Saturday, July 30, 2022

First Impressions: Brickyard Weekend 2022

1. After plenty of heartbreak over the last three years, Alexander Rossi had one go in his favor today, though it was due to a teammate's misfortune. Rossi spent much of the first half of the race in second place, first behind Felix Rosenqvist and then behind teammate Colton Herta. Herta was on fire, moving from ninth to first in the first eight laps. Herta remained in front over the next two stints, and Rossi was second but never far off Herta.

Just before the halfway point, Herta slowed through the turn eight and nine section and Rossi took the lead. From there, Rossi picked up where Herta left off. Rossi held a comfortable lead without much threat from the field. 

We have seen Rossi have good days over the last three years. He probably should have won at least three or four of the last 49 races, but breaks went against him or just somebody was slightly better. He hasn't been that lost, though this has been a frustrating period for the American. 

Andretti Autosport has declined during this period despite the talent behind the wheel. Rossi even said earlier this year he needs to go somewhere where he can win a championship, and that was before the Arrow McLaren SP deal was announced. I think the best has yet to come for Rossi in IndyCar. It is surprising it didn't happen at Andretti Autosport, but IndyCar is changing as we get deeper into the 2020s. 

Rossi got off the snide on a day he might not have been the clear best driver, but he will be a force in the near future. 

2. Christian Lundgaard was a darling last August when he raced Brickyard weekend in his IndyCar debut. About a year later, Lundgaard is the darling again, but this time it is a second-place finish, ten spots than his debut. 

This might be the best example of how spending time in IndyCar can take you a long way. Lundgaard knows the tires and the car better. Last year was going to be daunting even when he was starting fourth. There were so many unknowns that were going to slow him during the race. Most of those are cleared up now. It has still been a tough year for Lundgaard, but he has been one of the better rookies this year. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has struggled across the board for the most part. The last three weeks have seen the team make great strides. 

I am not sure we will see Lundgaard repeat this performance later this season, but it is a start. When presented with the opportunity, Lundgaard made the most of it. He has a future in IndyCar and I think RLLR is pleased with its decision to bring him under its tent. 

3. Like Mid-Ohio, Will Power did something incredible to get a great result. But instead of being all-out, Power watched his pace. He stopped early for full and went on big fuel save. Cautions were in Power's favor and he turned a first stop on lap four into a three-stop race. Power had lost spots early when Hélio Castroneves drove in hot to turn seven and disrupted Power's momentum. The team took a chance and it turned into a podium finish. 

And that gives Power the championship lead. It feels like this is going in Power's favor. He does the smart things and pulls out results when other drivers would be knocked out. Compared to ten years ago, this is impressive. Power was the guy who would find way to lose races and championships. In 2022, he is finding ways to score maximum points and put distance between himself and his championship rivals. I think Power is the guy to beat. He is collecting podium finish. Unless you are winning every race, you aren't going to beat Power at this rate.

4. Scott McLaughlin took a calculated risk today starting on the alternate tire instead of getting the primary tire out of the way. It worked in that McLaughlin caught a caution in the middle of his primary tire stint, the second stint of the race and instead of suffering for ten laps, he could jump off the primary tires before they got bad and it turned into a top ten result. 

If that caution doesn't come, McLaughlin might be seventh or eighth in this race. It was going to be a good day, but not feel as good as this. I think McLaughlin should be happy. He is leaps and bounds better than last year. He wasn't even in this position a year ago and now he is regularly fighting for top five results. 

5. Considering we went into Thursday uncertain if Josef Newgarden would even be racing this weekend, a top five result is a great weekend. Iowa was crushing because Newgarden looked ready to grab control of the championship before his suspension failed while leading. Instead, Newgarden had a great gap to overcome. 

Today, he made up a portion of that. He is still in the fight and he looks great. He needed a strong day for his confidence. All eyes were on him due to his fall and possible injury. If he was off everyone would murmur about Newgarden's condition. A top five result keeps everyone quiet. 

6. Rinus VeeKay is putting together good results. Today was a sixth-place finish, his third top ten finish in five races. The problem is he is alternating good and bad results. Fourth, 13th, fourth, 19th, sixth. It is better than last year but VeeKay hasn't been able to repeat the consistency of the start of his 2021 season. 

It is lofty expectations to hold a driver to that standard, but that is what it takes to be a championship contender in IndyCar. Ed Carpenter Racing can be in that fight. We saw Newgarden pull the team into it. VeeKay has had moment where he looks ready to be that guy, but then he falters. The team might not be as good as the Newgarden period, and that could be part of it, but VeeKay is the best driver the team has had since Newgarden. He has won races and been on the podium multiple times. His contract is up at the end of the year and he is interested in what is next. 

Many teams would like the best of him, but can he limit his bad habits? I don't think ECR can do better than VeeKay at this point. The driver has the advantage. 

7. Graham Rahal went from 17th to seventh. He has 11 top ten finishes in 13 IMS road course starts. This is now the eighth time Rahal has started outside the top ten on this course and finished in the top ten. We mention qualifying pace basically every race for RLLR and Rahal. This result doesn't surprise me. I see Rahal qualify 17th or 19th or 15th and think, "Yeah, he will finish eighth." I want to see him and RLLR do better because they have pace. They are a competitive group. If this team every unlocks qualifying pace, it will be in the championship fight again. For now, another impressive top ten finish will do. 

8. Chip Ganassi Racing did not have a great weekend. None of the drivers were all that competitive today and the best finisher was Scott Dixon going from 20th to eighth. It is good, but Dixon isn't going to be pleased. He expects better than starting 20th. He wants to win races and he knows if he wants another championship it will require better days than eighth. There are no moral victories in this group.

9. This is a bit of a bummer for Felix Rosenqvist because it is another race he has started on pole position but not really been a factor. Rosenqvist was really poor on the primary tire at the start and he plummeted down the order. The team kept him out there longer than it should and it was questionable what it was waiting for. There was some advantage to shorter stints on alternate tires and being more aggressive, but that didn't feel like a winning strategy today. That feels like a ninth-place strategy and that is what Rosenqvist gets today.

10. Álex Palou was a non-factor and finished tenth. That's all we can say. These days happen. Palou is doing a lot during a difficult period for his career. If the team didn't want him to succeed they would have replaced him. If Palou is still in the car, those guys still want to win and they are trying. 

11. Marcus Ericsson prevented what could have been a disastrous weekend with an 11th-place finish from 25th on the grid. Ericsson loses the championship lead, but it basically flips from the position entering today. Ericsson goes from eight up to nine points behind Power. 

Starting 25th, Ericsson had to know he likely wasn't going to keep the championship lead today and all he could do is limit the damage. I think he did that today. Exiting within nine points of the top is good considering. This was a good drive. The team called a smart race, but Ericsson is now chasing and Power isn't going to give up much. The battle has only gotten tougher for the Swede.

12. Speaking of limiting the damage, Patricio O'Ward spun on lap one and recovered to finish 12th. O'Ward was on the Power strategy of stretching fuel but couldn't match that pace while conserving fuel. But considering what happened to O'Ward, 12th is decent. He shouldn't be happy, no one should after being spun out from a third starting position, but perspective is important. He could have finished 23rd today and basically needed to win three of the final four races to have a shot at the title. He doesn't need to do that much now. On to Nashville. 

13. Let's breeze through the field. David Malukas was ok and finished 13th. That kind of feels like most of Malukas' races, and that is fine. He made some passes, he lost some positions, it evened out mostly. Callum Ilott made some passes in the middle of the field and finished five spots than his starting spot. Fourteenth is a good day for Ilott. Takuma Sato bounced around all race and fell to 15th. Romain Grosjean had a long weekend and stalling on a pit stop didn't help his cause. That left him in 16th.

14. Conor Daly had an immature day. Daly stalled on a pit stop, banged into at least three or four drivers, and got penalized for blocking. Daly is approaching 100 IndyCar starts. He should be above what we saw today. One driver Daly tussled with was Devlin DeFrancesco, who was, brace for it, 18th. That is DeFrancesco territory. Hélio Castroneves is done as a full-time driver. Meyer Shank Racing should move on. MSR has potential to be a top team. It needs another driver to build its future around. Castroneves isn't it. Castroneves is more than up for another Indianapolis 500 attempt, but we can see he no longer has it as a full-time driver. It was a good run.

15. Jack Harvey's 20th-place finish looks worse today. Twentieth never looks good. Harvey hasn't been a factor once this season. I know the team said Harvey is fine for next year. I think Harvey is a good driver and something just hasn't clicked, but you couldn't blame the team if it replaced him. 

16. Dalton Kellett was 21st and Kyle Kirkwood was 23rd. A.J. Foyt Racing is bad. Plain and simple. The best thing that could happen to this team is for someone rich to purchase it.

17. Jimmie Johnson was back in his familiar position of 22nd, as expected. Simon Pagenaud ran out of fuel in the middle of his second stint, which is painful considering this could have been a top ten day for Pagenaud. This has been a rough for few weekends for Meyer Shank Racing. 

18. This was brutal for Colton Herta. Herta went from ninth to first in the first eight laps. No rain. No funky pit stop strategy. One caution, but Herta made up seven of those eight spots on speed. He was gone. Rossi was the only car remaining close, but Rossi wasn't going to beat Herta. Herta was that smooth today. Clipping the curb at the inside of turn eight was just enough to break the car while in the lead. 

This is two consecutive races where the leader has retired from the race, we don't see it that often. For Herta, this is another painful race lost, and it is too common for him. This was mostly out of his hands today, but in his still brief IndyCar career, this is at least the third or fourth race he has fallen through his hands when it has otherwise looked to be his. 

