Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 State of the Blog

It's been a while since I have done a causal post. Everything this past month was plan, from revisiting the 2014 predictions to the previews for the final race weekend in V8 Supercars, Formula E and Race of Champions to the 2015 predictions.

With the year coming to a close, I think about everything that occurred over the 364 previous days. Not just in the motorsports world but in my personal life. Then I think about how far I have gone and yet realize how much things have stayed the same not just in the past year but in the past four years.  I started this blog on April 5, 2012. If you had told me January 1st, 2010 I would be writing a blog I probably would have dismissed it. Here I am though after being inspired by the many blogs I was reading.

Unfortunately, some of those blogs have closed up shop. Hopefully they won't be gone forever but I don't think they will be back. More Front Wing set the bar. That wasn't a blog. That was a full-fledged, IndyCar-dedicated website and I am sad to see it go because no one else covered IndyCar the way Stephanie Wallcraft, Paul Dalbey and John Lingle did and they weren't making a living off the site. Imagine what they could have done if More Front Wing was their livelihood?

I miss the More Front Wing podcasts the most. It is the type of discussion that a diehard such as myself needs. Part of me would love to pick up the ball and have start my own podcast but I don't know what to do and I need a co-host. There is no way anyone wants to listen me dribble drabble on about motorsports for who knows how long. Hell, I don't want to hear myself dribble drabble. I need someone I could have a discussion with and right now I don't have that. The other issue is having the time to do a podcast. You would hope you would have at least a half hour free each week to dedicate to it but that isn't always a guarantee. If I were to do it, besides having a co-host, I would want to be committed to doing it consistently for a full season and I don't want it to become a chore. I want it to be a professional but I don't want it to become something that seems like a hassle to do. I want it to be like calling my uncle and something I enjoy.

Besides More Front Wing, IndyCar Advocate and Pressdog have closed up shop. When IndyCar Advocate made it's final post in April, I thought about how long I would be doing this. I had just hit the second anniversary of the blog and wondered how long could I keep it up? Part of me hopes I never quit. That the time will always be there for me to post something. It might not be as plentiful as it is today but if I could at least find the time to post once a week I would be happy. Another part of me knows nothing lasts forever. Eventually this blog will die. It will become a shell of it's former self and just a wasteland of posts from races that have been long forgotten and speculations that couldn't be further from reality.

That death won't be for quite sometime... I hope. I don't remember where I heard this but I once remember heading it's not death we fear but we fear being forgotten. Sometimes I wonder if anyone will remember this blog. It's nothing all that special. It's not like I am the only source or I do something so spectacular that you can't miss it. I am a minute microcosm on the World Wide Web. The amount of people who don't know I exist greatly outnumber the amount that do.

I am thankful for all of you who do take the time out of your business days to read For the Love of Indy. I hope most of you read it because you enjoy it and don't hate read it because you think I sound like a fool.

The state of the blog is good. I think I get a healthy amount of views considering how little financially is invested into it. I think the quality of the posts have gotten better over the near three years posting.

I plan on being here for all of 2015 with the same format and usual posts. I will still be IndyCar focused and give you the Track Walks to preview a weekend and the Morning Warm-Ups to kick off a race day and First Impressions as I try to digest what the hell happened. I will still cover all forms of motorsports as I love all disciplines and, to be honest, because IndyCar just isn't enough. We have gone four months since the last IndyCar race. What the hell would I post? It would be a post a month and that wouldn't be enough. Plus, motorsports fans watch a lot of different disciplines as well so they are just as interested in a Formula One post or sports car post or MotoGP post as they are in IndyCar-related posts.

I like the Musings From the Weekend column as it covers a little bit of everything, touches on things missed and gets you ready for the weekend ahead of us. The Friday Five posts I did post-IndyCar season I enjoyed as I got to look at other forms of motorsports. I want to continue those but sometimes the posts won't feature five series as less than five series may be in action.

If you have any suggestions on what I should do or what you think I should stop doing, send a tweet to me @4TheLoveofIndy. I really enjoy communicating with those on Twitter. I have had some really enjoyable discussions on Twitter and look forward to having more discussions in 2015.

Now that we got that all covered, let's touch on some motorsports news that came out over Christmas.

I like the idea of FIA World Endurance Championship heading to Indianapolis. I have said this before: I think Indianapolis Motor Speedway has to get away from being "The Home of the Indianapolis 500" and became a place for world motorsports in the United States. Silverstone hosts many races, as does Spa-Francorchamps, and they aren't any less grand tracks for having multiple weekends. Same can be said for Bathurst and the Nürburgring. I am willing to embrace Indianapolis Motor Speedway a home not just for arguably the greatest motor race in the world but a home for MotoGP, NASCAR and sports cars.

The concerns I have with WEC at IMS is how much can WEC expand? They run eight races, seven of which are six hours long and then the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Would it be wise to expand? Would it price out teams? The teams do a lot of miles through race weekends and testing and I don't want the series to shrink because of those in charge want more. I'd love to see LMP1 cars at IMS but as along as it doesn't screw over LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am teams. It could be a great back-to-back with Austin in September and seeing as how WEC doesn't have to worry about going head-to-head with IndyCar, it would be a great opportunity to see some IndyCar drivers get one-offs. The race could be on a Saturday and begin noon local time and end around sunset, just how Indianapolis 500 qualifying use to be.

Pirelli World Challenge is shooting for a fly-away race in 2016. First, can IndyCar tag along? Second, I am not against PWC going abroad but I would rather see progress toward a GT3 World Cup. We hear about the possibility of a GT3 World Cup once a month but are no closer to it becoming a reality. I wrote on what I would like to see the GT3 World Cup be back in July. The top three from PWC will be invited to the Baku City Challenge, the final round of the Blancpain Sprint Series season, which I view as a step in the right direction toward a GT3 World Cup but only a baby step.

Let's end the year on an IndyCar story and the one that catches my eye is Ryan Phinny. The Californian is looking to break into IndyCar in 2015 and has Casamigos tequila as his sponsor. If you have never heard of Phinny it's ok because unless you closely follow Indy Lights he is rather unknown. Phinny has made his Lights debut at Long Beach in 2011 where he finished 16th out of 17th after a mechanical failure on lap ten. He would not return to racing for over three years and made five starts this past season in Indy Lights with finishes of 11th, 12th, 7th, 10th and 6th at Toronto and the doubleheaders at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma respectively.

I know what some of you are thinking: "Why should he get a full-time ride in IndyCar over the likes of Conor Daly, Gabby Chaves, Jack Harvey, Luca Filippi, Ryan Briscoe and so on?" To be fair, on results alone, he shouldn't. On experience alone, he shouldn't. In another era he would not get a license to compete in IndyCar because of his lack of experience however this isn't another era and experience is trumped nine times out of ten by a paycheck as we head into 2015. While he lacks experience and results, motorsports is much different than 50 years ago. There is a 17-year old going to debut in Formula One in March. A 16-year old competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June.

Just go back a little more than a decade ago when Kimi Räikkönen made his Formula One debut. He was 21 years old when he made his Formula One debut at Australia and had done just 23 races in a car prior. He scored a point on his debut and we all know how the Finn's career has turned out. It's more unlikely Phinny won't have the same type of success as Räikkönen had but who is to say he can't be respectable in IndyCar? Remember how everyone felt about Carlos Huertas coming to IndyCar? His rookie season turned out pretty good considering he won more races than Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson and Takuma Sato.

As much as I think the likes of Daly and Briscoe are more deserving an IndyCar ride in 2015, I don't think Phinny should be denied an opportunity. He is only 25 years old and who knows, he could win the Indianapolis 500 someday.

On that note, it is time to close out 2014. I thank you all for reading and I wish you a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 IndyCar Predictions

Our final predictions focus on the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Seventeen races are scheduled as North America's premier open-wheel series will head to three different countries in 2015. The season starts 190 days after closing the 2014 championship after one of the longest offseason is reason memory. Seventeen drivers are confirmed to be returning to IndyCar while a slew of drivers from across the globe are testing trying to get a ride in the ultra competitive series. This season brings a lot of new technical aspects as we await the introduction of aero kits at the second round of the season at St. Petersburg. Here are a dozen items to keep an eye on in IndyCar this upcoming season.

1. Penske Drivers Combine to Win Six Races or Fewer Amongst Three Drivers
Coming off a championship with Will Power in 2014 and signing Simon Pagenaud in the offseason, I think Team Penske's dominance can only go so far. Last season, Power won three times while Juan Pablo Montoya and Hélio Castroneves each won once and Pagenaud won twice for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. In theory, you would expect each of those drivers to match their win totals from 2014 and Penske will score seven victories in 2015 but it isn't that simple. With the addition of Pagenaud someone is going to get less attention than in 2014. Castroneves has been struggling to win races the last few seasons but finds himself in championship contention though consistency. He could be held winless in 2015. Montoya's best races were oval races in 2015 but with only six ovals, the Colombian has to improve on road and street courses to increase the likelihood of him picking up a victory and a second championship. Then there is Pagenaud. While we all think victories will come easy to him now that he is with Penske, that isn't a guarantee. It took Tony Kanaan until the final race of his first season with Ganassi to get a victory. Power is the only one you should feel confident about as the defending champion has won at least three races every season since becoming a full-time Penske driver in 2010. As for the other three, I just can't see all them getting a win in 2015.

2. No More Than Three Honda Drivers Win a Race
Honda is in trouble. The confirmed Chevrolet drivers for 2015 combine for 157 victories with the top-five active drivers in victories being employed by Chevrolet teams. Confirmed Honda drivers for 2015 combine for 21 victories with Ryan Hunter-Reay responsible for 14 of those 21 victories. To make matters worse, Justin Wilson could be heading to KV Racing, potentially adding another seven victories to Chevrolet's total. Other than Hunter-Reay, I can't see where Honda is going to get victories. James Hinchcliffe replaces Simon Pagenaud at Schmidt Peterson but the Canadian is coming off a winless 2014 season and Pagenaud is the only driver to win in SPM's history. Marco Andretti's best chances at victories are on ovals but he has not won since Iowa 2011. Graham Rahal is rarely a threat for victory having scored three podiums in the last three seasons. Takuma Sato is... well Takuma Sato. Honda's young guns of Carlos Muñoz and Jack Hawksworth might breakthrough and get to the top step of the podium. Dale Coyne Racing has won a race each season of the DW12-era with three different drivers and it looks as if DCR will have two new drivers in 2015, one could be former Caterham and Marussia reserve driver Alexander Rossi. Unless Honda makes a splash signing, I think Chevrolet will wipe the floor with them in 2015.

3. Josef Newgarden Wins a Race
The Tennessean has to if he wants to solidify himself as a top notch IndyCar driver. He has yet to taste victory after 51 starts. Only 25 drivers have taken longer to get their first career victory. The clock is ticking on Newgarden and the merger of Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing provides plenty support behind him that he didn't have in his years as a driver for a single-car team. Ed Carpenter will provide Newgarden with the assistants needed to become more of a contender on ovals. The loss of Mike Conway won't help Newgarden but the possible replacement of JR Hildebrand as the road/street course driver of the #20 Chevrolet could be a good alternative to bounce step up information and data off of. If I had to guess, Newgarden would win on an oval in 2015.

4. A Rookie Scores a Top Five Finish Prior to the Indianapolis 500
We don't even have a rookie announced for the 2015 season but I already have faith that one of the rookies will score a top five in the first six races. The rumored rookies are enticing of what could be one of the most talented rookie classes in recent IndyCar history. Forget Road to Indy developed Sage Karam and Gabby Chaves for a second and imagine Jean-Éric Vergne, Davide Valsecchi, Conor Daly, Alexander Rossi, Daniel Abt, Dean Stoneman, Charles Pic and/or Stefano Coletti on the 2015 IndyCar grid. Vergne appears as he will focus on remaining in Formula One as he was hired to be a Ferrari reserve driver but the rest of them could come stateside. Valsecchi is a GP2 champion. Daly won the Star Mazda title and has had success in GP3 and GP2. Stoneman finished runner-up in the 2014 GP3 championship. Abt finished runner-up in the 2012 GP3 championship. Pic is a race winner in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 as is Rossi and Coletti has won over a half dozen GP2 races. Karam is likely to land at Ganassi and he would be the favorite to be the first rookie to score a top five in 2015 but you couldn't rule out any of the drivers listed above. The IndyCar field is deep and any team can win on any given weekend.

