N B C-ya?

The news was not totally unexpected, but hearing that NBCSN would shut down at the end of this year still was a shock. The network, part of NBC, has been the home for many NTT Indycar Series races over the last few years, becoming more prominent since NBC obtained exclusive rights to Indycar in 2018. There will also be a change to NBC Gold in 2021. This season will not be affected.

Per Mark Miles: “NBC Sports has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift. Our 2021 broadcast schedule is not impacted by this decision. We plan to discuss our future broadcast arrangements in the late spring.”

NBC Gold, for about $45 a season, provided access to all practices and qualifications. That access may move to NBC’s new Peacock streaming service. I’m hearing $4.99 a month. I’m not sure if you have to pay for a 12 month period or just go month to month.

Indycar’s deal with NBC expires at the end of the 2021 season. When the dthree year deal was announced, Miles said it was a short deal so that Indycar could explore new broadcast developments.

What are the options? Some are good, some not so good.

Stay with NBC and show part of the schedule on USA network. The first Harvest Grand Prix was on USA in October. USA is in about six million more households than NBCSN. There are advantages to a network with more potential viewers. I actually had to find which channel number USA is on my provider to record the race. Normally, I never watch it. How long will it take viewers to find it? For 2021, a record nine races will be on NBC and eight are on NBCSN. Will NBC keep nine races on its flagship channel going forward?

Streaming options- Peacock, You Tube, and other streaming services have been mentioned. How will this affect the older die hard fans who may not be as tech savvy as the younger, more casual fans? I still don’t understand how streaming works and how you get it on a television set.

A different network? I would really prefer not to return to ABC. Their race broadcasts were not very good, they treated Indycar as an afterthought, and I found myself muting the television and listening to the radio broadcast most of the time.

Could CBS have an interest? I remember watching a few races on CBS in the 70s. I know things have changed drastically since then. I recall being singularly unimpressed with camera angles and the booth not keeping track of the race.

Whoever Indycar choses or their broadcast partner or partners, I would like to see the same announcing team for all races to provoide continuity. I hope the series can keep Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Rick DeBruhl, Katie Kiel, and bring back Jon Beekhuis.

Once again, Indycar fans have to go through some uncertainty regarding where to atch the races on television. I have faith in Roger penske and the Indycar team that they will fuind the best option possible. I am also aware that not everyone will be happy with the final decision.

Some Words of Thanks

In as difficult a year as 2020 has been, I have a deeper appreciation of the things for which I am thankful. The pandemic changed our lives in many ways, yet we somehow figured out ways to cope. The following is a list of things for which I am thankful- not all related to racing.

First I thank everyone who has read this humble blog this year. Readership has already smashed last year’s 12 month total by nearly 50%. I appreciate each of you who has found something worthwhile here as I complete my fourth full year. Hard to believe The Pit Window will turn five in May.

Thank you to the Creative Writing Class at the Life Enrichment Center in Tampa, Florida. Without them , this blog does not exist. You all are my inspiration. I am grateful every day that I discovered this class.

Now on to the racing thank yous:

First to Roger Penske and mark Miles for somehow crafting a credible season from the myriad restrictions all the municipalities and government agency restrictions put in place this year. As always, I am so thankful that he bought the series at the end of 2019. I can’t imagine anyone else who could have weathered this season this well.

Thank you to the promoters who worked with Indycar to create a reasonable amount of races for the season.

Thanks to Jay Frye and Indycar for their tireless efforts to advance safety and to try to improve the racing.

Much thanks goes to the AMR Safety Team. Without them the races could not go on.

Thanks to NBC for working Indycar’s rescheduled races into their schedules and expanding next year’s lineup on NBC.

Thanks to Doug Boles for getting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through what had to be a frustrating and challenging time.

Thank you to those few in the Indycar media who were able to cover races in person. I know circumstances were challenging, but the coverage was seamless. I hope I can rejoin you in 2021.

Thank you to all my racing friends. Knowing yoi and spending time with you at the track is time I truly treasure. I hope at some point in 2021 we can all meet at one track again.

