Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Predictions for 2014: IndyCar

For the final week of 2013 I have made predictions on many different forms of motorsport in 2014. With today being the final day of 2013 we wrap up our predictions by taking a look at the IndyCar series.

1. The Series Will Get A Title Sponsor
After a roller coaster ride with Izod, IndyCar finds themselves without a title sponsor but with the hiring of former NASCAR team owner Jay Frye the search is on by the folks at 16th and Georgetown and they will get the job done. I am not sure who the title sponsor will be, I am not sure if it's a current sponsor within the series taking on a larger role but by this time next year, the series will be sponsored.

2. Honda Will Nip Chevrolet in the Manufactures' Championship
After two years of using a single turbocharged engine, Honda is moving to a twin-turbo same as Chevrolet. Last year the American manufacture barely beat their Japanese rivals in the fight for the manufactures' title needing to win the final race at Fontana to win 10-9. Honda won six of seven races at one point and were by far the better of the two on road and street courses while Chevrolet had the upper hand on most ovals. Despite losing Ganassi Racing to Chevrolet, Honda picked up Andretti Autosport and will have Simon Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson Racing coming off finishing third in the championship. Not to mention the likelihood Justin Wilson returns to Dale Coyne Racing after finishing sixth in the championship. Both are equally matched when it comes to talent but Honda appears to have the wave of momentum on their side after

3. Takuma Sato Will Not Make It To Fontana With AJ Foyt Racing
The Japanese driver gave Super Tex his first win in over a decade at Long Beach earlier this year but after Indianapolis Sato had only one top ten and eight finishes of twentieth or worse. Seeing that pattern weakens my confidence he will be given a full season to get results. While Foyt has given drivers a long leash and has a tendency to not fire drivers midseason, a string of retirements to begin the season for Sato leads you to think Foyt will be looking for a driver on the market quickly.

4. This Will Be The Only Season Ending By Labor Day
The series-implemented season finale by Labor Day weekend has tied IndyCar's hand behind their back when it comes to scheduling and I think when they start working on the 2015 schedule they will realize the corner they put themselves in. Even if an international series took place in January and February that doesn't solve the problems with the North American schedule. With place such as Road America, Austin, Michigan, Baltimore, Phoenix and Laguna Seca all still interested in hosting IndyCar in the future, the series is going to realize how difficult it will be to accommodate all these rounds even if they start at the beginning of March. If they get even half of the races listed above they will still need an extra month at the end of the season.

5. Scott Dixon Will Remain The Championship Favorite
He is the most talented driver, on one of the three top teams and is only thirty-three years old. Dixon may have lost Dario Franchitti as a teammate but he gains Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe. Those additions both help and hurt Dixon's chances for a fourth career title. He has two experienced drivers to bounce car setups off of but also has two teammates capable of taking victories and fistful of points away from him. Not to forget mentioning Charlie Kimball who can beat Dixon straight up, head-to-head without help from a misfortunate mechanical failure or accident. Dixon's got great odds to repeat but at the same time his own teammates have the best shot of keeping him from another title.

6. Marco Andretti Will Be A Man On A Mission
After having the best season of his career so far, Marco Andretti ended the season looking for more. He finished fifth in points but was winless and Andretti Autosport failed to score a victory in the second half of 2013 after winning five in the first half. He was able to get the finishes necessary to defeat his teammates, champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and three-time race winner James Hinchcliffe and showed he had the car to beat on all the ovals and even a few road and street courses. With the move to Honda Andretti Autosport becomes arguably the their top team along with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing as to move out of the shadow of Penske Racing at Chevrolet.

7. Will Power Will Be A Man On A Mission
In victory lane after his win in the season finale at Fontana Will Power was as fired up as he has ever been before. After winning three of the final five races in 2013, Power looks to get back in the championship hunt after finishing fourth in 2013, ending a three year streak of runner-up finishes. Power's 2013 season did not start well at all. Was run over at St. Petersburg, abysmal runs at São Paulo and Indianapolis, didn't score a podium until Milwaukee, Power turned his season around in the second half with two additional top fives to go along with his victories. He is arguably the most talented driver on the grid and knows he is now capable to win on each track discipline.

8. Juan Pablo Montoya Will Not Finish In The Top Ten of Points
If Tony Kanaan couldn't finish in the top ten of points last year, what makes you think Montoya will in his first season in an open-wheel car since 2006 and first in IndyCar since 2000? He will have good runs but with the depth of the field and learning curve Montoya faces a top ten finish after eighteen races will be an impressive performance for him, even with him driving for Penske Racing.

9. There Will Be An International Series
It may not be pretty but the folks at Hulman and Co. will get some type of international series announced for IndyCar. It probably won't begin until January 2015 but this time next year, there will be international events awaiting us early in the new year. Races will be predominantly in Asia and probably will be predominantly street courses instead of permanent facilities.

10. There Won't Be Enough Rides For Everyone
I touched on this before but I am going to reiterate it here. As of New Years' Eve, twenty teams appear to be set. If the grid stays at twenty-four for 2014, that leaves four seats to be filled with drivers Simona de Silvestro, Oriol Servià, Alex Tagliani, James Jakes, EJ Viso, Conor Daly, Tristan Vautier, Sebastián Saavedra, EJ Viso, Sam Bird, Pippa Mann, Stefan Wilson, Luiz Razia, Bruno Senna, Sage Karam and Jack Hawksworth all looking for rides.

The next question is which teams field those additional four cars? Panther Racing will probably have something but the National Guard sponsorship will play into who the team hires. KV Racing could field a second car alongside Sébastien Bourdais. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing can field a second car and if they land the National Guard sponsorship that would make it much easier to field a second car. Dale Coyne Racing always finds a way to field a second car and with all signs pointing to Justin Wilson returning to that team and that second car coming off a win in 2013, it may be a better seat than we all realize. Could Dreyer & Reinbold Racing return to full-time competition in 2014?

It's great that so many talented drivers are interested in IndyCar but it's always tough pill to swallow when talented drivers can't get a ride.

11. There Won't Be Ten Winners But It Will Be Close
Year three of the DW12 chassis will still allow for smaller teams to compete for victories but it won't be as wide open as 2013. As of now, sixteen drivers confirmed for 2014 have at least one career win with a few more still on the sidelines looking for rides. Let's say at least two different drivers win from Andretti, Ganassi and Penske, that's six with the likes of Pagenaud, Wilson, Rahal, Bourdais, Conway and Carpenter unaccounted for. Any less than six different winners from at least four different teams seems unimaginable for IndyCar, this coming only five seasons after Penske and Ganassi won all but one race in 2009.

12. Texas Is On Life Support
The track signed a one-year deal to bring IndyCar back for another year and 2014's race will be 600-kilometers but the race will not be on ABC. Attendance for IndyCar at Texas has dropped significantly in recent years but it still draws a respectable crowd in IndyCar terms. My feeling is Eddie Gossage will pull the plug unless the race sees a mass influx of people through the turnstiles. The knockout blow for this race maybe the fact the 2014 X Games at Circuit of the Americas in Austin take place the same weekend as the Texas IndyCar race. Let me not forget to mention that Robby Gordon's Stadium Super Truck Series will be at the X Games in 2014 and rally cross will probably also be on the X Games bill. It's not looking good for Eddie Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway which means it's not looking good for IndyCar either.

13. Allan Bestwick or Vince Welch Will Be Lead Announcer For ABC
With NASCAR leaving ESPN and ABC after 2014 and NBC having already announcing Rick Allen and Jeff Burton will be their commentary team, Bestwick's future calling NASCAR appears over for the near future. With that said, he still has a contract at ESPN/ABC, why not move him over to do IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500? In 2014, everything is at Indianapolis besides St. Petersburg and Belle Isle which is before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage begins on ESPN/ABC. Bestwick is an experienced announcer and would be a logical choice to join the likes of Sid Collins, Paul Page and Bob Jenkins as voice of the Indianapolis 500. However, Bestwick has mostly called NASCAR in his career and a switch to IndyCar may not what ABC has in mind. Besides, who is to say Bestwick won't find a job at Fox or NBC doing NASCAR for 2015? Vince Welch is the next logical selection. He has been covering the series for years and is knowledgeable. The one downside on Welch is he lacks lead commentator experience and it's hard to imagine the guy calling the Indianapolis 500 would have only two races under his belt.

14. The Future Will Remain Uncertain
Despite how great the racing has been, IndyCar struggles for sponsorship dollars and television ratings. It's difficult to see how the ABC broadcast schedule which is focused around the month of May will benefit the NBCSN races afterward but they are trying something different once again in hopes of a boost. As for other events on the schedule, the series has contracts will Pocono, Iowa, Fontana, Long Beach and St. Petersburg but after that most events are question marks. Texas is living off one-year deals as attendance continues to drop. Milwaukee lives year-by-year and hopes a move to August will increase attendance. Houston has moved from October to late-June and it appears that race will move again after 2014. Toronto's future is curious as the 2015 PanAmerican Games coincide the same weekend as the IndyCar event.

IndyCar's future will not become clear tomorrow or next May or next December or the December after that. It will take time for IndyCar to built a fan base, get more sponsors interested in the series and have stable footing. Until then everyone needs to remain patience and work together and not fall apart when the going gets tough.

I hope you have enjoyed these predictions as well as the ones for Formula One, sports cars, NASCAR and other forms of motorsports across the globe. I wish all of you a Happy New Year and don't worry, the racing season begins in just a few days as AMA Supercross and the Dakar Rally get underway and testing for the 24 Hours of Daytona begins as well.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Predictions For 2014: NASCAR

For the final week of 2013 a list of predictions of what could happen in a few different motorsport series in 2014 will be posted and today we look at NASCAR.

