Stefan Wilson: A Climb to the Top

03/12/2013

Stefan Wilson is the younger brother of former Formula One driver, Justin Wilson who is an IndyCar driver for Dale Coyne Racing. At the age of eighteen in 2007 he won the McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers Club Award for promising young British racing drivers. As part of winning that award he had the privilege to drive a McLaren-Mercedes Formula One car at Silverstone International Circuit in November of 2009.

Stefan started open wheel racing in Europe in November of 2006 at the age of seventeen. His first event in Europe was in the Formula Palmer Audi Trophy Series at Brands Hatch in the United Kingdom. In the six race mini championship, he finished ninth in points and finished in the top six three times. He also set fastest lap of the race at Brands Hatch.

Wilson stayed in Formula Audi for 2007. Stefan’s gradual improvements in his rookie year payed off in 2007. In twenty starts, he won four races. His first win came at Brands Hatch where he set fast lap of the race the year before. Stefan propelled his championship run in the second half of the 2007 season with four wins, nine podiums, four poles, five fast laps of the race and two track records. That led him to finish second in the points.

2008 saw Wilson move from Formula Audi to the British Formula Three Championship. He raced for Fluid Motorsports in the National Class. He had four wins and finished fourth in National Class points.

After his brother Justin got merged into the IZOD IndyCar Series after the merger between Champ Car and IndyCar in 2008. Stefan signed a contract to run in the Firestone Indy Lights series part-time in 2009. Walker Racing which was a team from ChampCar, supplied Stefan’s equipment for the season. He entered in six races (St Petersburg x2, Long Beach, Mid Ohio, Watkins Glen and Toronto). Stef’s season started at St. Petersburg on the 1.8 mile street circuit in Florida. His season got off to a rough start with finishes of 13th, 17th and a 22nd at Long Beach, California. The other races he ran; Watkins Glen, Toronto and Mid Ohio were a day and night comparison for him. After a 12th place finish in the Corning 100 at WGI he had a fourth place finish at Toronto and a eighth place finish at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. He finished 22nd in points.

For 2010 he stayed in IndyLights but he was driving for former CART and IndyCar driver Bryan Herta and his team Bryan Herta Autosport. In the first two races of the season he had a third place finish at St. Petersburg and then a sixth place finish at Barber Motorsports Park. At the third event of the season at Long Beach he finished 17th. Over the next six races he had an average finish of 6.6 then he was forced to miss two of the next four races due to sponsorship issues and lack of cars in the race shop. He ended up 11th in points.

In 2011 Stefan got his best opportunity yet in IndyLights. Former CART champion and Formula One driver, Michael Andretti signed him to run for Andretti Autosport for the full season. The season started shaky, with a sixteenth at St. Petersburg. Then he hit stride with nine straight top tens including a win at the famed Toronto street course around Exhibition Place. His average finish during the nine race stretch was four. In the final four races of the season he had three top tens and a win at Kentucky. His worst finish in the latter part of the season was 12th at New Hampshire. Stefan finished third in points. This was the last we would see Stefan in Lights competition for a while. He came back for the last race of the 2012 season with Fan Force United at Auto Club Speedway. He finished sixth.

Two weeks ago the news came out that Stefan could be moving up to the IndyCar Series. Not only is he possibly moving up but he could be teammates with his brother Justin at Dale Coyne Racing. The works of the deal is Stefan runs all road and street courses except for Brazil which Ana Beatriz would be running along with all ovals. Stefan is testing on Day 2 of the Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park splitting the 18 car with Beatriz. Stefan has worked hard to get to this point and he shouldn’t take this opportunity for granted.


Interview with Graham Rahal to Preview the Upcoming Season

03/09/2013

Racing Mania begins the 2013 season officially! We kick off the IndyCar Preview series with an interview with Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Graham Rahal.

Q: First of all, thank you Graham for doing this! First thing I want to ask you is what are your thoughts on the 2013 IndyCar schedule. Positives and negatives? Which tracks would you like to see added in the future.

(C) Richards F1Graham wants a return to Road America! Let's make it happen!

(C) Richards F1
Graham wants a return to Road America! Let’s make it happen!

