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Independence Day Special Part 2: Who’s the Best American Racer?

Independence Day is the perfect time to celebrate American racers throughout the world.   The USA has a proud racing tradition that includes success in almost every major form of racing except for World Rally.  From AJ Foyt winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to Mario Andretti’s World Championship, Kevin Schwantz winning the MotoGP World Championship, the original Ford GT at Le Mans, and the three American’s who’ve won the Indy 500, not to mention the success of various NASCAR drivers, American has proven to be one of the great racing nations in the world.  However in recent year’s there has been a bit of a dry spell.  Most of America’s best racers have gone to NASCAR and do not race on the world stage.  Indycar’s Split has resulted (twice) in the loss of American talent from Open Wheel and the invasion of third tier F1 failures.  So who’s the best American racer?

Last American F1 champion

NASCAR has some great drivers.  I would put Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmindinger, Jimmie Johnson (sadly), Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin’s talent up against any driver in the world.  However, they’ve never raced on the “World Stage.”  Same thing with WoO driver Steve Kinser and any other WoO/USAC driver.   They may be the best American racer, but until they race on the world stage, that’s a hard thing to prove.   The American’s in Indycar don’t work, either.  Too few wins, and Indycar isn’t really a world wide racing series.  And I don’t know when the last time an American got an overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it’s been awhile.  There are some incredibly talented American’s in development including JR Hildebrand and Conor Daly, but until they start winning in the top levels of racing they’re not in the picture.  Scott Speed has an incredibly diverse amount of experience, but mainly, he has experience in failing.  As for World Rally, no American has ever done well there, and the only American involved at the moment is Ken Block, who’s had a rough season.

Depressing, isn’t it?  Thankfully the world of Motorcycle Road racing is more positive.  Colin Edwards and Ben Spies are both World Super Bike Champions and Nicky Hayden is a MotoGP Champion.  Spies and Hayden are both MotoGP winners, while Edwards has been able to put his satilette bike on the podium multiple times.  Ben Spies has been especially impressive, winning the WSBK championship in his rookie year on a bike that has not won a title before or since, winning a pole and finishing 2nd on a Tech 3 bike, and finally, winning Assen last week.

Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP champion

Is Spies the best American racer then?  Yes and no.  Because I have him and Nicky Hayden tied for that role.  Both are winners and champions in a major world series.  A lot of people look down on Hayden because he has not won very many races, but a MotoGP championship is a MotoGP championship, and he was the first person to end Rossi’s reign of terror.  More importantly, he’s been hurt by being put on the Massa/Barrichello plan by HRC, and then riding a Ducati that is clearly useless to anyone but Casey Stoner.  He’s 5th in points at the moment, only a little behind Rossi, who’s been given the 2012 bike converted for 2011 use, and who’s still struggling.   Rossi can’t win on that thing either, so the fact that Hayden hasn’t won a race with Ducati isn’t that big of mark against him.  Edwards is very good and a WSBK champion but he’s never won a MotoGP race.

Team USA

Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden are the best two American racers that most of America has never heard of.   What other active American racer can say they’re a World Champion?  Only Colin Edwards!  There’s a perception out there that American racers can only turn left, but Spies and Hayden disprove that.  I wrote earlier today that American fans won’t embrace international racing, but, they have embraced American athletes of sports who’ve won on an international stage (Micheal Phelps and Lance Armstrong).  Probably it’s because Spies and Hayden haven’t won enough in MotoGP.   If that changes, however, it could be the beginning of something big for MotoGP in the US.  And since there may be 3 US MotoGP races in 2013, they need it!  And the funny thing is, Spies and Hayden are both from “NASCAR Country,” Texas and Kentucky, respectively.  If NASCAR fans gave these two a look, they’d probably find that they like them a lot more than Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch!

NASCAR Cannot Afford to Lose Red Bull

According to multiple sources, Red Bull is going to pull the plug on it’s NASCAR team as of next year.   Red Bull’s involvement in NASCAR has brought a mixed bag of success.  Initial failure followed by steady improvement, until last year their lead driver’s illness brought their program to a standstill.  Red Bull entered NASCAR when it looked like NASCAR’s growth would never end, but in fact, they entered just as the downward spiral started.  Losing Red Bull as both a team and a sponsor is a gut punch to NASCAR.  Quality teams and sponsors are in short supply.  More than that, Red Bull is an edgier company who’s willing to spend huge  amounts of money.  They represent the younger demographic that NASCAR desperately needs.   Red Bull pays for 2 Formula One teams, an air racing series, tons of extreme sports athletes, a World Rally team, and endorsement deals with about half of the MotoGP field.  If they’re pulling out of NASCAR it’s not about cost; it’s about return on investment.

Red Bull entered NASCAR in 2007 with Toyota and it was a disaster.  Brian Vickers finished in the top 5 in a race early in the year, but also kept not qualifying for races, and AJ Allmindinger was a complete trainwreck.  In 2008 they showed improvement with both Allmindinger and Vickers making the top 35 and running somewhat competitively.  They also brought in Jay Fryer, a respected NASCAR team manager to run the program that year.  Things were going well but Red Bull decided to make a change and signed Scott Speed to replace Allmingdinger.  Speed went onto struggle while Vickers won his 2nd race and made the Chase.  The next year Speed continued to struggle while Vickers was sidelined and replaced by a number of drivers, none who did anything special.  This year they signed Kasey Kahne to a one year deal as he awaits his Hendrick Motorsports job next year and Brian Vickers returned.  Both have had good runs but have suffered terrible luck and are not in contention for making the Chase.

Red Bull's F1 program took a while to get successful

The saddest thing about Red Bull is that they are a team that is right on the edge of breaking through and becoming one of the top teams.  If it weren’t for some questionable driver decisions made by the Red Bull HQ in Austria they would probably be there already.  Red Bull made five critical errors since entering NASCAR: 1. they started in 2007 with the unproven Toyota’s, 2. brought AJ Allmindinger straight to Cup in 2007, 3. fired Allmidinger when he became competitive and brought in another rookie, Scott Speed,  4.  not expanding to a 3 or 4 car team, 5. not finding a good temporary driver for Brian Vickers.  Despite these decisions they’ve still been fairly competitive.  The Red Bull F1 team was not a winner until 2009 and their Cup team has already won a race and made the Chase.

Many have blamed the Red Bull pullout on their F1 team, but I don’t buy it.  The NASCAR marketing is selling to Americans, few of which watch F1, MotoGP, or any other form of racing.  As far as I know Red Bull is going to continue it’s air race series, continue it’ extreme sports marketing, continue it’s relationship with Kimi Riakkonen, and continue to have endorsement deals with about half of the MotoGP field.  The problem appears to be that NASCAR doesn’t have enough fans in demographics that Red Bull is interested in, despite the ratings stabilizing this year after a few years of falling.

MotoGP is full of energy drink sponsors, but NASCAR is struggling with them

That’s a huge problem for NASCAR.  The ratings are good, the attendance is okay, but they’re not doing well with creating new and younger fans which is already a problem, and one that looks only to grow worse.  Because the stick and ball sports are all fairly healthy and growing, UFC is growing (especially with younger fans) and even soccer is growing!  NASCAR runs the risk of getting completely buried and forgotten.  It’s a chicken and egg type of issue.  NASCAR needs younger fans and edgier sponsors but those edgier sponsors aren’t interested unless there are fans in their demographic.  But those fans aren’t excited about watching vanilla, personality-less drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth win races and championships.