1. This Is Going To Be Dale Earnhardt, Jr's Year
If he can start 2014 the way he ended 2013 and pick up victories, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be contending for a championship. While being with the best team is an advantage for him being teamed with the two best drivers of the past twenty years could be the only obstacle keeping him from that elusive championship. Junior had a great 2013 season but couldn't break through and get a win. He had five runner-up finishes including three in the final ten races. This is the year where Junior finally gets races going his way. No more great runs to only finish second or being bit by a mechanical failure late in a race to cost him dearly. 2014 will be Dale Earnhardt, Jr's year.

2. Stewart-Haas Racing Will Be Average
Ten years ago if you had told me Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick would all be on the same team I would have probably told you put down the bottle but here it is. Despite their talent, I don't think Stewart-Haas will be lighting the world on fire. Tony Stewart is returning from a broken leg but at forty-two he is on the back nine of his career and you can only wonder if he can still contend for a championship. Jeff Gordon is also forty-two and had a really good season in 2013 but it took him until Martinsville in October to get a victory and he hasn't finished in the top five in points since 2009.

Harvick is coming off finishing third in the standings with four wins and was eligible for the championship until the final race. He has finished third in the standings three of the last four seasons but can he make a Matt Kenseth-esque transition from the team of his youth to a new team in 2014? Can the personalities work together? Stewart, Harvick and Busch have all had their run-ins with one another. If they can let cooler heads prevail and work together this could be a force to be reckon with but the competition is as tough as ever. From Hendrick to Gibbs to Roush to Penske, all these teams are just as capable as Stewart-Haas as being a dominant force.

Last year showed how difficult making the top twelve actually is. Stewart-Haas struggled to get going but ultimately was able to get Ryan Newman in the Chase. Brad Keselowski failed to make the Chase after winning the championship the year prior. Denny Hamlin couldn't recover after missing four races due to injuries. There are easily eighteen drivers you would think would be locks for making the Chase but someone is going to struggle and with all the changes I think that team will be Stewart-Haas in 2014.

3. Matt Kenseth Will Recover From Losing The Title
Despite coming so close to the championship in 2013, Matt Kenseth will come back and be a contender for the title again in 2014. Look for him to pick up another six or seven wins as the Wisconsinite has made himself the number one driver at Joe Gibbs Racing after only one season at the team.

4. There Will Be A First Time Winner But It Won't Be A Rookie
AJ Allmendinger will get a win in 2014. His best chances will be the road course races and of course anyone can win a restrictor plate race but Allmendinger had a respectable abbreviated 2013 season. JTG Daugherty Racing isn't going to make Allmendinger a threat for the championships but they should give him a good enough car that he could steal a win in 2014.

5. The Rookie Class Won't Disappoint
After years of less than stellar rookie classes, 2014 features six talented young drivers, each facing their own set of hurdles. Kyle Larson and defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillon are the favorites for Rookie of the Year. Dillon moves to the Cup side of Richard Childress Racing where he will join Paul Menard and Ryan Newman. Menard is entering his fourth season at RCR while Newman moves to RCR after five at Stewart-Haas. While Dillon did win the Nationwide title, he failed to win a race in the 2013 championship and in his six Cup starts in 2013, his best finish was fourteenth at Michigan but was in the top five at Talladega before being spun to end the race.

Larson replaces Juan Pablo Montoya at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing where he will join Jamie McMurray. EGR has yet to break through as a top team in Cup having only made the Chase once since the two teams merged prior to the 2009 season. Larson won the 2013 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year after finishing eighth in the points. Larson ended 2013 with his fourth runner-up finish of the season. The Californian ended 2013 with nine top-fives and seventeen top tens.

Jason Allgaier moves up to Cup with Phoenix Racing after five full-time season in the Nationwide Series. In those five seasons, Allgaier finished sixth or better in the standings each year and won three races. Michael Annett joins Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2014. Annett missed eight races in the 2013 Nationwide Series season after suffering a fractured sternum in the season opener at Daytona. Annett would finish fifteenth in the final standings. In the four previous season, Annett finished in the top ten of points three times, with fifth in the 2012 season being his career-best.

Swan Racing expands to two cars for Parker Kilgerman and Cole Whitt in 2014. Kilgerman finished ninth in the 2013 Nationwide Series standings while Whitt ran part-time and finished twenty-first. Whitt had finished seventh in the 2012 standings after driving for JR Motorsports.

While Dillon and Larson are the favorites for Rookie of the Year, the other four rookies will hold their own in less equipment.

6. NASCAR Will Not Limited Cup Drivers Participation In The Nationwide Series
Despite only four Nationwide Series races being won by championship eligible drivers and the champion himself going winless in 2013, NASCAR will not make any rule to limited Cup drivers from competing in the Nationwide Series. It's a shame because the Nationwide Series has talented drivers who would put on their own good races. Expect Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano to split two-thirds of the races in 2014 with the other third being split by other Cup drivers with a race or two maybe falling into the laps of Nationwide Series Championship eligible drivers.

7. Iowa Speedway Will Get A Cup Race In 2015
NASCAR bought the track in November and despite all reports saying otherwise, Iowa will get a Cup race come 2015. Despite the facility capacity being smaller than any other track on the Cup schedule, Iowa is a track deserving of a Cup race. It wouldn't surprise if Iowa gets a race at the expense of one from either Dover or Michigan.

8. Jimmie Johnson Will Be Knocking On The Door For A  Seventh Title
When have you gone into a season and not been expecting Jimmie Johnson to win the title? The six titles in eight seasons aside, Johnson has finished outside the top five in points only once. ONCE! Only three times in his career has he won less than five races in a season and he has always had twenty or more top ten finishes in a season. The question isn't if he will win his seventh title but rather when and don't think for a second he can't do it in 2014.

With four predictions in the books, tomorrow comes the final list of predictions and that will be for the IndyCar Series.

Predictions For 2014: Et Cetera

For the final week of 2013 a list of predictions of what could happen in a few different motorsport series in 2014 will be posted and today we look at many different racing series around the world, from two wheels to four. Let's start with MotoGP.

1. Valentino Rossi Retires
The Doctor has accomplished plenty in his career. Nine championships, one hundred and six victories, twenty-six records and a Suzuka 8 Hours victory, the thirty-four year old Italian shouldn't have many regrets when it comes to his career. He is one of the all-time greats and it is time. As with Tom Kristensen in sports cars, he has nothing left to prove. He can move on to full-time rallying and try and make a career out of that. He will be missed but we should be thankful for the memories.

2. The Spanish Renaissance Will Continue
Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa lead the charge with Álvaro Bautista, Pol and Aleix Espargaró and Héctor Barberá filling out the MotoGP fleet while Esteve Rabat, Nicolás Terol, Maverick Viñales, Luis Salom and Jordi Torres are all contenders in Moto2 with Álex Márquez, Álex Rins and Isaac Viñales competing in Moto3. This type of dominance by one nation has not been seen in Grand Prix Motorcycle racing in over fifty years and even then this Spanish dominance feels completely different as all their riders are succeeding at ages younger than ever.

3. Open Class Bikes Won't Be Threatening But Will Find Success
The two seasons of Claiming Rule Teams saw a progression where CRT bikes were breaking into the top ten of qualifying on occasions and I expect the same to continue in 2014. The "open" class features many talented riders with veterans Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards, Hiroshi Aoyama, Michael Laverty and Héctor Barberá leading young riders such as Scott Redding, Aleix Espargaró and Danilo Petrucci. I don't see any "open" class bikes stealing a victory or podium but don't be surprised if they are competitive at times in 2014.

4. On to DTM: The Favorites Are BMW
Mike Rockenfeller may have won the title last year but BMW took home their second consecutive manufactures' title in their second season back in DTM and won half the races, including the final three. BMW's roster features young drivers such as Marco Wittmann, António Félix da Costa and Maxime Martin as well champions Bruno Spengler and Martin Tomczyk and veterans Timo Glock, Augusto Farfus and Joey Hand. Now, Audi and Mercedes-Benz should field respectable line-ups with champions and veterans and talented young drivers but the momentum is on BMW's side heading into 2014.

5. Paul di Resta Returns With Mercedes
After two respectable years in Formula One, the Scotsman di Resta found himself without a chair when the music stopped and I am sure he is high on Mercedes' wish list for drivers. He would surely give them a boost after Mercedes finished a distant third in the manufactures' championship. Mercedes should keep veteran leader Gary Paffett while Robert Wickens and Christian Vietoris where bright sides of the 2013 season. Should di Resta return to DTM he would return as a championship favorite after leaving the series a champion in 2010.

6. World Rally Championship: Volkswagen Dominance Continues
It's hard to see any outcome of the 2014 World Rally Championship not ending in Volkswagen dominance. They are coming off a very successful return in 2013, winning ten of thirteen rounds and both the drivers' and manufactures' championships. They retain the pairing of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala while each other manufacture shuffled their line-ups over the winter. Citroën will field Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg who combine for one career rally victory. The M-Sport Fords are led by Mikko Hirvonen who finished fourth in the 2013 championship standings and his teammate will be rookie Elfyn Evans. Robert Kubica will fill out a third entry.

Hyundai look to replicate the feats of Volkswagen of winning the title in their return season with drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo. Sordo picked up his first career win last year in Germany while Neuville finished second to Ogier in the championship after ending with seven podiums.

While Hyundai has put together a formidable pair to take on Volkwagen, I think the Polo will be hands down the best car in 2014.

7. Indy Lights: There Will Be More Than Ten Full-Time Entries
After a season where Indy Lights struggled to get more than eight full-time participants, I expect the 2014 to have double digit grid at every race. The good news is seven entries have already been announced for the 2014 season: two Andretti Autosport (Matthew Brabham, Zach Veach), Belardi Auto Racing (Alexandre Baron), Bryan Herta Autosport/Jeffery Mark Motorsport (Lloyd Read), Fan Force United (Scott Anderson), Schmidt Peterson Motorsport (Jack Harvey) and Team Moore Racing (Zack Meyer).