G: I would like to see more short, flat ovals like New Hampshire again. I would like to see Road America of course. Laguna Seca would be great. It’s exciting to have Houston back and I’m excited for Pocono as well. I’m going to miss Edmonton and a few others. Edmonton was always a place I enjoyed going to so its disappointing that it’s not on the schedule.

(C) Getty ImagesWe will all miss Edmonton

(C) Getty Images
We will all miss Edmonton

Q: What does it mean to you to drive for your fathers race team. Do you feel there is added pressure now?

G: I think the pressure is always the same no matter what or where I go. The desire to succeed and win is the same no matter who I drive for but if and when we do win, or have a podium, its going to feel pretty good for myself and my dad. And I’m really looking forward to that!

Q: We know that James Jakes will be your teammate for the upcoming season, what does this mean to you and to the team itself?

(C) jamesjakes.com

(C) jamesjakes.com

G: It’s great for our team. We are building and growing in a hurry and I think people are recognizing that. Frankly that’s really exciting for us. I think it’s a matter of this team wanting to get back to where we once were and when I say that I mean it used to be a three-car team full time. This is a sign of great things to come in the future. James and I get along great and I’m looking forward to working with him and growing this program. I think we will see a lot of success out of him.

Q: Looking at sponsorship for a minute, do we know anything else on sponsors? I know that the RLLR squad has confirmed Midas for Indy. I must say that is an amazing livery.  

G: Of the TBC Retail Group brands, primarily you will see Midas, Big O Tires and Speedee throughout most of the season and that’s because those are the franchise-based programs that TBC Retail has to offer. The franchisees have always been great and supportive of our program. Everybody has seen the Midas scheme but I think the Big O Tires livery looks equally good so I’m looking forward to seeing that on track.

(C) Peters Motorsports

(C) Peters Motorsports

Q: What things do you have to improve on as a driver for the upcoming season.

G: I think there is quite a lot that I have to improve on but I think that Item Number One is qualifying. I’ve got to qualify better to give myself a shot. In the races last year generally we always moved forward but we’ve got to start higher to give ourselves a shot to win. If you start tenth or twelfth it makes it difficult to get by all these guys whereas if you start in the top-five life is a lot easier.

2012 Qualifying Statistics: Graham Rahal

Race Start
STP 10
BAR 8
LBH 8
SAO 6
IN500 12
DET 17
TEX 3
MIL 11
IOW 20
TOR 10
EDM 8
MDO 21
SON 13
BAL 21
FON 18
DISCIPLINE Average Start
Oval 12.8
Road 14
Street 12
Total/Average 12.93

Q: Other than Indianapolis, which race would you want to win this season the most and why?

(C) Getty Images

(C) Getty Images

I would love to win them all. I can’t say that there are any in particular. Winning Mid-Ohio would be great because its home. Texas would be nice because that got away from me last year but I’m not going to say there is one. There are a lot of race tracks that I would love to win at.

Q: Going back to October, what was your stance on the firing of Randy Bernard and do you like the way things are heading with the new management?

(C) autoweek

(C) autoweek

G: I don’t have a stance. That’s not my business to get involved with. I like the way the series is moving forward. I think that Mark Miles is a superb guy. His reputation in the sports world is unparalleled.

(C) IndyStar

(C) IndyStar

Q: Out of the ovals, road courses and street courses, name one track from each discipline that you think you need to improve on for the future?

(c) zimbio

(c) zimbio

Oval: I would say Iowa. I have to get better on the short ovals. Iowa is one that I haven’t excelled at.
Road/Street: Of the road and street course, it would be Long Beach. I’ve run well there but not qualified well there so I have got to figure out how to make that happen.

Q: Thanks for doing this Graham, just one more question. Who do you think will be the hardest driver to beat this year for the championship and why?

G: Will Power or Scott Dixon. Those are the two guys that stand out to me as the toughest.

The opinions that were stated are not from any of the Racing Mania contributors.


IndyCar: How Can We Improve It

03/08/2013

On Friday afternoon the Associated Press received a copy of the Boston Consulting Group’s report on IndyCar and IMS’ future. The report suggested that the Hulman-George family should not sell IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The group suggested many things. I am going to give a run down of the topics then save my opinions for the end.

