Thursday, July 31, 2014

Track Walk: Mid-Ohio 2014

IndyCar returns to Mid-Ohio for the 30th time
The penultimate road course and fifteenth round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Hélio Castroneves enters with a thirteen point lead over his Team Penske comrade Will Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay is third in the championship, sixty-nine points back and Simon Pagenaud is two points behind the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner in the championship standings. Juan Pablo Montoya makes it three Penske drivers in the top five. The Colombian trails the Brazilian by 105 points.

Time: Coverage begins on Sunday August 3rd at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:50 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast, Marty Snider and Robin Miller.

Championship Contenders at Mid-Ohio
Hélio Castroneves has two victories at Mid-Ohio. They came in 2000 and 2001. Since 2007, Castroneves has been able to tally three more podiums to bring his Mid-Ohio total to five. The Brazilian has struggled qualifying at Mid-Ohio in recent years, having qualified fifteenth, twenty-third and fourteenth in the last three visits.

Will Power has never won at Mid-Ohio but has two second place finishes and two fourth place finishes. His worst finish at Mid-Ohio is fourteenth while averaging a starting position of fourth. Last year was the first time Power did not lead a lap in a Mid-Ohio start. He has led 87 laps in his five starts at Mid-Ohio.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has two podiums, four top fives and seven top tens in eight Mid-Ohio starts. He has seven top ten starts at Mid-Ohio. Like Power, Hunter-Reay has yet to break through and get a Mid-Ohio victory. Hunter-Reay started from pole last year, his second career front row start at Mid-Ohio. He started second in his first start on the 2.25-mile road course in 2003.

Simon Pagenaud has only three starts to his name at Mid-Ohio and he wasn't even scheduled to race there in 2011. The Frenchman was a last minute substitute after Justin Wilson fractured a vertebra after going off the road in practice. Pagenaud was able to finish thirteenth that day. Since joining Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, Pagenaud has two podiums in two Mid-Ohio starts including an thrilling drive last year only to be beat by Charlie Kimball.

Juan Pablo Montoya has the least amount of Mid-Ohio starts out of the top five of the championship. He won at the track after leading the final 28 laps en route to his 1999 championship. He started eighth that day, matching Al Unser, Jr.'s win in 1995 as the furthest back on the grid a Mid-Ohio winner has come from. He finished twenty-fourth the following year after running out of fuel.

Scott Dixon's House
The Kiwi holds the record for most IndyCar wins at Mid-Ohio at four. He has five podiums, seven top fives and eight top tens in nine Mid-Ohio starts. His worst starting position since Mid-Ohio returned to the IndyCar schedule in 2007 is sixth. An ironic fact about Dixon is he has won every Mid-Ohio race he has led a lap in and has led a total of 156 laps at Mid-Ohio.

If Dixon has any hope in defending his IndyCar championship, he is going to need to pick up his fifth victory at Mid-Ohio as he finds himself sixth in the championship, 146 points back of his championship rival from last year Hélio Castroneves. If he doesn't win the title, he is in prime position to make in three consecutive season in which the defending championship has finished seventh in the championship the following year. Dixon is only three points ahead of Carlos Muñoz in seventh. Muñoz is the top rookie in the 2014 championship.

We Don't Need No Stinky Cautions?
The last two Mid-Ohio races have gone wire-to-wire without a full course caution. The last full course caution to occur at Mid-Ohio was on lap 57 in 2011 when Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal got together, beaching Rahal in the keyhole gravel trap. The caution lasted three laps and there have been 201 consecutive green flags run at Mid-Ohio in IndyCar competition since then.

The nonstop action hasn't stopped guys coming from the back of the field. In 2012, James Hinchcliffe went from 15th to 5th, Tony Kanaan from 18th to 6th, Graham Rahal from 21st to 11th and substituting for an injured Charlie Kimball, Giorgio Pantano went from 24th to 14th.

Last year, Charlie Kimball and Simon Pagenaud let it all hang out on three stop strategies to pick up the top two positions while the likes of Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon dropped from contention for the victory sticking to two stop strategies.

Hometown Woes
The Ohioan Graham Rahal has never faired well at his home track. In six Mid-Ohio starts, Rahal has only two top ten starts and only one top ten finishes with an average finish of 16.16. The 2014 season has been a disaster for the 25-year old. Outside of a second in Belle Isle 1, Rahal is eighteenth in the championship, only one point ahead of Carlos Huertas and twenty-one points back of Jack Hawksworth who missed a race after an accident forced the Brit to sit out at Pocono. To make matters worse for Rahal, he has not had a top ten finish on a natural-terrain road course since finishing fifth at Sonoma in 2012.

Pirelli World Challenge
Johnny O'Connell retained the points lead after Toronto and is 108 points clear of Mike Skeen in second. Mid-Ohio is the site of Skeen's first career PWC victory which was also Skeen's first career start in 2010. O'Connell's Cadillac teammate Andy Pilgrim is still winless in 2014 and is third in the championship. Andrew Palmer and Anthony Lazzaro round out the top five in the GT championship.

Last year, Alex Figge swept the Mid-Ohio weekend. Ryan Dalziel returns to PWC driving the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3. Nick Tandy won at Toronto driving the #31 Porsche. Making his PWC debut in the #12 CRP Racing Chevrolet Corvette will be 2010 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Alex Lloyd. Lloyd made one IndyCar start at Mid-Ohio. He finished thirteenth in 2010 after starting twenty-first.

Seven different drivers have won in ten GT races this season.

In the GTS championship, Mark Wilkins took thee points lead after winning the second race at his home weekend in Toronto. The Kia driver leads Mustang driver Dean Martin by 142 points. Wilkins' Kia teammate Nic Jönsson is third in the championship, 175 markers back. Jack Baldwin and Jack Roush, Jr. round out the top five with defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach in sixth.

Last year, Wilkins and Aschenbach split the Mid-Ohio weekend. U.S. F2000 driver Austin Cindric makes his PWC debut driving the #55 Ford Mustang Boss for Capaldi Racing in efforts to raise awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Indy Lights
Gabby Chaves leads Zach Veach by twenty-one points heading into a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio. Jack Harvey is forty-eight points back in third with Matthew Brabham sixty-two points back. The most recent winner in the Indy Lights series, Alex Baron will not be at Mid-Ohio, despite being fifth in the championship. He will be replaced by Zimbabwean Axcil Jefferies who finished seventh at Mid-Ohio last year on his Indy Lights debut.

Chaves picked up his first career Indy Lights victory at Mid-Ohio last year while Veach finished fifth. Matthew Brabham swept the Pro Mazda doubleheader at Mid-Ohio in 2013.

Pro Mazda
Spencer Pigot holds a fifteen point advantage over Canadian Scott Hargrove as Pro Mazda have their own doubleheader at Mid-Ohio. Pigot won at Mid-Ohio in U.S. F2000 in 2012. He finished fourth and fifth last year at Mid-Ohio in Pro Mazda. Scott Hargrove had two second place finishes last year in U.S. F2000 at Mid-Ohio. Third in the Pro Mazda championship Neil Alberico won two of three U.S. F2000 Mid-Ohio races in 2013. Alberico is three points ahead of Shelby Blackstock in the championship with Kyle Kaiser eight points back of Alberico in fifth. Indianapolis Raceway Park winner Garrett Grist is sixth in the championship and won at Mid-Ohio last year in U.S. F2000.

U.S. F2000
The penultimate round of the 2014 U.S. F2000 championship features a triple header at Mid-Ohio. Frenchman Florian Latorre took the points lead after R.C. Enerson had a mishap in Toronto race two costing him what looked like a definite victory. Latorre is fifteen points ahead of Jake Eidson and twenty-two ahead of Enerson.

Enerson had two podiums and a fourth in the Mid-Ohio triple header last year while Latorre finished fourth, seventh and twenty-second in the three races.

Fun Facts
The average starting position for a winner at Mid-Ohio is 2.82.

The pole sitter has won eleven of twenty-nine races at Mid-Ohio. Outside of row one has produced six winners.

This will be the first race on August 3rd since Bruno Junqueira won at Road America in 2003.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 65 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Mike Conway's average finish at Mid-Ohio is 22.333 in three starts at the track.

Should he take the green flag, Graham Rahal will be making his 125th IndyCar start.

Remember more facts can always be found at the Telemetry Center.

It's Scott Dixon's house. But Ryan Hunter-Reay breaks into victory lane. Dixon gets a podium, as will Simon Pagenaud. Penske doesn't get a car in the top five. Mike Conway doesn't get a top ten. Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan's struggles continue. Jack Hawksworth is the top finishing rookie. Sleeper: Ryan Briscoe.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Formula E Hang Ups, IndyCar in 2015 and GT3's World Stage

We are getting closer every day to 2015 and it's time to talk about topics that need to be aired out as the summer winds into autumn and before we all have to bunker down into the motorsports emptiness that is winter.

Formula E Hang Ups
Driving back from Monterey this weekend, my uncle and I were talking about all sorts of motorsports. He started following as teenager in the 1970s, catching the bug back in days of Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve, James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Formula One, he was one of millions burned by the CART-IRL split and has yet to get over it and may never and the Chase is the one thing that deters him from following NASCAR full-time. 

We started talking about Formula E and I was explaining how the series was going to work. One-day street shows around the world with a mixture of young drivers who have yet to break through to Formula One and veterans with glittering résumés, switching cars during races and having two races in one day.

While intrigued by what the series intends to be, he mentioned a few problems he sees in the series. First and foremost, he stressed that motorsports has historically been the proving ground for future technology in road cars. With drivers changing cars during the race he felt that told the everyday drivers, currently the best way to live with an electric car is to have two electric cars because one is not going to be enough. 

