Tuesday, March 31, 2020

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: March 2020

March was a rough month. Right when the motorsport season seemed ready to get started everything came to a halt with the covid-19 outbreak. Formula One, MotoGP and IndyCar are all still in the starting gate. NASCAR is on hiatus. IMSA postponed the 12 Hours of Sebring to November. We have not only lost March but we can write off April and each day we lose a little more of May. It is completely gone for Formula One. IndyCar is hopeful of getting started in the final two days of May but the Indianapolis 500 has been kicked back to August. We are all waiting.

I will admit it is hard to write this comical bit when it has been such a rough period. You cannot trivialize what is going on and much of the news has been able delays and uncertainty and in some cases we have had crew members test positive for the virus. That is all off limits. There is nothing to joke about during that time. There is one virus-related headline but you will see why that was included.

There was still some news and some of it can be joked about. I hope this can be a light-hearted relief during this down period.

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 are going to start with the virus-related headline just to get it out of the way.

Bernie Ecclestone Says F1 was Too Slow in Reaction to Coronavirus Threat
Thanks Bernie! And your comment about how you would have already have called off the 2020 season is helping as well.

Let's be clear, if Bernie was still in charge not only would he have made sure Australia took place but he would have sent the teams to Bahrain. We would have two races in the bag and he would be upset that Vietnam could not take place and he would still be pushing for races to take place during these uncertain times. He would have pushed for races behind closed doors because the television viewership is what he cared about.

Also, has anyone heard what Jacques Villeneuve and Nico Rosberg had to say about Formula One's decisions regarding the covid-19 virus? They complete the Formula One knights of the round table. They must have something to say.

Would there be a worst podcast than Ecclestone, Villeneuve and Rosberg? I cannot imagine anyone could enjoy listening to those three have a conversation about anything.

Kevin Magnussen Says Haas F1 Team Could Leave Sport after 2020 if Results Don't Improve
New year, same story and while the bar was set low for 2020 because the 2019 season was such a mess it appears Haas will be heading out the door at the end of this season according to Magnussen.

Haas still committed to Formula 1, says Steiner
How did Haas bring back Magnussen? And this completely falls on the team.

If you watched the Drive to Survive series you saw how much Magnussen clashed with Guenther Steiner and you have to be amazed either Magnussen or Romain Grosjean completed 2019 and yet the team brought both back!

Haas kept a guy who is saying this team is on the verge of going under and keeping Magnussen might suggest that very well could be the case!

You can read deep into it but if Haas was committed to Formula One it would get at least one if not two new drivers into the team and hope to build for the future. Instead of getting new drivers, Haas kept Magnussen and Grosjean. Instead of spending for the future the team is keeping its lineup. It is easier to justify closing shop with two drivers who have been around for four seasons than closing a team down after hiring one or two new drivers at the start of the year. It seems a lot less heartbreaking to shutdown and end the careers of Magnussen and Grosjean than shutdown and put one or two guys who just got into Formula One back on the sidelines.

That is just how I am reading the tea leaves.

Moving from Formula One to a past world drivers' champion...

Button was interested in DTM move, says Berger
Ah, yes, another driver interested in a series but never setting foot in that series (bar for Button participating in the combination race at Hockenheim in a Super GT car).

In the subhead on Motorsport.com it said Button did not switch because he does not live in Europe. I know he lives in California and he lived there while competing in Super GT but California to Japan is still close to 12 hours on a plane. California to Germany is closer to 14 hours. I understand two hours is two hours and that adds up but it is not that much greater of a sacrifice. It is nine or ten race weekends. Button could make it work if he wanted to make it work.

Staying in the United States...

IndyCar 2020 hot topics: Can Richmond deliver a thriller?
Thriller is asking a lot for year one.

How about just a competitive race? Can we start with competitive, something that leaves people happy? Jumping all the way to thriller is asking for quite a bit.

Consider IndyCar's most recent stint in Phoenix. IndyCar would have taken competitive at Phoenix. IndyCar didn't need a thriller in Phoenix. It needed something that was solid to build on.

Vukovich – The greatest ever Indy 500 driver?
With the motorsports world on standstill we are going to see a lot of hypothetical questions and nostalgic headlines like this one until cars are getting back on track but this is one I will entertain because I think it is valid argument.

Bill Vukovich's Indianapolis 500 record, though brief, is staggering.

Five starts.

In 1951, an oil tank issue ended his race after 29 laps. Ok, not great, but everyone has mechanical issues at Indianapolis once or twice in a career.

1952: Started eighth, second-fastest qualifier, led 150 laps, steering broke with nine laps to go and he fell down the order to a 17th-place classification.

1953: Pole position and fastest qualifier. Led 195 of 200 laps in one of the hottest Indianapolis 500s on record and he did not have a relief driver at any point during the race on his way to his first Indianapolis 500 victory.

1954: Started 19th and was 15th fastest qualifier. Led 90 laps and became the third driver to win consecutive Indianapolis 500.

1955: Started fifth and was the third-fastest qualifier. Led 50 of the first 56 laps before his accident with Johnny Boyd that ended Vukovich's life.

Vukovich very well could have won three consecutive Indianapolis 500s. In terms of dominating the race, I am not sure anyone has dominated three consecutive races the way he did. If the steering holds in 1952 and fate goes a little differently in 1955, Vukovich is looking at four consecutive Indianapolis 500 victories and holding a lore in American motorsports that no driver is close to at this time. He would have been more heralded than A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti and he would be a mythical figure, the American answer to Juan Manuel Fangio.

With how the next two months are shaping up, perhaps this will be a good chance to re-visit the Greatest 33 concept and put together a grid based on the last 103 races.

Moving to the video game world...

Verstappen won't take part in Virtual Grand Prix series
Verstappen isn't running because he doesn't play that video game.

Come on, man! It is a video game. Throttle is on the right, brake is on the left, just play. You will figure it out.

It is his decision but could a person look more obtuse not participating in a video game exhibition simply because he does not play the game? It is not a matter that he doesn't have any of the equipment. The equipment is there and 99% of the time the game is the cheapest part.

Ego comes into play and some people do not want to do something if it will not look good for them. I get it but there is nothing wrong with looking human.

Why Are eSports and Video Games So Important to NASCAR Fans?
Because it allows fans a false equivalency that success in these video games means they could succeed in actual NASCAR and it is the only sporting endeavor where such a thought is taken seriously.

Kids do not play Madden and think they their success in that game means they could be a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. Kids do not play NBA 2K and think they are going to be averaging a triple-double in a season. One guy gets on iRacing and wins a handful of races and all we hear about is if he just had the money or if someone would take a chance on him he could be winning races in the Cup series in no time.

It blends delusion with reality.

That is it and April is unknown. There will be news but it seems unlikely there will be much competition, if any. Hopefully something comes up but for now we wait.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Musings From the Weekend: Three Weeks of Video Games

Things are not getting better but a few good things happened. Sage Karam was the winner of IndyCar's first iRacing event. IndyCar released a revised schedule, though Belle Isle appears to be on the fence. The Indianapolis 500 will be August 23. IMSA released a revised schedule. Laguna Seca is moving up a week, Mid-Ohio will be at the end of September and Road Atlanta moves back a week. MotoGP has delayed the Jerez round. Super GT is postponing races. Dario Franchitti has still got it. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Three Weeks of Video Games
We have been locked down for three weeks now. Outside of a couple of rallies in Mexico there has been no motorsports taking place. Super GT and Super Formula each got tests in but we have not seen races and the next time we see race cars at a track is still unclear but it does not feel like it will be that soon.

Filling the time has been plenty of video game races, from iRacing to Formula One's official video game and everything in-between, things have been organized quickly and has brought together drivers with nothing to do with people who are top of the virtual world.

This is a new but not entirely unfamiliar world to me. Life has evolved and Gran Turismo, the Formula One, NASCAR and one-time a long-time ago IndyCar games are not a regular outlet for free-time. This hobby never got to the level of iRacing. That was going to cost too much for a hobby.

It is one thing to play the games but it is another to watch it and if the time wasn't there for playing the games before it definitely wasn't there to watch it.

These are video games but they are races. It is not going to be that much of a shock to the system. The reaction to it will come down to the level of the competitors and what type of race is put on.

For the last three weeks I have watched a staggering amount of video game races and there are similarities across the board no matter the platform, the cars that are used and who is competing.

Between the competitions organized by The Race, Formula One, NASCAR, IMSA and IndyCar, a common thread is whoever starts at the front usually finishes there. That isn't a problem and that is typically how many races work out but it was not a case where someone could start 15th and drive up to the lead. It feels like the fields are pretty much tiered. Tier one starts in the top five and finishes in the top five. Those are the guys that have spent the most time on that platform. Fifth might be able to get to first, especially off the start. The pole-sitter could drop a few spots but the pole-sitter is still going to finish in the top five at worst.

The drivers that start between tenth and 15th, finish between those positions and so on.

That is fine but these events lack some type of shuffling, whether that is not having an alternate tire compound and pit strategy factor in or not having cautions or just having some guys who have a bad run in qualifying but has a better race car and can work to the front. It falls into the same problem some actually racing series struggle with, Formula One especially. If there is a consistent trend of the race results just mirroring the qualifying results than it is going to turn people off.

Part of it comes down to these races being sprint races. IMSA had a 90-minute race, which is a good length, and NASCAR had a 100-lap race at Homestead and 125-lap race at Texas, which are good lengths but not full races. The Formula One and The Race events have been more quarter-distance races and The Race has a few 10-lap heat races to set the main event. It is less time for things to happen and races need time to develop in some cases.

Race length aside, the level of competition has been a downer in some situations. Some guys are on iRacing regularly during the week to begin with. Other drivers never touch it. There is going to be disparity but in some cases it is a night and day difference. It some cases it was clear some big name drivers (Jimmie Johnson) should not be out there or at least not be locked into the main race.

