Newgarden: Title Hunt “Far from Over”

Josef Newgarden is glad he is leading the points going into next week’s final race of the NTT Indycar Series by a larger margin than he had before the 2016 finale, but he cautions that the points chase is “far from over with the double points situation.” In a teleconference this afternoon, Newgarden said he feels he controls his own destiny but that Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca is “a wild card event with lots of unknowns.” Although his lead is bigger than it was two years, Newgarden feels the same pressure.

In contrast to Alexander Rossi, who yesterday said qualifying up front will be very crucial for a good result,  Newgarden doesn’t know how important qualifying will be because no one knows how the track will race. He thinks the test day on the Thursday before the race will be telling. Most drivers have not raced at this track.

I asked Newgarden if having a teammate also going for the championship would cause him to change the way he approaches next weekend.  he said, “It would be a mistake to change the way we approach it.” Newga5rden said he and Simon Pagenaud have tried to be fair with each other on the track.

Reflecting on his spin out at Mid-Ohio, Newgarden said, ” I can’t help myself sometimes. My nature is always to go for the higher position.”

While it would be nice for an American to win the title, it is not something Newgarden puts emphasis on. “I’ve always like the great mix of talent from around the world,” he said. He is happy to see young American drivers like Colton Herta enter the series.

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is Sunday, September 22 on NBC.

Rossi Knows What He Needs to Do

For the second year in a row Alexander Rossi enters the NTT Indycar Series finale in second place. The September 22 Firestone Grand Prix at Weather Tech raceway Laguna Seca will decide the season championship.  Rossi trails Josef Newgarden by 41 points. In a teleconference this afternoon, the driver of the number 27 NAPA Auto Parts car talked about his season thus far, and how 2019 compares to last year.

Rossi described his season so far as “Generally good. We made a lot of improvements on areas where we struggled. Some things have been out of our control.” He went on to say that “the 2 car has been better. Josef has had a sensational year.”

The venue for the final race has a lot of unknowns, Rossi said.  Andretti Autosport tested there in February. Rossi declared the test inconclusive due to the weather and some other factors. He thinks everyone is entering the weekend on an equal footing. Rossi began going to races at Laguna Seca when he was three years old. It is where he fell in love with racing.

“Laguna Seca is where I  cut my teeth in racing,” Rossi said.

The race could be decided in qualifying. “the driver who makes no mistakes in qualifying and wins the pole, if he is one of the championship contenders, his job will be that much easier.,” Rossi said. He described the track as having a low grip surface with the braking zone in turn 2 likely being the best passing area.

While Rossi is disappointed to not be closer to the top of the standings, he feels that it actually puts less pressure on him. he knows this year he needs to win the race. “When you’re closer you start worrying about positions and finishing ahead of the other guy. being this far back,  I just need to win.”

Rossi felt in 2018  the team left too many points on the table with silly mistakes. This season he believes the team has improved although ‘We maybe cost ourselves by being too conservative. We had some bad luck in the second half of the season. ”

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is September 22 on NBC. The green flag is at 12:15.

 

 

 

Rapid Response-Transforming Indycar Safety

This is not a film for the squeamish. The film clips of some of the worst accidents in the last 65 years or so are still frightening to see. I have seen most of these clips before, sadly some in person, and I still felt ill watching them. They do serve a purpose, however.

Rapid Response presents the story of two doctors who become immersed in racing somewhat by chance, and how they transform the safety of Indycar racing not only at the Indianapolis Motor speedway, bu throughout the entire Indycar circuit.

I identified with Dr. Steve Olvey in the first ten minutes of the film.  We share the same first driving hero. He said his first favorite driver was Bill Vukovich. He was at the 1955 when Vukovich was killed. He said he picked another favorite driver. That driver soon suffered a similar fate, as did the one he picked after that. Such was the life of a race fan in the early 50’s and 60’s. One in seven drivers died across all motorsport in this era.

Olvey’s father talked him out of a racing career and convinced him to go to medical school. He jumps at the chance to be on the medical staff at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during May.  Under the tutelage of Dr. Tom Hanna, Olvey begins to see ways to improve the speedway’s medical procedures.

Booby Unser, Al Unser, and Parnelli Jones share stories of some of their injuries, including how they lied about their condition so that they could continue driving. All three admit to probably driving with a concussion at some point.

