Monday, May 23, 2016

Fantasy Indycar Participants Reflect

Many of you out there see me tweet all the time about Fantasy Indycar. For some of you, you probably have no idea what Fantasy Indycar is and what it is all about.

To put it simply, Fantasy Indycar has turned into one of if not my favorite parts of the Indycar season.

Getting to compete (I'm super competitive) in a league designed around my favorite sport is epic in itself, but the connections I've made with the numerous people in the league is easily my favorite part. If you would like more details about the league, click here to find the homepage to learn all of the rules. The waiting list will be open on October 1st later this year. There will be at least three open spots for next year and I will choose the new participants from that list.

Okay enough of my shameless plug. I emailed all the participants for a voluntary questionnaire that they could fill out. I am always looking for feedback about Fantasy Indycar and why people like it so much! Given that the 100th Indianapolis 500 is on the horizon, I decided to put this all together. Below are the questions I asked and some of the responses I received! Remember, if you want to play next year and possibly beyond, just ask to be on the waiting list in October!

Click each name to view their Twitter profile.

1) How did you first get involved in Fantasy Indycar? 

Michael Friedman: I got involved in this league from friends on Twitter who have been in the league awhile. Looked like a fun and competitive group!

James "Swinger" Alban: Well you, The Stig (Mathew Gruenholz), and I came up with the idea back in 2012 if I'm not mistaken. Here we are in the fifth season and things could not be better!

David Leiting Jr.: I followed Matt on twitter and always saw tweets about it, so I figured I'd put my bid in!

Sandy Lamparello: I followed along on the blog and after the 2013 season I submitted my name to become a competitor for the following season. I didn't get in that season, but I was thrilled to be accepted for the 2015 season. Sarah: I joined the Twitter world in ~2013, and when I heard about Fantasy Indycar, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I got to know some of the participants throughout the month of May in 2014, and wanted in.

Mathew "Stig" Gruenholz: I was present for it's inception, speaking via Xbox live with Matt (you) and James (@TheKing0fSwing) whilst probably racing online. (F1 2011?) I was also probably drinking about fifty Yoo-hoos at the time.

2) What is your favorite part about Fantasy Indycar? 

Chris Blackburn: My favorite part is the strategy. Figuring out how to use these guys over a season and try my to match them with their best tracks then watching them perform as I expect at that track.

Alan Stewart: Trying to win, obviously. Trying to balance out picking the obvious choices with saving picks for when you think a driver will do well. Just like racing, there's some luck involved.

Sophie Hanson: I like that I can "bet" on some drivers and gives me something to believe in. Also, it makes watching the race more enjoyable because you are rooting for the 5 drivers you picked!

Sarah Hall: Fantasy Indycar forces me to pay attention to drivers I wouldn’t normally pay attention to. I have a tendency to focus on/obsess over my 2-3 favorite drivers for the majority of the race, to the point where I don’t notice some of the bigger picture aspects of the race. When I have to pick 5 drivers unbiasedly, I learn more about who excels at various tracks and in certain situations.

DJ Jordan: My favorite part of Fantasy Indycar is the smack talk that goes on. So much fun having the interaction between participants. And it always gives me something else to focus on during the race.

3) What is the most frustrating part of Fantasy Indycar? 

Kieran Brughelli: Picking out 5 guys without using too many heavy hitters. Saving your "stars" like Scott Dixon or Will Power through the season is so tough because they're excellent choices just about anywhere.

Sam Klein: Being careful with your fantasy picks.

Michael Friedman: Most frustrating part is having no control over how the drivers I pick do for a race!

Alan Stewart: Not winning! Or going with someone like Will Power and he gets shunted, thus wasting a pick.

Sophie Hanson: When the drivers you pick don't do well. OR when you run out of picks for a specific driver.

David Leiting Jr.: When my picks wreck each other... Or when my favorite driver is leading but he isn't my pick.

4) What advice would you have for future rookies of Fantasy Indycar?

Kieran Brughelli: Don't second guess yourself, make a plan at the start of the season and stick to it (unless there are extenuating circumstances such as driver injury)

Paige Hill: Download the Indycar app and before each race check to see previous races and who won and pick them.

Sean Kennedy: Don't think, just pick.

James "Swinger" Alban: Don't panic if you start slow at the beginning of the season. As long as you're consistent and are in the top twenty by the Indianapolis 500, you will be fine!

David Leitng Jr.: Have fun, don't pick with your heart, and make sure you interact with your competitors.

DJ Jordan: The best advice for future rookies is to have fun with it. Interact with everyone playing & don't be afraid to talk some smack.

5) How pumped are you for the 100th Indianapolis 500? 

Chris Blackburn: Never in my life have I been more excited for an event! The 500 for me is the best day of the year each year. I spend the majority of the month trackside and to be able to be a part of history, the greatest race that historically has ever been run and to celebrate this event live is unreal. Good chance I cry but so honored to be a part!