The team that Red Bull owns may not be finished.  Jay Fryer has owned/managed a team before and is looking for investors, partners, and sponsors to save the team.  Fryer has had a close relationship in the past with Hendrick and Red Bull is an important team for Toyota, so he should have options.  As a final thought, could this be the team Andretti is looking at getting involved with?

This throws a big wrench in NASCAR’s Silly Season.  Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards have both had talks with Red Bull, and in my opinion, it would have been huge to have either driver there.  Both are marketable and both have a personality that would come out more with a sponsor like Red Bull (Bowyer was more fun when he had Jack Daniels).  Vickers is also a respected driver who may have to look for a ride.  Many believed the ultimate goal of Kimi Raikonen’s NASCAR experiment was to join this team.  At the moment there are no more races planned for Kimi either.  Cole Whitt is in contention for the Truck championship and is a Red Bull driver.  He’s now going to need to find a new team to continue to develop his career.   Not only that but all the employees of Red Bull are screwed if Fryer cannot save the team.

Red Bull Sponsors both US MotoGP's. Where are they during the Brickyard 400?

The Red Bull adventure in NASCAR was never marketed properly.  Neither NASCAR nor Red Bull marketed their involvement well.  Both parties are responsible for that.  Look at an F1 race or a MotoGP.  They have a huge presence at those races but almost none in NASCAR.  Watch the USGP at Laguna Seca or the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix (note the name) and compare with the NASCAR races.  You don’t ever see posters or ads with their drivers in it, despite having had plenty of marketable drivers.  Despite all of these things NASCAR is a thousand times better off with Red Bull than without it.  What does Red Bull’s pullout say to other sponsors?  If a company that has a ton of money doesn’t want to be involved, would they?  NASCAR cannot afford to lose Red Bull.  It’s a strong team and a big sponsor, two things that are in short supply right now.  In even shorter supply are sponsor’s who appeal to younger fans, which Red Bull does.  If things don’t change, the only sponsors who’ll want to be involved with NASCAR in 15 years will be Budweiser, NAPPA, and Depends.

Breaking News: Danica to NASCAR Semi-Confirmed by ESPN!

According to ESPN,Danica is planning to leave Indycar behind and become a full time NASCAR driver next year.  Their sources are saying that it would be for a full time Nationwide ride with some Sprint Cup races and the Indy 500 thrown in.  This decision is not surprising but is a bit disappointing, at least to me.  I don’t expect Danica to be especially successful in NASCAR.   Unlike Montoya, Riakkonen, or Villenuve, Danica’s not going to NASCAR to look for a new challenge.  She’s still got a lot to do in Indycar, from winning the 500, to winning a road race, to contending for a championship.  If she’s moving to NASCAR it’s 100% about money/attention.  That’s her choice… but it’s not a choice I’m going to be excited about/supported about.  While there are more competitive teams in NASCAR it’s also a lot harder to win a race.  Jeff Gordon driving for the top team in NASCAR went two years without a win.  So how long is Danica going to go without a win?  And even if she wins, what are the odds on making the Chase or winning the Sprint Cup?

That article says Danica will run a full Nationwide season next year.  How competitive she’ll be will depend on what Nationwide regulars she has to compete against and on what restrictions are placed on the Cup drivers.  If it’s a very weak field and the Cup drivers are more limited, potentially she could do quite well.  Or, she’ll embarrass herself even faster.  She could even win the championship if she’s consistent enough, Cup drivers are limited/don’t earn points, and there are very few Nationwide regulars around.  I’d say a Danica championship is still unlikely, because she’d have to go through someone like Algier or Stenhouse, but it’s possible.

Sam Hornish Jr. Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #77 Mobil 1 Dodge, drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 3, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sam Hornish Jr.

Sam Hornish's Cup career was most notable for the number of wrecks he caused.

And completely irrelevant.  Because unless Danica becomes a completely different driver it won’t change anything about how the story ends.  Look at how Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Speed failed and tell me what Danica is going to do differently?  And remember that she has a lot fewer wins than Hornish in Indycar.  Also remember she doesn’t like driving a loose car and isn’t great at working on setups.  None of that is going to work out very well in NASCAR.  Really, those issues haven’t done her any favors in Indycar.  Danica also enjoys the celebrity side of her career.  Last time I checked NASCAR was a 38 week long championship that gets in the way of that lifestyle in a big way.  Don’t take my word for it; ask Denny Hamlin  about how the 38 week schedule affects drivers abilities to do non racing things.

Danica is going to go to NASCAR for money.   Unfortunetly it seems to be sacrificing her long term career for a short term boost of cash.  Her money’s going to be coming from both sponsors and merchandise sales.  Merchandise especially is where she would be picking up more money as NASCAR has a lot more fans than Indycar.  I’m really hoping to see her questioned about her reasoning for leaving and her response.  Doubt the ESPN reporters or Speed reports have the guts for it, but Jenna Fryer and Nate Ryan might.  And Cavin or Miller could do it.

NASCAR's Most Popular Driver: Hint, it's not Danica.

Going to NASCAR will see her going from the big fish in a small pond to one of many fishes in a large one.  She’ll get an initial bump of interest/support but unless she runs up front it will fade.  Dale Junior, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson all have large sections of fans.   Kyle Busch is not a fan favorite by any stretch of the imagination but Fox and Darrell Waltrip love the guy.  And NASCAR already has an under-preforming superstar… does it really need another?  Also I’m not sure how many NASCAR fans will embrace her.  I’ve heard a LOT of negative opinions about her from NASCAR fans and writers.  I personally know multiple NASCAR fans who think she’s overrated and they don’t even watch Indycar!

My personal prediction on the Danica experiment is it last’s 2-3 years in Cup, preforming similarly to Scott Speed and Sam Hornish Jr.  So that put’s her in Cup for 2013, 2014, and washing out by the end of 2015.  I think Nationwide might go a little better.  She could do very well depending on the quality of the field and rules.  Sadly, Cup is what matters and Cup is not going to be a pleasant experience for her.

Still the only Indycar driver with mainstream appeal

A lot of Indycar fans are happy to see Danica go.  Many were hoping to see her fail to qualify for Indy.  I’m no Fanica… but I don’t see losing Danica as a good thing.  She’s the biggest star by far and she’s one of the top American drivers in a series that needs both of those things.  She is the main driver that generates mainstream attention.  Without her will ESPN and other mainstream sources even notice Indycar?

All is not lost for Indycar.  But it needs to continue to develop it’s stars.  And that’s the problem.  Who to push?  Ryan Hunter Reay hasn’t caught on with fans, and he won his first race in CART during the 2003 season.  Marco Andretti is… well, let’s put it this way, the guy tweeted about his “sick” hotel room right as the Bruno story was confirmed.  Rahal could do it but he’s got to run up front.  Same for Kimball.  Hildebrand has a lot of potential.  Ed Carpenter needs a full time ride and to get trained by Will Power on road courses.  Will Power could work out well.  He’s got more personality than most of the other Red Car drivers, tons of talent, and American’s have embraced Austrillian celebrities in the past.  Simona is great but can Simona Mania sweep the nation as Danica Mania did?  Same for Pippa.  Dario, Dixon, and Briscoe are dull.  TK is great as is Servia but I don’t see them being the face of Indycar.  Same for Tags and PT.  Hinchcliffe is another solid candidate. Conway is duller than Dixon.   I’d like to see Rice and Bell full time.  They might be the best American Open Wheelers left.  At least they were during Indy qualifying.  How can Indycar get the mainstream media to focus on these guys and girls? And how can they get the general public to care about them?

