As you may know, the Red Bull Indianapolis GP track got a makeover earlier this summer. The circuit has been repaved, and who better to break it in than Nicky Hayden? He took the inaugural lap on the IMS circuit in 2008, so it only made sense that we ask Nicky back to be the first on the new surface.
On the newly paved IMS circuit
The public filed in to watch Hayden’s test from the Turn 2 viewing mounds as he took the track around 9:30. Nicky tested until around 12:30. The new surface seemed to treat him well. I thought I would get used to the site of his bike being almost completely horizontal as he took the turns, but I didn’t. Each time he rounded a turn was unreal!
After the test Nicky said the track was better than expected! He said “it’s pretty much perfect”, and “IMS went above and beyond” the drivers’ expectations. He also thinks it will make things safer during the race. If Nicky Hayden approves, I guess that makes the new pavement a success!
The test definitely left us eagerly awaiting the Red Bull Indianapolis GP that happens on August 28. I know I’m looking forward to seeing more motorcycle action on the IMS circuit, aren’t you?
Check out the video footage from today’s run below.
Welcome to 2011. No, Splash And Go is not working on the Roman or Julian calendar. It’s just getting quite busy around here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as preparations for this season — especially the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 on May 29 — are pedal to the metal.
Everything is just as hectic in the world of INDYCAR, where good news continues to be generated at a breakneck pace. The first big change is the elimination of the old Indy Racing League name and the creation of a new logo. INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard is right — the old name conjures too much bad mojo, too many memories of the split.
So INDYCAR it shall be. You won’t see any mention of Irrelevant Racing Lingo (IRL) around here anymore. Big-time open-wheel racing in North America is INDYCAR, baby.
The dramatic buzz created by these changes and other positive developments is catching the eyes of the INDYCAR blogosphere and media. Robin Miller at SPEEDTV.com pays tribute to Bernard’s role in INDYCAR’s resurgence, while Tony Johns at Pop Off Valve talks about the vital, smart decisions Bernard has made in the last 10 months. Mike Knapp at 15 Days in May mirrors the optimism of nearly every INDYCAR fan, while Christopher Leone at Open Wheel America looks at the importance the strengthened Mazda Road To Indy ladder system will play in INDYCAR’s future.
These are Timbuk3 times for INDYCAR. (Remember the classic one-hit wonder, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?” Yeah, they sang it.)
The good news could keep on rolling on the television front, as a proposed merger between NBC and Comcast could signal a significant change for the IZOD IndyCar Series TV package.
NASCAR also is on the verge of a major change, as NASCAR.com reported Jan. 11 that drivers will be forced to choose one of the three major series in which they want to earn championship points in 2011. This could reduce the number of Sprint Cup drivers dipping into the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, as they won’t be eligible for championships.
This proposed move is going to take some digesting, just like the big Christmas meal I enjoyed. The ramifications are huge.
Will it reduce the marquee value of the Nationwide and Truck series if fewer Cup drivers participate? How can a driver who performs regular double or triple duty, such as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, lure or keep a sponsor for the two lower series if he’s not running for a championship? How will that effect race teams in Nationwide and Busch owned by Cup drivers?
In another change, California Speedway is reducing its spring race distance from 500 to 400 miles. Halle-freaking-lujah. Here’s to hoping other tracks follow suit. Forcing fans to sit in front of a TV for a 500-mile race is just too much in the ADD world in which we live, especially when prominent drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. even admit the middle stages of those long races are nothing but parades to cut down laps to get to the final fuel stint. Five-hundred milers should be saved for a few special places and special races.
Dustin Long remains one of the top writers on the NASCAR beat, and he came up with this interpretive gem: It seems more and more Cup teams are hiring younger drivers, but the average age of participants in the Chase for the Sprint Cup continues to rise. Age and experience always can overcome youthful exuberance, I guess.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to two very dedicated globetrotters in the last week. Both are parlaying their love of two-wheeled transportation into the trip of a lifetime.
Paolo kissing the bricks
Last week, Paolo Pirozzi of Italy stopped by to take a lap around the famed IMS oval on his Ducati motorcycle, affectionately named “Lidia.” Paolo is taking a year to ride around the world, making a point to stop by every MotoGP circuit on the globe in the process. So far, Paolo has taken seven months to cover 24 countries, starting in his native Italy and working through northern Europe, Russia into China, then back west across India and Pakistan and to Australia. He flew to Seattle and traveled down the west coast of the United States.
