Tuesday, July 31, 2018

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: July 2018

We are in the thick of summer and about every series is past the midway point. A few series are starting summer breaks. MotoGP is coming back from its summer break next week. Some championships are close, others aren't.

Once again, this is just for fun. In case you are new, this is my gut reaction to headlines without reading the article. Of course, the gripes I have may be answered in the article.

This month we have a dozen headlines and we will start with Formula E because it wants the attention and it knows it.

Pressure Mounting for U.S. West Coast Return
Who? Who on the West Coast of the United States wants Formula E back? Most of Long Beach still doesn't know if ever hosted a Formula E race. Where would Formula E go? I bet it thinks it can shut down Los Angeles and that is how you win over Los Angeles, by creating more traffic. San Francisco is a no. Seattle, pass. Phoenix wouldn't care. Is Denver west enough?

Las Vegas is where this race will happen because it isn't as expensive as Formula One and it could easily be run during the early afternoon when everybody is still sleeping and no one would notice that a junk of the roads are closed in the afternoon. And after a year or two the event will disappear.

Vergne and Lotterer fined for underwear offence 
I don't get this one. How do you forget and more importantly, who is checking? How does the checking work? Strip search? Who checks? How do you get that job and what do you say to your parents?

"I got a job."

"That's great, what is it?"

"FIA underwear checker."

What is the response after that? And you got to ask, have there been any oopses where a driver doesn't realize he or she is commando and reveals themselves to a completely innocent person? And if you get that job, you have to realize there is a chance you are going to see something you thought you would never see in your life.

Formula E revises qualifying, raises grid penalties
Yes, because if there is one thing we have learned from Formula One is more grid penalties is what people want. People want a driver who qualified eighth to be knocked back 75 positions in a 20-car field because that makes sense to do.

I don't push IndyCar into the spotlight like some people do but keep it simple stupid. I am not sure grid penalties have saved any teams money nor do I think grid penalties have made it more financially competitive for teams with lesser resources. Let's stop the charade.

Will Formula 1 or Formula E be on top in 15 years?
Formula One. Next... actually, on to Formula One...

Why Singapore is one of F1's most important races
Because it is under the lights and that is about it. It isn't a great race. People aren't drawn to the race itself. They are flies drawn to the lights and more specifically because it is held in a 21st century metropolis they are drawn because of the soft power it gives people to say they went to Singapore for a Formula One race. Is there a more pretentious sentence in motorsports? Give Formula E a minute, it will come up with something better.

Steiner: F1 has no midfield anymore
Give it time; it will come back. You have Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull at the top followed by a 40-second gap then Renault, Haas, McLaren and Toro Rosso and after those teams you have Sauber, Williams and a broke Force India.

So there is a midfield it is just further away that it once way.

Russell: Leclerc's Sauber success helping F1 juniors like me
How George Russell? If anything Charles Leclerc's Sauber success is helping Sauber because Leclerc's presence is getting Sauber Ferrari money and Alfa Romeo branding. If Charles Leclerc didn't have a manufacture willing to spend money to get him on the grid he would be Fabio Leimer or Davide Valsecchi. Ok, maybe he would be Sam Bird or Luca Filippi and end up in Formula E but he wouldn't be in Formula One.

George, you better hope Mercedes is willing to spend the same on you because Lewis Hamilton isn't going anywhere, Valterri Bottas isn't going anywhere and if one of them were leaving Daniel Ricciardo would get the call before you. Oh the trials of a young, successful development driver: Good but not proven.

Norris says 2018 season "my worst ever"
It only gets harder kid. Lando Norris sounds like a nice kid and he gets a lot of praise but he comes off like a snot nose punk. Oh, you are 18 years old and you are facing your first bit of adversity. Poor baby.

Will any MotoGP rider ever emulate John Surtees?
No, not in the way you are thinking in a world champion on two wheels and four. I am sure it is matter for debate but I would say there are a handful of gentlemen who have emulated and gone on to surpass what Surtees did on a motorcycle but in the way we remember John Surtees I do not think Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales or someone currently in Moto3 will do it.

It is not that I do not think a rider could ever take the risk but I doubt any would and more importantly I do not think there is anyone in the Formula One world who would have the patience necessary to seriously give someone the chance. I think it is possible, especially if a rider decided at the age of 23, 24 or 25 to make the transition, but it would take time and patience and the Formula One teams do not have those two things.

Can two Bay Area IndyCar events thrive?
Apparently not because Sonoma backed out.

Chase Briscoe to tackle the "Daytona of dirt racing" at Eldora
Nobody calls it that. Nobody says the "Daytona of dirt racing" although Fox will run with it now because that is what Fox does. It is Eldora and it is an overrated event for the Truck series. It is a novelty that will soon wear off or be mass-produced to the point where it will no longer be special, you know, what NASCAR always does.

Talladega Superspeedway to undertake $50 million infield renovation
Yes. Because this is where $50 million needs to go. Have any of these infield renovations worked? I know they say they are doing it to improve the fan experience but I think we are inflating motorsports fans expectations. You could improve the experience and spend $2 million, maybe $3 million tops. Just have clean bathrooms, good parking lots, maybe cover a grandstand or two, don't charge an outrageous amount for a suspect hot dog and allow fans to get close to the cars. I am trying to figure out how having the fans watch the cars in garage behind glass or from walkways above like they are at the zoo is better. It sounds worse. It is the illusion of being on top of the action and yet being quarantined.

July was busy and here is August. Silly season will be picking up soon. A few series will start to look to 2019.  More sponsors will announce they are leaving series. The fun is just beginning.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: Should a Series Listen?

Alexander Rossi dominated the Mid-Ohio race. Scott Dixon surpassed A.J. Foyt. Records weren't only being surpassed in Mid-Ohio but Pocono as well. Rain shook up the grid for the Formula One race in Hungary and things went exactly the way you thought it would. There were two endurance races, one on four wheels and another on two. P.J. Jacobsen finished second in the Suzuka 8 Hours. The Road to Indy championships are becoming less enthralling and one was clinched. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Should a Series Listen?
There is a danger in listening to fans. Mostly because they are fluid. Their tastes are always changing. One year they want one thing and then they want the complete opposite the next. It is one reason why series do not bend over backward to the meet their demands but the masses are getting louder and it is getting harder to ignore. 

For the last year, the sound out of NASCAR's fan base is one that is discontent with the current schedule and the current makeup of the series. After two decades of moving races to new racetracks, most of which were a 1.5 miles or larger, the fan base is yelling for more short tracks. People have grown tired of the racing seen at the larger ovals and want the series back at short tracks. The only problem is it is not as simple as just going to more short tracks. We all know about the contracts NASCAR has with the tracks and that leaves the series hands tied until 2021 when the five-year deals signed prior to the 2016 come to an end.

It is hard to fault NASCAR for giving racetracks long-term deals after years of little stability but NASCAR could not have seen this wave of dissatisfaction coming nor could it anticipate the expectation of change from the fan base.

It is a common belief around NASCAR that the schedule has become stale and it needs to be freshened up but I question how long the schedule will feel fresh once change occurs? The staleness only came after lack of changes. Those changes, which are not celebrated today when you consider those changes, were the death of North Wilkesboro and Rockingham and the subtraction of one Darlington race for trips to Kansas, Chicagoland and Texas.

Even if NASCAR decides to shake up the schedule it would only be a matter of time before people become bored again and want change again. There will come a point where short tracks will become boring or if additional road courses will be added those or maybe Sonoma and Watkins Glen lose fanfare.

Schedule staleness is viewed as a negative thing but it can show the stability of a series with established fan bases the series can count on attending a race and it shows a series it isn't constantly searching for new venues because others died off. A notable percentage of the NASCAR fan base believes shaking up the schedule needs to be done but after years watching IndyCar constantly lose a venue year after year and find another but with no guarantee this one would last more than three years I think flipping the schedule upside down could cause an endless rotation of events for the Cup series that will grow tiresome. I think racetracks could be see significant blows if a Cup race is taken away and put those tracks in jeopardy of insolvency while at the same time newer venues could come onto the schedule thinking it hit the jackpot with a Cup race only to find out the revenue is not great enough to justify the cost.

The unpredictability of what shaking up the NASCAR schedule will do to the national racetrack picture is one reason why I do not think 2021 will be some Renaissance for NASCAR. There are not that many venues on the outside ready to step up to the plate. Rockingham and North Wilkesboro may still be standing but that doesn't mean either can carry the weight. The Nashville Fairgrounds is in that same boat. Gateway did well for IndyCar but a Cup race is a higher hurdle. Memphis and Pikes Peak are two shorter ovals that had hopes of greatness in the 1990s only to become forgotten shells in the early 21st century. The Milwaukee Mile is a headache. Nazareth was killed in broad daylight.

The only oval ready for the task is Iowa, which has been a decade waiting to happen. Road America and Circuit of the Americas might be the only road courses ready to go. I do not think three races is the type of change people have in mind. People are expecting an overhaul. They want a seven-race shake up with five more short tracks and two road courses entering the fold in turn for Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Las Vegas and Dover all losing a race with one Pocono race becoming a roval event.

This clamoring from fans about wanting more short tracks has me thinking: Do they really want more short track races or do they want more NASCAR Cup races at short tracks? There are plenty of series out there that run plenty of short tracks. ARCA runs twenty races, ten are paved short tracks and the series has two dirt events. Why aren't people watching that? It has what these people are demanding. No one is forcing them to watch NASCAR. It is acceptable to watch ARCA. There are countless other paved short track series out there. Why aren't they drawing a million people to the television each week?

