Monday, June 11, 2012

4 Reasons why INDYCAR needs to return to Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth Texas,

As I sit in a local bar in Fort Worth Texas the day after one of the most exciting races in recent IZOD IndyCar Series memory, the only thing that comes to mind about the past 48 hours is the news of Texas Motor Speedway not being on the 2013 INDYCAR Schedule. I have read the AP reports,  IndyStar reports, and everyone else in between and below are my four conclusions on why INDYCAR should always be at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

1. The safety issue is now an none issue after the aero changes.

The biggest concern for everyone involved in the IZOD IndyCar Series in returning to a 1.5 mile high banked oval was the concern of safety. Everyone within the racing community knows that IndyCars go very fast on the high banked ovals that were built for NASCAR. Everyone also knows that pack racing on those type of tracks finally caught up to INDYCAR with the tragedy of Dan Wheldon at Vegas in 2011. Those concerns should have been eased if not erased with the spread out type racing that we saw at Texas Motor Speedway. Drivers were forced to lift off the throttle and the race literally turned into survival of the best drivers and cars. Three different wrecks took place , and all were single car incidents that came from handling issues. The pack racing situations of previous 1.5 mile ovals were non existent last night. The race we witnessed last night was not only safe, but eased concerns of pack racing still being alive in IndyCar style racing. With pack racing being eliminated, there is no reason IndyCars can't race at tracks like TMS.

2. Attendance on Ovals

Texas Motor Speedway holds over 140,000 seats and if you count the suites and Texas Motor Speedway Club, the number swells to over 175,000. Per reports from ESPN, attendance last night was right around 70,000. Attendance in 2011 was 73,000. TMS used to draw between 90k - 100k, based off weather and other factors. So my question would be and maybe this is to obvious, why would you throw away an oval that hosted 24 straight INDYCAR races and is the second best attended oval and sometimes best race of the entire season. If you look at recent INDYCAR ovals, the break down of most recent attendance can be seen by the following comparison. The ovals that remain on the 2012 schedule have drawn the following numbers based off 2011, Iowa (35K), Milwaukee ,(15K) Indy (250K) , and California is unknown. Lets look back at recently dropped ovals from the INDYCAR schedule and their attendance. Kansas in 2010 was just north of 25K, Kentucky in 2011 was close to 20K, Chicagoland in 2010 was right around 25k, Loudon in a one year deal in 2011 was just under 30k. If you go back further to the days of Nashville, Michigan, and Homestead your not going to find an oval that draws even close to 50K. The answer is very easy, Indy is the best attended oval and Texas is second and continues to be. Texas looks thin on TV because of the massive grandstands, but considering the other ovals on the INDYCAR schedule, it's a well attended event.

3. Three different markets can work in the BIG state of TEXAS

In theory you take away Texas Motor Speedway and add what? INDYCAR needs oval races, and the last time they had only five ovals, the year was 1996 and they only had three. INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard already announced a street course race in Houston for 2013, ok great, but not a game changer. Bernard also claims there is tremendous interest from the new F1 track in Austin, once again, that's great but I would love to know how many people from Houston and Austin travel to the Dallas/Fort Worth metro plex for IndyCar racing. My point is that INDYCAR draws fans to IndyCar racing at TMS by attracting die-hard fans that are loyal to TMS and racing in general. I guarantee you that half if not 2/3s of the crowd at TMS are NASCAR fans at heart but come to the IndyCar race because its just another reason to get out to the Great American Speedway and enjoy some racing. So INDYCAR, keep a huge market of NASCAR cross-over fans on your schedule in Dallas/Fort Worth. Then add the Houston and Austin races because your not going to see fans travel down to Houston or Austin for twisty style racing when the markets are totally different. Back to the point of dropping TMS and adding what? Two more twisty races? Let's look at the comparison of twisty races to oval races in 2012, 11 twisty and 5 ovals. So of Bernard's 5 ovals he has, he wants to throw his 2nd best attended oval out the door over what? Not safety, but point number four below is probably the main reason Texas Motor Speedway is on the chopping block.

4. The sanctioning fee

From information I have gathered and read in various reports, INDYCAR typically charges around 1.5 million for a sanctioning fee at venues it hold races at. Throughout the past years, sanctioning fees have changed based off demand of the event. The Brazil race probably is higher than 1.5 and China was rumored at around 8 million until reports of it being canceled have came to light. Baltimore was reported around 2.25 million in 2011, and I've heard that Michael Andretti and his marketing team didn't have to pay a sanctioning fee this year for Milwaukee. Regardless, the base line sanctioning fee is a ball park of 1.5 million to host an INDYCAR race. Just for comparison sake, NASCAR Nationwide racing charges around 750K per race. There is allot of reasons behind sanctioning fees, and NASCAR gets allot of help from their TV partners (FOX, ESPN, TNT) while INDYCAR is lucky to have a TV deal that pays. NASCAR can afford to charge less for sanctioning fees because the TV partners are a bigger help to the series. Back to the sticking point of INDYCAR and TMS, most likely Eddie Gossage and his team don't want to pay 1.5 million to host a INDYCAR race. Eddie probably believes that a number of 750K to 1 million is more reasonable. Because lets not forget that the Nationwide Series was off this past weekend and could easily fill the bill as the Saturday Night headliner instead of INDYCAR. I know that Nationwide races twice at TMS (Spring & Fall) but NASCAR could easily adjust that to Nationwide being a headliner on Saturday Night of this past weekend and turning their spring event into a Trucks on Friday Night and Sprint Cup on Saturday Night.

To conclude, INDYCAR needs Texas Motor Speedway to stay on the schedule long term. Eliminating Texas from the schedule would be a big mistake by Bernard. Hopefully a quick solution can be found and  the doubts of IndyCars not returning to TMS are put to rest.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

96th running of the Indy 500

96th Running of the Indy 500       

The 96th running of the Indy 500 will be run this Sunday at 12 EST (12:12 green flag) on ABC, with pre-race starting an hour earlier at 11A.M. In the first year of the post-centennial era, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has experienced a wealth of storylines over the past two weeks.  IndyCar Garage breaks down what to watch going into Sunday’s race.
              1.       Can Honda keep with up Chevy?

Chevy engines are back in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2005 and have dominated the first part of the 2012 season and the speed charts at IMS this may. Chevy won the first four races of the season, put eight of the nine cars in the fast nine shoot out on pole day, and has captured all five poles (without counting the LB engine switches) in 2012. That leaves Honda scrambling to figure out their engine program heading into the biggest race of the season. With two time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and 2008 winner Scott Dixon starting 15th and 16th and serving as the top Honda drivers anything is possible, but it appears that Chevy headed to their first Indy 500 victory since 2002 with Helio Castroneves.

 2.       Will we see a new 1st time winner this yr?

The last time the Indy 500 had a first time winner, was in 2008 when Scott Dixon won. 2009 brought us Helio’s 3rd, 2010 was Dario’s 2nd and 2011 was Dan Wheldon’s 2nd. From a fans perspective, a new Indy 500 winner would be great for the series and the event. With only three former champions in this year’s race, it’s a far cry from the early 1990’s when the Indy 500 featured 8 – 10 former winners on a year to year basis. An American hasn’t  drank the milk since 2006, so with the likes of Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, J.R. Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball, Ed Carpenter, Townsend Bell, Bryan Clauson, and Ed Carpenter all searching for their first Indy 500 victory, we could be looking at an American in victory lane.

 3.       The debut of the DW12 on super speed way

The new generation of IndyCars named after the late Dan Wheldon will debut on their first of the season in the biggest race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar season. After hearing driver’s quotes and comments from the past week, anything is possible for the type of racing on Sunday. The most common theory of how the racing could be is based on the difference in cars from 2011 to 2012. The DW12 creates a big hole of clean air for trailing cars to draft in and pick up a tow much further back than the IR07 (the 2011 IndyCar). Will Power was quoted earlier in the week as saying, we could see a version of Indy 500 pack racing, where groups of cars will be within split seconds of one another. However the racing turns out, the DW12 has already been tested over qualification weekend by Ed Carpenter, Bryan Clauson, Charlie Kimball, and Oriol Servia. Each of those drivers made contact with the  safer barrior and tested the impacts of the new Dallara chassis. Early results seem positive, but as all fans remember from Vegas, preventing these cars from going air born in major collisions will be what all eyes will be watching Sunday.

