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IndyCar In-Depth: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300

IndyCar In-Depth: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300

*What’s News?* Longtime series participants Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have announced the No. 22 car driven by Oriol Servia will continue to run through the Indianapolis 500; then, the team will be shutting down with hopes of regrouping for a return in 2014. Servia finished sixth in Long Beach and will be running in Sao Paulo this weekend; however, his plans beyond this month are unknown. DRR formed a strategic alliance with Panther Racing prior to the Indy 500 last season and notes that Panther’s operations will be unaffected by this decision. Read More »

Open Wheel Wednesday: Score One For The Little Guys … Or Two Or Three

Open Wheel Wednesday: Score One For The Little Guys … Or Two Or Three

Takuma Sato's win last week in Long Beach was a real feel good story for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. A.J. Foyt's long-struggling team hadn't won a race since July of 2002, when the team went to Victory Lane with Brazilian driver Airton Dare at Kansas Speedway. For the last road / street course victory for the operation, you have to go all the way back to October of 1978, when Foyt himself won at Silverstone in England. It was also the first IndyCar Series win ever for a Japanese driver. Before I go any further, those are all wonderful things and I don't mean to decrease the significance of any of them in the least. It really was a win that was a long time coming, for both team and driver and it was great to see. (Although I really wish A.J. had been present for the moment; instead, he was at home preparing for back surgery.) It was a David slew Goliath kind of day. Read More »

