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Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014: A Disorganized, Rambling Review

And just like that, it's over. The 2014 Indycar season is in the history books. It's a little depressing to think that we're done racing for the year. On the other hand, since I wasn't indoors watching a race, I did get the garage cleaned out last weekend.

Congratulations to Will Power. The guy is Superman behind the wheel. Not to mention he led the league in penalties this year, yet still took the Astor Cup. Even with his mistakes behind the wheel (I personally think he threw away 2 or 3 wins), he was still the clear championship winner. Look out, he's only going to be more dangerous from here on out.

Regarding the Fontana race, it was good to see the attrition so low after 2013. It wasn't good to see all the complaining about the race's late start time. I thought the reasons were pretty clear: 1. The race was on the west coast, meaning 3 hours behind the eastern time zone. 2. The race was on Labor Day weekend, meaning sunset was still relatively late in the day. 3. Running before sunset meant blinding glare for the drivers going into turn 3. That would be bad anywhere, but it has to be especially harrowing at high-speed Fontana. I wouldn't think it would be a big deal to stay up late one night to watch one race, or that most could DVR it. Me? I watched the entire race, live. And I was out of the house by 6:30 Sunday morning.

The real problem is the Labor Day date. Indycar got their advice from a consulting group that may or may not have known anything about racing. Stopping early in the season to avoid competing with football seems strange to me. I can see where football would bury Indycar in the ratings. Which is worse: Being buried in the ratings and getting little attention, or not being in the ratings at all and getting zero attention? I'm no media expert, but I'd think maintaining some profile for a larger portion of the year would be better than a blitz, followed by absolute silence. Run the season into October, but accept that those late-season ratings might suffer a bit. The positive effects on the rest of the schedule should make up for it, especially in the long-term. I'm thinking of a more consistent, spread-out schedule where individual venues have a little more flexibility with their dates and races are run about every 2 weeks. On the other hand, maybe that professional consulting group knows what they are talking about and the way we have it now will prove most effective.

Anyway, I thought it was a great season. Few (if any) 'bad' races and a lot of entertaining ones. Some high points of the season for me:

Best race: Indianapolis

Winner I cheered loudest for: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Indianapolis

Biggest disappointment: The Rahal team. Between yet another disappointing season for Graham, the lack of a full-time seat for Oriol Servia, and the loss of the National Guard sponsorship, this turn-around year turned out to be anything but.

Most heartbreaking moment: Tie, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio for Josef Newgarden. Ryan Hunter-Reay KNEW that Newgarden (on fresh, cold tires) had Long Beach won. That's why he went for the position when he did. Unfortunately, the pass proved optimistic and they wound up in the tires. Mid-Ohio looked like it was in the bag, too, when Newgarden ran over an air hose on a crucial pit stop.

Most heart-warming moment (Since I already mentioned Indy twice, I'm not going to say RHR and his son at Indy): Mike Conway validating his own and Ed Carpenter's career choices at Long Beach.

Biggest Comeback: Well, one could say Conway above, Montoya, or Bourdais. What the hell, it's a 3-way tie.

Best possible handling of a bad situation: Toronto. I'm sure the fans in attendance who got no updates will disagree, but I thought Indycar took care of that tricky weekend the best way they could have.

Most impressive rookie: Not to diminish anyone else's accomplishments, but NASCAR bad boy Kurt Busch humbled himself by leaving his comfort zone and learning to play on a new stage. He finished 6th on race day, ahead of guys like Will Power, Tony Kanaan, and Scott Dixon.

All right, I'm going to wrap it up for now. I'll be trying to keep up with demand for blog posts and new T-shirts in the off-season!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

Wow... It's so... Sudden. At this time on Saturday night, We'll be settling in for the final race of the 2014 Indycar season. I guess I understand not going up against football, but this sure seems harsh... On the bright side, this will give me more time to pin Indycar posters to my garage wall and design new T-shirts. Speaking of which, please notice the link above to order Flat Into One t-shirts. Remaining quantities of my modern Indy car shirt are on special through the Fontana race: $15 shipped within the USA! Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled program:

Talking about the championship is kind of silly at this point. In all likelihood, it will be Will Power. Yes, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud have shots at the title, but they rely on some bad luck for Power. I'd like to see Pagenaud win because the come-from-behind story would be a great one. That, and his season hasn't been studded with boneheaded mistakes like Power's has. By my count, he could have had at least 7 wins at this point in the season if not for penalties. Power might be the most phenomenal driver in the field, but he seems at times like the most likely to make a mistake under pressure.

To those who say that this season's championship has been wide-open all year, I don't think you were paying attention. That's a statement more applicable to 2013, when Dixon, Power, Pagenaud, Andretti, Sato, and Hunter-Reay all looked like champion material at one time or another. This season has been Power's to lose all along. Despite his own best efforts, it looks like this year will be his.

And some more comments:
Currently at 8th in the championship is... Sebastien Bourdais?!? With a win and 2 poles to his credit, no less! KVSH Appears to be a more productive and stable environment than Dragon could ever have hoped to have been. The Toronto win must have felt like validation and vindication for everyone involved. I hope that they are able to keep this team together and keep producing in 2015.

Also in the 'Past Champion Driver Who Scored Their First Indycar Win In a Long Time' category is Juan Pablo Montoya. His season has been uneven, but the display of his enormous ability and the victory at Pocono mean that it's been a successful one. I'm surely not the only one looking forward to next season, after he's had a year of experience in these cars.

This is based on nothing but a gut feeling, but something seems 'off' at Andretti Autosport these days. James Hinchcliffe seemed to allude to it when his car failed to leave the grid at Houston last year, and his 2014 has been dismal. Marco Andretti was tight-lipped at Milwaukee, but apparently said something about needing a "long team meeting." I haven't looked at the stats, but it seems like no other team suffers mechanical failures at the rate Andretti cars do. Which seems odd for the organization widely regarded as one of the top three in the series. You could point out that Ryan Hunter-Reay has 3 wins this year, including Indianapolis. My only response is that maybe RHR's driving (and the chemistry with his crew) have been able to transcend whatever the problem is. My gut feeling could be wrong, but if I were Hinchcliffe or Marco, I might be looking elsewhere for employment. No matter how awkward it makes Thanksgiving. It also makes me hope that the rumors of Pagenaud in a 5th car are untrue.

I'll wrap it up for tonight, but I hope to see some of you on Twitter throughout the weekend's action!