He lost Gateway last year with a mechanical failure. He put himself in the wall at Nashville last year. He went overboard at Long Beach when fighting from behind but still in contention. The car failed him in the 2020 season finale at St. Petersburg when coincidentally Rossi had an accident while leading and Herta was there to take the lead, but overboost dropped him from the top spot and then he got into the tires to add insult to injury. This happens too often for Herta. Just when you think he has figured it out, he stumbles again. The talent is there, but is it in the healthiest environment for growth?

19. In eight days, IndyCar races at Nashville, the sixth race in 36 days for the series. The final four races are about to begin. Power is nine points up on Ericsson, 32 points clear of Newgarden, 38 points ahead of Dixon, 46 points above O'Ward and 52 points separated from Palou. This picture will change over the next six weeks. 

Morning Warm-Up: Brickyard Weekend 2022

Felix Rosenqvist picked up his second pole position of the season and his second ever at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course after the Swede ran a lap of 70.2265 seconds in the final round of qualifying for the Gallagher Grand Prix. Rosenqvist is only the second driver to win multiple IndyCar pole positions at the IMS road course after only Will Power, who has won six of the first 12 pole positions on the IMS road course. Rosenqvist's first career pole position was at this track in 2019, his fifth career start. His second career pole position was earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway. He has only led 12 laps this season, four of which were on the IMS road course in May. He also led seven laps at Road America and one at Toronto.

Alexander Rossi was over a quarter second of Rosenqvist's pole position time and Rossi will start on the outside of row one. This is the second time Rossi has started on the front row this season. The other was his pole position at Road America in June. This is his best starting position ever on the IMS road course. Rossi's winless streak is up to 49 races. His most recent victory was from second on the grid way back at Road America in 2019. The second starting position has produced five winners this season. Second on the grid has won twice on the IMS road course. Rossi has four consecutie finishes outside the top ten for the first time since his rookie season. He has never had five consecutive results outside the top ten in his IndyCar career. 

Patricio O'Ward was 0.3872 seconds off his Arrow McLaren SP teammate Rosenqvist and he will start third. This is only the fourth time O'Ward has started behind Rosenqvist this season. On three of those occasions did Rosenqvist start in the top five. This is the first time O'Ward has qualified in the top five and not been the top AMSP start. After finishing second and first at Iowa, O'Ward enters this weekend hoping to score three consecutive podium finishes for the first time in his IndyCar career. All four of his consecutive podium finish streak have come at doubleheader weekends. This is the third time one of O'Ward's victories is followed by an IMS road course race. He finished 15th and 19th in the previous two IMS road course races after one of his victories.

Will Power will have to wait another week for his potential 67th IndyCar pole position, but Power will start fourth after qualifying 0.3959 seconds behind Rosenqvist. Coincidentally, Power started fourth at Texas, the other race Rosenqvist started from pole position. Power has won from fourth four times in his career, first at Long Beach in 2008 then at St. Petersburg in 2014 before Toronto in 2016 before finally Gateway in 2018. Power is eighth all-time in laps led with 4,681. He is 202 laps behind Bobby Unser in seventh. Power scored fastest lap in both Iowa races.  The last time a driver scored fastest lap in at least three consecutive races was Sébastien Bourdais in the 2007 Champ Car season when Bourdais had six consecutive fastest laps at Houston, Portland, Cleveland, Mont-Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton.

Josef Newgarden comes back after an accident in the second Iowa race to start fifth for this IMS road course race. Newgarden was 0.4703 off Rosenqvist. He is coming off his worst finish on the IMS road course in May when he finished 25th after contact with Will Power and Jack Harvey during the race. His only podium finish on the IMS road course was his victory in the first Harvest Grand Prix race in 2020. He has not had consecutive finishes outside the top twenty since the 2015 Sonoma season finale and 2016 St. Petersburg season opener. Newgarden is 16th all-time in laps led with 3,286. Last week, he became the 17th driver to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone. 

Christian Lundgaard returns to the place of his IndyCar debut just under a year after he started fourth in his first time in IndyCar. Lundgaard will start sixth after qualifying 0.5015 seconds behind Roseqnvist. This is the first time Lundgaard has made the Fast Six since his debut last year. Lundgaard is the first time a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car has made the Fast Six this season. This will be Lundgaard's 14th career start. Seven drivers have had their first career victory come in their 14th career start. The most recent two are Jacques Villeneuve in 1994 and Bruno Junqueira in 2001, and both won at Road America.

Álex Palou was 0.0269 off of advancing to the final round of qualifying and Palou will start seventh. He has never won from outside the top five in his IndyCar career. He has only one podium finish in his last eight starts after having five podium finishes in his previous eight starts and 11 podium finishes in 20 races. 

Rinus VeeKay will start eighth for the third consecutive race and for the fourth time this season. VeeKay's previous three times starting eighth were all on ovals. VeeKay won from seventh in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The last IndyCar race won from eighth on the grid was the 2021 Indianapolis 500 with Hélio Castroneves as the victor.

Colton Herta is starting ninth, five spots better than where Herta started in his Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory this May. Herta also started ninth at Texas, the other race Rosenqvist started on pole position this season. Herta was outside the top ten in both Iowa races. He has not had three consecutive finishes outside the top ten since from the Grand Prix of Indianapolis to the Indianapolis 500 and Belle Isle race one last year.

Conor Daly rounds out the top ten, the third consecutive races Daly has started inside the top ten. It is the first time he has started inside the top ten in three consecutive races in his IndyCar career. This is the fourth consecutive IMS road course race Daly is starting in the top ten. He has only two top ten finishes at this track, sixth in 2016 and fifth this past May.

David Malukas made it out of the first round of qualifying and Malukas will start 11th. He has made it out of the first round of qualifying in four of the last five occasions after not making it out of round one in the first five chances this season. Malukas won on the IMS road course last year in Indy Lights. Dale Coyne Racing has had at least one top ten finisher in four consecutive IMS road course races and in seven of the last eight.

Simon Pagenaud rounds out row six. IndyCar has not had a race won from 12th on the grid since the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan. The 12th-place starter has finished in the top ten only once this season, eighth in the first Iowa race with Marcus Ericsson. Pagenaud has three victories and five podium finishes on the IMS road course, including a runner-up result in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May. 

Jack Harvey starts 13th, his fourth consecutive race starting 13th to better. Harvey was 0.0653 seconds shy of making it to round two. Prior to this four race stretch, Harvey had started in the top thirteen only once this season. He has four top ten finishes in seven IMS starts and he was 13th on this track in May. Harvey has finished in the top twenty in ten of 11 starts this season but he has zero top ten finishes. 

Devlin DeFrancesco qualified 14th, his second best starting position of the season after making the second round of qualifying at Toronto two weeks ago. DeFrancesco was 0.0834 seconds short of making it to the second round of qualifying for the second time in his IndyCar career. He was 21st in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May.

Scott McLaughlin starts 15th, his worst state position outside of the Indianapolis 500 this season. McLaughlin's three worst striating positions this season have all been at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After starting fifth and finishing eighth in his first IMS road course appearance, he has finished 23rd and 20th.

Hélio Castroneves joins the driver who has replaced him in the #3 Chevrolet for Team Penske on row eighth. This is the ninth time this season Castroneves is starting outside the top fifteen this season. He has finished outside the top fifteen in seven races, including the last three. He has finished outside the top fifteen in four of the last five IMS road course races.

Graham Rahal qualified 17th, his eighth time starting outside the top fifteen this season. Rahal had ten consecutive top ten finishes on the IMS road course before he finished 16th here in May. In seven of those ten races, he started outside the top ten and got a top ten result. On four of those occasions, he went from outside the top fifteen into the top ten. 

Takuma Sato joins his former Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate on row nine. Sato has never started in the top ten on the IMS road course. He picked up his best finish on this track in May when he finished seventh. It was his sixth top ten finish on the IMS road course.

Callum Ilott starts 19th. This is Ilott's worst starting position on a road/street course since Long Beach, where he started 21st. He started 19th and finished 19th at St. Petersburg in February. His one and only top ten finish in IndyCar came at the IMS road course in May when he finished eighth, but he started seventh in that race. 

Scott Dixon finds himself 20th on the grid, only one starting position better than he was in May, but Dixon finished tenth that day. This will be the sixth consecutive IMS road course race he has started outside the top ten. Is one of four drivers tied for the all-time record of IndyCar victories from outside a top ten starting position. Dixon, Al Unser, Jr., Dan Wheldon and Sébastien Bourdais have all won four times from outside the top ten.

Kyle Kirkwood is looking for his second top ten finish of the season and Kirkwood will search for it from 21st starting position. He has retired from six of 12 races this season, but only twice has he failed to make it through the first half of a race, Texas and Mid-Ohio.

Romain Grosjean had started in the top ten of all three of his IMS road course starts, but this time Grosjean will roll off from 22nd position, the worst starting position of his IndyCar career. He has three top ten finishes in the last five races. 

Jimmie Johnson has qualified in 23rd, the ninth time he is starting outside the top twenty this season. Johnson is coming off his first top five finish in IndyCar. It took him 24 starts to get a top five finish in IndyCar. It took him seven races to get his first top five finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Dalton Kellett is starting 24th, his 12th consecutive race starting outside the top twenty. Kellett had started 23rd or 26th in six consecutive races. He has only three top twenty finishes this season. He has been the top A.J. Foyt Racing finisher in three of the last six race.