Our new superstar?

Or Her?

Could Hildebrand follow in the footsteps of the other National Guard driver?

In the end Indycar has a good cast of drivers.  It’s just getting people outside of Indycar circles to notice them!  Carpenter in many ways has the most potential especially if he stays with Sarah Fisher Racing.  For all of the problems RHR has had this month he’s still pretty good and very marketable.  At this point Hildebrand, Hinch, and Simona look like the stars of the future.  Pippa and Simona work well and won’t rub as many people the wrong way like Danica did.   I used to think Danica winning would be the “Best Possible Outcome” of the Indy 500.  It still would get the most media attention and bring the most interest into Texas.  But what Indycar really needs is the 500 to create a new star to help fill the void.  Carpenter, Hinchcliffe, Hildebrand, Rahal, or Simona.  Maybe Bell or, as much as it hurts to say this, Hunter Reay.  Out of all of these guys and girls, Carpenter has the best shot of winning and creating a “Trevor Bayne Moment,” but I’d be thrilled with any of them winning it.

The big winner of this move. Maybe the only winner. Somehow that doesn't make me any happier about this.

I don’t see Danica moving to NASCAR being a positive for anyone.  Danica will make money but it’s very likely she’ll tarnish her legacy and her career.  Indycar loses it’s biggest star and NASCAR gains some in the short term, but in the end it’s not going to build up anything long term.   The only winners I see are Go Daddy and IMG.  It really feels like they’re the driving force behind this move.  I understand Danica needs to listen to her management and sponsors (or get new ones, cough cough).  But many drivers have walked off a cliff following their managers or sponsors and I really don’t want to see Danica’s name added to the list.  I used to be a Danica fan.  But she’s turning into a sideshow. One win in 6+ seasons doesn’t say much good.  Danica could be huge.  If she just had figured out how to be a winning driver, I’d venture to say she’d have been able to seriously help Indycar’s ratings and have even more mainstream attention than she has now.  Instead she’s moving to NASCAR and more famous for her Go Daddy commercials than her racing.  That’s a tragedy.

Indy 500 Pre Race Picks and Predictions:

The Centennial Indy 500 is upon us.  In 1911, the first 500 mile race in May was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it started a tradition that has lasted a century.  Because of the two World Wars, this is not the 100th running of the race, but it’s a significant milestone anyways.  There are very few tracks around that existed in 1911, much less races!  The Centennial 500 comes at a critical time in Indycar’s history.  On one hand, it’s the strongest field in years yet on the other, all signs point to another Red Car Whitewash by team Penske and Ganassi.   Indycar enters the 500 with the best ticket sales in years but also has come off of 3 races that score some of the lowest TV ratings possible.  Indycar enters with momentum, largely from Randy Bernard and his ideas, but also has team owners trying to veto aero kits.  A great Indy 500 would help revitalize Indycar’s momentum and provide a much needed boost to the summer stretch of races, many of which are on Versus.  Remember this is by far and away the biggest race of the year.  For teams, drivers, sponsors, and Indycar itself, this is it.  It’s time to sink or swim.  With that, let’s get picking and predicting!

One of the five favorites for this year's 500

Winner….Red Cars: 34/38.  That is the number of races Penske and Ganassi have won since 2009.  That’s almost 90% of the races in the last 3 seasons.  These two teams have also won the last 3 Indy 500’s.  And from what we’ve seen so far, they’ve shown no sign of slowing down.  While other drivers have lead during practice those numbers have been inflated by drafting other cars on track.  When the Red Car’s have attempted to show their speed they’ve jumped to the top of the charts almost instantly.  Those are some pretty depressing numbers.  There are five Red Car drivers, Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.  As the saying goes… All Red Cars are created equal, so predicting who out of those 5 are most likely to win is almost impossible.  For Indycar’s sake, I hope it’s Power or Helio.  If it’s one of the other three there’s a good chance most of the audience will be asleep.

  Likely…Red Cars+Graham Rahal:  All of those depressing statistics on the Red Car’s aside… Rahal might be the lone ray of hope and light.  He’s driving a Ganassi satilette car and while he’s struggled for speed most of the year he was good in Brazil.  Ganassi knows how to build a good car for Indy.  If some of that Red Car Power can just rub off on Rahal, we could see our first American winner since 06, and more importantly, get a new face up front.

If John Andretti won... that would count as an underdog win

Darkhorse…Red Cars+Charlie Kimball, & Andretti Autosport:Andretti Autosport used to be one of the top teams in Indycar.  In fact, the statistics on domination are even worse when they are included.  Andretti plus the Red’s have won every oval race since 2005 and have won 37/38 races in the last 3 seasons.  While Andretti has struggled in recent years they occasionally show some good speed.  If they can just qualify well they might just be able to get back an win a race.  Whatever you think about Danica and Marco, they do know how to get around Indy fast.

Charlie Kimball also has Red Car Power.  He’s a true rookie and hasn’t been all that great this year, but again, the Red Car Power should show itself at Indy.  As long as he can safely qualify this weekend he should be fine.  And if things break just the right way… we could see a Trevor Bayne moment.

The Specter of Rain:  Rain in May is a constant possibility in the Midwest.  I know this firsthand, as I live in Michigan.  We’ve had rain almost every day for the last week and a half.  Rain has caused interrupted most of the practice sessions so far and has caused a few to be canceled.  Rain could have a huge impact on qualifying.  No matter what, they will give each team at least one shot at qualifying, but if rain comes up, they could end up with only one shot.  Then there’s the possibility of a rain delay or a rain out… but I’d rather not dwell on that possibility.  Needless to say, there aren’t many quicker ways to kill Indycar’s momentum then that.

Pole Day Predictability:  Although some others (Tagliani and Carpenter) might get close, Pole Day is likely to be another Red Car Whitewash.  Most importantly is that Pole Day will allow everyone to get their base qualifying run down and see who’s safe and who risks not making it.  

Karma should see Saadavra fail to qualify.

Bump Day Drama:  With new cars coming in 2012 the current car is about to become worthless.  Thus, there are a lot of teams and drivers coming out to race.  With most of the drivers and teams being fairly good (except Jakes) this will make qualifying very tense, and means it’s almost certain a good driver or two will go home.  Numerous rookies have never raced an Indycar before or even raced on an oval.  For those drivers qualifying will be especially rough.  Anyone who wrecks or drives for an underfunded team cannot sleep too easily either.  And unfortunetly, after their wreck yesterday, HVM might be in trouble.

