Monday, August 27, 2012

The Best Damn Sonoma Review Period

Not really, but I wanted to come up with a more catchier headline than the ones I had used before. And because this is running after most of my contemporaries have filed their post-race prose I didn't want to copy anyone.

So back to the race. Ryan Briscoe? Notice I had him nowhere in my preview...not because I don't respect him as a driver, but the fact is up until Sunday he'd been having one of those star-crossed seasons that just didn't seem to gel with a race where the top dogs were getting serious.

Allegedly. Just as many contenders raced backwards it seems as did forwards. Will Power seemed marginally content with holding serve, getting to the finish without incident while extending his season points lead, while teammate Helio Castroneves shook off an early drive-through penalty to finish sixth.

Scott Dixon, on the receiving end of Helio's nudge that resulted in his penalty, finished out of the money in 13th place. But the biggest loser of the weekend had to have been Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was in position for a podium finish until he was spun out by Alex Tagliani with 10 laps to go, stalled his car and finished a lap down in 18th place.

Killer. It's a 23-point difference between third and 18th, meaning RHR went from breathing down Power's neck to needing a ton of help over the next two races to catch him.

Given the final race of the year is on an oval -- and 500 miles in length -- I'm not giving Power anything. While Will wrapped up the season's road course title with one twistie left, he sits in 17th place in the oval standings.

That said, RHR is going to have to slice that 36-point deficit almost in half this weekend in Baltimore to have a chance at Fontana.

Anyway, here's a bit on the top 5.

*Ryan Briscoe. There has been lots of speculation as to whether or not Briscoe will still be with Penske next year, and honestly I don't think anything he does on the track -- good or bad -- changes that decision, whichever way it goes. Still, he broke a 2-year winless streak (Texas, 2010) and was fast all weekend. There are two races left and he can still contend in both and get a good feeling out of this season. Also, it was cool that his wife Nicole was able to get there from the NASCAR event at Bristol on Saturday night. Once I heard on Twitter that she had made the cross-country trip and arrived just as the race was starting, I have to admit I was rooting for him. Yeah, I'm a sucker for a good love story, and it seems like the have a great one going.

*Will Power. For the first two-thirds of the race, Power put the snore in Snorenoma, only giving up leads during pit stops. But a slow last stop under yellow combined with some slow traffic coming back to said yellow cost him his lead to Briscoe, and despite two late restarts he just couldn't pull the trigger. He wanted to win, no doubt, but the risk of something going wrong was bigger than the reward of the difference in seven points between first and second.

*Dario Franchitti. His up and down season continues. Wins the biggest race of the year, has a second and a third -- and four finishes of 17th or worse. With Power struggling with his overtake button over the closing few laps, Franchitti gave it all he had to try and move up a spot, but again, I think professional courtesy took over. Dario is in a weird position this time of year as he can act as...a spoiler?

*Rubens Barrichello. Rubens! Hard to believe that this was his best finish of the year, but Sonoma was a track where he'd done a lot of testing so he was very comfortable. I was one of those who thought Rubens would at least have a couple of podiums or even a win by now, but maybe this series is a little harder to drive in than everyone thought!

*Graham Rahal. Another guy who I thought would have done better this year and this was just his fourth top-5. Still, he made a nice charge from 13th place, which was tied for the fourth-best climb in the field behind James Jakes (24th to 12th), Simona de Silvestro (27th to 17th...Simona!) and Sebastian Saavedra (23rd to 15th).

*We got a yellow! After going green-to-checker the last two races, a string of 224 caution free laps ended on lap 65 when Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden crashed hard in Turn 8. Bourdais went off-course and when he came back on track lost control and took Newgarden into a tire barrier in what might have been one of the harder hits of the season. Fortunately Bourdais walked away from the crash unscathed and Newgarden suffered a finger injury that shouldn't affect the rest of his season.

Edit! It was announced today that Josef will not be in the car at Baltimore. Bruno Junqueira will handle the duties in the No. 67 car this weekend.

It's tough not to feel bad about Bourdais, who looked in line for his first podium of the year. 

*Rookie of the Year. Simon Pagenaud wrapped up the rookie honors with his seventh-place finish. Now fifth in points, he has had a very successful first season in IndyCar and could become a huge factor next season.

*Points. With two races to go -- Baltimore and Fontana -- the top five looks like this: Power 422 pts., RHR -36, Castroneves -41, Dixon -54 and Pagenaud -85.

Mathematically, there are still eight drivers in the running if you include Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Briscoe, who are sixth through eighth, respectively, but they would need a walk on water, 1980 US Olympic hockey team, hard to believe but I actually have a girlfriend-type miracle, so let's just call it a four-man race at this point.

So we head to Baltimore next week. The good news is that with two races to go there are a lot of points left for drivers to make a move. The bad news is that Power led 70 of 75 laps in winning a year ago.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sonoma Preview

I'm back!

What a crazy three weeks, sorry I've been AWOL, but the beginning of the school year is incredibly busy. By the time I finish my week tomorrow afternoon I will have written nine newspaper stories this week, but I'm in the mood to write about some racing, so let's get to it.

The IndyCar series resumes this weekend at Sonoma after a three-week break. As in, finally! Once again, further proof that we need more races on the schedule, because this has been a killer.

Anyway, it seems like Penske and Target Chip Ganassi resumed their rivalry near the front, as the two teams represent five of the first six qualifying spots on the grid. Will Power was once again the class of the field, earning the pole for the third year in a row in a time of 1:17.2709, about a quarter-second faster than teammate Ryan Briscoe.

Which begs the question: why do they even make Power waste his time and qualify on road courses? Dude's a stud.

Sebastien Bourdais breaks up the party after starting a season-best third, while Helio Castroneves is fourth, Scott Dixon fifth and Dario Franchitti sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay, second to Power in the points by six after Will's pole point today, will start seventh.

So for those of you scoring at home, the top four in points (Power, RHR, Castroneves and Dixon) all start in the top seven. Add Seb to the mix and that looks to be a shootout. Hoo boy!

On to the predictions:

*Winner: Power. To quote Chicago Bulls analyst Stacey King, Power at times can be "too big, too fast, too strong, too good". Power has been the victim of a lot of bad luck this year, but when things go his way he can take it to the proverbial 'nother level on twisties. The title is in sight and I think he is ready to close the deal.

*Podium: I'm going to call it as Bourdais, and one driver out of a pool of either Castroneves, Dixon and Simon Pagenaud.

*Strategies. At 85 laps, you know some teams are going to roll the dice as the last couple of races have seen pitting early for track position work out. If we don't get a yellow, as has happened the last two races, it might be the best way to get to the front given Sonoma's reputation for difficult passing.

*One thing to remember. We are at the point of the season where there are plenty of drivers capable of winning races are eliminated from championship contention, which means they can go straight for the win. I think from here on out we could be witness to some whacked-out strategies by teams that have nothing to lose.

Before I go, another couple of things.

*It turns out Robin Miller was just bored. According to this story in the Indy Star, IndyCar is not for sale, nor are the owners going to buy the series. A survey of 15 different owners showed this rumor as bogus. I gotta say, I like Robin a lot and sometimes he does some great stuff, but I'm to the point now that if SpeedTV's Marshall Pruett doesn't report on something, I'm just ignoring it.

*Goodspeed, Neil Armstrong. As I was born in 1969 and witnessed the moon landing (well, my mom was rocking me to sleep while sitting in the living room) I've always had a fascination with the moon landings and the space program. I can't imagine the courage, bravery and skill it took to climb on top of a rocket, travel 250,000 miles, put on a suit and jump out onto the surface of the moon. Guys like Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard are true superheroes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

China Preview...Kidding!

I was all amped up today to write a preview for the race in China, until I remembered it had been cancelled. Darn it. It is me or does it just seem like it has been weeks (and by weeks I mean more than two) since the last race?

So we wait all this time and then bam, bam, boom! The next three races roll by and we are to the off-season. You know, if the DW12 had been the dog that everyone (except me) thought it would be over the winter, I'd be looking forward to the off-season so I wouldn't have to listen the wailing and gnashing of teeth anymore.