Marcus Ericsson had a mechanical issue in qualifying and Ericsson was unable to complete a lap in his qualifying group. Because of that, Ericsson will start 25th, his worst starting position in IndyCar. He is also taking an engine change ahead of this race. Only three IndyCar races have been won from 25th in its over century worth history, the 1974 Indianapolis 500 with Johnny Rutherford, the 1981 Milwaukee race when Mike Mosley won as a promoter's option, and the 2001 Laguna Seca race when Max Papis won.

NBC's coverage of the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course begins at noon ET with green flag scheduled for 12:20 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Best of the Month: July 2022

There are a few days left in July, but these final few days are so busy that we need to cover a few things now. 

Many championships are becoming interesting with the tide shifting in the favor of some drivers while going against others. It is becoming clear who will be fighting through the final race and who are already out of it. In some cases, championship have already been awarded or will be awarded shortly, one of each we will look at in a moment. 

August will only give us a better idea of who will be lifting silverware, but until then let's recap some of the highlights of July. 

SRX Season Two Review
Last year, we ended July reviewing the inaugural season of the Superstars Racing Experience and went over what worked and what didn't for the series. That format will work again for the 2022 season, which brought the series to four new tracks and had 11 new drivers participate this season.

However, there is still room for improvement and establishing its identity. 

What Worked?
1. It didn't change too much
    SRX has a pretty simple format. Two heats and a main race. The heats are 12 minutes each. The main event is meant to fill most of the final hour of the broadcast window while allowing for a short post-race recap and not go over. They throw competition cautions every so often to keep the field close together. They didn't expand the schedule to eight or ten races. It was six weeks, from early June through the middle of July. 

2. They visited a few new places
    Five Flags Speedway proved to be a great challenge for the drivers with tire wear. South Boston Speedway had tough racing. It was great to see Sharon Speedway get some exposure and have a local celebration for the Blaney family who call that track home. Short track racing is a tapestry of culture in this country. They all have their own intricacies. It was nice to see a few more get exposure this year. 

3. There was some familiarity.
    Marco Andretti was back for a second season, as was Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Paul Tracy and Michael Waltrip. Greg Biffle expanded to a full-time driver. Hélio Castroneves was back, albeit in a part-time role, as was Ernie Francis, Jr. Tony Kanaan competed in five of six races. You knew who you were getting and some of these guys produced good racing. 

4. There were quality new faces
    Was anyone surprised Ryan Newman joined and was a championship contender? Was anyone surprised Matt Kenseth was a threat in each of the races he participated in? Now to forget mentioning it got Josef Newgarden and Ryan Blaney as guest drivers. Credit to Team Penske for letting these guys participate and Chase Elliott came back for another season finale.

5. The racing was good
    Five Flags had Castroneves battling late model stalwart Bubba Pollard, Newman and Kanaan for victory. Stafford had a great battle between Andretti and Newman and that was followed with a great battle between Labonte, Andretti and Kenseth at the Nashville Fairgrounds. There were nights that felt slow and you weren't sure how it would be a good race and in the closing laps you were on edge seeing who would come out on top. 

What Didn't Work?
1. What is the point of side-by-side commercials if they are under caution?
    To maximize the amount of racing people see, SRX only runs commercials under caution or between races, but if they are side-by-side, two-box commercial breaks, what is the point of having them? When the side-by-side commercial was introduced on the Indy Racing League's ABC broadcasts over 15 years ago, it was done to show advertisements and keep the race on the screen allowing the viewers to still see passes, pit stops and everything that happened during a race. Using these breaks when the race is under caution is counterintuitive. 

Especially with the 12-minute heat races. Here is how television works. In one hour, a broadcast is going to take five three-minute commercial breaks. It is segment one, break one, segment two, break two, segment three, break three, segment four, break four, segment five, break five and then segment six to close the hour. That leaves 45 minutes for the actual broadcast. Divide 45 minutes of air time into six segments and you have seven minutes and 30 seconds per segment. 

The problem with SRX's 12-minute heat races is it would start them, run about four or five minutes and then throw a caution, meaning at least three minutes of those 12-minute heat races are under caution, but then it would normally take another minute after the break until it went green. This caused a few problems early on as it would get through five minutes of a race, go to commercial and then comeback and by the time it went back green, there were only two or three minutes left in the heat race. 

SRX could run a 12-minute heat race with no commercial break in-between. That requires adjusting the segments. Let's say its first segment of the show is a 14-minute block. One minute intro, right into the heat, heat race ends, one minute to vamp and then first break. Great. But that is 17 minutes of the first 60 done and there are still 12 minutes of commercial you need to fill in the final 43 minutes. This is where you get the one-minute or 90-second "dummy segments" to get to time and not run over the broadcast window.

The first half-hour would need to be 14-minute segment, break, 90-second segment, break, 90-second segment, break. There you get through three of the five breaks in the first 29 minutes and still have the first heat take place without a commercial. 

Then the final half-hour can be maybe 15 minutes for the second heat before the fourth break and at that rate you would have 13 minutes with three minutes going to the final commercial break, so ten of those minutes could be recapping the first hour. 

Pacing is the biggest weakness of SRX. It either gets through the heat races too quickly before the main event, or it takes long to get through the heat races. I am not sure what the best strategy is especially if it wants to keep this format. It could run four seven-minute heats and the show could be heat race, commercial break, heat race, commercial break, heat race, commercial break, heat race, commercial break, final segment vamping about the heat races and then the final break of the hour. 

The problem is, what do you do for each heat race? They already invert after the first race. You can't just keep inverting the field. That gets boring. It could break the field into groups and group A gets heats one and three and group B gets heats two and four. The first race for each group is set via a draw and the second race is an invert and each group sets a column of the grid. But I am not sure people want to watch six cars on track at a time. 

2. What is the point of throwing a caution with ten laps to go in the main race?
    I understand the purpose of creating a shootout at the end of the event, but I think this could be done better because the sense is drivers could ride around for the first 60 laps because they would be bunched up with ten laps to go and if they save tires they could go on a late charge. 

I think a better idea would be to split the main event and have the 60-lap first portion but after those 60 laps take the top six finishers and they go to the ten-lap "championship race." It would make the main race more interesting and give these drivers something to fight for. It would force drivers to use their tires because there is no point in riding around in ninth. You need to be in the top six. 

The second hour of the broadcast could be a five-minute reset, commercial break, five-minute feature segment, commercial break, a two-minute dummy hyping the main event, commercial break and like that you have cleared three commercial breaks in the first 21 minutes. You have cleared our 12 minutes of commercials with 39 minutes remaining and only six minutes of commercials. The main event segment could be 20 minutes before a commercial break and then the "championship race" segment that would be 13 minutes before the final commercial break takes the program off air. 

3.  The driver lineup could be better and the hometown heroes fell woefully short this year
    SRX had eight full-time drivers, which was fewer than the inaugural season and I think that hurt the series. It also didn't help that the dead weight is pretty dead. We know what Paul Tracy is going to be. It is old. Michael Waltrip is the caboose. The series would have benefitted if Matt Kenseth was full-time. 

The inaugural season did a great job giving some unsung heroes a spotlight and many took advantage of it. Doug Coby won the inaugural race in series history at Stafford. Kody Swanson was at the front of Eldora. Luke Fenhaus was the Slinger Speedway darling. Outside of Bubba Pollard, you would not be remised for not knowing the other local heroes because none of them did anything. It also didn't help that the final two events really didn't have them. Ken Schrader and Dave Blaney don't count as the hometown heroes. That is like a concert venue saying it has booked a man from Liverpool to perform and it happens to be Paul McCartney. You are not fooling anyone. 

Year one of SRX boosted Ernie Francis, Jr.'s profile and gave some other names a spotlight. Year two was too much of a market correction if it felt it gave the local guys too much of a boost in year one. Outsde of Buba Pollard, none of the hometown heroes were noticed this season. But SRX's identity should be bringing the names from the top series together with some overlooked talent. The series should be five or six national stars with four to six local stars/overlooked talent and then two or three guest drivers a week. 

It should be Andretti, Newman, Biffle, Stewart, Labonte and Kenseth taking on Coby, Pollard, Swanson, USAC champion Justin Grant, Rico Abreu, even the open-wheel and sports car likes of J.R. Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Colin Braun and James Davison would fit as full-time drivers. 

It would still be good to get another short track star as a guest driver along with active NASCAR and IndyCar drivers for each race. I feel like this is how SRX could maximize the quality of the grid while keeping the audience interested in who is competing. It was clear from year one people are interested in learning new names, especially if they are competitive.

4. Dirt is unnecessary 
    I think we have seen enough stock car racing on dirt in the last few years to say it isn't good and we can move on. The SRX races are not any different from the NASCAR Cup races and NASCAR Truck races on dirt. They are slow. They are clumsy. They aren't particularly good. 

If people like Tony Stewart wants to give dirt a national platform, get the King's Royal or the World 100 on CBS. Pay to have two or three USAC sprint car races or Silver Crown races on network television. Put the top level of dirt racing on television, not some knockoff. 

There are plenty of great pavement short tracks in this country. Only Stafford and the Nashville Fairgrounds were repeats from season one. Five Flags and South Boston were great additions. It would have been nice if Slinger returned. Salem and Winchester are two tracks that are prime for SRX, as is Anderson Speedway. Oswego Speedway and Thunder Road up in Barre, Vermont would be two other fun venues. There are plenty of options out there and they are more likely to put on respectable races than dirt. There is nothing wrong with this being entirely a pavement series. It should put on six great events at six fun venues. Would some dirt tracks lose out? Yes, but if we want to do dirt justice then we should show dirt racing at its best, and SRX isn't that. 

