Monday, September 30, 2013

Beware Of IndyCar Fridays

There's nothing like an IndyCar Friday, is there? If there's going to be wild news during the week, 4 p.m. on Fridays seems to be the time for it. Take this last Friday. Just before most of us went home for the weekend last week, we learned:

-As expected, IZOD will not be back as title sponsor in 2014.

-Tony Kanaan is reportedly signing with Chip Ganassi for 2014;

-George Bignotti, very possibly the greatest mechanic in Indy 500 history, passed at the age of 97.

-A plague of locusts and a rain of fire descended on the Houston race location.

OK, I made that last one up, but IndyCar fans might be excused for believing it. One day, I'll check my email on a lazy Friday and find the following:

Ed Carpenter Racing, Dragon Racing to Combine Operatons; Marty Roth to Racing For DRECR As Fourth Indy Entry

or

Bigfoot Rampages Through Milwaukee Mile; Interrupts Test of New Andretti/Rahal/Hinchcliffe/Duno/Mayer Superteam

or

Robin Miller To Guest Star On "Duck Dynasty"

At this point, I'm not sure I'd blink an eye.

So where does all this news leave us? I guess first I'd tackle the IZOD news. It's been pretty evident for a while IZOD's parent company and IZOD itself have been moving away from motorsports involvement. They've been just about a non-presence in terms of activation and advertising for the last 18 months; that's not a dig, it's just the facts. I think it's pretty likely we see Verizon, Firestone, or another party announced as title or presenting sponsor fairly soon; whoever it is, I hope they have means and intent to really work well with IndyCar and activate for the series.

As for the Tony Kanaan news, the journalist response to the news was almost as exciting as the news itself. Robin Miller/Jenna Fryer powow aside, assuming the deal is finalized, that Ganassi team will look even better than this year. You'd have four race winners, and three drivers who have won the Indy 500 (no pressure or anything, Charlie). That's an absolutely loaded team. I'm also not sure where that leaves KV Racing; I have a hard time seeing Simona staying there as a single-car entry. Will the Chevy teams be seeing some musical chairs next year, and would she be a good fit for a second car and Ed Carpenter's team? You'd have to think she'd be a big help with the twisty results, in any case.

Regarding George Bignotti, the man definitely deserves his own article and coverage, and hopefully I'll get to provide that in a bit more detail here. Still, I do want to say a few words about him here. Finding winning Indy 500 chief mechanics are rare; finding ones that have multiple victories is even moreso, and George Bignotti pulled off the rarest feat of them all--chief mechanic on seven different Indy 500 winning entries. It wasn't just a single era, either--he won when the engines were still in the front, during the British Invasion, multiple times in the 70s, and even in the early 1980s with Tom Sneva. If you think of the amount of innovation and change he not only kept up with, but helped encourage, cultivate, and develop, his accomplishments become even more mind-boggling. It's a sad day for 500 fans, losing a legend like George Bignotti, but his impact will be remembered so long as 16th and Georgetown stands.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Thoughts On A May Road Course Race At IMS

What we have long known looked likely now is confirmed--May, 2014 will see IndyCars on the road course configuration at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Now, there are some folks who read that, and it has set their blood to boiling. Let me just preface the rest of this with the fact I am a HUGE student and fan of the history of the 500 and IMS. I love reading anything I can on the subject, and if I can find out more about an driver who started once in the 1920s, it's a great day. I absolutely revere the Speedway and it's history.

So I get people are upset that another race is being run in May at Indy. Tradition is immensely important to us. It's why many of us park in the same place, sit in the same section, scrutinize the execution of pre and post-race traditions, and carry those same expectation down to our children.

But IndyCar is a business, and in a business, you have to use your assets. With IMS, here IndyCar has a venue that's in the family. It also provides a chance to grab a title sponsor for a race at Indy, and some intriguing promotional capabilities besides. I'm pretty sure Mark Miles has made a calculated move here, one to bring some profit a series that could certainly use some.

We already had a race in May outside of Indy, just not at IMS. I hope this allows IMS to operate for a longer window in May, with more days of meaningful on-track action. (It should also be better on the teams than trying to turn around quickly for Indy from another venue). The road course fan in me (who sometimes does not get along with the oval fan) is curious to see what the tweaks are to the configuration of infield for that race. For me, more time watching open wheel racing at IMS is a good thing.