5. There Will Be at Least Three Frenchmen on the Grid
With Sébastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud returning to IndyCar in 2015, France could see a third representative on the grid with all the talks of Vergne and Pic joining the series. Yes, I know I just said I don't think Vergne will come to IndyCar but who knows? He just had a great weekend in Formula E with Andretti Autosport and I think he could be a championship contender out of the gates if he signed with Andretti. Mario might be able to talk to the folks in Maranello to allow him to run both IndyCar and be a reserve driver for the Scuderia. Pic also drove for Andretti in Formula E and had a successful weekend at Beijing. Andretti would be smart to hire either driver or Ed Carpenter would be smart to hire either driver as his co-driver. At least one other Frenchman is on the IndyCar grid for most of 2015.

6. At Least One Driver Attempts "The Double"
Whether it's Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, A.J. Allmendinger, Sam Hornish, Jr., heck even Robby Gordon or Tony Stewart, someone will attempt to complete 1100 miles on May 24th. I think Busch and Montoya are the only two with the remote possibility of attempting it but why rule out the others? Maybe Allmendinger pulls a deal together or maybe Richard Petty forms a partnership with an IndyCar team like he did for a few years and brings Hornish back to the 500. Or maybe Gordon does it because he still can. Maybe Stewart wins the Daytona 500 this year and realizes he could join his idol A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both Daytona and Indianapolis and just can't pass that up.

7. Average Grid Size is Up... Sightly
I am optimistic that there will be two dozen full-time entries in 2015. Four Penskes, four Ganassis, four Andrettis would be half the grid with A.J. Foyt Racing, KV, CFH Racing, SPM and Dale Coyne each running two cars and Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Bryan Herta Autosport each fielding single car teams. Herta is the one that concerns me the most as they struggle for sponsorship but at least have Jay Howard lined up for Indianapolis. If Herta can't make it to the grid it is possible that RLLR could scrape together a second car and there were rumors of a third KV but I don't think either are likely. In 2014, the average grid size was 23.111. I think that number will be up by a little bit in 2015.

8. There is At Least One Bump During the Month of May
Seeing as how I am optimistic that two dozen cars will be full-time, I think ten additional one-offs for the "500" is possible. We already know about Howard at BHA, Bryan Clauson will drive for Jonathan Byrd's Racing and Buddy Lazier should be back. That's 27. Townsend Bell will get a ride with somebody. Andretti can field a fifth. Coyne is making it a habit of field a third entry and usually for Pippa Mann. CFH Racing could run not just one but two Indianapolis one-offs as they have combined their operations. If CFH runs two, we would be at 32 entries. KV ran two one-offs in 2014, one was for Bell. RLLR ran two entries and if they don't run two full-time, I expect them to have at least one Indianapolis one-off. SPM ran Jacques Villeneuve in a third entry last year and Dreyer & Reinhold ran Sage Karam who was on lone from Ganassi. On paper, I have come up with 36 entries but I won't get greedy with my prediction knowing how hard it is to put together rides for the Month of May. Thirty-four is the number to look for come May.

9. At Least Nine Drivers Win a Race
In the DW12-era we have seen no fewer than eight different winners in a season with 11 different drivers winning in 2014, matching the record set in the 2000 season and duplicated in 2001. Let's say three Penske drivers win, two Ganassi and one Andretti. That's six winners and we haven't even touched on KV who could have both Bourdais and Wilson, CFH who will have both Carpenter and Newgarden, Coyne, one of four teams to win in each season of the DW12-era and SPM with newly signed James Hinchcliffe. It's hard to imagine less than a dozen winners but that's never been done before.

10. A Track on the 2015 Schedule Will Not Be on the 2016 Schedule
IndyCar has not had 100% retention rate of a schedule one year to the next since the 2007 season when all 14 tracks from 2006 carried over and three tracks (Iowa, Mid-Ohio and Belle Isle) were added. At least four tracks, all ovals, are on life support. Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Pocono could all be dropped after 2015. I could honestly see Texas, Fontana and Pocono all drop off but since IndyCar can't afford to lose half their ovals I think they would work out a deal with one if not two of the tracks. As for road/street courses, if the Brazilian checks stop going through, the Brasilia race will be a one and done. Maybe Toronto can't get back their traditional July date for some reason and that race ends after nearly three decades. If you live in driving distance to any of the sixteen rounds of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Season, I suggest you try and make it out because it could be the last time the series heads your way for quite sometime.

11. An ESPN/ABC Announcer Says Something That Makes Us Put Our Heads In Our Hands
As long as Eddie Cheever and/or Scott Goodyear are in the booth, they will say something absolutely idiotic or state the obvious. If ESPN/ABC wants to improve their race coverage, first stop going split screen with cameras on significant others/car owners/anyone not in a car during the final laps of a race, especially the Indianapolis 500 and second get rid of Cheever and Goodyear. You have one of the best lead motorsports commentators in the United States with Allen Bestwick. Give him a color commentator or two up to his caliber and the broadcast will improve immensely.

12. A Third Manufacture Is Announced
This is the most optimistic prediction of them all. I think IndyCar needs a third manufacture to relieve the load on Chevrolet's and Honda's backs. With the rumors of Andretti Autosport fielding Nissans in Pirelli World Challenge and with Nissan's LMP1 program being run out of Gerry Forsythe's shop in Indianapolis, I am really optimistic someone at IndyCar can entice them to return to the series. If not Nissan, than I am not sure who it would be. Ford isn't interested. Neither is Toyota. Dodge is gutting their GTLM program after winning a title, I doubt they are interested in IndyCar or has the means to join the series. As for European manufactures, I just don't see any spending the funds necessary for an IndyCar program. Nissan could be the only hope at a third manufacture possibly beginning in 2016.

Five sets of predictions (NASCAR, Et Cetera, sports cars and Formula One) are complete for the 2015 motorsports season. After a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays, the motorsport season begins almost immediately after the ball drops. The Supercross season begins January 3rd from Anaheim. The Dakar Rally begins January 4th and runs for two consecutive weeks. January 10th features the Dubai 24 Hour and Formula E from Buenos Aires. Two weeks after that is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and Rallye Monte-Carlo. February will then arrive and the Bathurst 12 Hour gives us another endurance race to fill a weekend before the NASCAR season gets underway. And two weeks after the Daytona 500, the IndyCar season will begin with Formula One starting the week after that. The motorsports season is getting closer and closer each day. It will be here sooner than we expect.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 Formula One Predictions

The penultimate set of predictions looks at the 2015 Formula One season. Lewis Hamilton is coming off his second world championship after winning 11 of 19 races and holding off Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 67 points. The German team dominated the season on their way to their first constructors' championship. With 2014 behind us, it is time to focus on 2015 and try to figure out what the worldwide tour of automobiles and luxury will produce.

1. Mercedes Stays in Control
Back-to-back constructors' championships. You heard it hear first. I think Mercedes will win majority of the races and keep the crown in Stuttgart. They still have Hamilton. They still have Rosberg. After the dogfight between the Brit and German in 2014, I don't think their rivalry will boil over and cause infighting. They want to beat each other but they respect one another and know that in the end they have to get the best result for the team as a whole and not be selfish. Mercedes will win less than  80% of the races but it will take an awful lot for someone to knock the Silver Arrows from the top of the mountain.

2. Daniel Ricciardo and Williams Give Mercedes a Little More Run For Their Money
The only non-Mercedes driver to win in 2014 was Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian won three grands prix on his way to finishing third in the world championship. Red Bull improved over the course of 2014 and the RB10 played into Ricciardo's driving style. Williams did not win in 2014 but scored nine podiums between Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa as the Finn finished fourth in the world championship ahead of former world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso and the Brazilian finished eighth ahead of former Jenson Button. I think Ricciardo will stay in contention for the title deeper into 2015 than 2014 and I think Williams gets a victory but, as stated above, I think it will be difficult for anyone to overthrow the duo of Hamilton and Rosberg.

3. Fernando Alonso Finishes Ahead of Sebastian Vettel
Originally this prediction was going to be Alonso wins before Vettel does but I don't think either will win in 2015. The Honda engine is still developing and there are worries about if the car will be competitive when the season starts but compare the mindset at McLaren vs. Ferrari and you have to think McLaren will work through it. Ferrari lacks leadership at the present moment. Alonso left Ferrari looking for green pastures. He has a teammate in Jenson Button that he will be able to get more out of than Kimi Räikkönen. Ferrari is rolling the dice on signing the most successful driver on the grid and having him turn the ship around. I don't like that gamble. If Ferrari wants to get back on top, they are going to have to be united on all fronts.

4. There Will Not Be 20 Cars on the Grid in Australia
Caterham's future is up in the air. The team formerly known as Marussia, now technically Manor could try to stay in Formula One but I don't see them getting off the ground. Caterham is the most likely of the two to make it to Melbourne but even if they do, will they have a car capable of being within 107% of the fastest time from Q1? Whether only nine teams show up for the 2015 season opener or ten teams show and someone fails to qualify, less than 20 cars will roll off when the lights go out at Albert Park.

5. There Will Not Be 21 Races in 2015
I think we all know the Korean Grand Prix is a political tool on the schedule as teams try to negotiate for the engine limit to increase to five per entry for the season from the originally planned four. If Korea does somehow happen, what about the possibility Germany doesn't host a Formula One grand prix for the first time since 1960? Whether it be the Nürburgring or Hockenheimring, someone has always had a problem with the sanctioning fee and the local governments are against public funding going toward the race. The crowd at Hockenheim this past July was disappointing considering the defending world champion was German, Mercedes was leading the constructors' championship, Rosberg was leading the drivers' championship and the country was fresh off a World Cup title. France hasn't hosted a Formula One grand prix since 2008. Who is to say Germany couldn't lose their race? Then there is Mexico as Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez is being renovated. Could construction be delayed and the race fall off the schedule? It is possible. We will see a record number or races run in 2014 but that record won't be set at 21.

6. Neither Toro Rosso Driver Scores More Than 22 Points
Twenty-two is the amount of points now-Ferrari test driver Jean-Éric Vergne scored in his final season with the team. Seventeen-year old Max Verstappen and 20-year old Carlos Sainz, Jr. combine for zero career Formula One starts as both get thrown into the deep end. Daniil Kyvat scored eight points with STR in his rookie season as a 20-year old fresh off a GP3 title. Verstappen finished third in FIA European Formula Three and Sainz, Jr. won the Formula Renault 3.5 title. Kevin Magnussen won the 2013 FR 3.5 and scored 55 points but there is a big difference between McLaren and STR. Since the adoption of the 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 system, the only time an STR driver has scored over 22 points was Jaime Alguersuari in 2011 when he scored 26 points. He was subsequently fired. It could be a long year for STR.

7. Sauber Scores at Least One Point
After being held to naught with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez, Sauber has hired sophomore Marcus Ericsson and rookie Felipe Nasr to compete in 2015. The Swiss team had a few opportunities late in the year for a crucial point but it ultimately proved to be elusive. I think Sauber will be a much better opportunity for Ericsson, who spent his rookie season at Caterham. He nearly finished in the points at Monaco and finished five consecutive races before the team let him go when they missed the rounds in Austin and São Paulo. Nasr spent 2014 as a Williams test driver and finished second in the 2014 GP2 championship to Jolyon Palmer. I think a tenth place finish will fall their way in 2014 and with the grid possibly featuring less than 20 full-time entries, over half the field could score points in each race. You'd have to think that one Sauber could finish in the top half of the field at least once in 2015.

8. At Least One Lotus Driver Finishes Ahead of a Force India Driver
This means Romain Grosjean or Pastor Maldonado will finish ahead of Nico Hülkenberg and/or Sergio Pérez. With Lotus switching to Mercedes power in 2015, I expect 2015 to be a complete 180º compared to their 2014 season. Hülkenberg is the best of the four drivers but I think Grosjean will be able to finish ahead of Pérez. The question is how will the wishy-washy Venezuelan finish? In his four seasons in Formula One, Maldonado's championship point totals have been 1, 45, 1 and 2. Twenty-five of his 49 career points came in one race, his 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victory. Maybe a switch in engine supplier will benefit Maldonado but don't hold your breath.