Suggestion 1 from BCG: — IndyCar should split the schedule into two seasons — a 15-race U.S. calendar from April to August and an international series during the offseason. The championship would be decided during the U.S. season, and the hypothetical schedule proposed by BCG included seven cities not currently visited by IndyCar. It opened at Houston, then Phoenix, the Indy 500, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pocono, Toronto, Seattle, Sonoma and Fontana. The “playoffs” portion included Texas, Long Beach and the Indy road course. BCG argued for a playoff because “the current IndyCar schedule lacks consequence and the television ratings are at the lowest at the end of the season because the series does not have a mechanism to create suspense.”

Suggestion 2 from BCG: -One television partner, preferably ABC/ESPN, or placing as many races as possible on ABC. The report also suggested the NBC Sports Network may be in violation of its contract with IndyCar if it promotes any other motorsports series more than IndyCar. NBCSN will broadcast Formula One this year, but the promotional clause in the contract pertains only to the cable channel and not network television. The report said NBCSN has indicated it would “release the series from the deal” because the rights fees increase from $5.5 million this year to $10 million in 2018 when the contract expires. But NBCSN has indicated it’s happy with the IndyCar deal and wasn’t interested in ending the relationship early.

Suggestion 3 from BCG:  IndyCar should reduce the Leaders’ Circle subsidy payments to teams and redirect the funds into a weekly purse based on performance. Under the current model, the league is giving teams a $1.1 million subsidy and race winners are earning just $35,000 per victory. BCG offered several different models, including one that shifted half of Leader’s Circle money into prize money and upped the race winner payout to a minimum $240,000 per victory.

Suggestion 4 from BCG: — Using Indianapolis Motor Speedway more. BCG Found that of the 132 days the track was used in 2012, only 21 were considered major revenue-generating events. By using the speedway for an IndyCar race on the road course, BCG found IMS had the potential to generate a $4.3 million profit.

Suggestion 5 from BCG: — Resetting ticket price tiers: BCG found that IMS didn’t really differentiate between high-end and low-end ticket pricing. The report targets Indy 500 ticketing, suggesting penthouse and deck tickets should be raised from $150 to $200, paddock seats from $90 to $150. Other seats should drop anywhere from $5-$20 and sometimes more.

Well, now its into my opinions section of this post, I am going to break this down like a scientific lab report.

Problem: How can we get IndyCar back on the map again?

Observations: After reading the Boston Consulting Group’s report on IndyCar, I have to say I am less than pleased with it. First off, lets start out with the report itself. Why on earth would Mr. Mark Miles hire this consulting company to do a report on IndyCar when they have minimal knowledge on what the sport has been through since the 2008 unification and healing process from making ends meet? I understand that Mr. Miles is trying to run the company but let’s also be reasonable. Instead maybe let’s have the top IndyCar insiders such as: Robin Miller, John Oreovicz, Curt Cavin, David Malsher and Gordon Kirby, to name a few, sit down and write a report on that subject of how to improve IndyCar and the IMS. I believe that if a few other car owners such as: Foyt, Penske, Andretti, Vasser and Ganassi get in on their opinions this could also help.

Let’s discuss the topics of what the Boston Consulting Group studied. First off, they said that IndyCar was ” the best pure racing motorsports league in the United States… but the series suffers from lack of awareness.”  Also the group listed five major suggestions, they are listed above.

The BCG report listed that it would be more effective for the series to have all of their races on ABC or get as many races on ABC. Wait, what about NBC and NBC Sports Network’s contract that goes to 2018? Well, according to the report NBC Sports Network violated its contract with IndyCar by adding Formula One for the next four seasons. Supposedly NBC Sports is willing to release IndyCar from it’s current contract but NBCSN has said it is very happy with the contract.

