IMS 500 Plans, Double Header Rumors Top Busy Week for Indycar

Cars haven’t been on track since last Saturday, but Indycar continues to make news- some facts, some rumors, and also bit of sadness. The pandemic has made uncertainty the only certain thing. Other sports are taking the first steps toward resuming while Indycar is at the halfway point of its season which is still scheduled to run into October.

The 88 page plan revealed by IMS on Wednesday for the 500 is very thorough and precise. If you are one of the 87,00 or so still planning to attend the race, it would worth your while to read through it. It is what you would expect from Penske- every situation is covered, every entrance and exit planned down to the tiniest detail in both text and diagram.

More Double Headers?

I’m hearing that Mid Ohio, Gateway, and the Harvest Classic at IMS will become double header weekends to compensate for the apparent losses of Portland and Laguna Seca. Neither track has officially cancelled yet, but Portland is under a crowd limit of 250 or fewer people order, and Laguna Seca does not have the volunteer staff to run the event. The Coronavirus in California also presents an obstacle.

Assuming St. Pete still goes forward, which I am skeptical about, the series would run 14 races with the new double headers. Two races at gateway the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 sounds like a lot for the crews, but it’s really no different than running Detroit the weekend after the traditional 500 date. In addition, the entire month of September would be open. I don’t like the idea of no races for an entire month and then having the series return for its final two or three events. It would be difficult to add a new track in September.

Ralph Liguori


On Wednesday, Ralph Liguori, itinerant racer, died at age 93. Liguori started more than 130 races between NASCAR and Indycar. His best finish was  second in the 1970 Hoosier Hundred. he passed A. J. Foyt for the spot. Liguori tried to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 six times between 1959 and 1968. He was bumped with 20 minutes left on Bump Day in 1963. Liguori raced into his 70s and won a race in 1973.

Setback for Zanardi

After some good news earlier in the week, Alex Zanardi’s condition has worsened. On Monday the former CART champion was moved to a rehabilitation facility. This morning he returned to ICU as his condition became unstable.

Zanardi suffered facial and neurological injuries in a hand bike accident on June 19.

Trouble for COTA

The FIA announced this morning that Formula will not have any races in the Americas. The cancellations include Canada,Mexico, Brazil, and the United States. this is particularly bad news for the Circuit of the Americas, which had already lost this year’s Indycar race among other events. It is sad to see such a great track in jeopardy.

Whether Indycar or F1 returns there next year remains to be seen. Roger Penske has talked about possibly having F1 return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While the road course has improved since the last time the U. S. Grand Prix was here, I still don’t think it’s a great F1 track.  The course needs some significant elevation changes to be a good track for F1.

Iowa for Sale?

This is strictly a rumor, but it seems Iowa Speedway may be for sale and Roger Penske may consider buying it to keep it on the Indycar schedule. This could be one of the first side benefits of Penske buying the series.

Iowa is a great track for Indycar. I love going there. I have always thought that Indycar should own some tracks, especially ovals, to keep a solid schedule. I think it would make economic sense in the long run.




Zanardi Update: More Surgery, Condition Unchanged

Alex Zanardi underwent five hours of surgery yesterday for facial reconstruction and to stabilize other injuries. The surgeries also were to prepare for future therapies.

The former CART champion’s condition remains the same.  He is still in an induced coma. His cardio-respiratory condition is stable. Zanardi’s neurological condition remains “severe.”

Zanardi was injured in a handbike racing accident on June 20. He swerved into the opposite lane and collided with an oncoming truck.


Zanardi Update: More Surgery; Top Gun Waits for 2021

Photo: Alex Zanardi at Belle Isle

Former Indycar champion Alex Zanardi underwent a 2 1/2 hour brain surgery yesterday. The operation  was anticipated by his medical team. Zanardi suffered facial and neurological trauma in a hand bike crash during a race in Italy June 20. He remains in a medically induced coma.

The doctors say he  is stable metabolically and from a cardio-respiratory standpoint, but his neurological condition is described as “grave.”

Zanardi was expected to awake from the coma this week. I believe another update will come today.

Top Gun, Enerson Will Wait Until Next Year

Top Gun Racing has tabled their debut in the NTT Indycar Series until 2021. The team owned by Gary trout and Bill Throckmorton, planned to field a car for R C Enerson in the 2020 Indianapolis 500.  Top Gun participated in the Indycar  irace at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway early this spring.

The team will use the postponed entry to acquire assets to start next year. The announcement removes one possible entry from the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 August 23.

Zanardi Update: Injuries Less Severe than Schumacher’s

A glimmer of good news tonight during what is already a tumultuous week in motorsports. In an article published today in Autoweek, the doctor who performed the surgery on two time CART champion Alex Zanardi, Giuseppe Oliveri, said that Zanardi’s injuries are less than the injuries suffered by Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher’s family and representatives have given no information on his condition since his skiing accident in 2013.  I was shocked that Schumacher’s injury was that long ago.

This does not mean Zanardi will fully recover. His prognosis won’t be known until he wakes up from his medically induced coma. Zanardi will remain in the coma until at least next week. The doctor believes his excellent physical shape is in his favor as far as recovery.

I find it ironic that Schumacher and Zanardi drove race cars for as long as they did and then suffer injuries in non auto racing activities. Of course Zanardi did survive losing both legs in a racing incident.

Zanardi’s Condition ‘Extremely Serious’

Photo from @CGRTteams Twitter account

Two time CART champion Alex Zanardi remains in “very serious” condition after an accident during a hand bike race yesterday in Italy. Zanardi collided with a truck coming from the opposite direction.

The two time CART champion underwent a nearly three hour surgery Friday night and was then moved to an ICU unit. The injuries were facial and neurological.

Zanardi lost both his legs in an accident in 2001 at Lausitzring in Germany during a CART race. His car spun on cold tires leaving the pits, and he was T-boned by a car at full speed. It was the first time a driver survived an accident involving the lower limbs being severed.

Zanardi become an Olympic champion in the paraOlympics, winning four gold medals in the hand bike events. He also did some car racing. In 2019 Zanardi drove a specially equipped BMW in the Rolex 24. He drove a brilliant stint during the early morning rainstorm.

Watch for updates this weekend.

Quick Thoughts on The Rolex (RainX?) 24

The weather at Indycar’s Barber race last season seems like a minor sprinkle compared to today’s deluge at Daytona. Weather situations like this put sanctioning bodies in a bind. Where do participant safety considerations end and wanting to satisfy the fans begin? When possible, the must meet in the middle. I think IMSA maybe erred a bit too much in favor of the fans.

While I and the other fans want to see racing, we want it to be safe for the competitors. I felt the both red flag came later than when needed, and the race resumed before the competitors could race safely. I understand racing in the wet carries more responsibility, but these drivers are professionals of highly seasoned near pros.

I’m not sure what IMSA’s protocol for situations as today is, but I hope it is reviewed at the end of the season. Yes fans want a show, but they want a safe one.

A big thank you to all involved for trying hard to get the race finished. I give special thanks to the pit crews who had to perform their jobs under very difficult conditions. Also the track workers and flag marshals who were stuck at their posts during the delays deserve a lot of gratitude.

The early ending stopped what was going to be an interesting three way battle between the number 7 Penske Cadillac Acura, the number 31 Action Express, and the eventual winner number 10 Cadillac from Wayne Taylor Racing. Pit and driver change strategies were lining up for a great cat and mouse game in the last 90 minutes.

Fernando Alonso showed why he is still one of the best drivers in the world. His stints in the rain late were amazing. Alexander Rossi also did a great job as he nearly won the Rolex watch for the second year Penske team. An added bonus for Indycar fans is that both Alonso and Rossi will be in the Indianapolis 500. If you were still on the fence about Rossi’s skills or think Fernando has lost his championship form, re-watch this race.

It was great to watch Alex Zanardi race, especially in yesterday’s rain. Is there anything he can’t drive? The team’s early race steering issue may have cost him a decent finish.

The all female team from Henricher/Meyer Shank Racing battled strongly all race until a spin during the restart took them out of a chance at a top five. Still, it was nice to see Simona and Bia on the track again.

Indycar drivers Colton Herta drove for s winning car. Herta in the GTLM winning number 25 BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Former series driver Sebastian Saavedra was driving the LMP2 winning car as the race was called. The victory came despite a heavy crash just before the second red flag.

Rossi reached the podium with the number 7 Penske Acura.

I am completely exhausted so will end here. Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. I’ll be back in this spot later this week with an Indycar news roundup.

Catching Up with Indycar

Seems as if a lot has happened in Indycar since last Wednesday. I had a great time at the PRI Show. If you ever get a chance to attend, please do so. It is an amazing display of all things racing. Having the show in December helps the off-season blues.  Anyway, here are some news tidbits and some thoughts on each one.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing to Use Honda Engines

The hissing sound you heard was the sigh of relief from the Indycar paddock, who had grave concerns about Andretti Autosport giving technical aid to a potential Chevy team. I have voiced concerns about this since the possibility first arose.  Honda now has 14 full time entries for 2019.

In a related announcement, McLaren announced they will have Chevy power at the Indianapolis 500. Any technical partnership will be with a Chevy team. McLaren partnered with Andretti in 2017.

E85 fuel to Power Indycars Through 2020

Although Indycar will have Speedway as the official fuel supplier for 2019, E85 will remain the fuel for the next two years. There had been some talk of returning to methanol whent he new car came on in 2021 to add more horsepower. That is still possible, but keeping the same fuel formula makes sense since the engines are essentially the same.

It appears that this will be a seamless transition from Sunoco to Speedway.

BC39 Returns to IMS

The BC39 midget event will be back at IMS September 4-5 as a prelude to the Brickyard 400 weekend. this year’s event was a rousing success with great racing and sellout crowds. The race is the perfect opportunity for people like me who keep saying, “I should go to a dirt track this weekend” and never get around to it.

It was one the best events I attended in 2018.  MY review of it can be read here:

Foyt to be Inducted into Houston Sports Hall of Fame

A. J. Foyt will be inducted into Houston’s Sports Hall of Fame 2019 class. Foyt is a Houston native who operates part of his racing team in Houston. This is a great honor for him. My question- What took so long? The induction comes on the 60th anniversary of Foyt’s first Indianapolis 500. While he didn’t finish that race, he did pretty well in subsequent races.

Reader Billy the Skink added an explanation about the Houston Sports Hall of Fame:

To be fair to the Houston Sports Hall of Fame, they didn’t take all that long to induct Foyt. This is only the hall’s second year of existence (the project was proposed many years ago and languished in development hell for a lonnnnnnnnnnng time). They rightly recognized that Foyt was one of the first nationally prominent sports figures to hail from or be associated with Houston. The only reason he was not an inaugural class member is likely because the hall’s organizers liked the synergy and splash made with a 3-person class of Hakeem Olajuwon, Nolan Ryan, and Earl Campbell, all patron saints of sorts of Houston’s 3 major pro team sports and all wearers of the number 34.
Foyt has long been a member of the more established Texas Sports Hall of Fame, along with other racing Texans Johnny Rutherford, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, and the Labonte Brothers. Still need to get Lloyd Ruby, Jim McElreath, Kenny Bernstein, Eddie Hill, and Ted Johnson in there.
So it didn’t really take that long for A. J. to get in the hall. I apologize tio the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

Indycar’s IMSA Invasion Continues

The Weather Tech Sportscar Series is quickly becoming Indycar’s second home. Roger Penske debuted an Acura DPi team last year. Chip Ganassi has been in the series for a long time. Bobby Rahal also has a two car team. Michael Shank was in IMSA before he entered Indycar. For 2019 Ricardo Juncos will have a DPi team as well.  Many drivers participate in the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 hour events.

Graham Rahal drove for Penske last year. In 2019 Alexander Rossi will join Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in one of the Penske entries. Simon Pagenaud will co drive the other car with regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.

Rahal said the reason for the switch is that he cannot fit comfortably in the car. Ryan Hunter-Reay backed him up on that point. Hunter-Reay has driven the Wayne Taylor Racing prototype.  Rossi is one of the taller drivers in the series as well. I’m not sure that this move changes much. Rossi is a bit slimmer than Rahal, but I think the height is the issue.

In related news, Alex Zanardi was confirmed for the Rolex 24 as a co driver of one of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s cars. The car will have special hand controls to accommodate Zanardi. It will be gbreta to see him in major racing again.

TV Summit

This weekend NBC met with nine racing series that are on their networks to work out plans to better coordinate schedules. Some things discussed were joiny events and a Racing Week in America, seven nights of racing on television. Yes, please! I will have more about the summit later this month.

Coming Attractions

After my move this week to The Pit Window’s move to winter headquarters, look for a post on another 500 mile race program and another in which  I play Santa for the Indycar community.  My last 2018 post will be around the 28th.