9. Virtual Safety Car is Used At Least Nine Times in 2015
In response to Jules Bianchi's accident at Suzuka, Formula One will adopt virtual safety car, which will enforce drivers to drop to a certain speed limit while entering a double waved yellow zone on the race track because a fellow competitor or track marshall may be in danger but the incident does not require the deployment of the safety car. The way I look at VSC is the stewards will now be enforcing local yellows rule after years of letting drivers police themselves and assuming they would voluntarily slow down. I think the stewards will use VSC as much as they possibly can to prevent any future accidents such as Bianchi's. Originally the prediction was going to be that VSC will be used at least six times but I think it will become all the rage with the stewards and it is something we will see a lot of in 2015.

10. A Team on the 2015 Grid Announces Their Intention to Leave F1 or is Sold Prior to the end of the Calendar Year
With all the financial difficulties teams are dealing with heading into 2015, I would not be surprised if we see teams going the way of Caterham and Marussia or executives looking to get out while they still can. While I think Sauber will get at least one point in 2015, one point isn't going save the team. Sauber is struggling and if things don't sufficiently turn around, they could be done. Formula One could price out Vijay Mallya and he may no longer desire to run a team if he doesn't feel it is worth it and Force India could be up for sale before we know it. What if things don't turn around for Lotus? Genii Capital could sell that team at the drop of a hat if the results aren't good enough. Formula One is at a shaky point where one misstep could cause a landslide that further damages the series and leaves it scrambling, trying to find a way to fill the grid.

11. A Team Principal and/or Technical Director is Fired During the Season
This very well could be at Ferrari considering the Scuderia went through three technical directors in 2014. I don't have high hopes that Ferrari will be at the standard that the top brass wants the team to be at and Maurizio Arrivabene seat will get hot very quickly if they are being beat consistently by Red Bull and Williams for another season and if McLaren catches lightning in a bottle with Honda and starts posting better results than Ferrari, Arrivabene will not be able to save his job. What if McLaren fall apart in their first year back with Honda? Éric Boullier could be sacked in a flash. What if Red Bull regresses even more? Christian Horner could be axed. Someone will not make it to the end of 2015.

12. We Hear Rumors of at Least Two Countries that Have Never Hosted F1 Before, Getting a Race in the Near Future
As long as Bernie Ecclestone is in charge, he will chase money regardless to where the check is coming from. Greece was reportedly interested. Thailand was on the radar for a while. If I had to make a guess on what country is the next to be rumored to host a Formula One race, I would say Kazakhstan and this isn't a Borat joke, I am dead serious. The country is trying to get the 2022 Winter Olympics bid and are competing against Beijing, China and I would not be surprised to hear they are interested in Formula One because it would be a big international event and it would show the IOC that the country can draw other forms of world sport, bettering their odds of winning the bid (but we all know the best way to win the 2022 bid is by lining the pockets of voters to the point they are sweating through the cash layer and their suits). Africa is an untapped source of possible cash for Ecclestone. Who is to say he wouldn't accept a check from an oil tycoon from Nigeria or Angola?MotoGP is rumored to be heading to Chile. I don't see why Formula One couldn't head there. Each year, we hear rumored races in parts of the globe that make you scratch your head. I expect 2015 to be no different.

One set of predictions remain. I am sure you can use process of elimination to figure out what predictions they will be. Feel free to check out the NASCAR, Et Cetera or sports car predictions if you have yet to do so or if you want to read them again. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. The final 2015 predictions will come Monday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Motorsports Christmas List

Another Christmas is upon as eggnog is the drink of choice and there are enough cookies in my house for me to start a bakery. Presents have been wrapped for friends and family but it is now time to look at what those in and around motorsports should be asking for this Christmas.

Let's start with IndyCar:

A few more international races, preferably one in Australia and at least one in Europe and maybe an oval.

An opening weekend the weekend after the Super Bowl.

The courage to end the season in the middle of October.

With that said, at least three or four races to fill between Labor Day and the season finale (which would be at Fontana).

Independent aero kit manufactures such as ORECA, McLaren, Riley, heck even Penske or a few other IndyCar teams producing their own aero kits would do.

Stadium Super Tracks filling the bill pre-race at Texas, Fontana and Pocono.

For Formula One:

Cost-savings measures to save teams.

A YouTube channel to become a hub of content promoting the series, drivers and where fans can find streams of interviews from the press room.

Fan-friendly ticket packages so fans don't have to sacrifice an arm and a leg to go to a race.

For IndyCar and Formula One to share:

The ability to put aside their differences and run doubleheaders at Montreal and Austin the weekends of the Canadian and United States Grands Prix with IndyCar head lining Saturday and Formula One head lining Sunday.

For IndyCar and Super Formula to share:

Technical regulations that would allow teams to run in either series on any track with the same car and would hopefully form a partnership that would see 40-plus cars attempt the Indianapolis 500 as well as a return to Japan for IndyCar.


The ability to get attention for what occurs on track and not for the actions of drivers and crew members after a race in the garage or on the pit lane.

Having the stones to limit Cup drivers from moonlighting in the Grand National and Truck series.

For Formula E:

Three more races. One on the streets of Durban or Cape Town the first weekend of January to revive what Formula One did in the 1960s. At least one more race in December and one in February.

A team partnered with Tesla.


A driver ranking system that doesn't screw drivers out of rides.

A better balance of performance.

A return to Mid-Ohio.

For FIA World Endurance Championship:

Better coverage in the United States.

A full-time factory Corvette GTE-Pro effort.

For MotoGP:

A return to Laguna Seca.

For Pirelli World Challenge:

A doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the weekend of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Now that we have handed out gifts to series as a whole; let's give some gifts out to individual drivers and personnel.

To Ed Carpenter: IndyCar races at Phoenix, Richmond, Michigan, New Hampshire and Darlington.

To Kevin Magnussen: A ride in IndyCar to fill his time as McLaren reserve driver with a McLaren aero kit on his car.

To Conor Daly: A paying ride. Any series will do.

To Alexander Rossi: A paying ride. Any series will do.

To Will Power: Penske giving him rides in the NASCAR Cup and Grand National Series road course races.

To Fernando Alonso: A ride in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

To Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes: A ride in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

To André Lotterer: A fair shake at Formula One.

To A.J. Allmendinger: A shot at The Double.

To Brad Keselowski: Patience

To Motorsports fans from the United States: A GT3-endurance race. Let's make it 16 hours to be unique and it could be at any one of the many great tracks in this great country. Laguna Seca, Circuit of the Americas, Road America, Watkins Glen, which ever you want.

To Robby Gordon: An Indianapolis 500 one-off because he still has it.

To Michael Andretti: A team on the GP3 grid because he has teams in almost every other form of single-seater racing and Formula One is way too expensive and GP2 is expensive but not as expensive as Formula One and an Andretti Autosport GP3 team could provide opportunities for North American drivers with aspirations of making it to Formula One.

To Gene Haas: A liferaft because he is going to need it if his team ever does race in Formula One.

To NBCSN: A weekly show that covers all forms of motorsports except NASCAR because you already have a NASCAR-centric show.

To ESPN/ABC: A new color commentator to replace Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear. His name is Dario Franchitti. I think you will like him.

To A.J. Foyt and Brian Vickers: Full recovery from their recent surgeries and for Foyt to be back on the pit stand at every IndyCar race and for Vickers to be behind the wheel of a car for every NASCAR Cup race.

Most importantly I want to wish everyone a Happy and Merry Christmas. Enjoy these next few days with loved ones. Put all your motorsports interests aside for some quality time with family and friends. On Boxing Day, there will be a set of predictions for 2015 ready for you to read but until then step away from the computer, put down the video games and spend these next few days to make precious memories with those around you.

Merry Christmas from For the Love of Indy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2015 Sports Car Predictions

Our third of five predictions posts focuses on sports car racing. We will take a look at the height of sports car racing, the FIA World Endurance Championship; America's top division of sports car racing, IMSA's United SportsCar Championship; America's emerging GT3 series, Pirelli World Challenge and the world's premier GT3 series, the Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series. We will start with the world championship.

1. FIA WEC: All Four LMP1 Manufactures Win in 2015
Toyota, Audi and Porsche all won in 2014 and I don't see a reason why to think any of the three won't win in 2015. In 2014, Toyota dominated, Audi won Le Mans again and Porsche's year of development paid off in the final round at Interlagos. Audi will experience a little shakeup with the retirement of Tom Kristensen but the trio of André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler have proven they can take over the reigns as the leaders in the team and they have the talented Lucas di Grassi and Loïc Duval under contract. Toyota will return with world champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi and it appears Alexander Wurz and Mike Conway will also be full-time drivers. Porsche will keep their 2014 driver lineup intact for 2015. Nissan returns to the top flight of sports car racing in 2015 and while they have yet to announce their drivers, you have to think they will be capable of competing with the other three manufactures by the end of the season.

2. Extreme Speed Motorsports is the LMP2 Favorites
The former IMSA team will take on the world in 2015 and they are doing so with two of the best driver line-ups LMP2 regulations will allow. Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel will be joined by arguably the best silver-rated driver, 2014 GTE-Am champion David Heinemeier Hansson while Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown will be joined by two-time Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Jon Fogarty. Comparing the ESM lineup to the 2014 FIA WEC LMP2 lineups from SMP Racing, G-Drive Racing and KCMG, those four teams appear as if they will have to step up their game in 2015. Add possible LMP2 editions of Morand Racing, Jota Sport and Signatech-Alpine from the European Le Mans Series, the Pro-Am prototype class might provide the best competition in the FIA WEC in 2015.

3. Ferrari and Gianmaria Bruni Do Not Win a Third Consecutive World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers and Manufactures
The Italian manufacture and driver has won back-to-back championships but Porsche and Aston Martin should be stepping up their game in 2015. Porsche's provisional 2015 drivers include Frédéric Makowiecki, Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet and Michael Christensen. Makowiecki had a solid 2014 season but had had a rotating driver lineup as a distraction. He and Pilet won at Shanghai and finished second at Interlagos. Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke won two races for Aston Martin in 2014, a year after losing the 2013 title after retiring in the final round of that season as Bruni went on to win the race and the title. Ferrari has won every title in the FIA WEC-era but eventually that will come to an end and I expect someone new on top of the mountain at the end of 2015. 

4. IMSA: LMP2 Cars Go Winless
I was thinking this before ESM decided to go to the FIA WEC and before Michael Shank Racing announced they would field Ligier-Hondas and I am going to stick with it. Balance of performance is set up in favorite of the Daytona Prototypes and seeing as how there will be less LMP2 cars on the 2015 grid, it will all but be a given they will continue to dominate in 2015. Action Express Racing will return with two new Corvette C7-style DP bodywork as Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa look to defend their title. Ganassi returns as the de facto Ford factory operation and Joey Hand replaces Memo Rojas as co-driver to Scott Pruett in the #01. Wayne Taylor Racing should be strong with Jordan and Ricky Taylor in control of the #10. ESM will run the NAEC rounds but other than that, the only full-time LMP2 entries are Shank and the two Mazda SKYACTIV-Ds as OAK Racing will not return stateside in 2015. It just doesn't make sense to run an LMP2 car in the current climate of IMSA. Maybe in a few years but not now. If you own an LMP2 car it makes more sense to run FIA WEC like ESM or ELMS like Krohn Racing will be doing in 2015. 

5. Corvette Takes the GTLM Title
With no SRT Vipers to worry about, Corvette could cruise to the 2015 title. Porsche will be back with a factory support team but after starting 2014 on fire, winning at Daytona and Sebring, the factory 911 RSRs cooled off with only three podiums between the two cars for the remainder of the season. The Team Falken Tire Porsche however carried the weight, winning Petit Le Mans for a second consecutive year. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMWs went winless in 2014 but did have four runner-up finishes and six total podiums. BMW will have Lucas Luhr replace Andy Priaulx as the Brit becomes BMW's lead driver in their ELMS GTE program. Porsche will promote Porsche Supercup champion Earl Bamber to their IMSA factory effort as Jörg Bergmeister moves to the IMSA program from FIA WEC. Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet will run the second factory Porsche. Corvette appears to be have the combinations of Antonio García and Jan Magnussen and Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin return for 2015. García and Magnussen won four consecutive rounds before letting the title slip through their hands as the Viper team stepped up their game. I expect Corvette to have learned from the mistakes of 2014. 

