Today I had the opportunity to interview motorsports writer Tony DiZinno of racer.com. If you do not know who he is here is a quick bio blast for you. Tony started as a fan of motorsports in 1996 at age 7, won a Red Bull-sponsored, Chris Economaki judged journalism competition in 2005 and have covered the sport since 2006, first with motorsport.com, later as a blogger for Michelin’s ALMS program and as of August this year, started as web editor for RACER magazine and RACER.com. Now 22, graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. in May of 2011.
This interview will cover sports car series, open wheel and some NASCAR related questions. Here are the questions with Tony.
Q: What are your expectations for the World Endurance Championship?
It might take a year or two to really establish traction, but undoubtedly they have the huge manufacturer interest in P1 and should be very strong by 2014, when Porsche enters Le Mans with its new prototype.
Q: Who will have the better season in American Le Mans for 2012; Dyson Racing or Muscle Milk Racing? What is your surprise team for the ALMS season (all classes) and why?
Dyson’s package is an evolution of its title-winning one this year as opposed to a brand new package like Muscle Milk will have, and I expect them to win more rounds than they did in 2011. Surprise team? I’d say Falken but they performed that role last year. If I had to pick, the PR1/Mathiasen team in LMPC – very strong lineup of Butch Leitzinger and Rudy Junco. They have a similar lineup for all rounds and a full season planned, neither of which they did this year.
Q: Who do you see winning the 24 Hours of Daytona and why?
Hard to not see Ganassi winning another one, but a sentimental pick would be GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing with its “Red Dragon” Corvette DP and Alex Gurney winning the 50th anniversary – since his father Dan won the first. Any of TRG, SpeedSource or either Autohaus or Stevenson should figure in GT – I don’t see the new cars (Ferrari, Audi, Dodge) figuring in the winning outcome.
Q: What are your thoughts on Conquest Racing going to the ALMS? Is this a bad move for the team and will it affect the IndyCar side of the business?
If they add an ALMS program, I don’t see it being overly successful. They would be there more to make up the numbers. But Bachelart’s occasionally pulled rabbits out of his hat and punched above his weight. They’re all but certain to have a paying driver in IndyCar anyway so I wouldn’t expect much there.
Q: What sports car series will be more successful (racing wise) in 2012; ALMS, Grand Am or WEC?
I expect ALMS to have the strongest overall racing, Grand-Am to have an uptick in interest thanks to its new GT cars and the WEC to be the most viewed one from an international perspective. How’s that for being decisive?
Q: What team will be more dominant in WEC; Peugeot or Audi?
Both have a few questions on their driver lineups but based on their 2011 performance, Peugeot. Audi should be much improved from this year though, when they made some amateurish errors and couldn’t seem to string a whole race together.
Q: Who will have the better season in Grand Am for 2012; Ganassi, SunTrust Racing or GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and why?
Out on a limb I little bit, I think SunTrust. Ricky Taylor really matured in qualifying this year and the team is solid, plus I think Corvette will be keen to win more rounds. I’d almost go so far as to say SunTrust takes the title with Ricky and Max “The Ax” Angelelli.
Q: What are your thoughts on the United States Grand Prix in Austin and the 2013 race in New Jersey? What track is better? Also which race will be more successful on the business side of things?
I’ll believe both when they happen, but on the surface, the New Jersey one appears to have a tougher challenge of a track and a lesser margin for error (as a street circuit), has the Manhattan skyline backdrop and Bernie’s full support. Austin’s been a political and financial football that has only succeeded in frustration, much like the USF1 effort. I’m inclined to think New Jersey almost by default.
Q: Who will have the better rookie season; Daniel Ricciardo or Romain Grosjean and why?
Ricciardo. Although both have had partial seasons, Ricciardo’s matched against a fellow rookie and Grosjean against Kimi. It will be a lot easier for Ricciardo to shine even if he scores fewer points than Grosjean, which is likely. Both Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will push each other in a quest to see who could replace Webber in 2013, if the Australian retires. He’ll be motivated.
Q: Can Red Bull Racing be stopped in 2012?
Doubtful. The bigger question is will Webber step up and improve his relationship with the Pirelli tires.
Q: Did Lotus Renault deserve to keep Bruno Senna? Will Kimi Raikkonen come back weak or strong?
I wouldn’t say “deserve,” Senna was decent but unspectacular in his stint. If his name was different, his dismissal wouldn’t be what it is. Kimi’s comeback is purely down to his motivation – if he wants to push and give the maximum, he’ll be great, but I fear it could end up like Mansell’s abrupt comebacks in the mid-‘90s, although Kimi should be able to fit in the new Lotus unlike Mansell in the 1995 McLaren.
Q: What is your reaction to the Dan Wheldon Investigation results and the 2012 schedule news?
