It has been an incredibly long time, but I can finally say that TLR podcast #7 is out! This show is an Indycar preview show with myself and James. To be honest it was made awhile ago but most of the information is up to date, or close enough. The focus is on Indycar and the 2013 season, plus off season storylines. Unlike in the past this episode is under an hour (just). Hopefully everyone enjoys this and I’ll get the next one out more quickly.
Tony George resigned his recently regained position on the IMS board, in a move many believe signals the beginning of his attempt to buy back the Indycar Series. I really see no positives about a Tony George takeover. I really don’t understand why he want’s to do it since he apparently also wouldn’t want to run it day to day, and anyways he’s already had his chance and blew it. What’s the point of him coming back, and why come back just to give it to someone else to actually run? Resigning from the board was important if he actually want’s to buy Indycar. At the same time, resigning from the board takes away one of the few possible positive things about TG actually being in charge; his spot on the parent companies board. I guess he can always be re-instated a second time but still. I really cannot see much good (any good?) out of this plan. Randy Bernard is expected to be gone if Tony buys the series so he’ll have to find a new, new person to take control of the series. There is one potential positive thing about Tony George in power; more ovals. But that assumes ovals are still a big motivating factor for George, and I have no idea if it is. I would guess it probably isn’t. Besides, TG’s problem in the past was lack of fan focus, as well as transparency. It’s hard to see a second reign of Tony George as fixing those issues. George lacked the vision to grow Indycar the first time, and it’s hard to see him succeeding the second time.
Delta Wing had a spectacular crash at Road Atlanta this week. The trike collided with a real race car (thought to be fair it was actually a Porsche) and the trike didn’t come off well. Luckily no one was injured. However I really am a committed Delta Wing hater so I’m obviously biased in this incident. I agree with Keselowski, the Delta Wing’s not a race car. I also can’t see the trike being a good choice for the Indy Lights car. Imagine the trike on an oval.
A few weeks ago Peter Pistone, a major NASCAR journalist, created a firestorm when he purposed the idea that Indycar should end it’s full season championship and just run the Indianapolis 500. Pistone took a LOT of abuse for this column especially in the open wheel world. I personally thought the attacks against Pistone were out of line. It’s fine to disagree with his opinion, but the personal nature of many of the attacks against him (calling him a stooge of NASCAR, idiot, irrational, ect.) were unnecessary and immature. I disagree with Pistone’s position by the way. In fact, I’ve argued with other people who’ve expressed a similar idea in the past. But the idea is around and it’s supported by a decent number of people, both from a sports car and NASCAR background.
The main reason I dislike the idea of just having the Indy 500 is Indianapolis is not my favorite race of the year. My favorite race varies a bit because my favorite tracks (RE: Chicagoland, Kentucky) keep getting thrown off the schedule. I also generally enjoy Iowa, sometimes Texas, and Fontana was amazing this year; all of these are better than most Indy 500′s in my opinion, except perhaps this years. Of course this year’s Indy 500 was spectacular, but the 2007-2010 races were forgettable, to put it nicely. 2011 was memorable for Wheldon’s win and Hildebrand’s crash, but otherwise would have been the same as the years before it. Further more I like the idea of a racing series that combines American racing series which runs both our ovals and road courses. Even though the reality is less than perfect (putting it nicely) at least it’s a starting point. As long as Indycar exists there’s the hope it one day will get where it needs to be. Killing Indycar takes that away from us.
Besides who would run a one off Indy 500? A lot of people seem to think that NASCAR, Sports Car, and F1 teams as well as local teams would show up but I find that hard to believe. I really don’t think Hendrick, Red Bull, Ferrari, Audi, Toyota, Gibbs, or Childress will take time out of their schedules to go run a one off race when they’re focused on another prize. After all do F1 and NASCAR teams take time away to race Le Mans? While the Indy 500 draws the biggest crowd and most viewers of any race in the Indycar schedule it’s worth remembering that the 500 is doing better now, after the split, than it was during the split. What’s to say that killing the series won’t reverse the gains made in the 500 since Unification?
All of that said the idea itself is not that radical. A fair number of people believe in only running the Indy 500. Even Robin Miller has at times expressed some support for that view. To say that someone’s an idiot for having an idea that’s different is to me, a bit ridiculous. I’m not sure why, but it feels like the Indycar community is a lot less tolerant of dissent and differences of opinion now than in the past. While there are those who believe Indycar is stronger than ever before (since the split) I’ve talked to people who used to watch Indycar during the split who have given up on it. These people aren’t just NASCAR fans either; they watch motorcycle road racing, F1, and sports cars. I don’t want this article to become an argument about how strong Indycar is or not, but the point is there’s a sizable number of people who feel Indycar isn’t doing as well as some think it is.