6. The TRG-Aston Martin Wins a GTD Race
With James Davison and Christina Nielsen hired to drive TRG's Vantage GT3, I expect the duo to be able to get a victory while going against the difficult GTD line-up. Despite defending champions Turner Motorsport leaving the series to focus on Pirelli World Challenge, Alex Job Racing, Scuderia Corsa, Paul Miller Racing and Magnus Racing will all be their to provide stiff competition. Davison is one of he most under appreciated drivers in the United States and Nielsen had a decent 2014 season in Porsche GT3 Cup USA. These two winning may surprise a few but it certainly won't surprise me. 

7. PWC: Cadillac Does Not Win the Title
Johnny O'Connell won his third consecutive PWC championship in 2014 but all three of his victories came in the first six races. Andy Pilgrim went winless in 2014 and had four runner-up finishes as he finished fourth in the championship. The other manufactures have caught up to Cadillac and are ready to usurp them on top of the PWC landscape. Mike Skeen and CRP Racing Audi made a valiant challenge to O'Connell, forcing the championship to go to the final round at Miller. EFFORT Racing Porsche won three races between Nick Tandy and Ryan Dalziel and if they can hire a full-time driver of that quality, they could challenge for the title. Let's not forget the Dyson Racing Bentleys, which picked up their first victory at Miller with Guy Smith and Butch Leitzinger picked up two podiums and five top-fives despite the car starting mid-season. Cadillac has to step up their game in 2015 if they hope to win a fourth consecutive title.

8. At Least Seven Different Manufactures Get a Win in the GT Class
Eight manufactures (Lamborghini, Cadillac, Ferrari, Audi, Porsche, Dodge, Bentley and McLaren) all scored victories in the 2014 PWC season and I think seven is a realistic amount that could score victories in 2015. Let's mark down Cadillac, Audi, Porsche, Ferrari and Bentley as locks. Let's add BMW as Turner Motorsport, who move to PWC fresh off a IMSA GTD title. Robert Thorne of K-Pax Racing scored McLaren's first PWC victory in the final race of 2014 and will upgrade to the 650S GT3, which debuted at the Gulf 12 Hours last weekend in a partnership with Flying Lizard Motorsports. McLaren could be another manufacture to be on the top step of the podium. Speaking of upgrades, Reiter Engineering plan on bringing the Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso GT3 to PWC. Tomáš Enge won the 2014 season opener in Lamborghini but the Czech driver competed in only one round after St. Petersburg and Lamborghini had only two top ten finishes for the remainder of the season. Acura announced Ryan Eversely will be joining Peter Cunningham in a second RTR TLX-GT and there is the possibility of Andretti Autosport fielding Nissans but seeing as how the New Year is a matter of days away, I doubt we see the Andretti fielding cars in 2015. Despite that, there are plenty of manufactures that could win and we didn't even mention a possible Conquest Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. If you want to see a diversity of manufactures winning, PWC is the series for you in the New Year.

9. There is a New GTS Champion
Lawson Aschenbach has won back-to-back PWC GTS titles but had to make a late season comeback and benefitted from the Kia teammates of Mark Wilkins and Nic Jönsson collapsing in the final few rounds of 2014 but don't expect that to happen again in 2015. Jack Baldwin ended up finishing second with three victories, one fewer than Aschenbach but had eight podiums, the same as the champion. The veteran Baldwin should provide Aschenbach a formidable challenge. Dean Martin won three races driving a Ford Mustang Boss 302 for Rehagen Racing but inconsistency kept him from challenging for the title. Add to the GTS mix a return of Bob Stallings Racing with Jon Fogarty driving a Hyundai Genesis Coup but what could cost Fogarty a shot at a title is FIA WEC duty as the Sonoma PWC round conflicts with FIA WEC at the Nürburgring. Third consecutive titles is not impossible as we have seen Johnny O'Connell do it in GT but I don't see Aschenbach duplicating the feat.

10. Blancpain GT: Bentley Wins a Blancpain Title
With defending Blancpain Sprint Series champions HTP Motorsport switching from Mercedes to Bentley, they provide the British manufactures best opportunity at silverware. The M-Sport Bentleys won two of five Blancpain Endurance Series rounds in 2014 but had poor runs in the Spa 24 Hours and Nürburgring kill their title hopes. The manufacture will not get a better opportunity to knockoff Audi than in 2015.

11. The Moscow Blancpain Sprint Series Race Does Not Happen
The same way in how I don't think the DTM will got run a race at the permanent Moscow Raceway outside the city, I don't see the BSS round on the streets of Russia's capital coming to fruition. Expect a replacement round at Zandvoort or Slovakiaring or somewhere else in Europe.

12. A non-German Manufacture Wins the Spa 24 Hours
German manufactures have won five consecutive Spa 24 Hours and occupied the top five in the 2014 edition. We covered Bentley as a potential championship contenders and winning the Spa 24 Hours would be a step in the right direction for a title in BES. McLaren provides the next best challenge to the like of Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW as the 650S GT3 had a sensational debut at the Gulf 12 Hours. Ferrari hasn't won the Spa 24 Hours since 2004 and you can expect AF Corse to enter a car or two.

Three down, two to go. Both will come after Christmas, one of which will be a Boxing Day special. Over Christmas feel free to read the NASCAR and Et Cetera predictions. Stay tuned on Friday for the penultimate set of predictions. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Must Read: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Last Christmas, I received a very unexpected gift. A gift that if you gave me a million guesses, I probably would fail to guess it correctly. It is the Christmas gift I treasure the most.

I have to give my mother credit for she was a step ahead of me. As much as I love motorsports and for as much as I follow motorsports, she found something that had slip by the goalie if you will and found something I didn't even know existed. To be fair, I have to give George Phillips at Oilpressure blog an assist. I don't know exact how my mother got to his site but he set her up for a gift of a lifetime.

The gift is three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw's autobiography titled Gentlemen, Start Your Engines. Phillips has a great synopsis of the book on his blog and I encourage all of you to read it. It wasn't a book I dived into immediately. Life got in the way. As a student who reads hundreds of pages of textbooks and course material a week, there isn't a lot of time for personal reading. The book sat idle for a few months before I really got going. After reading a few dozen pages, the book sat idle again for another few months. Working 40-plus hours a week during the summer took it's toll and by the time I would get home each night, all I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep.

As the summer was coming to a close and another semester was approaching I looked at the greatest gift that I have ever been given and set an ultimatum. Read the damn thing by Christmas 2014 so my mother's treasure hunt calling bookstores hundreds of miles away wouldn't be all for naught one year later. I made time for the book, staying up late if I had to and slowly chipping away at 313 pages of Shaw's life. Some days I could only do ten pages, others I would crack out 30 pages in one sitting and return to do fifteen later that night. As I was nearing the end of the book, I found myself wishing for more as I couldn't put it down. An hour of reading would become two and dinner would sometimes have to wait until I could find a good point to stop at.

By the middle of October, I had finished the book with a lot to take away from it. Once again, I encourage you to read George Phillip's synopsis if you want a full run down of what the book covers but I will touch on a few points that stuck with me:

First, what a a roller coaster life Wilbur Shaw lived. Just a few months after finishing fourth on his Indianapolis 500 debut, Shaw lost his first wife and child in childbirth. How fortunate we are to live in an age where deaths in childbirth are rare. I had a niece and nephew born within a year and a half of reading the book and never once worried about my sister or future sister-in-law. Sometimes we take for granted what we have today, especially when getting nostalgic about the past.

On a less serious note, I am amazed in the lifestyle differences. Shaw would remarried and he and his wife would go down to Florida each winter as he would chase the land speed record on the sands of Daytona Beach. When he wasn't producing one world record, he was competing in boat races in Miami and Havana. Could you imagine an active driver being allowed to that? Could you imagine Will Power doing boat racing in Australia? Roger Penske would kill him. Or Ryan Hunter-Reay chasing down a world record? Forget it.

As someone who has always grown up unable to go to Cuba (although that may change in the near future), I am fascinated in what it was like during the late-1920s/early-1930s. Shaw talks about going there as if it was no big deal. During prohibition, Havana sounded like the place to be. My how things can change as I think going to Cuba is a massive opportunity seeing as how it has been cut off to U.S. citizens for over half a century.

Second, on motorsports related topics, the book really illustrates how the emphasize on safety has changed. Take this except:
Ever since the first automobile race on a closed circuit, one of the most important hazards had been slick spots on the track caused by oil leaks. For several years, a few of us had been campaigning for regulations which would eliminate that danger. It wasn't unusual for a car to use fifty or sixty gallons of oil in the Indianapolis event and eighty per cent of it was on the track during the late stages of any race. Every time a car stopped for fuel and tires, it also took on another ten or twenty gallons of oil.
Think about NASCAR today where they will throw a caution every four laps for a hot dog wrapper and what the drivers of the early-1930s faced. Like today, drivers did fight for change and by 1933 a rule was passed allow a car to use no more than six and a half gallons of oil and by 1934 a rule was passed limiting the teams to only use 45 gallons of fuel for the Indianapolis 500.

Another difference between the time period is reliability. Shaw recounts the 1933 Indianapolis 500 when Louis Meyer had a four-lap lead over Shaw with two to go and everyone was tense about making it to the finish. If someone had a four-lap lead in next year's Indianapolis 500, we would never hear the end about how it was a terrible race and how it killed the ratings and how IndyCar is doomed. A four-second lead would piss off fans today. It just goes to show how motorsports has changed. Back then, four laps was a good lead but not a given. The drama wasn't over how close the finish was going to be, it was will the leader finish? If not, can second-place hold on to overtake the leader? It is a completely different mindset between a motorsports fan in 1933 and a motorsports fan in 2014. Today, we take it reliability for granted as mechanical failures are so few and far between but they once made racing unpredictable. Mechanical failures can still occur in a race today but they rarely happen and rarely happen to a leader with a ginormous lead.

Shaw talks about the effects of The Great Depression on motorsports and how many promoters had gone out of business. Shaw and nine other drivers (Louis Meyer, Fred Frame and Bill Cummings to name a few) formed Champion Drivers, Inc. to promote their own races and raise their own prize money. If there is one thing those around IndyCar has complained about the most in the last decade is lack of promotion of the series. I don't see any of the current drivers on the grid having the motivation to rally his compatriots on the grid and bring IndyCar to the forefront in a market. Michael Andretti promotes races but he is retired. I can't see the likes of Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson coming together to promote an IndyCar race at Michigan and being successful. Hell, the people who are hired in promotional departments at Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway can't draw people in for IndyCar races, why would we think the drivers could do any better?

It is kind of ironic that Shaw talks in his book about it would be more profitable for him to be an owner-driver than for him just being an independent driver, bouncing from team to team. Seeing how few owner-drivers there are in motorsports (Tony Stewart, Ed Carpenter, Patrick Dempsey. Those are all I can think of) and how much single-car teams struggle to make ends meet, especially in IndyCar, it's just a statement we wouldn't hear today.

I wonder what Shaw would think of motorsports today. Having lost his a day shy of his 52nd birthday in a plane accident on October 30, 1954, Shaw missed out on the rear-engined revolution at the Speedway and the influx of Lotus and the turbines. I think if Shaw had lived into the 1960s and been around when Colin Chapman and Jim Clark were showing up to the Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 might still be on the Formula One schedule. I don't know that for a fact that would have happened but seeing how good of a businessman Shaw was from his book and seeing the interest in the race from European-based teams, I think he would have done more to make the Indianapolis 500 more of an international event. I know there are some of you that will point out that the Indianapolis 500 is an international event today and that there are more foreign-born drivers on the grid than American but I think Shaw could have taken the Indianapolis 500 to heights we can only dream about today.