Starts, Restarts, both 2 and 3 wide:  In the past the Indy 500 had a nice 3 abreast start.  Then, and I’ve heard this happened with the last head of Race Control before Barnhardt, everything went wrong.  The cars, instead of starting three wide ended up spreading out and letting the leaders get through turn 2 before the rest of the field was green.  Indycar has committed to closer starts and double file restarts but there are some issues.  The drivers also believe CART is still around, and have tried to petition Indycar to not make them do that.  Not only that, but the idiot in Race Control has said he will not wave off the start or restarts.  So that put’s Indycar in a bit of a tough spot.  NASCAR starts and restarts fine, so why cannot Indycar?  The 500 is a race that a lot of NASCAR fans will watch, and if the drivers can’t/won’t do double file restarts that will be an issue.  It’s time for Indycar to pull out the hammer.  F— up the start and it get’s waved off, with the pole sitter sent to the back.  If a majority of drivers keep screwing it up, fine all of them and put them on probation.  If they keep it up, well, I’m sure Indycar can find some drivers who are willing to do proper starts an restarts.

Another Four Time Winner?:  Helio Castroneves has a chance to win his 4th race (although Paul Tracy and his fans would argue it’s actually an attempt to get his 3rd).  Helio would join AJ Foyt, Al Unser, an Rick Mears as the only 4 time winners in over 90 races.  He would also be the first 4 time winner in 20 years. If a Red Car has to win it, might as well be a history making (well, tying) one.

Danica?:  Whatever you think of her, a Danica win would be the best possible outcome for Indycar.  No other driver would get more publicity or build more momentum.  Can it actually happen? Maybe.  She’s good at Indy and she’s good on the ovals.  Can she get her car setup well is the real question.  She’s struggled this year so far but it’s been all road and street races.  Last year she struggled through Indy qualifying but redeemed herself in the race, and followed it up with a 2nd place finish at Texas.  If the Red Cars falter and Danica has a good race, a win is possible.  But not only must she beat the Red Cars, she’ll have to beat her 4 teammates.

Scott Speed and Fuzzy's fit well together.

Scott Speed in Indycar!:  In a move many (myself, at least) have waited for for years, Scott Speed is now an Indycar driver!  Well, he will be, if he can just qualify.  Of all the drivers without Indycar experience he’s got the most oval experience out of NASCAR.  That should set him up for a good run.  I’d imagine if things go well he could finish top 10 and even has a shot at winning the Rookie of the Race award.

Rookie of the Race:  Charlie Kimball is my favorite for Rookie of the Race because he’s got Red Car Power.  Still, Hildebrand (with Panther), Speed, and Hinchcliffe could make a run at it.  The Rookie of the Race doesn’t necessarily go to the highest finisher as it’s based on a media vote (think college football rankings).  So a good run by one of these guys could get them the award even if they don’t finish that great.

Pace Car Conflict:  Originally, reality TV star, business man and conspiracy theorist Donald Trump was selected to be the pace car driver.  Thankfully this relationship was ended before the Month of May started and AJ Foyt was put into the car instead.

Hot Wheels Stunt:  For those who’re attending the race, Hot Wheels is doing a stunt that involves making a world record setting jump in a truck.  Rumor has it Tanner Faust is the driver.  Sadly, Faust was part of the Top Gear USA experiment, but this could redeem him a bit.  Should be interesting to see what happens.  Also worth remembering for those who’re going to be at Indy is the “Largest Autograph Session in the World” where many of the living Indy 500 drivers will be doing autographs.

Team Meeting; Weekend in Review: Colt 45 Edition

Indycar:  The Month of May has begin in Indycar!  Rookie Orientation has been completed, with all drivers but James Jakes passing on day 1.  Jakes latter passed during practice.  Practice has seen Ed Carpenter lead day 1 and Tagliani lead on Monday, but it’s hard to put too much stock into it as the lap times are affected by drivers drafting each other.  The Red Cars are still incredibly fast, which has the potential to make this kind of anti-climatic.

We’ve seen the 2012 car concept.  I stand by my original analysis as I don’t find either version especially exciting.  They look like the offspring of an HRT and the current Crapwagons, and in no way is that a good thing.  On the other hand, if it looks a bit like an F1 car (even a slow one) maybe it’ll be fast?  I’m glad they got rid of the snowplow on the front.

Willy T. Ribbs has become an Indy Lights team owner with driver Chase Austin, who used to be part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.  The good news is it’s only Indy Lights, the bad, Austin’s never driven an open wheel car before.

The Aero Kit Wars Update:  Some members of the media seem to have joined the team owners, but still, the team owners haven’t explained what the problem is, since you get two kits, and you don’t have to buy a 2nd one if you don’t want to.  And if you really think Penske and Ganassi are against aero kits for the good of the series… I have some oceanfront property in Arizona for you.  Looking at the time sheets from Indy, and remembering what happened in 2005 and 1995 to Penske and/or Ganassi suggest that the real reason they aren’t into aero kits is that the more spec things are, the easier it is for them to find the perfect combination and win 34 out of the last 38 races.

According to Robin Miller Indycar may use the Motegi Road Course instead of the oval this fall.  That would put the road/oval balance at 10/7, which is also known as CART.  I don’t want to hear the “it shows support for Japan” argument.  I seriously doubt that running an Indycar race is going to do a lot of good for anyone in Japan, or Japan’s image.  Maybe the MotoGP will, if it happens, but the riders have hinted that they might boycott that race…  Throwing the road/oval balance to CART levels might be acceptable if we’re talking Road America or Sebring, but I seriously doubt the Motegi road course will be a good race.  The MotoGP last year was good but that’s MotoGP; they were passing at Le Man’s Bugatti circuit.  Motegi is a bad idea for 1000 reasons anyways.  Especially the idea of running the 3rd to last race in the middle of the night in Japan, where 0 American media attend the event.  Just say no, and go to Texas, Chicagoland, Fontana, Atlanta Motor Speedway, or Charlotte.

The Indycar drivers have, according to Robin Miller, filed another petition to end double file restarts, this time for Indy.  Like I said, give into them once (Long Beach) and they’ll keep wanting it again (in rain races) and again (at Indy).  This isn’t CART; the team owners don’t call the shot’s, and the drivers don’t, either.  If drivers can’t handle double file restarts then they need to consider finding a new line of work.  Sometimes people wonder why a segment of fans want’s to have USAC/WoO or NASCAR drivers in Indycar.  Well, this kind of explains it.  I don’t think those drivers would whine about the racing being too close or would petition to end double file restarts.

Scott Speed's Fuzzy's Vodka Livery looks good

Colt Firearms will be an associate sponsorship on Graham Rahal’s car.  This is a good pickup by Indycar, which needs edgier sponsors and more American sponsors.  Colt covers both, and if this partnership goes well then perhaps a full sponsorship could be in the works?  Especially since this is a sponsor that most people would expect to go to NASCAR, this could be a big deal.  On twitter, some of the European and Canadian fans were surprised that Colt is allowed to sponsor a race car, but what needs to be remembered is that the gun rights are protected by the US Constitution, and that in America, having a gun company sponsor a car is not controversial, outside a very small section of people.

NASCAR:  The Cup race saw another late race tire gamble, but instead of an underdog win, it was Matt Kenseth.  The race was as processional as they come, with exactly one groove in the track.  This one groove nature is what allowed Kenseth to win.  Mark Martin got up to 2nd with his tire gamble and Marcos Ambrose got 3rd.  AJ Allmindinger had a good race going and then suffered mechanical problems which cost him what might have been his first NASCAR win.  Juan Montoya’s season got off to a good start, but he’s started to have wrecking issues again, and he brought out the final caution.

