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This weekend at Road America the second half of the all too short Indycar season begins. There is a terrific points battle going on with the top four separated by just 57 points. Racing has been great on the road and street courses, but Indycar is still trying to find the best way to set up the new aero on the ovals. An announcement today about Pocono may be a solution. We also have a new series title sponsor announcement within the next 90 days, the 2019 schedule to sort out, and going on right now is Silly Season, Teams Division. Here is a look at what to expect in the second half.
Fierce Title Fight Will Continue to Sonoma
Scott Dixon’s usual way to win a title is to start the season slowly, catch fire around mid-season, then take the lead with just a few races left and run away with the championship. That he has the lead at the season’s mid-point should have the rest of the contenders concerned. There are more tracks left that should favor Chevy rather than Honda. Dixon is the defending champ at Road America. Josef Newgarden, currently fifth, won last year at Gateway and Mid-Ohio. Alexander Rossi is probably going to win another race this season and Will Power will also take another checkered flag. This fight is going to be fun to watch.
Indycar was able to boast of schedule continuity and date equity the last three years when they had virtually all their tracks signed on for multi year deals. That continuity may be gone next year, as three tracks have yet to renew.
Right now it appears two tracks, Phoenix and Texas, may fall off the schedule. With few oval options to replace them, this could be a loss for the series. Phoenix looks to definitely not be returning, and Eddie Gossage looks as if he wants to again be the race after the Indianapolis 500 with an off week in between. To get that, Roger Penske would have to move the Belle Isle weekend. That is not likely to happen. Gossage’s only leverage is that he has an ova which is the type of track the series needs. Look for the schedule to come out later than it has been the last couple of years. I think it will be very different.
Juncos and Meyer Shank Racing are hoping to expand their part time status next season although not necessarily become full time teams yet. Shank is looking to expand from six races in 2018 to between eight and ten next year. Juncos is still looking to become a single full time one car team at some point. Jack Harvey will stay at Shank. Will Kyle Kaiser be Juncos’s main driver? Given more time in the car, I think Kaiser has potential.
The Orange Elephant
With Fernando Alonso’s victory at LeMans on Sunday, talk immediately heated up about him coming to Indycar full time. McLaren appears to be on the brink of becoming a new full time Indycar team in 2019. Team Principal Zak Brown said the move to Indycar depends on what Alonso wants to do. Alonso will be in a McLaren for the 500. If the 500 is all Alonso wants to do, but McLaren still wants to go full tim, they could put Lando Norris in the car for the rest of the season. Norris, McLaren’s reserve driver, gets seat time and Alonso stays in Formula 1 in addition to running the 500. The current thinking is McLaren will form a technical partnership with Andretti Autosport. This could be a big piece of the grid for 2019.
The Steinbrenner/Herta Conundrum
Assuming that a). McLaren does partner with Andretti, and b). Colton Herta wins the Indy Lights championship, where does Herta race? His team, Steinbrenner Racing, is part of the Andretti Lights program. Owner George Steinbrenner IV plans to move Herta to Indycar if he wins the Lights title this year. He might move up anyway, but the million dollar prize would make it easier. Would Andretti field six full time cars? Herta might work with another team for a year or two. Stay tuned.
New Series Sponsor?
According to The Indianapolis Star, Mark Miles hopes to have a new title sponsor for Indycar in the next 90 days. There seems to be two entities involved. My reading is that one is definitely closer to a deal than the other. I have nomidea who Indycar is talking to, but I appreciate Miles’s and the Indycar executives working hard to get this matter taken care before the end of the current season.
Aero Help at Pocono
Indycar announced yesterday some added downforce for Pocono. Here is a link to the article on Indycar.com explaining the new piece.
Look for my Road America preview on Wildfireradiosports.com this weekend.