As for the future of SRX, I think I laid out what I would like to see from the driver lineup, schedule and the race day format. Tony Stewart said he would like to run a road course. I said it last year, a road course doesn't fit with the current format. Unless it is one the West Coast, an 8:00 p.m. ET start time does not fit the television window. A road course would also need a different format than what we see now for SRX. You also don't just rent a road course for a day to put on a race. If SRX did a road course, it would likely have to partner with IndyCar, which could work. It could likely put on a race at Mid-Ohio or Road America or even run on the streets of Detroit or streets of Toronto. I am not sure if SRX is up for that but it is its best option. 

5. The Championship Confusion
    Though mislabel as an exhibition, SRX does award a championship, but it doesn't do a great job keeping up on the points until we get to the end. 

This season, Marco Andretti won the title by two points over Ryan Newman, the only problem is when every tabulated the points from the heat races and main events, Newman came out on top by a point. Lost in the discussion was Andretti was awarded three points because of a positioning error in the first round of the season at Five Flags Speedway. 

Andretti was called into pit lane for repairs ahead of a heat race. When the race was ready to resume, Andretti had not been properly placed. Afterward, the SRX officials told the drivers ahead of the second race at South Boston it would award Andretti three points to make up for the error. From reports, the drivers agreed that was the fair thing to do. 

Flash-forward to the season finale and those three points were the difference in the championship. 

An easy way to show you are serious about the championship is to take it seriously. If there was a scoring issue, be transparent and tell everyone. If the series has taken steps to rectify a mistake, let us know. Shout it from the hilltops. Keep everyone updated on the championship during each broadcast. Also, make sure all cars are properly lined up for heat races.

These are little things, and worst of all, SRX is the only one in the way. There aren't inspection penalties, there aren't loose lug nuts, there aren't expensive video monitor systems on pit lane for pit stops, and there aren't teams spending millions and millions of dollars in the wind tunnel to improve the cars and get an advantage over the other competitors. The house controls everything. It should have a handle from top to bottom. 

All these issues fall at SRX's feet and it is on them to make sure everyone is aware of the championship and who stands where and why. If they want to take it serious by all means they can start next year and avoid repeating the errors of 2022. 

Let's see what is done and learned for season three. 

Discipline Bonuses
I spent July focused on the Tour de France and there is a lot in cycling that relates to motorsports. From the teamwork to the strategies to mechanical issues and drafting, the two are much more similar than you think. 

One item I like about the Tour de France is there are multiple competitions going on at once. You have the general classification for the rider with the lowest aggregate time over the course of the Tour (yellow jersey). You have the green jersey, which is the points classification and those points are awarded for running position at an intermediate sprint held at some point over the course of a stage and for the finishing position in the stage. And then you have the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification, which awards points to the riders as they reach summits over the course of a stage with the point totals increasing depending on steepness of the climb. 

With multiple competitions for a variety of skills, cycling isn't any different than IndyCar. For a short period, IndyCar acknowledged the top driver in points for road/street courses and ovals. The official award didn't last long, but we still keep up on it. The one issue with IndyCar's discipline championships is they didn't pay anything extra. There was no prize for topping either. It was all for pride. Pride doesn't pay the bills in IndyCar. 

But, because IndyCar is too poor for monetary prizes, what if topping a discipline championship earned a driver bonus points to the overall championship? 

I think IndyCar could break it down by ovals, natural-terrain road courses and street courses and each discipline could carry a 50-point bonus to the top driver in each classification. To keep drivers fighting on each discipline, bonus points could be paid to the top five in each category. Second could get 25 points, third could get 15 points, fourth could get ten points and fifth could get five points. 

How would this change a championship? 

In 2021, the top five drivers in oval points were Patricio O'Ward (192 points), Josef Newgarden (158 points), Álex Palou (155 points), Simon Pagenaud (144 points) and Scott Dixon (135 points).

On road courses the order was Palou (272), Romain Grosjean (204), Colton Herta (197), Marcus Ericsson (190) and Dixon (189).

And on street circuits, Herta led the way with 206 points followed by Newgarden (191), Ericsson (177), Dixon (170) and Will Power (154).

Palou would have picked up 65 bonus points, as would have Herta. O'Ward would have gotten 50 points for topping the road course category while Newgarden scored 50 points for being second in ovals and street courses. Grosjean would get 25 points, as would Ericsson. Dixon would have been the only driver to score in all three categories, but he would have only picked up 20 points. Pagenaud would get ten points and Power would get five. 

It wouldn't have changed the champion in 2021, as Palou would have scored more than his title rivals, but this is what the standings would have looked like: 

Palou - 614
Newgarden - 561
O'Ward - 537
Herta - 520
Dixon - 501
Ericsson - 460
Pagenaud - 393
Rahal - 389
Power - 361
Rossi - 332

It would have only changed a few positions. Herta and Dixon would swap, as would Pagenaud and Rahal. It wouldn't have changed much and it would have been even more in Palou's favor. I am open to IndyCar trying new things increasing competition within the championship. The discipline bonus would make each race mean a little more and two races would become even more crucial as the final oval race and final street course race would mean one driver would at least clinch a 50-point bonus. That could swing a champion and put more pressure on other drivers. 

I don't think IndyCar should be afraid to embrace what makes it different and apply to its championship. It would only force the drivers to increase their performances and bring more out of the entire field.

August Preview
The Formula E season is nearing its conclusion, and as much as we are calling this an August preview, it should be noted the penultimate Formula E round is this weekend in London, which is a doubleheader, before the Seoul hosts a doubleheader to finish the season on August 13-14. 

With 116 points left on the table, 13 drivers are still alive for the championship. 

Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way with 155 points. Vandoorne's only victory was at Monaco but he has six podium results from 12 races and he has scored in 11 of 12 events. Eleven points back is Venturi's Edoardo Mortara, who has won twice and has five podium finishes, but Mortara has two retirements. Mitch Evans has the most victories, three, but Evans is 16 points back after having failed to score in three races driving for Jaguar. 

Two-time Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne failed to score in either Brooklyn race after picking up points in the first ten races. Vergne is 27 points back and the Techeetah driver is the top winless driver in the championship. Envision Racing's Robin Frijns is also winless and Frijns is 51 points behind Vandoorne. António Félix da Costa picked up his first victory of the season in the most recent race. Da Costa is 55 points back, and just inside where he will need to be to remain mathematically eligible for the championship entering Seoul. All drivers will need to be within 58 points of the championship lead after London to have a shot at the title. 

Lucas di Grassi has 84 points. Defending Formula E champion Nyck de Vries has won twice, but those are the Dutchman's only top five finishes this season and he has 83 points. The Porsche drivers Pascal Wehrlein and André Lotterer round out the top ten, tied on 63 points with Porsche's only podiums being its 1-2 finish in Mexico City with Wehrlein ahead of Lotterer. 

Nick Cassidy won the first Brooklyn and he is tied with Jake Dennis and Sam Bird on 47 points, the final three drivers still alive for the championship. 

In the Teams' Championship, Mercedes leads with 238 points, ten more than Venturi and Techeetah. Jaguar is 52 points back. Envision is 87 points back. Porsche is the final team alive, 112 points off its German rival. Andretti Autosport was one point shy of remaining mathematically eligible. With 188 points left on the table, Andretti is 189 points off Mercedes entering London. 

Other events of note in August
MotoGP returns with the British Grand Prix before racing in Austria.
Two IndyCar races, Nashville and Gateway. 
Two IMSA races, Road America and Virginia International Raceway for GT only.
Two MotoGP races, Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring. 
Formula One is mostly on break but returns for the Belgian Grand Prix on August 28. 
NASCAR concludes its regular season at Michigan, Richmond, Watkins Glen and Daytona.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Track Walk: Brickyard Weekend 2022

The 13th round of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season brings the series back to Speedway, Indiana and specifically the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. For the third consecutive year, IndyCar and the NASCAR Cup Series are sharing the historic venue with each headlining one of the days of the weekend. Both championships are at interesting spots of their season, as IndyCar is about to start the final quarter with a champion to be decided in about six weeks, while NASCAR is a month away from its playoffs starting and the final spots are highly contested after plenty of unexpected winners in the first six months of the season.

Time: Coverage begins at 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday July 30 with green flag scheduled for 12:20 p.m. ET.
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe will be in the booth. Kevin Lee and Dillon Welch will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 9:30 a.m. ET (90 minutes)
Qualifying: 1:00 p.m. ET 
Warm-Up: 8:15 a.m. ET (30 minutes)
Race: 12:20 p.m. ET (85 laps)

* - All sessions will be available live on Peacock

Tighter Championship Picture
Entering the Iowa doubleheader, Marcus Ericsson's championship lead over Will Power in second was 35 points with seven races remaining. 

Entering the Brickyard weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar's second race on this course, 36 points cover the top five drivers with five races to go and the top six are within 44 points of one another. 

Ericsson did not do much wrong at the Iowa doubleheader. He was eighth and sixth over the two races and he has eight consecutive top ten finishes, ten top ten finishes total this season. The only driver with more top ten finishes this season than Ericsson is his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon with 11. Ericsson's five top five finishes are also tied for fourth most this season. However, credit must be given to the competition. 

Will Power was on the podium of both Iowa races. Power started on pole position for both races and led laps in each races, meaning he picked up four bonus points over the course of the Iowa doubleheader. In the last six races, Power has one victory and four podium finishes while Ericsson has only one podium finish, a runner-up result at Road America. 