This is the result of Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series

Cup drivers dominated the Nationwide race and also caused a large number of wrecks.  A Cup driver also won the Truck race.  Seriously… this is out of hand.

The NASCAR All Star Race is coming up this weekend.  It’s an event that is literally pointless!  It’s hard to understand the need for an All Star Race when one of the selling points of racing is that all the stars are competing at once, as opposed to a Stick and Ball sport which is one team Vs. one team.  In related news on the All Star Race, Jimmie Johnson will run the 5 and Mark Martin will run the 25 for promotional reasons. Also, Trevor Bayne is expected to return to the car after a mysterious illness (sounds like Casey Stoner) has sidelined him for a few races.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch got probation for a month and a 25K fine.  As this is NASCAR, the significance of probation is debatable.  After all, if you violate it, you might just get more probation, or you might get parked.  NASCAR is not known for it’s consistency…  The probation will include the All Star Race which is dumb but, smart thinking and NASCAR don’t go together.  However, no one’s told Fox or Speed this because they are hyping the Harvick/Busch rivalry like crazy to try and promote the race.

Much more interesting than the All Star Race is the fact that Kimi Riakkonen makes his NASCAR debut this week in the Truck race with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which is one of the top teams in the Truck series.

Side by Side commercials are coming to NASCAR!  Fox did a test run at Dover (and it was the most exciting part of the day…) and ESPN announce that during the final half of all the races in the Chase they will also have them.

F1:  The possibility of F1 being for sale continues to be a topic of discussion.  Not only is News Corp apparently interested in buying F1, but the teams might want to either buy it or break away, perhaps with News Corp’s help.  While the idea of F1 without Bernie is exciting… splitting the series is a bad idea, having teams running a series is a bad idea, and I can’t see News Corp running a racing series being a good idea either.

The Best Petrol Powered Car Won't Go to Le Mans

ALMS:  The news out of the ALMS isn’t good.  Highcroft racing announced on Monday that they have ended their relationship with Honda and will not compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as originally planned, nor will they race at the Petit Le Mans.  As well, their purposed Indy 500 team fell through.  Highcroft claims they’ll be back, and there are signs pointing to them running a full time Indycar team in 2012, but they also were planning to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans…  At this point, until I see them at the race, I’m going to take Highcroft announcements with a grain of salt.  And that’s sad… they’re the 2010 ALMS champions and finished 2nd at the 12 Hours of Sebring!!!!  Sadly, with the Non TV deal they can’t sell sponsorship for themselves.

In fake sports car news, also known as Grand Am news, Ganassi was finally beaten by Action Express.  Action Express won the 25K bounty in the first race that the bounty was offered.

The Mad Fro Man is in trouble...

MotoGP:  Casey Stoner dominated the French Grand Prix, leading most of the practices, qualifying on pole, and winning the race.  It wasn’t quite that boring as Pedrossa and Lorenzo got off to a great start, forcing Stoner to fight through the field.  Stoner succeeded, passed Pedrossa, and pulled away.  Marco Simoncelli then caught Pedrossa.  That’s when things got interesting.  Simoncelli made an aggressive pass on his psydo teammate and then Pedrossa passed him back.  Simoncelli continued to battle Pedrossa and made an outside pass on Pedrossa, cut across Pedrossa, and caused him to wreck.  This caused Pedrossa to DNF and Simoncelli to get a ride through penalty for the cutting across of Simoncelli.  Simoncelli would recover to 5th while Pedrossa broke his right collarbone.  Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Rossi battled for the podium, with Dovizioso getting 2nd and Rossi 3rd.

The Simoncelli/Pedrossa incident has blown up the motorcycle road racing forums and comment sections.  I’m no fan of avoidable contact penalties, but the way MotoGP’s race control director explained things over the off week to Dennis Noyes does make some sense.  Basically, contact is okay if it’s from hard racing, but not if it’s from a move that only ever was going to end in contact.  Simoncelli’s problem isn’t the wreck, it isn’t the pass, what got him in trouble was the way he cut down on Pedrossa.  It makes sense to me… even if though I’m not a huge fan of the penalty.

Simoncelli’s biggest problem isn’t the penalty, it’s the fact he took out one of the main Honda riders.  He has (had?) a factory Honda bike on a privateer team and taking out Pedrossa, who would have been the points leader had he not been wrecked is not going to make him very popular at Honda.  Pedrossa an his manager, the infamous Alberto Puig were not pleased with Simoncelli and after the race he was called into the HRC trailer.  Will he lose his factory equipment?  Or will it be given to his teammate Aoyama?

Pedrossa injured his right collarbone.  Last year at Motegi he broke his left collarbone and the fallout from that injury has been an issue all season, with a second surgery needed earlier this year to fix a complication from his original injury.  Pedrossa has had a lot of injuries in his career; adding another one on top of that is a very bad sign.  He may or may not race at Barcelona, but either way, he’s not going to be riding on full form, and that’ll be a big problem as long as Stoner and Lorenzo stay fit.

Casey Stoner got a 5K penalty for punching Randy De Puniet in the shoulder during morning warmup.  Stoner was angry because he felt De Puniet was in the racing line while Stoner was laying down a hot lap, and that De Puniet was waiting around to get a tow.  No… I am not making any of this up.

The nightmare start to Ben Spies’s series has continued.  This week he got off to a poor start, got up to 5th, and then got passed by Simoncelli who was recovering from his drive through penalty.  At least Simoncelli didn’t take him out.

Valentino Rossi got his first podium on a Ducati.  Sure it was helped by attrition, but he was at least competitive against Lorenzo and Dovizioso.  Lorenzo wasn’t so happy.  His great start ended up wearing his tires out and he finished 4th.

Did you know… Casey Stoner got his first ride on a prototype of the 2012 MotoGP Honda bike?

Scott Speed… Indycar Driver!?!?!?!

I’ve wrote a lot of negative Indycar articles over the last week or two, but today the news came out that Scott Speed will run the Indy 500 in a car with Dragon Racing.  I’ve advocated the entry of Scott Speed into Indycar since it first looked like his Cup ride might be over last year.  Scott Speed is an American in a racing series that needs more of them and he’s got a personality in a series that has some personality challenged drivers.  I’ve wanted it and hyped it but had absolutely no reason to actually think it would happen.  Then, Marshall Pruett wrote this article on Speed.  According to Marshall Pruett Scott Speed will drive an entry for Dragon Racing in the Indy 500.  Is this the beginning of a new star being born in Indycar?  Even better, according to Nate Ryan, Dragon Racing also plans to run him in Vegas!

Most of Speed's wins have been on ovals

Scott Speed has raced in GP2, F1, all three main levels of NASCAR, ARCA, and Grand Am.  He was mostsuccessful in Trucks and ARCA where he won races (his only career wins) and GP2 where he went winless but finished 3rd in points.  His Cup and F1 season’s were not nearly as successful as he never scored points in F1 and struggled throughout his Cup career scoring the occasional top 10 and top 5 without ever winning a race.  Still he’s seen success on both ovals and road courses so he’s got the potential for success in Indycar.  I’ve been as critical as anyone about the “F1 Rejects” coming into Indycar, but the difference is this one might actually bring in some fans!

