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Barnhart leadRewind Marshall portraitI was hoping for Unicorn Jesus. Instead, according to the Internet, we got Osama bin Hitler.

Before we fall into familiar, time-honored roles of painting Brian Barnhart as evil incarnate—the fire-breathing hellspawn sent to earth to destroy IndyCar from high atop the Race Control tower, let’s steer the conversation in a direction that involves fewer pentagrams and scribblings of 666.

The lows from Barnhart’s tenure as IndyCar’s Race director are well known. From holding an oval race in the rain at Loudon to assigning penalties based on his ability to read minds and judge the intent of the offending driver, Barnhart’s mistakes—and limitations—have been the source of countless columns.

In the three years since Barnhart was taken off the frontline, he was retooled as a steward serving the Race Director, and by all accounts, his experience and attention to detail impressed everyone involved. Call it a private, internal career and image makeover, and with those inside IndyCar experiencing the best side of Barnhart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him elevated to his former position.

Barnhart and TonyGFor those who will never, ever, under any circumstance, allow yourselves to view Barnhart in a positive light, I’m not sure if anything I’ll say going forward will change your mind, nor am I here to alter your perception of the man.

Do I believe, on a personal level, that he has been unfairly targeted and blamed for many things that weren’t his fault? Absolutely. Once he became a whipping boy, the lashes only increased in pace and severity, and often without the facts or justification to deserve such harsh treatment. And then there’s the Barnhart who, either by pride, defiance, or an emboldened belief he was untouchable, was prone to emptying the clip of his AK-47 before due process had been completed.

If the best referee is one who acts in the best interest of the game and rules fairly once all the facts are known, you’re left with two more examples of how not to referee. You have the guy who swallows the whistle and calls nothing or, in the case of Barnhart through 2011, the ref who carries a few extra whistles in his pocket because they explode from over-use.

That’s Barnhart’s reputation as Race Director. Penalties, penalties, and more penalties, no matter how small the crime, and to compound the problem, his past body of work involved attempts to judge the mindset of the drivers who ran afoul of his sensibilities. The classic case was at Long Beach in 2011 when numerous drivers spun cars from behind in the hairpin leading onto the front straight, but only some were penalized due to the Race Director’s amazing ability to divine intent from genuine error.


Barnhart driversThe drivers who were left sitting backwards as the field streamed by weren’t quite as concerned about the purity of heart by those who turned them around.

This little walk down memory lane wasn’t to rehash Barnhart’s checkered past in Race Control, but rather, to illustrate the clear and easily defined pros and cons associated with IndyCar’s new chief steward. Applauded for his body of work from 2012-2014, and worrisome in the latter stages of his first go-round in the position through 2011.

It leads me to one conclusion: IndyCar knows exactly who and what they are getting, and if Barnhart is at the center of more controversy due to his trigger-happy shortcomings, blame the series. Blame them 100 percent if and when it happens, and in the future when looking back on those mistakes.

Simply put: This dog has a history of biting, yet its owners are confident he’s been rehabilitated and no longer needs a muzzle. If they’re wrong and the paddock ends up with more puncture wounds, don’t get mad at the dog for the owner’s bad judgment.

Do I think we’ll see 2011 Barnhart reappear when the season opens in Brazil on March 8? No, I don’t. And here’s why: It’s IndyCar’s responsibility to surround Barnhart with the best team to share the load, spread the decision-making process, and ensure they keep the AK-47 hidden until everyone agrees it’s time to fire off a few rounds.

IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker knows Barnhart, spent time on the receiving end of Good Brian and Bad Brian as an entrant, and will play an active part in making sure Race Control is a more balanced officiating environment than the one Barnhart previously led.

If I’m wrong, and IndyCar’s officiating safeguards aren’t properly implemented, stockpile all the holy water and crosses you can find.

IndyCar was fully aware the Barnhart Returns to Race Control announcement was going to go over like a fart in church, which should lend credence to the fact that they put a lot of thought into this decision, and were willing to sign off on something that would be highly unpopular in many circles. When he last ruled, Barnhart was IndyCar. Today, he’s a member of a team and no longer serves as the man in charge of the competition department. That, if anything, should ease a few fears.

Until we get to the point where Barnhart has done something new to warrant a digital lynching, it might be worth putting your faith in Walker to place his new Race Director in a position to succeed.​

Rewind LEADRewind Marshall portraitWINNERS

As someone wrote on Twitter shortly after the conclusion of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the fans were biggest winners last weekend. I’d also say IMSA deserves a spot alongside the fans atop the podium.

The biggest talking point at the end of last year’s Rolex 24 involved an officiating error that temporarily changed the event’s outcome. This year, we’re left talking about a tactical error that potentially robbed a team of the overall victory. No drama of self-inflicted wounds by IMSA was exactly what the second TUDOR Championship season needed to launch itself forward. Job well done.

Yes, a few of the caution periods felt like they lasted longer than necessary, and there were a few other nuts and bolts that need to be tightened, but overall, the series should be commended for executing its biggest race with the composure and professionalism its entrants and audience deserves.

CRITICAL ADJUSTMENT

Fans were treated to a thrilling close to the Rolex 24 as Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ Scott Dixon and the Taylor Brothers in the Wayne Taylor Racing entry threw down for overall honors. Ganassi managing director Mike Hull is known as one of the best race strategists in the game, and when we spoke after Dixie and his teammates won in the No. 02 Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP, he told me the move back to Dixon to serve as their closer came as a direct result of what Jordan and Ricky Taylor were doing in their No. 10 Corvette DP.

“I have a lot of respect for Wayne Taylor and have a lot of respect for what his race team has done, and I think Wayne has done the right thing by providing a platform to show how talented Ricky and Jordan are,” he said. “The whole point of racing a long-distance race like Daytona is to get yourself on the perpetual motion machine for the first 20 hours of the race.  And hopefully be clean so you have a car that can race, sprint race if that is the case, for the last three, four, five hours of the race.

“At the end of the race, though, it came down to the 10 car and the 02 car to find out who was going to win, and we got a preview of that in the early morning that maybe few others did. We had to adjust accordingly.”   

Ganassi’s Kyle Larson fought with the No. 10 overnight, and as Hull explains, he modified the driver rotation with the finish in sight.

“When Kyle got in, he cycled onto the racetrack with Ricky Taylor,” he continued. “They raced around each other for that whole stint. Then when they came in for the stops, we overlapped each other because we were going a lap or two longer. But when Kyle went back on the racetraRewind Dixonck on cold tires he got swallowed up by Jordan. They raced us clean. They raced us on the racetrack with a lot of integrity.  
And, we saw the strengths and weaknesses of Ricky and Jordan in relationship to our strengths and weaknesses on the racetrack. We put that away in the memory bank thinking at the end of the race we’re going to run against those guys at the end. I don’t know whether people realize what we actually did there, but when Kyle got into the car at the end of the race for his stint, it was originally meant to be a double stint.”

Recognizing the No. 10 WTR car was going to be on the ragged edge in its pursuit of Victory Lane, Hull adjusted Larson’s stint to use Dixon – the biggest bullet in the chamber – as the closer. For four stints.

“The timing was perfect,” Hull added. “We looked at what was going on with the 10 car. We looked at the driver combination, we thought about who they were going to use.  We certainly didn’t examine their drive time log – we just looked at what we thought was going to happen. We thought, 'You know what?  Dixon has the time available to drive the car, he’s not going to be over time.

"Because all four of our drivers had a different gear getting in and out of the car, all four of them did, so the driver change took longer than what we wanted to. We weren’t going to speed that up.  So the only way to speed up the driver change was to reduce one of them. In other words, we chose to take Kyle out after one stint rather than two. That is exactly why we did it.”

