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COTA LOGO XL 72RACER.com's coverage of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is presented by Circuit of The Americas. circuitoftheamericas.com/wectudor

 

P2 cars led the run for overall pole during Thursday’s qualifying session for tomorrow's Brickyard Grand Prix. Benefiting from an overdue Balance of Performance adjustment heading into the event at Indianapolis, Extreme Speed Motorsports placed its pair of HPD ARX-03b P2s on the front row with Ryan Dalziel taking pole in the No. 1 car.

The Scot's lap of 1 minute 17.603 seconds was 0.276sec faster than the 1min17.879sec recorded by teammate Johannes van Overbeek in the sister No. 2 ESM entry [check out JvO's onboard footage from here at IMS road course] , and 0.305sec clear of the No. 42 Morgan-Nissan driven by Oak Racing's Gustavo Yacaman, winner last time out at Mosport.

On a track with two long straights that would normally benefit the more powerful Daytona Prototypes, the air restrictor break given to Honda's twin-turbo V6 engine allowed the ESM team to flex its muscles on the 2.4-mile IMS road course. Without a BoP break to aid their competitiveness, Yacaman's pace to earn P3 was even more surprising.

Said Dalziel: “We’ve been close to the pole a few times until the last man crossed the line and took it from us. Both cars had rough races at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, so this is a great rebound; a good boost of motivation for the crew on both cars. You can’t ask for much more than both ESM Tequila Patrón cars on the front row.

“We have to make our cars a little bit better. Track conditions changed a lot, so we’ll have to be smart and predict what tomorrow night is going to be like. We’re going to be racing in conditions we didn’t test in. This is a great start. National Patrón Tequila Day – we got the pole; we’ve got the front row, so it was a perfect day.”

Added van Overbeek: “This is fantastic for ESM, especially on National Patrón Tequila Day. I was thinking there was a little bit more there, but the rear of the car just wasn’t there for us. Congratulations to Ryan; that was a great lap. He helped me a lot in learning this place. We’re in a good position for the start of the race tomorrow and hopefully, we will avoid the trouble at the green flag.

"We have two hours and 45 minutes to make it count. If Ed can do the job he did at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, I think both cars have a really good shot at finishing where we qualified.”

Top of the Daytona Prototypes was Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. The Brazilian's lap of 1min18.102sec was 0.499 slower than Dalziel's best. Ford's EcoBoost turbo DP could only manage sixth with Scott Pruett behind the wheel of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry. The Riley-Ford was 0.833sec shy of the pole.

For the sake of comparison, the fastest lap set in IndyCar qualifying on the same course during May's Grand Prix of Indianapolis went to Simon Pagenaud in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at 1min09.67sec.
Pole position in PC went to CORE autosport's Colin Braun who turned a 1min19.849sec to lead RSR Racing's Bruno Junqueira (1:20min076sec) and 8Star Motorsports' Luis Diaz (1min20.111sec).

TUDORChampionship TuneIn Facebook Generic IndyGT Le Mans qualifying saw Ferrari return to form after BoP changes that included a significant air restrictor break, a 66-pound weight reduction and use of a different rear wing help Giancarlo Fisichella take pole for Risi Competizione. Fisi's pole shows the difference BoP adjustments can make in just one round after the No. 62 Ferrari F458 spent the last race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park running woefully off the pace.

The Italian's lap of 1min22.378sec edged BMW Team RLL's John Edwards by a scant 0.064sec as the American pushed the No. 56 BMW Z4 to a 1min22.442sec. Third in GTLM went to Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 93 SRT Viper with a 1:22min491sec. Just as BoP changes helped Ferrari, Corvette Racing felt the negative impact of its changes after winning four straight races. Its pair of Corvette C7.Rs will start sixth and 10th in the 10-car class.

GT Daytona pole went to Turner Motorsport's Dane Cameron in the No. 94 BMW Z4. Cameron's 1min26.058sec was also closely matched by Jeroen Bleekemolen in second as the Dutchman, who won the CTMP round with Ben Keating in the No. 33 SRT Viper GT3-R, came within 0.091sec of the Californian's time. Townsend Bell secured third in GTD with the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari F458, posting a 1min26.220sec to Bleekemolen's 1:22.149sec. The top-7 cars in GTD were covered by 0.282 seconds.

The 2h45min Brickyard Grand Prix takes place Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET. 

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MIND ERASER, NO CHASER

What a genuinely bizarre weekend in Toronto.

Amid the chaos brought by rain, indecision and a lack of information on Saturday, folks returned the following day for two rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series action where teams, drivers and fans did their best to deal with a pair of shortened races crammed into a tight schedule.

Sebastien Bourdais and the smaller-than-you-think KVSH Racing team pulled off a shocker by earning pole position Saturday morning, and then spent the next 24 hours waiting to turn their qualifying achievement into a trip to Victory Lane. Leading 58 of the 65 laps, the old SeaBass was back and based on his dominating performance, we have every reason to believe KVSH is on the road to becoming a serious contender with Bourdais leading the charge.

Then we had what felt like Iowa 2.0 in the afternoon as a mad scramble to jump from Firestone wets to slicks jumbled the running order over the final laps – but only after a red flag was thrown. Starting 11th, Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter Racing stunned the field after gambling by taking Reds on lap 43 and Conweezy then went on a passing spree, racing his way from 18th to first in seven laps!

Taking Saturday's oddities into account and how Sunday had everything but snow to deal with, I doubt I'll come across another race weekend like the one we had in Toronto.

lat-lepage 140720-to23595A perfect storm... (LAT photo)MONSTERS IN THE PARASOL

For those who weren't at the track on Saturday, the rainfall wasn't heavy, which most likely led to the popular belief that the race should have been held. And that's where the first bout of confusion was created at Toronto: The conditions didn't look that bad, so how could that lead to the race being postponed? The visuals didn't match the call by Race Control to delay the start – we didn't need Noah's Ark to escape with our lives, so why couldn't the drivers couldn't go out and do their jobs?

I was wondering the same thing before I heard some of the driver feedback over the radio while they circulated behind the pace car. Having stood outside Turn 1 prior to the start, and through the two hours of relative inaction that followed, an umbrella was never required, nor did my clothes get doused with what was falling from the sky. But as the drivers soon illustrated, the light drizzle, combined with the spray and mist that came from the field of 23 Indy cars circulating behind the pace car, left those drivers running blind at low speeds.

Add Firestone's curious rain tires to the mix – ones with a tread pattern closer to something on a passenger car than anything we've seen in racing that pumps high volumes of water from the track – and lapping at anything more than a crawl came with unreasonable risks.

One final variable also came into play on Saturday – and again on Sunday when rain fell during Round 2 – and that was the surface conditions throughout the 1.7-mile circuit. As we saw with a few pileups, including Mikhail Aleshin's submarine routine beneath Juan Montoya's car at Turn 8, corners with concrete patches were like big Indy car Slip-N-Slides.

While the rain fell during Sunday's race, Turn 3 at the end of the long back straight became a single-file corner thanks to the big concrete patch at the apex, forcing drivers to go an extra few car lengths, hug up against the tire barrier, and then hang a right to use the asphalt's grip to accelerate up the hill. There was no real racing taking place in Turn 3 – it was a case of drivers tip-toeing over the one portion of the corner that wouldn't send them into an uncontrolled spin.

And that's my main takeaway from the rainy portions of the 2InTO event: Professional drivers are often willing to put themselves at great risk in order to earn a better finish, but when their ability to stay tethered to the earth is taken away by rain, rain tires, and the track surface itself, that loss of control should come with a sense of understanding by those who aren't Indy car drivers.



Rear runoff shot location behind T1 fence seen on leftJust as we don't expect pilots to take off or land when they can't see the runway due to dense fog, it seems silly to expect drivers to race when they can't see the road ahead and can't control their cars at pace car speeds. And while I'm sure Saturday's race could have been run, who wants to see an IndyCar event where the drivers cruise around in first gear for 85 laps?

Some have questioned the bravery of the drivers, suggesting they lacked the balls to go out and put on a show for the paying fans. Coincidentally, the majority of those I heard or read making those comments have never driven an Indy car, much less strapped into one while blindfolded on a slick and narrow street course.

It's convenient to suggest the race could have been held, and romantic to think that old-school racers would have buckled in and gone for it – danger be damned; but we no longer live in an era where safety concerns are ignored and racing fatalities are commonplace. And that's something we should be thankful for.

Simply put, the conditions on Saturday took skill and experience out of the equation, and at that point, all the talent of a Will Power, Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti or Juan Manuel Fangio would have been rendered useless.

Although the weather didn't force anyone to run for cover, it helped create a perfect storm that made racing a risk that was too great to accept. As hard as it might be to reconcile, and despite the absence of flooding and thunder strikes to make their decision a no-brainer to all involved, IndyCar made the right call to postpone the race.

"I was third behind the pace car and couldn't see it or the car in front of me," said Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay. "At that point, you're not really driving; you're just praying something doesn't go wrong in front of you because you wouldn't see it happen.

"The dangerous part was the back straight. Whatever they did that was new there made the water sit on top of the surface and it wouldn't drain. Maybe they sealed it with something, but it was like driving on ice and because of the spray, you couldn't see. And then if you touched one of the concrete patches, your car took off. We were just along for the ride at that point. That's when it stops being racing, in my opinion."

fans rainFans in the rain...and in the dark. (LAT photo)I APPEAR MISSING

If IndyCar deserves praise for putting the safety of its drivers, crews, safety team and trackside volunteers ahead of the perceived need to race in unsafe conditions, it lost points for the confusion that blanketed the event on Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, and even Sunday morning.

Without rehashing a myriad of concerns and issues, Saturday's race never actually started – the green flag never waved, and from there, a series of decisions that befuddled many of those on pit lane began to snowball. Some drivers crashed on their own (Will Power and Ryan Briscoe) and were allowed to have work done under a red flag (also known as a "Red Condition" in the rulebook), while others were not allowed to effect repairs when Sunday's first race went red for a track-blocking multi-car crash.

Everyone received instructions Saturday night that Sunday's first race would be gridded based on the qualifying order from Saturday morning, meaning the crashed-and-repaired cars of Power and Briscoe would not start at the back, and would return to P2 and P10, respectively, to take the start based on their original qualifying positions.

Whether it was from pressure applied by team owners and drivers, an internal change of heart, or a combination of the two, we arrived Sunday morning to learn IndyCar reversed its decision and the first race would use a grid based on a race that never took place on Saturday. Power and Briscoe went to the back, as did Juan Montoya who had work done to solve an electrical problem under Saturday's red condition.

