Around the Horn: July '12

In a new series that was brilliantly thought of by Michael Tressler (@mtressler13), eight of us will answer questions round table style based off of the TV show on ESPN called "Around the Horn." Each month, we will answer four questions in an nearly identical format that they do on the show. Of course, we will be discussing Indycar. *Note that some answers were submitted before the race at Toronto. Here are the eight great people doing it this month (and hopefully for many months to come)-

  • Fellow Minnesotan (meaning she is automatically cool) Angie King, Twitter Handle @angiewarhol, and answers labeled as AK   
  • Another garbage White Sox fan [ ;^) ] Michael Tressler, Twitter Handle @mtressler13, and answers labeled at MT
  • The life of the party, James Alban, Twitter Handle @TheKing0fSwing, and answers labeled as JA  
  • Fellow Open Wheels contributor, and the very king hearted David Bolton, Twitter Handle @davidindycar, answers labeled as DB  
  • Fellow Open Wheels contributor, and fellow Cubs fan Tiffany Davies, Twitter Handle @Tiffany2978, and answers labeled TD  
  • A man who needs no introduction. Mathew Gruenholz, Twitter Handle @IndyCarSTIG, answers labeled as STIG  
  • One of my favorite people on Twitter and a great fan, Emily Mugan, Twitter Handle @emrymalee, answers labeled as EM  
  • And then there is me.... I feel like the loser of the group.... Twitter handle @Indycar_MN, answers labeled as MH

1) The First Word (The Intro, basically a warm up question with recent news in Indycar):  

Push to Pass is back for the remaining 5 road courses. Does Push to Pass help or hurt Indycar?  

AK- Hurt. I think the way they set it up by taking down the base turbocharger to 150 kPa in order to add a “boost” to 160 kPa when engaged is a lame way to do it. The races have been exciting all season without Push to Pass, so why provide a false boost now? It’s like when stores put stuff on mega sale and you wanna buy a ton of shit cuz you think you’re getting this AMAZING deal, but really they had their regular prices marked up super high in the first place so now you’re just paying regular price with glee like a schmuck … Ok, maybe that’s not the greatest analogy but both a false boost and phony savings are annoying to me.  

MT- To me the Push to Pass doesn't hurt or help. Not yet anyway. However, my opinion on the matter is that IndyCar doesn't need it. I also don't want to see engine or some other mechanical failure due to the extra hp with these new engines. If that happens, then it will be bad for the series.

JA- The push to pass feature I thought last season was great.  But with the great racing thus far this season, I'm not sure how it will help the racing on the road and street courses.  It really takes the driver out of the equation and puts more focus on the tech side than driver skill.  Thanks to @Indycar_MN for helping see the light on that one!    

DB- I understand the concept behind push to pass but I think it hurts IndyCar, especially this time around.  Fans are not happy about taking boost away and then adding it back to push to pass.  I personally agree with Mario Andretti and Will Power that we need more horsepower.  The faster the cars go, the more you will separate the good drivers but the great drivers.  If they had more horsepower, there would be no need for push to pass because the better driver will be able to handle the corner and straight faster than other one.  In its current form, push to pass looks like a gimmick.

TD- I am likely in the minority, but I believe that push to pass helps IndyCar for two primary reasons. First, decreasing the boost on already stressed engines will help teams limp to the season finish on just 1 or 2 remaining engines. Although the stress on engines on road courses is significantly less, we have seen a disproportionate number of engine issues as the mileage increases. Second, adding push to pass will help make up for the horsepower deficit that drivers and fans have been incessantly complaining about the entire season, as well as hopefully increase passing on some 'boring' road courses.

STIG- In my opinion with these cars it is a bit unnecessary.  P2P now is like having a Mountain dew before a track meet, short term energy that has little effect that you will just piss away . It doesn't hurt Indycar but doesn't help either.

EM- I don’t think Push to Pass will necessarily hurt Indycar, but I do think it’s a little bit silly to introduce it with just a handful of races left. Last year it seemed really hit or miss in terms of strategy, with some drivers not using it or even outright forgetting about it. I don’t know a thing about engineering but it may turn out to be just an added component on the car that can fail or create complications, which teams have had plenty of this season already. Whether it creates more passing opportunities remains to be seen, but I would obviously support it if that were the case.  I am still excited to see how it plays out in Edmonton, so there is something to be said for the buzz it’s creating, if nothing else.

MH- I'm all against artificial overtaking. And not only that, but if someone didn't tell me P2P was back for Toronto, I wouldn't have noticed. Looked like the same, exciting racing we have seen all year. More horsepower should be a bigger priority than P2P.

2) Buy or Sell (Buy = Agree, Sell = Disagree, and a short explanation):

Buy or Sell: Ryan Hunter-Reay will win the Indycar Championship.  