He has a point. The average range for the Nissan Leaf is 84 miles, with it taking approximately 7 hours to fully charge. The car is obviously for city use and not for long daily commutes but when it comes time to charge you car, you may need to still go get groceries or drop the kids off at practice, etc. If you currently want rely solely on electric cars, get two so when one needs to charge, the other is ready to go. Obviously that isn't feasible for everybody. Of course Formula E is meant to develop longer lasting batteries so switching cars doesn't have to occur and development takes time. 

My uncle was keen to point out all the things that could go wrong with drivers undoing the seat belts, getting out a car and into another. First, someone getting hurt. Imagine Jerome d'Ambrosio leading, coming into the pits to change cars and as he is hopping out he twists his ankle and it ends his race. Or d'Ambrosio is having difficulty getting his seat belts off or on. Not to mention the safety risks of a driver not getting their seat belts done properly after jumping into the fully charged car and the possible consequences they entail.

My uncle proposed, instead of drivers actually getting out of the cars, the cockpit be developed into a removable pod that can be jacked out of one car and into another to prevent any potential driver injuries or seat belt issues and speeding up the process. I think it is an interesting idea but not being sure how much innovation will be allow for the teams to do to these cars, it will probably never happen. 

2015 IndyCar Schedule
Numerous times I have said I hate talking about future schedules for any series, let alone IndyCar, but seeing as the IndyCar season ends a month from today, I think we need to talk about the 2015 IndyCar schedule. 

First, when is it going to be announced? Last year, they announced the 2014 scheduling leading into the final race of 2013 at Fontana. Does the series do the same? Or, realizing they are giving themselves loads of time to be out of the public eye, does IndyCar hold off on releasing the 2015 schedule until the middle of autumn? I think IndyCar has to get it out before the 2014 season ends because there are going to be plenty of people who, when 2014 ends, will have no idea when 2015 begins and you will lose them. If you don't give them a date to circle on their calendars, they will be gone and won't watch another race until it smacks them in the face one day next spring and that day will probably be the 99th Indianapolis 500. 

Second, when and where is the 2015 season going to begin? We have no clear idea when or where the 2015 season will begin. We've been hearing about an international series for a year now but is that really going to happen? Is IndyCar going to start in the Middle East come February 2015 or Brazil in early March? Or is the IndyCar season opener going to remain in late March at St. Petersburg and the series is going to be dormant for seven months!?

Third, is there going to be anything new to look forward to domestically? I think IndyCar needs to show equity and keep every event from 2014 on the 2015 schedule. IndyCar hasn't had a 100% retention rate from one year to the next since 2007 when they kept all 14 events from 2006 and added Iowa, Mid-Ohio and Belle Isle. Perfect retention is a must for 2015. The hopes of Road America, Michigan, Phoenix, Austin, Laguna Seca or any other North American track getting an IndyCar date appears to be slim to none. While disheartening as it is, it is IndyCar's reality.

GT3 World Cup
In what might be the most genius idea in motorsports today, Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Series promoter Stéphane Ratel is proposing the idea of a GT3 World Cup. The event would be at the end of the season and would bring together GT3 cars from series across the globe. 

Along with the Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Series, other series that allow GT3-spec cars are ADAC GT Masters, Australian GT, Belgian GT, British GT, ELMS, FFSA GT, International GT Open, Italian GT, Pirelli World Challenge, Super GT and IMSA's United SportsCar Championship allows GT3 cars but must use IMSA's single element rear wing

There are more than enough GT3 cars out there to make this a reality but the question is how many series will you get to jump on board and how many entries will you allow from each series? I don't want this to become an off shoot of a BES or BSS round with 80% of the cars competing being from either series and than a few series champions joining them. I would be fine with allocation of spots. For example, bigger series such as BES, BSS and ELMS getting four automatic bids to the GT3 World Cup; British GT, PWC and ADAC GT Masters getting three, Australian GT, Belgian GT and International GT Open getting two and the remaining series only getting one spot. That would be about 30 or 31 (depending on if they allow IMSA teams to qualify) spots for the GT3 World Cup, more than enough in my opinion. 

There is still a lot to be figured out. For example, would the Pro-Am and Gentleman Trophy champions from BES get a spot? What about drivers and teams who compete in multiple series? René Rast runs both BSS and ADAC GT Masters, same as Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz and Tomáš Enge and Peter Kox seem to compete in every series imaginable. 

Then comes scheduling. Ratel said any GT3 World Cup would occur between December and February but there are a few big GT3 events during that time period. The Gulf 12 Hours from Yas Marina Circuit is held the second Friday in December. The Dubai 24 Hours is scheduled for January 9-10, 2015 with the 24 Hours of Daytona traditionally the last weekend in January (January 25-26, 2015) and the Bathurst 12 Hour is scheduled for February 8, 2015. The event likely won't happen until 2015-16 but this schedule is likely going to remain unchanged. How can you make another big GT3 event fit into an already crowded schedule?

The format would reportedly be two one-hour sprint races. I was kind of hoping for one day of the GT3 World Cup being a sprint day with the second day featuring an endurance race to get both elements of GT3 racing wrapped into one weekend and combing the results to produce a GT3 World Champion.

Concerns over which tires are run was brought up by Vincent Vosse, team principal of this past weekend's Spa 24 Hours winning WRT Audi. I think each team should be allowed to run the tires they run in their respective championship, meaning a grid with a variety of cars on Pirellis, Michelins, Yokohamas, Avons, etc. If they want an equal tire though, something no team would have an advantage using, I would suggest using Goodyear's NASCAR tire because no matter what, it will frustrate the hell out of everyone. 

Finally, where would a GT3 World Cup take place? By racing in the winter, most venues in Europe and the United States are ruled out. The Middle East would make sense but as stated before, the major venues in the Middle East are swamped with GT3 events already that time of year. South America could be a possibility. Porsche's South African division bought Kyalami. There are plenty of venues in the Asia-Pacific that could be used. Also, would you have it rotate from place to place year after year or have one permanent home?

There are many things that need to be worked out but should the GT3 World Cup ever come to fruition, it may be the event to vault GT3 racing into worldwide motorsports popularity.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: The Other Weekend at Indianapolis and Northern California

Wet to dry in Hungary, history at Indianapolis, endurance racing in the Ardennes, Miatas in the  corkscrew and more. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Super Weekend's 33
With the invention of Super Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway featuring NASCAR's Brickyard 400, a Nationwide race, IMSA and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, many more drivers are getting the opportunity to race at 16th and Georgetown than ever before. I'm on the fence. I have previously stated I am glad Indianapolis Motor Speedway is becoming a great home for motorsports in the Untied States rather than American motorsports' Rockerfeller Center Christmas tree, being lit up for a month, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors before closing down and having to wait eleven months to see it again.

At the same time, selfishly, I hate the Super Weekend because it slightly diminishes the Indianapolis 500. Drivers settle with victories in the Brickyard 400 and Brickyard Grand Prix and the 250-mile race on Saturday and probably even the Grand Prix of Indianapolis as substitutes for not taking the step to try and race at the Speedway Memorial Day weekend. I realize the present isn't set up for all these drivers at Indianapolis this past weekend to show up in May. Chassis and engines are limited. Track time is limited. Money is tight and contracts are ironclad. If there was only the Indianapolis 500, 95% of these drivers would probably never get to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Looking at the entry lists for the four races that comprise Super Weekend, I found 50 names that I truly believe in another universe are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, trying to make the "500." Let's start with the seven guys who ran the "500" this year alone, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sage Karam, Townsend Bell, James Davison, Martin Plowman and Kurt Busch. Add in the other drivers with Indianapolis 500 starts, from NASCAR's Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Danica Patrick and the forgettable J.J. Yeley to former IndyCar stars Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi, Scott Pruett and Scott Sharp. That's fifteen down.

Then comes a long list of guys who were in IndyCar and have turned to sports cars. I bet Ryan Dalziel would turn some heads if he returned. Jan Heylen had some decent drives in Champ Car and if Bertand Baguette taught us anything, Belgians can succeed at Indianapolis. Dan Clarke also put together some decent drives in Champ Car.  Michael Valiante made only two starts in Champ Car, a real shame considering his success in Formula Atlantic. Same goes for Luis Díaz. John Edwards won a Star Mazda and Atlantic Championship and has never come close to jumping behind the wheel of an IndyCar. Jonathan Bomarito came close to winning an Atlantic's title and Dane Cameron won a Star Mazda title but like Edwards, both have never came close to IndyCar. David Ostella had a fluid career in junior formulas between Europe and North America but has been respectable in PC cars. Gustavo Yacamán would probably be more Sebastián Saavedra than Carlos Muñoz in IndyCar. How Patrick Long lost the Red Bull Driver Search to Scott Speed is the greatest fraud in American open-wheel racing history. What could have been a decent open-wheel career budded a respectably worldwide sports car career. That's twenty-six down.

A few other drivers with open-wheel roots but were smart enough to switch to sports cars before they reached the depressing point of coming so close to reaching the top of the ladder and never getting there. Joel Miller finished second to John Edwards by sixteen points in the 2008 Star Mazda championship. He made two Indy Lights starts in 2010 and that's the closest he got to IndyCar. Miller's Speedsource Mazda teammate Tristan Nunez didn't even come that close. Nunez won the Team USA Scholarship in 2012 but has yet to compete in a Mazda Road to Indy series and likely never will. Trent Hindman was racing against and beating on occasion the likes of Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach and Matthew Brabham in U.S. F2000 just a few years ago. Unlike those three, his open-wheel career is on hiatus in Continental Sports Car Challenge. Then there is Shelby Blackstock who is still in the Road to Indy and very well could be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a few years.