Is any of this making sense?


 

redIt reminds of when a play is blown dead in the NFL, yet the players play through the whistle. A quarterback might throw a touchdown, but the play didn't count so the team doesn't get to keep the points. A player could sack the quarterback, but they don't get to keep the yards they gained. It might be unfair, but technically, the plays were never live and won't go into the record books. Power, Briscoe and Montoya had problems, yet those problems happened when IndyCar's version of the play was dead and didn't count.

Somehow, overnight, IndyCar decided the play counted and adjusted the qualifying order to reflect something that never officially happened on Saturday.

Granted, it's their series and their choice to do as they please, but just consider that with questions already mounting over the "who can or can't work on their cars during a red flag" situation, waking to find IndyCar overruled itself and shuffled the grid only added to the notion that its rulebook was being used sparingly.

"I'd love to comment, but I can't afford the fine," one team owner told me, and he wasn't alone.

We also had the announcement from IndyCar on Saturday night that both races would be 75 laps in length. About an hour later, I received a text from a driver stating it had been changed to 2 x 65 laps, which IndyCar soon confirmed.

At 75 laps, and provided it stayed dry, both races would be flat-out affairs, but at 65, both would become fuel economy runs as teams tried to turn them into one-stoppers. Luckily we had weirdness in both races that kept them from being exercises in fuel saving, but the frequent flip-flopping on grids, distances and lack of thought as to fuel windows made IndyCar look like they weren't entirely in control of the situation.

That's not to say what IndyCar faced was easy, but in the absence of clarity, taking time to hatch a solid plan, bounce it off of drivers, owners and even a few race strategists could have turned what seemed like decisions being made in the dark into a series of cohesive and well-executed plans.

NO ONE KNOWS

To add insult to injury – and this isn't IndyCar's domain – the last people to know what was going on at the end of Saturday were the fans. After standing outside Turn 1 until just after 6 p.m., the only way we knew to pack up and head back to the media center came from a Holmatro Safety Team member who confirmed the race was off.

During the short walk back, I must have been stopped by 10 fans asking if I knew what was happening. Surprised at their question, I asked each one what they were referring to – I figured those of us far from the pits were the last ones to get word of the postponement.

Turns out it was the exact opposite. Those fans, who had seats in the stands behind pit lane, were told nothing.

"The only way we knew we should go is because the starter climbed down from the stand and started walking away," one fan told me. "They didn't say anything over the speakers and no one knew what to do, so we left."

Again, we all acknowledge Saturday was more than chaotic for the series and the circuit officials, yet picking up the microphone to tell the crowd the race was off seems like the first thing you'd want to do.

Information as a whole was treated like a precious commodity on Saturday. Teams were in the dark about rules, precedents, and what served as a punishable offense during the red flags, and Toronto's incredible race fans weren't given the kind of basic information and respect they deserved after sitting in the rain to watch no racing take place.

Yes, the track made good by allowing Saturday's ticket holders to return on Sunday for free, but that doesn't diminish the failings that took place. Their patience should have been rewarded with something better than being ignored.

As IndyCar looks to reassure its teams that the rulebook is written in ink, not pencil, and its governance style is more fixed than fluid, it would also be worth reviewing the procedures required to keep its fans up to date and engaged when curveballs are thrown.

conwayFEEL GOOD HIT OF THE SUMMER

Team Penske leads all IndyCar teams with four wins this year. Andretti Autosport is next with three, and they're tied with...Ed Carpenter Racing. That's right, the oval specialists who've now won two street course races, not to mention Ed's oval win at Texas. Without overstating the obvious, that's Penske, followed by a tie between Andretti and ECR. What's not to love about the always unpredictable IndyCar Series?

After Andretti and ECR, the only team with multiple wins is Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which has two with Simon Pagenaud. Combine the wins from ECR and SPM, and two teams outside the Big 3 have earned one out of every three victories through Toronto. Include the win by Dale Coyne Racing's Carlos Huertas at Houston, and six of the 14 races held have gone to teams working from relatively modest means. And knowing how thin the margins are at KVSH Racing, we should also include Bourdais' win, taking the number to seven of 14 – an even 50 percent.

I'd be lying if I said the economy was perfect to start an IndyCar team right now, but looking at how well teams that aren't owned by Penske, Andretti and Ganassi happen to be doing against the titans of open-wheel racing, the time is right to join while the playing field is so level.


IMG 4544

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY

Ever had a situation where someone tells you something with a straight face, but it's so silly you assume they're joking? I had that happen with IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield in the paddock on Saturday when he pointed at a crowd that had gathered about 50 feet away and said, "You should go say hello to Rob Ford."

I laughed, began walking away, and out of curiosity, glanced to my left and noticed Ford's unmistakable melon amid a throng of Torontonians jockeyed to take selfies with their infamous mayor. Turns out he'd just finished taking a lap of the track with Paul Tracy, and emerged from the Honda pace car to find a battery of cell phones awaiting him. Never one to turn down a photo opportunity, I grabbed my own phone, snapped a shot of Mayor Ford posing with two kids (ABOVE), posted it to Twitter and went on my way.

A few hours later – and you can't make this stuff up – I received a text from Indy car driver-turned-ABC commentator Scott Goodyear who informed me the kids in my photos were his two sons!

Did I mention Toronto was a bizarre weekend?

...LIKE CLOCKWORK

Toronto presented the opportunity for one or more of the championship contenders to gain some ground in the standing, yet they all took turns recording at least one bad result during the double-header.

Championship leader Helio Castroneves held a slim nine-point lead over Penske teammate Will Power coming into Toronto, scored an excellent second in Race 1 and backed it up with a forgettable 12th in Race 2. Power went the opposite direction, opening with a ninth in Race 1 and a third in Race 2. Although Power averaged a better finish across both rounds, Helio increased his lead to 13 points due to the higher finish in the first race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had a miserable weekend, recording finishes of 21st and 14th when he needed to draw down the gap to Castroneves. With his win in Iowa, RHR was only 32 points behind HCN and holding strong in third, but after Toronto, the point deficit has more than doubled to 69.

Simon Pagenaud epitomized the one good/one bad result dynamic at Toronto, capturing fourth in Race 1 after being spun by Luca Filippi on the opening lap. Race 2 was a painful affair for Pagenaud as his twin-turbo V6 Honda struggled to fire all of its cylinders. By the time a fix was made, Simon was almost 10 laps down and would come home 22nd. 50 points back from Castroneves after Iowa, Pagenaud is now 71 markers behind and losing ground in fourth.

The biggest loser at Toronto was Juan Montoya who joined RHR in securing two miserable results. With an 18th and 19th in the books, Penske's Pocono winner went from 66 points behind Helio to 105.

The biggest movers of late have been the red Target cars piloted by Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon has finished inside the top-7 at every round since Houston, and TK has three consecutive podiums to his credit. Dixie, now sixth, and TK, in eighth, could leapfrog a few more spots as they head to tracks where they've done well in the past.

Andretti's Carlos Munoz continues to impress during his rookie season, but he's also in the midst of an end-of-term slide. After running as high as fifth in the championship, a pair of 17ths at Toronto has the young Colombian clinging to seventh.

250 points are up for grabs with four races remaining, and for those with championship aspirations, there's no time to recover from bad days at Mid-Ohio, Milwaukee, Sonoma or Fontana.

Turn 1 fenceTurn 1 fence (Marshall Pruett photo)

THE LOST ART OF KEEPING A SECRET

I managed to start a minor ruckus while waiting for the race to start on Saturday. Some of us intending to shoot the start from Turn 1 – just on the other side of the barrier behind the fence – noticed the corner where we had assigned spots to shoot from also featured fencing that sat atop the barriers and were barely affixed to those barrier.

One corner of the fence was nearly falling off of the top of the barrier, and other than a few poles that were interspersed to hold the fences up and add some rigidity in the event a Houston-2013-like crash took place, it looked primed to make photographer pancakes out of anyone trapped between the fence and archway behind us.

The organizers claimed it was safe, passed inspection and, the following day, said some poles had been removed, creating the unsafe conditions on Saturday. One person even suggested we had removed the poles to manufacture controversy. That was pretty funny.

Proper barriers in low percentage impact locations although minus cablingProper barriers in low-percentage impact locations, although minus cabling. (Marshall Pruett photo)My suggestion to move photographers out of the corner to a rearward position in the runoff area was taken for Sunday, and after shooting the Round 1 start shot, I walked to Turn 2, shot for a few minutes and then proceeded all the way down to Turn 3. Interestingly, the entire stretch from Turn 2 to Turn 3 was lined with traditional barriers – poles sunk directly into the barriers with interconnected fencing, a la Houston 2013.

The fencing and posts weren't sitting atop the barriers like in Turn 1, yet they lacked the steel cabling that the Houston track has implemented to prevent the fencing from flying off the poles as we saw with Dario Franchitti's career-ending crash.

Fences atop barriers, fences affixed to barriers through poles without cabling, fences affixed to barriers through poles with cabling in place to assure the fences don't go flying... Would it be crazy to suggest that IndyCar, with eight of its 18 rounds held on street courses, needs to come up with a single specification of approved barrier construction and require those barriers to be used wherever it races?

I know track construction and safety measures are subject to FIA jurisdiction and approval, but that doesn't release IndyCar or any other series from requiring tracks to meet or exceed its own safety standards. IndyCar teams are required to pass a series of stringent technical inspections before they are allowed to race; maybe the series should holds its promoters to the same level of accountability.


2014TorontoMPruettFri71814 Race 2 Filippi 2

QUICK AND TO THE POINTLESS

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Luca Filippi is wickedly fast. The Italian has proven that fact every time he's driven an Indy car, and after completing his four-race deal with RLLR at Toronto, he also reaffirmed his inability to finish races.

Along with four appearances last year, Filippi's best result from eight races is a 10th at Houston last year with Bryan Herta's team. Most of his other races ended in contact with the wall, or other cars, and as we witnessed last weekend, it hasn't happened due to a lack of talent or effort. If anything, it's the exact opposite.

With a brief window to showcase his capabilities, Filippi drove like a man possessed at Toronto – like he had everything to lose – and unfortunately, it showed. Rather than drive from a place of purity, his desperation was obvious, leading to a lot of torn-up equipment and nothing to show for his efforts.

As easy as it might be to write Filippi off as a rookie with more balls than brains, I actually think he's a perfect project for anyone willing to do a bit of grooming. With a bit of security around him and the knowledge that he doesn't have to set the world on fire, I have a feeling Filippi would settle down, show the same excellent pace, and convert some of those amazing qualifying performances into strong finishes.