AK- Buy. Before Toronto, I would have said “Sell” because I just wasn’t sure if he’d perform as well on street and road courses, but he obviously proved otherwise. Ryan’s post-race interview in Toronto indicated that he has the right team in place to keep the forward momentum going.  Although I haven’t been the biggest RHR fan in the past, he’s growing on me. And I honestly like the idea of an American leading the points championship. Maybe it will gain the attention of more mainstream press and help Indycar get exposed to new fans. The series NEEDS a little positive press. Plus, it would be cool if someone from a non-Death Star team won the championship.

MT- Buy. With the roll RHR has been on as of late he shows he has all the talent and equipment to do it. Aso the confidence is there when you are running this great. I honestly can't wait to see what the end of the season has to offer for RHR.

JA- Buy that for a dollar!  RHR has definitely come on strong lately with his 2 wins in a row.  If he can continue finishing in the top 5 on the road/street courses, I see him as the 2012 champion!  

DB- I will buy this one.  Ryan has always been good for a win and to finish top 10 in points but he seems to always run into a stretch of races where he DNF's, has bad luck or the car didn't perform like the team thought.  He has always been talented on all circuits but has never been able to put it together.  This year, RHR has won the last two races and has strung together some impressive top 5's.  Power has shown the last several years that if you stay close enough to him, there will be an opening to take the points lead away from him.  I think RHR will win at least 1 more race and have enough top 5's to overtake Will.

TD- Sell--Ryan Hunter-Reay has made his charge on the ovals and only ranks 5th in the road course points rankings. Will Power has absolutely dominated on the road courses and has a huge lead for that title. I just don't buy Power's luck being awful for the next five races. He's due for a championship, and 2012 is it.

STIG-  I buy it (along with the limited Will Power Warranty) Ryan is on fire (in the good way) and being CONSISTANT, but Willy P always makes a charge this time of year. Ryan needs to stay out of trouble and ahead of the angry birds to bring it home.

EM- Buy 100%. If there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of RHR, it’s consistency. Mentally, I see him as one of the strongest drivers in the pack. He has had some really tough breaks this season, but he kept his head down and charged back with a vengeance. It could be hard to catch him if he continues this streak of podiums, but it’s exciting to know that there are still plenty of drivers behind him willing and able to take the points lead from him if things fall their way. I would love to see Ryan win the championship, it really couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Except maybe Hinch. :)

MH- I am going to buy this, then sell it, just so I can buy it again. I guess nice guys do finish first, and with some good drives in the last five races, RHR can win the title.

3) Out of Bounds (this type of question talks about something happening outside of Indycar on the track)

Bruton Smith had some harsh words to say about Randy Bernard and Indycar. What are your thoughts on Bruton Smith's comments? Do they have any impact on Indycar?  

AK- Ugh. I’m tired of all the Randy criticism. No matter who says it, or whether it’s positive or negative, it hurts the series. But only because it takes the focus away from what’s really important: THE RACING. And the racing has been spectacular this season. So why everybody spends so much time building up and tearing down Randy Bernard is beyond me. He's obviously doing his job; the racing is proof. So, let’s focus on that! Let’s talk about exciting stuff that happened on the track, the heated post-race interviews from drivers, the surprising and unpredictable battle for the championship, the recipient of Will Power’s two-fingered wrath this week, ANYTHING other than Randy Bernard.

MT- This subject I have not followed very close.  I don't really think it will have an impact on IndyCar. I say this because I think Bruton Smith is outside of his mind. I feel most people think he is out of his mind and never really care what kind of point he has to make. One of those people that need to go away.

JA- Ahh, Bruton Smith......His words are writing checks his ego can't cash.  Let's not forget Bernard inherited a mess from Tony George, he's been on damage control since day one.  Everyone makes mistakes along the way, but Randy is doing the best he can with what he has!  I think Bruton Smith needs to be hit with a #HOP(that means hold on playa!)  

DB- To me, all Bruton Smith is doing is posturing for 2013.  Bruton is a good business owner and he wants to make the most profit he can make.  IndyCar has momentum and has started to turn a profit.  This increases their bargaining power and Bruton knows this.  We also know IndyCar wants to increase the amount of ovals for next year and Bruton can help in that endeavor.  Bottom line: Bruton is trying to negotiate from a position of strength and that is getting harder to do.

TD- Bruton Smith is like any other sports character, and his comments have no particular bearing on IndyCar other than to get people riled up. Much like other controversial sports promoters and owners (look at Mark Cuban, for example), Smith knows that the best way to get people paying attention to him, and subsequently his events, is to get people talking. You know what they say: bad publicity is better than no publicity, and Bruton Smith is no idiot.

STIG- Ahh... Bruton Smith. He said IndyCar needs "New leadership and a new car." We have that Brut, Randy Bernard is doing a fine job and the DW12 is safer and more competitive! This coming from a guy who wants "Mandatory cautions" in Nascar to bunch up the field to cause more wrecks.. i mean better racing... Do us a solid Bruton, Retire.

