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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Middle of The Road

"the middle of the road, is no private cul-de-sac..."
- Chryssie Hynde, The Pretenders

As my tens of readers may or may not have noticed, there was no post last Tuesday. Due to a much-needed and enjoyable vacation week, I elected to enjoy my day at the beach and pool rather than stuff more content of questionable quality on the internet.

I found that, even on vacation, Indycar is never far from my mind. Road-tripping for 19 hours with my family to the sunny climes of Gulf-coast Florida, allows for copious driving time and the mind will wander, although auto-racing and Indycar is naturally very close to the surface.

The only major lament I'd have from this trip is that, while spending a vast majority of four days driving out of the last nine, a vast majority of people simply do not know how or do not care to know how to act while driving on a major interstate highway (RANT ALERT). There is ONE very simple rule on interstates that would ease SO many traffic woes:


It was observed that a goodly many of drivers from such great states as Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, seem to be keenly unaware of the laws of most every state in the union with regard to interstate driving. 

Perhaps they've not heard the cautionary words of Chryssie Hynde.


Perhaps they're unaware of the consequences of such actions.
Perhaps they simply do not care. 

Perhaps they're rude and unchivalrous with regard to road etiquette.
I find it quite an unseemly commentary on our society actually.

Regardless, it is in the middle of the road, where you do indeed see the darnedest things, and yes, it is no cul-de-sac. Seemingly safe and comforting to be in the middle farthest away from those scary edges of the known. U
nnecessary traffic snarls and semi-close calls belie that it's actually a treacherous place filled with danger. 

Just ask Kevin Cogan. 


Or Ryan Hunter-Reay.


I cannot say to this day, with the highest degree of certainty that Hunter-Reay or Cogan were totally to blame.  The preponderance of evidence seems weighted against them however and often the precise facts of the matter rarely count in the court of public opinion. Both did harm to their reputations as drivers and both did damage to the image of the sport to some degree.

Even the sport of Indycar itself shows a proclivity for the safety in the middle of the road with its oft-compromised decision-making and white-washing of the history of the sport.

Maybe I've just become more sensitive or tolerant of the realities of life. As I get older, the middle of the road isn't seen as a narrow balancing point but has come to represent a vast grey area that lies between the narrow lines of either extreme. For a great many days of our lives it is relatively safe there, but for the increasingly binary times in which we now live, for better or worse, it has come to represent a place lacking a sense of gravitas and especially at critical moments in time.  



Rick Mears' famous outside pass into turn one at Indy in 1991, en route to his fourth and final Indy 500 victory, was in no way considered middle of the road.  The fastest race speed he would turn that day going into one, taking the most extreme line possible with no guarantee of coming out the other side cleanly is an example of not compromising at precisely the right moment in time.  


And such is the stuff of legend.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Power of Polls Compels You

It's Tuesday already?!  

I thought I just posted a few days ago and here I go again?

This dubious self-imposed return to blogging has brought with it a dubious self-imposed schedule for posting every Tuesday. Me and my big mouth will surely run out of new Indycar things to discuss before April is out.


One new development I'd like to highlight was an opportunity with which to be involved, that came along right before the start of the aerokit-era - The Indycar Power Poll.

In similar fashion as many sports, This Indycar Power Poll is to be a basic guide for understanding the current and past performance climate of the participants of the particular sport. I happily joined this band of miscreants these esteemed colleagues who with nothing better to do 
than to weigh in on the drivers performances directed their creative talents to provide fodder for words add value to our collective readerships. Those aformentioned colleagues, each with writers all and with a dedicated interest in the sport of Indycar are:

Dylan Reynolds openwheel33.com @openwh33l
Mike Joachim wfopenwheel.com @Mike_Joachim 

For other insight into the Indycar Power Poll, please visit those folks for their individual takes on this informal data and Indycar in general.

