Friday, April 24, 2015

Interview: Max Papis

It is with great happiness that I bring to you an interview with one of the drivers from my favorite eras of racing: CART 1996-2001. That driver is Max Papis! Papis made his debut in America in 1996 with Team Arciero-Wells. After a couple years of uncompetitive equipment, Papis moved to Team Rahal, where he had much more success. The talent he showed during his years at Team Rahal were awesome. I enjoyed watching him fight it out with the big names of the sport. He was also a very likable guy off the track, and I miss the personality and the skills that Max showed.

I've now done 20 interviews on my website. The usual protocal is for me to get in contact with the driver, email the questions, and get their answers and format it to the website. For the first time in my website's history, I was submitted the answers through audio! I'm not sure why this was so cool, but it almost felt like I was listening to Max tell his story about CART. It was a pleasent surprise and I really enjoyed listening to all of the things he had to share. So, here's the transcribed interview that I did with Max Papis! Enjoy:


1) When I think back to an era of racing I like the most, CART 1996-2001 immediately comes to mind. So many great drivers, teams, cars, tracks, and fans. What is your favorite memory from the times you drove in CART? 

MP: When I think back to an era of racing that I like the most, CART 1996-2001 immediately comes to mind. So many great drivers, teams, tracks, cars, and fans.

There are so many great memories that I have from CART. One of the main things is the comradery. I am really proud of the fact that I was a part of an era that was maybe considered the best era of the sport and to drive amazing cars. One of the things I remember with a lot of pleasure were the trips to Australia where me, Dario (Franchitti), and Greg Moore would always hang out together before and after the race. It was an amazing opportunity to get to know each other and to enjoy the free life spirit of being young guys.


2) You've driven in CART, IRL, Formula 1, Le Mans, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, and many more types of cars. Is there one car that you consider your favorite to drive (and why)? 

MP: Absolutely. If you talk about pure driving, I would definitely say the Miller Lite car with a Ford Cosworth engine that I drove in CART was the most satisfying car to drive. It had the best power-to-weight ratio. It stuck to the track but not too much to take away from the driving; you still had to drive the car a lot, even on an oval. You were basically never wide-open except for the one lap in qualifying at Michigan and Fontana. There, you really had to hold your breath! Defintiely that car was the best product of the sport that I've ever been involved in.

2000 CART FedEx Championship Series - #7 Miller Lite Ford Cosworth-Reynard - Team Rahal
Max Papis is the Team Rahal Reynard Ford Cosworth sponsored by Miller Lite (Photo from Max's website)

3) From my point of view, you stood out to me because you seemed to show great passion for racing as well as for your fellow drivers. As documented, you've raced in so many different racing series. Is there any one driver (or drivers) you loved racing against? 

MP: You really don't love to race against anyone in particular! Obviously, despite the fact that I love my sport and I've always been a very passionate guy, when I'm out there I'm a very determined person. I actually have no friends when I'm out there.

The people I was most satisfied and most honored to race with were for sure guys like Michael Andretti, because he was a legend of the sport, and my friend Dario Franchitti, my friend Greg Moore because he was one of the bravest guys I've ever raced against, and Alex Zanardi. I was really proud to compete with all of these guys finally with my Miller Lite car at par with them because throughout my career, they were in better equipment, or I was younger, or I was not at the same level of experience. The greatest satisfaction was the I was really able to show my hand and compete with them head-to-head, and that's a great satisfaction for me. Obviously, that's in CART. If you want to talk about NASCAR or Sports Cars, the names would be infinite. But I would definitely say that regarding, that was my number one pick.


4) Do you continue to watch Indycar? (If yes, what do you think about the series today?) (If not, why do you not watch it?) 

MP: Yes, I still watch Indycar races on-and-off. Obviously since my friend Dario Franchitti is not involved in them anymore, I lost a little bit of interest. The races are still quite competitive, but when you know how special things could be, sometimes you want to turn the TV off.

Max in 2000 (Photo from Max's website)

5) The staple question of these interviews on my site is have you ever done anything weird while driving a race car, like sneeze, cough, throw up, hum a song, or anything else that could be considered weird?

