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British 1

British 1For more than a quarter century, British-based racecar constructors dominated CART. First March, then Lola, and finally Reynard, revolutionized the way teams went racing.

John Cooper and Colin Chapman changed the face of Indy car racing in the 1960s with the rear-engine revolution, but the second British invasion of American open-wheel racing was a full-blown takeover for the better part of three decades that totally changed the template for success.

British-based constructors March, Lola and Reynard took turns dominating Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) from 1983 to 2002, while also flexing their collective muscle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from '81 until "The Split" in '96.

During that stretch, they combined to win 341 races, including eight Indianapolis 500s, and racked up a staggering 20 championships between them.

Other than the prowess of Penske Cars, a few shots of adrenaline from Dan Gurney's Eagle, and Swift's late '90s foray, there was no competing with these three manufacturers that mass-produced winning packages available to anyone.

British 5"Back in the early '80s when I started in Indy cars, the only real option for a new team coming in was to buy an old Penske or Wildcat," recalls Bobby Rahal, who would end up driving all three of the Brit-built chassis, winning championships with two of them – March in 1986 and Lola in '87 and '92 (pictured). "But then March came in and allowed you to buy a car that could immediately compete with Roger (Penske) or (Pat) Patrick, and that really evened out the playing field."

Founded in 1969, with lawyer and former driver Max Mosley as the commercial boss and ex-McLaren man Robin Herd as the designer, March Engineering's ambitious game plan was to build and sell customer cars for everything from Formula Ford to Formula 1.

But even though Jackie Stewart's Tyrrell-run 701 won the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix in just the second F1 World Championship start for the fledgling constructor, sustained success was hard to come by. March found F1 to be a daunting financial challenge and enjoyed a much better profile and sales in Formula 2 before George Bignotti came calling in 1980.

"I looked out of my office and saw George and couldn't believe it; he was one of my idols," says Herd. "He was looking for a car for Tom Sneva, so we jumped at that offer and got busy on our first Indy car, the March 81C."

British 2At the 1981 Indy 500, Sneva set the quickest time in qualifying (but it was on the third day, so he didn't win the pole) and charged from 20th to first, leading 25 laps before losing a clutch. Still, it was obvious the 81C (pictured) had potential and "The Gas Man" wound up winning in Milwaukee and Phoenix later that same season.

"I think the shape of the bottom of the car was better than everyone else's and it had more downforce than the rest," says Sneva of the 81C. "I wasn't sure why, but it went fast and it was fast right away.

"George was convinced it was going to be a good piece and it was head and shoulders above everyone else. That should have been an easy Indy win in '81."

Herd was overwhelmed, literally and figuratively. "I didn't expect to win so quickly and it all went mad after that; our phone was ringing constantly," he recalls.

From three starters at Indy in 1981, to 17 in '82, then 18 in '83 and Victory Lane with Sneva, it was a whirlwind as the March kit car became the rage. But nothing would top 1984.

"We built 47 cars for '84 and had 29 of the 33 starters at Indianapolis," recalls Herd. "And Roger Penske bought one, which surprised us, but made us very happy – and then Rick (Mears) only went and won the race in it.

"At the end of every race we would give our teams a setup sheet for the next race and people put their trust in it. That was a new concept in Indy cars."

While March captured Indy five years in a row (Sneva, Mears, Danny Sullivan, Rahal and Al Unser), it snared its initial CART title in '85 with "Big Al," followed by another with Rahal, aided by a young engineer named Adrian Newey.


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LAT cobb 160731 MidOhio 03719Tony Kanaan admits that he's going to need a "little bit of luck" to upset Team Penske's charge toward the 2016 IndyCar drivers' title, but says that teammate Scott Dixon's surprise championship success last season proves that he is still in the hunt.

Juan Pablo Montoya led the standings for the entire 2015 season, only for Dixon to capitalize on a clash between the Colombian and teammate Will Power during the Sonoma finale to secure the title on a countback.

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This year, Penske's Simon Pagenaud and Power have established themselves as the main contenders, but Kanaan goes into this weekend's round at Watkins Glen as their closest threat. He has more ground to make up than Dixon did at the same time last year – heading into the last two races in 2015, Dixon was third in the standings and 34 points behind Montoya, while third-placed Kanaan currently trails Pagenaud by 113 points.

Any hope of closing that gap will require the Brazilian to take full advantage of the double-points on offer at Sonoma and finding Victory Lane for the first time this season, but he remains bullish about his chances.

"We're still in the game," he told RACER. "We realize it's going to be tough and we'll need a little bit of luck – we're going to have to win both races. But we have put ourselves in the fight. I'm still looking for that win, so maybe we'll get two wins. But last year our team had the same scenario going into the last two races and Scott ended up winning. So until I don't have a mathematical chance to win, I'm going to believe that I can."

lat lepage 160731 mido 2671Although he is still chasing a win in 2016, the 41-year-old is enjoying his strongest season since moving to Ganassi in 2014.

"The Indy GP [where he was involved in a crash with Sebastien Bourdais] was the only race where we've had a problem," he says. "Otherwise, we've been very consistent. I'm really happy with where I'm at with the team, and with my engineer, and so far it has been a great season. Obviously it's easier to say that when things are going well, but this has been my best season since I joined Ganassi, for sure."

lat lepage 160828 vir 7725Ben Keating owns and races a Dodge Viper GT3-R in IMSA's WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. He's also purchased a new-for-2017 Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 WEC-specification P2 chassis. Beyond those two facts, the Texan says he's tired of being asked about what or where he will race next year.

