of the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring and Spa, two-time ALMS LMP1 class champion including one with Audi in 2008, 2006 ALMS LMP2 class champion driving for Porsche and Penske Racing, three time ALMS GT class champion and 2011 FIA GT1 World Champion driving for Nissan. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will partner with USAC team RW Motorsports to field Luhr's car. RW Motorsports currently field Jerry Coons, Jr., Chris Windom, Bobby Santos III, Kyle O'Gara and Kevin Thomas, Jr. across the three divisions of USAC.

With the formation of United SportsCar Racing, it will be interesting if Luhr's one-off is a sign of the future and a potential move of Pickett Racing to IndyCar, Pickett Racing owner, Greg Pickett has already made it clear he will not run a Daytona Prototype in 2014. Pickett has been running an LMP1 car since 2011. Pickett uses Honda power in ALMS and Luhr's one-off could be Pickett dipping his toe to test the waters for 2014. The other LMP1 team in ALMS, Dyson Racing has not announced plans for 2014, although it appears the team will either run in the combined prototype class in USCR or move to LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The two full-time LMP2 teams in ALMS both use Honda power including Extreme Speed Motorsports, which is owned by 1996 co-IRL champion Scott Sharp.

Grand-Am at Indy
Starworks Motorsports and Alex Popow doubled-up and won the Brickyard Grand Prix for the second consecutive year. This year Popow won with his Scottish co-driver Ryan Dalziel. With the victory, Popow and Dalziel takes the points lead, ten markers ahead of the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing's duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty. Wayne Taylor Racing's Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor dropped to third in the standings, nineteen back of Popow and Dalziel. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished second in the Brickyard Grand Prix and in doing so won the North American Endurance Championship by two points over João Barbosa.

In GT, Max Papis and Jeff Segal took the victory over John Edwards and Robin Liddell who took the GT North American Endurance Championship. Andy Lally and John Potter finished third retained their points lead, but only four up on the pairing of Edwards and Liddell.

NASCAR at Indy
The 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya led NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice over 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and recent winner of the Truck race at Eldora, Austin Dillon. 2011 Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard was fourth with Kasey Kahne rounding out the top five. Other notables were Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in tenth, Brad Keselowski twelfth, Jimmie Johnson thirteenth, Jeff Gordon twenty-first and Tony Stewart twenty-fifth.

In Nationwide practice, Kyle Larson led the first session with Brian Vickers fastest in final practice.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Forty-Three Years Later, Why IndyCar Should Return to IRP

It was nearly forty-three years between Richard Petty winning on the dirt at State Fairgrounds Speedway in Raleigh, North Carolina and Austin Dillon winning the next NASCAR national touring series dirt race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Today marks the forty-third anniversary of the last time IndyCar turned laps at the road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park with Al Unser taking the one-hundred and fifty mile event over Mark Donohue and Gordon Johncock. According to those who were around at that time (Robin Miller), the race was unpopular, not drawing a respectable crowd despite taking place just a few minutes from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which drew 200,000 just two months prior. Despite failing over four decades ago and recent events involving race movement, IndyCar should consider returning to IRP but this time to race the short track.

When the announcement was made that NASCAR Nationwide Series was going to leave IRP, a track that played host to NASCAR's second division since it's inaugural season in 1982, it ended a staple event to not only the Nationwide calendar but to the delicate fabric of a local short track. With the Nationwide Series race leaving, NASCAR and the track were not able to maintain the Friday night Truck Series show and in 2012 the track did not host a NASCAR sanctioned event for the first time in over thirty years. Last year, IRP hosted an ARCA race on the Friday night of the Brickyard 400 weekend but it did not come close to drawing the terrific crowds Raceway Park brought out for the Trucks and Nationwide Series. The track now hosts USAC Silver Crown and Midget car races on Saturday night that could be labelled "The Night Before the Brickyard."

USAC is a great option for Raceway Park and they should maintain their place during Brickyard weekend. But things have changed so much over the past four decades that an IndyCar show at Indianapolis Raceway Park could match the crowds of the Nationwide shows. With all the talk about an IndyCar race on the IMS road course, a race on the IRP oval makes more sense. The IMS road course is notorious for poor racing for everything but MotoGP (but you could race MotoGP in your basement and they'd put on a helluva of show) and short track races have produced some of the best racing for IndyCar all-time, regardless of the era. IndyCar has been struggling for more oval races in the last few years and this would be a perfect pick up for IndyCar as most of the teams get another home race. Indianapolis is the biggest market for IndyCar hands down and should a second race be added, why not give it to Raceway Park, who lost it's biggest two events to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

A one-day show for IndyCar the Friday or Saturday night of Brickyard weekend, I think, could only benefit the series. With the Speedway hosting sports car races on Friday and a Nationwide race Saturday, IndyCar would have to make sure to avoid scheduling events head-to-head and allow for fans to attend both if they choose to do so. A Friday night show could only happen if either the sports car race ended by six o'clock (they currently don't begin until 5:30 p.m.) or they are moved sports cars to Saturday with the Nationwide race. Moving the races to Saturday is near impractical and the sports cars should stay on Friday. Saturday night would make more sense if IndyCar were to ever race at IRP during Brickyard weekend. The Speedway could move the start of the Nationwide race up to 1:00 p.m. from 4:30 p.m, leaving plenty of time for fans to get from the Speedway to Raceway Park.

Many point to the 0.686 mile IRP oval as being too tight for IndyCar but I disagree. If the pit lane can hold forty-three stock cars, there should be no problem pitting twenty-four IndyCars. IRP doesn't have any permanent garage area or paddock but if IndyCar was running a one-day show, that wouldn't be a problem. I don't think the race track is too tight for racing (but what do I know?). I think IndyCar shouldn't be as scared to take chances on certain events. It may be difficult to pass but it couldn't be all that tougher than Iowa or Milwaukee, both of which are popular events.

With NBC taking over the back half of the NASCAR schedule starting in 2015, a racing weekend in the Indianapolis-area, full of every series on the NBC family of networks maybe something the series and network should try. And, with the door open to United SportsCar Racing landing on NBC, a weekend that featured five series, competing on two tracks in the same area, all on the same networks might be a great television event for NBC and NBC Sports Net.

Since reunification, IndyCar has strengthen it's fan base, especially in the Indianapolis-area and a second race during the summer, with affordable tickets that can bring back the atmosphere once hallowed at Raceway Park would only be a plus, especially with all the NASCAR and sports car teams and drivers in town. However, this is just a pipe dream. USCR still doesn't have a TV deal. The stars haven't aligned and it doesn't look like it is in the cards for an IndyCar race to take place at IRP but I don't think it should be completely dismissed. But as of now, IRP will have USAC on Saturday night and an IndyCar race is nowhere in sight.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Today in Racing News

Lots of news to cover for a Thursday in July so let's get right to it.

Dillon Wins at Eldora
For the first time in nearly forty-three years, a NASCAR national touring division raced on a dirt track and it happened to be Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Full-time Nationwide Series driver and 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Austin Dillon took the 150-lap* feature event with full-time Nationwide Series driver and 2011 4-Crown Nationals champion Kyle Larson finishing second with full-time Sprint Cup Series driver and 1999 USAC Silver Crown champion Ryan Newman in third. Championship eligible Truck Series drivers took six of the top ten including fourth through eighth with Joey Coulter, Brendan Gaughan, Timothy Peters, Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Matt Crafton with 1984 USAC Silver Crown champion and 1995 World of Outlaws champion and Ohio-native Dave Blaney in ninth and Max Gresham rounding out the top ten. Pole sitter Ken Schrader led fifteen laps before finishing fourteenth. 

Matt Crafton holds on to the points lead and is forty-eight markers up on Jeb Burton. James Buescher is third, fifty-one markers back, Ty Dillon fourth, fifty-six markers back with Crafton's ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter tied for fifth with Timothy Peters, seventy-three points back. Sauter owns the tiebreaker over Peters with two wins to one. The Truck Series will be on the track again on August 3rd at Pocono Raceway.

