Friday, August 31, 2018

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: August 2018

Formula One is back from summer break, MotoGP is back from summer break, World Superbike is still on its summer break, NASCAR had its one summer weekend off and IndyCar has two races remaining. September must be upon us and time is running out. Most championships are on the back nine. A handful of competitors are coming to the realization it will not be their year, another handful are trying to still in the fight and a few others know they are in serious contention for silverware.

Will all of that, the news has picked up. We are looking into the future. The year is almost over. The prospects of a 2019 season are enticing and we get ahead of ourselves because what else is there to do?

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.

We have ten headlines from six series this month and IndyCar will lead off.

What if it doesn't? Nobody asks that question. What if it doesn't matter if Fernando Alonso is in IndyCar or Tony Stewart runs the Indianapolis 500? There is a greater chance Alonso doesn't "move the needle" than he does. People who aren't watching IndyCar right now aren't going to start watching because of Alonso, especially people in the United States. 

Alonso is nobody in the United States. If you go to 1,000 sports bars in the United States and each sports bar had 100 people in it and you asked them do you know who Fernando Alonso is I would guess fewer than 100 would say yes and even of those 100, how many would care? They might know who he is but have no interest in what he does. 

Maybe more foreign viewers turn on the television but how many more? How many are really tied to this aging Spaniard? If he leaves Formula One, they are still going to watch Formula One. Alonso isn't what is keeping them invested and if he leaves he will be forgotten. If he comes to the United States and succeeds they will not be interested in tuning in. What are they going to get out of that? If he comes and is competitive but not winning they will not tune in. If he struggles they will definitely not tune in. 

Alonso could bring more eyes to the series but in all likelihood he will not. Prepare yourselves for that and not some grand explosion in popularity. 

I will admit that I read this article but mostly because I knew who was going to be quoted and I wanted to see how ridiculous his words were going to be. It wasn't as Eddie Gossage heavy as I expected but I do think he shows that he is a man who runs a track by resting on its laurels and the boat is passing him by.

You can keep saying you are "America's Original Nighttime IndyCar race" but what the fuck does that mean and why should anyone care? If that is what you sell to people then it isn't a surprise the crowd has shrunk over the last 10 to 15 years. And the other thing, stop talking about photo finishes and victory lane drama being the standard. How IndyCar races at Texas is evolving and that isn't a bad thing. If Texas has photo finishes, great, if it doesn't it isn't the end of the world nor does it mean the racing is poor. You can have great races without photo finishes.

And the victory lane drama... A.J. Foyt assaulted Arie Luyendyk 21 years ago because of a scoring error. That is it. I am so fucking tired of seeing that footage because it does nothing. We get it. Foyt is "tough." Guess what, most people don't care. Stop playing it. Nobody is tuning into an IndyCar in 2018 because of something that happened 21 years ago. That might have worked in 1999 but 2019 is going to be here soon, find some other footage to overuse. 

The American Formula One driver we have all been waiting for. Pietro Fittipaldi was born in Miami, Florida, so he is ours. It is impressive how someone who has done so little this season, and I am not saying this to knock the kid because he has been injured and he has been promising this year, can get Haas' attention but Alexander Rossi, who has won multiple IndyCar races this year and has been competitive in every race and is a championship contender and who has Formula One experience cannot get the time of day. 

Haas said there was not an American driver ready for Formula One when the team first entered and yet there was Rossi, GP2 vice champion, a Marussia reserve driver and eventual race driver. It is amazing how teams in all sports get caught up on hype and youth while a proven but less sexy talent is passed over. Everyone looks at potential value and not actual value. Many get overlooked. It is unfortunate. 

Except Novak Djokovic was at one point the best player in tennis and is arguably one of the ten greatest if not in the five greatest players all-time in men's tennis while Grosjean has yet to win a grand prix. 

To be fair to Grosjean, he isn't a terrible driver. He has gotten results and he has been a big help to Haas in the team's early Formula One days. Grosjean's form has been more because of shaky equipment while Djokovic has had physical setbacks. I don't think the two rough patches are as similar as is being led on here. 

Or you know what NASCAR could do? It could have actually templates that would not get tripped up by black paint on quarter panels. At least have templates on the ready if you think the teams are trying to game the system.

Even better is NASCAR is spraying temporary white paint on these areas so the teams with black quarter panels don't trip the sensors but what if spraying that temporary white paints covers up for the teams cutting the corner so when the car goes through it passes and when it wiped off the team still gets the advantage it hoped for? NASCAR, the series that believes everybody is cheating doesn't not think the teams would design the car so NASCAR could end up covering for the team? Come on NASCAR! The only thing that would make the series look worse is if the teams were able to pull the cap over NASCAR's eyes and get away with the exact thing NASCAR is hoping to prevent by NASCAR trying too hard to prevent it. Just have templates. 

Yes because it shows how bad Roush Fenway Racing are. It isn't that impressive to finish six positions ahead of Trevor Bayne but when you finish six positions ahead of Matt Kenseth you get to say, hey, I finish 18th and six positions ahead of semi-retired Matt Kenseth. It isn't impressive but it is better than trying to brag about finishing ahead of Trevor Bayne. 

Everybody wants more time off. I am actually fine with this. Spread the races around and have a race or two in February and early March and have two or three weeks off between those races. I am surprised more series, especially international series, don't do that.

Ironically, MotoGP riders want a longer summer break, meanwhile World Superbike haven't raced since July 8th and still don't race for another two weeks. Maybe the riders that want more time off should go run Superbikes. Actually, Superbikes might be best suited to have autumn to spring schedule if it is going to take off most of July, all of August and half of September. Start in late September in Europe, head to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific over the autumn and winter, return to Europe at the start of spring and maybe end at Laguna Seca at the start of summer. 

In a world with more convenient travel, faster and more comfortable planes (if you are in first-class, which most these riders are), better training regimens and better diets I don't think that a bit more travel will lead to even shorter MotoGP careers. And those are just things away from the track. Think about how much more riders are protected with the airbag suits they where while competing. 

Traveling is grueling at times, especially when it is around the globe but I don't think it will shorten careers by that much. Sure, the schedule is much longer than the days of Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini but these riders are much better prepared for a season.  And most of the schedule is Europe-based. The series is in Europe from Jerez at the start of May to Arágon in the middle of September. Most of spring and all of summer is in Europe. The travel isn't that bad. 

The end is a bit hectic now with four Asian-Pacific rounds in five weeks with three consecutive weeks of races but the schedule doesn't seem that bad. Maybe the races could be spread out a bit more. Maybe an Asian round could be moved to the start of the season before Qatar but I think this schedule is friendlier to the competitors and teams than say the Formula One schedule. That doesn't mean it is not stressful but I don't think it will produce as many burnouts. 

Great, is Toyota going to pay for it? I would love to see more manufactures in World Rally but it isn't happening. It is kind of disappointing. Rallying used to be that respected motorsports discipline where those top competitors were thought to be marvels in terms of car control and now I am not sure anyone can name a driver other than Sébastien Ogier. Maybe that is what happens when you have a decade and a half of champions named Sébastien but the names Ogier, Thierry Neuville (who leads the World Rally Championship), Ott Tänak and Esapekka Lappi don't stir the same levels of excitement the ways Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae, Tommi Mäkinen, Richard Burns, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol did when we were all younger. 

Don't. It doesn't matter what the series is call. Taking Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters and naming it something along the lines of International Touring Series or World Touring Masters or Touring Car World Series would not get more people involved. We don't need a generic English acronym for the series. People know what DTM is and the people that aren't watching choose not to watch not because the series is called Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

Keep the name, make the racing and the cars more interesting if you are hoping to get more international interest and maybe make it more accessible to people around the world. Those would all be better steps than re-branding the series. 

Labor Day is here and for many summer will end. The sun sets before eight and rises after six. Most series are in the single digits with races remaining. Trophies are prepared to be award and sit on wooden shelves. Soon the season will be over. A few big events are ahead but not many remain in total. The heat is subsiding in the North and soon a chill will force coats and hats and gloves out of storage. Soon it will no longer be enjoyable to sit on metal bleachers on a weekend. Enjoy these final days at whatever racetrack you attend.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Track Walk: Portland 2018

With two races left, Scott Dixon heads to the Pacific Northwest leading the championship
The 16th and penultimate round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Portland International Raceway and it is the first time IndyCar has been to Portland since 2007. This will be the 25th Grand Prix of Portland. Portland is the tenth venue on the 2018 schedule to have hosted at least 25 IndyCar races. This will be the first time the Grand Prix of Portland has not taken place in the month of June. Twenty-five cars are entered for this year's race. The six previous Portland races had fewer than 20 starters. This will be the 16th Portland race to feature at least 25 starters. 

Time: Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday September 2nd with green flag scheduled for 3:10 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN
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.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 1:45 p.m. ET (45-minute session)
Second Practice: 5:35 p.m. ET (60-minute session)
Third Practice: 2:10 p.m. ET (45-minute session)
Qualifying: 6:20 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have tape-delayed coverage at 7:30 p.m. ET)
Race: 3:10 p.m. ET (105 laps)

Setting the Title Contending Field
We know at least two men will be contending for the Astor Cup at Sonoma in a fortnight after Portland. Regardless of the results of Sunday's race Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi will be battling for the championships in Northern California. 

