Around the Horn: June 2014

Around the Horn is back for another installment! Around the Horn is a show that airs on ESPN, where a panel of journalists discuss sports related issues. I have assembled a panel to discuss Indycar issues once a month. Your job as the reader is to share your opinions with anyone you agree/disagree with! Please make your voice heard! Here is this month's panel (make sure to give them all a follow on Twitter):

  • Mathew Gruenholz, twitter handle @IndyCarSTIG, answers labeled as STIG
  • Chuck Knaub, twitter handle @r0ck44, answers labeled as CK
  • Tyler Taylor, twitter handle @GrizzlyCanadian, answers labeled as TT
  • Michael Tressler, twitter handle @mtressler13, answers labeled as MT
  • Neal Duiker, twitter handle @diggitydykeyall, answers labeled as ND
  • Sophie Hanson, twitter handle @Sophie_Hansons3, answers labeled as SH
  • Ryan Loecker, twitter handles @bohicawarriors, answers labeled as RL
  • Me, twitter handle @Indycar_MN, answers labeled as MH

1) The First Word (opening topic)

The Indianapolis 500 was one hell of a race! What were your overall impressions and thoughts on the race?

Ryan Hunter-Reay - 98th Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images North America

STIG: The Indy 500 this year had some amazing battles, controversy and an amazing finish. In my opinion, throwing the red flag was the right decision, with debris all over the track and damage to the wall needed to be repaired and it was better to have five or more green laps to complete the race. Oh, and if the wreck happened and red flag was ten or more laps earlier, we wouldn't have heard s*** from the opinionated drunks.

CK: It was a great race. You had Carpenter, RHR and Helio as the cars to beat. The amount of cars still on the lead lap after 149 laps without a caution was amazing and a testament to the competitiveness of the series.

TT: I thought it was a tremendous race. The fact that it went green for the first three quarters of it only added to the drama, because it meant people had to find a balance between racing hard and saving fuel. It also seemed like their was no real dominant car, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti all seemed as though they could be the guy to beat at some point, and then there was also the possibility that if the race went green the whole way, Juan Pablo Montoya could have stretched his fuel long enough to make one less stop and win it that way. In the end, I thought the right guy won, and RHR will be a tremendous ambassador for the sport.

MT: Indy was great. I loved the clean racing and respect drivers had for each other. On a side note, I am definitely going to miss Jim Nabors in Indy.

ND: The race was incredible from the perspective of competitiveness, strategy and overall action. I was extremely impressed with the number of green flag laps before Kimball’s first caution. Kudos to race control for the red flag, it was the right move and led to a spectacular finish. I am encouraged at the buzz and excitement the race generated. Hope the ratings stay.

SH: I thought the race was very exciting and a great race to watch, keeping fans at the edge of their seat on the last few laps. I think the red flag was a great call by race control! Those last few laps were some great clean racing!

RL: Congratulations to RHR definitely in order! Second fastest winning average at 186.563 and second closest margin of victory at .06000. Only 21 caution laps in the race and a red flag at lap 192 so race had chance to finish under green instead of yellow.

MH: The racing had a bit of everything. Long green flag runs, a bit of attrition and drama, and a great finish. Absolutely loved it. Really happy for Ryan Hunter-Reay to capture his first Indianapolis 500 win.

2) Buy or Sell (Buy = agree with statement, sell = disagree)

Kurt Busch, in your opinion, earned the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

Kurt Busch - 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race: Practice
Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America

STIG: Did Kurt earn the Indy ROTY? SELL. Kurt did an amazing job, but Sage Karam earned it more so, its about the race, not the entire month. Sage gained more positions in race than Kurt and he deserved the honors more.

CK: Sell- Sage Karam was a TRUE rookie who came through the field twice. Kurt Busch has more oval miles then the entire field combined albeit with a different car. Kurt had a good consistent run. The media was always going to give it to Kurt had he finished , so the best Sage could have hoped for was co-rookie honors

TT: Buy. He absolutely earned it. He'd never raced an Open Wheel car, and he came to Indianapolis, raced against the best the sport has to offer, ran a really patient, intelligent race, and finished 6th. Having said all that, I think Sage Karam also earned it. To have that kind of poise at 19 years old, in what was also his first ever IndyCar race is incredible. There have been 5 previous times that a Co-Rookie of the Year has been named, in my opinion, this should have been the 6th.

MT: Tough one. SK$ was great, but in my opinion it goes to Busch (buy). With all the travel and the expectations of some that he would fail he handled it great and came through for the whole month.

ND: Sell: Though Kurt had a great month of May and brought attention to the race, he did not have the best rookie run. Sage Karam had a better, more competitive race (started 31, finished 9th) on a single race program. Kurt Busch ran for a top tier team, spent most of the race trying to hang on while Sage charged to the front and competed. I would welcome Busch back, but he was not the most deserving.