Finally from sports cars there are those who you think could hold their own in IndyCar. Biennially we hear the "Wayne Taylor Racing to IndyCar" rumor because it makes sense a sports car guy who has never been associated with IndyCar would abandon a sports car racing series his team is constantly a championship contender in for IndyCar. But we still wonder what his sons Ricky and Jordan would do in open-wheel. Colin Braun's career has covered all the bases but open-wheel. He made his 24 Hours of Daytona debut at 16, 24 Hours of Daytona debut at 18, won races in the NASCAR Truck Series and was competitive in a limited Nationwide Series ride and was back to sports car by the age of 23. He is 25 now, why not try IndyCar?

That's thirty-three drivers and we still got eighteen to go.

Former Formula One drivers are known for making Indianapolis 500 appearances late in their careers. Who wouldn't like to see Jan Magnussen and Giancarlo Fisichella try to qualify for the Indianapolis 500?

As much as their has been a lack of USAC drivers in IndyCar, Ed Carpenter should provide anyone with an example that with support, the drivers that made the Indianapolis 500 what it was yesterday have a place in IndyCar's future. Of course, the list of USAC guys who went to NASCAR is like the list of players Mike Milbury traded away from the New York Islanders. We all know the list, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, even Mike Bliss won a Silver Crown title in 1993. Add to that list Cole Whitt, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Dakoda Armstrong, Kevin Swindell and Chad Boat.

Casey Mears made a few starts in CART and IndyCar with some success (finished fourth on debut) and who would be against the Mears name returning to the Indianapolis 500?  Brad Keselowski has the car owner (Roger Penske) and right attitude to make the double a reality. Brian Vickers was reportedly close to a deal for the 2012 Indianapolis 500 but the engine shortage killed that from happening. Then there is Jimmie Johnson. He came from off-road racing, as did Rick Mears and Robby Gordon. I think Johnson could find some Indianapolis 500 success. Forty-nine down, one to go.

Finally, I want to single out David Empringham. He is the Wade Cunningham of the previous generation. Empringham has the distinction to be the only driver to win championships in both Atlantics and Indy Lights. He beat Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Tony Kanaan, Hélio Castroneves, Cristiano da Matta, Greg Ray, Robbie Buhl and Jeff Ward. Not one, but two Atlantic championships, an Indy Lights title, winner of the fastest Indy Lights race, Empringham did it all but, unlike Cunnningham, Empringham has never made a start in IndyCar. I really would have liked to see what he could have done against a golden generation (Paul Tracy, Greg Moore, Scott Goodyear, Villeneuve, Carpentier) of Canadian drivers. He deserves more praise than he gets

Pirelli World Challenge-IndyCar Extravaganza
Remember when the V8 Supercars race at Surfers Paradise required each team to hire a driver from another series to pair with a regular for twin 300-kilometer races? It hit me this week that Pirelli World Challenge and IndyCar should do the same with the GT/GT-A class and it should be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'm not sure it could fit into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend. Maybe it could. I was thinking a pair of one hour races, one for the PWC full-times, one for the IndyCar guys with the average finishing position for each pair setting the grid for a final, two hour race.

Think of some of the pairings you could have. Johnny O'Connell paired with Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Kuno Wittmer in a Viper, Anthony Lazzaro and Tony Kanaan in a Ferrari, Pennsylvanians Butch Leitzinger and Marco Andretti in the Bentley, maybe even bring Nick Tandy back and have him and Mike Conway form an all-British assault in a Porsche. Why not do it? Pirelli World Challenge has produced some of the best racing in the nation, the series deserves a place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it wouldn't hurt anyone and fans would love it.

Formula One-IndyCar August Challenge
Formula One is taking there three week summer break and to keep those drivers fresh, why doesn't IndyCar invite some over to run Mid-Ohio and Milwaukee? Put a small prize on the line for the driver who scores the most points over two races to increase the incentive to go for it.

You don't have to invite everyone but why not invite four or five? Daniel Ricciardo and his smile should keep up the momentum after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix. Seeing as McLaren is going to have Honda power in 2015, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen should come over and get use to the Japanese power. Sergio Pérez could use his Telmex sponsor to his advantage and might draw some additional fans. And call over Nico Hülkenberg. He has put together some impressive runs and was ahead of Sebastian Vettel for a while in the championship standings.

Where would their rides come from? Rahal Letterman Lanigan has a second car that could be filled by Magnussen. Through the Telmex and Ganassi connections, Pérez could slot into the Dreyer & Reinbold chassis that has been vacant since Indianapolis. AJ Foyt could reunite the band and give Button a seat alongside his former BAR-Honda teammate Takuma Sato. Andretti Autosport loves running five cars and I think Ricciardo would slot in perfectly with that cast of characters. I was thinking Ricciardo could run with KV but he already has a teammate named Sebastian and giving him two more wouldn't seem right. But Hülkenberg would benefit from Sébastien Bourdais' experience and would make sense to land their.

It's a nice idea but reality dictates it won't happen. If it did, I'd call the two weekends the Jim Clark Memorial, in honor of the man who won at Milwaukee in 1963 and a time when drivers would come cross the pond to try something new every now and then. Trust me when I say motorsports needs that type of demeanor more now than ever before.

IndyCar Needs to Return to Laguna Seca
As some of you may know, I decided to head to California for IndyCar's off weekend. I drove along the Pacific Ocean and the salty breeze pushed my up into the hills where the marine layer was replaced by clear, blue sky.

Where it appears Heaven and Earth blend into one I bumped into something so beautiful, God himself had to of molded it from the sand with His own hands.

Laguna Seca
The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) were at Laguna Seca Saturday and Sunday which provided the perfect opportunity to explore one of the most picturesque road courses in the United States. You name it, it was at the track. From Radicals to GT3 Porsches, Miatas to pick ups, Kia Rios to Legends cars. There were no corporate sponsors, no long lines for autographs, no restrictions. It was paradise. Walking around the grounds, from into the garages that housed World Superbike teams just a fortnight ago to the top of the hill and everywhere in between.

The Corkscrew
The corkscrew goes against all logic. I must have seen cars go through it more than a hundred times this weekend and each time I saw a car dive down like a seagull for a fish, my heart stopped, I held my breathe and as they headed to Rainey, I exhaled. Then thinking about what Alex Zanardi did to Bryan Herta, makes your head spin like a philosophical question.

Laguna Seca is more than the corkscrew though. Rainey is a fast corner on the way back down the hill to the front straightaway. Turn six is a hairy corner where one misstep a car is going into the sand or spinning into the inside wall. Walking around the grounds is not for the faint of heart with all the elevation changes. Make sure you are prepared for a physically grueling trek if you want the reward of an 80% view of the circuit.

IndyCar needs to return to Laguna Seca. I love Sonoma and would like to believe there is enough room for both on the schedule. Laguna Seca could open the season in early March for all I care but IndyCar has to get back there whenever they can make it fit. The track doesn't need any changes. The DW12-era has turned a motorcycle circuit in Barber into one of IndyCar's favorite spots and made street courses that were processional into city brawls where you don't know where to look due to all the action. The DW12 can do the same with Laguna Seca. Not to fail to mention the immediate connection with the Mazda Road to Indy and Cooper Tires, who supply all three ladder series and are a predominant sponsor at the track.

It has been almost ten years since North America's premier open-wheel series has turned a racing lap at Laguna Seca and that has to change. It's bad enough the series is missing out on a crown jewel in Road America but this is one IndyCar can't neglect anymore.

Tweet of the Week
Let me start by saying, I like Clint Bowyer. Putting the incident at Richmond last September aside I like Clint Bowyer. I wish he (and Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman) were at Eldora for the Truck race but I like Clint Bowyer. After yesterday's race, he send out this tweet

First thing I thought when I saw this was, "Jokes on you, IndyCar doesn't use push to pass on oval." I understand it if Bowyer doesn't closely keep an eye on the technical regulations of other forms of motorsports. I just thought it was a fun but a little uninformed tweet.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Daniel Ricciardo and Jeff Gordon winning his fifth Brickyard 400 but did you know...

René Rast, Laurens Vanthoor and Markus Winkelhock won the Spa 24 Hours driving the #1 Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The #53 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci won in Pro-Am while the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Peter Mann, Francisco Guedes, Cedric Mezard and Alexander Talkanitsa won in the Gentlemen Trophy class.

Arthur Pic and Stoffel Vandoorne split the GP2 weekend at Hungary. Richie Stanaway and Patric Niederhauser split GT3.

Ty Dillon won the Nationwide race at Indianapolis and Darrell Wallace, Jr. won the Truck race at Eldora midweek.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads to Mid-Ohio with the whole Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge in tow.
NASCAR is at Pocono.
V8 Supercars are at Queensland Raceway.
DTM heads to the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
World Rally Championship heads to Finland for eighth round of 2014.
WTCC heads to Argentina before two months off before heading to China for two rounds in October.
Stock Car Brasil returns after two months off (thank you World Cup) at Goiânia.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Barbosa, Fittipaldi Stretch Fuel For Brickyard Victory

João Barbosa was able to stretch fuel further than anyone else on his way to taking the checkered flag in the third Brickyard Grand Prix. It is Barbosa's and his Action Express Racing co-driver Christian Fittipaldi's first career victories at Indianapolis. Action Express Racing's only other victory in 2014 was the season opener 24 Hours of Daytona. With the victory Barbosa and Fittipaldi retake the Prototype championship lead by two points from the Taylor brothers, Jordan and Ricky who finished fourth.

LMP2 cars dominated Thursday, qualifying 1-2-3 but the DPs owned Friday taking the top four. Ganassi Racing's Ford-Riley driven by Scott Pruett and Sage Karam finished second with the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante rounded out the podium. The pole-sitting #1 HPD ARX-03b of Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp finished fifth.

On his prototype challenge debut, Jack Hawksworth made a late pass on his Rocketsports teammate Bruno Junqueira, giving the IndyCar rookie a class win on debut and Chris Cumming his first victory since last year's Petit Le Mans. Hawksworth was substituting for the suspended Alex Tagliani after the Canadian reentered the race track unsafely during practice at Watkins Glen a month ago. Duncan Ende was Junqueira's co-driver in the PC second place finishing car. It is Rocketsports first victory of 2014. PC championship leading CORE Autosport pair of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett finished third in class. CORE Autosport has won four of six PC races in 2014.