Dixon leads Rossi by 26 points heading into Portland and even if Rossi were not to race and Dixon were to score the maximum number of points, the New Zealander's championship lead would only be 80 points and with possibly 25 cars entering Sonoma, the gap necessary to clinch the championship with a race to go would be 94 points. 

Dixon and Rossi have each finished in the top ten in the last four races, the top five in the last three races and on the podium in the last two races. Rossi has finished ahead of Dixon in three consecutive races but Dixon holds the head-to-head advantage over the entire season 8-7. Both drivers have finished in the top five together in eight races and four of those have seen each driver on the podium together. Rossi finished third in each of Dixon's victories at Belle Isle and Texas and Dixon finished third at Pocono while Rossi won while Rossi finished second last week at Gateway, one position ahead of Dixon. 

Dixon and Rossi have each won three races this season. Two other drivers with three victories this season are Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden. This is the first season with at least four drivers with at least three victories since 2010 when Power won five races while Dario Franchitti, Dixon and Hélio Castroneves each won three races.

Power and Newgarden sit third and fourth in the championship respectively. Power's Gateway victory has the Australian 68 points behind Dixon while Newgarden's third seventh-place finish of the season has him 78 points back with two races to go.

Power's three consecutive podium finishes is his best run of form since he had six consecutive in the summer of 2016. Power has been the top Team Penske finisher in three consecutive races and in eight of 15 races this season. Newgarden has not finished on the podium in the last five races and all three of Newgarden's podium finishes this season were his three victories. 

Both Power and Newgarden could end up eliminated from championship contention after Portland but some work has to be done. Power has about a 26-point cushion while his teammate has ten fewer points to play with. A maximum points day for Dixon would mean Power would have to finish at least sixth with at least one lap led to stay within 94 points because Dixon would hold the tiebreaker. Dixon and Power both have three victories, one runner-up finish and four third-place finishes. Dixon holds the advantage with two fourth-place finishes to Power's one. 

A maximum points day for Dixon would mean Newgarden would have to finish at least second to keep his championship hopes alive. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay has a slim shot at the championship. How slim? With Hunter-Reay trailing by 147 points with 158 points left on the table Hunter-Reay would need to score maximum points this weekend at Portland and have Dixon score 11 points or fewer and then he would need Dixon not to race at Sonoma and also score the maximum 104 points in the season finale. 

Will Experience Pay Off?
Portland has not been on the IndyCar schedule since 2007 but some drivers have experience at the track from the days of CART/Champ Car and some have experience from junior series. 

Seven drivers have run at Portland in CART or Champ Car and the most notable of the seven is the only active driver to have won this race: Sébastien Bourdais. 

The Frenchman made five starts at the track from 2003-2007 and Bourdais won in 2004 and 2007. He stood on the podium four times and he has led a lap in all five of his Portland starts. He retired from his Portland debut after a rear wing issue. He has completed 498 of 507 laps in his five starts and started in the top five in all five of his starts. 

The next most experienced driver at Portland is Tony Kanaan, who made four starts at Portland from 1998-2002. Kanaan never started better than 12th at Portland, though he finished fourth in that race from 12th in 1998. He also finished eighth from 14th in 2002. Kanaan has never led a lap at Portland. This will be the first time A.J. Foyt Racing has competed at Portland since Eddie Cheever finished 25th in 1995. The team has only two top ten finishes at Portland. Robby Gordon finished eighth in the 1993 race and A.J. Foyt finished tenth at the track in 1990. 

Hunter-Reay made three Portland starts but there might not be a worse track for Hunter-Reay to head to coming off his recent run of form. Hunter-Reay's best finish at the track was 12th in 2004. He started seventh in his first Portland appearance but started tenth and 16th the next two years. He retired in his Portland debut after 21 laps due to a clutch failure and he finished two laps down in his other two starts. 

Dixon and Power each have made two Portland starts but Dixon's two starts came four years before Power's first start at the track. The New Zealander finished seventh in both his Portland appearances and he started fourth in 2001 and 11th the following year. Power had a mechanical issue cost him 13 laps in the 2006 race but Power did set fastest lap, the first fastest lap of his IndyCar career. The following year Power led three laps during a pit cycle and he finished fourth after starting seventh. Power started seventh in both his Portland starts. 

Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal both participated in the 2007 Portland race. Pagenaud started sixth and finished eighth while Rahal started eighth and finished ninth. Pagenaud and Rahal both have experience at Portland in the Atlantic Championship. In 2006, both Pagenaud and Rahal retired from the race. Rahal started on pole position with Pagenaud next to him on row one and Pagenaud spun Rahal in the chicane at the start. Rahal was done after a lap while Pagenaud retired due to a mechanical issue after 35 laps. 

With Pagenaud and Rahal both out, James Hinchcliffe went on to win that Atlantic race in 2006 from eighth on the grid after Rahal's teammate Ryan Lewis had a gearbox failure on the final lap. It was Hinchcliffe's first career Atlantic victory. The following year Hinchcliffe would start on pole position for both races in a Portland doubleheader and he would finish second in both races behind Canadians Robert Wickens and Kevin Lacroix.

Hinchcliffe could make history this weekend. No driver has won at Portland in IndyCar and Atlantics or Indy Lights. 

Whose Hot Streak Ends?
Six drivers enter Portland with consecutive top ten finishes and all six of those drivers have streaks that are at least three races in length. 

The top four in the championship have all been covered above. Rossi and Power keep finishing on the podium, Dixon is frequently on the podium and at least in the top five and Newgarden has been a top ten driver but not been able to best the top three on a consistent basis. 

Pagenaud picked up his third top five finish of the season at Gateway last week and he has eight consecutive top ten finishes. 

The one surprise might be rookie Zach Veach. The Ohioan has come on strong with four consecutive top ten finishes including a fifth place finish at Gateway and he led the first two laps of his IndyCar career. Veach started seventh at Pocono and finished sixth in a race where he spent most of the day in or around the top five. He was seventh fastest in practice at Gateway. Fellow competitors have noted Veach's performance over the last few races. Many thought he would have been a contender for pole position at Gateway. Alexander Rossi credited Veach to his dominant run at Pocono two weeks ago.

Veach needs to finish 13th or better at Portland to remain alive for 2018 Rookie of the Year honors. 

Who Needs a Result?
While six drivers are heading to the Pacific Northwest on a hot streak, there are plenty looking to string together a few results.

Hunter-Reay has finished outside the top fifteen in four of the last five races while Hinchcliffe's best finish in the last three races is 14th and Kanaan's best finish in the last three races is 13th. 

Marco Andretti is fighting to finish in the top ten of the championship and he is seven points behind Bourdais after a top ten run at Gateway was ruined when a caution occurred after he made a pit stop and trapped him two laps down. 

Ed Jones picked up his seventh top ten finish of the year at Gateway and he was making moves late while running flat out but what appeared to be a top five night ended in an eighth place finish. With rumblings that Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist is likely to replace Jones in the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda getting louder it is imperative Jones picks up results to either save his seat or elevate his stock before he hits the market. 

Matheus Leist and Max Chilton are the only two drivers to have started every race this season and not finish in the top ten yet this season. Both drivers have an 11th place finish this season. Chilton finished 11th in the second Belle Isle race while Leist finished 11th at Pocono two weeks ago. Leist and Chilton are also the only two drivers in the top twenty of the championship not to lead a lap this season.

While Harding Racing has yet to have a top ten finish this season. The team's best result was 13th at Toronto with Conor Daly. Gabby Chaves will be back in the car at Portland. Chaves' three natural terrain road course races saw him start 20th at Barber, 22nd at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 23rd at Road America.

Who is Returning?
Four drivers are returning this weekend after extended periods off and one is a substitute.

Carlos Muñoz will drive the #6 Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Portland, as Robert Wickens continues his recovery from injuries suffered at Pocono Raceway. This is Muñoz's first road course start of the season. He finished seventh in the Indianapolis 500 in May driving for Andretti Autosport. Muñoz finished tenth last year at Watkins Glen and seventh at Long Beach. He has not had a top five finish on a road/street course race since he finished third at Mid-Ohio in 2016.

Jack Harvey is back for his fifth start of the season in the #60 Honda for Meyer Shank Racing. Harvey started and finished 20th at Mid-Ohio, his most recent start. His best finish this season is 12th at Long Beach. Harvey has yet to start better than row nine in his IndyCar career.

Alfonso Celis, Jr. will drive the #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet for the second time this season. He made his debut at Road America. He started 21st and finished a lap down in 20th. This is Juncos Racing's 12th race this season. The team's best finish was 16th at Long Beach with Kyle Kaiser and 16th at Barber with René Binder. Kaiser qualified 14th at Phoenix, the team's best qualifying performance.

Santino Ferrucci returns to IndyCar driving the #39 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. He made his debut at Belle Isle. He started 13th in the second Belle Isle race and finished 20th. His first race ended in an accident after 55 of 70 laps. Ferrucci will become the first driver to run car #39 in a IndyCar race since Bryan Clauson ran it in the 2012 Indianapolis 500.

Road to Indy
Portland marks the final round for all three Road to Indy series. One championship is already decided but two are on the line. 

