St. Pete, or St. Pitiful? For Pete’s Sake IndyCar!

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Were back finally! And I would like to say welcome back from the Abyss to what we lovingly call the new and improved Verizon IndyCar Series, and thanks for being so patient IndyCar fan’s. I don’t know which was worse, wondering if we would get a title sponsor to replace that lethargic IZOD of the last 3 years of our racing lives, or knowing that NASCAB and Formula One was already racing and that our almost six month hiatus was still weeks away from ending?

I guess when you see the “Fastest seat in sports car” driven by Mario Andretti and one lucky person in shotgun being pushed off the track before the start of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, you know we may be in trouble.  Here is how I see our road and street course races. Give me rain, yellows, non lethal accidents, turn one dive bombing’s, or Wanker Willy taking his foot off the throttle. This is what equals an exciting road or street course race in most forms of racing as I see it. Was Eccelstone off the mark when he commented about wetting the Formula one tracks? Yes I said it.

For the life of me, I just don’t understand IndyCar’s thinking when it comes to us opening up the season just because the city happens to have sun in March. I mean when I get a phone call from my 70 year old mother telling me that “The race really seems boring” and I reply “We need a yellow” you know something is very wrong in the retirement village.

Listening to the announcer’s trying to convince me that with Takuma Sato’s 15 second lead was exciting to watch was like trying to convince me that reading the instructions on my flights vomit bag is a life changing must read! I actually was watching the race thinking how thankful I was not to be announcing that race and trying to come up with something to say on live TV. Forget the “Push to Pass”, this race needs “Turns so we can pass.”

Don’t get me wrong, St. Pete is a beautiful venue and I am happy we had our first race in the United States. The race was run on a beautiful blue-sky day in front of a large crowd. Grand Prix organizers don’t give attendance figures, but the grandstands looked full and the pedestrian areas, bars and many of the vendor booths were busy, so for that I am very happy to hear! But how do you bring fan’s back and recruit new one’s to our series. When by lap ten, two-thirds of the field is ten seconds back of the leader?

 

How about the Houston Grand Prix?

Maybe it would have made more sense to have our first race in Houston? It makes more sense to me. And we can then swap the St Pete Grand Prix’s date for Houston’s, this way having the crews head down after the Indy 500 straight to Florida. It would be a double-header and show on NBC Sports Network which means we would have gotten to watch qualifying (which from what I heard fans were mad about not seeing) we would then have two days of racing to get the buzz going to attract non-fans to our series. From Houston we go to Long Beach, which from a logistical stand point is closer than St.Pete as well, and just makes more sense financially for teams.

Will Power pussy foots the restart, and causes his own teammate to call him out! Whats that word? Wanker!

Power’s fourth victory in the last six races dating to last season didn’t come without some controversy. After the day’s first caution period from laps 76-81, the Australian hesitated on the restart and caused the field to bunch up behind him. That led to a wreck back in the field that took out Marco Andretti and Jack Hawksworth. “It’s hard to see because I was pretty far back, but Will just stopped,” Andretti said. “Once you go, you gotta go. It was a bit of an accordion effect and I just got caught up.”

Power said he got confused because the starter threw the green flag before he entered the acceleration zone, an area in which the leader can decide when to get on the gas. But Castroneves, who was second in line, said his teammate intentionally let off the gas to keep him at bay. And pressed on the matter, Power admitted he did. “The thing to me was, Helio was getting out of line,” Power said. “That’s’ when I lifted off the throttle. Because, ‘why are you getting off line? You’re just going to go like you did last year and jump the start completely and get the lead that way? I wasn’t going to let that happen.”

It makes me think that when a team like Penske, is heavily sponsored by IndyCars title sponsor Verizon, will IndyCar and BB and cast be less trigger happy in penalizing that team? Although currently there is nothing in the rule book about pretty much stopping your car on the track before a restart. I wonder what ole Willy Wanker would have done, if we have double wide restarts today? I doubt he would have taken his foot off the throttle for that start!

Marco Andretti & Graham Rahal: The year of no more excuses.

Second-generation driver Graham Rahal will look to return Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing back to victory lane sporting the colors of the Army National Guard. Rahal won his first race at St. Petersburg in 2008 and in 2009 earned his first pole position at the track. Can Rahal fulfill the promise he showed early in his career with another strong performance at St. Pete?

Andretti looking to make a move?
After finishing a career-best fifth in the 2013 standings, Marco Andretti is looking to finish with a championship for the first time in his career. Driving for his father Michael’s team, Marco hopes to add to his family’s storied racing history in 2014.

This was written the day before the race:

My Conclusion: This is it in my mind. But my mind isn’t writing the checks now is it? With 7-8 years  respectively under each driver’s belts, the time has come to sh*t, or get off the proverbial pot! Each driver has experience, great engineer’s, pit crews, sponsors, and pretty new paint schemes. As I look at it, the time has come that qualifying 9th through 18th every qualifying weekend has run its course. Even with engine swaps for the 2014 season you have no excuse anymore. If your teammates outdo you week in and week out you have to start looking in the mirror and wondering if you’re just wasting dads money? Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. The last name is enough to get you the sponsorship and enough for them to keep their seats. But eventually even a father has to sit you down and ask “What is the problem here”? Also I would think as a driver, you would want to be honest with yourself.  You have to ask yourself “Do I really have what it takes?” If Marco or Graham qualify poorly, or if they qualify great, but can’t get a podium this weekend. They have no excuses anymore. You either have it, or you don’t? And for the sake of our series I really hope they have it in them. Race results: Marco states “My car was junk”, after Marco was punted out of the race. Graham stated  “I got a good start.  I saw that it was going green and there was a stack-up in front of me and I knew you could go on green so I pulled off to the right and went straight on down the inside so it worked out for me. After that we struggled all day with a lack of grip. I could never attack the car; it was driving me more than I was driving it. There is a lot of work to be done but I think we had some highlights this weekend. We’ve just got to keep working on it.”  Graham finished 14th.

If the speeds from the preseason open test at Barber Motorsports Park are any sign of what’s to come, then 2014 is shaping up to be another competitive Verizon IndyCar Series season. The top 16 cars of the 23 car/driver combinations that participated in the test were separated by less than a second.

Dixon tries to cement his spot in history books:

Scott Dixon’s racing resume ranks with some of the legends of the sport. He’s the active leader with 33 victories and ranks only behind A.J. Foyt, Andretti (Mario and Michael) and Unser (Al, Bobby and Al Jr.) on the career list. In 2014, he’ll attempt to successfully defend his championship – something he’s never done in his career – and join A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti as the only drivers to win four titles.
If Scott Dixon should win the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, he will join A.J. Foyt, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win four Indy car titles in his career. Foyt won seven championships in his career, while Andretti, Bourdais and Franchitti each won four titles.

Next victory!
Scott Dixon will tie Al Unser Jr., for sixth on the all-time win list. Dixon, the active leader for wins, won his 33rd race at Houston’s Reliant Park in October 2013. With a victory in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 10. With one pole in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his Verizon IndyCar Series streak to eight consecutive seasons. Kanaan joins Target Chip Ganassi Racing Replacing a four-time series champion isn’t easy, but Target Chip Ganassi Racing has found its man. Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion moves into one of the marquee cars in the series with hopes of maintaining its success. How will Kanaan fare in his opener with one of INDYCAR’s top teams?

Montoya returns to open-wheel racing. Is the second time a charm?

After 12 years in Formula One and NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya is back racing Indy cars. The former Indianapolis 500 and CART champion is driving for Roger Penske, rather than Chip Ganassi, for whom Montoya raced in CART and NASCAR. Will his arrival at Team Penske with the likes of Will Power and three-time St. Petersburg race winner Helio Castroneves strengthen Indy car racing’s most successful team, or will battles among the three huge personalities start a war of the roses, that will have Helio “Dancing while seeing Stars” and turn Willy into a Wanker?

Helio Catch-troneves!
Helio Castroneves had a solid 2013 with two wins and the points lead for most of the season. But the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner came away disappointed after letting the series championship slip through his hands. Can Castroneves rebound from his 2013 disappointment to challenge for the championship again? With his next victory, Helio Castroneves will tie Rick Mears for 11th place on the all-time win list. Castroneves won his 28th race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8, 2013. Helio Castroneves needs two earned poles to reach 40 career poles in his Indy car career. Castroneves is the active leader with 38 pole positions. Helio Castroneves listed with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list with 111 top-five finishes in his Indy car career.

Andretti-Ganassi swapping engines for 2014:

Chip Ganassi has a habit of shaking things up for his team on a regular basis. This year, his Verizon IndyCar Series team switched to the Chevrolet engine. Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport, which won the 2012 championship with Chevrolet power and driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, has made the move to Honda. Although Honda and Chevy ended up nearly equal in terms of race wins in 2013 (Will Power’s victory in the season finale tipped the balance in favor of Chevy, 10-9), Scott Dixon won the championship with Honda. For the first time since IndyCar’s 2.2-liter turbo V-6 specification was introduced, Honda will use twin turbochargers.

Sebastian Bourdais:

The four-time Champ Car champion moves to KVSH Racing hoping to bring the Indy 500-winning team some of his championship success. Lord knows since leaving the “Triple A” of racing Champ Car, he has shown promise, but no cigar! Bourdais will be paired with young Colombian Sebastian Saavedra, who was his teammate at Dragon Racing last season, under the KV Racing Technology banner.
With his next victory, Sebastien Bourdais will move into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time win list. Bourdais is tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy with 31 wins. Personally I don’t think Champ car should count!

Briscoe returns to Chip Ganassi Racing stable:

Ryan Briscoe returns to the team where he started in Verizon IndyCar Series career – Chip Ganassi Racing. The Australian, who has seven wins to his credit, will drive the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, renewing the relationship that began at the Indianapolis 500 in 2013. How will Briscoe fare in his second go-around with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Does he have enough Will Power?

After finishing runner-up to the champion for three of the past four years, Team Penske’s Will Power is looking to finish on top for the first time in his career. Power ended the 2013 season with back-to-back wins to finish fourth in the championship. Can he pick up where he left off in 2013 and propel himself to his first title?

Ed Carpenter Racing. Is it a double threat now?

Ed Carpenter Racing will use the platoon of owner/driver Ed Carpenter and road/street course ace Mike Conway in 2014 in hopes of being a threat to win at every race in 2014. Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is a two-time winner on ovals. Conway is a two-time road/street course winner that won in nearly every series he raced in last year. Has the third-year team dialed up the right combination help the team get back to Victory Circle?

Race Notes:

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 10th Verizon IndyCar Series event and 11th Indy car race conducted on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Previous race winners entered are James Hinchcliffe (2013)
Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007 and 2012)
Will Power (2010)
Ryan Briscoe (2009)
Graham Rahal (2008).
Previous pole winners entered are Will Power (2010-13)
Graham Rahal (2009)
Tony Kanaan (2008)
Helio Castroneves (2007)
Sebastien Bourdais (2003).

At least 17 drivers entered in the event have competed in earlier Indy car races at St. Pete. Twelve (12) of those drivers have led laps: (Helio Castroneves 205, Ryan Briscoe 117, Scott Dixon 94, Will Power 93, Justin Wilson 70, Sebastien Bourdais 30, James Hinchcliffe 26, Graham Rahal 19, Tony Kanaan 15, Takuma Sato 11, Marco Andretti 5 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 4.) Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz will compete in their first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Hawksworth won his Indy Lights debut on the track last season and won the Pro Mazda race in 2012.

Will this be the year for a few chosen one’s?

Tony Kanaan has 276 starts, which is ninth on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan is the active leader in top-five finishes with 112, which is one behind Bobby Unser for eighth on the all-time list.

James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball all scored their first win in 2013, finished top 10 in the championship standings and established themselves as the next stars of the sport. Will 2014 be the year for these guys?

Firestone Tires:

For the first time the team with the shortest accumulated time in pit lane during the race will get a nice check (Hopefully straight to the crew) of $10,000! IndyCar will decide the recipients at the end of each race. To be eligible team/driver’s must have completed 95% of the race. Also new at street course events. Teams may caring over any new tires from one street course event, to the next.

Did you know?

If an IndyCar was traveling for 4.1 miles at the average road course speed of 102 mph. The rear tires would be spinning at around 18 revolutions per second!

Other notable points:

At Dario’s press conference this week: Dario stated “He’s feeling physically quite good and mentally not too bad, either.” “He’s getting used to the after effects of the concussion and they are lessening over time.” He also noted that he will be commuting from Scotland to the races he attends as he is moving back there permanently. No Ashley in tow!

Trivia Question: what will be missing at the start of the St Pete race on Sunday?
Answer: Ladies, & Gentlemen start your engines.
That’s right! No dough, no go as they say! And for the start of this 2014 season, we will not be seeing the opposite sex on the starting grid. A sign of the time’s, or dollar sign’s? We will soon see.

Tony Tellez

4 Comments

  1. Fun first race article – but I disagree that Will Power was in the wrong on the way he choose to conduct the first restart of the St. Pete race. What’s wrong is that the Hulman/George brain trust chooses to keep meddling with the structure of the series and changed the restart procedure from double-file to single-file and then changes the position of the ‘cone zone’ from which the lead driver may choose when to begin the acceleration for the restart of the field.

  2. Well an interesting summary of the initial begin to Indy Racing – first and foremost that race in Houston, TX was horrific. The course they raced on should never have been – it caused Dario to crash and there were so many difficulties with other car issues and drivers. I’ve driven those streets and I blame Houston for the problems with that race. Dario will never race again – thanks Houston. Second, Will had a margin to the restart – watch it again – the other drivers shouldn’t be so greedy to try and run one another over as I felt he was doing everything correct.
    Yes a slow start – no major accidents or injuries.
    Fans like that sort of racing but we’re not Nascar – so deal with it. Either you can watch it or NOT.

    TEXAS FAN

    • Houston was more of a demographic choice as I wrote. For the most part, most of our road and street course races are rubbish, unless you happen to be standing right behind a wall, or fence at the race. For the TV viewer it is even worse, as the current Sunday Nielsen rating of 0.59 shows! Probably two of our better courses are gone. Baltimore, and Brasil. With a great chance of F1 swooping up Long Beach, and the Sonoma race going bye, bye, as well.Fans by the way like excitement, which for the most part has been found at all our oval races. AS for the guys being greedy? You are talking about the back marker’s, who by that point would have guessed the front of the pack would be standing on it. Not lifting as Will Power confessed to doing.

      • Thanks for catching that. I meant to say she was last, ponintig out that she is very inconsistent.I like your pick of Ryan, I think most people would assume he will become the guy there at AA. They way Conway has been running this weekend though, I am starting to believe in him.

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