Having Speed debut at Indy will be difficult simply because we’re likely to see over 40 cars trying to make 33 spots.  From NASCAR, Scott has been involved in Go or Go Home qualifying which will help with the pressure on Bump Day if it takes that long.  He’s ran on ovals and he’s ran open wheel cars, but he’s never done both together and he’s never even sat in a current Indycar!  That could be a major issue.  On the plus side he will go to a test at Chicagoland first and then have what looks like the full Month of May program to get up to speed.  Dragon is a good team which will help his qualifying efforts a lot.  As long as Speed can avoid crashing too much he should make the field and run well.

While there are a ton of reasons to be excited for Scott Speed’s arrival into Indycar not all fans are rejoicing.  The main reason why some Indycar fans dislike Speed has to do with his previous comments about Indycar which are less than positive.  He’s always been F1 oriented and grew up during the Split and it shows.  When his F1 career died he still hadn’t changed his tune about Indycar and went head on into NASCAR.  Obviously this has created some hard feelings and the fact that Speed is coming to Indycar doesn’t help.  But come on, we’re getting Scott Speed into Indycar.  A guy who has some notoriety and who, if he’s successful, can get a lot of attention on Indycar and become one of it’s biggest stars!

How can you not see Scott Speed running Indycar as a good thing?  His career hasn’t been great yet but he has shown flashes of talent.  If he can just harness it he could become one of the biggest names in Indycar.  It’s true Speed is only coming to Indycar out of desperation but with a little luck a good Month of May will change his tune and he’ll want more.  His NASCAR career is almost dead… so he might as well take whatever money he can scrape together and try and reinvent himself in Indycar. Scott Speed: an F1 reject I can get excited about!

BREAKING NEWS: SCOTT SPEED TO INDY WITH JAY PENSKE AND SAM SCHMIDT’S TEAMS COMBINING EFFORTS

Marshall Pruett from speedtv.com is reporting that former NASCAR and Formula 1 driver Scott Speed will make his Indycar debut with Dragon-Schmidt Motorsports at this years Indianapolis 500. The combined team already signed FAZZT Race Team’s winter testee Ho Pin Tung for the 500. Speed will also race 2 or 3 Nationwide Series events with Kevin Harvick Incorporated. In other 500 news Buddy Rice was signed with Panther. The oval open test is Monday May 9th for the IndyCar series.

Team Meeting; Weekend in Review: Audi Edition

Photo of Audi's new R18 (Photo: Audi Motorsport)

This is getting difficult, not a whole lot of news that I haven’t covered yet… Indycar made another significant announcement, and the FIA released some interesting rule changes while NASCAR has had a lawsuit or two filed and the AMA released an incomplete schedule. Okay, I lied, there’s been a ton of news this week.  With Christmas coming up, I’m not sure if there will be enough news to really maintain this feature of my blog or not… but I’ll try and keep Poll of the Week going.

Indycar:

The main news in the last week is that Mazda will sponsor a scholarship from USF2000 to Star Mazda, Star Mazda to Indy Lights, and Indy Lights to Indycar, along with the USAC to Lights scholarship, in an attempt to make the Road To Indy matter.  With the lack of advancement in recent years out of Indy Lights, and the general weakness of that series, this is a major step in the right direction.

Which brings up a question, with Mazda dropping a fair amount of money Indycar’s development league, will they soon enter the main series?  Currently there are no plans, but if the Road To Indy thing works out well, it would make sense for Mazda to run in Indycar, especially as their ALMS plans are very unclear.  They weren’t thrilled with the 2012 decision, but it would certainly be their highest profile racing involvement if they get involved with Indycar.

The Next Indy Lights Champ?

So will Conor Daly run Indy Lights?  He’s won the scholarship, and he probably has enough connections to money to finance a full season in Lights.  But, if his dream is F1, will he go to F3/F Renault/GP3 or will he attempt to move up into Indycar?  It’s been speculated he’d run the full GP3 season and a partial Lights season, which would hedge his bets.  Many of the newer Indycar drivers have come from F3/GP2/F Renault, so even if Daly leaves for Europe, he could easily be back over here in a few years.  And since Daly seems like one of the most talented American open wheelers since Allmindigner (outside Hildebrand and Edwards), that would be a very good thing.

JK Vernay hasn’t been involved in Silly Season much, but now he has the Mazda money, and before last season ended, he claimed he would be in Indycar for the 2011 season, the question is where?  His best bet would be Coyne, DDR, or KV, and all of those teams would readily accept someone with money.  AA says they’ll have four cars, and they need some financing too.  Question is, how much money does he have?  If it’s not a lot, he’ll be reduced to Conquest or possibly Coyne; out of which, I’d hope he gets Coyne.  Still, if I were to bet on it, I’d bet he will either end up very well positioned at Andretti Autosport (IE: He finds a large sum of money) or he’ll take a lesser amount of money to Conquest.  I have nothing to base that on other than gut feeling and guesswork, though.

Nothing’s been announced about Vegas, but according to Miller and Cavin, it’s a done deal, and will be promoted directly by Indycar in conjunction with Vegas itself.  Also according to Cavin, Indycar is planning to make a big deal out of the season finale and do a lot of interesting things with Vegas.

NASCAR:

Victim of the Beachfront Mafia

Big news was that Verizon was driven out of NASCAR by the exclusivity Sprint has, to the point they gave up on Trucks/Nationwide.  Also, NASCAR threatened to park the 12 if Fox superimposed Verizon logos on the interior.  NASCAR=Beachfront Mafia.

Johanna Long won the Snowball derby. She won the pole for the Derby last year, and this year won the race, which I accidently missed in the last Team Meeting feature.  Nothings set yet for her in the Truck series, but she’s hoping to get a full season (and she deserves it).

Scott Speed filed a lawsuit against Red Bull for 6.5 Million dollars in a breach of contract lawsuit.  Rumor also has it that he will be at Kyle Busch Motorsports next season (wonder who predicted that?) but nothings confirmed, and he has said he’d be willing to consider Indycar or ALMS/Grand AM.  So there’s still hope.  I somehow can see him at Andretti Autosport or KV; again, that’s pure hope/guesswork/speculation.

NASCAR has changed its infamously strict garage dress code to allow sandals, shorts, and sleeveless shirts.  Welcome to the 21st century.

Keyed Up Motorsports is planning on returning (after they shut down earlier this year) for the first five races with Scott Riggs.  Last year, they struggled horribly with Mears, but improved with Riggs.  However, it was too late, and they had no way to get into the top 35, and thus, couldn’t get any sponsors.

Robby Gordon is also suing Extenze for not getting paid.  (Insert joke here)

F1:

New rule changes were announced, with the most significant being team orders are allowed, or rather, the Team Orders rule is gone.  However, teams were warned that team orders could still be punished if they bring “Disrepute” to the sport.  Very NASCAR esque.  Did Mike Helton write that?   Basically, you can do team orders, but you may or may not get hit with an “Actions detrimental to Grand Prix racing” penalty, depending on who you are and who you’re helping/hurting.  Which, instead of making things simpler, in fact complicates it more, and will make any ruling (or non ruling) that much more controversial.