If you are wondering how to get your own copy of Gentlemen, Start Your Engines, there are two for sale on Amazon at the time of this post. Outside of that, this isn't a book you will find at Barnes & Noble. If you want a copy, it is going to be used and there is no guarantee the condition will be great. My mother was fortunate to find one with no water damage, binding intact and no pages missing. If you do decide to pursue getting this book, I wish you the best.

While reading the book, I wondered how difficult it would be to get the book back into print. I am not talking about a million copies but a couple hundred. I am sure it is something that could be crowdfunded and I would hope fans would see how rare this book is and would support it. I think it would be a big hit during the month of May if it were for sale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum. I don't want this book to die. I want this to be something that motorsports fans can read forty years from now.

As I said before, this is greatest gift I have ever received. While Christmas 2014 might be out of the question for this being a gift for you or a race fan you know, this is something you can put on pole position for Christmas 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

2015 Et Cetera Predictions

After posting NASCAR predictions two days ago, it is now time to look into the mixed bag of motorsports. Twelve series will be featured with one prediction for each series, from two-wheels to four, world championships to regional series.

1. MotoGP: The Title Will Come Down To The Final Race
After Marc Márquez dominated 2014, setting a record for most victories in a single season with thirteen and winning the first ten races, look for the Catalan rider to experience a much more difficult title fight in 2015. Yamaha came on strong in the second half of the season with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo each winning two of the final six rounds. Rossi seems rejuvenated after finishing second in the world championship and is signed on through 2016 as is Lorenzo. I expect Márquez to receive quite a challenge from those two and he won't be rewriting records unless he comes out with his third consecutive title.

2. V8 Supercars: Marcos Ambrose Does Not Finish in the Top Ten of the Championship
Don't expect the two-time champion to return to his winning ways right off the bat. After nine years in NASCAR, Ambrose returns to a V8 Supercars series going through a bit of an identity crisis. Ford is on their way out, the series is opening the door to four or six-cylinder turbocharged engines and Holden is clear top dog. Add to it that Dick Johnson Racing, the team Ambrose is going to race for in a partnership with Team Penske hasn't been the same since James Courtney left after winning the 2010 title. In the four seasons since DJR has won one race and hasn't had a driver finish in the top ten of the championship. I don't expect that to change in 2015. Sure, Ambrose will have a few good runs but don't expect him to be at the front going toe-to-toe with Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Mark Winterbottom, Scott McLaughlin and Shane Van Gisbergen every race weekend.

3. Indy Lights: Grids Average Over 13 Entries
The series is on the verge of a Renaissance with the introduction of the IL-15 chassis. After struggle the last four seasons to get respectable grids, it appears that won't be a problem in 2015. So many are interested in the series that they had to push the first initial test back a month to give engine manufacture AER more time to meet the demand. Old stalwarts, Schmidt Peterson, Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing and Team Moore are slated to return with Carlin Motorsport, 8Star Motorsports, Juncos Racing and Conquest Racing just some of the names that will likely join the grid. After being on the verge of extinction, Indy Lights has found new life. Having followed the series for many years and seeing where it was not too long ago, I cannot wait for the start of the 2015 season.

4. DTM: The Russian Round Doesn't Happen
The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series always has a round on the initial schedule that falls through. Normally it is in China but who knows what it is going to happen over the next few months with Russia. Last year, DTM went to Moscow Raceway despite the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine while the World Superbike Championship decided not to visit the country. Russia is on the 2015 WSBK schedule but I just have a strange feeling that between now and those scheduled rounds, something happens and the DTM does not head to Russia. What track would replace the Russian round? It would be nice to see a return to Brands Hatch (that won't happen) or Spa (who is against more races at Spa?). Imola would be an interesting place for a DTM race. Maybe they should come stateside. Who wouldn't want to see DTM cars going through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca?

5. Super GT: Lexus Retakes GT500 Title
Despite winning half the races in 2014, Lexus lost both the drivers' and teams' championships to NISMO but I expect Lexus to retain the title in 2015. If Team Petronas TOM's keeps the combination of Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter, I would pencil them in as championship favorites as they have won four rounds over the last two season including the 2014 Suzuka 1000km. Let's not forget the second Team Petronas TOM's entry of Andrea Caldarelli and Daisuke Ito who finished runner-up in 2014. Another thing that might cause NISMO to take a step back is Nissan's expansion in the LMP1 of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Next season is the perfect time for Lexus to take advantage and retake the title.

6. World Superbike/World SuperSport: P.J. Jacobsen Takes His Game to the Next Level
The American impressed in his first year in World SuperSport, finishing sixth in the championship, scoring 99 points with two podiums and a fastest lap. I think 2015 will be a big year for the New York-native. Hopefully, he breaks through for his first victory in WSS, a series an American has never won in. After all, Jacobsen is the United States only hope when it comes to international motorcycle racing as Nicky Hayden is aging and Colin Edwards has joined Ben Spies in retirement.

7. World Rally: Sébastien Loeb Wins a Rally
He has only committed to the Rallye Monte-Carlo as of now but maybe Citroën can convince him to run a few more rounds after Volkswagen used the French manufacture to mop the floor. We know Loeb is an incredible talent and he might be Citroën's only hope to beat VW heads up (sorry Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg).

8. World Touring Car Championship: Citroën Wins Less Than Seventeen Races
The French manufacture won 17 of 23 races in 2014 but I expect Honda and Lada to provide more of a challenge in 2015. They were coming on strong at the end of 2014, as Citroën won only three of the final eight races after winning 14 of the first 15. Citroën is increasing their numbers, adding two with the addition of Sébastien Loeb Racing to their factory team of José María López, Yvan Muller and Loeb. I think Citroën will still come out on top but it won't be as much of a walk of a park as 2014.

9. Formula E: At Least Five New Drivers Make a Start
Teams are changing drivers like they are underwear. Andretti Autosport has had a different driver line-up for each round of the 2014-15 FIA Formula E Championship. Aguri has used four different drivers in three rounds. China Racing has already had to use a substitute because of a scheduling conflict. As the season enters the 2015 portion of the schedule, a few conflict are on the horizon. Argentina is the same weekend as the Dubai 24 Hour. I don't expect many, if any conflicts but it's alway possible. The Miami round is the same weekend Formula One is in Australia while Long Beach is the same weekend as Bahrain. The Monaco round is the same weekend of the Spanish Grand Prix and IndyCar's Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The Berlin round is the day before the Le Mans test day and the same weekend as the Belle Isle IndyCar weekend and DTM weekend at Lausitzring. António Félix da Costa could do both. There aren't many tracks closer to Berlin than Lausitz. The final round of the Formula E season in London is the same weekend as DTM at the Norisring, IMSA at Watkins Glen and IndyCar at Fontana. Let's see what happens but expect a few new faces in 2015.

10. Super Formula: There Will Be At Least One First Time Winner
If the drivers from testing are any sign of who could be joining the grid in 2015, Super Formula might be the series I most want to watch in the new year. Possibly joining a grid that already includes Le Mans winners André Lotterer and Loïc Duval, former Formula One drivers Kazuki Nakajima, Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi are former Caterham punching bag Kamui Kobayashi, former GP2 champion Fabio Leimer, former Formula Renault 3.5 champion, FIA WEC LMP2 World Champion, Le Mans class winner and IndyCar driver Bertrand Baguette and Nissan-supported Jann Mardenborough all took part in testing from Okayama. Anyone of those four could get a win in 2015.

11. European Le Mans Series: Porsche Wins a Race in a GT Category
The European Le Mans Series GT classes were dominated by Ferrari in 2014 with the Italian manufacture sweeping all five LMGTE victories and taking four of five GTC victories with the Marc VDS Racing BMW winning the final round of the GTC season at Estoril. I don't expect Porsche to be completely shut out again. They will get a victory somewhere in one of the two classes.

12. Asian Le Mans Series: Grid Size Grows Under ACO Control
After struggling to get double-digit figures for it's first two seasons, the Asian Le Mans Series has been taken over by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest and hopefully that gives that series a swift kick in the ass. Hopefully no more stupid scheduling blunders with the series going to Shanghai the same weekend the FIA WEC is at Fuji or a Super GT round, preventing GT3 teams from running. The ACO is going to get this series pointing in the right direction.

Two down, three to go on the predictions. Next set of predictions will come on Monday morning. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 NASCAR Predictions

The 2014 motorsports season has ended and it is time to look forward to 2015. The NASCAR season ended less than a month ago but it is our first of five sets of predictions for the 2015 season. From the Cup Series to the newly rebranded Xfinity Series (which I will refer to as the Grand National Series) to the Trucks, here are a dozen things I predict will happen in 2015.

1. We Will See a Major Rule Change in One or All Three Series
I am not quite sure what it might be but NASCAR will come up with something. Maybe it is rewarding drivers who win races during the Chase, giving them a slight bonus when they advance to the next round or maybe it's adopting a Chase format to the Grand National and Truck Series. NASCAR will do something. Maybe they will continue to tinker with qualifying. Who knows.

2. Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray Both Win a Cup Race
The Ganassi drivers looked better than most Chase drivers in the final ten races and Larson was inching ever closer to a victory in 2014. He didn't break through but the 2014 Rookie of the Year has a full year of experience under his belt and that come to his advantage. McMurray had 13 top tens in 2014, over half (seven) were top five finishes and the Missourian also scored two pole positions. He is always at the front of restrictor plate races (five of his seven victories are at Daytona or Talladega) and his other two victories came at Charlotte. So McMurray has six golden opportunities to get a victory in 2015.

3. Joe Gibbs Racing Wins Less Than Five Races
The Toyota team won two races all of 2014 and those were the only two victories for the Japanese manufacture in Cup last year. Matt Kenseth finished seventh in the 2014 championship but went winless after picking up six victories in 2013. The team has expanded to four cars with the addition of Carl Edwards but we have seen teams expand and then struggle (Richard Childress Racing I am looking at you). Chevrolet has power in numbers and Ford has Team Penske. Gibbs took a big step back in 2014 and were fortunate to have Denny Hamlin championship eligible entering the final race. I expect them to win more than two races but I don't think the team will as dominate as Penske was in 2014. 

4. Darrell Wallace, Jr. Makes His Cup Series Debut
Speaking of Gibbs, let's go the driver they are letting walk away. Darrell Wallace, Jr. won four races in the 2014 Truck Series season and finished third in the championship however, sponsorship issues has forced him to leave the team and it appears he maybe moving to the Grand National Series to driver for Roush-Fenway. Wallace, Jr. is a very talented driver and we are approaching nine years since the last African-American qualified for a Cup race (Bill Lester at the June Michigan race in case you're wondering. Before that, NASCAR went two decade between African-American drivers making a start in the Cup Series). The time is right for Wallace, Jr. to get a Cup start or two while he continues to develop into a more rounded driver. 

5. Tony Stewart Will Win a Cup Series Race
With a difficult 2014 behind him, Tony Stewart will find a way back into victory lane. I don't think he will be at the top of the championship and I don't think he will be a contender every week but I think the three-time champion will be able to have competitive race weekends where he is in contention and be able to pull out a victory. It could be a short track, it could be a road course, it just might be the Daytona 500. Imagine that? After the horrific year, Stewart returns to Daytona and finally breaks through for his first Daytona 500 victory, pretty much the final piece of the puzzle for an otherwise illustrious career. 

6. Roush Fenway Racing Fail to Win a Cup Race
How the mighty have fallen. Remember when everyone panicked when Roush had five cars and the worry was the team expanding to taking up a quarter of the grid? NASCAR even implemented a rule preventing a team from have more than four full-time cars and Roush had one grandfathered in for a handful of seasons before they had to shut down the program. Those were the days. Now Roush can barely field three full-time cars. The glory days of Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are gone. Now it's Biffle carrying the torch with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne as his teammates, each with two left feet. Stenhouse has yet to translate his talent which won him two Grand National titles into Cup success and while Bayne won the 2011Daytona 500, his second Cup start, he has managed only two top tens in his subsequent 56 Cup starts driving for the Wood Brothers. Penske has supplanted Roush as the top Ford team and you could make an argument that Richard Petty Racing with Sam Hornish, Jr. and Aric Almirola are the second best Ford team. Don't hold your breathe on Roush winning in Cup next year. 