Dixon’s ability to turn fast laps while saving fuel is legendary, and he used that skill to go two or three more laps per stint than the No. 10 car and cut down the Corvette’s lead on light tanks. Hull’s call to use the Kiwi for an extended run to the checkered flag ticked every box needed to leapfrog WTR. The rest was history – before the No. 10’s drive time issue.

“I think it came down to a dogfight, and it was awesome,” Hull proclaimed. “They were going to have to shoot our tires out We were in it, and we were in it to win it. It was a hell of a team victory.”

Rewind Lead2


Rewind TaylorMORE FINGER TROUBLE

Wayne Taylor Racing was plagued with electronic gremlins throughout the Rolex 24, and it appears self-induced electronic problems – namely in the calculating done to add up maximum drive time for its three pilots – could see the team excluded from the results.

As the world witnessed, WTR reacted to the drive time calculations by pitting Jordan Taylor unexpectedly in the waning moments of the event to place his brother Ricky in the car, but I’ve heard the call could have come one lap too late.

If that’s the case – and there’s no margin of error allowed in the rules – the No. 10 Corvette DP could see their third-place finish wiped from the results. The roughly 1min40sec it took to complete that lap might be the crucial difference between salvaging a bad situation with a trip to the podium and heads rolling at WTR.

Wayne Taylor declined to comment when I reached out on Tuesday.

Thinking in terms of a full-season championship, entering Sebring with a big zero in the Drivers’ and Teams’ standings would be a massive blow to their chances. If there’s a positive angle to explore, it comes from the Turner Motorsport team that ran afoul of the same rule at Daytona in 2014, and lost all of its points for a minor drive time miscalculation. It took four wins and consistent performances to do it, but driver Dane Cameron was able to rebound and win the GTD title. Granted, that season-long comeback story happened in a 11-round championship. The 2015 championship was reduced to 10 rounds for each class…

Rewind Corvette 3Provided the DQ happens, it would move the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP to third, and promote the class-winning GTLM Corvette (RIGHT) to an amazing fourth-place overall.

 

VILLIFYING THE TIMEKEEPER

As much as I’d like to point fingers at WTR for messing up their tracking and calculating of drive time, all I can say is: It happens, and when it happens, it’s rarely due to a lack of talent or capability. I’ve been the idiot on the timing stand who got the numbers wrong, ran an Indy car out of fuel with a strong, top-3 finish in sight, and know from experience that for whatever reason, big errors like that tend to happen when something big is on the line. (And in my case, it was due to a lack of talent and capability.)

I wish I could tell you why the guys in 23rd place, or some other position well down the running order aren’t the ones sputtering to a halt with a dry tank or fudging the drive time by a minute or two, but they’re usually immune to the high-profile calculation failures. We can pick on WTR for their shortcomings in addition and subtraction, and surely some of it is deserved – the majority of the teams ace this part of the exam. But I’d also welcome the most critical fans to walk the proverbial mile in WTR’s shoes.

For those who haven’t tried it, try staying up for 30 hours or more and testing one’s mental acuity with drive time calculations…and then tell me whether a bit of sympathy has been gained for the team in question.

…LIKE CLOCKWORK

One marque scared the GTD field leading into the race, and like clockwork, Bill Riley’s Dodge SRT Viper GT3-Rs bulldozed the competition. Starting from second, the No. 33 Viper was strong until problems struck, and despite rolling off the grid in 49th due to bringing out a red flag in qualifying, the sister No. 93 wasted little time marching forward in the race.

Adversity helped their cause to some degree; the pole-winning No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage was battered into irrelevance by an errant GTLM car, and some of the faster GTD machinery either had issues or lacked the outright pace to swarm the front of the class in the final hours of the race, but that doesn’t diminish the display of strength offered by the V10-powered coupes. From almost last on the grid to 13th overall, the No. 93 improved 36 positions. Wow.

The win was an amazing reclamation for Riley and his team, months after losing their factory deal while celebrating the 2014 GTLM title with driver Kuno Wittmer. And for Wittmer, who was searching for work at the beginning of January, along with fellow former SRT driver Dominik Farnbacher, seeing the pair standing in Victory Lane with their Riley brethren felt right – like a cosmic error had been corrected.

Add in the sight of the program’s heart/driver Ben Keating, sports car veteran Al Carter, and rapid newcomer Cameron Lawrence, and their win was among the top “feel good” stories to emerge last weekend.

Rewind Viper


Rewind AXRacingCHECK THE TECHNIQUE

The Rolex 24 is made interesting by the mix of unique cars that compete each year, and the same can be said about the drivers who drop in from a variety of domestic and international championships.

This year’s race turned out to be a great one for IndyCar drivers, who took part in two of the class wins, including the overall win. Three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon was chased home by four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais (ABOVE), and in GTLM, IndyCar veteran Ryan Briscoe shared the winning Corvette C7.R. With Dixon’s teammate Tony Kanaan included, the top-2 in Prototype have amassed eight Indy car titles and two Indy 500 wins.

With more drivers coming over from the WEC, I wonder if IndyCar stars will continue to shine at Daytona, or if some of the best factory prototype and GT drivers will displace America’s open-wheel drivers as the leading insurgents.

WHO SAW THAT ONE COMING?Rewind PR1 Mathiasen

The PC class win was sealed well before the checkered flag waved. Or so I thought. I even suggested to RACER’s David Malsher that with CORE autosport on auto-pilot, he could start writing the PC race report – at least for the class winner – about an hour prior to the finish. I’m glad he didn’t. Instead, and thanks to a hefty punt from behind by the No. 66 RG Racing Riley-BMW DP, CORE’s Colin Braun suffered suspension failure and stood powerless as the lead they’d amassed was surrendered.

This year the PC class was messier than expected – at least by me – and to my surprise, the oft-sidelined, spun, or immobile PR1/Mathiasen entry was waiting to inherit the lead after CORE's demise. Bobby Oergel’s championship-winning operation recovered from every bout of adversity, although the likelihood of chopping down the five or six lap advantage held by CORE at one point must have seemed improbable, but faith and persistence was rewarded.

“We were trying everything we could, and were on the same lap with 30 minutes to go, and we needed some help, but we didn’t think we’d have that much help,” said Oergel. “The overall feeling was we had to claw back six laps two different times, did it once by midnight, and then had to do it again, and the old cliché about never giving up applied. The drivers were the real heroes.

“We had damage to the power steering before midnight, and they drove to the finish without it. That was a feat on its own, much less to win the whole thing. Tom Kimber-Smith ended the race with blisters on his hands. They only lost about a half-second because of it. That to me was the bigger story.”

The PC finish was a representation of everything I love about endurance racing: Even when the win seems like a sure thing—in the only class that was being dominated by one team, don’t start writing the race report until the dang thing is actually finished.

Rewind Shank6…5…4…3…2…1

The race started with six P2s. Two of those P2s were among the first three cars out of the race, and from there, the attrition continued at a rapid rate. The Krohn Racing Ligier-Judd was out with engine failure. An engine failure soon took one of the Tequila Patron ESM HPD ARX-04bs out of the race, and the sister car was retired with a gearbox issue.

Both of Mazda’s diesel P2s failed to finish with engine-related problems, and by just past the halfway point, five out of the six P2s were sitting cold and covered in the garage. The lone survivor was the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda, and the carbon fiber coupe wasn’t without problems. 35 laps down at the finish, repairs for a crash limited their finishing position, leaving Daytona Prototypes to finish 1-2-3-4-5-6…

MEDIA CENTER ANGELS

The good folks at Honda fed the hungry folks in the media center later Saturday night—long after the track-supplied food had disappeared, and while I didn’t partake, the dozen or so pizzas they had delivered kept everyone warm and sufficiently lubricated to start another stint. PR ace and generally kind human being Barbara Burns followed a few hours later with a big basket full of good snacks to bridge the gap between pizza and breakfast. In a sport where the average mindset involves taking from each other, it was a nice reminder that some are still willing to give.