Jonathan Bomartio and Kuno Wittmer got Viper their first win of 2014 in the GTLM class and ended Corvette's four race winning streak in the process. Wittmer also won the second Pirelli World Challenge race at Toronto earlier in the week on Sunday. Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer finished second in the #62 Ferrari 458 Italia with the #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Long and Michael Christensen rounding out the GTLM podium. Winners of the previous four events, Jan Magnussen and Antonio García finished fourth. The Dane and Spaniard retained the GTLM championship lead.

Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal won in the GTD class driving the #63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 458 GT3. It is their second victory of 2014 after winning at Belle Isle on the final day of May. The #48 Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller matched their best finish of 2014 by finishing second. The most recent winners in GTD, the #33 Viper GT3 of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating finished third after a late pass on class championship leaders Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell.

The next round for the IMSA United SportsCar Championship takes place at Road America on August 10th. All four classes will be competing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The One-Day Show Conundrum

Show up, practice, qualify, race, go home.

Plain and simple. From local short tracks to major NASCAR touring divisions, the one-day show format is used frequently to save teams and tracks costs. For fans the pro of having every session within hours of each other is balanced by the con of only one chance of seeing on track action and if it doesn't fit into your schedule, then there is always next year.

For IndyCar, oval events are at a crossroads. Great racing but difficulty filling seats. Ticket prices and timing play a role into at attendance but more has to be done at oval events for fans to feel they are getting enough bang for their buck.

Iowa for example had no on-track action before the IndyCar race started close to 8:00 p.m. local time.  Instead of spreading practice and qualifying over two days, condense it to one, with practice sessions and qualifying spread out throughout the afternoon with a support series leading into the race.

An argument against one-day shows is a local newspaper would not have qualifying results to use to promote the race. The general thinking being a two-day show gives a race two days in the paper and gives the race more publicity in the local market. The news world has changed as the paper is declining and the web has taken over the throne of where people go for their news.

For races to succeed in today's IndyCar, the series and race promoters can't rely on old school ways like the paper and hoping someone's interest is piqued by a short blurb on qualifying. Getting people to buy tickets and through the gates needs a more hands-on approach. Instead of a day or two of practice, disperse the entire field of IndyCar drivers around the local market the day or two prior to a race, shaking hands, kissing babies and interacting with people. Hit local hot spots. Have a few drivers signing autographs at a local mall, have a couple do events in association with local radio stations, go to local colleges with some free t-shirts, free tickets and free paddock passes. College kids like free stuff, trust me.

It's about getting fans of all ages. About a year ago, the animated-movie Turbo premiered. It's great to be shooting at a younger fan base but that is a long-term process. Reaping the benefits from Turbo won't come to fruition until the child is much older. A package for a family of four is a great start though. Back to the college kid idea. Offer a student ticket for college kids and try to bring that snake-pit party like atmosphere to each race. As a college kid, I speak for most of us saying we are not rich but always looking for a good time if the price is right.

IndyCar should make sure the series is as interested in the local market as they would like the local market to be interested with IndyCar. If the drivers can create a connection with the local people, the people will become interested. You can wave ads for a race all in someones face but that won't do nearly as well of job drawing people as someone getting a chance to have conversation with Simon Pagenaud or seeing the energetic personality of Josef Newgarden.

Other series make the one-day shows work. Tonight, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series runs at Eldora with practice, qualifying, heats and the main event all in one night and will have a crowd similar to one IndyCar draws at Texas about six weeks ago. AMA Supercross is coming off an all-time high year for attendance, packing Major League Baseball and National Football League stadiums and every AMA Supercross event is a one-day show with practice, heats and main events for both the 250cc and 450cc classes. Supercross is doing something right and IndyCar should took notes.

As much as people think IndyCar's oval schedule is teetering on extinction, take a moment to stop and think how many ovals are on the IndyCar schedule? Now, think how many street courses (not street course race, just street courses) are on the IndyCar schedule? Finally, think how many road courses are on the IndyCar schedule? If you break it down into the three categories, ovals lead the way at six followed by five street courses and four road courses. Doubleheaders balloon the amount of street course races to eight but realize there are more ovals than street courses on the IndyCar schedule. IndyCar needs to keep their six oval races alive while trying to grow to eight or nine with another short track or two and a return to a bigger track such as Michigan or Kentucky. Easier said than done, I know.

One-day shows might help oval events. Nothing is a guarantee but IndyCar is in the position where they at least have to give it a shot.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: The More the Merrier

A busy Sunday was jam-packed with Asian Le Mans, Super GT, Formula One, Indy Lights, IndyCar, Pirelli World Challenge and another IndyCar race. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Doubleheaders Revisited
Two seasons worth of doubleheaders are behind us and we have faced different scenarios at each one. From rained out qualifying sessions to rained out races, rough tracks to poor drainage, doubleheaders have experienced an gauntlet of challenges.

I liked yesterday with the two races split. It had a World Superbike feel and I think IndyCar should investigate the twin 80-minute double feature on Sunday with say the Indy Lights race in the middle. I like the Saturday-Sunday format as well. Maybe the twin-80 if you will, should be used at other road/street courses, while Belle Isle, Houston and Toronto keep the Saturday-Sunday format.

The twin-80 could pose a problem if IndyCar don't go racing due to inclement weather like they did Saturday. I thought the two, 80-minute races provided just as much excitement and just as much drama as the full distance, 85-lap races would have. The races were one stoppers and in race one you didn't have to worry about the tire designation rule getting in the way. It was simple.

Maybe the twin-80 should be used on the road courses. One race early at say noon, with Indy Lights at 1:45 p.m. and race two at 3:15 p.m. I think it is worth consideration.

While the postponement on Saturday caused a very shaken up Sunday, I don't think we need to abandon doubleheaders. One, because once you gave fans doubleheaders, you can't take them away. That would kill an event. Two, doubleheaders puts IndyCar on television an extra day three weekends during the season. IndyCar needs more television exposure if they want any hope of attracting sponsors.

Expand PWC
Pirelli World Challenge joined IndyCar at Toronto and had to excellent races. In race one, IMSA GTLM drivers Nick Tandy and Kuno Wittmer went 1-2 with Tandy's Porsche holding off Wittmer's Viper by just over a half second. In GTS, Dean Martin held off defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach by three quarters of a second. Race two saw two Canadians on top. Wittmer won by over a second to Anthony Lazzaro's Ferrari. Kia Racing's Mark Wilkins held off the Mustang of Alec Udell by 0.039 seconds for the GTS win.

PWC has put on some of the best racing in 2014. It is MotoGP on four wheels. Forty minutes of non-stop, close quarters action. No pit stops, no full course cautions for a car stopped on the side of the course and as far as I have heard, no bitching from the drivers, manufactures or teams. It sounds like racing heaven.

The one wish I have to PWC is for it to grow in fans but grow with drivers. Toronto had 42 entries. That's more than enough for a street course but I'd love to see some drivers who can't land a ride in IndyCar look to PWC as an option between opportunities and gives them something else to do beside run just the Indianapolis 500 and I like to see more top level sports car drivers moonlight in PWC.

This is nothing against the current crop of drivers. Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim are great veterans. Anthony Lazzaro has run everything and anything in his career, from IndyCar to NASCAR to sports car. Not to much PWC has a few good young drivers in Andrew Palmer, Nick Mancuso and Mike Skeen. But I'd love to see field grow with the likes of J.R. Hildebrand, Dane Cameron, James Davison, John Edwards, Tommy Milner and Jonathan Bomarito running most of the races.

Keep It Simple Stupid Points
Many times I have advocated for the return of the 9-6-4-3-2-1 point system Formula One used for nearly thirty seasons from the 1961 to 1990 in every motorsports series. It is simple to follow, no bonus points and makes a driver earn a championship by needing to finish up front and not pussyfoot for top tens. Here is a look at how a few series would stand if it used the format above.

Ryan Hunter-Reay- 46
Will Power- 42
Hélio Castroneves- 37
Simon Pagenaud- 33
Juan Pablo Montoya- 24
Ed Carpenter- 20
Tony Kanaan- 20
Scott Dixon- 19
Mike Conway- 18
Sébastien Bourdais- 17

Carlos Muñoz- 15
Charlie Kimball- 12
Marco Andretti- 10
Carlos Huertas- 9
Mikhail Aleshin- 7
Graham Rahal- 7
Josef Newgarden- 6
Jack Hawksworth- 6
James Hinchcliffe- 6
Ryan Briscoe- 4

Justin Wilson- 4
Takuma Sato- 2
Kurt Busch- 1

The biggest shakeup in IndyCar would be both Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway would be in the top ten of the championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay would be leading instead of third and Hélio Castroneves would be third instead of leading. James Hinchcliffe's bad season is really put into perspective with the 9-6-4-3-2-1 system. Takuma Sato would have just gotten on the board with his fifth at Toronto 2 and Kurt Busch would have a point which would really show how good of a run he had at Indianapolis.

Formula One
Nico Rosberg- 66
Lewis Hamilton- 61
Daniel Ricciardo- 28
Valtteri Bottas- 20
Fernando Alonso- 20
Sebastian Vettel-19
Jenson Button- 12
Nico Hülkenberg- 10
Kevin Magnussen- 6
Sergio Pérez- 5

Felipe Massa- 3

No big changes in Formula One. Mercedes are still dominating except Hamilton is much closer to Rosberg. Kimi Räikkönen would be points-less as would be Jean-Éric Vergne, Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat and Jules Bianchi.