MP: It's difficult to answer this question! I mean, when I'm in the car I'm so focused that I might have done it all but I don't even remember. The most weird things I definitely say would be this: in our first 24 Hour of Daytona for (Chip) Ganassi in 2004, there was so much moisture inside the car that I ended up driving with a squeegee attached to a post and driving down the straight at 200 MPH in Daytona while cleaning the inside of the window to be able to see outside. I would definitely say that's one of the most uncharacteristic things I've ever done.


Thanks to Max for taking the time to be interviewed! Thoroughly enjoyed sitting in class and listening to what he had to say. Definitely one of my more enjoyable and satisfying interviews. Let us both know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Five Favorite Mentions: Long Beach

Back for a second edition is my five favorite mentions that I received on the race day of the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Sorry for not posting after NOLA, as I was rather salty and unpleasant on Twitter thanks to the awful showing we all got to witness. This post is meant to highlight and give a shoutout to all of my followers who respond to me during race day, but specifically the ones I enjoyed the most. Here are the five from Long Beach, and thanks again everyone!













Thanks again everyone! There's was a lot of laughs this weekend, and there were some ones that I left off that I loved! Hoping for another fun weekend on Twitter for Barber.

-Matthew Hickey 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Winners and Losers: Long Beach

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

Winners

Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon finally got a win at Long Beach after several years of despair. Not only did he get a win, but Dixon has vaulted himself right into the championship hunt. Plus, he has now moved into sole possession for fifth all-time on the Indycar wins list. Way to go Dixon, hopefully he does more to break up the Penske party.


Team Penske (minus Power)
Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Simon Pagenaud all had very solid weekends, and it looks as if they're setting up their own private championship battle. Their pace, race craft, and aggressiveness have been on point this season. Thoroughly impressed with Team Penske so far.


Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has gotten off to a very solid start to the 2015 season. In fact, I feel as if he's a couple podiums away from making a serious championship run. Newgarden has shown great pace all year, and now has two top-tens and a decent finish at St. Pete. He keeps poking his head in the middle of the Ganassi-Penske fight. Some bad luck in the pit sequence get Josef from snatching a top-five finish, but that doesn't take away from the race he ran. Is this the year that Newgarden breaks through and gets a win? So far, it's not out of the question.


Sebastian Saavedra
Sebastian Saavedra, who is now splitting the #8 Chip Ganassi ride with Sage Karam, took over the car and put it in the top-ten. It was a great effort by him and the whole team. Even more scary is that Saavedra consistently outpaced veteran Ganassi teammate Charlie Kimball. Did Saavedra finally find somewhere where he can show off his pace?



Losers

Will Power
Will Power stalled early after avoiding a stalled car in the pits, and the rest is history. Power got bogged down in qualifying, after he didn't get to put in a flying lap in. This defined his weekend, as he never got a chance to race. Power is still in the championship hunt, but results like this can't continue if he wants to repeat as the Indycar champion.


Francesco Dracone
The DraCone of Shame, Francesco Dracone, will have one more chance to live up to his name to get back to the Cone of Shame. Dracone was outpaced by Rocky Moran Jr., who hadn't raced a single seater for a decade, and then Conor Daly. He also made life very difficult for drivers trying to get past him (aka EVERY DRIVER IN THE FIELD). Dracone is putting himself in a category of rare names like Milka Duno and Hiro Matsushita. One more race... Hopefully. He was too easy of a choice for the Cone this week though.


Luca Filippi
Luca Filippi ran out of luck on Sunday. Coming into the pits after an early caution, Filippi stalled or lost a gear or something. He lost two laps and effectively ruined his race. Many people were expecting big things from him after Mike Conway's win in the same car last year at Long Beach. Filippi will need to turn it around at future road course races, as JR Hildebrand is breathing down the barrel to get into that car.


Stefano Coletti
It has been a very rough start to the season for Stefano Coletti. Coletti had a good run going at St. Pete before encountering a problem. In NOLA, he crashed on a restart. At Long Beach, he crashed several times throughout the weekend and suffered gear box issues during the race. If Coletti doesn't turn it around quick, people will start to brand him as a failure.