Sam Klein: Most peoples' years revolve around the holiday season. My year revolves around the Month of May. The most wonderful time of the year.


Sophie Hanson: SOOO PUMPED! I'm so excited that I get to go to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. I've been to many consecutive years of the race but I can tell you that this one will be awesome!! Plus, I'm bringing my boyfriend and family friend along and they get to experience their first Indy 500 AND Indycar race!

DJ Jordan: I am so pumped for the 500. Every day before going into work I am lucky enough to drive by IMS. The work they have done to the track is amazing. I am so looking forward to seeing my race family all month at the track. Its my Christmas.

Mathew "Stig" Gruenholz: To quote a friend about how psyched I am for the 100th Indy 500, "I'm so pumped I could punch an elephant!"

Our brick in the Pagoda Plaza at IMS. A little tribute we organized in the offseason.
Photo courtesy of James Alban.

Once again, if you want to get the chance to play, talk to me in October! Thanks again to those who sent in their answers and to the entire field for playing all season.

-Matthew Hickey

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lap One Incidents Since 1979

The Month of May is a historic time for Indycar. Indycar teams assemble for two (used to be three weeks) of practice to prepare for the biggest race in the world. So, you can imagine how dismal it is when a driver wrecks on the first lap, throwing all of that time, effort, and money right out the window less than a minute into the race. Here are all lap one crashes that have occurred since 1979, most of which have ended in heartbreak:

1982 Indianapolis 500
This is one of the most bizzarre starts in the history of the Indy 500. Before they even got past the yard of bricks, Kevin Cogan from P2 on the grid swereved and spun right and hit the pit wall, collecting Mario Andretti, who was rightfully pissed off. Cogan also hit AJ Foyt before swerving, but Foyt continued. Roger Mears and Dale Whittington were also collected in the crash.

1987 Indianapolis 500
Josele Garza and Pancho Carter came together in the first turn on the first lap in 1987. Garza spun it on his own and was missed by many cars, but Carter could not avoid him, making contact with his suspension and ending both of their chances to win. Both cars did receive minor damage but nothing malicious.

1988 Indianapolis 500
Scott Brayton lost control of the car in turn two, collecting Roberto Guerrero. Both made heavy contact with the wall but walked away. Tony Bettenhausen Jr. also was collected, meaning that three efforts all went down the drain in a matter of seconds.

1991 Indianapolis 500
Gary Bettenhausen nearly lost control of the car on the apron in turn one, but saved it. As he was saving it, Buddy Lazier lost control of the car and hit nose first into the turn one wall, ending his race. A relatively minor incident as far as damage though.

1995 Indianapolis 500
Perhaps the most frigthening first lap incident in recent memory happened in 1995. Stan Fox came into turn one and lost control, turning sharply to the right head on for the wall. Fox collected Eddie Cheever Jr. before slamming the wall. The car was flung into the car, coming back down to the ground with entire front of the car gone. Fox's legs were visible when the car came to a stop. Thankfully, no one was fatally hurt from the accident. Fox suffered head injuries but no injuries to his legs, and he was released several months later. It was the last start of Fox's career. Fox, Cheever, Scott Sharp, Gil de Ferran, Eric Bachelart, Lyn St. James, and Carlos Guerrero all were victims of this accident.

Stan Fox
Fox and Cheever in a terrible accident (Photo credit not listed)

1997 Indianapolis 500
As the field was getting ready to take the green flag, Stephane Gregoire, Kenny Brack, and Affonso Giaffone collided in turn four, bringing out the yellow. Conclusive replay evidence wasn't shown, but Giaffone and Gregoire blamed Brack's inexperience on how to handle the start for the crash.

1998 Indianapolis 500
Rookie J.J. Yeley spun heading into turn one, but he did not touch the wall or anyone else. Yeley spun as a result of slowing cars in front of him. It was a pretty spectacular save on his part, and he continued in the race.

2001 Indianapolis 500
One of the more well known first lap incidents in Indianapolis 500 occured when Scott Sharp went into turn, lost control on the low slide and came back up the track and hit the wall. Just a crazy incident. Robby Gordon was incredibly lucky on the outside of the first row not to get collected. But man, poor Scott Sharp...

2009 Indianapolis 500
This is one of the real headscratchers of the first lap incident list. Mario Moraes moved up the track on Marco Andretti and caused both of them to retire (Marco ran later in the race to gain points). It was a total shame for Marco because Mario, who had all the room he could have ever wanted on the bottom of the track, moved up on Marco for no reason. Both drivers argued that the other was at fault, when all of the racing world knew Mario was wrong. Marco was quoted as saying, "The kid doesn't get it, he never will. He's just clueless out there."

