Wednesday, April 30, 2014

And Then There Was One... Until 33

One to go.

One until we can all breathe a little easier but remain frustrated at the difficulty.

One until to field is filled.

One until 33 entries for the Indianapolis 500.

Sage Karam was confirmed as a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing and will drive on loan the #22 Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing Chevrolet, a partnership between Dennis Reinbold and Davey Hamilton.

On last night's edition of Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee, Cavin said Carlos Huertas will run ovals in the 2014 season after it was initially thought he would just compete on road and street courses and Pippa Mann will return to Indianapolis in a third Dale Coyne Racing entry. Cavin said to expect the Mann announcement on Thursday.

Huertas and Karam boost the 2014 Indianapolis 500 rookie class to six joining Kurt Busch, Martin Plowman, Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth. Karam finished third last year in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

These two additions bring the Indianapolis 500 entry list to 32.

The 23 cars that took part at Barber, Plowman (24), Busch (25), Karam (26), Mann (27), Buddy Lazier (28), Jacques Villeneuve (29), JR Hildebrand (30), Alex Tagliani (31) and Townsend Bell (32).

Where does the 33rd entry come from?

Stefan Wilson's super-duper, secret Indianapolis-based team is still an option. Reportedly Tristan Vautier, James Davison, Jay Howard and James Jakes are all still working on programs for the month of May?

Who fields the 33rd entry?

Currently there are 18 Hondas and 14 Chevrolets entered and I think Honda said 18 is there max so that means no second Herta entry, no sixth Andretti (so John has to look elsewhere), no third RLLR (they learned from the Michel Jourdain, Jr. experience) and no third Foyt (although it's Foyt and I wouldn't rule him out for anything).

Ganassi loaned Karam out so they aren't fielding an additional car. Penkse isn't fielding a fourth (it would be nice if AJ Allmendinger surprises the hell out of us though but that won't happen).

That leaves the full-time teams of KV (who is already running a third car) and Ed Carpenter Racing (who is already running a second car) and the Indianapolis one-offs Lazier Partners Racing and D&R/K. It was rumored not too long ago D&R would run a second car out of their shop but that report died out. I'm not sure Lazier has any additional parts for a second car.

Panther sold their equipment and are a skeleton of a team. Fan Force United sold their car to Lazier last year. Michael Shank sold his car after that whole situation was poorly handled.

They are going to find someone to field that 33rd car but I tweeted this last night.

It just seems like IndyCar, the engine manufactures are content with just filling the field. The current specifications and rules are putting the series and everyone in a corner when it comes to not only filling the field but having a plethora of entries trying to bump their way in.

When Honda announced they were going to run a twin-turbo engine in 2014, why did IndyCar immediately make it illegal to run a single-turbo charged engine? They made how many engines obsolete that were only two years old? The same goes for not grandfathering the previous IR-03/05 chassis. Instead of trying to squeeze everyone dry by making everyone run DW12 chassis with the current engine specifications, allow for some wiggle room and maybe we see another half a dozen entries and getting 33 entries isn't a painful, fearful process that is current is and has been for too damn long.

Maybe a few teams would still be alive if the rulebook was a little bit more open. Maybe a few teams from sports cars or Indy Lights or USAC would be a little more interested in running a one-off if the rulebook was a little bit more open. I don't know but I can tell you the era of an ironclad rulebook saying you have to run this, this and that fails to bring in Indianapolis one-offs that are direly needed and direly wanted.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Should Rookie Orientation Be Scrapped?

The month of May has traditionally begun with those new to the track at the corner of 16th and Georgetown cutting their teeth to be allowed to attempt to participate in time trials for the Indianapolis 500. Over the years though, IndyCar and the month of May have experienced many changes.

This year four drivers (Kurt Busch, Martin Plowman, Jack Hawksworth and Mikhail Aleshin) take to the track today to go through the three phases (one change of the many changes to the month of May) to be allowed to attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 later this month. Jacques Villeneuve will participate in the refresher program later this month. 

The last driver to fail rookie orientation was Scott Mayer in 2005. He also failed rookie orientation in 2003. Before that it was Russ Gamester in 2000. The year prior Troy Reiger failed to pass. Michael Greenfield failed to finish rookie orientation in 1994 due to mechanical issues. 

Four drivers in twenty years have failed to pass in rookie orientation. In the same time frame 171 drivers passed rookie orientation. Out of 175 rookies in twenty years, 2.28% failed to pass. 

Should we really still have a session to try and stiff out that 2.28%? Not to mention of your four rookies, three have logged plenty of miles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the other is a former Formula Renault 3.5 champion, one of the, if not the top junior formula series in the world. 

We all know times have changed. Back in the day when you had twenty to thirty drivers who had never raced on pavement, never gone above 125 MPH and never had been on a track larger than one mile, rookie orientation made all the sense in the world. You had drivers who needed to show they could hold their own during a time where drivers not walking away from an accident were a monthly occurrence.  

With Indy Lights running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, drivers already have plenty of miles under their belt. Wade Cunningham had 240 racing laps at Indianapolis before he attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 2012, not to mention countless of practice laps and three victories. Martin Plowman has made two appearances in the Freedom 100. Jack Hawksworth had his Freedom 100 cut short last year but is familiar with the Speedway. 

At no other track do drivers need to prove they are good enough to compete on their own. While some will say Indianapolis is Indianapolis and turn one is difficult, we have seen time and time again (97.72% of the time in the last two decades) drivers can handle turn one and can handle the speed. 

Instead of having a special session two weeks before the track opens, why not open the track an hour early for the rookies during practice week? If a driver is struggling to get up to speed or is uncomfortable in the car, as always, there are plenty of qualified drivers on the sidelines eager for another opportunity at Indianapolis.

If the day returns where 15 rookies and 25 veterans are entered for the Indianapolis 500, then a separate rookie orientation makes all the sense in the world but the times have changed to where a driver can log 500 miles in an Indy Lights car at the Speedway before even taking a spin in an IndyCar. Drivers today are more prepared than ever for the Indianapolis 500 and safety has improved more than tenfold in the last two decades let alone the last sixty years. Today, you wouldn't be in IndyCar if you couldn't hold your own.

It's time to accept that and let the rookies go toe-to-toe with the veterans with no questions asked. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Bump and Grind, Slip Sliding Away, Burnin' For You and an Argentine Tango

You know the motorsports season is in full-gear when you can spend Saturday night and all of Sunday on your couch. NASCAR to Pirelli World Challenge to Indy Lights to Moto GP to IndyCar. And next weekend looks just as good but we will get to that later. First let's cover what happened the last two days.

Keselowski Doesn't Like Being Raced Hard
I turned the NASCAR race on late Saturday night and was treated to a great four way battle between Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski with Logano coming out on top and getting the victory. After the race Keselowski ridiculed Kenseth saying, "I had a shot at winning the race and I felt like he ran me off the track. It was just a mind-boggling move to me." Keselowski continued, "I just thought it was uncalled for. You make a move like that when you're going to win the race, not just to stop someone else from winning."

I stand by this tweet. I like Brad Keselowski but you can't be complained about being raced hard and believe hard racing by a fellow competitor can only be justified if said fellow competitor wins. Kenseth was giving it his all, just like you, and if you see something wrong with that then you are being hypocritical.

If Keselwoski had won, would he have said, "I've got to put that in the bank and remember it" or complimented Kenseth for hard racing? I like Keselowski but if he is going to do this every time he is raced hard and doesn't win it is going to get really old very quickly. If he doesn't like being raced hard in the Cup Series, maybe he should go run the Nationwide Series full-time so he can win 22 times.

IndyCar Gets Wet and Wild (It wasn't that Wild)
After a weekend with contact galore at Long Beach, Barber was less controversial with the only penalty for contact being Sébastien Bourdais getting into the back of Mikhail Aleshin and spinning him in turn five.

I watched the incident a few times and it is clear Bourdais gets into Aleshin. Two weeks ago I said IndyCar set the precedent:
If contact occurs between cars side-by-side in the corner, it's a racing incident, no penalty. 

I can live with that if IndyCar comes out and says that is what they are committing to as the criteria. However, looking at the Bourdais/Aleshin contact I realize it is wet and after St. Petersburg I voiced my opinion that for IndyCar qualifying, wet conditions should factor into the decisions. Sometimes it's out of a drivers control. Bourdais didn't make malicious contact and had the track been dry he may have avoided Aleshin all together.

With that said I don't want IndyCar to draw a line in the sand for what is and what is not allowed but let a wet race wash the line away and make it a free-for-all. A race would still have to be policed following the letter of the law but the officials should keep in mind a wet track may factor into contact.

Goodyears Burn
Like I said before I turned the NASCAR race on late but fire was the common response when I asked what'd I missed. Drivers to see tire problems ruin their nights were Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer. Cole Whitt, Reed Sorenson, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Fontana was aggravating earlier this year when they had a handful of drivers having tire failures each lap toward the end of the race and I just wonder how come after nearly twenty years of being the sole supplier in NASCAR why Goodyear can't develop a tire that doesn't implode but can wear down during a race? I don't want to make this a Firestone/IndyCar vs. Goodyear/NASCAR comparison but one has done a great job of providing a tire teams and drivers can count on work and the other has a reputation of dropping the ball. Eventually someone has to step up and demand improvement or a change.

Márquez is 3-For-3 in 2014
Marc Márquez started the 2014 season on a leg still recovering for an off-season injury and was saying it would be foolish for anyone to think he'd win the opener at Qatar. He won his third consecutive race yesterday from Argentina, all from pole position. He did have a poor start and drop to the back early but worked his his way back to the front and eventually around Jorge Lorenzo.