The championship lead could have been Josef Newgarden's exiting Iowa. It was shaping up that way until Newgarden's lap 236 accident while leading when his right rear suspension failed. Instead of leaving Iowa up ten points in the championship lead, the two-time champion is tied for third with Scott Dixon, 34 points back. Newgarden owns the tiebreaker with four victories to Dixon's one. 

In the last six races, Newgarden has won twice, the only driver to win multiple times in this stretch. He does have five top ten finishes with his Iowa accident being his lone blemish in this summer stretch of races. 

Newgarden fainted and suffer a fall after his Iowa accident in the bus lot. He suffered a head abrasion and was airlifted to a Des Moines hospital for further evaluation. All scan came back negative, but Newgarden was kept overnight out of precaution on Sunday and released Monday morning. He is scheduled for further evaluation Thursday by the IndyCar medical team. Santino Ferrucci is on standby for Newgarden this weekend.

Newgarden has made 163 consecutive starts. The only race he has missed in his IndyCar career was the 2012 Grand Prix of Baltimore after he suffered a broken wrist in the Sonoma race the weekend prior. Bruno Junqueira substituted for Newgarden that weekend in the #67 Fisher Hartman Racing Honda. It was Junqueira's final IndyCar start. 

Dixon is up to fourth in the championship, his highest championship position in 2022. Dixon has four top five finishes on the spin, the first time he has had consecutive top five finishes this season and this is his longest top five streak since he had five consecutive top five finishes between the 2020 St. Petersburg season finale and the first four races of the 2021 season. 

Patricio O'Ward's second victory of the season has him back int he top five of the championship. The double podium finish for O'Ward snapped a three-race skid and he now has four podium finishes and six top five finishes this season. The only problem is O'Ward's top five finishes are his only top ten finishes this year. He has six results outside the top ten this season. 

While the top five are under a blanket, hovering above the covers is the 2021 IndyCar champion, Álex Palou. Palou was 13th in the second Iowa race, only the third time he has finished outside the top ten this year. He has five top ten results in the last seven races, but only one of those was a top five result, his runner-up finish at Mid-Ohio. He opened the season with three podium results in the first four races. Palou has a similar issue to O'Ward. Palou's four podium finishes are his only four top five finishes this season. 

On Wednesday, Chip Ganassi Racing filed a civil lawsuit again Álex Palou in Marion County, Indiana in response to Palou's contract situation. Earlier this month, Ganassi announced it would exercise its option to retain Palou for the 2023 season. Later that evening, Palou said he did not agree with the extension and quotes the team used in its release were fabricated. Minutes later, McLaren Racing announced it had signed Palou for the 2023 season. 

At the moment, Palou is expected to race this weekend and finish the season in the #10 Honda.  

Power's Potential Pole Record
An incredible Saturday morning at Iowa Speedway has put Will Power within touching distance of history, and there is a great chance Power will tie a motorsports legend this weekend at the IMS road course.

Sweeping the Iowa pole positions gave Power career pole positions #65 and #66 and Power is one behind Mario Andretti's IndyCar record of 67 pole positions. There is some symmetry between these two drivers. 

Andretti's first pole position came on June 20, 1965 at Langhorne Speedway, still a one-mile dirt oval, and practically a home race for Andretti as Langhorne was located only about 90 minutes southeast of Andretti's Nazareth home. It was his 15th career start. He shared the front row with Jim McElreath, and he and McElreath were the only two drivers to lead in that 100-mile race. McElreath led 67 of 100 laps, including the final 24 laps to take the victory ahead of Andretti in second. 

Power's first pole position came on October 22, 2006 at the Surfers Paradise street course, still on the Champ Car schedule, and practically a home race for Power as Surfers Paradise is located about two hours southeast of Power's hometown of Toowoomba, Queensland Australia. It was Power's 15th career start. He shared the front row with Sébastien Bourdais. Power led the first 13 laps but gave up the lead to pit under the first caution of the race. On lap 28, Bourdais made contact with Power, damaging Power's car and he ended up in the tire wall limping back to pit lane for repairs. Power ultimately finished a lap down in 12th while Nelson Philippe took his lone IndyCar victory. Bourdais clinched his third championship that afternoon. 

It took 34 races for Andretti to reach ten pole positions while Power didn't reach double-figures until his 57th career start. Andretti's tenth was at Langhorne, again, while Power's tenth was at Barber Motorsports Park. In Andretti's first 57 starts had 17 pole positions, a number Power did not reach until his 71st start.

By the end of the 1968 season, Andretti's fifth full season in IndyCar, Andretti had 25 pole positions in 86 starts. Strong 2010 and 2011 seasons saw Power rack up 23 pole positions through the first 87 starts of his career. 

In 1969 and 2012 respectively, Andretti and Power each won five pole positions, but Andretti's 1969 seasonwas nine races longer than Power's 2012 season. Andretti won four pole positions in 1970 and Power won four pole positions in 2013, but the batting average swings into Power's favor. Andretti had 34 pole positions from 129 races, 26.35% of his races. Power had 32 pole positions from 121 races, 26.44% of his races, and Andretti's pole positions prowess would dip in the early 1970s. 

Andretti did not win a pole position in 1971. He won only three pole positions over the next three seasons and by 1975, Andretti had turned his focus to Formula One with occasional cameo appearance in IndyCar for the better part of the next decade. 

Power kept up his form. Four pole positions in 2014 and six pole positions in 2015 brought him up to 42 career pole positions in 155 starts. Andretti's 155th start came on July 1, 1973 at Pocono, and he had only 35 pole positions to his name. 

Andretti went six years, five months and 13 days between IndyCar pole positions, from Trenton on April 7, 1974 (pole position #37) until Michigan on September 20, 1980 (pole position #38). That Michigan race was the 201st of Andretti's career. Through 201 starts, Power had 55 pole positions, and like Andretti, Power started on pole position in his 201st IndyCar start, which also happened to be a 500-mile race, but this was at Pocono for Power.

Power's 66th pole position came in his 263rd start this past Sunday. Andretti's 263rd start was on October 6, 1985 at Laguna Seca and he had 54 pole positions at that time. 

The 60th pole position for Andretti was for the ill-fated 1987 Indianapolis 500, a race he dominated only for a harmonic imbalance in the engine to cause his car to fail while in the lead. It was Andretti's 285th start. The 1987 season was incredible for Andretti. He opened the season with three consecutive pole positions and he ended the season with eight pole positions, his most in a season since 1968. Andretti was 47 years old and had won eight pole positions. 

Through 1987, Andretti had 65 pole positions in 297 starts. The final two took some time. Andretti went another four years, nine months and a day before he was on the point for another IndyCar race. Pole #66 was on August 2, 1992 at Michigan, he shared the front row with his son Michael. Three hundred and 64 days later, Andretti was on pole position for the 67th and final time. It was his 385th start, and he shared the front row with Nigel Mansell. Mansell won the race, his fourth of the season. Andretti led 27 laps and finished second. 

Andretti would make 22 starts after his 67th pole position. He did not start on the front row in any of those races, but started in the top five four times and started in the top ten 16 times. 

Andretti won pole position at 24 different tracks. The track where he won pole the most was Phoenix with eight. He had 25 different drivers start second to him. The most frequent driver to his outside was Al Unser, who flanked him nine times. Power has won pole position at 25 different tracks with his most coming at St. Petersburg, where he has qualified first on nine occasions. Josef Newgarden has started 11 times in second position to Power, one of 24 drivers to do so.

Power has won six pole positions out of a possible 12 on the IMS road course in IndyCar competition.

When We Were Last Here
The last time IndyCar went to the IMS road course, Chevrolet had won the first four races of the sesaon, Team Penske had three victories, IndyCar was coming off one of its youngest podiums in series history at Barber and there was only one Honda driver in the top five of the championship. 

For the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Will Power started on pole position, his first of the season while Álex Palou started second ahead of Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly. Rookies swept row four with Callum Ilott having an outstanding qualifying run and Christian Lundgaard started in eighth. Colton Herta was starting 14th after poor qualifying strategy cost him in round one of qualifying. 

In that race of changing conditions, Herta rolled the dice switching off the wet tires to the slick tires almost immediately and it vaulted him into contention. He notably made a breathtaking save going through the turn eight and nine section of the course before passing on Patricio O'Ward a corner later. 

The weather conditions changed multiple times during the race and saw multiple strategies come into play. While Herta led the race, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson both had alternative strategies take them to the lead as the teams juggled more storms and the threat of the race ending under a time limit as they searched for the right time to make their final pit stop. 

It was a physical race with many cars suffering damage or making contact with another driver at some point. Outside of race winner Herta, the only other driver that appeared to avoid any entanglements was Simon Pagenaud, who went from 18th to second. Will Power overcame losing ground on the slick tires to finish third. Ericsson's strategy lifted him into the top five and for a moment a sequence of events was lining up for him to take the race victory. Ultimately he wound up fourth. Conor Daly's team nearly ruined the strategy, calling for him to conserve fuel massively in the first third of the race only to watch the rest of the field drop him down the order. The return of the rain and the number of cautions brought Daly back into contention and he pulled out a top five. 

Of the drivers who had less stellar days, Patricio O'Ward spun on a restart and his Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist hit him. Scott Dixon ran out of fuel on his first stint and salvaged a tenth-place result. Alexander Rossi switched to wet tires too eagerly when the rain was returning to the circuit and he had to make an additional pit stop to switch back to slicks before putting on wet tires for a third time when the rain finally did come. Graham Rahal, David Malukas and Jimmie Johnson were all caught in this same pickle as Rossi.