It is a two-horse race in Indy Lights and both contenders come from the same barn. Patricio O'Ward heads into the final round of the Indy Lights season with 428 points and he leads his Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta by 25 points. With eight cars entered for the finale, O'Ward needs to score 39 points this weekend to clinch the championship. If O'Ward wins the first race or finishes second and picks up a bonus point in the first race he will clinch the championship on Saturday. O'Ward owns the tiebreaker over Herta with seven victories while the most Herta can end with is six. 

O'Ward heads into the final with six consecutive podium finishes while Herta has three consecutive runner-up finishes and five runner-up finishes in the last seven races. Regardless of who takes the championship it will be Andretti Autosport's third Indy Lights title and first since J.R. Hildebrand won in 2009.

Santiago Urrutia will likely finish third in the championship with the Uruguayan on 354 points, 40 points clear of Gateway winner Ryan Norman. Victor Franzoni rounds out the top five on 302 points. Aaron Telitz is sixth in the championship on 276 points, five ahead of Dalton Kellett. 

There is one additional entry for Portland. Heamin Choi will drive the #7 Mazda for Juncos Racing. Choi has made seven Indy Lights starts with his most recent being at Laguna Seca in 2016. Choi's best Indy Lights finish was tenth at Iowa in 2016.

This is the first Indy Lights race at Portland since 2001. Damien Faulkner won that race. An American driver has never won in Indy Lights at Portland. The Indy Lights winners at Portland are Tommy Byrne (twice), Paul Tracy, Éric Bachelart, Franck Fréon (twice), André Ribeiro, Greg Moore, Gualter Salles, Hideki Noda, Guy Smith, Philipp Peter, Jason Bright and Faulkner. American drivers won eight of 15 Atlantic races at Portland with the most recent being Jon Fogarty, who swept the 2004 doubleheader.

Indy Lights will race at 5:05 p.m. ET on Saturday September 1st and the final race of the season will take place at 12:55 p.m. ET on Sunday September 2nd.

Two drivers are alive for the Pro Mazda championship but it appears it will be heading to Rinus VeeKay. The Dutchman has won five consecutive races and he holds a 47-point lead over Canadian Parker Thompson. While VeeKay has five consecutive victories, Thompson has finished outside the top five in four of those five races and he has not finished on the podium since he won at Indianapolis Raceway Park in May.

VeeKay taking the title would be Juncos Racing's second consecutive Pro Mazda championship and the team's fourth in the series. 

After four top five finishes in the last five races, Oliver Askew has jumped up to third in the championship on 258 points but fellow American David Malukas is only six points behind Askew. Carlos Cunha is also six points back of Askew but Cunha will not be at Portland and was not at the Gateway race. Robert Megennis has four consecutive podium finishes and he is on 243 points and will be at Portland. Harrison Scott finished third at Gateway after starting on pole position in his first race Toronto after he skipped the Mid-Ohio round. Scott sits on 223 points in seventh and will not be at Portland.

Eight drivers entered for Portland and they are VeeKay, Thompson, Askew, Malukas, Megennis, Sting Ray Robb, Nikita Lastochkin and Moisés de la Vara.

Pro Mazda will race at 7:50 p.m. ET on Saturday September 1st and 5:15 p.m. ET on Sunday September 2nd. 

Kyle Kirkwood has already locked up the U.S. F2000 Championship but the American is looking to end the season with 12 victories this year. Kirkwood could match J.R. Hildebrand's record for most victories in a season. Hildebrand won 12 races in 2006 and Hildebrand won 12 out of 14 races. Kirkwood has won nine consecutive races. Kirkwood is the seventh consecutive Cape Motorsports driver to win the U.S. F2000 Championship. 

The battle will be for second in the championship. Rasmus Lindh sits on 194 points, six points ahead of Igor Fraga and 13 points ahead of teammate Lucas Kohl. Lindh has four podium finishes but his best result is third. Fraga has twice finished runner-up this season while Kohl finished second in two of the three Mid-Ohio races. 

Calvin Ming rounds out the top five on 166 points. Kaylen Frederick dropped to sixth in the championship on 153 points after his best finish at Mid-Ohio was 19th. Keith Donegan has four top five finishes in the last seven races and he is on 139 points. Julian van der Watt rounds out the top eight on 128 points.

The final two U.S. F2000 races of the season will be at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday September 1st and 6:20 p.m. ET on Sunday September 2nd. 

Fast Facts
This will be the 22nd IndyCar race to occur on September 2nd and the first since 2012 when Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Baltimore. 

The only driver to have won multiple times on September 2nd is Mario Andretti. Andretti won at DuQuoin in 1968 and Mid-Ohio in 1984.

An American driver won ten of the first 12 Portland races. An American driver won only one of the last 12 Portland races. A.J. Allmendinger won the 2006 race. 

A.J. Allmendinger is one of four drivers to have scored their first IndyCar victory at Portland. The other three are Al Unser, Jr., Alex Zanardi and Mark Blundell.

Chevrolet has won five Portland races while Honda has four Portland victories. Chevrolet's most recent Portland victory was with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993. Honda's most recent Portland victory was with Gil de Ferran in 2000. Both drivers won driving for Team Penske. 

Cosworth is the most successful engine manufacture at Portland with 11 victories.

Newman-Haas Racing has more Portland victories than any other team with eight. Team Penske has five Portland victories. Chip Ganassi Racing won two Portland races. No other active IndyCar team has won at Portland.

Newman-Haas Racing and Team Penske each have had four different drivers win at Portland. Every other victorious team at Portland only had one driver win at the track. 

A Dallara chassis has never won at Portland. Lola is the most successful chassis manufacture at Portland with 12 victories. 

All Portland winners from the Southern Hemisphere were Brazilian. 

All three Brazilian Portland winners won at the track twice. Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1989 and 1993. Gil de Ferran won in 1999 and 2000. Cristiano da Matta won in 2002 and 2005.

The average starting position for a Portland winner is 3.5 with a median of 2.5.

The pole-sitter has won six Portland races. The winner has started on the front row 12 times. 

Nineteen of 24 Portland races have been won from within the top four. 

Mark Blundell's victory in 1997 from 11th on the grid is the only time the race has been won from outside the top ten. 

Takuma Sato has seven top ten finishes this season, tied for his most in a single season with 2011 and 2017. In 2011, Sato picked up his seventh top ten finish in the 16th race and in 2017 he picked up his seventh top ten in the 13th race.

Spencer Pigot has started outside the top fifteen in the last four races.

Jordan King has three consecutive lead lap finishes after having two lead lap finishes in his first six starts.

This will be Pietro Fittipaldi's fifth start of his IndyCar career. His grandfather Emerson and his cousin Christian each finished 20th in their fifth career starts. Emerson finished 20th in the 1984 Cleveland race after retiring due to overheating and Christian finished 20th after retiring due to an electrical issue at Nazareth in 1995. Pietro's uncle Max Papis finished 14th in his fifth career start at Surfers Paradise in 1997.

Charlie Kimball has finished in the top ten in the 16th race of the season for three consecutive seasons and he has finished in the top ten in the 16th race of the season in four of six seasons.

The average number of lead changes in a Portland race is 5.541 with a median of five. 

The fewest number of lead changes was two in 2001. The most number of lead changes was nine in 1988.

Seventeen of 24 Portland races featured more than five lead changes including the last three races. 

The average number of cautions in a Portland race is two with a median of one. The average number of caution laps is 7.041 with a median of five. 

Fourteen of 24 Portland races have featured one caution or fewer.

Six of 24 Portland races have feature more than two cautions.

Through nine road/street course races this IndyCar seasons, the average number of passes in a race is 195 and the average number of passes for position is 142.444.

Only two road/street course races have had fewer than 100 passes for position this season and those were both Belle Isle races with 82 passes for position and 60 passes for position respectively. The first Belle Isle race is the only one to have fewer than 100 total passes, as the race had 96 passes.

The first four road/street course races had at least 200 passes. The last five road/street course races have had fewer than 200 passes. 

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.

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.

I am going to the well one more time. Alexander Rossi continues his top form and picks up his third victory in four races and fourth podium finish in four races but Scott Dixon does not make it easy and finishes second. Josef Newgarden rounds out the podium. Ryan Hunter-Reay does not have a mechanical retirement. Jordan King does not hit a barrier but has an off-track excursion. There will be eight different teams that get out of the first round of qualifying but only three teams make it to the final round of qualifying. This race will have fewer than the average number of passes and average number of passes for position through the first nine road/street course races of the season. Santino Ferrucci qualifies and finishes ahead of one of his Dale Coyne Racing teammates. Sleeper: Jordan King.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: 40 Years and Counting

Two races remain in the IndyCar season and it will go to the wire. We will find out next week whether it will be two drivers or as many as five drivers going for the championship. Fernando Alonso took flight at La Source thanks to some help from Nico Hülkenberg and Charles Leclerc. NASCAR's top division had the weekend off but there was a pair of road course races and a familiar face keeps winning. Noah Gragson took out his teammate and himself in the final corner at Mosport. Suzuka hosted its first ten-hour race in place of the historic 1000km race. Supercars visited a new venue. The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters ran at night and in the wet at Misano. The first race was rather exciting and the second race was somehow better. Alex Zanardi was a guest driver at Misano and he finished fifth in the second race of the weekend. MotoGP's weekend from Silverstone was rained out. None of the three series were able to race on Sunday. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

40 Years and Counting
On this day in 1978 Mario Andretti won the Dutch Grand Prix and extended his championship lead to 12 points over Lotus teammate Ronnie Peterson. It was his 12th grand prix victory. It was his final grand prix victory. The stars and stripes have not hung over the top step of the podium of a Formula One race since.