I’m going to be very honest when I say this, the TV ratings on NBC Sports Network are terrible. When Comcast and NBC Sports merged I expected bigger and better things from IndyCar and NBC Sports. What other sports does NBC have other than golf and hockey during the summer and spring before Notre Dame football and their home games pick up the main coverage? The answer is nothing. With F1 having three or four races on NBC this could really help IndyCar. If you could put four or five races that NBC SN has on NBC the TV ratings for those few races. ABC averages in between a 0.8-1.1 for race ratings with the Indy 500 around 3 (estimate). While ABC has the NBA and the NBA playoffs in the spring, they schedule the races they televise around that schedule and this helps drastically. The races for local channels (NBC and ABC) have to be in big markets for Milwaukee, Fontana, Long Beach and Toronto to name a few. Milwaukee was an ABC race last year now its NBC SN for 2013, the ratings will decrease for such a legendary event and this would probably lead to removal off the schedule depending on attendance. If you cannot get the rest of the races on ABC/NBC get the races on the newly formed Fox Sports 1 or ESPN. Remember, NASCAR re-upped with FOX until 2022 while TNT and ESPN’s deals end in 2014. This could be a window for opportunity for IndyCar to get back with ESPN. The single most biggest thing we have to do on the TV side is promote!

One of the other things the BCG discussed was using the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more and lowering ticket prices. First off, no race on the road course at the IMS. The eight years Formula One were there it was terrible. While Grand-Am is there for the Indy Super Weekend with NASCAR for the Brickyard 400 and Moto GP is there for the Red Bull United States Grand Prix, it is important to get more events at Indianapolis or mix things up with the events that are currently slated at the speedway.

First thing I would like to see is the Grand-Am race get moved to night with the IMS’ renovation plans to put in lights at the speedway. This idea makes sense for Grand-Am because with the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am in 2014, it would be important to put in a Triple Crown of long endurance races with the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring then the 12 hours of Indianapolis. This makes a lot of sense, especially if you merge the event with the World Endurance Championship because of the agreements that ALMS has with the ACO and the FIA.

Second thing I would like to see is have Tony Cotman and his NZR Consulting group re-design the IMS road course. The current layout lacks straightaways and areas to pass and one of my ideas is have the road course re-join on the backstraightaway after the first couple of turns. This would create a great layout for the motorcycles and the sports cars.

Third thing I would like to see is move the NASCAR Nationwide Series back to O’Reilly Raceway Park the night before the Brickyard 400 because let’s face it the crowd at the 250 mile race they had at IMS was lackluster last year. This would help tickets for the Brickyard 400. What the IMS and NASCAR could do for compensation is if you buy a ticket for the Brickyard 400 you can get in for free at ORP for the Nationwide race.

Lastly, the IMS should move Indianapolis 500 qualifying to night and eliminate Bump Day by giving the teams only one attempt at four laps to qualify this would eliminate an extra day and more hours that are being filled up by garage coverage on TV because no one goes in line until the very end. This system would create a lot of drama in qualifying for the 500 and this is what the series needs to do.

Let’s talk about prize money for a brief time, the IndyCar Series’ prize money is an absolute joke. Let’s promote around the Triple Crown and make that a lot of money to win all three races. Possibly create an IndyCar Grand-Slam in addition to that (yes Mr. Miles I am using a tennis event, please listen up.) With the grand slam have races at Milwaukee, Indy, Long Beach and Mid Ohio worth a grand total of 10 million dollars for winning all four races and two million for winning one race. What you could possibly do is have a separate point standings for that race instead and have the winner of the Grand Slam championship get an extra few million dollars. This would be in addition to the Triple Crown of Ovals. What is the point of the Grand Slam? The point is test the drivers abilities on all four discipline so to say- short oval, big oval, street course and road course. Why did I choose the four venues listed above? I chose them because they all have history behind the race just like Tennis’ Grand Slam.

Now let’s talk schedule. The preliminary report from the BCG listed a 15 race schedule from April to August and have a three race playoff at Texas, Long Beach, and IMS road course to determine the championship. Then have an international championship from September to March.

First thing is first, IndyCar is in NO POSITION to pull off an international series separately. Brazil is enough for an international stop. Look Mr. Miles at how unsuccessful China and Japan were for the series and how terrible the races internationally were bad for TV ratings and fans to watch it. Let’s use a bit of common sense here, shall we Hulman and George company, jeez?