Rewind Porsche 912PORSCHECIDE

The most disappointing aspect of the race for me was the Porsche on Porsche violence that ended an amazing GTLM battle which should have lasted 24 hours. The “Porschecide” committed by Earl 'The Pearl' Bamber was doubly sad, due to the Kiwi putting in a stirring drive up to the point when he traded tarmac for grass, and a potential win for the side of his teammates’ 911 RSR. The crew had slipped far behind the eight-ball when alternator trouble caused No. 912 to go seven laps down within 15 minutes of the start. Yet Bamber, Frederic Makowiecki and Jorg Bergmeister had launched an astonishing recovery performance over the ensuing 11 hours. All for nought.

I’m not a big “what if” guy, but without Earl’s mistake, I’m not so sure the GLTM-winning Corvette C7.R would have been left with only one protagonist – a BMW Team RLL Z4 – to scrap with in the final laps. Up until the Porsches exited, the GTLM war was the only one worth following.

THE BLUE BOWTIE

If you’re a fan of irony, I'm sure you loved seeing four Ganassi drivers who represent Chevy in their fulltime IndyCar and NASCAR rides win for Ford. And to confuse matters even more, the second-place Action Express Corvette DP chased the winning car home while carrying the name “Mustang” on its sidepods.

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

The pace of Max Angelelli was a revelation, the Taylor brothers yet again reminded everyone how special they are, and Kyle Larson (BELOW) did the same except no one expected it behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype.

I tend to giggle when I see extraordinary performances taking place, and with that in mind, I giggled my ass off whenever Max Angelelli climbed in to drive the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. The Rewind LarsonItalian’s pace had, in my estimation, tapered off slightly in 2014. Feared by all throughout his career as a full-time driver, “The Ax” had dulled a wee bit as a part-timer, but something clearly changed for the better as a reinvigorated Angelelli gave WTR a boost whenever he buckled in.

His teammates proved, yet again, that they possess supreme talent, although I think one – or both – of the Taylor Bros. needs to continue their education in the IndyCar Series. Pull the IndyCar drivers from the field, and these two are a match for any of the Prototype drivers in the field, but as we saw in the late stage of the race, the lightning-fast decision-making abilities of a Scott Dixon or Sebastien Bourdais put them on a higher plane.

It’s no secret that some of the best hunter/killers in the sport come from the cut-and-thrust world of IndyCar, and when dealing with traffic, the open-wheelers were locked into a zone that gave them a slight edge. Give Jordan and Ricky some of the same IndyCar experience, and the separation is almost nonexistent.

Larson’s raw talent was something for everyone to behold. After one amazing stint, I asked him about how he feels the DP working beneath him, and what it was like to drive a “downforce” car that’s so different than a Sprint Cup car or anything he’s raced on dirt. His reply was pure Larson: “I don’t know. I just drive it. I don’t know about the downforce, or if it has more than my Cup car. I don’t think it has more, but I don’t know. I just drive.”

Kyle’s level of ability must be frustrating for those who toil away for hours every day looking through data and debriefing every aspect of the car with their engineers. The kid climbs in, finds the limit with minimal knowledge of the vehicle dynamics that most drivers absorb with great pride, and motors by with relative ease. That’s amazing.

SUPER DRIVERS

2014 V8 Supercars runner-up Shane van Gisbergen starred for the second Rolex 24 in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America and, as he said and I’ve preached, it’s a wonder why more beastsRewind ShaneVG from the V8 series aren’t imported each year. Daytona has become an all-out attack from start to finish in GTD, which makes the elite V8 drivers a perfect fit for the task. It’s all they do in bigger, heavier machinery, and while using narrower tires. I’d be surprised if SvG’s performance doesn’t lead to a few of his V8S rivals being considered for next year’s race.

SHORTCOMINGS

GM’s Corvette DP teams encountered electrical issues that first appeared at the Jan. 9-11 Roar test and, for some, continued into and through the race weekend.

A move to a new ECU for the Corvette DPs offered better everything – drive-by-wire control, data logging, traction control, etc., but the complexity of the system is said to have caught the manufacturer and the teams out. Workarounds were found as problems appeared, but true, system-wide fixes were unable to be implemented for every team. Interestingly, the runner-up AXR team appeared to have the fewest problems.


Rewind CORE 54IN THE LINE OF FIRE

Of the corrective items to address from Daytona, the painfully long period that elapsed while CORE autosport’s No. 54 PC entry was engulfed in flames and the first cloud of spray from an extinguisher hit the car seemed excessive. The Bus Stop section at Daytona International Speedway is loaded with emergency vehicles and personnel throughout the race; I was standing among those vehicles during an early morning caution period and saw no less than four vehicles light up when the race went yellow.
I can’t provide any insight on the time that passed between Colin Braun’s CORE PC catching fire and the response time for the safety crew to reach him, but I can say it wasn’t due to a lack of people or vehicles within a few hundred feet from where the No. 54 came to a rest.

“First off, I think the start of that crash was missed; I got drilled in Turn 5 by a Prototype in the right-rear toe link, thought the car was fine, then it let go exiting the Bus Stop,” said Braun. “From my perspective, it felt like it took a little bit of time for the safety crew to get there. I was in no rush to get out right away with all the fast cars coming through because I felt it was safer, at first. Then, it was obvious I needed to climb out with the fire taking off. In talking with IMSA, I’m hoping they’ll review it all and look for any areas to get better and improve for the next race. I know they weren’t necessarily satisfied.”

NOT THE “02STARCAR”

It doesn’t take much for Chip Ganassi to bare his teeth, and the race-winning team owner bristled at the suggestion the drivers in the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost DP held a higher planetary order than the rest of his drivers.

“I don’t know who named it that, but I don’t approve of that name,” he said. “It’s like any other car on our team, and I just want to go on record as saying that’s another moniker that one of you guys came up with, not me.”

Rewind classesBOSOM BUDDIES

IMSA’s efforts to dial the speed of its four classes up or down generated better racing. The 2014 event found cars from different classes piling on top of each other in the braking zones, and in some cases, cars from slower classes proving swifter on the straights than cars that turn faster lap times overall. Within the four classes, general harmony was found in the race – a distinction from qualifying where some cars held a clear advantage over one lap. Whether it was P2s and DPs, or Corvettes and Porsches, the Balance of Performance system was fairly solid over 24 hours. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly praiseworthy.

SEE YOU…MUCH LATER

You can always count on one giant brainfart during the Rolex 24, and this time, it went to Francois Perrodo who used his AF Corse Ferrari F458 as a jousting stick against Brandon Davis’ TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

The Frenchman spun in Turn 6, shot across the track trying to get going, and smashed the pole-sitting GTD Aston with his GTLM Ferrari, and if it caused you to flashback to Sebring 2014 and the identical and ultra-negligent move by Gaston Kearby, you weren’t alone. Kearby spun and drove into the blameless Alex Tagliani. Later in the year, Tag managed to channel his inner Kearby and pulled the same move. Both were suspended by IMSA as a result. We’ve yet to see anything from IMSA, but if I’m AF Corse owner Amato Ferrari, I’d plan on searching for another driver at Sebring.

To Perrodo’s credit, he owned up to his stupidity after the crash, and said the car shot forward when he went to restart the No. 51 entry. It sounds like the car was still in gear, and if that’s what actually happened, then it's reassuring that Perrodo did not blindly drive into oncoming traffic. But it doesn’t diminish the damage done to both cars.


Rewind Magnus44VEGAN EXECUTIONER

Leave it to a self-professed vegan to turn an opossum into road kill during the Rolex 24. Andy Lally was once a fan of eating meat but has gone in the opposite direction, which made the unexpected killing of an animal somewhat hard (bad pun alert) … to swallow.

“There’s intent…everything is gonna die…and everything is how you go about your life,” he said. “If one thing loses its life and it isn’t through maliciousness, it’s easier to accept. It wasn’t malicious and there wasn’t any intent. I especially feel bad if what’s killed is not a hunter, and opossums are scavengers. If I killed a bear or a shark, I’d feel less bad.”

Lally also said he isn’t sure his No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America was the first to hit the meandering marsupial.

“I think the Viper in front of me actually clipped it,” he continued. “We’d just exited NASCAR [Turn] 4, just at about 160mph, and he suddenly wiggled and diverted hard, and then I hit something square in the middle of the car. I was mad because we were trying to save the splitter and I thought something fell off the Viper. It didn’t spring a leak or anything; we didn’t find it for four hours. It bent the radiator at a weird angle – it didn’t hurt it, but he pushed through the tub with amazing force. It’s amazing he was still intact.”

IMSA RADIO

I’ll keep this brief out of concerns for conflicts of interest, but I will note how much I enjoyed the blend of live coverage across the FOX channels and the IMSA Radio coverage throughout the race. I listened to both, and loved the five-hour stint I did with John Hindhaugh and Graham Goodwin starting at 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Delirium struck around 6 a.m., and it was entirely my fault. I prepared a monster mug of coffee – a drop of the stuff would have melted the carpet – but I managed to leave it in the media center…

If you’re in need of a laugh, look up the audio on RadioLeMans.com where I provided plenty of opportunities as simple word talking my mouth no good was.

__________________

MiscellaneousRewind Mazda Proto• One small victory that meant everything to the team came when Mazda inherited the lead on Saturday—it took the leaders pitting for it to happen, but compared to the state the P2 diesels were in at Daytona in 2014, the fact that the SpeedSource-led program was in a position to assume the lead speaks volumes to the road they’ve traveled in 12 months.

• We saw some great drives in the race by teams that, frankly, weren’t expected to shine. Big respect to Muehlner Motorsports America and Konrad Motorsport, among others.

• New gearbox for the DeltaWing leading into a 24-hour race. Gearbox failure almost immediately for the DeltaWing. The story never changes – new, unproven gearbox = ticket for an early retirement. I can’t wait to see the car at Daytona next year with all of its go-fast bits ready for a 24-hour run.

• Sage Karam’s restart Saturday evening where he rocketed to first…further proof the young American badass is destined for stardom.

• The Verizon IndyCar Series had three staff members on site at the Rolex 24 covering the massive influx of open-wheel talent competing in the race. Their volume of support staff outnumbered most of the regular sports car outlets at the event.

• A lack of equipment familiarity by one of Flying Lizard Motorsport’s drivers liquefied the clutch in the team’s R8 LMS. The trusty crew replaced the unit in record time, and as one might have expected, it ruined their chances of going for the win, but they still came home 10th in the 19-car GTD class.

• Phil Keen. What an amazing performance for his first time in a DP with the No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP team. Max Papis eventually lowered Keen’s best lap, but for quite some time, the young Englishman was the fastest driver in the car on his first Rolex 24 appearance.

• A few personal stats from the weekend: The three-hour time change from California to Florida never gets easier, and usually makes my first night’s sleep a short one. I slept 2.5 hours before getting up and heading to the track Thursday morning, added another four hours Thursday night, five or so Friday night, and tacked on a solid hour around 9 a.m. Sunday morning. By the time I went to bed Sunday night, I’d cobbled together 12.5 hours of sleep since landing on Wednesday. I must do a better job next year – Rewind Wolfgangexhaustion isn’t the right starting place before the Rolex 24 has even begun! I made steady use of a golf cart throughout the event, but even with that luxury at one’s disposal, a lot of walking takes place. According to my Fitbit bracelet – and this includes walking in airports and everything involved with the event from start to finish, I logged 20.1 miles and 41,902 steps this year.

• The best possible Rolex 24 farewell happened Sunday evening when infamous German scribe Wolfgang “I have 2 qvestions” Monsehr posed with IMSA’s Nate Siebens (Marshall Pruett image). Wolfie was less of a wrecking ball this year – credit to IMSA for wrangling the lovingly oblivious journo – yet we were still treated to his unique interviewing style.

 

latlevittindport00318IndyCar has confirmed that Vice President of Competition Brian Barnhart has been named Race Director and will lead the Verizon IndyCar Series' three-steward Race Control system in 2015.

Barnhart, who previously served as race director from 1997-2011, was a key member of the IndyCar Race Control system implemented in 2014 that stipulates all in-race penalties are decided by a two-thirds vote among the respective stewards officiating each event. He was replaced as race director by Beaux Barfield after the 2011 season, but Barfield left IndyCar at the end of last year to take a similar position with IMSA.

“We believe that based on his extensive experience in Race Control, combined with the three-steward system, Brian Barnhart is a good fit as IndyCar Race Director,” said Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations for the series. “The process allows the Race Director to focus on running the race, without the double-duty of reviewing multiple replays and simultaneously trying to make a call. In terms of determining penalties our process defines that a majority vote amongst the three stewards is required, which ensures a jury-like process. Last year we found that this was a fair system when making difficult judgment calls.”

IndyCar's Race Control system allows any of the three stewards to call for a review of a potential on-track action. Upon review the stewards will deliberate on the violation using all available resources – which includes video replays, timing and scoring data and rulebook references – in rendering their decision. Following the review each race steward votes for, or against, the issuance of a penalty and the majority vote then decides if a penalty is issued. Once that determination is made the senior steward, as determined by Walker before each race, dictates the severity of each penalty.

“This is a position and a role that I’ve done for a number of years and I take a great deal of pride in being Race Director of the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Barnhart said. “One of the things that excites me the most is the steward system we implemented last year. That was a great advancement in how we review and make discretionary decisions, and having that assistance in making calls is a big improvement to the way we officiate IndyCar events.

“The technological improvements we’ve made in Race Control have expanded the amount of information available to us,” Barnhart added. “The additional cameras, the replay system and assistance from other stewards provide us with additional tools to do our job better. I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to doing it again.”

As Vice President of Competition, Barnhart oversees the Race Control staff, the sporting regulations of the rulebook, the Holmatro Safety Team and medical personnel, security and Timing and Scoring. He has been involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar since 1994.

 

Image753

Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey reveals his upcoming desires for racing-themed documentaries and dramas in a discussion with The RACER Channel's Marshall Pruett.

"I have set up a great book called 'The Limit' about Phil Hill winning the World Championship against [Wolfgang] von Trips… I have writers on board doing that so hopefully that's my next project…"

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Image752

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power speaks with The RACER Channel's Robin Miller about the upcoming season.

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Renault F1 engine 2015

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Renault has completed a "fundamental" overhaul of its Formula 1 engine for the 2015 season in a bid to help Red Bull close the gap to Mercedes. Ahead of the first pre-season test at Jerez this weekend, Renault has revealed details of the extent of its changes. 

"We knew what we had to do over the winter and we know what we have achieved," Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said. "We believe we have made a very big step in performance and will be more reliable.

"We do not know where the others will be: we may not have erased all the gaps, but we are confident that we have gone a long way to making up the deficit of last season."

DEVELOPMENT TOKENS USED

Engine manufacturers are allowed to change up to 48 percent of their power unit for this season, with modifications allowed at any point over the campaign.

Renault says for the first race it has used the majority of the 32 development tokens that it has available, but will save some for updates later in the campaign.

Rob White

Chief technical officer Rob White (LEFT) said: "We have made some fundamental changes to gain performance and reliability. We have upgraded every system and subsystem, with items that will give the most performance prioritized.

"The principal changes involve the internal combustion engine, turbocharger and battery. The ICE will have a new combustion chamber, exhaust system concept and variable trumpets, as permitted by the 2015 regulations.