Finally, I am thankful that my household is well, and that my closest friends who contracted COVID have recovered.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe and well.

Season Review: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Photo: Joe Skibinski, Indycar

It feels good to say that it’s time to review the 2020 Indycar season. It’s great that there was a season. All was in doubt for Roger Penske’s first year as owner of the NTT Indycar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the opening race at St. Pete was cancelled in March. After six schedule revisions, renegotiated deals, and guidance from state and local health officials, the season took place. Three race had no fans in attendance, and the other races had a limited number of fans allowed. Fans owe a huge amount of thanks to Penske, Indycar, and IMS for getting a credible schedule together for this year. Also a thank you to NBC Sports for working out broadcast windows for all the races

It was not too bad a season. There could have been more passing on the ovals, but the racing on the road and street courses was really good. Here are the things that stood out to me in 2020. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about individual teams and drivers.

Dixon, Power Move Closer to Career Leaders

Scott Dixon won his 50th career race at World Wide technology Raceway in August. He began the season winning the first three races. After a driver has won three in a season, the odds of winning a fourth go down dramatically. I expected we would have to wait until 2021 to see Dixon win number 50. He accomplished the feat the week after the Indianapolis 500, where he was the favorite and finished second. The nice thing is he won his 50th with fans present. Dixon is just two wins behind Mario Andretti in total victories. He should at least tie Andretti next season.

Will Power last year thought that reaching Andretti’s mark of 67 poles would be a difficult task. Power didn’t think it possible to win more than three poles a year with the competition as close as it is. He took five poles this season to end up within five of the career record. I can’t see A.J. Foyt’s mark of 67 wins ever being topped, but I can see Power going past Andretti for career poles.

Indycar’s Youth Movement Shows Talent

Drivers with less than two years of experience coming into the season had some brilliant moments. Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay each won a pole, Felix Rosenqvist and Colton Herta each won a race , and six podiums shared by eight of the youngest drivers in the series means Indycar has some talent waiting to get their due. This season belonged mainly to the veterans, but this talented group will be near the front consistently soon.

Dixon vs. Newgarden

Is this the new Foyt vs. Andretti rivalry? Six time champion Dixon and two time champion Newgarden have split the last four titles. It’s nice that they have alternated years. Until Dixon chooses to retire, this will be the matchup to watch. Most people, including me, thought the rivalry of the future would be Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. Rossi may enter the picture again, but he will need to come back strong next season if he wants to join this battle.

Aeroscreen Proves Its Need

A frightening crash in race 1 at Iowa proved that Indycar made the right call going with the aeroscreen instead of a halo. As the field was set to go green. Colton Herta’s car hit the car in front of him and became airborne. He landed nearly on top of Rinus VeeKay. The nose of Herta’s car hit the op of th aeroscreen. The screen also prevented a piece of debris from entering the cockpit of Marcus Ericsson’s car.

While the aeroscreen is not aesthetically pleasing, it is a great advance in safety. I think it will have a better appearance on the new chassis in 2023, wher it will be built into the design.

Best Races

Strictly my opinion, but the best races of the year were The Harvest Grand Prix Race 1, Iowa race 1, both races at Road America, and The finale Sunday at St. Pete.

The Indianapolis 500 was better than I expected, but it was not as good as it has been the last few years. Not having fans in attendance detracted from the event.

. The weather forecast looks dicey for running.

6 Thousand Fan Limit for Mid Ohio

A news release from Mid Ohio a few minutes ago:


After working with the Ohio Governor’s office and local health officials to confirm a reschedule date, INDYCAR and Green Savoree Racing Promotions have released the details and protocols for limited spectator attendance at The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course set for this weekend, September 11-13.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today that a variance to the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order has been granted for a total up to 6,000 spectators to attend. Currently purchased event tickets and Mid-Ohio Season Race Passes will be valid for entry. A very limited number of tickets remain for sale at midohio.com on a first come, first serve basis. No tickets will be available for purchase at the gate during the race weekend.
“We greatly appreciate Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership and support in granting the variance to the sports order to allow a limited number of spectators to attend The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this weekend,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions. “Our team would also like to thank Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Interim Health Director Lance Himes and Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg for their guidance and time to review our plans.” 
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be a doubleheader weekend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with 75-lap races on both Saturday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 13, on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio. NBC Sports coverage of the doubleheader weekend will begin Saturday with Race 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continue with Sunday’s Race 2 coverage on NBC at 1:00 p.m. ET. Practice and qualifying sessions will be available for live streaming on NBC Sports Gold. 
“We’re looking forward to an exciting NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Green Savoree has been an outstanding partner throughout this process, working diligently with the Ohio Governor’s office to ensure the right protocols and procedures are in place to host a limited number of spectators,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO, Penske Entertainment Corp. “Our doubleheader will provide an action-packed and thrilling experience for fans on site and viewers tuning in via NBCSN on Saturday and NBC on Sunday.”
In accordance with Ohio’s statewide mask mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is required to wear facial coverings while indoors or outdoors on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course property. All spectators will enter the facility through Gate 1. They will also be subject to a temperature check and health screening upon entry. The CDC’s recommended guideline of at least six feet of social distancing must be maintained while on property.
Limited tickets are available online only on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets will not be available for purchase at the gate.
“It’s exciting to open our gates to fans again this weekend. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is one of Ohio’s premier annual events,” said Craig Rust, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. “For those who attend, we ask for everyone’s cooperation and adherence to all the COVID-19 protocols which will be in place to make this a great weekend for us all.”
Fans should visit midohio.com/covid19 for more information on the essential health and safety protocols and social distancing procedures. Additional answers to common questions can be found at midohio.com/covid19faq as well as information for those who had purchased grandstand seats, paddock and pit passes since these areas will be closed during The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Indianapolis 500 Schedule-Some New Times, More Than 7 Hours on NBC

First, my condolences to the family of Maurice Petty, who died Saturday at age 81. The master engine builder and brother of Richard Petty was a cornerstone of racing in the 60s. It has been a tough few days in the auto racing world with the loss of Chuck Hulse and Ralph Liguori as well.

The time schedule for every day of Indianapolis 500 activity is out. NBC will more than seven hours of track time including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.  NBC will qualifying on Saturday, August 15, from 3-5 pm ET, and the network returns Sunday for the last row shootout beginning at 1 pm. The Fast Nine follows on NBC from 1:45-2:30. The rest of qualifying can be seen on either NBC Gold or NBCSN.

Opening Day Tuesday August 11, is a short day. Veterans practice from 11-1, and Rookie Orientation runs from 1-4. Wednesday through Friday practice times have changed from the traditional times. Practice runs from 12:30-5:30 each day.

The track is open to the public every day, but only at 25% capacity. The only day I see this as a possible issue is Carb Day. Many fans who have chosen not to attend the race may be coming out on the Friday before the race as their only  chance to see the field of 33 on track.

Tuesday Aug. 11

11-1 pm – Veterans Practice NBC Gold

1-4 pm – Rookie Orientation/Veterans Refresher Programs NBC Gold

Wednesday Aug. 12 – Friday Aug. 14

12:30-5:30 pm – Practice NBC Gold

Saturday Aug. 15

8:30-9:30 am – Practice NBC Gold

11-6 pm – Quals (NBC Gold coverage 11-3, NBC 3-5, NBCSN 5-6

Sunday Aug. 16

10-10:30 am – Last chance practice NBC Gold

10:30-11 am – Fast Nine practice NBC Gold

12:30-1:45 pm – Last Row Shootout (NBC at 1 pm)

1:45-2:30 pm – Fast Nine Shootout NBC

4:15-6 pm – Practice NBCSN

Friday Aug. 21 (Carb Day)

11-1 pm – Final practice NBCSN

Sunday Aug. 23 (Race Day)

2:30 pm – 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 NBC

Qualifying Still Needs to be Fixed

The series and the Speedway are sending mixed messages with the qualifying format. Last year the 25 guaranteed spots argument was laid to rest, but what about the fastest 33? It is difficult if not impossible to get the Fastest 33 if drivers are going to be locked in on Saturday. In 2019, Fernando Alonso didn’t make the race, but his time was faster than the 30th qualifier, who was deemed safe. I don’t necessarily have an issue with a last chance qualifying on Sunday, but the cars involved should be able to defend after they are bumped. The slowest car in the entire field Saturday should be in jeopardy and have a chance to defend itself Sunday as well. This is the only way to have the Fastest 33 in the current climate.