After Indy, Paolo traveled east to New York, and the plan is to hit Florida (who wouldn’t, in November!) and then work west then south through Mexico, Central and South America, and skip across the southern Atlantic from Brazil to Africa, then north toward home. I’m weary just thinking about it.
On Nov. 23, Az Heydari, one of the world’s newest yet most passionate MotoGP World Championship fans, ran the 2.621-mile road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
Heydari, who attended her first MotoGP race at Estoril, Portugal in 2010 and immediately became a self-proclaimed MotoGP fanatic, is raising money for Riders for Health by running 16 of the 18 circuits upon which MotoGP runs around the world. Her goal is to raise 15,000 pounds; so far her running shoes and MotoGP fandom have raised more than 9,500 pounds.
The resident of Kent, England, left London on Nov. 6 and first ran the track at Qatar; she has ran most of the European circuits since and, after her run at IMS on a sunny-but-chilly day, she next heads west for Laguna Seca.
Judging by the feedback I received from the Nov. 8 edition of Splash And Go, it appears that the many dramatic subplots of the AAA 500 last Sunday weren’t enough to draw back those of you who have abandoned the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup this fall. Your attitude seems to match that of Kyle Busch to the NASCAR official during his stop-and-go penalty for pit road speeding last Sunday at Texas — the big, fat middle finger.
Guess many of you feel the same way about the Chase, which is too bad.
That’s a shame, as no one is going to convince me this isn’t a compelling Chase. The top three drivers within 59 points. Two races to go. Forget about the COT. Forget about the Chase system.
Four-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson trails leader Denny Hamlin by 33 points after Hamlin won last Sunday at Texas. But there are few better places for a JJ rebound than Phoenix, as he has won the last three fall races at The Desert Mile.
Hamlin is hot, as he’s racing no differently during the Chase than he did during the “regular season” — the dude is driving to win. So anyone Chase naysayers complaining about conservative “points racing” better not point to Hamlin. Oh, sorry, I’m on that soap box again.
And what about Kevin Harvick? He’s 59 points behind leader Hamlin, and Mike Mulhern suggests it might be a must-win situation for Happy this Sunday at Phoenix.
It should be vewwwy interesting, as Elmer Fudd would say.
Is this Kyle Busch after a speeding penalty or NASCAR fans who still think this year's Chase stinks?
So, Chase naysayers: Are you happy now?
If not, then just end your illusion of any allegiance to NASCAR. Just come clean: You’re not a NASCAR fan anymore.
Because if you didn’t find the AAA Texas 500 even the slightest bit entertaining, then you should just move on. Pass Go, collect $200 and move to your latest sport du jour or continue to long for the “glory days” that had no more glory than what was on track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
I’m far from a NASCAR apologist, as there are times I think reading toaster oven wiring manuals is more exciting than watching a Sprint Cup race. But this season has been solid, and no race has featured more drama, excitement and over-the-top entertainment than Sunday at Texas.
Let’s start recapping the plot lines. I bet we’ll need to move to a second hand to get a complete count.
One, Denny Hamlin uses a great inside-out move on Matt Kenseth to win the race. Denny could have sat back in second and taken the safe route, knowing he still would have left Fort Worth with the points lead. But Denny did what champions are supposed to do: Drove his ass off for a victory. (It’s a shame that NASCAR doesn’t reward winning drives like this with more points, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Two, Jimmie Johnson is out of the points lead with just two races remaining. Johnson entered the race 14 points ahead in his Drive for Five, yet he left Texas 33 points behind Hamlin, in second, after finishing ninth. Kevin Harvick remains third, 59 points out of the lead, in the closest three-man race this late in the Chase since the format started in 2004.
Three, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, benched his pit crew mid-race for poor performance, orchestrating a swap with teammate Jeff Gordon’s pit crew. It was about as stinging as a public rebuke can be, but it’s not surprising considering Knaus’ Texas-sized ego. Plus even though Knaus never has met a mirror or the pronoun “I” that he didn’t like, look at the man’s record: He delivers. Johnson didn’t seem that torn up about the divorce from his pit crew after the race.