What has gone wrong? Why has arguably the largest motorsports nation in the world not had a driver win a race at arguably the highest level for four decades?

Before Andretti's smashing results during the 1977 and 1978 seasons, American drivers had achieved a fair amount of Formula One success. Putting the Indianapolis 500 results from 1950 to 1960 asides, when it was apart of the World Drivers' Championship, five American drivers (including Andretti) had won 12 grand prix. Phil Hill won the 1961 World Drivers' Championship. Richie Ginther scored Honda's first grand prix victory at Mexico in 1965. Dan Gurney picked up four victories, including Porsche's only Formula One grand prix victory in the 1962 French Grand Prix and he scored another famous victory in the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix in his Eagle chassis. Peter Revson won twice with McLaren in 1973. Andretti won on his Ferrari debut in the 1971 South African Grand Prix and picked up his second career victory in the inaugural Japanese Grand Prix that famously decided the 1976 world championship.

While five Americans had won a grand prix in Formula One, Americans were quite common on the Formula One grid. Harry Schell was a regular on the grid throughout the 1950s. Master Gregory and Mark Donohue each finished on the podium on their respective Formula One debuts. George Follmer finished on the podium in his second start. Jim Hall, Walt Hansgen, Bob Bondurant and Ronnie Bucknum all scored points.

The last American to regularly compete in Formula One was Eddie Cheever, who spent just over a decade in the series. Cheever picked up nine podium finishes in 132 starts but could never find his way onto the top step. He finished second at Detroit in 1982 and at Montreal in 1983. His best championship finish was seventh in 1983.

Something happened at the turn of the 1980s. Andretti won the championship in 1978 and while you would think such a grand success would inspire many young drivers to follow in the footsteps of such an icon, only five American drivers have made a Formula One debut since the day Andretti clinched the championship.

Bobby Rahal ran the final two races of the 1978 season. Danny Sullivan ran the entire 1983 season and scored two points in the Monaco Grand Prix but it was his only season in Formula One. His son Michael Andretti had a disaster of a 1993 season with McLaren, one of the team's worst seasons, and his brief Formula One career ended on its highest note with a third place finish in the Italian Grand Prix. No American has stood on the podium in 25 years. Scott Speed was the great hope Red Bull promoted and it turned out he and Red Bull duped the American fan base. Alexander Rossi made five starts with Marussia, the worst team on the grid in 2015.

The five American drivers that made their Formula One debuts after Andretti's clinched the World Drivers' Championship made an average of 12.6 starts with a median of 13. The average length of a career for those five drivers with their first start being day one and their final start being the last day is 192.6 days. The total number of days those five drivers spent in Formula One is 963 days.

Why hasn't an American driver stuck in Formula One?

Part of it is America's ability to have a fully function and self-sustaining motorsport landscape. Think about the time period when Mario Andretti won the World Drivers' Championship. The year after his title CART was formed and NASCAR has the famed 1979 Daytona 500 broadcasted on live flag-to-flag on CBS and for 39 years we have been told that is the moment that put NASCAR on the national stage. Both series would grow for the next two decades and there was no need to venture over. American tobacco money was just as good as any tobacco money An American driver could make a career without ever having to leave the country. Why leave the comforts of home?

The lack of an American driver hasn't been because of a lack of talent. Not all of the hundreds of American drivers who debuted in IndyCar, NASCAR, sports cars and other forms of motorsports since 1979 were Formula One caliber but it would be foolish to think of those hundreds of American drivers who have made it to the highest levels in American motorsports in last four decades none of them were cut out for Formula One. There are easily at least a dozen or two dozen drivers who could have broken through had the focus been diverted abroad.

The hypothetical game of what if is pointless at this point. Rick Mears never went to Europe. Al Unser, Jr. never went to Europe (although he did get a test with Williams). Scott Pruett only ever got a test with Larrousse. Jeff Gordon decided to stay in NASCAR with Hendrick Motorsports and passed on BAR-Honda. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch aren't making a career change. Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal stayed home. Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly came home. A.J. Allmendinger and Ryan Hunter-Reay never had deep pockets. Joey Hand and Patrick Long quickly found careers in sports cars. Jonathan Summerton was a shooting star that burned out before you knew it was in the sky.

Besides the comfort of home, there are hurdles to attempting to run in the European ladder system. For starters, it requires money and while there have been those Americans who have spent their fair share to run in Formula Three, GP3 and GP2/Formula Two none have had the results (or the paycheck) to catch the eye of a Formula One team.

The United States isn't the only country to have a lengthy Formula One drought. The last French driver to win was Olivier Panis in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix. France has won 79 grand prix, the fourth most and French drivers have regularly been on the grid for the last 22 years. It has been 12 years since the last Italian winner (Giancarlo Fisichella in the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix). Italy has the sixth most victories at 43. It has been 37 years since an Argentine has won a grand prix. Ronnie Peterson won the race prior to Andretti's Dutch Grand Prix triumph. That is the most recent grand prix victory for a Swede. Switzerland hasn't had a grand prix winner in 39 years. New Zealand has a longer drought than the United States. Brazil is pushing nine years since it last saw a driver won a grand prix with Rubens Barrichello at Monza.

Plenty of countries have yet to have the stars align for one of their best drivers. Alexander Rossi might have the ability to be a top Formula One driver but his roll of the dice didn't pay out and there is no shame in that. Rossi was there for a brief moment, which is more than some get. Felix Rosenqvist may never get that opportunity and he might be the best Swedish driver since Stefan Johansson, another talented driver who drove for McLaren and Ferrari and didn't breakthrough and get a victory. Scott Dixon got one look from Williams but nobody else showed interest. Switzerland has had three different drivers win Le Mans overall in the last five years and the 29-year-old Sébastien Buemi is the only one of the three to get a crack at Formula One. Buemi's final grand prix was when he was 23 years old.

Since Mario Andretti's final grand prix victory, 53 different drivers have won a grand prix. Of those 53 drivers, 19 drivers have a double-digit number of victories. Those 53 drivers hailed from 18 different countries. Of those 18 countries, only half have had multiple winners. Eight of the 18 countries have won fewer than ten victories. Of the 679 races since the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix, the United Kingdom and Germany have combined for 49.189% of the victories. Twenty-two of the 53 winners are either from the United Kingdom, Germany or France. Ironically, since the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix, France has had the most different winners with nine and the United Kingdom is second with eight.

It is tough to break into Formula One for any driver, let alone an American even with an American team on the grid. For 40 years an American hasn't caught the eye of a manufacture or sponsor at the right time. Forty years. How much longer could it go? No end is in sight. What is another 40 years? There are no constellations in the Formula One sky. You cannot plan when the time will come for an American driver to be at the sharp end of the grid. So we wait and hope for that next comet to grab everyone's attention.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Will Power and what happened at Silverstone but did you know...

Ryan Norman won the Indy Lights race from Gateway, his first career victory. Rinus VeeKay won the Pro Mazda race.

Sebastian Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix.

Nyck de Vries and Nicholas Latifi split the Formula Two races from Spa-Francorchamps. David Beckmann and Nikita Mazepin split the GP3 Series races.

Justin Allgaier won the NASCAR Grand National Series race from Road America. Justin Haley won the Truck race from Mosport.

Paul di Resta and Joel Erikson split the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters races from Misano. It was Erikson's first DTM victory.

The #888 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG of Tristan Vautier, Raffaele Marciello and Maro Engel won the Suzuka 10 Hours. Marciello and Vautier took the Intercontinental GT Challenge championship lead with their victory.

Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup split the Supercars races from Tailem Bend.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar has its long awaited return to Portland.
Formula One will be at Monza.
NASCAR has the Southern 500.
The Pirelli World Challenge season closes at Watkins Glen.
The Blancpain Sprint Series will be at the Hungaroring.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

First Impressions: Gateway 2018

1. Where to begin? Will Power went all out late and got the victory. After not being able to keep up with Alexander Rossi at Pocono, six days later Power took control and dared the field to keep up with him while the possibility of stretching fuel and making it to the end was right in front of everybody. Power ran away and nobody kept up. It appeared Alexander Rossi might have been able to stretch it to victory but Power came out within a straightway of Rossi and it took a few laps but it was never a question. Power had the capability to go all out while Rossi had to pace himself and Power got the position. From there, it was all on Power to keep his nose clean with lapped traffic. It worked, Power has his third victory of the season and Team Penske is now I think four victories away from 500 victories as an organization. The team has won four consecutive Gateway races and five of nine. There has still not been a repeat winner at Gateway

2. Alexander Rossi put on another impressive performance and it only was good enough for second but his fuel conservation was breathtaking. He went a lap down within the final 25 laps and came home second. And he is calm. He was preaching patience on the first stint of the race and he practiced it on the final stint. Could Rossi have won it had he gone all out? We will never know but after races where he wasn't on the podium when he should have been he finally had a night where he ended up on the podium when it looked like it wouldn't be in the cards. On top of it, it took a few points out of the gap in the championship, three to be exact. 