He turned 21 in February and is the most dominant man in motorsports today. Had he not fallen at Mugello last year and Bridgestone prepared properly for Phillip Island (as well as his team calling him in at the correct time to change bikes due) last year, he would have finished on the podium in every race of his MotoGP career to date. As MotoGP heads to Jerez, anyone picking against Márquez?

Other winners this weekend: Sylvain Guintoli and Jonathan Rea split the World Superbike weekend at Assen.

R.C. Enerson swept the U.S. F2000 races at Barber. Spencer Pigot swept the Pro Mazda races at Barber. Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves split the Indy Lights races from Barber.

Anthony Lazzaro and Andrew Palmer split the Pirelli World Challenge races at Barber. Mark Wilkins and Jack Baldwin split the GTS classes at Barber.

Mark Winterbottom won two of four V8 Supercars races at Pukekohe Park Raceway outside of Auckland, New Zealand. Jason Bright and Shane van Gisbergen took the other two races.

Esteve Rabat won the Moto2 race at Argentina. Romano Fenati won in Moto3.

Coming up next weekend:
NASCAR at Talladega.
MotoGP at Jerez.
FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters begins their 2014 season at Hockenheim.
IMSA at Laguna Seca.
Super GT at Fuji.
World Touring Car Championship at Hungary.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Impressions: Barber 2014

1. That was a lengthy rain delay. 

2. Who had Ryan Hunter-Reay? What a bounce back for him and Andretti Autosport with Marco Andretti in second. This was a great race. I wasn't sure how a timed event would go but it was a different wrinkle and it played into a great race. Andretti has quite the stable of wet weather drivers. Hunter-Reay was superb. Andretti out ran the big boys (Dixon, Power, Pagenaud). James Hinchcliffe was respectable and recovers after two terrible races in 7th. Carlos Muñoz was doing really well before he spun but this team should be rooting for rain in a fortnight at Indianapolis.

3. Oh by the way... the next race is at Indianapolis...

4. But not the Indianapolis 500...

5. But that is a month away...

6. May is at our doorsteps.

7. Scott Dixon avoids five straight years runner-up at Barber but third keeps his podium streak alive. When third is your worst finish at a track, I am sure you will live with that.

8. Simon Pagenaud had a quiet day in fourth. I don't think I heard his name at all except for the quick off-and-on on lap one. 

9. Will Power had a slight off that handed Hunter-Reay the lead initially but he recovered for fifth. 

10. Like Pagenaud, Justin Wilson had a quiet day in sixth. 

11. Josef Newgarden got a much deserved top ten. If only someone would step up and fund him and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. 

12. Tony Kanaan went from 23rd to 9th. A good day in the +/- category for the Brazilian. Imagine if he qualified toward the front once in a while.

13. Charlie Kimball made it three Ganassi cars in the top ten. He started off very slow in the wet but when the track dried out he turned his day around. 

14. Tick-tac-toe, three Ganassis in a row as Ryan Briscoe was eleventh. He picked up nine positions on the day. Not bad but low man on the Ganassi totem pole isn't a place he wants to be all that often. 

15. Jack Hawksworth finally didn't run into an Andretti car, picked up ten spots and finished twelfth. Top rookie on the day. Good for him.

16. Takuma Sato kept his nose clean and recovered nicely for thirteenth after a spin-and-stall early. 

17. Not a great weekend for Mike Conway. Midpack all week and fourteenth on race day. 

18. KV Racing had a great day but a frustrating day. Sébastien Bourdais ran really well but contact with Mikhail Aleshin drew a penalty and he could only manage fifteenth. Sebastián Saavedra stayed out on wet tires for nearly a dozen laps more than the rest of the field and led a fair share of laps but in the end the timing of this final stop dropped him from 3rd to 18th in the final order. 

19. Carlos Huertas had a spin-and-stall but did well. Wasn't his performance from Aragón last year but showed he is competent. 

20. Rahal Letterman Lanigan struggled again. Graham Rahal was seventeenth and never a factor. Oriol Servià was twentieth after he needed to make a late, late stop to make it to the finish. I wonder if their sports car program is holding back their IndyCar results. Think about it. Was a top team from 2004-2008. Team cuts back to part-time in IndyCar. Starts running BMWs full-time in ALMS for the 2009 season. They had a decent return to full-time IndyCar competition in 2012 with Takuma Sato but even that had it's fair share of poor results (mostly because of Sato having late accidents) but other than that they have yet to cement themselves as a top team in IndyCar. I hate to say it but they are the bottom of the seven Honda teams. 

21. Helio Castroneves made a minor gaff driving into Wilson's pit stall and drew a penalty. Nineteenth was all he could manage.

22a. (Wrote this around lap 10) How about Juan Pablo Montoya in the wet? Last time I remember him racing in the wet was in the Grand-Am race at Indianapolis in 2012 but it just goes to show wet weather driving just comes naturally to a driver. 

22b. (Lap 27) Damn. Montoya in the kitty litter. Oh well. Twenty-first in his Barber debut.

23. Mikhail Aleshin ran well in the wet before the slight contact with Bourdais. His accident at the end was unfortunate but he has had three decent race weekends. Remember he beat Daniel Ricciardo for the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 championship. He has talent but sometimes we think he is just another paycheck... (He does bring a nice paycheck though).

24. IndyCar needs more corner workers for events. There should be two or three guys inside turn five at Barber. That is a hot spot for action. Aleshin could have quickly been started or pushed off circuit.

25. If there was a road course in the United States to add lights, Barber Motorsports Park should be the one to do it.

25b. Barber Motorsports Park is quickly becoming my favorite road course in the United States. Road America is great. Austin is new and nice but... Tilke-ey. Watkins Glen is historic. Sonoma is beautiful but too narrow. Mid-Ohio is just too narrow Lime Rock is cute. Sebring is rough and needs an update but won't. Road Atlanta is kind of in the same boat as Sebring. Miller Motorsports Park is in the middle of nowhere and sadly seen a reduction in action (no more sports cars, World Superbike is gone, their biggest weekend is a Pirelli World Challenge/NASCAR West Series doubleheader. Don't get me wrong, PWC is great but six years ago that place was hopping and now it has taken a big step back).

Barber might only have IndyCar and an AMA weekend but it is a crown jewel hidden in the state of Alabama. The grass looks better than a putting green at Augusta National, I'd love to spend an afternoon with a beautiful women in a gravel trap sunbathing with a cooler of drinks and the sculptures of giant ants, spiders and dragonflies are uniquely scatter about the facility. 

But more importantly the racing is phenomenal. MotoGP may never go their but I hope someone takes a bike there the week before Indianapolis and just spends a day testing to see what it is like because I bet it would feel like and look like heaven. I have to get their sooner rather than later.

26. Anyway... the month of May. It is at our door step. I wasn't a fan of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis  originally (deep down I am still not a fan of it but open to it and see some the potential it has). Testing will take place at the Speedway Tuesday and Wednesday (Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation Tuesday, road course test Wednesday) but a fortnight to go before car are on track at "The Temple of Motorsports" as Franck Montagny called it.

27. By the way it was the first wet weather race for the DW12 chassis. Not bad. I noticed it was twitchy in the wet conditions but could still be controlled quite well. Passing appeared harder to do in the wet. It seemed like the action really picked up when the track dried out. Might be something to keep in mind.

28. Ryan Hunter-Reay won in car #28 today. To be honest when I reached impression #26 and remembered Hunter-Reay won I thought I mind as well get to #28 in honor of his victory. To wrap this up I just want to reinterate how great this race was and that I am nominating it for the 2014 Race of the Year for the 2014 For the Love of Indy Awards. It wasn't the greatest race ever but it deserves it's due.

Morning Warm-Up: Barber 2014

Will Power eyes another Barber victory from pole position.
Will Power starts on pole position for the 2014 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Australian is looking for his third win at Barber Motorsports Park and Team Penske's fourth in five Barber races. Power won from pole at Barber in 2011. James Hinchcliffe starts second for the second consecutive race. This is his second career front row start at Barber. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts third after starting on pole at Long Beach two weeks ago. He is looking for back-to-back victories at Barber. Josef Newgarden starts fourth for the second consecutive race.

Scott Dixon starts fifth. He has started in the top five for every Barber race and has finished runner-up in every Barber race. Helio Castroneves starts sixth. He won at Barber in 2010. Carlos Muñoz starts seventh and Juan Pablo Montoya joins him on row four. Marco Andretti starts ninth. This is his fourth top ten starts at Barber. Simon Pagenaud rounds out the top ten. His best Barber finish was fifth in 2012.

Mikhail Aleshin starts a career-best eleventh in his third career start. His is joined by Sébastien Bourdais on row six. Bourdais' KV teammate Sebastián Saavedra starts thirteenth and Takuma Sato joins him on row seven. Another rookie who will be setting his career-best start is Carlos Huertas in fifteenth. Justin Wilson makes it an all-Dale Coyne Racing row eight in sixteenth. Charlie Kimball starts seventeenth with Graham Rahal in eighteenth. 

This will be Rahal's 98th start since is first career victory at St. Petersburg. Starting this weekend, the next race Rahal wins will break Johnny Rutherford's 41-year old record for most starts between victories. Rutherford made 97 starts between wins at Atlanta in 1965 and Ontario in 1973. His Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Oriol Servià starts nineteen and made his 98th start since his last victory at Long Beach two weeks ago. 