With his four-race deal concluded, the question now is whether anyone will give him that chance.

BROKEN BOX

I might be the last of the holdouts to defend IndyCar's rear wheel guard concept, and I'm finally ready to admit defeat. We watched as JR Hildebrand drove over the back of Will Power at St. Pete in 2013, scaling the right rear wheel guard as if it wasn't there, and we've now seen Mikhail Aleshin drive under Juan Montoya's car as the nose and left-front wheel of his Dallara DW12 went beneath JPM's right rear wheel guard.

The rear wheel guards serve a purpose as bump and rub deflectors, and have definitely reduced the magnitude of wing breakages since their introduction, but that's where their value starts and ends.

HinchtownRUNNING JOKE

From eight races in his native land since joining the IndyCar Series in 2011, James Hinchcliffe has grown accustomed to disappointment. Finishes of P14, P15, P22, P12, P8, P21, P8 and P18 at Toronto and Edmonton have been unkind to IndyCar's kindest driver, and for a nation of Canadian open-wheel fans, Hinch's humbling home results haven't gone unnoticed.

"If you see Hinch, tell him he better ****ing win," said one supporter who'd enjoyed a few too many beers. I suggested it was a bit unfair to place the expectations of an entire country on one driver in a field of 23, but that didn't seem to matter. Even with the odds stacked against him, the Mayor of Hinchtown takes his fans' eagerness in stride.

"Despite poor results here, year in and year out, they never waver in their support, which is immensely flattering," said Hinch.

My first suggestion was to rename the track to something other than Toronto – maybe that would break his streak of bad luck, and of course, Hinch had an answer.

"We could temporarily call it 'Hinchtown,' and not just for the obvious reasons," he added. "If you Google Map Hinchtown, someone has placed it right on the Direct Energy Centre, so technically, the track kind of falls within the borders of Hinchtown."

After suggesting Mayor Rob Ford would likely rename the city "Hinchtown" for a $100 bill, Hinch seemed open to the idea of making it official – at least for the weekend.

"That would be an interesting PR opportunity," he said. "I think we have to do it..."

MEDICATION

Chevy locked out the top-6 at Iowa until the final minutes of the race when Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden rocketed to the lead and scored a 1-2 for Honda. The Bowtie had revenge in mind at the Honda Indy Toronto, serving up a 1-2-3 in Round 1 and a 1-2-3-4 on Round 2 to send a message at the event sponsored by its rival.

"It was an exciting weekend for Chevrolet on the streets of Toronto to capture four of the top-five finishing positions in Race 1, and the top-four in Race 2," said Jim Campbell, Chevy's U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "The credit for the results goes to the drivers and the teams. In addition, all four of the Chevrolet partner race organizations – KVSH Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing – contributed valuable manufacturer points in both races."

MISCELLANEOUS

· Despite missing all four oval races to date – including a pair of double-points events at the Indy 500 and Pocono – Mike Conway is only 11 points behind KV AFS Racing full-timer Sebastian Saavedra, and 16 behind A.J. Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato, who replaced Conweezy in 2013.

· It was great to spend a few minutes with Holly Wheldon, the late Dan Wheldon's younger sister, who recently turned 21 and had some humorous tales to share about hitting the milestone number.

· The Pirelli World Challenge series also held a double-header in Toronto and put on two amazing races. The best news came in the size of the PWC GT grid. With just eight GT cars in the field last year, the number exploded to 23 in the span of 12 months. As I've said and written, PWC's move as the first to embrace the FIA GT3 formula was not only smart, but has turned the series' fortunes around.

· Pro Mazda standouts Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove drove in the Canadian Porsche GT3 Cup races at Toronto, and the little ass-kickers managed to live up to their reputation. Hargrove, from Canada, won on Saturday – his fourth victory from five rounds this year, and Pigot took his breakthrough GT3 Cup win on Sunday.

· Another Canadian PWC note from Toronto: Sunday's race saw Canada's Kuno Wittmer score the GT win in his SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper and his countryman Mark Wilkins take the GTS victory in his Kia Motorsports Kia Optima. Add in Hargrove's Porsche GT3 Cup win, and there were plenty of Canadian flags being waved in Victory Lane.

IMG 4541· John Meehan, who produced the original Jeff Krosnoff "Stay Hungry" memorial stickers back in 1996, made an amazing gesture by printing a new batch of those originals and sending them to Toronto. The 50 stickers he sent were soon gone as drivers and members of the media who were at the race in 1996 or have a regard for the late Indy car driver wanted to have a keepsake.

· After finishing third at the Indy 500, Marco Andretti has failed to finish better than eighth in nine consecutive races. Two of those eight can be attributed to Honda engine failures, but with the other unremarkable runs, Marco's sinking fast and in jeopardy of falling out of the top-10.

· Longtime Team Penske photographer Steve Swope has shot every Toronto Indy car race since its inception in 1986 – very cool.

2014TorontoMPruettFri71814 Race 2 Podium Selfie· While he's no Swope, Will Power turned into a photographer during Round 2's post-race celebrations as he pulled Tony Kanaan and race winner Mike Conway in for a selfie. Not a bad marketing ploy, Verizon Boy.

· My favorite photo of the weekend was taken on Friday when a Hinch supporter riding a Rascal scooter posed topless with the United Fiber & Data girls. Despite his age, we know his hearing is perfect – he was the only one to respond to the crowd's calls to "take your shirt off"...​

IMG 4524

lightsThe brand-new Dallara IL15 Indy Lights chassis is days away from turning its first laps and just over a week from conducting its first test.

"We're expecting the first 4-cylinder turbo engine from AER to arrive shortly, and then we'll finish putting the first car together and go to Putnam Park for a systems test and shakedown," Indy Lights series promoter Dan Andersen told RACER.

Provided everything goes according to plan, the series will take the car to Mid-Ohio where it will spend Monday, Aug. 4, the day after the Verizon IndyCar Series event wraps, turning its first laps in anger.

"Conor Daly is going to be in the car for us at Putnam and Mid-Ohio, and we're really excited about having him help test and develop the car," Andersen continued. "We've invited all of the current Indy Lights teams, some new owners coming in, some others that have expressed an interest, and a bunch of drivers to see the car in action."

Dallara's engineers will oversee the test, and Andersen's Indy Lights technical staff, comprised of former open-wheel mechanics and crew chiefs, will run the IL15.

IL15 Tub RenderingPriced at $234,700 for a rolling chassis, (minus wheels, data system, and brakes), and another $88,000 for an annual engine lease, the IL15 replaces the 12-year-old Dallara Infiniti Pro Series chassis which has become a bit of a joke in open-wheel circles. The old IPS car allows teams to run at a very economical rate each season, but due to the age of the chassis, interest has waned and car counts have hovered between eight and 12.

Compared to the Dallara IPS chassis that was designed for oval racing and later updated to run on road and street courses, Andersen hopes the IL15, which was designed for oval and road racing, will usher in a new era of prosperity for the series.

"We're still pinning down new teams for next year, but we have several new teams committed, hope to have most of the current teams join in, and have had a lot of interest in what this car will mean to the Indy Lights Series as we work to rebuild the final step of the Mazda Road To Indy ladder," he said.

At least two IndyCar teams are in discussions to join the Indy Lights series in 2015, and while some of the current teams have been vocal about the costs to upgrade from the IPS car to the IL15, Andersen says the series has no option other than to park its aging fleet in favor of a modern chassis and engine.

"You have a definite future with no change, and that's collapse," he noted. "I know it isn't going to be easy for some, but if they have relationships with a bank, the car will be paid for long before its 5-year lifespan is over, and Dallara is also offering a 3-year payment plan to ease the costs of making the transition. We think once people see the car, see its speed and how well it compares for cost and performance with other cars of its kind in Europe, a lot of their concerns will be eased."

Hungary to show impact of FRIC ban

Key Formula 1 players believe the loss of FRIC suspension systems from cars will show up more at the Hungarian Grand Prix than it did in Germany.

Following an FIA clarification that FRIC could be challenged, all teams removed their systems before last weekend's race at Hockenheim. Although it made only a minimal difference to the competitive picture – with Sauber appearing to gain the most and Lotus losing out – things could be more dramatic this time out.

"With the way the corners are here, it might affect the car here more," Nico Rosberg said. "It is not related to curbs and bumps, it is related to corner duration and speeds – and there is quite a high average corner speed here."

Jenson Button echoed thoughts that the challenges of the Hungaroring will expose areas of the car that FRIC helped with.

"It will be interesting to see how the different cars are without the FRIC systems around here, because a bumpy circuit is a big issue when you don't have a FRIC system," he said. "A lot of FRIC is to help with the ride quality, so it should benefit the people who are used to not working with them."

He added: "I think our system was good, but I think other people put more time and effort into it, and spent more on it, while we've been working on other areas. We're used to running without the system – we've had it on and off the car for the last three years and a lot of the time last year we didn't use it, so we know what the car does and how it changes the car so it's driveable."

How FRIC impacts on general car form will be key to Sauber's hopes of point-scoring form later in this season, with the squad appearing to have benefitted from its absence in Germany. Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn wanted to wait until after this race, however, to be sure that its form at Hockenheim was linked to the FRIC situation.

"You have to be careful because it is very track specific," he said. "There are tracks where it makes a bigger difference, and others where it doesn't really matter.

"I can imagine tracks coming up where we could feel it more – that the gap [with the FRIC teams] would be bigger. But we have seen now that the gap could become smaller and it has to do with that.

"But we have to wait and see what it means with the tracks coming up. It should give an indication here, so that is why I am cautious."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Image509Ride along with Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe and Josef Newgarden during the first of the Verizon IndyCar Series' 2InTO double-header.

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Mexico returns to Formula 1 calendar

Mexico will return to the Formula 1 calendar next season after a 23-year absence, organizers said on Wednesday.

Having failed to get track updates ready in time to secure a slot this season, having featured on a provisional calendar, work has been ongoing to get everything ready for inclusion in the 2015 schedule. The event will take place at the 2.74-mile Mexico City circuit.

During a press conference in Mexico on Wednesday, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone sent a message saying he was delighted the country was getting F1 back.

"I feel it is the right for F1 for and Mexico and I'm sure it will be to the benefit of both for many years," he explained. "I look forward to welcoming you all to this global event next year."

The final track layout has yet to be defined, but organisers have said the pits, paddock and spectator areas will be revamped before next year.