Four, smack talk by Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford. He said the mid-race Hendrick crew swap could be the tipping point toward Denny ending Jimmie’s run of four consecutive Sprint Cup titles. Brash, bold talk — you’ve got to love it.
Five, Gordon’s crew was available because Jeff Burton inexplicably took out Gordon, precipitating the Backstretch Bash. The Driver formerly known as Boy Wonder stomped toward Burton on the backstretch, gave him a strong two-handed shove and started to throw punches before being restrained by NASCAR officials.
It wasn’t exactly Cale vs. Donnie and Bobby on the backstretch at Daytona in 1979, but it was quite compelling. And because the combatants were Gordon and Burton, two of the more sage, even-tempered elder statesmen in the NASCAR garage, you know it was real.
NASCAR is in the midst of its most exciting Chase for the Sprint Cup since the inaugural year of the format, 2004, when just 16 points separated champion Kurt Busch, second place Jimmie Johnson and third place Jeff Gordon at the end of the season. Yet the endless bleating, soul-searching and head-scratching continues about NASCAR in reverse gear.
Make no mistake: NASCAR has problems. Declining TV ratings and race attendance. Top teams struggling for sponsorship. Yet it’s still the most popular form of motorsports in America, by far. Every other series in the U.S. would love to have NASCAR’s “problems.”
But can we just focus on the racing for the next three weeks? There are three races remaining in what has been a compelling Chase for the Sprint Cup. Four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson leads Denny Hamlin by just 14 points and Kevin Harvick by 38.
It’s high-octane drama, yet from Tuesday through Thursday of every race week during the Chase — after the race reports and analysis are out of the way by Monday and before the race previews and coverage start Friday — all I read about on NASCAR blogs and websites are theories and speculation about the root cause of the great withering of NASCAR. Dustin Long, who I read daily and whose work I admire greatly, even wrote that the close Chase could be hurting NASCAR.
Isn’t there a two-month offseason during which endless column inches and online bytes can be devoted to the Great NASCAR Decession? You know, when no actual racing is taking place?
A bit of housekeeping and two public service announcements before Splash And Go begins. Sorry for the lack of recent posts — I was splashing and going on vacation last week. And if you’re 18 or older and a U.S. citizen, please vote today. You lose your right to complain about your government if you don’t do anything about changing it. Finally, please help Hoosiers in need by donating to the 1 Lap, 1 Great Cause food drive at IMS.
On to racing.
Sorry, Carl, but Happy Harvick is too busy fighting to win the Sprint Cup
Talladega was an interesting show last Sunday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but it wasn’t the decisive “wild-card” race many expected. All it did was reinforce that this is a three-man show with three races to go, as Jimmie Johnson leads Denny Hamlin by 14 points and Kevin Harvick by 38 points.
This is the kind of bandstand finish that NASCAR envisioned when it created the Chase. I’m starting to believe that Harvick can be the dark horse in this race and take it all, as he has the right attitude regarding the final three races: Top-10 finishes, simply staying out of trouble, don’t cut it.
Harvick also has a consistent, solid teammate to help him, Clint Bowyer. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin are too inconsistent to be solid wingmen for Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to be largely irrelevant. Kyle Busch is too much of a wild man and wild card to be much of a help for Hamlin, and Joey Logano is no factor.
Take a minute to think about Bowyer. He has won two of the seven races during the Chase. Yet he’s 12th and last in the Chase standings because of the 150-point penalty levied by NASCAR for driving an illegal car to victory lane in the Chase opener in September at Loudon.
Bowyer deserves applause. He’s driving hard, like a man with nothing to lose, despite being buried in the Chase because his car was out of whack by about the width of a hair. He’s the Chase’s version of the Buffalo Bills, still playing with intensity despite being 0-7.
The “Big One,” which ESPN’s announcers seemingly so desperately wanted to see last Sunday at Talladega, never really happened until A.J. Allmendinger’s wild ride on the final lap that precipitated the extending scoring review to determine Bowyer edged teammate Harvick for the victory.
But there was a massive wreck last Sunday in the DTM (German touring car) race at Adria, Italy. This looked every bit like a tumble-and-spin job from restrictor-plate racing, yet it was on a road course. Thankfully driver Alexandre Premat was OK:
Television ratings and attendance for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continue to drop, and the series heads this weekend to one of its few flops as a new race market, Los Angeles. Then again, Tinseltown is the worst pro sports market in America, so is anyone surprised?