Jack Harvey made contact with three drivers, including Josef Newgarden, who also had contact with his teammate Will Power during the race. Rahal put on wet tires too soon and also spun out Kyle Kirkwood, costing him a top ten result. Harvey's contact with Romain Grosjean took away a possible top five from the Frenchman. 

Scott McLaughlin spun under a caution. Rinus VeeKay spun and collected Devlin DeFrancesco. Dalton Kellett even spun. Álex Palou spun on slicks into wet grass, motored his way back to the racetrack only for the car to stall out once he returned to the blacktop, which brought out a caution!

Despite all this mayhem, this May's Grand Prix of Indianapolis had 471 total passes, 362 of which were passes for position. In 2021, the two IMS road course races had a combined 417 passes and 298 passes for position. Weather forecasts call for cloudy skies and a 6% chance of precipitation of rain on Saturday. The three IMS road course races in 2020 had the following totals for passes/passes for position:

Grand Prix of Indianapolis (July): 191/161 
Harvest Grand Prix Race One (October): 247/175
Harvest Grand Prix Race Two (October): 181/129

Honda's Lack of a Heartbeat
The last time IndyCar arrived at the IMS road course Honda had zero victories and Chevrolet had controlled the first four races.

The month of May was kind to Honda. Herta picked up the manufacture's first victory of the season on the road course, Honda led 166 of 200 laps in the Indianapolis 500 and Ericsson gave Honda its third consecutive Indianapolis 500 victory, the first manufacture since engine competition returned to IndyCar in 2012 to win the race in three successive years.

Since May, Honda somewhat fell into early season form. In the last six races, Honda has one victory, Scott Dixon at Toronto. Team Penske has won four times and Arrow McLaren has another victory to its name. Chevrolet has taken four of six pole positions during this stretch and out of the 840 laps run between Belle Isle and the second Iowa race, Chevrolet led 721 of those laps. Honda teams combined for 25 laps led at Iowa, 19 for Jimmie Johnson in race one, five Takuma Sato in race two and one for David Malukas in race two. Chevrolet swept the podium in each Iowa race.

Despite this hard run of form, Honda still has three drivers in the top six of the championship, albeit Chip Ganassi Racing is responsible for all three of those drivers. 

Andretti Autosport has one top five finish and three top ten finishes over the last four races. The team's average finish in month of July is 15.375. It is not like they are wasting qualifying results either. While having a pole position and three top five starting spots, the team's average starting spot over this four races is 13.25. 

Somehow, Andretti Autosport drivers have gained ground in the championship with these results. Colton Herta has gone from 11th to eighth in the championship in the last four races. Alexander Rossi did open the month in seventh and dropped to 11th, but his finishes of 13th and 18th at Iowa somehow brought him back into the top ten. 

It helps when Meyer Shank Racing has Simon Pagenaud finish 23rd in both Iowa races. Not to gloss over that Hélio Castroneves has finished outside the top fifteen in three consecutive races and in five of the six races since the Indianapolis 500, where the team had a double top ten day. In the last four races, MSR is averaging a grid spot of 17.75 and the team has not started in the top fifteen of the last three races. 

Dale Coyne Racing might have found good form in recent weeks, but the team has been far from competing for a podium let alone a race victory this season. While DCR had double top ten finishes in the second Iowa race, the team has a combined five top ten finishes out of 24 starts between its two drivers. Both DCR drivers are ranked outside the top fifteen in the championship. 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at least has one driver in the top fifteen of the championship, but the three-car outfit has a combined 11 top ten finishes out of 36 opportunities. RLLR has one top five finish. Qualifying has been worse for the team with no top five starting positions and only six top ten starts this season.

Honda is the most recent winner on the IMS road course, but this isn't the track it likely has banked to lift its spirits. In 12 IMS road course races, Honda has won only three times.

Combination Weekend
While IndyCar has five races left in its season, the NASCAR Cup Series has five races left in its regular season, and the playoff picture is tighter than it has ever been before. With 14 race winners, the playoff spots are vanishing quickly and at a rate of 0.667 new winners every race, the Cup Series is on pace for at least three more new winners in the next five races. 

Chase Elliott leads the way in points and race victories. Elliott is 105 points clear of Ross Chastain in second while also having four victories after being awarded first for the Pocono race after the disqualification of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch for failing post-race inspection. Chastain is one of four drivers other than Elliott with multiple victories this season. Joey Logano, William Byron and Denny Hamlin all have won twice this season. 

Kyle Larson had four victories through 21 races last year and he currently has not won since the second race of this season at Fontana. Christopher Bell won at Loudon two weeks ago and is sixth in the championship. Kyle Busch's only victory was the Bristol dirt race and he is eighth in the championship. Alex Bowman won at Las Vegas in March while Daniel Suárez picked up his first career Cup victory at Sonoma in June. Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe also scored their first career victories this season while Kurt Busch is the lowest driver with one victory in the championship, two points behind Briscoe. 

Busch will miss his second consecutive race due to concussion-like symptoms. He suffered an accident at Pocono last week in qualifying. Ty Gibbs will deputize the #45 Toyota in place of Busch for the second consecutive weekend. 

Currently, two playoff spots are available for drivers on points. At the moment, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex, Jr. occupy those spots as they are third and fifth in the championship. Kevin Harvick is the first driver on the outside on points, 83 points behind Truex, Jr. Aric Almirola is 57 points behind Harvick and without a victory. Erik Jones (18th), Austin Dillon (19th), Bubba Wallace (21st) and Justin Haley (22nd) are the next four drivers in the championship on points without a race victory. 

The NASCAR Cup race will be at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday July 31. A.J. Allmendinger won last year's race and he will be back in the #16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing. Joey Hand will drive the #15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing. Former Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat will make his NASCAR debut this weekend in a second entry for Team Hezeberg in the #26 Toyota. 

After the IndyCar race on Saturday afternoon will be the NASCAR Xfinity Series race. 

A.J. Allmendinger leads the championship in NASCAR's second division with two victories and Allmendinger is 16 points ahead of Justin Allgaier, who has won three times. Ty Gibbs has the most victories with four, but Gibbs is 22 points behind Allmendinger. Josh Berry has won twice, but is 87 points off the championship lead. Noah Gragson won for the third time last week at Pocono and Gragson trails the championship lead by 90 points.

Austin Hill has won twice, but Hill is 147 points off the championship lead, while Brandon Jones is the only other playoff eligible driver with a victory this season. Jones is 173 points back. 

Sam Mayer has yet to win and Mayer is 204 points off Allmendinger while Riley Herbst is a further 25 points off Mayer. Defending champion Daniel Hemric rounds out the top ten in the championship but Hemric trails Allmendinger by 250 points. Hemric has only two top five finishes through 19 races. Ryan Sieg and Landon Cassill occupy the final two playoff spots. Sieg has 461 points and Cassill has 451 points. Cassill is 296 points behind his Kaulig Racing teammate Allmendinger.

Sheldon Creed is the first driver on the outside of the playoff, 47 points on the outside. Brandon Brown is the next driver out, 66 points behind Cassill. Anthony Alfredo is 77 points out directly ahead of his Our Motorsports teammates Brett Moffitt, 89 points outs, and Jeb Burton, who is 123 points out. 

There are a number of one-off entries this weekend in NASCAR's second division. Chase Briscoe will drive the #07 Ford for SS-Green Light Racing while Andy Lally will be in his teammate in the #08 Ford. Alex Bowman will drive the #17 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports with Bubba Wallace in the #18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. While Santino Ferrucci is on standby for Josef Newgarden in IndyCar, Ferrucci is entered for this race in the #26 Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing. If Ferrucci does replace Newgarden, he will not run the NASCAR race. Sage Karam is back in the #45 Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon takes over the #68 Chevrolet while Brandon Brown moves to the #47 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet. Ross Chastain will drive the #92 Chevrolet for Mario Gosselin. 

With 42 entries, four cars will fail to qualify for this race. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race will be at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday July 30.

It should also be noted the NASCAR Truck Series returns to Indianapolis Raceway Park for the first time since 2011 this Friday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. 

IRP is the first playoff race for the Truck Series. Zane Smith has three race victories and Smith was the regular season champion. He leads with 2,037 points. Chandler Smith is second, 15 points behind of a driver he has no relation with, after winning twice in the regular season. Defending Truck champion Ben Rhodes is 20 points behind Smith and he has one race victory. John Hunter Nemechek is a point behind Rhodes, and surprising Nemechek has only won once as well. Stewart Friesen is the last race winner in the playoffs. Friesen is 24 points off the championship lead.

Christian Eckes is 30 points behind Smith with Ty Majeski a point behind Eckes. Carson Hocevar is a point behind Majeski and three points ahead of Grant Enfinger. Three-time Truck champion Matt Crafton rounds out the playoff drivers, 36 points behind Smith. Crafton has only one top five finish from the first 16 races.

Fast Facts
This will be the ninth IndyCar race to take place on July 30 since 2017 when Josef Newgarden won at Mid-Ohio. 

Hélio Castroneves also won this day in 2006 at Michigan.

Two drivers have had their first career victory come on July 30. Scott Pruett's first career victory came on this day in 1995 at Michigan driving for Patrick Racing. Pruett won by 0.056 over Al Unser, Jr. Cristiano da Matta's first career victory came on this day in 2000 at Chicago Motor Speedway by 1.69 seconds over Michael Andretti. 

Rinus VeeKay is the only driver to have a first career IndyCar victory occur on the IMS road course. 