Brad Keselowski- 54
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.- 50
Jimmie Johnson- 42
Kevin Harvick- 36
Jeff Gordon- 34
Joey Logano- 30
Kyle Busch- 30
Carls Edwards- 24
Matt Kenseth- 24
Denny Hamlin- 22

Kurt Busch- 21
Kyle Larson- 14
Aric Almirola- 13
Brian Vickers- 13
Paul Menard- 10
Greg Biffle- 8
Clint Bowyer- 8
Kasey Kahne- 7
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.- 6
Ryan Newman- 6

Jamie McMurray- 6
Tony Stewart- 5
Marcos Ambrose- 4
Casey Mears- 3
AJ Allmendinger- 3
Austin Dillon- 2
Martin Truex, Jr.- 1

A few shake ups in NASCAR. Keselowski and Earnhardt, Jr. are the top two. Jeff Gordon drops to fifth. Kevin Harvick would jump from thirteenth to fourth. The biggest drop would be Ryan Newman, from seventh to twentieth.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sébastien Bourdais, Mike Conway, Nico Rosberg, Nick Tandy, Kuno Wittmer, Dean Martin and Mark Wilkins but did you know...

Alex Baron won his first career Indy Lights race at Toronto. Jake Eidson and Florian Latorre split the U.S. F2000 races. Latorre took the points lead after R.C. Enerson finished seventeenth in race two.

Mitch Evans and Stefano Coletti won in GP2 at Hockenheim. Marvin Kirchhöfer and Jann Mardenborough won in GP3.

The Signatech Alpine of Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and Oliver Webb won the ELMS race in Austria. The AF Corse Ferrari of Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Michele Rugolo won in GTE. The SMP Racing Ferrari of Kiril Ladygin, Aleksey Basov and Luca Persiani won in GTC.

David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung won the ALMS season opener from Inje in the #1 OAK Racing Morgan-Judd. The Ligier-Honda of Mathias Beche, Kevin Tse and Frank Yu won in CN and BMW Z4 GT3 of Morris Chen, Marco Seefried and Ryohei Sakaguchi won GT.

In Super GT from Sugo, the Lexus of Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate won in GT500 and the Lamborghini of Takayuki Aoki and Manabu Orido won in GT300.

Chase Elliott won the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland.

Coming Up This Weekend
Formula One heads east to Hungary.
NASCAR and IMSA are at Indianapolis.
Another Blancpain Endurance Series race as it is time for the 24 Hours of Spa.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

First Impressions: Toronto 2014 Race Two

Mike Conway switched to slick at the right time and came out victorious
1. Mike Conway pulled another one out of nowhere and has two wins in 2014. He's had a terrible season though. Outside of his two wins, his best finish is 11th. Ed Carpenter Racing though has had a great season. Three wins while Ganassi is still winless. Great call going to slick tires when they did.

2. Speaking of Ganassi, Tony Kanaan went from stalled on lap one to finish second. A great day for him but I bet he and his team are itching for a win. Good news, the next race is at Scott Dixon's house, Mid-Ohio.

3. Will Power took a healthy chunk out of Hélio Castroneves' point lead in race two. Third for Power, 12th for this teammate. The Australian is thirteen back of the Brazilian.

4. If Charlie Kimball could qualify in the top five, he'd have eight wins and be walking away with the championship. Started 16th today, finished 4th. Great day for him. Great day for Chevrolet, sweeping the top four.

5. Takuma Sato finished fifth, first top ten since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, first top five since second at São Paulo last year. A much needed result for AJ Foyt Racing.

6. Jack Hawksworth snuck into a sixth place finish. Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti came home where they started in seventh and eighth. Sébastien Bourdais couldn't match his success in race one but came home ninth after it could have been much worse.

7. Justin Wilson nearly pulled out a podium but came home tenth after being a sitting duck on wet tires when everyone else was on slicks.

8. We need to set rules on when and when not a red flag can be used at the end of race. There has to be a standard and not just willy nilly using it when race control feels like it. Indianapolis, late caution, red flag is used. Texas, late caution, no red flag, race did finish under green. Houston 1, late caution, no red flag, race ended under caution. Iowa, late caution, no red flag, race did finish under green. Today, a timed race, red flag, race finishes under green. There needs to be, carved in stone, a step-by-step process for when and when not a red flag can be used at the end of a race.

9. Firestone needs to develop a better wet weather tire. That is their homework for the long offseason IndyCar has given them.

10. Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell did a great job on the broadcast commentating on the driver's running a wider line, off the concrete patches in the corners and to be honest, I doubt the ABC broadcast would have given that much insight.

11. This was the last race of July and there are only four races to go. It is hard to wrap my head around that. It's not even August but there are only four races left. In six weeks the season will be over. After today it appears to be a two horse, Penske race. Castroneves vs. Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay had two poor races. He is only 69 points out but he's going to need some help if he wants a second title. Simon Pagenaud had an electrical gremlin ruin his race early. He fall back to fourth in the championship, 71 back. Amazingly, 18 drivers are still mathematically eligible for the championship. Unless someone goes on a tear winning three of the final four or sweeping the final four, it looks like Roger Penske will get his first champion since Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006 and either Will Power or Hélio Castronves will get that elusive first title.

12. IndyCar gets a week off after six races in four weeks. I think I'll go to California.

First Impressions: Toronto 2014 Race One

Sébastien Bourdais picked up his second Toronto victory ten years after his first at Exhibition Place
1. What a race by Sébastien Bourdais. It's been a long journey back to the top step of the podium for Bourdais. From a rough year and a half in Formula One, to a fair amount of success in sports cars, Bourdais has picked up his thirty-second IndyCar victory nearly seven years after his thirty-first. Fun fact, eighteen of Bourdais' thirty-two victories have come from pole position. 

2. Hélio Castroneves finish second while championship contenders Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled. Power finished ninth, Hunter-Reay retired after contact with the wall while trying to passing Tony Kanaan, who finished third. Power had a good run but was never close to challenging his teammate and Hunter-Reay put himself in a position he didn't need to be in. There is still another race today but things are appearing to fall Castroneves' way

3. Simon Pagenaud nearly had his day end on lap one after contact with Luca Filippi spun the Frenchman and blocked the track but Pagenaud recovered and came home in a hard fought fourth. He also kept his championship hopes alive by not giving up.

4. Scott Dixon rounded out the top five, Graham Rahal finished sixth, Charlie Kimball had a Charlie Kimball-like day, starting on one of the last three rows but finishing in the top ten and James Hinchcliffe matched his career best finish at his home race with another eighth place finish.

5. Who would have thought KV Racing would have won a race before Tony Kanaan and Ganassi Racing won at the beginning of 2014? Nine different winners in 2014 and by the end of today, there very well could be ten different winners.

6. Not a bad first race. No one had a massive shunt and will be fighting to make the start of race two. That is good news. Today has a World Superbike race day feel. One race, followed by some support races in the middle and then another race to close out the day. Maybe IndyCar should consider this format going forward for doubleheaders.

7. Nice to see IndyCar get a back bone and move Ryan Briscoe, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power to the rear of the field but what took so long? They had announced they weren't going to lose their positions at the end of Saturday and all of a sudden Sunday they are at the back. You got to make a call and stick by it, not flip flop back and forth.

8. One more point of inconsistency. Last year at Houston, race two was lined up by entrant points from before the race weekend, not after race one at Houston. This year, race two at Toronto is lined up by entrant points after race one at Toronto. What will the ruling be going forward if needed again? Who knows!

9. A little less than four hours until race two, rest up everybody.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2014 Race Two

Sébastien Bourdais and Will Power will lead the field to the green in race one Sunday morning
After a rained out Saturday race, Sunday will feature two, 65-lap or 80-minute races. The grid for race one will be set by the qualifying times set Saturday with race two being set by entrant points entering the weekend. Race one will feature an initial rolling start while race two will feature an initial standing start.

Sébastien Bourdais will start on pole position for race one. It is his first pole position since Assen in 2007. Seventeen of the Frenchman's thirty-one victories have come from pole position. Will Power will start second despite an accident on the parade laps on Saturday. Had the race gone green on Saturday, Power would have had to start from the back of the grid. Third place will be Hélio Castroneves. The Brazilian has a nine point lead over his Penske teammate Power in the championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start fourth. He won at Toronto from sixth on the grid in 2012.

Simon Pagenaud starts fifth despite an accident in the Firestone Fast Six session on Saturday. Next to him will be Tony Kanaan. Kanaan's last road/street course victory was Belle Isle in 2007. Luca Filippi qualified seventh for his first career start at Toronto next to Justin Wilson. Twice has the winner come from row four at Toronto. Will Power won from seventh in 2007 and Al Unser, Jr. won from eighth in 1990. James Hinchcliffe starts ninth for the first race in his home town. Ryan Briscoe rounds out the top ten. Briscoe had an accident on the parade laps yesterday but will keep his grid position.

Juan Pablo Montoya will start eleventh despite an electrical issue that nearly sent the Colombian to the back of the grid on Saturday. Scott Dixon rolls off from twelve. Only once has the winner come from outside the top ten at Toronto. That was Michael Andretti in 2001 who started thirteenth. Josef Newgarden starts thirteenth in race one with fellow American and Honda driver Graham Rahal in fourteenth. Takuma Sato rounds out the top fifteen with Mike Conway joining him on row eight.

Rookies Carlos Muñoz and Jack Hawksworth make up row nine. Sebastián Saavedra and Charlie Kimball round out the top twenty. Carlos Huertas and Mikhail Aleshin make up another all-rookie row on row eleven with Marco Andretti rounding out the field in twenty-third.

Race one coverage will start at 10:30 a.m. ET on CNBC after the broadcast of the Formula One German Grand Prix from the Hockenheimring.

Three thoughts heading into this unique day for IndyCar:

1. Survive race one! You don't want to wad a car up in race one to the point it can't start race two. That could be the death blow for a championships run.