If it was as simple as listening to the fans then IndyCar is in a great position heading into 2019 because the one thing IndyCar doesn't have is long-term contracts with 17 racetracks. IndyCar is in prime position for meeting the demands of a dissatisfied fan base and it can roll the dice by adding short tracks. It might require fewer off weeks especially since the Laguna Seca season finale is set for September 22 and the schedule might have to expand later into autumn in the future but it could pay off if people actually show up.

IndyCar has a chance to provide a slighted fan base what they are demanding. The series could add Loudon, Richmond, Memphis and Indianapolis Raceway Park next year, four short oval races to Iowa and Gateway and provide six short track events along with two 500-mile races at Indianapolis and Pocono and a race at Texas with another half-dozen races at road courses and four street course events. IndyCar has had that balance for years and yet where does the series stand? Part of me believes IndyCar should do it and just add a handful of short tracks and see if it works in bringing in new fans and the series should be vocal about it when it does it and pose it as the series willing to listen but time and time again we have seen IndyCar try something that seemed promising when first announced only to end up a dud when time comes for the execution.

We need to be weary when fans make demands because even when met it will soon not be good enough. 

Champion From the Weekend
Kyle Kirkwood clinched the U.S. F2000 championship with his victory in race one from Mid-Ohio. He would sweep the triple-header weekend. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Alexander Rossi and Kyle Kirkwood but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

The #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Team Yamaha of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga won the Suzuka 8 Hours. It is the team's fourth consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory, Nakasuga's fourth consecutive victory, Lowes' third consecutive victory and van der Mark's second consecutive victory.

The #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW of Philipp Eng, Tom Blomqvist and Christian Krognes won the 24 Hours of Spa.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup race from Pocono and he won the Truck race from Pocono, his 51st victory in the series, tying him with Ron Hornaday, Jr. for most in series history. Christopher Bell won the Grand National Series race from Iowa, his third consecutive victory. Kyle Busch 

Patricio O'Ward swept the Indy Lights races from Mid-Ohio. Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda races.

Nyck de Vries and Alexander Albon split the Formula Two races from Hungary. Nikita Mazepin and Dorian Boccolacci split the GP3 Series races.

Ott Tänak won Rally Finland.

Coming Up This Weekend
MotoGP returns from its summer break at Brno. 
NASCAR will run its second road course of the season at Watkins Glen. 
IMSA will be at Road America.
Supercars have a night race at Sydney Motorsports Park. 
Super GT has a 500-mile race at Fuji.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Impressions: Mid-Ohio 2018

1. After a rough spell at the start of summer, Alexander Rossi ended July with a master class performance from pole position and it has Rossi feasibly back in the championship conversation. June started with a two-stop strategy that did not work out at Belle Isle, as Ryan Hunter-Reay caught him but Rossi gave it away with a lock up on his own. Today, Rossi was the lone driver to use a two-stop strategy and nobody came close to beating him. I can't help but think Rossi shouldn't be in IndyCar and he should be in Formula One. I am not sure there has been an American driver in the last 25 years as talented as Rossi. That seems like a hyperbolic statement but Scott Speed had a longer stint in Formula One and Rossi is miles better than Speed. Rossi was second in the GP2 championship to Stoffel Vandoorne and while McLaren hasn't been a great team who would you rather have right now, Rossi or Vandoorne?

Eye-rolling statements aside, Rossi turned the ship around at the right time. He needed a positive result before the summer break and he heads to Pocono and another 500-mile race something Rossi has excelled at ever since he entered the series. He will be contending in that race and will be looking to take another couple dozen points out of the gap in the championship.

2. Robert Wickens wasn't going fast enough for the three-stop strategy to work. Nobody was going fast enough and that is what allowed Rossi to run away with this one while driving at a leisurely pace. While not quick enough, Wickens again had an outstanding performance and the rookie has his fourth podium finish of the season. He is going to win races and they might not come this year but next year will be the year where he could light the world on fire and I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports can be the team to take him to the top.

3. Will Power was the latest of the three-stoppers and it got him third in this race. Power led a freight train of drivers from third to ninth. Any one of those drivers could have finished third and you would have said that was a well-earned result. I think it is fitting Power's 200th start was just another solid day. He started second and finished third. There are plenty of podium finishes and victories in Power's future.

4. Can fourth be disappointing for Josef Newgarden because it kind of is when you consider the great moves he made today. Newgarden was aggressive and it paid off more times than not and yet he finished where he started. It was a solid day but it felt like it should have been more. In other news, Team Penske has its first double top five of the season! It only took 13 races. IndyCar boys and girls, simply IndyCar.

5. Scott Dixon finished fifth and now he is second all-time in top five finishes in IndyCar with 150. This was his 300th start! Fifty-percent! One out of every two of his starts is a top five finish. Cherish him boys and girls. Simply cherish him. It may be a very long time before someone of his magnitude comes around again and Dixon isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But do not take him for granted.

6. The drive of the day has to be Sébastien Bourdais. To go from 24th to sixth in a race with no cautions takes skill. He started the race slow and I noticed the lack of positions he made up but he was running at a pace where the early of the three-stoppers were outside the delta window by the time he made his first stop and Bourdais kept going. He mirrored what Daniel Ricciardo did earlier today at Hungary. It felt like this was going to be another weekend where things weren't going to pan out but he had the second best performance of the day behind Rossi.

7. This was another good day for Ryan Hunter-Reay but he didn't have the long-term speed. Bourdais outmaneuvered him. Hunter-Reay was leapfrogged it seemed on every pit cycle. He didn't have a bad day but in the current state of IndyCar if you are a microscopic amount off you are going to lose significant ground. This is the series where 0.0009 seconds is the different between advancing from round one in qualifying and not advancing. It is easy to get behind the eight ball and it is a monumental task to get back on the front foot.

8. If Rossi and Bourdais were the top two performers today then Simon Pagenaud was third best because he went from 17th to eighth and he was all over Hunter-Reay late. I have talked about how odd a year this has been for Pagenaud but he looked great today. Unfortunately, he has yet to put together a great weekend where Pagenaud is the class of the field from Friday through Sunday. Let's not act like Pagenaud has forgotten how to be a great driver but it is like I said with Hunter-Reay, if you are off that little bit you are miles from the front.

9. Graham Rahal is having the most disappointing excellent season in a long time. Rahal has as many top ten finishes as Scott Dixon and yet Dixon leads the championship and Rahal is eighth and Rahal could win the final four races and that probably would not be enough to win the championship. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is there but is that little bit off. There it is again! That little bit. That is the difference between a champion and a solid driver and Rahal has been close to being a champion. He is right there and yet so far away.

10. The good news for Ohio is it had two native sons in the top ten with Zach Veach rounding out the top ten. Veach is building. He hasn't been terrible this year and while Wickens is clearly the best rookie, Veach has clearly been second best of the rookies, although somehow Matheus Leist is only 29 points behind Veach. If Veach can keep up this form then I think he could push for the top ten in the championship next year.

11. Marco Andretti ran 11th and that is about right. He was good but not great and he was stuck in the back of the field for a portion of this one. Had he advanced from round one of qualifying, had he found another 0.001 of a second, this day would have been entirely different.

12. Jordan King started strong going from 16th to eighth but he didn't have the pace to keep up that top ten run. Spencer Pigot did well going from 18th to 13th in this one. This wasn't a great day for Ed Carpenter Racing but both cars finished on the lead lap. You take what you can get.

13. James Hinchcliffe never had it in this one. And to think he nearly had the fastest time going into the Fast Six. That little bit. That is the difference in IndyCar and Hinchcliffe was 13th today.

14. Ed Jones didn't hit anything and was the final car on the lead lap in 15th. He has had good performances but it is days like these that make it easier for Chip Ganassi to cut him loose at the end of the season.

15. Quickly through the rest of the field: The dream turned into a nightmare quickly for Carlin. Max Chilton spun Takuma Sato on lap three, he was penalized on lap four and that top six starting position turned into a 24th place finish at the first pit stop when they had issues with the right front. It feels like Chilton's game plan should have been just to stay in the top ten. Don't attempt a pass, don't do anything stupid, just keep running. Charlie Kimball finished 15th and that was the best hew as going to do. Takuma Sato was 17th after the spin. A.J. Foyt Racing is still lost and Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist were 18th and 19th. Jack Harvey finished 20th, which is a bit lackluster for Meyer Shank Racing but the team is still new and it will have two more races this season. René Binder was the only driver not to make a pass on track and he finished 21st. This might have been the last time we see him in IndyCar. Conor Daly ran out of fuel on the final lap but it wasn't an outstanding result lost.

16. Pietro Fittipaldi is still getting his feet back underneath him, literally. I don't want to knock the kid because he is out there less than three months after breaking both his legs but I am not sure he is fit enough to be in that car and I am not sure Fittipaldi driving is what is best for Dale Coyne Racing. I think Fittipaldi is talented and I think he deserves a fair crack at IndyCar but right now isn't the best time for him. It isn't going to happen but if Fittipaldi still needs a scooter to get around the paddock then I think another driver should be drafted in for Pocono. I want to see what Fittipaldi can do when fully healthy and right now he isn't.