Sam Schmidt normally has three to four full-time entries so if he meets his normal quota the field should be fine not to forget mentioning another entry possibly from Belardi and Team Moore.

8. V8 Supercars: Jamie Whincup Wins His Record-Setting Sixth Title
It's not a prediction out of left field and actually feels like a lazy prediction but what can I say? Whincup has won the last three titles, five of the last six. He won eleven of thirty-six races last year, his third consecutive year with double-digit wins and he has picked up nine wins or more in his last six seasons. He will face tough opposition from his teammate Craig Lowndes and Ford driver Mark Winterbottom but they need to show more if they want to end Whincup's stranglehold on the championship.

9. Formula E: Expect A Roller Coaster Ride
New series, especially international ones, have had trouble getting solid footing. A1GP had a short run before the series ran out of money. The FIA GT and GT1 Championships struggled but their legacies live on in the FIA GT Series which is doing well but it's future isn't set long term. Superleague Formula failed to keep teams on the grid and eventually shut down.

The bright side for Formula E is it appears to have more support behind it than all the series listed above did combined. There are teams and names from all across the globe investing into the electric championship but it will show growing pains. It already has had to change some events on it's schedule. Rio de Janeiro replaced Hong Kong and the initial schedule included Rome and Bangkok which were replaced by Punta del Este, Uruguay and Monaco.

I am not sure how these events will draw or if they will make any money but you have to be interested in what this series looks like when the first race takes place on Saturday September 13, 2014.

10. World Touring Car Championship: Citroën Will Lead The Way
The entrance of Citroën to the World Touring Car Championship comes at a time where Chevrolet has pulled factory support leaving the French manufacture to go head-to-head with Honda and Lada. While Honda will have Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro, Citroën not only have four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller but Argentine and former USF1 driver José María López who has won three TC2000 titles in his native Argentina and won the second race of the 2013 Argentina round of the WTCC season in his debut weekend. Not to forget nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb will be completing the Citroën squad. I think everything is set up for Muller to win his fifth title with López giving the Frenchman a challenge all season long.

11. One Miscellaneous Prediction: Dario Franchitti Is Not Done Racing
He will not race in 2014 but mark my words, we will see Dario Franchitti in a major auto race again. He is done with IndyCar but there is no way he is going to let his final time in a car be that accident at Houston. Injuries to the back and head haven't stop other drivers from getting back into the car for one final race to end their career on a better note.

1996 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Davy Jones suffered an severe neck injury after an accident in an IndyCar test in 1997 but after a few years off he returned to race a handful of Grand-Am races.

Cristiano da Matta ran a few Grand-Am and ALMS races after he suffered head trauma after hitting a deer at a ChampCar test at Road America.

Alex Zanardi didn't allow the amputation of his legs stop him from getting back behind the wheel of a car. He not only returned but ran the final thirteen laps around the Lausitzring in a ChampCar that he lost in 2001 and were putting up times good enough to qualify fifth for the race that weekend. Then he went on to the WTCC where he won four races in five seasons. He even went on to test a BMW Sauber F1 car with hand controls and the BMW DTM car.

Those are just three examples but also consider what Robert Kubica has gone through and Davey Hamilton and Kenny Bräck and Felipe Massa. All suffered massive accidents but returned. Now I don't think Franchitti will return to that level of competition but to think he wouldn't jump at the opportunity to be apart of a lineup of five drivers for an endurance sports car race is absurd. He will recover and will be cautious but if he is fit, he will get behind the wheel of a car for one final drive.

Franchitti will take some time off. He is done with IndyCar and any other full-time competition but mark my words, we have not seen the last of him. He will run one final race and I wouldn't be surprised if it is with his brother at a 24-hour race. Maybe Daytona or Le Mans.

Three down, two to go. With Formula One and sports car predictions available, all that remains is NASCAR and IndyCar.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Predictions For 2014: Sports Cars

For the final week of 2013 a list of predictions of what could happen in a few different motorsport series in 2014 will be posted and today we look at the world of sports car racing, from the inaugural Tudor United Sportscar Championship to the FIA World Endurance Championship and a few items in between.

1. Porsche Wins Le Mans With Mark Webber
It's a complete hunch. Yes I know Audi will still be there and have won four in a row and twelve of fourteen since the turn of the millennium. Who knows, Webber may struggle in sports cars. Porsche might struggle as a whole. The bright side is they will have an experienced duo in Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas leading the way with another Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb in the stable along with the talented Neel Jani and youngster Brendon Hartley. I envision Bernhard and Dumas pairing with Jani as the number one team with Lieb, Hartley and Webber forming the second car. Is that team good enough to win Le Mans? We will have to wait and find out. Let me put it to you this way: Did anyone really think the #2 Audi of Fässler, Tréluyer and Lotterer would hold off three Peugeots for sixteen hours?

2. Tom Kristensen Retires
First Dindo Capello, then Allan McNish. The master of Le Mans has seen his two wingmen retire and he has accomplished a spectacular career driving for Audi. He has nothing left to prove and after 2014 he will also enter retirement. Audi has been experiencing a constant changing of the guard but they always find the next batch of drivers to continue their legacy. Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, Marco Werner, Capello, McNish and Kristensen all set the bar at Audi and the likes of Fässler, Tréluyer, Lotterer and Duval are drivers Audi found who have continued to raise it.

3. Audi Promote Within to Replace Allan McNish
Rarely does Audi go outside the box when it comes to replacing one of their drivers and following the retirement of Allan McNish this will be no different. However who they decide to become the third driver along side Kristensen and Duval is another story. Mike Rockenfeller is committed to DTM full-time. Filipe Albuquerque has been successful for Audi in DTM and won the GT class this past January in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gené and Lucas di Grassi completed the third car at Le Mans this year. I suspect di Grassi, Albuquerque and Jarvis are frontrunners to land the spot. The other driver to watch out for is René Rast who was one of Albuquerque's teammates at Daytona earlier this year, won the Spa 24 Hours in 2012 and is a three-time Porsche Supercup champion.

4. Bob Stallings Racing Wins 24 Hours of Daytona
After being forced to run only the North American Endurance Cup races in 2014, the highly successful #99 Gainsco entry known as the Red Dragon will finally break though at Daytona. Each year Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty have entered Daytona as favorites but rarely complete all 24 hours let alone be in contention to win. But I feel that will change. After all these years, the one year they de-emphasize the championship they pull out the biggest sports car race in North America. Plus they will have two veterans in Memo Gidley and Darren Law rounding out a very dangerous part time team.

5. TUSC Will Have A Few Events Where Class Limits Cause Headaches
For most events the Prototype class will be limited to 19, PC to 10, GTLM to 12 and GTD to 19. But from the looks of the full-time entry list, GTD will be causing the most problems. Twenty-four cars are entered to run the full-season in GTD with another three entered for Daytona. GTLM is set with 10 full-time entries with another two committed to the NAEC events. The Prototype class doesn't hit it's limit on full-time entries with thirteen with another three prototypes entered for the NAEC but the PC class is overbooked with twelve full-time.

Naturally if the P class does not have a full house entered for any round, it would only make sense to redistribute them to other class that are over their limits but what will happen in a month's time at Daytona? If the P class is three short, first will those spots be redistributed and if so to which class or classes? Does PC receive two additional spots that way no PC cars are sent home? Does GTD get two additional spots that way less GTD cars are sent home? And what happens at other events such as Sebring and Indianapolis where the P and GTLM class are given one and two additional entries respectively? We will just have to find out when it happens.

6. Nissan ZEOD RC Will Complete All 24 Hours at Le Mans
Unlike it's predecessor as the Garage 56 entry and old brother, the DeltaWing, the ZEOD RC will see the checkered flag in the French classic. The hybrid electric vehicle may not be running competitive lap times compared other LMP entries but it will avoid mechanical failures and contact from other cars to make it to the end.

7. Mid-Ohio Will Receive A Sports Car Date For 2015
After being left off both the United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge schedule, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will get back on one or both schedules for 2015.

8. Pirelli World Challenge Will Continue to Grow
Last season saw Cadillacs CTS-Vs, Audi R8s and Volvo S60s competed full-time with cameos throughout the season by Corvettes, Porsche 911 GT3s, Dodge Vipers, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGs and an Aston Martin Vantage GT3.  Reiter Engineering has homologated a Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3 and DragonSpeed tested a Ferrari GT3 458 earlier this month with signs pointing to the McLaren MP4-12C and maybe even a Bentley Continental GT3 making their debut in 2014. Keep an eye out for Pirelli World Challenge in 2014. It might be the best racing you see all year.

9. Ferrari Will Continue To Look Toward A Future in LMP1
Over the past month, Ferrari has expressed interest in entering LMP1 and I think we will continue to hear rumblings of a return of the Scuderia. With the new 1.6 liter V6 engine that will be used in Formula One also being in compliance with the ACO's regulations, the return to Le Mans is easier than ever for Ferrari and I am sure it is a return we would all like to see.

In case you missed it, here are Formula One predictions for 2014. NASCAR predictions and a mixed-bag of predictions on series such as MotoGP, DTM, World Rally and other will be available tomorrow.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Predictions for 2014: Formula One

With 2013 in it's final days and the events that took place in year been analyzed and reflected on, it is time to look ahead. The New Year begins but motorsports takes a little longer to get going. It's starts slow but eventually gets rolling as spring approaches.

For the final week of 2013 a list of predictions of what could happen in a few different motorsport series in 2014 will be posted and we will start with Formula One followed by sports cars, NASCAR, a mixed-post of motorsports and finishing with IndyCar prior to the new year.