Ryan Briscoe rounds out the top twenty. Long Beach winner Mike Conway starts twenty-first with fellow Brit Jack Hawksworth joining him on row eleven. Tony Kanaan rounds out the field in twenty-third. Kanaan started twenty-fourth at Barber in 2011 and came home in sixth. 

The furthest a winner has come from on the starting grid is ninth. That was Will Power in 2012. This week's race will feature a rolling start. 

NBCSN's coverage from Barber Motorsports Park begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:12 p.m. ET. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Power Wins Third Career Barber Pole

Will Power will lead the field to the green flag tomorrow afternoon.
For the first time in 2014, a Chevrolet will lead the field to the green flag and for the third time at Barber Motorsports Park, Will Power has won pole at Barber Motorsports Park. The Australian ran a 1:08.3120 lap, just 0.0289 seconds ahead of James Hinchcliffe, who is still looking for his first career pole position. The Canadian will start on the front row for the second consecutive race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third, just a little over a tenth back of Power. Josef Newgarden qualified fourth for the second consecutive race. Last year's championship-battling duo of Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves will start on row three. Dixon continues his streak of starting every Barber race in the top five.

Carlos Muñoz was the top rookie in seventh while fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya joins him on row four after making his first career Fast Twelve appearance. Marco Andretti gave Andretti Autosport perfect attendance in the top ten by qualifying ninth. Simon Pagenaud rounds out the top ten, giving Honda a 6-4 advantage over Chevrolet. Mikhal Aleshin advanced to the Fast Twelve for the first time in his career and will start eleventh Sébastien Bourdais will start twelfth.

Sebastián Saavedra will start behind his KV teammate in thirteenth with Takuma Sato joining him on row seven. Carlos Huertas qualified fifteenth and will be joined on row eight by his Dale Coyne teammate Justin Wilson. Charlie Kimball qualified seventeenth and his former teammate Graham Rahal will join him on row nine. The will be followed by teammates as Oriol Servià qualified nineteenth and Ryan Briscoe qualified twentieth.

Mike Conway was the slowest in group one and will start twenty-first. He will be joined by fellow Brit Jack Hawksworth on row eleven. Tony Kanaan will round out the field in twenty-third position.

This is Will Power's 33rd career pole position and first since last year's season finale at Fontana.

NBCSN's Coverage for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:12 p.m. ET.

Hinchcliffe Fastest in Final Practice

Fastest in final practice James Hinchcliffe with team owner Michael Andretti.
Andretti Autosport went three-for-three in practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from Barber Motorsports Park. Canadian James Hinchcliffe ran the fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:07.9206 lap and 0.1084 seconds faster than Sébastien Bourdais in second. Bourdais led a four Chevrolet train with Scott Dixon and Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power rounding out the top five.

Honda took the next four times on the time sheet. Ryan Hunter-Reay was sixth quickest in final practice after leading both sessions on Friday. Simon Pagenaud was seventh with Josef Newgarden in eighth. Takuma Sato was ninth. Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top ten.

Carlos Muñoz was the top rookie in eleventh and his fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was twelfth. Justin Wilson was thirteenth followed by Charlie Kimball. Kimball's former teammate Graham Rahal was fifteenth.

Mikhail Aleshin was sixteenth followed by Oriol Servià. Long Beach winner Mike Conway was eighteenth and was the last driver within a second of the fastest time in the session. Marco Andretti was nineteenth. Sebastián Saavedra rounded out the top twenty. Tony Kanaan was twenty-first while rookies Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Huertas rounded out the field. The field was covered by 1.3672 seconds.

Should these times carry over to qualifying, here are the drivers that would advance to round two.

Group One: Bourdais, Castroneves, Power, Pagenaud, Muñoz, Montoya. Not advancing: Kimball, Servià, Conway, Saavedra, Huertas.
Group two: Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Newgarden, Sato, Briscoe. Not advancing: Wilson, Rahal, Aleshin, Andretti, Kanaan, Hawksworth.

Qualifying will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hunter-Reay Dominants Friday at Barber

Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the second session at Barber.
Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out Friday on top of the time sheets as the 2012 IndyCar champion ran the fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:08.7836 lap. Second place in the second session was Sébastien Bourdais, who was 0.1475 back of the American. Will Power was 0.1910 seconds back in third while Hunter-Reay's Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe was fourth fastest with Helio Castroneves rounding out the top five.

Josef Newgarden was sixth fastest, just a little over three-tenths of a second back. Scott Dixon recovered from his mechanical issues in first practice to be seventh fastest. Simon Pagenaud was eighth. Pagenaud's #77 Honda is on it's second engine change of the season after a change after Long Beach. Ryan Briscoe was ninth with Carlos Muñoz rounding out the top ten. Chevrolet and Honda split the top ten 5-to-5.

Marco Andretti was 0.5399 seconds back of his teammate in eleventh. Charlie Kimball was twelfth. Takuma Sato was thirteenth with Justin Wilson in fourteenth. Mike Conway rounded out the top fifteen. Mikhail Aleshin was sixteenth fastest. Just like his Schmidt Peterson teammate, Aleshin had his engine changed after Long Beach.

Juan Pablo Montoya was seventeenth after the second session. He was fifth in the first practice. Sebastián Saavedra followed his fellow Colombian in eighteenth. Graham Rahal was nineteenth. Carlos Huertas rounded out the top twenty, 1.0162 seconds back of Hunter-Reay. Tony Kanaan was twenty-first with Oriol Servià twenty-second. Less than a tenth of a second covered Huertas, Kanaan and Servià. Jack Hawksworth rounded out the field in twenty-third, 1.2666 seconds back of Hunter-Reay.

There was only one red flag in the second session and that was for a piece of debris.

IndyCar will have one final practice session tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. ET with qualifying at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Hunter-Reay Quickest in Barber First Practice

Ryan Hunter-Reay started Barber on the right foot
The two drivers who got together in turn four at Long Beach were the top two on the time sheet in first practice at Barber Motorsports Park.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was quickest with a 1:08.8470 lap, 0.0866 seconds faster than Josef Newgarden in second. The fastest Chevrolet driver was the inaugural winner at Barber, Helio Castroneves in third. Marco Andretti was fourth fastest with Juan Pablo Montoya rounding out the top five. This is Montoya's first start at Barber.

James Hinchcliffe was sixth ahead of Justin Wilson. Sébastien Bourdais caused a red flag during the session for an off into the sand trap. He was eighth fastest. Ryan Briscoe was the top Ganassi car in ninth and Simon Pagenaud was tenth, making it six Hondas in the top ten.

Long Beach winner Mike Conway was eleventh with Long Beach runner-up Will Power in twelfth. Sebastián Saavedra was thirteenth ahead of fellow Colombian and top rookie Carlos Muñoz. Muñoz won the Indy Lights race at Barber last year. Graham Rahal was fifteenth. Rahal also brought out a red flag in the session. One second covered the top fifteen.

Jack Hawksworth was sixteenth with Ganassi teammates Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball seventeenth and eighteenth. Oriol Servià was nineteenth with Takuma Sato rounding out the top twenty. Rookies Mikhail Aleshin and Carlos Huertas were twenty-first and twenty-second. Scott Dixon was slowest but only completed one installation lap before suffering a mechanical failure.

The interval between Hunter-Reay and Huertas was 1.9115 seconds. Huertas is the lone driver in the field who was not at the preseason test in March.

Second practice begins at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Track Walk: Barber 2014

IndyCar returns to Alabama for the fifth consecutive season.

The third round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama. Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Barber last year while Mike Conway is coming off his third career win at Long Beach two weeks ago. Will Power leads the points by 27 over Conway after a victory at St. Petersburg and second at Long Beach.

Time: Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with IndyCar coverage. Green flag will be at 3:12 p.m. ET. Indy Lights coverage will follow the IndyCar race
TV Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Wally Dallenbach, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kelli Stavast, Jon Beekhuis and Robin Miller.

Can Dixon Take That Next Step?
The defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon has finished runner-up in all four Barber races. The Kiwi has always started in the top five in every Barber race and has led 38 laps in his four Barber starts. Dixon set the Barber track record last year during the second round of qualifying with a 1:06.7750 lap. He has done it all in Alabama, except stand on the top step of the podium. Can he change that this weekend?

Can Honda Get On The Scoreboard?
Despite winning both poles this season and having eleven top tens through the first two races, Honda has found themselves second fiddle to Chevrolet. Last year Honda won their first race of the season in the third round at Long Beach when Takuma Sato won. Ryan Hunter-Reay is not only the only current Honda driver with an IndyCar victory at Barber having won last year from pole position but he is also the only current Honda driver with a podium at Barber. The next best finish for a current Honda driver at Barber is fourth and done by Marco Andretti in 2011 and Graham Rahal in 2012.

Who Gets Their First Top Ten Of The Season?
Through two races, eighteen different drivers scored a top ten with Will Power and Simon Pagenaud the only ones with top tens in the first two races. The five drivers currently without a top ten are Sébastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, Jack Hawksworth, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball. Rahal's lone top ten at Barber was that fourth in 2012, Bourdais finished 9th that year giving Lotus their lone top ten that season. Hinchcliffe finished sixth in 2012 but finished twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth in his other two Barber starts. Kimball picked up his first career top ten at Barber in 2011 with a tenth place finish and finished fourth last year. Hawksworth finished second to Carlos Muñoz in last year's Barber Indy Lights race.