Second thing, the season SHOULDN’T start LATER it should start EARLIER. Starting in April is terrible, we need events that start in between the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 with a race at an oval. My opinion on this is go down to Walt Disney World Speedway and have a race down there when ESPN has its destination weekend. This would attract many fans that don’t know that much about the product. Televise the race on ABC and you could have a big bang for the buck.

Thirdly, no street races in Boston, Atlanta, Seattle. Boston is a good market to be in but you have Watkins Glen a great road course and Loudon an amazing 1 mile oval that are near that market. As for Seattle, say it with me PORTLAND! Atlanta you have Road Atlanta.

One thing the BCG is screwing up with this report is with there fantasy schedule they dump Iowa and Milwaukee two races that NEED TO BE ON THE SCHEDULE!

As for playoffs, just no. The championship has been close for the past several years and a playoff system will screw it up.

IndyCar needs to get away from street circuits, and start going back to the ovals that started the tradition of IndyCar racing such as Michigan, Chicagoland, Kentucky to name a few.

I am now going to list a schedule that could work for IndyCar for future years.

 

  1. Walt Disney World Speedway-oval- February
  2. Streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia- February
  3. Homestead Miami- oval- March
  4. St. Petersburg- street course-March
  5. Barber-road course-April
  6. Long Beach, CA- street course-April
  7. Phoenix-oval-April
  8. Indianapolis-oval- May
  9. Texas-oval-June
  10. Milwaukee-oval-June
  11. Belle Isle (Detroit)-street course-June
  12. Iowa-oval-June
  13. Pocono-July
  14. Toronto-July
  15. Cleveland-July
  16. Mid Ohio-August
  17. Sonoma-August
  18. Road America-August
  19. Chicagoland-August
  20. Baltimore-September
  21. Kentucky- September
  22. Houston-September
  23. Fontana-October

This schedule covers all the major markets Mr. Miles wants to be in. Since, he will listen to the Boston Consulting Group’s report.

Another thing IndyCar needs to do is merge Firestone Indy Lights with Pro Mazda. This will increase the ladder series field size immensely.

Conclusion: If IndyCar can get their TV situation worked out in a decent matter, fix the prize money payouts, IMS doing the things I listed and fixing the schedule to incorporate history while hitting all the markets they want we will be in good shape. Mr. Mark Miles, I ask you as a younger fan, please listen to the fans. I understand you aren’t Randy Bernard but fans are the things that make the series’ thrive and you have to listen to them in order to be successful. Also, listen to the team owners that were drivers and owners that know money. This is all I ask, Please get IndyCar back to the way it was in the 1990s before the “Split”. You are the right man for this job you just have to listen to fans, journalists, and partners.

Thank you!


COMPARISON: Juan Montoya and Nigel Mansell

02/18/2013

In a new series I am doing on the blog, Comparison. I compare certain things. The first one is Nigel Mansell’s rookie championship year and Juan Montoya’s championship year as a rookie in 1999. Remember Mansell came after the Williams F1 team basically kicked him out for Alain Prost in 1993 and Montoya was basically a straight swap for Zanardi at Williams. Montoya was  a test driver at Williams in 1998 so Frank Williams and Chip Ganassi basically made a straight swap deal.

The 1993 season had 16 races in it but Mansell sat out Phoenix due to a concussion sustained in qualifyin

Mansell Montoya
Races 15 20
Wins 5 7
Avg Finish 6.13 7.95
Top Fives 9 10
Top Tens 10 13
Poles 7 7
Podiums 9 9
Avg Oval Finish 1.4 5.8
Avg RC Finish 9.75 6
Avg SC Finish 8 11.8
Oval Wins 4 3
RC Wins 0 1
SC Wins 1 3
Avg PPG 12.73 10.6

2013 Formula One Predictions/Expectations

02/15/2013

Last November on a cloudy and rainy day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, we saw a championship battle for the ages take place between Scuderia Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel. On the opening lap of the grand prix, Felipe Massa charged from the third row of the grid in his Ferrari to split the two McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Vettel spun on the opening lap but rebounded quickly. The race was ran mostly in rain but Vettel prevailed to win his third championship in a row over Alonso, a two time champion by three points.