The Winds Of Change

The season is finally upon us, ladies and gentlemen. In just two short weeks, the IZOD IndyCar Series will be back in full swing for the first race of the season on the St. Petersburg Street Circuit. There will undoubtedly be a great deal of pomp and circumstance from IndyCar officials surrounding the event, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the folks in charge will cheerily gloat about how all is well in the world of IndyCar and this season will be the “best season in years†despite organizational in-fighting that could derail that very goal. Will this season deliver on the inevitable promises made by series higher-ups? Before we can answer that, we have some catching up to do in terms of you may have missed over the off season. On the driver and team front, there have been some off-season moves which have shuffled the deck in terms of who is where. The most high-profile driver to make a change was Graham Rahal, as he departed from Chip Ganassi Racing in order to join forces with his father at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Rahal’s new teammate will be James Jakes, who will also be running for Rahal after a stint with Dale Coyne Racing. Takuma Sato departed from the above listed Rahal team in order to join the ranks of A.J. Foyt Enterprises. A.J. Allmendinger is making a return to the series with Penske Racing, as he will be racing a part-time schedule that includes the Indianapolis 500. Rookie Sebastien Saavedra will be piloting a car for Dragon Racing, and Simona De Silvestro will be taking her talents to KV Racing Technology. Finally, the biggest winner in silly season was E.J. Viso, who landed a plum full-time gig with Andretti Autosport. Following on the numerous driver and team changes made in the offseason, INDYCAR officials also ushered in a variety of rule and regulation along with other general changes to the series as a whole. Most notably, another round of downforce reductions on the cars was made in a continued effort to put the racing back into the hands of drivers. For better or for worse, doubleheader races will be making a comeback, with the races at Toronto, Belle Isle, and the new Houston street circuit all being two-day/two-race affairs. Speaking of the race Houston, it will be joined by Pocono Raceway as tracks that are new to the schedule in 2013, with the Pocono race being designated as a Triple Crown event. Oh yeah, did I mention that Triple Crown? It’s back, and in addition to the Pocono event, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale at Auto Club Speedway will all comprise this new promotion, and IndyCar will award a $1,000,000 bonus to any driver who can win all three events. As for the on-track racing, this may just very well be the best season in years. The DW12 platform that debuted last year proved to be a rousing success. Not only was the on-track product improved by the new car, but it more importantly proved to be an improvement in terms of safety. After the tragic death of Dan Wheldon at the end of 2011, the sport absolutely needed to take a proactive and forward-thinking approach to safety, and it did just that. Many kudos must be given to INDYCAR for putting safety first, and to see that the new car raced well to boot was just an added bonus. Expect to see much of the same in 2013 as teams have had a full year under their belts in terms of getting these cars up to speed. The oval races will be absolutely scintillating, especially the newest oval to join the schedule, Pocono, as the drafty but driver-input-sensitive DW12 proved to be arguably the best car the series has ever raced with on such tracks. The above mentioned downforce reductions ought to make the racing even hairier on such tracks as drivers search and struggle for grip. There are undoubtedly still far too many road and street circuits, but the DW12 raced well enough on such tracks last year that the racing on the twisty circuits ought to be passable. But alas, despite the general optimism provided by a new car and some great racing, fans of the IndyCar world were left in a state of peril at the season’s end. In case you missed it INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard was abruptly fired after the season late last year, leaving many to wonder about the future of the sport. Rumors swirled that the series was in major financial trouble, and some insiders even warned that the series was close to going under. Where is this fine sport heading? Is American Championship Open-Wheel Racing on a path for failure? Those will be the questions asked continually throughout the season, as INDYCAR once again finds itself in a state of flux. The organization has had a nasty habit over the years of finding creative ways to shoot itself in the foot, and it has done so, once again. There is no getting around that. Bernard’s replacement (who is only an interim, tell me that’s not an indicator of how disorganized INDYCAR leadership is) is Jeff Belskus, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Hulman & Company, the group which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nothing against Mr. Belskus, but how are fans supposed to have any sort of faith in the direction of the sport if an actual, long-term CEO could not be found despite the sanctioning body having four months to do so? How can this organization be trusted to make the right moves? Off-track matters, both of organizational and financial in nature, will most definitely be underlying stories each and every week. Expect to hear some nasty rumors, organizational shuffling, and eventually a new CEO. INDYCAR’s greatest challenge this season will thus lie in the marketing department as they try to put the on-track racing at the forefront of the media’s attention while simultaneously burying all of the inevitable off-track closed doors shenanigans. With another new season comes a whole new set of challenges. INDYCAR will try it’s best to weather the current storm it is ensconced in at the moment. If INDYCAR is able to work it’s way out of the mess it is currently in financially, the sport could begin a golden age, as the on-track product is the best it has been in years. The racing is hot and heavy, and the current crop of drivers is as diverse and talented as ever. However, if the organizational and financial pitfalls of the sport’s offseason continue, INDYCAR could very well vanish completely. The fate of the sport thus currently rests in the hands of a select few shadowy individuals led by Jeff Belskus. If they can steer the ship in the right direction they will be hailed as saviors. But if that ship could sink if they are not careful, and it could sink fast. This is INDYCAR in 2013 ladies and gentlemen, and just about anything could happen. Buckle up, because it is going to be a bumpy ride. *Connect with Matt!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/MStall41\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Matt Stallknecht\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/38642/ Read More »