Instead, with the exception of Belle Isle, the season has kicked butt and I wish that it wouldn't end. About the only redeeming thing for the end of the season is that the championship may come down to the final lap of the season at Fontana, which will be way cool and should give us a ton to talk about over the winter.
The break has been good for me as I've had a ton of activities and a ton of writing to do for my newspaper job. If you want to know anything about the Yorkville, Oswego East or Mooseheart football teams, or the local prospects for the coming cross country season -- including those of my son Matt, who is the No. 4 runner on his Aurora Central Catholic varsity team -- I am your man.

Still, I've had a couple of ideas in mind that I wanted to share my opinions on, but just haven't had the chance. But being home on a Friday night and with no interest in the ghost hunter show my kids are watching, now is a good a time as ever.

*We can actually talk about NASCAR this weekend as Alex Tagliani is in action in the Nationwide race in Montreal. And lo and behold, Tags is on the pole for tomorrow's race! Not a big surprise given he finished second there last year, but this definitely gives him another great chance to win. Sam Hornish Jr. has all of the sudden come to life and will start next to him on the front row, with Jacques Villeneuve and Danica Patrick rounding out the second row to give the race a definite open wheel feel.

I'm guessing if Tags won it wouldn't change anyone's perspective on the stock car side about IndyCar drivers, but it would be cool to see and IndyCar driver step up and get it done in that world. I will argue to the death that if an IndyCar driver of Tag's experience got great equipment and the right circumstances, they would hold their own in NASCAR.

Actually, Hornish may eventually do that. Maybe the talk a few years ago that he was rushed into Cup is true, because now that he is running up front in the Nationwide series on a more constant basis, he is gaining a lot of lost confidence. I really, really want to see an open wheel driver succeed in stock cars, because the gap between open wheel and stock cars isn't as big as people might think.

You can't tell me that if you put a guy like Tags, Scott Dixon or Ryan Hunter-Reay in Jimmie Johnson's car that they wouldn't succeed if they were given time to develop. Would they win as much as Five Time? No, but given that kind of ride and the resources that come with it, I just think they would do well. In a sense, Danica is the first IndyCar driver to get the level of time, resources and support needed to become successful at that level. It remains to be seen if she has the talent to take advantage of that opportunity.

*You know what is frustrating me though? Is the sudden interest in road racing that is running through the NASCAR community. This week there was plenty of debate as to whether or not a road course should be added to the Chase, and I was on a message board earlier where people were saying they were more interested in the race at Montreal than the Cup event at Michigan. People have really liked the racing at Road America and The Glen, and want to see more.

First of all, I think that a road race should be part of the Chase. One thing I like about the IndyCar series is that in order to win a championship you have to adapt to all types of tracks, ovals of several lengths, road and street courses. The Cup side shouldn't be any different...if you have cut the field down to a dozen drivers and are crowning a champion from that group, those final 10 races should make them show their mettle on all sorts of tracks.

Some wonder, though, the impact "ringers" (like Tags) would make on the field should a twistie be added to the Chase. Simple enough, don't allow them.

So here is my frustration: if people are starting to dig road courses, why won't they tune into IndyCar? Perhaps that is a group the series should try to court a little bit more. Yeah I'm biased, but the open wheels put a heck of a lot better of a show on twisties than stock cars ever can.

*OK, I guess I should actually talk about IndyCar for a sec. According to this story on drivers were overall positive about the changes that were made at Sonoma in advance to next weekend's race. Anything that adds a few passes to the action will be an improvement over past races there, that's for sure.

No official lap times were kept, but Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Will Power were all in the 1:19.1 range.

One thing included with the article were some photos of some alternate liveries that will be in play this weekend. Do I see a sponsor on Josef Newgarden's sidepods? Oriol Servia's helmet design that includes a drawing of Salvador Dali moves to his sidepod alongside his TranSystem sponsorship, while JR Hildebrand will carry a San Francisco 49ers theme on his car in homage to Niners coach and longtime Panther Racing co-owner Jim Harbaugh. Given how much Hildebrand loves baseball, think he might sneak a Giants sticker on there somewhere?