1. Sebastian Vettel's Winning Streak Ends at Nine
The German won the final nine races of 2013 but the streak will not continue over to 2014. Why? My argument will be too many variables and Vettel's success rate in Melbourne. With new 1.6 liter V6 turbocharged engines if there was ever a race for Red Bull to be beaten at it would be race one of the 2014 season. Mercedes proved early in 2013 they could compete with Red Bull and the pairing of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, the defending winner of the Australian Grand Prix, give Red Bull and Vettel four legitimate contenders to knock them off in race one.

As for Vettel, he has finished on the podium in the last three races at Albert Park but that comes after two retirements in his first three appearances in Australia with his other race ending in the famous collision with Robert Kubica while battling for second with two laps to go. The last two years Vettel has been beaten by better cars on that given day and Red Bull rarely starts a season strong having five victories in the first three races of the season in their nine year history.

But with that said...

2. Vettel Is Still The Championship Favorite
Only Michael Schumacher has won five consecutive championships. History is against Vettel repeating that feat especially with the rule changes. Adrian Newey always builds a top-notch car so that will be on the German's side. However the playing field has leveled out a bit with the new engine formula. Mercedes is coming off nipping Ferrari for second in the Constructors' Championship and is led by Lewis Hamilton who, surprisingly enough, has not finished better than fourth in the World Drivers' Championship since winning the title in 2008.

Fernando Alonso is arguably the most likely driver to knock off Vettel, having finished runner-up to him in the championship on three occasions and on two of those occasions he himself had a shot to win his third championship. The Spaniard's quest will become even tougher with Räikkönen as a teammate. The Finn finished third in the standings in 2012 after not racing in Formula One for two seasons and had a victory and eight podiums in 2013 before a back injury sidelined him for the final two races.

There are plenty of drivers capable of beating Vettel in 2014, the only problem is they all have teammates who can make a claim for being a team's number one driver, something Vettel does not have to worry about.

3. Romain Grosjean Will Win A Race
May 19, 1996. That was the last time La Marseillaise was the first anthem played and the Tricolour was the top flag on a Formula One podium. Expect that change. Yes a lot of change has already happened at Lotus but the biggest change for them was emergence of Grosjean as a prominent driver who can not only just bring the car home in one piece but score podium after podium after podium. He won't have the same caliber teammate with Pastor Maldonado but the Venezuelan can be quick at times while other times is erratic and a danger to ruin a fellow drivers day by one lapse of judgment.

4. Pastor Maldonado Will Cement His Role as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Formula One
He may be a ride-buyer who is a menace but he can be fast and find his way to the front. We have also seen the Venezuelan do next to nothing with a car. One point in 2011 followed by forty-five thanks to a win at Barcelona in 2012 but back down to a single point in 2013. Maldonado will score a handful of points in 2014 to go continue to the trend but don't expect him to give Grosjean a real fight for top driver at Lotus. After winning the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012 he went the entire summer without scoring a point before finishing eighth at Suzuka ten races later. Maldonado will slow flashes of brilliance but will not be able to string together results over consecutive rounds.

5. Nico Hülkenberg Will Score a Podium
The German came close to scoring his maiden podium in 2013 driving for Sauber despite not being paid. Now he finds himself back at a slightly better team in Force India where he also came close to a podium on a few occasions in 2012. His teammate Sergio Pérez gives him a competent associate to bounce information off of but a teammate that he should finish ahead for majority of 2014. A podium or two in 2014 and Hülkenberg is well on his way to a top seat for 2015.

6. Caterham or Marussia Will Score a Point in Formula One
After four seasons, a rebranding for each team and a combined eleven different drivers getting behind the wheel for the two teams, one of these blind squirrels will finely fine a nut. It's bound to happen. A monsoon that takes out a third of the field, a street race that is full of accidents and safety cars, a Pirelli tire debacle where half the grid protests and either pull off the grid before the start (a la Indianapolis 2005) or a rash of tire failures lead to teams pulling cars mid race. Something is bound to go Caterham's or Marussia's way. At least you'd think so as the team enter their fifth season on the grid.

If anything, my money is on Jules Bianchi scoring for Marussia. He is arguably the best driver between the two teams not to forget mentioning the Russian team will have Ferrari engines in 2014. Should Max Chilton return, he has proven he has the ability to bring a car home in one piece after finishing ever race in 2013. Should a race come down to attrition, Chilton could be in the right position at the right time to steal some points.

Caterham has yet to announce their drivers for 2014 but it appears to be five drivers competing for the two seats between their 2013 drivers, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, former drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi and GP2 driver Swede Marcus Ericsson. If Caterham improve their car and put together a driver pairing of say Kobayashi and van der Garde, they could steal points with a few breaks along the way.

7. Pirelli Will Continue to Struggle To Provide A Reasonable Tire But Expect Them To Stay For 2015
The Italian tire manufacture will be entering their fourth season as sole supplier in Formula One and the road only will get rougher in 2014. The struggles will continue to provide a tire that is competitive, safe and produces great racing. Pirelli will be frustrated, teams will be frustrated, drivers will be frustrated but don't expect a new manufacture in 2015 because they do not want to experience the headache Pirelli is experiencing and don't want to spend the money on it either. Michelin is happy in sports cars, Bridgestone/Firestone aren't interested, as long as they are in NASCAR Goodyear will never produce another racing tire for Formula One or any other form of major motorsports.

The only way I see a change is if a company with no experience in Formula One, such as Hankook bites the bullet.

8. The Grand Prix of America in New Jersey Will Happen For 2015
Two years after the previously scheduled, the inaugural Grand Prix of America will happen in 2015 on the streets of New Jersey. I am being very optimistic with this prediction. I have no idea what is going to happen. I have no idea what is going through Bernie Ecclestone's mind, no idea how much money has been drained on this project but I will go out on a limb and say Formula One will finally race in New Jersey.

9. India, Korea and Mexico Do Not Return For 2015
And of the three, Mexico is the only one I realistically see returning. I think 2015 will be a little too soon for that race to occur but maybe 2016. It has the financial backing of Telmex's Carlos Slim who has heavily invested in Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez. I feel confident one of the richest men in the world will get Mexico back on the schedule.

As for the other two, a lot needs to happen for them to return. India is shrouded in tax issues and from an outsiders point-of-view lack of acceptance of Formula One by the people. While the South Korean race has lost tons of money not only on the race but the circuit which hosts next to nothing after Formula One. The only way I see Korea returning is if Hankook becomes the sole tire supplier in 2015 but other than that I see two fewer stops to the Asia-Pacific for the next few years.

10. Daniel Ricciardo Will Have Success But Won't Win
I expect the Australian to have good results but showing growing pains at times. He won't be on the same page as Vettel but will be able to get results and beat the likes of Lotus, McLaren and even Mercedes and Ferrari on a few occasions. He won't set the world on fire or knock Vettel off his pedestal but he will be consistently in the points and that is all you can really ask for from a driver in his first season with a major team.

11. McLaren Will Score a Podium and May Even Get A Win
After their worst season in over thirty years in 2013, McLaren look to right the ship in their final year with Mercedes before ushering in Honda in 2015. Jenson Button has another new teammate with the hiring of Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen. It may have been a frustrating 2013 season but it wasn't completely awful. Button finished in the points in fourteen of nineteen races including a fourth in the final round in Brazil. Magnussen appears to have all it takes to be a top driver. Along with the Formula Renault 3.5 title he was the fastest in the Young Drivers' Test in 2012 and fastest on day one of 2013's Young Drivers' Test which was a combined session with current drivers after the amount of tire failures in the British Grand Prix.

Don't expect McLaren to be battling for the Constructors' Championship in 2014 but they should have a much better season than they did in 2013.

12. A Team Other Than Red Bull and Mercedes Will Win A Pole
After Red Bull defeated Mercedes 11-8 on poles in 2013, expect a new team to get one in 2014. Ferrari of course is a top contender for one.

13. Williams Will Score More Than Five Points By the Start of the European Season
With the addition of Felipe Massa, he and Valterri Bottas will pick up Williams after a dreadful 2013.

14. Abu Dhabi Will Not Be Double Points
After all the backlash from drivers, teams, media and fans, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be worth the same amount of points as every other race on the Formula One calendar.

I think fourteen predictions for 2014 is a good place to leave it. Look for the sports car predictions to come over the weekend.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Gingerbread Pagoda and Candy Model of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Five hours and fifteen minutes. That's how long it took my family and I to create a gingerbread model of the pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and candy model of the famed two and a half mile oval.

Why would we do such a thing? 

My answer: Why not?

The Initial Set Up

It started as a fun idea and transformed into reality tonight. It all started about a month ago when I started to think about gingerbread houses. I had done one when I was a young child and it was a disaster. Many years later, I decided to take a second crack at the Christmas-themed creation but I went above and beyond the average gingerbread house that comes from a kit. I wanted to do Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

How was this going to work? I thought of the track. The actually gingerbread structure would be the pagoda but what about the grandstands? Race track? Walls? Spectators? It was not an easy task but I really thought about it.

My mother and I came up with ways to make this work. Graham crackers for stands, M&Ms and gummy bears as spectators, chocolate Twizzlers as the asphalt, mini marshmallows as the walls with Pull n' Peel Twizzlers on toothpicks as the catch fence. It was all coming together in my head but how would it come together on the dinning room table?

As you can see above I started by wrapping thick poster board with tinfoil. With that as a base I folded index cards to rest graham crackers on the angle to mimic grandstands.

Phase one was simple. I laid the marshmallows around an outline of the track. After those were laid down, within the "walls" chocolate Twizzlers were placed. Now a few things you will notice: No apron and no road course. Let me say this was hard enough just doing the oval. It's not an exact model of Indianapolis Motor Speedway but it's damn close.