When the Indycar sanctioning body goes to a track, they arrange for local volunteers and doctors to be on hand in case of an emergency or serious injury. Olvey decides it is better to have the same medical staff at all the tracks fror a couple of reasons.  First, they know the drivers, and second, the drivers seem comforted to see a familiar face after an accident. He also adds the mandatory presence of a medical helicopter at the track.

While Olvey combines his medical practice with his love of racing, Dr. Terry Trammel becomes involved almost by accident. In his first year on staff at Methodist Hospital, he was on duty when Danny Ongais is brought in from the track after his horrific crash in the race. After a three and a half hour surgery, Trammel is able to save Ongais’s foot from amputation.

Trammel later converts his home basement into a physical therapy center. Drivers stay at his home to rehabilitate. Tony Kanaan, a guest on more than one occasion, refers to the basemnent as “the dungeon.”

The doctors work together gathering data on all the foot and leg injuries common at the time. Through extensive research and with the use of of computer models, Olvey and Trammel determine  the nose of the car needs to be lengthened for the drivers’ protection.

The HANS device comes into use after Gonzalo Rodriguez’s fatal accident at Laguna Seca. The earliest device is too big to work in an Indycar. After coming up with a workable model, the HANS device is soon mandatory.

I learned a lot from this film. I had never really thought about how all the safety devices and procedures we take for granted today came into being. I am old to remember when none of the current safety measures were in place. The history in the film is just as important as the story it tells.

The film has some great classic footage from the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1950’s. Not all of it is crashes. Rapid Response is currently being shown in limited release in 10 states and Ontario, Canada. If it is in your area, I recommend seeing it.

Zeb Wise takes the High Road to Victory in BC 39

Zeb Wise rode the top cushion to victory in the BC39 USAC midget race at IMS last night. He led 17 laps in the feature race. it was an emotional win for Wise and his team, Clauson-Marshall Racing,. The late Bryan Clauson’s father Tim had picked Wise to drive for the team after seeing him drive in the Batt;le of the Brickyard quarter midge race in 2014. . Clauson is the inspiration for this event. For his team to win it is a bonus.

It was a complete team victory for Clauson-Marshall Racing. Tyler Courtney finished second and Chris Windom was third.

Pole sitter Thomas Meseraull led the first 18 laps. the first of several halts to the action happened. Wise took the lead on the restart.  Wednesday’s stoops pursuit winner Kyle Larson charged into second, but could not quite get by Wise. The two chased each other on the high cushion for several laps.  They made contact in turn 2, then again in turn 4 when Wise bounced off the wall after getting too high  in the dirt. The contact cut Larson’s left rear tire. He was able to return to the race, but Larson was out of contention for the win. He finished ninth.

Last year’s BC39 winner Brady Bacon took the lead on lap 29. He later collided with teammate C. J. McDougall and both cars came to a stop on the front stretch.  Wise regained the lead on lap 32 and held it to the end.

Notes

My impressions as someone who doesn’t get to enough of these short dirt track shows:

These guys can race and race hard. I was impressed by the action both nights. I wish more of these drivers had Indycar aspirations.

The fans are just as, if not more passionate than fans of the major series. Last night I talked to a couple from Illinois who travel to follow the USAC races. They were very knowledgeable about the series and gave me some good information about some races I want to attend.

Kudos to Conor Daly for his improvement from night to night. conor admits he is still learning how to drive a midget. I though he held his own last night in the qualifying race. I wish more Indycar drivers would try this.

It was hardly a shock to see IMS President Doug Boles go to each car before the feature and shake hands with every driver.

Attendance again was great for this event.  With the NASCAR race moving to Jly 4 weekend in 2020, does this event move as well?  I’d prefer it stay where it is on the schedule.

back next week to catch up on some Indycar news that I am woefully behind on.

BC39: Larson Wins Stoops Pursuit; Feature Race Tonight

Kyle Larson won the Stoops Pursuit last night as the BC39 Drive to Save Lives opened its two day show at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The final 5 laps segment began with just three drivers, Larson, Michael Pickens, and Justin Grant. the race format eliminated drivers who lost positions  at the end of each  5 lap segment.

On the final lap of the last segment, Pickens flipped and Grant hit the wall and flipped. Larson drove to the checkered flag alone. Beither driver was injured.

Larson, who drives for Chip Ganassi racing in NASCAR, will also compete in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. He did not enter the BC 39 last year.