*So if there were a race in China, I wonder what would have happened? Because it didn't and we can only speculate what happened, here's my take. I think Dixon would have won the pole and James Hinchcliffe the race after surviving an epic battle with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Power that featured an amazing 20 lead changes -- all of which occurred on the track because an early incident eliminated the need to save fuel which left everyone able to actually race instead of nurse their cars with a bottle.

Eventually RHR and Power would take each other out in a crash on a restart with five laps to go, leaving the podium to Hinch, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud. Dixon would finish fourth and Castroneves fifth, and they would head to Baltimore tied in the standings, with Power and RHR just a couple of points behind.

Then in both Sonoma and Baltimore, RHR, Power, Dixon and Castroneves would finish in some combination of order that would leave them in all in a virtual dead-head heading to Fontana, with Hinch just a few points behind.

Come on, I can dream, can't I?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mid-Ohio Recap

First of all, a confession: I caught the race in segments and not the event in its entirety since I was covering a baseball game yesterday afternoon. I listened to the first 20 laps on Sirius (where the guys did a great job as always) and caught the rest of it in the press box on a really big, really nice TV.

So, what I can offer is an informed opinion and not the in-depth, mind-blowing expertise you have come to know and love at 15DIM. I'll try to do better next time.

As always, let's roll through the top six and a few of my other random thoughts.

*Winner: Scott Dixon. If I had written a preview prior to the weekend I was picking Dixon as he had won three previous times at Mid-Ohio. He added to that total and notched his 29th career win, tying him with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list. Dixon only led once for the final 26 laps of the race, beating Will Power out of the pits after the final round of stops and pulling away to a monstrous (at least in terms of this year) 3.4 second win.

Back to the wins thing. According to an article on Dixie would like to race for nine more seasons. It's pretty conceivable that if he continues at his current winning pace he could get into that rare air of 40-plus wins, a stratosphere that is the home to just three drivers: AJ Foyt (67), Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42).

In the short-term, he made a big jump in the standings and is now just 28 points out of the lead with three races to go. The only problem is that he is still fourth, and will need some help jumping over three other drivers.

Runner-up: Will Power. Now, if I had written a preview after qualifying, I would have said that WP was going to take the green flag and run and hide from the rest of the field. And for 57 laps I would have been right. I'm sure Power could have made more of a run at Dixon if he'd wanted, but he accomplished what he'd set out to do when he arrived for the race weekend, which is leave with the points lead.

With Ryan Hunter-Reay's Chevy engine losing power late in the race  which eventually saw him finish 24th, Power jumped to the top of the classification with 379 points, just five ahead of RHR and 26 on Helio Castroneves, who felt under the weather all weekend and limped home to a 16th place finish.

Third: Simon Pagenaud. Three podiums for a first-year (he's not a rookie...LOL) IndyCar driver on a one-car, small market team? History is going to be very, very good to Simon when we talk about his performance in 2012. Honestly, this is really something. He will be back with Sam Schmidt's crew next season, another year of continuity and the second time around the tracks could mean good things for the team and Pagenaud.

Fourth: Sebastien Bourdais. Sunday was SeaBass' second top-10 of the season? Really? He's been qualifying pretty decent all year and threw together some heroic driving efforts in the Lotus (like the epic ninth-place run at Barber) but it just hadn't come together like we thought it would when Dragon Racing moved to the Chevy at Indy. Still, he's got two more twisties left this season, and Sonoma is right up his alley.

Fifth: James Hinchchliffe. I don't think Hinch salvaged his championship hopes, as he now sits 63 points behind Power, but he stopped the bleeding of a three-race stretch that had seen him finish P17, P22 and P12. It was his eighth top-6 finish of the season, you've gotta wonder where he would have been without the wreck in Iowa and engine issues in Toronto.