"Everything I said in my press release is accurate," the world's largest volume seller of Dodge Vipers told RACER. "I have bought an LMP2 car and I do want to run at Le Mans. And one of the ways to get all my entries to get an invite is to win a Trueman-Akin award (for Pro-Am drivers).

"Other than that, I'm not ready to tell the world what I'm doing. I'm not ready to make a decision yet. And I am perfectly good with that. I have still got 20 percent of my season left this year. And we've got 150 days until we have to start worrying about next year."

The self-made businessman and his popular IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program has become a source of intrigue while his plans for 2017 remain fluid. Continuing with the Viper in IMSA's GT Daytona class is an option, and Keating has also been courted by other manufacturers with GT3 cars that race within GTD.

keatingWhether it's his Viper, his P2 car, or something else, fans can count on Keating being present next year, and details on the exact locations of that presence could be known before the end of the year. Maybe.

"I am OK with that and I don't give a sh*t if everybody else is not OK with that," he said with a big laugh. "I got tired of speculation and I got tired of people telling me what I was going to be doing. And I will tell you that I've got a lot of really good options and I'm not ready to set anything in stone.

One man, with sponsorship, multiple cars, and a desire to go racing. It's a wonderful problem any series would love to have.

"So, I am a popular guy in the paddock, and I do have a lot of people that are wanting me to race their stuff," Keating said. "There are also a lot of people who are now expecting me to run a full season in LMP2. Hopefully I will be in a position to announce something before the end of the year (laughs)."

Keating also says having multiple cars and options could lead to increased fun.

"There's a strong possibility I'll be driving two cars in two classes," he added.

Currently second in the GTD standings, Keating and co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen (pictured, left, with Keating, above) have two more races to complete in their pursuit of a championship before 2017 becomes a priority.

lat lepage 160820 poc 1892Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi appears to have multiple options for 2017 in IndyCar and at least one in Formula 1. According to the surefire Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, remaining in America is atop his wish list.

"Oh yeah, I am entertaining it, definitely," Rossi told RACER. "We have been considering it as an option, really, for a good couple of months now. And we're working to try to put something together. This time of the year is always tough. You think things are going to go one way and most of the time it doesn't. But we are putting our best foot forward and definitely looking at IndyCar for next year and in the future."

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After the IndyCar season ends on Sept. 18, Rossi's ongoing association with the Manor F1 team will have the 24-year-old complete his role as a reserve and test driver through the grand prix finale at Abu Dhabi on Nov. 27. During that timeframe, sorting out an extension with the Andretti-Herta Autosport team will be a priority for the team and its young charger.

"Sonoma is going to come and then I have got to finish up my Formula 1 contract," said Rossi, who sits between IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Juan Montoya in the championship. "So as much as it is difficult to go to the track and not drive, I have to make it my full priority. That is my job. And I owe that to the team. As soon as Sonoma finishes there will obviously be the continuing discussions on continuing in IndyCar, but I have to focus on the Formula 1 side of things for a couple more months to finish it up."

Although inquiries about Rossi's availability have made by other entrants in the IndyCar paddock, a return to the blended Andretti Autosport and Bryan Herta Autosport team appears to be his highest priority.

"We have been very fortunate to have interest from other sides, but I love working at Andretti and they are the team that we are obviously closest to because we have the relationship," he said. "I have nothing negative to say and I think the organization is great. And I really like the structure of it. So we are definitely speaking to them most – but, as always, you need to have B and C plans in place."

Lewis Hamilton believes fans do not care about Formula 1's high-tech power units, with the current engine formula too complicated.

F1's new hybrid era, which began in 2014, features power units that comprise six separate elements  internal combustion engine, MGU-H, MGU-K, turbo, energy store and control electronics. Should a driver use more than five of any of those elements in a season, a grid penalty is awarded with subsequent changes increasing the size of the penalty.

Last weekend at Spa, Hamilton had three fresh power units fitted, which included a series of component changes, and was handed a 55-place grid penalty.

"What do I think to the actual rule? The fact we have six components of an engine and mismatch [of component usage], I don't think it's great," said Hamilton. "People watching don't care about that.

"It's far too technical, far too complicated. Most people watching don't know what an MGU-H is and don't bloody care."

Hamilton also believes the sound needs to be improved, highlighting how he favors the days of V12 engines. The FIA and teams are working on making a significant improvement for next year.

"It doesn't sound good," said Hamilton. "I still look online and watch old races with the old cars sounding great. I miss that. One day I hope we come back to that and simplify it."

Mercedes made use of a loophole in the regulations to build up a pool engines and take Hamilton's penalty in one hit, but its team boss Toto Wolff conceded the rules need to be changed to stop that practice.

McLaren's Jenson Button, whose teammate Fernando Alonso picked up a penalty of 60 places for changes at Spa, believes the penalty system needs rethinking.

Alonso initially took a hit of 35 places at Spa, so when he made another change equating to a 25-place drop it was essentially a penalty-free change because he was set to start at the back of the grid anyway.

"The number just shouldn't be there, but we should obviously get penalized because if we go over the amount of the engines or other parts we're supposed to use we should get penalized," said Button.

"I think it's wrong somebody just asked, 'Does this mean he [Alonso] gets another penalty?' It doesn't. That's why Mercedes put three engines in this weekend.

"The figures are pointless and we shouldn't bother talking about them anymore. That is ridiculous."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: 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, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.