7. Chase Elliott Does Not Repeat as Grand National Series Champion
After winning this year's title weeks before his 19th birthday, Chase Elliott will return for another year in NASCAR's second division and could join the likes of Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Randy Lajoie, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. and Stenhouse, Jr. as back-to-back champions. However, I don't see that happening. One, because who knows what NASCAR might do with that championship format. Two, I think Elliott could face more of a challenge. Teammate Regan Smith finished third in the 2013 championship and second in 2014. If he continues improving at that rate, he will be lined up for a championship in 2015. While you shouldn't hold your breathe on Roush winning in Cup, they could win the Grand National title as they have added Elliott Sadler from Gibbs and Ryan Reed will compete full-time and the team could be adding Darrell Wallace, Jr. Brian Scott and Ty Dillon both look to return with Richard Childress Racing. Winning a title it tough, defending it is even tougher and I expect someone else to be hoisting the trophy on November 21, 2015.

8. NASCAR Continues to Ignore Cup Drivers Moonlighting in the Grand National and Truck Series.
And because NASCAR continues to ignore it, Kyle Busch will win over a half dozen Truck and Grand National races and Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will combine to win a dozen Grand National races. No one is asking for NASCAR to ban all moonlighting, just limit it. I love to see Cup drivers moonlight occasionally but not Cup drivers running 75% of Grand National and Truck races. Limit drivers to seven races in each championship they are ineligible for and all will be well with the world. Allow the full-time drivers in those series to compete against each other for victories, not for fifth every week and they will become more household names. It is a win-win proposition.

9. The Truck Series Champion Wins More Than Three Races
Matt Crafton has won the last two Truck titles, combining for three victories the last two seasons. If Crafton wants to become the first driver to win three consecutive Truck titles, he is going to have to do more than he has done in the past two season. Darrell Wallace, Jr. won four races in 2014 and Erik Jones won three races and Jones is now eligible to run a full season. Crafton's teammate Johnny Sauter should challenge for the title. Tyler Reddick will run a full season for Brad Keselowski Racing and he finished 12th in the 2014 championship despite missing six races. Jeb Burton could also return to ThorSport alongside Crafton and Sauter. Kyle Busch will win at least six Truck races, but it's a matter of what happens in those other 17 that will decide who wins the title.

10. Alex Tagliani Wins a NASCAR-sanctioned Race
This is very vague because I don't know where it is going to happen but it's going to happen. Whether it is with Penske at one of the three Grand National Series road course races, all of which take place in August (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America) or the Mosport Truck race (which is the day after the Road America race. Could be an interesting doubleheader for Tagliani to attempt) or a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race, Tagliani will win a NASCAR-sanctioned race in 2015.

11. Ratings Will Be Down Slightly on NBC, Mostly in the Grand National Series
I don't expect NASCAR to get better ratings on NBCSN compared to ESPN. Overall, NBC/NBCSN might score better than ESPN/ABC because NASCAR has more network races with NBC than they did with ABC but I think the cable races will see a slight decrease. NBCSN isn't as readily available or a mainstay as ESPN is and while NBCSN might see growth, comparing them to what NASCAR did on ESPN, I think the numbers will be down. Nothing drastic but definitely by a few decimal points.

12. There Will Not Be a Winless Driver Eligible for the Cup Title Entering the Final Race
NASCAR won't have to worry about a Ryan Newman-situation at Homestead in 2015. But that doesn't mean their Chase-format isn't contrived and something to be proud of.

One set of predictions down, four to go. Look for the next batch of predictions in two days.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: The Christmas Lights Are Out

Another weekend full of travel kept me away from most of the action on Saturday but thanks to modern technology I was able to catch up by Sunday night. Now the motorsports season is over but there is still plenty to talk about as we prepare for 2015.

Save Bryan Herta Autosport
Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin gave a car count for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season and while the grid size appears to be on the verge of increasing but it could also be on the verge of shrinking simultaneously. While gaining a fourth Penske and second AJ Foyt Racing entry, the grid could be losing an Indianapolis 500 winning team, Bryan Herta Autosport.

IndyCar can't afford to lose Bryan Herta Autosport as it would add another casualty to those teams that have died since reunification. Conquest, Panther, HVM, Dragon, Newman-Haas and Dreyer & Reinbold have all faded from being full-time participants. Newman-Haas died peacefully and we should let it go. Panther died less peacefully and left the series was a bruise. HVM's equipment was being used by Andretti Autosport for the last two seasons for EJ Viso and Carlos Muñoz respectively. Dragon decided to focus on full-time competition in Formula E. Dreyer & Reinbold is hanging around and fielded Sage Karam in this year's Indianapolis 500 but a full-time returns seems less than likely. Conquest appears on verge of a comeback in Indy Lights.

Imagine if each one of those teams had been able to keep one car on the grid. IndyCar would be looking at close to 30 full-time entries and I am sure we would have plenty of bumping each May but that is not reality. The reality is IndyCar is on the verge of losing another team, something the series can't afford. People are not lining up to field IndyCars and with potentially half the grid being controlled by three men, the series is one financial disaster from losing a chunk of the field. The series needs single-car teams to be the foundation of the grid. These seats give up and coming drivers opportunities. Think about Jack Hawksworth. BHA took a shot on him when no one else was willing to do so and that turned out pretty good. Think about Simona de Silvestro, who would have never made an IndyCar start had it not been for HVM. Think about Tony Kanaan, who got his shot with Tasman Motorsports many moons ago. Without single car teams, future stars don't get opportunities. Penske doesn't hire rookies. Ganassi rarely hires rookies. Andretti is more open to hiring rookies but have a solid drivers line-up that could be around for the next few seasons.

Had IndyCar kept those teams listed above alive, the series would be in a much better position and drivers would have plenty of opportunities to get a chance to shine. IndyCar can't afford to lose another full-time seat, especially one that has tasted Indianapolis 500 glory not too long ago.

Sign Jean-Éric Vergne
Michael Andretti should sign Jean-Éric Vergne to an IndyCar contract immediately. He started on pole for his Formula E debut at Punta del Este and had his suspension not failed him he could have won on debut. Let's not forget to mention that Saturday was the first time he had ever been in a Formula E car. If he can win pole and compete for a win after just a practice session or two in a car he had never stepped into prior to race day, imagine what he could do with multiple test session and shakedowns of a car and communicating with drivers who have experience.

Don't worry about funding. You didn't worry about funding with Hunter-Reay and look how he turned out. Vergne can compete with the front of the IndyCar grid and if there is one thing Honda needs is another weapon in their arsenal because as of right now, Chevrolet is sitting on a military-esque fire power while Honda only has a revolver. If hired, Vergne will be at the front of most IndyCar races. If he is racking up victories, funds will eventually fall Vergne and Andretti's way.

The Dream Rookie Class
Try not getting goosebumps thinking about what the potential 2015 IndyCar rookie class could look like. Besides Vergne, you could have Davide Valsecchi, Conor Daly, Sage Karam, Alexander Rossi and Gabby Chaves. Let's not forget about Luca Filippi, who for seem reason is always overlooked, Stefano Coletti, who is testing for Schmidt Peterson along with Valsecchi, Charles Pic, who race for Andretti in Formula E at Beijing, Daniel Abt, who tested for Andretti earlier this year and Dean Stoneman, who looks to transition from GP3

These are talented drivers. They aren't going to cause television ratings to increase ten-fold or draw 100,000 people to each race but the only drivers that were going to do that are named Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, Earnhardt, Jr., Johnson and J. Gordon. IndyCar could have one of it's greatest rookie classes in their over century of history in 2015 and it needs to become a reality.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about AF Corse and David Coulthard but did you know...

Team Nordic of Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg won the Nations Cup at the Race of Champions, defeated the United Kingdom being represented by Coulthard and Susie Wolff.

Sébastien Buemi won the Formula E round from Punta del Este, becoming the third different winner in as many races.

The Formula Racing Seat León of Mikkel Mac, Bo McCormick, Johnny Laursen, Lars Steffensen and Jose Antonio Monroy won the Maxi Endurance 32 Hours from Portimão.

With no more weekend previews for the remainder of 2014, I will go over the final round of over/unders and predictions in this post.

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Four drivers (Vergne, Jarno Trulli, Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld) scored their first points of the Formula E season at Punta del Este.
2. Under: The Gulf 12 Hours winning #3 AF Corse spent 17 minutes and 43 seconds in the pit lane.
3. Over: All three Americans advanced to the knockout round of the Race of Champions.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Nicolas Prost does not win pole position for the Punta del Este round of Formula E (Correct as Jean-Éric Vergne won pole).
2. Whoever wins part one of the Gulf 12 Hours does not win the Gulf 12 Hours overall (Wrong. The #3 AF Corse won part one and won overall).
3. A European driver does not win the Race of Champions (Wrong as David Coulthard from Scotland defeated Pascal Wehrlein from Germany).
Overall: 1/3. Running Tally: 37.5/68

This is slated to be the last "Musings From the Weekend" column of the year as there isn't anything left on the schedule, however, if thoughts come to mind and I have time to type and share them, I will. While I don't plan on doing "Musings," I have a set of predictions for the 2015 motorsports season lined-up as well as a few other posts as we get deeper into the Christmas season. By the way, Happy Hanukkah as the eight-day holiday begins tonight. Keep an eye on the blog over the next few things, there might be something posted that you will enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 For the Love of Indy Awards

Another year of motorsports has come to a close and it is now time to reflect on all that has happened. We saw first time champions as well as familiar faces add records amount of silverware to their trophy case. We saw titles go down to the final lap and title clinched with ease. We saw dominant performances as well as race slip from finger tips. For every hair-raising moments there was a jaw-dropping spectacles.

Legends have decided 2014 will be their final season but as they leave another batch of young drivers will step up to leave their mark. Here is where we honor those he made the deepest impression on the 2014 motorsports season.

Racer of the Year
Description: Given to the best racer over the course of 2014.
And the Nominees are:
Marc Márquez
André Lotterer
Lewis Hamilton
Sébastien Ogier
Jaime Whincup

And the winner is... Marc Márquez
For the second consecutive year Marc Márquez comes out on top. No one else came close to Márquez and no one else controlled a championship like he did in 2012. Remember prior to the season opener at Qatar when he said it would have been foolish to pick him to win that race because he was recovering from a broken leg just six weeks prior? It would have been foolish to pick anyone but Márquez to win each of the eighteen rounds of the MotoGP season.

He didn't only prove himself wrong in the first race but in the following nine. He won the first six races from pole position. He scored fastest lap in eight of the first ten. He would fool us on starts, dropping from pole back to sixth, by the end of the first sector and sometimes as far back as tenth but the end of lap one, only to always find a way back to the point. Sometimes he was challenged but most of the time he would retake the lead and never look back as he won ten consecutive races for the sixth time in the history of 500cc/MotoGP.

Eventually Márquez was defeated but at that point it didn't matter. The championship was his for the taking. He could take risks. He could have won Aragón if he stopped for rain tires sooner but he decided to push the limit on slicks. Along with Aragón, he could have won at Phillip Island if he doesn't fall while in a commanding lead. He won a single-season record setting 13th victory at the season finale at Valencia but Márquez could have put records further out of reach for challengers to come. It very well could have been 15 had it not been for two falls.

Along with his 13 victories, Márquez had 13 pole positions, 12 fastest laps and led 214 of 449 laps. Did I forget to mention that he is only 21? His second title showed he was no fluke and a third consecutive title will have him squeezing in at the table with the all-time greats.

On the other nominees: André Lotterer's 2014 season featured the most diversity of success with the German picking up his third Le Mans victory as he and teammates Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler finished second in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Lotterer finished third in the Super Formula championship with two victories and he became the first Le Mans winner since Johnny Herbert in 1991 to make a Formula One start. Sure, Lotterer's Formula One career was destined to be brief as he was given the opportunity by Caterham and the car let him down after one lap around Spa. However, diversity in motorsports during this age of specialization should be acknowledged and if offered, many of us would take Lotterer's season.

Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship with 11 victories, 16 podiums, seven pole positions and seven fastest laps from nineteen races. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's battle for the title will be one we will remanence about when they are calling an end to their Formula One careers. Mercedes produced the best car but they let their drivers race each other. There was no number one. It was comparable to Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost or Mario Andretti vs. Ronnie Peterson or Phil Hill vs. Wolfgang von Tripps. You never knew who was going to come out on top at each race.

Sébastien Ogier won his second consecutive world championship in dominating fashion, winning seven rounds and finishing on the podium in nine of thirteen rallies. Ogier won the power stage at six rallies. Like Mercedes in Formula One, Volkswagen was the class of the field but Ogier had the edge over his teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. Other than in Germany and France, the Frenchman very rarely put a wheel wrong.

Jamie Whincup won a record sixth V8 Supercars championship but about halfway through the season that appeared in doubt. Mark Winterbottom appeared to be his main challenger but Whincup turned it on as his challengers faltered. He won 14 of 38 races with 21 podiums and 10 pole positions. He clinched the title with a round to go. It was his fourth consecutive title and all of Whincup's six have come in the last seven seasons. At only 31 years old, Whincup has plenty of time to pad his records and climb the ranks as one of the greatest racers from Australia.

Past Winners
2012: Kyle Larson
2013: Marc Márquez

Race of the Year
Description: Best Race of 2014.
And the Nominees are:
Indianapolis 500
Aragón motorcycle Grand Prix
Pro Mazda race 2 from Sonoma
Bathurst 1000
Canadian Grand Prix

And the winner is... Bathurst 1000
Despite red flags for pavement issues, 1000 kilometers have never held my attention more than this race. Jamie Whincup had to start 23rd but was up to fifth in thirteen laps but as if that hill wasn't high enough to overcome, an accident and penalty for unsafe release in the pit lane put Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell a lap down. The battle at the front was mostly between the #33 Volvo of Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat and the #97 Holden of Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb but McLaughlin hit the wall and Van Gisbergen had the start motor fail him on the final pit stop with 10 laps to go.

Whincup had worked his way back on to the lead lap and found himself in contention with teammate Craig Lowndes, Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert, who started in 25th, last on the grid after his time was disallowed for passing under red flag conditions in qualifying. Whincup was stretching his fuel mileage as Lowndes and Winterbottom got together, ending both their hopes. Mostert chased down Whincup as he tried to nurse it home. Ultimately, Whincup didn't have enough and Mostert passed him on the exit of Forest's Elbow, heading down The Chase one final time. Mostert and co-driver Paul Morris won the most famous race in the southern hemisphere from last on the grid and only led one lap, the final lap. Between them, Mostert and Morris has three combined victories and Morris' lone victory came at Calder Park a track that is being reclaimed by nature in 2001. It was Mostert's second Bathurst start. Whincup coasted fifth as the #360 Nissan of James Moffat and Taz Douglas, #22 Holden of Nick Percat and Oliver Gavin and #9 Mercedes of Will and Alex Davison would pass Whincup.

To top it all off, on the podium Mostert gave us motorsport's quote of the year when commenting on his pursuit of Whincup: "I kept screaming on the radio in the cockpit – cough you bastard, cough!"

On the other nominees... For another year the Indianapolis 500 provided a thrill for 200 consecutive laps. The first three-quarters of the race went without a caution as Ryan Hunter-Reay worked his way to the front from 19th on the grid and took the lead by halfway. Lead changes were nearly half from the year prior but the action was still fierce. Going into the final 25 laps, at least eight drivers had a shot of victory but they thinned out quickly as Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe got together and Townsend Bell had an accident. The final seven laps were a duel between Hunter-Reay and Hélio Castroneves, who was looking for his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. They traded positions a few times before Hunter-Reay took the lead once and for all on the inside of turn three with four laps to go as he held off the Brazilian by 0.060 seconds, the second-closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history.

Aragón was as unpredictable as they come. Andrea Iannone started third and was up to second but was out after a second lap accident. Valentino Rossi fell from fourth on lap four. The battle was between Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa as rain bared down. When the rain arrived, it was a matter of who was going to blink first. Neither of the three immediately dove in to switch bikes even as the condition clearly became more than they could handle on slicks. Lorenzo blinked with four to go and Pedrosa fell in turn one while Márquez continue. You would have thought Honda and Márquez would have been smart enough to pit immediately after Pedrosa fell but they weren't and Márquez was down the next lap. Both were able to continue but the race was handed to Lorenzo while Aleix Espargaró benefitted from being one of the first to switch to come home second, holding off a hard charging Cal Crutchlow. Márquez and Pedrosa were able to limp home, 13th and 14th respectively, each having gone one lap too long on slicks.

Not often does a junior formula race break into the conversation of best of the year but the Pro Mazda season finale begs to differ. After losing the championship lead in race one the previous day, Spencer Pigot had to chase down Scott Hargrove for the title. Hargrove was on pole with Pigot second and Pigot's championship hopes were nearly dashed in the first few corners as Neil Alberico (Hargrove's teammate) got into Pigot and his teammate Kyle Kaiser. Pigot dropped outside the top fifteen as Hargrove continued to lead. Pigot picked off one driver after another as he tried to resurrect his championship hopes but it appeared he had run out of steam once he reached seventh with six to go. With four to go, Kaiser caused a caution, bunching up the field for one final restart with three laps to go. Hargrove had lead every lap until a mechanical failure ended his day, handing the lead to Pigot's other teammate, Jose Gutierrez. Hargrove retired and Pigot brought the car home in fifth, more than enough to take the title.

Just when it appeared Mercedes was going to go undefeated in Formula One, it all came crashing down at Montreal. Rosberg and Hamilton pushed each other to the limit at every turn and Hamilton's brakes went, ending the Brits day. After leading the first 413 laps of the Formula One season, Mercedes conceded the race lead to Felipe Massa but he had to pit and Rosberg, Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel would go on by. Pérez rode Rosberg's coat tails but fell back as his brakes started to go. Ricciardo was able to pass the Mexican and chase down Rosberg, taking the lead  with three to go. The battle was then for third as Pérez was holding on as Vettel and Massa were all over him. Heading into turn one on the final lap, Vettel passed the Mexican and Massa made a move but Pérez made contact with the Williams and both went sliding off into the barriers. The safety car was deployed and Ricciardo ended up victorious, the first of his Formula One career.

Past Winners
2012: Indianapolis 500
2013: British motorcycle Grand Prix

Achievement of the Year
Description: Best success by a driver, team, manufacture, etc.
And the Nominees are:
Marc Márquez: Winning ten consecutive race.
Marc Márquez: Setting the record for most wins in a premier class season with thirteen.
Lewis Hamilton: Becoming the all-time winningest British driver in Formula One history.
Jamie Whincup: Winning a record-breaking sixth V8 Supercars championship.
Max Verstappen: Landing a Formula One Ride at 17 years old.

And the winner is... Marc Márquez: Setting the record for most wins in a premier class season.
Of all the records Marc Márquez has set, this one might stand for the longest. To win the most races ever in a season shows the strength of a racer from the time the lights first go out until the final checkered flag. To break a record that was held by a legend such as Mick Doohan is setting Márquez up to be in the conversation as one of the all-time greats many years from now. For someone to better that mark, they will need to string to results with next to no problems. Just one or two bad results could separate a rider from breaking this record and not. Think about how close Márquez was to not breaking this record? As close as this record could have been 15 victories, it very well could have been 9 victories.

On the other nominees... Márquez won ten consecutive races, the sixth time that happened in 500cc/MotoGP history and there were a few races in which that streak could have been halted. What if Jorge Lorenzo doesn't have an accident on lap one at Qatar? What if Lorenzo doesn't jump the start at Austin? What if Lorenzo holds on and doesn't allow Márquez by on the final lap at Mugello? With a streak such as Márquez's, fortune is going to have to break your way a few times and Márquez was no different.

Think about all the great British drivers to have race in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton has won more Grand Prix than all of them. Granted this is a different era. Jim Clark never had a 19 races schedule. The most he ran in a season was 11 and he left this earth at aged 32. He could have done another two or three seasons had he not gotten in that accident on that fateful day in Hockenheim. Even more amazing is Hamilton reached this mark in 2014. He started the year tied with Damon Hill for 13th all-time in victories with 22. He was third amongst active drivers in victories, only two ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. He ends 2014 with 33 victories, fifth all-time, second amongst active drivers, one ahead of Fernando Alonso and six behind Sebastian Vettel. If Mercedes repeats their dominance in 2015, Hamilton without a question will pass Vettel and Hamilton could pass his idol, Ayrton Senna for third all-time in victories.

When you consider the history of V8 Supercars and it's roots back to Australian Touring Cars, Jamie Whincup setting the record for most championships is comparable to Jimmie Johnson winning an eighth NASCAR Cup Series title. He broke a record held with Ian Geoghegan, who won all his titles between 1964-1969, similar to Whincup who has won all of titles since 2008, second all-time in race victories and six-time Bathurst 1000 winner Mark Skaife and Dick Johnson, a long-time presence in the series who continues to be involved as a team owner. Whincup is young enough to completely rewrite the record books and he doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon.

Say what you want with Red Bull's driver development system, to get a Formula One team to put you in a car with only one season of experience in a race car and to do it without bringing any money is impressive. Max Verstappen didn't even win the FIA European Formula Three championship yet the 17-year old will be on the Formula One grid in 2015 while the champion Esteban Ocon and runner-up Tom Blomqvist will have to continue in junior formulas. What were you doing when you were 17? I was working two part-time jobs while trying to balance my junior year of high school and start figuring out what universities to apply to. That is a hell of a long way from the Formula One grid.

Past Winners
2012: DeltaWing
2013: Sebastian Vettel for winning nine consecutive races on his way to a fourth consecutive title

Moment of the Year
Description: The Most Memorable Moment in the World of Racing during the 2014 season.
And the Nominees are:
U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda Sonoma Weekend.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton making contact at Spa-Francorchamps.
Post races at the Charlotte and Texas Chase races.
Sebastien Vettel Leaving Red Bull.
Formula E makes it's debut from Beijing

And the winner is... Post race at the Charlotte and Texas Chase races.
The skirmishes between Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth and Keselowski and Jeff Gordon got NASCAR the attention it wanted it. It was leading off SportsCenter in the United States during American football season. To give a comparison, imagine something usurping the Germany national team's run at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on the German equivalent to SportsCenter. Don't get me wrong, this wins Moment of the Year for all the wrong reasons. No one cared about who won the race. It was all about the extracurriculars. NASCAR got it's attention but not because of the product being something that drew in viewers and kept them glued to the screen, rather needing it's drivers to go to schoolboy antics to get anyone to notice.

On the other nominees... We covered the Pro Mazda championship battle but U.S. F2000 championship was just as crazy. R.C. Enerson entered the final race with the championship lead after Florian Latorre retired from race one. Enerson had led the most laps in race two and had a comfortable lead over Latorre before Enerson went off course and Latorre swept on by and in doing so won the race and the championship just a day after it appeared he had lost it.

The contact on lap two of the Belgian Grand Prix between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg changed the entire flow of the 2014 World Drivers' Championship. Hamilton retired from the race while Rosberg went on to win. The German held a 29-point lead but Hamilton felt he had been done dirty by his teammate and that just might have set a fire under the Brit. Hamilton would win the next five races and six of the final seven. Mechanical issues found Rosberg, bitting him at Singapore, ending his night after 13 laps and once again at Abu Dhabi where all he could do was manage to limb home while Hamilton took the crown that appeared to be Rosberg's just three months earlier.

When the press release came at Suzuka saying Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat would be Red Bull Racing's 2015 drivers, a sense of shock came across the motorsports world. After one bad year, one year where the world title was not going to be returning to Milton Keynes, one year in which his teammate was better, Sebastian Vettel was leaving the team he built. Red Bull is nothing without Vettel. The German made an energy drink company the best race team in the world, better than Ferrari, better than McLaren and better than Mercedes. It is a divorce that ten months earlier no one would believe we would ever see happen and then it did and it set off the Formula One silly season dominoes that have just finished falling.

