Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018 Bathurst 12 Hour Preview

Another week, another endurance race and another legendary circuit. For the 16th-time the Mount Panorama Circuit hosts the Bathurst 12 Hour and it once again leads off the four-race Intercontinental GT Challenge series. The remaining three rounds will be the Spa 24 Hours on July 28-29, the Suzuka 10 Hours on August 26th and the California 8 Hours from Laguna Seca on October 28th.

Fifty-two cars are on the entry list across the five classes. The GT3 class is divided into the PRO, PRO-AM and AM divisions. Class B is made up of GT3 Cup cars and Class C is made up of GT4 cars. Class I is for invitational entries and features 10 cars, seven of which are from MARC Car Australia.

As has become accustomed with these previews, we will look at each entry from the three GT3 divisions, Class B and Class C. Each entry will list the drivers, a reason why that entry will win its class and why it will not take victory.

#17 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3
Drivers: Steven Kane, Guy Smith, Jules Gounon
Why this entry will win: Kane and Smith have had a lot of success together in the Bentley. Kane and Smith finished third overall in this race last year. Gounon won last year's Spa 24 Hours and Gounon is the reigning ADAC GT Masters championship. Team M-Sport won the Blancpain Endurance Series Teams' championship.
Why this entry will not win: Bentley has never won the Bathurst 12 Hour and a British driver has never won this race and neither has a French driver.

#18 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3
Drivers: Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril
Why this entry will win: This trio finished second in the Blancpain Endurance Series drivers' championship last year and won at Circuit Paul Ricard as well as finishing second in the Spa 24 Hours.
Why this entry will not win: Some of the reasons are the same as its sister car and these three finished 12th last year, seven laps down.

#22 Audi Sport Customer Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Garth Tander, Kelvin van der Linde, Frédéric Vervisch
Why this entry will win: Tander is a three-time Bathurst 1000 winner and won this race when it was a 24-hour race in 2002 and he finished second the following year. Van der Linde has made some impressive drives, including last year in the 24 Hours Nürburgring and arguably had a 24 Hours of Daytona victory stolen from his last week. Vervisch is a competent GT driver.
Why this entry will not win: Audi has not won this race since 2012. Vervisch is a Bathurst rookie, as is van der Linde and Tander's experience will not be enough.

#37 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard, Dries Vanthoor
Why this entry will win: Frijns and Leonard are defending Blancpain Sprint Series champions and Frijns has been promoted to Audi's DTM team. Vanthoor has the capability to win GT races.
Why this entry will not win: A sprint race is not an endurance race and I am not sure this group will have what it takes.

#43 BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3
Drivers: Augusto Farfus, Chaz Mostert, Marco Wittmann
Why this entry will win: Two DTM drivers paired with a Bathurst 1000 winner, plus Mostert has been getting extra time in the M6 GT3 as he has been competing in the Asian Le Mans Series. Wittmann finished 14th in this race last year driving with Steven Richards and Mark Winterbottom.
Why this entry will not win: BMW has not won this race since it became a GT3-spec race and the German manufacture has only one top ten finished since the introduction of the GT3 class. Wittmann was in the best finishing BMW last year.

#56 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Maximilian Buhk, Maximilian Götz, Álvaro Parente
Why this entry will win: Buhk and Götz were a formidable pair when at HTP Motorsport. Parente won this race in 2016 with Shane van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb and Parente has been one of the top drivers in the United States since he moved to Pirelli World Challenge and he is coming off a good showing at the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Why this entry will not win: This is Team Strakka Racing's first trip to Bathurst with the Merecdes-AMGs. On top of that, Mercedes has not won at Bathurst since 2013.

#58 YNA Autosport McLaren 650S GT3
Drivers: Shane van Gisbergen, Craig Lowndes, Côme Ledogar
Why this entry will win: Lowndes picked up his second victory in this event to go along with his six Bathurst 1000 victories and van Gisbergen won this race two years ago. Ledogar and van Gisbergen were Blancpain Endurance Series champions in 2016.
Why this entry will not win: Lowndes is on the backend of his career and repeating is hard to do.

#74 Audi Sport Customer Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Christopher Mies, Christopher Haase, Markus Winkelhock
Why this entry will win: Mies is a two-time Bathurst 12 Hours winner and he won last year in the 24 Hours Nürburgring. Winkelhock is the defending Intercontinental GT Challenge champion after he won at Spa-Francorchamps and Laguna Seca. Haase was also a part of that Spa 24 Hours winning team and Haase finished second in the Intercontinental GT Challenge championship with Mies coming in third.
Why this entry will not win: It is hard to come up with a reason why this car won't win.

#75 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier, Jamie Whincup, Raffaele Marciello
Why this entry will win: Whincup is one of the greatest Australian drivers and won this race last year. He is also a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner. Marciello is a GP2 race winner and is a past European Formula 3 champion making the transition to sports cars. Vautier is coming off a promising race in Daytona and Habul did well in the GT Daytona class.
Why this entry will not win: Half of these drivers are Bathurst rookies and Marciello is still getting his feet wet in GT cars.

#100 BMW Team SRM BMW M6 GT3
Drivers: Steven Richards, Timo Glock, Philipp Eng
Why this entry will win: Richards won this race in 2002 when it was a 24-hour race and he is a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner. Glock has been a consistent race winner in DTM. Eng is a past Porsche Supercup champion and finished fourth in ADAC GT Masters last year.
Why this entry will not win: See the reasons why the #43 BMW will not win and add to that Richards has not finished in the top ten in his last four Bathurst 12 Hour starts.

#911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Romain Dumas, Frédéric Makowiecki, Dirk Werner
Why this entry will win: This is basically a GTE-Pro caliber line-up. Dumas finished second in the 24 Hours of Daytona last week and besides Daytona, the only other endurance race he is missing from his mantle is Bathurst (and Dubai, I guess). Makowiecki has won races in the FIA WEC, GT1 World Championship and he won the Suzuka 1000 KM in 2013.
Why this entry will not win: Surprisingly, Porsche has never won the Bathurst 12 Hour and these are three Bathurst rookies.

#991 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche GT3 R
Drivers: Earl Bamber, Kevin Éstre, Laurens Vanthoor
Why this entry will win: This is another GTE-Pro caliber line-up. Bamber is the defending World Endurance Drivers' Champion and a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner. He also has two Class B victories in the Bathurst 12 Hour. Vanthoor had a rough first season with Porsche and he is ready to rebound. Éstre is one of the underrated GT drivers.
Why this entry will not win: This is another entry where it is hard to come up with a reason why it will not win. Other than Porsche has yet to win at Bathurst is all I got.

#8 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Max Twigg, Craig Baird, Tony D'Alberto
Why this entry will win: D'Alberto is coming off his best finish in the Bathurst 1000 after he finished third last year with Fabian Coulthard. Baird won the Bathurst 12 Hour in 2007 and picked up a class victory in the race the following year. Twigg finished sixth in Australian GT Championship.
Why this entry will not win: Baird has retired from the last four Bathurst 12 Hours.

#9 Audi Sport Customer Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Marc Cini, Lee Holdsworth, Dean Fiore
Why this entry will win: Holdsworth has been a full-time Supercars driver for over a decade. Fiore has plenty of experience on Mount Panorama.
Why this entry will not win: For the overall victory, it has a lot of tough Audis to beat let alone the other cars in the PRO-AM division.

#11 Objective Racing McLaren 650S GT3
Drivers: Tony Walls, Warren Luff, Tim Slade, Jaxon Evans
Why this entry will win: Slade and Luff both have been regulars in the Bathurst 1000. Evans finished second in the Australian Endurance Championship and fifth in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship last year.
Why this entry will not win: Evans is a younger driver and this is a big chance for him.

#12 Competition Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3 R
Drivers: David Calvert-Jones, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell, Alex Davison
Why this entry will win: The first three drivers finished second overall in this race last year and won the PRO-AM division. Long is the reigning Pirelli World Challenge champion and Campbell has won at Bathurst in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia. Davison has had a lot of experience at Mount Panorama.
Why this entry will not win: It is tough to see how this car will not win in PRO-AM but this entry could win overall.

#19 Nineteen Corp R/L Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: David Reynolds, John Martin, Liam Talbot, Mark Griffith
Why this entry will win: Reynolds won last year's Bathurst 1000 with Luke Youlden and he is coming off a seventh place finish in the Supercars championship. Martin has had success in sports cars and has won in the LMP2 class in the FIA WEC. Talbot finished second last year in the Australian GT Championship and Talbot and Martin finished third in the Australian Endurance Championship.
Why this entry will not win: In class, the #12 Porsche will be tough competition.

#29 Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Jim Manolios, Ryan Miller, Ivan Capelli, Dean Canto
Why this entry will win: Canto has made 19 Bathurst 1000 starts. Capelli is a former Formula One driver who has raced at Mount Panorama before.
Why this entry will not win: Canto finished second in the Bathurst 1000 in 2012 but he had retired from 11 of those starts and Capelli is 54 years old.

#32 Lago Racing Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3
Drivers: Roger Lago, David Russell, Steve Owen
Why this entry will win: Owen has twice finished runner-up in the Bathurst 1000. Russell has experience in this car driving in the Australian GT Championship and ADAC GT Masters.
Why this entry will not win: It is an older Lamborghini and the line-up might not be good enough.

