Some fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series were a bit peeved last Friday when all three of the 1.5-mile International Speedway Corporation cookie-cutter tracks on this year’s schedule — Kansas, Chicagoland and Homestead-Miami — were removed from the unfurled 2011 schedule.
A few of the series’ top drivers don’t share that sense of loss, according to a piece by John Oreovicz on ESPN.com. Let’s face it: IndyCars on 1.5-mile, high-banked tracks are the series’ version of restrictor-plate racing. It’s fun to watch, to a point. But it’s insanely dangerous. Put yourself in the cockpit for a bit, and you’ll see the drivers’ point of view.
Plus it will be nice to race at two ovals next season, Milwaukee and New Hampshire, where the brake graphic actually will illuminate during in-car shots on the TV broadcast. I squirmed and squealed with delight over many of the races over the last decade on 1.5-mile tracks, especially the heart-stoppers during the epic 2002 season.
But after a while, I do start to wonder about the constant drone of engines wide open for the entire race minus pit stops. Is a race where the brake never is used except in the pits really a test of a driver’s total ability? It’s an unreal test of their courage and sanity, no doubt. But I’m ready for the flat, short ovals next season.
Another proponent of the brake pedal for IndyCars is three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser. I’ve heard Uncle Bobby say more than once that he thinks either horsepower should be increased or enough downforce removed from the current cars so drivers need to use the brakes entering Turns 1 and 3 at Indianapolis again, as in his day.
Bobby also is the subject of today’s “Gasoline Alley Unplugged” segment with IMS Historian Donald Davidson. This series, in which Donald offers audio commentary on a photo from the IMS archives, is superb. You really need to check it out now and daily if you haven’t yet. Donald is a gentleman and a genius, an irreplaceable part of IMS.
There’s not always a lot of overlap between the NASCAR and IndyCar world, except for maybe when Danica Patrick makes her sojourns to the Nationwide Series. So it’s nice to see the open-wheel set get some attention from the stock car media, such as this solid feature on IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard’s first six months on the job by Fanhouse NASCAR blogger Geoffrey Miller.
Hey, and there’s even more crossover. Joe Menzer at NASCAR.com conducted a good interview with Penske Racing President Tim Cindric, who oversees the IndyCar and NASCAR operations of the iconic team. Cindric is one of the sharpest cats in the racing business and a fine Indiana boy. I don’t think The Captain needs to look far to see his mirror image of class, professionalism, attention to detail and competitive spirit when he decides to step away from racing.
But enough of the overlap. What about THE CHASE? THE CHASE! THE CHASE!
The hype machine for NASCAR’s postseason — Brian France hates that term, but let’s face it: That’s what it is — is in top gear heading into New Hampshire. The analysis, dicing and slicing is almost done by the media, and some reporters and bloggers are making their predictions for this year’s Cup champion. Dustin Long is hanging ten on the momentum wave of Denny Hamlin, while All Left Turns is taking the conservative tack by picking a successful drive for five by Jimmie Johnson. Same with Terry Blount at ESPN.com, who even lays odds on the contenders. I’ll put an Andrew Jackson on Tony Stewart at 20-1!
One of the flaws of the Chase is that the other 31 drivers in the 10 Chase races usually are forgotten unless they’re leading or winning. But Patrick Reynolds raises a very interesting point at All Left Turns: Who would you rather be this Sunday, Clint Bowyer or Jamie McMurray?
Bowyer is in the Chase but winless, the very definition of the mind-numbing consistency that often can land a driver a spot in the postseason. Meanwhile, Jamie Mac missed the Chase but held the checkered flag at the two biggest races of the season, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.
It really is a damn good question. If Clint Bowyer finishes fifth in the Chase with no victories, will people remember his season more than McMurray’s? I think not. I subscribe to the short-track school of racing: Fans come to see drivers win races, not finish third every week. Checkers or wreckers, baby.
It’s also interesting from a sponsor perspective. Is General Mills stoked that Clint is in the Big Dance without any Victory Lane photos to show off at headquarters, or would it be happier from the kind of exposure that Jamie Mac landed McDonald’s and Bass Pro Shop for getting splashed all over the worldwide media pond for winning NASCAR’s two mega-races?
I’m not sure. Again, I lean more toward winning. What do you think?
But forget the race Sunday at New Hampshire. Qualifying will be the big story this weekend from Loudon since Coors Light is debuting a trophy queen, the aptly named Miss Coors Light, to pose with the pole winner and interact with fans every week. I’m honestly out of words to describe this brush stroke of genius.
MotoGP heads to Spain this weekend for its maiden event at the Motorland Aragon circuit. Let’s all hope for a safe, clean race there. The series really needs it after the recent tragedies at Indianapolis at Misano.
One of the lingering MotoGP questions hanging over the last four months of 2010 in motorcycle racing is whether Yamaha will release Valentino Rossi early from his contract so he can test with Ducati before New Year’s. Most rumors whisper that the Crossed Tuning Forks will not, as there was some bad blood over Vale’s departure to Ducati.
But it all might be a moot point, anyways. The Doctor is headed to the operating room after this season for surgery on the shoulder that he injured earlier this year in a training crash. That injury has been more bothersome than even the snapped lower leg Rossi suffered in June at Mugello.
Finally, it couldn’t be a racing blog without some sort of political, off-track news, could it? The Australian Grand Prix is reporting huge losses, causing some politicians to question continued state funding for the event.
That fact doesn’t exactly qualify as a shocker. One of the best ways to lose a fortune in the racing world is to stage a Formula One event, as Bernie Ecclestone’s contracts and revenue distribution almost guarantee burgeoning coffers for him and scraps for the tracks.
Still, it should trigger alarm bells that the Australian Grand Prix, one of the most well-attended and popular Grands Prix in the world, is bleeding red ink like an ill-placed Bic in a back pants pocket. But don’t count on any bells being heard in the F1 paddock. The team owners and sport’s bosses are too busy jingling the keys to their new Gulfstream jets to care, especially with oil-rich banana republics featuring tedious Tilkedromes lining up to replace the classic tracks of the world.
Who needs a joyous, traditional event on a great park circuit like Melbourne when you can have jewels of motorsport like Abu Dhabi and Bahrain?