Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Little Midweek IndyCar Notebook

Despite no race this weekend (darn it) there have been a coupls of IndyCar items in the news. Here is a rundown on some of them, and a few of my opinions sprinkled in for good measure.

*Graham Rahal gets 6-race probation. By now we have all seen the incident at Long Beach between Rahal and Marco Andretti, and given the severity of it there was definitely a need for some sort of discipline to go down, which it did Tuesday when Beaux Barfield put Rahal on probation through the Iowa race. Not sure where I stand on this, as six races is a bit harsh compared to some of the other penalties passed out Sunday, but at the same time given the severity of the incident with Rahal's block and the fact Andretti got a little up in the air, not to mention two race cars being torn up pretty badly, I think the idea behind it was to nip this right now.

The edge that the drivers have shown the last couple of races has been fun to watch, but that line between hard driving and dangerous driving is a thin one, and a point of reference had to be made. What disappoints me about the penalty is that at least publicly Andretti gets off seemingly scot-free. He was somewhat responsible for that accident as well, and given he is pushing that line of aggressive driving more than anyone he probably should have received some sort of reprimand.

*Graham has taken a pretty bad beating the last couple of days. Some of his wounds were self-inflicted, given his shout-out of the Andretti name on Sunday, but for the most part he hasn't ducked anyone the last couple of days. It's a bit long at 18 minutes, but IMS Radio guy Jake Query (a friend of 15DIM by the way) got him on the air on his Indy radio show today and it was a fascinating conversation. Check it out here. I go back and forth as to how I feel about Graham because sometimes I think he comes across as a bit of a complainer, but at the same time he is honest and articulate, which is refreshing.

*TV Ratings. Can't believe I forgot this on my first edit of this post! Some encouraging news came from the folks who track this sort of thing as the Long Beach race drew a rating of .32, which represents 468,000 veiwers. That is a marked improvement over the .25 the series pulled at Barber, and is an increase of 45 percent over the Long Beach race a year ago. Hopefully the good show gets people to come back. Remember, it's a process people!
*Wade Cunningham gets an Indy 500 ride. New Zealand will have a second representative on Memorial Day weekend as Cunningham was announced as the driver of the No. 41 machine for AJ Foyt Racing and will team up with Mike Conway. Though it will be his maiden voyage in an IndyCar at the Speedway, Cunningham knows his way around as he has won the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race a record three times and has five podiums in his six races. The 27-year-old Auckland native finished 7th in his only other IndyCar series start at Kentucky last October.

*Other ride rumors. Michel Jourdain appears to be a lock for the 500 in a Rahal Letterman entry, as Bobby Rahal remarked at Long Beach that if the stars align he will be in a car. There are still a few TBAs out there as far as seats go, but it might be a case of musical chairs with too many drivers for too few cars. Sam Schmidt Motorsports also announced another entry for Indy in the No. 99 machine, and I'm going to take a guess that if all works out that might be Townsend Bell's to lose. Other drivers still on the outside looking in are the likes of Pippa Mann, Alex Lloyd and even Tomas Scheckter, who for sure would love to be involved in the 500.

*One person that won't be there will be Paul Tracy, who in an interview with Speed TV's Marshall Pruett over the weekend conceded that his open wheel career may be over. Tracy, whose drive for Dale Coyne at Long Beach in 1991 caught the attention of Roger Penske, made 281 career starts in CART, Champ Car and IndyCar, winning 31 times and posting an amazing 102 top-5 finishes. He still plans to continue racing, though, and may be at the Grand-Am event on the road course at Indy when the series partners with NASCAR during the Brickyard 400 weekend this July.

One final thought...Monday marked the sixth-month anniversary of the death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas. While it is still a source of pain and sadness for many people, I find it touching that Dan's legacy still lives on in so many ways, and that the series is moving on and thriving, especially with the DW12 that he originally tested. One thing we need to always remember is that there is nothing wrong with moving on, because in the end we have no choice. But if you do so in a way that honors someone's spirit and legacy, I feel like you are continuing to celebrate that person in a very deep way. I feel like the IndyCar family is doing that in 2012 and am looking forward to especially seeing Dan's spirit come alive at Indy in a couple of weeks.

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