But never fear, a solution to NASCAR’s woes is here, courtesy of Auto Club Speedway: THE HOFF.
David Hasselhoff, famous from “Knight Rider” and “Baywatch,” being booted after the first round of “Dancing With The Stars” and one of the most legendary videos ever on YouTube, is singing the national anthem before the Nationwide Series race Saturday at the track.
BOOM goes the dynamite! NASCAR’s problems are solved thanks to The Hoff. Remember, he’s huge in Germany.
The Nationwide race at California also will be significant because it will the first of six consecutive Nationwide races for Danica Patrick, with no IZOD IndyCar Series race commitments. The stretch will mark her first back-to-back races in the series since February and March.
Gentleman Jim has a point: Is anyone talking about the racing during this Chase? Well, maybe if the racing involves wrecking.
The racing Richter scale continues to chatter over the Carmageddon bump-and-runs between Chaser Kyle Busch and non-Chaser David Reutimann last weekend at Kansas. Rootie is unrepentant, and Kyle’s brother, Kurt Busch, has entered the fray by saying non-Chasers should keep their heads when racing around drivers participating in NASCAR’s postseason.
That’s fine, Kurt. But Chasers also should treat non-Chasers as more than speed bumps or bumper car crash-test dummies. Your little bro Rowdy never has received that message and probably never will.
Meanwhile, that Bearded Man of Mystery is back in the points lead heading to his home track, a place where he normally puts the boot into the behind of his rivals. Then again, if Jimmie wins this weekend at California and extends his points lead, fans will yelp that the Chase is boring, needs changing and is responsible for their shrinking 401K despite eight of the 12 Chase drivers being within 85 points of the lead entering this weekend.
It usually takes awhile for Silly Season to crank up in the IZOD IndyCar Series. But this year is different. Announcements and rumors — good and bad — are flying like Justin Bieber dolls will off shelves this Christmas shopping season.
First, the good. Simona De Silvestro may not have won the Rookie of Year title this year — Alex Lloyd did — but she easily was the most pleasant and talented surprise in the series in 2010. She’ll stay at HVM Racing for the 2011 season.
KV Racing Technology is helping a new team, SH Racing, field a one-car entry for the 2011 Indianapolis 500. No driver has been named, but a sponsor, REDLINE Extreme energy drink, is lined up.
Is it just me, or are energy drinks the new dot.com’s of the racing sponsorship world? Let’s hope the long-term viability of those fizzy, yellow drinks to pay the bills is better than the Internet firms that sprouted and disappeared like crabgrass about 10 years ago.
Two-time American Le Mans Series champions Highcroft Racing aim to run a limited IZOD IndyCar Series schedule in 2011, with an eye on a full-season ride for 2012. Highcroft and team owner Duncan Dayton are the real deal, so this team looks like a solid prospect for IndyCar in the future.
Now for the bad news, and it continues to swirl around one team – Andretti Autosport.
Just a few days after AA announced Tony Kanaan was free to look for a ride with another team because primary sponsor 7-Eleven wasn’t returning in 2011, Michael Andretti’s team announced it needs a primary sponsor for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Series sponsor IZOD picked up RHR’s tab in 2010. AA officials have indicated one company already has made an offer as a primary sponsor, so that’s a proverbial silver lining.
It should be one of the more active Silly Seasons in recent IndyCar memory. VERSUS IndyCar announcer Jack Arute offers his opinions on what might happen.
And speaking of silly, ’tis the season for a good highlight reel of IZOD IndyCar Series bloopers.
MotoGP continues its Asian tour this weekend with the Grand Prix of Malaysia. 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Dani Pedrosa will miss his second consecutive race with a broken collarbone suffered last weekend in practice at Motegi, so Jorge Lorenzo only needs to finish ninth or better to clinch his first World Championship.
Put the mortgage on it. Jorge’s worst finish this season is fourth, twice. He’s been on the podium at every other race.
One of those fourth-place finishes for Lorenzo came after an epic battle with Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi last weekend at Motegi. The Doctor and Jorge aren’t on each others’ Christmas card lists, and Rossi has no regrets about racing Lorenzo hammer and tongs over the final laps.