NASCAR competitions the last few weeks have struggled with pace. Texas was better but the first two that were held had caution after caution for the first half of the race. It was one lap of green and then an accident and five caution laps. Then it was two laps of green, another accident and five caution laps. Then it was one lap of green, another accident and five caution laps. For those not doing the math at home that is four laps of green versus 15 laps of yellow. The Homestead race had nine cautions and 42 caution laps over a 100-lap race.

The one thing on NASCAR's side was each race was better in the final quarter of the race and had good finishes. The problem is it took over an hour to get there and it will be hard to keep people interested in watching when the first 75 minutes is nonsense. It is a lot like a basketball game where a lot of fouls are being called, no one is taking any shots from the field and it is a parade of free-throw after free-throw attempt.

This past weekend NASCAR had over 60 entries but the notable Cup drivers were locked into the field with the remainder competing in an LCQ for the final four spots. That is better than just having a qualifying session, but similar to when the top 35 cars in owners' points were locked in, you could get the case where faster drivers do not qualify while a handful of slower cars get to race.

Instead of locking Cup guys in, NASCAR could run three heat races, have those be ten laps in length, have a ten-lap LCQ follow and end with a 50-lap main event with the top twenty drivers. One, it would prevent the drivers not taking it seriously from getting in accidents and knowing it is fine because they have resets to burn. Two, it would allow everyone compete on television but hopefully prevent Jimmie Johnson from taking out the leaders. Three, there would be more urgency through out the broadcast and more on the line. Four, it would hopefully not take as long and feel like a better use of the time. The last two races broadcasted on FS1 went over its allotment of time. There is nothing it is delaying but it has been a finish and a hurried interview with the winner. I guess that is all you need but it would be nice not to be rushed out the door every once in a while.

If there is one thing I have learned from all this is the best thing to do is to do what is not done.

Dinner with Racers nailed how these events should be organized. They should be something we cannot see in the real world. The 12-hour Sebring race that it organized was a seven-class affair that featured IndyCars, the HPD LMP2 car, TCR Audis, Ford stock cars, spec-Miatas, Stadium Super Trucks and a sprint car. Who wouldn't want to watch that? You have no idea what could happen. Dinner with Racers returns on Thursday April 2 with Thursday Night Blunder.

We should suspend realism for a moment. We have seen NASCAR at Homestead and Texas plenty of times before. We don't need to see IndyCar at Phoenix or Watkins Glen. This is a chance to do something different and fun and not have to worry about sanctioning fees or safety. Give people a reason to tune in.

IndyCar is never going to race at Kokomo, Bathurst, Bristol, Monza or Talladega. NASCAR is never going to race at Knoxville, South Boston, Brands Hatch, Interlagos or Lime Rock Park. IMSA is never going to run the Pocono oval, Martinsville, Phillip Island or Darlington. Those are where the races should be held. It should be an off-the-wall event. It should be something that is mildly absurd but challenging. Every driver should be out of his or her comfort zone.

IndyCar is having some fun with it. It had a bracket decide this past weekend's race. Next week will be at Barber but after that it will be a "driver's choice" race and then a "random draw" before Austin when that race was supposed to be scheduled. The final race of the six-race series will be a non-IndyCar "dream" track. That is something!

I have taken away from this period of video game races that this could exist in some form regularly. I am not sure what the extent of it could be. I think the boom we are looking at now is mostly because of environmental factors. We are homebound and nothing else is going on in the sports world. This isn't some shift in the tide. Also, let's be clear that the numbers even during a shutdown when no sports are going on are not astronomical. This is not going to be weekly water cooler fodder when we get back to the water coolers.

It has a reach and a semi-regular series could add more exposure for a series. I am not sure it could be a weekly thing but perhaps it could be a monthly thing. Perhaps there is an appetite for a monthly IndyCar iRacing series where drivers from IndyCar, Indy Lights and the other Road to Indy series compete with a few invites and run a bunch of different places. The same is true for NASCAR.

These iRacing series will be held back because they need current drivers to compete. There are some people who are better at iRacing than the finest IndyCar and NASCAR drivers but 30 John and Jane Does are not going to draw flies. IndyCar needs Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta to show up. NASCAR needs Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch to show up. This basically has to be an extension of the real thing. Perhaps there could be two leagues, one for the iRacing regulars and the top three or five get included in this invitational league with the actual drivers.

This period of stagnation has forced us to adapt and that could turn out to be a good thing. This is a time to try things that have otherwise been put off or dismissed because there are no other options and races cannot be held. This is a chance to be innovative, explore new ways to reach people and give people something to enjoy. Motorsports will return and hopefully it will be soon but that does not mean what is practiced today should be completely abandoned when things return to normal. If it works it should be adopted into the routine when regular life resumes.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sage Karam but did you know...

Timmy Hill won NASCAR's video game race from Texas.

Dario Franchitti won the Legends Trophy All-Star race at the Silverstone National circuit.

NOT Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar will not actually be at Barber.
The European Le Mans Series will not begin its 2020 season in Barcelona.
MotoGP is not returning to the United States and Austin.
Formula One will not be making its debut in Vietnam.
There will not be a Super Formula season opener at Suzuka.
NASCAR will not be at Bristol.
Formula E will not be in Rome.
Supercars is not happening to Symmons Plains.
Supercross is not visiting Denver.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar will have a video game race at Barber.
NASCAR will have a video game race.
Dinner with Racers has its first edition of Thursday Night Blunder.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

First Impressions: IndyCar iRacing Watkins Glen 2020

1. I wasn't sure if I would write about IndyCar's iRacing event at Watkins Glen. I had not done a Track Walk and Morning Warm-Up but this is something and while it is not a race weekend and does not have the same kind of build up from practice to qualifying to the race it is a race and let's talk about it...

2. Sage Karam won in a beat down and that should not be a surprise because of Karam's iRacing prowess. Karam is a regular in iRacing and sim racing platforms. This is second-nature to him.

I do think we should use this time to look back at Karam's time in IndyCar because despite his debut coming in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, his résumé is thin. He has only made 20 starts over six seasons. Three of his last four years has just been the Indianapolis 500.

It is all hindsight but I feel like Karam may have gotten too short of a leash at Chip Ganassi Racing in 2015. He was 20 years old, still very young and still with a lot of maturing to do. He made mistakes, he had a few accidents but he also had some strong races. Ever since then he has been a one-off and didn't get another shot out of Indianapolis until Carlin had an opening for Toronto and Iowa last year.

I do not think that because Karam dominated today if you put him in a Penske car he will win eight races a season and re-write the IndyCar record book but I think he would be an asset to the grid and in the right stuff could be competitive on a weekly basis.

It was nice to see Dreyer & Reinbold Racing get a victory. It's only IndyCar victory was its first race on January 43, 2000 at Orlando with Robbie Buhl, the first race of the 21st century. This has been a long-time coming.

2. Felix Rosenqvist was second and he is another driver with a lot of sim racing experience. On the broadcast it was said Rosenqvist does 6-8 hours of sim racing a day during the offseason. That is a crazy. I do not know what it means or if it will make a difference when the season starts but I already thought Rosenqvist would be a race winner this season and it sounds like he is more than prepared.

3. Will Power rounded out the podium and he is another iRacing regular. Power's teammate Scott McLaughlin was fourth and that was after McLaughlin, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden were all caught in an accident after running for top five positions. Talk about breaking the first rule of never wrecking your teammate. Granted, none of the Penske drivers took each other out, it was more of one car spun and collected the other two. Pagenaud and Newgarden both recovered to finish sixth and seventh respectively.

4. Oliver Askew ran well in fifth. He was never one of the guys mixing it up for a podium position but he was in the top five for pretty much this entire race and really didn't have any pressure from behind after the first few laps.

5. Santino Ferrucci, Kyle Kirkwood and Conor Daly rounded out the top ten. None of these three were all that threatening. Kirkwood ran the #28 DHL Honda in place of Ryan Hunter-Reay. I think Kirkwood is set up for great things in Indy Lights this year. He did well but had a few moments, including a spin exiting the penultimate corner in front of Karam.

Daly passed Dalton Kellett, who was in the #41 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing, for tenth late in the race and I think this will be the high point of Kellett's season.

6. I am not going to go all that deep on the rest of the field. I will just pick out a few drivers:

Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, Marcus Ericsson, Zach Veach and Sébastien Bourdais were all in lap one accidents and were non-factors. Apparently Kanaan could not get his car repaired, which I am ok with because some guys get in an accident on lap one and there race is over, but this is an exhibition and a video game. Rossi, Ericsson and Veach continued and it would have been nice if Kanaan and Bourdais could have done the same.

Scott Speed qualified in the top five running in place of Marco Andretti in the #98 U.S. Concrete Honda. Speed was running third when he spun on his own exiting the boot and that was it. His day was over.

Jimmie Johnson was better than he was in the NASCAR event last week but he had his incidents and was far from setting the world on fire. However, 16th and two laps down is a good day for him.

7. IndyCar didn't throw cautions for these incidents and that was good and bad. It was good because it is a video game, there is no driver safety we have to worry about and nobody is going to stick around for watching a video game under caution. It was bad because it was not a thrilling race every lap. That is ok. No race is going to be a thriller on every lap. There were some good battles throughout the field but it was mostly spread out and that seems to be the theme across these sim races that have been taking place on the different platforms.

8. Watkins Glen was selected through a fan vote and I just wonder if anyone regrets that and would go back and vote for Michigan. I will be honest, I thought Michigan was going to win but I thought any of the ovals would win because it seems to be the predictable behavior of the fan base to shout for more ovals and this was a case where the fans could have selected an oval and didn't. Watkins Glen was the one-seed on the road course side of the bracket and it was the only option out of Sonoma, Sebring and Montreal that could have a prayer against an oval and it won. I just wonder how many fans have buyer's remorse after today.