#39 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Will Davison
Why this entry will win: Once again, the famed FIA WEC GTE-Am line-up is competitive wherever it seems to go and these drivers had a good day going at Daytona before an accident. Davison is a two-time Bathurst 1000 winner.
Why this entry will not win: I wonder if the wear of a trip from Florida to Australia will get to Lamy, Dalla Lana and Lauda.

#47 YNA Autosport McLaren 650S GT3
Drivers: Scott McLaughlin, Fraser Ross, Andrew Watson, Alexander West
Why this entry will win: McLaughlin is one of the best drivers in Supercars and he has had good runs at Mount Panorama. Watson has had some success in the British GT Championship.
Why this entry will not win: McLaughlin and Watson are good but I am not sure they could carry the load.

#55 Mercedes-AMG Team Srakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson, Cameron Waters, David Fumanelli
Why this entry will win: Mercedes-AMG has had success in the Bathurst 12 Hour. Leventis and Williamson have experience racing with one another. Waters has a top five finish in the Bathurst 1000 and finished seventh in the Supercars championship last season. Fumanelli has had success in the Blancpain Sprint Series Silver Cup.
Why this entry will not win: This line-up is inexperienced at Bathurst outside of Waters and the team is still getting up to speed with the Mercedes.

#82 International Motorsport Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Andrew Bagnall, Matthew Halliday, Johnny Reid
Why this entry will win: Bagnall and Halliday raced together in the Australian GT Championship. Reid has been all over the place and was very successful in A1GP a decade ago.
Why this entry will not win: Bagnall is an older driver and I am not sure if this car can keep up.

#540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, Marc Lieb
Why this entry will win: Lieb finished second last year with Calvert-Jones, Long and Campbell. Bleekemolen had a good run at Daytona and Stolz was his teammate as the team finished fourth in the GT Daytona class. Stolz has been getting his fair share of endurance race experience in the early part of 2018. Bleekemolen has Bathurst experience; he was van Gisbergen's Bathurst 1000 co-driver in 2013.
Why this entry will not win: It is asking a lot for an American team to go to Australia and be successful. The team could struggle from jet lag.

#777 Buik Motorwork Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3
Drivers: Yasser Shahin, Luke Youlden, Tomáš Enge
Why this entry will win: Youlden won last year's Bathurst 1000 with David Reynolds. Enge has won his fair share of GT races.
Why this entry will not win: This isn't even the most current Lamborghini that could be raced in this event. Youlden and Enge are both over 40 years of age.

#3 Audi Sport Customer Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Ash Samadi, Daniel Gaunt, Dylan O'Keefe
Why this entry will win: Samadi and Gaunt finished seventh in last year's race with Matt Halliday, good enough for second in the PRO-AM division. O'Keefe won last year in Class B.
Why this entry will not win: It has two stiff competitors in the AM division.

#6 Safe-T-Stop Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3
Drivers: Richard Gartner, Hadrian Morrall, David Wall, John Bowe
Why this entry will win: Bowe is the all-time leader in Bathurst 12 Hour victories with three and he won the Bathurst 1000 twice. Wall has been a regular competitor in the Bathurst 1000 for the last decade and is the defending Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion.
Why this entry will not win: It is an older Lamborghini.

#69 Audi Sport Customer Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: James Koundoris, Theo Koundoris, Ash Walsh, Duvashen Padayachee
Why this entry will win: This is a line-up that knows Mount Panorama Circuit. Padayachee won the AM division last year. Walsh finished third in the Australian GT Championship.
Why this entry will not win: The two Koundorises (is that the right plural?) have had their ups and downs in the Bathurst 12 Hour.

Class B
#4 Grove Motorsport Pty Ltd. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
Drivers: Stephen Grove, Brenton Grove, Ben Barker
Why this entry will win: Since 2013, in class Grove Motorsport has finished second, first, second, first and unfortunately retired after 32 laps last year but it has been a competitive car.
Why this entry will not win: Stephen Grove and Barker have been strong but there have been stronger third drivers in this car.

#21 JFC-Carter Grange Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
Drivers: Daniel Stutterd, Sam Fillmore
Why this entry will win: Stutterd and Fillmore take a step down after being in the Class A AM class last year so they have competed in quicker cars around Mount Panorama.
Why this entry will not win: At time of writing, it only has two drivers listed and it will need to find a third.

#23 Team Carrera Cup Asia Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
Drivers: Paul Tresidder, Chris Van der Drift, Andrew Tang, Chen Yi-Fan
Why this entry will win: Van der Drift is a two-time and reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia winner. Tang finished fourth in the championship and Chen was the Pro-Am champion.
Why this entry will not win: Tresidder is the weakest link in this car.

#42 On Track Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup
Drivers: Garry Mennell, Kean Booker, Aaron Zerefos, Mark Caine
Why this entry will win: Zerefos finished fourth in Class B last year.
Why this entry will not win: It is the entry I know the least about. Not a good reason to give but I think there are three stronger Class B entries than this one.

#85 Wall Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
Drivers: Charles Espenlaub, Charles Putman, Joe Foster
Why this entry will win: These three have been very successful in the 24H Series and unfortunately they did not start last year's race.
Why this entry will not win: It is a good line-up but I feel it is missing something needed to win the class.

Class C
#13 RHC-Lawrence/Storm (MarcGT) BMW M4 GT4
Drivers: Daren Jorgensen, Cameron Lawrence, Brett Strom, Kuno Wittmer
Why this entry will win: This team is made up of two top North American drivers in Cameron Lawrence and Kuno Wittmer.
Why this entry will not win: It is an inexperienced line-up at Bathurst.

#15 Baigent Motorsport BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Kent Baigent, Neil Allport, Matt Wilding-Spratt, Ash Blewett
Why this entry will win: A New Zealand team with an all-New Zealander driver line-up and if there is one thing we have learned it is New Zealanders make damn fine drivers.
Why this entry will not win: It is a good line-up but I am not sure it will be strong enough to win this class.

#30 Boat Works Racing BMW M4 GT4
Drivers: Aaron Seton, Matt Brabham, Anthony Longhurst
Why this entry will win: Brabham is a young driver that unfortunately has been left behind but he has a chance to get everyone's attention. Seton has raced this race prior in Class I. Longhurst might be 60 years old but he is a two-time Bathurst 1000 winner and won the 2009 Bathurst 12 Hour and he competed last year in the PRO class.
Why this entry will not win: It is a collection of drivers with not much experience in the car.

#44 BMW Team SRM BMW GT4 
Drivers: Dean Grant, Xaiver West, Cameron Hill
Why this entry will win: Grant has made three Bathurst 12 Hour starts and all in GT3 cars. West won in Class B last year. Hill competed in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship in New Zealander.
Why this entry will not win: I think Hill could be a weak link.

#46 Prosport Performance GABH Porsche Cayman PRO4
Drivers: Jörg Viebahn, Max Braam, Marco Schelp, Nico Verdonck
Why this entry will win: This team won in Class C last year with Viebann and Braam.
Why this entry will not win: Repeating is hard to do and it has a lot of BMWs to contend with.

#48 M Motorsports P/L KTM X-Bow GT4
Drivers: Justin McMillan, David Crampton, Tim Macrow, Caitlin Wood
Why this entry will win: McMillan just ran the Dubai 24 Hour. Macrow is a two-time Australian Drivers' Champions. Wood raced in Europe in the GT4 European Series.
Why this entry will not win: There are a couple strong cars in class, most notably the #46 Porsche and a few of the BMWs.

#49 KTM / M Motorsport KTM X-Bow GT4 
Drivers: Glen Wood, Trent Harrison, Cody Hill
Why this entry will win: Wood won a race in the Australian GT Championship last year. Hill has done some lower-level racing in Australia.
Why this entry will not win: Harrison has been out of racing since 2013.

#77 Ginetta Australia Ginetta G55 GT4
Drivers: Coleby Cowham, Lindsay Kearns, Charlie Robinson
Why this entry will win: Cowham and Kearns finished third in Class C last year driving a Porsche.
Why this entry will not win: It isn't even the best Ginetta in class.

#88 Ginetta Australia Ginetta G55 GT4
Drivers: Jaie Robson, William Tregurtha, Ben Walsh
Why this entry will win: Tregurtha won the British GT GT4 championship with recent 24 Hours of Daytona runner-up Stuart Middleton last year. Robson finished fourth in the Aussie Racing Cars series last year.
Why this entry will not win: I am not sure the Ginettas can keep up with the Porsche and BMWs.

The Bathurst 12 Hour will start at 1:45 p.m. ET on Saturday February 3rd.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: The Speed Fallacy

Filipe Albuquerque erased the heartache of 2017 with an overall victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona with Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa in the #5 Cadillac. Chip Ganassi Racing got its 200th victory with the #67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon taking top honors in GT Le Mans. GRT Grasser Racing Team came to Daytona and won with the #11 Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Frank Perera and Rik Breukers. People had their panties in a wad over Fernando Alonso being in Daytona. Tires were an issue in Daytona. I learned that James Hinchcliffe has a dog. We are still three weeks away from the first NASCAR race of the season and Kyle Busch is already upset about something. Surprise! That didn't take long. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Speed Fallacy
Marshall Pruett has been killing it with his "Week in IndyCar" podcasts during the offseason. You would have thought for a series that hasn't raced since the final Sunday of summer 2017 that by the final weekend of January 2018 there would be nothing to talk about but boredom. There is the new aero kit but that is a torturous tease. We want races. Pruett has found the way to fill the time. He also has given Robin Miller a bit of a break as Miller battles cancer and I hope Miller and Pruett reunite when the season starts because, while this all-star interview series has been great, Miller and Pruett's playful banter has been missed.