After Laying Down The Walls, Asphalt and Grandstands

I was able to get phase one out of the way by myself but the rest involved the help of my family, more specifically my mother, grandmother, Uncle Bill and cousin William. Ten hands got to work dipping each M&M in icing and placing them nicely on the graham cracker grandstand forming a colorful crowd.

Turn One As Catch Fence is Constructed

As the grandstand were being filled the catch fence was being constructed. My cousin William peeled apart the Twizzlers and carefully stuck a toothpick threw three strands of the gelatin material and then place a toothpick inside every third mini marshmallow.

View of Turn Two With Catch Fence

Of course any model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not be complete without the addition of the famed scoring pylon which was is represented by five towering caramels.

Early Stages of the Front Straightaway

As my family continued working on the track, I got started on the pagoda which was harder than first anticipated. Using one of the gingerbread kits I took what would normally be used for the sides of a gingerbread house and stood them up longways with what would normally be the roof standing as the sides of the pagoda that runs parallel to the front straightaway. After that was constructed, the hard part became constructing the tiers of the pagoda. Icing wasn't enough to hold the pieces of graham crackers in place and caramels were placed underneath to keep them from falling. A few Hershey's Kisses were placed on top to represent the flags on top. The pagoda doesn't feature the exact amount of tiered roofs but given the size it was the best we could do.

The Pagoda

We continued to work on the aesthetics of the Speedway. I will admit The Hall of Fame Museum could be better. It's a Chocolate Fudge Pop Tart standing on top of four stacks of three mini marshmallows. Once again, not the greatest representation for the museum. Some gummy bears were place in turn three to represent the snake pit. Not a difficult snake pit to construct but it works.

From Turns One and Two Looking Toward Museum
Turn Three with the Snake Pit
Then there was the golf course. We needed something was green. I'm still not sure what it is but my uncle used the fondant from the gingerbread house kit to contracted the four holes of Brickyard Crossing located inside the Speedway. With the help of some food coloring, he dyed a piece of paper blue to represent the pond located along side the eighth hole of the golf course.

Turn Two With Golf Course
As the clock has struck midnight, Christmas Eve is here. This project was done not just to honor the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but to take advantage of the precious time a family has together. It isn't everyday a family can get together to complete as detailed a project as this. Christmas and the holiday season that comes every December is the rare occasion when a family could work on something that will be picked at over the next three or four days but the memories of the night and hard work will last much longer than that. 

Front Straightaway
Turn One

Back Straightaway
As for next year, maybe we tackle something a little more challenging. Circuit de la Sarthe? Nordschleife? Or perhaps we skip next year. After all I have seen enough candy tonight that I never want to see it ever again.

Turn Three

Turn Four

It's not perfect. The suites are missing from turn two, there is no road course, no pit lane grandstands or victory lane but we gave it our all. There will be some final decorations added but I hope you all enjoyed the model of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas From For The Love of Indy

Friday, December 20, 2013

Motorsports Christmas List

It is that time of the year where many families and friends come together and for Christmas and spend valuable time together creating memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.

With this time of the year comes the exchanging of gifts. With that in mind I came up with a list of what the different motorsport series and fans would like this holiday season.

Let's start with Formula One:

I will give them normal points for the final round of the 2014 season. A race worth double points is not needed.

I will also give them a return to places such as Imola, Zandvoort, Paul Ricard and Brands Hatch.

Tires that last for just the right amount of time during a race. Not too long so a team can do one stop and be done but not so short that drivers are pitting every ten laps or having to worry about unexpected failures.

For the teams of Formula One, a little more testing so they can develop a car and driver during the season.

On to IndyCar:

Ovals. More specifically Phoenix, Michigan, Richmond, New Hampshire and Pikes Peak.

Road courses. Natural-terrain road courses. More specifically Road America, Watkins Glen, Austin and Portland.

If IndyCar is going to have an international series, three ovals (Motegi, Rockingham and Lausitz), three road courses (Mugello, Kyalami and Motegi for a doubleheader) with a race in Australia. Could be at Surfers Paradise, the circuit around Sydney's Olympic Park or Phillip Island.

IndyCar head lining the Saturday of the Formula One weekends at Austin and Interlagos with the Interlagos race being 500km around a renovated perimeter circuit.

Along with that gift would come Formula One putting aside their superiority complex and let IndyCar race, IndyCar putting aside their superiority complex and understand racing on a Saturday where 78,000 people show up is better than racing on your own for a weekend where only 60,000 will show up for three days and fans being able to realize that just because IndyCars run slower lap times doesn't mean the racing is bad and just because Formula One runs faster laps times doesn't mean the racing is better.

And then there is NASCAR:

Another revamped point system. No more points for every driver. Let's limit it to the top ten. The Formula One point system would do wonders for NASCAR.

Get rid of the Chase.

A rule limiting Cup drivers from competing in the Nationwide and Truck Series. Maybe something like this.

Places such as Texas, Pocono, Michigan and Dover re-gifting Cup races to Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, Road Atlanta and Iowa.

Shorter Cup races across the board. Only the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500, July Daytona race and a race at Talladega remain untouched. All other ovals are shorten to 300 miles or 300 laps. All Nationwide oval races shorten to 250 miles or 250 laps. All Truck oval races shorten to 150 miles or 150 laps.

And then there are the other series around the world:

For USAC a batch of paved oval and more opportunities to IndyCar for their drivers.

A removal of the ridiculous pit stop rule in the DTM.

For MotoGP a team to help develop riders from the United States and the rest of the Americas.

Speaking of MotoGP, a return to Laguna Seca and a round at Barber Motorsports Park.

For the United SportsCar Championship, a solid prototype class with an even balance in performance not to mention a way to accommodate full-time entries and other teams competing part-time in the North American Endurance Cup.

The Indy Lights series gets a dozen cars to balloon the grid up to twenty entries with more partnerships with IndyCar teams.

V8 Supercars not only get to return to Austin but a race at Laguna Seca.

With any Christmas list, there are items that we have as good a chance of getting as catching lightning in a bottle but we still but them down just hoping they come fruition and end up under the tree the morning of the 25th. Granted it's not like any of the above is going to happen but these items that much less likely to happen.

An IndyCar doubleheader on the Daytona road course during Speedweeks with one race the Friday night before the Sprint Showdown and the other taking place the next day, hours prior to the Showdown. Not sure if IndyCar would use the long 3.5-mile circuit that uses all four corners of the oval or the shorter motorcycle circuit that only uses oval turns three and four. The way I see it is if IndyCar's cathedral can host NASCAR annually, why can't NASCAR's include IndyCar in the weeks that feature everything from prototype sports cars to Chevrolet Silverados?

For the NASCAR Nationwide Series, an endurance race on a road course that allows for Cup drivers, road course ringers and more to compete with series regulars. How about a 1000km race on the grand prix circuit at Watkins Glen?

A return of IROC and this time it's actually going to be an International Race of Champions. I want Vettel vs. Johnson vs. Dixon vs. McNish vs. Ogier vs. Kristensen vs. Jordan Taylor vs. Whincup vs. Muller vs. Rockenfeller vs. Kanaan vs. Alonso. I want the Tesla Roadster as the car for the series because it is neutral to all the drivers competing and promotes the use of electric vehicles. I want six races, three ovals, three road courses. Start the season at Daytona the Friday night before the Daytona 500, a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carb Day, a race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve the Saturday afternoon during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend and a race Saturday afternoon on Circuit de la Sarthe before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the season finales needing it's own explanation below.

The season finale for said IROC series would be held during the Italian Grand Prix weekend at Monza. First, a complete renovation of the oval to be able to host a race. Two, lights for the oval. Three, bring back the Race of Two Worlds and make the Italian Grand Prix another doubleheader with Formula One and IndyCar with the 500-mile Race of Two Worlds taking place the Saturday night before the Italian Grand Prix. The IROC season finales take place with a race Friday night on the oval after IndyCar qualifying with the race on the road course taking place on Saturday after Formula One qualifying but prior to the Race of Two Worlds.

A return of Ford and Ferrari to the top of sports car racing and entering LMP1 to go head-to-head with Audi, Toyota and Porsche and the LMP1 class returning to the United States to run at least Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

I would give Conor Daly and Sam Bird each $5 million to find a ride somewhere. It's hard to believe both these drivers are without rides for 2014 and it's five days until Christmas. You know what? I am just going to give them their own IndyCar team for Christmas. That would be a team to look out for.

I'd give every race track a safer catch fence that catches a car without tearing it to bits and in turn would decrease the amount of injuries.

More importantly though I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I realize those things above may never happen let alone happen this Christmas. It would be nice if they were to happen but ultimately you can't control what you receive. You can however control who you are with and the memories you make. Christmas isn't about the gifts under the tree or how many are under the tree but who is around it. Who you spend time with is the most important part of the holiday. These are the days that you want to remember for a lifetime. The gifts are material. The toys will break, the chocolates will be devoured, the electronics will be thrown in a drawer once obsolete and replaced but the people you are with will hopefully be there for a long time and when they are no longer there, the memories will remain. That is more valuable than anything you can put a bow on.

Merry Christmas from For the Love of Indy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Look Back On 2013

Another year is in the books.

As I get older it, the years seem to get shorter. I'm sure I am not the only one who feels this way and I am sure sooner rather than later I'll get use to it but the events happening late this year sure didn't seem imaginable when the ball dropped nearly twelve months ago.

Dario Franchitti and Allan McNish have both retired. Mark Webber is leaving Formula One for World Endurance Championship and to drive for Porsche. Kimi Räikkönen is return to Ferrari. Juan Pablo Montoya is returning to IndyCar... to drive for Penske!