9. Going forward I will be interested in seeing what tracks fill in the three other unscheduled tracks. Next week will be Barber and Austin will be on April 24 but between those two races is a drivers' choice and a random track and after Austin will be a non-IndyCar "dream" track.

I have plenty of questions:

Do the drivers' choice and random tracks have to be tracks IndyCar visits?

Could those be non-IndyCar tracks?

What does random mean?

Who is choosing the random track?

How is the random track chosen?

Are we asking Robin Miller for the random track?

Are we pulling tracks out of a hat and filling a bracket and then having a vote?

Is it really random if there is a vote?

When are drivers finding out about the random track?

Will they have a day of practice or will we show up that Saturday and find out when the event begins?

If those two weeks in April are non-IndyCar tracks will those tracks be out of the running for the "dream" track?

I think all three tracks should be non-IndyCar tracks. I do not think IndyCar needs to race at Iowa, Texas, Richmond, Road America or Laguna Seca on iRacing. I think we want to see different stuff. I think after watching today there could be a knee-jerk for those three dates to be ovals. None of these weekends are scheduled to be ovals. This entire competition could be six road course events. That is fine with me but there is a going to be a fraction of people who will not like that.

I am looking forward to the next five races regardless where they take place but I am interested in seeing if today factors into any decisions made down the road.

10. It was great to see Johnson out there. James Hinchcliffe had a connection issue and could not compete but it will be nice to see him get to compete along with Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens, two people who were waiting for their simulator rigs to show up and could not compete this weekend. I would love to see a few other guests, whether that is Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, Denny Hamlin and/or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. There should be two or three or five different faces each week. The barrier for entry is low. We should see drivers that spice it up.

These are supposed to be fun events and today was pretty fun. Let's keep it light and not take it too seriously. We need a distraction and today succeeded.

Friday, March 27, 2020

2020 IndyCar Schedule Revision: Where Are We Now?

IndyCar released a revision of the 2020 schedule yesterday after numerous of postponements and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most notable change in yesterday's release was the Indianapolis 500 moving from Memorial Day weekend, May 24 to August 23. We will cover that but we need to go over the new schedule in its entirety.

Where Are We Starting?
As of now, Belle Isle will be the season opening round with its doubleheader on May 30 and May 31. Texas will be round two on June 6 with Road America hosting the first summer race on June 21 and IndyCar will return to Richmond on June 27.

The First Change
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis has moved to July 4 and it will be apart of the Brickyard 400 weekend. The NASCAR Grand National Series race was already scheduled to be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on July 4 with the Brickyard 400 scheduled for July 5 on the oval.

Back As Intended
Toronto will remain July 12 and Iowa will remain July 18.

Second Change
IndyCar will take two weeks off before going to Mid-Ohio on August 9, one week earlier than originally scheduled and this was done to make room for the 104th Indianapolis 500.

The Indianapolis 500
Practice will begin on Wednesday August 12 and go through Friday August 14. Qualifying will take place the weekend of August 15-16th. Carb Day will return August 21 with the 104th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for August 23.

Fourth Change
To fit Indianapolis on August 23, Gateway has been pushed back a week to Sunday August 30. The race will be Sunday because NASCAR is at Daytona on Saturday August 29.

Labor Day Change
With Indianapolis being slotted into August and creating four consecutive weekends at a racetrack from Mid-Ohio to Gateway, IndyCar has moved Portland back a week from Labor Day weekend to Sunday September 13.

Laguna Seca will remain Sunday September 20.

St. Petersburg's Revival... hopefully?
St. Petersburg has been included on the revised schedule and it will be the season finale but with a to be announced date.

Where Should We Begin?
It was probably best to shift the Indianapolis 500 from Memorial Day weekend.

It was getting tight on whether or not the Indianapolis 500 could take place and with too much uncertainty IndyCar could not risk starting practice only to have an outbreak in the paddock or in the greater Indianapolis-area shut everything down.

IndyCar was able to move Indianapolis and get to include three practice days and a full qualifying weekend. It is not going to be a rushed three-day weekend of practice, qualifying and race. Hopefully come August we are not worrying about 300,000 people gathering. IndyCar could not ensure everything would be safe in May and moving was the correct move.

Let's Talk Doubleheader
We finally get that IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader that was speculated about for the better part of a year and it only took a global pandemic to make it happen.

Joking aside, it made the most sense when looking at the schedule. Indianapolis Motor Speedway would already be up and operational, the road course is being used that weekend, it is a holiday weekend and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis gets about the same size crowd as the Brickyard 400 so it shouldn't be that crazy of a crowd, not more than the Speedway could handle.

It brings up a few interesting questions.

First, all Road to Indy series are going to be there. Where are they going to get the garage space and how are they going to fit all these sessions in? I think Indianapolis was supposed to be a two-day show for NASCAR's second division and a two-day show for Cup with the Grand National Series being at the track on the 3rd and 4th and Cup there on the 4th and 5th. The Road to Indy will be there July 2-3rd. I guess July 2 could be all IndyCar and the junior series. On July 3, the Grand National Series cars come in for practice while IndyCar has qualifying and the Road to Indy series conclude.

The schedule gets interesting for the July 4 because Cup is going to start practice and it takes a little bit of time for the track to change configurations from road course to oval and vice versa. A few barriers have to be moved and safety vehicles have to be re-arranged. Indianapolis has done it before when it hosted Grand-Am and IMSA during the Super Weekend with NASCAR for those few years but how do you do it with Cup practice and likely qualifying, Grand National Series activities and possibly an IndyCar warm-up and race?

The Grand National Series race was already scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET but that is subject to change.

The good news is there should be plenty of daylight. It is just a matter of what makes sense in terms of deciding what is the main event of the day. Do you want Cup qualifying to close the day or the IndyCar race? Do you start Saturday with oval practice, switch the track to road course configuration for those races, switch it back to oval configuration for qualifying and create more work? Do you leave it in road course configuration after Friday, run all the road course festivities and then switch it once for the oval stuff beginning late Saturday afternoon and go into the evening?

I am going to break it to IndyCar fans now that the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will probably not be the final thing of the day, held in the coolness of evening. Most likely, Cup qualifying will close the day and IndyCar is likely going to be run in the heat of the afternoon. Let's see how everyone feels about IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheaders after that.

August Rearrangement
Some necessary changes were made. It is good Mid-Ohio was able to move up a week and Gateway was able to move back a week. The one thing about Gateway is with it being on a Sunday, will it be a day race or can it still be at night? Part of Gateway's success is it has been a Saturday night race and it has avoided the heat of the afternoon.

I am not sure Gateway can draw close to the same crowd on a Sunday, regardless of if it is in the afternoon or at night. That time of the year is when most schools are back in session. It is not going to be as flexible for families. This is a one-off. I do not think a day race or a Sunday night race is going to kill the event. Everyone is adjusting and making sacrifices. Gateway will be fine.

Rose City Delayed
Speaking of sacrifices, Portland moves from Labor Day weekend and will now be run on the first Sunday of the NFL season. IndyCar could not consciously make the teams run five consecutive weeks hence why Portland was moved back a week. It is a loss but the good news is Portland could lead into Sunday Night Football and that could help out on what will be a difficult afternoon.

A New Finale
The St. Petersburg inclusion is surprising and I feel like it shouldn't have been done unless it had a date set. I get announcing it as a TBD and letting everyone know it is out there instead of six weeks from now announcing an addition but there is still a chance it doesn't happen and after the blowback from St. Petersburg's refund policy I am not sure it will look good if the race cannot get off the ground with an autumnal date.

When could St. Petersburg fall?

September 27 is Ryder Cup weekend and I am not sure NBC could squeeze it then. After that every Sunday has a NASCAR race in the afternoon. However, perhaps IndyCar could end on a Saturday. October 3 is an open Saturday with only a Truck race from Talladega.

How late does IndyCar want to end the season?

I am sure the series wants to end as close to Laguna Seca as possible. I am sure the series doesn't want to wait until the weekend of October 17-18th for the finale but if St. Petersburg is that hellbent on having a race in 2020 IndyCar has to be flexible and take what it can get.

Other Thoughts
This is as good as it gets for IndyCar.

This year has already be upended enough. There is not going to be a perfect schedule and you cannot be upset over anything that happens this year. It is ok to be concerned but everyone is making sacrifices. Everyone is losing out in someway. There is no point in feeling too bad about whatever you have lost.

It was interested seeing the Road to Indy announce its revised schedules and all three series will still have 18-race calendars.

Indy Lights will have a triple-header at Road America, a doubleheader at the IMS road course and Toronto, a triple-header at Mid-Ohio, run the Freedom 100 on Carb Day, run at Gateway and conclude with doubleheaders at Portland, Laguna Seca and St. Petersburg.

Indy Pro 2000 will also have a Road America triple-header followed by doubleheaders at the IMS road course and Toronto. It will also have a triple-header at Mid-Ohio, run the Freedom 90 at Indianapolis Raceway Park on August 22 before running at Gateway. It seasons will conclude with doubleheaders at Portland, Laguna Seca and St. Petersburg.

U.S. F2000 will start with two triple-headers, first at Road America and then at the IMS road course. It will have a doubleheader in Toronto before a triple-header at Mid-Ohio. The only U.S. F2000 oval races will be the Freedom 75 from IRP on August 22. The season will conclude with doubleheaders at Portland, Laguna Seca and St. Petersburg.

I was wondering if IndyCar could make one or two rounds doubleheaders just to get the schedule to 15 or 16 races but I think that ship has set sail and it would be too much to ask for these teams.