Back to the all-star line-up, Pruett has put together a collection of marathon interviews and each one is as great as the next. It started with Bob Varsha and was followed by Townsend Bell, Derek Daly, J.R. Hildebrand, Mike Hull not once, not twice but three times, Mike Shank, Bryan Herta, Lyn St. James, Pippa Mann, Ben Bretzman, Zach Veach, Conor Daly, John Andretti and most recently Scott Dixon.

Of those 16 podcasts, eight have exceeded two hours in length and Mike Hull was 23 seconds away from having a hat trick of two-hour interviews. Sometimes it seems it will be impossible to get through all these but between dead moments working, early morning work outs and weekends without much motorsports, you chip away at them. While living up to each episodes' name and covering each week in IndyCar news, the podcasts provide enlightening stories and gives you backstories you otherwise would not know.

One thing that has stood out from all these episodes is something Townsend Bell said way back in October, back when we didn't know who was going to drive for A.J. Foyt Racing, the Fittipaldi name was not in the same breath as IndyCar and IndyCar thought it would be racing in Mexico.

It seemed certain IndyCar would make a trip south of the border and likely to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez but, in typical IndyCar fashion, another international fell to pieces like newspaper left out in the rain.

Before IndyCar announced the end of its pursuit to a race in Mexico, Bell was not a fan of sharing a circuit with Formula One. His biggest issue was the disparity in lap time between the two cars and inevitably fans would use speed to compare the two series. IndyCar would be a second fiddle in terms of speed in Mexico City compared to Formula One. The 2017 aero regulations increased speeds dramatically in Formula One. Using Mexico City as the measuring stick, Sebastian Vettel's pole position in 2017 was 2.216 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton's pole position the year prior and Vettel's fastest lap was 2.349 seconds faster than Daniel Ricciardo's fastest lap in 2016.

With IndyCar moving away from the manufacture aero kits, laps times are expected to be slower than the last three seasons as the cars will not have the same downforce levels. Formula One cars were already faster than IndyCars but with the two series going in oppositions in terms of downforce the gap would only grow in 2018.

Why would fans choose to follow a series with slower cars? The problem is that speed isn't the only reason why people watch.

If speed exclusively determined what people watch and attend than the NHRA should have 300,000 people at each race weekend and have an average of 45 million tuning in on television. If speed was the deciding factor than IndyCar would top NASCAR with the open-wheel series being 40 mph faster at Pocono, almost 45 mph faster at Indianapolis and almost 57 mph faster at Phoenix. In his podcast, Bell even points out the difference in speed between IndyCar and the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Truck Series at Iowa, where IndyCar was 49-55 mph faster than NASCAR's bottom two national touring series. And we haven't even looked at how much faster IndyCar is on road courses compared to stock cars.

There is more than speed to factor in. Formula One might run circles around IndyCar but it doesn't mean better racing and that is what you hope people would notice. The Mexican Grand Prix has been quite a sight with close to a quarter-million people attending the race each year. It is an atmosphere you want to be a part of but the racing on track has had its moments. Mexico had the Vettel vs. Max Verstappen battle in 2016 that ended in controversial fashion. Last year featured the Hamilton-Vettel collision that put both to the back and had each carve up back markers but Verstappen ran away with it at the front and was never challenged for the lead, leading all 71 laps. IndyCar has had a good few seasons on road courses and with a front straightway almost three-quarters of a mile in length and another pair of quality passing areas in turn four and turn 12 there would be a fair amount of passing in an IndyCar race at Mexico City.

You hope people would notice the difference in the number of passes and battles for the lead but if people don't notice the difference in terms of on-track action and speed isn't the sole reason people watch than it has to be something else and that is the profile that comes with a series. People want to see Formula One because it sounds sexy. It is the pinnacle. It is top shelf liquor. The same goes for NASCAR, as the series has a cultural advantage over IndyCar in the United States. It found a way to become what people think about when they see a race car, regardless if it is a stock car or not. The top drivers aren't unknowns on the national stage. You could tell someone how much faster an IndyCar is than NASCAR on a given track and it won't make a damn difference. NASCAR represents something to people. It provides an identity for the working-class rebel who wants to unwind watching race cars and having a few dozen beverages. The drivers are more than competitors but spokespeople to an unheard and forgotten community.

IndyCar isn't going to ascend to the throne on speed alone. Speed is a factor in why people watch what they watch but it isn't the end all be all. It has long been IndyCar's problem that it doesn't know what it is and nor does it give a reason for people to watch. People need a reason to care about these drivers and IndyCar has to connect with the public. It needs to be something that turns heads and casts a spell on people, forcing people to follow and see what happens. That isn't going to happen overnight even if it became the fastest series in the world.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about what happened in Daytona but did you know...

Eli Tomac won the Supercross race from Phoenix, his second consecutive victory of the season.

Richard Vanschoor is undefeated in first races of Toyota Racing Series weekend, as he took race one from Hampton Downs. Vanschoor also won race three with Clement Novalak taking the second race of the weekend.

Benjamin Rivière and Benoît Tréluyer split the Andros Trophy races from Lans-en-Vercors.

Coming Up This Weekend:
The Bathurst 12 Hour.
The Race of Champions will be held in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking of champions, the Asian Le Mans Series will crown champions at its season finale in Sepang.
The Toyota Racing Series will be at Taupo.
Supercross heads to Oakland.
Formula E returns to South America and a new venue in Santiago, Chile.

Friday, January 26, 2018

2018 IndyCar Team Preview: Carlin

The fourth IndyCar team preview and final team preview for the month of January brings us to our first new team! Carlin enters IndyCar with an internationally pedigree. The team has won 17 drivers' championships across six different championships. The team expanded its operation to the United States in 2015, entering Indy Lights with the introduction of the Dallara IL-15 chassis. Carlin has won 11 races over three seasons in Indy Lights. The team enters IndyCar with two familiar faces not only to the team but to the IndyCar grid.

2017 Carlin Review:
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Final Championship Positions: None. It's a new team!

2018 Drivers:

Charlie Kimball - #23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet
After having a career-year in 2016, the British-born Californian could not get out of his own way in 2017. Kimball was involved in first lap incidents in the first two races and an alternate fuel strategy at Barber saw Kimball fail to pick up a top ten finish in the first three races, a lengthy drought compared to his 2016 season. While he finished eighth at Phoenix, a pair of engine failures in each of the Indianapolis races had Kimball 20th in the championship. Another retirement at Belle Isle gave him three consecutive finishes outside the top twenty and that was followed by an eighth in race two. Kimball picked up his first career pole position but a mechanical issue after his first pit stop ended his race after 41 laps, 26 of which he led. He would pick up three top ten finishes in the final eight races but Kimball was more remembered for his overaggressive driving in the late stages of the season, especially at Gateway.

Numbers to Remember:
0: Top five finishes in 2017.

5: Kimball had at least one top five finish in the previous five seasons.

13.3: Average finish in 117 IndyCar starts, all with Chip Ganassi Racing.

22: Kimball has finished ahead of Max Chilton 22 times out of 33 starts.

If there is one hope for Kimball it is he can return to his reliable driving style in 2018 because Carlin needs to complete laps in year one. Kimball had completed more than 2,000 laps each season from 2013 to 2016 and he completed the most laps in each 2013 and 2017. Last year, he completed 1,943 laps, the 16th-most. If Kimball can plug away and finish races on the lead lap or at worst a lap down, not only will Carlin get to gather data and learn but the team could have a respectable finish in year one.

I don't think Kimball will try to over drive the car but I think his results will be hampered by the growing pains of a new team. Historically, Kimball has not been a strong qualifier and I would not be surprised if his average starting position is lower than his career average of 14.3. He will get a few top tens but be somewhere around where he was in 2017 and not because of erratic driving.

Max Chilton - #59 Gallagher Chevrolet
This British-born Brit avoided the sophomore slump despite not picking up his first top ten finish until the Grand Prix of Indianapolis where Chilton finished seventh. In the Indianapolis 500 Chilton started 15th, seven positions better than his rookie year. In the race, an alternate strategy, a fortunate caution and a sturdy Honda engine had Chilton in position to win the race. He led 50 laps, the most in the race and he was in the top five coming down the stretch. However, the likes of Takuma Sato, Hélio Castroneves and Ed Jones separated from Chilton and he finished in a comfortable fourth-place. The early summer featured top ten finishes at Texas, Road America and Toronto for Chilton but his relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing soured and showed its ugly head at Pocono when a wastegate issue forced the team to park the car at the dismay of Chilton. He overcame that and an accident at Gateway to salvage 11th in the championship from the final two races.

Numbers to Remember:
9: Lead lap finishes in each of his first two IndyCar seasons.

14: Races running at the finish of in each of his first two IndyCar seasons.

14.1: Average finish in 33 IndyCar starts, all with Chip Ganassi Racing.