Q: Wanted to share some thoughts from someone who grew up a NASCAR fan and saw my first IndyCar race at TMS last Saturday night. I took my three-year-old and he loved it! For the first 20 laps he was jumping up and down and waving his hands each time the cars came by. It's hands down best race I've ever seen. You could tell the drivers were driving the cars and that it wasn't a NASCAR/old IRL pack race that depended on luck and who had the best engineer. The last 10 laps were the best I've ever seen (yes, even topping the 2000 Talladega fall race).

NBCSN does a great job of keeping up with most of the stuff going on, but it doesn't compare with being at the track. As you got closer to the track the sensation of speed was absolutely insane! The LED running order lights on the cars are awesome. You could immediately tell who was where and yes, they are visible from the grandstands.

Ben in Houston

RM: Well, that's quite an endorsement Ben, especially from a NASCAR fan, and I'd say you picked one of the greatest races to be your first one. As you pointed out, as good as television cameras have become, and the cool in-car shots, it still doesn't do justice to how freakin' fast these guys go through a corner at Texas. And also glad the LED lights are a success. Hope you make it back next year, or bring your son to Indy some day.

Q: That is fairly accurate title for your article (Two stepping with the devil) on Texas. That was quite the race and Hinch drove his heart out. I would have been happy for any of the three - Rahal, Hinch, or TK, to end up with the win. With the way they drove, all three were deserving of the win. TK may be old by IndyCar standards, but he still has it. At one point, watching a restart when Rahal bounced like a pinball machine off of Hinch and TK has us open-jawed and look at each other like, "how did they not crash?"

It would have been interesting if Carpenter had not crashed as he was in it, too. This is why I enjoy IndyCar racing at night at Texas and Iowa. The sparks fly, the action is fast, and the guys drive like they need a wheelbarrow to carry around the pair they have. That beats NASCAR at Michigan by a margin that is about as big as pairing Usain Bolt against a third grader. I remember what it is like to have a car that handles like what those guys had. I had the same smile as TK when it happened. I bow before the greatness Hinch, Rahal, and TK showed at Texas.

John Balestrieri, Milwaukee

RM: I think you hit on what we may have overlooked Saturday night, and that's how good the driving was not to have a big pileup. Sure it was close a few times, and they got lucky with the pinball, but it was an impressive display of running hard and fast and fair in close quarters. But all IndyCar ovals should be at night except the Indy 500 and Pocono.

Q: Wow, just wow. Proud of how intense and clean was the last eight laps of racing from TMS! I hope IndyCar and NBCSN, use this as promotional footage for all their 2017 oval races (and Mr. Gossage for TMS). Sprinkled with Fontana 2015, what a testament to what these drivers can do, and what kind of racing IndyCar can deliver. Kudos to the post-race interviews where the involved drivers refreshingly and unabashedly spoke in tones of " if you didn't like that race, I don't know what else we can do..." tooting their own horns, sans sunglasses. All positives! Graham, Hinch and TK gave the new marketing guy an early Christmas gift, use it wisely.

Mike, Avon

RM: Good call Mike. Just play a montage of the last three laps and turn it into a 60-second national spot to promote IndyCar for the next eight months. Take advantage of one of the great finishes ever and don't waste it like IndyCar did with Fontana last year.

Q: Well, Texas was either average or incredible. You couldn't have a more exciting finish; too bad it took yellows to make it happen. The crowd has not been good there the last few years, so can you comment on how the crowd was compared to the original date? I have always been a Bobby Rahal fan and I like it when Graham shows his mettle and wins a race, but someone needs to remind him what happened to Nigel Mansell in Canada in 1991, when he had a big lead, started waving at the crowd, stalled his car and lost the race. Put your victory arm up after you cross the finish line. Looking forward to The Glen.

Tom in Waco

RM: I believe in the early IRL races you had to buy season ticket package (which included the IndyCar race) in order to get the NASCAR ticket, so there appeared to be a legit 75,000-80,000 for several years. Attendance has plummeted since then and, until Saturday night, the races hadn't been very good. Impossible to tell a crowd number with the way they were spread out, but if 10,000 showed up I'd be surprised. Graham said he glanced over at Hinch's rollbar as he was putting his hand up, but it was close.


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Q: What a great race. That's what IndyCar needs! Wheel-to-wheel excitement the whole time and an amazing finish on an oval. Why is it that on Saturday we had close pack racing, and is it possible we can keep it that way at Texas?

Craig Stermer, Chesterfield, MI

RM: Many of the drivers correctly predicted it would be more like an old pack race because of all the added downforce, since it was supposed to be a day race and teams had to leave their cars alone from the previous rainout. I imagine there will be some serious discussion about what aero package is used in 2017.

Q: I hallucinated I was at a trophy dash at Winchester with Foyt, Mario, Branson and Parnelli! I got up for another beer, tripped and hit my head, woke up and it was Texas! And people say ya can't go back, well that's not true.

Pat Ringley

RM: It was a little like Salem or Winchester heat race or the 1953 Hoosier Hundred in terms of thrilling finishes. This one was just 100 mph faster!

Q: I have watched races for 76 years and that race from Texas, although scary as hell ... if that's not the best ending I've ever seen, I can't think of one better! If it had gone five feet further Hinch would have won.

Terrible Ted

RM: Fans tend to judge races on finishes. A lot of people claim the 1992 Indy 500 was one of the greatest when, in fact, it was one of the worst in terms of actual racing, because of all the accidents and Michael Andretti's total dominance, but all anyone remembers is the finish between Unser and Goodyear. But last Saturday night was a damn good race from start to finish, through the pack. Then it got great at the end for the win.