 4.       Will the weather impact the racing conditions on Sunday?

The forecast calls for a 0% chance of rain on Sunday and a high of 96. The track will obviously be hotter than the air temperature and that should lead to slippery conditions on track. With most of the rubber on the track still grooved in from last week and no rain in the forecast until after rain day. Fresh tires could be at a premium  Sunday, expect wrecks in the corners and the type of crashes that Bryan Clauson, Ed Carpenter, and Charlie Kimball experienced over qualification weekend.  

 5.       Who is the favorite?

When you start to think of who can win the 96th Indy 500, its realistic to think that any of the 31 cars powered by Honda or Chevy could be around at the end. Driver skill and team elements will come into factor and that’s where the lists gets reduced to around 10-15 drivers. Briscoe, Helio, and Power are all listed as the favorites in Vegas. Close behind on Dario and Dixon, with the Andretti bunch of Marco, Hinch, and Hunter-Reay all in the mix. If you include Rahal, Carpenter, Hildebrand, TK, Tagliani, Justin Wilson, and rookie Josef Newgarden that brings the list up to 15 of the 33 drivers in the field. I would be very surprised if one of the drivers listed above isn’t in victory lane on Sunday.
            6.       Indy 500 Predictions

 2012 Indy 500 Champion : Ryan Hunter-Reay

2nd place: Will Power
3rd place: Marco Andretti
4th place: Josef Newgarden
5th place: Helio Castroneves 
ROY: Josef New Garden

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 Indy 500 ticket featuring Dan Wheldon

2005 & 2011 Indy 500 winner , the late Dan Wheldon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Will Power new look

The 2010 & 2011 IZOD Indycar runner-up

Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Ed Carpenter Racing and Zuzzy’s Vodka has teamed up with media personality Lindy Thackston for the 2012 INDYCAR season. Lindy will be running ECR social media and activation. Expect lots of “CHEERS” from Lindy via social media from official Vodka of INDYCAR and Ed Carpenter Racing.

Ed Carpenter Racing on twitter

Fuzzys Vodka on twitter

Previously Lindy had worked for VERSUS (Now NBC Sports) and local Indianapolis TV Station WTHR.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Driver lineup for 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series starting to take shape

Driver lineup for 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series starting to take shape

Team – Andretti Autosport – Chevy engines
Drivers – Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter- Reay , James Hinchcliffe , 4th – TBA

Team – Ganassi Racing – Honda Engines
Drivers – Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball

Team – Penske – Chevy Engines
Drivers – Will Power , Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe

Team – KV Racing – Chevy Engines
Drivers – Tony Kanaan, 2nd – Rumored to be E.J. Viso , 3rd – TBA

Team – A.J. Foyt Racing – Honda Engines
Drivers – Mike Conway , possibly 2nd car TBA

Team – Panther Racing – Chevy engines
Drivers – J.R. Hildebrand, possibly 2nd car TBA (rumored to be Tomas Sheckter)

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing – TBA Engine

Driver – Josef NewGarden

Dale Coyne Racing – TBA Engine
Drivers – Justin Wilson, 2nd –TBA (rumored to be James Jakes)

HVM Racing – Lotus Engine
Drivers – Simona De Silvestro, 2nd car TBA

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – Lotus Engine
Drivers – Oriol Servia , 2nd car TBA (rumored to be Katherine Legge)

Bryan Herta Autosport – Lotus Engine
Driver – Alex Tagliani

Sam Schmidt Motorsports – Honda Engine
Drivers – Simon Pagenaud, 2nd car TBA

Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing – Honda Engine
Drivers – Nothing confirmed, rumors include Takumo Sato, Jay Howard, and Bertrand Baquette

Ed Carpenter Racing – Engine TBA
Driver – Ed Carpenter

Michael Shank Racing – Lotus Engine
Driver – TBA (prefer a veteran)

Dragon Racing – Engine TBA
Driver – TBA

Conquest Racing – Engine TBA
Driver – TBA

Drivers in the mix for FT rides in 2012 – Tomas Sheckter, Paul Tracy, James Jakes, Raphael Matos, Ho-Pin Tung, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Man, Sebastian Saavedra, Esteban Guerrieri , Martin Plowman, Wade Cunningham, Townsend Bell,

Possible Indy 500 one off drivers
(Note all drivers listed in the mix for FT would count as Indy 500 1 offs)
John Andretti, Davey Hamilton, Jean Alesi, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Buddy Rice,