Lotus Cars has officially bought into Renault, forming Lotus/Renault racing.  They will run the historic Players styled livery, while Team Lotus, which had also announced that livery, will return to the green livery used this season.  I like the black livery a lot, so seeing it on a somewhat competitive team will be nice, despite how that may upset the hardcore anti-cigarette people, although, really, that makes it even more fun.

MotoGP:

MotoGP also had major rule changes announced.

Practice will be returned to 4 one hour sessions, which is a move that has been called for since the practice time was reduced.

Tire Warmers will be allowed, which must make the Ducati team happy.

Moto3 will allow a spec traction control unit, much to the dismay of most fans, and MotoGP will move to a spec GPS unit.  Yes… MotoGP bikes have a GPS unit attached that mark where they are on the track and then uses that in the traction control.

KTM will build a Moto3 bike.

AMA:

The AMA Pro Racing 2011 preliminary schedule was announced, and it’s unfinished.  Two TBA’s exist and the season finale hasn’t been finalized.  The Daytona 200 will be moved back to a day race but will still be followed by a 2 month gap between race 1 and 2.

ALMS:

Photo of Audi's new R18 (Photo: Audi Motorsport)

I hate that shark fin!!!!!!

Audi announced it’s newest LMP1 car, the R18.  It’s not an attractive car, although I know I’m in the minority on that one.  The current cars will still race the 12 Hours of Sebring, and then be retired.  Due to the rule changes, a lot of what has made the Audi’s unique (open cockpit, 5 speed, ect.) have been removed, but it is moving to the Acura style 4 rear wheel concept, where all 4 wheels are the same size.  It also features a reduction in power and engine size… which will excite the green people, but isn’t what race fans really want to see.

Sim Racing:

Trailer for Forza 4 that was released over the weekend.  It looks like there are some clips from Top Gear in this, but I’m not sure.

Forza 4 was announced on Saturday.  No details were given other than a fall 2011 release date.  Considering how good Forza 3 was, this is very interesting.  Hopefully day/night racing and rain are added.

Poll of the Week:

This weeks poll is about Team Orders.  Do you like them, hate them, accept them grudgingly, or what?  Personally, I’m not a fan of team orders, especially F1 style team orders (drivers throwing wins.)  NASCAR style team orders, IE, a driver in 4th giving a position up to a driver in 5th isn’t as bad.  Also, F1 team order issues come up more because of how often teammates end up running 1-2 without anyone that close to them, which allows them to do team orders and not get passed by a third party.  Team orders are worst in F1, and it seems like F1 fans accept them more than fans of any other series, so I guess it’s not that big of deal, but I would have a problem if F1 style team orders migrated to Indycar, NASCAR, and MotoGP.

Where Will Scott Speed Go?

Scott Speed is looking for work.  He got let go from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Red Bull team and is now in search of work.  He’s definitely a controversial driver; and after failing in both F1 and Sprint Cup, many wonder, does he have any talent?  Whatever his talent level, he’s an interesting personality, and NASCAR, Indycar, and ALMS would all be better with him.

3rd in GP2 points in 2005. Hey, that's better than many of the other F1 rejects!

Is he talented?  He went winless in 2005 GP2, but finished 3rd in points.  He went pointless in F1, and struggled badly in Sprint Cup, but he won a Truck race within 2 months of entering that series, and almost won the ARCA championship.  He also got a 4th place finish in A1GP.  Is he great?  Probably not… but he’s at least as good as many drivers in Nationwide, ALMS, Indycar, and Trucks.  I mean, he can’t be worse than Sato or Viso.

Struggled through his F1 career, going points less.

The major question hanging over Speed’s head is does he have Red Bull money still?  If he does, that really opens doors, although it may close a certain very big door in Trucks.  On twitter, Speed has said he’s preparing a lawsuit against Red Bull; which suggests the Red Bull money’s not coming back.  Unless of course, it’s just against the NASCAR team.  Even then though…the Red Bull chapter of his career is probably over.  And there has to be a little concern that he’s never been with anyone else, and probably doesn’t have very many connections with other sponsors.

I want to see him come to Indycar.  He would most likely be fairly competitive, and could probably line up a fairly strong ride at a team such as AA or KV.  He fit’s the F1 Reject model pretty well, except he’s also an American, and would add an interesting personality to the series. If he still has Red Bull money, AA might be a little difficult, because of Venom, but KV would be very doable.  If he’s without Red Bull, and can find some money, AA would be a possibility, although adding Speed wouldn’t exactly do anything good for the team chemistry.  Drivers seem to be able to get up to speed on the ovals pretty fast, and Speed’s done the NASCAR thing on ovals.  He was only road course racing in his previous open wheel racing, so he should be good on the road courses.  More importantly though he adds another American to a series that’s lacking Americans, and he adds an interesting personality to a series that could use a major injection of that.

Scott's Cup career is in trouble

In Cup, there aren’t many options.  Front Row is a possibility, but it’s an awful team, he’d get a check, but he’d probably be better off doing RC car racing than that.  Maybe if he can find funds he could get RPM to hire him and expand back to 3 cars, but I doubt he’d fit well with Petty, and he has a poor relationship with AJ Allmindigner.  Considering his poor results, Cup is probably closed for right now.

Speed could return to the Truck Series, where he's a winner

Nationwide, there are a few smaller teams who might hire him, especially if he brings money.  It had been speculated that there would be a Red Bull Nationwide Team with him and Clauson, but that lawsuit… uh… not sure where they stand on that.  For the Truck Series, I have speculated he may end up at Kyle Busch Motorsports.  He and Kyle are good friends, and Kyle owns a team.  Red Bull could be an issue, as Kyle has a close relationship with NOS, but then again… there’s that lawsuit thing, and that may open up an opportunity over at KBM.

Don’t forget sportscar.  ALMS and Grand Am both have opportunities.  He has ran a Daytona Prototype before, and was better than Busch at it.  ALMS is in flux right now, with LMPC, LMP1, and LMP2 planned for next season.  I’m not sure where he’d go, but he would have the possibility of going somewhere.  Here’s a thought, what if he ran ALMS with HVM and then a few select Indycar races???   Grand Am, I don’t follow or cover… but I’m sure he can get rides.

One of the highlights of Speed’s career.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked him out, while he was the points leader and Stenhouse was 2nd in points, and Speed then came back and decided to make sure Stenhouse didn’t win the title.

Where Speed will go likely depends on what his plans are.  If he wants to get back to Sprint Cup, then Nationwide or Truck is what he will need to do.  If he’s less focused on Cup, then Indycar could be a good option.  He’ll need to find some money, but if he can, he should be able to line up a fairly strong ride and get a lot more attention than he will in NASCAR.  Indycar has a bit of optimism right now, and NASCAR is having some issue and doesn’t have a ton of optimism for the future, unless you chug the Kool Aid.  Personality wise, he’ll fit in a lot better in Indycar, and he’ll probably be happy to be out of the NASCAR police state.  I certainly want to see him in Indycar, because he’d be an interesting personality to cover, and he should be at least somewhat successful.  he’s never expressed a lot of interest in American Open Wheel, but he’d be better at that than NASCAR, and he’d enjoy the culture more so he may reconsider, especially since his NASCAR career is going nowhere, fast.  But where do I think he’ll go?  I would have to say while I hope to see him in a Dallara next year, I expect to see him in a Kyle Busch Motorsports Truck, trying to win the first championship in his career since Karting.

Team Meeting: Weekend in Review: The Pre-2nd Annual Triple League Racing Awards Edition!

Blog Stuff:

Don’t forget, Triple League Racing Awards Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday Thoughts on, wait for it, Thursday!  Even though it’s Thanksgiving here… the British don’t really celebrate that holiday, so I’ll try to get my submission in anyways.

NASCAR:

RIP: 2011 NASCAR Chase Ratings… because the feelings of Jimmie Johnson’s inevitability are growing… and the season hasn’t even started (in fact, it just ended)!  How disappointing… two great storylines were possible Sunday… and they both failed and instead, a NASCAR Lapdog won!

Enough about boring topics… RPM is about to announce what’s been rumored for months, a reduction to a 2 car team for Allmindigner and Ambrose next season.  So dreams of AJ’s return to Indycar will have to wait… Which is too bad, because he’s likely one of the two best American Open Wheelers who are not in their 50’s, the other being Tony Stewart, but hey, we’ll probably see Tony soon at the 500!  For someone who’s only oval experience before coming to NASCAR was a couple Champcar races at Milwaukee he’s adapted well to NASCAR, and has become one of the more sought after drivers in NASCAR, and makes Red Bull’s decision to dump him for Scott Speed look pretty poor.

Speaking of Speed, he’s in trouble.  He was Dieters favorite boy, but sadly, lost that to someone who’s actually won a title, in fact, someone who’s won a world title, Sebastian Vettel!  So what now?  Well, there are a couple theories.  My pet theory is he’ll go to Kyle Busch Motorsports, possibly with Red Bull backing.  Of course, NOS Energy drink is a major personal service sponsor for Kyle, so that may not happen.  The other guess is that Red Bull will fund a two car Nationwide team, for Scott Speed and Cole Whitt.  Seeing how Whitt preformed in his few Nationwide starts this season, that won’t be a positive experience for Speed.  Will he return to Indycar?  Who knows… but he may not have much of a choice soon, perhaps Dieter will give him the five million needed for Indycar?

Homestead was a good weekend for the female drivers in NASCAR, as in the Truck race, both Johanna Long and Jennifer Jo Cobb finished on the lead lap, as did Danica in the Nationwide race.

Those penalties Kevin Harvick kept getting during the Chase were… suspicious.  Just saying.

Looks like Earnhardt Junior will be getting a crew chief change, cause there’s zero chemistry there right now.

Indycar:

Robin Miller is reporting that Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball will both get full time rides with a Ganassi Satellite Team.

Not only that, but rumors are building about the Hildebrand/Panther combination, and since Justin Wilson was the other driver believed to be in line for that seat, it’s looking pretty good.  Which means… if Kimball, Hildebrand, and Rahal get full time rides… suddenly, the lack of American’s isn’t so noticeable… especially because Rahal or Kimball could win the title, if it’s a true Ganassi Satellite!

Proving the International Ride Buyers Association won’t go away without a fight, Ho-Ping Tung is looking good for the second FAZZT ride.  It’s kinda disappointing, because at one point that ride looked good for Hincliffe.  What are Ho-Pings accomplishments?  1 win in  2009 Superleague Formula and that’s about it…  a couple podiums in GP2… he’s the true definition of F1 reject.  Still… if he brings funding to FAZZT and doesn’t end up taking away from Tag’s, then hopefully it’ll boost his chance of getting a win.   Also, we need to get the Hoping jiggle from Mid Week Motorsports!

Firestone Indy Lights schedule was released, and it was pretty underwhelming.  12 races, 5 street courses, 1 road course (well, really an American Tilke Track), and 6 ovals.  One stand alone race, Trios Rivers.  I don’t really care about FIL enough to really have much of an opinion on this, to be honest.

Edmonton is looking like it will be saved, and Vegas seems pretty certain as well.

F1:

Pirelli tire tests went on last week, and some drivers enjoyed them, some hated them, but since they’ll build the 2011 car around those tires, it should improve.  Some did say that the new tires had an old school look.

Seriously, if Rome replaces Monza, that would be insane and ridiculous and a good way to ruin F1…. So I guess I’d put money on it happening…

Adrian Sutil, long rumored to want to leave Force India, is likely to re-signed with Force India anyways, because it was probably his best option.  I mean, they’re no longer one of the worst teams in F1!

How sad were the new teams?  None scored points.  Of course, when your budget is 50 million and some of the frontrunners have 500 million… well, that’s what happens.  There are concerns over HRT’s future, and Team Lotus and Virgin may undergo changes over the off season. Hopefully, one of those changes involves the ability to score points.

Top Gear: USA

Top Gear USA’s first episode hit the History Channel last night… to decidedly lukewarm reception.  My take is that it isn’t a bad idea… but would make a lot more sense if it were on SpeedTV and not called Top Gear USA; because it is better than most of the SpeedTV “Car” shows at least.  But they seem to really struggle with a lack of chemistry and trying too hard in places to mimic Top Gear, and then they’ll veer off and mess up something that should be easy to copy.

The show itself included a battle between a Cobra Attack Helicopter and Dodge Viper, which was similar to the Lotus Vs Apache challenge Top Gear did, and a comparison between three Lamborghini’s that ended with a drag race.  In between, they did Star in a Fast car with Buzz Aldren.

The Stig was a complete failure.  They didn’t do anything to make him interesting, or make anyone wonder who he was.   Not only that, but they used the same White Stig outfit with no changes to it… even the one off Stigs, who’ve appeared in Botswana, Germany, and even the US were more interesting, and more different from the UK Stig.  I mean, when the first Stig left, they changed from a black suit to a white suit… why not have the American Stig draped in Red, White, and Blue… or I don’t know… just do something…

The people they had were serviceable, but not very interesting.  Rutledge Wood… just no.   He’s awful on the various SpeedTV NASCAR shows, and he’s not a whole lot better on Top Gear USA.  Here’s a suggestion, Paul Tracy, Dave Despain, the guy who did 101 Cars You Must Own on SpeedTV, or Ricky Ratchmen.  I know of someone who’s a blogger/podcaster that does video/audio, car reviews, and general car blogging/podcasting who’d be good as well.   Tanner Faust is an interesting choice.  He differentiates it from the UK Top Gear, but he also makes the Stig feel redundant.  And the final guy is a comedian I’ve never heard of…  They just lack chemistry, and at time try too hard to be like Clarkson and it doesn’t work well. It’s not even funny like a parody; it’s just kinda sad.

The Test Track was… different.  Not sure what to make of it… it’s VERY different from Top Gear’s… and whether that’s good or not is hard to tell.

That said, it’s not a bad diversion for an hour, (45 minutes plus commercials… actually) and it does LOOK better than most of the SpeedTV car shows, I’ll give them that.  Plus, the Lamborghini’s and Dodge Vipers did look cool, so that’s good.  History Channel… that just makes no sense from a marketing perspective.  SpeedTV, Versus, USA Network, even the Discovery Channel would have fit it better.  And please… please fire Rutledge Wood!!!  It’s fun, and it’s better than most other car shows in America (damning with faint praise?) but… it’s no Top Gear…  It’s not even close.

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