2. Time! Race one will probably begin almost immediately, which means green around 10:35 a.m., race is limited to 80 minutes, so the race will be over by 11:55 a.m. at the latest. That will give the teams about four hours and twenty minutes between the checkered flag for race one and the lights going out for race two. If there is any crash damage, there is the time frame the teams have to work in. If there is an engine failure, there is the time frame the teams have to work in. It will be helter skelter in the paddock between races.

3. Fuel Strategy! Today is Dale Coyne's Christmas. He has mastered the timed race format more than anyone else in the paddock. The question is can teams stretch these races to be one stoppers? If so, Carlos Huertas very well could pass Graham Rahal on the all-time win list this afternoon.

A few fun facts due to revisionist history and clarifications:

First time there are two IndyCar races on the same day since June 11, 2011 when Texas Motor Speedway hosted the Firestone Twin 275s. Dario Franchitti and Will Power won that night.

First time there are two full points-paying IndyCar races on the same day since June 28, 1981 when Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the Kraco Twins 125s. Rick Mears won both races.

First time there are two full points-paying road/street course IndyCar races on the same day since October 19, 1969 when Pacific Raceways hosted the Dan Gurney 200. Mario Andretti and Al Unser split that day.

Once again, race one coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, immediately after the Formula One German Grand Prix. Race two coverage will be at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will feature an initial standing start.

Update 1:58 p.m. ET
For race two, coverage will start at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Hélio Castroneves will start first on virtue of driving the entrant points leading entry. His teammate Will Power makes it an all-Penske front row. Honda drivers Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start on row two. Colombians Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Muñoz start on row three. Scott Dixon  will start seventh ahead of Marco Andretti in eighth. Tony Kanaan and race one winner Sébastien Bourdais.

Mike Conway and Ryan Briscoe will start on row six. James Hinchcliffe will be joined by Mikhail Aleshin on row seven. Justin Wilson will start fifteenth with Charlie Kimball sixteenth. Josef Newgarden and Jack Hawksworth comprise row nine for race two. Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas will start nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Sebastián Saavedra, Takuma Sato and Luca Filippi will round out the grid for race two.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First Impressions: Toronto 2014, The Rain Out

Mother Nature won on Saturday as only parade laps were completed by IndyCar. Two races scheduled for Sunday
1. I'm starting on a negative.'s Marshall Pruett tweeted two photos of the barriers and fences from Toronto. Both of fences not mounted into the barriers.

Are you kidding me, IndyCar? You approved this course for a race? Multiple people should be fired, not just from IndyCar's office but from race promoters' Green Savoree Promotions. This is as half-ass and cutting corners as you can get and someone should have their head served on a silver platter. But this seems to be the standard for IndyCar on street courses. From the bumpy and poorly draining parking lot in Houston to the train tracks in Baltimore to the track falling apart at Belle Isle, if you have a paycheck IndyCar will take it, don't worry about track conditions. Meanwhile, premium road courses that are up to safety standards such as Austin, Road America and Watkins Glen are on the sidelines because of business reasons? Are you kidding me?

The standard has to change. This garbage preparation by street courses has to change. There is no excuse to be going to these venues when there are better, safer ones out there for drivers, fans, crews and marshals and if the business model doesn't work then bust your butt to make it feasible. I'd rather IndyCar struggle to make a dime at Road America, Austin, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca than accept allowances like a spoiled 16-year old at a below satisfactory street course.

Thanks to the rain, the track has additional time to fix what they neglected to begin with. They better make it right.

2. I still think if they had started the race on time, the wet surface would not have been as much of a problem as we think it would have been. There are always going to be visibility issues during a wet races. I think once the cars got going at speed, the racing line would have dried out a bit. It was unfortunate today was cancelled.

3. Just to get you thinking: Had Will Power not spun, we would have gone green. That's how close we were to seeing a race today. Now I am not sure how long it would have stayed green but what could have been.

4. Speaking of Will Power, he stuffs it into the fence, Ryan Briscoe walled it and Juan Pablo Montoya had electrically problems. All were going to start from the rear of the field after their crews worked on their cars. The race is rained out and now all three are getting their grid positions back. I've not been one to harp on IndyCar race control and say they are making rules as they go but this is clearly neglecting the rulebook the have. You can't say these drivers are starting from the rear of the field and then change your mind. Stick by your guns regardless of who the car owners are. They broke the rules and have to serve the consequences. Pandora's box is open. Why should anyone follow the rulebook when the punishment is not being carried out? Get a back bone IndyCar and tell Power, Briscoe, Montoya, Penske and Ganassi they are starting from the back and that is final.

5. Tomorrow, two, 65-lap races (or 80-minutes, whichever comes first). One beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET based on the qualifying times from Saturday. The other beginning at 4:15 p.m. and will be set by entrant points. Both apparently live on NBCSN. The second race will feature a standing start. I didn't think they'd be able to get two long race distances in. To be honest, I would have settled for two, one-hour sprints. I expect many drivers to be tired tomorrow. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

6. IndyCar gets a bad rap and sometimes times they screw up but they are trying to make this right by running two races tomorrow. I think today, with the rain, the hesitating to pull the trigger on the green flag and fluctuation in policing the rulebook wasn't pretty but instead of canceling a race and screwing fans over who had tickets to Saturday-only, they are still going to try and get two races in tomorrow and are honoring Saturday-only tickets on Sunday. What else do you want them to do? Weather sometimes throws a monkey wrench into the equation and you got to roll with the punches.

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2014 Race One

Simon Pagenuad is fourth in the championship, 50 points back of Hélio Castroneves
The thirteenth round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season is scheduled for 85 laps around the streets of Toronto. Simon Pagenaud was fastest on Friday and the Frenchman is looking for a personal single-season best third victory in 2014.  Pagenaud laid down a 1:00.0084 second lap during second practice. His best Toronto finish was fourth in 2007. Second fastest on Friday was Hélio Castroneves, just 0.0134 seconds back of Pagenaud. The Brazilian had his Friday cut short after a battery issue in second practice.

Scott Dixon was third fastest. The New Zealander is looking for his first victory of 2014 and third consecutive at Exhibition Place. Will Power trails his Penske teammate Castroneves by nine points in the championship. Power has failed to finish better than fifteenth at Toronto since winning the race in 2010. James Hinchcliffe is looking for his first victory in his hometown. The local boy finished eighth in race one last year, his best IndyCar finish at home.

Sébastien Bourdais has eight top tens in nine Toronto starts but the Frenchman is looking for his first victory since the final Champ Car race of the 2007 season in Mexico City. Juan Pablo Montoya make his first appearance at Toronto since 2000. Montoya has two retirements due to accidents in his two Toronto starts. Ryan Hunter-Reay is coming off victory at Iowa and finds himself in striking distance of the championship lead, 32 back of Castroneves. He is looking for his second Toronto victory after winning in 2012 en route to the IndyCar championship.

Ryan Briscoe had a mechanical failure end his Friday prematurely. Briscoe suffered a wrist injury in race one last year, forcing him out of the car for race two. He was substituted by Carlos Muñoz for race two who went on to finish seventeenth after only getting a brief warm-up session in the car. Justin Wilson has one Toronto victory to his credit. The Brit's lone top five in 2014 was a fourth place finish in Belle Isle 1. Takuma Sato finish ninth at Toronto in 2012 but has finish twentieth or worse in his other  four starts along Lake Ontario.

Josef Newgarden was fastest in the first practice on Friday. His best finish at Toronto is eleventh, which came in race two last year. Charlie Kimball's first career podium came at Toronto in 2012. He has finished twenty-first in his odd-numbered starts at Toronto with his second place and sixth place finishes coming on his even-numbered Toronto starts. Jack Hawksworth won last year's Toronto Indy Lights race. Only two driver have won in Indy Lights/Formula Atlantics and IndyCar at Toronto. The first was Paul Tracy who won in Indy Lights in 1990 and in IndyCar in 1993 and 2003. AJ Allmendinger won the Atlantics race at Toronto in 2003 and Champ Car race in 2006.

Graham Rahal finished fifth at Toronto in 2010 but has averaged a sixteenth place finish in his other five starts at Exhibition Place. Rahal was sixteenth fastest in second practice. Marco Andretti has gained on average 7.833 positions from his starting position in six Toronto starts. Andretti's average finish at Toronto is 8.166. Sebastián Saavedra won at Toronto in 2009 driving Indy Lights. Saturday will mark his fourth IndyCar start at Toronto. Tony Kanaan has retired from six of his ten starts at Toronto. He finished fifth in race one last year and fourth in 2012.

Mikhail Aleshin makes his first appearance at Toronto. The Russian was twentieth in second practice. Also making his first appearance at Toronto is Luca Filippi. The Italian is looking to join his fellow countrymen Fabrizio Barbazza and Alex Zanardi as winners at Exhibition Place. Barbazza won the inaugural American Racing Series (the predecessor to Indy Lights) race in 1986 and Zanardi won the Indy Toronto in 1998 on his way to his second consecutive CART title. Mike Conway finished seventh in both Toronto races last year. Conway finished third at Toronto in 2012 after two twenty-second place finishes in his first two Toronto starts. Conway was twenty-second fastest in second practice. Carlos Huertas makes it three drivers making their Toronto debuts. Huertas won on his Houston debut three weeks ago.

The field was covered by 1.2583 seconds in second practice. Race one is scheduled to feature a standing start. Qualifying for Toronto 1 takes place at 10:00 a.m. ET. NBCSN's coverage of the first Honda Indy Toronto begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Newgarden Fastest in First Toronto Practice

Second last Saturday night in Iowa and fastest in the first session from the streets of Toronto, Josef Newgarden put the #67 Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing Honda at the top of the timesheet on the final lap. The Tennessee-native ran a 1:00.2385 second lap, just over two-tenths faster than two-time Toronto winner Will Power. The Australian's fastest lap was also his last lap of the session.

