Monday, June 29, 2015

Winners and Losers: Fontana

Here are the winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2015 MAVTV 500 at the Auto Club Speedway:

Winners

Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal finally gets a win some 7 years after his first and only win in Indycar. It didn't come without controversy, as Indycar's new precedence with pit infractions is to handle the situation the week after the race. While I appreciate the fact that Indycar has stuck to their precedence they've suddenly established, they should have never started it in the first place. Take care of the situation in the present rather than the future. Still, this isn't to detract from the fact that Graham drove a hell of a race. It's refreshing to see him final back in the winners circle.


Marco Andretti
Marco Andretti has been quietly having himself a great year. While my only complaint about Marco as a driver is his lack of wins, he continues to prove that he has the skills to put the car up in the top-ten each race. Hopefully at some point either this year or in future years he'll fight for a championship.


Juan Pablo Montoya
For the umpteenth time this year, Juan Pablo Montoya makes the winners list not necessarily for what he did, but what he didn't do. With rivals Will Power and Helio Castroneves getting few championship points from the race, Montoya once again capitalized, putting more points in the vault for the title. He's been the quickest and most consistent guy all year, and, in my opinion, is the overwhelming favorite to win the title.


Indycar Fans
Indycar fans and random outsiders tuning in, including a couple of NASCAR drivers, were in awe of the dramatic, intense, close racing that we saw at Fontana. I thought the race was doomed after a terrible race at Texas. The cars raced so much better and the race was so heart-poundingly awesome that I want to watch it over and over again. Great job by Indycar and whoever put the aero specs for the race, we need more of this!!



Losers

Sage Karam
Sage Karam may have finished P5, but he cut off, endangered, and pissed off many drivers in the field along the way. I would also pin the last wreck, which saw Ryan Hunter-Reay collecting Ryan Briscoe, who violently flipped, on Karam. This isn't the first time his race craft has been called into question. Karam received warnings in St. Petersburg for blocking. He was later penalized in Detroit for the same thing. He has also had several incidents throughout the year. Karam was a standout in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights, but he needs to start realizing that driving an Indycar takes a lot more skill and finesse than the MRTI cars.


Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter needs to reevaluate himself. Ed has raced in three races this season, and he has a whopping zero finishes. Two crashes and one retirement from mechanical issues is turning Ed's season into a joke. Of course this latest crash, in which he managed to collect the one guy he didn't want to crash, his teammate and car that he owns driven by Josef Newgarden, wasn't his fault. Ed pinned it on his spotter, who forgot to help him. Honestly, I'm tired of Ed as a driver. He should retire and focus on owning. Though, I do appreciate him supporting the style of racing we saw at Fontana.


Helio Castroneves
As far as the championship goes, Helio Castroneves took a huge hit on Saturday. Helio got into a tough situation, as Graham Rahal lifted, causing a ripple effect. Eventually, Ryan Briscoe and Helio made contact, causing minor damage to Helio, who made no contact with the wall. Still, the contact was enough to force Helio to retire. He'll need one hell of a second half of the season, especially at Sonoma, if he wants a championship.


Dale Coyne's crew
I would honestly be afraid for my safety if I was a crewman for Dale Coyne Racing, as they've had a rough year. The year got worse on Saturday, when driver Tristan Vautier hit the left front tire changer right in the knee. Thankfully, the crewman is doing really good. Still, this marks the third time this year that contact has been made to the crew. Francesco Dracone spun on a wet NOLA pit road and clobbered a crew member, who was fortunate to come out relatively clean. At Indianapolis, an incident involving all three entries saw a couple crew men injured but nothing serious. Still, how much more does this poor crew have to endure for the remainder of 2015?