I think it could only be done at the natural-terrain road courses but it couldn't be done at Road America because that is the first week of five consecutive weekends of racing. Mid-Ohio is the week before Indianapolis and the start of another four consecutive weeks at the track so that isn't happening.

That leaves Portland and Laguna Seca but NASCAR has races scheduled for Saturday night both those weekends so those are kind of ruled out. I am not sure you want to end the season with a doubleheader at St. Petersburg. You are just hoping to get one St. Petersburg race. Let's not ask for too much and try to get two.

The one thing I would like to see IndyCar try for 2021 is having doubleheaders at Barber and Austin. I do not think IndyCar owes us anything but it would be a nice gesture for these two tracks who lost dates and it would give the fans a little bit more. Barber always has great crowds and it is one of the best road courses in the country. This was only supposed to be year two for Austin and that event did well in year one but with all that Austin has gone through it is going to need something big to make sure people come out should IndyCar return.

I am sure the teams will push back again additional doubleheaders. It is not cheap and it is not easy but if it is just a one-year thing I think it could be manageable.

If there is one note we have to end on it is this revised schedule is far from concrete. We could lose Belle Isle. Texas could be pushed back. The season could start at Road America and even that could be the optimistic projection. The next few weeks have to be better in terms of COVID-19 cases. Until things start to get better we need to get comfortable that the entire season could be called off.

Indianapolis was pushed far enough back to hope things can calm down over the additional two months but if we start losing dates in June and run the risk of losing dates in July it might reach the point where the entire season will be lost. It could be a season that is just the Indianapolis 500 plus two or three races. We have no clue what will happen.

We are hopeful this revised schedule will be it but we must remain aware that this might not be the final schedule and more changes are possible.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2020 Super Formula Preview

Everything is on stand still but I am going to keep up part of the original schedule and that means getting out a Super Formula season preview. The Japanese single-seater season was supposed to start on the first weekend of April but its 2020 season has been delayed until at least the middle of May.

The series was able to get in a preseason test from Fuji on Tuesday and Wednesday. With that first look at the 2020 grid we mind as well take a look at the field and see how everyone stacked up in the first serious on-track action since the 2019 season concluded last October.

There are going to be a few changes in Super Formula for 2020. The series has changed its points system, going away from the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system, similar to what Formula One used from 2003 to 2009, to a 20-15-11-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system Super GT uses. There will be more points offered in qualifying. The pole-sitter will get three points, up from one, while second and third in qualifying will get two points and one point respectively.

Super Formula has also adopted a full course yellow system for the 2020 season.

The first scheduled round of the 2020 Super Formula season is Autopolis on May 17. Sportsland SUGO will be the first summer round on June 21 before a two-plus month before a race at Motegi on August 30. The series was taking an extended break for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo but those games have been postponed until 2021 and potentially this time could be used to make-up races.

Okayama is scheduled for September 27 with Suzuka scheduled as the finale on November 15.

Two rounds have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, one at Suzuka and one at Fuji, both races were scheduled for April. No makeup dates have been announced yet.


Vantelin Team TOM'S
Nick Cassidy: #1 Vantelin Team TOM'S SF19-Toyota
What did Cassidy do in 2019: Cassidy won the Super Formula championship with 36 points, one victory and four podium finishes. He was second in the Super GT GT500 championship on 83 points with one victory and four podium finishes. He also won the first Super GT x DTM Dream Race at Fuji.
What to expect for 2020: Cassidy had one foot out the door and was one of the last drivers confirmed for the 2020 season. He has had plenty of success in Japan over the last four years but he is ready for more. The problem is he is not in the mix for Toyota's LMP1 program and outside of that there are not many other Toyota options internationally. It doesn't seem like he is on the radar for any Formula One teams. This is going to be an audition season for Cassidy. He is going to be competitive and be in the title discussion. He has already done enough but another strong Super Formula season will raise his stock further.

Kazuki Nakajima: #36 Vantelin Team TOM'S SF19-Toyota
What did Nakajima do in 2019: Nakajima picked up his first World Endurance Drivers' Championship and picked up his second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with Fernando Alonso and Sébastien Buemi. He has started the 2019-20 season with one victory and five podium finishes. In Super Formula, he was 12th in the championship on 12 points with a runner-up finish at Okayama and fifth at Fuji. In Super GT, he was seventh in the GT500 championship on 38 points with a victory at Suzuka and third at Motegi.
What to expect for 2020: Things should be much better for Nakajima. The last four years have been down compared to the first half of his Super Formula career where he won two titles and was vice-champion twice. Nakajima's testing pace was competitive and I think he will score above 20 points and get multiple podium finishes.

DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing
Naoki Yamamoto: #5 DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing SF19-Honda
What did Yamamoto do in 2019: Yamamoto was second in the Super Formula championship with 33 points with one victory and three podium finishes. In Super GT, he was eighth in the championship on 37 points with two podium finishes. He also ran in Friday first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix for Toro Rosso.
What to expect for 2020: Yamamoto is going to be at the front again, he is going to be in the championship fight and win multiple races. Similar to Cassidy, Yamamoto has put feelers out abroad, even though he was kind of pushing back on it early last year. He went from a driver with no interest in Formula One to testing a Toro Rosso at the Japanese Grand Prix. Another strong season and Yamamoto will have a great case for a shot at Formula One in 2021. If not, he is happy in Japan and can have a long career at home.

Nirei Fukuzumi: #6 DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing SF19-Honda
What did Fukuzumi do in 2019: Fukuzumi was seventh in the Super Formula championship with 18 points and one podium finish. In Super GT, he won the GT300 championship with Shinichi Takagi on 69.5 points from one victory three podium finishes and scoring points in all eight races.
What to expect for 2020: Slightly better than last year. Fukuzumi had a few rough results in 2019, including spinning over early at Okayama but he put together a respectable season. Fukuzumi was strong in testing and had a slight edge over Yamamoto. It will be difficult to beat his teammate over an entire season but the car is there and top five in the championship is not too ambitious.

TCS Nakajima Racing
Tadasuke Makino: #64 TCS Nakajima Racing SF19-Honda
What did Makino do in 2019: Makino was 16th in the Super Formula championship on six points with a fourth place finish at Autopolis and a pole position in the season opener at Suzuka. In Super GT, he was 12th in the GT500 championship on 23.5 points with a runner-up finish at Sportsland SUGO and he scored points in six of eight races.
What to expect for 2020: Better than 2019. Makino had pace but could not string together the results and he was handily beat in the championship in the Nakajima Racing battle with Álex Palou. Palou is now in IndyCar and this is Makino's chance to shine. Testing results were encouraging. He could get on the podium but the bigger goal should be to score points more times than not.

Toshiki Oyu: #65 TCS Nakajima Racing SF19-Honda
What did Oyu do in 2019: Oyu was fourth in the Japanese Formula Three championship on 60 points with one victory and six podium finishes from 20 races. He also won his only two starts in Euroformula Open at Silverstone.
What to expect for 2020: Oyu was the surprise of testing, immediately ending up in the top three on day one, being in the top five in three of four sessions and his worst outing was sixth in the final session. His Formula Three results were not jaw-dropping but they were encouraging. Something is there and out of the gate it appears he could mirror Palou's rookie campaign. That is asking a lot. I think reasonable goal is top eight in the championship, one or two podium finishes and finishing best in the team.

Itochu Enex Team Impul
Yuhi Sekiguchi: #19 Itochu Enex Team Impul SF19-Honda
What did Sekiguchi do in 2019: Sekiguchi was eighth in the Super Formula championship on 16 points with a victory at Sportsland SUGO. He was also seventh in the Super GT GT500 championship on 38 points with a victory at Suzuka and third at Motegi.
What to expect for 2020: Sekiguchi should be somewhere between fourth and ninth in the championship, which is a pretty large window but it is a matter of two or three races going differently. He won the second race of the season and then couldn't get back to that same level. Give him six more points and he is fifth in the championship. That is how tight it is in Super Formula. The problem is Sekiguchi's testing results were not great and he has a really quick teammate that is making it hard seeing how Sekiguchi will be leading the team in 2020.

Ryō Hirakawa: #20 Itochu Enex Team Impul SF19-Honda
What did Hirakawa do in 2019: Hirakawa was tenth in the Super Formula championship on 12 points with a victory in Motegi. He was second in the Super GT GT500 championship on 83 points with one victory and four podium finishes.
What to expect for 2020: Hirakawa led the first day of testing from Fuji, had the fastest time over the two days, was third and second in the two Wednesday test sessions and it feels like 2020 could be the year he is a title contender. He got his elusive first Super Formula victory last year and if it weren't for a funky Okayama race he would have ended up right next to Sekiguchi in the championship and perhaps a position ahead of him. This could be a big year for him and if he does not win the championship it should be his highest championship finish yet. His previous best championship result is fifth.

Team Mugen
Jüri Vips: #15 Red Bull SF19-Honda
What did Vips do in 2019: Vips was fourth in the FIA Formula Three Championship on 141 points with three victories and four podium finishes. Vips was also runner-up in the Macau Grand Prix from pole position. He made his Super Formula debut last year in the Suzuka finale and finished 18th.
What to expect for 2020: Red Bull has experienced both polar ends when it comes to development drivers in Super Formula. Pierre Gasly nearly won the championship and Red Bull gave up on Dan Ticktum almost immediately. Enter Vips and perhaps third time will be the charm. Testing pace was good but all these tracks will be new to him. I expect a few good results but there will be at least one race where he doesn't have it and that could easily cost him five spots in the championship. It will be a good year and he will be somewhere in the top ten of the championship.