So just prior to the St. Pete race, we scrambled together a Pre-season Power Poll which, when our individual polls were compiled into an aggregate, looked something like this:

Preseason Rankings
Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Will Power
480
2
Scott Dixon
370
3
Simon Pagenaud
364
4
Juan Montoya
313
5
Tony Kanaan
299
6
Helio Castroneves
297
7
Ryan Hunter-Reay
283
8
Sebastien Bourdais
245
9
James Hinchcliffe
234
10
Josef Newgarden
198
11
Carlos Munoz
178
12
Marco Andretti
172
13
Graham Rahal
156
14
Charlie Kimball
148
15
Takuma Sato
146
16
Luca Filippi/Ed Carpenter
145
17
Stefano Coletti
143
18
Sage Karam
131
19
Jack Hawksworth
130
20
Simona De Silvestro
116
21
Gabby Chaves
90
22
James Jakes
89
23
Carlos Huertas
86
24
Francesco Dracone
62


As expected, we see some collective change following the Firestone GP at St. Pete

After Round 1 - The Firestone GP - St. Petersburg, FL - @GPSTPETE
Pos. Driver Points Pos. Change
1 Will Power
900
2 Juan Montoya
703
Up 2
3 Simon Pagenaud
640
4 Tony Kanaan
599
Up 1
5 Scott Dixon
596
Down 3
6 Helio Castroneves
577
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay
497
8 Sebastien Bourdais
466
9 Josef Newgarden
372
Up 1
10 James Hinchcliffe
372
Down 1
11 Marco Andretti
343
Up 1
12 Graham Rahal
322
Up 1
13 Jack Hawksworth
319
Up 6
14 Luca Filippi/Ed Carpenter
299
Up 2
15 Takuma Sato
297
16 Carlos Munoz
295
Down 5
17 Charlie Kimball
281
Down 3
18 Stefano Coletti
280
Down 1
19 Sage Karam
230
Down 1
20 Simona De Silvestro
213
21 Gabby Chaves
182
22 James Jakes
165
23 Carlos Huertas
148
24 Francesco Dracone
117

Perhaps, I was expecting to see Will Power fall from the top spot which would have been harsh in my view.  His dominance over the entirety of the weekend was reduced only slightly by a minor bobble in the pits which cost him the top spot on the podium in my view.  Montoya had an impressive and inspired drive which now invites more attention to his position compared with a year ago.  Scott Dixon took a tumble down the ranking but much like Power's not really due to anything in his control.  Munoz, who had a very pedestrian day, tumbled the most from 11th to 16th.  Jack Hawksworth was a pleasant surprise for the Honda contingent, battling to 8th after falling to the back early for Lap 1 wing damage. Personally, I had Simon Pagenaud tumbling a bit more than the aggregate and Helio a bit higher here as well, largely due to the dominance of the Penske machines.

And a old, early-blog item is also returning as a regular feature - The Flags of Opinion.

Red Flags
- The Dumbest Question That Could Be Asked On Raceday: Please retire immediately the most tiresome and unnecessary part of the raceday experience just prior to the command, "Racefans, ARE YOU READY?". As noted on other blogs, this most tiresome and rhetorical of questions is more than overdue to disappear form the raceday experience.  Please, please, make it go away. 
- The Flying Debris: Yes, I am aware that on the ticket stub that I printed out (on my home printer at my own cost), there is a disclaimer that spectators assume all risks of being at such an event where things can and will go wrong and potentially become injurious to spectators. Thanks liability lawyers and insurance plans, we are aware, however if the object is to bring more people to your event and not less, containing race debris is of serious concern. Racing in America is already becoming marginalized and getting a skull fracture (or much worse) should be the least of our concerns.

Yellow Flags
- Driving judgement: More of it please. I understand you drivers are all eager to impress/do your best. Sometimes less is more. Cars that minimized contact generally finished higher than those that didn't. Mid-pack back is without question going to be a real scrap this season, with many drivers desperate to retain their driving privileges. Even 2nd place Will Power could have waited a handful of laps to better set-up his pass and possibly recover his only lost position of the weekend. 
- Confirmation Bias: Cheever has proclivities to opinions and will look for any shred of evidence to support his sometimes tone-deaf claims. Hearing his praise for Marco's driving was particularly off immediately following young Andretti's attempt to pass where there was no room. If we're one of the 400,000 worldwide TV viewers, we're already pretty astute to the Indycar environment already. Don't need additional opinion and commentary to help me interpret what I'm seeing, thank you.