Road to Indy Returns
All three Road to Indy series will run doubleheaders at Barber.

Zach Veach leads Gabby Chaves by one point in the Indy Lights Championship. Jack Harvey is third in the championship ahead of teammate Luiz Razia and Matthew Brabham rounds out the top five.

Spencer Pigot swept the Pro Mazda weekend at St. Petersburg with Kyle Kaiser finishing runner-up both times. Pipo Derani is third in the championship with Scott Hargrove and Shelby Blackstock rounding out the top five.

Victor Franzoni and R.C. Enerson split the U.S. F2000 weekend at St. Petersburg but Enerson leads the points after Franzoni was disqualified after race two. Jake Eidson is second in the championship with Florian Latorre, Adrian Starrantino and Franzoni rounding out the top five.

Pirelli World Challenge
Pirelli World Challenge makes their debut at Barber Motorsports Park with two races, one Saturday at 4:55 p.m. ET and one Sunday at 11:40 a.m. ET. Defending champion Johnny O'Connell won at Long Beach, holding off Cadillac teammate and current points leader Andy Pilgrim. Nic Jönsson took the GTS points lead after winning at Long Beach with help from Lawson Aschenbach failing to score.

Fun Facts
The IndyCar record for most starts between victories is 97 set by Johnny Rutherford from his win at Atlanta 1965 to Ontario 1973. Graham Rahal will be making his 98th start since his lone career victory at St. Petersburg in 2008.

To be fair, Rahal's Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Oriol Servià made his 98th start since his last victory two weeks ago at Long Beach so should he win at Barber he would also break Rutherford's record.

This is the first race on April 27th since Dan Wheldon won at Kansas in 2008.

Helio Castroneves is 26 laps away from 5,000 laps led in his career.

Of the eighteen drivers who have previously made starts at Barber, Takuma Sato Sebastián Saavedra are the only two without a top ten finish. Sato's best finish is fourteenth and Saavedra's best finish is twentieth, both of which came last year.

The pole-sitter has won on two occasions (Will Power 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2013).

The worst finish for a pole sitter at Barber is fourth (Will Power 2010).

The furthest back a winner has come from on the grid is ninth (Will Power 2012).

Remember more facts can be found at the Telemetry Center.

Andretti Autosport recovers from a rough Long Beach and Ryan Hunter-Reay makes it back-to-back wins at Barber. Will Power is up front all weekend. Scott Dixon does not get a podium but finishes respectably. Simon Pagenaud does get a podium. Jack Hawksworth avoids the misfortune of others and gets his first career top ten. Sébastien Bourdais gets his first top ten of the season and so does James Hinchcliffe. Mike Conway has an average weekend. Oriol Servià continues making his full-time teammate Graham Rahal look bad. Sleeper: Marco Andretti.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Return of a Frenchman and a Indianapolis 500 Entry List Update

Remember Franck Montagny?

Former Super Aguri driver. Former Peugeot driver.

Montagny will be returning to IndyCar for the first time since 2009 at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis driving the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda. He has two previous starts, one for Forsythe/Petit Racing at the 2008 Grand Prix of Long Beach where he started sixth and finished second on debut and one for Andretti Autosport at Sonoma in 2009 where he started eighth and finished twentieth.

Montagny is a two-time World Series by Nissan (now Formula Renault 3.5) champion defeating drivers such as Tomas Scheckter, Hekki Kovalainen, Narain Karthikeyan and Stéphane Sarrazin. He also has four podium finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans along with three consecutive Petit Le Mans victories from 2009-11. He won two races for Andretti in the LMP2 class during the 2008 American Le Mans Series season at Belle Isle and Laguna Seca.

Read into it what you will but Montagny is apart of the Formula E driver's club and Andretti Autosport has entered to field two cars in Formula E when the season starts September 2014.

Indianapolis 500 Entry List Update
Word from Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin is that second Dreyer & Reinbold/Davey Hamilton entry is likely not going to happen. Robin Miller wrote today that Chip Ganassi, however, may loan Sage Karam to D&R and join James Jakes who would drive the primary D&R entry.

Dollar General will sponsor Jacques Villeneuve and this tweet sums up the plight of IndyCar drivers perfectly.

Still waiting on word about Dale Coyne finding a driver for the #18 (driven by Carlos Huertas on road courses but he is not listed for rookie orientation) and possibly a third entry.

Stefan Wilson's ride is still up in the air.

Here is where we stand on the Indianapolis 500 entry list:
The 23 cars entered for Barber, Martin Plowman (24), Kurt Busch (25), Villeneuve (26), Townsend Bell (27), Alex Tagliani (28), Buddy Lazier (29) and JR Hildebrand (30).

Then we are waiting for confirmation on Sage Karam at Ganassi or on loan (31), James Jakes at D&R (32), Stefan Wilson's super-duper, double-secret ride (33) and maybe a third Coyne (34).

Looks like bumping is possible but just like last year, only one poor soul will go home alone.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Easter Eggs, Raindrops and Mops

Easter weekend is a dull... well non-existent weekend for motorsports in the United States. No NASCAR, no IndyCar, no IMSA, not even the NHRA and I can live with that. Give me the day with the family. With that said our friends in Europe were smart enough to take Easter Monday off making it a three-day weekend (maybe four? Does Europe take Good Friday off?) and making having a race a little more sustainable.

Toyota Wins Silverstone
We will start at the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season opener and how Toyota took advantage of Audi's hour from hell. As the rain began, the #1 Audi of Lucas di Grassi spun off, ending the defending champions day. The #2 Audi dropped off the lead lap and then had it's own accident halfway through the race with Benoît Tréluyer behind the wheel. It was the first time multiple Audi's retired from an event since 2011 Petit Le Mans.

Toyota took advantage and went 1-2 as the race ended a half-hour early due to heavy rain. The team of Anthony Davidon, Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Lapierre lead their teammates Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Stéphane Sarrazin by six points in the championship. The #20 Porsche finished third with Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber piloting the car on debut.

With Audi's naught from round one, it sure made their championship defense interesting. I'm sticking with my prediction Porsche wins Le Mans and Spa can't come soon enough.

Other winners from the weekend was the #26 G-Drive Morgan-Nissan of Romain Rusinov, Olivier Pla and Julien Canal in LMP2. G-Drive has won the last three WEC events and five of the last six dating back to their exclusion from Le Mans last year.

In GTE Pro, Porsche started with another victory for the 911 RSR. The car won the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring in IMSA. Marco Holzer, Frédéric Makowiecki and Richard Lietz were in the winning #92 while Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy finished second in the #91. Aston Martin's Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner rounded out the GTE Pro podium.

Wouldn't it be great if Corvette and Viper entered one car into the WEC? I understand why the compete in IMSA but they only time they compete against the best of the best is at Le Mans. Wouldn't it be great to see what they could do over the course of an eight round championship?

In GTE Am, the all-Danish #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim, David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen took victory with their teammates, the #98 of Christoffer Nygaard, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana in second and the #81 AF Corse Ferrari of Sam Bird, Michele Rugolo and Stephen Wyatt in third.

WEC next competes at Spa on Saturday May 3rd.

European Le Mans Series opened their 2014 season at Silverstone and had thrilling three car battle for the overall victory down to the final lap. The #41 Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan-Nissan of Tristan Gommendy, Pierre Thiriet and Ludovic Badey won 3.828 seconds over the #34 Oreca-Judd of Race Performance driven by Michel Frey and Franck Mailleux. The Morgan-Judd of Newblood by Morand Racing finished 4.731 seconds back in third with Christian Klein, Gary Hirsch and Romain Brandela.

Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Michele Rugolo won in GTE driving the #55 AF Corse Ferrari with the #96 Team Ukraine Ferrai of Andriy Kruglyk, Sergii Chukanov and Alessandro Pier Guidi winning in GTC.

The second round of ELMS takes place May 18th at Imola.

Mercedes Mops Floor at Shanghai
Lewis Hamilton led every lap at China and Mercedes has led all 224 laps of the 2014 Formula One season as the teams begin their European stretch of the championship in three weeks. It was Hamilton's third consecutive victory but he is still second in the championship, four points back of Nico Rosberg as his Mercedes teammate has one victory and finished runner-up to Hamilton in his three victories.

Fernando Alonso finished third and is now third in the championship while his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen continues to struggle. For the second race Daniel Ricciardo finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel as the Australian continues to search for his first career podium after being disqualified from second at his race in Australia. Nico Hülkenberg is still the top German driver in the championship, three points ahead of Vettel for fourth.

Mercedes not only mopped the floor at Shanghai but has mopped the floor at every race this season by scoring every pole and fastest lap along with every victory and lap led. Had Hamilton's engine held up at Australia they would probably have the maximum 172 points in the Constructors' Championship.

Other winners from the weekend: Audi drivers Laurens Vanthoor and César Ramos won the qualifying race at the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series opening round while Mercedes drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz won the main race.  G-Drive Audi's pair of Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert lead the Sprint Series points after finishing fourth and second at the two races this weekend. Alex Zanardi finished fourteenth and thirteenth in his Sprint Series debut this weekend.

In WTCC, Yvan Muller won the first race at Paul Ricard while his Citroën teammate José María López took the second race. López leads the championship with 86 points, 12 ahead of Sébastien Loeb who finished second and sixth over the weekend. Muller is third in the standings, twenty points back.

Coming up this weekend: NASCAR under the lights at Richmond, IndyCar and the Road to Indy bandwagon at Barber, MotoGP returns to Argentina for the first time since 1999, World Superbike at Assen and V8 Supercars in New Zealand.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

From China to the United Kingdom and France, top drivers from around the globe took to the track preparing for racing this Easter weekend.