*- Race went 153 laps due to a green-white-checkered finish.

Davison to Debut at Mid-Ohio
Australian and runner-up in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship James Davison will make his IndyCar debut at Mid-Ohio on August 4th for Dale Coyne Racing. Davison will become the fourth different driver to get behind the wheel of the #18 Coyne Honda in 2013. Davison has won twice at Mid-Ohio in Indy Lights competition and both wins came from pole position. Davison tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Mid-Ohio on June 24th of this year. This appears to be just a one-off for Davison as Mike Conway will race the doubleheader at Houston and Pippa Mann racing at Fontana. Former Panther Racing driver and the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion JR Hildebrand is the rumored driver for Sonoma with two-time Indy Lights race winner Stefan Wilson, brother of Justin Wilson, rumored to be the driver for Baltimore. Neither Hildebrand nor Wilson have been confirmed. 

Possible Change at Barracuda/Herta Autosport
It has been rumored Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport will be making a driver change for Mid-Ohio and possibly for the rest of 2013. Current driver, French-Canadian Alex Tagliani has had a rough 2013 season with only two top tens with them coming in race one at St. Petersburg and the most recent race at Toronto. In the eleven races between top tens for Tagliani, his average finish was 19.36 with six finishes of twentieth or worse. No change has officially been made but all reported signs point to the team hiring a driver who has never made an IndyCar start and is a "young Italian." GP2 race winner and runner-up in the 2011 GP2 Series championship Luca Filippi is the favorite to land the seat. Filippi was rumored to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2012, starting in the Indianapolis 500, however that deal never came through. The last Italian-born driver to compete in an IndyCar race was Giorgio Pantano substituting for an injured Charlie Kimball at Mid-Ohio last year. 

Bryan Herta Autosport also looks to bring a new driver to Indy Lights to Mid-Ohio. The team tested Zimbabwean Axcil Jefferies earlier this week. Jefferies last competed in the now defunct FIA Formula Two Championship where he ran the final five rounds of the championship, finish twelfth in the championship standings and best finish was seventh at Spa-Francorchamps. 

Vautier Racing at Mid-Ohio a Week Earlier
IndyCar doesn't race at Mid-Ohio until August 4th but IndyCar Rookie of the Year contender Tristan Vautier will race there this weekend in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series. The Frenchman has never raced at Mid-Ohio before and is doing this for extra seat time. Three other drivers on the F1600 grid have IndyCar connections. Americans Sam Chastain and Adrian Starrantino and Norweigian Ayla Agren race for Bryan Herta Autosport. The 2012 Skip Barber Summer Series and Winter Series champion Jake Eidson leads the F1600 points standings with Aaron Telitz second, fifteen points behind. 

Brickyard Grand Prix
Tomorrow will be the second running of the Rolex Sports Car Series Brickyard Grand Prix form Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Wayne Taylor Racing and Starworks Motorsport are tied for the championship lead with 194 points with co-winner of the last two races Christian Fittipaldi third, four points back, the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing entry fourth, five points back, João Barbosa, co-winner of the last two races, sixth, six points back and the Ganassi Racing entry seventh twelve points back. 

The Brickyard Grand Prix is the third and final round of the North American Endurance Championship. Barbosa leads his Action Express co-driver Fittipaldi by three points with the Ganassi duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas six back, 8Star Motorsports drivers Michael Valiante and Stephane Sarrazin seven back and Max Angellelli and Jordan Taylor eight back. 

Indianapolis will bring out a few bigger names from the world of racing. 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan will team with Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters driver, American Joey Hand in a second Ganassi Racing entry. Sébastien Bourdais will run a second entry for 8Star Motorsport with Venezuelan Emilio DiGuida. Bourdais won the Brickyard Grand Prix last year with Alex Popow. AJ Allmendinger returns to Indianapolis after finishing seventh in his first career Indianapolis 500 start just two months ago. He teams with Gustavo Yacaman and Michael Shank Racing. Rubens Barrichello returns to Indianapolis and for the first time to run the road course since the 2007 United States Grand Prix. Barrichello will team with Doran Racing's Doug Peterson. In eight United States Grand Prix starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barrichello has one victory, four podiums, a pole position and five points paying finishes. 

On the GT side, defending Brickyard Grand Prix winners John Potter and Andy Lally lead the championship standings by six points over John Edwards and Robin Liddell. In the North American Endurance Championship standings, Edwards and Liddell lead Anthony Lazzaro and Emil Assentato by two points and Bill Auberlen by four. The Brickyard Grand Prix will be Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET with SPEED showing the race at 7:30 p.m.

Austria Returns to the Formula One Calendar
Starting in 2014, Formula One will return to the homeland of Niki Lauda. Austria will return to the Formula One calendar for the first time since 2003. The once Österreichring and A1-Ring now-named Red Bull Ring will play host to a round tentatively scheduled for July 6th. The track is owned by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and has hosted a DTM race since 2011 and a European Le Mans Series race just took place their last Saturday. Austria is the third different race scheduled to join the Formula One calendar in 2014. The Grand Prix of America set to take place on the streets of Weehawken and West New York, New Jersey and the Russian Grand Prix set to take places on the streets of Sochi, Russia are tentatively on the 2014 schedule along with all 2013 rounds except for Suzuka, who has yet to sign a deal for 2014. Formula One races this weekend at Austria's neighbor to the east, Hungary. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why NASCAR's Move to NBC Benefits All Other NBC Racing Properties

Some see yesterday's announcement that NASCAR will be moving to NBC Sports Group in 2015 as a shot in the back to NBC's other racing properties, mostly IndyCar, but it isn't. NASCAR's move to NBC cements the networks interest in motor racing and will strengthen the other series on the network.

NASCAR has the reputation of being a bully when it comes to television coverage. On SPEED, NASCAR took over, knocking out coverage of many other forms of motorsports and taking priority for even something as minute as a practice session. NASCAR has the nightly television shows covering every detail while all of form of motorsports are jammed into the whatever NASCAR did not use on the Sunday night editions of SpeedCenter and Wind Tunnel and not mentioned again on the network during the week. With SPEED on it's death bed, it's hard to put it any other way than NASCAR took over the network and made it their own.

However, I think NBC will not be the same. Yes, NBC Sports Group has the rights to practice and qualifying but don't expect them to go over board. With online coverage of sports expanding, it wouldn't be crazy to think practice sessions could be streamed if there is a scheduling conflict. NBC has many more properties that aren't racing series. I don't think NBCSN will preempt a National Hockey League game, a Major League Soccer or English Premier League match for a NASCAR practice.

While NASCAR will air twenty Sprint Cup races, nineteen Nationwide races and other races from the regional touring divisions, there is still plenty of room for IndyCar and Formula One on NBC and NBCSN. The network will not purposely schedule NASCAR and IndyCar races at the same time. Although, ESPN and ABC does now, I hope they will try to make the most of their properties. Hypothetically, you could have a full day of Formula One in the morning, IndyCar in the early afternoon and NASCAR in the late afternoon or NASCAR at 3:00 p.m., IndyCar at 7:00 p.m. with a Formula One race at 1 a.m. the next morning. What a dream for race fans. Not to mention the possibility of United SportsCar Racing heading to NBC as well. If anything, with NBC taking over NASCAR majority of the NASCAR races, there can finally be a liaison that I recommended about a month ago to communicate between NASCAR, IndyCar and NBC to makes sure races do not conflict with one another.

Since acquiring IndyCar and Formula One, NBC has brought in the most professional individuals for the broadcasts. From Bob Jenkins in the beginning of their IndyCar coverage to Will Buxton, NBC has brought in the right people and I expect the same for NASCAR. Allen Bestwick has worked for the network before and will be a free agent after 2014. Dale Jarrett is a great color commentator and should be considered by NBC. The big questions will be the ESPN lifers Jerry Punch, Mike Massaro, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Craven, Vince Welch and Jaime Little to name a few. Punch, Welch and Little all work the Indianapolis 500 with Little and Welch working all IndyCar races on ABC but will they stay around just for a handful of races? Will NBC bring in the same amount of people ESPN has covering the races? Even NBC has two different crews for IndyCar and Indy Lights. It wouldn't be tough to see NBC has a Sprint Cup TV crew and a Nationwide TV crew with maybe one or two crossovers. NBC has cross pollinated with Formula One and IndyCar this year. We've seen David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Will Buxton all cover IndyCar races in 2013 and Hobbs covered NASCAR races back in the CBS days including the 1979 Daytona 500, the first NASCAR race shown live flag-to-flag. I don't see why they couldn't bring one if not all those guys to a NASCAR race or two over the season.