Green Flags
- Aerokits: Yes, the certain scapegoat in each and every yellow flag situation this season that causes more than a two-lap delay in restart. Folks, it's like this, if drivers don't bang their cars together, there will be no yellows for contact or debris. The aerokits provide more driving and technical intrigue to this sport than we've seen in a very long time. I want to see how this season plays out. I'm a very strong proponent of the aerokit plan because it will force some much needed uncertainty in each event. Let's watch it playout over a season, not judge it based on one half of the first race.
- Intrigue: Oh, this word is an early contender to the be the most used noun in my blog this season. How will the aerokits perform? Can Honda beat Chevy? Can Penske be stopped? Will Simona survive in Indycar? Who will be a surprise winner this season? Will Honda dominate ovals the way Chevy dominates the streets? So much newness to it all and I'm more excited than I've been in many years. Lots of interesting bits to consider when everything isn't the same from garage to garage. Instead of marking time between my select few favorite races, I already can't wait for the next race. Hurray for excitement!

Yes, I'll say it again..

HURRAY FOR EXCITEMENT!



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SuperMegaComebackPost: Sir Issac Newton, The Breakfast Club, The Crystal Ball, and Change


Newton's First Law of Blogging: 
Blogs at rest stay at rest,
 Blogs in motion stay in constant motion,  
unless either is acted upon by another force.

My blogging inertia was acted upon by a recent reminder (active mention on video) of my visit to Nashville which gave me time to hang out with our good Indycar friend George Phillips of Oilpressure.com and @oilpressureblog fame. 


His gracious allowance of me as a guest on the recording of his "One Take Only" video segment, which appears on his blog, was a treat and a great and all-too-brief experience. Joining us was his original One Take Only counterpart, John McLallen and the three of us spent most of a gorgeous early-autumn Tennessee Saturday afternoon discussing all manner of things, but mostly the centering around Indycar.

After another "One Take Only" post, I reflected on my visit and noted how, despite our different points of view, we also need to remember and reinforce the commonalities shared as Indycar fans. Sequestered in relative solitude on George's back patio, our various discussions, while not nearly as intense, did make me recall the John Hughes movie "The Breakfast Club" (which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary theatrical re-release) and how we fans may not be so dissimilar to the characters in that movie.




Perhaps writing a letter similar to Brian's in the movie will also remind us of how we should not so easily let others or ourselves be defined by the various 'entrenched encampments' of Indycar fandom.

Mr. Indycar-Overlord, 

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice so many Saturdays and Sundays supporting Indycar, but we think you're crazy to make us write a blog telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is

a superfan,
a newbie,
a whiner,
an acolyte,
and a hyper-critic.


Does that answer your question?


Sincerely yours,

The Indycarfan Club





And now, It's time for the Intermission...

video




And now, back again for the 2015 Indycar pre-season,

it's DZ's House of Indycar Megalomania! 

(aka 2015 season predictions and strident drivel)



Oh, epochal and monolithic Indycar off-season. You are so coy. 

With your belabored and long, somnombulant winter, you keep us in the doldrums until suddenly, 
>BAM!< 

exploding forth a lush, verdant optimism for Indycar in the form of.. (dare I actually believe they're here).. AEROKITS!  

Technically 3 years late (or approximately 5.333 Indycar seasons stacked end-to-end), but here nonetheless. With the first discernible chassis diversity since the end of the 2008 season, Indycar has finally delivered on the concept approved in 2010, backed up along with new chassis until 2011, then slated for 2012, delayed until 2013, 2014.. ehhhrm, we've all been through that so no need to rehash it.


Regardless, aerokits are here and despite my 2011 predictions otherwise, I am pleasantly surprised at the difference in shape the Road/Street/ShortOval kits. 

Dare I say it? 

I dare.

I. Am. Satisfied.


And now for the grisly prediction bits.
(unofficially brought to you by the effects of Founder's All-Day IPA)
2015
Biggest Storyline - Penske's Chevys will dominate - to the point of becoming so oppressive, that they will become reviled.  Robin Miller often says, 'hate is good' when referring to the fans' predilection for seeking out a hero or villain in any contest. Whether he means to or not, Penske will become the Indycar version of the New England Patriots - the most disliked team outside of "PenskeNation". Even ol' Chippy will let his ego slide and actually play up his underdog status to ride the wave of anti-Penskeness. Roger and Tim maintain their ZFG (Zero F***s Given) 'tude and happily cash the giant cardboard winner's checks for 8 of the 16 races this season.
- Championship - Simon Pagenaud.
- Top 6 in points will be made up of 4 Penske drivers and 2 Ganassi.
- The Galactic Empire is strong and will keep the Rebel scum on the run.