3.9: Improvement of average finish from 16.1 in 2016 to 12.2 in 2017.

This team is kind of being built around Chilton. If it weren't for Chilton I am not sure Carlin would be making this entrance into IndyCar or at least I am not sure Carlin would enter as a two-car team. Chilton improved in year two but he still has a ways to go to be a championship contender.

Like Kimball, Chilton has a history of bringing the car home. He did it in Formula One and he has done it in IndyCar. He has retired from only five races in his short IndyCar career and while four of those have been accidents, three of those have been out of his control as the first at Belle Isle in 2016 was due to suspension breaking on the rough track and in the next race he was an innocent bystander at chain reaction incident at the start. He was also one of the many drivers that had nowhere to go in the turn one lap one incident at Phoenix last year. As with Kimball, if Chilton completes laps the team will gather data and will have more to build on for 2019 and beyond. I think Chilton brings the car home but results will be down from 2017.

Looking at Carlin, this is the first new team in IndyCar since 2012 when Ed Carpenter Racing was established and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing expanded to a full-time operation. This season is more about completing a checklist. Get a lead lap finish, get both cars to finish on the lead lap, get a top ten finish, get a car to the second round of qualifying and so on. Carlin is a respectable organization and it is asking a lot to expect the team to come out and win races in year one but I would not be surprised if come Road America people are saying, "How about Carlin?" I won't set the bar too high. I think if the team can get six to ten top ten finishes between the two cars and can get one car in the top 12 of the championship that would be viewed as a successful debut season.

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday March 11th at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

We have reached the first major motorsports event of the year and it is a doozy and the entry list is staggering. The season opener for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship features 50 entries across three classes. Twenty prototypes are populated by the likes of ten past overall 24 Hours of Daytona winners, eight past top class American sports champions, three Indianapolis 500 winners, two 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winners and a past World Drivers' Champion. Not only does the Prototype class have at least a dozen potential winners but also any of the nine GT Le Mans winners could take the top honors in that class and GT Daytona is the largest class with 21 entries.

This preview will go entry-by-entry, give the driver line ups, the class result for that entry in the Roar Before the 24 test, why that entry could win and why that entry will not win.

#2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi
Drivers: Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Olivier Pla
Roar Result: 15th
Why this car could win: Solid driver line up that features two past 24 Hours of Daytona winners.
Why this car will not win: The Nissans do not appear to have the pace to keep up with the Cadillacs.

#5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Filipe Albuquerque, João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi
Roar Result: 3rd
Why this car could win: Barbosa and Fittipaldi won this race recently and Albuquerque has been a capable endurance race driver that has now stepped into the full-time role.
Why this car will not win: It isn't even the fastest Action Express Racing entry and it could be a tricky battle with the other Cadillacs.

#6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud
Roar Result: 5th
Why this car could win: A hell of a driver line up featuring two past prototype champions and one of the all-time greatest drivers and probably the greatest driver of this generation.
Why this car will not win: The Cadillacs and potentially the Acura having teething problems in its first race.

#7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05
Drivers: Hélio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Graham Rahal
Roar Result: 6th
Why this car could win: One of the defending 24 Hours of Daytona winners and defending Prototype champions paired with two of the best IndyCar drivers from the last three years, one of which already has won the 24 Hours of Daytona overall.
Why this car will not win: See the reasons why the #6 Acura will not win.

#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Roar Result: 4th
Why this car could win: The defending race winners and defending champions brought in one of the more underrated drivers in van der Zande and Hunter-Reay has been a solid endurance driver.
Why this car will not win: New driver line up and it was the slowest of the Cadillacs at the test. Plus, there has not been a repeat winner in ten years when Ganassi won its third consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona and before that the most recent repeat winner was Holbert Racing 31 years ago.

#20 BAR1 Motorsports Riley Mk. 30-Gibson
Drivers: Marc Drumwright, Eric Lux, Alex Popow, Tomy Drissi, Brendan Gaughan
Roar Result: 20th
Why this car could win: Because it is possible that 19th prototypes break down. It is possible but it is not likely.
Why this car will not win: There are 19 faster prototypes. This car would be fortunate to be one of the top three Global LMP2 cars. Also, the overall winner has not had five drivers since Dyson Racing's winner entry in 1997 had seven drivers.

#22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi
Drivers: Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani, Nicolas Lapierre
Roar Result: 7th
Why this car could win: Derani won this race two years ago in what was the start of a coming out party and van Overbeek was one of his co-drivers that year. Lapierre has been on fire for the last two years.
Why this car will not win: The Cadillacs and only one of the last ten 24 Hours of Daytona winners have had three drivers.

#23 United Autosports Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Phil Hanson, Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso
Roar Result: 14th
Why this car could win: United Autosport has been a solid LMP2 team. It has one of the best drivers in the world paired with one of the best young drivers in the world.
Why this car will not win: The global LMP2 cars have struggled to keep up with the DPi cars and this is an inexperienced endurance line up and the race could wear this team down.

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran, Mike Conway, Stuart Middleton
Roar Result: 1st
Why this car could win: It was the fastest in testing, Curran is a past champion, Nasr had a great outing at Daytona six years ago, Conway is solid and Middleton is getting his first taste of big-time racing,
Why this car will not win: Fastest in testing doesn't mean it will be fastest in the race and it is a new line up.

#32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer, Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna
Roar Result: 17th
Why this car could win: Owen and de Sadeleer are coming off a great European Le Mans Series season in 2017 and Senna had a fantastic drive to win the 2017 World Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers. Di Resta is kind of the unknown in this line up.
Why this car will not win: The Ligier's pace.

#37 Jackie Chan DCR Jota Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Lance Stroll, Felix Rosenqvist, Robin Frijns, Daniel Juncadella
Roar Result: 16th
Why this car could win: Four quality drivers, two of which are under appreciated (Rosenqvist and Frijns).
Why this car will not win: Lawrence Stroll can't pay $80 million to gift his son a 24 Hours of Daytona overall victory.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: James French, Pato O'Ward, Kyle Masson, Joel Miller
Roar Result: 13th
Why this car could win: Three quarters of this team won at Daytona in Prototype Challenge last year and French and O'Ward cleaned house to take the final PC championship. Miller adds experience to this line up.
Why this car will not win: Prototypes is a big step up for this group.

#52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Sebastián Saavedra, Gustavo Yacamán, Roberto González, Nicholas Boulle
Roar Result: 19th
Why this car could win: Saavedra and Yacamán were quick in Indy Lights and Yacamán had success in LMP2 cars. González has Champ Car experience and raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship last year.
Why this car will not win: The field is too deep.

#54 CORE Autosport Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Romain Dumas, Loïc Duval
Roar Result: 10th
Why this car could win: CORE Autosport was competitive in Prototype Challenge before stepping down to GT Daytona. Braun is somehow only 29 years old and the team has drafted into two quality Frenchmen in Dumas and Duval.
Why this car will not win: The team is transitioning to prototypes and might feel some growing pains.

#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P
Drivers: Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Spencer Pigot
Roar Result: 8th
Why this car could win: There is a lot of momentum behind this entry. Tincknell has won big endurance races before. Pigot has momentum, as he is now a full-time IndyCar driver. Bomarito is a stalwart with Mazda.
Why this car will not win: Mazda seems to have something bit it in the butt every damn year.

#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P
Drivers: Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, René Rast
Roar Result: 18th
Why this car could win: Jarvis and Rast were two top Audi drivers. Nunez has been a competent driver.
Why this car will not win: See why the #55 Mazda will not win.

#78 Jackie Chan DCR Jota Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Ho-Pin Tung, Alex Brundle, Ferdinand Habsburg, António Félix da Cosa
Roar Result: 9th
Why this car could win: Jackie Chan DC Racing had a positive 2017 season. Tung and Brundle have had their good runs and da Costa is a driver talented enough for Formula One. Habsburg, yes of that Habsburg family, had a blunder in Macau but he has been improving each year.
Why this car will not win: This is a good line up but I am not sure a good line up is enough to win this race.

#85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Simon Trummer, Robert Alon, Devlin DeFrancesco, Austin Cindric
Roar Result: 11th
Why this car could win: JDC-Miller Motorsport was the surprise of 2017. This car has four promising young drivers.
Why this car will not win: This line up is too inexperienced to win.

#90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Matthew McMurry, Tristan Vautier, Eddie Cheever III
Roar Result: 2nd
Why this car could win: Spirit of Daytona salvaged a good season last year after multiple chassis issues. Now it is with Cadillac and is a contender.
Why this car will not win: While McMurry and Vautier have been stout drivers I think the team won't win right off the bat.

#99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg, Gustavo Menezes
Roar Result: 12th
Why this car could win: This was the JDC-Miller Motorsports team that kept getting good result after good result. It has brought in Menezes, who arguably is one of the top five American prototype drivers today.
Why this car will not win: I think it is hard to expect this team to repeat what it did in 2017.

GT Le Mans
#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Jan Magnussen, Antonio García, Mike Rockenfeller
Roar Result: 5th
Why this car could win: I am not sure there is a more dangerous trio than this. These three have won before and no one would be surprised if they did it again.
Why this car will not win: It gets beat outright by the Fords.