Tomoki Nojiri: #16 Team Mugen SF19-Honda
What did Nojiri do in 2019: Nojiri was fourth in the Super Formula championship with 24 points after a victory in the Suzuka finale. He was also tenth in Super GT's GT500 championship on 31 points after a victory at Okayama.
What to expect for 2020: Nojiri's season finale victory saw a him take a big leap from 12th in the championship to fourth in the final standings. Before that he had a good year but he had a few rough results knock him back a few pegs. He was consistently ahead of Vips in testing but they were close in each session. Both drivers should be competing for the top ten in the championship but I am not convinced either could be in the top five.

Kondō Racing
Kenta Yamashita: #3 Kondō Racing SF19-Toyota
What did Yamashita do in 2019: Yamashita was fifth in the Super Formula championship with 21 points with a victory at Okayama and a third at the Suzuka season opener. In Super GT, he won the GT500 championship on 85 points with two victories and four podium finishes. He is competing the LMP2 class in the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season with High Class Racing and that team has 41 points from the first five races.
What to expect for 2020: Yamashita was down the order in testing and 2019 was a tail of two seasons. He scored points in the first three races and then failed to score in three of the final four. His lone victory was smushed in the middle of that slump and that came after a poor qualifying effort but a bit of strategy elevated him to a victory. I think he is going to slide back a bit from fifth in the championship and perhaps he could fall out of the top ten.

Sacha Fenestraz: #4 Kondō Racing SF19-Toyota
What did Fenestraz do in 2019: Fenestraz won the Japanese Formula Three championship on 162 points with eight victories and 18 podium finishes from 20 races. He was sixth in the Super GT GT300 championship on 46 points with a runner-up finish in Buriram.
What to expect for 2020: Fenestraz dominated last year in Japanese Formula Three, not quite the level of dominance Sho Tsuboi had the year before that but Fenestraz had a tough battle with Ritomo Miyata. That rivalry could turn into a good thing for Fenestraz because had someone who pushed him to the max over the entire season and that level of pressure is going to be there in every Super Formula race all throughout the field. I think he will be close to his Kondō teammate and maybe even finish ahead of him in the championship. I do not anticipate podium finishes this year.

JMS P.mu/Cerumo INGING
Hiroaki Ishiura: #38 JMS P.mu/Cerumo INGING SF19-Toyota
What did Ishiura do in 2019: Ishiura was 13th in the Super Formula championship on ten points after scoring points in four of seven races with his best finish being sixth on two occasions. In Super GT, he was fourth in the GT500 championship on 46.5 points with a victory in the first Fuji race.
What to expect for 2020: Last year was Ishiura's worst in Super Formula since his rookie year in 2008. I do not think it is going to get better. INGING was middle of the road in testing. I think 2020 could look a lot like 2019.

Sho Tsuboi: #39 JMS P.mu/Cerumo INGING SF19-Toyota
What did Tsuboi do in 2019: Tsuboi was 11th in the Super Formula championship with 12 points after a runner-up finish at Fuji and a fifth place finish at the Suzuka season opener. In Super GT, he was 11th in the GT500 championship on 27.5 points with his best finish being third at Buriram.
What to expect for 2020: Tsuboi had some good runs that did not turn into points last year. His runner-up finish did come with a bit of fortune in a monsoon. I expect he will be ahead of Ishiura again but I do not see a big leap in the championship.

B-MAX Racing with Motopark
Sérgio Sette Câmara: #50 B-MAX Racing with Motopark SF19-Honda
What did Câmara do in 2019: Câmara was fourth in the Formula Two championship on 204 points with two victories and eight podium finishes.
What to expect for 2020: Câmara is back in the Red Bull junior program and he is heading to Japan after an encouraging Formula Two season. The problem is he is the second of Red Bull junior drivers in Super Formula and while B-MAX Racing with Motopark had a good 2019 it was still toward the bottom of the table. Câmara was a late addition to the grid, replacing Pietro Fittipaldi, who had an interestingly late sponsor conflict knock him out of this seat. He was much better on Wednesday in testing than Tuesday but I think it will be a rough start to the season and perhaps he scores a handful of points later in the season.

Charles Milesi: #51 B-MAX Racing with Motopark SF19-Honda
What did Milesi do in 2019: Milesi was ninth in the Japanese Formula Three championship on 13 points with six top five finishes in 14 starts.
What to expect for 2020: Milesi knows the tracks but his results last year were not spectacular and his testing pace was not inspiring. If he gets a few points this season it will be a good year for him.

carrozzeria Team KCMG
Kamui Kobayashi: #7 carrozzeria Team KCMG SF19-Toyota
What did Kobayashi do in 2019: Kobayashi was sixth in the Super Formula championship with 19 points after a pair of runner-up finishes at Sportsland SUGO and Motegi and a sixth at Fuji. In the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season he was second in the championship after a pair of victories and four runner-up finishes. In the 2019-20 season, he leads the championship with Mike Conway and José María López with two victories, a runner-up finishes and two third place finishes. Kobayashi has also won the last two 24 Hours of Daytona, both with Wayne Taylor Racing.
What to expect for 2020: Kobayashi is still looking for his first career Super Formula victory. He came very close last year only to fall short on a few occasions. This is a big year for KCMG, as it expands to two cars. That means more data but that could mean more resources spread too thin. Testing was not great for the team with both cars stuck in the middle of the pack. Kobayashi is gunning for a WEC title and that season has been expanded into September because of the postponement of Le Mans. I think he could have his eye on a bigger prize in sports cars and it could hurt him. However, with Le Mans not until September, Kobayashi could give Super Formula plenty of attention and have a better year than 2019.

Yuji Kunimoto: #18 carrozzeria Team KCMG SF19-Toyota
What did Kunimoto do in 2019: Kunimoto was 17th in the Super Formula championship on five points with a sixth in the Suzuka season opener, a pole position at Autopolis and an eighth at Sportsland SUGO. In Super GT, he was 11th in the GT500 championship on 27.5 points with his best finish being third at Buriram.
What to expect for 2020: Kunimoto moves over from Kondō and he should be better than last year. He scored points in the first three races and then didn't score again for the rest of the season. I am not sure KCMG can put two cars at the front of the field immediately. Kunimoto could double his points total and still be outside the top ten of the championship. I think that is a likely result for 2020.

Kazuya Oshima: #14 ROOKIE Racing SF19-Toyota
What did Oshima do in 2019: Oshima was 14th in the Super Formula championship with seven points after a third at Autopolis and an eighth at Okayama. In Super GT, he won the GT500 championship on 85 points with two victories and four podium finishes.
What to expect for 2020: Oshima moves to the new team after Team LeMans withdrew from Super Formula. Oshima scored all the points for Team LeMans in 2019. I am not sure he can do much more than seven points in 2020. He was in the bottom quarter of the field at the test.

Drago Corse with ThreeBond
Tatiana Calderón: #12 Drago Corse with ThreeBond SF19-Honda
What did Calderón do in 2019: Calderón scored zero points in Formula Two driving for BWT Arden. She competed in three rounds of the 2019-20 F3 Asian Championship and she scored 31 points from nine races with her best finish being fourth.
What to expect for 2020: Calderón was bringing up the rear in testing in every session and there was a notable gap between her and the next driver each time. Drago Corse is back in Super Formula after three years away but in its first stint it scored 10.5 points over two seasons. I think there is a chance Calderón does not complete a full season.

Other Notes:
There has been four different champions over the last four Super Formula seasons. The last time the series had at least five different champions in five seasons was from 2008 to 2013.

Cassidy's title last year ended a streak of seven consecutive seasons with a Japanese driver winning the championship. It was the longest stretch since 1984-1991.

Cassidy could become the first driver to win consecutive championships since Tsugio Matsuda in 2007 and 2008. A driver has won consecutive championships three other times in this series, Kazuyoshi Hoshino in 1977-78, Satoru Nakajima in 1981-82 and Satoru Nakajima in 1984-86.

Yamamoto was the only Honda driver to win the drivers' championship in the 2010s. He took the title in 2013 and 2018. The only other Honda driver to win the championship since Toyota joined the series in 2006 was Loïc Duval in 2009.

Last year saw seven different winners in all seven races. It was the most since the 1993 season, which had seven winners from nine races.

Monday, March 23, 2020

33 Indianapolis 500 Possibilities

Things have been constantly changing and in one moment you think you know the plan only for it to be completely flipped hours later.

The ACO and FIA announced it would determine this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans fate in April and then days later announced the race was moved to September. The FIA announced the postponement of Zandvoort, Barcelona and Monaco and three hours later Monaco announced the race was entirely cancelled.

Don't get me wrong, things have slowed down considerably from ten days ago but it is still a breakneck pace and with CDC recommendations for postponing larger gatherings until the middle of May the pressure is on the Indianapolis 500 because any further extension will mean the race will not take place on Memorial Day weekend.

Any news regarding the Indianapolis 500 date could come out at any time. It could be out minutes after this is published, within the hour, day or later in the week. We have no clue, as discussions are constantly being had and arrangements are constantly being adjusted.

We need to prepare for every possibility for this year's Indianapolis 500 and I have come up with 33 of them for you to digest.

1. Everything happens on schedule
This is the easiest one and the calmest one.

The CDC recommendation goes through May 10. Let's say the CDC has no further extension to that recommendation and practice can begin on May 12, qualifying can take place on May 16 and 17 and we can close out the month with Monday practice on the 18, Carb Day on the 22nd and the 104th Indianapolis 500 on May 24th.

That would be great. That is unlikely. Unless something miraculous happens in the next week and the number of new COVID-19 cases drops to close to zero, we see no further spikes in reported cases and the number of recoveries shoot through the roof I do not see everything happening on schedule.

2. Condensed schedule, race still happens on May 24
This is a little more pessimistic but still optimistic. This is a case of perhaps the recommendation is extended a week but cars can get on track May 18th for practice. That entire week could be used for practice with qualifying being one day on Carb Day.

