Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Notebook: Dinger, Viso, Jakes, MRTI, Etc.

-I suppose we need to start with AJ Allmendinger testing a car for Roger Penske as the biggest curveball we were thrown yesterday. Whether it's just for a warm-up race or two plus Indy or turns into something more, it will be fun to see Allmendinger get a chance to run Indy in a top ride. His ChampCar season in 2006 was nothing short of magical, and what he's done in sports cars needs no introduction. Fans can discuss his NASCAR career foolishness with the banned substances, but what I see is a very good multi-discipline driver who's going to get to test himself against an entire series' worth of multi-discipline drivers. That's going to be a blast, assuming the initial test goes well.

-If we’re being honest, EJ Viso’s first few years in IndyCar did not help his reputation at all. He was a fast driver, but extremely prone to mistakes and having the “DNF” by his name after a race. However, we’ve seen a big change in the driver, even if a lot of fans still cling to the concept of the 2007-2010 Viso. Yet last year, he only had 3 DNFs, and only one from a crash. I firmly believe Viso is fast enough to win in IndyCar, and could have a much better season this year. He just needs to keep showing Hopefully, he has someone in his ear during the races keeping him grounded, which I think was successful early last year when Jimmy Vasser was in that role.

To the fans who don’t care for him, Viso might always be seen as just some reckless ride buyer. But I think he’s more than that, and I think that’s what we’ll see this year. Call me on it if I’m wrong.

-I wrote an article for INDYCAR Nation this week on James Jakes, and how this will be his best opportunity yet to prove what he can do. I was a bit surprised to see him land that Rahal seat, especially since it looked like it was going part-time, but it will definitely present us with an interesting comparison this year: Graham Rahal, one of the most well-known drivers in the Series, and Jakes, who has had a fairly quiet two years so far in IndyCar.

-The situation doesn’t look too hot for Ryan Briscoe just now. Only the Coyne seats, and potentially one at Dragon, remain. Most folks still expect Justin Wilson to be in the first Coyne car, so that narrows the field even more. Might Briscoe be an Indy-only sort of driver this season? It certainly seems that way more than it did a week ago. We’ll have to hope we have some positive late-breaking news for him.

-This week has been a reminder of just how quickly our perceptions of what’s going on with silly season change. All we can do is hold on and try and ride the wave.

-I knew it--you're ready for some for some Mazda Road to Indy (MRTI) updates, aren't you? Well, if you weren't paying attention this week, USF2000's pre-season Winterfest event kicked off this week. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing is looking strong again, with Californian Neil Alberico finishing first in the first three races of the week. Teammate Scott Hargrove finished P2 in each of the first three Sebring rounds. Rounds 4-5-6 will take place at Palm Beach this weekend, and can be followed via live timing at the USF2000 website.

So, can anyone catch Cape Motorsports this year? No doubt they look formidable, but let's not forget guys like Andretti's Garret Grist, JDC Motorsports' Stefan Rzadzinski, and Belardi's Peter Portante, among many others. Cape has the upper hand now, but the other teams will do their best to get their licks in. It won't be easy, and it's going to require both speed, patience, and a bit of luck. But it can be done.

-Finally, I had my annual 5 minutes of celebrity on Trackside's Blogger Night last night. If you missed it, you can take a listen here. I was third in the batting order. Thanks to Kevin and Curt for having me on.

Have a great weekend, and we'll catch up on Monday.

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