17. Can we end the bullshit that Texas Motor Speedway is the second home to IndyCar? Because it isn't. Mid-Ohio is back to a CART-era crowd. Road America is in the same boat. Long Beach is as healthy as it has been in the last 25 years. We know about what Gateway drew last year. I wouldn't be surprised if the Pocono crowd is better than Texas. Eddie Gossage can run his mouth all he wants and celebrate that he has been there since the start of the Indy Racing League but IndyCar extends beyond 1996 and just because Mid-Ohio, Road America and others weren't on the second IRL schedule doesn't mean they haven't been there for IndyCar. The last 25 years for IndyCar have been confusing and cluttered and painful. Events died, the fan base shrunk, drivers left, sponsors left, it hasn't been great but when you have drivers strolling the campgrounds and playing corn hole with fans that event means something to the series and that is what happens at Mid-Ohio. We don't hear about that at Texas.

I try to look at the macro and while some are quick to say this is the greatest Mid-Ohio race IndyCar has ever had I am tentative because of recency bias but I will say that the cars were dancing today. There was a lot of side-by-side racing. This race was unlike most, if not all 33 previous Mid-Ohio races and I loved it. This race actually made me want to cry because of the beauty. It was a beat down and yet it was a thriller. The result was a given and yet it was unpredictable. The pole-sitter won and led the most laps and yet you had 188 passes and 114 of those were for position. The drivers were on top of each other and nobody was run off course or put into a gravel trap or tire barrier. The drivers were on the edge and everyone came through clean.

Next year, when we are thinking of best races of the decade this race will be on the list along with a handful of Indianapolis 500s, a Fontana race, a Pocono race and a São Paulo race to name a few early favorites.

18. Two weeks off and four races to go. This season ends so fast. While we will miss the races we should not miss the off time and while we love the races make the most of the down time. Do something great this weekend that isn't at a racetrack. Go for a hike, visit a museum, paint a picture, put your feet in a stream. Live these next two weeks.

Morning Warm-Up: Mid-Ohio 2018

Can Alexander Rossi fight his way back into the championship picture at Mid-Ohio?
Alexander Rossi won his third pole position of the season at Mid-Ohio and his first on a natural-terrain road course. The California-native had the fastest lap of 64.6802 seconds on his only lap in the final round of qualifying. Rossi won from pole position at Long Beach and he was leading late in the second Belle Isle race after starting on pole position before a lock up blew a tire and dropped him to 12th. Rossi picked up fastest lap in last year's Mid-Ohio race. Rossi could become the second different American driver to win at Mid-Ohio in the last two years. The only time two different American drivers have won in successive seasons at Mid-Ohio was 1984 and 1985 when Mario Andretti won in 1984 and Bobby Rahal won in 1985. Rahal would also win at the track in 1986. Will Power will make his 200th IndyCar start from second position. This is his seventh front row start of the season and the 89th front start of his career. He was 0.2137 seconds behind Rossi. Forty of Power's 66 podium finishes have come from him starting on the front row. The Australian has not finished on the podium in the last four races and he has not had a top five finish in the last five races. This is his longest drought in both categories since the end of the 2016 and start of the 2017 season when his best finish through the final three races of 2016 and first three races of 2017 was eighth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will start third, his seventh consecutive top ten start. Since 2007, Hunter-Reay has made it out of the first round of qualifying all but one year at Mid-Ohio. That was when he started 15th in 2008. Josef Newgarden makes it an all-American second row. Newgarden could become the first driver to win at Mid-Ohio with car #1 since Al Unser, Jr. won in 1995. That was also Unser, Jr.'s second consecutive Mid-Ohio victory. Robert Wickens starts fifth in what is his seventh consecutive top ten start. On this day in 2007, Wickens finished third in the Atlantics race at San Jose behind Jonathan Bomarito and Franck Perera. It was his last podium finish in a North American-based series until he finished second at Phoenix in April. He also had fastest lap in that San Jose race. The surprise in qualifying was Max Chilton as the Carlin driver will start sixth. It was Carlin's first Fast Six appearance and it was Chilton's second Fast Six appearance, his first since Watkins Glen 2016. Chilton is one of two drivers this season to have started every race and not finish in the top ten. He has not had a top ten finish in his last 13 races, the longest drought of his IndyCar career.

Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato make it an all-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing row four. Rahal could accomplish something that has never been done before at Mid-Ohio. The seventh position on the grid has never produced a Mid-Ohio winner. The best finish for the seventh-place starter was second in 1995 with Paul Tracy. The only other time the seventh-place starter has finished on the podium at Mid-Ohio was in the first IndyCar race held at the track in 1980 when Bill Alsup finished third. Sato has finished outside the top twenty in three races this season after his retirement at Toronto. It is the most finishes outside the top twenty for Sato since 2014 when he finished outside the top twenty in five races. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won on this day in 2001 with Kenny Bräck at Chicago Motor Speedway. The Swede led 59 laps, including the final 19 laps after a pass on Scott Dixon, who would finish fourth. Tony Kanaan started on pole position that day.

Scott Dixon will start ninth in his 300th start. This is only the third time Dixon has not made the Fast Six at Mid-Ohio. This will be the 13th time Dixon has started ninth in his career. Only twice has he finished on the podium from ninth on the grid. He won at Sonoma in 2015 from ninth, which won him the championship and he finished third from ninth in this year's Indianapolis 500. Dixon is going for his fourth victory of the season. He has not had that many victories in a season since 2013. He has won at least four races in a season four times and has finished first or second in the championship every one of those seasons. James Hinchcliffe was the fastest in round two but immediately after he set the fastest time he spun in the carousel and brought out a red flag, deleting his two fastest laps and knocking him to tenth on the grid. Hinchcliffe has finished in the top five in the last two races. It is only the fourth time he has had two consecutive top five finishes and the first time he has done it since the final two races of the 2013 season. The Canadian has never had three consecutive top five finishes in his IndyCar career.

Ed Jones will start 11th, four positions better than his starting spot last year in this race. Jones is 13th in the championship and his average finish this season is 13th. Zach Veach rounds out row six. Veach hails from Stockdale, Ohio, a town about two and a half hours south of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. Rickey is most remembered for signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey died on December 9, 1965, 29 years to the day of Veach's birth.

Marco Andretti missed out on advancing to round two by 0.0009 seconds and he will start 13th. Andretti has finished in the top five in the 13th race of the season only twice and they were the first two seasons of his career when he won at Sonoma in 2006 in an Andretti 1-2 finish ahead of Dario Franchitti and he finished second in 2007 at Michigan in an Andretti 1-2 finish behind Tony Kanaan. Conor Daly starts 14th in his second race for Harding Racing. Daly is one of 11 drivers entered in this race that has led before at Mid-Ohio in an IndyCar race. He led 22 laps in the 2016 race. All 71 laps led in Daly's career have come on road or street courses. Charlie Kimball rounds out the top fifteen. Kimball has four top ten finishes this season and he is one top ten finish away from matching his top ten finish total from 2017. He picked up his fifth top ten finish in the penultimate race last year at Watkins Glen. Jordan King will start outside the top fifteen for the third time this season as he will roll off from 16th. King's most recent podium finish came 701 days ago on August 27, 2016 at Spa-Francorchamps in the GP2 Series. Pierre Gasly won that race. King's most recent victory occurred 749 days ago on July 10, 2016 in the GP2 sprint race at Silverstone.

Simon Pagenaud will start 17th, his worst starting position of the season. Pagenaud had made it out of the first round of qualifying five times in seven Mid-Ohio appearances. Spencer Pigot joins Pagenaud on row seven. He started 18th at Iowa and finished second three weeks ago. Pigot is 14th in the championship. Only once has he been better than 14th in the championship and that was after Long Beach last season when he was 13th in the championship. Tony Kanaan's 19th starting position is the sixth time he has started outside the top fifteen in the last nine Mid-Ohio races. This will be Kanaan's 17th Mid-Ohio start, tying him with Al Unser, Jr. for second most all-time. This is the track Kanaan has the most starts at without a podium finish. His best finish at Mid-Ohio was fourth in 2007. Jack Harvey rounds out the top twenty. Harvey is looking to give Ohio-based Meyer Shank Racing its first Mid-Ohio victory. The best finish for the team in sports cars is second. John Pew and Oswaldo Negri, Jr. finished second overall in the 2010 Grand-Am race to the Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of Chip Ganassi Racing and earlier this year the team was the runner-up finisher in the GTD class with Katherine Legge and Álvaro Parente finishing behind Kyle Marcelli and Dominik Baumann of 3GT Racing.

Matheus Leist and Pietro Fittipaldi form an all-Brazilian row eleven. Leist is the other driver to have started every race and not finish in the top ten this season. Leist has finished on the lead lap in every natural-terrain road course race this season. Fittipaldi's grandfather Emerson won at Mid-Ohio three times, in 1988, 1992 and 1993. Fittipaldi is currently dead last in the championship with seven points but he will at least jump from 39th to tied for 34th. Rene Binder will start 23rd with Sébastien Bourdais starting 24th after the Frenchman brought out a red flag on his first lap in round one of qualifying. Binder's best finish through five starts is 16th at Long Beach. Bourdais has not finished in the top five in the last five races, his longest drought since he went ten races between top five finishes from Milwaukee in 2015 to the first Belle Isle race in 2016. He finished second at Mid-Ohio in 2014 after he started on pole position. Bourdais' last four victories have come from starting positions outside the top ten after his first 33 victories all came from top ten starting positions.