Will Power and Kyle Busch both have six victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, tied for the third most all-time with Louis Chevrolet, Joe Dawson and Eddie Hearne. 

Eight drivers have won on both the oval and road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They are Alex Lloyd, Jack Harvey, Dean Stoneman, Colton Herta, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden.

A list of possible drivers who could become the ninth driver to win on both the oval and road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend are Hélio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Marcus Ericsson, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Dillon.

Marcus Ericsson could join Will Power and Simon Pagenaud as the only drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and an IMS road course race in the same season.  

Rinus VeeKay, Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta are the only drivers to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indy Lights and IndyCar. VeeKay and Herta is the only driver to win on the IMS road course in both Indy Lights and IndyCar. 

The average starting position for an Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course winner is 4.08333 with a median of second. 

Colton Herta's victory in May was the first time an IMS road corse winner started outside the top ten. 

Seven of 12 IMS road course races have had a top five finisher start outside the top fifteen. 

No IMS road course winner has ever started third or on row three. 

The third-place starter has finished on the podium five times in 12 IMS road course races (2014, 2016, 2019, 2020 Harvest Grand Prix race two, 2021 Brickyard weekend).

The third-place starter has not won since the Gateway last year with Josef Newgarden. 

The average number of lead changes in an IMS road course race is 8.667 with a median of ten. 

Seven of 12 IMS road course races have had a double-digit number of lead changes. Only two IMS road course races have had fewer than five lead changes.

The average number of cautions in an IMS road course race is two with a median of 1.5. The average number of caution laps is 7.8333 with a median of 4.5.

May's Grand Prix of Indianapolis had eight cautions for 31 laps, double the previous most number of cautions in an IMS road course race and 63.1% more caution laps than the previous most caution laps in an IMS road course race.

Prior to May's race, five consecutive IMS road course races had two cautions or fewer. 

Álex Palou cuts through the noise and gets his first victory of the season. Will Power ties Mario Andretti's record this weekend. Marcus Ericsson loses the championship lead this weekend. Scott Dixon will be closer to the championship leader after this race. There will be under 215 passes this weekend. Colton Herta will not finish more than six spots better than his starting position. Jimmie Johnson will finish at least 14 positions worse than his average finish at Iowa. Josef Newgarden will race this weekend and be respectable. Kyle Kirkwood will finish on the lead lap. There will be no curbing issues for any of the series competing. Sleeper: Callum Ilott. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Second Impressions: IndyCar's Iowa Weekend 2022

This is one of the rare second impressions after an IndyCar race weekend and it is because so much happened in two races that a few items didn't make the cut in Sunday's post-race reflections. A few things happened during Sunday's post-race as well that shifted attention away from what happened on the track only a handful of minutes prior. 

We are going to cover a few other notable things from what was an important weekend for IndyCar. 

1. I had just finished and posted the First Impressions when the news of Josef Newgarden being airlifted to a Des Moines hospital after fainting and hitting his head after his accident in Sunday's race came out. 

It is a jarring thing to write one thing completely set in your state of mind of knowing what happened and being confident in what you just saw only to turnaround and find out an event had occurred that completely flips what you previously thought had happened and you are unsure what happens next. 

After his post-race interview and seeing Newgarden's determination breakthrough his disappointment, I was set on Newgarden taking no prisoners for the final five races and really making a championship push. 

When you then hear Newgarden fell and needed to be airlifted to a hospital that changes how you think about the championship. The championship becomes inconsequential at that moment. Falls are scary, and when you consider Newgarden had just been in an automobile accident at 160 mph, many different things go through your mind. It wasn't a bad accident, but even the innocent accidents are violent. The championship took a backseat. 

This is news you never want to hear, and you have to wait until the doctors get an official look at him, but my concern was leveled out hearing IndyCar medical director Dr. Geoffrey Billows speak. Dr. Billows was composed giving the report. If there was any sense of fear in his voice then I would have been worried, but Dr. Billows' tone reassured me that everything was under control and nothing was urgent. 

I was as optimistic as you could be hearing when the report come out. The worst possible scenario didn't seem to be upon us, but it was far from what you want to hear about a driver after an accident. 

2. IndyCar has done a great job with driver safety and wellness after accidents, especially with concussions. I will be honest I don't understand how every accident in motorsports doesn't result in a concussion. All the safety devices and advanced seatbelts in the world aren't going to stop the human brain from bouncing around inside the skull when in a high-G accident.

We will wait to hear about Newgarden's evaluation Thursday. I don't think IndyCar's medical team missed something and released Newgarden when he was unwell. There is a chance this all happened because of the accident, but there are many other factors in play. Heat, hydration level, emotions after the accident. Newgarden was distraught after the accident because he had this race wrapped up. He could have been upset to the point he passed out. People cry themselves to sleep. The combination of events could have overwhelmed Newgarden and this is how his body responded. 

Of course, once you fall, what caused the fall isn't the concern but what happens afterward. People slip on accident and hit their head the wrong way and are seriously injured. It is scary to think about how close you can be from a traumatic head injury that changes your life and potentially robs you of the independence you have taken for granted. 

With all scans from his hospital stay coming back negative, there is another sense of relief. We will wait to hear what the IndyCar medical team says on Thursday and go from there. Hopefully, Newgarden is cleared and will be back in the car for Friday practice. 

3. With a shocking conclusion to race two, I completely forgot to mention the weekend for IndyCar and what happened at Iowa. 

Two races, two days, two great crowds. The Indianapolis Star's Nathan Brown reported Saturday evening that Saturday had a sold out crowd of 38,000 people and at that time Sunday had a few hundred tickets available. 

We also have eyes and could see there were a few bare spots at the top of the grandstands, but the grandstands looked just as good as ever at Iowa for IndyCar. They looked better than 2016-2019 when this race fluctuated with a late afternoon start on a Sunday. With this being more than a race weekend and four concerts taking place with notable acts, there is a chance 3,000 or 4,000 people showed up for Tim McGraw on Saturday, saw the concert, went to their cars for lunch or left for lunch and then returned for Florida Georgia Line without seeing more than 40 laps of racing. 

The same probably happened on Sunday with Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. The race was a part of an entire weekend event. There were 38,000 tickets on sale. All 38,000 tickets were accounted for. That is job well done for Penske Entertainment. 

Now, you need people watching the race. These concerts weren't going to happen without the race. A healthy portion of the crowd was there for the race. That is comforting. 

Reports are IndyCar will be back at Iowa for the next three years. I have to imagine they will continue this event as a doubleheader with a strong musical presence. It worked in year one. Done right, it will continue to be a success.

4. One reason for some of those open pockets in the grandstand was likely the weather. It was 100º F on Saturday. You can live in those conditions, but they are suboptimal and frankly dangerous for many spectators. IndyCar doesn't have the youngest fan base. You cannot have 10,000 Baby Boomers out in those conditions. A good number are going to drop. A good number of young people would also drop in those temperatures, especially with enough alcohol in their systems. 

There does come a point where no matter how good the races are and how good the musical acts are, the temperature will be too much.

Everyone shouts "night race" as the solution, and that would alleviate the heat issue, but it causes other problems that would economically shoestring IndyCar. 

One, you are not getting a Saturday night race on network NBC, at least not the 9:00 p.m. Eastern start that would truly make a difference for the crowd. That race could be on USA, but the viewership would be significantly down. 

Two, you are not running a Saturday night race and a Sunday afternoon race. Really think this out for a second. If the Saturday Iowa race started at 8:00 p.m. local and lasted for two hours, it would be done at 10:00 p.m., but we know the teams aren't done when the checkered flag waves. They need to take down the pit stand and put away the tires and put the cars away in the garage after going through inspection and once all that is done it is well after midnight, likely closer to 1:00 a.m. and they still have to drive to the hotel. They likely wouldn't be back and in their rooms until 2:00 a.m., and that is if everything goes well. What happens if a team is in an accident or loses an engine? That is an all-nighter to get the car ready for the next day. 

The Sunday Iowa race started at 2:20 p.m. local time this weekend. Are IndyCar teams really going to have only 13 hours to turnaround for another race? No. And before you say "well, run Sunday night." If you aren't getting a Saturday night race on network NBC, you definitely aren't getting a Sunday night race either and network NBC is part of the selling point for HyVee and all the sponsors involved in the weekend. Also, you probably aren't getting 38,000 people to show up at 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday night in Newton, Iowa.

Three, do you remember what happened in 2019? It rained. The IndyCar race was delayed multiple times and I don't think the race ended until after 2:00 a.m. Eastern. Imagine if that was the first race of the doubleheader. Imagine if Saturday was a completely wash. 

Oval races are not conducive to be doubleheaders. I am really interested in what IndyCar's contingency plans are if it rained on Saturday at Iowa. We all remember the 2014 Toronto doubleheader. Saturday was washed out, we had both races on Sunday and they were both shortened to 65 laps with the second race further shorted due to a time limit after a few accidents. The difference between Toronto and Iowa is Toronto is a motorsports event and Iowa is trying to sandwich the races between concerts. 

Toronto had to move some races around to fit the IndyCar events, but it managed. The promoters cannot move the concerts all that much. You aren't making Gwen Stefani go out at 11:00 a.m. because IndyCar needs the track at 1:00 p.m. to get race one in and then force Blake Shelton out at 4:00 p.m because race two will now be at 6:00 p.m.

I am actually curious if IndyCar could have fit in both races at their advertised distances with both concerts on Sunday. Would IndyCar have done something crazy and shortened one race to 200 laps? Would both races become 200 laps? If you lop off 20% of these races, you could run 200 laps in almost an hour. There is a world where IndyCar could run a 200-lap race before the first concert and still easily fill the scheduled race time with another race. Of course, any cars that have a problem in race one would be done for race two before it even started. 