Mexico last hosted a race in 1992, and efforts to get it back on the calendar have been pushed by Tavo Hellmund, who played a key role in taking F1 to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

"Ever since Bernie and I began working on a race at Austin, it's been a dream of mine to help Formula 1 return to Mexico," said Hellmund. "This announcement has therefore been years in the making, but we've gradually been able to assemble all the right pieces. I'm absolutely delighted."

Mexico would likely become a back-to-back event with COTA's USGP. With Azerbaijan also having signed a deal for a race at Baku, the schedule could go beyond the 20-limit that teams are happy with – unless one of the current races is dropped.

Teams may agree to a 21-race calendar though, providing that they agree to a financial package with Ecclestone that makes it worth it for them.

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Honda Racing MailbagWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at http://hpd.honda.com/ and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD . Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you.

And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, remember that Marshall Pruett tackles them in his Tech Mailbags each week. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.

 

Q: Was the rain different on Saturday than Sunday? No one wants to see anyone get hurt but let’s stop with this politically correct over- analyzing everything. If, it’s raining put on rain tires. If you can’t see, then stop (a la Niki Lauda in Fuji in 1976 when Mario won). They’re the best drivers in the world? They have damaged IndyCar racing, the casual fan’s and the devoted fan’s perspective,  not to mention the Toronto Indy and TV ratings. What sport waits two hours before they call the game? Not even baseball does that! Was it that they were concerned that they would wreck 75 percent of the field and not have cars for Sunday? Then bring two cars!
Tony, NY

RM: It rained all day on Saturday and harder than Sunday’s shower but everybody said the difference was that the water was sitting on top of the surface Saturday whereas the cars were already running when it started falling Sunday so it was easy to dissipate. And, yes, IndyCar was concerned about losing a lot of cars on Day 1.

Q: I respect your opinion about everything with regards to IndyCar, but I humbly disagree with your article on "MILLER: They should have raced.... ". Unlike Houston, it seemed the atmospheric conditions were conducive to creating a foggy mist. It was apparent from the TV shot down down Lake Shore Blvd. I could not make out some of the cars going at pace car speed.
Sean Jurjevic

RM: No worries Sean, if you agreed with everything I said we’d have to commit you. But a couple drivers said if they’d have started and just raced to the conditions for a few laps it would have blown everything off enough to see. It seemed like the veterans lobbied loudest not to run while most of the rookies wanted to go for it.

Q: IndyCar missed a great opportunity for a memorable race doubleheader and instead had two that I hope will be forgotten. I do not like the red flags. I understand that IndyCar wants to give the fans a green finish, but to me it is no different than NASCAR's "green white checker." So far it has not bit anybody in the butt, but it might rob a deserving victory from someone in the future. Will Power almost took out his teammate going for the lead. I wonder how much long the Captain is going to put up with WP?
Joe Mullins

RM: IndyCar has stated it would not red flag a race inside the closing laps to get a GWC effect but, being a timed raced, that’s how it turned out (three laps). For what those loyal Canadians sat through for two days, I thought they deserved it. As long as WP doesn’t take his teammate out and cost them the championship, he’s just fine. The Captain likes winners.

Q: I KNEW that you were always a stand-up guy! And FF racer. The tires that Firestone presented as rain tires just were NOT. You are the only person (except for me) who mentioned this huge problem. But I won't lose my job for saying so. Bon chance, as G. Hill used to say!"
Peter Earle

RM: Actually, several drivers mentioned it to me before, during and after last weekend’s dog & pony show in Toronto so that’s why I wrote about it. As I also stated, Firestone builds great tires for IndyCar in all dry conditions and, again according to the drivers, had a decent rain tire a couple years ago but abandoned it for the current model. One prominent driver said: “It’s a joke to call it a rain tire. It’s hard, has no grooves and that’s why you saw a couple guys try slicks when the track was still very wet because there wasn’t that much difference.” Another driver said the old tire had tread/grooves that shot the water straight up and didn’t hinder visibility whereas this one just sprayed water everywhere. Firestone has always been a good partner for IndyCar so I imagine it will do the right thing and fix its rain tire. I haven’t been fired (yet) but there are still four races so…
[You’re safe. - Malsher, Ed.]

Q: I'm like you....a race fan starting way long ago. However, I love seeing races when I can actually SEE them, not just in front of me, but way down the track. And I opt for safety. Gotta go with Derrick on this one. The absolute smartest race I've ever seen called was when CART opted to not race at Texas Motor Speedway several years ago. Then there's the cost of the racecars themselves. Wanna re-live old times? Think of Jim Clark running in the wet at Hockenheim. Still love ya guy, but about this, I go t’other way!
Dan Gallion, Ft. Worth

RM: No problem Dan, that’s why America is a great country, we can agree to disagree. But let’s be honest, Clark’s era was 20 times more dangerous (he hit a tree because there was no guardrail or tirewall) and these new Indy cars are strong and safe. My point is that everybody has a throttle and a brake and I would have liked to see an attempt made to try and blow off the standing water. Some drivers said it was impossible to see and others said it was challenging.   

Q: I agree that they should have raced Saturday. These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world and rain always makes a race exciting. I was disappointed that they wussed out and waited until Sunday. On the plus side though, two races on Sunday! And together they had all one could ask for. A runaway winner in the first race including a podium return for a popular driver after a long dry spell. The second race had great racing, a little rain and a decent finish. Perhaps Indy car will look at Sunday and consider bringing back twin 150s. Dare to dream. Had a thought while watching the non-race on Saturday. Derrick Walker would be smart to scoop up Dario as an assistant. He could handle race control while Dario could deal with the drivers. He’s smart and well respected by all. Also, Chip would be smart to let this happen. Loved your grid run. Funny and entertaining!
Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

RM: A.J. and Mario felt the same as you, as did a lot of fans, but I guess that shows the difference between the old gunfighters and today’s racers. USAC had same-day road racing doubleheaders on ovals and road courses so I’m all for it. Dario is WAAAAAYYYY too smart to work for IndyCar and having way too much fun.


Toronto-rainQ: I guess I understand the reason to shorten race #1 but why in the world was race #2 shortened? First to 65 laps then to a dreaded time race. The race ended with more than 20 minutes left on the TV schedule. I've hated timed races since the glory days of CART but this was the worse! If it had to be timed why not make the race end five minutes before the TV schedule ends? That gives you max racing and a few minutes to interview the winner.

You have reported several times that Andretti is interested in Simon Pagenaud. If that's the case who would be the odd man out? Will he go to five cars? Either way, why not bring up Zach Veach? Wasn't Sage Karam an Andretti development driver? Why be a part of the feeder series if you're not going to bring your own guys up to the big series? What the heck is going on with RHR? How many more good finishes will he just give away? Race 1 Toronto, Long Beach etc....

 He needs to be smarter. Finally ...I grew up a Michael Andretti fan so as far as I was concerned, every time I saw his front wing fly off the car into the air, it was Paul Tracy’s fault!!!  With that said…PT is FANTASTIC in the booth!!!  Him and Townsend Bell make a great combo.
Chris Z, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

RM: From Derrick Walker: “Once we had to reschedule Saturday’s race, we took into account a number of issues like other series who needed track time, the approaching weather, the chance to repeat of Saturday’s race, and driver committee input. But, on reflection, I wish we had kept the race distance for Race 2. We’ll try to do better next time.”

The early line from Andretti was that a fifth car would be added but now we hear that James Hinchcliffe opted out of 2015 so maybe Karam replaces him. RHR is usually smarter and those two mistakes may cost him the title. I agree, PT and TBell are very entertaining, as well as knowledgeable.

Q: Yet another amazing weekend of racing north of the border, eh? Seriously, I know I said last week that Iowa had it all, but so did Toronto and the entire NBCSN crew absolutely killed it this weekend. And especially you, Robin, for convincing Sarah Fisher to work on the car under red – she owes you dinner at the Mug 'n’ Bun. Anyway, do you foresee any rule changes based on what happened this weekend? I wanna see a rule change where, when Race Control broadcasts to all drivers/teams, that the broadcast is also played over the PA system at the track so everyone can hear it in real time. I have a feeling that the so-called Robin Miller strategy of repairing under red will get eliminated or made more severe.
Jared in Grand Rapids

RM: Thanks but Dale Coyne is the reason Sarah pulled the trigger during the red flag. I asked him the rule and then relayed his response and suggestion to Sarah, and her team started rebuilding Josef’s suspension. I was just a messenger. As for your request to have Race Control’s dialogue shared over the PA system, I doubt it but I’ll ask.  

Q: As a longtime fan of IndyCar who attends the Toronto race every year, I could never understand why IndyCar struggles so much with popularity. I think today we all finally learned why: you can't treat your paying fans the way they were treated last weekend and expect to run a popular series. The issue was not that it was raining (not IndyCar's fault) or even that they couldn't run in the rain - the spray was so bad that sitting in Row 12, we were being soaked by the spray from the cars, not the drizzle. The issue was the lack of organization and the mistreatment of paying fans. IndyCar looked like they had no clue what they were doing and frankly I don't think they did. After they rolled out the first time and couldn't start, it was mass confusion. The failed restart, the pace car going too fast and wrecking, whether or not teams could work on their cars…

But the biggest problem was that at the track, fans were given ZERO updates! Even after the race was called, around 6:15, the big screens continued to show footage of old races without telling fans the race was off, which did not come until almost 7:00, leaving us sitting out in the increasingly heavy rain for another 45 minutes! For casual or first-time fans that was a HUGE turn off, and was even so for diehards as well. Even after the fact, nobody knew if two races would be run Sunday, one on Monday (as a Toronto resident I know you couldn't keep Lakeshore Blvd. closed on Monday) or even running next Saturday was mentioned. My question is: what can be done to fix IndyCar's organization and the overall fan experience in the future to help IndyCar grow?
Ben from Toronto

RM: I’ll grant you that IndyCar looked pretty minor league on Saturday but the problem you’re discussing (and what I mentioned in Saturday night’s commentary on RACER.com) was the total lack of communication with the paying customers. And that’s on the promoters as well as IndyCar. There was never one message on the big screens, not one announcement on the PA system and the only way fans knew that Saturday was cancelled was when they saw the teams rolling the cars back to the paddock. I heard several fans say they wouldn’t ever come back and I wouldn’t blame them. We don’t have enough time to answer your first question but the fan experience is usually good with paddock/pit access and autograph sessions.  

Q: Watching great Toronto race with rain and the stands are full! I was wondering what is the TV rating in Canada?? With that kind of support why aren’t there four or five races north of the border? Come on IndyCar, open your eyes.??
Jake Liebhaber

RM: Well, the few grandstands that are still in use were pretty full and the corporate suites were packed but there weren’t 20,000 people at Sunday’s races. I estimated no more than 12,000 on Saturday and Dean McNulty of The Toronto Star said 12,000-15,000 on Saturday and a little better on Sunday. Kinda sad since it used to be 70,000 on Sunday alone. Having said that, I’d run in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver if I could because Canadian fans are loyal, passionate and knowledgeable about IndyCar racing.