CNBC's coverage of the Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:35 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 90 laps. NBCSN will have encore coverage after the NASCAR Cup race from Pocono at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Track Walk: Mid-Ohio 2018

IndyCar looks to pack the hillsides at Mid-Ohio
The 13th race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series takes the series to the Buckeye State and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda 200. Five different drivers have won the last five Mid-Ohio races, the third time Mid-Ohio has not had a repeat winner in five races. The track has never had six different winners in six races. Through the first 12 races of the season, no race has been decided by less than a second. Only three of the previous 33 Mid-Ohio races have been decided by less than a second. This weekend marks milestone starts for two of IndyCar's top drivers.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday July 29th with green flag scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: CNBC
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will work pit lane.
Note: NBCSN will re-air the race at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday July 29th.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 11:00 a.m. ET (45-minute session)
Second Practice: 2:35 p.m. ET (45-minute session)
Third Practice: 10:00 a.m. ET (45-minute session)
Qualifying: 1:35 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have live coverage)
Race: 3:30 p.m. ET (90 laps)

Scott Dixon's 300th Start
The New Zealander will become the ninth driver to make 300 IndyCar starts. He joins Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Tony Kanaan, Hélio Castroneves, Al Unser, Jr., Al Unser, Michael Andretti and Johnny Rutherford to reach the milestone.

Dixon ranks third all-time in IndyCar victories with 44 and his most recent victory came in the last race at Toronto. His Toronto victory was the 102 podium finish of his career, a category where he ranks third all-time and it was his 149th top five finish of his career, tying him with Foyt for second all-time. His 39 runner-up finishes are third most all-time. He ranks sixth all-time in laps led with 5,239 laps led. He has been victorious at 23 different racetracks, third most in IndyCar history behind only Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti.

His consistency has been outstanding with Dixon having won a race in 16 seasons, tied with Mario Andretti for second most seasons with a victory trailing only Foyt, who won a race in 18 seasons. Dixon has the record for most consecutive seasons with a victory with 2018 being the 14 consecutive year he has stood on the top step of the podium at least once. This will be his 237th consecutive start. Dixon's consistency extends into the championship with Dixon having finished in the top three of the championship 11 of the last 12 years and his worst championship finish in the last 13 years is sixth.

If there is one category Dixon is slacking in it is pole positions with his 26 pole positions ranking him only 11th all-time but he has won from pole position 12 times in his career, which has him in a three-way tie for seventh with Michael Andretti and Castroneves. Dixon does have a reputation of winning from the back of the field as well with Dixon being one of four drivers to have won four races from outside the top ten on the grid. Along with Dixon, Al Unser, Jr., Dan Wheldon and Sébastien Bourdais have accomplished the feat but Dixon holds the distinction as being the only driver in IndyCar history to have won multiple times after starting outside the top twenty.

His first career victory came from 23rd on the grid in his third career start at Nazareth in 2001 and he won from 22nd at Mid-Ohio in 2014.

It is only fitting Dixon's 300th start should come at the track he is most synonymous with. His five Mid-Ohio victories is the all-time track record. His average finishing position of 5.538 is second best among active drivers with Dixon having nine top five finishes and 11 top ten finishes in 13 starts. He is tied with Bobby Rahal and Al Unser, Jr. for most top five finishes and top ten finishes at Mid-Ohio. Dixon has led 223 laps at Mid-Ohio, only Michael Andretti has led more and if Dixon leads 24 laps on Sunday, he will pass Andretti in that category.

While Dixon is always penciled in for victory here, he has only won one of the last five Mid-Ohio races and he has started outside the top five in three of the last four races at this track, albeit one of those was his victory from 22nd. He suffered his first retirement at the track two years ago after contact with Hélio Castroneves broke his suspension entering turn two. Last year, Dixon finished ninth, his third worst Mid-Ohio result.

Dixon could become the first driver to finish in the top five in a 300th start. Hélio Castroneves holds the best finish for a driver in a 300th start after he finished sixth in the 2015 Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Johnny Rutherford is the only other driver to finish in the top ten in a 300th start when he finished seventh at Portland in 1987.

Will Power's 200th Start
On the other side of the Chip Ganassi Racing New Zealander coin, Team Penske's Australian driver will make his 200th start and become the 23rd driver to reach that milestone.

Through 199 starts, Power's 34 victories has him tied with Al Unser, Jr. for eighth all-time. His 66 podium finishes have him 14th all-time ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, Johnny Rutherford, Sébastien Bourdais, Tom Sneva and Gil de Ferran. He is 16th in top five finishes with 90 of them and he has 128 top ten finishes, third most among active drivers behind only Kanaan and Dixon.

What Power has become more known for in his career is his ability to qualify at the front of the grid and with 51 pole positions he is third all-time in that category and only two behind Foyt for second. Power has been in top qualifying form for the last few seasons. He has started no worse than sixth this season with his average starting position being 2.667. He has started in the top ten in 22 consecutive races and he has started in the top ten in 28 of the last 29 starts dating back to the start of last year with his worst starting position being 11th. He has qualified in the top ten in 44 of 45 races dating back to the start of 2016. Power scored his 16th victory from pole position this season, tying him with Bobby Unser for fourth most victories from pole position in IndyCar history. This is the tenth consecutive season Power has led over 100 laps in a season and he has led 3,737 laps in his career.

While Dixon has dominated Mid-Ohio, it has been a track Power has not quite been able to breakthrough. In nine starts, Power has finished runner-up four times including the last two years. He has started on the front row six times and three of those have been pole positions. He has made it to the final round of qualifying in eight consecutive Mid-Ohio appearances with his worst starting position at the track being 12th. He has completed all 790 laps in his nine starts.

Power has won a race in 12 consecutive seasons, the second longest streak in IndyCar history. A victory at Mid-Ohio would be his 20th different track he would have won at and he would be the sixth different driver to win at 20 different tracks.

Like Dixon, Power could become the first driver to win in a 200th start. On three occasions has a driver finished runner-up in a 200th start. The first to do it was Gordon Johncock at Atlanta in 1979 when he finished second to Rick Mears. Al Unser, Jr. finished second in his 200th start at Michigan in 1995 in a photo finish after a back-and-forth last lap battle with Scott Pruett. Paul Tracy became the third driver to fall short of celebrating a 200th start from the top step of the podium when he finished second to Adrián Fernández at Portland in 2003.

Tale of the Tape: Dixon vs. Power
For the last decade Scott Dixon and Will Power have been the crème of the crop in IndyCar. Both have won championships, both have won the Indianapolis 500 but it is deeper than that.

Since the start of 2008, Dixon and Power have competed in 170 races together. Dixon holds the advantage, finishing ahead of Power 89 times to Power's 81 times. In that time frame, Power has won 31 races to Dixon's 28 but Dixon has 95 top five finishes to Power's 79 and Dixon leads Power in top ten finishes 127-109. In the 170 races, Dixon's average finish is 7.2, nearly two position better than Power's average finish of 9.1.

Dixon and Power have finished 1-2 ten times with Power holding the advantage 7-3 including coming out on top in the last three times they have finished 1-2. The most recent occurrence was when Power won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May with Dixon coming in second.

Entering this race Dixon leads the championship with 464 points. Power is fifth in the championship on 371 points.

How Does Power Compare to Dixon at 200?
Will Power heads into his 200th start with 34 victories, 66 podium finishes, 90 top five finishes, 128 top ten finishes, 51 pole positions and he has led 3,737 laps. He has one Indianapolis 500 victory and one championship. He has won 16 times from pole position and he has four 500-mile race victories, tied for sixth most in IndyCar history.

At 200 starts, Scott Dixon had 29 victories, 70 podium finishes, 97 top five finishes, 140 top ten finishes, 18 pole positions and he had led 3,964 laps. Dixon had one Indianapolis 500 victory and he was a two-time champion. He had won 10 times from pole position. To date, Dixon's 2008 Indianapolis 500 victory is his only 500-mile race victory.

Rest of the Field
Josef Newgarden heads to Mid-Ohio as the defending race winner and he will be looking to become the eighth driver to win this race in consecutive years. Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Jr., Alex Zanardi, Hélio Castroneves and Scott Dixon are the previous seven drivers to win this race in consecutive seasons. Fittipaldi, Unser, Jr. and Castroneves were all driving for Team Penske when they won consecutive Mid-Ohio races. Before last year's race Newgarden's best Mid-Ohio finish was tenth. Despite having three consecutive top ten finishes, Newgarden trails Dixon in the championship by 62 points.

Alexander Rossi is third in the championship, 70 points behind Dixon and Rossi has not had a top five finish in the last three races. Rossi started ninth and finished sixth in last year's Mid-Ohio race, career bests for him in both categories at the track.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is 91 points behind Dixon after finishes of 19th and 16th in the last two races. He had five consecutive top five finishes prior to his summer slump. Last year, Hunter-Reay finished eighth, his tenth career top ten finish at Mid-Ohio but he has only four top five finishes at the track in 12 career starts and he has finished third twice at the track. His third place finish in 2003 was his first career podium finish and he finished third in 2011.

Robert Wickens enters his 13th IndyCar race coming off his third career podium finish and his third consecutive top five finish. He has six top five finishes this season and nine top ten finishes but the Canadian trails Dixon by 125 points. The only driver to pick up a first career victory at Mid-Ohio is Charlie Kimball, who did it in 2013. It remains Kimball's only career victory.

Simon Pagenaud finished second at Toronto and Pagenaud has the best average finish at Mid-Ohio amongst active drivers at 5.0. Pagenaud has six consecutive top ten finishes at the track including five top five finishes in the last six years. He has completed all 620 laps in his seven starts.