The Brazil race from last year also marked SPEED’s last ever Formula One race. I remember the race and the broadcast very well. Bob Varsha, Steve Matchett, David Hobbs, Sam Posey and Will Buxton showed a lot of class and emotion while calling that race. When I watched the last F1 show on SPEED “F1 Debrief” I was getting choked up because I was amazed that there were so many memories in their tenure of covering Formula One. Most of these I hadn’t seen but I’ve seen a lot of it on YouTube. Whether it was the random fan running on the track in 2002 at Silverstone International Circuit or Rubens Barrichello letting Michael Schumacher past for the win in Austria in 2003. How about the epic end to the 2008 championship between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa? Who could forget Felipe Massa’s near death crash at Hungary in 2009. There are too many memories with this TV partner and Formula One. Although I will miss SPEED’s F1 team, they do bring most of the members over to the new company that will cover F1, NBC Sports Network and NBC.
NBC Sports group brings over Hobbs, Matchett and Buxton from the ailing SPEED channel. Veteran sports car announcer for SPEED, Leigh Diffey will handle the play by play duties for NBC’s Formula One coverage. This is a recipe for success for the motorsport side of their network.
I, like most people are excited for the 2013 season. This season we start off the season losing a legend; Michael Schumacher. His replacement is 2008 World Driving Champion: Lewis Hamilton, who is making a controversial switch from McLaren to Mercedes.
The preseason testing and car launches have begun. So far, I’d have to say that the Lotus E21’s driven by Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen looks the fastest during testing at Circuito del Jerez in Spain. Lotus has also changed up their paint scheme a little bit. They have added a light red to the side pods instead of the classic black and gold Lotus colors from the past two years.

Speaking of paint schemes with the new cars, Sauber’s C32 has really changed. Sauber has elected to go with a metallic grey, it looks very sharp. Red Bull has elected to put their sponsor, Infiniti on the car instead of Red Bull logos. All the other teams have similar paint schemes to last year so far. The only team that hasn’t launched their car is WIlliams. Vatteri Bottas replaces Bruno Senna as their second driver as Senna is going sports car racing with Aston Martin. The team is scheduled to launch at the second preseason test in Barcelona, Spain at Circuito de Catalunya.

One thing that does concern me is that Force India has launched their car for this season with only one driver under contract, Paul di Resta. Di Resta has tested the car in Jerez this week but the team is yet to confirm its second driver. Force India has put their simulator driver James Rossiter in the car this week in a few afternoon session. It is not that they don’t have sponsorship. They have FlyKingFisher and Sahara as major sponsors. If they don’t confirm a second driver, they probably will not be on the grid. Then we would be down to 20 cars. I really think that their team principal, Vijay Mallay should really look at putting the team’s third driver Jules Bianchi in that second spot or even look at a Kamui Kobayshi, Sebastien Buemi or Jamie Alguesari to name a few. If this team folds, I would feel very bad for Paul di Resta because the kid has talent.

Speaking of team/driver news, Marussia has confirmed Timo Glock’s replacement. The team has come to terms with GP2 runner up Luiz Razia. This means the team will have two rookie drivers the other one is Max Chilton.

Last year, Steve Matchett predicted that Caterham, Marussia or HRT would score points at some point. This prediction was false. HRT has closed its doors. Caterham and Marussia came very close at Brazil last year. I have to pose this question: Will the fourth year of competition be the charm for Caterham or Marussia? My quick answer is no way because the cars lack competitiveness. There are a few possibilities I see them scoring points. The first situation is, say there is a big crash at the start at one of the three street circuits (Monaco, Valencia and Singapore) with the mid-pack cars and there they are near the top ten. The other thing I see is if there is a mixed weather condition race like Brazil 2012.

After much anticipation, there will not be twenty races for the season. Formula One president and CEO Bernie Ecclestone revealed that his dream race in the streets of New Jersey at Port Imperial Street Circuit. Discussions were underway to add a replacement race in July. There were talks with the Red Bull RIng in Austria which is owned by Red Bull. A revival of the French GP and Portugal GP. The thing that does concern me for 2014’s calendar is that you are adding three more races (New Jersey, Sochi and Thailand.) One or two of these races would have to go that are on the current calendar in order to make this feasible for the teams.