2010 Indianapolis 500
Davey Hamilton made hard contact with the wall on the infield of turn two. Davey looked a bit perplexed when Tomas Scheckter stormed on the outside, taking the space that Davey was expecting to use on the exit of the turn. He corrected his sterring to avoid him, causing him to crash. Davey said after the crash, "It's the first lap of the Indy 500 and Tomas Scheckter is an idiot."

2015 Indianapolis 500
Heading into turn one, Takuma Sato went on the high side of Sage Karam, making it three wide. Karam, who had Ryan Hunter-Reay below him, had no where to go, and Sato did not back out, hooking Karam into the wall. Ryan Briscoe also spun, but he continued. Sato had damage but he finished the race. Karam was the only victim of the incident. He said after the race, "Didn't even order Japanese takeout and still got it."

Sato and Karam binned it on lap one (Photo:

Here's a recap of the years and drivers involved in lap one accidents at the Indianapolis 500 (since 1979):
1982 - Mario Andretti, Kevin Cogan, AJ Foyt, Rick Mears, and Dale Whittington
1987 - Pancho Carter and Josele Garza
1988 - Tony Bettenhausen Jr., Scott Brayton, and Roberto Guerrero
1991 - Buddy Lazier 
1995 - Eric Bachelart, Eddie Cheever Jr., Gil de Ferran, Carlos Guerrero, Scott Sharp, and Lyn St. James
1997 - Kenny Brack, Affonso Giaffone, and Stephane Gregoire
1998 - JJ Yeley
2001 - Scott Sharp
2009 - Marco Andretti and Mario Moraes
2010 - Davey Hamilton
2015 - Sage Karam and Takuma Sato

Note to drivers: you can't win the race on lap one! Don't ruin your chance to win the 100th Indianapolis 500 by being an idiot on the first lap!

Which incident stands out the most to you?! Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Indianapolis

Here are the picks for the one that everyone wants to win: the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Current championship leader highlighted in green, pole bonus picks (which only count if that driver wins the pole) are highlighted in aqua, and participants in the elimination zone are highlighted in yellow:

Name Twitter Handle                                          Indianapolis 500  
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Helio Dixon JPM Andretti Pagenaud Dixon
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Dixon JPM Carpenter Helio Rahal JPM
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 Dixon Carpenter Helio JPM J.R. Power
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski Helio Andretti Pagenaud Kanaan RHR Pagenaud
Conor Daly conordaly22 Pagenaud JPM Andretti Bell Helio Pagenaud
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Helio RHR Carpenter J.R. Kanaan JPM
David Redner IndyCART Dixon Helio Rahal JPM Pagenaud JPM
DJ Jordan Indycardj32 Munoz Helio Andretti JPM Bell Helio
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy JPM Helio Dixon Andretti Carpenter Newg
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Andretti Munoz Dixon JPM Carpenter Dixon
James Alban TheKing0fSwing JPM Andretti Kanaan Karam Rahal Dixon
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Helio JPM Carpenter Dixon Andretti Power
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider Helio RHR Rahal Pagenaud Dixon Helio
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Kanaan Helio JPM J.R. Andretti Carpenter
Johanna Husband writebend Dixon Rahal Pigot Hinch Pagenaud Helio
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli Kanaan Dixon Pagenaud Karam Rahal Dixon
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 JPM Helio Dixon Kanaan Andretti Helio
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Helio Dixon JPM Pagenaud Hinch JPM
Martin Plowman plowey Pagenaud Dixon Helio JPM Power Hinch
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG Pagenaud JPM Andretti Helio Rahal Pagenaud
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN JPM Rahal Andretti Dixon Helio Power
Michael Friedman mfriedman_63 Dixon JPM Helio Rahal J.R. JPM
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Helio Kanaan Carpenter JPM Dixon JPM
Mitch Robinson mitchrobinson_ Pagenaud JPM Kanaan Karam Helio Helio
Morgan Polizzi morganpolizzi Pagenaud Dixon Helio Kanaan Rahal Helio
Paige Hill paigehilll Andretti Kanaan Power Helio Daly Hinch
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi Pagenaud JPM Dixon Karam Carpenter Pagenaud
Sam Klein sklein31 Kanaan JPM Dixon Karam Andretti Pagenaud
Sandy Lamparello npssandy RHR Andretti Bell Carpenter JPM Rahal
Sarah Hall SarahHall_528 Andretti Hinch Kanaan Newg Bell Power
Sean Kennedy _6thgear_ Clauson Pagenaud Andretti Karam Helio Pagenaud
Sophie Hanson Sophie_Hansons3 Dixon Helio Power Andretti JPM JPM
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan Pagenaud JPM Helio Kanaan Dixon Pagenaud

  • Johanna Husband and Sophie Hanson are both given 50% reductions in their total points for this race (turned in picks late).

Everyone have a great race day!