#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fissure
Roar Result: 2nd
Why this car could win: This trio won at Daytona two years ago.
Why this car will not win: The Fords and I don't think the #3 Corvette is going to roll over for its teammate. Speaking of which, we know neither Corvette will lie down for the other. See the 2016 24 Hours of Daytona finish.

Drivers: Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus
Roar Result: 9th
Why this car could win: New car, Edwards has been a good driver and Krohn is making a step up. Farfus has been a really good driver in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.
Why this car will not win: Its teammate is stronger and the new car could have teething problems.

Drivers: Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng
Roar Result: 8th
Why this car could win: Sims and Auberlen finished 2017 strong and De Phillippi also had a great 2017 season and is a big free agent acquisition.
Why this car will not win: It hasn't had the pace to keep up with the Fords and Corvettes.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon
Roar Result: 6th
Why this car could win: Three former GT World Champions and Vilander has had a lot of success in endurance races.
Why this car will not win: Risi Competizione doesn't seem to catch a break.

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
Drivers: Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Sébastien Bourdais
Roar Result: 1st
Why this car could win: Fastest in testing and the defending GTLM winners at Daytona.
Why this car will not win: Repeating is hard and I kind of made a prediction that no GTLM teams would successful defend a race victory from 2017.

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon
Roar Result: 3rd
Why this car could win: This car was consistent all of 2017 and Dixon is one of the best drivers in the world.
Why this car will not win: While being consistent the #67 Ford has had trouble finding the top step of the podium.

#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frédéric Makowiecki
Roar Result: 7th
Why this car could win: Pilet and Tandy won the GTLM class at Daytona in 2014. Pilot and Makowiecki finished second in class last year.
Why this car will not win: Its teammate is stronger.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni
Roar Result: 4th
Why this car could win: These three might make up the best driver line up on the grid let alone in GTLM.
Why this car will not win: The Fords and the Corvettes are strong.

GT Daytona
#11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Franck Perera, Rik Breukers
Roar Result: 1st
Why this car could win: Fastest off the bat, defending Blancpain GT Series champions, had a great outing at the Dubai 24 Hour, European one-offs have done well at Daytona previous.
Why this car will not win: GT Daytona is a mixed bag and Breukers is a young driver and this will be his first endurance race with much faster prototypes, which can catch a driver out.

#14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli, Philipp Frommenwiler, Bruno Junqueira
Roar Result: 8th
Why this car could win: Junqueira is a good driver, as is Marcelli and the Lexus was slowly improving in 2017.
Why this car will not win: The Lexus might not have improved enough to challenge for the class victory.

#15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Jack Hawkworth, David Heinemeier Hansson, Scott Pruett, Dominik Farnbacher
Roar Result: 11th
Why this car could win: This could be a competitive line up in Prototypes and GTLM let along GTD. This will be Pruett's final race and even anyone goes out on top it will be him.
Why this car will not win: It simply can be beat on the racetrack.

#19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Max van Splunteren, Ezequiel Pérez Companc, Christian Engelhart, Christopher Lenz, Louis Machiels
Roar Result: 3rd
Why this car could win: Grasser is a top team and even pulled together a crew of relatively unknown drivers and got it to be third fastest in the test.
Why this car will not win: It is a relatively unknown set of drivers and Daytona could catch them out.

#29 Montaplast by Land Motorpsort Audi R8 LMS 
Drivers: Sheldon van der Linde, Kelvin van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt, Christopher Mies
Roar Result: 4th
Why this car could win: This car finished second at Daytona last year, fourth at Sebring and won Petit Le Mans, not to forget mentioning winning the 24 Hours Nürburgring.
Why this car will not win: Something goes wrong or the Audi is beat straight up on the track. No one should be surprised if this car wins.

#33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Adam Christodoulou, Luca Stolz
Roar Result: 13th
Why this car could win: Bleekemolen should have gotten a factory GTE deal years ago. Keating has had tremendous success in endurance races. Christodoulou and Stolz are competent drivers.
Why this car will not win: The Mercedes-AMGs might not have it this year.

#44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: John Potter, Andy Lally, Andrew Davis, Markus Winkelhock
Roar Result: 6th
Why this car could win: Magnus Racing returns to IMSA competition and this team has a history of winning at Daytona.
Why this car will not win: It gets beat by a strong team and most likely a strong Audi like Land Motorsport.

#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Andrea Caldarelli, Bryce Miller
Roar Result: 10th
Why this car could win: The Lamborghinis are looking good and this is a respectable GT Daytona team.
Why this car will not win: There are a few stronger entries in the class.

#51 Spirit of Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra
Roar Result: 16th
Why this car could win: Defending Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am Drivers' champions with the addition of factory driver Serra.
Why this car will not win: Dalla Lana's, Lamy's and Lauda's success has all come in an Aston Martin.

#58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Patrick Long, Christian Nielsen, Robert Renauer, Mathieu Jaminet
Roar Result: 7th
Why this car could win: Reigning Pirelli World Challenge GT champion meets defending two-time GT Daytona champion and throw in a sports car ace in Renauer and a Porsche junior driver in Jaminet. Yeah, this is a team to keep an eye on.
Why this car will not win: Strong Audis and while Nielsen has had full season success she hasn't manage to pull it off at Daytona.

#59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Steve Smith, Randy Walls, Harald Proczyk, Sven Müller, Matteo Cairoli
Roar Result: 2nd
Why this car could win: Two Porsche junior drivers in Müller and Cairoli lead one of the great GT teams and the car is already showing the pace.
Why this car will not win: It is a long race and being fastest in a test is different than being fast over 24 hours.

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Cooper MacNeil, Alessandro Balzan, Gunnar Jeannette, Jeff Segal
Roar Result: 15th
Why this car could win: Scuderia Corsa has won the last two GT Daytona championships.
Why this car will not win: Balzan lost his co-driver and MacNeil has not been the most fortunate driver the last few seasons.

#64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Frank Montecalvo, Sam Bird
Roar Result: 20th
Why this car could win: Sweedler and Bell have had a very good four or five years in endurance races and Montecalvo has shown promise. Add to that a factory driver in Bird and this team has it all on paper.
Why this car will not win: It was second slowest in the test and this is a deep field.

#69 HART Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Chad Gilsinger, Ryan Eversley, Sean Rayhall, John Falb
Roar Result: 14th
Why this car could win: Because nice and Eversley had a good season in Pirelli World Challenge with the Acura. Rayhall and Falb won the European Le Mans Series LMP3 title last year.
Why this car will not win: This is the slowest of the three Acuras and this team is basically a pro-am made of Honda employees doing this as a hobby.

#71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Kenton Koch, Robby Foley, Loris Spinelli, JC Perez
Roar Result: 21st
Why this car could win: If it takes the green flag then it has a shot.
Why this car will not win: It was the slowest and it was parked for sandbagging. Plus, on paper, the driver line up doesn't hold a candle to most teams on the grid.

#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Patrick Lindsey, Jörg Bergmeister, Norbert Siedler, Tim Pappas
Roar Result: 9th
Why this car could win: Bergmeister and Siedler aren't heading into their first rodeo and Lindsey and Pappas are competitive amateur drivers.
Why this car will not win: There a many strong cars and this might not even be the best Porsche in class after 24 hours.

#75 SunEngery1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Kenny Habul, Thomas Jäger, Maro Engel, Mikaël Grenier
Roar Result: 19th
Why this car could win: Engel doesn't seem to put a wheel wrong in a GT car and Jäger has won his share of endurance races.
Why this car will not win: Habul and Grenier aren't the best amateur drivers.

#82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Miguel Molina, Ricardo Pérez de Lara, Martin Fuentes, Santiago Creel, Matt Griffin
Roar Result: 18th
Why this car could win: It is run by a great American team, has a factory driver and two other winning GT drivers.
Why this car will not win: It is a one-off from Risi Competizione and the team might not have had enough time together to gel into a competitive team for the class victory.

#86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Katherine Legge, Álvaro Parente, Trent Hindman, A.J. Allmendinger
Roar Result: 12th
Why this car could win: Legge won in the Acura last year, Parente has been a force in both of his seasons in Pirelli World Challenge, Hindman has climbed his way into IMSA's top series and he is a name that isn't going anywhere anytime soon and Allmendinger has been here and done that.
Why this car will not win: This car doesn't win if it doesn't have the pace to compete with the Porsches, Audis and Lamborghinis.

#93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach, Mario Farnbacher, Côme Ledogar
Roar Result: 5th
Why this car could win: It is another car filled with GT champions and race winners, plus it showed competitive pace in the test.
Why this car will not win: It is a new collaboration of drivers of which none have prior experience with the Acura.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3
Drivers: Jens Klingmann, Martin Tomczyk, Mark Kvamme, Don Yount, Cameron Lawrence
Roar Result: 17th
Why this car could win: Turner is a tried and true American GT team and it has brought in two of BMW's top German drivers.
Why this car will not win: This car and driver line up doesn't have enough to fight with the big boys in GTD.

The 24 Hours of Daytona weekend opens on Thursday January 25th with practice at 9:20 a.m. ET and 1:40 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place at 3:55 p.m. ET with the GTD class leading off the session followed by GTLM at 4:20 p.m. ET and Prototypes ending the session at 4:45 p.m. ET. Thursday will close with a night practice at 6:30 p.m. ET. The final session prior to the start of the race will take place at 9:40 a.m. ET on Friday January 26th.

The 56th 24 Hours of Daytona will start at 2:40 p.m. ET on Saturday January 27th.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2018 IndyCar Team Preview: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Our third IndyCar team preview takes a look at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The team was Honda's shooting star in the aero kit-era. The team won five races, picked up 13 podium finishes and had 22 top five finishes in 49 races over the last three seasons. While running as a single-car team for majority of that period, the team grows back to a two-car operation and it brings in a familiar face in an attempt to take the team to the next level.

2017 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Review:
Wins: 2 (Belle Isle I & II)
Poles: 1 (Belle Isle I)
Final Championship Positions: 6th (Graham Rahal), 27th (Oriol Servià), 31st (Zachary Claman De Melo).

2018 Drivers:

Graham Rahal - #15 United Rentals/Mi-Jack Honda
The American driver kept up his good form in the aero kit-era in 2017. Rahal's season did face a rocky start after an opening lap accident at St. Petersburg and a lap one turn one accident at Phoenix put him further down in the hole. He had a competitive day in the Indianapolis 500 but a tire puncture forced an extra pit stop and he had to settle for 12th. Rahal left Indianapolis 15th in the championship and with only two top ten finishes from six races. He rebounded immediately at Belle Isle with a victory in race one from pole position and he swept the weekend from third on the grid in race two. The two victories took him to sixth in the championship. Rahal would score six consecutive top ten finishes after Belle Isle before a pit lane infraction cost him a sure top ten at Gateway. Despite the hiccup, Rahal closed the season with two more top ten finishes at Watkins Glen and Sonoma and finished sixth in the championship, the second-best Honda driver.

Numbers to Remember:
2: Top ten finishes in ten Indianapolis 500 starts.

5: Rahal was one of five drivers to win a race in each season of the aero kit-era (Dixon, Power, Newgarden, Bourdais).

69: Number of IndyCar races since RLLR's most recent double top ten finish (Houston 1 2013).

4,669: Days between RLLR's most recent double top five finish and the St. Petersburg season opener. The last double top five for RLLR was the 2005 Indianapolis 500 when Vitor Meira finished second and Danica Patrick finished fourth.

After seeing Rahal's results over the past three seasons he is a contender but the universal aero kit will be an equalizer. While RLLR was out performing the skin on its DW12 chassis, the balance doesn't mean RLLR will remain at the top. The team has improved greatly and I don't see the team slipping but I think this will be a more difficult year than others. Expanding to two cars can throw a team off and the team's most recent attempt at two cars was not the most successful.

Rahal won races and was a championship contender when many had written him off at ever being a driver worth a damn in IndyCar. Not to mention he did it while more respected IndyCar drivers struggled with the Honda aero kit. I think Rahal will win a race or two in 2018 and be somewhere around where he has been the last few seasons. What hurt Rahal last year was the start of the season and most of the trouble he got in wasn't of his doing. He also had a hard time getting on the podium. He swept the Belle Isle races but his only other podium in 2017 was third at Mid-Ohio.

If Rahal avoids a frustrating start to the season, finds a way onto the podium more and repeats what he did for the final two-thirds of 2017 then it wouldn't be surprising if he was alive for the title entering the Sonoma finale. He has been in championship battles recently but I think the team might need a year to make sure it can run two cars competitively before it can have one in the title fight.

Takuma Sato - #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
After four seasons with A.J. Foyt Racing, the Japanese driver moved to another famous American name and joined Andretti Autosport in a puzzling move. Despite questions over competitiveness, Sato showed from the start he was not going to be seat filler and finished fifth in the St. Petersburg season opener in a drag race to the line for fourth with teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. He picked up another top ten at Barber and entered the Indianapolis 500 portion of the calendar tied for 10th in the championship. He qualified fourth, second best of the six Andretti Autosport cars and ran at the front all race. His Honda engine lasted and was able to carry him to a popular Indianapolis 500 victory. He followed the victory with good weekends at Belle Isle and Texas. However, a slight injury at Road America was the start of a rough second half of 2017. Sato ended the season with one top ten finish in the final eight races but still finished eighth in the championship.

Numbers to Remember:
7: Sato had failed to finish in the top ten in seven consecutive Indianapolis 500 starts prior to his victory in 2017.

8.5: Average starting position last season, a career-best for Sato.

12.4: Average finishing position last season, a career-best for Sato.

Sato takes a step back from his standout 2017 season but I don't think he falls back into the inconsistent, equipment ruining ways of his past. We know Sato has the speed to win races but there has always been something in the way. I don't see him winning a race in 2018 but he will be competitive. He won't finish eighth in the championship again but if he finished in the top 12 and had a top ten finish rate between 33-50% no one would be surprised.

This is a new team in the sense that it will be running full-time after being a part-time effort for the better part of the last few seasons. The team may have some growing pain but the good days will come. I think Sato will do better on the road and street circuits than ovals and I think he will make a handful of appearances in the Fast Six of road/street course qualifying. He seems to be a good bet to take a pole position out of nowhere.

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday March 11th at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: IndyCar's Television Future

The Dakar Rally wrapped up and there were three repeat winners and two first-timers. An American won in New Zealand. Formula One drivers are getting a minimum weight, which means I am going to be too light to drive a Formula One car. Williams found its second driver. NASCAR teams keep passing around charters like a bong. Danica Patrick found a sponsor and it is familiar to everybody. Now she needs to find two rides. Alexander Rossi's team will meet Marco Andretti's team in the Super Bowl. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

IndyCar's Television Future
I have been thinking about the pending announcement of the new IndyCar television deal. It could be here at the end of the month. What do we want as fans? What do teams and drivers want? What does IndyCar want?

There are two scenarios for IndyCar I have in mind and I am not sure which the series and teams would prefer.

Would IndyCar rather have a high-dollar deal with a handful of races on network and majority of races on cable but the television money increases the leader circle fund or would IndyCar rather have a low-dollar deal but most if not all the races on network television and increasing exposure for the series and sponsors but see the leader circle fund shrink or disappear altogether?

The one complaint has been how unappealing IndyCar has been to sponsors and part of that has been most of the races being on NBCSN. NBCSN has done a good job with race production and the ratings having improved but the numbers haven't reached the levels I bet IndyCar had hoped for when the series made the cable move to Versus in 2009. The teams need money. Network television would get the series in front of more eyeballs and help the ratings a bit but it is not like the network numbers are anything to be impressed with. IndyCar could put all the races on network and it would probably help the teams marginally with sponsors but it still would not bring in enough money for the teams, especially to make up for the lack of leader circle money that would be coming in.

I would guess majority of the fan base wants IndyCar to stick with NBCSN and give NBC the network races ABC has had for nearly a decade. The difference of quality between the two networks is night and day. Even back to the Versus days, IndyCar was treated with respect and a knowledgeable crew was put together. It only got better when the network rebranded in 2012 to NBCSN. The IndyCar booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy is one of the best the series has had in 25 years. Kevin Lee stepped in and the booth didn't lose a step. When Lee isn't in the booth he is leading a great pit lane crew that features Jon Beekhuis, the smartest man on the grid; Katie Hargitt, who adds a youthful exuberance to the broadcast; Anders Krohn made his debut in 2017 and fit immediately into the broadcast and then there is the lovable Robin Miller, who provides insight and laughs, some of which are not intentional.

It seems hard to believe nearly ten years after the initial Versus contract the series and fan base would seem so entwined with the network. The network was so hard to find and it has been a long decade from the series. Considering we were just off the heels of reunification only to watch whatever step toward the status IndyCar once held prior to the split stunted by the disappearing into cable television oblivion, now I doubt anyone wants to see IndyCar's partnership with the network now known as NBCSN to come to an end. The network has won over many while ABC provided less than inspiring coverage.

The one thing ABC has over NBC is time and could that save this marriage? This year marks the 54th consecutive year of ABC broadcasting the Indianapolis 500. I fear the series and the parent company Hulman & Company will get sentimental and not be able to say goodbye even if it would be better for the series. But the series' loyalty to the network might be to preserve the race from it getting worse. Last year's race had the lowest rating since the race started being broadcasted live in 1986. There is no guarantee switching to a new network, even if it is one such as NBC that has done a good job broadcasting IndyCar, will make things better.

Think about Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar. It is a place and event that is too steeped in tradition at times and ABC is a part of that tradition. For 50-plus years people have been tuning into the same network every Memorial Day weekend whether it be taped delay with Jim McKay after sunset or live with Allen Bestwick and the grill going in the backyard. Would the track and series want to possibly negatively hurt the race by breaking a tradition? One change now and it could lead to a constant rotation of networks broadcasting the race with no long-term option and people slowly giving up on trying to figure out where the race is broadcasted and see the race slide even faster into national irrelevance.

Cable isn't going anywhere, even in these changing times. There isn't enough room for every race to end up on network television and while streaming options keep growing the series isn't going to bite the bullet like it did a decade ago moving to a rather unknown sports network. The series still needs a place on network television for the Indianapolis 500. Outside of that race the rest remains unseen.