Formula E might not be fast, it might be different from what we are use to be I liken the series to the early automobile races. To the 10-mile AAA-sanctioned races held at horse racing tracks here in the United States or the early grands prix on public roads creating a circuit over 20 miles in length. These were the building blocks for the foundation of what Formula One is today and what IndyCar is today. A century from now that race in Beijing with an average speed just over 60 MPH could be looked upon as a building block for whatever motorsports series is leading the way.

Past Winners
2012: Alex Zanardi
2013: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Pass of the Year
Description: Best pass of 2014.
And the Nominees are:
Scott McLaughlin on Jaime Whincup in the last corner at Adelaide.
Ryan Blaney on Germán Quiroga for the victory in the final corner at Mosport
Ryan Hunter-Reay on Hélio Castroneves on the inside of turn three, ultimately the Indianapolis 500 winning pass.
Gianmaria Bruni from 4th to 2nd in turn one at Bahrain.

And the winner is... Ryan Blaney on Germán Quiroga
As dirty as road course racing can be in NASCAR, the Ryan Blaney-Germán Quiroga showed how great a race can be when two drivers treat each other with respect. Quiroga could have pushed Blaney off course. Blane could have spun Quiroga. Neither did that. They gave each other room and Quiroga took advantage when Blaney left an opening and Blaney capitalized when Quiroga left the door open and Blaney came out on top. NASCAR road course races don't have to be sloppy affairs where track limits don't exist and drivers treat each other more like they are in bumper cars and not sophisticated race cars. Blaney and Quiroga showed what a NASCAR road course race can be when drivers respect one another.

On the other nominees... The entire final lap battle between Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup was fantastic. Like Blaney-Quiroga, McLaughlin and Whincup respected one another. Whincup could have put McLaughlin in the barrier and easily cruised to a second place finish but he didn't. He gave McLaughlin just enough room for both to continue. Just when you though Whincup had McLaughlin beat for second, the Kiwi dove on the inside as Whincup went wide and beat Whincup to the line.

No one had made a passing on the inside going into turn three before Ryan Hunter-Reay overtook Hélio Castroneves with four to go. At least no one went as low as Hunter-Reay did. He couldn't have gotten any closer to the grass. It was the type of move he had to make to catch Castroneves slightly off guard. If Hunter-Reay was willing to make a move that nuts, what else would he be willing to try? It ultimately was enough as Hunter-Reay would lead the final four laps to take his first Indianapolis 500 victory.

This is why Gianmaria Bruni is a back-to-back World Cup for GT Drivers champion. He stalked the Porsche of Patrick Pilet and Aston Martin of Darren Turner and just when it looked like Turner would get the position, Bruni used the draft to swoop by both on the inside as he and Toni Vilander would go on to win their fourth race of the year and clinch the GT world title.

Past Winners
2012: Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore
2013: Robert Wickens at Nürburgring and Peter Dempsey in the Freedom 100

The Eric Idle Award
Description: "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:
Martin Truex, Jr.: Losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing because he lost his sponsor because Clint Bowyer decided to "take a dive" and ending 2014 with five top tens, a third of his 2013 total.
Romain Grosjean: For 7th to 14th in Formula One, scoring four points in 2014, 128 less than 2013, a year in which he ended on the verge of his first victory.
Matt Griffin: For losing a possible second consecutive ELMS GTE title after lap one contact and the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Sergey Zlobin and Viktor Shaitar winning the final race, which they had to do to have any hope of winning the title.
Tom Sykes: For losing a possible second consecutive World Superbike title in the final race.
Alexander Rossi: For having seat after seat ripped out from underneath him and with nowhere to go.

And the winner is... Alexander Rossi
Alexander Rossi could have gotten any closer to making his Formula One debut in 2014 and not made it. First it was Caterham where he got a few Friday drives but ultimately the California left when the team was sold by Tony Fernandes. He landed at Marussia in a reserve role but it appeared Rossi was going to make a breakthrough. It was an announced Rossi would have a race seat for the Belgian Grand Prix only to have that taken from him between first and second practice. After the Jules Bianchi accident it appeared Rossi was set to make his debut at Austin after the team didn't not run Bianchi's car at Sochi. However, Marussia went into administration prior to Austin and the team never made it back on the Formula One grid. Rossi's career is now up in the air and it is likely that he will never start a Formula One Grand Prix despite being so close at Spa.

On the other nominees: Martin Truex, Jr. couldn't have been screwed over anymore by Michael Waltrip Racing. Actions done by Clint Bowyer cost Truex his ride. It is despicable how that entire situation was handled and Truex deserved better. The good news is he was getting better results toward the end of 2014 and Furniture Row Racing is a decent team that has made the Chase before and with making the Chase being as easy as winning a race, it is very possible Truex could qualify next season.

Romain Grosjean got caught in a situation where the car was dreadful and he did the best he could with a turd. Hopefully the switch to Mercedes engines in 2015 puts the Frenchman and Lotusback in contention for race victories like he was at the end of 2013.

A perfect storm kept Matt Griffin from winning back-to-back ELMS GTE titles. First was the accident but that wasn't the end of the world as the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari had to win to take the championship. Of course, that is exactly how it played out as the Russian team came from almost out of nowhere to take the title.

Tom Sykes didn't lose the World Superbike title as much as Sylvain Guintoli won it. The Frenchman won three of the final four races and didn't finish worse than second in the final eight races. Sykes had one retirement all season. As easy as it would be to pin the championship on that one retirement from Sepang, Sykes has nothing to hang his head about. Guintoli was just a little bit better.

Past Winners
2012: Ben Spies
2013: Sam Hornish, Jr.

Comeback of the Year
Description: The Best Comeback in the 2014 season.
And the Nominees are:
Williams F1
Dean Stoneman to full-time single-seater racing
Juan Pablo Montoya to IndyCar
Lewis Hamilton at Germany and Hungary
Alex Tagliani at Road America

And the winner is... Juan Pablo Montoya to IndyCar
Nearly fourteen years after last being in an IndyCar and seven years since being in an open-wheel car, Juan Pablo Montoya returned to the series that jump started his career and made it look like he never left. He did struggle to get his footing in the first few races but by the time Indianapolis 500 rolled around, Montoya was challenging for victories. He stretched fuel mileage longer than anyone else and had it not been for a pit lane speeding penalty, the Colombian would have been in contention for his second Indianapolis 500 victory in his second start in the famed race.

Victory would come his way, at Pocono where Montoya won from pole position, the first driver to win from pole in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Montoya scored 342 points in the six IndyCar oval races, more than any other driver. He finished fourth in the championship with 586 points. He led 167 laps, only Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Hélio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay led more. Montoya has room for improvement in 2015 but he certainly raised a few eye brows in 2014.

On the other nominees... What else can you say about Williams F1? Getting the Mercedes engine certainly played into their favor but that wasn't an automatic guarantee for success. You still need to build a car capable of competing at the front and it had been sometime since Williams produced a car of this caliber. Since BMW left the team after the 2005 season, Williams had three podiums over eight season. The team scored nine podiums in 2014. After only scoring 5 points in 2013 and finishing ninth in the Constructors' Championship, Williams scored 320 points behind only Mercedes and Red Bull and ahead of Ferrari, McLaren and Force India, teams that had trounced Williams in recent seasons. Valterri Bottas came of age and Felipe Massa resuscitated his career. The Finn scored in 17 of 19 races and Massa won pole position at Austria, the only pole position that wasn't snagged by a Mercedes driver. Massa challenged for the victory at Abu Dhabi but came home second with Bottas in third, the first time both Williams finished on the podiums since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix when Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber finished second and third respectively. They might not have won in 2014 but don't rule them out in 2015.

If you don't know the story of Dean Stoneman, it is as uplifting as they come. In 2010, Stoneman won the Formula Two championship over Jolyon Palmer and secured a test with Williams F1 for the end of that year. He was set to move to Formula Renault 3.5 in 2011 but Stoneman was diagnosed with severe testicular cancer forcing him out of the car. He nearly lost his legs and had he not gotten treatment when he did, he would not be here today. He didn't race at all in 2011 or 2012. He returned to competition in Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain in 2013 and swept his first race weekend at Brands Hatch. After finishing fifth in that series, Stoneman got a ride in the 2013 GP3 season finale at Abu Dhabi where he finished sixth and second in his first races in a single-seater since winning the 2010 F2 title. He got a full-time GP3 ride in 2014 and won a series-leading five races and finished second in the championship. Now Stoneman looks toward moving up the European ladder or coming to the United States and IndyCar. Stoneman is as uplifting of a story and we can only hope he continues to find success wherever he goes in 2015.

Lewis Hamilton had to start from 20th at Hockenheim and from the pit lane at Hungaroring. In both races, Hamilton put together calculated drives to the front and those very well could have decided the championship. Had Hamilton not gone from 20th to 3rd at Hockenheim and from the pit lane to 3rd at Hungaroring, Nico Rosberg could have been world champion. They were drives that defined Hamilton's season despite him not ending up on the top step of the podium.

Alex Tagliani ran out of fuel while leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Road America under caution with five laps to go and dropped him to 23rd for the final restart. Tagliani switched to slick tires as the track was drying as the field prepared for a green-white-checkered finish. Tagliani picked apart the field as he went from 23rd to second in two laps and finished second to Brendan Gaughan by only 0.820 seconds. It was as impressive as you can get as Tagliani made the field appear amateur as he nearly pulled off what arguably would have been the greatest green-white-checkered comeback in it's recent history of use in NASCAR.

Past Winners
2013: Michael Shank Racing at the 24 Hours of Daytona

Most Improved
Description: Racer Who Improved The Most from 2013 to 2014.
And the Nominees are:
Aleix Espargaró: From 11th to 7th in MotoGP, scoring 33 points more than 2013, while picking up his first career pole position and podium.
Chaz Mostert: From 17th to 7th, scoring 1003 points more than 2013 and winning two races including the Bathurst 1000.
Daniel Ricciardo: From 14th to 3rd in Formula One, scoring 218 points more than 2013, winning three races and scoring eight podiums.
Edoardo Mortara: From 21st to 5th in DTM, scoring 65 more points than 2013 and two podiums after his best finish was ninth in 2013.
Valtteri Bottas: From 17th to 4th in Formula One, scoring 182 points more than 2013 and finished with six podiums

And the winner is... Chaz Mostert
Besides his Bathurst victory, Chaz Mostert was a feature at the front of many V8SC races and Mostert ended up finishing ahead of many more veteran V8SC drivers including former champion Garth Tander as well as Fabian Coulthard, Will Davison and Jason Bright. He was the second best Ford driver, finishing only behind his Ford Performance Racing teammate Mark Winterbottom. Look for Mostert to challenge his teammate a little more in 2015.

On the other nominees... Aleix Espargaró did a lot considering he was on an "Open" class bike. His one podium at Aragón came in the wet and he took pole position at Assen. He moves to the factory Suzuki team in 2015 and could become an even bigger threat for getting more podiums possible victories.

Daniel Ricciardo did improve as he moved to Red Bull from Toro Rosso. He was not intimidated by his four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel and beat the German in almost every statistic category. He has become the clear number one as he looks to challenge Mercedes even more in 2015.

The Italian Edoardo Mortara has had a roller coaster of a career in DTM. After winning two races and finishing fifth in his second season in the series in 2012, he scored only three points all of 2013 but turned it around in 2014 where he got two podiums and finished in the points in six of ten races.

We already touched on Valterri Bottas a little bit but when you considered he scored two fewer points than Esteban Gutiérrez in 2013 and finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in 2014, he had a big turn around. Sure the car and engine had something to do with it but you still have to go out and get the results. The Finn proved his worth and he finished fourth in the world championship in his second season in Formula One.

Past Winners
2012: Esteban Guerrieri
2013: Marco Andretti

That will do it for the 2014 For the Love of Indy Awards. Congratulations to all those on a wonderful 2014 season. The 2015 season is just around the corner. Soon we will be talking about the Dakar Rally and the next round of the Formula E championship. Testing will pick up for the 24 Hours of Daytona and other endurances races such as the Dubai 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hour give us our fix. While we will miss motorsports, we need this down time. We need this time to be with families and reflect on the year. Everyone needs a break and while it will feel long, it is much shorter than we realize. Eventually the cycle will start all over and we will be back into a rhythm in no time at all.