I totally understand if you are not happy with the decision of Mark Miles and company. I have my own reservations. But I'm also willing to see where this takes us. I can't imagine the Indy 500 ever being less special to me. The ultra-boring Brickyard 400 couldn't do that, and the F1 debacle couldn't, either.

The fans aren't coming out for practice and qualifications like they used to. Will this new race fix that? I don't know, but I'm willing to take a deep breath and find out.

This is going to be a passionate topic, but I think we're all well-served if we remember to have some courtesy and understanding along with our passion for the topic. Good race fans can disagree, after all.

Monday, September 23, 2013

IndyCar Mailbag: Dempsey, IndyCar Championship

I wrote a piece for INDYCAR Nation last week opining on Peter Dempsey's odds in making it in IndyCar, and I received a nice email from someone on it. I thought I'd answer over here, and that makes it an occasion for another IndyCar Mailbag! That's right, just like Robin Miller's Mailbag, but with 100% fewer people crying about the lack of Novis in the field.

Hey Zach, loved your article on Peter Dempsey. His win on Carb Day was among my favorite moments ever at the track. I know he's been in the minors/ladder for a while now, but is there seriously any openings for him in the year to come? I'd really like to see him at least at Indianapolis or Fontana. I hope we see more articles on 2014 IndyCar soon! 

-Wayne C.
Marion, IN

My buddy Steve Wittich (who is doing incredible work over at OpenWheelWorld; add it to your daily reads if it isn't already), made a great observation the other day: at this time of year, it seems like all the Firestone Indy Lights drivers have "something cooking" for 2014. Isn't that the truth? 

In reality, it's tough to peg down at this point just where someone's going to be. I expect teams such as KV Racing to possibly have a seat open (although precisely what they're doing, if anything next year, still seems up in the air), and of course, there's always the second Coyne car, which is great for getting seat time for rookies and veterans alike. I don't think we'll see more than 1-2 cars added next year, if that, but you'd think an Indy deal would be a possibility for him. I'll be honest: I don't the guy's financial status and backing, any more than you do. My gut tells me we'll see him at some point next year, but I balk pretty hard at seeing anything full-time offhand. I'd love to be 100% on the latter portion of that statement. Peter Dempsey would be great fun to watch in IndyCar, and I'd say he's earned his shot. 

Anyhow, here's one from a week ago that's a pretty good question in its own rights.

So how many drivers are still seriously in the championship hunt?

-James Kern

I've seen some confusion about this in recent weeks online, so let's go over the basics first. Technically, there are 10 drivers still eligible for the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, and Charlie Kimball. Note I wrote "technically". While Will Power and Charlie Kimball are mathematically eligible, for example, they're 130 and 138 points behind Helio Castroneves, which means they'd have to sweep Houston and have most of the other competitors be swallowed by a freak Houston sinkhole to have a puncher's chance going into the finale at Fontana.

Out of the current competitors, I really limit it to the Top 5 of Helio, Dixie, Simon, Marco, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. 74 points separates these competitors, and after RHR, there's a 34-point dropoff next to Wilson (though Justin should be very good at Houston). If a driver wins a race, he'll be scoring 50 points, plus the bonus for laps led and/or pole. So, assuming guys like Helio and Dixon aren't going to completely wipe out in both races, their nearest competitors aren't going to gain 100 points on the weekend. Really, though, it's all about Helio: if he just finishes Top 10 in both races, he's probably ok, unless one of the four guys I mention go on a tear in both races.

The magic number for someone to have an arguably decent chance going into the last race is probably a 25-30 point differential--that's what I'd call "striking distance". I suspect you'll see all but 4-5 drivers eliminated by the time we get to Fontana. Look for those drivers able to close the gap enough where they don't need to both win and have Helio finish dead last at Fontana to make the victory happen.