"The compressor is more efficient, while the energy recovery systems are able to deal with more severe usage.

"The 2014 unit was already well placed in its center of gravity; however, we have tidied up the packaging to give greater ease of integration into  he chassis."Additionally many systems and functions have been rationalized and simplified to further ease the task.

"In short, there are very few carry-over pieces between the 2014 and 2015 power units."

Head of trackside operations Remi Taffin added: "We won't go into specifics about each and every part we have changed, but we will arrive in Melbourne with a very different engine to last year."

Renault has also restructured its technical staff. White has been made chief technical officer and will work alongside former head of production Jean-Paul Gousset, who is now organization performance officer. There is also a new development department, headed by Naoki Tokunaga, aimed at maximizing performance and reliability across all teams. Taffin will take on an expanded role to oversee factory operations as well.

"F1 constantly moves forward at a very fast rate. The sport evolves, technology evolves and the competition never sleeps so Viry needs to evolve at the same rate," Abiteboul explained. "Viry needed a refresh. We did not suffer from a lack of resources or finances in 2014, it was simply that the resources were not joined up in time or used to their optimum."

Renault F1 engine 2015

Originally on Autosport.com

dal1dal2Pirelli World Challenge GT-A champions EFFORT Racing and Porsche Motorsport North America have announced the next step in Porsche's overall strategy to search and support young sports car racing driving talent – the new Porsche Motorsport North America Young Driver Program for 2015.

The two drivers who will pilot the EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R entries are veteran Ryan Dalziel (LEFT) and Michael Lewis. Dalziel, who won two races and earned five podium finishes in six races for EFFORT Racing last year, will be driving the professional entry in the GT class, while Lewis will pilot the Porsche in the GT Amateur class.

EFFORT and PMNA will use the Pirelli World Challenge's GT class platforms to showcase young drivers in the Porsche 911 GT3 R race car, with a Professional driver running in the top class and a PMNA Young Driver running in the GT Amateur (GT-A) class. According to PMNA President and CEO Jens Walther, this program is the next logical step after the Porsche Young Drivers Academy and the Porsche/IMSA Driver Scholarship.

"Thanks to the commitment from EFFORT Racing owner Chuck Toups in keeping with his ongoing interest in driver development, we are able to offer support and resources to give a young talent from North America a unique experience with a championship team in the Pirelli World Challenge," said Walther.

"At EFFORT Racing, we believe in doing things for a purpose" said Toups. "When we started in 2012, we integrated driver development as one of our core program goals. It's true in any domain that the investment and training of young talent is crucial to the long term success for any industry. The extension of the successful Porsche Young Driver program into North America is an exciting announcement for the motorsports community."

Lwis3Lewis (RIGHT), the 23 year-old driver who nearly won the 2014 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and both participated in the Porsche Young Driver Academy and was granted the IMSA Driver Scholarship in 2014. Lewis was nominated for the EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R seat after a competitive test held by the team.

Dalziel, an established winner in World Endurance Championship and the IMSA TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, was the highest-finishing driver in the second half the Pirelli World Challenge series in 2014.
Porsche factory driver Patrick Long will be on hand to coach the drivers on and off the track as his schedule allows.

This new program is focused on the North American market, and is integrated into the overall Porsche philosophy to search and support young sports car driving talent.

The Pirelli World Challenge season opens March 6-8, at Circuit of The Americas.

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. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.

Miller Toronto Q: I don't know how credible any of this is but I just read an article by Norris McDonald, Wheels Editor, from the Toronto Star website. His article dated 1/25 is titled "IndyCar on Borrowed Time; TSN, SportsNet Ignore Daytona" cites an email from a 'friend' that claims the following: "I recently read that at least one major IndyCar sponsor isn't with the series this year and two are on their last year and won't renew because of the short season. If that isn't a wake-up call, then what the hell is Miles waiting for?" I'm assuming the one sponsor that was talked about was the National Guard? But have you heard anything about other major sponsors pulling the plug? I will now refer to IndyCar in any future emails I compose as the 'NFL' (for Not F-ing Listening!)
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: Not sure which sponsors Norris was referring to but his story echoed what a lot of us have been writing and saying the past several months. I won’t go into detail (yet) but one IndyCar owner told me he sent Miles an email a couple months ago because one of his primary sponsors was going to bail after 2015 unless the season got lengthened by at least two-three months. (BTW, he claims he’s still waiting on a response from Miles). Another owner showed me a letter from a longtime sponsor that declined to be involved this season because a six-month season wasn’t workable. It appears that the only people who think a short season is a good idea is Miles and, of course, the Boston Consulting Group. But the short season isn’t why The National Guard pulled the plug.     

Q: I couldn't help but notice that it was Ganassi's B-team, consisting entirely of full-time IndyCar (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan) and NASCAR (Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray) drivers, that took home the checkered flag at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. While this might be a boost for IndyCar (as it lends added legitimacy to IndyCar drivers racing sports cars on occasion), I can't help but think it might negatively affect IMSA now that their crown-jewel event has been won by a lineup of non-sports car "ringers." Were I a hard-core IMSA fan, I would be somewhat embarrassed that the series regulars just got taken to school by a hodgepodge of outsiders (likewise, I'm sure many IndyCar faithful would probably have felt the same way had Kurt Busch won the Indy 500). Anyhow, my point is this: While it's definitely a big marketing boost to have these drivers race cross-series on occasion, what does it say about the quality level of the series (especially the talent level of the drivers) when these "ringers" are able to take home trophies? If Will Power were to decide tomorrow that he's going to race the Daytona 500 and actually ends up pulling into Victory Lane come February, I know my first reaction would be to look at the NASCAR regulars and ask "Really? What happened?" Case-in-point, many NASCAR fans point to the fact that the "road course ringers" have not won a Cup race since 1973 as evidence of the all-around quality of today's series regulars. A win in the Daytona 500 by an outsider could potentially be devastating to the perceived talent level of NASCAR drivers. That considered, should steps be taken to minimize cross-series racing? Or is all of this just my imagination?
Garrick, Mobile, AL

RM: I don’t think sports car fans were shocked or put off when A.J. and Dan Gurney won Le Mans or Mario won Sebring and Daytona. And Indy 500 winners and IndyCar champs like Dixie and T.K. were also two of the best road racers in the field with one of the best cars so it’s hardly an upset like Power winning the Daytona 500 would be considered. I think the Rolex revels in the fact it gets some of IndyCar’s best and a NASCAR winner like Jamie Mac to go with many of the top sports car racers. It’s kinda like IROC once a year and it makes people watch or at least care. The fact Kyle Larson was part of that winning team – a strong part, too – only further validates his pedigree.


Miller McMurray LarsonQ: How pleased was Chevrolet/GM after the Rolex 24 as their Corvette DP teams were beaten by Ganassi's Ford, driven by FOUR Chevy (NASCAR/IndyCar) drivers?
Greg (Belleville, NJ)

RM: That’s a good question and one I was wondering myself while watching the victory celebration. Imagine what the reaction might be if Chip wins Le Mans for Ford? But if he wins Indy and the Brickyard, all will be forgiven.  

Q: Did you notice what Jamie McMurray said about IndyCar drivers? He was overwhelming in his praise. How quaint! Did you notice he, (unlike many IndyCar fans who persist in calling NASCAR..NASCRAP and their fans "toothless ignorant red necks"), said not one negative thing. Refreshing and shows that drivers have a respect for drivers from a different discipline! Maybe it would be smart for race fans to be just that – race fans who watch and love "racing" in all its fascinating types, and stop trying to downgrade every thing but what they watch. Are you listening IndyCar fans?
Terrible Ted

RM: I sent Ganassi a text message that said McMurray’s interview was one of the classiest I’d ever heard and to please thank him for speaking so eloquently and honestly – especially about Dixon’s abilities. Very refreshing wasn’t it?