SH: Sell. Kurt had an impressive run, but with all things considered I think Sage should have won it. Sage being only 19 and being the biggest in the field, I think that was more impressive than what Kurt did. On top of that, it was Sage's first "big league" race, where as Kurt has raced in NASCAR for several years.

RL: Sell-Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights Champion started 31st and charged through the field to finish 9th. Young kid with a bright future. Busch in a one off but did drive a hell of a race.

MH: Sell. Kurt Busch did one hell of a job throughout the entire month to come home P6, but he was also driving for the winning team in a winning car. Sage Karam had little to no expectations of doing well, but he passed the field from 31st on the grid to finish 9th. That's ROY worthy.

3) Out of Bounds (something outside of Indycar impacting it)

Mark Miles has mentioned that they are working on having some races in February as part of an offseason schedule. Which, if any, international venues would you like to see Indycar race at?

Rubens Barrichello - Sao Paulo Indy 300
Indycar back to Brazil? (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images South America)

STIG: I'd prefer the races to be part of the season schedule, but if I were to choose an international venue realistically it'd be Surfer's Paradise, unrealistically the Sao Paulo F1 course.

CK: Even though these are all Formula 1 venues: Dubai - it's a beautiful track and they have loads of money there to throw at Indycar, Suzuka - Honda could make this happen, Sochi Russia - capitalize on the Olympics with a race here.

TT: I think Surfer's Paradise would be a fun place to go back to. Open wheel racing a has a great history there, but I'm not sure how big the rift is between them and IndyCar. Another place that I'd love to see an IndyCar race at is Interlagos, in Brazil. The F1 races there are typically very entertaining, so I think IndyCar would put a great show on as well.

MT: Surfers Paradise, Zolder, and Rockingham are some I would choose. I was always fond of those circuits when they were part of the Champ Car schedule.

ND: Call me old fashioned, but I would love some of the old staples back: Let’s get back to Surfer’s Paradise. If I had to add, then I would say Sao Paulo followed by Rio to save on travel costs or perhaps a Mexico City. However, I would rather add U.S. venues like Laguna Seca, Phoenix and Disney to start the season earlier.

SH: I would love to see a race back in Brazil and Japan! In all honestly though, I think any international venue would be a great race to watch!

RL: Not sure how or if some of the smaller teams would be able or willing to take on an expense such as international travel. That being said maybe a return to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is in order. Would be epic to see them charging through Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps or racing around the streets of Monaco as well.

MH: Surfer's Paradise, Interlagos, Sochi, Dubai street circuit, Mugello, Motegi, Mexico City, and Brands Hatch are all on my short list. Hopefully this whole schedule deal comes together. As of right now it is all talk.

4) Conclusion (closing topic)

Who are some drivers to watch in June with a race at Texas and two in Houston?

Takuma Sato (R) of Japan, driver of the #14 ABC Supply A. J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara, and Will Power (L) of Australia, driver of the #12 Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara lead the pack at the start of the IZOD IndyCar Series Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston race #1 at Reliant Park on October 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)

STIG: James Hinchcliffe and Justin Wilson are two to look out for, They are priming themselves for a win SOON this summer.

CK: Aside from Will Power , Bourdais runs great at Houston , can KV give him a better car than they have this year. Conway is tough on the street circuits Marco and Helio will be the drivers to beat at Texas.

TT: I think Helio keeps up his hot streak at Texas. He's run great there in the past, and there's nothing to suggest that he won't do the same this time. As for Houston, I'll take Will Power to win one, and Simon Pagenaud to win the other. I genuinely hope that rivalry continues to grow, it's great for the sport. Also look for Jack Hawksworth to be fast at Houston.

MT: For this one I am going to be somewhat biased. I would say Newgarden and Graham are two watch. I feel both are about to break out of their recent bad luck.

ND: Texas is tricky given the recent issues with tire ware. I really like what Ed Carpenter Racing is doing and feel like Josef Newgarden is due for his first win. A dark horse would be Carlos Munoz, who I think is successfully flying under the radar. Houston: Again I like Mike Conway, so long as he doesn’t kill the red tires like he did in Detroit and Long Beach. Begrudgingly, I think Will Power and Helio have momentum. A dark horse would be Charlie Kimball.

SH: I think at Texas we should watch for Helio, Dixon, RHR and Wilson. As for Houston, I think we should be watching for Hawksworth, Conway, and Montoya. Hawksworth and Conway have proven to be very fast on streets/road courses!

RL: Going to go chalk here for the most part. Look for Helio, Dixie, T.K. and Brisco to be strong at Texas and the Penske and Ganassi boys again in Houston. Maybe sprinkle in some Bourdais as well.

MH: In Texas, you will need to watch Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, and, yes, Will Power. Power has vastly improved on the ovals, and he seems to do quite well at Texas in the DW12 era. For Houston, you will need to watch Sebastien Bourdais and Jack Hawksworth.

Let us know what you think of our opinions!

-Matthew Hickey