As always, thank you for the emails. Questions, comments, concerns can be sent to mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com. Now if you'll excuse me, I just saw an email come in with the subject line "WHERE IS THE NOVI??!>!!!?!!!?". Uh oh...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Foyt Friday

It feels like it's time for Foyt Friday. Doesn't it feel like a Foyt Friday? Here's some of AJ Foyt's 1987 Indy 500 qualifying run--his 30th straight!:


Here's a short clip teaser from Speed Channel (RIP) on AJ Foyt Racing




Additionally, thanks for making this week's articles among the most-viewed in the site's history. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tweeting The First Indy 500

Twitter, the Monday before the race, May 29, 1911 (right-click to download):


(Image also found here)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Someone To Cheer Against

The world of IndyCar received an absolute bombshell yesterday, with Penske Racing announcing Juan Pablo Montoya will be running the #2 car in 2014. I’m thrilled that we’re getting an additional car for next season, and I’m even more thrilled it’s someone I don’t like.

Does that seem strange? I don’t think it is, really. In any sport, having a team to cheer against is almost as important as having a team to cheer for. In basketball, for most of the league, it’s the Miami Heat. In baseball, it’s usually the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, depending on your geographic situation. In football, both college and professional, any number of rivalries—Notre Dame/USC, Ohio State/Michigan--exist that reach the level of extreme animosity when two enemy teams clash.

In IndyCar, I often find myself happy with just about anyone winning. I like almost the entire field, or at least, don’t mind most of them. There are very few drivers that bug me in any sense, or I find myself rooting against.

That is not the case with Juan Pablo Montoya. I do not like JPM. At all. I dislike him as a driver, with all the illogical loathing a sports fan can muster. For me, he is the quintessential black hat, as lovable as rickets, as charming as that guy in the neighborhood who lets his dog do his business on everyone’s front step.

Now, I understand that some of you reading this may be Juan Pablo Montoya apologists, or possibly even fans. Please understand, I fully get that I am completely irrational when it comes to this subject. You can bring me story after story of JPM feeding orphans, buying prosthetic limbs for Korean War veterans, or spending his free time miraculously healing lepers. It’s not going to change anything. My disdain for Juan Pablo Montoya is storied and deep, and includes:

-2000, when he dominated the Indy 500, I was irritated that he a) dominated the race, and b) seemed to think that it was absolute child’s play. Worst of all, he beat out the driver that I had in our pool (Buddy Lazier). If he runs Indy next year, I will be hoping his average 500 finish drops to 17.0.

-If you’ve seen him at the track, you will likely concur his demeanor, friendliness and attitude are generally found severely wanting compared to what we get from most of our IndyCar drivers. To put it more succinctly, the guy can be a massive tool.

-This.

-I’ve watched him drive recklessly in Grand-Am, ruining the championship chances of other teams, and possibly being the last straw that caused one of Grand-Am’s big boosters to depart.

-Implied his bad guy reputation was due not to his bowling ball impersonation in NASCAR, but thanks to xenophobia (which, admittedly, would be a massively stupid reason not to like a driver, but it doesn’t seem to hurt Marcos Ambrose any).

-The last time I saw any NASCAR race on television, it was the precise moment Montoya was crashing into a jet dryer. Admittedly, that was sort of cool, but not for the right reasons.

Now? Now he’s joining Penske Racing. Penske. No, it couldn’t be some startup team, where I could watch him tool around in P18, doomed to toil in IndyCar Purgatory. It’s Penske. Where he’ll probably use all that racing talent and perform way too well for my liking. I won’t even touch the fact he’ll probably have a top-shelf car for Indianapolis. I might need a hip flask this May.

Ultimately, cheering for or against a driver doesn’t have to be logical (my mom was a Little Al fan, if I recall, because he had a baby face). That’s how it is with me and Juan Pablo Montoya. I don’t like him, I probably never will, and that’s all there is to it. I’m thrilled he’s on his way to IndyCar. I imagine I’ll probably get mad when he does well, and will delight when Scott Dixon or Ryan Hunter-Reay kick his butt. I recognize on one level, he’s a guy with kids and a family (like me), and someone who has won in American open wheel, NASCAR, and Formula 1 (very much unlike me). I have a massive amount of respect for his prior accomplishments. But when he’s on that track, all I can tell you is, it’s war.

I think it’s fantastic you’re joining IndyCar next year, Juan Pablo Montoya. I’ll be cheering against you every step of the way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fan Stories: EJ Viso

I asked IndyCar fans to share their best interaction with the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy. We'll be sharing the best of those stories over the remainder of the season. Today's story is from fan Dave Brown:

EJ Viso has been in IndyCar for several years now, and I didn't much care for the guy when I first met him. I didn't like what was going on out on the track, and didn't know much else about him. He was part of that really horrible season KV Racing had in 2010, after all. But the last few years at Mid-Ohio, I got to talk to EJ, and again at Indianapolis last year. He was really friendly, and when I showed him a photo I had taken of him at Indy from the last year, he was really interested and signed it for me. He was also the first driver my wife got to interact with thanks to an autograph session, and so now he's her favorite, win or lose.