Time for the extra runs can be made available by eliminating the Fast Nine. Like inter-league play in baseball and the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star Game, this is a concept that has outlived its usefulness. There can be plenty of drama in a pole fight late Saturday afternoon. I thought Conor Daly winning the pole at Iowa last Friday was pretty dramatic.

Let’s Play Two!

We could see two more double headers added to the season schedule. There likely will be no racing on the west coast this year. Mid Ohio news trickled out yesterday, and Gateway may announce today. The Harvest Classic at IMS may also end being pluralized.

I remain skeptical of St. Pete running. The season finale may be at IMS.

 

The Greatest 33 Non-Winners: Final Grid- A Reader Request Post

Editor’s Note: This is the first reader request; originally published May 9, 2017

What a fun project this turned out to be! It was fascinating seeing how much those who submitted grids both agreed and disagreed. Some drivers got just one mention, while others appeared on every ballot.  There was near unanimous placement for some drivers, and some drivers were near the front on some grids and near the back on others. The driver nearly everyone agreed should be on the pole is Michael Andretti (pictured above, from 1992).

I  noticed the rankings were along age lines. Older fans close to my age seemed to have near identical grids,  and younger fans as a group submitted similar lineups.  Many drivers from long ago in general fared better on the lists from the older group. I was surprised how well the current drivers stacked up against the racers of the past. Another interesting detail is that all 50 driver finalists had at least one mention. I didn’t expect that.

To rank the drivers, I assigned points to the drivers corresponding to their spot on each person’s grid. A driver on pole got 1 point, the last driver got 33. If a driver was listed on pole on five grids, his total was 5. The lowest total won the pole. If a driver did not appear on someone’s grid, he/she was given 34 points. To my shock, there were only two ties. I resolved placement by averaged each driver’s highest and lowest rank of all the grades, with the lowest average getting the higher spot. One of the ties was for 32nd and 33rd. It was just like qualifying for the 1963 500.

The front row- Michael Andretti, Rex Mays, and Ted Horn, is strong. These drivers were in the top 10 on everyone’s grid. Andretti led 431 laps, the most by any non-winning driver. he started on the front row three times and had 5 top 5 finishes.  Rex Mays, in the middle of the front row is the only other driver to lead more than 200 laps and not win. Mays was on the pole four times. Ted Horn, on the outside of the front row, finished in the top five 9 times in 10 starts.

So here they are, the Greatest 33 Non-Winners of the Indianapolis 500:

Row 1

Michael Andretti

Rex Mays

Ted Horn

Row 2

Harry Hartz

Marco Andretti

Lloyd Ruby

Row 3

Gary Bettenhausen

Ralph Hepburn

Roberto Guerrero

Row 4

Scott Goodyear

Carlos Munoz

Robby Gordon

Row 5

Eddie Sachs

Tony Stewart

Jack McGrath

Row 6

Wally Dallenbach

Tomas Sheckter

Will Power

Row 7

Danica Patrick

Tony Bettenhausen

Joe Leonard

Row 8

Jimmy Snyder

Ed Carpenter

Danny Ongais

Row 9

Pancho Carter

Mel Kenyon

Kevin Cogan

Row 10

Vitor Meira

Russ Snowberger

Paul Russo

Row 11

Tom Alley

Johnny Thomson

George Snider

it’s kind of fitting that Snider is last on the grid. his trademark was jumping into a car on Bump Day and getting into the field starting near the back. Thanks to everyone who submitted a grid. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and reasoning as to how yo put your grids together.

I will be back tomorrow with some 500 news and a report on my visit to the A. J. Foyt exhibit at the Speedway Museum. The cars were great to see, but the memorabilia was even more amazing to me. Thursday I will have my Indianapolis Grand Prix preview with my normally inaccurate winner’s prediction.