Overall I am very excited for the season to begin!


2013 IndyCar Season Predictions/Expectations

02/15/2013

With a new season of IndyCar coming up, let’s break down some of the things that have taken place over the offseason.

Schedule: The schedule was announced by former CEO, Randy Bernard on Speed’s Wind Tunnel on September 30th. Bernard announced a 19 race schedule at 16 venues with doubleheader events at Houston (Reliant Park), Toronto and Belle Isle. This schedule sees the teams start out at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida on the weekend of March 22-24 and finish the season at Auto Club Speedway on October 19th. Bernard also announced a return to Pocono Raceway on July 7th. This now means that the “Triple Crown” is in place with; Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana. If a driver wins all three events they’ll win 1 million dollars and if a driver wins two of the three they’ll win 250 thousand dollars. As much as the expansion is good there are a lot of negatives as well to this schedule. The first thing is the break from the September 1st event at Baltimore to the weekend of October 4-6 at Reliant Park. Personally, I think one race should have been added whether it was a street race in Providence, Rhode Island or Kentucky or even Michigan or Road America. A positive to not having a race for that long is that you avoid the bulk of the television windows with the National Football League and college football. Also there is a break from the August 4th event at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course and the August 25th event at Sonoma Raceway. Once again if you could get one event in that three week span that would be great but it is what it is. Texas will be a night race on ABC, I will get to this later in the article.

Management: The Hulman and Company decided to fire IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard in November and they promoted Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO, Jeff Belskus to interim CEO of IndyCar. THG has also been busy with the hiring of Mark Miles as president of the company. Under the few months of Miles’ reign, he has brought in Robby Greene as COO of IndyCar and Doug Boles to the staff. I believe that the new team needs a bit of time to gather their information and put a good plan together. Build off of what Bernard was getting at. Miles is the perfect person for the president and CEO of Hulman and Company. He just needs the correct staff to run the company. I can’t say much on management until the season has started.

Drivers and Teams: This offseason we have seen Simona de Silvestro go from HVM to KV to partner with Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal leave Ganassi to team up with his father Bobby and his team. Rahal has just signed James Jakes. Sam Schmidt has re-signed Simon Pagenaud and partnered up with Ric Peterson to form Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Davey Hamilton. That team has added a second car with the 2012 Indy Lights champion, Tristan Vautier. Ganassi has downsized from 4 to 3 cars. Roger Penske is going from three to two cars with Power and Castroneves at the helm. Andretti Autosport is expected to sign E.J. Viso for their fourth car. AJ Foyt has signed Takuma Sato from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to pilot his signature 14 car. The team is looking for an option to run a part-time or full-time second car. Conor Daly and Narian Kartheykian are under consideration for this ride according to some sources. Mike Conway is confirmed for Rahal in a third car at Long Beach he is still looking for some more road/street course races after he announced he will quit oval racing due to the dangers of it.

Other things to note of: Iowa will have points awarded for the qualifying heat races, I believe this is a great thing. After watching the heat races last year, I would really like to see this happen at Milwaukee. The Indy 500 will still award qualifying points. Unlike Iowa’s situation, I do not like the idea of this because it’s just adding more unnecessary points to the championship. In Iowa’s case, they are racing not just looking for speed.

The engine mileage threshold has been expanded from 1850 miles to 2000 miles. If there is an engine change before 2000 miles, it will result in a ten place grid penalty at the next race (excluding Indy). I believe this is a stupid idea because in the olden days teams were changing engines constantly. Why keep the ridiculousness up? If a team changes an engine maybe just keep it as the Formula One system just go back five places on the grid if they want a penalty so bad.

Four race lengths have been adjusted for the 2013 calendar. St. Petersburg has been increased from 100 laps to 110 laps. Mid Ohio has been upped to 90 laps from 85. Long Beach has been decreased and Milwaukee has 25 laps added on to it. The intention of this is that it will eliminate fuel mileage. The teams have been allowed to put as much fuel as they want in the car before the race so this kind of eliminates this fuel mileage saving process with the race distances. Don’t get me wrong, the additions are good especially Milwaukee but when you decrease an event that isn’t good.