As long as NBC avoids the pitfalls SPEED made, NASCAR will only enhance the other racing properties shown on the NBC family of networks. Should sports cars be added, NBC will have the king's ransom of motorsports in the United States. IndyCar and Formula One fans should welcome NASCAR but it is understandable why they are pessimistic about NASCAR moving to NBC. Let's hope NBC doesn't put their eggs all in one basket and give each a fair share of the coverage.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

IndyCar's Finest Years: Twenty Years Apart

Six different winners from three teams. Sixteen races, ten on road and street courses, six ovals, only three wins by Americans. A rookie champion from across the pond. You would think this was a recent season, probably right after the merger when Ganassi and Penske dominated with an occasional win by Andretti-Green. In fact it was prior to the split and was the famed 1993 season, the pinnacle for IndyCar.

Defending World Drivers' champion Nigel Mansell left Williams F1 to join Newman-Haas and replace Michael Andretti who went to McLaren. Mansell joined fellow world champions Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi on the grid along with Indianapolis 500 winners Bobby Rahal, Arie Luyendyk, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser, Jr.; young up and coming talent such as Paul Tracy, Robby Gordon, Jimmy Vasser and experienced veterans Raul Boesel, Scott Goodyear, Teo Fabi, Roberto Guerrero, Scott Brayton, Eddie Cheever and Stefan Johansson.

The international, star-filled field was complimented with a diverse schedule heading to three different countries. The street races were highlighted by Surfers Paradise, Long Beach, Exhibition Place and Vancouver with the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland producing one of the best races you will ever see. There were only four permanent road course, Portland, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca. Indianapolis Motor Speedway headlined the oval schedule with Michigan International Speedway hosting a second five-hundred mile race and four one mile ovals Phoenix, Milwaukee, Nazareth and the recently opened New Hampshire International Speedway.

Mansell came in and dominated race one of his IndyCar career at Surfers Paradise but he would not win another road or street course event in IndyCar. Mansell missed Phoenix with a back injury and his teammate Mario Andretti went on to win what would be his final career race. After losing the lead in the Indianapolis 500 on a late restart Mansell finished third in his first career oval race. The remaining four ovals all went to Mansell, who had never raced on an oval prior to 1993. A win at Nazareth clinched the title for Mansell with a race to spare.

A lot of other notable wins came in 1993. Paul Tracy would pick up his first career win at Long Beach. Emerson Fittipaldi got by Mansell late at Indianapolis and held off Luyendyk to pick up his second career Indianapolis 500 victory. Along with Andretti's final career win at Indianapolis, Danny Sullivan won his final career race at Belle Isle. Al Unser, Jr. won at Vancouver of what would be his first of three consecutive wins on the streets of the seaport city. Tracy picked up four more wins in 1993 including Cleveland and his home race of Toronto.

Indianapolis featured a few surprises. AJ Foyt retired on pole day in front of a packed crowd. Defending IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal missed the thirty-three car field and was the second alternate. Al Unser, Kevin Cogan and Geoff Brabham all made their final Indianapolis 500 start in 1993 and Nelson Piquet returned to the Speedway one year after a terrible accident, qualified and made his one and only career start in the famed race and IndyCar. He finished thirty-second after completing thirty-eight laps.

Many notable drivers made their debut in the 1993 season. Future champion Scott Sharp made his debut in the final race at Laguna Seca. Robbie Buhl made ten starts in 1993 and finished sixth in his third career race at Long Beach. Adrián Fernández made his debut at Long Beach and finished seventh in his third career start at Belle Isle. Mauricio Gugelmin made his debut as did Mark Smith who finished ninth at Phoenix in his second career start but failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. David Kudrave finished a career best eighth on debut at Phoenix, did not attempt to qualify for Indianapolis and only picked up one more top ten in his career. Even better from that Phoenix race in 1993 was that Hiro Matsushita rounded out the top ten.

Andrea Montermini finished fourth in his second career start at Belle Isle. The co-overall winner of the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans Bertrand Gachot of Belgium (though born in Luxembourg and raced under the French flag in Formula One) made his only career start in 1993. He finished twelfth at Toronto. Gary Brabham and Andrea Chiesa made their debuts at Surfers Paradise. Chiesa only completed two laps and never competed again in IndyCar. The son of three-time World Driver's champion Jack Brabham finished fourteenth becoming the first Australian to compete in the IndyCar race on the Gold Coast. He would return to race one more time at Surfers Paradise in 1994 where he completed only ten laps.

The 1993 season featured the powerful Cosworth and Chevrolet engines of the time period. The beautiful Lola and Penske chassis. Not to mention the Penske PC-23 with it's Mercedes-Benz 500I engine were a year away from destroying the competition at Indianapolis. Honda was two years away from coming on the scene and Toyota was three away. Reynard would join the series in 1994 and Dallara was three years away from introducing their first generation IndyCar in the IRL.

There is no doubt 1993 was a great year and arguably it was IndyCar's finest season. But is 2013 better? Twenty years later there are three more races, though in the forms of doubleheaders. The amount of ovals are the same. The defending champion is an American driver. This season we have seen eight different drivers win a race, two more than won in 1993 and there are still six races to go. Those eight winners have come from seven different teams including Dale Coyne Racing who had only one top ten in 1993. The eight winners have come from seven different countries including IndyCar's host nations the United States and Canada, the stalwarts the United Kingdom and Brazil, and New Zealand, France and for the first time ever, a winner from Japan. Of the thirteen teams on grid each weekend, all but one has won a race.

Chevrolet is back and has a good back-and-forth battle with Honda week in and week out. Dallara produces the only chassis, the DW12 but despite the lack of competition, the racing has never been better. The pack racing of the mid-2000s is gone and the drivers are driving cars that are a handful on ovals. The engine displacement is smaller and the turbo levels aren't as high as some would like but the racing has been phenomenal.

There have been some race track causalities over the last twenty years. Gone are Surfers Paradise, Cleveland, Road America, Portland, Laguna Seca and Vancouver are gone. New Hampshire came back for one season and decided not to renew it's contract a year before the DW12 came to fruition. Nazareth has been reclaimed by mother nature. Michigan and Phoenix are gone but over the past eighteen months both have been mentioned as possibility returning, as well as Road America, with Road America and Phoenix probably closer to returning than Michigan if any are to return at all. The ten tracks to come on the schedule over the last twenty years include a trip to São Paulo instead of Surfers, a 7/8 of a mile oval in Iowa, a return to Pocono which seemed impossible as little as three years ago and Texas Motor Speedway has been a good partner with IndyCar since the track opened in 1997. Fontana opened in 1997 as well and has had an on-and-off relationship with IndyCar all that time that's currently on.

Sonoma has replaced Laguna Seca as IndyCar's stop to Northern California. While the Pacific Northwest lost it's two races, the Southeast has picked up two races, one on the streets of St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park just outside of Birmingham, Alabama and both are popular venues. Cleveland was a fan favorite event that produced some of the all-time great races. Sadly that race is gone and may never come back but the Baltimore Grand Prix has had two great crowds in it's two runnings and brings together IndyCar fans from all across the Atlantic region. Houston is on the schedule for the first time since 2007 and has a lot of promise since it is a doubleheader and has great backing coming from Shell/Pennzoil.