Folks always talk about how funny guys like James Hinchcliffe are, and I've seen him and Josef Newgarden be absolutely hilarious with fans. But EJ is funny, too, and even with English not being his second language, I hear him say some quirky things now and again. I think it was Milwaukee last year where I wished him luck, and he said "I better have some, or I am so screwed". The delivery was so deadpan, all of us listening burst into laughter.

People always say you get one chance at a first impression. I'm glad that my impression of EJ Viso has changed, and I hope Andretti Autosport keeps him around. He is a nice guy, and has done a good job as a teammate and driver.

-Dave Brown
Richmond, IN

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Notebook: Road Course, Dixon, TK, Servia, Ladder, and More

-For a September that's supposed to be quiet, there sure is a lot going on. I thought I'd take a minute to chat about some of the items we've seen in the last week.

-The jury still seems out on a race on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and nearly a week after the test (thought it was best to let this one percolate for awhile), I still don't know what I think. On one hand, I could see the race filling a gap and making sense financially. On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of the current road course at Indy. If anything, having the Brickyard on the road course would make more sense, since NASCAR isn't particularly suited to the oval there. But back to IndyCar, I just don't know on this one. I think it could work, but I think there would need to be a lot of additional activities to draw the fans in. I'd be there, but I think casual fans would need convincing. I think I'll just leave it there for now.

-Scott Dixon's $30,000 fine for his comments at Baltimore is something he'll be able to work off, and I'm glad it sounds as if he's calmed down a bit. Honestly, it's almost a good thing that folks have a month to cool down before Houston. I hate the gap in the schedule, and I love emotion from drivers, but there's a difference between a scrap after a tough hit and seriously going after race officials. There's a right way and a wrong way to lobby for change. I was always told "praise in public, punish in private", and I think that largely applies to criticism, too.

-Congrats to Alex Baron for winning in his USF2000 debut this past weekend. In a season that has been dominated by Cape Motorsports, Afterburner Autosport absolutely cleaned up in that one. Baron was French F4 champ, and if he sticks around stateside, he could be a force to be reckoned with. Mark that name down.

-Speaking of the Mazda Road to Indy, I received a nice email on last week's article on the Lights traffic jam. Because I don't say it enough, thank you to all of you who have taken the time to email, comment, or tweet regarding something I wrote. Blogging can often become an exercise in shouting into the void, and simply hoping it isn't as empty as it seems. So thank you plenty for taking the time to shout out from the aether.

-As much as I hope Tony Kanaan doesn't jump ship for NASCAR (what I wouldn't give to see him at Ganassi for a couple of years!), there's some good Indy 500 news this week, too, with 8Star talking about possibly fielding a 500 team. With the sports car merger, I've been extremely interested to see just what sort of crossover we get for INDYCAR. Nothing sounds concrete yet with 8Star, but goodness, I'd be happy to see a guy like Enzo Potolicchio involved in the 500 as an owner.

-Back to TK for a minute; as I said, I hope he doesn't leave, but I also don't think it's the end of the world if he does. And yes, that's with recognizing him as one of the sport's greats, and definitely one of the best ever at Indy. Believe me, I'm not short-selling what he's done. Still waves of drivers come and go, and personable as he is, there are other great drivers raring at the chance to race. I guess with time comes perspective, and that finds constant alarmism more of a danger than losing a driver.

-If I'm Panther Racing, I would stick with Oriol Servia for next season, too. You're not going to find a driver as consistently competitive on both ovals and street courses, who will stay largely out of trouble and make the best of even the worst cars. Should there be an American in the National Guard car, as I've often heard? Dan Wheldon was a great representative for the NG, so there's that. Plus, even if Oriol only goes 2-3 seasons before getting thrown under the bus, that's more stability then he's usually been able to count on. It also seems like he clicks pretty well with the engineering fellas over there.