On twitter I noticed some people saying that it’s okay to have an opinion on another persons opinion. Obviously I agree with that statement…. as I’ve wrote this post! I’m fine with people disagreeing with Pistone, obviously I disagree with him as well! My point was, and is, that I don’t think it’s right to attack him as a person, nor is it right to make it sound like he’s crazy or the only person who feels this way. Trust me, he’s not the only one who feels that Indycar should just run the Indy 500. I’m not sure why some people are so sensitive about Indycar. If it’s truly stronger than ever before than I doubt all the negative articles wrote by all the journalists in the world will change that.
I’ve made it pretty clear I don’t want Johnson to win his 6th Chase. I’ve also made it pretty clear that I want Keselowski to win his first Chase more than anyone else except Jeff Gordon (who’s in contention but needs some wins. Like 4 in a row). For those who wondered if Keselowski’s title run was for real, if Penske could really contend with Dodge, the answer is yes. Obviously we don’t know if Brad will actually win the Chase; Johnson and Hamlin are fairly close to him. But we know his run is real. 4 races down, and he’s still in the points lead. In fact out of the top three drivers he left Talladega with the best finish and thus extended his lead slightly. Brad Keselowski: There’s still time to get on the bandwagon!
On Wind Tunnel With Dave Despain last Sunday the 2013 Indycar schedule was announced. Despite the hype it is basically the 2012 schedule. Only two new events, and only one of those is on a real race track. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing depends on your view of the 2012 schedule. Some people really enjoyed the road and street course events this year and if that’s the case then 2013 should be great for them. After all, they now get three double header events on them. If however you’d prefer watching ovals and full sized road courses… you are out of luck for another year.
Looking at the positives, first up is that Milwaukee, Texas, and Fontana all survived. Survival is a small goal, but considering what’s happened at those three tracks, survival is something to be thankful for. Milwaukee struggled last year with attendance and Fontana’s attendance with all racing series is infamously low which obviously has brought concerns about the races future. Texas has great attendance but the war of words between the drivers and track president seemed to put the race in peril. Despite these issues all three races were retained which at least means Indycar isn’t losing any more ovals for next season.
Two new races have been added to the schedule. Pocono and Houston. The addition of Pocono is fairly interesting as for years Pocono has been considered unsafe for Indycar. Recent track updates appear to have helped and of course Indycar’s been struggling to find ovals which put’s Pocono higher on the priority list. Pocono is a similar track to Indianapolis which bodes well for the race. All of that said Pocono is not known for good racing. I believe the Indycar race should be a good race… but I wouldn’t take that for granted yet. After all, as great as Indy was this year, many of the recent races have been less than exciting. Pocono, as mentioned earlier, is similar to Indy. Indycar is also going to have a “Triple Crown” award if a driver wins Indy, Pocono, and Fontana. This is an interesting addition to the series and gives Ed Carpenter a legitimate chance of winning this award.
Houston… it’s a street race. You either like that type of thing or you don’t. Everyone knows my opinion so there’s not a whole lot to say. Edmonton fell off so we’re at the same number of street courses as last year. The double headers could be exciting if they were at Road America, Sebring, Fontana or Iowa. Instead they are at Belle Isle, Houston, and Toronto. I guess if you enjoy street courses that’s a wonderful thing but I find it a bit hard to get excited about double races at those three tracks. Belle Isle especially. One race there is one too many. The double header races will also feature standing starts for one race. I have very little opinion on this subject. It should be noted however that at times standing starts can become rather complicated (ask Dani Pedrossa).
Above was everything new about 2013. I am disappointed with the lack of new races and the way Randy Bernard is able to claim “nineteen” races is rather sad. That said, I don’t mind that a Providence Rhode Island street course and Nola Raceway missed the schedule. Same with Quebec, Palm Springs, and Porto Alegro. To Indyar’s credit they seem to be focusing on the American market with this schedule although I don’t know if that is on purpose or by accident.
I know some people get tired of me saying this but I’m going to say it because it’s how I feel. The 2013 schedule has the same problem that the 2012 schedule has; too many street courses, too few ovals, too few longer/wider/better road courses. This is a matter of taste but I just don’t find Indycar races at random street courses and three motorcycle road courses very compelling. The races are pretty much always won either in qualifying or by pit strategy. Having those races be the majority (10/16) is not a recipe for a super exciting racing series. If you compare AMA, ALMS, Grand AM, and Indycar’s road/street course schedule, Indycar’s is by far the worst. Everyone else visits Road America. Everyone else is able to work out the issues in sanctioning fee and any other issues that might come up. Except for Indycar. On the optimistic side one can hope that with the ALMS/Grand Am merger perhaps tracks will have more incentive to add an Indycar race. On the negative side it’s possible Road Atlanta and Sebring will simply become ISC tracks. Which would be no problem if the relationship between ISC and Indycar was better.