There are a lot of things about 1993 that are missed but 2013 isn't all that bad if you think about. Sure, it sucks IndyCar doesn't go to Cleveland and Road America. If New Hampshire, Michigan and Phoenix were currently on the schedule, IndyCar would have a great array of ovals and the fans would get to see more of the great racing they produce. Sure the schedule is just a bit off, (IndyCar has two, two week breaks and a full month off and they were off when NASCAR's top division was off) but that can be fixed. We have an American champion in Ryan Hunter-Reay. The name Andretti is back at the front of the grid while the Rahal name is struggling, he's showed some speed and has promise. Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden are two popular American drivers, Canada has a hero in James Hinchcliffe. Though the grid features many international drivers, almost all, if not all are fan friendly and are great additions to the grid. Unqualified ride buyers are few and far between with the grid full of talented drivers. The ladder system is working better than ever with many good drivers in the pipeline including non-North American drivers Carlos Muñoz, Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves and Diego Ferreira; Canadians Scott Hargrove, Garrett Grist, Zach Meyer and Matthew Di Leo; and Americans Sage Karam, Zach Veach, Spencer Pigot, Scott Anderson and Neil Alberico.

Trust me, there are plenty of things where IndyCar has taken a step back in the past twenty years. Is IndyCar making as much money as it was twenty years ago? No. Better television ratings? No. More television coverage? No. Recognizable by the average American public? No. Better marketing? No. The series has been struggling but IndyCar and open-wheel racing is at just as good a point today as it was in 1993. IndyCar's product just needs to be made known. Unfortunately there is no easy way to do that and more importantly, there is no easy way to get people to follow something they have no prior knowledge of. It would be easy but it is not impossible for IndyCar to turn some heads.

Twenty years later, despite the split and the bad feelings afterward, despite falling out of the public eye and losing many favorite venues, IndyCar is having one of it's finest years ever.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekend Review

Though IndyCar and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series were off, their was plenty racing for one to consume this weekend.

Moto GP
Spaniard Marc Márquez became the first rookie to ever win at Laguna Seca in Moto GP. The Spaniard held off German Stefan Brandl who scored his first Moto GP career podium the day after he scored his first career Moto GP pole. Valentino Rossi finished third after battling with Álvaro Bautista. The injured riders Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo finished fifth and sixth respectively. Cal Crutchlow finished seventh with American Nicky Hayden finishing eighth ahead of his Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Héctor Barberá rounded out the top ten ahead of Alex de Angelis who substituted for the injured Ben Spies and Colin Edwards finished twelfth.

Márquez has a sixteen point lead over his Honda teammate Pedrosa, a twenty-six point lead over Lorenzo and a forty-six point lead over Rossi. The Moto GP guys will have three weeks off but will return to the States for the Indianapolis Grand Prix at Indianapoolis Motor Speedway.

American Le Mans
North of the border, Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf extended Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's winning streak to four with a win at Mosport. The LMP2 winning #551 Level 5 Motorsport entry of Scott Tucker and Marino Franchitti finished second overall ahead of the #01 Extreme Speed Motorsport entry of Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo. The #552 Level 5 Motorsport entry of Mike Conway and Tucker finished third in class. Conway was substituting for the injured Ryan Briscoe.

The SRT Vipers were in great position for their first class win since returning to competition last year but fell short as the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner picked up their second win of the season. The #91 Viper of Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens finished second ahead of their teammates, the #93 Viper of Jonathan Bomarito and Canadian Kuno Wittmer who sat on GT pole position for this race. The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished fourth ahead of championship rivals, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMWs of Dirk Müller and Joey Hand.

Jonathan Bennett and Colin Braun won in the PC class with Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen winning the GTC class. The American Le Mans Series will have two weeks off before heading to Road America on August 11.

World Superbike
Marco Melandri won race one of the World Superbike weekend at Moscow Raceway. It's Melandri's third win of the season. Chaz Davies made it a BMW 1-2 with his first podium since sweeping the weekend at Aragón in April with Ayrton Badovini scoring his first podium of season with a third place finish. It was also Ducati's first podium of the season. Honda's Jonathan Rea and Aprilia's Michel Fabrizio rounded out the top five with Sylvain Guintoli finishing sixth to retake the points lead from Tom Sykes who retired from the event. Race two was cancelled after Andrea Antonelli was fatally injured in the World Supersport race. The World Supersport race was abandoned following the accident. World Superbike will be back on track in a fortnight at Silverstone.

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Though the Cup series was off, Joey Logano took part in the Nationwide race at Chicagoland and won with Penske teammate Sam Hornish, Jr. finishing second and taking the points lead from Regan Smith. Austin Dillon finished third with Elliott Sadler in fourth. Sadler's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brian Vickers finished fifth with Parker Kligerman in sixth. Trevor Bayne finished seventh with three Chevrolets, Justin Allgaier, Brad Sweet and Matt Crafton rounding out the top ten. Regan Smith finished thirteenth.

Hornish has a seven point lead over Smith with Dillon only eight back. Sadler is twenty back with Allagier twnety-two back in fifth. The Nationwide Series will race next Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Indiana Sprint Week concluded on Saturday night when the final race at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt Speedway was rained out. Brian Clauson won the final two races on Thursday and Friday at Lincoln Park and Bloomington to take the Indiana Sprint Week title from Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas, Jr. Thomas won the second, third and fourth races at Kokomo, Lawrencebrug and Terre Haute. Jon Stanbrough won the first race at Gas City. While taking the Indiana Sprint Week title, Clauson also took the USAC National Sprint points lead by seven over Dave Darland. Thomas is third in points with Bacon and Chase Stockton rounding out the top five.

Sprint cars are off until August 6th at Southern Iowa Speedway but the Silver Crown and Midget division hit the track this Saturday night at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Pro Mazda
Matthew Brabham's winning streak in Pro Mazda was snapped on Saturday at Mosport. The American-Australian finished third in race one behind American Spencer Pigot and Shelby Blackstock. Race two saw Blackstock picked up his first career win in Pro Mazda with fellow American Scott Anderson finishing second and Diego Ferreria rounding out the podium. Pigot finished fourth and Brabham was taken out in race two after making contact with Nicolas Costa.

Brabham still leads the championship by fifty-one points over Ferreria and is seventy markers clear of Blackstock. Pigot is fourth in points with Scott Anderson rounding out the top five. Pro Mazda returns in a fortnight when the series goes to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in a weekend that will feature all four levels of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Saw Turbo Today...

Spoiler Alert: Do Not Continuing Reading If You Have Yet To See Turbo and Want To!

And it was a very nice movie. Was it the greatest racing movie I had ever seen? No. Best animated? No. Would I recommend it to others? Yes I would.

As I said prior, Turbo was it's own racing movie. The movie features human emotions about racing portrayed through snail. It features the ignorance of some, who see oval racing as only left turn after left turn and as easy as can be. It features the passionate love fans share for the Indianapolis 500 and the heart-pounding nerves the race can cause regardless of year, chassis, engines and drivers competing in the race.

The storyline development starts like most children films. One has a dream unconceivable to others, he is doubted and doubted and mocked for his fantasy and ultimately causes harm and is ultimately forced into exile for his actions. He meets a fellow character who shares or believes in his dream and will support him all the way. Finally comes the moment of truth where the hero's dream is going to come to fruition. The hero has a rival to compete with and ultimately there is the dream coming true (in this case, the Indianapolis 500).

Where the movie loses me and this isn't just the case with Turbo but many movies coming out of Hollywood today is the end. The script writers are trying to write the unscriptable ending. They are trying to write Manchester City coming back from two down in the final four minutes to win the English Premier League title. They are trying to write Boise State over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. They are trying to write the human will stories that can only be seen in the moment. They are not something you can write, they can only be lived. Turbo's final twelve minutes is Hollywood trying too hard. If anything, they tried to take the final lap of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 to the next level and, as with the Manchester City and Boise State examples, they tried to script the unscriptable. Not to mention the final moments do resemble the final moments in a racing movie Will Ferrell starred in. The writers should have created a natural ending that is reasonable for an auto race. I am not saying create a dull finish where the leader wins by nearly a lap or a race ending under full course caution but an exciting finish that is realistic. If they had to choice a real race finish to recreate for the film, they should have looked to the 1982 Indianapolis 500 or the end to the 2007 IRL race at Chicagoland.