We have no idea which way IndyCar is leaning. It appears everything will change. The current breakdown of ABC holding network exclusivity and NBCSN holding cable exclusivity is near an end and all signs point to one property taking over both the network and cable portions of the contract. We don't know how streaming is going to be decided but there will likely be a new component and way to indulge on IndyCar action. Whether people actual use it and it grows the fan base remains unproven but over-the-top media services seems to be where many hope the next generation will learn to love a sport, not just IndyCar, meaning the competition IndyCar has had on network and cable television isn't going anywhere. Don't think IndyCar will hit on something that is revolutionary.

What we do know is it is mid-January and we have no idea what the ABC's broadcast team will look like and it is two months until ABC broadcasts the season opener from St. Petersburg. And ABC still has as good a shot as any to not only retaining the Indianapolis 500 but also taking over as the sole broadcaster of IndyCar.

If there is one thing I feel certain about is people will be pissed off about something regardless of what IndyCar decides to do but I hope that will not be the case.

Winners From the Weekend

Carlos Sainz won the Dakar Rally, his second victory in the event.

Matthias Walkner won in the bike category. It is KTM's 17th consecutive Dakar Rally victory.

Eduard Nikolaev won in the truck category, his second consecutive victory and third Dakar victory in the truck category.

Ignacio Casale won in the quad category, his second Dakar Rally victory on a quad.

Reinaldo Varela won in the side-by-side category.

Eli Tomac won the second Supercross race from Anaheim, the first of three Triple Crown format races in 2018.

Richard Vanschoor, Juan Manuel Correa and Clement Novalak split the three Toyota Racing Series races from Teretonga Park.

Jean-Baptiste Dubourg swept the Andros Trophy races from Serre Chevalier.

Coming Up This Weekend
24 Hours of Daytona.
The World Rally Championship season commences from Monte-Carlo.
Supercross will be in the Phoenix-area, Glendale to be specific.
Toyota Racing Series will be at Hampton Downs.

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 IndyCar Team Preview: A.J. Foyt Racing

Our second team preview looks at the team that brought up the rear in IndyCar for a second consecutive season. A.J. Foyt Racing cleaned house prior to the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season and brought in Carlos Muñoz and Conor Daly. One year later and both those drivers are gone despite each having three top ten finishes in the final five races including Daly picking up the team's only top five finish all season with a fifth at Gateway. It was Foyt's first top five finish on an oval in the DW12-era with the team's prior top five oval finish being fifth at Iowa with Darren Manning in 2007. This shake up sees two Brazilians enter, one is a beloved IndyCar veteran and the other is a rookie who showed promise in Indy Lights.

2017 A.J. Foyt Racing Review:
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 5th (Gateway, Daly)
Poles: 0
Best Starting Position: 8th (Gateway, Muñoz)
Final Championship Positions: 16th (Carlos Muñoz), 18th (Conor Daly), 33rd (Zach Veach)

2018 Drivers:

Matheus Leist - #4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet
The Brazilian came to the United States fresh off collecting some silverware in the United Kingdom. Leist won the 2016 BRDC British Formula Three Championship and Carlin brought him to Indy Lights for 2017. After a slow start at St. Petersburg, Leist picked up three top five finishes in the next four races, including a third-place finish on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Leist started on pole position for his first oval start in the Freedom 100 and he would lead all 40 laps on his way to victory. He followed it up with a victory at Road America, a fourth in the second race at Elkhart Lake and a victory at Iowa. With six races remaining Leist sat second in the championship, 13 points behind Kyle Kaiser. However, Leist only picked up two top five finishes in the final six races and started four races outside the top ten. He would fall to fourth in the Indy Lights championship.

Numbers to Remember:
16: Teenagers have made an IndyCar start.

2: Teenagers have won an IndyCar race.

177: IndyCar starts by teenagers.

61: Top Ten finishes by teenagers.

14.25: Average finish for teenagers in IndyCar.

Leist had a good spell in Indy Lights but he turned 19 years old five days after the 2017 season ended. He knows a handful of these tracks but could need more time to further sharpen his skills. Seven tracks will be new to Leist in 2018, including three of the final four races, meaning it could be a tough end to his rookie season.

Leist is one of three rookies set for full-time competition and it is hard to separate one as the clear favorite and one as the weakest link. Compared to Zach Veach and Robert Wickens, Leist is driving for the worst team of the three, however Leist drove a full season in single seaters last year while Veach ran two IndyCar races and Wickens was in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters and has been out of single-seater racing since 2011.

It is A.J. Foyt Racing so the bar can't be set too high. I think Leist won't be an improvement over either of the two drivers Foyt had in 2017. It will be a hard season. The goal should be not to piss off his sponsors funding this seat, not piss off the Foyts to the point that they will look for somebody else's money for 2019 and complete as many laps as possible.

Tony Kanaan - #14 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet
The Brazilian competed in his 20th IndyCar season in 2017 and it was one of the more frustrating seasons for Kanaan. He had a slow start to the season with only two top ten finishes in the first five races before he had a respectable Indianapolis 500 where he led a handful of laps and finished fifth. However, Kanaan would struggle to remain at the sharp end of the grid. He had a controversial second place finish at Texas and that was followed by a hard accident at Road America. Halfway through the season it became clear that Kanaan's time at Chip Ganassi Racing was coming to an end. He finished fifth at Pocono but was parked at Gateway after mechanical issues. Kanaan finished outside the top fifteen in the final three races and for the third consecutive season Kanaan did not pick up a victory.

Numbers to Remember:
7: This will be Kanaan's seventh IndyCar team.

144: IndyCar oval starts since A.J. Foyt Racing's most recent oval victory (Kansas 2002, Airton Daré).

343: Total IndyCar starts for Kanaan, 26 behind A.J. Foyt for second all-time.

Part of me feels this is a desperation move to stay in IndyCar by Kanaan. He is hoping for a career resurrection at IndyCar's worst team. Kanaan has not finished in the top five of the championship in the DW12-era and I don't see that changing. He has finished outside the top ten in the championship once since joining the Indy Racing League in 2003 and I fear this will be the second time he has finished outside the top ten but I don't expect him to drop out of the top fifteen.

Kanaan still has something but he isn't who he was a decade ago. He will have his races and he will capture the hearts of many and make them wish he will never retire but most races he will be fighting from the back and that will particularly be the case on road and street courses. The man will be there in the 500-mile races but outside of the ovals I don't expect Kanaan to be contending for victories. He should finish ahead of his teammate on most occasions.

This is year one of a two-year deal so Kanaan's 21st season isn't scheduled to be his last but it is the start of the farewell tour. If the results don't come at A.J. Foyt Racing, who would be willing to take him on after 2019? The only other hope is Kanaan is allowed the time to work with his crew for 2018 and have that continue into 2019 so the team can having something to build on rather than start from scratch for a third consecutive season.

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday March 11th at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 IndyCar Team Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

There is less than two months until the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener from the streets of St. Petersburg. That is still a lot of time but it will disappear before we know it and with additional full-time teams on the IndyCar grid and most full-time seats occupied it is time to get ready for the new season. We start with an IndyCar stalwart that has a new, consolidated look.

2017 Chip Ganassi Racing Review:
Wins: 1 (Road America)
Poles: 2 (Indianapolis 500, Texas)
Final Championship Positions: 3rd (Scott Dixon), 10th (Tony Kanaan), 11th (Max Chilton), 17th (Charlie Kimball).

2018 Drivers:

Scott Dixon - #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
For another season Scott Dixon found himself in the championship picture entering the finale. The New Zealander barely put a wheel wrong with 16 top ten finishes from 17 races. The one blemish was his nightmarish accident in the Indianapolis 500 where the car of Jay Howard launched Dixon into the catch fence on the inside of the south chute. Dixon picked up his third career Indianapolis 500 pole position and his second in three seasons. Despite being tied for the IndyCar lead in top ten finishes and being tied for second in podium finish, his only victory came at Road America. He entered the Sonoma finale second in the championship but left third, his 11th finish in the top three of the championship.

Numbers to Remember:
1: Victory in 2017, the fewest in a season for Dixon since 2005.

6: Consecutive victories for Chip Ganassi Racing.

11: Most consecutive victories by one driver for Chip Ganassi Racing (Juan Pablo Montoya 1999-2000.

141: Career top five finishes. Tied for third all-time with Al Unser, Jr., and Hélio Castroneves and eight behind A.J. Foyt for second.

Does anyone expect anything less than a championship push by Dixon? Every year you pencil him in for a top three finish at worst. He is coming off a disappointing but highly successful 2017 season. He   sits one victory behind Michael Andretti for third all-time in IndyCar victories and I expect he will get it before the season is out.

I doubt Dixon will have to carry Chip Ganassi Racing as much as he did in 2017. He was the top Ganassi finisher in 13 of 17 races and the top qualifier in 13 of 17 races. In three of the four races where Dixon was not the top finish he finished in the top ten with the exception being the Indianapolis 500 and he started in the top ten in three of the four race where he wasn't the top qualifier. The exception there was Iowa.

It is hard to look at Dixon's 2017 results and say he has to improve. Nine seasons out of ten Dixon did enough to be champion. Last year happened to be a season where Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were fractionally better. The only other thing I could say is hope not to be in the wrong position when Jay Howard slides down the racetrack.