On the sanctioning fee, the number appears to be two million dollars unless a track gets a special deal. That seems rather high for a series that on NBC Sports cannot break the .4 TV ratings mark. The street courses can pay because they get local and state money to help out but it closes the door on a lot of tracks. I understand Indycar needs to make money but an outrageously high sanctioning fee seems like a mistake. It limits the product and venues as well as takes away exciting races that fans should be able to see. I don’t believe there are that many tracks that will pay that fee with the current ratings and interest level. We don’t know for sure who is getting a special deal next year, or if anyone is. But there aren’t exactly tracks lining up to pay it either. Of course the other issue is if Indycar is really desperate for money, it is probably not the best idea in the world to be paying for a track (Vegas) and not racing on it. I mean, it’s not like we don’t still race Toronto and Indy. I don’t see why Vegas is any different. Also would add a 7th oval…
2013′s schedule is not a dramatic shift from 2012′s, for better or worse. Overall it’s improved slightly (RE: American focus, Pocono) from 2012′s but it’s not much. No longer, wider road courses. Still too few ovals. Still too many street courses. Some people like that and that’s great for them but the rest of us are kind of left out. At least no ovals were lost and at least a full fledged attempt to turn Indycar into an International Street Racing Series hasn’t happened. Pocono’s nice, Triple Crowns nice, and Houston is…. nice for people who enjoy that sort of thing. But nothing dramatically better than this year either. Finally, I have a hard time seeing this schedule as “progress” since in the end there are only 16 true races. As I’ve pointed out many times, the IRL and Indycar managed 17 or more races from 2007 through 2011. As Bill Clinton might say the arithmetic doesn’t add up. Perhaps more races will be added for 2013. There are many who believe that there is work being done to put a race in the September gap in the schedule. Rumors include Kentucky which would be nice, or another street course either in Quebec or Rhode Island which is less exciting. I’m not going to get too worked up or excited about an extra race until it’s actually announced. 2013 looks to be more of 2012. I’m not thrilled but then again I’m not horrified either; at least we didn’t lose more ovals or turn into Champcar over the course of the year. As always with Indycar we’re left hoping that the future will be brighter than the present.
Big announcement from the World Superbike Series. Next year Laguna Seca will host a round of the WSBK season. No word on the future of Miller Motorsport Park’s race nor on the MotoGP at Laguna Seca, though I believe GP is likely returning. World Superbikes used to race at Laguna Seca until it was replaced with the MotoGP round and the WSBK’s moved over to Miller Motorsports Park. The World Superbike Series produces some of the closest racing in the world and features a wide variety of equipment with very different specifications. For American fans, at the moment WSBK is without an active American rider, though Ben Spies and Colin Edwards, both MotoGP riders, are former series champions. WSBK is televised tape delayed in the USA on SpeedTV. Still, if you enjoy road racing or really any racing and want to see races decided on the track rather than in the pits, WSBK is a series to check out. Next year, you’ll be able to see them at one of the most famous tracks in the US!
Chase race #1 is down and Keselowski won both the race and the points lead. In second for both was Jimmie Johnson. Not a bad way for Brad to start the Chase especially since there are so many 1.5 mile tracks. I really don’t want Johnson to win so his 2nd place is concerning, but it’s good to see Brad Keselowski and Penske beat JJ both on track and in the pits.
Finally. That one word can describe Fontana in numerous ways. Finally, Ed Carpenter wins a race as an owner driver. Finally, an American wins the championship. Finally, we see close racing in the 2012 Indycar season. Finally, a non Penske/Ganassi car wins the championship. Finally, Ryan Hunter Reay shuts the haters up and shows he’s as good as anyone.
Fontana had the hopes and expectations of many fans especially as it was only the 5th oval of the season. And against all odds, despite a lot of reasons to fear it might be too much like a NASCAR race at Fontana, Fontana delivered an Indycar race as exciting as any! Will Power crashed but Ryan Hunter Reay had to finish 5th or better to win the title and he had a poor car most of the night. However by the end of the race RHR was between 3rd and 5th, fighting hard with anyone around him. Some thought he should be more careful but I LOVED the fact he refused to “points race” and it produced some of the best racing of the season as we watched him battle it with Helio and Sato. Ed Carpenter ran up front a lot and was leading late, but Dario Franchitti passed him. After the late race red flag Dario stayed up front and for a few seconds seemed likely to win and Ed appeared close, but a split second off. As the last lap started however Ed Carpenter caught Dario and passed him on the last lap. Even more impressively was that Ed passed him early in the last lap as Sato crashed and thus the race ended.