What happened!?

Things change. They always have and always will. This is just another period of sudden and in some ways unexpected change. Retirements are going to happen. We have become accustomed to them being laid out, announced prior to the season and making a retirement tour out of it. In these cases, Franchitti is walking away due to injuries but it feels he has more in the tank and McNish is just calling it a career but we know he still has it. They aren't holding on for too long but it sure feels are ending their careers too soon.

Series-by-series we look at the major events of 2013.

After nearly losing the title in 2012, Sebastian Vettel made sure their was no dispute he was the top driver in Formula One and ended the season winning nine consecutive races but behind Vettel so many other things happened that deserve as much attention. Pirelli had a rough season and received their fair share of criticism as they try to construct a tire that is safe while also providing the best racing product possible.

While Vettel was running away with the title, Räikkönen announced his return to Ferrari where he will team with Fernando Alonso. Arguably two of best drivers since the turn of the millennium driving for the arguably the most notable name in motorsports. Who is going to take the number two role in that team? We all remember the McLaren debacle with Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. It's hard to imagine this Räikkönen is going to play second fiddle.

IndyCar turned out to have one of it's finest seasons after having a tumultuous offseason. Politics and front office changes were put on the back burner and the racing was brought to the forefront. From the green flag at St. Petersburg to the checkers at Fontana, the racing was the some of the best the series has seen. Even Belle Isle had good races. Pocono had a successful return. The series saw ten different winners, one off the record. There were four first time winners and twenty different drivers got a podium in 2013. The points battle saw Scott Dixon complete a terrific comeback and denied Helio Castroneves from scoring his first championship.

Jimmie Johnson picked up another championship after a ten week fight with Matt Kenseth. Johnson never put a foot wrong during the Chase but had an impressive season with six victories including sweeping Daytona for the first time in over thirty years. Meanwhile Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship despite not winning a race all season, further adding fuel to the debate about limiting the amount of times a Cup driver can race in the second national touring division. Matt Crafton won the Trucks title with one victory as the series saw the rise of young drivers such as Ty Dillon, Jeb Burton, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Ross Chastain.

Rookie Marc Márquez was able to beat the veterans of MotoGP and winning the World Riders' Championship in his first season. He, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa formed a three-headed Spanish monster that kept a firm grasp on the podium all season long. Valentino Rossi's return to Yamaha wasn't as exciting as originally thought but The Doctor in nearly three years. In World Superbikes Tom Sykes won the championship after falling to Max Biaggi by a half point in 2012.

Audi dominated the World Endurance Championship as Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval won the world championship. Toyota had a slight sophomore slump but turned it around at the end of the season winning two of the final three rounds. GT featured a great battle between Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche with Gianmaria Bruni leading Ferrari past Aston Martin for the title. Stateside saw the final years for Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series. Pickett Racing and drivers Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf set a record for consecutive races won winning the eight rounds between Sebring and Road Atlanta. Corvette and Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW went toe-to-toe at each event with Corvette taking the title. Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor won the final three rounds of the Rolex Sports Car Series and the title in Angelelli's final year of full-time competition.

In DTM, Mike Rockenfeller won his first career title over Augusto Farfus but BMW was able to take the manufactures' title over Audi and Mercedes-Benz after winning five of the ten rounds. Jamie Whincup tied the record for most V8 Supercar championships by winning his fifth. Yvan Muller won his fourth World Touring Car Championship and his seventeenth title in his career.

Sébastien Ogier dominated the World Rally Championship as Sébastien Loeb retired from full-time competition. The Volkswagen defeated Citroën after the French manufacture had won five consecutive titles and eight of the last ten.

The overarching theme of 2013 in motorsport was a deep pool of talented drivers but a shortage of seats and the benefits to having money backing a drivers career than talent alone. In Formula One Nico Hülkenberg struggles to break through to a big team while Pastor Maldonado moves to Lotus because the team needs money and the Venezuelan is bring over €40 million with him. Jules Bianchi will race another year at Marussia but the . Paul di Resta may be forced out of Formula One not because of his results but lack of funding which some teams, such as Caterham expects a driver to bring funding with them.

Drivers have trouble just even breaking through to Formula One. Sam Bird can't get a seat but Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin who has less experience in the lower Formulas, less success and less seat time in any Formula One car is lined up to drive for Sauber in 2014 despite not having an FIA Super License.

Across the pond it is no different. IndyCar has it's most talented field in series history but seats are few and far in-between. The likes of Simona de Silvestro, Oriol Servià, Alex Tagliani, James Jakes, Tristan Vautier, Sebastián Saavedra, Conor Daly, Sam Bird and Sage Karam are all looking for full-time rides but at best four of those drivers will get what they are looking for. In NASCAR, more now than ever is financial backing becoming crucial in a drivers future. Martin Truex, Jr. lost his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing after Napa pull the plug on funding after their team orders debacle at Richmond. Sam Hornish, Jr. is out of a ride at Penske Racing after finishing second in the Nationwide Series by only three points.

It wouldn't be right to look back on 2013 without acknowledging those who lost their lives in motorsports. The notable names being Allan Simonsen, Sean Edwards, Andrea Antonelli. Kurt Caselli, Jason Leffler and Josh Burton but also to those who lost their lives racing for the love of it. The drivers who were never going to see the big pay days or fame that major motorsport can provide. We remember them and our prayers go to their families. While safety has improved leaps and bounds and fatalities have become fewer than ever before it will never get easier when a driver loses their life.

The year might be over but as I have said before, 2014 is in our sights. This was a good year for racing. It had it's moments of frustration and disappointment but every year will have it's ups and downs. For all the negatives, the were at least two positives to negate them. We focus on the negative too much. We allow it to consume us and run our emotions and in doing so fail to see all that is good. There is plenty of positives but we need to be more acknowledgeable of them.

One positive is this: Racing will resume soon as another year of memories lay ahead of us.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 For The Love Of Indy Awards

With the 2013 season now in the rearview mirror and 2014 within our sights, it is time to acknowledge those who were the best of the best in 2013. From the luxury worlds of Formula One and MotoGP to the dirt of Eldora, 2013 saw a plethora of feats that may not be repeated for quite sometime. While this year has seen wonderful racing, it has also seen the dark reality of racing that sober us and make contemplate our involvement in motorsport. We remember all those who lives ended on this material world but hopefully are continuing at the great racetrack in the sky.

And now we continue with the ceremony. Below we honor the drivers, races, passes, achievements and decisions that stood out in 2013 and what we will be talking about many years from now when we are old and grey.

Racer of the Year
Description: Given to the best racer over the course of 2013.
And the Nominees are:
Sebastian Vettel: 2013 World Drivers' Champion, his fourth consecutive title. Won thirteen races in a season, tying a single-season record and nine consecutive races.
Jimmie Johnson: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, his sixth career title. Won six races including his second Daytona 500 victory.
Marc Márquez: 2013 World Riders' Champion as a rookie. Won six races, finished on the podium in sixteen of eighteen races.
Mike Conway: Won four rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship in the LMP2 class, finished third in the LMP2 standings by a half point. Won his second IndyCar start of the season at Belle Isle and averaged a finish of 9.7 in seven IndyCar starts.

And the winner is... Marc Márquez
In his rookie season in MotoGP, Marc Márquez didn't make mistakes and have to go through the steps that many young racers have to go through before making an assault on the championship. He integrated himself to the top level of motorcycle racing in the world seamlessly. Filling the shoes for a two-time world champion Casey Stoner, Márquez quickly displaced veteran Dani Pedrosa as the lead rider at Repsol Honda.

A third on debut directly ahead of Pedrosa and his first career victory at the following round in Austin started Márquez's season with a bang. Pedrosa would get two wins and Márquez would make his only mistake of 2013, falling while running unchallenged in second at Mugello. But as spring turned to summer, Márquez settled into form. Injuries to Jorge Lorenzo and Pedrosa gave Márquez the advantage in Germany and Laguna Seca. After the summer break, he picked up where he left off, winning two more races at Indianapolis and the Czech Republic. With enough of a cushion all he had to do was stay on Lorenzo's back tire for the rest of the season but he would pick up another win at Aragon.

A team and Bridgestone error at Phillip Island nearly cost Márquez but it didn't rattle him. The podium was his home in 2013. Besides the fall at Mugello and disqualification at Phillip Island, Màrquez was on the podium in each and every race and in doing so became the youngest world  champion in the history of MotoGP and first rookie to win the title since Kenny Roberts in 1978.

On the other nominees: The other three nominees were very deserving of the award. Sebastian Vettel won every race after the Formula One summer break. He grabbed the championship battle by the throat and never let go. No one could hold a feather to the German. A few tried but none succeeded. Vettel's 2013 season will go down as one of the greatest in the history of Formula One.

Jimmie Johnson put himself within a step of the all-time record for championships in NASCAR's top division and did so in an impressive way. He won his second Daytona 500 and won the July race at Daytona, becoming the fifth driver to sweep the Daytona races joining Fireball Roberts in 1962, Cale Yarborough in 1968, LeeRoy Yarbrough in 1969 and Bobby Allison in 1982 to do so. In winning the Daytona 500 and championships, it is the second time Johnson won both the title and Daytona 500 in the same season, having done it in 2006 and eleventh time it has happened overall (Lee Petty 1959; Richard Petty 1964, 1971, 1974 and 1979; Cale Yarborough 1977; Jeff Gordon 1997).

You wouldn't think Mike Conway would be listed with these three but think about the season he had. First full-time season in an LMP2 car and he and his team win more races in class than anyone else at four and if it hadn't been for a slightly illegal fuel cell at Le Mans, he, John Martin and Romain Rusinov would've have won the WEC LMP2 title. Then there is his IndyCar endeavor. In what looked to be an occasional one off for Conway turned it into a full-time ride for road courses with a win, pole and third in the Belle Isle doubleheader. In the six races Conway competed in with Dale Coyne Racing, only Scott Dixon averaged a better finish.