Q: To probably no one's surprise, Kyle Larson performed very well this weekend (to include a long stint at night). Why did the Chipster decide to put Larson on the stock car path instead of the Indy path? Was it a matter of being able to make more money with stock cars, or was it Larson's wishes?
Kyle Lantz

RM: The night in 2011 that Larson swept the USAC Four Crown Nationals at Eldora, I watched in amazement with Tony Stewart from the infield. “This kid has never been here before and he’s only 19 years old,” I kept raving. After he won the midget and sprint features, Stew said he was going to give the kid a check for $10,000 out of his own pocket if he won the Silver Crown race. I said that was great but why don’t you offer him a contract too because all he wants to be is a World of Outlaws or NASCAR driver and you’ve got teams in both. Tony said he didn’t have any place to put him but I know he kicked himself later for not signing Larson. As far as Ganassi, he needed a youth movement in NASCAR and somebody to keep the sponsors excited – he got one. Having said that, Larson wants to run the Indy 500 and I know Chip gets tired of all the lobbying Dario and I do about it but I think it could happen in 2016.  

Q: I've just finished watching the Daytona 24 Hours in which four different classes of cars ran together. Interesting, and no serious problems. So why not run the IndyCar and Indy Lights cars in the same race? Bingo! Full fields, and plenty of passing (though not necessarily for the lead). Lots more for the TV crews to talk about. Interesting in-car camera shots. And a whole other level of conversations for the fans.
Chad R. Larson, Phoenix

RM: I can’t imagine much more passing than there’s been the past three years in IndyCar and blowing past somebody with 300 less horsepower doesn’t really impress me. If IndyCar only had 10 regulars and Lights eight or nine, I guess it could be feasible to try on a road course. But it would be too insane on an oval.


Miller JWil RHRQ: With Aleshin gone, any chance for Justin Wilson at Schmidt Peterson or do they need someone with money?
Dave Nicholls, Whitby, Ontario

RM: As Marshall Pruett wrote a few days ago, that second Schmidt/Peterson seat will be a paid one so we’re all hoping JWil joins Ryan Hunter-Reay at Andretti Autosport because all he’s got is talent and his helmet.

Q: My question is short and sweet this time: what is the likely time frame for when the Honda and Chevy aero kit-equipped cars actually break cover? Now that the designs are submitted, I hope it'll be fairly soon.
Steve C., Ithaca, NY

RM: According to IndyCar’s Will Phillips, the teams will be able to start testing the aero kits on March 13th – after the season opener at Brazil but before St. Pete on March 29th.

Q: I just don't get it! Being with Sierra Jackson in November in Davey Hamilton's King of the Wing West Coast series proves that fans will show up year around! The stands were packed at Madera, Irwindale, and Kern County. The field of cars was almost as big as Indy with 29 starters. Combine the asphalt sprint cars with the Indy cars on the smaller ovals and give the fans a bigger show for their money. If an 800 horsepower, methanol burning beast doesn't rattle your bones, nothing will! If Simona gets a ride in IndyCar and Sierra were there, it would give fans two female drivers to cheer for. It could bring the "Danica excitement back."
Don Holmquist

RM: Not sure if Davey has pitched IndyCar about his winged series but it would be a nice addition to an Iowa or Milwaukee – especially Iowa since it’s a three-day show.
[Click here for the story Robin wrote on Sierra Jackson last December.]

Q: There's been a lot of talk about the top-down promotion of IndyCar. National TV ad buys, Verizon commercials, Firestone commercials etc. What do you think about this: That model is inefficient for the relatively small dollars IndyCar and its sponsors can put behind it.
My thinking: I'm 29, and like most people my age (and I think a much broader age group than that) almost never watches live TV. The NFL is about the only thing anyone watches live. When I watch things online I have an ad-blocker so I never see those ads. When I record shows, I fast forward through the commercials. So when are all the people like me going to see those ads? Unless you completely blanket the airwaves like, say, Budweiser does, the odds of someone catching the commercial are pretty slim. My idea: Go grassroots. Get several crews together to take show cars around the country. Find every parade and festival that will have you. Close off a street and take the car out and blast up and down the road. The snooze-fest that was Pocono on TV last year won't grab anyone's attention, but an IndyCar blowing up eardrums on Main St USA sure as hell will. The DW12 may not be the best looking race car ever, but to an 8-year-old I bet they think it looks pretty badass, especially if they just saw it shooting fire and accelerating faster than anything they've ever seen. It may seem like small potatoes but the local press and word of mouth it would generate would be significant over time I think.
Chris Beasley, Kirkland, WA

RM: I imagine if IndyCar funded it, something like this could be useful during the winter months to promote races coming to the area. And selling discounted tickets or giving away hats, T-shirts and schedules should be part of it along with driver participation. But, until proven otherwise, television is still the way to a sponsor’s heart.


Miller LuyendykQ: RACER’s tributes for Super Tex's 80th birthday linked the infamous video of victory lane at Texas and Mr. Foyt smacking Luyendyk. My question is, who really won that race, Billy Boat or Luyendyk?
Mike Walsh

RM: Arie was clearly the victor to everyone except USAC but A.J. didn’t like it when the two-time Indy winner came into victory lane “mouthin.” [ABOVE - Arie demo-ing Jim Rathmann's 1960 Indy 500-winning Watson-Offy].

Q: I am in complete agreement with you that ovals should be a one-day event in order to give the fans more bang for the buck. With this being said, why not charge $20 for an all access ticket? You'd probably have 40,000 people at Fontana buying parking, food, beer, merchandise instead of 50,000 empty seats.   
Vincent Martinez, Arcadia, CA

RM: A Saturday afternoon race in late June at Fontana is going to be challenging on a number of fronts so ticket prices might not matter. But I’d rather have 20,000 people at $20 a head than 8,000 at $50 because of the chance to sell more concessions and souvenirs. Maybe MAVTV (the title sponsor again) offers a special discount but, clearly, it’s going to take some creative promotions. And I think Dave Allen of Auto Club Speedway will do whatever he can to make it affordable and appealing. I like $40 for a seat and a pit pass (good for both days).       

Q: Just finished reading Sam Schmidt’s IndyCar 2018 article where he mentioned the target audience is 21-35 year olds making $100K-plus. As a 50-year old (25-year car engineer), I’m shocked, speechless and insulted. Or, maybe just dumb as a box of rocks and should find a more suitable hobby. To keep this from a profanity- laced rant questioning the heritage and mental capacity of the person(s) that came up with that target audience, I’ll just ask the following: How many human bodies of the 300 million in the USA meet the criteria? If you were to multiply that number by the marketing industry standard capture rate of your target audience, then divide by the number of races, how many bodies are in the stands or watching on TV, the typical race?
Phillip Thomas

RM: Whoah there: Sam was saying that’s who sponsors tend to target, but his point was that the net should be much wider. I don’t know how many meet that criteria but I guess the 21-35 crowd would be ideal for replacing all us graybeards and it would be interesting to know the average age of the IndyCar fan who travels to races. If you subtract the Indy 500 from the equation, I’m guessing the average attendance (race day) for the other 16 races would be between 25,000-30,000. It seems to me older fans like the ovals while street circuits and road courses appeal to the younger crowd.