Hometown boy James Hinchcliffe was third, 0.3343 seconds back of Newgarden. Hinchcliffe's best career finish at his home race was third in the 2009 Indy Lights race. His best career IndyCar finish at Exhibition Place is eighth which came in race one last year. Hélio Castroneves made it two Penskes in the top five in fourth while Carlos Muñoz made it two Andrettis and three Hondas in the top five in fifth, 0.4129 seconds back of Newgarden.

Simon Pagenaud was sixth fastest, sandwiched between possible teammates in 2015 with Marco Andretti seventh fastest. Ryan Briscoe was eighth with his Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan just 0.0348 seconds behind him in ninth. Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten, 0.0021 seconds off Kanaan. Honda had six cars in the top ten.

Winner of the 2004 Honda Indy Toronto, Sébastien Bourdais was eleventh. Mike Conway was twelfth as he gets back behind the wheel of the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Winner of the 2005 Honda Indy Toronto, Justin Wilson was thirteenth with the 2012 Toronto winner and most recent IndyCar winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in fourteenth. Hunter-Reay trailed Newgarden by 0.9451 seconds.

Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top fifteen, just 1.0006 seconds off Newgarden. Defending IndyCar winner and defending Toronto winner Scott Dixon was sixteenth. Sebastián Saavedra ran a session high 25 laps and was seventeenth quickest and was sandwiched between Ganassi drivers with Charlie Kimball eighteenth quickest. Juan Pablo Montoya was nineteenth in his first session in Toronto in fourteen years. Jack Hawksworth capped off the top twenty with 1.0665 seconds separating the Brit from Newgarden.

Takuma Sato, Luca Filippi, who returns in the #16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Carlos Huertas rounded out the twenty-three car session with 1.7911 seconds covering the field.

Second practice will take place at 1:55 p.m. ET.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Track Walk: Toronto 2014

The Princes' Gates Provide the Backdrop for rounds 13 and 14 of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Season
The final doubleheader and final street course of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Hélio Castroneves took the championship lead away from his Team Penske teammate Will Power at Iowa. The Brazilian leads the championship by 9 points with Power in second. Race one this weekend will feature a standing start while race two will feature a rolling start.

Time: Coverage for both Saturday and Sunday races begins at 3:00 p.m. ET. Green flag is at 3:55 p.m. ET both days.
TV Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Bob Varsha (Leigh Diffey is on Formula One duty), Paul Tracy, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast, Marty Snider and Robin Miller.

Three To Look Out For
Scott Dixon swept the weekend last year at Toronto, catapulting the New Zealander into the catbird seat for the 2013 championship. The Kiwi has six top fives in eight Toronto starts while averaging a starting position of 5.75.

Sébastien Bourdais turned around his season last year at Toronto with two podiums. The Frenchman won at Exhibition Place in 2004 and has eight top tens in nine Toronto starts. His average starting position at Toronto is 3.55 with three pole positions.

Justin Wilson has six top tens in ten Toronto starts, including a win in 2005. Wilson has started from pole on two occasions and his average starting position is 5.1.

Toronto Turn Arounds
While Penske drivers Castroneves, Power and Juan Pablo Montoya occupy three of the top four in the championship, Toronto has been more of a headache for these drivers than a points grab. Castroneves finished sixth and second last year at Exhibition Place but the Brazilian's average finish is 14.5 in ten starts in The Queen City with that podium being Castroneves' the lone top five at Toronto.

Power has two victories at Toronto but ever since winning in 2010, the Australians best finish is fifteenth in four Toronto starts, failing to finish on the lead lap each time. He has averaged a starting position of 5.25 in those four starts.

Montoya has only made two starts at Toronto with his last coming in 2000. He started eighth and fourth those years with both ending in accidents. He finished twenty-second in 1999 after contact with Michel Jourdain, Jr. and twenty-fourth in 2000 after a lap one accident with Dario Franchitti.

James Hinchcliffe has never faired well in his home town. In four starts, the Toronto-native averages a starting position of fourteenth and averages a finish of 16.25 with one top ten.

Tony Kanaan's track record at Exhibition Place is nothing to brag about. While he has three top fives and four top tens in ten starts, Kanaan average Toronto finish is 14.6 with three seventeenth place finishes and three finishes outside the top twenty.

Indy Lights
Gabby Chaves has won back-to-back races after winning the Pocono race nearly two weeks ago. The Colombian has an 11-point lead over Zach Veach. Jack Harvey is third in the championship with Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia rounding out the top five. Last year, Jack Hawksworth won the Toronto Indy Lights race with Peter Dempsey and Gabby Chaves rounding out the podium. Zach Veach finished seventh. Matthew Brabham swept the Pro Mazda weekend at Toronto last year.

Indy Lights will run prior to the Sunday IndyCar race at 10:45 a.m. ET.

U.S. F2000
For the first time since the Night Before the 500, U.S. F2000 is back on track for their own doubleheader at Toronto. R.C. Enerson leads Florian Latorre by nine points with Jake Eidson, Victor Franzoni and Aaron Telitz rounding out the top five. Telitz won the last race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Last year, Neil Alberico and Danilo Estrela split the U.S. F2000 weekend at Exhibition Place.

U.S. F2000 will race Saturday at 6:15 p.m. ET and Sunday at 9:05 a.m. ET.

Pirelli World Challenge
After a month off, Pirelli World Challenge will run a doubleheader at Exhibition Place. Johnny O'Connell leads by 118 points over Mike Skeen who swept the PWC doubleheader at Road America in June. Andrew Palmer is 134 points back of O'Connell in third with O'Connell's Cadillac teammate Andy Pilgram in fourth trailing by 142 points. Anthony Lazzaro rounds out the top five, 199 points back.

The Dyson Bentley Continental GT3 returns with Butch Leitzinger behind the wheel. Leitzinger finished sixth and fourth at Road American on the Bentley's PWC debut. Two GTLM drivers will be on the PWC grid this weekend. Dodge Viper driver Canadian Kuno Wittmer will drive a Viper in his home race while Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy will make his PWC debut in a Porsche GT3R.

Nic Jönsson leads the GTS championship after sweeping the weekend at Road America by one point over fellow Kia driver and Canadian Mark Wilkins. Porsche driver Jack Baldwin is third in GTS, 105 back of Jönsson. Dean Martin is fourth, 127 back.

PWC will race at 11:25 a.m. ET on Saturday and 12:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Fun Facts
Saturday's race will be the first on July 19th since 2003 when Gil de Ferran won at Nashville. This will be the fourth Toronto race to occur on July 19th. Emerson Fittipaldi (1987), Michael Andretti (1992) and Alex Zanardi (1998) were the winners on those three occasions.

Sunday's race will be the first on July 20th since 2008 when Ryan Briscoe won at Mid-Ohio. This will be the third Toronto race to occur on July 20th. Bobby Rahal (1986) and Mark Blundell (1997) were the winners on those two occasions.

The pole sitter has won at Toronto on six occasions, the most recent being Scott Dixon in race two last year. Second and third have produced the most Toronto, each at seven. The most recent winner to start second was Will Power in 2010 and most recent winner to start third was Dario Franchitti in 2011.

Only once has a Toronto winner come from outside the top ten. That was Michael Andretti in 2001. He started thirteenth.

No Toronto winner has ever started from the fourth position. Four times has the runner-up came from fourth (Danny Sullivan 1987, Kenny Bräck 2002, Oriol Servià 2005 and Paul Tracy 2006).

Twice has Toronto produced a first time winner. Adrián Fernández picked up his first career win at Exhibition Place in 1996 and Justin Wilson replicated the feat in 2005. Both started third on their way to victory.

Mike Conway's average finish through eight starts is 14 and average starting position is 14.5.

Will Power needs to leads 143 laps to become the twenty-first driver to join the 2,500 laps led club.

Juan Pablo Montoya needs to lead 152 laps to become the twenty-third driver to join the 2,000 laps led club.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 65 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Remember more facts can always be found at the Telemetry Center.

It will be an all-French weekend as Simon Pagenaud and Sébastien Bourdais split the weekend. Ryan Hunter-Reay scores one podium this weekend. James Hinchcliffe gets one top five and two top tens. Justin Wilson gets a podium. Juan Pablo Montoya fails to get a top ten this weekend. Luca Filippi finishes ahead of Graham Rahal in both races and gets at least one top ten. Takuma Sato fails to finish on the lead lap in both race. Mike Conway gets his first top ten since his Long Beach victory. Sleeper: Marco Andretti.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scripting IndyCar Silly Season

With the season ending before the month of September begins, IndyCar needs to hire a few individuals from Hollywood to come up with story lines that will draw eyeballs despite the atrociously long break. IndyCar needs to script silly season.

This offseason is a shot for IndyCar to systematically break news. How many times has IndyCar announced something on a Friday at 7:30 p.m? Instead of burying news in the weekends when it will be forgotten before it is ever known, break news midweek in the middle of the afternoon when there is an opportunity to maybe get noticed on the Richter Scale.

The NBA has done a great job of hijacking the airwaves when the first game of the season is four months away. IndyCar won't reach that level and you really don't want to reach that level (because it is absurdly over the top and feels like an agenda is being crammed down your throat). You want to stay in the public eye, which IndyCar is rarely in unless a driver is injured, fatally injured, a fan is injured, you get the picture. IndyCar is almost never in the spotlight anything related to the on-track action, which is arguably the best in the world. This could be the chance though by shaking up the pot.

Shall we start writing the story?