Now, does an everyday person have the same critical approach to the end of the film as I do? Hell no. Do my years of watching races and seeing how they end cloud my ability to take an already unrealistic movie and not be critical of how unrealistic the finish to race was? Hell yes. Overall, it was a good movie. I wish the end was more believable but if others took it for what it was worth and enjoyed it, who am I to be critical? It was a good film and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and if you haven't seen it, don't let my words sway you from not going. Go and enjoy it.

Off To See Turbo Today

For the first time since Driven (God how bad that was), there is a movie out featuring the open-wheel, high speed machines known as IndyCars . While not it's not Winning starring legends such as Paul Newman, Joanna Woodward and Robert Wagner, it's a playful, anthropomorphic tale of a snail's love for racing and dream to competed in the Indianapolis 500. 

A lot of pressure has been put on this movie by IndyCar fans to be the tool to introduce IndyCar to young children and return the fan base to it's grand size during the 1990s. I am pretty sure it won't do that. It's only a movie. I doubt a child of age six or seven is going to watch this movie and go home can't waiting to see Mid-Ohio in two weeks. They will be more interested in the talking snail who will not be racing at Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Fontana, Iowa or Indianapolis because he's not real. I hate to sound pessimistic but this movie is not going bring an additional 60,000 people to Fontana for the season finale. This movie will not double the Indy Lights grid and give them a TV package showing all the races live. Those are things IndyCar has to work on. Better marketing, better sponsor activation, drawing more eyeballs to the races on television, Turbo won't magically make all those things happen. That's IndyCar's job. But, Turbo is a great way to show a child IndyCar, something they may have never seen before. 

From all I have heard, the movie sounds like it respects the track, the race, it's history and the drivers who compete. DreamWorks wanted to make a movie as realistic as possible and hired Dario Franchitti as a consultant, not a bad choice. This movie won't be Grand Prix, where we see James Garner and Yves Montand getting in their cars for the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch right next to Jimmy Clark and Dan Gurney and I doubt Turbo features a driver's meeting where the main character is in a room with Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves and the rest of the starting field for the Indianapolis 500. 

Turbo is going to be it's own racing movie. I am not sure but I have a feeling there will be no fatal or near-fatal accidents like Grand Prix and Le Mans, no IndyCars driving through the streets of Chicago at 200 mph (thank God) and no romantic story lines of a driver being separated from their wife who is with another driver. More importantly, I hope Turbo doesn't feature race control, fans complaining about race control or standing starts or green-white-checkered finishes or double-file restarts, debates over whether the series has too few ovals or too many street courses, Lotus (it already features snails. All you got to do is throw a badge on them and Lotus is in the movie) or the negativity that has followed IndyCar for the better part of nearly the last twenty years. 

Turbo is another fresh page for IndyCar, let's hope all the pages after this are just as fresh.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What to Do When IndyCar and NASCAR Are Off

This is a pretty odd weekend. No NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. No IndyCar race. What is there to watch this weekend? The good news is a lot. From two wheels to four, the corkscrew to the Windy City, Canada to Russia, there will be plenty of racing for you to catch up on.

Let's start with two wheels. Moto GP returns to the United States for the United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Rookie Marc Márquez heads to Monterey with the points lead after a win in Germany with neither Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo competing, both missing the race due to broken collarbones. Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo are traveling to Laguna Seca but neither have been clearly to compete yet. Lorenzo was originally ruled out until Indianapolis in August.

Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow is fourth in points but has yet to stand on the top step of the podium in his Moto GP career. He has finished on the podium in four of the last five races. Valentino Rossi is fifth in the championship with a win at Assen. Rossi won the 2008 United States Grand Prix.

The 2006 World Champion and two-time United States Grand Prix winner Nicky Hayden is ninth in points behind his Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Honda customer bike riders Stefan Brandl and Álvaro Bautista. Hayden heads to what could be his final Moto GP race at Laguna Seca with his best finish in 2013 being a fifth in France. Colin Edwards returns to Laguna Seca coming off a thirteenth place finish in Germany. He's seventeenth in points with thirteen. The United States will be a rider down as Ben Spies will miss another race due to injury. He will be replaced by Sammarinese rider Alex de Angelis. De Angelis scored his only career Moto GP podium at Indianapolis in 2009. The United States Grand Prix will aired on SPEED Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

From the scenery of Monterey to Russia with love and World Superbike. For the second consecutive year, World Superbike heads to Moscow Raceway. Englishman Tom Sykes enters Russia after sweeping both races at Imola three weeks ago and leading the championship standings by seven points over Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli. Sykes won and finished second in Russia last year and has swept two of the last three race weekends including his home Grand Prix at Donington Park. Guintoli has not won since the first race of the season at Phillip Island. Irishman Eugene Laverty is third in the standings having won four of fourteen races in 2013. Marco Melandri is fourth in the standings with two wins ahead of the 2008 Daytona 200 winner, the only British winner to date, Chaz Davies. The World Superbike races from Russia can be seen Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET on beIN Sport.

North of the border, the American Le Mans Series makes a stop at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park or more commonly known as Mosport. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has won three consecutive rounds and has all but officially wrapped up the LMP1 championship for the German Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf with the withdrawal of Rebellion Racing and Dyson Racing turning their attention towards 2014. Chris Dyson and Guy Smith will not race at Mosport for Dyson Racing and will be replaced by Canadian Tony Burgess and Chris McMurray. The only other car joining Pickett and Dyson Racing at Mosport will be the DeltaWing driven by Brits Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge. The DeltaWing has yet to finish a race in 2013.

LMP2 will feature another Level 5 Motorsports-Extreme Speed Motorsports battle. Level 5 is up by three points in the championship after Ryan Briscoe and Scott Tucker won at Lime Rock Park but were rewarded with second place points due to receiving at sixty-second penalty for avoidable contact. Ryan Briscoe got into the back of Extreme Speed driver Guy Cosmo late in the race at Lime Rock Park. Briscoe will miss this round after breaking his wrist at the IndyCar race at Toronto. Mike Conway will substitute for Briscoe at Level 5.

In GT, Corvette and Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW are tied with seventy-two points after the #56 BMW of John Edwards and Dirk Müller won at Lime Rock. Through four races, there have four different winners in the GT class. The SRT Motorports Vipers are third in the championship twenty-seven points back. The Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix can been seen Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Finally, there is a NASCAR race this Sunday but it's the Nationwide Series taking center stage at Chicagoland Speedway. Regan Smith leads Sam Hornish, Jr. in the championship by five points with Austin Dillon only twelve points back. Justin Allgaier is fourth in points, twenty back, Elliott Sadler is fifth, twenty-four points behind Smith and the most recent winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brian Vickers is sixth in the standings, forty-six markers back. This is the third consecutive year of a Nationwide Series race being a main event at Chicagoland. Series regulars have won each year with Allgaier winning in 2011 and Sadler in 2012. The lone Sprint Cup championship eligible driver at Chicagoland will be Joey Logano driving for Penske Racing. Coverage of the Nationwide Series from Chicagoland beings at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN with green flag at 3:17 p.m.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kanaan to Ganassi, ESPYs, Formula E, Race of Champions

IndyCar has the weekend off but drivers were still making news this week.

Tony Kanaan to Ganassi
In 2008, we all thought Tony Kanaan was heading to Ganassi Racing before he made a last minute change and returned to Andretti Green Racing. Five years later, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is heading to Ganassi Racing to team with American Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters driver Joey Hand in the #02 BMW Daytona Prototype in next week's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kanaan will return to the Speedway just two months after winning the Indianapolis 500 in his twelfth career start in the famed race. Hand is in his second season of DTM and scored a career best fifth place finish earlier this year at Brands Hatch. He finished seventh at the Norisring last week, has twenty-two points and sits tenth in the championship. Hand was one of the overall winner in the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona and finished third in the GTE Pro class in the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Brickyard Grand Prix will take place July 26th.