I almost feel like the only plan if there was a rain out Saturday is the 250-lap race would move to Monday and there would be no way to get both races in on Sunday. That appears to be the only option that makes sense and it is still massively unideal. 

We didn't have to explore those circumstances this year, but there is a chance we will at some point over the next three years Iowa is on the schedule. 

Four, this event cannot move much in the calendar. IndyCar had hot races when the Iowa race was a month earlier in mid-June. The temperature isn't going to get much better in August either. May isn't happening and IndyCar isn't going to wait until late September for Iowa. It is stuck. Sunday worked out only being in the mid-80s but that feels like it has been a rarity for IndyCar at Iowa for the last decade. It feels like every year IndyCar has gone to Iowa the forecast has been for the 90s and no lower.

This is a summer event. It is made for the summer and summer happens to be brutal in Iowa. 

5. I like the doubleheader oval qualifying format. No need for multiple sessions for multiple races. Have one session. Lap one sets the grid for race one. Lap two sets the grid for race two. Every lap matters. More drivers are eagerly watching the end of a session. It is efficient and it can provide some variety with the grid. Yes, I know Will Power won both pole positions and Newgarden started second for each race, but we don't need to create something excessive for oval doubleheader qualifying. Just set the grids and get onto the races. No qualifying format is going to bring more people to the racetrack.

6. For a few years we worried about Iowa because the crowds did shrink. IndyCar went away for a year and it returned with one of its best Iowa weekends ever. 

What changed in a year? What changed in the last five or six years? 

IndyCar and HyVee put a tremendous effort into this race and it goes to show if you try and promote a race, you can fill a place. Not to forget mentioning these weren't cheap tickets either. In the offseason, many complained about the ticket prices. Well, it looks like the price point didn't keep folks away. 

How many oval races are truly dead? How many just need a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas? 

I doubt 38,000 people showed up for the Texas race this year, and Texas once drew 80,000 people for IndyCar during the split. It is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the fourth-largest metropolitan market in the United States. There are no excuses for why Newton, Iowa has a larger attended IndyCar race than Texas Motor Speedway. Texas has attendance issues across the board. That suggests it is an operator and track management issue, and not a series issue. 

Perspective is also important. This was a great crowd at Iowa. I went to every Pocono race from 2013 to 2019. The first year was around 30,000 people. It dipped but the final two or three years felt like 2013 if not bigger and Pocono still went away. There are a number of factors that go into whether a race sticks around, but could Pocono have been a greater success? Could Richmond have drawn a worthy audience if it had joined the IndyCar schedule in 2020 and toughed out a pandemic-stricken season for a full shot at a race in 2021? Are other recent IndyCar schedule casualties greater than what we saw? 

This model isn't going to work everywhere. It is impractical to think IndyCar could have five weekends like this each season. IndyCar could possibly pull off another event like this or two, but it isn't adding a half-dozen oval races with this format. 

Iowa worked because it had promotion behind it. There is a negative to draw from this that IndyCar isn't big enough to just draw 38,000 people for a race alone and it requires extra effort, but it does show IndyCar can draw notable crowds when it has enough backing and exposure. It would have been really bad if IndyCar and HyVee had done all this work for Iowa and only drawn 15,000 or 20,000 each day. That would speak to how irrelevant and redundant IndyCar is to the general population. It is still mostly irrelevant to majority of Americans, but in the right hands it can put on a respectable event that injects encouragement into paddock. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Musings From the Weekend: What is Next?

IndyCar had a successful weekend at Iowa, and that was despite blazing temperatures on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, we left Iowa with a scary situation as Josef Newgarden fainted and suffered a head abrasion, requiring him to be airlifted to a Des Moines hospital after Sunday's race. After being evaluated, all scans were negative. Newgarden will be held overnight for observation and the IndyCar medical staff will evaluate Newgarden on Thursday. Race control made a difficult decision in Indy Lights and it was the right call. Mercedes is bound to finish second in the constructors' championship. Formula One is about to say goodbye to France once again. Logan Sargeant had a race get away from him. There were stunning results in GT World Challenge America.  The SRX season concluded and Paul Tracy might not be getting the call for season three. This has been a strange two weeks in the motorsports world. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking.

What is Next?
Change is good. Change is bad. Change is tough. 

It is incredible how hard we work for change. Change in educational status, change in job responsibilities, change in relationship status, change in weight, change in rights, we are always working for change and seeking something different than our current state. 

Despite how we act, many of us hate change. Change is the last thing we want in our lives. When you are in a groove, in a comfort zone, you never want to leave. You have the best of everything, living how you want with the ideal balance between work life and personal life. But you cannot stop change. It comes with time. 

Nothing lasts forever and change comes with time. Comfort exists for a fleeting period of time and then you work to find it again. We will have our moments where it is back, but it is constantly on the move. The only way to find it is changing how we live and seeing if that takes us in the right direction. 

There are also changes you have to make. Priorities come up in your life. Family takes a front seat. Your job takes another. Other things have to be minimized, especially if it is for the greater good of your life and the lives of the loved ones around you. Some of these will be tougher changes than others. 

A change doesn't mean an elimination from one's life. It is scaling back and finding that healthy balance. You might be just as satisfied when scaled back. There will be times something will need to be eliminated and it will be tough to accept, but it must be done. 

This is a hobby. There are other responsibilities that take priority. For over a decade, a balance has always been found. There were periods when it was easier to find. 

It is getting tougher to find that balance. Work is increasing. It is exciting and these are opportunities you do not want to pass up. They aren't going to come around a second time, but it also means trading some of what otherwise would be personal time. Less time at home. Less time to see family. Less time to write. Less time to do this. It will be a tricky next few months. 

I don't want to stop, but I will have to change what I do. It is about finding that new balance and hitting on the simple things. If there is a larger project I want to do, it might not be turned around in two or three days because that time might not be there. It could be spread out over a week or two. My writing schedule will shrink and it will become more pertinent to make the most of what will be available. What might take an hour may need to be done in a half-hour. If I had plans on writing one thing in the morning and one thing at night, I might have to squeeze both in the morning and start something else in the night. Or I will have to accept doing less but maximize what I am doing. 

For most of this time I have kept a writing schedule of when I want to write things, what I want to write, points to make, facts I don't want to forget and brainstorm ideas. That will help me in this next phase but I might require a little more thought, a little more planning and most importantly a little more patience. There will be some time, but it will be harder to find. 

The one thing I have found with change is no matter how scared I am about how it will change my life; I will still find happiness and enjoyment from it. It might take a few weeks or a few months to get a grasp of how my life is different and how things fit, but I will get there. There have been many times in the last ten years I have been faced with a change and I have thought I would have to stop writing or I wouldn't be able to watch races and here I am. Still writing and still watching races. Has everything been the same this entire time, the processes, and the viewing schedule? No, but a process is still there and there is still time to watch races. 

When I was a child, I would say I hated change, but as I got older, and as learned and listened to others, I find myself embracing change more and not fearing it. Though, I still have that worry about what I will lose, but I think that is natural. No one wants their life to become worse. 

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction said Sir Isaac Newton. That had to do with physics but it relates to human behavior as well. It is frustrating to think about. Reacting isn't an offensive state. When change is coming outside of your control, you don't know the exact direction it will be taking you in. You know where you want to go, but it isn't necessarily going to head that way. It is chasing the moment and sometimes it means losing the race. You are not always going to catch up and you will get burned. That will require a change. 

There is no guarantee what comes next will be better or if it is naturally better. When it doesn't fit, we adjust and we might find that comfort zone. We might not and then we have to consider make additional changes. 

The next few months will be different. In some ways, they will be more difficult. In others, there could be silver linings I do not see at the moment, but this time will be about adjusting and searching for that balance.

Champion From the Weekend
Marco Andretti won the Superstar Racing Experience championship by two points over Ryan Newman. Andretti didn't win a race all season, not even a heat race, but he had three runner-up finishes in main events.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Josef Newgarden and Patricio O'Ward, but did you know...

Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix, his seventh victory of the season.

Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa split the Formula Two races from Circuit Paul Ricard. 

Hunter McElrea won the Indy Lights race at Iowa after Linus Lundqvist was penalized for putting Matthew Brabham in the wall late in the race.

Chase Elliott won the NASCAR Cup race from Pocono, his fourth victory of the season after Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were disqualified from the first two positions for failing technical inspection. Noah Gragson won the Grand National Series race, his third victory of the season. Chandler Smith won the Truck race, his second victory of the season. 

The #45 Wright Motorsports Porsche of Charlie Luck and Jan Heylen and the #4 CrowdStrike with Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG of George Kurtz and Colin Braun split the GT World Challenge America races from Watkins Glen. K-PAX Racing had won 11 consecutive races dating back to last season and it had won at least one race over the previous ten race weekends since the start of the 2021 season.

The #18 RS1 Porsche of Eric Filgueiras and Steven McAleer split the GT4 America races from Watkins Glen. George Kurtz sweep the GT America races.

Chase Elliott won the SRX race from Sharon Speedway, his second victory in his second SRX start.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar and NASCAR share a weekend at Indianapolis, and the Truck race will be at Indianapolis Raceway Park. 
Formula One's final race before its summer break, the Hungarian Grand Prix. 
London hosts a Formula E doubleheader. 
Spa 24 Hours.
Supercars will be back at Tailem Bend. 
World Superbikes returns to a newly re-paved Autodrom Most.