The evening featured great racing in the twelve heats which set the qualifying races for tonight’s event. Drivers received points for passing cars.  The format led to aggressive driving which didn’t always work out.  Brady bacon set the tone for the night in heat 1 with a pass just before the line for the win.

Heat winners:

  1. Brady Bacon
  2.  Kevin Thomas, Jr.
  3. Zeb Wise
  4. Dillon Welch
  5. Gio Scelzi
  6. Zach Daum
  7. Jake Neuman
  8. Chad Boat
  9. Spencer Bayson
  10. Thomas Meseraull

Today’s schedule:

3 pm Gates open

5 pm Hot laps (8 groups)

6 pm Qualifying races (8 races)

7:45 Main races (5 races)

9:30 BC 39 (39 laps)

Tickets $35-$75; no general admission

Some more photos of last night’s action

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BC39 Returns to IMS

The BC 39 returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tonight for the first of two evenings of midget racing. The event was a great success last year. 90 drivers, including Conor Daly, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., will compete.

Today’s schedule:

3 pm- Gates open

5pm – Hot laps- 12 groups

7:15- Heat races – 12 races , 10 laps each

Stoops Pursuit Race- 25 laps

Heat line-ups were set Tuesday night for tonight’s return of the BC39 midget race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tonight’s heats will set the groups for tomorrow’s qualifying races. Drivers gain points for their finishing positions and for the number of positions gained during their heat.  For full details on tonight’s action, click this link to the IMS website.

https://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/events/usac/news-multimedia/news/2019/09/02/exciting-format-to-add-more-action-trim-field-for-bc39-main-2019

Midgets and sprint cars used to be the roots of Indycar racing.  While most of these drivers gravitate to Nascar these days, it is still a fun time watching cars on dirt.

2020 Schedule – Some Thoughts

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The NTT Indycar Series presented its 2020 schedule Sunday afternoon during the Grand Prix of Portland pre- race show. The response from many fans ranged from tepid to angry.  Much of the anger was directed at the subtraction of Pocono from the schedule. The Tricky Triangle’s replacement, Richmond, is a 3/4 mile oval. Outside of IMS, Texas is now the longest oval on the circuit next year at 1.5 miles. I’m not happy that there will be fewer miles of competition in 2020.

I have heard from several of my friends that the schedule will not allow them to attend as many races next year as they have the past few seasons. The main reason is turn around time. There are three sets of back to back weekends, in which he first race in each set is a Sunday afternoon race and the second race is the following Saturday night. There is one set each in June, July, and August.  Fans may be okay with one six day turnaround, but three? Some the fans I have had discussions with  went to both races in some of the newly formed  pairs this year, but can’t do both since they are back to back. Attendance series wide may be affected. I sensed some frustration among those I’ve had contact with.

Another issue I have with the schedule is it looks like an accordion. It stretches out, then it squeezes tight. The season begins with the traditional St. Pete opener. It’s three weeks until the next race at Barber. Barber, which is too early in the year, is followed by a two week gap to Long Beach, COTA comes the week afterwards. Two weeks later the five week grind beginning with the Grand Prix of Indy commences.

I understand the gap between Iowa on July 18 and Mid Ohio August 16 is driven by the Olympics, NBC’s biggest sports property. Since most of the events will be shown on a delay, surely NBC could have squeezed in one Indycar race somewhere in that time frame. This might have been a good opportunity to attempt a mid week race. I’m not anti-Olympics, though they have added some questionable events. I just think there would be time to get one race in.

I’m sad to see Pocono leave the schedule. It’s a classic track and another high speed oval. The series should have at least two of those on the schedule. I’m wondering how ABC Supply’s pull back from racing had to do with dropping the track.

One fourth of the schedule will be finished before May and one half will be done by May 31. That leaves just  nine races from June through September 20. This schedule shows why the season needs 20 races and should end around October 10.

My criticism of which television channels the races are on still stands. I was hoping for some changes and a couple of different races on NBC. To summarize, one of the first two races should be on NBC to let viewers know that they can watch Indycar on NBC. It would also be a stronger promo for the Indianapolis 500 than the blurbs during the NHL playoffs. I have no problem with them, but a race would make a stronger statement.

There are some positives in this schedule however. Richmond returns to the schedule after a ten year break. There is just a two week, instead of a three week gap between Portland and the finale at Weather Tech Raceway. I will still

attend as many races as I can