Wednesday, March 14, 2012

INDYCAR Mailbag: Conway and Viso

Our IndyCar preseason fan survey definitely elicited some feedback, both on Twitter and via email. Most folks really seemed to enjoy the survey; a few had a couple of issues with the results, but hey, that’s just how the fans voted. We received a couple of nice emails, so I received permission to publish both. As always, if you have a question or observation and don’t want to just leave it in the comments section, feel free to email me at mail.rpgblog(at) I love talking INDYCAR (and love getting email about it, too), so don’t be shy! Here are the letters:

I really liked the survey, yet I’m a little surprised that more fans didn’t select Mike Conway to win the road course championship. He showed how dominant he could be at last year’s Long Beach race, and everyone’s pretty high on him as a racer. I thought the Foyts made a great investment choosing him for their car this year. Don’t be surprised if he upsets some of the favorites and finishes at the top.

James B.
Anderson, Indiana

Ah, Mike Conway. The man with the 7 bpm heart rate. I’m pretty sure you could set firecrackers off in his inner ear, and it wouldn’t phase him. That’s good news since he’s working with A.J. Foyt, isn’t it?

Seriously, though, I liked the pick of Conway as Foyt Racing’s driver. That team was looking for someone who could give them a good shot on a street-and-road-heavy schedule, and Conway has shown in the past he can do just that. Don’t forget, Foyt also upgraded their engineering situation in the offseason, after seemingly lagging behind their competitors in that department for the last few seasons.

Bottom line, Conway can win a couple of races this year, but I’m not quite sold on him for the road and street championship. For one, this is still a new partnership with Foyt, and there will undoubtedly be some bugs to be worked out. The top competitors for that title, such as Dario Franchitti and Will Power, have now been with their teams for a nice string of consecutive seasons. Plus, Conway has a tendency to disappear for stretches. He’ll look tremendous for a couple of races, then it seems like you don’t hear anything from him for a stretch. I think he can finish high up in the standing for the Mario Andretti Trophy, but a championship run is probably a bit much to expect for this season. If he can put together a serious string of top finishes like Franchitti or Scott Dixon have shown they’re capable of, then we can definitely revisit this one.

Our second excerpt is from a letter from Brad, who doesn’t think much of E.J. Viso’s chances this year:

Do people seriously think E.J. Viso will improve this year? All he’s done is make a big carbon-fibery mess year after year. If you want someone due for improvement, look towards James Hinchcliffe or Graham Rahal. I think they’ll both have big seasons. I really just don’t see it for E.J.

Brad Baker
Columbus, Ohio

Personally, Brad, I’ve seen both sides of it: people who think Viso can do nothing right, and those who believe that either he’s due for a breakthrough or that having Rubens Barrichello on the team will cause vast improvement. I hate to sound wishy-washy, but I guess I’ll take the middle road on this one. There’s no doubt in my mind that E.J. can win a race in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He’s been close before. However, that’s overshadowed by what’s been perceived a lack of positive on-track consistency over the years. It’s always seemed to me that E.J. is the sort of driver that can look amazing the first three-quarters of a race, then have that moment where it all goes down the tubes in the blink of an eye.

While you’re right in stating Hinch or Rahal could have big seasons this year, I don’t think precludes Viso having a decent year as well. In a lot of ways, I see him in much the same light as one of his former teammates, Takuma Sato: they both have the ability to be very fast, but if they want to win, they need to put together that “complete race”. That’s a big part of what Viso has been lacking up to this point.

I may be going against the grain on this, but keep in mind E.J. is still only 26; there’s time yet to turn it all around. But I also think it’s important he shows some manner of apparent improvement this year; in his first four years in IndyCar, he’s finished P18 in the final standings 3 out of the 4 years. And that's not the sort of positive consistency I mentioned earlier!

(P.S.: I think "carbon-fibery" might be a new favorite word of mine. Nicely done).

Thanks for the comments, and please feel free to drop me a line anytime!

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