Can't we all just get along? I hope not.
What fun would the last couple of years in IndyCar have been without Tomas Scheckter throwing his gloves at Alex Tagliani's car in Toronto, Helio Castroneves grabbing Security Chief Charles by the shirt in Edmonton, Justin Wilson's yelling match with Ryan Briscoe at Mid-Ohio, Ryan Hunter-Reay telling Milka Duno to use her mirrors if she's going to drive so slow at Watkins Glen, Marco Andretti criticizing Mario Moraes after Moraes landed on top of him in the first turn of lap 1 at Sao Paulo, or Mario Moraes and Helio Castroneves tangling at Texas and Helio accusing Moraes of having no depth perception while Moraes responded with the line, “Nothing is ever Helio's fault”?
All these battles aside, when you think of racing rivalries, at least for me, Penske vs. Ganassi comes to mind first. It's been brewing for two decades. While there's no lack of respect, there's also no lack of intensity. A lot of owners have tried to keep up with or emulate Penske over the years, and most but Ganassi have failed. Ganassi has hung in there for the better part of 16 seasons. With Ganassi snatching the title in the final race the past two years, the battle with The Captain is heightening.
Penske driver Ryan Briscoe has driven for both sides of the rivalry. He drove for Ganassi in 2005, his first IndyCar season. In 2007, Penske asked him to drive in ALMS and he moved to Penske's IndyCar program in 2008. Fellow Penske drivers Helio Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner and Will Power finished second in last year's championship standings and earned a series-leading five wins. Target Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti is a three-time champion and two-time Indy 500 winner and teammate Scott Dixon is a two-time champion and the 2008 Indy 500 winner. The fact is, these are all top-quality drivers in top-quality cars. It's no surprise that they are going to monopolize the action at the front of the field, and that occasionally they'll argue over the same piece of real estate.
However, in the past, these issues were, for the most part, swept under the carpet and/or discussed privately, and the public impression was that the drivers were BFFs and everything would be cool by the next race. But this season is different. Listen to what the five drivers are candidly saying about each other and you might think... "All right! Them are fightin' words!"
Target Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon didn't mince words in several post Long Beach interviews after Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves hit Justin Wilson in Turn 11 and didn't get penalized, and then ran into his own teammate Will Power on a restart on lap 67.
"How the hell Helio doesn't get penalized, I have no idea," Dixon said after the race. "He ruined Justin Wilson's day by spinning him out in the hairpin, he takes his teammate out and he wrecks my car. That's garbage. I don't understand that. Obviously, he has free rein to crash whoever he wants. It's frustrating. I don't know if he is nervous or trying to get points or Will Power is getting to him a little bit because he is waxing everybody in qualifying, so he [Helio] has to make big moves in the race."
Scott was also vocal about Long Beach qualifying. After qualifying eighth, he said Will Power blocked him on a lap that would have put him in the Fast 6. "I was on my fastest lap and Power had already done his time and slowed down in front of me.”
This wasn't the first Scott/Will issue this season. During the race at Barber, Ganassi (RIGHT) marched down to Power's strategist John Erickson (subbing for Clive Howell, who was out for a family emergency) and said, "If your driver does that (blocks) to my driver again...I'm going to tell my driver to take your driver out."
I say, who cares if it's a driver feud between two teams we always hear about? A feud is a feud and we need them! We need new fans, we need new and old fans to pick sides, and we need them to care enough to watch the shows and increase the ratings and exposure.
If Penske and Ganassi drivers being at odds isn't for you, maybe the Marco Andretti/TK issue is. Remember Marco's off-season blog for RACER? “Will the team miss TK? I really don't think so,” he wrote. “The frustrating thing for me over the years was the perception that he was the godfather of the team. Well, just because I wasn't Tweeting about it doesn't mean I wasn't doing the work. I had a lot to do with the setups on my car. TK would work with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) behind closed doors so they had the same setups, and I don't agree with that way of working. If I'd gone with Ryan's setups, I'd have been just as quick as him, but the way TK operated took away Ryan's confidence in me.”
You might think this one is over, but what happens if TK and Marco have to fight each other for a podium position this season like the TK/Simona battle at St. Pete? Or both are involved in the same on-track incident and there's a question on whose fault it is? Will the bad blood not boil up?
Maybe a James Hinchcliffe/EJ Viso story is more for you. After Hinch was involved in a crash at Barber, he said, "That restart, Simona [de Silvestro] got into EJ. That wasn't his fault but on Day One at racing school, you learn that when you are spinning, you hit the brakes and the clutch and he just hit the gas.” He went on to say, "If he hasn't learned that yet, he never will."
There are big feuds and there are little ones, but I'd argue all are good. So pick a side, grab some popcorn, and let's all watch the Brazil race together. You never know when you'll get to witness a new falling out. Versus sends a very limited crew to Brazil, so I will be watching with the rest of you and tweeting (@lindythackston) throughout the race.
The new hour-long weekly show, IndyCar Open Wheel Weekly, debuts next Tuesday, May 3 at 4 p.m. Eastern, with a re-air at 2 a.m. Eastern. Guests Randy Bernard, Simona de Silvestro and Bryan Clauson will join me, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller and will answer some of your questions live on the show. Please tweet your questions to @indycar for Randy, Simona or Bryan.