When IndyCar announced that there will be doubleheaders at three events, I was kind of in limbo. While at the thought it is good to add to the schedule, it is also a bad thing as well. Think about this for a second. Belle Isle is the weekend after the Indy 500, that means there are six races in five weekends and if you crash a car during the doubleheader? Well then what? Say you have a two car team and you bring three cars to the track per weekend for Belle Isle, Toronto and Houston you might want to plan on bringing four or five. This hurts the smaller teams a lot because of being under-funded and so on and so forth. I can’t judge the doubleheaders yet, if they work they work, if not its a trial and experimental time for the series.

TV Coverage: This year NBC Sports Network and ABC return as the providers for the United States TV Coverage. Leigh Diffey replaces Bob Jenkins as the play by play announcer after his retirement. ABC is yet to announce its TV broadcasters but it is expected that Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear will return. ABC’s first race is the Indy 500, then they got five of the next six races on their network including both doubleheader races at Belle Isle and a primetime event at Texas. It is crucial for people to watch the races on ABC. As for NBC SN, I believe that the addition of Formula One will help the IndyCar coverage. The ratings have to go up on NBC Sports Network in order for the series to maintain a good TV rating average.

Overall, I think the series is in a good position as of right now and we can only build for the future. I can’t wait until the season starts.


Thoughts on AJ Allmendinger’s IndyCar Test and Career

02/14/2013

AJ Allmendinger has been through a lot since his suspension from NASCAR on July 7 for taking Performance Enhancing Drug Substances and testing positive for it. He eventually got reinstated and raced a couple of Sprint Cup races for Phoenix Racing which is owned by James Finch after Penske released Allmendinger but kept him on his payroll for the whole season. Roger Penske was very instrumental in giving AJ his second chance with Phoenix Racing.

Allmendinger left the ChampCar World Series after receiving an offer from from an upstart team, Red Bull Racing to drive in NASCAR in 2006. AJ’s NASCAR career started out very rough, then he eventually moved to Richard Petty’s team where he was making strides as a driver. Roger Penske then signed the California driver to replace 2004 champion of NASCAR Kurt Busch. Then came his suspension from NASCAR.

AJ started out his open wheel career in Atlantics in 2003, where he won the championship with RuSport. He moved into ChampCar with RuSport in 2004 and stayed there until the mid part of 2006. Then he transitioned to Forsythe Championship Racing where he won his first race out and won five races on the season. He finished third in the points that year only behind Bourdais and Wilson.

I always thought AJ would come back to IndyCar at some point but who would it be with? At first I thought it was going to be last year with his fellow friend Michael Shank who was scheduled to start up an IndyCar team but those plans didn’t work out.

Like most people I am very excited for the test involving AJ Allmendinger in an IndyCar for Roger Penske at Sebring International Raceway on February 18th and 19th. I am very happy that Roger Penske took the 31 year old Allmendinger under his wing and gave him a chance to test. Remember this is only a test but it could lead to big things. Team Penske president Tim Cindric said that if the test goes well, Allmendinger could run Long Beach and Indianapolis plus a few more races. AJ has a NASCAR event he is already signed up for on the weekend of the opening race in St. Petersburg. Maybe he could pull of a James Hinchcliffe from 2011 and run the remainder of the races starting at Barber on April 7th. Maybe he might end up skipping Brazil but the key thing is sponsorship.

One thing Penske might have in mind is do what he did with WIll Power in 2009. Run AJ part time at Long Beach, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Pocono, Toronto, Mid Ohio and Houston and sign him on full time in 2014 as a third driver or replace Helio Castroneves. The key thing is that Penske wouldn’t take just a check to run a third car for this season he wants a winning driver in the car. There is no doubt in my mind that if AJ gets a part time schedule that he could be contending for wins. Remember WIll Power won a race in his part time schedule in 2009 then was signed on full time in 2010. Could this happen for AJ?

All in all, I think AJ Allmendinger has made a statement as a driver and is on a clean slate and deserves a second chance and IndyCar is a good thing for him at this time in his career.


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