-Let me throw this Molotov out there, because I've been kicking this around in my head for a bit now. Based on performance only, which full-time driver would you kick to the curb if it meant making room in 2014 for someone like Carlos Munoz or Stefan Wilson? Sebastian Saavedra is last among points among full-timers, but points aren't everything. Is there someone you've felt has essentially reached their peak, that you'd replace with one of those guys? I'll tell you, I'd certainly like to see Wilson in a full-time ride next year. As much as I've loved the plucky lineup of the Coyne 2nd car, it's been frustrating to only see some of those drivers for 1 or 2 races. Better than nothing though, right?

That's the thing--there are a ton of really good, young drivers right now, and it's easy to see potential everywhere. I really do hope we end up +1 or +2 on seats next season, but that's going to involve seeing what happens at places like Ganassi.

-Fantasy players: ironing out some bugs. I'll have points posted shortly, and Houston up for driver selection. We're doing something a little different for Houston, so thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lights Fight Could Mean 2014 Traffic Jam

If you're thinking the 2014 IndyCar silly Ssason is mainly about drivers like James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan, you might want to look at some drivers still duking it out on the ladder.

Currently, the Firestone Indy Lights championship is up for grabs. Just how up for grabs? The four contenders are separately by a maximum of only 11 points, and each of them has accumulated at least one win, pole position, most laps led on a weekend,and scored a fast lap during the season. Sage Karam, Carlos Munoz, Gabby Chaves, and Jack Hawksworth have indeed come to play, it seems.

Normally, as we saw with Tristan Vautier dating back to last year and Josef Newgarden before that, the Lights champ is given a scholarship to assist with their moving up to the big cars. While the exact parameters of the scholarship has always been a bit in flux, there's no doubting that winning a Lights title recently is a very handy way to boost one's chances of driving at the top level of American open wheel.

Now, at the start of the year, I would have told you that this was all about Carlos Munoz, that he, or just possibly Jack Hawksworth, would win the Lights title and get at least a shot at a full IndyCar ride. Then, as Sage Karam came on strong on the ovals and Hawksworth faltered, I thought Karam might pull off the upset. Then, as Gabby Chaves continued to improve every weekend, I just gave up and finally admitted what I should have known in the first place--I have no earthly idea who was going to win this thing.

Will one of these drivers be moving up to IndyCar?
Courtesy IndyCar Media
Carlos Munoz is the most polished of the candidates, and although Karam has a 2-point lead after Baltimore, I still like the Colombian driver to pull it off, if only by the smallest of margins. And honestly, Munoz has been attracting attention from IndyCar teams already, especially after his excellent rookie run at Indianapolis. Perhaps the clearest scenario has Munoz winning the Lights title, and parlaying his winning into assistance for next year's IndyCar ride. Of all the drivers mentioned, Munoz possesses actual IndyCar experience, and seems the most ready to move up.

But what if he doesn't? Karam is currently leading the standings, and has shown absolutely no quit. He's one of the best American prospects on ovals we've had in some time, and even if he does probably need some more seat time, he's squarely in contention. Hawksworth, his British counterpart, is equally savvy on street courses, though he still needs more oval experience (the ovals nearly knocking him out of contention this year). These drivers are young, and there's no need to rush them, but along with Chaves (who seems to be a quick study and as good an all-around prospect as you'll find), it has to be very seriously considered that they could win this title. What then?

Every IndyCar offseason is another game of musical chairs, and as we all know, there are just so many seats. What if it's not just Munoz making the jump to IndyCar, but Hawksworth as well? (Hawksworth does test this month with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, keep in mind). If another Lights driver puts together a package, will another seat be found, or will another veteran driver with a middling sponsorship package be on the outs?

Even more challenging will be if Munoz and Hawksworth both together at least partial programs for 2014, and Karam wins the title and moves up. That's a lot of young drivers coming up into IndyCar all at once. Ideally, if someone like Karam wins the title, and decides he wants to do a couple of races in IndyCar while doing another full season in Lights for experience, I would certainly hope IndyCar takes that under advisement. Rushing drivers ahead in a use-or-lose scholarship does no favors for anyone.