Montoya-wetQ: It didn’t seem like the cars were capable of racing on Saturday. As disappointed as I was to not see an exciting standing start on a wet track, that spray looked unmanageable. With the amount of rain they were getting, I’m not even sure having the cars run at whatever speed they were capable of would have minimized the spray sufficiently. Whatever happened to Newgarden’s penalty for working on the car under red? He never served one in Race 1. There is no way he served a 20-second hold penalty and tagged on to the back of the field 10 laps or so in to the race. Speaking of penalties, RHR’s penalty needs a rules revision. In the second race Will Power was on pit lane and jumped out because the pits closed. What if they had been at Barber Motorsports Park? There is no way to jump out of those pits. If you’re committed to pitting you should be OK to pit even if a yellow comes out, otherwise you get a potentially unsafe move like Power made.

While we’re on the subject of rules changes, since when can a timed race stop under a red flag? Don’t get me wrong I liked the call for the fans at the track. After all they put up with, they deserved to see cars racing to the line. And on the subject of rules what rules dictated Power, Montoya, and Briscoe start in the back for Race 1 when  the race never happened in the first place? First they were going to be restored to their grid position and then they were put to the back again. I respect that Race Control was in an unprecedented situation, but it seemed like they made things up along the way.
Ryan in West Michigan

RM: Josef served a drive-through penalty under green and Power was almost in pit lane but still on the track when he swerved to stay out and went over the curbing. Not sure about the red flag ruling pertaining to a timed race but I’ll request an answer.  

Q: It's bad enough that IndyCar can't race in a mist. It's even worse that they can't post a correct TV schedule. On Saturday, they said the race would be on NBCSN at 10:30 am on Sunday. That when I set the DVR. Then a genius moved the race to CNBC. I know we're trying to NOT look clueless, but this doesn't help.
Kyle in Raleigh

RM: To be truthful, when we left the track Saturday night nobody knew where the race would air to my knowledge. And the Tour de France was always scheduled for Sunday morning on NBCSN. I’m sorry you missed the race but it was a scramble with Formula 1 moving to CNBC as well and leading into IndyCar.  

Q: IndyCar needs to add a new flag to clear up confusion like that seen at rainy Toronto on Saturday. The red flag was just inadequate to explain the whole situation. When circumstances like these occur in the future, I propose substituting a flag carrying the Marlboro logo.? No excuses. IndyCar is clearly making stuff up as they go along.?
John, Fort Myers

RM: That’s funny except Marlboro no longer sponsors Team Penske and, according to the rule book, if a race hasn’t officially started it’s legal to work on cars during a red flag. That’s why Michael Andretti didn’t file an official protest and A.J. didn’t take a swing at The Captain. I know it looked crooked but it wasn’t and that antiquated rule from the 1960s about not working on cars under red flags needs to go away. With only 22 cars, they need everyone to be out there if possible, so let Newgarden’s crew repair their car with NO PENALTY.   

Q: I just wanted to say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your comment that the, ‘Penske boys should be glad they are still on the track.’  It seems to me that Power receives more breaks from Race Control than anyone else. I suspect a NASCAR-type decision to make sure he wins the championship this year after messing it up the last three years. At least he was made to start at the back.
Debbie Biere, St. Louis, MO

RM: I just couldn’t believe Tim Cindric was whining about not being able to pit for fuel when his driver had just received the greatest gift of the season. But, trust me, there is no conspiracy to make sure Will or RP wins the championship. He gets penalized his fair share when it’s merited and what happened Saturday was just lucky.

Q: Totally pissed at the debacle of officiating by the "Verizon Penske Car Series". What a disgrace and display of favoritism along with stupidity and scramble to cover up their mess. Walker's failed attempt at excuses was a total disgrace! Power didn't take the warm up laps? How did he end up hitting the wall if he wasn't even there? These bozos can't get out of their own way!
Skip Ranfone, Summerfield, FL

RM: The fact the race never took the green flag is what saved Power, not the officiating. I think Walker’s explanation about Power not taking the warm-up laps was actually to explain why he was being made to start at the back for Race 1, rather than at the front. But I do understand why fans are confused. If the race never started, why weren’t Power, Montoya and Briscoe allowed to start in their original place? My guess is that Montoya and Briscoe had issues and had to pit so it’s just like any other race when, if you can’t remain in formation, you have to go to the back.  


clusterfkQ: I've just about had it with IndyCar. I'm tired of fuel mileage and pit strategy. I'm tired of Race Control seemingly making up rules as they go along and then seemingly changing them at every event. I'm tired of road and street courses dominating the schedule. I'm tired of the series not fortifying the schedule with quality events and not having any date consistency from year to year. I'm tired of not knowing if an event will come back next year or if an event will be given a fair shot. I'm tired of the lack of marketing of the series and the drivers. I'm tired of seeing highlights from 30-something baseball teams' 162 games on ESPN (that's nearly 5,000 games!). Does anyone even watch that sport anymore? It's terribly boring and horribly out of date, yet IndyCar can't get a 30-second highlight for any race other than the Indy 500.

I really thought IndyCar would be on an upswing with the new leadership, but I haven't been impressed. Race Control is a joke and I say that thinking it couldn't get any worse after Brian Barnhart. I mean, how can you red flag a race that's on a time limit? That was the last of about a dozen screw-ups by the boys in the booth this weekend in Toronto.

And I'm tired of Will Power's act. I tried to like him for several seasons but I'm done with the Aussie. He's dirty, whiny and he's going to get someone hurt — or worse. I've thought all season he'd get canned by The Captain if he doesn't clean up his act, but he doesn't seem to get it. I know you've said he's safe but I'm not so sure. I say give his seat to someone younger and more, how shall I say it, American.

I've been a lifelong IndyCar fan and I'm just tired. This series is the best thing going on-track (besides the aforementioned fuel mileage and pit strategy), but off-track it's a comedy of errors. I watch every event either live or on DVR and I've even been to a couple other tracks besides Indianapolis. I go to Indy every year — at least we'll always have that, right? And I'll always love that place and event — but I'm about to be finished. And if they lose me? Well, then just turn out the lights because it's over.
Brian, Mt. Juliet, Tenn.

RM: Fuel mileage and pit strategy are just part of today’s landscape and it’s nobody’s fault, just the way it is. I understand your frustration in the ever-changing schedule and ESPN’s total lack of professionalism in recognizing IndyCar. The longest and loudest complaint I’ve heard is consistency and IndyCar still to needs to work on that.

Q: All of the racing series want their races to be entertaining. Since the drivers were not able to qualify for the Toronto #2 race, IndyCar had the option to set the starting grid however they wanted. I would have liked to see them invert the field. Having the leading points drivers go through the field, would definitely have been entertaining.
Ken, Sarasota, Fla.

RM: That’s an option but I think it would require incentive bonuses, the fairest thing might have been to start the way Race 1 finished but the rules call for owner points if qualifying is cancelled.

Q: When you hark back to the days of badass, brave racers (and let's be frank, you do that a lot), you mention certain tracks. Of the paved, high-bank class, you usually mention Salem, but not Winchester. I watched sprints on those tracks before and after cages and they both scared the beejeezus out of me. I'm just curious - what is it about Salem that makes you pick it instead of Winchester (or Dayton, for that matter) for the badass hall of fame?
Tom Hinshaw, Santa Barbara, Ca.lif.

RM: I didn’t realize I mentioned one more than the other but it’s purely accidental because all three were a wicked test of balls and skill. I can attest to that. I made my Winchester debut in 1976 and started last because it was my first time (USAC rule) on the high banks. The feature started and I passed a couple cars and thought I was going pretty quick until Rich Vogler and Johnny Parsons went by me sideways while hazing their right rear tires and disappeared. Hmm, maybe I wasn’t going so fast.   

Q: We have four races to go, do you think it is a two-, three-, or four-dog fight? I'm picturing a three-way title fight between Power, Helio, and RHR at California. I think the next three races favor Helio and RHR the best. A lot can happen in the next four races. TCGR could be the fly in the ointment; Dixon is winless after all, and he hasn't had a winless season since 2004. I had a question about Newgarden: how long is this kid under contract for? His results do not show how good a racer he really is, if only he could buy some luck or learn to be just a wee bit more patient.
CJ Shoemaker, SW Michigan

RM: Pagenaud needs to win Mid-Ohio and have the other three struggle a little bit to make a 4-horse show. Not sure about Josef’s contract length but if I won the lottery, I’d be his sponsor, get him a teammate and give Sarah’s team the depth it lacks. He was pressing at Toronto, going from last to 11th and trying to get around Power for 10th when he over-cooked Turn 3 and clipped the wall. But the kid is worth believing in.  


Dario-TKQ: The NBC commentary has been GREAT this year! Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy are the best I have heard, they even get my fiancé interested in watching races!? What is the deal with Ganassi this year? What has them so off their usual game? Is it just the absence of Dario?
Geoff Branagh

RM: I agree those two have great chemistry and make it fun, plus they’re both excellent analysts. It takes some time to develop chemistry and I think T.K. and Chris Simmons are clicking, while Dixie has made a couple rare mistakes and can’t buy a break. Dario was in Toronto and Kanaan praised him for his input all weekend. “I call him ‘Coach,’” said the 2013 Indy winner.

Q: In last week’s Mailbag, I think you said that ABC has a clause that prevents NBC from showing IndyCar races? Is that true? Don't they understand that the more eyeballs watching would be good for the series, and thereby, good for their race coverage as more people might see a race and watch the races on ABC? As you continually state, the racing right now in IndyCar is first rate, and if a few were shown on NBC maybe more people would catch on. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about the coverage on NBCSN. I think they do a great job (glad that they do a qualifying show by the way). I'm just saying that having more people get the opportunity to see some of the races might get a few more interested in it. I don't get why they would want such an exclusivity clause. This surely doesn't help with the exposure IndyCar could possibly be getting. Also, I agree with you completely that Watkins Glen needs to be on the schedule. I attended each race they had there and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.
Paul, Lancaster, NY

RM: That is correct. The ABC contract doesn’t allow any IndyCar races to be shown on another Big 4 network, hence NBC is shut out. I believe Mark Miles is trying to get that changed and, obviously, it would be a big boon for IndyCar to have two networks televising their races because there are so many more available eyeballs. The Glen and Road America should be on the schedule and double-headers with IndyCar and the TUDOR SportsCar Championship.

Q: I love your role at RACER.com and on NBCSN. IndyCar just blows NASCAR and F1 out of the water. I used to watch all the NASCAR races but for the past several years, I only watch a very few as it has gotten very boring. I watch all the F1 races but their racing is not as exciting as IndyCar and their drivers are very standoff-ish. IndyCar drivers are very personable and fan-friendly. I cannot wait for every IndyCar race. I have been to every Indianapolis 500 since 1966 and still get chills every time the command is given.

After watching the Toronto races I have a couple of suggestions to improve the racing. Let teams work on cars during any red-flag period without penalty. With the limited car count anyway, doing things to make sure as many cars as possible are on the lead lap would benefit the fans. I have never understood the reason for this rule and it has the potential to help any of the teams. Eliminate timed races on road and street courses. Fans pay to see a set number of laps. To change to a timed race robs the fans and serves no purpose and I cringe when this happens. You don’t see timed races on ovals. Run the full distance.

Don’t end the season on Aug. 30. IndyCar will be forgotten about. This was done originally because IndyCar did not want to go up against football. Guess what: I can watch both IndyCar and football because I have a DVR so that excuse does not hold water. More ovals. I won’t get in that debate but I am an oval track person but still watch all the races anyway. IndyCar has the best oval racing in the world and it used to be tons better than it is now – Indy 500 excluded as that is always exciting. IndyCar has a fantastic product and fantastic drivers. Thanks for listening and keep doing the Dan Wheldon Grid Walk!
Fred Kurtz

RM: If you like good racing and unpredictability, IndyCar has no rival. Ten different winners in 14 races says it all. Like to see IndyCar go back to Richmond and Phoenix but it may have to be a joint partnership to add or keep the ovals it has right now. Thanks for reading RACER.com and watching NBCSN.

Q: Can you elaborate why there aren’t potential owners lining up for IndyCar? The show is fantastic, almost every team has a shot at a victory, there are a ton of eligible drivers, in comparison to F1, NASCAR, and the other open wheel series, it appears to be the cheapest or best bang for your buck to win.
Paul Hirsch, Erie, Pa.

RM: If you enjoy competition, IndyCar is the best because you can buy the same car and engine as Roger Penske and if you have a good driver/engineer and pit stops, you can win. But, like sports cars, the purses in IndyCar are a joke and, unless you’re part of the Leader’s Circle, there’s not a lot of incentive to join. NASCAR’s lure is the money an owner can make just starting and parking and it’s still expensive to go IndyCar racing unless you have a big sponsor.  


RHR-Iowa-podium

Q: The Iowa race was fantastic, I was sorry to see the crowd down but glad to hear TV viewership was up. And the fact that Ryan Hunter-Reay won the ESPY for best driver has to be putting in IndyCar back on the map. We have by far the best racing in the world, the fastest cars in the world, the most diverse tracks in the world, and Verizon as a sponsor. I am really optimistic and purchasing my tickets for Fontana as we speak. We have some great American drivers in Hunter-Reay, Newgarden, and if we can get Andretti and Rahal back on track, things will really be looking up for American open-wheel racing.

The one way that us fans can help other than watching the races on TV and buying tickets at our local tracks is to purchase from the sponsors of IndyCar. As I said before, I switched all 12 of my business phones for personal phones to Verizon, I'm using DHL for shipping, buying my building materials for my construction company at ABC supply, using Firestone tires and happily drinking Fuzzy’s vodka. Our series and teams needs sponsors to survive and the ones they have deserve to be rewarded any way we can. Thanks for all the great commentary over the years, Robin.
CAM in LA

RM: What sucked about the ESPYs is that RHR wasn’t presented with Driver of the Year in front of the national television audience and, on top of that, ESPN showed Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 win clip and Jimmie Johnson’s celebration after winning the title but zero footage of RHR’s thrilling victory at Indianapolis. Thanks for being a super fan.  

Q: Maybe this is unrealistic but shouldn't Iowa and Milwaukee be double-headers? I mean it seems the double-header is no longer a gimmick and I think the series would benefit greatly at the smaller tracks. Also, Pocono and Fontana MUST adopt a qualify and race on the same day format to be a success. Your thoughts?
Kyle Good

RM: As I’ve said forever, some of the best Indy car races ever were the Twin 125s and 150s at Michigan, Atlanta and Trenton. It would be perfect at Iowa – a day/night twin bill – and you could do noon and 4 p.m. at Milwaukee. Ovals must give the fans more bang for their buck and one day shows at Pocono and Fontana is what I suggested a couple weeks ago.

Q: I've been thinking about your comments about Pocono wanting off of the July 4th weekend date. It seems to me that the most logical thing to do for Pocono (or whichever track would replace Pocono on that date) is to embrace the holiday and run on the 4th itself, no matter where it falls on the calendar. Just about everybody has the 4th off of work, but outside of the hotdog-eating contest, afternoon baseball, and Wimbledon, there really isn't a lot of sports to consume.

Make it an all-day show with qualifying in the morning, lights around noon, and then the IndyCar race around 3 p.m. EST. Attendance-wise it would be a calculated risk, but can it really get much worse? There's no doubt it would get a better TV rating on a day with such little competition, and best-case scenario, it builds into a holiday tradition that people look forward to each year.
Kyle W, Ohio

RM: I’m all for it and you have to remember that CART used to run at Cleveland on the July 4th weekend and it was a big hit so it can be done in the right place. It wasn’t successful at Watkins Glen either so maybe it needs to be a big city street race with everyone already downtown or heading there.

Q: I read your excellent article about how IndyCar needs ovals. To prove your point about the lack of promotion for the Pocono 500, I live in the Harrisburg, Pa., metropolitan area and saw/heard no TV ads, newspaper ads or radio ads promoting the race. I wanted to go but sadly had to work to cover a co-worker’s vacation. For me, the most frustrating part is that I manage a pharmacy right next to the HUGE Bobby Rahal car dealerships in Mechanicsburg. Every time someone from Rahal was in my store I would tell them that they should have Graham and one of the cars at the dealership to promote the race. They all thought it was a great idea and it never happened.

I remember the good old days of the 1970s when Pocono would be packed for the Indy cars. IndyCar needs ovals to remain the most diverse racing series in the world. I hope you have some pull with Bobby Rahal because if IndyCar is hopefully back at Pocono next year, he should have his son at the dealership with a car to promote the race. They could have contests and give out free tickets. It makes no sense that Pocono shouldn't be packed with east coast fans desperate for open wheel racing.
Mark Rosnick, Shiremanstown, Pa

RM: Thanks for the info, I heard from people in Philly there was next to nothing about the race there either. Pocono has very fan-friendly prices and the promoters like IndyCar so it makes sense to heavily promote it when it falls on July 4th so people can plan ahead. Having a show car at Rahal’s dealership and maybe an autograph session seems like a no-brainer.  

Q: I just read your piece on the state of IndyCar and ovals....and you have nailed it on the head. I have been going to Milwaukee the last two years and I make it my full-experience weekend; I go for qualifying, I buy the Paddock Pass, I watch all the support races and I leave feeling I got my money's worth. 

This year I added two new events...GP of Indy and Iowa. The Indy GP was awesome, plenty of on track activity, you can see the Museum, tour the infield and overall, I got my money's worth. Iowa, yeah, can't say as much. I got to the track a good two-and-a half hours before the race and there was nothing going on track beyond the two-seater (whoopee). The Fan Village was there, but again, if you go to more than one race, that becomes boring. The Iowa facility is a great venue; the food was great, the parking in and out was easy (and free), but I thought my $65 ticket should have given me more.
Chris, Oak Forest, IL

RM: Thanks for the feedback, Chris, I’ll pass it along to Jimmy Small at Iowa. Like to see Robby Gordon’s truck series at a short track like Iowa – the fans in Long Beach, Indy, Detroit, St. Pete and Toronto love them and it’s loud and entertaining. Every oval needs at least a mid-morning (if it’s a day race) or mid-afternoon support show.


LongBeach-crowdQ: Loved your article about what IndyCar should do to save ovals. I would like to get your insight or opinion on attendance: ovals vs. road/street courses. Ovals typically seem to be getting 10k to 20K max people – are street courses really that better attended than ovals? I have never been to a street race/road course but it appears on TV that the temporary seating is spread out and just as empty as an oval race? Where are all these people walking around? TV obviously makes oval attendance look worse because a big ‘ol grandstand is front and center but is it, really??
Steve Strom

RM: I’m afraid it’s the reality of IndyCar: other than Indianapolis ovals just don’t draw anymore. Texas used to be big but it’s dwindled to 25K and Iowa, once packed, is half full. Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Barber are the three largest crowds outside Indy but we’ve got to understand that 30,000 is a good crowd nowadays for any IndyCar race.  

Q: Your story on RACER.com "Why IndyCar must make ovals work" was excellent but there is a point that needs some emphasis. Over the last two races (Pocono & Iowa) IndyCar has put on quite a show yet there was nothing in the way of sports media coverage. What am I talking about? At Pocono, IndyCar set a record average speed for 500 miles in excess of 202mph. The previous record was set in the twilight of CART at Fontana (197mph) in 2002. To put this in perspective for NASCAR heads: The highest average speed for the Daytona 500 was set by Buddy Baker at 177mph in 1980! One would think that setting this landmark would warrant some coverage on ESPN's SportsCenter. Was anything said? NOT A PEEP!

Now fast forward to Saturday's race at Iowa. It doesn't take a leap of logic to say a fair number of people left the track early or turned off their TV sets prior to lap 288 with the expectation that Tony Kanaan had the race in the bag – the guy had lead 247 laps. But I would have loved to see the look on their faces when they opened the Sunday morning newspaper only to find out the guy in 9th place at Lap 288 won. Through all the excitement of last week’s race, did SportsCenter have anything to say? Nope.

When it was announced last year that NASCAR would be leaving ESPN in 2015, they issued the plea that they hoped NASCAR's decision would not preclude NASCAR's coverage on ESPN's SportsCenter in the future. ESPN responded in a public statement that they would continue to cover NASCAR. Robin, I have been critical of apathetic fans regarding IndyCar's woes as they share some responsibility for its situation. But the last two races illustrate the need for sports media to step up their coverage of IndyCar.