And the ESPY for Best Driver Goes To...
Ryan Hunter-Reay. The IndyCar driver snagged the Best Driver ESPY away from fellow IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and triple World Drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel. Hunter-Reay is the fourth IndyCar driver to take the award joining the likes of Nigel Mansell, Al Unser, Jr. and Jimmy Vasser.

Andretti Autosport to Formula E
Andretti Autosport will broaden their racing platform in 2014 when they field an entry in the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship. Formula E will involved electric powered cars competing on street races around the world. Ten cities have already been announced as hosts for the 2014-15 schedule and they include Rio de Janerio, Rome, London, Berlin, Putrajaya, Bangkok, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles and Miami. Andretti Autosport joins Drayson Racing and China Racing as the only confirmed teams for the inaugural season. The first Formula E season is scheduled to take place from September 2014 to June 2015.

Race of Champions
The 2013 Race of Champions will return to Bangkok, Thailand and Rajamangala Stadium. Last year, Formula One driver Romain Grosjean won the Race of Champions while the German pairing of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel took their sixth consecutive Nations Cup. IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay took part with 2012 Production World Rally Champion Benito Guerra of Mexico competing as Team Americas.

Field Fillers
Mike Conway will substitute for Ryan Briscoe at the American Le Mans Series race this weekend at Mosport. Briscoe broken his wrist in a turn five accident during the first race from Toronto.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Does An IndyCar Winner Earn Enough Points?

Two drivers have won three races in 2013 and neither lead the championship standings. When it comes to racing, the ever changing points system series to series favor consistency over checkers or wreckers. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but regardless of the points system, winning should gardner the most points.

Across the pond, most series only reward a handful of drivers in points. Formula One only gave points to the top six from 1960 to 2002 with a win only worth nine points until it was increased to ten in 1991.  The system was simple: 9 (since 1991, 10), 6, 4, 3, 2, 1. Nothing over the top, any person who can calculate simple addition could figure out how many points a driver had in their head. In the last decade, points have become easier to come by in Formula One. In 2003, seventh and eighth were given points with the difference between a win and second only two points. In 2010, ninth and tenth were rewarded points with winning more than doubling to twenty-five points and the rest of the top four receiving more than a win had ever been worth.

In North America, points have been awarded much differently. NASCAR has always given points to every driver to take the green flag. At one point just starting a race got you somewhere around 37 points. A win was 190 with five point intervals and then four point intervals and then three but no one could remember what you received for twelfth place. Now they reward all forty-three drivers with a minimum of 47 for a win, 42 for second, 41 for third, all the way to 1 point for forty-third position. Bonus points have always been favored. NASCAR once gave five bonus points for leading a lap with another five for leading the most. Now it's a bonus point for leading a lap and another bonus point if you lead the most.

American open-wheel racing is the same with bonus point, if not more giving. ChampCar rewarded a bonus point to the fastest driver on each qualifying day, fastest lap and even awarded a point for the driver who improved the most positions from their starting position. When USAC was in charge the points you received depended on the length of the race. You win the Indianapolis 500, 1000 points. You win the following week at Milwaukee, 200 points. CART used a similar system until the mid-1980s. From 1984 to 2001, CART had the same system, similar to Formula One today, the top twelve earned points, 20 for a win, 16 for second, 14 for third with 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for the remainder of the top twelve, with a point for fastest qualifier and point for most laps led. IRL always gave points to everyone. From 1996 and 1997, a win paid 35 points and in 1998, a win was increased to 50, what a win still pays today.

Each series has their own system. My question though is does a win in IndyCar pay enough? No one can deny Helio Castroneves has had a wonderful season completing every lap through Toronto but he has only one win. Meanwhile, Scott Dixon has been on a roll the past two weeks with three wins and has five other top-fives this season. James Hinchcliffe has three wins but has been checkers or wreckers with more finishes of twentieth or worse (four) than wins. You look fourth and fifth of the points standings and you see Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud has a win but trails Andretti in the points standings. Pagenaud's win at Belle Isle however has been his only top-five finish to date, while Andretti has five top-fives though he has come short of getting an elusive third career win. Meanwhile, Tony Kanaan is sixth in the standings and has just as many wins as Pagenaud and just as many top-fives as Andretti. Go figure. If you are to expand the simple size to top-tens, you will find Andretti has eleven, Pagenaud has eight and Kanaan has six.

There is no perfect points system but the more positions you pay, the more consistency will be rewarded. The fewer positions you pay, the more you reward winning. Points are a political tool if you think about. Imagine if IndyCar only paid points to the top six. This season only three full-time teams have failed to reach the top six (#55 Schmidt Peterson, #98 Bryan Herta Autosport and #6 Dragon Racing). If you are a team and have failed to score a single point, a sponsor will think twice about spending their money on your car. Who would want to sponsor a car whose scored zero points? To make matters worse, if only the top six were paid points, part-time drivers Mike Conway, Oriol Serivà, JR Hildebrand and Carlos Muñoz would all be ahead of Tristan Vautier, Alex Tagliani and Sebastián Saavedra in the standings. The points system today rewards drivers who show up to every race, guaranteeing them they will never be last place in the standings and also gives us an easy way for everyone to see who is ahead of one another in the points standings. Granted if drivers were tied with zero points, we would just use the tiebreaker who has more finishes at each position to determine who is ahead of who.

Personally, I always liked the 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 format Formula One once used. If you wanted to be champion, you had to be up in the top quarter of the field. And to be honest, I've never been a fan of bonus points (though I did suggest awarding a driver a half point for each position improved during a race. So yes I am contradicting myself). I don't think a driver necessarily should be awarded a consolation point or two for winning pole or leading a lap (seriously, leading a lap. Every driver could do that in a race. Who benefits from that then?) or the most laps. Points to determine the champion in a sense should be determined by what is done on track between the green flag and the checkered flag (which I guess you could say leading laps do occur between the green and checkered flags so you can argue a driver should be rewarded for leading). Anyway, does winning pay enough points in IndyCar? Everyone has their own opinion. I understand why the points are they way they are and if they were different, we'd be looking a driver's season much differently then we do today.

For example, here are the standings using the 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 format with their position in the actual 2013 IndyCar Championship standings in parenthesis:

1. Dixon- 43 (2)
2. Hunter-Reay- 40 (3)
3. Castroneves- 35 (1)
4. Hinchcliffe- 29 (8)
5. Kanaan- 22 (6)
6. Franchitti- 18 (7)
7. Andretti- 17 (4)
8. Sato- 15 (13)
9. Conway- 13 (24)
10. Pagenaud- 12 (5)
11. Bourdais- 10 (16) Wins tiebreaker over Kimball with more third place finishes.
12. Kimball- 10 (11) Wins tiebreaker over Wilson with more second place finishes.
13. Wilson- 10 (9)
14. Power- 9 (10)
15. Rahal- 8 (17)
16. Jakes- 6 (18) Wins tiebreaker over Muñoz with more tenth place finishes.
17. Muñoz- 6 (28) Wins tiebreaker over Carpenter with more second place finishes.
18. Carpenter- 6 (14) Wins tiebreaker over Viso with more fourth place finishes.
19. Viso- 6 (12)
20- Servià- 4 (23) Wins tiebreaker over Newgarden with more fourth place finishes.
21- Newgarden- 4 (15)
22- Hildebrand- 2 (26)
23- de Silvestro- 1 (19)

This points standings tells a pretty familiar story at the top but as you go down, there are some changes that would have us all singing a different tune about a drivers season. You think anyone is praising Viso for being nineteenth in points? Heck, Bourdais would have gone from no points to just outside the top ten in one race weekend but is he having just as good of a season as Kimball and Wilson? Look at de Silvestro. How would people perceive her if she was twenty-third in points with only one to her name? So a points system can completely change our view of a driver not to forget mentioning change the sponsors' view of a driver. Context is everything.