EM- I could go on for days about the things happening in NASCAR that I don’t like, but my main beef is how it seems to stray further and further from its roots every year. I feel like they make all the wrong decisions about which tracks to go to, which drivers to highlight and which to ignore, worrying more about profits than getting talented blue collar kids and short trackers into cars, etc. Maybe segments like those in longer late model races would be a good idea, who knows. Cautions or not, it still wouldn’t change that NASCAR is essentially a wayward mutation of what it was in the glory days. That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Bruton but my whole opinion on the thing is that he just wants publicity, and he’s an ass, and beyond that there’s not a whole lot I can say. Haha!

MH- In one ear, out the other. Any man who says Indycar needs a newer car when our car was launched with testing in 2011 clearly shouldn't be addressing the public at all.

4) Showdown (final topic, no definitive right answer, it is what ever the participant believes):

With the making of the 2013 schedule in full swing, describe what you believe would be the right number of total races for the season, as well as how many ovals and road courses you would like to see on the schedule.   

AK- This is a tough one for me. Being a relatively new fan I don’t have a past “golden age” to fall back on and pine for. I’ve heard that 19 races (or so) are the goal for next year, and that sounds good to me. Let’s just round it up to 20. Ideally, I’d like to see as close to half ovals and half street/road courses as possible. But I’d settle for 35-40% ovals. Road/street courses continue to grow on me, especially this year – even though I’ve only ever attended oval races. (I hear street/road courses are fun to attend, too. But I can’t imagine them being better in person than an oval!) Meh. Not a very passionate statement from me on this one. I just want there to be a 2013 season, period!

MT- The 2013 schedule. Hmmm.....I would like to see around 18 races. Possibly 10 road/street courses and 8 ovals. My tracks would be- Road/Street: Road America, Surfers Paradise, Watkins Glen, Toronto, Brazil, Sonoma, Mid-Ohio, Long Beach, St. Pete, Barber  Oval: Indianapolis (Of Course), Iowa, Texas, Richmond, Pocono, Michigan, Fontana, Homestead.

JA- 19 or 20 races....tops!  I think since IndyCar is going with 19 races in 2013, thats a great number.  I would love to see an almost even split between oval and road/street courses.  That would make for some competive racing next season and make all of the fans happy!  Maybe 10 ovals and 9 road/street courses?  Sounds golden to me!

DB- I agree with Randy that the schedule for 2013 needs to have 19 races with the goal for 2014 being 22.  We had a great string of 4 races in a row in June and I loved it.  Then we go down to 2 races in July and it felt like the big let down.  I think 22 is the ideal.  I actually took the time to come up with a 22 race schedule for 2014 and it has 11 oval and 13 road/street courses, which is close to the 50/50 split the Series and fans are wanting.  Here it is:
3/16- St. Petersburg
3/30- Barber
4/6- Phoenix
4/13- Long Beach
4/27- Brazil
5/5- Pocono
5/26- Indy 500
6/2- Belle Isle
6/8- Texas
6/15- Milwaukee
6/22- Iowa
7/7- Toronto
7/14- Loudon
7/21- Edmonton
8/4- Mid-Ohio
8/10- Richmond
8/17- Chicago oval
9/1- Baltimore
9/15- Fontana
9/29- Leguna Seca
10/6- Houston
10/12- Las Vegas oval

TD-  I think for 2013, a solid number of 20 races is a great goal, but anything between 17-20 would be adequate. Ideally, I'd love to see a 60-30 oval-road split, with the 30% road courses being solid, high quality tracks. I think road course enthusiasts would be happy even if there are fewer races if they are at good tracks and feature good racing (like Road America, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, and Circuit of the Americas).

STIG- 17, that I think will be the number of races we'll have, 7 ovals and 10 road/street courses. The thought of Pocono or Michigan being a possibility makes me feel a bit like a teenage girl meeting Justin Beiber.. or me going on a date with Anna Kendrick... or Katie Holmes divorcing Tom Cruise, I think the word is Whimsical...

EM- This one I don’t really have a definitive position on. I’m sad that Indycar won’t be coming to Road America next year, but I’m also ecstatic that the Mile is alive and well. I had a great time there this year and I think the next will be even better. It would be nice to see one or two more ovals, but perhaps spaced out a little more evenly. I think in the years to come RB will do a great job of exploring Indycar’s options, and hopefully in the process they can really nail down the tracks that create the most exciting racing.

MH- 19 is prefirable with additions of Chicagoland, Pocono, Vancouver, and Phoenix getting my votes. But I can't complain if the schedule is anything over 15 races.

You the fan can join the discussion! Tweet at the participants if you agree or disagree with them! Don't be shy! Special thanks to the seven other participants in this, very appreciative of your work.

-Matthew Hickey