Q: Your RACER commentary on the Texas race was excellent. That was a hell of a show. I was screaming for Rahal, my wife was screaming for TK, and a buddy was screaming for Hinch. We also watched the NASCAR race at Michigan, and everyone fell asleep. (Woke up in time to see Larson win, which is cool.) This is the best racing on the planet. Those in-car camera views are insane. Our group of drivers are awesome. They are talented, approachable, good with the media. I have to believe IndyCar is going to catch on. Please let the drivers you talk to know how much we love and appreciate them and what they do. One last note, a acquaintance of ours had a chance to meet Rahal and Newgarden at Iowa. He had his young daughter with him. He told us he was blown away by how friendly, kind and sincere they both were with kids and all the fans. That is so cool.

Aaron Carrico

RM: IndyCar couldn't have lost if any of that trio had won. Hinch for his great comeback, 41-year-old T.K. driving like he was 21 and Rahal for stealing a victory he gave away a few years ago. But I'm constantly hearing from fans how cooperative the IndyCar drivers are when approached for autographs and pictures, and that's good because that's the way it should be.

Q: IndyCar needs to highly consider making a Super Bowl commercial with footage from Texas, Barber, and Indy. That's probably be the best marketing they could do!

Michael McCue

RM: Amen. And I'd throw 2015 Fontana into that mix as well.

Q: Racing simply does not get much better than what IndyCar showed at Pocono, and what we saw at Texas was as good as racing can get. The stands are empty! Texas drew over 100k for its first few IRL races in the 90s, and now it's maybe 15-20k. I get it that most every form of racing is hurting for butts in the seats, and that is clearly evident as I sit here and watch NASCAR at Michigan and it looks maybe 60 percent full. And that's after they removed a huge chunk of grandstands some years ago.

On the contrary, Road America and Mid-Ohio draw large crowds, and a few of the street races draw well. I've learned to accept and embrace road racing, but for the most part the show these cars put on at a street race is sub-par at best compared to Saturday night's excitement. Ticket prices are quite reasonable at most of the ovals, with family packages even available at some. What is Robin Millers five-point plan to get people to show up to see the fantastic product that IndyCar puts on oval tracks, and does IndyCar seem to be trying to address the problem?

Forrester Morgan

RM: I know Jay Frye is working with oval promoters to beef up the lineup for 2017 but my suggestions would be: 1) Run USAC Silver Crown at Gateway, Iowa and Phoenix. 2) Make Pocono twin 150s with a concert in between. 3) Make Texas twin 125s. 4) Make a Midwest Oval Super Ticket: buy tickets to Gateway and Iowa and get free pit passes, free IndyCar hats and a special hour buffet with select drivers. 5) Make Iowa run at night again, even if it's Friday night.


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Q: Your love affair with Graham Rahal kills me. He has nothing to lose, and some people would say he drives brave. He is all over the place and takes chances that a lot of drivers would not. Pagenaud saw the "Brave Graham Rahal" try to go four-wide when every one knows that it is not possible. Again, nothing to lose and he figures the other driver will back off.

The other part is he never accepts responsibility for any accident or other situation that he is involved in. Even after winning he even blames Helio for running into him, when he slowed down because of a "Graham Rahal Brave Move." He has gotten away with a lot of moves that catch people out. Driving all over the place does not make you a great driver. Please stop with the "oh he is so brave and gutsy." Congratulations to Graham for the win.

Ralph Boyd

RM: Some would say he drives brave, and some would be correct. You have to at certain ovals, and it's certainly worked for T.K., Helio and JPM at different tracks during their careers. Did it help Rahal win Fontana and Texas? Absolutely. But most of the front-runners got away with a couple of crazy moves the other night  it's the nature of that beast. But I think Graham has also shown plenty of skill at Mid-Ohio or Barber or Elkhart Lake to go with his bravado. He admitted he made it four-wide to try and get Simon's attention, and it worked. Of course I was shattered when he married Courtney Force, but I got therapy and I'm better now.

Q: Social media was ablaze Saturday night and Sunday over the question of whether or not Texas was a return to the old style of pack racing that creates unnecessary danger. What were the drivers saying off the record afterwards? The guys up front looked like they had a blast. Was their enthusiasm genuine, or were they saying privately afterwards that they were just glad it was over?

Darrick, Brownsburg, IN

RM: Every driver I talked to said it wasn't the old pack racing because they were able to draft and maneuver, and that was pretty obvious when Rahal went high to the middle to low in a couple corners and won the race. And, yes, bravery has been a prerequisite of racing for quite a while now. Sometimes I get swept away with nostalgia and places like Langhorne, and don't give today's IndyCar drivers enough credit for having big balls at Phoenix, Indy, Pocono and Texas, but they do. The cornering speeds are insane, and there aren't any slow spins or easy hits anymore. Having said that, I think everyone is glad they walked away from Texas and glad it's only once a year.

Q: Will the lack of continued development for 2017 mean that Honda will maintain its advantage at the Indy 500 similar to this year? Or are there other factors that could change that?

Lee from Minnesota

RM: Well, the aero kits are going to be frozen so that's not good for Honda, and both manufacturers can work on improving their engines. And Honda does seem a little more stout on the big ovals, except I think Indy was going to be decided between Munoz (Honda), Newgarden (Chevy), Kanaan (Chevy), Kimball (Chevy) and Hinch (Honda) without fuel mileage figuring in.

Q: What was Rossi thinking while running three laps down? The danger presented under those conditions with what he was doing is inexcuseable. If I was one of the other cars in the lead pack, I'd have hunted him down after the race and had a discussion. I don't care if he's a rookie; that's no excuse. And I don't think anyone pointing to the fact that he got a lap back has a leg to stand on either. He was still two laps down at the end of that race, and I don't see a scenario in which he ever had a chance to get any more of those laps back.

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I heard some grumbling about that afterwards, and most drivers feel like if it's only one lap (like Aleshin) then have at it. But, any more than that, get out of the way.

Q: So here's my take on the problem with ovals these days:. Too industrial. Nothing but concrete, asphalt, aluminum, and high temperatures. There's no shade, no trees, no grass, no comfort. Even dirt tracks have a "softer" feel. And it would be one thing if going to such a place were just a local excursion. In order to truly draw however, you have to get folks to travel significant miles to experience such a thing. So all you get are the hardcore fans. Juxtapose this with places like Road America, Mid-Ohio, Barber, and (hopefully) Watkins Glen that, while also excursions, can be downright park-like. And I'm not one who believes that minor support races (that don't really exist anyway), or any other form of entertainment, could significantly move the needle in terms of putting more butts in seats.

A major reworking has to happen. It will cost money, but would be more under the guise of capital improvement rather than paying for one off concerts, etc. This would entail taking out huge swaths of seats and replacing them with more "fan friendly" areas. Things like beer gardens and children's play areas with more natural, organic features; outdoor restaurants and bars, with different themes and higher quality food and where you can see the race from your seat; actual walk-in merchandise/souvenir shops vs. trucks and pop up stands in the parking lot; similar improvements to the infield or other RV/camping areas; maybe a collection of show cars from the past and current set up around site?

I'm not suggesting we get away from the overall character of a traditional race day, but times do change. While they're different sports, the most readily available example is Major League Baseball. The character-less "mallparks" of the '60s and '70s went the way of the dodo, in large part due to attendance issues. Then these facilities were ultimately replaced by retro-style, outdoor oasis. What happened? Attendance took off, and the rest is history. Not saying it would solve the problem completely, but it might be a good start? Such improvements could pay for themselves. Always interested in hearing your thoughts.

Matt, California

RM: I think you are spot on in your analysis that unless you have a pit pass there's nothing to do at an oval in the hours leading up to the races. This was OK back in the day because they practiced, qualified and raced all in the same day, and started the race by 1p.m. But now with 3:00 and 3:30 starts, you are asking a lot of people to sit around – especially with kids. Some kind of a kiddie park might work (although Milwaukee had one in the infield and it didn't help very much) or outdoor dining. The thing road courses have over most ovals is camping, being able to come and go in comfort, and non-stop action from sunup to sundown. Obviously street races like Long Beach have all the restaurants, bars and hotels a few blocks away. Not sure what the answer is but good racing, obviously, isn't enough anymore.


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Q: Why does the winner in Texas have to shoot guns? What do handguns have to do with auto racing? Why not take the trophy, hug the crew, spray the champagne and celebrate without glorifying or normalizing the handgun?

Anthony Jenkins, Canada

RM: I think it's more of a Wild West theme (and most Texas finishes are Wild West), and Texans and guns kinda go hand in hand. But shooting a six-shooter into the air in victory isn't really glorifying a handgun, is it?

Q: In the afterglow of an amazing show at Texas, I was (oddly) wondering about the previous week at Pocono. We had a group there and had the Saturday paddock passes: what a blast. Coming back for the race on Monday, it seemed that the management at Pocono Raceway had underestimated the number of people they thought might show up. Only one set of food stands was open behind the grandstand, and that led to very long lines.

I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout on Monday. There was a good concentration of fans all along the very top of the grandstand (just under the roofed boxes) so, on TV, it probably looked a little sparse as you could only really see the mid to lower stand. My question is, do you know what Pocono management's or IndyCar's take is on Monday's attendance? Pocono was built for IndyCars and they put a great show on there. Hopefully our fan base can make this event a permanent fixture on the schedule.

Al Lauffer

RM: I didn't talk to anyone from either side, but I can tell you that sitting in the NBCSN booth and looking down on the grandstands, it looked a lot better than what I anticipated for a noon race on Monday. So I think both sides should be encouraged by the turnout. I've heard from several fans they enjoyed the race but not the long lines to try and eat, so it sounds like Pocono may have been surprised as well.

Q: I thought the Texas finish was fantastic, and enjoyed the whole Saturday night portion. It had excellent racing and, politics aside, that finish really did remind me of some IRL races of yore, in a good way. Keep the celebrating until after the line next time Graham! Really feel bad for the Mayor as he had the car to beat Saturday night. My question is actually about the new schedule though, specifically the Gateway race. Me and my dad are really considering attending it and we were wondering what you could tell us about the track? For example, where is the best place to sit?

Dan Kaup, Illinois

RM: I believe the grandstands on the front straightaway will be the only ones sold (not the ones in the first turn) so I'd get as high up as possible because you can see all the way around the track.

Q: Solid schedule for 2017! Miles should be commended for the date equity and better spacing this year. However, there needs to be another race on March 26th, and Pocono should have been August 13th, so there would not be more than one weekend off in a row. Why isn't Pocono 8/13? Will the 2018 schedule add a race between St. Pete and Long Beach?

Mark Z, Discovery Bay, CA

RM: I think we need to thank Jay Frye for a lot of it, but Mark certainly had to give it his blessing. Pocono hosts NASCAR on July 30th so they want a little spacing before the IndyCar race, and I don't blame them. Can't predict the 2018 schedule other than to say I think Portland has a decent chance, and Miles still wants something early to open the season out of the country.

Q: I like the new continuity and diversity of the schedule. It's only missing one thing: a final 500-mile race at Fontana after Sonoma. Not ending the race on an oval is ridiculous.

Mike Oates, Los Angeles

RM: I agree it should end on an oval, but probably not a west coast race for television purposes. Maybe Gateway in 2018? It needs to be at a place that has a chance for good racing and a good crowd that makes it look important. No offense to Sonoma, they do a great job of promoting, but it's seldom been much of a race. Attendance keeps getting a little better but still looks pretty empty on TV.

Q: Great to see the schedule out, 2017 looks awfully promising. These gaps in the schedule seem to exist for 2018 additions. The only thing I'm finding to be a bit concerning is the Phoenix date, which could be a real scorcher. I really hope 2018 brings back the Triple Crown, and they have that event at MIS rather than Fontana. I know you say that won't happen so long as Belle Isle is in play, but there is an argument to be made for MIS. The racing is awesome, it's in the heart of IndyCar country, it's Chevy's backyard, and it hasn't hosted IndyCars since unification, so quite possibly we could see a resurgence like Road America, and it will undoubtedly outdraw Fontana. Just need a date between mid-May and mid-September. I have 11 people who are awaiting the return of IndyCar.

CJ Shoemaker, West Michigan

RM: I think I've addressed this recently, but there's no need to have a Triple Crown unless you can pay a big prize and make it worth more than a trophy. MIS hasn't been mentioned by anyone at IndyCar for a long time, so I don't think it's on anyone's radar. But could it be resurrected? I think so, it would just have to have a few years to try and not have a one-and-done like Loudon. And there won't be anything in May other than the two races at IMS.


 lat lepage 160820 poc 130

Q: Why do all of you guys refer to Ed Carpenter as an oval specialist? He has some oval wins but is hardly a "specialist." I do give him credit for farming out his car for road and street courses because he isn't any good at them, but the fact that he isn't good at them it shows that he is not the well-rounded racer that IndyCar is supposed to represent. You have plenty of names that are much more of an oval "specialist" than Carpenter. Let's just start calling Ed an oval racer. Secondly, is Honda trying to get some teams to pursue Kanaan? He would be an invaluable resource for Honda in development, feedback, and overall experience that they currently are lacking. In the same way Justin helped, I think Tony would be wonderful for Honda, plus he loved his time with Honda in the past.

Josh R., Salem, OR

RM: I've never referred to Ed as an "oval specialist," I think I just say he only runs the ovals or he's one of the forces at ovals or he's a good oval racer. Not sure anyone in IndyCar is more of a specialist on ovals than Ed though. Who would it be? Not sure Honda, per se, is after T.K. but I think he's looking at some options from a couple of Honda teams if Chip doesn't want him back.

Q: Yes! IndyCars are coming back to Gateway and I have a group of six that will be going next year. We will buy full premium-priced tickets because we want this venue to succeed. We did this for Milwaukee and look what happened there. The instant that the people that run this thing want to change the time slot to a late Sunday afternoon start for TV is the instant that we stop going; that's what we did for Milwaukee.

The only vote that the fans have is with their wallets, and the results at Milwaukee speak for themselves. We are from the Chicago area and have attended all of the races that they have had, and the racing has been great. Having the race on a Saturday night gives the fans an opportunity to see great racing at night, and, should it rain, the chance to see a complete race the next day at noon local time, so money is not wasted, and you still get home at a decent hour on Sunday. Please start caring about the fans in the stands and not someone sitting at home with their feet propped up on the couch watching it on TV who is not supporting the series. This fan is begging you.

Dale Christenson

RM: You are a good man Dale, and I sent your letter to Mark Miles and Jay Frye. I want to see Iowa at night again, although it can't be Saturday because of the NBCSN conflict with NASCAR, but I'd be up for a Friday night show - or even something on Wednesday.

Q: We finally got our wishes. Remember back in the day on "Wind Tunnel" when you said the series should be an even split of road/street/ovals? Remember when we said a few years ago that IndyCar should go back to some of its legacy tracks like Phoenix and Road America, not mess with the dates and the attendance will work? Remember when you said some schedule solidarity would help the series grow in the markets it has races?

If it feels I'm being facetious, I'm not. I just have a decent memory of all the things you've said about how to help IndyCar. And while they were all true, I never considered you a true trendsetter because everything you said was based on logic. However, considering it took until 2016 to get everything mentioned, maybe the basic logic you used was more than most people in AOW decided to have from the years 1996-2014 inclusive.

While we are on the subject of legacy tracks, any chance of Portland, Cleveland or Surfers getting back on the schedule? Or for that matter, any [new] tracks in general getting on the schedule in 2018? If it saves us from having to sit through two Detroit races I'm all for it.

Jamie Sullivan

RM: Good memory Jamie. I recall that episode of "Wind Tunnel" when Dave Despain let me preach for 10 minutes. I'm just glad Jay Frye pushed for Phoenix and Watkins Glen (and Derrick Walker went after Road America), and I'm happy Mark Miles understands how traditional places can be resurrected and maybe a place like Gateway can become a hit because it's in the right place and has a passionate owner. I think Portland has a good shot and I know Mark is still looking for something Down Under to open the season. They both embrace continuity and date equity, and that's a huge step for IndyCar.

Q: The announcement of the entire 2017 schedule (without any asterisks or TBAs) is an achievement alone. There are a lot of positives, from continuity to new venues and spacing out the events for the sake of the teams, yet there are two items that I wish were different. The first is a month's gap between St. Pete's and Long Beach. There has to be a race in this time period in 2018 planned, doesn't it? Otherwise, it's a major failure in trying to maintain momentum and interest from the outset.

The second is ending at Sonoma. It's too tight and twisty to allow much passing, and off-course incidents result in full course cautions nearly every time. The paltry crowds that show up says a lot. So, the schedule, while having some improvements, starts and ends in a manner than still has all sorts of room for improvement.

Rick in Toronto

RM: Not sure what the plan might be but I know Mark Miles would like to open the season in February, if possible, but it could also be a race that slots into early or late March. Too early to tell. I'm with you on both counts at Sonoma. It's fine to race there and they do a good job but, for the reason listed, it's a terrible place to pay double-points and end the season. A big finish is what should be next on Jay Frye's and Miles' plates. And get rid of double points, period.

Q: Having just attended the Pocono race, we decided to go to the Glen race as well. Could not get the website to work for me to purchase tickets so I called their ticket number. I got a live person to talk to and it went well until he asked me who my favorite driver is. Told him Newgarden and he informed me I needed to have a NASCAR driver because it is a NASCAR track. What is wrong with you? Geez, buddy, it is an IndyCar race you're hosting!

Got by that, ordered the tickets and then learned it's a $7 fee for Will Call, or $25 to mail them to me. Decided that was not going to happen after the first insult and cancelled the order. Then I got a call next day from the ticket office. I ended up buying tickets, and they waved the fee to send the tickets I bought. Good for them for the follow-up, but do they also tell the sportscar guys they are following the wrong series?

Dan Strong, Rochester, NY

RM: IndyCar followed up on your complaint and was told it was just a joke, although it didn't sound like you were laughing. Anyway, I'm glad somebody at The Glen was smart enough to call you back and work things out. IndyCar needs all the fans it can get, and a $7 charge for Will Call is crap. See you this weekend.


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Q: Marco Andretti is stuck in a rut. So that gave me an idea: how about in 2017 he and Alexander Rossi switch rides? Putting Marco at BHA will take the pressure off Marco since he's no longer in a top car and isn't being directly controlled by his Pop. We also know that Byran Herta has been a great mentor to young drivers and can bring out the best in a kid with talent. Plus, Marco doesn't necessarily have to measure up with teammates: if all three Andretti cars beat him, it's because he's in a sub-team. But when he does beat the Andrettis, he's a hero. It will help his confidence, and I think Herta might be able to help Marco's racing. On top of that, having Marco may help bring a sponsor or two to Herta's team.

On the flip side of that, Rossi gets a shot at a top-of-the-line car with an experienced team. Sure, Andretti's cars have issues on bumpy tracks, but when the tracks are fast or smooth, Andretti cars are always near the front. Plus with the clampdown on development in 2017, Honda and Andretti might be able to close the gap and be in contention for more races (since they will have fewer variables to juggle). It gives Rossi the chance to better learn from his experienced teammates and lets him show that he didn't just fall into his 500 win (a perception still held outside the tight-knit Indy fanbase).

Plus, he'd now get the direct tutelage of Michael and Mario. This would be an easy swap because both teams are technically under the same umbrella and the change of scenery might just be enough to pull Marco out of his slump. A change of pace really helped Graham Rahal and I think Marco could use the same.

David Zipf, Lexington, KY

RM: OK, a couple of things. Rossi's car is just as well prepared as anyone else's on that team and there's no A-B-C-D. And RHR has always been the lead driver – not Marco. I agree with you that he needs a change of scenery, but he needs to change teams – not just switch cars on Andretti – and the problem there is that nobody else wants him right now.

Q: I'd like your thoughts please on something that has puzzled me the near-60 years I've been a racing fan. I have never been able to understand how full-season, fully sponsored teammates can have such diametrically different results, not just in a given race, but season after season. Without further fueling the Marco and Danica haters, I guess they are the most glaring current examples given the overall success and competitiveness of Harvick and RHR?

But there have been plenty of others over the years. I know it isn't a lack of courage  anyone who'll drive into Indy's Turn 1 at 230mph has what A.J. would call a full bucket of balls. I assume they have the best of equipment, crew and resources, as well as reasonably thorough access to teammate's set-ups. Taking away the road courses that could require a special skill, the gap still seems just as prevalent on the ovals. Can a driver's personal set-up preferences possibly explain such a disparity, and if so, wouldn't they try to change their approach after so many repeated bad finishes? I'd really like your insights as the results of almost every race leave me shaking my head.

David Spear

RM: In Danica's case, I don't think any of us thought she would be competitive in Cup and certainly not have anything close to the results she had in IndyCar. She was good at Indy every year. She had a great duel with T.K. for second at Homestead. She battled Sam Hornish and Ryan Briscoe for the lead at Texas. She was fast on ovals and struggled on road courses because it's just too physical (she had the front row at Mid-Ohio once when she got power steering help). She didn't grow up in stockers and look at all the good Indy drivers who struggled adapting to NASCAR. Daytona and Talladega are her only annual shots at getting a good result, although she was good at Richmond once.

In Marco's case, I'll always think he was rushed into IndyCar and needed at least another year of seasoning on road courses. He almost won Indy as a rookie and runs strong there all the time. He's usually good at Iowa, Texas and Pocono too but not this year and he's been awful qualifying on road and street courses (15-21-19-19-19-22-21-22-21) this year. He had the same setup as RHR at Pocono so maybe he struggles with adapting to track changes. He might not show it but I don't Marco has any confidence and I think he feels tremendous pressure being an Andretti, now in his 11th season with one legitimate victory. Obviously, he wouldn't still have a ride without his father but he needs somebody new on the pit box.