Past Winners
2012: Kyle Larson

Race of the Year
Description: Best Race of 2013.
And the Nominees are:
British motorcycle Grand Prix
Indianapolis 500
Pirelli World Challenge Season Finale at Houston
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Indianpolis motorcycle Grand Prix

And the winner is... British motorcycle Grand Prix
Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez went head-to-head for 40 minutes with Lorenzo coming out on top by the slimmest of margins. The interval between first and second was never greater than 0.441. Márquez started on pole but Lorenzo took the lead off the line and had Márquez breathing down his neck each lap. Lorenzo would lead twenty-two of twenty-three laps but only won by 0.081 seconds. Deeper in the field, Valentino Rossi and Álvaro Bautista raced hard for fourth with 0.065 seconds separating the Italian from the Spaniard.

On the other nominees... For another year, the Indianapolis 500 was another great race with 68 lead changes and the race coming down to the final laps but the fastest Indianapolis 500 did have the feel of too much passing.

The season finale to the Pirelli World Challenge was a thrilling wet-to-dry race with Johnny O'Connell's Cadillac improving as the track dried to get by James Sofronas for the race win and the championship as Sofronas would be forced to pit for a flat tire.

The season opener to the IndyCar season was top notch. A first time winner in James Hinchcliffe as he held off Helio Castroneves, with Scott Dixon charging from 20th to finish fifth ahead of Simona de Silvestro with EJ Viso finishing seventh, up from 22nd on the grid with 0.0602 seconds covering the three.

The Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix wasn't as close as Silverstone. Márquez had to work his way from third to the lead but once he got by Lorenzo and Pedrosa he pulled away but deeper in the field, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow went back-and-forth while the Ducati teammates of Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso and Crutchlow's Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith gave it there all racing for eighth.

Past Winners
2012: Indianapolis 500

Achievement of the Year
Description: Best success by a driver, team, manufacture, etc.
And the Nominees are:
Bernd Schneider: Won five endurance races in 2013 (24 Hours of Dubai, Bathurst 12 Hours, 24 Hours Nürburgrung, Spa 24 Hours and Gulf 12 Hours).
Sebastian Vettel: Winning nine consecutive Formula One races.
Sébastien Loeb and the Peugeot 208 T16: For setting the record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with a time of 8:13.878 seconds.
John Force: Winning his 16th NHRA Funny Car championship.
Stéphane Peterhansel: Winning back-to-back Dakar Rallies and his eleventh win in the Dakar Rally.
Matthew Brabham: 2013 Pro Mazda champion. Won a record-setting thirteen of sixteen races.

And the winner is... Sebastian Vettel
Nine consecutive victories in Formula One. Even though some say Alberto Ascari won nine in a row in 1952 and 1953, even he didn't win nine in a row as he did not run the 1953 Indianapolis 500, a race that counted toward the world championship in 1953 and run after Ascari had won seven straight, five to end 1952 and the first two of 1953. Vettel ended 2013 as class of the field. He was challenged at Japan by Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber but in the end Vettel worked his pit strategy to get him to the lead. At Abu Dhabi Webber won pole but Vettel took the lead in turn one and never looked back.

In his nine race winning streak, Vettel led 444 of 508 laps (87.4%). He led from lights-to-checkers in five of those races, won six from pole including back-to-back grand chelems (leading every lap from pole position and setting fastest lap) at Singapore and Korea.

On the other nominees... Bernd Schneider finished a close second for this award. Five endurance races won in 2013. Not to mention three on the most difficult tracks in the world, Bathurst, the Nordschleife and Spa.

Sébastien Loeb had one hell of a drive up Pikes Peak and Peugeot built him one hell of car and together they broke the course record by 1:32.286 seconds.

John Force and Stéphane Peterhansel just kept doing what they normally do. Force picked up another Funny Car title while winning four events in 2013 including three consecutive in the Countdown. Peterhansel took his eleventh Dakar Rally win, fifth in the last eight editions, all coming in the car class.

Matthew Brabham rewrote the history books in Pro Mazda with thirteen victories, erasing the record set by Jack Hawksworth the season prior. Now Brabham moves up to Indy Lights driving for Andretti Autosport.

Past Winners
2012: DeltaWing

Moment of the Year
Description: The Most Memorable Moment in the World of Racing during the 2013 season.
And the Nominees are:
Tony Kanaan winning the Indianapolis 500.
2013 24 Hours of Le Mans
Four-wide finish to the Firestone Freedom 100
2013 Malaysia Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel passing Mark Webber.
NASCAR Trucks at Eldora

And the winner is... 24 Hours of Le Mans
The race will be remembered for the death of Allan Simonsen but after watching majority of that race, what stands out to me was the race immediately became about honoring Simonsen. His family didn't want Aston Martin to pull their remaining cars in the field but wanted them to continue racing because they thought that's what Allan would have wanted.

There was no secret of Simonsen passing. For the better part of twenty-three, each driver who got behind the wheel knew what had happened but they continued on and the racing was great. Each class had it's battle. Audi vs. Toyota. OAK vs. OAK in LMP2, Porsche vs. Aston Martin, Porsche vs. Ferrari. The race couldn't escape the elements as rain seem to be constant throughout the twenty-four hours.

When it was all said and done, Tom Kristensen had another Le Mans victory but this one was for Allan. Aston Martin gave it there all but came up short of getting the win while Porsche picked up their 100th class victory by taking both GTE Pro and GTE Am.

Le Mans left you sober this year. There wasn't any celebration, rather a deep breath on the podium. A breath that it was over and no one else got hurt. There wasn't regret with the decision to continue but the mourning had begun once the checkers had flown. The race was over, life had resumed.

On the other nominees... It was great to finally see Tony Kanaan win the Indianapolis 500. He went for it when he had the chance. He wasn't going to wait until the last lap to make his move, he knew times wasn't on his side and after so many years of trying he had the golden opportunity for finally winning at Indianapolis and wasn't letting this one get away from him.

The four-wide finish in the Freedom 100 will go down as the greatest in Indy Lights history if not the greatest at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Right when it looked like the winner was either going to be Carlos Muñoz or Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves made it a three-horse battle and as they ran three-wide through turn three and four, Peter Dempsey was able to make a run on the outside pass everyone by the time they reached the yard of bricks.

The Malaysia Grand Prix set the bar for the 2013 season in Formula One and may have forever shaped the landscape of motorsports. Sebastian Vettel ignoring team orders not to pass Mark Webber for the lead in the closing stages of the races may have forever set in motion the departure of Webber from Red Bull and back to sports car to drive for Porsche. It exposed the ruthlessness Vettel has behind the wheel of a car to win that is hidden by the humble German he is away from the race track. But this is the ruthlessness a driver needs at the top level of motorsports. Take what you can get when you can get it. The moment you let team orders dictate your decision making is the moment you make public that you can take a back seat to anyone. Vettel wasn't going to let that be the case.

When the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made their way to Rossburg, Ohio for the first dirt race in nearly forty-three years for a NASCAR series, it felt as NASCAR was as close to it's root as it ever had been before. It wasn't a mile and a half oval, run by a loud mouth millionaire who you know has the capability to screw you over. It wasn't a dull race that carried on for two and a half hours as everyone just walked through the steps that are a dozen pit stops and cautions for a bag of chips before it finally got serious in the final half hour. It felt as real as anything NASCAR has produced in quite some time.

Past Winners
2012: Alex Zanardi

Pass of the Year
Description: Best pass of 2013.
James Hinchcliffe by Takuma Sato in the final corner of the São Paulo Indy 300.
Peter Dempsey, from fourth to first on the outside, coming to the checkered flag to win the Firestone Freedom 100.
Robert Wickens on the outside of Adrien Tambay and Augusto Farfus, in turn two at Nürburgring in the wet on the way to his first career DTM victory.
Valentino Rossi passes Cal Crutchlow in the penultimate corner of the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix.
Nicky Hayden passes his teammate Andrea Dovizioso in final corner of the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix.
Bradley Smith passes Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso coming to the checkered flag for the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix.
Charlie Kimball around Simon Pagenaud on lap seventy-three for the lead in turn four at Mid-Ohio.

And the winner is... A draw between Robert Wickens and Peter Dempsey
After watching both over and over again, I cannot say one was better than the other, therefore they will share the honor as pass of the year.

Wickens came on strong in the DTM in 2013. He was the top Mercedes driver for most of 2013 and really showed he belong in the DTM. After not being awarded the victory at the Norisring after Mattias Ekström's disqualification, Wickens entered the Nürburgring still looking for his first career victory. A wet race leveled the playing field as Wickens started eleventh.

He worked his way to the front and made the move around Tambay and Farfus while nearly a half minute behind leader Mike Rockenfeller but Wickens closed the gap so when Rockenfeller made his final stop, Wickens went on by and took the victory. The pass was the quintessential pass you know is possible in the wet. When it rains, the whole race track becomes a passing zone and Wickens muscled his Mercedes around the Audi of Tambay and BMW of Farfus and on to victory.

We covered the Dempsey pass and Freedom 100 finish a little bit early in this awards post but here we fully honor the pass. Dempsey was not a factor at all in the race. To be honest, it wasn't a good race at all. Muñoz and Karam ran nose to nail for most of it and everyone made their move on the final lap. It wasn't a great race by any means. As noted above, Chaves making it three-wide allowed Dempsey to catch the leaders and there was just enough of a gap on the outside for Dempsey to make a run and pull off the win. Dempsey took advantage of the gap and made a bold move. It is the pass we love to see a racer make.