Graham Rahal heads to his home race looking for his first victory of the season. He is coming off a 21st place finish at Toronto after an accident in turn one severely hampered his race. Rahal has four consecutive top five finishes at Mid-Ohio and he is looking to match his father Bobby as a two-time winner at the track.

James Hinchcliffe has four consecutive top ten finishes including three top five finishes in that span. Last year's 11th place finish at Mid-Ohio ended a streak of four consecutive top ten finishes at the track for the Canadian. Hinchcliffe has never made it to the Fast Six session at Mid-Ohio.

Marco Andretti rounds out the top ten in the championship and he finished tenth in the last race at Toronto. It was Andretti's sixth top ten finishes of the season. He is one of five drivers to be running at the finish of every race this season.

Sébastien Bourdais has dropped out of the top ten in the championship for the first time this season. The Frenchman has finished outside the top ten in six of the last seven races. Bourdais is one point behind Andretti in the championship.

Takuma Sato's streak of three consecutive top ten finishes ended at Toronto when the Japanese driver retired after hitting the barrier. Sato has finished in the top ten the last two years at Mid-Ohio after having only one top ten finish in his first six trips to the track. Last year, he matched his best Mid-Ohio starting position by starting third.

Ed Jones is five points behind Sato in the championship after Jones finished 13th and 12th in the last two races. Mid-Ohio has been a bit of a house of horrors for Jones in IndyCar and Indy Lights. Last year, Jones finished two laps down in last place in his first IndyCar start at the track. In four Indy Lights starts Jones had contact in three of them, finished a lap down once with one retirement and his best finish was sixth.

Spencer Pigot's resurgence hit a snag at Toronto but he is still 14th in the championship, the highest he has been all season. Last year, Pigot suffered an accident in the morning warm-up prior to the Mid-Ohio race and he finished 19th in the race. He did finish seventh the year prior. Pigot won at Mid-Ohio in U.S. F2000 in 2012.

Tony Kanaan is seven points behind Pigot in the championship. Kanaan has finished outside the top ten in five of his last six Mid-Ohio starts. He has failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying in six of the last eight Mid-Ohio races. In 16 starts at the track, Kanaan has never finished on the podium.

Charlie Kimball is coming off his best finish of the season after his fifth place result at Toronto gave Carlin its first top five finish in an IndyCar race. It was Kimball's first top five finish in 38 races with his previous top five result being fifth in the 2016 Indianapolis 500.

Zach Veach's seventh place finish at Toronto was the first time Veach was the top Andretti Autosport finisher in an IndyCar race. It also snapped a streak of eight consecutive races where he was the worst Andretti Autosport finisher. The Ohioan finished in the top five in all five of his Indy Lights starts at Mid-Ohio including a runner-up finisher in 2014 driving for Andretti Autosport.

Matheus Leist made the second round of qualifying for the second time in his career at Toronto but he finished 15th in the race, the final car on the lead lap. Leist has finished better than his starting position in only four races this season. Leist started 12th and 13th last year at Mid-Ohio in Indy Lights with finishes of 11th and tenth.

Max Chilton is coming off his third finish outside the top twenty this season after he retired in a turn one incident at Toronto where he was hit from behind by Graham Rahal. Chilton finished 15th in last year's Mid-Ohio race from 18th on the grid.

Musical Chairs
Five unfamiliar faces will be on the grid this weekend.

One not-so-unfamiliar face is Conor Daly, who will be back for his second consecutive race with Harding Racing. He started 11th and finished 13th at Toronto. Daly has finished in the top ten in both his Mid-Ohio starts, including a drive from 22nd to sixth in 2016.

Pietro Fittipaldi is back for his long-awaited second career IndyCar start. The Brazilian made his debut at Phoenix in April and his race ended after he brushed the wall exiting turn four and he only completed 40 laps. Fittipaldi broke both his legs in qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps at the beginning of May.

Jordan King has scored his best career finishes in his last two races after he finished 12th at Road America and he finished 11th at Toronto. However, King did make contact with the barrier during the Toronto weekend making Road America the only weekend where he has not had an off-track excursion or contact with a wall.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are back for the first time since the Indianapolis 500. This is Meyer Shank Racing's home race as the team is based in Pataskala, Ohio. Harvey swept the Indy Lights races at Mid-Ohio in 2014 but he finished 11th and tenth in the two races the following year. He did start on pole position in three of four of those Indy Lights races.

René Binder is back for what will be his sixth race of the season with Juncos Racing. Binder qualified inside the top twenty for the first time in his career at Toronto when he started 19th. He has finished at least two laps down in each of his five starts this season. This is the last scheduled race of the season for Juncos Racing.

Road to Indy
Mid-Ohio marks the start of the homestretch for the Road to Indy series with all three divisions sitting on five races to go entering this weekend.

In Indy Lights, Patricio O'Ward took the championship lead from teammate Colton Herta as the Mexican driver picked up a victory and a runner-up finish in Toronto while Herta suffered two retirements and an injured wrist. O'Ward sits on 331 points, 18 points clear of Herta and O'Ward got the advantage of testing last week at the track while Herta rested his wounded wrist. O'Ward made four starts at Mid-Ohio in Pro Mazda but his best finish was fourth. Last year, Herta finished second in the first Mid-Ohio race and he started on pole position for the second but dropped to a sixth place finish.

Santiago Urrutia has been a marvel at Mid-Ohio. He has won four times in six starts between Pro Mazda and Indy Lights with three of those victories being in Indy Lights and he has never finished off the podium at this track. Urrutia has started on pole position for three of his four Indy Lights starts at this track. He is coming off his second victory of the season and he is 40 points behind O'Ward in the championship.

Money issues forced Victor Franzoni to pull off early in the second Toronto race and he is on 245 points. Ryan Norman is 15 points behind Franzoni with Aaron Telitz on 222 points. Dalton Kellett sits on 211 points.

Indy Lights will race at 3:05 p.m. ET on Saturday July 28th and at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday July 29th.

The championship picture has tightened up in Pro Mazda. A dreadful home weekend for Canada's Parker Thompson combined with Rinus VeeKay sweeping the weekend in Toronto has Thompson's championship lead down to eight points. Prior to his pair of eighth-place finishes, Thompson had finished in the top five of every race this season. The good news for Thompson is in six U.S. F2000 starts at Mid-Ohio he never finished outside the top five and he finished on the podium in his last four starts at the track, including a victory in last year's second race. VeeKay finished third and second in last year's Mid-Ohio U.S. F2000 races.

Carlos Cunha is 38 points behind Thompson while a pair of ninth-place finishes has David Malukas 65 points behind the Canadian. Oliver Askew rounds out the top five on 195 points after he finished second in the second Toronto race. Harrison Scott will be remembered for his flight into turn three in the first Pro Mazda race but the Briton has dropped to sixth in the championship on 189 points.

Sting Ray Robb is on 160 points with Robert Megennis only three points back after Megennis picked up his third podium finish of the season at Toronto. Nikita Lastochkin finished in the top five in both Toronto races, his first top five finishes of the season and he is on 147 points. Andrés Gutiérrez and Charles Finelli both are mathematically alive for the championship with 124 points and 109 points respectively.

Pro Mazda will race at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday July 28th and at 11:05 a.m. ET on Sunday July 29th.

There will likely be a coronation ceremony in U.S. F2000 this weekend. Kyle Kirkwood leads the championship with 279 points and he has a 131-point lead over Kaylen Frederick with five races to go and 165 points left on the table. If Kirkwood has a 132-point lead after the first race of the weekend, he will clinch the championship. Kirkwood has made nine starts at Mid-Ohio in the Formula 4 United States Championship. He has won twice and he has seven podium finishes in those nine starts. Kirkwood has won six consecutive races this season. Last year, Frederick finished seventh and third in the U.S. F2000 races at Mid-Ohio.

Igor Fraga is three points behind Frederick after he finished second at Toronto while Rasmus Lindh is four points behind Fraga after the Swedish driver finished third at Toronto. Alexandre Baron was not at the Toronto round and he is not on the entry list for Mid-Ohio. Baron is fifth in the championship on 123 points. Lucas Kohl is the final driver mathematically eligible for the championship with 116 points.

Dakota Dickerson is back for his third round of the season. Dickerson leads the Formula 4 United States Championship and he won at Mid-Ohio on June 30th.

This is the only triple-header on the U.S. F2000 schedule with the series competing each day this weekend. Race one will be Friday July 27th at 4:30 p.m. ET. The second race will be at 12:35 p.m. ET on Saturday July 28th. The final race of the weekend is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday July 29th.

Fast Facts
This will be the seventh IndyCar race to take place on July 29th and the first since 2007 when Robert Doornbos won at San Jose. Doornbos started 15th in that race. It was the final victory of Doornbos' career and the final time San Jose hosted an IndyCar race. Neel Jani finished second in what was his third and final podium finish. Oriol Servià rounded out the podium.

Four drivers entered in this Mid-Ohio race were in the 2007 San Jose race. Will Power, Sébastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top ten.

Scott Dixon's 62-point championship lead is the largest with five races remaining since Dario Franchitti led the championship by 62 points with five races to go in 2011. However, Franchitti's lead was when six races were still scheduled but the Las Vegas season finale was abandoned.

Dixon's 62-point championship lead is the largest with five scheduled races remaining since 2005 when Dan Wheldon led Sam Hornish, Jr. by 95 points.