Cone of Shame



Will Power
I know I'm not Will Power's biggest fan, but by Power's standards, he's had a pretty low key year as far as controversy goes, but it's hard to not give the guy I love one week and hate the next the Cone after his actions on Saturday. Power got into an accident with Takuma Sato. On replay, it looks like Sato was a victim of a brash move by Scott Dixon as well as some lane movement by Power. The result was a big hit for Sato and a retirement for Power. Upon getting out of his car, Power shoved one of the Safety Crew members who was there to make sure he's okay. Now, I know things happen in the heat of the moment, but that is something that is completely unacceptable. Credit to Power, who did apologize both on Twitter as well as in person to the crewman he shoved, but it should have never happened in the first place.


Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Fontana

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner for the 2015 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (championship leader highlighted in blue, those in the elimination zone are highlighted in red):

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


Penalties: N/A

Top 3 most picked: 1) Tony Kanaan - 23 2) Ed Carpenter - 22 3) Juan Pablo Montoya - 18
Not picked: Stefano Coletti, James Jakes, Tristan Vautier, Jack Hawksworth, and Gabby Chaves


Time for the strategy portion of the season! Those who saved big names may vault themselves to the top, while those who burned picks early in the season will have to hope their wild card picks pay off.

-Matthew Hickey

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Six Critiques

I always love some Indycar racing, but as with everything in life, there are things I don't like about it. If I liked everything about Indycar and went with everything they did with an approving mindset, I would be a puppet. Like I've said before, if you don't like that mindset, feel free to stop reading my opinions. If I don't like something, I will speak out about it. Rather than writing multiple pieces about multiple issues, I've put it all into one blog.

No one will deny that Indycar's on track product has been stellar ever since the introduction of the DW12 in 2012. But still, there are some things I don't like about Indycar and thus I would change. Here are six things I have observed recently and that I would fix ASAP:

1) The Schedule
My biggest ciriticsm of Indycar since 2011 has undeniably been the formation and execution of Indycar's schedule. In my opinion, Indycar had great schedules between 2008-2011, but since 2012, Indycar's schedule has been woeful. I don't like the doubleheaders. I don't like the castration of 1.5 mile ovals (since the loss of downforce on Indycars, I highly doubt we will see a repeat of Las Vegas). I don't like the fact that we've lost Baltimore, Chicagoland, Edmonton, Houston, Homestead, Kansas, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Motegi, Nashville, New Hampshire, Richmond, Sao Paulo, and Surfers Paradise since 2008. Now, there's news swirling that NOLA's future may be in doubt.

This isn't counting the fact that Indycar is missing out on other great venues, like Road America, Laguna Seca, Portland, Gateway, Rockingham, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Michigan, Streets of Denver, and many others. Indycar has managed to cut corners, like adding doubleheaders to inflate the schedule count. They've also added a second race at Indianapolis. While that's a good race and well liked, it again seems like a temporary fix to a big problem: lack of venues.

It's about that time of year where rumors regarding next year's schedule begin to swirl. First on the block is Road America, which happens every year. Mark Miles has been saying for a while now that 2014 and 2015 were place holders for a great schedule in 2016. If he and the entire Indycar team fail to execute, Mr. Miles might be out of a job. Get the schedule right and put races on the calendar that people give a damn about.


2) Economics of Aero Kits
Aero kits. All the hype for several years finally came to fruition in 2015, where manufacturers could create custom designed kits to implement on the DW12s to increase speeds and downforce. While manufacturers (Chevrolet and Honda) got to show off their innovative skills and compete against one another, they've been a large burden on teams.

The aero kits have aided downforce levels and have increased speeds and broken many track records this season, While the only objection I have to them on the track is their fragility, I do have a big problem with the cost of the kits. Two big team owners, Michael Andretti and Sam Schmidt, have voiced their criticism, Michael Andretti said, "Millions and millions of dollars have been spent by manufacturers and the teams, and I don’t see that it has put one more person in the stands."

Sam Schmidt said, "We tried it and it's not working. If we lose a lot of Honda team sponsorships it's going to be really a bad thing...  The biggest thing is I've never had anyone tell me what's it for, why we are doing this. It's not putting butts in the seats and increasing the TV ratings... You can't recover the money that we have spent, but we can still keep pissing it away on development."

Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600
Tony Kanaan representing Chevrolet (right) and Takuma Sato representing Honda (left) displaying the
varying Aero Kits introduced in 2015 (Photo: Sean Garden / Getty Images North America)

I see what Indycar is trying to accomplish with aero kits, but aero kits could kill off several teams that aren't doing well financially. Rather than pour money into the kits, I would rather see engines with more horespower. Aero kits seem like a great thing to try in a series that is doing great economically great, and, well, Indycar isn't doing great economically.

And since Honda doesn't have a contract signed for 2016 and beyond, if the aero kit decision doesn't pay off, it could spell the end of Indycar. Chevrolet can't carry the load like Honda did for several years. Honda is one of the most important sponsors and partners that Indycar has, and we cannot afford to lose them.


3) Yellow Flag Procedures
Indycar is notorious for taking their sweet damn time under yellow flag conditions to clean up whatever it is that needed to be taken care of. But I've ranted about this more in length following the travesty we saw in NOLA, and if you would like to read more on that, click here.


4) More Teams / Third Engine Manufacturer
One way to increase the size of the field and to actually have a Bump Day at Indianapolis is to have more teams and a third engine manufacturer. For the past several seasons, it seems like Indycar's current teams are expanding and keeping the car count average levels, rather than new teams jumping in.

Obviously there's more than a third engine supplier (like increasing revenue for teams or adding incentives for new teams to come in) to increasing the size of the field, but a third engine supplier could help add entries and bring down the costs of leasing engines. Manufacturers like Mazda (strong affliation with Indycar), Toyota, Alfa Romeo, and Kia would be great fits in the sport.

About the new teams and expanding teams; we've seen teams like Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, AJ Foyt Enterprises, and more expand in recent years, while other teams, like Ed Carpenter Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, HVM Racing, and other teams have merged. Since 2008, Indycar has lost full-time teams and entries, including Conquest Racing, Dragon Racing, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, HVM Racing, Newman/Haas Racing, Panther Racing, and Vision Racing.

Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 Practice
Justin Wilson of Newman/Haas Racing leads Ed Carpenter of Vision Racing, both teams which
have since closed shop, at Kansas, a track which no longer hosts Indycar, in 2008
(Photo: Marc Serota / Getty Images North America)

Hopefully new teams will be on the horizon. The all-female Grace Autosport has announced their intentions to run in the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Carlin Racing, a top class racing team in many formulas and a team who has employed Indycar aces like Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball, Conor Daly, Mikhail Aleshin, and Carlos Huertas, has joined Indy Lights in 2015 with the ambition of joining Indycar in 2016. Juncos Racing, a team that has a history in the Mazda Road to Indy, is building a factory in Speedway, Indiana with the hopes of fielding an Indycar team in the next couple of seasons.

Hopefully more teams come back and/or start up operations soon, because current Indycar teams can only expand for so long before the money dries up.


5) TV Deal
One way to get more teams is to increase team revenue, and one way to do that is to get more sponsors, and one way to do that is to get a better TV deal so more eyes will be focused on Indycar making the sponsors happier. Now, I never have and currently don't presume to have all of the answers to all of Indycars problems, and this is one of them. I don't know how TV contracts work and I'm not sure anyone other than ABC and NBCSN is currently interested in broadcasting Indycar races, so I don't exactly have a solution to this problem. However, Indycar can't brag about its great on-track product if no one watches.


6) Starts and restarts
Standing starts were a hoot! I loved them. However, the were ditched before the 2015 season, and I don't really blame them. The bad clutch systems on the car and the anti-stall system that does nothing to prevent the car from stalling have made standing starts dangerous and tedious for drivers. Still, they were a thrill to watch and I wish the clutch systems would be improved to make standing starts an option again.