Q: I recently read that Hunter-Reay has one more year on his contract and will probably look to move to a new team. Both Rossi and Munoz are driving cars with blank side pods. Marco is a consistent back-marker and hasn't been a threat on ovals at all this year yet somehow lands hhgregg as a new sponsor. My question is are we watching the end of Andretti Autosport? Is this team going to become a ride buyer team like Dale Coyne? This team has lost its way since the intro of the stupid area kits. How do they come back or will they fade away?

Chris, Ft Lauderdale, FL

RM: Munoz has always brought money from his family and it sounds like it's gone after two more races while Rossi had to pay something to get Bryan Herta on board with Andretti. DHL likes RHR so that's good, and I'm still not sure if hhgregg is replacing Snapple or is just on board for May. But we all think the Formula E and RallyCross money helps keep the IndyCar team afloat, because there doesn't appear to be any big sponsorship besides DHL. I hope Mikey weathers the storm because he supports the Mazda Road to Indy and employs three Americans.

Q: Love your work and passion for the sport. Crystal ball time. Who do you think will be driving for Penske, Ganassi and Andretti in two years? Five years?

Joe, Toronto

RM: At Penske  Power, Pagenaud and Newgarden (only thee-car team by then). Then Austin Cindric replaces Power. For Chip, Dixon, Kimball, Felix Rosenqvist and Shelby Blackstock. Kyle Larson replaces Kimball in five years (wishful thinking). For Andretti: Marco, RHR and Shelby Blackstock (only three cars). Then, only Marco.

Q: Will USAC do any kind of review of the Bryan Clauson accident to see if there is something that can be learned that might help in the future? I have seen some sprint cars with an extra bar across the top of the roll cage  is that driver or builder preference? Who knows if that might have helped a bad crash, and whether it is even feasible in a midget since they exit the car through the top of the cage.

You've posted the picture of Bruce Walkup's IndyCar with the roll cage, and with all of the talk of head protection, is there a next step for the sprint cars, midgets and Silver Crown cars short of putting a wing on top? The F1 halo is an aerodynamic version of the IndyCar roll cage from 30-plus years ago. Excellent pieces in tribute to Bryan, especially the conversation with Kuzman, Pancho, Merle and Vuky.

Allen Cardler, Brownsburg, IN

RM: Maybe the extra bar you speak of could have helped BC, but I haven't heard much talk about anything radical. Midgets and sprints are safer than they've ever been, but hitting poles or being hit in the cage remain the major hazards. Thanks for reading RACER.com.

16MIS2MT1472It was the "Chip Slam" in 2010 when his Grand-Am Rolex Series sportscar team won the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500, Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500, and McMurray completed the dream season by claiming the Brickyard 400, but what do you call Chip Ganassi Racing's unparalleled accomplishments this year? The "Stupendous Six?" "Six in '16?"

With Kyle Larson's breakthrough NASCAR Sprint Cup win last weekend, Ganassi completed another amazing feat by recording wins in six different championships in 2016.

Take Larson's Cup victory, add Scott Dixon's win in the Verizon IndyCar Series, multiple wins by the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program, the history-making debut win for the same team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is part of the FIA World Endurance Championship, wins by Larson and Justin Marks in Ganassi's NASCAR Xfinity entry, and Steve Arpin's win in the Ganassi Red Bull Global RallyCross machine, and the six represent a diverse first in motor racing.

"We're glad to do that," Ganassi told RACER. "This was the crowning one by winning in Cup with Larson. It's just a testament to the team and the people I get to work with. The business of racing is a lot of travel and hard work; it isn't the glamorous life depicted in the movie Grand Prix all the time. But the people you work with, the sponsors who make it possible; that's what makes it worthwhile."

From those six series, CGR stands a reasonable chance to win championships in IndyCar (Tony Kanaan is third in points while Dixon is sixth), in IMSA (Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are second in the GT Le Mans standings), in the GRC (Arpin holds third), and in the FIA WEC GTE-Pro category (Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla lead the class).

And with Larson now qualified for the Sprint Cup Chase and McMurray close to making the field of 16 contenders for NASCAR's biggest prize, some major hardware could be headed Chip's way by the end of the season. With or without the championships, 2016 is destined to close with another record-setting year for one of America's most prolific racing teams.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images of CGR's wide-ranging 2016 wins.

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 G7C2493The long-running saga surrounding the future of the Italian Grand Prix in Formula 1 appears poised to draw to a close.

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The race's place on the F1 calendar has long been in doubt, with the final grand prix of its current contract due to be staged this weekend at Monza.

Negotiations have previously stalled as the political situation behind the scenes has complicated matters. However, with hurdles seemingly removed last month, there is the suggestion the Automobile Club d'Italia [ACI] will sit down with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone this weekend to finalise a new deal.

"I'd be surprised if we didn't reach an agreement," Ecclestone (pictured) told Autosport.

The 85-year-old agreed a deal with Imola to return to the F1 stage 10 years after it last hosted the San Marino GP should Monza fall by the wayside.

The ACI, however, has the final say, with president Angelo Sticchi Damiani a staunch supporter of Monza that has held the race every year since F1's inception in 1950, bar one race in 1980 when Imola played host.

Damiani confirmed last month the problems involving the territorial entities involved with Monza  the region [of Lombardy], the cities of Milan and Monza, and the Park Authority  had finally been solved.

"We have found an agreement between ACI Milan and SIAS [which owns Monza through the ACI]. At this point there are no more political problems," Damiani said at the time.

Shortly afterward, it is understood a binding contractual offer was sent to Ecclestone, since when the details of the deal have apparently been fine tuned ahead of it being signed off.

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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