3. Scott Dixon did all he could not to lose ground to Rossi and for the first 45% of this race it appeared Dixon was going to run away with it but this race got mixed up with lapped traffic playing a crucial role and one pit stop under caution. Dixon responded late to Power's decision to sprint and he finished 2.8 seconds behind Power but 1.4 seconds behind Rossi. He only lost three points in his championship lead and he leads by 26 points but we know how crucial points are. Three points can be the championship decider. It wasn't a bad night. It was a night where the big dogs went at it and none of them had a misstep. This is what it is like when everyone is at the top of their game.

4. Simon Pagenaud went from racy to out of sorts after one lap getting out of the groove to back to racy when it came time for the late decision to go for it and make a fourth pit stop. This has been a frustratingly good year for Pagenaud. This is only his third top five finish of the season and yet he has eight consecutive top ten finishes and 12 top ten finishes in 15 races. It just hasn't been good enough. 

5. Zach Veach has been marvelous since the middle of July. If there had been qualifying he might have started in the top five and he might have won this thing. Everyone seemed impressed with him this weekend and fifth seems right for him. He was competitive and making moves in this one. 

6. Spencer Pigot was a bit of a surprise but he got the wave around and was one of the guys who were all out from the final restart with 66 laps to go. It is good to see him have a good night and another good short oval result.

7. Josef Newgarden was of two minds on the final stint. He was conserving and then he bailed out and at that point he had lost the front of the field and lost a handful of positions. He wasn't really ever a factor in this one. He seemed to have a similar race to Pagenaud where one stint was good but the next was off and he lost ground after getting out of the groove. He is still in the championship fight but he needs to do some work at Portland.

8. If Will Power was the first to commit to going all out then Ed Jones was second and he was up to third in the blink of an eye after that final restart. Unfortunately, Jones stopped early and he couldn't get back into the top five. An eighth place finish is respectable but it could have been much better. 

9. Takuma Sato stretched it and did 66 laps on his final stint but still finished a lap down in ninth. It wasn't a great night for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing but the team turned it into a double top ten night.

10. And now onto the second RLLR entry. Graham Rahal finished tenth on a night when he didn't really have it and this concludes a frustrating year for RLLR on ovals. Yes, Sato finished third at Iowa but this team was lost everywhere and when the team got results it was usually after overcoming poor qualifying runs. Ovals are the major area RLLR have to improve on in 2019.

11. Pietro Fittipaldi finally got off the bottom and he finished 11th and completed 247 laps. It was nice to see him get a full race under his belt and not have any adversity go against him. He was a bit off strategy for most of this one and it didn't look like he was going to finish inside the top fifteen but it worked out. 

12. Ed Carpenter didn't have it and finished 12th while Tony Kanaan finished 13th and for the first time since 2000 Tony Kanaan will not have a top five finish on an oval in a season. Part of this fact is impressive and the other part isn't. Kanaan ran from 2003 to 2010 when the schedule was majority ovals and for many of those years it was a large majority but the first few years of that streak were CART when ovals weren't a more equal portion compared to road and street courses and then the last seven seasons where ovals have been hard to come by and on top of all that Kanaan has done it with top teams such as Andretti and Ganassi and middle of the road teams such as Mo Nunn Racing and KV Racing. This has been a rough year for Kanaan and it has been kind of difficult to watch. 

13. Marco Andretti was in the top ten for most of the night and then the second caution comes out only a handful of laps after his pit stop, trapping him a lap down and he never had a chance to recover.
14. Quickly through the rest of the field: James Hinchcliffe tried to save on that final stint but it backfired. Matheus Leist was non-existent. I don't think he was mentioned once. Same goes for Max Chilton. Gabby Chaves started out great and was up to 11th early but something went wrong after that first pit stop and he wasn't mentioned again. Charlie Kimball brushed the wall exiting turn four.

15. Ryan Hunter-Reay had a fuel pressure issue kill a top five result and it seems every year when we get to summer he has three retirements that are brutal when he is at the front and they usually happen in consecutive weeks. He had four consecutive top five finishes and since the calendar switched to July he has had four finishes outside the top fifteen in five races. When it hits the fan for him it hits hard. And then there was Sébastien Bourdais who slapped the wall exiting turn two on the opening lap. Hunter-Reay still has a shot at the title but I think he and Bourdais are two drivers who expected better from this season. Neither have been bad but both have more things go against them than for them. 

16. Around lap 100, I was going to write about how disappointed I was in this race. I was going to write that while this was a great crowd for an IndyCar race it was down from last year and it would be down next year because you cannot have a race where it is single-file and where the leader catches the tail end of the field and then not be able to make a pass and in turn allow everyone else to close up and then not be able to make passes as well.

I was going to write that IndyCar needs to cut the road/street course boost levels and oval lost levels and realize the boost levels should correspond to the aero package, not the track type. The boost levels should be low downforce track and high downforce track. I was going to write these cars need more power into the corners and really force the drivers to lift and have drivers sliding in and stepping on the brakes when they get in too hot and allow another car to go by. 

I was going to write that we should not be hearing from Firestone midway through the race that the tires look good after 60 lap stints and that the tires should look like garbage. I was going to write lap time fall off needs to be greater because you can't have everyone comfortably running between 170-173 MPH for 50 laps. 

Then what happened was the same thing that happened at Phoenix and Texas. The sun went down, the track got cooler, lapped cars got in the way and the race got shaken up. Just like Texas a caution fell on the cusp of being able to make it on fuel and this had some drivers going and some drivers conserving. 

Going back to Rossi's words in the opening laps, patience. It is hard. Fans are never patient. They want it now. They want 30 passes in the first ten laps. They want a lead change on lap two, four, six and 12. People aren't cerebral. They can't let the game play out. They can't wait. They could be doing other shit. Don't make them want to do other shit. 

But with patience came an interesting race and passing did develop. It wasn't slingshot after slingshot move and that will never be the case at a 1.25-mile oval but it happened. 

I still believe there should be changes to the boost level and tires should fall off even more but sometimes a race needs patience and it needs an hour after sunset to get good. Another thing against Gateway was it rained, then a practice was held then it rained again and then a practice was held and then it rained over night and the next time IndyCar was on track was the race. If IndyCar had three sessions to lay rubber down and that rubber was still there for the race the start might have been better. Sometimes these environmental factors go against you but fans don't care and even when the series deserves a break for something entirely out of its control IndyCar doesn't get it. 

Part of this race benefitted from the mix up of strategy but you will not always get that caution. IndyCar needs to work on the oval aero package a bit. The leader should never be as stuck as Dixon was in lapped traffic where the same six cars can run on his nose and nobody passes anybody.

NASCAR has been reactionary when it comes to package changes and IndyCar hasn't. IndyCar has held firm but after seven seasons with the boost levels the way they are and the low downforce and high downforce aero packages I want to see something different tried even if it is only for one race. I want to see at least the higher boost level tried on the short ovals and but I really want to try higher boost level with the low downforce aero package at Gateway next year. Let's try it once and see what happens. Plan a test or two for it so all the teams are prepared. Let's try something different. 

17. Quick championship breakdown before Portland: Regardless of what happens next week Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi will be alive for the title. Will Power is 68 points back and unless he has a disastrous day he will likely at least be alive for the Astor Cup at Sonoma but it could be a Hail Mary situation. The same kind of goes for Josef Newgarden. Newgarden really needs to win at Portland as he is 78 points back. Finally, Ryan Hunter-Reay is the final driver mathematically championship eligible but he trails by 147 points and you will likely have to be within 94 points heading into Sonoma to have a shot at the title. Hunter-Reay needs to score 53 points at Portland. He is in a must-win situation and it is a must-win situation just to get into another must-win situation. Five are left standing but four are on sturdy ground. 

Morning Warm-Up: Gateway 2018

After qualifying was rained out, Scott Dixon will start first at Gateway
Rain washed out IndyCar qualifying on Friday from Gateway Motorsports Park and entrant points have set the grid for the Bommarito Auto Group 500. This is the first IndyCar race where points have set the grid since the second Belle Isle race in 2015 and this is the first IndyCar oval race set by points since the 2009 Kentucky race. In that Kentucky race, Scott Dixon started first and he led 95 laps, the most laps in that race. Dixon will start first tonight at Gateway Motorsports Park. Dixon had started fifth and seventh in his first two Gateway starts. Dixon has not won at Gateway and the New Zealander has won at 23 different tracks, third most all time in IndyCar history. Mario Andretti won at 26 different tracks and Dario Franchitti won at 24 different tracks. Chip Ganassi Racing has won twice at Gateway. The team won with Alex Zanardi in 1998 and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000. Alexander Rossi will join Dixon on the front row. This will be Rossi's second career front row start on an oval. He started third in last year's Indianapolis 500. This is Rossi's four front row start of the season and it Dixon's third front row start of the season. Both of Dixon's victories this season have come from the front row.