The Offseason Might Never Be The Same

The offseason. That time when we at first breathe a collective sigh of relief and take a break from devoting our Saturdays or Sundays to races. We all plan things around races on occasion, don’t we? Especially on a certain Sunday in May. No, the winter months are for getting away from that and spending time with our families and friends, especially those poor souls who don’t get the attraction of fast cars and non-stop action. At least the early part of the offseason is like that; toward the end we all get a little bit antsy–just a little anxious. For pity’s sake, can’t we start racing yet? NASCAR types don’t have to endure quite the wait the IndyCar crowd does. They race until mid-November and they are back on track in earnest by February. Well, we last saw cars turn laps in anger in September and we won’t see it again for another three weeks. That’s the end of March, for crying out loud! I’m going to forget what the drivers look like by then! <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14308.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Who wouldn't want to see this guy (Will Power) chair racing to help waste away the INDYCAR offseason? Photo courtesy INDYCAR LAT USA.</p></div> Ah, but INDYCAR had your back on that front this year. No, there isn’t any racing, but thanks to _The Offseason_, there was a chance to enjoy some of our favorite drivers this year. For those who have not been following, INDYCAR has been running a series of short videos called _The Offseason_ featuring Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden that depicts the quartet of bored drivers running amok around INDYCAR headquarters. Sure, it’s fluff, but it’s just the right amount of fluff to give us a “fix†when we don’t have racing to enjoy. It’s also a great move on the part of INDYCAR. The clips range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes long. They probably filmed these in a day or two, but they’ve gotten several months of fresh content to keep their drivers in front of fans. They dole them out one by one each week, right in that period of winter doldrums when fans start itching for the season to start. I’d call that a great return on a minimum investment. They are \"posted on YouTube\":http://www.youtube.com/user/indycars so fans can find any clips they missed simply by searching \"The Offseason IndyCar\" and can enjoy their favorites as many times as they want. And I don’t know about anyone else – maybe I’m just some sort of geek – but I’ve lately found myself eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the newest clip every week. A minimum of effort was needed to keep fans engaged and showcase driver personalities, but it gave them something to follow all winter. Why doesn’t NASCAR do something like this concept? Maybe they just haven’t thought of it. Maybe they don’t think the offseason is long enough to need something fluffy to engage fans, especially since they are back on TV by mid-January with preseason testing. I can think of one other reason but I don’t think putting it out there is going to make me very popular in stock car circles. NASCAR fans would hate it. They don’t want fluff. They don’t want drivers doing silly skits or engaging in staged antics. They make that clear every time one of the networks airs something of this variety. It’s undignified. NASCAR drivers are not clowns, they are here for business and we don’t want silly stuff going on instead. To put it bluntly, they can be sticks in the mud and sometimes take this whole racing thing too seriously. Whatever. Do I really think Will Power \"chair races in the halls\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_KIVEdU2HU of INDYCAR headquarters? OK, scratch that one. That might be a bad example because he might do that if given a chance. Do I really think Will Power \"listens to Justin Bieber on his computer\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8olE3ERiHg in his cubicle at headquarters? Good Lord, I hope not. My point is, I realize these guys are just goofing around and I don’t think they really spend the winter months running around the office doing silly things while wearing their driver suits. I realize someone put these skits together solely for publicity purposes. I also think it was a great idea because when I can’t watch real racing and be serious, it’s just fun to cut up and watch them act silly when there’s nothing better to do. And it gets fans to engage and look for content when they might not normally even be thinking about INDYCAR. Additionally, serious news is also beginning to flow again. The league has announced a few rule changes for this year aimed at allowing team strategies to become a bigger part of the game. Teams will be able to start the race with any amount of fuel in the tank they choose instead of being required to have it full. Distances in a handful of races have also been changed, and it's all in an effort to allow for more varied fuel strategy and take mileage races out of the equation. Teams will also have more tire strategy at their disposal. Previously, only one set of new tires was allowed during each of the three segments of road/street course qualifying, but now teams will be limited only by their allotment of tires. That means they can decide if they want to use fresh rubber to get a better starting spot, or choose to save it for the race. They will still be required to use both the primary and the alternate tires for at least two laps during each road/street course. For the double-headers, one set of each must be used during each of the two races. Teams have been testing, although \"Hildebrand’s pink Caddy\":http://www.frontstretch.com/tbowles/42488/ provided some light moments there. Driver and car combos have been coming together, some of them harmoniously, some of them dubiously, and some of them contentious on at least some fronts. Katherine Legge isn’t done having her say about Dragon Racing releasing her in favor of Sebastian Saavedra and keeping her sponsor True Car. Either way, the long offseason is almost over with one perk, perhaps; the offseason next year won't be quite as long because we'll be racing until October this year. In the meantime, thanks INDYCAR for coming up with an idea to keep some of our favorite drivers in front of us until the real action begins. I think fluff is fun. Racing is supposed to be a sport. It's supposed to be fun and I think sometimes fans and participants forget that. _The Offseason_ was a good reminder. And if we're honest, who doesn't want to have chair races in the hallway? *Connect with Toni!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/ToniLMontgomery\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Toni Montgomery\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14351/ Read More »