Cone of Shame



David Ragan
Yes, everyone is allowed an opinion, but David Ragan got a lot of flack for tweeting this yesterday:


I don't even know where to start with this tweet. First off, David Ragan is one of the most average NASCAR drivers in the history of the sport. He's collected two wins in his career, and both were at restrictor plate tracks, which is basically to say he kept his foot on the gas for three hours, put himself in a good position with two laps to go, and didn't crash. Second, 2014 paints a picture as to competition. In 36 races, NASCAR had 14 different winners. 14 out of 36 is 38.8% variability. In 18 races, Indycar had 11 different winners, a variability of 61.1%. Competition my ass, Indycar is one of the most competitive forms of motorsports in the world. Third, Indycar had lots of on-track battles yesterday, especially for third place late in the race. This was all occuring with only one caution (and thus the field had a chance to seperate). In NASCAR, if there's a boring stretch of racing, the officials throw a caution if they find any sort of debris on the track. This could be sheet metal, hot dog wrapper, or a piece of grass. NASCAR has to manufacture their competition. NASCAR has to be one of the least exciting things I've ever seen. I'd rather listen to Barry Manilow for four hours. Fourth, David Ragan is a professional driver. If a troll who dwells in their mother's basement or some other low-life says this, I let it slide. But when a professional says this about a rival sport, it makes them look like a fool, especially when you present an opinion as a fact. Finally, Indycar's response on Twitter was perfection, and I almost classified them as a winner:




Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Long Beach

Before we get to the picks, there's an annoucnement to make: on Wednesday the 15th, Indycar announced that driver Ryan Hunter-Reay had been docked three points for avoidable contact with Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais. Because this incident was a result of his actions at NOLA and the loss of points, the following participants have been docked three points:

Amy Woedl
Chris Blackburn
Eric Hall
Jason McVeigh
Jerry Cruz
Jessica Baker
Justin Mann
Lynn Weinberg
Mike Crawford
Mitch Robinson
Paige Hill
Sandy Lamparello

Sorry for the loss of points but that's the way it goes. The points will be fully updated following the race on Sunday. Following this, there is one change to  the order of the top-five from NOLA: Amy Woedl has dropped to sixth for the weekend, while Johanna Husband moved up to fifth. As far as the championship standings, Amy Woedl has dropped to third, while Gina Navarra moves up to second. Also, Kieran Brughelli has moved up to P30 and out of elimination zone, while Jason McVeigh has dropped to the elimination zone. There's a tie, but Kieran owns the tiebreaker because of a larger single race score. There were other minor changes in the standings, but these were the biggest changes. You won't see an update on the points until after the race on Sunday.

Thanks for understanding folks. Anyways, here's the picks from the 2015 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (current championship leader highlighted in blue):

Name Twitter Handle  
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Kanaan Sato Power Munoz Pagenaud
Amy Woedl OpenWheelMom Sato Newg Helio Jakes Power
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Power RHR Bourdais Hawk Rahal
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 Power Bourdais Newg Filippi RHR
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski Power Hinch RHR JPM Helio
Conor Daly conordaly22 RHR Newg Pagenaud Dixon Kanaan
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Newg Sato RHR Bourdais Pagenaud
David Redner IndyCART Andretti RHR Power Hawk Pagenaud
DJ Jordan djordan3223 JPM Andretti Dixon Kimball Rahal
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy Hinch Hawk Munoz Filippi Newg
Gina Navarra  gmnavarra Hinch Jakes RHR Dixon Helio
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Kanaan Power Newg Bourdais Pagenaud
James Alban TheKing0fSwing Bourdais Jakes Kanaan Kimball Hawk
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Newg RHR Munoz Sato Bourdais
Jason McVeigh jasekm Power Helio JPM Pagenaud RHR
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider Power Helio Munoz Bourdais Newg
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Dixon Bourdais Sato Hinch Pagenaud
Johanna Husband writebend JPM Bourdais RHR Filippi Hawk
Justin Mann mannbeast Bourdais Kanaan Power Sato JPM
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli JPM Newg Dixon Filippi Hawk
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 RHR Pagenaud Rahal Newg Bourdais
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Helio Sato Hinch Andretti Munoz
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG Hinch Newg Dixon Helio Pagenaud
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN Saavedra Power Pagenaud Rahal Newg
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Bourdais Power Dixon Kanaan Helio
Mitch Robinson mitchrobinson_ Rahal Hawk Pagenaud Power Kanaan
Paige Hill paigehilll Rahal JPM Jakes Newg Andretti
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi Sato RHR Bourdais Hinch Power
Sam Klein sklein31 Munoz Sato RHR Chaves Jakes
Sandy Lamparello npssandy Pagenaud Power Helio Newg Munoz
Sarah Hall flywheel011 RHR Helio Bourdais Power Coletti
Sophie Hanson Sophie_Hansons3 Newg Pagenaud Power Andretti Rahal
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan Power Coletti Newg Filippi Sato