Josef Newgarden will start third with his Team Penske teammate Will Power starting fourth. The 2009 Kentucky race was won from third on the grid and Team Penske won that race with Ryan Briscoe. At the time, it was the second fastest IndyCar race in history at 200.893 MPH. It is still the fifth fastest race in IndyCar history. This is Newgarden's seventh consecutive top five start. The Tennessean has not led a lap in the last two races. He hasn't failed to lead a lap in three consecutive races since last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis through the first Belle Isle race. This will be the 14th race Power has started inside the top five this season. Power has led a lap in four consecutive races. This is the first time since last season that Power has led a lap in four consecutive races when he led a lap from Barber to the Indianapolis 500. He has not led in five consecutive races since 2015 when he led a lap in seven consecutive races from Grand Prix of Indianapolis to Fontana. This is the first oval race since last year at Texas without a Team Penske car on the front row.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud will share row three. This is Hunter-Reay's fifth consecutive start on either row two or three. He has started eight consecutive races in the top ten. This is the first time Hunter-Reay has started fifth for an oval race since Loudon 2011. Hunter-Reay won that race after it was shortened by 10 laps due to rain. Team Penske has had two top five finishers in the last two races after not having double top five finishers through the first 12 races. Team Penske has not had two cars finish on the podium since it swept the podium in last year's season finale. The last time a team swept an oval podium was Chip Ganassi Racing at Pocono in 2013. The last time Team Penske swept an oval podium was at Nazareth in 1994. Graham Rahal will start seventh for the second time in three races. This is the first time Rahal has started in the top ten on an oval this season.  He led a lap in the first three oval races this season. James Hinchcliffe joins Rahal on row four. Hinchcliffe has not started in the top five since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. All 65 of Hinchcliffe's laps led this season have occurred on the short ovals. He led 45 laps at Iowa and 20 laps at Phoenix.

Sébastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti round out the top ten. Bourdais has been running at the finish of 13 of 14 races this season. His lone retirement was in the Indianapolis 500. He led a lap in six consecutive races but has not led in the last eight races. Bourdais became the 18th driver in IndyCar history to reach 75 top five finishes in a career with his fourth place result at Pocono. Marco Andretti is coming off his 100th career top ten finish in his IndyCar career. Andretti has not had a top five finish on an oval since he finished third at Fontana in 2015. He has not had a top five finish on a short oval since he finished second at Iowa in 2012. Ed Carpenter will start 11th in his final race of the season. Carpenter finished second in the 2009 Kentucky race and he led 34 laps before finishing 0.016 seconds behind Ryan Briscoe. It was Carpenter's first career podium finish. Ed Jones joins Carpenter on row six. This is the second consecutive race Jones has started 12th and this is his fourth time starting 12th this season.

Takuma Sato will roll off from 13th position. Sato had started in the top ten in six consecutive races. He started 13th at Phoenix in April and finished 11th. Sato's third place finish at Iowa was his first career top five finish on a short oval. Spencer Pigot finished one position ahead of Sato at Iowa and he will start beside him on row seven at Gateway. Pigot has retired from two of the three races since his maiden podium finish. Tony Kanaan will start 15th. Kanaan has had at least one top five finish on an oval in 17 consecutive seasons. His best oval finish entering Gateway is eighth at Phoenix. Kanaan's last season without a top five finish on an oval was in 2000 where his best oval finish was eighth at Nazareth. He started 17th last year in this race and spun on the final pace lap. He would complete 168 laps before retiring. Zach Veach will start 16th. Veach is one point behind Kanaan in the championship and he has three consecutive top ten finishes. Veach is one of five drivers with at least three consecutive top ten finishes along with Dixon, Rossi, Newgarden and Pagenaud.

Charlie Kimball and Matheus Leist will start on row nine. Kimball finished seventh in last year's Gateway race and Leist finished tenth, two laps down in last year's Indy Lights race at the track after he had an incident with Nico Jamin. Kimball's ninth place finish at Pocono was his fifth top ten finish of the season. Last year, it took Kimball 16 races to get five top ten finishes. Leist finished 11th at Pocono, his best career finish in IndyCar. Gabby Chaves returns to competition and he will start 19th. This will be Chaves' Gateway debut. This is the fourth time Chaves has started 19th this season. His other 19th place starts were at Phoenix, Long Beach and the first Belle Isle race. Max Chilton will start 20th. Chilton has finished off the lead lap in four consecutive races and in ten of 14 races this season. Pietro Fittipaldi rounds out the grid in 21st position. The good news is for the second consecutive race Fittipaldi is guaranteed a career best finish. The bad news is it is because his best career finish is 22nd.

Rossi was fastest in both practice session on Friday with his best lap occurring in the first session. Rossi's top time was 24.4003 seconds. Dixon was second quickest with his fastest lap of 24.5872 seconds coming in final practice. Bourdais ran a lap in the first practice at 24.6339 seconds and that was third fastest on Friday. Kanaan, Jones, Fittipaldi, Veach and Hunter-Reay were all within a tenth of a second of Bourdais. Pigot and Rahal rounded out the top ten and Rahal ran 183 laps on Friday, the most of the day.

Hinchcliffe was 11th with Power the top Penske driver in 12th ahead of Andretti and Newgarden. Newgarden ran 87 laps, the fewest laps on Friday. His final practice was abbreviated after a brush with the wall. Sato rounded out the top fifteen with Pagenaud 16th. Pagenaud led six Chevrolets that rounded out the timesheet ahead of Carpenter, Chaves, Chilton, Leist and Kimball.

NBCSN's coverage of the Bommarito Auto Group 500 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 8:40 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 248 laps.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Track Walk: Gateway 2018

IndyCar has one more summer Saturday night fight
The 15th and antepenultimate round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Gateway Motorsports Park. The Bommarito Auto Group 500 is the final oval race of the season and there have been five different winners from four different teams in the first five oval races of the season. The 2016 season had five different winners from five different teams in the five oval races that season. Thirteen drivers entered for this race have won an IndyCar oval race before. Eight different drivers have won the eight Gateway races but Team Penske has won four times at the 1.25-mile oval including the last three races.

Time: Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday August 26th with green flag scheduled for 8:40 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Kevin Lee returns to the booth (Leigh Diffey is attending a wedding) with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will work pit lane with the return of Anders Krohn.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 1:15 p.m. ET (60-minute session)
Qualifying: 5:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have live coverage of this session)
Second Practice: 9:00 p.m. ET (60-minute session)
Race: 8:40 p.m. ET (248 laps)

The Four Horsemen
With three races to go, it appears the IndyCar championship is becoming a four-horse race.

Scott Dixon continues to lead the championship but his gap to Alexander Rossi was decreased from 46 points to 29 points after Rossi won and led 180 laps at Pocono while Dixon finished third. Both drivers are tied on three victories and seven podium finishes while Dixon leads with 10 top five finishes and 12 top ten finishes and Rossi trails the New Zealander by one in each of those categories.  Dixon holds the advantage over Rossi when it comes to average finish at 4.4 to Rossi's 5.7 but Rossi holds the edge in starting position with the American averaging a starting spot of 6.9 while Dixon is at 8.2 Rossi has won three pole positions this season while Dixon has not won a pole position since last year's Indianapolis 500. Dixon has only started on the front row twice this season and he has won both those races at Belle Isle and Toronto.

Dixon heads to Gateway with three consecutive top five finishes and nine top five finishes in the last ten races. He finished second in last year's Gateway race after starting seventh. With this being the 15th race of the season, Dixon has won the 15th race of the season four times in his career and he has stood on the podium eight times in the 15th race of the season. Dixon has participated in 16 seasons with at least 15 races. His four victories in the 15th race of a season are Sonoma in 2007, Kentucky in 2008, Mid-Ohio in 2014 and Watkins Glen in 2016.

Rossi heads to Gateway off the back of two consecutive victories. He could become the first driver to win three consecutive races since Simon Pagenaud did it in 2016 when he won at Long Beach, Barber and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Last year, Rossi started ninth and finished sixth at Gateway. He has finished in the top ten in all five oval races this season with four top five finishes. His average finish on ovals this season is fourth.

Josef Newgarden sits third in the championship and the defending champion trails Dixon by 66 points with three races to go. Newgarden is looking to defend his Gateway victory and he could become the first driver with multiple Gateway victories in IndyCar history. Gateway could become the second track Newgarden successfully defends a victory at this season. He won for the second consecutive season at Barber in April. Since switching to Chevrolet in 2015, Newgarden's finishing position in the 15th race of the season have been second, second and first. Newgarden has five consecutive top ten finishes and four top five finishes in the last five races. He only had two top five finishes through the first nine races of 2018. 

Will Power is coming off a second place finish at Pocono and the Australian sits fourth in the championship, 81 points behind Dixon. Power has two consecutive podium finishes and he is shooting for three consecutive podium finishes for the first time since 2016 when he had six consecutive podium finishes from the second Belle Isle race to the Pocono race. Power started on pole position for last year's Gateway race but did not complete a green flag lap after he spun in turn two on the first green flag lap of the race.

The 15th race of the season has not been favorable to Power. Since 2008, Power has won the 15th race twice, Baltimore 2011 and Sonoma 2013, but he has finished 20th or worse on four occasions including 20th place finishes the last two years. His victories at Baltimore and Sonoma are his only podium finishes in the 15th race of the season in his career.

Rossi has won three pole positions and Newgarden has won four pole positions. Power also has three pole positions this season but Power's average starting position through 14 races is 2.5. He has started on the front row nine times and his worst starting position this season was sixth in the first Belle Isle race. Power has started in the top ten in 24 consecutive races. Power has not started outside the top ten on an oval since Milwaukee in 2015 when he started 14th.

With only two races remaining after Gateway, any driver that is within 44 points of the championship leader after this race will have a shot at the title in the Sonoma finale barring that they at least start the Portland race.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on the Mend and Down a Man
James Hinchcliffe will be the lone Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver on the grid at Gateway Saturday night.

The team withdrew the #6 Honda on Tuesday. Robert Wickens underwent spinal surgery following his accident at Pocono and he is expected to undergo further surgeries for fractures in his lower extremities and right forearm.

Wickens is sixth in the championship on 391 points and 23 points ahead of Simon Pagenaud in the championship. Wickens had four podium finishes, seven top five finishes and ten top ten finish in 14 starts this season.

With 212 points left on the table, Wickens' only remaining challengers for Rookie of the Year are Zach Veach and Matheus Leist. Veach trails Wickens by 152 points while Leist is 190 points back of the Canadian. Regardless of his result at Gateway, Veach will be alive for Rookie of the Year heading into the penultimate round of the season at Portland but he will have to score at least 54 points over the next two races to have a shot at Rookie of the Year in the Sonoma finale. Leist has to finish at least fourth this weekend at Gateway to keep his Rookie of the Year hopes alive.

Meanwhile, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will field a single entry for the first time since the 2012 season finale at Fontana. The last time SPM had one car start a race was 2014 at Fontana after Mikhail Aleshin was sidelined after injuries suffered in an accident that occurred in final practice before the race.

For the first time in his IndyCar career James Hinchcliffe will not have a teammate. Hinchcliffe is coming off two consecutive finishes outside the top ten. Prior to Pocono, Hinchcliffe's worst finish in three oval starts was sixth at Phoenix. Last year, Hinchcliffe started tenth at Gateway and finished on the lead lap in eighth. He heads into Gateway ninth in the championship on 338 points, 192 points behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

Fighting to 94
While 104 points is the most a driver can score in the Sonoma finale, if the championship leader starts the finale the most points a driver can trail by and still have a shot at winning the championship is 94 points. The fewest points a driver can score at Sonoma is ten points and that is for 24th position and beyond. With Meyer Shank Racing returning with Jack Harvey for the final two races and Dale Coyne Racing entering a third car for Santino Ferrucci in the final two races it is very likely 24 cars will start at Sonoma and it is very likely to have any prayer of the championship a driver will need to be within 94 points.

Entering Gateway, ten drivers have a mathematical shot at the championship but six of those drivers are more than 94 points behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

Ryan Hunter-Reay sits fifth in the championship but he trails Dixon by 119 points after his retirement at Pocono. Hunter-Reay has finished outside the top fifteen in three of the last four races. In last year's Gateway race Hunter-Reay was running in the top ten for most of the night but brushed the wall and retired from that race. Hunter-Reay has ended a season with top ten finishes in the final three races only once in his career and that was in 2015 when he had four consecutive top ten finishes to close the season. Eight times in 13 seasons has Hunter-Reay finished outside the top ten in two of the final three races.

Simon Pagenaud sits on 368 points, 162 points behind Dixon. Pagenaud has finished in the top ten in seven consecutive races but only two of those have been top five finishes. The Frenchman finished third in last year's Gateway race and he is looking for his second career oval victory. He enters with five career podium finishes on ovals and he has twice finished on the podium in consecutive years at the same oval. In 2015, Pagenaud finished second at Phoenix and the following year he won at Phoenix. Last year, Pagenaud finished third at Texas and this year he finished second at Texas.

Graham Rahal is 17 points behind Pagenaud in the championship and the Ohioan has finished outside the top ten in two of the last three races after having ten top ten finishes in the first 11 races. While Rahal has four top ten finishes in five oval starts, his best finish was sixth at Texas. He finished 12th last year at Gateway after a botched pit stop with the fuel hose still connected ended a promising night that could have ended in the top five. 

Sébastien Bourdais is the final driver mathematically alive for the championship. With 212 points on the table, Bourdais trails Dixon by 205 points. However, with only 21 cars entered for Gateway, Bourdais will be eliminated from championship contention if Dixon starts this weekend. Bourdais made his return to IndyCar last year at Gateway after his pelvic fracture suffered in Indianapolis 500 qualifying and he finished tenth in this race. His fourth place finish at Pocono was his best oval finish since he won at Milwaukee in 2015. In 29 oval starts since Bourdais returned to IndyCar in 2011, Bourdais has a victory, three top five and 11 top ten finishes. 

Chaves Back in at Harding
One recent development has been the return of Gabby Chaves to the #88 Chevrolet for Harding Racing.

Initially, Zachary Claman De Melo was announced for the Pocono and Gateway races before the team selected Conor Daly for the 500-mile race over the Canadian. Claman De Melo was still slated to be the team's driver for Gateway but Chaves was announced to return to the grid on Tuesday.

Chaves has been out of the car for the last three races. Though his first 11 starts of the season, his best finish was 14th at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis and his average finish was 17.1. He has only finished on the lead lap on four occasions this season. The Indianapolis 500 is his only lead lap finish on an oval this season. 

How Will They Race?
At 1.25 miles in length, Gateway falls somewhere between a short track and an intermediate oval but typically the track has been clumped in more with short tracks and the teams run the high downforce aero kit in this race.

Phoenix was not particularly racy while Iowa was seen as a marvelous race. While this year's Phoenix race was an improvement over the previous two years in terms of on-track action, it was not that impressive when compared to Iowa. This year's Phoenix had 280 passes, 98 of which were passes for position. This year's Iowa race had 955 passes and 234 of those were passes for position.

In 2017, Phoenix had 139 passes. Ironically, while the number of total passes at Iowa nearly tripled this year from the 324 that occurred in 2017, the total number of passes for position decreased from 255 last year. In last year's Gateway race, 173 total passes occurred and there were 91 passes for position.

Fight For Top Oval Honors
With Gateway being the final oval race of the season, the top oval honor is still up for grabs and six drivers have the opportunity to claim top oval driver of 2018. 

Alexander Rossi heads into Gateway on top with 212 oval points this season after his victory at Pocono. Rossi has finished on the podium in three oval races, he finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 and his worst oval finish this season was ninth at Iowa. While Rossi trails Scott Dixon in the overall championship, he leads Dixon by two points in the oval standings. Dixon won at Texas and like Rossi Dixon has three podium finishes on ovals with the New Zealander having a pair of thirds in each 500-mile race. Dixon's other oval finishes were fourth at Phoenix and 12th at Iowa.

Will Power trails Rossi by nine points. The Indianapolis 500 winner is coming off a runner-up finish at Pocono. Two of Power's three pole positions have come on ovals this season. While Power had a massive points haul in the Indianapolis 500, an 18th at Texas and 22nd at Phoenix have him fighting uphill heading to Gateway. Power's Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud sit on 190 points and 175 points respectively. Newgarden won the first oval race of the year at Phoenix while Pagenaud finished second at Texas and Pagenaud has finished in the top ten in all five oval races this season. 

Ed Carpenter is the final driver alive for top oval driver honors but Carpenter sits on 169 points, 43 points behind Rossi, meaning Carpenter will have to win Gateway with Rossi finishing 19th or worse depending on the number of bonus points Carpenter scores. Carpenter finished second in the Indianapolis 500 and he has four top ten finishes this season. He is aiming for his fifth top ten finish of the season. It would be his most top ten finishes in a season since 2013, his last year of full-time competition.

Hélio Castroneves was the top oval driver last season and Team Penske has had the top oval driver four of the last five seasons. The one exception was Newgarden in 2016 who took top oval driver with Ed Carpenter Racing. Since Chevrolet returned to IndyCar in 2012 a Chevrolet driver has ended up as top oval driver every season. Dixon was the top oval driver in 2011. Since 2010, Dixon and Newgarden are the only drivers to have been top oval and top road course driver. Dixon was top road course driver in 2013 and Newgarden was top road course driver last season. Power or Pagenaud could become the third driver to achieve that accomplishment. 

Since 2010, only twice has the top oval driver won the championship. Those drivers were Dario Franchitti in 2010 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012. Since 2010, no driver has been top oval driver and top road course driver in the same season.

Road To Indy
Indy Lights and Pro Mazda both head into the penultimate round of their respective seasons and both championships are still up for grabs. 

Andretti Autosport driver Patricio O'Ward heads into Gateway leading the Indy Lights championship with 395 points, 32 points clear of teammate Colton Herta. Belardi Auto Racing's Santiago Urrutia is the only other driver mathematically eligible for the title with the Uruguayan on 325 points. 

O'Ward has won four of the last five races and the one other result was a second place finish to Urrutia in Toronto. Herta has not won since the first Road America race but in the six races since then he has finished runner-up on four occasions. The two blemishes were a pair of accidents in both Toronto races. Urrutia's Toronto victory was his second of the season and he had three consecutive podium finishes heading into Mid-Ohio before he finished sixth and fourth. Last year at Gateway, Urrutia won the race ahead of Juan Piedrahita and Herta. 