Formula One is in China and Lewis Hamilton topped the second session with a lap of 1:38.315. Second fastest was Fernando Alonso, 0.141 seconds back. Nico Rosberg was third, 0.411 seconds back of his teammate. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top five.

Felipe Massa was sixth ahead of his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Jenson Button was eighth with Romain Grosjean in ninth in the first good session of the season for Lotus-Renault. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

Nico Hülkenberg was eleventh ahead of rookie Kevin Magnussen. Jean-Éric Vergne was thirteenth with Valterri Bottas and podium finisher from Bahrain Sergio Pérez in fifteenth. The Sauber-Ferraris of Esteban Gutiérrez and Adrian Sutil were sixteenth and seventeenth. Pastor Maldonado was eighteenth but his session ended early are having an accident entering the pit lane.

The Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton led the Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson in the final four positions.

The 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season begins this weekend at Silverstone and defending champions Audi were on top Friday. Lucas di Grassi set the fastest lap at 1:43.134 driving the #1 R18 e-tron quattro. The #2 Audi was second, as André Lotterer was four tenths off. #7 Toyota was third, nearly a second back with Kazuki Nakajima setting the fastest time. The #20 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley was nearly two seconds back. The #8 Toyota rounded out the top five with the #12 Rebellion Racing sixth and the #14 Porsche in seventh. The #13 Rebellion rounded out the LMP1 times.

The #26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan was tops in LMP2 with a lap of 1:50.401. The #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan was 0.302 seconds back in second with the SMP Racing Oreca-Nissans rounding out the four-car LMP2 field.

Porsche topped GTE Pro with the #92 Porsche setting the fastest lap at 2:00.057, 0.211 seconds ahead of the privateer British entrant, #52 Ram Racing Ferrari. The #91 Porsche was third. Defending GT champions Ferrari were fourth and fifth with the #71 of Davide Rigon and James Calado ahead of defending GT drivers champion Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. The #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke were sixth, 1.731 seconds back. The #99 Aston Martin of Alex MacDowell, Fernando Rees and Darryl O'Young rounded out GTE Pro.

The #88 Proton Competition Porsche led GTE Am with a time of 2:00.570 seconds. The #61 Ferrari was second followed by the #98 and #95 Aston Martins respectively. The #75 Proton Porsche, #53 Ram Racing Ferrari and #90 8Star Ferrari rounded out GTE AM.

After sweeping the opening weekend of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship at Marrakech, Citroën driver José María López and Sébastien Loeb led Friday's test at Paul Ricard. López set the top time at 1:31.227 with Loeb 0.138 seconds back. Honda's Nobert Michelisz was third, 0.908 seconds back. Frenchmen Hugo Valente and Yvan Muller rounded out the top five.

Gianni Morbidelli was sixth and former Formula One driver Tiago Montero was seventh. Tom Chilton was eighth with Serbian Dušan Borković in ninth. The 2009 WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini rounded out the top ten.

Five hundred seventy-seven kilometers (358.53 miles) west of Paul Ricard, the Blancpain Sprint Series held their first practice session for the opening round of their 2014 season at Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. Defending co-champion Laurens Vanthoor and César Ramos led an Audi 1-2-3 on Friday with a time of 1:26.207 seconds, ahead of teammates René Rast and Enzo Ide and the Phoenix Racing's Markus Winkelhock and Niki Mayr-Meinhof.

Lamborghini's Jeroen Bleekmolen and Sascha Halek were fourth with Silver Cup Audi drivers Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril. Mercedes drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz were sixth with their teammates Stef Dusseldorp and Sergei Afanasiev in seventh. Eighth place was the G-Drive Audi of defending co-champion Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert.

Alex Zanardi returns to racing after a five-year sabbatical. He was thirteenth fastest, 1.955 seconds back of the top time and was the second fastest BMW. Zanardi last competed in the WTCC in 2009.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Musings From Monday: Indianapolis 500 News

IndyCar announced some changes to Indianapolis 500 qualifying and we getting closer to finding out who will be attempting the 98th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

IndyCar announced additional changes to Indianapolis 500 qualifying yesterday to allow for potential bumping on the final qualifying day.

The field will still be filled on Saturday with qualifiers setting the Fast Nine for Sunday and receiving points based on their time Saturday. However, should a team suffer "hardship" (IndyCar's word, not mine) on Saturday they will get a second chance on Sunday.

Teams that are not in the fastest 33 on Saturday along with any new entries must declare by 7:00 p.m. ET Saturday their intention to qualify on Sunday but any Sunday qualifiers will be limited to starting on the eleventh row.

At a glance:
Fast nine still happening.
10th-30th fastest from Saturday are locked into the field.
31st-33rd from Saturday could be bumped and any car that does not make the field Saturday or any new entries making a qualifying attempt.

Sunday qualifying schedule will go as follows:
Group one (determines positions 10th-30th): 10:15 a.m. ET to 12:15 p.m. ET.
Group two (determines row eleven): 12:45 p.m. ET to 1:30 p.m. ET.
Fast Nine: 2:00 p.m. ET to 2:45 p.m. ET.

Got that?

IndyCar really thinks this "enhances" (IndyCar's word, not mine) Indianapolis 500 qualifying? It causes more headaches with it's redundancy and lack of risk.

First off, stop using the word "enhance." It makes it sound like you gave Indianapolis 500 qualifying Viagra or Cialis or Extenze (by the way, is Kevin Conway going to be making an attempt?).

Second, let's run down this scenario:
Driver U qualifies 30th on Saturday and gets four bonus points.
Driver V qualifies 31st on Saturday and gets three bonus points.
Driver X qualifies 32nd on Saturday and gets two bonus points.
Driver Y puts it in the wall and his team is scrambling.
Driver W qualifies 33rd on Saturday and gets one bonus point.
Driver Z does not make an attempt but at 6:58 p.m. the team owner gives Derrick Walker or Beuax Barfield or some IndyCar official the heads up, "hey, we are going to give it a shot tomorrow."

Sunday comes.

Group one ends.

Driver Y along with Driver Z both bump their way into the field with times faster than Driver U who is in 30th and knock out Driver W and Driver X. Driver V is 33rd.

Driver X has put it into the wall trying make his way back in. Driver X is done.

Driver W qualifies and their time is faster than Driver Y, Z and U with Driver V bumped out of the field.

Driver V goes out and runs a time fastest than Driver U but not Driver W, Y or Z. Driver V doesn't make the field because Driver U is locked in for being in the top thirty on Saturday.

Gun sounds. Group two done. Breakdown of what just happened:

The final row features Driver W, Y and Z in that order and they have the 30th, 31st and 32nd fastest times.

Driver V was 33rd fastest but since they were not in the top thirty on Saturday and limited to starting on the last row, fails to make the race but as a consolation prize gets to keep the three points from Saturday.

Driver X is out after putting it into the wall but gets to keep the two points from Saturday as a consolation prize.

Driver U is 34th fastest and not only makes the Indianapolis 500 but starts 30th with four points to boot.

Like it or not that could happen.

Better yet is this juicy quote Derrick Walker gave us, "As our qualifying format evolves we continue to evaluate what is best for the competitors. We realized the need to provide teams that suffer an unexpected hardship on Saturday a second chance to make the Indianapolis 500. The changes apply primarily for cars that crash or suffer a mechanical failure during their Saturday qualifying run. Ultimately, we will capture the fastest 33 cars and that's who will make the race."

Here is what Walker is saying in this quote:

"As our qualifying format evolves we continue to evaluate what is best for the competitors.."

What Walker means: We are trying something new and have no idea if it is going to work.

"We realized the need to provide teams that suffer an unexpected hardship on Saturday a second chance to make the Indianapolis 500..."

What Walker means: Listen, this is for if a Penske or Ganassi car stuffs it in the wall on Saturday. Imagine if Kanaan repeats his 2010 pole day performance? Then the defending Indianapolis 500 winner is out of the race. You think Mr. Ganassi is going to be happy? What about Target? And I'm not going to be the one to tell them tough shit that their car failed to make the race. God forbid they accept the risks that come with making the Indianapolis 500.

Oh and imagine if it is Verizon golden-boy Will Power who puts it in the wall on Saturday!? How the fuck am I going to explain to Verizon that their car won't be in the Indianapolis 500? And then there is Mr. Penske who has been it that position before but he will be on my ass for the rest of 2014.

And Kurt Busch. Let's face it; the odds are really good he stuffs it in the wall on his qualifying attempt. Trust me, I asked the Old Scout and he's giving people 3-1 odds Busch stuffs it on his attempt. God forbid he gets back on a plane to Charlotte for an exhibition All-Star race with his tail between his legs and learns what it feels like to fail to qualify for something. He has already called me six times seeing if his past champions provisional carries over and called me after the Martinsville race to see if that win not only was enough to make the Indianapolis 500 but guarantees he would have a shot at the championship at Fontana season finale. What the hell is he thinking?

And this is also to prevent teams buying their way in. I have already had Martin Plowman call me worried sick he qualifies in the top half of the field but someone comes dangling a check in front of AJ and he ends up on the sidelines like Bruno Junqueira in 2011. The last thing we needs is that fiasco again especially to another hard-working driver who gets where he is on speed.

"The changes apply primarily for cars that crash or suffer mechanical failure during their Saturday qualifying run..."

What Walker means: Yeah, this is there in case Buddy Lazier tears a gearbox up or Michel Jourdain, Jr. finds a ride (if he does, we have a problem) but mostly it's to cover my own ass if things go to hell for Ganassi or Penske, especially that Verizon car.

"Ultimately, we will capture the 33 fastest cars and that's who will make the race."

What Walker means: About that, uh... we may have screwed the pooch on this one. Let's see how this goes but we may have 33 cars but not the 33 fastest cars. Hopefully that doesn't happen otherwise I will have some explaining to do.

Moving on.

I just don't see how these changes have made Indianapolis 500 qualifying better. I understand you want cars on track more but by making car qualify again and again and again is redundant. It's easier said than done but if you want to make qualifying better make sure 38-40 cars back an attempt. It's easy to say but in reality it's difficult with the lack of funds, team and crew members but telling the same drivers to qualify again and again and again isn't, in IndyCar's words "enhanced."

IndyCar needs to keep it simple stupid. Making everybody qualify twice and giving away points like they are condoms at Carnival in Rio is a waste. I understand many want qualifying to be an event that draws a crowd comparable to the other oval races on the schedule (25,000-30,000 people) and a decent TV rating but I don't think these changes or any changes would have been for the better.

Indianapolis 500 qualifying's problem hasn't been so much the format as it has been the amount of participants but you can't just make another dozen cars appear at the drop of a hat. However, if IndyCar wants to make Indianapolis 500 qualifying better for the long haul they are going to have to figure out a way to get another two or three full-time teams in IndyCar that can run an additional car for the Month of May and make it possible for Indy Lights teams, IMSA teams, hell even USAC teams to run a one-off and not have to close shop if it all goes to hell.

Moving on from qualifying because we could talk all day about it.

Here is what we know: Take the 23 cars from Sunday at Long Beach and add Martin Plowman (24) for both Indianapolis races with Buddy Lazier (25), Jacques Villeneuve (26), Kurt Busch (27), JR Hildebrand (28) and Alex Tagliani (29).

Townsend Bell and KV confirmed their partnership and we are at 30th.

Ganassi is still pussyfooting running Sage Karam but it looks like that is close to happening (31).

Dreyer & Reinbold plan to run a car (32) and Davey Hamilton is the man who is running the second car out of D&R's shop (33).

Note: Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. Once again, Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. And a third time to get it through to everybody, Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. Hamilton is the car owner and someone else will be the driver. I am not sure what this means for his partnership with Sam Schmidt but we will worried about that later.

Then there is Stefan Wilson's super secret attempt to run for an Indianapolis-based team who remains nameless (34).

And finally Dale Coyne could run a third (35).

I know above I said Indianapolis 500 qualifying needs 38-40 but for this year, after having 33 cars enter the first year of the DW12 in 2012 and 34 in 2013, this is a step in the right direction. Cars, teams, interest and funding won't just appear over night but one step at a time and hopefully that next step in 2015 is just a little bit bigger. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Hip-Checks and False Starts

A lot of hurt feelings from Long Beach and MotoGP had a successful weekend at Austin. Here is what I observed and what is rattling around my brain.

Hip-Checks Allowed in IndyCar
A lot of contact at Long Beach and IndyCar officials have set the bar for what will be allowed and what will not be allowed in the coming races. St. Petersburg was uneventful compared to yesterday and a million times less controversial.

There were four incidents that caught my eye on IndyCar making a call and now needing to be consistent from here on out.

Let's start with the Will Power-Simon Pagenaud incident. Going into turn six, Power made a move to the inside of Pagenaud at turn six. Contact occurred and sent Pagenaud into the drives for a brief moment while Power continued running in the top five. Pagenaud would continue and would eventually finish fifth.

Simultaneously with the Power-Pagenaud incident, IndyCar was reviewing Graham Rahal spinning Justin Wilson in the hairpin. Rahal simply got into the rear of Wilson's car and sent him around. Just like Pagenaud, Wilson kept the car going and was able to continue.

Rahal received a penalty, Power did not. 

The precedent has been set.

If contact occurs between cars side-by-side in the corner, it's a racing incident, no penalty. 
If contact occurs with car getting into another from behind, avoidable contact, penalty.

After that their were two incidents that caught my eye.

First is Ryan Hunter-Reay-Josef Newgarden accident after the second round of pit stops at turn four which also collected James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato. 

A lot of people are crucifying Hunter-Reay for attempting the move but it doesn't sit well with me the thought that had Hunter-Reay completed the pass he would've be praised for a ballsy move (same as Zanardi on Herta in 1998) but since it ended poorly, many call amateur hour. 

First, anyone who cried out amateur hour, let's see you get between the wheel of the car and see if you can do one lap without putting it in the tires or tearing up a gearbox or pisses your pants and then you can decide what amateur hour is. 

Second, had Hunter-Reay made contact and forced Newgarden into the wall and continued, the precedent was set and he shouldn't have received a penalty. He was along the side of Newgarden, same as Power-Pagenaud. 

Then there was Scott Dixon making contact with Justin Wilson entering turn eight. Wilson had made a move to the outside and Dixon made contact with the side of Wilson, forcing him into the wall and out of the race. Dixon continued and just like the Power-Pagenaud incident, Dixon and Wilson were side-by-side when the contact occurred and no penalty was issued to Dixon. 

IndyCar was consistent on their calls. Side-by-side contact is viewed as racing incidents. Now the series has to call it that way from now until the checkered flag at Fontana on August 30th. 

Another thought from all these incidents are do the drivers use their mirrors? The distance from turn three to four might not be long but Hunter-Reay made his move early enough for Newgarden to see him. He didn't dive bomb in there. He committed to the move. Same as Wilson. Wilson was along side Dixon for most of the straightaway from turn six to eight. My question is how didn't either  Newgarden or Dixon see Hunter-Reay or Wilson in their mirrors? 

We could spend the whole intermediate between Long Beach and Barber discussing what the precedent is and what is and what isn't a racing incident but we have to move on.

False Start: Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo's day started and ended before everyone else's yesterday in the Grand Prix of the Americas from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The jumped start for Lorenzo led to a drive-through penalty but the Majorcan would recover for tenth.

His countryman Marc Márquez however dominated again and it is clear the only person capable of beating him is himself and he nearly didn't on the final corner of the race. His Honda nearly stepped out on him but he was able to hold on and still win comfortably (although I am sure his heart rate skyrocketed) over his teammate Dani Pedrosa. There was a phenomenal battle between Andrea Dovizioso, Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl for third. Valentino Rossi's race started well but his bike faded late with rookie Pol Espargaró and Andrea Iannone dropping The Doctor to 8th. Aleix Espargaró was the top open class bike in 9th.

Nicky Hayden came home in 9th and his fellow American Colin Edwards had a fall while in the points, ending his final race in his home state of Texas. Edwards announced his retirement before the Austin race. It was disappointing to see his home race end that way. Hayden on the otherhand appeared to have his bike improve throughout the race as he passed Yonny Hernández and pulled away from him in the closing laps. 

In other bike news, shout out to Tom Sykes who swept the Superbike World Championship round at Aragón. He holds a four point lead over Frenchman Loris Baz who has finished second in three of the first four races.

Other winners from the weekend: José María López won race one of the World Touring Car Championship season on the streets of Marrakech. It took Sébastien Loeb two races to pick up his first WTCC victory as Citroën swept their WTCC debut weekend. 

The #98 ART McLaren MP4-12C of Álvaro Parente, Alexandre Prémat and Grégoire Demoustier won the opening round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series season at Monza. 

Loïc Duval won the opening round of the 2014 Super Formula Season from Suzuka.

Looking forward to the Easter weekend. No motorsports in the States but plenty in Europe because they take Easter Monday off while North Americans get back to work (God forbid we take an extra day off for some R&R). 

European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship both get underway from Silverstone. Formula One is in China. Alex Zanardi returns to competition with the Blancpain Sprint Series on Easter Monday from Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. World Touring Car Championship heads to Paul Ricard. 

That should be enough motorsports to fill in between church and family while snacking on a chocolate bunny.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

First Impressions: Long Beach 2014

1. Who had Conway!? WHO HAD CONWAY!? I DID! On a day that saw a plethora of drivers taken out and fuel mileage came into play, the little team that could stun the big boys on a street circuit.

2. Moving on from tooting. Great drive by Mike Conway. Congratulations to Ed Carpenter. One step closer to the owner's title. And now Mike Conway shows why I nominated him for 2013 For the Love of Indy Racer of the Year: He will get on a plane and run in the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone next week. That's my kind of racer.

3. Will Power recovered from a poor qualifying session. Hip-checked Simon Pagenaud and escaped penalty and somehow finished second. For the driver who for a half decade never had breaks go his way, breaks are finally going his way and that elusive title may just fall into his lap.

4. Colombians finished third and fourth with Carlos Muñoz beating out Juan Pablo Montoya. A few accidents played into their favor but they will take it.

5. Simon Pagenaud recovered from Power's hip-check to finish fifth and his teammate Mikhail Aleshin finished sixth. Once again, a few accidents played into their favor but you got to take what you can get.

6. Oriol Servià finished seventh, he was quicker than his teammate Graham Rahal (more on him in a moment) all weekend. Someone fund him for the rest of the season, not just through Indianapolis.