Penalties: N/A

Top 3 most picked: 1) Will Power - 18 2) Josef Newgarden - 16 3) Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay - 14
Not picked: Rocky Moran Jr. and Francesco Dracone

Let's do this!

-Matthew Hickey

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

74 Minutes

The first two races of the 2015 Verizon Indycar Season have been interesting to say the least, especially NOLA. There's been some great racing and some pretty good passing with a bit of drama mixed in; but to say I'm a bit upset as to how the season has started is an understatement, and the underlying problem is how Indycar handles cautions.

In the current format, every caution is treated the same. Whether a car stalls (NOLA) , or a wing gets damaged leaving debris (St. Pete), or there's a huge accident, caution procedures are generally the same. The period begins with the field packing up to the pace car (+1 to 2 laps). After the pack and given the accident isn't impeding pit entrance, the pits will open for cars on the lead lap (+1). After the leaders pit, the cars a lap down or anyone else who wants to pit may do so (+1). Then the cars will get time to warm up their tires (+1 to 2). Plus you have to keep in mind that the track workers have to remedy the reason the yellow came out for whatever reason,  Give or take, every caution, regardless of what the incident is, takes at minimum four laps, but is usually is between five to seven laps.

Please, for the love of God, make it stop. I am so sick of seeing a car make a mistake and ruining the flow of the race. In the case of Gabby Chaves, who stalled precariously close to the apex of a corner at NOLA, I say through the yellow. He's in a dangerous spot and the corner workers deserve protection. In the case of Sage Karam, who beached his car in the middle of a sand trap away from the track, leave him there. There should be more of a punishment for beaching your car. Throwing a yellow and ruining the flow of the race is just not acceptable. Sage, while unfortunate for him and his race, isn't harming anyone. I remember fondly of Dario Franchitti spinning in the bus stop at Watkins Glen in 2006 with some laps remaining. No yellow flag was thrown, and Dario had to spend the last dozen or so laps sitting in the sand trap waiting out the race. Why did this stop being a thing?

If a car is stopped and out of harms way, let it be. If there's debris on the track and it's out of harms way, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Chaves off during the race (Photo: Bret Kelley / Indycar Media)

I for one thought the trial system that was used last and I'm assuming was based on the old CART model was a good step in the right direction. Those rules were once the yellow was thrown and, assuming the pits had a safe entrance, the pits were opened to all. Drivers got to the pits right away and made their service and went on their way. This would save several laps.

Sure shit happens. Rain and Indycars don't mix very well. I'm not sure if the tires suck or the power put down by the engines makes the cars extraordinary difficult to drive, or if the track didn't drain properly, or if all the Indycar drivers fail at driving in the rain, But in a very competitive racing series, you have to assume incidents are going to happen. What you can control as a series is how long each incident takes to clean up and not making every spin, stall, or Sage Karam problem to take up five to six laps of racing away from the fans, teams, and drivers.

After all, of the 105 minute duration of the race at NOLA, 71 minutes were under yellow.

What a joke.

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey