Friday, January 18, 2013

Random Thoughts From A Frozen Mind

I'm back.

Now I don't know if that is a good thing or not, but any time I can make an announcement with Michael Jordan-esque panache I'm going to. Anyway, happy new year, I hope 2013 is treating you well. I'm off to a good start, getting in gym workouts (lost only three pounds, just have to work harder) and trying to stay warm.

Really, it's not that cold here and we've only gotten 1.3 inches of snow, which just outside of Chicago is mind-boggling. But I am bald, so my head does get colder a lot faster than everyone else. Hence, the blog title fits.

I've just been so busy, so I apologize for very few posts as of late. That and I'm resting up for my every day blogging bender once May rolls around.

I also just finished coaching my 6th grader, Kevin, and his hoops team, which at a minimum of four days a week is a bit of a commitment. It was a fun as always, but we eventually finished the season losing eight games by four points or less. I guess now I know what Panther Racing has felt like at the last few runnings of the 500.

Wow, have I just dropped about 300 words on nothing about racing? I must be reading too much Bill Simmons. Anyway, with IndyCar still sort of percolating along on hiatus, I'm just going to throw out a mishmash of stuff. Read what you like and skip what you don't.

*Rolex 24. Honestly, I'm not a big sports car fan, and I don't watch much of the racing the rest of the year (except for LeMans), but I will be tuning in next weekend, and who knows if I might pull an (almost) all-nighter like last year! It's actually some pretty cool stuff, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the IndyCar drivers do. Justin Wilson was part of the winning Michael Shank Racing entry a year ago, while Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were part of the team that finished fourth.

All three of them are back this year, with IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Alex Tagliani and Simon Pagenaud among those who will also be racing.

I like the Rolex 24 because I think the idea of racing at 3 a.m. is really cool, and the fact that I go to bed and sleep for several hours, and when I wake up, they are still racing!

What I also like is stuff like driver switches and equipment repairs. Stuff like changing out brakes on pit road or taking the car back to the garage and pulling out the gearbox, then getting the car back on the track in just a matter of minutes. I like that teamwork part of it. A crew is always important in racing, no matter the distance, but in a 24 hour race it's just that much moreso.

That's a race I'd love to attend someday, just to see how all of it works in person.

*Daytona. Speaking of races I'd like to attend, I just bought my tickets today for the Budweiser Duels and the Daytona 500 next month. No, I'm not jumping ship...fear not! But beyond an IndyCar fan, I just like racing, and Daytona has been a place I've wanted to go since I was a kid. Not only that, it gets me into warm weather and sun for a few days and coincides with the start of spring training and so I may go watch a workout or two. (Yes, I'm enough of a baseball geek that I will sit in the stands and watch teams take BP and pitchers throw bullpens)

It will be interesting to see how the Gen 6 car works, but count me in as one of those who at least likes how they look. As Dale Jr. and company proved in their testing accident last week, bump drafting looks to be out, unless you are really, REALLY good at it. So from what I have read it's the proverbial "cars being put back into the driver's hands" sort of thing. The way I see it, anything that gets the drivers' foot off the gas -- even if it's only briefly -- makes the racing better. I don't mind pack racing as much in stock cars since the danger factor isn't nearly as high as it is in open wheels, but lifting and breaking the cars up a bit is always good.

*Silly season. There are still some IndyCar seats up for grabs and some drivers still waiting for things to materialize, but with two months before the opener at St. Pete you have to figure for the most part everything will be settled soon.

I for one am curious about the Ryan Briscoe situation. It is hard to believe that nothing has materialized for him yet. It seems more like a money thing, and if that isn't the issue you'd have to think he would be going to Ganassi B in Graham Rahal's old ride. Not happening yet, though, so what are his backups? The second car at Rahal Letterman Lanigan sounds like it, but I think you have to bring some cash for that ride and I don't know how much backing he has. Plus, it seems like EJ Viso's name is floating around for that more than Briscoe's.

What I find sad is the fact that a driver who has eight wins and five top-6 finishes in points over the last five years can't find a ride. And besides, as I have lamented so many times before...it's Roger Penske, how can it be about money, or even sponsorship? I don't think anyone wants to spend their own money on stuff if they don't have to, but I've got two words for you: pocket change.

Some have speculated that he is going back to Penske after they announced they intend to have a third car this year, though I don't know how often they are going to run it. Indy and Detroit sound logical, and maybe add in Pocono and Fontana? I would love to see if Roger will roll the dice and up his odds for some more of that phat cash. And in my mind -- sorry Will Power -- he only has one driver that is capable of winning any of those races, let alone two or even three.

So if he is doing that, if not Briscoe, how about a guy like Townsend Bell, who is pretty good on ovals? If it is just a one-off for Indy (and Detroit), maybe even a Conor Daly would be good. I know others have talked about him going full-time, but it looks like that ship has sailed for 2013. I bet he will be back a year from now through.

Back to Briscoe, maybe a strategy is to sit out a year and see what materializes. You've got a few drivers getting up there in either contracts or age. What if Franchitti wins Indy for the fourth time and decides he wants to walk away? What if Helio Castroneves does the same thing? Or even Tony Kanaan, who has one thing left in his life to win? The latter two I doubt, but Dario? If he becomes a four-time winner, what else is left? Sure, a win and a championship to go with it puts him on the cusp of jumping into all-time great territory, and a drive for five (in Indy wins and titles) puts him on the Baby Rushmore of open wheel racing, but he has talked about it for a while, so you never know.

*Speaking of Indy rides. I saw a story today were AJ Allmendinger said if something could be worked out he'd like to drive the 500. Despite losing his ride with Penske Racing Cup ride last year after testing positive for a banned stimulant, he and Roger reportedly have a good relationship, so do you think Penske takes the chance?

Allmendinger has made it clear that he wants to resurrect his career in NASCAR, but every time a mention about Indy comes up his name seems to surface. I could write a whole week's worth of blogs about my feelings about the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports, but my short answer to a guy like Allmendinger goes like this: fool people once, shame on you.

The guy did something stupid, and with no other positive tests (although he did get a DUI just over three years ago) I have to say that it was a one-time screwup, he did what he needed to do to get back on the track, and we just should all move on.

Although Dinger should move on without his PR person. She made that whole incident more of a train wreck than it should have been.

I'd say that about any athlete. With supplements so prevalent anymore, there are so many things they take that can trigger a positive. I give most of them one chance, unless they repeatedly lie about it (Mark McGuire, Lance Armstrong, Sammy Sosa) in the face of a mountain of evidence, or point a finger at Congressmen and say they didn't take any PEDs, then test positive a couple of weeks later (Rafael Palmiero).

If you screw up, you screw up, and I have done my share of epic DERP-ing in my life. Then again, a second one should get at least a two-year ban, if not longer. Do not pass go, nothing. Fool me twice, shame on me.

So what I'm saying is that if Dinger and Penske can work something out, the more the merrier. I can let what happened in the past stay that way.

*Speaking of Baby things. I know what you are thinking, but don't go there! Actually, I was talking about Franchitti getting his Baby Borg in Detroit earlier this week. What made it even better is that Dario stayed on stage and presented one to Parnelli Jones in honor of his win in 1963. I'm sure that won't be the last honor he receives this year, as when we get to May they will more than likely be celebrating the 50th anniversary of said victory. Jones might be the most underrated driver in Indy history, but even though he has just one win he was one of the best, leading 492 of the 1,130 laps he completed, not to mention becoming the first driver to break the magic 150 mph barrier in qualifying in 1962.

You know, an underrated/overrated list might be fun sometime. I've got a list for each put together already, but not sure if I'm ready to write that one!

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