Breaking a 12-year-old record is newsworthy in and of itself. The fact that IndyCar runs a limited part of its schedule on ABC only serves to add insult to injury. In light of this, it is pretty clear to me some executive action is needed to rectify this situation. I'm talking about Mark Miles, CJ O'Donnell and Jay Frye getting on the horn and writing some letters to top executives at Disney and top periodicals like Sports Illustrated, asking the question, "Hey, what gives with the dearth of coverage?" IndyCar gets excellent coverage in specialty publications and websites but how can one honestly expect to reach a broader audience when there is zero coverage on major outlets?
Bob Marston, Fremont, CA

RM: You are spot on regarding ESPN’s total lack of professionalism and its failure to give IndyCar even a modicum of coverage but nothing Miles or anybody else can say will change anything. I’d just be thrilled to see the results of races on the crawl. But, unless it’s baseball, football, basketball or soccer, ESPN doesn’t recognize IndyCar as a sport except when it comes to Indy in May for SportsCenter. That’s the only time IndyCar is treated with any respect and that’s why ending the season on Labor Day is comical. IndyCar only exists one month of the year for ESPN. It’s pathetic to think in a 60-minute show that an American winner and Indy 500 champ like RHR can’t even be recognized for his improbable win at Iowa.

Q: As a longtime Indy fan and someone who has thoroughly enjoyed in my opinion the best racing in the world, I get depressed when the series hits the oval stretch of the season and I just don't see IndyCar doing anything to improve the situation. I've been saying for years that IndyCar needs to take ownership of its events and began seeing that under Randy Bernard's leadership. That guy was a promoter. Do you see anybody within the management team that gets it that they just can't expect a sanctioning fee and their job is over?

Having Verizon is great, Firestone and Honda have had commercials in race broadcasts but that doesn't help the desperate need to attract new fans. IndyCar needs to be the leading force in promoting its product and the time is now. Do you think they understand that? Are the Hulmans unwilling? Or unable to make the serious investment needed to bring IndyCar back? To do whatever possible to get on SportsCenter and other sports reporting shows? Have it’s own promotional commercials? Buy tickets and give them away through promotional events for a race? And above that, hire some grassroots open-wheel drivers even if it’s just for the ovals like Carpenter does? Maybe even throw some money at Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch to run IndyCars? IndyCar needs ovals so do you see a sense of urgency at 16th and Georgetown or are we doomed?
Joe from Indy

RM: The Hulman-George family has spent a fortune keeping IndyCar on the track so singling them out isn’t fair. I imagine it they didn’t spend millions on the Leader’s Circle every season, some of that money could go toward promotions or purses (or both) but hopefully this is where Verizon will come in and shine. It’s only their first year so give them some time to market and promote IndyCar. As for whether the new regime embraces ovals as something that must remain at all costs, I can’t say yet. But a couple NASCAR drivers aren’t going to save the ovals – it’s going to take some kind of partnership/discount/working agreement.


ChicagolandQ: Not sure it would still be the case today, but compared with the Nationwide crowd at Chicagoland last weekend, IndyCar had at least four times as many fans in the stands the last time they ran there, especially since Chicagoland has removed seats since then. With all the money in Chicago and its proximity to all the fans in Indianapolis, I can’t believe IndyCar doesn’t push to run there.
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN

RM: Ed Carpenter and I were having that conversation at Toronto and maybe Chicago could be re-visited with some special pricing and promotions. It started out good but faded.

Q: I empathize with your plight on ovals. I agree somewhat. Yes, we need them. But they have to work with IndyCar. Pocono, Milwaukee, Indy that's about it anymore. I disagree with Iowa. Watching it on TV, it looks like they are driving in a circle. It looks ridiculous. Keep in mind that everyone has a million diversions these days. Yes, Penske says we need ovals, but Penske is 80 years old. Road racing is more exciting for both committed and casual fans. Take a casual fan, especially a kid, to an oval race. Within five laps his eyes glaze over. Unless IndyCar does something to the cars – huge horsepower, noise, etc – to make them more entertaining (intimidating), it's useless.
S.P. Brown, Grand Junction, Colo.

RM: Well, technically they are just driving in circles but I thought Iowa was a helluva show from start to finish. Sure, TK was long gone before that last caution but there was good racing all night in every corner. And Iowa’s fans are some of the best so I would hate to lose it.

Q: After watching a lot of races ruined over the past few weeks due to pit speed violations, I’m right with you on changing the rules. As a compromise between a free-for-all and the current system, how about only running the pit speed limit during yellow flags? That’s really the only time where you don’t want every car racing into the pit lane at different speeds. It might even encourage cars in adjacent stalls to pit on different green flag laps, since there would be a greater time penalty for needing to maneuver around another car.
Chris, Chicago

P.S. You are preaching to the choir about restoring Milwaukee to its proper race date. I can’t tell you how excited I used to get about watching Indy, knowing that I’d be up in Milwaukee a week later. Now I have to be content to be excited about Indy all by itself…

RM: I like your suggestion. I just cringe when somebody is penalized for SPEEDING IN THE PITS at a race. I worked for Lloyd Ruby’s team and he’d come into the pits at 160mph and never hit anybody. Just make the crew stay behind the wall until the car stops.

Q: Regarding multi-day events and partnering with other series: I'm sitting in my kitchen right now and I'm 17 miles from Watkins Glen. A few weeks ago I attended the 6-Hour weekend for the TUSCC. I was there all 4 days and averaged six hours a day except for four hours on Sunday (never have had the endurance to stay for six hours). The series that were present were the TUSCC, the Continental Tire Series, Prototype Lites, the GT3 Porsche Cup and the Lamborghini series. Those last three series all had two feature events during the weekend. These five series plus practice and qualifying made for a very busy weekend. Personally I covered a lot of ground with many trips through the paddock areas to watch what was happening as well as from one end of the track to the other. I took a pedometer on Saturday and covered almost 13,000 steps for a distance of a little over six miles. I had a similar experience last year at Petit Le Mans. Basically what I am saying is that 1-day events wouldn't do it for me.
Don Hopings, Corning, NY

RM: I was advocating 1-day oval events, not road courses or street circuits. They know how to make three-day shows work.


Newman-HaasQ: Saw Indy cars at four different venues in Colorado – Continental Divide Raceway , a natural terrain road course (now a housing development); two different street courses in downtown Denver; and IRL at PPIR, a slightly banked one-mile oval. When they raced around the Pepsi Center, it was an amazing event with lots of activities, vendors, and even a young Danica meeting fans. You could hear and smell practice from outside the circuit and there were some kind of cars on the track all the time. The race wasn't great, which I had to watch on tape later, but the excitement was palpable. On the other hand, the IRL at Pikes Peak had no supporting races but you could see the whole track and the racing itself was good despite the ghastly engine song. This is why I get street racing for the casual fan, natural terrain courses are fun on TV, but ovals are so much more exciting to watch. Do you have any memories of these great Colorado venues?
Kevin, Boerne, TX

RM: My best memory is when Bruno Junqueira won the Denver Grand Prix in what was the 350th Indy car event for Newman/Haas, in 2003. [ABOVE: Sebastien Bourdais and Junqueira in Denver following year]. I asked Paul and Carl if they would do a live shot for ESPN with me and they agreed. Here’s how it went: “Paul, did you ever think you and Carl would be together for 350 races?” Newman cupped his hands and said: “What?” So I turned to Carl Haas and asked basically the same question and he shook his head and said: “I can’t hear you, speak up.” After PLN finally said a few things, we were off camera and walking away. He put his arm around me and said: “Well, that should get you an Emmy.” I laughed for 10 minutes. 

Q: Is there any news about when we might see an aero kit from either Chevy or Honda? Will they be testing them soon? Also, are we still a go for them in 2015? Seems like we have not heard much on that front lately.

On a different subject, man, has the racing been incredible this year or what? It blows my mind that there are not more fans showing up at these races and I'm starting to wonder if the only oval we see will be the Indy 500. I hope IndyCar reads your story and does something about it. I like the diversity of IndyCar. That is what sets it apart from NASCAR and F1. As always, thank you for your Mailbag; I always look forward to it.
Scott, upstate New York

RM: Aero kits will be tested after the season ends and I’m told the teams will get them in early March 2015 (which means the first two races outside the USA won’t have them). The racing has been superb, I just hope the aero kits don’t separate the competition too much. Thanks for reading and participating.

Q: I see all the talk about how to fix the low attendance at some of the ovals and the answer is pretty simple. IndyCar has to promote the race and the event! History has proven that you can't count on ISC to promote anything but NASCAR. Other track owners just don't know how to promote. IndyCar has to control its own destiny and either form a real business partnership with a few select tracks or purchase tracks like Gateway and Nashville. We also need more bang for the buck at every event. Indy Lights needs a shot in the arm that I think they will get with next year’s car and engine. IndyCar needs to use the Mazda series and the FF2000 series at most events. One of the best things about the Mid-Ohio race is the packed schedule!
Tony in Indy

RM: I believe those are the suggestions I made last week in a column and ISC was certainly not much of a partner for the Indy Racing League. But I know Gillian Zucker and Fontana have tried to spread the word about IndyCar the past couple years and I think Iowa (owned by NASCAR) will do everything it can to try and fill the grandstands next year.

Q: Hope you don't mind a throwback question, but when Sarah Fisher was an active driver, what were her two best chances to win? If there had been a late caution with, say, 10 laps to go at Homestead in '01, could she have caught Sam Hornish on the restart and made it a shootout? Or was her best chance at MIS in '02, where she led laps, was in the hunt all day, and if not for cooking her tires, might have brought it home? If she had, would the sponsorship issues that dogged her have gone away?
Matt, Auberry, Calif.

RM: I think MIS was her best chance because she had some horsepower that day but I think she was only a couple seconds behind Sam at Homestead so…who knows on a restart? I was always amazed that with all the money TG spent on the IRL, he didn’t pony up enough to keep her in a ride with Derrick Walker’s team. She was the most popular driver and didn’t have a ride one year when they presented her with that award before the season opener.

Q: I talk with my friend every week and we come to the same conclusion; IndyCar has the best wheel-to-wheel racing of any series in the world, but very few people are watching. So here some questions about the schedule and the cars that may require you to write a follow-up article.

1. Why does the series race double-headers but won't race at Cleveland or Road America? I know there is a sanction fee involved but what does that mean? If they cut the fee in half, would that immediately open the door for Road America?

2. How much does TV control the schedule? A double-header in Houston in the heat of the summer makes no sense. And we saw what happened to the crowd at Pocono having that race on the July 4th weekend.

