First of all, thanks so much to everyone who listened to Blogger Night during Trackside on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis. I had a great time sharing the evening with my blogging contemporaries and enjoyed sharing our passion for the sport.
If you want to check out the podcast, you can do so here. Enjoy!
After getting a little long-winded about myself and the blog, I eventually talked about the drivers of this era. That will be a blog for this weekend, because with only five minutes to talk I have a lot more to say about the topic.
But as is expected thanks to Mr. Murphy, on the night bloggers had the stage on Trackside a bunch of IndyCar news unfolded. I expect the news to come fast and furious over the next few weeks as we now sit just six weeks away from St. Pete. Lots of things need to come together quickly for those who are still on the outside looking in.
*EJ Viso found a seat once the music stopped and will be part of a joint venture with Andretti Autosport and HVM. Viso had been trying to start his own team but found it rough sledding, but this setup keeps HVM in the series (after the cluster that was last season where they ran with the Lotus and then lost Simona de Silvestro to KV Racing) and Viso gets some top-notch personnel helping him and data from the AA camp.
My feelings are mixed on Viso. He shows flashes that he looks like he is getting it, like his great run at Milwaukee last year, then closes out the season with seven finishes of P16 or worse in the last eight races. Which brings me to...
*James Jakes heading to Rahal Letterman Lanigan. On Trackside they called Jakes a "competent" driver, and I think that about fits. He's finished 22nd in the points in each of the last two seasons, and barring some sort of miracle that's about where he will finish this year.
But, like Viso, he brings money, and that talks in racing. Always has, always will. I'm sure any of the parties involved would love to have Ryan Briscoe behind the wheel of their cars, but it appears he doesn't have the kind of backing others do.
*Speaking of Briscoe. His handlers told Roger Penske they had options for a full-season ride while Penske could only offer a part-time gig, but it seems with Jakes signing with RLL the giant sucking sound you are hearing is his full-time prospects going down the drain.
Then again, if you think back two years ago, Tony Kanaan was in the same type of situation and got a deal done with KV just about three weeks before St. Pete. So it's been done. It's a pretty safe bet that Briscoe will find some seat time this year, and even money that he will be in a car at Indy. Actually, given the situation, that could be a good gig for him, because there will be some one-offs with some good oval-heavy teams.
*While lots of speculation is out there about teams like Dragon looking to fill another seat. The only lock-down seat left appears to be with Dale Coyne. Justin Wilson tweeted "making progress" Thursday night, so it makes you wonder if that's where he's heading. That team made a lot of headway last year, especially in their oval program, so I don't see that combination being broken up.
*But then, just as everything was beginning to make sense. We find out that AJ Allmendinger will be testing for Penske Feb. 19 at Sebring. Wow. Apparently, this is a serious thing as Tim Cindric said the only way they were doing this is if Dinger committed to it. Now, he does have a few Cup races lined up, but should the test go well he may run Barber and Long Beach before taking on Indy.
It is probably really, really hard to turn down NASCAR money, because as hard as it is to believe it's probably more lucrative to drive around in circles and finish in 20th place than it is to run up front in IndyCar. Still, I hope this works out because this is where he should be.
Obviously he is very, very good in open wheel cars, as his five wins for Forsythe in 2006 proves. But along with that, he had nine additional podiums in just 40 races in 2004-06, and finished P6, P5 and P3 in points. You factor in his win at the 2012 Rolex 24 and it seems like this side of the fence is his best fit. I honestly believe that if he truly put his heart into this effort he could run up front fairly quickly.
Then again, I said the same thing about Rubens Barrichello about this time a year ago, and where did that get me?
Still, according to the website racing-reference.info, he has earned his team something like $25 million in his various NASCAR series careers. And while he gets maybe a quarter of that (or thereabouts), it's still more than what he would have made in that same time frame in IndyCar.
So however long he lasts here, I'm guessing that he will make an impact, and it will be a good thing to have another talented driver fighting it out in the series.