Since reunification, only four times has the championship leader with five races to go won the championship. Those four champions were Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Simon Pagenaud in 2016.

Since the 1979, the championship leader with five races to go has won the championship in 35 of 51 seasons between USAC, CART/Champ Car, Indy Racing League and reunified IndyCar.

Since 1979, the largest championship blown with five races to go was 46 points by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015.

Since 1979, a championship lead of greater than 20 points with five races to go has been blown four times. Those four are Will Power in 2010, who had a 41-point lead; Hélio Castroneves in 2013 when he had a 31-point lead and Castroneves again in 2014 when he had a 28-point lead and Montoya in 2015.

Team Penske is attempting to win its third consecutive Mid-Ohio race. It would be the third time a team would have won three consecutive Mid-Ohio races. Team Penske won four consecutive races from 1992-1995 with Emerson Fittipaldi winning the first two and Al Unser, Jr. winning the second two. Chip Ganassi Racing won six consecutive races from 2009-2014 with Scott Dixon winning four races, Dario Franchitti winning once and Charlie Kimball winning once.

Honda has 13 Mid-Ohio victories while Chevrolet has won at the track eight times. Cosworth won nine Mid-Ohio races, the second most for an engine manufacture.

Paul Tracy is the only driver to have won at Mid-Ohio in Indy Lights and IndyCar. The only driver that could match that accomplishment this weekend is Jack Harvey.

Patrick Carpentier is the only driver who won at Mid-Ohio in IndyCar and the Atlantic Championship.

The average starting position for a Mid-Ohio winner is 3.636 with a median of two.

The last two Mid-Ohio races have been won from the front row but the two years prior were won from 22nd and 13th, the only two times Mid-Ohio has been won from outside the top ten.

The average number of lead changes in a Mid-Ohio race is 4.636 with a median of five.

Last year's race had eight lead changes, tying the record for most lead changes in a Mid-Ohio race with 1988 and 2007.

The average number of cautions in a Mid-Ohio race is two with a median of two. The average number of caution laps is 7.84375 with a median of 8.5.

Possible Milestones:
Chip Ganassi Racing is one victory away from tying Newman-Haas Racing for second all-time in team victories in IndyCar with 107 victories.

Sébastien Bourdais is one top five finish away from 75 career top five finishes.

Marco Andretti is one top ten finish away from 100 career top ten finishes.

Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead eight laps to surpass Tomas Scheckter for 31st all-time in laps led.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 64 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 23 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 21 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 37 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Alexander Rossi gets his first victory since Long Beach, he will jump to second in the championship and he will take at least 15 points out of Scott Dixon's championship lead. Sébastien Bourdais gets off the snide and finishes in the top five. This is the first race of the season Team Penske has two cars finish in the top five and Josef Newgarden is one of the drivers but all three Penske drivers finish in the top ten. Jack Harvey is the top finishing British driver. At least one Ed Carpenter Racing driver makes it to the second round of qualifying. Sleeper: Zach Veach.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: How Close Is It?

Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix from 14th on the grid in slick and teasing conditions after Sebastian Vettel put his car off course while leading the race and in turn Hamilton has retaken the championship lead. NASCAR had to wait for the race to pass and it had its annual dirt race in the middle of the week at Eldora. The GT classes took center stage for IMSA at Lime Rock Park. In Austria, a certain Frenchman continues to win races. Team Penske is six victories away from 500 as an organization. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

How Close Is It?
Last month, when NASCAR was trying to figure out what it was doing and the aero package utilized in the All-Star Race was all the rage, NASCAR CEO Steve O'Donnell was on the fence. Though he initially said the package could be implemented that season and as early as within three races, the package was not introduced and the series decided to wait until next year before any changes were made.

However, despite openly floating out the idea of introducing an alternate aero package, in the announcement about the delayed decision, O'Donnell said the following: "We're really happy with the racing we have on track. We believe that the competition is closer than ever right now."

Somewhere there is a misunderstanding. The racing is closer than and everybody is happy but at the same time things aren't going enough and a drastic change has to be made. If you are happy with your marriage, you don't go out chasing strangers.

It did get me thinking, is this the closest season ever? Is the average margin of victory closer than ever before? To be honest, I don't have the time to go through 70 years of Cup series record and besides, we know it is much closer than the years where winning by a lap wasn't surprising. But what about since 2008, the year the Car of Tomorrow became the full-time car?

So is this year the closest since 2008? No. This year is actually the largest average margin of victory  in the last decade. Through 20 races, the average margin of victory is 2.709 with a median of 1.875. The next closest year was 2008, where the average was 2.215 seconds. The next closest median margin of victory was 1.07 seconds in 2010. The 2014 season had an average finish of 0.908 seconds with a median of 0.5825 seconds, the closest season in both categories.

Before this season, the previous two years had an average finish of 1.21 seconds and 1.27 seconds with medians of 0.769 seconds and 0.779 seconds respectively. This year has had two races with margins of victory over ten seconds. Before this season the last race won by more than ten seconds was at Texas in November 2009 when Kurt Busch took the victory by 25.686 seconds over Denny Hamlin.

Things are not closer, far from that but this year has also been quite an outlier for NASCAR. We have had three drivers combine for 15 victories through 20 victories. The last time three drivers combined for this many victories through 20 races was 1974. This isn't a common occurrence, nor do I think it is the sign of things to come. This is a historic season but people are still not happy.

Meanwhile, how does IndyCar look? The series introduce the universal aero kit this season and while it has been a winner in terms of its aesthetics, on-track has been a harder battle. There has been praise but there has also been scorn, most notably after the Indianapolis 500, where 30 lead changes were not enough.

IndyCar and NASCAR have something in common this year. Since 2008, the year of reunification, this year's average margin of victory is the greatest of the last 11 seasons at 4.572 seconds with a median of 4.747 seconds. All nine races to finish under green flag conditions this season have had margins of victory greater than a second. However, this season is not that much greater than what we have seen since 2008. The 2014 season is the only one to feature an average margin of victory under 2.5 seconds. It also had a median margin of victory of 2.29 seconds, only 2012 had a closer median margin of victory at 2.2219 seconds.

Margin of victory does not tell the entire story. In fact, a motorsports box score does a horrible job telling the story. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the second Belle Isle race by 11.355 seconds over Will Power but that does not tell the run Hunter-Reay made closing a nine-second gap to Alexander Rossi and pressuring his teammate into a mistake that handed him the lead. Kyle Busch won Chicago by 1.875 seconds over Kyle Larson but we all know it wasn't as simple as that. It does not tell the drive Larson made to close down Busch and their last lap battle.

Margin of victory, lead changes, number of cars on the lead lap, even total number of passes lack something. It is difficult to boil down a race to a few key points and the problem is in five years, in a decade, in 50 years people will look back and only see margin of victory, lead changes, cars on the lead lap and total number of passes and base whether it was a good race off those numbers. Times change. Racing changes. Wilbur Shaw won the 1937 Indianapolis 500 by 2.16 seconds over Ralph Hepburn, closer than this year's result but what is missed is Hepburn closing the gap as Shaw battled an oil pressure issues. I am not sure that race is good enough for the 21st century despite it standing as the closest Indianapolis 500 finish for 45 years.

In 2018, every race is either the greatest of all-time or the worst. Doesn't matter what series it is: IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One and so on. Races cannot be ok in this decade. People live and die by it. No one can accept saying at the end of the day, "eh, it was alright. There will be another one next week." The emotion has to be one extreme or the other and it is life or death. People decide whether or not it is worth going forward off one race.

It is unfortunate constant dissatisfaction and lack of patience control motorsports. If people are unhappy then change has to be made immediately to make the field closer, to make passing easier and more abundant. Changes are expected to be immediate. Nuance is lost. We are obsessed with these numbers and yet we do not know what they mean in context.

This year has not been the closest for NASCAR or IndyCar but we are seeing special things in both series. In one you have a three-man battle each week, each stepping up and meeting the next. We saw it yesterday at Loudon when it appeared unlikely, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. ended up in the top three in the closing laps. In the other series, you have one of the greatest drivers of all time coyly moving up the record books and set to win another championship while the rest of the field stumbles to keep up. Sometimes it is the entire book that is great and not a picking apart each chapter.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Lewis Hamilton but did you know...

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Cup race from Loudon, his sixth victory of the season. Christopher Bell won the Grand National Series race. Chase Briscoe won the Truck race from Eldora on Wednesday.

The #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won the IMSA race at Lime Rock Park. The #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow won in GT Daytona.

The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson of Jean-Éric Vergne, Romain Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola won the 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring, the team's second consecutive victory. The #15 RLR Sport Ligier-Nissan of John Farno, Rob Garofall and Job van Ulitert won in LMP3, the team's second victory of the season. The #88 Proton Competition Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, Gianluca Roda and Giorgio Roda won in GTE.

Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen split the Supercars races from Queensland Raceway.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar has one more race before its summer break at Mid-Ohio and all three Road to Indy series will be there.
Formula One has one more race before its summer break at Hungary.
The 24 Hours of Spa is held.
Pocono plays host to NASCAR with the Grand National Series on its way to Iowa.
Rally Finland!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Cutting the Dead Weight

IndyCar is in the midst of a calendar shift. Events are leaving but events are coming on... well one event is joining. We think there are venues ready to fill the gaps and there are still a few question marks that should leave us a little weary. Off the heels of IndyCar bringing back another historic venue with Laguna Seca being added for the 2019 season uncertainty hangs around whether this event can be a success.