In conclusion, time has run out for us diehard fans. We are tired of waiting for Cleveland and Road America to come back. We are tired of hearing the excuses of why the cars can't have onboard starters. And we are fed up with hearing there is another delay of the aero kits because the owners don't have the money.
Rick Schneider, Charlotte

RM: You must have a promoter to go back to Cleveland and Road America recently said it had no plans to bring back IndyCar because of the expense involved. I think both would do just fine with an IndyCar/sports car twin bill or with IndyCar sharing expenses or co-promoting. Aero kits will be here in 2015.


James-Garner

Q: James Garner was a big fan of Indy car racing: do you have a favorite memory?
Barry G. in Baltimore

RM: In 1973, about the only thing between Ontario Motor Speedway and the Holiday Inn (where we all stayed) was desert. Johnnie Parsons and I didn’t have a car so we were walking the three miles and hoping somebody might give us a ride. A convertible speeds past, stops and backs up. It’s Garner and he sees JP is carrying a helmet bag. “Hop in boys, it’s too hot to walk.” Like Paul Newman, he was just one of the guys, loved racing and was such a class act. He and Parnelli became golfing buddies and he was a popular guest at Indy almost every May. [ABOVE, 1967, post-race with third-place finisher Joe Leonard. Photo courtesy of Steve Shunck].

Q: I was blown away by the July 16 Mailbag. This series of intelligent, insightful observations and suggestions by passionate IndyCar fans and your weighty responses should be required reading for every employee of the series and any track owner or promoter who wants to be successful. You provided some great additional insight on making ovals work and the response from Kevin Healy of Milwaukee was exciting and encouraging. With some of the best racing anywhere and such loyal, knowledgeable fans and insiders like Healy, I would say the future is bright for IndyCar despite the weaknesses we all see. The Mailbag has become a must-read for me every week and I thank you and your bosses for providing such a great opportunity for learning, venting, and staying up-to-date.

Great race in Iowa. Thanks to NBCSN for adding qualifying coverage. Thanks for PT and it’s impressive to be able to attract David Hobbs (although, with all due respect, he’s not TB on IndyCar). More exciting racing, points battle, controversy and comments than ever – let’s take time to enjoy it!
Brian in Florida

RM: I’m continually amazed at the volume of mail I receive and the passionate letters from you fans. I know it was a must-read for Randy Bernard because he wanted to know what the fans were thinking and what they liked and disliked about IndyCar. I try to send Mark Miles and Derrick Walker certain questions or letters but not sure if anybody in the IndyCar office reads it. Kevin Healy is a sharp guy and I wish IndyCar would hire him to help promote the series.

Q: I appreciate all the feedback in the Mailbag about why ovals can't attract a crowd, but I don't think ANY of the respondents got to the real problem. And you have in the past (essentially) so I wanted to remind everyone. IndyCar, after all, doesn't operate in an auto racing vacuum. NASCAR succeeds because it markets itself as the best oval track drivers in the world.  It doesn't market itself as having the best cars (because it can't), so it flips the script on its head – these are the cars you drive, just with giant engines. That's a lie, too, but the marketing mostly succeeds on its own terms. 

I know NASCAR has its own issues lately, but let's face it, people still recognize Dale Jr. far more than, say, Helio (unless you're a "Dancing With The Stars" fan) or, before he retired, Dario (unless you're an Ashley Judd fan). Oh, and it helps to have the France family as friendly dictators. F1 succeeds because it markets itself as the best road racers AND best racing cars in the world. Again, the marketing mostly succeeds on its own terms – certainly with the cars, mostly with the drivers (would be nice if Bernie didn't discriminate against Americans). I dare say the average racing fan IN THE UNITED STATES probably knows more about Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso than about Tony Kanaan or Ryan Hunter-Reay. Oh, and it helps to have Bernie as a friendly dictator.

The CART/IRL/IndyCar business and marketing model only succeeds if you can plausibly claim that you have the best of both worlds – best drivers from America and the world, and the best cars, on both ovals and road courses. In the 1990s, that was true and that's why Mansell came and Senna almost came from F1. And why CART could MAKE stars like Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Zanardi and Juan Montoya. But then of course came The Split, and everything that followed. And Tony George proved to be a dictator of remarkable incompetence, with Randy Bernard and Mark Miles picking up the pieces.

So today we have a single-make series (so much for best cars), some awesome veterans and newbies who are not marketed to the American public AT ALL – even Dario and Helio gained their fame in other ways, not on the track – amazing drivers and 3-time Indy winners though they are.

The biggest star IndyCar has has been retired for decades – Mario – and the car he drives is the two-seater.  And I dare say that for road racing, American fans probably are following TUDOR sports cars today as much, if not more, than IndyCar. Even you have pleaded for more TUDOR/IndyCar double-headers, without investment in young drivers (the Frances and Bernie have pushed their young favorites forward over the years, not at all a bad thing), in the cars, of course in the marketing, and even in the tracks (besides Indy itself, COTA is the only world-class track in the United States) – IndyCar is doomed to wither and die. That's reality. 

It could make the Indy 500 more interesting since it would have to be opened to a wider class of cars (a la Le Mans), but you're going to have a tough time attracting the best drivers if they only have one shot a year to make their mark. Regardless, at this stage maybe IndyCar has to die in order to be reborn one day.
Larry Parker, Miami

RM: I believe you have identified the problem and stated it quite eloquently, Larry. IndyCar is the most versatile series in the world but that’s not resonating with the general public. Neither is the great racing. It has to be the stars and the cars to make people care the way they do about NASCAR and F1.

3301 1

Back in January, we ran a story about favorite racecars and asked RACER.com readers to select their top five. Your votes flooded in and, in the end, we had more than 400 different racecars to consider… but 10 clear favorites emerged.

Many of you had found it tricky to narrow your favorites down to just five, yet some of you had a clear No. 1 and no others. And, like ours, many of your selections were ones that fulfilled multiple criteria from a personal point of view – aesthetic beauty, period when you were first becoming addicted to racing, success, livery, piloted by your heroes. We understand, completely!

4. Ferrari 330 P3/P4

American race fans seem to have a love-hate relationship with Ferrari. There's the F1 race team, whose penchant for poltical gamesmanship has at times overshadowed its on-track prowess, despite its place atop the all-time winner's list. And there's its heritage in sports car racing, in which it often played the role of arch-rival to American cars and teams like Ford, Shelby and Chaparral.

But, the cars themselves? Rarely do you hear any bad things to say about them. It would be a challenge indeed to name a marque that has been able as consistently to create works of automotive art that also set the pace than the house that Enzo built. The 330 P series of sports prototypes is surely a case in point.

Built at the height of Ferrari's bitter rivalry with Ford, the 330 P3 of 1966 was intended to carry on the domination that the 250 P had maintained through the first half of the 1960s, in the face of Ford's all-out assault.

The P3 incorporated fiberglass doors – a first for Maranello – while the 410 horses of its 4.0-liter fuel-injected V-12 were transmitted via a 5-speed gearbox. An F1-style monocoque chassis was augmented by some stressed body panels.

13026APedro Rodriguez/Richie Ginther (Ferrari 330P3 Spyder) at Le Mans in 1966.After Ford GT40s won the opening two rounds of the World SportsCar Championship in '66, Ferrari fought back with wins on home ground at Monza and at Spa with the P3. But the critical battleground of Le Mans went the Americans' way as the armada of factory-supported GT40s swept the first three places, while all three works P3s failed to finish. Ford went on to edge the Italians by two points in the constructor's championship that year.


Your favorite racecars #10: Porsche 956/962

Your favorite racecars #9: Chaparral 2K

Your favorite racecars #8: Lotus 49

Your favorite racecars #7: Lola T70

Your favorite racecars #6: Ford GT40

Your favorite racecars #5: Porsche 917K


330p4For 1967 a revised car, the P4, was prepared that although visually very similar, incorporated a number of key mechanical differences. A new 4.2-liter engine derived from Ferrari's F1 car increased power to 480hp, bringing top speed just shy of 200mph.

The Ferrari-Ford battled raged throughout the year. Ferrari gained a measure of revenge out of the gate, sweeping to a 1-2-3 finish in the 24 Hours of Daytona (ABOVE) with its P3/P4s, although Ford rebounded to win Sebring while P4s ruled again at Monza. At Le Mans, the superior horsepower of the big-bore Fords proved decisive, as Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt dominated with their GT40 Mk IV, but Ferrari P4s finished second and third in a race that contributed a famously dramatic anecdote to the Ford-Ferrari war.

1967LMbGurney in Parkes' sights at Le Mans in '67.In the middle of the night, while Gurney had been trying to cruise to preserve his car, Mike Parkes came up behind in his second-placed (but four laps down) Ferrari and hounded the leader with frequent flashing of his lights until Gurney had had enough and pulled off course at Arnage corner. Parkes stopped as well, directly behind him, and the two race-leading cars sat motionless for several moments until Parkes blinked first and drove off. It's hard to imagine such a game of chicken being played out in today's era of wall-to-wall coverage!

As soon as Parkes drove off, Gurney resumed behind him, and closed out the remaining hours to win by the same four-lap margin.

The ebb and flow continued the rest of the year, with Ford, Ferrari and Porsche all taking wins. This time, though, Ferrari eked out the constructors' crown over its American and German rivals.

But the pending prototype rules changes for 1968 put an end to the 330 P series and the Ford-Ferrari fight, as manufacturers were required to build a minimum of 50 cars to qualify. Unable to do so, Ferrari pulled the plug on its factory program and a brief but spectacular sports car rivalry was over.

Some of your comments:

David Tremayne: I adore the swooping lines and the typically Italianate gold wheels, sculpted mirrors and delicate louvring. Magic!

Mark Jenkins: No question. The most beautiful race car

Andrew Wong: Doesn't need a reason really, just look at it. Probably the most sensuous shape on a racecar, before the full understanding of aerodynamics took hold and start to morph them into something more purposeful. Aside from lack of Le Mans win, it is still a successful car...

Chris Venus: Best by far.

D. Blane Newberry: Lithe flowing and beautiful in the way a thoroughbred breaking the finish line at the Kentucky Derby is beautiful.

John G. Hill: This car had more curves than Marilyn Monroe.  Somewhere in the world there will always be a museum with a Ferrari 330 P4 on display.

Philippe de Lespinay: the Italians show the world how it’s done, introducing sexual appeal in racing car design. The P4 is a mix of the finest pasta alla carbonara with the best Chianti to make it even sweeter. Voluptuous is the word that should be used here.

Leonard Mishik: Words cannot describe it . Just beautiful!

Todd Telford: I was smitten as a pre-teen by the raw power this car exuded even static on the pages of Road & Track. When I heard one snarl by as a vintage racer, my coveting it as the most beautiful racecar ever was confirmed.

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