In conclusion: There is no perfect system and as a system changes, a drivers performance can be skewed favorably or not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Toronto 2013 Race Two: First Impressions

1. Scott Dixon gets a nice pay day, three consecutive win, is breathing down Helio Castroneves' neck in the championship standings and I am penciling in for another win at Mid-Ohio.

2. Chevrolet has two weeks to figure out a way to catch up with Honda.

3. Sébastien Bourdais had a phenomenal weekend and deserved it. Watch out for him at Mid-Ohio where he finished fourth last year.

4. Can someone explain how race control can wave the rule stating a driver has to do two green flag laps on each tire compound for Dario Franchitti? Those are the regulations. Forget the fact Franchitti had a tire rube on his first lap but that sets the precedent for future races. The rules are the rules and you cannot wave them willy nilly. Here is the rule, article verbatim:
A Car must complete two Green Condition laps on each type of tire. The second of which may be completed in pit lane even if the Car is pitted prior to the Start/Finish line. Any Entrant failing to comply with this Rule shall receive a minimum one lap penalty. 
Nowhere does it say the race director may have the rule for a driver who suffers a flat tire on their first lap with that compound. That is complete ignorance for the rules by race control.

Also, I could be wrong, but aren't lapped cars supposed to be waved on restarts with under twenty laps to go. I could be wrong on that one but I thought I heard it before. Maybe it was suggested but shot down. Article states the race director may choose to move lapped cars on a restart late in a race but doesn't have to.

5. Great day for EJ Viso in fifth, top finishing Andretti Autosport driver, Charlie Kimball get a great sixth place finish with Mike Conway charging up to seventh from twenty-third on the grid just ahead of his teammate Justin Wilson.

6. Marco Andretti gain eight positions to ninth and Alex Tagliani got Canada a top ten making up for the poor day for James Hinchcliffe.

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay is a big hole. Got into Will Power and Takuma Sato late. Killed a good day, now sixty-nine points back. He will need to win at least two or three races to have a shot and need Castroneves to have a few finishes in the 20s.

8. Just when it appeared things were turning around of James Hinchcliffe, they go back to the bottom of the barrel with a stuck throttle.

9. Another good doubleheader. Toronto produced two really good races. As I've said all along, I hope doubleheaders stay.

10. Really good day for Carlos Muñoz who finished seventeenth after only getting seventeen laps during the morning warm-up.

11. Dear God I hope Toronto can stay on the schedule for years to come. 2014 is the final contractual year. 2015 Exhibition Places host the Pan American Games during what is the normal race weekend. I hope it can be kept on the schedule.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2013 Race Two

Scott Dixon is half way to $100,000 for sweeping the weekend at Toronto and he starts in the perfect position to complete the sweep, pole position. Next to Dixon on row one will be Dario Franchitti. Franchitti was penalized twenty-five seconds for blocking on the final lap which dropped him from third to thirteenth in race one. However, that penalty has been rescinded and Franchitti officially finished third in race one. With his win yesterday, Scott Dixon is tied with Paul Tracy, Sébastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti for seventh on the all-time list with thirty-one wins.

Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay start are row two. Castroneves extended his points lead to thirty-nine points after Hunter-Reay's day was plagued with electrical problems and ultimately ended in the turn three tires. Will Power's day also ended in the turn three tires and he will roll off from fifth position ahead of Tony Kanaan. Saturday's runner-up Sébastien Bourdais will start seventh. Ryan Briscoe was scheduled to start eighth but Briscoe broke his wrist after an accident in race one. According to Twitter, Colombian and Indianapolis 500 runner-up Carlos Muñoz will jump into the #4 Panther Chevrolet in race two. Muñoz finished fourth in the Indy Lights race on Saturday. The driver change should drop the Colombian to the rear of the field. Canadian Alex Tagliani should move up to eighth with Simona de Silvestro and EJ Viso rounding out the top ten.

James Hinchcliffe will start eleventh after finishing a career best eighth at his hometown race. Simon Pagenaud will roll off from thirteenth position. Thirteenth is the farthest back a winner has come from at Toronto (Michael Andretti 2001). Justin Wilson and Takuma Sato will start on row seven. Charlie Kimball will start directly behind the man who took him out in race one in fifteenth position with the rookie Tristan Vautier next to him. Marco Andretti starts seventeenth. Andretti went from tenth to fourth in race one. Josef Newgarden starts eighteenth. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars of Graham Rahal and James Jakes start on row ten ahead of Sebastián Saavedra and Ed Carpenter on row eleven and Mike Conway and Muñoz on row twelve.

Standing starts will be attempted today for the beginning of race two. Should the start be aborted like in race one, a rolling start will be used. NBCSN's coverage of race two begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:40 p.m.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Toronto 2013 Race One: First Impressions

1. Scott Dixon goes back-to-back and Sébastien Bourdais does donuts for his first podium since Mexico City 2007. It was a great race one. I hope they keep this doubleheaders. Maybe expand them to one or two other tracks. Look out for Dixon in the championship battle. Unfortunately Bourdais was given a broken trophy and it got worse. Expect IndyCar to make SportsCenter but not for Dixon winning and no one watching SportsCenter will know Dixon won after watching the "highlights."

2. Dario Franchitti got third after a great battle with Will Power. Unfortunately for Power his race ended in the turn three tires. 

2. Dario Franchitti loses his third. Blocking. Time penalty. Dropped to thirteenth.

3. Great day for Marco Andretti. Started in the back and worked his way to fourth third proving again why Toronto is his best road/street circuit. He has a little bit of his father in him. Who knows. If he were to start better he just might pick up a win at Exhibition Place.

4. Brazilians get fifth fourth and sixth fifth. Tony Kanaan had a clean day and Helio Castroneves had another consistent day up front as he extends his championship lead.

5. Another bad day in the championship for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Helio Castroneves has been consistent all year and though Hunter-Reay has two wins and a handful of top fives, races like today, Long Beach and Belle Isle race two will kill his championship hopes.

6. Mike Conway had to come from the back but got a seventh sixth place finish while James Hinchcliffe finished a career best eighth seventh in his hometown. Simon Pagenaud was ninth eighth and how about Simona de Silvestro? Went from the back to a top ten nine finish.

7. Good days for Justin Wilson and James Jakes but Ed Carpenter got a thirteenth twelfth place finish and he worked his tail off to get it.

8. Alex Tagliani had a top ten slip through his fingers as he spun late and finishes seventeenth.

9. Can we try standing starts Sunday?

10. Rough day for Josef Newgarden. Day ended before it even started.

11. Robin Miller reported on the broadcast Rahal Letterman Lanigan is looking at an engineer change for Graham Rahal. They've got to do something to turn around 2013.

12. I've never understood why the curbs were so far out in turn five at Toronto. Going over them seems to make sense to me.

13. A little disappointing there was no double file restart on the final restart. I understand there wasn't enough time for the track to be swept but let's make a effort. Once the caution came out and the final part of the track is clear, the sweepers should be out cleaning up the marbles as best as possible. Lesson learned.

14. I really like these doubleheaders. Physically demanding for the drivers? Yes. Physically demanding on the crews? Yes. It's a slippery slope but if tomorrow produces a race as good as today the series should capitalize and get IndyCar on television more than it currently is. I proposed a way to do doubleheaders on ovals and keep the heat format but let's bring the doubleheaders to Mid-Ohio and Sonoma. At Sonoma you could run two different courses. Just an idea. Plenty of time to think about it. We don't have to make a decision today.

15. I look forward to tomorrow and so should you.

Ganassi Sweeps Poles, Race Two Front Row at Toronto

Second day, second pole for Chip Ganassi Racing as Scott Dixon won his first pole of the 2013 season for race two at Toronto. The Kiwi put down a lap of 58.9686 seconds to top his teammate Dario Franchitti's 59.1905, the fastest time from group one. This is Dixon's first pole since Belle Isle last year, a race he led flag-to-flag though shortened due to a lengthly delay.

Row two features the top two in the championship standings. Helio Castroneves starts third ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay who trails the Brazilian by twenty-three points entering the weekend at Toronto. Will Power and Tony Kanaan start third and fourth in race one at Toronto. They will start fifth and sixth respectively in race two. Sébastien Boudais and Ryan Briscoe will make up row four with the Canadian Alex Tagliani and Simona de Silvestro rounding out the top ten.

