Feature: August Fab 5
Topic 1: IndyCar has a great crop of young talent coming up the ranks, thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy. Although Sage Karam has signed as a development driver for TCGRT, he only raced in the Indy 500 this year. Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach are two more drivers in Lights that could make the jump up, but there are no empty seats as we speak. What are these young drivers to do and how can IndyCar keep these drivers from going to other series? Does it expose a flaw in the Mazda Road to Indy?
TonyD: Just goes to show the talent in all series. If you have the money, you can normally find a ride, even if the talent isn’t there, a few drivers on the Indy Car grid probably shouldn’t have a ride, but sign the check and have a ride. Not sure Zach Veach is ready just yet, The longevity of some of the veteran drivers hasn’t helped either.
Ashley:I am a huge advocate of the Mazda Road to Indy and very passionate about seeing it succeed. I think Dan Anderson and Anderson Promotions are doing a great job of endorsing each step of the ladder. While the Indy Lights champion does not have enough funding for a full season in IndyCar, I think the few races it does fund (Indy 500 and possibly a couple others), provides a good opportunity for drivers to display their talent at the next level. The key to ensuring Indy Lights drivers can move up to IndyCar is having the series bring in more sponsorship.
Rick: The flaw has been there, exposed for some time. Where is Conor Daly and Tristian Vautier? If they have money for a ride, they will find a spot.
Nancy: I’m an oval person and have never snoozed at an oval, I have however snoozed at mid-Ohio during the race. With that, this is hard to answer, part of the issue is that owners that have cars in NASCAR and IndyCar tend to have up and coming talent go to NASCAR. I.e.. Kyle Larson for instance an open-wheel guy in NASCAR not IndyCar. NASCAR has many stars so IndyCar needs to have stars. As far as Road to Indy, I can’t preach this enough, what happened to all the short track racers that this was originally designed for? They don’t promote any of the drivers from the short tracks and midget/sprint cars aren’t even included. If MRTI could include the short trackers then I think this would be a well-rounded development series.
Topic 2:Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly have both tested the new Indy Lights car for next year, the Dallara IL-15. The car has been very impressive at both the Mid-Ohio road course and the oval at IMS. The cost of the car is a bit higher than the current but the technology and relevance to IndyCar make it a good way for teams to rate drivers to make the jump to IndyCar. A new team, 8Star Motorsports, is planning to run an Indy Lights team in 2015. Foyt and RLLR are both showing interest in fielding a team but it was announced over the weekend that Andretti Autosport is closing up it’s Indy Lights program. Will we see more teams participate and a higher car count in Indy Lights for 2015 or will the increased cost shrink the field even more?
TonyD: It’s tough. 8 cars raced at Milwaukee. Sad that Andretti is leaving, that is a big blow. I expect the car count to continue to be in single digits next season. If it gets more expensive, that isn’t going to help.
Ashley: The new Indy Lights car will be more similar to the DW12. I think we will see about the same number of Indy Lights cars in 2015, but there will hopefully be an increased car count for 2016. It is great to see 8Star Motorsports jumping on-board, when their prior background has been in sports car racing. I would like to see some other sports car teams making the jump as well. Some new teams in the series may help make up for Andretti Autosport leaving the program. I hope that more IndyCar teams will continue to get involved with Indy Lights, as this new car will provide them a great opportunity to view young talent.
Nancy: I believe we will see the car count increase, I have talked to a few potential owners that stated they were waiting for the new car. Why waste capitol on a car that’s leaving. I like the new car look, I hope we see some new owners. Maybe new incentives for IndyCar owners to buy an Indy Lights team.
Rick: I need to recuse myself from this question.
Topic 3: IndyCar has been telling fans that 2015 would be the start of bigger and better things for the Series. We know that aero-kits will be used and it looks like two international races will take place in Brazil and Dubai. Since 2013, fans had been told to expect additional races starting in 2015 but the most recent update from Racer Magazine indicates the schedule will be much the same as the last two years. Do you see any venues leaving the current schedule? Any surprise new additions?
TonyD: Don’t be surprised if Milwaukee is off. That race lacked a lot of drama and passing and fans. I enjoyed being there but not sure how Andretti is making money .. only 300k watched on TV. I would love to see Nashville back but that seems to be a stretch.
Ashley: A couple of new international races would really help to open up the Verizon IndyCar Series to the rest of the world. However, the series needs to continue to work at growing its popularity within the US.
Nancy: I just read where Houston may be off the schedule and that NOLA may be on the schedule. I don’t think Dubai is going to do anything for the sport except cause a lot of expense for the teams. The aero-kits will be a bonus for fans that want to see different style cars, I wish they would get rid of the spec engine (pipe dream) then I believe the fans would come back.
Rick: It would be sad to see any of the current venues not on the 2015 schedule. Milwaukee was solid, albeit not spectacular, but improving. It takes time to build a following and given another couple of years Milwaukee could be even better. How many people where in the stands for the last race last year at Fontana? Great race that nobody saw. Stability should be the name of the game here, and some key strategic additions. I fear nothing new will be added, which would be a step up from last year. I am more interested to see if this idea of ending before September holds.
Topic 4:It’s tough, I think ovals for Indy Car are a dying breed. Most of the races are good, but we have seen duds at Texas a few times over the last 4-5 years. The days of thrilling side by side racing seem to be gone. In 5 years, if there is only 2-3 ovals on the schedule, I would not be surprised at all.
TonyD:Helio’s championship to lose, I don’t trust Will Power at California or Milwaukee, same with Pagenaud. RHR has been to up and down as pointed out. I think Helio takes his first title!
Ashley:Ovals need to have a long term future in IndyCar. The basis if the IRL years ago and the thing that brought the league together was oval racing. Initially, fans weren’t sold on road/street courses, so I think it’s important to have a mixture of both. Ovals are where passes are made and races are won or lost. I hope Pocono stays on the schedule, because it allows the series to continue to market and grow the Triple Crown.
Nancy:Andretti Motorsports did not do great PR with Milwaukee, again I live in Chicago and I did not see one advertisement for the Milwaukee race, sending out email to people who are already fans does not help. A few years ago I emailed them and offered to pass out literature at Illinois short tracks etc… no answer. Andretti has all these parties in Milwaukee where people already know there’s a race, they need to come to Chicago, 90 miles away and have parties there. One of my co-workers who lives 10 minutes from Pocono came to Chicago a few weeks ago and asked when the Pocono race was, I told him July 4th, he was in shock said no PR. IndyCar, Andretti and all of these PR folks can say what they want they don’t advertise in areas they need to.
Rick:I hope so. IndyCar touts that to be the Champion you have to have skills in all forms of racing. One oval, even IMS makes that claim hard. I hope they are still on the schedule for some time to come.
Topic 5: Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing announced that they are merging for the 2015 season. Newgarden has a lot of talent and Ed is currently the best oval racer. It’s unsure if Conway will be back for the road/street courses. This seems to be a great move to maximize their results What are your thoughts? Also, Andretti announced they want to field 5 cars next year. Who do you see in the 5th seat and does this help AA or spread them too thin?
TonyD:How about this for a bold prediction. Pagenaud goes to Andretti for a 5th car. Josef Newgarden moves over to Schmidt Petersen, Conway/Carpenter split the ovals in the #20 and J.R. Hildebrand takes over the 67 for SFHR. Carpenter needs to keep Conway, he won 2 races for him this year and it seems to be a great match. Maybe Josef stays .. who knows.
Ashley: I feel Newgarden would be a great pick for the new team next year. There is no denying that Conway is an absolute beast on road/street courses, but I think the team should be able to expand to two drivers. It would be beneficial to them to select two drivers that are strong on all types of tracks. I would like to see upcoming American stars such as Daly, Hildebrand and Karam get a shot at the team. In my opinion, this will only help to grow the series! They are all hungry for it. Any of the names I mentioned would be a great fit for a 5th seat at Andretti Autosport. Five cars will definitely mean they’re the dominate team in the series, but I don’t think it will spread them too thin.
Nancy: I would rather see a merge than a team close up shop, it also adds experience to smaller teams. My first thought with Andretti was they are starting their own series… in reality if they hire the right staff they should have no issues.
Rick: Single car teams are so incredibly hard to make work financially. Blending together teams can be very hard as well, but I really hope this one works. The one All American team. Newgarden, Carpenter, Fisher and if they could bring Hildebrand into the mix (as was mentioned on the TV broadcast) even better. As far as the 5th car at AA, whoever has the cash will get the seat. AA will make it work.