7. Marco Andretti finished eighth after having a sore wrist and an extra pit stop for a wing replacement. Not bad.

8. Colombia had a great day. Sebastián Saavedra and Carlos Huertas rounded out the top ten. Who saw that coming?

9. Scott Dixon was leading late before needing to stop for fuel and finished 12th. He hip-checked Justin Wilson a whole hell of a lot worse than Power on Pagenaud and how he escaped penalty amazed me. I feel bad for Justin Wilson. He could have won this race had it not been for Dixon's move.

10. On to the major incident. Got to give Ryan Hunter-Reay credit for going for it. He saw a gap and went for it. He was trying to re-create Alex Zanardi on Bryan Herta in 1998 and it didn't work. It stinks Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato were also involved. I don't place blame on Hunter-Reay. It was a racing incident. We can't place blame every time there is an accident. It was a driver going for a gap. What do you want him to do?

11. But even after all those contenders were taken out, the race didn't suffer. Other players stepped up and fought like no tomorrow for the victory. IndyCar has a deep grid and it surely showed today.

12. Sébastien Bourdais had a rough day. He had a great weekend going before getting into the tires twice. Let's hope Barber goes more in the Frenchman's favor.

13. On to Graham Rahal. It was a poor weekend and the race didn't go better. It's only race two but this team has to turn it around. Servià handed Rahal's ass to him and Servià had two test day and should be on the back nine of his career. Rahal was 12,698,967.47 reasons why he NEEDS to turn it around.

14. Rough day for Ganassi. Dixon's fuel strategy being three laps short. Ryan Briscoe had electrically issues. Kanaan was in an accident that wasn't his fault and Charlie Kimball had an engine fail on him. By the way Chevrolet, that will cost you ten points.

15. On to Barber in a fortnight. Let's see if the drivers calm down over Easter. Someone get them a box of chocolates (for Kimball, a fruit basket... because of his diabetes. It's a joke people, don't take it too seriously).

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2014

Ryan Hunter-Reay Looks for His Second Long Beach Victory While James Hinchcliffe Looks for His First.
Ryan Hunter-Reay starts on pole for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach. The American won at Long Beach in 2010 and is second in the points after his second place finish at St. Petersburg two weeks ago. James Hinchcliffe swept the front row for Andretti Autosport. The Canadian finished third on his Long Beach debut in 2010. Three-time Long Beach winner Sébastien Bourdais starts third. He has not scored a top ten at Long Beach since returning to IndyCar in 2011. Josef Newgarden starts fourth and has been in the top ten in every session this weekend entering race day.

Rookie Jack Hawksworth starts fifth. Last year, Hawksworth started second in the Indy Lights race at Long Beach but was taken out in a three car accident before even reaching turn one. Simon Pagenaud joins Hawksworth on row three. Pagenaud finished second at Long Beach in 2012. Scott Dixon starts seventh. The defending champion has one top ten finish in seven Long Beach starts and his average finish at Long Beach is 15.4. Marco Andretti starts a career-best eighth at Long Beach. His best Long Beach finish is sixth in 2009. Helio Castroneves starts ninth with Justin Wilson rounding out the top ten.

Carlos Muñoz starts eleventh with Oriol Servià on the outside of row six. This is Servià first race of the 2014 season after missing the season opener at St. Petersburg. Tony Kanaan starts thirteenth with Will Power in fourteenth. This is Power's worst start in nine Long Beach appearance. Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato starts fifteenth with 1999 Long Beach winner Juan Pablo Montoya in sixteenth.

Mike Conway and Ryan Briscoe make up row seven. California-native Charlie Kimball starts nineteenth with rookie Mikhail Aleshin in twentieth. Carlos Huertas and Sebastián Saavedra make it an all Colombian row eleven with Graham Rahal starting in the twenty-third and final position on the grid.

This is the first race of the 2014 season that will use a standing start.

This is the 31st time IndyCar has race on Palm Sunday. Since 1946, IndyCar has had a race fall on Palm Sunday in 27 years for a total of 30 races at nine different tracks.

Here is a list of those Palm Sunday races:
1958- Trenton: Len Sutton (1st career win).
1960- Trenton: Rodger Ward
1964- Phoenix: AJ Foyt (1)
1968- Phoenix: Bobby Unser (1)
1973- Trenton: AJ Foyt (2), Mario Andretti (1). Two 150-mile heats.
1974- Trenton: Bobby Unser (2)
1979- Texas World: AJ Foyt (3)
1984- Phoenix: Tom Sneva
1987- Phoenix: Roberto Guerrero (1st career win).
1990- Phoenix: Rick Mears
1992- Long Beach: Danny Sullivan
1993- Phoenix: Mario Andretti (2) (Final career win).
1995- Long Beach: Al Unser, Jr.
1996- Surfers Paradise: Jimmy Vasser
1997- Phoenix: Jim Guthrie (1st and only career win)
1998- Long Beach: Alex Zanardi
1999- Phoenix: Scott Goodyear
2000- Long Beach: Paul Tracy (1)
2001- Long Beach: Helio Castroneves (1), Homestead: Sam Hornish, Jr. (1). CART/IRL Split.
2002- Homestead: Sam Hornish, Jr. (2)
2003- Motegi: Scott Sharp, Long Beach: Paul Tracy (2) CART/IRL Split.
2006- Long Beach: Sébastien Bourdais
2007- St. Petersburg: Helio Castroneves (2)
2009- St. Petersburg: Ryan Briscoe
2011- Long Beach: Mike Conway (1st career win).
2012- Barber: Will Power
2013- St. Petersburg: James Hinchcliffe (1st career win).

AJ Foyt has the most wins on Palm Sunday with three. The only other drivers will multiple Palm Sunday victories are Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, Sam Hornish, Jr., Paul Tracy and Helio Castroneves.

Five drivers got their first career win on Palm Sunday (Len Sutton, Roberto Guerrero, Jim Guthrie, Mike Conway and James Hinchcliffe). Two drivers got their final career win on Palm Sunday (Mario Andretti and Jim Guthrie).

Entering today, Long Beach and Phoenix are tied hosting 8 Palm Sunday races apiece. Trenton hosted 5 Palm Sunday races. St. Petersburg has hosted Palm Sunday races on three occasions. Homestead has hosted Palm Sunday races twice. Barber, Motegi, Surfers Paradise and Texas World each hosted one race on Palm Sunday. 

IndyCar morning warm-up will take place at noon ET. NBCSN's coverage from Long Beach begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with the Indy Lights races. Immediately following the Indy Lights race will be coverage for the Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 4:50 p.m. ET.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hunter-Reay Takes Long Beach Pole

In a session that saw Ganassi and Penske get shut out of the final round of qualifying, Andretti Autosport swept the front row for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won his sixth career pole with a time of 67.8219 seconds. He held off his teammate James Hinchcliffe by 0.1184 seconds. Sébastien Bourdais was the top Chevrolet team in third. He was 0.1361 seconds back. He is joined by Josef Newgarden on row two as the Tennesseean was 0.1878 seconds back. Rookie Jack Hawksworth starts fifth with Simon Pagenaud rounding out row three.

Scott Dixon starts seventh with Marco Andretti starting a career-best eighth at Long Beach. Helio Castroneves starts ninth with Justin Wilson rounding out the top ten. Carlos Muñoz starts eleventh for his Long Beach debut while Oriol Servià made it out of round one in his first qualifying session of the season and will start twelfth.

Tony Kanaan will start thirteenth. Will Power surprisingly failed to make it out of round one and will join Kanaan on row seven in fourteenth.   Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato will start fifteenth and will be joined by fellow former Long Beach winner Juan Pablo Montoya on row eight. Mike Conway will start seventeenth next to Ganassi's Ryan Briscoe in eighteenth.

Charlie Kimball starts nineteenth and Mikhail Aleshin will start twentieth on his Long Beach debut.  Carlos Huertas starts twenty-first. Fellow Colombian Sebastián Saavedra starts twenty-second and Graham Rahal rounds out the field in twenty-third.

Tomorrow's coverage of the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag at 4:50 p.m. ET.

Power Leads Final Practice at Long Beach

Will Power set the fastest time of the weekend in final practice with a time of 68.1696 seconds. The Australian is looking for his third career Long Beach victory and fourth career Long Beach pole position. Josef Newgarden was 0.0022 seconds back of Power. Newgarden has been in the top ten in each practice session. James Hinchcliffe was third with Sébastien Bourdais in fourth. Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded the top five.

Justin Wilson was sixth ahead of Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest in second practice yesterday. Juan Pablo Montoya was eighth fastest ahead of Jack Hawksworth, the top rookie in the session. Mike Conway rounded out the top ten.

Helio Castroneves was eleventh ahead of his former Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe. Mikhail Aleshin was thirteenth. Scott Dixon was sandwiched between rookies in fourteenth, behind Aleshin and ahead of Carlos Huertas, who was fifteenth. 

Tony Kanaan was sixteenth. Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato was seventeenth with Carlos Muñoz eighteenth. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rounded out the top twenty with Oriol Servià ahead of Graham Rahal. 

Charlie Kimball was twenty-first with Marco Andretti twenty-second and Sebastián Saavedra rounding out the field. 

One second covered first to nineteenth with 1.6420 seconds covering the field.

Should the results from final practice carry over to qualifying, here are the drivers that will advance to round two.

Group one: Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Conway. Not Advancing: Huertas, Kanaan, Sato, Servià, Kimball.
Group two: Power, Pagenaud, Montoya, Hawksworth, Castroneves, Briscoe. Not advancing: Aleshin, Dixon, Muñoz, Rahal, Andretti, Saavedra. 