Miller Edmonton2005

Q: Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve is one of the lead partners in an exciting new development in the Okanagan. A group of enthusiasts is proposing a semi-private club based around a new 5-kilometre circuit designed to meet the requirements for FIA level 2 events, to be built in the Okanagan valley southeast of Oliver, B.C. I realize it's another "track announcement" but will it be 2017 or 2018 before IndyCar races there? Strikes me that it could be the "Canadian Sonoma" as it is near the wine-growing region of B.C. and an ultra-rich tourist mecca. On the subject of Canadian races, seems to me a "no-brainer" that 3-4 races in Canada (1-2 doubleheaders at that) is a quick and easy add for IndyCar. Why not and where will the new Canadian races be joining the schedule?
Gordon from Dallas

RM: If the track would be built it’s only 15 miles north of the American/Canadian border so a swing to Sonoma would be sensible. There’s also a track supposedly being built in Calgary, and Quebec City was interested a couple of years ago. I’ve always said we could race five times a year in Canada and be well served since those fans really “get” open-wheel racing. But Edmonton started with massive crowds in 2005 [ABOVE - AJ Allmendinger leads RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson] and couldn’t make it so it’s not a slam dunk that any new Canadian venues will be added.

Q: I've thrown around the idea of attending the St. Pete race to start my racing year and wanted to know what the best value is for the weekend. I always go to Mid-Ohio and love having the ability to roam around and watch the weekend from different sections of the track. What do most fans prefer doing, going with a grandstand seat? Is there a lot of freedom to roam around and watch the race from various vantage points?
Alan Bandi, Butler, PA

RM: The majority of people sit on the front straightaway grandstand at St. Pete (there is a big screen across from it) or outside of Turn 1 (the best seat) and Turn 10 because there’s not a lot of room to roam. Barber, Sonoma and Mid-Ohio offer the most roaming space and plenty of good vantage points for fans who like to wander. And the spectator mounds at IMS aren’t bad either.

Q: Loved your reports from the Chili Bowl and great to see Sarah Fisher driving a midget again! Why did IndyCar not promote this? Huge crowd, good TV audience, popular driver! I guess there isn't racing after Labor Day. How depressing it is to hear that Rico Abreu is going into the K&N NASCAR series. Did anyone in IndyCar even give him a look? In your report you mentioned that Roger Penske asked who he should watch, did anyone grab his interest?
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
 
RM: Considering she’d never driven a midget on dirt and hadn’t been in a midget or sprinter for 16 years, Sarah did a damn fine job. She got a great ovation after winning the D Main and people still like her. As I’ve written many times, IndyCar should always have a presence at the Chili Bowl because there are 13,000 people there each night who love open wheel but don’t give a flip about IndyCar racing. I hope Sarah takes Josef Newgarden there next year and lets him run. Besides Sarah, Ed Carpenter and Chip, none of the other IndyCar owners have a clue about Rico but he’ll wind up in Ganassi’s program. Haven’t talked to R.P. since then.


Miller McCluskey 1965Q: Any chance you could do a bench racing segment (Tough Guy series) on Roger McCluskey, the 1973 Champ Car champion (but also Sprint/Stock champion)? I love your segments so far on Herk , Gary B. , Marshman , Pelican Joe . Have you considered publishing your very interesting series of lesser known “behind the scenes” stories of the glory years of Indy racing as a book? Could you consider publishing one of your weekly columns where all of your answers are actually longer than the questions?
Ed Koenig (Indy 500 oldtimer), Sacramento, CA.
P.S. Thanks to you, Marshall and David for keeping us well informed during the DARK PHASE of the year.
 
RM: I’d like to do something on all those badasses like McCluskey [ABOVE at Indy in ’65 running the AAR-run Hallibrand-Ford] as well as pick out certain races to look back on that I can support with photos. No plans for a book. As far as the Mailbag, fans sometimes take longer to get their thoughts across than I do to answer their questions but that’s just my old newspaper training. During the season I’m always appealing to people to try and keep their questions to four or five small paragraphs because we have such a volume but the longer rants have a better chance during the off-season. Thanks for watching.

Q: A few months ago, I commented in the Tech Mailbag and on the IndyCar Facebook page that it would be nice to have all drivers' sector times available from a race. Last year I was unable to find this information. The 'Stats' section of the IndyCar website now has all drivers' race sector times available in PDF format.  I know a lot of complaints come to your Mailbag, so I wanted to share that the series responded to my request. Thanks IndyCar!
Kyle in Raleigh

RM: Thanks for pointing that out Kyle.

Q: When I wrote a few weeks ago and talked about innovation at Indy, I mentioned Roger Rager and his bus block engine. It seems he has become a cult figure in the Mailbag since then. I know he was a mid-west and Knoxville legend and if you Google him it mentions Indy but not the bus block. Got any stories about him you could pass on to the readers? After all, it is only two years until the next Indy car race so we need something to read about.
Tom in Waco

RM: Just that he was extremely BRAVE in a sprinter and that carried over to his one and only Indy 500 start. To think he qualified 10th in that car and engine combination still ranks as one of the great little guy stories ever at IMS. Hell, he was still racing sprinters a couple years ago so he’s still crazy.


Miller IMS

Q: It is my considered opinion that the car owners and drivers need to have a sit-down round table discussion with Mr. Miles, Mr. Walker, Mari Hulman-George, and the three sisters about the future of the Indianapolis 500-mile International Sweepstakes and the Verizon IndyCar Series. There needs to be a good, honest give and take about where the future lies, and what needs to be done to achieve that goal. Everyone who has a vested interest in the series and the “500” needs to have a voice. This is what IndyCar and the Indy 500 really needs instead of all the bantering currently going on. Please feel free to forward this to the appropriate people if you wish.
John M. Miller II, Zionsville, IN
P.S. I will be celebrating my 60th 500 this year since 1951.

RM: Can’t see it happening. Miles reports to the Hulman & Company board but runs the show and doesn’t seem to value much input from owners, drivers or fans. As for the Hulman-George family, their collective voice seems to be getting weaker.  

Q: As a relatively new IndyCar fan (watched the 500 since I was a kid, and have not missed a series broadcast in about seven or eight years now), I have dragged my family off to four races so far. My teenage girls and wife won’t watch a race on TV unless I point out something outrageous, but they really like the live show. We’ve been to Vegas, Auto Club twice and Long Beach. If this makes it into the Mailbag, I would urge your readers to get to Long Beach if they can as that race is a total blast and on Sunday you get to see Stadium Super Trucks, drifters, TUDOR Championship, Indy Lights, Pirelli World Challenge and of course the big boys of IndyCar. Already have our tickets for Grandstand 7 now.
So here’s the deal: I’ve never been to the Indy 500 and was wondering if you could (just for us Mailbag fans) give a few more insider tips. We can’t make it this year, but my family will be there for the 100th running. I will not miss it. I have seen you say that the Vista seats are a bargain and a pretty good view. But, if this may be our only rodeo for a while (we live in Arizona and go to IndyCar races in southern California), what would be the BEST experience for a family of four? By looking at the grandstand map at Indy, I would pick either Grandstand A or B as they are in the classic Turn 1 at Indy, you have a view of the front stretch and the pit exit. Is that about right? Or is Turn 4 better? Also, any insight on how to secure tickets? I think for the 100th, they may be hard to get. Could you tell us Mailbag fans when, historically, tickets become available for the next race?
I know you get asked these kinds of questions a lot and I appreciate any insight you might have. I know there’s a bunch of crusty old farts who read your Mailbag each week and know all this kind of stuff, but there’s still a whole bunch of us “next generation” fans who are hungry for info and would love any insight you can give us early so that we don’t blow it and miss out on what may be the biggest race a lot of us will ever see.
Gary Nelson, Flagstaff, AZ

RM: I still think any seat fairly high in any of the four corners is the best because you can see passing and who is faster, who is gaining, who is fading, etc. There are big screens so you can keep track of pit stops. But A & B are both good places as well, I’d just want to be as high up as possible. I just called the IMS ticket office and they said next year’s tickets are available for renewal on-line (www.IMStix.com ) or at the IMS ticket office at 8 a.m. the day after the race. New customers can also apply at that time but won’t be assigned seats until after the renewal period and upgrade requests.