It's not as if Honda won't be competitive, they will. They will just be lacking that tiny, tiny margin that takes one from finishing 8th to 1st. Honda wins just three races of the season, BUT one of them will be the Indy 500.

Rookie Of The Year - Stefano Coletti. Don't ask me why, just know it came to me in a dream (All-Day IPA haze).

Biggest Darkhorse - TIE: James Jakes and Gabby Chaves. Don't be surprised if you're surprised when one of these drivers scores a podium this year.

Best Livery - If that Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport Spyder car becomes reality on the track, you can forget all you ever thought about the glory of retro liveries. That mo-chine looks simply badass.

Biggest Comeback - Simona de Silvestro. Of course she's a fan favorite on a massively talented and well-funded team. She'll struggle to see more than half of the races this season, but will not disappoint the faith placed in her by Andretti Autosport.  Less than half the races and finishing 14th in points will be hard to reconcile.  Just maybe AA finds a way to keep her in a seat all season long. If so, watch out.

Biggest Disappointment - The fans who align with the Legions of the Miserable. A season of dominance by one team will certainly lead to the chorus of boo-birds who will choose to again aim their venom at the overlords of Indycar for the disparity in racing. Their myopic views conveniently forget to accurately recall during the most heady days of CART in the 1980s, for example, despite a Gordy and Rick Ravon Mears most amazing Indy 500 finish in modern history, that 7th place Jim Hickman was a full 11 laps down at the finish. 7th place out of 33 racers - 11 laps down. Typically in those days, beyond the top 5 or so finishers there was the rabble of twenty or so others who had no chance of sniffing the podium. A singularly great finish but great overall quality, the events were generally not. Far too many fans, including one R. Miller, will further mire themselves in nostalgia for a time that was really less entertaining racing that what we'll see in 2015. That is simply sad and I think the current sport deserves better.

With 10 of the 16 races non-ovals, and all of the major conflagrations occurring outside 
the ghostly hallows of influence that ovals once held, the high-water point for the new speedway kits be at their unveiling in Indy, May 3rd. Once May is over, the Speedway Oval kits get precious little use, in deference to the mighty cheese-graters of R/S/SO kits.

I really don't expect much difference at all in the High Speed Oval kits and honestly (leads me to my Biggest Revelation), "it just doesn't matter".


Why do I say this?

Because, my friends, I've returned to this blog an enlightened man.

In my many winters of malcontent, discontent, and general dissatisfaction in the direction of Indycar in relation to its glorious past, I've given up hope. Sounds bleak perhaps, but I assure that it is not and I'll tell you why.

For some unknown reason, my epiphanies have been many with regard to several sports since the last checkered flag flew for Indycar in 2014, one of which is giving up hope that Indycar will ever become anything closely resembling the past or having some gloriously innovative and wide-open future. Maybe I'm a late-comer to this method of thinking, especially compared to the 20-somethings/new guard who've never experienced first-hand a field of Offys and Drakes, Chevys and Cosworths, in glorious song and never will.

For better or worse, nothing can change the fact that the past shall always remain there and I've come to believe the nostalgia, no matter how well-meaning or beloved, is ultimately harmful to the sport of today. The 'earth' moved by the seismic rift that began with the formation of CART in 1979, and major aftershock of the formation of IRL in 1994, can never be repaired. The ground has irreparably been shifted. So to history it all shall be laid anyway. Indycar must promote the here and now, and forget trading on past glory which always lends to irritating old wounds.

It's a time to heal.
I've changed.

I've reconciled (finally) with Indycar never being the hallmark of innovation and brutal speed that it once was.

I've accepted that the glories past can never be recreated, and that they shouldn't be.

I see many things on the horizon for Indycar that will give me much entertainment and satisfaction, when I don't look at it from the immensely-removed perspective that includes anything prior to the last 10 years of Indycar.

I've embraced the belabored arrival of the aerokits.

I've finally made my peace with saying goodbye to the old Indycar.

I've become a happier race fan for it.

I predict I'm going to love watching Indycar unfold this season, and I know that's one prediction I won't miss.