Not ideal but it gets the most out of the Indianapolis 500 in a short period of time.

3. Typical race weekend, race still happens on May 24
This would be shortening the Indianapolis 500 to three days, practice on Carb Day, qualify on Saturday and race Sunday. It would become an ordinary race weekend and we get the Indianapolis 500 on time but we lose the pomp of practice, the rush of storylines, the party of Carb Day and the pageantry of the parade.

It would fulfill the Indianapolis 500 dogma of the race being on Memorial Day weekend but it would be hollow. It would check off a box but leave us empty. This would be done more for relief than satisfaction. It would likely leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Not a bad taste in terms of disgust but a bad taste in this could have been better.

If we are talking about changing the Indianapolis 500 schedule, especially condensing the on-track activities to three days like a typical IndyCar race weekend we could also be looking at the possibility of changes to the grid for this year's race.

4. Guarantee everyone starts
This possibility especially comes into play if possibility #3 happens or any Indianapolis 500 schedule is a three-day format.

These teams are walking the tightrope and after everything that has happened the safety net is gone. If a team has a sponsor the last thing it needs is missing the race in this climate, especially if proceedings have been cut down to three days instead of a week of practice and two days of qualifying with multiple attempts.

There is a good chance the teams need a break after this uncertain time and the best act of charity Roger Penske can do for this year's race is guarantee every entrant will start the race.

If it is a three-day format have Carb Day be a day full of practice and end it with the pit stop competition, have qualifying be one attempt on Saturday to set the field, have the public driver's meeting afterward, take the front row photo and then get everyone on a bus to the parade.

Everyone can breathe easier over those two days and focus on race day.

5. Field fewer than 33
It was only a month ago we were counting Indianapolis 500 entries and we had 29 announced car and driver pairings. Since then we had James Hinchcliffe confirmed at Andretti Autosport, Fernando Alonso confirmed at McLaren and Spencer Pigot will be running for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Citrone/Buhl Racing bringing us to 32 entries.

There is a chance that will be it. I am not sure how many sponsors are looking to drop $1 million on an Indianapolis 500 effort after all this. There is also a chance a few sponsors back out and knock a few entries off the grid.

Nothing is set in stone anymore and we have to be comfortable that this could be the first Indianapolis 500 since 1947 to have fewer than 33 entries on the starting grid.

6. Field greater than 33
Let's say sponsors are still spending and in addition to the 32 entries already slated to participated in the Indianapolis 500 we see Dreyer & Reinbold Racing put together a second car, Juncos Racing get a program off the ground and Dale Coyne Racing roll out a third car, upping the total to 35 entries.

This goes in line with #4, if 35 entries are able to put together sponsorships for this year's race they could all be allowed in, especially if a three-day weekend is used. This would be an exception to the rule, similar to 1979 and 1997 though for much different circumstances. There are enough pit boxes for 35 entries. I do not think we are going to see more than 35 entries commit. Perhaps we get a 36th entry but that would not be a stretch if added to the grid. I think it starts getting hairy when you are pushing 38, 39 or 40-plus entries but I think the nature of IndyCar prevents those type of numbers being seen.

Things are not going to get out of hand but we should prepare for a 12th row in 2020.

7. Field of 33
This would not be new and this would be the worst case of the best case scenarios. We get to keep the field of 33 moniker alive, as was done for many years during the 2000s and 2010s. We have reach full capacity but with no spill over. If this is all we get for 2020 then good. It is not great but we should not be feeling bummed out if there is no bumping this year.

8. On May 24 but behind closed doors
Field size aside, this is worst case of the best case scenarios in terms of date and it seems really unlikely.

It has been toyed with and done with other sporting events around the world but I do not think the Indianapolis 500 would take place without any spectators.

We have reached a point with the COVID-19 virus where holding events behind closed doors really isn't protecting anybody. It might prevent 300,000 people from getting together and it would eliminate the virus potentially spreading to an unfathomable number of people in one sitting but the issue is even if only the teams got together it would still be a group north of 1,000 people when you factor in every crew member, track official, IndyCar official, dignitary, media member and security guard. It is not about that group of people coming together but that group of people splintering off to the rest of the world when the event is all said and done.

How would an Indianapolis 500 behind closed doors take place? I could only see it if there is a big push on the television side and estimates have the television audience at north of 15 million people, a number the Indianapolis 500 hasn't come close to since the 1990s.

9. Pushed back a week, quasi-longer schedule
10. Pushed back a week, typical race weekend
The Indianapolis 500 will likely not take place on Memorial Day weekend. This would be the net best scenario as the race would still take place in May, either on May 30th or May 31st.

What would happen to Belle Isle? I do not know but Belle Isle is a Roger Penske event and if Penske has to sacrifice Belle Isle for Indianapolis he would do it eight days a week.

A quasi-longer schedule would mean potentially having on-track activity on Memorial Day weekend but it wouldn't be the race. It could be the start of practice and practice could go through Thursday or Friday with qualifying following.

The good news is IndyCar has not one but two national television windows scheduled for the week after the Indianapolis 500 because of the Belle Isle doubleheader. IndyCar could have the first day of qualifying on Friday with the Last Row Shootout and Fast Nine on Saturday and the race on Sunday. It could just have one qualifying session on Saturday that fills the field with the race on Sunday. There is a lot of flexibility in moving the Indianapolis 500 back a week.

What would really happen to Belle Isle? The IndyCar schedule is tight after Indianapolis and I am not sure IndyCar could slide everything back with Belle Isle dropping back a week and Texas sliding back a week as well. If the Indianapolis 500 slides back a week I have a feeling Eddie Gossage will get snobby, dig his heels in the dirt and kick and scream how Texas should be the race after the Indianapolis 500 as he has been doing for the last 20 years acting like it is some decree from on high.

I know Belle Isle is a street course and those events are tricky but I am sure Penske could slide the city of Detroit a wad of cash to have the races on June 13th and 14th.

11. Pushed back to June 6, typical race weekend
12. Pushed back to June 7, typical race weekend
Let's say Memorial Day is wiped out and Belle Isle cannot move but everything will be good to go on May 30th and 31st. I think there is a chance, a slim chance but a chance, the IndyCar season opens at Belle Isle, IndyCar gets a doubleheader and it has two days on NBC to promote that the Indianapolis 500 is a week away.

It would work similar to the qualifying weekend that is already scheduled to be shown on NBC it would just be races and at a different venue.

This would mean a shortened schedule and it would be a tight turnaround off Belle Isle but it could be worth it.

In the first possibility, I put the race down for June 6 because that is when the Belmont Stakes is scheduled we could see the Indianapolis 500 held in the first half of the afternoon with NBC moving straight into Belmont Stakes coverage afterward. It could be a great day of sports and if the Stanley Cup playoffs have started we could see the Indianapolis 500 lead into the Belmont Stakes, which very well could be the first race of the Triple Crown this year, and after Belmont a playoff hockey game could follow. Not bad for a terrible situation.

However, I do not think the Indianapolis 500 would be moved to a Saturday afternoon unless the data is there to show the number would be worth it. Saturday afternoons are not big television windows, not compared to Sundays, which is why June 7 would make more sense.

The only problem is NASCAR is scheduled to be at Michigan on June 7. When has the Indianapolis 500 and Michigan had a date clash before? U.S. 500 jokes aside this would still be the Fox portion of the calendar and I cannot see how IndyCar and NBC could get NASCAR and Fox to move the Michigan Cup race to June 6 to prevent the clash.

13. Pushed back to June 14, quasi-longer schedule
14. Pushed back to June 14, typical race weekend
These scenarios take place on the first available off-weekend in the IndyCar schedule. What was supposed to be the off-weekend after the gauntlet of Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Indianapolis 500, Belle Isle doubleheader and Texas race in five consecutive weeks would be the easiest place to slide the Indianapolis 500 into the schedule, as it would not require any other events to be moved around.

The question then becomes, how much track time is given? With Texas being on a Saturday night would it be feasible for Indianapolis 500 practice to begin on the following Tuesday, continue through Friday with qualifying on Saturday? Could practice open on Wednesday?

It could be too much but the teams would already have the cars in low-downforce oval trim. However, after back-to-back weekends of racing the teams might just need a few days off and this could be better as a three-day weekend especially with Road America scheduled for the weekend after.

15. Pushed back to June 21, full week of practice
16. Pushed back to June 21, typical race weekend
I do wonder with the Indianapolis 500 if a full week of practice is necessary and if IndyCar wants to keep the schedule with a qualifying weekend the week before the race itself. Trying to save the qualifying weekend along with the race is asking a lot during these times but it is possible.

Road America is schedule for June 21st but it is not crazy to think IndyCar could move Road America back a few weeks and slot the Indianapolis 500 in for this date. The weekend of June 13-14th could be used for qualifying with practice starting the Tuesday or Wednesday after Texas.

If it is not possible to save a full week of practice and a qualifying weekend then we could see this be a three-day weekend.

The good news is IndyCar already has June 21st scheduled for an NBC race. It would be easy to slide into that national TV spot than try to squeeze one in on June 14th.

The one problem with this weekend is it is scheduled to be NBC's first NASCAR race with Chicagoland scheduled to be on NBCSN. The good news is this could all be under the Peacock umbrella and the NASCAR Cup race could be shifted to June 20th or it could be shifted back and the start time could be later not to clash with the end of the Indianapolis 500. Last year, the Chicagoland Cup race completed 13 laps and was then delayed until after 6:00 p.m. ET due to rain. It could be worked out that Chicagoland becomes a night race, allows for people to watch the Indianapolis 500 and then sees post-race coverage transition into pre-race coverage for NASCAR.

It would kind of work out the same way Indianapolis leads into Charlotte's 600-mile race already.