In one sense, it's a good problem to have. For all the car count woes in Lights this season, there's been nothing wrong with the competition up front. But depending on just how drivers we have coming out of this intense championship battle, there could be a lot of young names floating around come silly season, and it's going to be some work to figure out where they all might fit in the bigger picture.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Baltimore Notes: Chaos In The Charm City

-Yesterday, some time after the Grand Prix of Baltimore had ended, I just stared at the screen for a good while. There are races it's very easy to recap; Baltimore is not one of them. Everyone is angry at someone; nearly everyone was involved in an incident, and in some ways, Takuma Sato, who barely completed any laps, had the most stress-free day of anyone. Still, I'm going to try.

-On a day where it often seemed like a simple battle of survival and recovery, Simon Pagenaud avoided the worst Baltimore could throw at drivers to run away from Newgarden in the last few laps to win his second race of the year. But what a late charge by Newgarden, and spirited fight from Sebastien Bourdais to round out the podium. Great work, and a great fight from drivers from Marco Andretti to Simona de Silvestro to give us a wild Top 10.

-Drivers who seemed to get the snot knocked out of them countless times and still finished in the Top 10: Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, and Helio Castroneves.

-Speaking of Helio, that title lead is now 49 points with three races left. If he holds serve at Houston, he's looking just about home free in the championship. The last few weeks have proven he has the luck that has to accompany the skill a title run requires.

-I was thinking about current drivers who can win a title in the next few years, and is there any doubt Simon Pagenaud has to be towards the top of this list? If you throw out his mechanical issues at St. Pete in the opener, this could be a different title discussion we're having today--or at least a closer one!

Everyone who had this podium, say "Aye". (Crickets)
Courtesy IndyCar Media
-The last few laps of this race were as good as I've seen, and in between yellow flags, there was plenty of on-track passing. This was a messy, sloppy race, both in terms of on-track incidents and mechanical issues, but every now and then, there are (excuse the term) "brain fart" races. Chalk this one up to that. Despite it all, I still love watching Baltimore. It's brutal and challenging and merciless, while allowing for plenty of action. I think all of us would like less than 33% of the laps to be caution laps, of course.

-Scott Dixon and Beaux Barfield won't be exchanging Christmas Cards this year, needless to say. Dixon had extremely sharp--no, acidic--words for Barfield after the Ganassi team wasn't allowed to bring Dixon's car back to pit to be worked on. Honestly, I need to watch this race again at least once to see what all transpired (and I'll wait for any forthcoming Race Control explanations), but I am a bit puzzled why Dixon's #9 couldn't come to the pits with 17 laps remaining and ample yellows.

-I saw a few folks online (more than usual?) try to say Graham Rahal and Will Power each had some sort of malign intent in regards to their incidents with Scott Dixon. I don't believe that for a moment. Both incidents were unfortunate, but I don't see any purposeful actions to damage Dixie's car in either case. I know it's a heat of the moment thing, but man, let's have some perspective and rational thought.

-Speaking of Rahal, tough breaks this weekend. The team came back nicely, and I thought he was in line for a really good result. I don't think they'll struggle for much longer; sooner or later, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will get it figured out.

-Happier News: The Firestone Indy Lights title fight is insane. Jack Hawksworth has rallied after looking defeated at the midway portion of the season, and now he's only 11 points back in the title hunt. Sage Karam had the drive he needed to jump ahead of Carlos Munoz for the points lead, but it's only a 2-point margin. Meanwhile, Gaby Chaves is only 4 points back of Karam. Any of these guys would be a fine Lights champion. Tough break for Carlos Munoz recording his second DNF of the season, but my goodness, this is just a tremendous battle playing itself out for us.

-Back to IndyCar: Hats off to Stefan Wilson, who recovered from an early incident on a day when veteran and champion IndyCar driver were dropping out by the scoopful, to finish P16. That had to be one of the wildest and weirdest debut races a driver has ever had, but I thought he handled himself well. Let's hope the wait to see him again isn't a terribly long one--hear that, Nirvana Tea?

-Fantastic work by Pippa Mann in the broadcasting booth this weekend. On the NBC team as a whole, good work, but I wish they hadn't waited until Tony Kanaan was in P2 towards the end of the race to mention his 212-race streak. If they mentioned it before that, I missed it.

-Now, we come to the Long Wait--the September break in the IndyCar schedule. A few of us might need a month to regulate our blood pressure after that race, but at least we know there's plenty to discuss while we await Houston's doubleheader. Let's hope that October sees an exciting finish, great racing, and less yellow!

-Happy Labor Day to one and all. Relax and enjoy.