Other things to note in 2018: Can Dixon finally win at Barber Motorsports Park? He has seven podium finishes in eight races at the track including five runner-up finishes. If he can win at Barber, can Dixon get a hot start to the season? He hasn't won multiple times in the first eight races of a season since 2009 when he picked up three victories in the first eight races. In the three years Dixon has won more than once in the first eight races he has finished first, first and second in the championship in 2003, 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Ed Jones - #10 NTT Data Honda
The start of the 2017 season saw Ed Jones as the only rookie committed to a full season and he started the year with back-to-back top ten finishes at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. He was the first driver to start a career with back-to-back top ten finishes since Neel Jani in 2007. Jones found himself at the sharp end of the field in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500 and he remained in the top five fight until the checkered flag with the Emirati driver finishing third, the top finishing rookie and the best finish for Dale Coyne Racing in the Indianapolis 500. Jones was as high as seventh in the championship before a rough second half of the season saw only one top ten finish in the final ten races and Jones dropped to 14th in the championship but enough to win Rookie of the Year.

Numbers to Remember:
3: Of nine Rookies of the Year since reunification have won a IndyCar race (Simon Pagenaud, Carlos Muñoz, Alexander Rossi. All three also won a race in their sophomore seasons).

38: Victories by Chip Ganassi Racing drivers under the age of 30. Six drivers are responsible for those 38 victories (Alex Zanardi (3), Juan Pablo Montoya (11), Bruno Junqueira (3), Scott Dixon (15), Dan Wheldon (5) and Charlie Kimball (1).

2,436: Days between the #10 Ganassi entry's most recent victory on a road/street circuit (Toronto 2011) to the St. Petersburg season opener.

Mike Hull said Chip Ganassi Racing hired Ed Jones because they didn't want a driver who they had to teach to win races. With that said, Jones has to win a race if not races and I think he will get a victory but still have teething moments in his sophomore season. He is taking a big step forward from Dale Coyne Racing but if there is one thing we learned about Jones in 2017 is he isn't intimidated by anybody. If he wasn't starstruck by being in the same Indianapolis 500 rookie class as Fernando Alonso then I doubt he will be spooked by Dixon, an IndyCar legend. 

There will be a few races where Jones will go toe-to-toe with his teammate but I don't think we will see a change in the pecking order. Jones should finish in the top ten of the championship and finish ahead of all three Ganassi drivers that left the team after the 2017 season. Actually, I think beating the three exiting drivers will be the expectation.

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday March 11th at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: Motorsports Doesn't Need Halls of Fame

Dan Gurney died. I was sick all weekend (still am) and missed the entire Dubai 24 Hour. I also missed the Chili Bowl. I caught the Formula E race taped and Felix Rosenqvist won the race after an aggressive pass on Sébastien Buemi. Nick Heidfeld has made 222 single-seater starts since his most recent single-seater victory. Dave Despain retired. Sébastien Loeb got knocked out of the Dakar Rally. Away from the racetrack, Harding Racing confirmed full-time participation with Gabby Chaves. The 24 Hours of Le Mans needs a new U.S. broadcaster. Haas F1 still thinks there isn't an American capable of racing in Formula One. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Motorsports Doesn't Need Halls of Fame
This Friday night will see five more members inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and there couldn't be a bigger waste of a Friday night.

Halls of Fame are common in North America with each sport having its own. There is baseball's shrine in Cooperstown. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio. The Basketball Hall of Fame is in the city where the game was created in Springfield, Massachusetts and, of course, the Hockey Hall of Fame is north of the border in Toronto, Ontario.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in 2010 but it wasn't the first major motorsports hall of fame in the United States. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum houses the Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Bill France, Sr., opened the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 outside Talladega Superspeedway but the last induction class there was in 2013. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America moved from Detroit, Michigan to Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017. More in line with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there are the specific discipline halls of fame such as the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa. Long Beach has a walk of fame.

There are two problems. There are too many halls of fame and entry is predictable.

Looking at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, currently the only non-active Cup champions not in the hall of fame are Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Alan Kulwicki and Bill Rexford and of the six active champions and six champions above the only one likely not to make it to the hall of fame will be Rexford. Rexford won one race during his career. He will be the outlier.

Outside of Rexford, they are all getting in. Kulwicki is the one you could argue against but people are suckers for a story and the owner-driver champion with a fraction of the budget is eventually going to be honored. The issue with the NASCAR Hall of Fame is it includes every NASCAR-sanctioned series. Not a bad thing but anyone thinking Martin Truex, Jr., won't be a hall of famer is going to be proven wrong. He has two Grand National Series champions. He is one of five drivers to win a title in the top two divisions. He is in whether you like it or not.

If all it takes is winning a Cup championship to get in then what is the point? We don't need a hall of fame to honor those drivers. They are already honored each time they are introduced as a past champion. Their names are forever in the record book. Fifty years from now when 12 years old catch the bug and want to learn more the names, Joe Weatherly, David Pearson, Benny Parsons, Rusty Wallace and Jimmie Johnson are always going to be there.

The same goes for any other form of motorsports. Do you think Alexander Rossi will need a hall of fame induction 40 years from now to cement his career? No. He won the Indianapolis 500. His face is on Borg-Warner Trophy. Will Lewis Hamilton need a 3-hour ceremony when he is 50 years old to confirm his greatness? Hell no.

I also think we are bound to put everybody in halls of fame. People are too nice and eventually we will get to a point where voters will think everyone deserves a place in the sun. Voters will be too scared to say someone isn't good enough. Jeff Burton is a nice guy but 21 Cup victories, four top-five championship finishes and eighth top-ten championship finishes in 22 seasons can't be good enough for the hall of fame. A line need to be drawn somewhere. Harry Gant is in a similar spot. Winning all four races in September 1991 at the age of 51 is a great achievement but not enough to be considered one of the best all-time. Nobody steps on toes anymore and soon everyone who won more than ten Cup races will get in. Hell, even Bill Rexford will likely be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame because he will be the one champion on the outside and voters will get soft and think every champion should be in.

Quick sidebar on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, is there a more confusing hall of fame? Think about it. This year's class is Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday, Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates; two car owners, the first Cup champion, a Truck series champion and a broadcaster. How are all five of these individuals on the same ballot? They all contributed to the series but broadcasters contribute to all sports and you didn't have Vin Scully on the same ballot at Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in 1982, the year the Baseball Hall of Fame awarded Scully with the Ford C. Frick Award. Heck, winning the Ford C. Frick Award doesn't mean you are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, meaning all those great voices aren't hall of famers.

How can Byron be in the same conversation as Bobby Labonte or Davey Allison? How can you compare the contributions of Squier to Ricky Rudd and Ray Fox? How do you decide between Hornaday and Joe Gibbs?

NASCAR needs to break up the ballot a bit. There should be a pre-modern-era committee to honor drivers who raced predominantly in NASCAR prior to 1972. Then there should be an owners committee, a crew chief/pit crew committee and there should be a separate committee for broadcasters and promoters. There should also be separate committees for the Grand National Series (the Xfinity Series for you boys and girls), Truck series, modifieds and regional series.

With everyone being lumped into the same ballot there are plenty of key NASCAR figures that are either never going to get into the hall of fame or won't be honored until 20 years after they died. With the amount of clutter the likes of Smokey Yunick (who wasn't even on the ballot for this class), Humpy Wheeler, Jack Ingram, Sam Ard and Doug Coby, who has won four consecutive modified championships and five of the last six championships, may never get in.

I am all for museums and providing a place for people to go and look at a collection of historical artifacts and learn about the past whether it is NASCAR, IndyCar or motorsports in general but creating a distinct honor for those who are already seen as the best is excessive. We know who the best are and we know those who were respectable but not quite of the legendary status. A building, plaque and televised ceremony shouldn't change a thing.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Felix Rosenqvist but did you know...

Christopher Bell won the Chili Bowl for a second consecutive year.

The #2 Black Falcon Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman, Abdulaziz al Faisal, Hubert Haupt and Gabriele Piana won the Dubai 24 Hour.

Dakar Rally Update (Through Stage Eight):
Bikes: Adrien Van Beveren leads Kevin Benavides by 22 seconds.
Quads: Ignacio Casale leads Jeremias González Ferioli by one hour, 45 minutes and 20 seconds.
Cars: Carlos Sainz leads Nasser Al-Attiyah by one hour, six minutes and 37 seconds.
Trucks: Eduard Nikolaev leads Federico Villagra by 46 minutes and 25 seconds.
UTVs: Reinaldo Varela leads Juan Uribe Ramos by one hour, 34 minutes and 31 seconds.

Jason Anderson won the Supercross race at Houston.

The #7 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Oreca-Nissan of Jazman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Afiq Yazid won the 4 Hours of Buriram. The #18 KCMG Ligier-Nissan of Josh Burdon, Louis Prette and Neric Wei won in LMP3. The #91 FIST-Team AAI BMW of Chaz Mostert, Jesse Krohn and Jun-San Chen won in GT.

Richard Verschoor and Marcus Armstrong were the two winners at the Toyota Racing Series season opener from Ruapuna Park with Armstrong winning the second and third races of the weekend.

Jean-Baptiste Dubourg and Benoît Tréluyer split the Andros Trophy races from Isola 2000.

Coming Up This Weekend
Supercross returns to California and San Diego.
The Dakar Rally concludes in Argentina.
Second round of the Toyota Racing Series will be at Teretonga Park.