On the other nominees... The battle between James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato and even Josef Newgarden was a good as you could ask for on a street course. The final corner at São Paulo was set up perfectly for over-under moves and Hinchcliffe performed one to perfection.

The final lap of the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix gave you three great passes. Valentino Rossi forced the issue to nip the customer Yamaha of Cal Crutchlow for fourth while Nicky Hayden was trying to complete the basic objective in motorsports: beat your teammate. He wasn't going to let Andrea Dovizioso beat him, especially on home soil and threw his bike into that final corner doing what ever it was going to take to finish as the top Ducati. In doing so he opened the door for Bradley Smith to make a run and pick up two more positions but he had beat Dovizioso and that's all he wanted to do in that moment.

Charlie Kimball knew he need to run a flyer to get by Simon Pagenaud who was exiting the pit lane after completing his final stop. Kimball was on it and nearly ran completely off course. With Pagenaud on cold tires Kimball took advantage of the Frenchman in turn four and would go on to pull away and take his first career IndyCar victory in a hard fought race.

Past Winners
2012: Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore

The Eric Idle Award
Description: "Somethings in Life Are Bad. They Can Really Make You Bad. Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse. When You're Chewing on Life's Gristle, Don't Grumble, Give a Whistle, And This'll Help Things Turn Out For The Best, and...  Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."
And the Nominees are:
Williams F1: For scoring five points all season.
McLaren: For not scoring a podium in a season for the first time since 1980.
Sam Hornish, Jr.: For losing the Nationwide Series title to a driver who didn't win a race and better yet doesn't have a ride for 2014.
Mark Webber: For a plethora of mechanical failures in 2013 and things rarely going his way.
Dani Pedrosa: For having his third different teammate win the world championship, a feat he has yet to accomplish in MotoGP.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Went from a team on the verge of victory multiple times to a complete after thought.
André Lotterer: Lost Super Formula title to Naoki Yamamoto on asinine tiebreaker of who compete in more races despite Lotterer winning two races and finishing second in every race he competed in.

And the winner is... Sam Hornish, Jr.
Sam Hornish, Jr. had more wins, more top-fives, more top-tens, more laps led and finished ahead of Austin Dillon in eighteen of thirty-three races and still didn't win the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. There were three races he finished second in behind Cup teammates who weren't eligible for the Nationwide Series title and took away as many as six points away from Hornish each time. Hornish lost the title by three points. Better yet he is currently unemployed for 2014 after working his tail off in 2013 and losing the title in a faulty system. Don't worry Sam, things can get better. Yes he has three IndyCar championships and an Indianapolis 500 victory but to lose a title like this after everything points to you being the better driver has to be devastating.

On the other nominees: It was a rough season for Williams F1 but Valtteri Bottas came along strong late in 2013 and Felipe Massa appears to be a step in the right direction to get that team competing for points on more occasions.

McLaren had their worst season in thirty-three years. Sergio Pérez, the driver they hired as the future of the team prior to 2013 is gone after a rough year in a bad car. The teams heads into 2014 with the bright star that is Kevin Magnussen joining former world champion Jenson Button as the team will run their final season with Mercedes before welcoming the return of Honda to Formula One.

Mark Webber had a rough year. He couldn't catch one break while his teammate had arguably the greatest season in the history of Formula One. The good news for Webber is the drama of Formula One is behind him and he can move on to sports cars in peace.

The rope for Dani Pedrosa at Honda must be getting shorter. Almost every teammate he has had in MotoGP has won the title yet Pedrosa has yet to break through. Obviously time is running out on Pedrosa as Marc Márquez isn't even twenty-one and is open to Jorge Lorenzo becoming his teammate in 2015.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had a slump with Graham Rahal and James Jakes driving for the team in 2013. You would think a veteran driver paired with Rahal would get that team back on track.

André Lotterer may have lost the Super Formula title on a ridiculous tiebreaker but Lotterer is still a factory Audi driver, has two 24 Hours of Le Mans victories, a world championship and won the 2011 Formula Nippon title. He's fine.

Past Winners
2012: Ben Spies

Comeback of the Year
Description: The Best Comeback in the 2013 season.
And the Nominees are:
#60 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley: For coming back from seven laps down in the 24 Hours of Daytona to finish third, under a minute behind the winning #01 Telmex Chip Gannasi BMW/Riley.
Scott Dixon: Coming back from forty-nine points down with three races to go in the IndyCar season to win the title.
Sébastien Ogier: Coming back from 46.8 seconds back entering the final day of Rally Catalunya to win by 32.9 seconds over his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Aston Martin Racing: For winning the GTE-Am class in four of the five races after the death of Allan Simonsen and GTE-Pro in three of five.
Gianmaria Bruni and Ferrari: From 5.5 points back of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner in the World Cup for GT Drivers and 17.5 points back of Aston Martin in the World Cup for GT Manufactures to both winning their respective titles.

And the winner is... Michael Shank Racing
The beauty of a 24-hour endurance race is there is plenty of time to come back. When the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley had mechanical issues they repaired the car and trudged forward. As others dropped out, the #60 made up some ground but also needed a few full course cautions to make up other chunks of time on the leaders. In the final hours, they had finally reached the leaders and were back on the lead lap, capable to fight for the win. They were leading late but needed to make one final pit stop and ultimately fell back to third in what was a tremendous effort by AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Oswaldo Negri, John Pew and Justin Wilson.

On the other nominees... Scott Dixon benefitted from back-to-back podiums at the Houston doubleheader while championship rival Helio Castroneves suffered back-to-back mechanical failure giving Dixon the points lead heading into the season finale at Sonoma where Dixon's persevered through a night of attrition that featured only eight cars running at the finish with Dixon being the last Honda standing.

Sébastien Ogier had locked up the World Rally Championship entering Rally Catalunya but that didn't stop him from going out for the win. The furthest back Ogier was to the leaders was sixth place, 46.8 seconds back of leader and teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. Ogier won the final four stages while Latvala's best stage finish in the final four was fourth.

Aston Martin had an emotional 2013 and did not let the death of Allan Simonsen break them. They remained strong and won eight combined classes in GTE Pro and GTE Am while Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall took the GTE Am drivers' championship.

Gianmaria Bruni entered the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship 17.5 back and with a new teammate for the season finale in Toni Vilander. A break came their way when the Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner was forced to retire, opening the door for the Italian pair of Bruni and Ferrari to take take both the drivers' and manufactures' titles in GT.

Most Improved
Description: Racer Who Improved The Most from 2012 to 2013.
And the Nominees are:
Romain Grosjean: From a crash prone driver to a frequent visitor to the Formula One podium. From three to six podiums in 2013. Scored thirty-six more points in 2013 from 2012.
Charlie Kimball: From 19th to 9th in points with a victory and 10 top tens in 19 races.
Marco Andretti: From 16th to 5th in points. From three top tens in 2012 to fifteen top tens in 2013.
Christian Vietoris: From 12th to 4th in DTM points. Four podiums and scored points in eight of ten races, up from four in 2012.
Joey Logano: From 17th to 8th in NASCAR Points. One win highlights eleven top fives and nineteen top tens in 2013 after only two and twelve respectively in 2012.

And the winner is... Marco Andretti
Marco Andretti had a dismal 2012 but turned it around in 2013. He scored a podium in the season opener, his first on a street course, first on a road or street since 2011 and only third road or street course podium in his career. Unlike past seasons, Andretti was consistently at the front. After that podium at St. Petersburg he finished seventh at both Barber and Long Beach, got another podium at São Paulo, finished fourth at Indianapolis after leading thirty-one laps. He had his bumps in the road during 2013. A mechanical failure at Milwaukee cost him a shot at victory. Poor fuel mileage cost him at Pocono but he still finished tenth and he jumped the start in race two at Houston. Other than that, Andretti didn't make the mistakes we became accustom to seeing from him. He was a threat on each oval and his improvement on road and street courses led to him finishing a career-best fifth in points.

On the other nominees... Romain Grosjean was the second best driver in Formula One after the summer break. Unfortunately Sebastian Vettel's nine race winning streak overshadowed the Frenchman's success. Three consecutive podiums and four in the final six races of the season to go with two podiums earlier in the season capped off Grosjean's season. He is ready to take that step to the top of the podium. The only question is will Lotus be able to provide Grosjean a car capable of winning?

Charlie Kimball was the surprise winner of the IndyCar season and for the first third of the IndyCar season was the top Ganassi driver. He has matured greatly as a driver and has become a driver capable of matching the speed of anyone on the grid including champions such as Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

Christian Vietoris was the top Mercedes driver in the championship standings ahead of race winner Robert Wickens and former champion Gary Paffett. Vietoris scored points in the first seven races of 2013 and picked up his first four career podiums and pole in that time frame. He doubled his finishes in the points from 2012 and has made a huge step from only one finish in the points in his rookie season in 2011.

Joey Logano became a much better all-around driver. He finished in the top ten in points for the first time in his career and finished ahead of his championship winning teammate Brad Keselowksi in the championship in his first season with Penske Racing. His win at Michigan was the highlight in his first season driving for the captain.

Past Winners
2012: Esteban Guerrieri

And that will do it for the 2013 For The Love of Indy Awards. Congratulations to all those who won an award and a further congratulations to all those who were nominated for having a terrific 2013 season. With just two weeks until 2014, the new racing season is just around the corner. AMA Supercross starts January 4th. The 2014 Dakar Rally starts the day after that and will continue for two weeks. The week after Dakar ends the 24 Hours of Daytona and the inaugural round of the United SportsCar Championship will take place. These next couple of weeks will seem slow but don't worry, racing is just around the corner just be patience, enjoy the Christmas season and take some time to reflexed on what was a phenomenal 2013 season.