-Matthew Hickey

Monday, May 16, 2016

What Do Practice Results Mean?

Guess what? Indianapolis 500 practice starts today! HAPPY DAYS!

The road to the Indianapolis 500 is a long process full of lots of practice sessions. The usual series of bombarding tweets will be sent at us saying this driver is P1 and this driver stunk and so on and so forth. What do practice results mean? How have some of our most recent Indy winners done in practices?

I complied the practice results of the last six Indianapolis 500 results. Here's what we got:

2015 - Juan Pablo Montoya
Average session finish - 12.2
Number of sessions - 9
High - P5

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America

2014 - Ryan Hunter-Reay
Average session finish - 5.6
Number of sessions - 10
High - P1

98th Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

2013 - Tony Kanaan
Average session finish - 14.3
Number of sessions - 10
High - P7

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America

2012 - Dario Franchitti
Average session finish - 8.6
Number of sessions - 9
High - P1

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

2011 - Dan Wheldon
Average session finish - 15.1
Number of sessions - 7
High - P5

Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

2010 - Dario Franchitti 
Average session finish - 6.6
Number of sessions - 8
High - P1

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

After close analysis of the last six Indianapolis 500 winners and how they practiced, here's what we can infer: it's really a mixed bag. Half of the winners listed above have done really well, while the other half haven't done as well. Looking at Montoya last year, he cracked the top-ten less than half of the sessions. Yet on race day, he looked dominant.

In the DW12 era (and most Indianapolis 500 eras), the tow, or draft you receive from the car in front of you, plays a huge part in the times you put up. So Montoya may have not got in a huge tow lap all during practice, and he did look pretty sluggish in qualifying too, but there wasn't a better car in the race.

The average finishing position of these six winners in 53 sessions is 10.2 Weirdly enough, only three times in those 53 sessions has the race winner finished P1 in the session. No winner in the last six years has finished P1 more than once in the practices leading up to the race. 

Coincidentally, every-other year seems to alternate between winners who practice well and winners who practice averagely. Just something random to observe, nothing huge.

What do you guys think: big correlation between how you practice and how it will impact your race?

Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Winners and Losers: GPI

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2016 Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis:


Simon Pagenaud
What is there to say about the start to the season that Simon Pagenaud is having? It's crossing the line of being historic and into the territory of greatest start in Indycar HISTORY. It is insane how well he is doing. Three wins and two second places finishes in five races is out of this world. Darth Pagenaud is on the charge.

Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves caught an opportune yellow to vault to the front, holding down the fort on his way to a P2 finish. Wasn't close to being the fastest Team Penske driver this weekend, but he certainty was the smartest.

James Hinchcliffe
The Mayor James Hinchcliffe had an emphatic bounce back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on his way to a podium finish. One year after almost losing his life in Indy, Hinch bounced back with a solid weekend and a stellar finish. On top of that, he has opted to donate his winnings to the relief effort of the Fort McMurray area that has been devastated by fires. The dude wins off the track too.

Conor Daly
A might have my 'favorite driver' cap on, but watching Conor Daly totally school Helio Castroneves on a restart is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. Conor got what he was lacking in recent races to help him move forward: a caution. Strategy and a bit of luck vaulted Conor to the top of the pylon. While he mismanaged his push-to-passes and got burned by some of the guys behind him, Conor got his first big result with Dale Coyne Racing.


Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan was taken out before making a single turn. I'm not a racing driver or a crew member, but it has to be really infuriating to put a lot of time and effort (and money) into a race weekend only to make it down a straightaway.

Sebastien Bourdais
Poor Sebastien Bourdais has had two straight races where his race has been ruined on lap one. At Barber, it was Bourdais' doing that did him in. At GPI, he was an innocent victim. Can he put in a Herculean-like performance like he did in 2014 at the Indianapolis 500?

Mother Nature
This one's for all the fans who had to put up with Mother Nature's bullshit, especially DJ Jordan.

ECR Racing
Josef Newgarden had a great weekend going until he was disqualified after qualifying in the Fast Six for being underweight. His race never really materialized and it was a poor result. JR Hildebrand, who has raced at Indy for ECR Racing in recent years, had another poor result at the road course. Not the way the team wanted to start out the Month of May.

Cone of Shame

Scott Dixon
Two guys listed above have some right to be a bit pissed at Scott Dixon. Heading down to calamity corner (turn one; in three races at GPI, there have been accidents before getting to turn two), Dixon did not to take notice of Tony Kanaan swinging out towards the wall in a battle with Sebastien Bourdais. Dixon did not see this, and made a wide turn to set up for an optimal entry into the corner. This forced Kanaan into Bourdais, ending both of their races. Dixon did not get any damage, nor did he physically make contact with either driver, thus barring him from receiving a penalty. Last year Dixon got taken out, this year Dixon was the one pulling an Helio.

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey