A Way Forward for Ovals?

Bud Denker and Randy Edeker want to help ovals succeed. Denker, Of President of Penske Corporation, and Edeker, chairman and CEO of HyVee. have created a festival surrounding the Indycar double header at Iowa Speedway July 23 and 24. In a conference call with Indycar media yesterday, Denker, Edeker, and Graham Rahal talked about the Iowa weekend, which will feature four concerts, headlined by Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Gwen Stefani, and Blake Shelton. \In addition the venue features a village with 75 food trucks, and a kids’ activity area on Saturday.

Ticket sales have been brisk, Denker said.

” We only have about 12,000 to 15,000 tickets to sell each
day because ticket sales have been pretty good so far. I’ve
never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen a lineup like
this before. I’ve been in motorsports for a long time. To
see what they have for that weekend in Iowa, Newton, you
can’t get a hotel. Good luck anywhere around the area.
Some people ahead of time must have known about this so
already secured all the hotels, which is a good thing.”

Iowa Weekend details


I asked Denker if the type of programming planned for Iowa could be a model for other ovals to help draw more fans.
“That’s a real good question because we’re
already thinking about ’23 and ’24 in terms of what we’re
going to do.
We want to have a variety, always have a variety, as long
as we own this series, of the races we have today, the
ovals, short ovals, long ovals, road courses, street courses.
That obviously shows the competitiveness and the world
class nature of our drivers more than any other series in
the world.
The model we’re creating in the urban markets as you’ve
seen in Nashville, Detroit next year, the streets of Detroit.
Whole different model than we have on Belle Isle.
Patterned a lot of what will be done in Nashville, St. Pete,
other markets.
As we get to these markets like Iowa, you need to create
that event. Without the attachment to an urban market,
you have to have the event to draw you in. You’re spot on
in terms of what this model will look like. We want to take it
and apply it to other tracks we go to in the future.
You also see unique tracks like Road America, it lives on
its own. For these other tracks that are not attached to an
urban market, don’t have their own iconic nature, as
Graham said you have to circle it with other things going on
other than what’s going on on the racetrack, and that’s our
model for the future.”

Edeker announced that HyVee will also be a sponsor of the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville as part of their marketing strategy. The Iowa based retailer chose Indycar because Iowans are big fans of the sport.

“I think it fits with our initiatives, with what we want to get
accomplished. I think that it’s a sport that it’s accessible to
us and it’s local.
If you look at the state of Iowa, I don’t have the current
numbers, but several years ago when I was over at
marketing I looked at open-wheel racing in the state of
Iowa. Per capita, Iowa had the largest number of
open-wheel racing fans in the United States.
You look at the Midwest and the dirt tracks, the open-wheel
races that happen all across. I think it just fits the fan base.
Most of those fans, they turn to Indy, they turn to
NASCAR, they also turn to Indy as an open-wheel racing
fan. I think that’s part of what appealed to us.
I agree, I just look at some of the things in talking with Bud
and Roger, some of the strategies they have that they’re
working on. I believe you’re going to see INDYCAR start
driving. You’re seeing us also invest in our driver. We
came out with a dozen TV spots that we’re going to be
using from now until September that are labeled ‘You Don’t
Know Jack.’ Jack (Harvey) is our spokesman. “

HyVee is also an associate sponsor on the cars of Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard.

Rahal commented on the racing at Iowa. Some have expressed concerns about both races scheduled for daytime. many fans hoped for a night race. Rahal said,

“The thing is both are good races because it’s such a
demanding track, whether it’s hot on the surface or a night
race where it cools down. I mean, certainly the night race I
would say broadens the amount of competitive cars,
meaning at Iowa you’re going to have the talent pool
deeper and deeper. You’ll have 10 to 15 cars that are
battling at the end. At night that may expand by 20% or
something like that.
The truth is with the variety of lanes, you have three lanes,
turn three and four is a two-lane racetrack, but you have
117509-1-1004 2022-03-08 00:36:00 GMT Page 5 of 8
cars all over the place, guys on new tires, guys on old tires
that want to go home, forget about their day. That’s
common at Iowa. I think that will continue.
I don’t think it really matters day or night, frankly.”

Rahal, Bourdais Ready to Move on From Indy

TThe Indianapolis 500 didn’t end well for either Graham Rahal or Sébastien Bourdais, but both are ready to move on to focus on the remaining two-thirds of the Indycar season.

Rahal discussed how his race ended in general terms, concluding,

“Everybody accepted what went wrong. Now we’re moving forward. Now we’re focused on Detroit and making the restof this year as best we can.
I think it’s great to turn the page now, move forward to a race that I’ve loved so much.”

Bourdais, like Rahal a two time winner at Detroit, is also eager to return to a place where he has had success.

“There was that dismal weekend at Texas. None of our fault, but that definitely set the tone a little bit for a bit of a moreconservative 500. When you’ve pretty much already wipedout your crash budget in a matter of 24 hours, I think we allfelt very conservative, maybe a little bit too conservative, in quallie trim and everything…just looking forward to the next ones, keep our a relatively new group kind of all working together
and trying to make the best of our situation in a very, very competitive field right now.”

Rahal and Bourdais expressed apprecifationor Roger Penske and his team for torture of the Detroit Grand Prix, one of the races that was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

Bourdais : “…we can thank, like Graham was saying, Roger and the entire team on the INDYCAR SERIES side, the Detroit side for putting all the hard work, letting us do ourthing, doing it all together.
on the weekend ahead.”

Rahal: “I want to say thanks to Roger and Bud and the group for keeping their heads down and making Detroit happen thisyear. I know for a while it was looking pretty limited fan-wise and everything else. We’re certainly excited to be back. It’s become a staple on the INDYCAR circuit. We’re excited to get a chance to turn the page from Indy, move on, hopefully have a great weekend.”

Both drivers expressed concern about the physical nature of the bumpy Belle Isle track and the heat that the aeroscreen will generate in the cockpit.

Bourdais talked about the aeroscreen,
“The aeroscreen safety-wise, particularly for the ovals and the superspeedways, just a single biggest investment forsure is concerned as far as safety is concerned. For me for sure on the street courses I sometimes wish the screenwasn’t there because I feel like it’s making things extremely difficult and uncomfortable in the car. I think it’s just onevery tough compromise, right? You just add that big safetypiece on an existing car that really wasn’t designed for anything like this, how you manage the airflow andeverything around.For sure when it gets hot and humid, particularly on streetcourses, the body temperature inside the 120 degree cockpit gets pretty critical. Yeah, it’s never really a fun last10, 15 laps of those races. Doing it twice in a weekend, I think that dehydration level is going to be tough. “

Rahal added,

” I do think it’s going to be an exceptionally physical weekend. It looks hot, upper 80s and sunny. Detroit doesnot have any long straightaways really. I do think it’s goingto be a pretty physical weekend.Aside from everything else, everybody is pretty used to it now. We’re a year into this thing. The aeroscreen has been a great addition, a great addition to the sportsafety-wise. You look at the saves it’s already had in itstime. I think it’s been great.No, I think we’ll just go at it and try to make sure that youget rested up on Saturday night if you have a full day on Saturday because Sunday is going to be another bruiser.”

Rahal Fastest in Session 1

Graham Rahal led the first two hour practice session for thee 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Rahal’ quick lap beat out Scott Dixon and Scott Mc Laughlin. Eight drivers topped 222 mph.

The practice round was interrupted three times for rain. The final stoppage occurred with just 15 minutes left. A fleet of trucks is now circling the track as the rookie/ refresher session is on hold.

Stefan Wilson and J. R. Hildebrand will take their refresher phases. R. C. Enerson needs to complete his rookie test.

Some photos from this morning.

Traditions Smashed: Quick Thoughts on the GMR Grand Prix

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Two traditions of this race went down n flames today- A clean first lap for the first time in race history, and the biggest tradition-the two winners club was intruded upon by Scott Dixon. It was only the second time a Team Penske car did not win.

Five drivers with less than three years of Indycar experience finished in the top 10.Colton Herta finished fourth, Rinus VeeKay came home fifth, Marcus Ericsson was sixth, Pato O’W  and Santino Ferrucci ended up in eighth and ninth. VeeKay started 18th. His 13 spot improvement was second to Simon Pagenaud who moved up 17 positions from 20th to third.

Scott Dixon should have at least 50 career  victories by season’s end. He is now just four behind Mario Andretti for second place.

What is going on with Will Power and pit stops? There have been issues in both races this year.

The yellow for Oliver Askew’s crash hurt Graham Rahal. His two stop strategy was working perfectly until then. It was nice to see Rahal fighting for the win again.

It was a great day for Ed Carpenter Racing. In addition to VeeKay’s fifth place, Conor Daly finished 12th. Daly had been in the top 10 for much of the race. I hope to see more of this kind  of result from the team the rest of the year.

Andretti Autosport  struggled overall for the second straight race. Except for Herta, the rest of the team was not a factor. In Texas Veach was the lone bright spot. They need to turn things around at Road America next week.

Think it’s boring watching Dixon win the first two races? We are watching one of the best ever. As someone who has been lucky enough to watch Foyt, Andretti, Jones, Mears,  and the Unsers, I am telling you Dixon belongs with this group. appreciate him that you can watch someone with his skill.

A few people gathered outside the fence of IMS around 23rd and Georgetown Road to watch the race on the video board and soak in the sounds of the race. It was weird just getting tiny glimpses of the cars, but it was better than sitting at home.

I will be back with a more detailed wrap up later tonight or tomorrow.

Enjoy your holiday. wash your hands and mask up. Thanks for following along this weekend.


Quick Thoughts- DXC Technology 600k

That turned out to be a fun race at the end. It was a pretty tame race for Texas.

Josef Newgarden has three wins already this season. No one had more than three wins in 2018.  This puts Newgarden in a great position to win a tiebreaker, although should  Alexander Rossi tie him in wins, Rossi has three second places to date.

If Newgarden wins the championship, Tim Cindric should get a big share of the credit. Another brilliant call to pit on the first yellow worked out and brought the car home first. All three of Newgarden’s wins this year can attributed to pit/tire calls by Cindric.

Rossi had a great save to avoid the Herta-Dixon crash. It likely saved his title hopes.

The high line never came in tonight as it usually does. Rossi lost one of his strengths without that second groove.

Graham Rahal had a quiet race, but ends up third.  Glad to see him finally have a good result in what has been a frustrating season for his team.

Remember when crew members wore short sleeves and no helmets? A serious injury or worse didn’t happen on pit lane tonight because of the mandated safety equipment for crew members. That was a scary crash in Sato’s pit. Glad to see the crewman was okay.

Dixon has made race ending mistakes two straight weekends.

It’s a shame that James Hinchcliffe  crashed. He had the drive of the race going until then.

Colton Herta also had a great run going.   He made some incredible moves. A shame his day ended the way it did.

What can we say about Santino Ferrucci? His fourth place tonight  at Texas gives him  three top tens in the last four races. Ferrucci is now leading the Rookie of the Year standings. He has done this rather quietly.  Ferrucci has improved every week.

Zach Veach continues his disappointing season.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  Next week I take a look at the season at the halfway point.


Rossi Leads Practice 3; Edges Rahal on Last Lap

Defending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach champion Alexander Rossi nipped Graham Rahal for the fastest time in the final practice session before qualifying by 0.13 seconds. Rahal had jumped to the top of the chart with just a few minutes to go. Team Penske drivers showed more speed today with Simon Pagenaud fifth, Josef Newgarden sixth, and Will Power tenth.

The time sheet:


Road America Thoughts and Other Musings

The race-

Road America 2018 206

A tight battle on lap 1 for fifth through ninth in Turn 5. Photo: Mike Silver

Not the best I’ve seen, but hardly the worst. I enjoyed watching Josef Newgarden turn in a flawless performance yesterday afternoon. He had pressure from Ryan Hunter-Reay all day long, but the Chevy was too strong on road America’s long straightaways. Alexander Rossi once again nearly stole the headlines from the winner, but not for the reason he usually does. More on the controversy later. Scott Dixon didn’t qualify as well as he hoped- he missed the Fast Six- but managed to be the only leader besides Newgarden to lead any laps. Dixon finished third and increased his points lead.

Best drama of the day happened just before the green flag when Will Power, who started second, was nowhere to be found as the field roared into turn one. An engine issue put him out of the race for his third DNF of the season. Outside of May, Power has really not had a great year. He drops from third to fifth in the title chase.

Tony Kanaan tried to use a four stop strategy to move up, but the caution free race didn’t allow that plan to work. Kanaan finished 14th.

Alexander Rossi- Series Villain?

Indycar has needed rivalries and villains to give the series some spark. Have they found them? The season began with hopes of a Rossi/Newgarden battle for the title. That hasn’t materialized, but a Rossi/Robert Wickens feud may be brewing. Wickens and Rossi collided in turn one at the start. After their collision on the white flag lap at St. Pete, the animosity seemed to have died down. It may be on again. Takuma Sato also took issue with Rossi’s driving in yesterday’s race. He and Rossi had contact in turn 5 later in the race.

Rossi had a suspension problem which dropped him to a 16th place finish. He is now tied with Hunter-Reay for second, 45 points behind Dixon.

I like Rossi’s style. He is bold and relentless and can pass anybody anytime it seems. He is also unapologetic. As long as he isn’t ruining other drivers’ races, I’m fine with his racing.

Road America Renews for Three More Years

Yesterday morning Road America President George Bruggentheis announced that Indycar will return to Elkhart Lake for three more years. This has been one of the more successful events on the calendar. Sunday’s crowd was equal to or may have topped the great attendance in 2016. The track instantly become my favorite road course the moment I entered the track.