There is part of me that thinks Laguna Seca is one of those venues people will go to regardless of whether or not the racing is good, kind of like Road America. People just go. It is a destination. People want to sit on the hillside. People want to stand at the top of the corkscrew. People want to make a weekend of it and either stay in a camper on the grounds or stay by the water and spend the day at the racetrack and in the evening walk the Pacific Coast and the sandy sidewalks of an oceanside town. And all of that is foolish to believe.

I have no proof that will be the case. I am hopeful. I hope Road America's success can be repeated; that a venue gone for more than a decade has a groundswell of support from a latent fan base that was lost for many years. There is no proof Road America's success will be repeated at Laguna Seca the same way we have no guarantee Portland will see a boom this year. It is all fingers crossed.

Laguna Seca will replace Sonoma. The two venues were welcomed to share space on the schedule but Sonoma felt it was no longer financially viable to host a race with the addition of Laguna Seca. Sonoma crowds have never been stellar other than a few years from 2008 to maybe 2010 after reunification where the crowds could be best described as good. Moving the season finale did not bring a wave of fans to wine country. The event is gone and it is fair to wonder if Laguna Seca, over 150 miles down the coast, will do any better.

The Sonoma struggles should cause you to ask if Laguna Seca should have been added at all. We have no reason to believe that Laguna Seca will be successful other then it was successful 25 years ago. It isn't 25 years ago. Many things have changed. All we know is IndyCar is getting paid by Laguna Seca and that is a part of the problem with motorsports in this country and maybe around the globe. Everything seems to be operating 25 years in the past. Research is not extensive enough. Money is thrown around hoping a race will be a success and then the event happens and everyone wonders where the people are. When the contract is up it becomes a Mexican standoff over why the track should pay less, why the series deserves more and who is at fault for the lack of attendees.

IndyCar has had this problem for years, even recent years when things have been much rosier. Phoenix was a one-and-done contract, three years and gone. Pocono has been on the fence every year. Texas has faded. Iowa is not the Iowa that is once was event at the start of the DW12-era. And yet every time a race is teetering, a venue from the past is thrown out there because it has to be better than a current venue. Laguna Seca has to be better. Cleveland has to be better. Portland has to be better. They all have to be better because they were better in the past.

But what about now? Basing the success of a venue off 25 years ago is absurd, even off ten years ago is ridiculous. The areas have changed. The mystique of a race coming to town died even if past attendees are still alive. The parents of the 90s might have children with only faint memories of heading to the racetrack or no memories at all. They might not have watched a race in a decade. They have no inclination of going back.

IndyCar is at a point where two venues are gone for 2019, another two could be out the door and we are only sure of this one addition. A handful of venues have been tossed out there as possible replacements: Homestead, Richmond, Circuit of the Americas, a street race in San Antonio but none of them are slam dunks to be an IndyCar date in 2019 let alone draw a respectable crowd.

While it would be crazy to ridicule the return of Laguna Seca maybe IndyCar should cut the dead weight on the schedule: Cut the venues with track owners that are not making money and are dissatisfied with its current IndyCar event. Maybe it would be better if IndyCar went from 17 races to 13 or 14 races and focused on the successful events and take a year or two or three to regroup and complete research where races could be successful.

Expansion has been a current trend in the National Hockey League but Las Vegas didn't just get a team because it sounded nice. An expansion fee had to be met and a ticket drive was held to see if people would put money down to see this team. Vegas got over 13,000 season-ticket deposits in a four-month drive. People did show up, the team had a phenomenal inaugural season and now Seattle is looking into an NHL franchise. Seattle had its own ticket drive. The goal was 10,000 deposits. It reached that in 12 minutes. It had 25,000 deposits in 75 minutes.

When it comes to IndyCar venues it would be smart to hold ticket drives for potential future venues and have a goal. The ticket drives for Las Vegas and Seattle were for season-tickets, which makes the number of people willing to make that financial investment quite impressive. An IndyCar ticket drive would be for one race and I think the series should set a minimum to pursue a race. If a race doesn't have 25,000 suitors then it isn't worth it. It would save our time and it would be disappointing. There would be venues we wish were back on the schedule only to find out 7,000 people put down deposits. But with that disappointment would come realistic expectations over what venues could be successful because if the goal is met you at least know a track has a base IndyCar is starting with.

I am not sure a ticket drive is possible for an IndyCar race or if it is a good measuring stick for a race and there are probably arguments why that is more suited for season tickets for a professional sports team than a two-day or three-day event but it has to be a more accurate predictor for an event's success than relying on nostalgia that the 1990s will return.

We have no clue how many people are willing to put money down for IndyCar at Laguna Seca. I am sure there are estimates that passed between the IndyCar offices and the officials operating Laguna Seca but are the estimates solid? Are there commitments from fans? It doesn't feel right that it will have been 15 years between IndyCar races at Laguna Seca but if only 10,000 people show up next year and it does not become solvent at the end of the contract was it worth it?

If IndyCar does lose more venues, if Texas and Pocono each exit and if Portland flames out after one year it would be a terrible blow for the series but maybe it would be the right time for IndyCar to take a breath with its black eye and instead of looking for a sanctuary at a racetrack with no guarantee that it will stick for more than a year or three years or five years the series should take the time to find one venue at a time where it knows people will show up and the track can be successful.

We are happy now with the return of Laguna Seca but we should be smarter tomorrow with new venues.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

2017-18 Formula E Season Review

The fourth season of Formula E came to a close this past weekend in Brooklyn, New York and back in November we previewed the pending 2017-18 season prior to the Hong Kong season opener. It is time to go back and look at what was said and see if preseason thoughts played out over the seven-month season or if everything we thought turned out to be incorrect.

Drivers' Championship
Jean-Éric Vergne: #25 Renault Z.E. 17 (198 points)
What did I write before the season: Vergne has been quick every year he has been in Formula E and with three different teams. Techeetah has the same powertrain as Renault e.Dams but I think the team will be off of its sister team and Vergne will be somewhere in the middle of the top ten in the championship.
How wrong was it: Vergne won four times, stood on the podium six times, finished in the top five 11 times and scored points in every race to take the championship with a race to spare, oh and one of the victories was the finale, which he could have skipped to celebrate France's World Cup victory with endless amounts champagne but instead he got in the car and held off Lucas di Grassi. You cannot ask of much more from a driver.

Lucas di Grassi: #1 Audi e-tron FE04 (144 points)
What did I write before the season: He has been a title contender all three seasons and I don't expect that to change. He will win a few races but di Grassi has been known for having a few races go against him even when he is the fastest one out there.
How wrong was it: This season was a disaster until spring and then di Grassi bloomed. His final seven results were second, second, second, second, first, first and second. It was too little too late but di Grassi is wasting his time in Formula E. Unfortunately he has drunk the Kool-Aid and this is his home now.

Sam Bird: #2 DS Virgin DSV-03 (143 points)
What did I write before the season: Bird remains consistently quick but not quick enough to win the championship. He will get a victory or two but he will have days where he can't crack the top five.
How wrong was it: Bird won twice but he was regularly in the top five. The only bad news is when Bird had to be at the front of the field he wasn't and it cost him in the closing rounds in Berlin and New York.

Sébastien Buemi: #9 Renault Z.E. 17 (125 points)
What did I write before the season: Buemi will go head-to-head with di Grassi for the championship because that is what those two do. He has an aggressive side and it will win a handful of races but it might beat him once or twice.
How wrong was it: Wrong! Buemi never really factored in the championship discussion and he didn't win a race and he didn't really put a wheel wrong. His lone retirement was an energy issue. It was still a really good season but not good enough. 

Daniel Abt: #66 Audi e-tron FE04 (120 points)
What did I write before the season: Abt has been consistent but has struggled to beat his teammate. He will continue to do a solid job but do nothing fancy.
How wrong was it: Abt won twice and carried Audi Sport Abt for the first half of the season. Two victories, four total podium finishes and eight points finishes is a stellar season and the best for the German yet.

Felix Rosenqvist: #19 Mahindra M4Electro (96 points)
What did I write before the season: The Swede will break up the Buemi-di Grassi party and Rosenqvist will win a few races. He could take the championship lead at some point and if he does it could be game over.
How wrong was it: He won twice and he did lead the championship but unfortunately he tossed away a few races and if it weren't for those bad days in Mexico City and Rome the championship might have locked entirely different at the top.

Mitch Evans: #20 Jaguar I-Type II (68 points)
What did I write before the season: Evans will be close to equal to his teammate and he too will have a few races where he ends up in contention for podium finishes.
How wrong was it: Well, Evans finished on the podium in the second race of the season and he was marginally better than his teammate all season.

André Lotterer: #18 Renault Z.E. 17 (64 points)
What did I write before the season: The German enters a new series and results will be hard to come by at the start but things will get better as the season goes on.
How wrong was it: After not scoring in the first three races and only scoring once in the first six races (albeit it a second in a Techeetah 1-2 finish at Santiago), he closed the season with six consecutive points finishes. I believe I had that.

Nelson Piquet, Jr.: #3 Jaguar I-Type II (51 points)
What did I write before the season: The Brazilian will get solid results and be in the back half of the top ten in the championship with Piquet, Jr., challenging for podium finishes every now and then.
How wrong was it: He finished ninth in the championship and finished fourth three times. That is back half of the top ten in the championship and that is challenging for podium finishes every now and then. 