17. Pushed to Independence Day weekend , quasi-longer schedule, combination weekend with NASCAR
This is where we get crazy but this year has already been nuts.

If the Indianapolis 500 is going to be moved from Memorial Day weekend the best way to ensure it has a similar feel is to put it on a holiday weekend. I present you Independence Day weekend.

The one issue is this year was the first time the Brickyard 400 was scheduled for Independence Day weekend, as NASCAR moved the 400-mile race from Daytona from the holiday weekend to the end of August and the final spot in the regular season.

However, if there was ever a time better for a IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader than this Independence Day weekend and if there was ever a place better than Indianapolis I do not think such a combination could exist.

Moving the Indianapolis 500 would actually be a benefit for NASCAR. The Brickyard 400 would get a much needed breath of life.

How could this work logistically? That is the $64,000 question and there are two options.

IndyCar is at Richmond the weekend before but that race is Saturday night. I could see practice opening on Tuesday and going through Thursday. NASCAR could practice and qualify with the Xfinity cars on the road course Friday morning with a Cup practice in the late morning on the oval. Indianapolis 500 qualifying could be Friday evening. If the Indianapolis 500 is on July 4, a Saturday, then it is only the race, the Xfinity race gets pushed to early Sunday afternoon with the Cup qualifying and the race following.

If the Indianapolis 500 is pushed to July 5, IndyCar could practice Tuesday and Wednesday and qualify on Thursday. Xfinity could get a practice in Friday morning and then qualifying before Cup practice and qualifying late Friday. IndyCar could get final practice on Saturday morning before the Xfinity race in the afternoon and the Cup race in the evening.

The problem with this scenario is the difficulty squeezing in the Freedom 100 and I am not sure how at least 33 IndyCars, at least 38 Cup cars and at least 38 Xfinity cars could all fit in that garage area. The Cup cars use the old Formula One garages, which open out toward pit lane and for the Indianapolis 500 there are seats in that location. The Cup cars could go out the back of those garages but it would be congested, which leads us to possibility #18...

18. Pushed to Independence Day weekend, quasi-longer schedule, NASCAR weekend moved
This is a stretch but if we are saying everything is on the table then this has to be on the table.

The only way this works is if Daytona moves back to this weekend for NASCAR and Indianapolis takes the regular season finale spot. It would be a one-off thing and then come 2021 NASCAR can flip it back. After this hectic period I think people just want to get back to familiarity and what is more familiar than NASCAR at Daytona on Independence Day weekend? It would be a small sacrifice that would go really far.

It would also allow for an Independence Day weekend Indianapolis 500.

That schedule is a little more flexible. Would the race be on July 4 and lead into the NASCAR race? Would it be July 5? I think to maximize the schedule it would be practice Tuesday through Thursday, qualify on Friday, final practice on Saturday before the Freedom 100 Saturday afternoon and the race would be on Sunday.

19. Olympics are postponed, NBC needs something to fill those weekends, full practice schedule, race is August 9
This seems strangely possible especially as pressure from national Olympic Committees to postpone this year's games is increasing. If there are no Olympics there is going to be a lot of television time that needs to be filled and the Indianapolis 500 could take up some of that time.

The good news for IndyCar is this period could allow the series to get in an entire week of practice, the race itself and still give everyone a week off. IndyCar races at Iowa on July 18. The series could take off until July 27, start practice that Monday, have a full qualifying weekend on August 1-2nd and even have a Carb Day on August 7.

The issue with this is NASCAR was scheduled to return at Michigan that weekend. Once again, another Indianapolis/Michigan clash. The good news is this is the NASCAR portion of the schedule and if the Olympics are not happening Michigan could move up a week to August 2. NASCAR has a handful of other races that will need to be rescheduled and the luxury of moving Michigan up to create a NASCAR off weekend when the Indianapolis 500 could take place doesn't really exist.

Michigan could be moved to August 8. Michigan doesn't have lights so it would be tough to hold this race after the Indianapolis 500 on August 9. Michigan could be run on August 9 but it would have to start after 5:00 p.m. ET and just because of geographically location I think it would make more sense for Michigan to move to Saturday.

20. Pushed to August 16, full week of practice
21. Pushed to August 16, typical race weekend
Let's say the Olympics happen. This is the earliest date after the Olympics and it is a day where IndyCar is already scheduled to be on NBC with Mid-Ohio. This would mean Mid-Ohio would have to move but I am sure that can be accommodated.

The good news is IndyCar could get a full week of practice in because of the Olympics. Practice is only televised on NBC Sports Gold so it would not lose television time and if qualifying is held on August 8-9th it would be during the final two days of the Olympics but there is not much going on during this final days. In fact, the Olympics are going to be officially over around 9:00 a.m. ET on August 9. The rest of the afternoon is just going to be re-airs until the Closing Ceremony is shown in primetime that night

Qualifying could get in that weekend and then August 14 could be Carb Day and the race could be August 16. There is also the chance we are so late into the season that the teams just want to get it over with and have a three-day weekend or four-day weekend leading into this race.

NASCAR is scheduled to race on August 16 at Watkins Glen. That race could be moved to August 15 and be a doubleheader with the Xfinity race.

22. Pushed to August 30, typical race weekend
This is a scheduled IndyCar off week but it is the day after the NASCAR regular season finale at Daytona. It could be a great weekend of American motorsports from Daytona to Indianapolis. One race could be used to promote the other.

The issue with this weekend is it would be immediately after Gateway and immediately before Portland. That is a tight window. You couldn't really do a full week of practice. Gateway is a Saturday night race but I think the timing of everything would see this cutdown to a three-day weekend or a four-day weekend.

23. Pushed to September 6, full week of practice
24. Pushed to September 6, typical race weekend
25. Pushed to September 7, full week of practice
26. Pushed to September 7, typical race weekend
The final holiday weekend for the Indianapolis 500 would be Labor Day weekend and this would require Portland to move. Either Portland would have to move up a week or move back a week.

If Portland moved up a week this would have to be a three-day weekend for the teams. If Portland moved back a week it could allow the teams to get a full week of practice and a full weekend of qualifying. The teams could return from Gateway, starting practicing on either the Tuesday or Wednesday afterward, practice through Friday and then qualify on August 29-30th.

The teams could then get a week off and Carb Day could be September 4. I leave the door open for this race to be on either Sunday September 6 or Monday September 7. If it is a Sunday, it leads into the Southern 500, which is not a bad thing. The Southern 500 doesn't start until 6:00 p.m. ET. The Indianapolis 500 could end well over two hours before that race. The Monday is a dead day. Other than baseball and one primetime college football game there is not much going on Labor Day.

I feel Sunday would be the better option because it allows for a rain date it would also give the teams an extra day to prepare for Portland if Portland was pushed back a week but I will leave Monday on the table.

27. Pushed to September 12, typical race weekend
28. Pushed to September 13, typical race weekend
This is slotting Indianapolis in as the penultimate race of the year between Portland and Laguna Seca. It would not have time for a full week of practice. It would have to be a three-day show.

The other problem with this weekend is it is the opening weekend of the NFL season. I highly doubt this weekend will be when the Indianapolis 500 falls. I bet the latest we see the Indianapolis 500 is Labor Day weekend because the track is going to want to capitalize on the summer feel. It doesn't want people having to face Monday morning and going back to work or school and it knows against the NFL it will get slaughter.

But everything is on the table so let's envision an Indianapolis 500 during football season.

In this scenario, it might make sense to run this race Saturday. It would be against college football but at this time in the college football season it is mostly lopsided out-of-conference games. It would have to be practice Thursday, qualify Friday, race Saturday. NASCAR is racing at Richmond this night but it could work out that Indianapolis leads into the Richmond race.

The race could be on Sunday against NFL games if NBC wants a lead in to the first Sunday Night Football of the year. It would still not be a great number for the Indianapolis 500 but it would be better than terrible.

29. Pushed to September 20, full week of practice
30. Pushed to September 20, typical race weekend
Once again, these two are not likely but they are possible.

Let's tackle #29 first. This is assuming Laguna Seca is pushed back and IndyCar is still the penultimate race. The teams could get back from Portland on September 7, starting practicing on September 9 and go through Friday September 11, qualify on the 12th and 13th and have Carb Day on the 18th.

Possibility #30 makes Indianapolis the finale. Laguna Seca moves up a week, we have some strange IMSA/IndyCar doubleheader, which would be a nightmare because of the number of support series but it could be forced and then IndyCar has a three-day weekend or four-day weekend before the championship is likely decided in the Indianapolis 500 on September 20.

How would this work for the championship? Would Indianapolis be the only double points race? Would Indianapolis be a quadruple points race? Would Laguna Seca keep its double points status? It would be a massive end to the season. The championship could swing monstrously over these two races if both are double points. It would actually be interesting to see.

31. Pushed to October 3, full week of practice
32. Pushed to October 3, typical race weekend
These two take into consideration that Indianapolis will be the finale and Laguna Seca keeps its date.

Why didn't I put September 27 on this? Why did I jump all the way to October 3? The Ryder Cup is the weekend of September 27 and I do not see how NBC could fit the Indianapolis 500 in. Another reason I went this late is the 24 Hours of Le Mans is September 20. I don't think Roger Penske is going to move the Indianapolis 500 to the same date as the 24 Hours of Le Mans even if it meant the IndyCar season ending on the scheduled date for the finale.

Why October 3? Because Indianapolis Motor Speedway is already scheduled to be used this weekend for the Intercontinental GT Challenge's Indianapolis 8 Hours. The 8-hour race would not occur the same weekend as the "500." This 8-hour would likely be pushed back or moved up a week.

October 3 is also a Saturday, so it would mean avoiding an NFL Sunday and October is also the coolest option. It would not be a scorcher, which every date from July through the middle of September could be.

I would envision an Indianapolis 500 on October 3 would get a full week of practice. It could begin the Wednesday after Laguna Seca, run through Friday, qualifying could take place on the 26th and 27th, there would even be time for a Monday practice on the 28th, Carb Day could be October 2 and the race could be the next day.

I could also envision if the Indianapolis 500 is pushed this late teams will just want to get it over with, squeeze it into three or four days and then call it a season.

33. No Indianapolis 500
This is the worst possible scenario and it is still a real threat of happening.

A lot of events have been postponed and announced new dates or been outright cancelled. The hope is things will be better in the next few months. The hope is come May 10 things will be better but that seems tough. If not May 10 then by the start of June the hope is everything can get back up and running. These are all hopes. We need to see the number of new cases start to drop at some point and remain low for an extended period of time. Until that happens nothing is restarting.

The number of new cases could continue to rise and continue to overwhelm hospitals into July. At that points many more races would be postponed or cancelled. Things might start to get better but come autumn there could be another outbreak that shuts everything down again and all the races that were pushed from April to November and June to September will have to be flat called off because we will be right back where we are now.

We cannot rule out that the Indianapolis 500 doesn't happen this year and if that is the case there will be no IndyCar season this year. I know it is the most pessimistic thing to say but we have yet to see things get under control and things keep getting pushed further and further back. Formula One seemed ready to start the season at Azerbaijan during the first weekend of June and that has been dropped. If we are dropping things in June there is a good shot we have no season at all. We need to prepare for that possibility.

Monaco is already off the board. If Monaco can be cancelled then Indianapolis is no different. This is a year where there will be no NCAA tournament. A number of golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, hockey seasons, horse races and other sporting events have been called off. The Indianapolis 500 is not immune from postponement and it is not immune from cancellation either.

No one wants this to happen and it would be painful if the Indianapolis 500 would not be able to take place in 2020 but there have been years without the Indianapolis 500 before. The race did not take place in 1917 or 1918 due to World War I and the race was not held from 1942 through 1945 due to World War II. Despite each interruption the race returned.

This is an unknown feeling to us and as much as it hurts to have this void motorsports will return. We must do everything in our power as individuals to make sure a race is possible this year. That means isolating ourselves, not participating in possibly reckless behavior, washing our hands thoroughly and just being smart. We will have to be patient as more tests take place and clinical trials go on for a vaccine.

The Indianapolis 500 will take place again. All we can do is do the little things to make things get better.

Musings From the Weekend: Changed But Not Necessarily Fixed

Things are getting worse. In other news, Monaco is not happening. The Dutch Grand Prix and Spanish Grand Prix are postponed. Azerbaijan was postponed moments ago. People have to start wrapping their heads around the Indianapolis 500 being postponed. There were more video games this weekend. A lot of drivers want to drive Stadium Super Trucks. It is now officially spring in the Northern Hemisphere... so that is something. There was one event that went on as scheduled and that was the Sonora Rally in Mexico. Dakar Rally winner Ricky Brabec won that event. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Changed But Not Necessarily Fixed
Earlier this year NASCAR announced a change to its hall of fame selection process.

After 11 years of putting in five people a year, starting with the class of 2021, the process has changed and only three people will be inducted each year.

The decrease in the numbers of inductees stems from a change in the nomination process. There will be two ballots, the first will be the Modern Era Ballot and include ten nominees whose careers started within the previous 60 years. The second ballot will be the Pioneer Ballot and include five nominees whose careers started more than 60 years ago.

While it is good to see NASCAR has made a change after stocking the hall of fame full of members in the first decade it is still a system that is full of holes.

One issue is the decrease in the number of nominees and the criteria for election.

The 15 nominees leftover from the class of 2020 are Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Harry Gant, John Holman, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Ralph Moody, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stefanik and Red Vogt. Of those 15 drivers, the drivers that would follow the Modern Era route are Ard, Bonnett, Hyde, Gant, Phillips, Rudd and Stefanik. The other eight drivers will have to follow the Pioneer route but over a third of those people will not have a shot at the hall of fame in 2021 because the Pioneer Ballot will only include five nominees.

Add to the Pioneer Ballot congestion Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, Marshall Teague, Carl Kiekhaefer and Smokey Yunick and with each year another group of drivers will be added to the list of those just competing to be one of five nominees fighting for one spot.

While the Pioneer Ballot has its issues the Modern Era Ballot will have its own headaches. Setting the criteria for induction at being one of the top two vote-getters could keep people that should be members out longer. On this past ballot Mike Stefanik, Ray Fox and Hershel McGriff were the first three nominees outside the top five. Fox and McGriff will move to the Pioneer Ballot for 2021.

For the class of 2021, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Kenseth will be eligible. Kenseth has a Cup championship and 39 victories. Earnhardt, Jr. is Earnhardt, Jr. Carl Edwards, who has two more Cup victories than Earnhardt, Jr. in 186 fewer starts, finished in the top five of the championship five times to Earnhardt, Jr.'s four and won 38 Grand National Series races to Earnhardt, Jr.'s 24 and also won six Truck races, has been eligible for the last two hall of fame classes and was on neither ballot. I have a feeling that will change for 2021.

It lines up that Stefanik could get a higher percentage of the votes as he did for 2020 but end up fourth and not get into the hall of fame. This is different from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where anyone who is on 75% of the ballot is elected. Seventy-five percent is also the criteria for election into the Hockey Hall of Fame. For the Pro Football Hall of Fame, each candidate must receive 80% approval from the selection committee to be elected.

Instead of making it the top two from the Modern Era ballot, setting a percentage would be more fair and it would set a higher standard for induction. The lowest percentage vote-getters for class of 2020 was Bobby Labonte at 67%. Tony Stewart got 88%. Joe Gibbs and Waddell Wilson got 72% and Buddy Baker got 70%.

The class of 2019 saw Jeff Gordon get 96%, Jack Roush got 70%, Roger Penske got 68%, Davey Allison was at 63% and Alain Kulwicki got in at 46%. In the last ten years, only ten inductees were on at least 75% of the ballots. In the same time period, there have been eleven inductees that were on less than 50% of the ballots with the lowest being Fred Lorenzen at 30% in 2015.

NASCAR has filled its hall of fame with all the big names and frankly it is running out of worthy drivers for inclusion. Matt Kenseth, Edwards and Earnhardt, Jr. are the top three inactive drivers in NASCAR Cup victories who are not in the hall of fame. All three could be inducted in the next two years.

There are not many other impressive names looking at future eligible. Kasey Kahne will also be eligible in the class of 2021 but Kahne should definitely not make it in 2021 and it has to be argued he will likely never get in. He won 18 Cup races but he finished in the top five of the championship once and he had only one other top ten finish in the championship. While Kahne won five of six Truck starts the rest of his career isn't good enough.

NASCAR's hall of fame is all encompassing, taking into consideration the regional series along with the three national touring divisions, but it does make for difficult conversations when comparing drivers across multiple levels. Kahne did succeed at NASCAR's highest level and notably had three victories in the Coca-Cola 600 and a Brickyard 400 victory but he will probably never get as close to the hall of fame as Mike Stefanik, who won nine championships between the modified series and the North series, and Hershel McGriff, who won four Cup races, one West series championship and is more celebrated for longevity, racing into his 90s, than on-track success.

It is called the National Baseball Hall of Fame but it is not littered with career minor leaguers. A player who led single-A in career home runs isn't getting in over a guy who batted .245 with 340 home runs, over 1,200 RBI and made an all-star team twice in the majors. NASCAR is different and drivers with regional success should get some recognition but that recognition should not be on the main ballot head-to-head with drivers who ran in the top series against the best of the best in front of millions of people on television each week.

Unfortunately, NASCAR has made its bed. In 2021, Kenseth should make it and Earnhardt, Jr. will be the other Modern Era inductee unless something out of the blue happens. Perhaps Stefanik and Edwards will be the class of 2022, unless Edwards stuns Earnhardt, Jr. and makes it in 2021 with Earnhardt, Jr. waiting a year. Jimmie Johnson will highlight the class of 2023 with a partner to be named later.

After that NASCAR will be looking at class after class with drivers that won many fewer races, never came close to a Cup championship and were rarely in the top five of the Cup championship over the course of their careers. There will be a couple of guys with Truck Series and Grand National Series success that deserve recognition, the likes of Mike Skinner and Jack Spargue. Greg Biffle has a Truck Series and Grand National Series title and Biffle won a healthy number of races in all three national touring series with 19 Cup victories, 20 Grand National victories and 17 Truck victories. Biffle's hall of fame case is a difficult conversation for many to have but we can save that for the next pandemic.

Less than thrilling classes will be the new normal for NASCAR. There are going to be some weak classes. Things will pick up when the likes of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex, Jr., Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin retire. After all, six of those seven drivers are Cup champions and that is basically all you need to do to make the hall of fame.

However, with how quickly NASCAR has inducted drivers it will soon feel like a Cup victory will be enough to be considered among the greatest of all-time.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Ricky Brabec but did you know...

Denny Hamlin won NASCAR's video game race at Homestead.

The #38 Flying Drive Shafts Dallara IR-18 of Christian James Abbate and Michael Bergh won the Dinner with Racers hosted 12 Hours of Sebring video game race.

Bruno Spengler won IMSA's 90-minute Sebring video game race.

Guanyu Zhou won Formula One's Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix.

NOT Coming Up This Weekend
No Superbikes from Jerez.
NASCAR will not be in Texas.
Supercross will not be in Seattle.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar will be playing video games from a fan selected track, either Watkins Glen, Sebring, Montreal, Motegi, Fontana or Michigan.
NASCAR will be playing video games somewhere. It might not be on television but they will be playing.