I have been impressed (for the most part) with starts and restarts this year. However, I miss double file restarts. I don't think they are the best idea on road courses, but on ovals, they work like a charm. Also, Indycar should not be afraid to throw the yellow flag if the leader takes off before he is supposed to, causing the field to spread out (90% of the time, this leader is Helio Castroneves, who doesn't believe restart procedures apply to him).2

lat abbott toronto 0615 5705
Picture of the failed restart at Toronto (Photo: LAT Photographic)


Thanks for reading folks! Let me know if you have any questions or if you want anything cleared up.

-Matthew Hickey

Monday, June 15, 2015

Winners and Losers: Toronto

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner from the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto:

Winners

Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden may have caught a lucky with a caution, by Newgarden got out front and stayed out front like a boss. Many have been waiting for Newgarden to have these types of results from the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion, and with two wins, many are declaring that Newgarden has arrived and is on the radar for years to come.


Luca Filippi
Even though he has received criticism from many (fans are quick to claim that JR Hildebrand should be in the car), Luca Filippi shut the haters up with a P2 finish in Toronto, the highest of his short Indycar career. He helped complete the CFH Racing 1-2 finish. And, had it not been for a lucky yellow for Newgarden, Filippi may have won the thing.


Helio Castroneves
Despite getting into an incident with Takuma Sato and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves used strategy and short fills on pit stops to gain track position on his way to a P3 finish. It's this stretch of races that Helio needs to capitalize on if he finally wants to win an Indycar title.


Chevrolet
Chevrolet once again flexed their muscles despite opposition from drivers like Carlos Munoz, Graham Rahal, and even Rodolfo 'Speedy' Gonzalez. Despite some hard charging from those three and others, Chevrolet quashed any Honda chance at winning, taking the top-eight spots in the final results.



Losers

Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud's 2015 season in a couple words: 'Insanely fast in qualifying, no results.' Growing pains continue for the new stud at Team Penske, who is fourth on the pecking order at the moment.


Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay is having one of the worst seasons I have ever seen a champion and Indy 500 winner ever have. It's not that he's crashed a lot or made many mistakes, rather he's just been mediocre this season. Brake failure with two laps to go kind of put into a nutshell the type of season he is having.


James Jakes
James Jakes continues to unperform. His latest mishap was a nudging into the tires at Toronto. With Conor Daly outpacing Jakes every step of the way, it makes one wonder why Schmidt Peterson Motorsports doesn't go with Ryan Briscoe-Daly squad the rest of the way.


Carlos Munoz
Carlos Munoz was shaping up to have a result just like his win in Detroit. Sadly, Munoz suffered an engine failure. A solid result would have flung Munoz into the top-ten in the championship. Given his early passes and his the pace he showed throughout the weekend (P1 in final practice), I thought for sure Munoz would snag a top-five.



Cone of Shame 



Stefano Coletti
Stefano Coletti is having one of the more underwhelming seasons in recent memory. Every race, he seems to have an incident of some sort. This was no different in Toronto. The first lap, he and Tristan Vautier came together. Later on, he would make contact with Charlie Kimball. Shortly after that, Coletti slammed the wall, ending his race. The guy has been fast in the past and in some Indycar sessions, but overall, his race craft has been terrible his ability to finish a race in a solid position.has been lacking. Not impressed with Coletti yet.


Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Toronto

Here are the Fantasy Indycar Picks for the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto (current leader highlighted in blue, those in the elimination zone highlighted in red):

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


Penalties - Andy Nagel, Gina Navarra, and Lynn Weinberg all received single pick violations for making invalid picks. They will only receive a 50% reduction on that individual pick and not on their whole score.

Top 3 most picked: 1) Bourdais - 30 2) Pagenaud - 18 3) Rahal - 15
Not picked: Gonzalez


Thanks to everyone who accomedated to my vacation and made picks early or to the Stig! And many thanks to the Stig for making my life that much easier after returning home! Really appreciate it!

-Matthew Hickey