And why should he? Rossi may be a happy-go-lucky guy off the bike, but he’s an assassin on it. Plus that battle sent a clear message to Lorenzo: You don’t own me, kid.
Beating Lorenzo must have done wonders for Rossi’s ailing shoulder, as he’s leaning toward finishing the entire season with Yamaha instead of skipping the last two rounds, at Estoril, Portugal and Valencia, Spain, for shoulder surgery.
Then again, Rossi is a master of mind games. Maybe he’s just trying to butter up Yamaha to let him test his new Ducati ride for 2011 the day after the season finale at Valencia.
Rossi’s replacement for 2011 at Yamaha, American rookie phenom Ben Spies, did an interesting video interview with OnTheThrottle. Check it out in two parts here.
Formula One and its raging championship battle are back in action this weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, one of the world’s greatest tracks. But all eyes in F1 remain on Japan’s neighbor to the west, Korea, where the inaugural Korean Grand Prix remains in doubt for Oct. 22-24.
The final layer of asphalt is being paved for the race, and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting is supposed to inspect the circuit Monday. But even if the track passes muster, this race is a disaster in waiting. Come on: Just two weeks for the asphalt to cure?
Yet despite this joke of a race, F1 continues to look east to banana republics as proper spots for races while ignoring places with history, tradition and completed infrastructure like Imola, Magny-Cours and … Indianapolis. Thailand is the next target. At this rate, more than half of the races in the World Championship will take place in the Middle East or Asia, where dictators, despots and oil barons are more than willing to play Bernie Ecclestone’s financial parlor games.
Syracuse, N.Y., is a far distance from Thailand or Suzuka, and the Syracuse Mile doesn’t have the infrastructure of any of Bernie’s speed palaces. It doesn’t have a pavement problem, either, because there is no pavement.
But the Moody Mile is playing host again to one of the most balls-out racing events anywhere on Earth, Super DIRT Week. The SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 this Sunday is the showcase event, the Super Bowl for dirt modifieds. Much like the Knoxville Nationals for sprint cars, it’s roots racing at its hardest, purest and finest.
There are very few grains of sand left in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series hourglass, as the offseason gets underway this Saturday night after the season-ending Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So it’s time to start zeroing in on the big finale and championship chase before the long winter gets underway.
John Oreovicz of ESPN.com takes a closer look at the title tussle between points leader Will Power and reigning champion Dario Franchitti, who is just 12 points behind in second.
Power and Franchitti are leaving nothing to chance, joining the list of drivers who tested Monday at the aqua-walled Homestead oval. Also among the testers were Power’s Penske teammates, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, and Dixon’s Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon. You can bet their engineers’ laptops will be wide open to Power and Franchitti as every last byte of data is examined to try and find an edge heading into the race Saturday.
Fans of arguably the most talented and definitely the most delightful rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season, Simona de Silvestro, can exhale: She will compete in the season finale this Saturday night for HVM Racing. Rumors swirled like a strong breeze in a Manhattan concrete canyon that Simona and the team shut down. Thankfully, that’s not true, according to team owner Keith Wiggins.
Let’s hope HVM finds the dough that Simona’s talent deserves. She’s a keeper for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
One lady in the IndyCar paddock who doesn’t need to worry about her next paycheck is Danica Patrick. But the multi-million dollar question looms high above the 5-foot frame of America’s Princess of Speed: IndyCar or NASCAR? Jeff Olson examines both sides of the story in his blog at VERSUS.com.
Speaking of money and racing, it seemed like NASCAR was the petroleum-fueled land of milk and honey during the boom years of the sport last decade. Now NASCAR drivers and teams are hurting for cubic dollars to power their teams just like their brothers and sisters in every other form of racing in North America. And Jeff Gluck writes that the recoiling of Corporate America at 200-mph billboards could have a negative effect on the talent pool in NASCAR.
Hey, Kenny: What's that, Rusty's money clip?
Gluck also stays on the topic of money in this interesting short about the Twitter feud between SPEED NASCAR announcer and former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and Brian Scott, who was released by Braun Racing on Monday despite heading toward the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year title.
It seems that Herman touched a nerve with Master Scott because he suggested that Scott’s daddy had plenty of money that would help buy Sonny a ride. Gasp – ride buyers in NASCAR?
But one reader comment beneath Gluck’s blog post also pointed out the irony of Wallace complaining about ride-buying, as his nephew Steven probably never would have received a Nationwide Series ride if his father wasn’t one Rusty Wallace. Zing!
Then again, some ride buyers in NASCAR eventually develop into solid drivers. Terry Blount of ESPN.com wrote about how Paul Menard has evolved into more than just a kid playing with his father’s money this season and is worthy of his ride for 2011 at Richard Childress Racing. Menard’s father, John, owns the major home improvement chain Menards, which is an institution across the upper Midwest.
Enough about money and racing. It’s too depressing. Let’s get back to the racing itself, and the relentless meat grinder known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup continues this weekend at the 1.5-mile cookie cutter at Kansas.
Everyone was ready to deep-six Johnson after he finished 25th in the Chase opener Sept. 19 at New Hampshire, and now many are calling the engravers to prepare the trophy after Johnson won at Dover. I still think Johnson will complete a successful Drive for Five, but maybe it’s not that simple.
With apologies to Ivan Drago of "Rocky IV" fame, "JJ, I will break you."
A few very solid alternatives to the trendy pick of Johnson to ride the wave to his fifth title are Carl Edwards and the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt. It would be great if four or five drivers had a realistic chance at the title — not just one of those bogus, mathematical “if Jupiter and Pluto align just right and Jimmie Johnson catches whooping cough” kinds of chances — entering the season finale at Homestead.
But I’ll believe it when I see it.
Another thing I’ll believe when I see is Ferrari holding to a commitment to cut costs in Formula One. The gap between the have’s and have-not’s in F1 resembles that in a Third World country. And there’s absolutely no reason why mega-buck superteams like Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull want anyone from the outhouse to join them in the penthouse.
Moving on to MotoGP, reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi expects a painful time this weekend during the Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi, mainly because the circuit’s layout will aggravate his chronic shoulder injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rossi follows through on his plan to skip the last two races of the season to have shoulder surgery and be completely ready for preseason testing in 2011 for his new employer, Ducati.
Finally, one of the coolest races in North America to which almost nobody pays attention is scheduled for this weekend, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The American Le Mans Series features an impressive variety of machinery in a motorsports world that has become mind-numbingly spec these days.
Plenty to catch up on after a day away from Splashing And Going. But first, it was good to be Bruce Barhydt on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Damn good.
Bruce and his wife, Barbara, visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pick up the keys to their 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Indianapolis 500 Pace Car that they won in the Indy 500 Pace Car Sweepstakes simply by renewing their tickets for the 2011 “500″ at www.imstix.com. And two-time and reigning Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti was there to hand the Barhydt’s the keys to their new ride and take them for a spin around IMS in the Camaro. Dario is a hell of a driver and a classy dude – a magically delicious ambassador for the Indy 500 and IndyCar.
Not a bad way to spend a day, eh? Speaking of Indianapolis 500 tickets, it’s time for a friendly Public Service Announcement: Tickets for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29 – the 100th anniversary of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – are on sale now at www.imstix.com.
While Japan’s rabid-but-polite IndyCar fans are still coming down from their fun last weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, attention in IZOD IndyCar land has shifted to South Florida for the season finale Saturday, Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Will Power leads Franchitti by just 12 points entering their titanic tussle, but Pop Off Valve has those drivers reversed in its latest power rankings. Hard to blame them. Will never has won an oval race; Dario has won plenty, including last year at Miami.
VERSUS will televise the finale, and Pressdog interviewed ace racing TV producer Terry Lingner about all the hard work that goes on inside and outside “the truck” just to get an IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast on the air. One of Lingner’s charges that night will be reporter Jack Arute, who curiously wonders out loud why the season finale is going up against SEC and Big 12 football.
I’m really getting tired of the “we need to avoid football” argument. First, if the finale was contested on Sunday afternoon, it would clash with the NFL. And is there really enough room in the schedule to end the season by the end of August, before football? No.
So all IndyCar can do is put on a good show (it does), have a compelling championship race (it does, without gimmicks) and promote the hell out of it. Every other sport in America – not just IndyCar – is a fresh asphalt speed bump ready to be flattened by the steamroller known as football. Even NASCAR, the self-proclaimed No. 2 sport in America, is struggling with ratings against the mighty giants of the gridiron.
Plenty of reasons and solutions for the disappointing TV ratings of the Chase opener at New Hampshire are being tossed about in the blogosphere. One of the reasons I see often is the proliferation of high-def TV’s these days. The camera angles are great from the track, the picture is crystal-clear on an HDTV, and the beer is a lot cheaper and plentiful and the traffic is a lot thinner at home in front of the 50-inch plasma than it is at the racetrack.
That might be true. So how is Charlotte Motor Speedway responding? By building the largest HDTV in the world at its track. It’s even bigger than Jerry Jones’ vaunted board hanging over the field at the new Cowboys Stadium, which has to rankle Jerruh’s considerable ego just a smidge. Everything is big in Texas, but it’s even bigger in Charlotte.
Can you play Xbox 360 on that thing?
I have mixed emotions about this board. It will be good for replays. I’m also guessing advertisers and sponsors will dig it. But “Bruton-tron” also will breed more of the loons who pay good money to attend sporting events and spend more time watching the video boards than the action on the field or on the track. I’ve never understood that. If I wanted to watch TV, I would have stayed home. Am I a lone, crotchety voice in the video wilderness?
This just in, almost literally as I type, from the halls of NASCAR in Daytona Beach: Clint Bowyer was using an illegal car when he won the Sylvania 300 last Sunday at New Hampshire, the opening race of the Chase. Bowyer was docked 150 points, and his crew chief, Shane Wilson, was fined $150,000 and suspended six weeks. I guess it was more than a misplaced wheel nut, then.
Richard Childress, Bowyer’s car owner, claims the car was out of specification because other drivers tapped the rear of it during Bowyer’s victory lap. Childress also said the tow truck that pushed Bowyer’s car into Victory Lane knocked the rear out of whack.
Childress vowed to appeal the penalty all the way to the NASCAR Commissioner. This could get interesting. What if the penalty is overturned, Bowyer stays on a hot streak and ends up winning the Chase by less than 150 points? What if the penalty is upheld and he ends the season 149 points or less behind the eventual champion?
Sticky. And fun.
Well, so much for the Bowyer Cinderella story, at least for now. Bowyer now has yo-yo’d from 12th to second back to 12th in the points since last Sunday morning. Leader Denny Hamlin now enjoys a 45-point gap over second-place Kevin Harvick.
The soap opera continues in Formula One, where a battle is brewing over who has control of the iconic Lotus name. It’s a typical F1 sh*tstorm between two guys with wallets to match their egos. But does it really matter? Lotus isn’t Lotus without Colin Chapman running the show, and reviving the classic British Racing Green paint job doesn’t instantly play Lazarus with an esteemed racing marque.
All this does is besmirch the names of late Lotus greats like Chapman and Jim Clark. Sad.
There also are rumblings that Michael Schumacher may pull the plug on his ill-fated comeback attempt after this season and hang up his helmet. So the ego really has landed? I’ll believe it when I see it, but it would be a good idea. Right now, Michael looks like Willie Mays in his final, sad season with the Mets, losing routine fly balls in the sun.
From a four-wheeled legend to one on two wheels, Kenny Roberts, the first American MotoGP World Champion, is selling his house and practice facility in California. Check out King Kenny’s Krib. It’s a roomy place, but in time-honored gearhead tradition, the garage is almost as big as the house and contains a complete machine shop:
Ducati also was in the news recently, but it had little to do with Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi or Nicky Hayden. The iconic Italian manufacturer presented two of its Multistrada models to the motorcade for Pope Benedict XVI. Maybe it’s a gift for His Holiness using his WATS line to above for Ducati, as Stoner answered the Ducatisti’s prayers by earning the team’s first victory of the season Sept. 19 at the Grand Prix of Aragon. Hey, they don’t call it the Red Phone for nothing.
There is real, on-track news in MotoGP. Seriously. The Grand Prix Commission rubber-stamped a change of the schedule for the rest of the season in which the three hours of MotoGP track time Friday and Saturday will be divided into two 45-minute practices Friday, and one 45-minute practice and one 45-minute qualifying session Saturday. Since 2009, there has been a one-hour practice Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, with a one-hour qualifying session.
That revised schedule debuted at Aragon, and it looks like it also will become the rule of the land for the 2011 season.