Qualifying will take place at 4:15 p.m. ET and will air on NBCSN at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Indianapolis 500 Résumés, Radio, Haas to F1 and Austin.

Busy motorsports weekend from the oldest street circuit in the United States to the premier road course in the United States, the stars from two-wheel and four will be on display this weekend. First, we will start with Indianapolis 500 news.

Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star is eye-balling the possibility of 35 cars entering the Indianapolis 500 next month. Just thought I'd remind everyone I predicted 35 cars was possible two months ago but admitted it was very, very, very, very early and very, very, very, very optimistic to predict 35 cars would enter.

Of course a few of my original predictions (Dragon, Panther, 3rd RLLR) have been replaced (a possible 2nd Dreyer & Reinbold, Stefan Wilson's ride and a 2nd Carpenter).

Let's all get on the same page when it comes to the entry list. It includes the 23 cars entered this weekend for Long Beach, Martin Plowman (AJ Foyt Racing who will drive both Indianapolis races), Jacques Villeneuve (Schmidt Peterson), Alex Tagliani (Fisher Hartman), JR Hildebrand (Ed Carpenter), Kurt Busch (Andretti) and Buddy Lazier (Lazier). That's 29 entries with the one qualifier being the #18 Coyne Honda, being driven by Carlos Huertas at Long Beach likely featuring another driver on ovals (I predict it's Pippa Mann).

Townsend Bell and KV are that couple at the party that we all know are a couple but they keep denying they're a couple. That's 30.

Ganassi is pussyfooting running Sage Karam. If he does, that would be 31.

Stefan Wilson's ride intrigues me because the team's only description is it's Indianapolis-based, so not his brother Justin's team as Dale Coyne Racing is based in Illinois. I was thinking Fan Force United but they sold their DW12 chassis to Buddy Lazier last year. Still not sure who Stefan drives for but he would be 32.

Dreyer and Reinbold will have a car and James Jakes is the leading candidate. That's 33.

Here is where it gets interesting.

The second D&R isn't really a D&R. It's another team but that team will run out of the D&R shop and bought equipment from Panther Racing, who are now as good as dead and buried. Where to start speculating. Robby Gordon is a car owner and was reportedly interested in returning to Indianapolis. Could he be the individual? I don't know, throwing it at the wall thought.

EJ Viso was interviewed during IndyCar first practice today and was trying to make an IndyCar comeback, especially for the Indianapolis 500. Viso had Venezuelan money behind him and when he lost his ride with KV after the 2012 season, reports were out their he was looking to start his own team. Late last year, Marshall Pruett reported 8Star Motorsport owner, Venezuelan Enzo Potolicchio was interested in running the Indianapolis 500. Could this 2nd car of the D&R shop be Potolicchio making his attempt at Indianapolis?

Either way, that second car out of the D&R shop would be 34.

Finally Cavin lists a third Coyne, which I also saw as a possibility. That would be 35.

There were some rumors of Bryan Herta running a second car and likely for Luca Filippi. That would be 36 but Cavin said that ride likely won't happen.

I have decided to list drivers who could be considered for either the 2nd D&R and/or the 3rd Coyne and reasons why and why not they will be in a car come May.

Katherine Legge
Why: Made last minute appearance last year for Schmidt and put it in the field.
Why not: Out of sight, out of mind.

Jaques Lazier
Why: Been interested in reporting.
Why not: Been out of a car since 2010.

Buddy Rice
Why: Former Indianapolis 500 winner. Enough said.
Why not: Doesn't want to have to bring money for a ride and he is right for feeling that way.

Paul Tracy
Why: Gives him one, final shot and another Canadian to increase ratings North of the Border.
Why not: Been out of a car since 2011.

Bruno Junqueira
Why: Give him five practice laps and he will post one of the ten fastest times of the month.
Why not: Out of sight, out of mind and doesn't want to bring money.

Conor Daly
Why: Young man with speed who wants to race.
Why not: May be tied up with GP2 duty at Monaco.

Bryan Clauson
Why: Was quick in 2012 with Sarah Fisher.
Why not: Lack of funding and USAC guys don't get respect. Unfortunately.

Wade Cunningham
Why: Three-time Freedom 100 winner, always been quick at the Speedway.
Why not: Lack of funding.

Tristan Vautier
Why: Young driver with talent.
Why not: Lack of funding.

Luca Filippi
Why: Talented driver with speed.
Why not: Would likely only drive a 2nd BHA and lacks oval experience.

James Davison
Why: Young driver with talent.
Why not: Lack of funding and oval experience.

Tomas Scheckter
Why: Always quick and willing to make a move on the outside.
Why not: Been out of a car since 2011.

Alex Lloyd
Why: Quick in inferior equipment and success at Indianapolis.
Why not: Been out of a car since 2011.

Ana Beatriz
Why: Has run the last four years.
Why not: Average results, running Stock Car Brasil, out of sight, out of mind.

Peter Dempsey
Why: Indy Lights journeyman pulling together the funding for one shot at Indianapolis.
Why not: Not hearing much from him.

I got to admit, after listing these drivers, who is the sexy name? Sure, there are some names we'd like to see competing but the past race winners listed above have made a combined one start in the DW12 chassis (Junqueira subbing for Newgarden at Baltimore 2012). Filippi and Daly are the only drivers who could have realistic careers in IndyCar. Everyone else would be a one-off until they either move on or until the next group of drivers are relegated to the one-off only category. And dream one-offs of AJ Allmendinger and Sam Hornish, Jr. are just that, dreams. Maybe I will be surprised though. You never know.

Staying with IndyCar for a second. Only one and third race weekends into 2014 and the radio announce team of Paul Page and Pippa Mann works. My question is was Mike King and Davey Hamilton a package deal where one goes, so does the other? If so, why couldn't Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever been a package deal? Maybe it's just because Page and Mann are a fresh change from the past but practice is covered with information that is pertinent while the last radio crew had a tendency to go on tangents and ignore the session.

Gene Haas' F1 Bid Accept
Businessman and NASCAR team owner Gene Haas has been granted a spot for his American team on the 2015 Formula One grid by the FIA.

Fool me once (USF1), shame on you. Fool me twice (Haas Racing Developments), shame on me.

I am a little gun-shy getting excited about this after what happened four years ago. I would like to see it happen but I will believe it when I see it. Not to mention the 8-ball Haas is behind. Look at Marussia and Caterham. Both have yet to score and are in their fifth season on the grid. Not to mention HRT closed their doors after three seasons. I still think Marussia and/or Caterham will finally break through for that elusive first point in 2014 but would Gene Haas accept waiting over four years to get results?

The good news is Haas isn't going to try and run this team out of the United States like USF1 was planning on doing and instead base the team in Italy. It doesn't make any sense to run a team in the States. Plenty of F1 teams are based in countries that different from the flag they fly. Most notably, Red Bull, the Austrian team based out of Milton Keynes. Force India is based in Silverstone. Caterham is the Malaysian team in Leafield and the Russian Marussia F1 is based in Banbury. Mercedes-Benz isn't even based in Germany rather Brackley, the former home of Japan's own Honda F1.

See? Nearly half the teams aren't based in the country they represent and to just go back to the not so distant past when Toyota F1 ran out of Cologne and Super Aguri was run out of Leafield.

As for the never-ending quest to get an American on the grid, the top two candidates are Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly. Does Haas run both? No. Does Haas run one? Hopefully. You need a veteran to help develop a car.

I'll be honest, there is part of me deep down that would like to say to Mr. Haas, "hey, for a fraction of the budget you could run a two-car IndyCar team with Chevrolet engines and give the likes of JR Hildebrand, Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson, Townsend Bell, Luca Filippi, Sam Bird and/or Martin Plowman a full-time ride." Of course the the allure of IndyCar isn't the same as F1. Just remember all that glisters is not gold.

MotoGP in Austin
Marc Márquez enters Austin as the points leader and is miles ahead of everyone. He was 0.887 seconds ahead of Forward Racing Aleix Espargaró in first practice and 1.005 seconds ahead of Andrea Dovizioso in second practice. Márquez's Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa was third in second practice with Italians Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi rounding out the top five.

The big news of the weekend was Colin Edwards announcing he will retire at the end of 2014. The Texan won two Superbike World Championships before moving toe MotoGP in 2003. Unfortunately, Edwards never found the top step of the podium in MotoGP and likely never will barring an upset of a lifetime. He was always a fun guy to watch and all good things must come to an end. He was 16th in second practice. 3.390 seconds back of Márquez. Fellow American Nicky Hayden was 14th, 2.698 seconds back.

There aren't many Americans in the pipeline on their way to MotoGP. Ben Spies retired after his body got torn up. Edwards is retiring and Nicky Hayden isn't getting any younger or shots on factory bikes.
Josh Herrin is in Moto2. Maybe we should give him more time to develop. He's only 23. He was 30th fastest out of 34 bikes in Moto2 practice. Once again, maybe we should give him time to adjust but who is that rider coming out of AMA?

AMA is holding on for dear life. AMA Superbike is down to six race weekends and their next race isn't until May 30-June 1 at Road America. They opened the season at Daytona a month ago. Cameron Beaubier is 21. Chris Clark is 22 and there are teenagers Jakes Lewis and Garrett Gerloff in Daytona Superbike. Maybe they are the future and we don't even know it yet.

What really doesn't make sense to me is, why isn't AMA running as an undercard to MotoGP at Austin like they were at Laguna Seca? The same can be said for Indianapolis. AMA has shrunk considerably since Daytona Motorsports Group took over in 2009 and that trend has to be reversed.