IndyCar In-Depth: The MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championship

IndyCar In-Depth: The MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championship

With one week off after the Baltimore Grand Prix, the IZOD IndyCar Series returns, the last appearance of the season. This race, labeled the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships at Auto Club Speedway, really comes down to two drivers: Will Power, the points leader, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who trails by 17. The race throws an interesting curve towards all the drivers as the track is one where many do not have much experience. In addition, it’s a high speed oval, one of only three tracks like that on the circuit this year. Read More »

IndyCar Baltimore Recap: Title Battle Tightens with Hunter-Reay Victory

IndyCar Baltimore Recap: Title Battle Tightens with Hunter-Reay Victory

*In a Nutshell:* In a race that was filled with nine full course cautions, Ryan Hunter-Reay pushed the pace and made his way from a poor qualifying position to take the checkered flag first. Aggressive from the onset, Hunter-Reay wasted no time in letting it be known that he would be a contender for the win. Joining him on the podium, Ryan Briscoe took second with Rookie of the Year winner Simon Pagenaud taking third. Scott Dixon and Reubens Barrichello slotted themselves in fourth and fifth respectively. Read More »

IndyCar In-Depth: Grand Prix of Baltimore Preview

IndyCar In-Depth: Grand Prix of Baltimore Preview

*What's News?* After four races of tinkering, INDYCAR has opted to remove the activation delay on the push to pass system for Baltimore this weekend. The system will only be used this season on road/street courses so this is its last appearance for 2012. The system was used with no delay in its first two races back in Toronto and Edmonton and then a five second delay was added at Mid-Ohio. The delay was reduced to 3.5 seconds at Sonoma and after driver feedback, it was removed altogether for Baltimore. "We've had two races without the activation delay and two races with it," INDYCAR Director of Engine Development Trevor Knowles said. "Based on driver feedback, we're adjusting the parameters of push to pass to fit this particular circuit." Read More »

IndyCar Race Recap: Penske Power Dominates in Sonoma

IndyCar Race Recap: Penske Power Dominates in Sonoma

*Key Moment:* The dust-up between Sebastian Bourdais and Josef Newgarden proved to be the difference maker in the race. The collision, which sent a skidding Newgarden head-first into the restraining tires, allowed Briscoe to take the top spot. Bourdais commented that he was unable to steer his car in interviews, and Newgarden was the unfortunate beneficiary of being in the way. Bourdais walked away OK, but Newgarden was reported to have injured his left index finger and will be evaluated upon returning home to Indianapolis. Read More »

IndyCar In-Depth: GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview

IndyCar In-Depth: GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview

*Whats News?* The IZOD IndyCar Series returns in full force this week after a three week hiatus. The teams and drivers are heading out to Sonoma this week for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, and as we inch closer to the end of the season, championship contenders such as Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay know they have to make every week count in order to win the title. The big news going into the race this week is the track configuration change that was ordered by INDYCAR. Turns 7, 9, and 11 of the Sonoma course were all reconfigured to make the event racier and to promote more passing. Read More »

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Recap: Caution Free Once Again

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Recap: Caution Free Once Again

*In a nutshell:* Scott Dixon and the No. 9 team won their fourth career race at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, this time by snookering early leader Will Power on pit road. The race, which went caution-free, was the second straight caution free race of the season. Will Power led much of the early portion of the race but a slow pit stop relegated Power to a second place finish. Simon Pagenaud, Sebastian Bourdais, and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top 5. *Key Moment:* Will Power had the field covered for the first 56 laps of the race, but Power’s No. 12 team had a slow pit stop on lap 57 and subsequently were beat off of pit road by Dixon and the No. 9 team. Dixon made it look easy from there on out, and cruised home by leading the rest of the way en route to his second win of the year. Read More »