Victor Franzoni enters fourth in the championship with 279 points, ten points ahead of Ryan Norman. Aaron Telitz and Dalton Kellett are tied on 250 points.

The Indy Lights race will be held at 5:40 p.m. ET on Saturday August 26th and the race is scheduled for 75 laps.

Four consecutive victories has Rinus VeeKay on top of the Pro Mazda championship. The Juncos Racing driver has 320 points, 25 points clear of Parker Thompson, who has finished outside the top five in three of the last four races after starting the season with top five finishes in the first nine races. Thompson won at Indianapolis Raceway Park in May from pole position while VeeKay finished fourth. VeeKay's teammate Carlos Cunha is 68 points back in third. David Malukas is another twenty points behind Cunha and Oliver Askew rounds out the top five on 232 points. Askew won last year in U.S. F2000 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Only the top five drivers are mathematically eligible for the championship. 

Last year, Juncos Racing won the Pro Mazda race at Gateway with Victor Franzoni while Cunha finished third behind Anthony Martin.

The 55-lap Pro Mazda race will be held at 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday August 26th.

Fast Facts
This will be the 12th IndyCar race to take place on August 25th and first since 2013 when Will Power won at Sonoma.

This year's Gateway race occurs 16 years to the day that Gil de Ferran won at Gateway in 2002 ahead of Hélio Castroneves and Alex Barron.

Dario Franchitti also won on August 25, 2002 as he won the inaugural race held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal ahead of Cristiano da Matta and Tony Kanaan.

Marco Andretti has made 123 starts since his most recent IndyCar victory. If he wins at Gateway it will be the second-longest drought between victories. Only Graham Rahal's streak of 124 starts between his St. Petersburg victory in 2008 and his 2015 victory at Fontana will be greater.

Ed Jones has finished outside the top ten in four consecutive races after he had four consecutive top ten finishes.

Takuma Sato has finished outside the top ten in three consecutive races after he had three consecutive top ten finishes. If he takes the green flag, this will be Sato's 150th IndyCar start.

Spencer Pigot has been the top Ed Carpenter Racing finisher in seven of 14 races and he has been the best ECR qualifier in six of 14 races.

Tony Kanaan has finished outside the top ten in the 15th race of the season the last six seasons.

Charlie Kimball's ninth place finish at Pocono was his 16th top ten finish on an oval in his IndyCar career. He has three top five finishes on ovals, second at Pocono in 2013, third at Indianapolis in 2015 and fifth at Indianapolis in 2016.

Max Chilton has not had a top ten finish in his last 15 starts.

Pietro Fittipaldi's cousin Christian Fittipaldi made three starts at Gateway with his finishes being 11th, ninth and 12th. His uncle Max Papis made four starts at Gateway with retirements in his first two starts but finishes of fifth and sixth in 1999 and 2000 respectively.

The average starting position for a Gateway winner is 4.625 with a median of two.

Five of eight Gateway races have been won from the front row.

The average number of lead changes in a Gateway race is 8.375 with a median of ten.

Last year's Gateway race had 11 lead changes, the most in track history.

Five of eight Gateway races have had double-digit number of lead changes.

The average number of cautions in a Gateway race is five with a median of 4.5. The average number of caution lap is 48.875 with a median of 39.

Five of eight Gateway races have had more than 30 caution laps.

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.

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.

Josef Newgarden successfully defends another victory and he does it with Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Scott Dixon all finishing in the top five. Power qualifies on the front row again. At least six teams are represented in the top ten. At least four drivers that finished outside the top ten at Pocono finish inside the top ten at Gateway. At least six drivers lead a lap and there will be at least two on-track lead changes. This race will have more passes than Phoenix but will still have fewer than 400 passes. There will be at least 100 passes for position. There will not be a caution before lap 50. Sleeper: Sébastien Bourdais.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Never-ending Thoughts on the 2018 Pocono Race

It is day three of thoughts on the Pocono race. It is different waves. First was looking at the race, taking what we knew and commenting on it. Then it was looking at the thoughts and feelings after Robert Wickens' accident. Today I want to look at other things that happened during the race that did not get attention on Sunday because it was relegated out of discussion and it wasn't talked about yesterday because it still didn't feel right.

A lot of people were up in arms over the start and it took out one car and significantly hampered the race of another. Twice in as many races the initial start has been a flashpoint for IndyCar with the pole-sitter in each case being accused of funny business to disrupt the field into the first corner of the race.

After watching this race and watching a handful of NASCAR races and issues both IndyCar and NASCAR has had with restarts, restart zones and more, I have an alternate way for when the race returns to green flag action and it takes it out of the hands of any driver. The green flag should be waved or the green light should come on when the pace car hits the line at pit in.

Here is why:

1. It takes it out of the hands of a driver who could manipulate it to brake check the driver behind them and potential cause an accordion-like accident similar to the one we saw on Sunday.

2. Drivers don't do the hurry and wait build up to a restart zone. There is no point in building up speed and then quickly forcing the field to decelerate and then stomp on the throttle to hope to gain an advantage. The pole-sitter or the leader is no longer in charge. If he or she wants to do that and decelerates coming to the line and the lights go green then he or she could get snuffed out and end up losing ten positions. In this scenario a driver would have to stay on edge, remain focused and be ready to go because an external force decides when the race becomes green.

3. It is cut and dry. Once the pace car hits the line, the green light comes on and drivers can hit the gas. No more of this restart zone, the leader can start anywhere between two lines. It is just like a stoplight at the intersection outside your house. The light turns green and then everyone can go.

It seems simple to implement. Are there issues with it? Sure. The pace car isn't perfect. We have seen plenty of pace car errors throughout the years but I think it decreases the chance of an accident occurring and another driver being at fault. One thing IndyCar has had a problem with throughout the years is the pole-sitter or leader playing games with a start, whether it has been the last few weeks with the abrupt deceleration or Hélio Castroneves being full throttle and eight car lengths ahead of the field before the flagman even has the green flag in hand. This might be the best way to save the drivers from themselves.

I got to watch some of the race broadcast from Sunday and Tony Kanaan was in the booth after his retirement. He was insightful and he fit in with Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Does that mean Kanaan should join a four-man IndyCar booth like NBC does for NASCAR? No and besides, Kanaan has a contract for next year and I think he still wants to be a driver.

But the one thing that hit me is how rotten Kanaan's year has been. Some of it might be age and every driver regresses a bit when they get older but it seems like Kanaan has had the little things take him out of races this year and the worst part of it is they have occurred at oval races where he is most likely to shine. A tire puncture forced an extra pit stop in the Indianapolis 500 and he got back in the top ten before a spin ended his day. His Texas race was over before he could break a sweat after a grazing the wall and a throttle sensor issue took him out early a Pocono.

Unfortunately, this hope of a renaissance at A.J. Foyt Racing with this successful driver has not happened. If anything, it has happened about four years too late. I am not sure when or if it can turn around for Foyt. The good news is the team has said it is retaining both drivers for next year but it seems like it doesn't matter who the drivers are. The problems are deeper than that.

Finally, I want to go back to the lack of track time the teams had at Pocono. There was a split camp over whether it was fair the drivers had an hour of practice and a qualifying run before the race and many seem to think extra time should have been given.

Part of me thought there was a chance for a brief warm-up session in the morning just to get some rubber into the racetrack. That didn't happen.

It was talked about in the booth and Kanaan and Bell both agreed that they liked the get to it nature of an hour practice followed by qualifying with an hour final session. Kanaan even said that you get all this time at Indianapolis to try things out and then can't make a decision but at a race like Pocono the team is forced to get to the point.

I think Pocono was a rough weekend. It was a two-day show and rain came after qualifying. I think two-day shows save the teams from themselves. Not every oval race should be a three-day show. Teams need to save money and unnecessary expense should be limited. In this case however, with a new aero kit and changes from Indianapolis and with few teams having time at the track maybe IndyCar should have scheduled a test at Pocono for Friday and given the teams three to six hours to learn and understand what this car can do.

It is hard for the series because it isn't like the 1990s where you can get every team to test and figure out the aero package. In a perfect world, IndyCar would have tested multiple days with every car at Pocono before this race to figure out the low downforce aero kit. We don't live in that world. The series and the teams have to kind of figure it out as they go.

If adjustments are to be made to the aero kit for low downforce racetracks before next year, and it seems like that is a possibility, IndyCar should schedule a multiple day test at Pocono. In my mind, I think it is more pertinent that teams and the series test at Pocono than say Road America or Iowa, two places where teams tested during the summer. Not that nothing more can be learned from a road course or short oval but rather there are so many opportunities to use the high downforce kit in race weekends that the low downforce kit should get more attention in testing than it does now.

These are some of the lighter thoughts I had from the weekend that didn't seem to fit in on Sunday night or yesterday. A lot of thinking has occurred over the last 48 hours and I am not sure I am done writing about this past weekend. Some of the thoughts were light like the ones above but after Wickens' accident and the dangerous nature of racing it allows you to visit a dark place and you start to realize the dark nature of motorsport that is constantly trying to be hidden in fan autograph sessions and corporate hospitality suites. I want to share those as well because I think it is important to be open. It might not be pleasant but it is important to take into consideration this part of motorsports and its history we ignore.