Let's start with the Simon Pagenaud to Andretti Autosport rumors. I like Pagenaud at Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. SPHM is legitimately a contender with Pagenaud challenging the big boys of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti but I think him leave to a known championship winner sets up for a great story. Don't have him jumped into a fifth car though. He is going to replace somebody. It won't be Carlos Muñoz. No one would give a damn if Muñoz lost a ride. It won't be James Hinchcliffe. As much as we think Hinchcliffe is a big deal, other than in Canada his loss would barely make a blip on the Ricther Scale. It won't be Ryan Hunter-Reay. While it would be noticeable if the defending Indianapolis 500 winner and possibly two-time IndyCar champions was fired, Hunter-Reay has busted his butt after being screw out of more rides than any driver currently in the paddock. He deserves his job security.

That's leave Marco Andretti. Think about Andretti losing his ride. It is IndyCar's equivalent of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leaving DEI. Earnhardt, Jr. wasn't winning when he left the team his father created. Andretti currently isn't winning for the team his father controls (although he is in a lot better of a position than Earnhardt Jr. in 2007). The Andretti names is noticeable and having daddy show you the door will get some heads to pop up. Here is a kid that is no longer on the gravy train and going to have to get rich on his own or get busted. That's the storyline you want. The choice of water over blood. Bye bye Marco, hello Pagenaud!

Don't worry Marco, it ends well for you. We need Marco Andretti in IndyCar. He need the Andretti name. He will land at the vacant seat at SPHM. It creates the revenge factor. Son getting back at father. Team getting back at former driver who left for greener pastures. SPHM isn't a bad team for Andretti to head to. It will be a change of scenery but might be for the better. And it sets up the family reunion story line about five to six years down the road.

Next story line.

In true, blue Ganassi form, the same way he showed Maurício Gugelmin, Bryan Herta and Tomas Scheckter the curb after one season, Ganassi sends Tony Kanaan packing. Let's face it, Kanaan is done being a top tier driver. We are seeing that by him being smoked by Juan Pablo Montoya who was gone from IndyCar for 13 years. He can get a win but he isn't going to be contending for championships. Enter Sage Karam. The Pennsylvania Phenom. The future. The guy who went from 31st to 9th on Indianapolis 500 debut. This is the opportunity Karam deserves and IndyCar needs a young American in a top seat. He will be 20 years oldwhen the 2015 season begins and could become the face associated with the #10 car for a whole generation which is something IndyCar needs long term.

What would be a nice story line for Kanaan? How about landing at Bryan Herta Autosport to team with Jack Hawksworth? He would be pairing with his former teammate at a team another one of his former teammates won the Indianapolis 500 for. Plus, longterm in mind, Kanaan could head to BHA and become a mentor for Hawksworth and another mentor for Bryan's son Colton as he is on his way to IndyCar through the Road to Indy. It wouldn't hurt to get a young driver a Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion to oversee his progression up the ladder.

Ganassi isn't the only big teams shaking things up. Will Power is bound to lose another championship. I am sure The Captain is getting tired of that. Year after year, all the speed in the world but no trophy to show for it. Should that be the case, why not write in a shake up? Penske shows Power the door. He sees the speed Josef Newgarden has shown and gives him a prime seat with a prime sponsor while paying Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing handsomely, insuring their future for years to come. Will Power reunites with KV Racing and forms a formidable pairing with Sébastien Bourdais. With the healthy pay day from Penske, SFHR jumps ship to Chevrolet and with help from their old friend Ed Carpenter gets JR Hildebrand back into IndyCar full-time.

Finally, IndyCar needs to make a splash. They need to sign someone from outside IndyCar and bring them in the same way David Beckham came to MLS. I'm not exactly sure who that will or should be but it wouldn't hurt IndyCar if they did it. Sign a driver for four to five years to go head-to-head with IndyCar's best and make a few visits to IndyCar's markets. I don't care who it is or where they are from. Snag Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray or Marcos Ambrose from NASCAR. See if you can get Jenson Button or Nico Hülkenberg from Formula One. Adding talent to the series is never a bad thing and if they already have a healthy fan base behind them, all the better.

To recap, IndyCar should script spicing it up. Get drivers moving around. Burn some bridges. Give some drivers opportunities they've yet to have and bring in some new, experienced blood for everyone to keep an eye on. The same old, same old driver line ups year after year isn't interesting. Shake it up. People want something to look forward to and shuffling the deck would do that.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Germany Celebrates

The party has ended and the Germans are the last to leave. The World Cup isn't the only thing that has come to an end this weekend. We will touch on that in a bit as IndyCar ran under the lights in Iowa, MotoGP had a frantic, rush hour traffic start, World Superbike was Stateside, IMSA was Province-side but we start with NASCAR and a final hurrah.

Good Bye Turner
Today's NASCAR race from Loudon, won by Brad Keselowski, ended a 32-year run for the national stock car series on Turner Sports. A lot of people bust on NASCAR coverage and some of it is understandable but it's sad to see a relationship like this end. For me, though it wasn't long ago, I think back to a booth that featured Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach. Bestwick was and still is arguably in the top five best motorsports lead commentators in the United States. Parsons was a classic. His insight and excitement boosted any broadcast. It's hard to believe he has been gone for seven years. I'm sure he is in the booth at that Great Racetrack in the Sky. Then there is Dallenbach. He is still up to his old tricks, lightening the mood but calling it like it is.

Bestwick got to call the Indianapolis 500 for the first time this year and with NASCAR leaving ESPN, it appears he will stay on with ESPN until his contract expires which could mean many more Indianapolis 500s in his future. Dallenbach is already under contract with NBC covering IndyCar, although he might be squeezed out with the success of the Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy, Townsend Bell trio. Maybe he will land a spot in the NBC Nationwide Series booth. Adam Alexander did a great job as lead commentator. He'll still be at Fox Sports 1. Lindsay Czarniak got a shot doing NASCAR coverage with TNT and used it to springboard her into a position to be one of the top SportsCenter anchors and now she hosts the pre-race coverage for the Indianapolis 500.

TNT might not have been the best but it did provide us with their "wide-open coverage" of the July Daytona race which saw less commercials and more action and something no other network has tried to replicate. All things must pass and NASCAR and Turner will go their separate ways. Congratulations on 32 years and here is to a bright future for both.

Improving Paddock Access
I was thinking about this last week after attending the Pocono 500. During the race, I believe there was no way to get from the grandstand side to the paddock just to meander around. The one positive attending a road or street courses is you get walk around from corner to corner and no oval has been able to provide that same kind of experience. Pocono has a tunnel that goes under the track and it is reasonable to understand why they close it an hour before the green flag and during the race. It is a safety concern and God forbid something goes wrong. But what about a walkover bridge? Cars can get airborne but I am sure you could make it high enough to avoid any horror movie scene.

I think improving paddock access during the race, along with working on the lack of on track action for IndyCar oval events is essential. Apparently the cheapest ticket to Saturday night's Iowa IndyCar race was $60 and all you got was IndyCar. No Indy Lights, no Pro Mazda, no U.S. F2000 or USAC. I know the Truck Series ran at Iowa on Friday night but there were plenty of hours wasted on Saturday. Bring in Indy Lights and/or Pro Mazda and have them run a one-day show. Sure Indy Lights has 8 cars but it would be better than nothing. People need more bang for their buck these days and $60 to get in to see IndyCar-only is steep. Hell general admission for the Indianapolis 500 is only $40, so where does Iowa get off? The Iowa price should be cut in half or support series should be added to justify the price of the tickets.

IndyCar Schedule Idea Part II
Remember when I was throwing ideas at the wall for the 2015 IndyCar schedule?

Originally I suggested pushing both Pocono and Iowa back a week in hopes of improving Pocono attendance. On second thought, keep Iowa where it is and move Pocono to the week after Iowa on the traditional July off weekend for NASCAR. While the odds maybe slim, it would improve whatever chance there is of the likes of Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski or someone else jumping behind the wheel of an IndyCar and using it as extra practice for any potential Indianapolis 500-Coca Cola 600 double the following year. It's just an idea and I am sure Pocono could see if they could talk a driver or two into trying it. The one flaw with the idea is it would shrink the gap from the IndyCar race and second Cup race to two weeks. Unless that second Cup races can be pushed back or knocked off the schedule, the move makes no sense for IndyCar or the track.

Márquez Goes 9-for-9
After almost three quarters of the field came in on the warm-up lap to switch to the dry weather bikes and had to start at the end of the pit lane like rush hour traffic at a stop light in Bangkok, Marc Márquez came from behind to win the German Grand Prix and make it nine consecutive victories in 2014. German Stefan Bradl benefited from staying on his wet weather bike at the start but ultimately fell like a rock and finished out of the points. Márquez faced an early challenge from his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa but pulled away toward the end of the race. The Yamaha teammates of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finish third and fourth.

Márquez has had won every which way in 2014. He has gone out and dominated, fallen back and had to work his way to the front, gotten into back-and-forth battles as a race draws near and now has started from the pit lane but found at way to the top of the podium and we still have the whole second half of the MotoGP season to see if Márquez can continue this success. Next round is at Indianapolis on August 10.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marc Márquez and Brad Keselowski but did you know...

Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes split the World Superbike weekend at Laguna Seca.

Dominique Aegerter and Jack Miller won in Moto2 and Moto3 respectively at the Sachsenring.

In IMSA, the #42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Gustavo Yacamán and Olivier Pla won overall at Mosport. Jan Magnussen and Antonio García won in GTLM, their fourth consecutive GTLM victory. Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating won in GTD, giving the Viper GT3-R it's first victory and making it five different winners in six GTD races so far this season.

Maxime Martin won his first career DTM race at Moscow.

Kazuki Nakajima won the Super Formula race at Fuji and in doing so took the championship lead.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads to Toronto, the final doubleheader and street course of the season.
Indy Lights, U.S. F2000 and Pirelli World Challenge join IndyCar at Toronto.
Formula One is at the Hockenheimring for the German Grand Prix.
European Le Mans Series is at Red Bull Ring.
Asian Le Mans Series kicks off it's season at the Inje Speedium.
Super GT is at Sportsland SUGO.
The Cup series is off but the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Chicagoland.