Oliver Turvey: #16 NextEV NIO Sport 003 (46 points)
What did I write before the season: Turvey is the sleeper pick. He was fastest at the Valencia test and perhaps he could create a four-way battle with Buemi, di Grassi and Rosenqvist. He will win a race and set a career-best championship finish but reliability issues could cost him a title opportunity.
How wrong was it: That testing pace never carrier over. Turvey had a good car but not a great car. He never was a threat for the championship. His best result was second in Mexico City.

Nick Heidfeld: #23 Mahindra M4Electro (42 points)
What did I write before the season: Heidfeld will be slower than his teammate but the German will pick up points and likely end up on the podium at least once. Will it be the top step? He is due.
How wrong was it: He finished third in the first race of the season, scored in half the races and was 54 points off his teammate. I got that one correct.

Maro Engel: #5 Venturi VM200-FE-03 (31 points)
What did I write before the season: Engel will be have a difficult second season and struggle to break a double-digit points total.
How wrong was it: He scored 31 points and scored in half the races. Wrong!

Edoardo Mortara: #4 Venturi VM200-FE-03 (29 points)
What did I write before the season: Mortara will challenge to be the best of the two Venturi drivers but he will not finish in the top half of the championship.
How wrong was it: Twenty-five drivers raced in Formula E this season and Mortara finished 13th, dead center, 12 above and 12 below. He didn't finish in the top half. I believe I had that.

Jérôme d'Ambrosio: #7 Penske EV-2 (27 points)
What did I write before the season: The Belgian does better than his teammate on a consistent basis but he does not make it back into the top ten of the championship.
How wrong was it: He scored nearly double the points of his teammates and he finished 14th in the championship. Nailed it.

António Félix da Costa: #28 Andretti ATEC-03 (20 points)
What did I write before the season: The Portuguese driver will not struggle as much as he did last year but he will miss out on the top ten in the championship.
How wrong was it: He scored in four races this season over once last season, he doubled the number of points he scored last season and finished 15th in the championship. I would say I got this spot on.

Alex Lynn: #36 DS Virgin DSV-03 (17 points)
What did I write before the season: Lynn will have a few good results but there will be days where DS Virgin Racing won't have the speed and he will be happy just to score points.
How wrong was it: He started out really well, scoring in five of the first six races but he ended the year with six consecutive finishes outside the points.

José María López: #6 Penske EV-2 (14 points)
What did I write before the season: Nothing... because he wasn't the original driver of the car.
How wrong was it: Though he did come in and run the final ten races of the season. Dragon Racing has taken multiple steps back as more manufactures have gotten involved and the restrictions loosened. 

Tom Dillmann: #4 Venturi VM200-FE-03 (12 points)
What did I write before the season: Nothing... because he wasn't the original driver and was substitute when Edoardo Mortara had DTM duty.
How wrong was it: He had a competitive first race in New York in what was a big improvement over previous seasons for Venturi.

Nicolas Prost: #8 Renault Z.E. 17 (8 points)
What did I write before the season: Like Abt, Prost has been solid but better than the German. Prost will consistently score points but always but on the periphery of the championship picture.
How wrong was it: This was wrong and surprisingly wrong. He scored points in only four races this season and his best finish was eighth in the second race of the season. Prost wasn't as good as Buemi but he could be competitive and with the Renault Z.E. 17 powertrain responsible for the champion's car and three drivers in the top ten it is surprising Prost wasn't one of them. 

Tom Blomqvist: #27 Andretti ATEC-03 (4 points)
What did I write before the season: Nothing... because he was replaced before the season opener by Kamui Kobayashi only to have that reversed before the second round of the season.
How wrong was it: He did eventually get in the car. He didn't set the world on fire. Let's see how the BMW partnership goes in 2018-19.

Luca Filippi: #68 NextEV NIO Sport 003 (1 point)
What did I write before the season: Filippi is one of the rookies and he will be off his teammate for the entire season. He will score points but on a semi-regular basis.
How wrong was it: He scored one point in the first race of the season and never scored again. He wasn't close to his teammate Turvey so that is right but the semi-regular points scorer was wrong. 

Stéphane Sarrazin: #27 Andretti ATEC-03 (0 points)
What did I write before the season: Nothing... because he replaced Blomqvist for the final three rounds.
How wrong was it: The Andretti Formula E program is bad. That is putting it nicely. Though the Frenchman had Formula E experience he could only do so much with the equipment given to him.

Ma Qing Hua: #68 NextEV NIO Sport 003/#16 NextEV NIO Sport 003 (0 points)
What did I write before the season: Nothing... because who could have seen him returning to Formula E?
How wrong was it: He replaced Filippi in Paris and substituted for an injured Turvey in the second New York race. He didn't do much. 

Kamui Kobayashi: #27 Andretti ATEC-03 (0 points)
What did I write before the season: Kobayashi is the newest addition to the grid as Tom Blomqvist was announced for this seat before sponsorship-related issues forced the switch to Kobayashi. He has a history of jumping into unfamiliar cars and finding results but Andretti has never produced a highly competitive powertrain.
How wrong was it: As covered above, he did one round, scored zero points and was gone before we noticed he was ever there.

Neel Jani: #6 Penske EV-2 (0 points)
What did I write before the season: The Swiss driver enters having last raced single-seaters in 2011 in Superleague Formula and I think he will score some points but will have more races where he does not score points than he does.
How wrong was it: His Formula E career ended after one round and scored no points.

Final Thoughts on the Season
It is kind of surprising a customer team won this championship when there are manufactures already in Formula E and many more about to enter. For three years we were used to Audi Sport Abt vs. Renault e.dams and for year four there appeared to be no reason to expect any different. Then di Grassi and Buemi got off to slow starts and here we are with Vergne on top.

Audi Sport Abt did end up winning the Teams' Championship over Techeetah but Techeetah took the Teams' Championship lead after the fourth race of the season and led until the closing laps of the final race of the season.

A Few Thoughts on the Future
The 2018-19 season will reflect a more traditional motorsports event. The cars swaps will be gone. Races will be 45 minutes plus one lap in length. BMW partners will Andretti Autosport, Mercedes-Benz starts its two-year transition into the series in partnership with Venturi and Nissan takes over for Renault.

Next season is tentatively expected to expand to 12 rounds and 13 races with Marrakesh, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Zürich and New York all returning and Monaco returning with its biennial rotation with the Historic Grand Prix. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Sanya, China join the schedule with a to be announced event still on the schedule.

Through four years I am still processing Formula E. We all are. In year one I viewed the series and electric motorsports the same way I viewed motorsports at the dawn of the 20th century: As something new that would develop over time and should not be compared to its much older brother. Each year the cars got a bit faster and there have been good races. The race format might have been foreign but there were bits of familiarity and it wasn't too strange once you could accept the differences.

In this first era change it will be interesting to see if the elimination of the car swap turns Formula E races into sprints. Drivers only have so much power but as manufactures get more involved and start developing their own batteries and engines races should start to move away from efficiency and into speed. Cars should be able to go longer. Races should not be about if a car can complete the 45 minutes but how much mileage it can complete in 45 minutes.

That change from efficiency to distance could be the next hurdle the series has to clear to attract existing motorsports fans. At that point it will be a competition between the manufactures to produce the better car and while it is currently great that teams were able to complete 102 kilometers in an hour at Brooklyn last week that should not be good enough. It should become a competition where BMW can complete 125 kilometers in 45 minutes and know the car has enough life to go another 50 kilometers at that pace for another 15 minutes. And in turn Audi, Nissan and all the other manufactures should be striving to be completing more miles in the race time. Formula E could be onto something really exciting and intriguing but it has to shoot higher.

There is something that gnaws at me about Formula E. The best way I can describe it is the smugness of the series. That it is the only one that cares about the world and that it is inevitable that everyone will just start watching it. Even worse is it seems there is only one voice, Alejandro Agag's, and everyone else who speaks repeats what the Spaniard spews. Formula E needs a dissident. It needs somebody, a driver, a team principal, a reporter with clout in the series (which I doubt there are any because it is the 21st century and Formula E would not let its version of Robin Miller survive) to stir the pot and challenge the series to be better.

From the start I have said Formula E is a 21st century series but the deeper we get the more learn that the 21st century doesn't like anything. Except itself. The one thing that has spread is narcissism but narcissism isn't what this series can live on. It needs people and it needs fans that invest emotionally, not only financially in the series. The first four years were all about attracting investors and the series needs someone to foot the bills but how long can the series exist racing in front of a few thousand people standing along a fence in an urban setting?

It was only year four, the series is still a toddler but in ten years will there be 35-year-olds heading to races with seven-year-old sons and daughters? Will there be 18-year-olds who were hooked at the age of eight and can't miss a race? Formula E has a very impersonal feel to it. It shows up to a city for a day and leaves when it is over. None of the races have roots in the ground. While there will be eight carry over events next season the year after that could feature nine new venues and no one would shed a tear over the departing venues. The series comes and goes. It doesn't care about any of the markets it is in and it seems Formula E is fine with that.

I feel Formula E will one day have to get serious about making connection with the places it races and it will need go-to events. It was not practical to expect Formula E to have its Indianapolis 500, British Grand Prix, Bathurst 1000 or Southern 500 start to emerge but will any of the current events take hold and become events the series cannot live without and in turn will there be areas that cannot live without Formula E? It doesn't seem likely... at least not in this current environment with the current leadership. In ten years time it could be very different.