On the Flip Side…

The not unexpected news that ISM Raceway in Phoenix would not return in 2019 became official over the weekend.  Crowds were virtually nonexistent and the racing was not great. There was little excitement or presence for the event the two times I went to the race.

It’s sad to lose such a classic track, but the newer cars don’t always perform well on the older tracks.

The series is looking for a replacement in that that calendar slot. Many fans have made many suggestions. It needs to be a warm weather locale, and preferably another oval.

I’m wondering if other schedule changes are in the offing for next season.

On to Iowa

Next up for Indycar is Iowa, the most fun oval on the schedule. You may have heard this before in this space, but I hope this the last daytime race and beginning in 2019 this is again a night race.

I have a couple features planned for later this week and next week. Enjoy the week off.



The Positive Thinking of Power

“When you work hard at something it eventually comes to you,” Will Power said at his Sunday afternoon press conference. He credit this approach to his determination in the closing laps of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Winning the 500 had run through his head more than ever over the last year, he said. It was. “The last box to check on his career, which includes an Indycar Series championship won after several close calls. Again working hard will eventually get you what you want.

The race was an intriguing event. It was difficult to pass, as expected, but drivers liked that the outcome was more in their hands. Some teams, Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens, tried alternate pit strategies which were hurt by the timing of the caution periods. Power, on a normal pit cycle, was in the right spot in the end to take advantage of those who gambled.

Ed Carpenter and Power had the strongest cars all day. Carpenter led 65 laps and Power led 59. No one else led more than 19. Tony Kanaan looked to be a third factor until a cut tire forced an extra stop. He had worked his way back to ninth, then crashed on lap 189, setting up the dramatic finish and near storybook ending.

Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson, and Jack Harvey gambled there would be another yellow and they would be able to save enough fuel to go the distance. Servia led the field to the green on lap 193 and was quickly passed by Wilson and Harvey. Wilson led the next three laps, which sent a buzz through the crowd. The two leaders pulled into the pits for fuel on lap 196, hand Power the lead and the victory.

The usually stoic Power was one of the happiest winners in Victory Lane in many years. “I started screaming on the white flag lap,” he said. Tim Cindric corroborated that.


Power’s win was the first for a front row starter since Dario Franchitti won from third in 2010. It was Team Penske’s first 500 win since Juan Pablo Montoya won his third in 2015.

There were 30 lead changes, many on pit cycles. While we didn’t see constant passes for the lead, I thought it made each pass more genuine and a result of driving and not equipment packages.

Alexander Rossi had another march from the back of the field. His fourth place finish from a last row start was one of the highlights of the day. He also charged from the back to get a podium at Phoenix after a pit penalty. Rossi is now two points behind Power in the series championship.

Graham Rahal continues his season of starting in the back and getting to the top 10. Yesterday he finished tenth from his 30th starting spot. I’m sure he’s looking forward to Detroit where he dominated the weekend last year.

Danica Patrick’s career ended with a crash on lap 68. It was the only the second time she has not finished the race. Patrick had always done well at the Speedway, including being the first woman to lead.

Helio Castroneves spun and crashed on lap 146. I’m not sure if he will return next year. If he does, 2019 may be his last time to try for win number 4

Power is the first driver to win the Indycar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.

What is Up with the Pre-Race?

For a couple of years now I have become annoyed with the pace of the pre race ceremonies. This year I thought they were longer and more drawn out than ever. It seemed as if parts were out of order as well. These ceremonies used to be compact, flowing and built the tension leading to the start. I don’t get that feeling or the goosebumps I used to get during this part of the day.

The Speedway has found its new singer for “(Back Home Again in) Indiana”. It was another great performance by Jim Cornelison. Please keep him.

The highlight was playing a recording of Jim Phiilipe’s homage to veterans which preceded taps. It was wonderful to hear that again, but the moment was ruined when instead of following it immediately with “Taps”, the invocation was next, followed by an ABC commercial break, then “Taps.” A solemn moment was ruined.

The last straw was Tony George giving the command, “Drivers, start your engines” for the second year in a row. I’m not sure if I heard the engines or if the sound was Tony Hulman spinning in his grave. Please, IMS, give the traditional (Ladies) and Gentlemen, start your engines command. Drivers, start your engines is fine for every other race on the schedule.

I will close with a couple more photos from yesterday. I have more stories of the month this week before the series moves to Detroit.

(Left) Will Power’s car om pit lane race morning.

(Right) Power waits to take questions from the press.

All photos: Mike Silver