EJ Viso and hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe makes it an all-Andretti Autosport row six ahead of an all-British row seven of James Jakes and Justin Wilson. Two Hondas make up row eight, Simon Pagenaud and runner-up last week Charlie Kimball. Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti start on row six today and they will both start on row nine Sunday with Sato seventeenth and Andretti eighteenth. Tristan Vautier starts nineteenth with Graham Rahal in twentieth. Josef Newgarden and Sebastián Saavedra start on row ten with Ed Carpenter and Belle Isle race one winner Mike Conway rounding out the field.

NBCSN's coverage of race one begins today at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:40 p.m. Coverage of race two Sunday begins at 3:00 p.m. with green flag at 3:40 p.m.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2013

Race one of Honda Indy Toronto will feature a historic front row. Eight championships and sixty-two wins equally split by the pole sitter and second place on the grid and each driver has won at Exhibition Place. Dario Franchitti and Sébastien Bourdais will roll off from row one. Each driver looks for win thirty-two and break a three-way between themselves and Paul Tracy for seventh on the all-time win list.

Row two features Will Power and Tony Kanaan. Power won at Toronto in 2007 and 2011 but he has not won a race since São Paulo last year. Tony Kanaan's best finish in Toronto is fourth in 2010 and 2012. James Jakes starts fifth. Jakes had an impressive doubleheader at Belle Isle and finished second in race two. The most recent winner Scott Dixon starts sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts seventh. He won at Toronto from sixth on the grid last year. Helio Castroneves starts eighth. He leads Hunter-Reay by twenty-three points in the championship standings. 2005 Toronto winner Justin Wilson starts ninth with Ryan Briscoe starting tenth.

Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato start on row six ahead of Simon Pagenaud and hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe. EJ Viso and Charlie Kimball make up row eight. Kimball scored his first career podium at Toronto last year. Canadian Alex Tagliani starts seventeenth with Graham Rahal starting eighteenth. Josef Newgarden starts nineteenth. Last year Newgarden was in position for a podium before getting blocked by Simon Pagenaud and making slight contact with the wall. Belle Isle race one winner Mike Conway starts twentieth in his first race back since that win.

Rookie Tristan Vautier starts twenty-first. He finished eleventh in his only Indy Lights start at Toronto last year. Simona de Silvestro starts twenty-second. She had two top ten finishes at Toronto in three career starts. Ed Carpenter will start twenty-third ahead of the Dragon Chevrolet of Sebastián Saavedra.

Qualifying to set the grid for Sunday will take place at 10:35 a.m. ET today. Group one will feature Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier, Will Power, James Jakes, Sébastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani, Helio Castroneves, EJ Viso, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpetner. Group two features Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal, Sebastián Saavedra, Simona de Silvestra and Mike Conway. The fastest driver will win pole for Sunday with the remaining drivers in the pole-sitters group making up the odd-numbered positions. The fastest in the other group will start second and the rest of the group will make up the even-numbered positions.

Today's race will feature the first standing start in American open wheel racing since Long Beach 2008. Coverage for race one of the Honda Indy Toronto will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag around 3:40 p.m. ET.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Franchitti on Pole For Saturday

Two four-time champions with thirty-one career wins will start on row one Saturday. Dario Franchitti took pole position with Sébastien Bourdais starting second. Franchitti put down a lap of 59.6756 seconds to beat out Bourdais 59.7701.

On row two will be Will Power and Tony Kanaan. Power has not won since São Paulo last year. James Jakes and Pocono winner Scott Dixon will start on row three. Ryan Hunter-Reay just missed out on the Firestone Fast Six and will start seventh. He won at Toronto from sixth position last year. Next to him will be the man he trails in the championship standings, Helio Castroneves. 2005 Toronto winner Justin Wilson and Ryan Briscoe round out the top ten with Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato rounding out the Fast Twelve.

Simon Pagenaud and hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe just missed out on the Fast Twelve and make up row seven. EJ Viso starts fifteenth next to Charlie Kimball who scored his first career podium at Toronto last year. Canadian Alex Tagliani will start seventeenth ahead of Graham Rahal. Josef Newgarden and Mike Conway make up row ten. Rookie Tristan Vautier and Simona de Silvestro make up row eleven with Ed Carpenter and Sebastián Saavedra rounding out the field.

Qualifying for race two will take place tomorrow morning at 10:35 a.m. ET. NBCSN's coverage of race one from Toronto will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag around 3:40 p.m.

Hunter-Reay Leads IndyCar First Practice From Toronto

Ryan Hunter-Reay led the first practice at Toronto. The defending Honda Indy Toronto winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest with a lap of 1:00.6082 seconds. Josef Newgarden was second, 0.0769 second back. Ryan Briscoe was third with Tristan Vautier fourth. Marco Andretti jumped to fifth late ahead of Will Power and Tony Kanaan.

Honda took the next two positions with James Jakes eighth and Dario Franchitti ninth. 2004 Toronto winner Sébastien Bourdias was tenth. Hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe was eleventh ahead of Pocono winner Scott Dixon and 2005 Toronto winner Justin Wilson. Canadian Alex Tagliani was fourteenth with Charlie Kimball fifteenth.

Points leader Helio Castroneves was sixteenth ahead of Graham Rahal and EJ Viso. Sebastián Saavedra and Takuma Sato rounded out the top twenty. Simona de Silvestro was twenty-first ahead the Belle Isle winners Simon Pagenaud and Mike Conway. Ed Carpenter rounded out the field.

A half second covered the top fifteen times with three quarters of a second covering to eighteenth.

The teams had to perform one standing start during the practice. According to MoreFrontWing, the Hondas were getting a better jump during the standing start practices than the Chevrolets.

There were two incidents during the session. Will Power brought out a red flag after getting into the tires in turn three while Dario Franchitti brought out a red flag with fifteen minutes remaining after making slight contact with the wall in turn five.

In breaking news, Brian Barnhart will be race director this weekend at Toronto. According to the Associated Press' Jenna Fryer, Beaux Barfield will not be in Toronto.

Firestone Fast Six qualifying to set the grid for Saturday's race will take place at 2:15 p.m. ET with it airing on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Road to Indy Practice at Toronto

All three lower levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will be racing on the streets of Toronto this weekend for the first time since St. Petersburg in March.

Canada's own Garett Grist was fastest in the first U.S. F2000 practice ahead of the Frenchman Florian Latorre. American and most recent winner in the U.S. F2000 series Neil Alberico was third. Brazil's Danilo Estrela was fourth with another Canadian Stefan Rzadzinski fifth fastest. U.S. F2000 points leader, Canadian Scott Hargrove was eleventh in the first session.

In Pro Mazda, Matthew Brabham continued his dominance being over sixth-tenths of a second faster than second place Juan Piedrahita in first practice. Spencer Pigot was third fastest with Brabham's Andretti Autosport teammate Shelby Blackstock in fourth. Diego Ferreira was fifth with Scott Anderson sixth. The only Canadian in the Pro Mazda field, Zach Meyer was eighth fastest.

Jack Hawksworth was fastest in Indy Lights practice 0.3501 seconds ahead of the Andretti driver Zach Veach and Carlos Muñoz was 0.5134 seconds back. Peter Dempsey was fourth fastest ahead of Gabby Chaves. Second place in the Firestone Indy Lights standings Sage Karam was sixth, 0.8782 seconds back. Juan Pablo Garcia, Jorge Goncalvez and Canadian Matthew Di Leo rounded out the field.

U.S. F2000 second practice will take place at 12:10 p.m. ET followed by Pro Mazda second practice at 12:45 p.m. U.S. F2000 qualifying will take place at 3:40 p.m. with Pro Mazda qualifying at 4:15 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights second practice will round out the day at 5:00 p.m. with Indy Lights qualifying beginning Saturday's on-track activities at 7:45 a.m.