Monday, October 21, 2013

MAVTV 500 Notebook

-My goodness, let's just start with acknowledging that's one of the craziest races we'll ever see. We talk about "races of attrition", but that was the real deal Saturday night. It wasn't from driver error, it was just teams desperately doing everything they could to make these cars last 500 miles. It the race only goes 400 miles, it's a different discussion we're having today. But instead, there was this immense tension, as car after car failed and faltered. I thought Will Power's victory was one of the most well-earned, hard-fought wins I've seen from him. He had every right to be proud of that one. 

-As for the title, there's not a lot one can say about Scott Dixon that hasn't already been said. He's already at a Hall of Fame level, and he's still in the prime of his racing career. This year's title saw him overcome bad luck both early and late, and be his usual awesome self to finish the season. He is a rare talent, and it's always fantastic to watch someone on the top of their game. 

Your 2013 Champ.
Courtesy IndyCar Media. Image by Chris Jones. 
-For Helio Castroneves, it just wasn't meant to be this year. That team fought, and even came back from a couple of mistakes in the race to keep the issue in doubt far longer than we thought, but this just wasn't the sort of race he needed. Who knows--maybe he'll win #4 at the Indy 500 next year, which would probably take the sting out of this one.

-Did you see the debris and garbage coming out of those intakes? On TV, it sounded and looked like the race was taking place in a mix between the 1930s Dust Bowl and a rather large, unsettled landfill. It was so bad, this guy was seen threatening Robin Miller after the race (I got your back, fellow Star Wars nerds). 

Despite that, I love Fontana as any IndyCar track. It's produced fine racing and exciting finishes in the last two years, and in my mind, is a lot of what a 500-miler should represent--a fast and formidable technical challenge. 

-In the day's earlier contest, Sage Karam held on to become your 2013 Firestone Indy Lights champion. The big question now is what form we'll see Karam's 2014 IndyCar season take. Will he run Indy-only, a couple of IndyCar races while returning to Lights for a bit, or will he be half-time or greater in IndyCar? At only 18, he's young, and we'll be watching to see what his learning curve is out there. Massive congratulations to him--he's had a whirlwind year.

-Andretti Autosport didn't win the race, but I thought it was a massive and very positive weekend for them all the same. United Fiber and Data is on board to sponsor James Hinchcliffe, Hinch himself is back for 2014, with an option for 2015, UFD is also sponsoring Matthew Brabham in Firestone Indy Lights, and Zach Veach will return, as well. Dr. Pepper-Snapple will be back on Marco Andretti's car and as an associate sponsor on the other cars. Of course, there's also the switch to Honda, which should make them go from struggling for notice behind Ganassi and Penske at Chevy to a top program for their new manufacturer. 

-Dumbest thing of the weekend: Seeing folks online complain because they didn't "know" UFD or didn't see why they were sponsoring an IndyCar. Besides from the fact that sort of complaint belies a basic ignorance at how the entire sponsorship thing works,hey, it's a sponsor, and they're backing one of IndyCar's most popular driving talents. This is not a reason to gripe in any sense. 

-Carlos Munoz. He's exciting to watch, isn't he? Carlos is super-aggressive, but that was a run to remember until he lost it. He's going to be a lot of fun to watch as an IndyCar rookie in 2014. Consider that another potential feather in the hat for Andretti Autosport.

-Of course, we don't want to go too long without wishing Justin Wilson a speedy recovery from Saturday's nasty wreck. Aside from being one of the nicest guys in the paddock, he's one of the best pure all-around racers in all of IndyCar (and beyond!). An impact like that is always scary. Let's take a minute to thank Dallara and the research that has come before. These cars haven't been 100% perfect, but they've been vastly safer than their predecessors. Not only that, but the racing has been incredible throughout. Some folks will never like these cars, but I'm all for them.

-Was that the last we'll see of Panther Racing? Team attrition is a regular part of motorsport, but I'm just not sure what that team is going to do without the National Guard sponsorship. That was an awful lot of money--twice or more what some teams operate on. Can that team trim the fat, or is that it?

-Congratulations to Jody Karam--not only was his son our Firestone Indy Lights champ, he won the IndyCar Advocate Fantasy Racing contest! Thanks to everyone for playing in our very no-frills league--it was a good fight to the very end. 

-Once again, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of this site this year. I love IndyCar, and getting to write about it and converse with all of you on the same is a genuine privilege. We're living in a time of amazing racing, where records are continually threatened, and the sports is as thrilling on-track as it has ever been, even through all the challenges. I wouldn't trade the experience for the world, and everyone who has take the time to read, comment, or participate in this site is a huge part of that. So, again, thank you, and I'm looking forward to what's ahead. 

-I guess I would say in this offseason, if you're just a seasonal reader, and you will be scarce until spring, I hope you have a great fall and winter. We all have the ability to make this sport better, by taking a minute to thank sponsors, by highlighting the positives instead of searching out ways to complain, by offering positive feedback when and where it counts, and by simply remembering that we're privileged and blessed daily to even be in a position to enjoy a racing afternoon, be it in front of the TV or at the track. We can't control everything, but when we act in the positive, that does a lot more than coming up with a laundry list of complaints, listening to the same jaded, tired carping, or spending hours dourly anticipating the end. You can be someone on the sidelines, feeling entitled and lobbing grenades when things don't fit your ideal, or you can be part of the overall solution, doing what you can to share a real love of this sport. Guys, this sport kicks so much ass, and even when it isn't perfect, there are drivers to interact with, quality racing to watch, sponsors to thank, and projects for the IndyCar community to be done. Find your passion, work at it and enjoy it.

Other Notes: She didn't have the night she wanted on track, but thanks to Pippa Mann for her work in the Firestone Indy Lights booth this year. For those of us Lights fans not at the track, that was our lifeline every race weekend...Charlie Kimball's night didn't end how he wanted, but as a fan, I'm excited with his progress this year. I don't think he's many years off from contending for a title...It was the sort of night where Simona de Silvestro could be involved in a massive wreck, go several laps down, and still finish P8 for her best oval finish ever. Won't it be interesting to see where she ends up for 2014?...We pretty much knew Ed Carpenter would be around at the end, didn't we? Let's see if that team expands for 2014...Did Alex Tagliani hurt or help his chances of landing somewhere for 2014 this weekend? You know we'll see him somewhere for at least the Indy 500...Sebastien Bourdais was another guy who had a great run going before late disappointment. I'm hoping he's going into a good, solid situation at KVSH next year...If I had a two-car team and some funding, I could do far worse than hiring Oriol Servia and J.R. Hildebrand...Congrats to Chevy on securing the Manufacturer's Championship. Honda make a strong effort in the second half of the year, but they'll have to try again with a new roster next year...There is probably plenty more to discuss, but we have a whole offseason to do so. 


  1. Great article as always, Zachary. There is indeed so much to talk about. I was thrilled for Ed Carpenter; the last three season finales he has two wins and a second. What an oval maniac!

  2. He's a straight-up oval assassin, to be sure!