Ryan Hunter Reay won his first title and Andretti’s first since 2007. Ryan will return next year with Andretti and continue to try and revive AA. Hunter Reay won the title by a tiny margin but don’t forget how many wins RHR has, and the fact that Ryan won on a wide range of tracks. And how horrific of luck he had when he wasn’t up front. Wrecks and mechanical failures did major damage to him yet he won the most races and won the title. And with that he also led the revived Andretti Autosport that went from failing to qualify at Indy to winning the title the year latter. Impressive stuff.
Ed Carpenter has become one of the top oval drivers in Indycar. He’s show it by putting up great results with small teams for a few season and won Kentucky last year, passing Dario at the last second. 2012 saw Ed start a new team that he owns with Fuzzy Vodka as his sponsor. Ed’s had good runs but less results than he would have hoped for but he won big at Fontana. Ed was up front regularly and in no way could his win be a fluke. Ed Carpenter has some haters but considering he won a 500 mile race at Fontana, when many others including Will Power and Tony Kanaan wrecked. Oh, and in both his wins he beat Dario Franchitti, who luck aside, still has a lot of good finishes throughout his Indycar career. Ed may not be the best road racer in Indycar but it’s hard to say he’s not one of the best on ovals in Indycar. If you didn’t know that before… hopefully Fontana proved it. Also, it vindicated Chevrolet’s decision to give him their final engine (until Bourdais/Legge got one).
Oh, and Katherine Legge finished 9th. Sure there was attrition but she deserves a some recognition as she’s new to ovals and again, look at what happened to Kanaan and Power.
I was worried that the Indycar season would end without any truly close racing and a good last lap pass. Thankfully Fontana delivered, and it delivered with style. The race showed why I stick with Indycar despite a lot of issues; because when things go right, it’s incredible to watch. There’s not a lot more to say. Whatever this is to say about the 2012 season (and I have a lot to say) one thing that cannot be taken away is that the finale was great. Throughout the long, cold off season we’ll at least have the afterglow from Fontana to keep us going.
One last thought…. pray for MIS to return soon. Preferably 2013 although the rumors seem to be that it won’t happen. Because as someone who lives in Michigan I’d love to be able to watch a race in person here.
Indycar has returned to Fontana. What this return brings remains to be seen. Will the racing be close and exciting, or will it spread out like a NASCAR race? Remember… NASCAR race’s at Fontana are considered some of the worst out of all 36. Fontana’s been controversial over the question of whether there is too much or too little downforce. Apparently drivers are split. I would say in my opinion I’d like to see a little more downforce then was seen at Texas or Iowa. I really think Indianapolis, with it’s “draft and pass” was the perfect mix between the close racing that scares the drivers and the NASCAR COT style racing that put’s everyone to sleep. Why can’t we just stick to that? Apparently Indycar’s drivers can’t. Some want it to spread out as much as possible where others have realized no downforce may break up packs but increases the odds of wrecking greatly. I wonder who mentioned that before? I’m hoping for Indy this weekend, or better yet Chicagoland or Kentucky, but I’m kind of expecting Texas especially with how much the cars have been sliding around. I really think they should have a bit more downforce but sadly the hard core anti fun crowd seems to be in control so I’m not very optimistic .
All of that aside this weekend is important for one major reason. Ryan Hunter Reay is only 17 points behind Will Power for the title. Hunter Reay has the chance to be the first non Red Car champion since 2007 and the first American champion since 2006. Hunter Reay win if he get’s 17 points more than Will Power; he doesn’t have to win the race to win the title, but to feel comfortable winning would go a long way. Personally, I’m hoping that Hunter Reay wins his first title and that the crowd chant “USA!” if he wins.
Final thought, going back to the downforce issue, is if that was what Mike Conway and EJ Viso have been talking about than I take back some of what I said; after all, I agree there should be more downforce too. Conway’s comments seem to me to be against downforce since it mirrors so many other comments made after Vegas, but Viso apparently wanted more downforce and supposedly was making a statement in support of Mike so if that’s true then I’m a bit more supportive of Conway. After all is said and done here’s where I stand; I want more downforce and closer racing. It doesn’t need to be Talladega but it shouldn’t look like a NASCAR race at Fontana, either. And, if a driver can’t handle ovals they really shouldn’t be in Indycar; however if Viso and Conway were talking about wanting more downforce then I’m a lot more forgiving to them. If not, revert back to my original comments.