I think the right things were said, I still think there are a few questions going forward. As for the schedule, it’s really not much different from 2011’s – but Belle Isle and China aren’t ovals, and understandably, that upsets some people.
Q: Where do you stand on the IndyCar oval dilemma?
I wouldn’t rush into thinking that 2012’s likely small number of ovals is a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future. There has to be a balance because the series’ top race is an oval and American open-wheel racing has featured ovals as such a strong point of its history. It doesn’t need to be 50/50 but I think they need at least 5 or 6 ovals going forward.
Q: What races would you like to see on the IndyCar schedule and why?
Sentimentally I’d love to see any of my home tracks – Phoenix, Milwaukee and Elkhart Lake – make comebacks. Cleveland would be great, too. But whether any of those are feasible financially remains to be seen, and ultimately, that’s going to determine what makes the cut on future schedules. Ideally, I’d like to see most if not all IndyCar road and street races partner with ALMS or Grand-Am, as it provides more bang for the buck for fans and observers over the course of a weekend. The road racing-based series in this country need each other more than they realize for long-term survival and potential growth.
Q: What new/returning IndyCar team will have a better year; Ed Carpenter Racing, Michael Shank Racing or Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing?
Carpenter’s team has Derrick Walker and Michael Cannon – two of the best at their respective positions of team manager and engineer. If Ed can improve on road courses, they are a sleeper for success. But from a purely results standpoint, it’s hard to see either new team beating Rahal Letterman Lanigan.
Q: What is your reaction to the news of Newman Haas Racing shutting down? Do they go back to IndyCar in 2013 and follow a similar path RLLR did?
It was disappointing but not entirely unexpected, and I think it would have made more sense had it happened when the team was struggling in either 2009 or 2010, and not during a mini-resurgence. I sure hope so, but I don’t think it’s a similar situation to Rahal – Rahal’s team never shut down, it always kept a program going, and right now, there’s no guarantee NHR does likewise.
Q: Does Danica Patrick run the Indy 500 in 2012? If she does, what team will she run it with?
No, but if she did, a Stewart/Andretti GoDaddy Chevrolet.
Q: What can we expect out of Josef Newgarden this season, does he run full time or part time?
I could see them full-time with maybe missing a round, a Brazil or a China for instance. Their new co-owner has money and they just announced a major new shop. Newgarden is a very talented and mature driver well beyond his years, and I think he scores a podium on a road or street race.
Q: Does Oriol Servia or James Hinchcliffe land full time rides for 2012?
Both do. Don’t know where Servia lands but I hope “Hinch” gets the GoDaddy Andretti seat.
Q: What are your thoughts on Kurt Busch being gone at Penske Racing?
He shot himself in the foot enough times for Penske to stand it any longer. Wasted talent; good riddance.
Q: Will Kasey Kahne be successful next season in Hendrick equipment?
Yes. He’s a bona fide Chase for the Cup contender, but I don’t think he wins it.
Q: Will Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finally get a win next season and if he does where?
I think so, probably at Talladega.
Q: Who replaces Kurt Busch at Penske?
Likely David Ragan – but nobody matches up career stats or talent-wise to Busch, even though his maturity level is subpar.
Q: Where does A.J. Allmendinger wind up for next season since his Best Buy sponsorship could be going to Matt Kenseth? Does he stay at Richard Petty Motorsports?
I don’t see ‘Dinger getting the shaft that quickly – he’s made huge strides in Sprint Cup since his rookie year. But he might be the odd man out if RPM signs Busch. Perhaps a fledgling group like a Phoenix Racing or a Front Row Motorsports. I don’t think Penske would gamble on him in a straight swap.
Q: Does the Chase system need to be re-formatted?
No, but NASCAR came perilously close to a guy winning five races in the Chase and not winning the title, so perhaps they need to make Chase wins worth more than regular season wins. I’m surprised they haven’t tried this yet.
Q: What was your favorite racing moment from 2011 (all series) and your worst moment (all series)?
Both involve Dan Wheldon, having been at both Indianapolis and Las Vegas. As much as I hated it for JR at the time, it was an amazing finish that caused everyone to gasp and then exhale when we saw Wheldon pull the upset win.
And then we gasped all over again, but for obviously different reasons, at Vegas. Being in Dan’s pit at the time, on a radio, was probably one of the sickest moments of my life, and just to see the immediate reactions of the crewmembers and family was gut-wrenching.
Q: Did you enjoy doing this?
This is fun, and will be especially fun to look back on at the end of the year when I see how many of these I was off the mark on, haha. But appreciate the opportunity.
I want to thank Tony for doing this. He has been one of my writing mentors of late and we got kind of a connection because I live only 35 minutes away from Marquette University and I am a huge fan of their athletics.
For more of Tony’s writing’s go here.