Q: I was looking for tickets for this year’s 500. I haven’t gone since 2012 because of financial issues and found that the tickets prices have been increased!  I’m dead set on going to the 99th and 100th running so I will pretty much go no matter what the price, but what I just don’t get is if attendance is down, why increase the price when demand is down? The focus should be to get more fans not prevent fans that are on the fence from going; isn’t that basic economics? I hope they spend the extra money advertising, dare I say, during the Super Bowl! Spend some money on promoting IndyCar and the 500 during hockey games, football games or in prime time and, as I’ve said 100 times, there should be commercials, toys, promotions etc. How do you think NASCAR got name recognition?
Tony, Mamaroneck, NY

RM: I believe one of the Boston Consulting Group’s theories was (I’m paraphrasing) to not worry so much about making new fans at Indianapolis but rather gouge the ones you’ve already got. Yes, there are still plenty of empty seats on Race Day and it seems like prices would either stay the same or be lowered in those hard-to-sell sections until it’s a sellout again. Compared to an NBA or NFL game, Indy remains a pretty good bargain. But charging $50 to park in the infield on Race Day is hardly fan- friendly in my mind.  


Miller internet

Q: I’ve been reading RACER’s IndyCar 2018 series with interest. When they are right, they are very right, and when they are wrong, it's easy to see why IndyCar is in the shape that it is in.
IndyCar needs to define its fans and income sources. Look to the NFL for inspiration. The NFL works hard to increase the fan experience and to fill the stands, but if the stands are empty for the Super Bowl all that would mean is there are 80,000 more people watching the game at home. Their biggest concern is media ratings and the income they get from broadcasting. Ticket sales are nice, but revenue sharing keeps the NFL alive.
IndyCar needs to stop thinking about TV packages and start thinking about broadcasting their sport. TV coverage on ABC and ESPN is good, but if you go much lower than that down the cable channels, you are limited. If every single subscriber to NBCSN watched every single IndyCar race, you will always be a minor sport. Start broadcasting IndyCar as an internet sport. There are companies that provide ratings for internet feeds just like they do for cable and over the air broadcasting. You can keep the traditional broadcasts as a secondary coverage, but internet broadcasts provides you with a worldwide market and you can still sell ads for it. Internet matches the high tech image IndyCar once had.
Broadcast the sport, not just the races. Look at the WWE and their new WWE network. Again, they are not looking for ticket sales for live events. All their live events do is provide inventory for their network and they are using their network to provide a dollar value for years of old inventory. How much old inventory does indyCar have? WWE is providing programs about their performers, groups of performers, about their female performers, workout programs with their performers. There is a lot of potential for IndyCar to do the same.
Sell the series, not just the races. I'm a big fan of the NFL, college football, and IndyCar. I've never been to a NFL game, never been to an IndyCar race and have not been to a college football game in years. Lots of reasons, but the main one is that the viewing experience is better at home than in person. I'm the fan you have to get and keep. Make it easy for us to be fans, watch the races and increase the ratings. IndyCar needs to admit that they will never get me to a race. Age, money, location, other factors make that a fact that will not change. Major sports have already admitted that and I watch as many college games on ESPN3 as on traditional TV.
IndyCar as an internet broadcast increases the viewer experience. Live timing and scoring is just a click away. You can place live video cameras in each car and the viewer can decide which ones to watch. Easy to put cameras in the pits. The other change is the schedule. IndyCar clearly needs to start earlier in the year and run later. Fans like the doubleheaders and IndyCar needs more of them. The selection of new or return race venues should become easier if you are looking at them as creating new broadcast properties. Lower the fees IndyCar charges the venues. Let the local promoters have 100 percent of the ticket sales, parking and concessions. IndyCar's money should come from the internet broadcasts and ad sales. The teams get the prize money and revenue sharing.
Long vent, sorry.
John Womack

RM: Bernie always says he doesn’t care if anybody comes to an F1 race because his television package and audience are the largest. He’s not lying either. But, right now IndyCar must have television and if NBC were allowed to carry a few races to cross-promote with NBCSN it would be a good package with ABC. Obviously, having every race on a national network is ideal but not even NASCAR has that and FOX and CBS aren’t knocking down IndyCar’s door. The key for IndyCar will be what happens when the current NBCSN deal expires. Having said all that, your idea about making IndyCar an internet vehicle is interesting and it’s something Kevin Kalkhoven took a serious look at with Champ Car after the disaster on SPIKE. Since everyone lives on an iPad or computer or tablet, it makes sense you might attract more viewers than with conventional TV in a few years. The auxiliary programming is something that’s needed 12 months a year to try and familiarize people with IndyCar drivers or at least keep IndyCar on the map during a six-month layoff. Again, the ideal spot is probably a show on ESPN2 or FOX Sports1 or NBC Sports Saturday during the winter months, but it’s all about supply and demand and there’s not much demand for IndyCar so it has to be purchased. Would IndyCar be better served with just a channel on YouTube? Possibly. When you see how many hits a Ken Block video gets, you wonder if IndyCar just shouldn’t shove everything except the Indy 500 and month of May on the internet. I’m not sure sponsors are ready to head down that path just yet and they likely will be the key. But you have presented an interesting scenario that may need to be considered sooner rather than later.

Note: For those with more IndyCar 2018 ideas, please send to IndyCar2018@racer.com       

[If you want to know what the editor's watching on YouTube in the picture above, click here…]

____________________________________________________________________________________

Robin Miller flunked out of college in 1968 but got a lifetime break when he was 18 by joining The Indianapolis Star and has been covering IndyCar racing ever since for various publications including RACER, Car&Driver, Autoweek, MotorSport, Autosport and Sports Illustrated. He also worked on ESPN's RPM2Night from 1999-2003 before joining SPEED and WIND TUNNEL from 2004 to 2013. He was fired as free help at Indy by his racing hero Jim Hurtubise, bought his first racecar from Andy Granatelli, was bitch-slapped by A.J. Foyt for questioning Super Tex's straightaway speeds and spent eight years and all his money racing USAC midgets from 1975-’82. Today Miller covers IndyCar and open-wheel for RACER.com where his Mailbag is published 52 weeks a year in addition to commentaries, news stories and videos.   

Robert Kubica, RK Ford, Monte Carlo WRC 2015

World Rally champions Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb have praised Robert Kubica's speed during last week's Monte Carlo Rally.

The Polish ex-Formula 1 driver posted the second highest number of fastest times in the French Alps and stunned the WRC fraternity with his ability to come to terms with Pirelli tires after just two days of testing.

Kubica's rally was spoiled when he went off the road on the first stage and a subsequent electrical fault forced him out on the road section back to Gap. But after rejoining he took a string of stage wins, including topping the rally's longest stage by 33 seconds.

Ogier said: "He did a good job, he was fast in a lot of the stages and showed he is capable of the fight. But we all know that about Robert, he is really one of the best drivers around."

Loeb noted that Kubica was directly comparable to Ogier as they were running in similar road positions under this year's regulations, when Rally2 returnees start just before the championship leaders.

Robert Kubica

"Robert was good – I was impressed with him," said Loeb. "He was close to Seb [Ogier] on the road and set some really good times from this position."

Kubica (LEFT) admitted his pace had taken him by surprise.

"If somebody had told me two or three weeks ago that I would be able to go so fast on the Monte Carlo Rally then I wouldn't have believed it," he said.

BRAKE DRAMA ENDED RALLY

Kubica's rally ended when a brake problem caused him to crash into a wall after the finish of the penultimate stage.

"That was very strange," he said. "We had changed pads and discs at the service and, OK, there was some smoke in the first stage, but you expect this from the material. But then after we did the long downhill section of the stage, the pedal went to the floor.

"We had no warning , no [pad] knock-off, long pedal or anything like that. In the end, I could only take the handbrake to try to slow us down."

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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