Sixth: Tony Kanaan. Most dedicated readers of this site now I usually stick with the top 5, but I make exceptions, and anything involving TK is one of them. His weekend up to that point had been dreadful as he qualified 18th, but improved a field-best 12 spots (Hinch moved up 10) and picked up his fourth top-6 finish in his last five races.

No yellows! Two races without a yellow hadn't been done in a quarter-century (or the year I graduated from high school, whichever makes me sound less old), despite a lot of good, hard racing in the middle of the fields. It certainly made the two-stop or three-stop strategy all the more intriguing. It's kind of funny that a few weeks ago we were talking about green/white/checkers and races ending under yellow and now we are talking about races WITHOUT any yellows. Just goes to show the cyclical nature of sports and how "quick fixes" aren't always necessary.

19 races. Randy Bernard once again supported his stance of having at least 19 races on the schedule in future years. I hope this means two things 1) there is enough in the works that we can hit that number next year and 2) those agreements will be with a long-term future partnership in mind, and not just one-and-dones (like Louden) that in the end I think hurt more than help.

Just give us races we can count on and dates we can count on. Right now I have May 26th and June 15th circled next year, and it would be a big deal if I could do that on my future calendars as well. That's how you grow attendance, peeps.

A couple of other interesting things happened over the weekend that deserve its own post, so I will see you with those a little later in the week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stuff for a Wednesday

Midweek again, but heading towards a race weekend, so it's not a bad thing. I've got a few things to say...continue reading if you'd like.

Graham Rahal. I was about to give the gift of this post to the world when I saw this piece from Marshall Pruett at Speed that said that Rahal is leaving Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the year. His two-year deal with an option for a third needed to be picked up by today and it wasn't. Shocker!

I truly didn't see that coming. After scrambling for sponsors for a couple of years, he finally found a good partner in NTB/Service Central and it appears they will come with him. There aren't a lot of seats with Honda powerplants, so you have to wonder where he will go.

Would he jump to Rahal Letterman Lanigan and drive for his dad? That appears a possibility that wasn't a couple of years ago. Graham wanted to do this on his own and I respect that. But he's done it on his own, so going back to drive for his dad would be more a decision based on merit that bloodlines. They seem to be pretty close, could they make that move?

Push to Pass. I heard today that there will be an alteration to the push to pass feature at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Apparently there will be a delay that once you hit the button it will be a minimum of five seconds before the extra horsepower kicks in, ramping the horsepower up to the level it was at before the detuned the engines to install P2P.

So far on Twitter, I'm getting the idea the drivers love it. Sarcasm. I think they will get used to it, they are just ticked because they weren't consulted before the idea was implemented. I don't blame them.

This new function kind of reminds me of a previous life when I had a job that required me to repossess stuff. I once had to take back a 1980 Trans-Am (thankfully they gave that back voluntarily), a pretty sweet car that had a serious carburetor problem. As in, you hit the gas and nothing happened for a couple of seconds.

So I am driving it back to the office, and I decide to see what she will do. So I mashed the gas, the engine gurgled for like two seconds, and then the motor unleashed some fury that pushed me back into my seat and took me from 50 to 100 in about a quarter second. Or at least it seemed that fast.

Why am I telling that stupid story? Because it's an example of how I find P2P a stupid idea and I wish it would go away. Why don't we just give the drivers more horsepower and let them sort it out instead of relying on electronics to do it for them?

Wow. Never realized how strongly I felt about it until I typed those last few paragraphs.

Track alterations. On a more positive note, IndyCar did announce that changes would be made to Sonoma and Baltimore to add some more passing zones. This I am behind. The more passing the merrier, especially at Sonoma which hasn't had a lot of action the last couple of years.

Baltimore will lose that bizarre chicane on the straightaway, and the turn that sits at the end of that straight will be widened by about 10 feet to add more passing chances. Work will also be done to turns 5 and 6 per the driver's recommendation.

Sonoma will see turn 7 altered into more of a hairpin and the exit out of turn 9 has been widened by 10 feet. The biggest change occurs at turn 11, which will see the straightaway lengthened by 200 feet to give the cars a bit more time to execute a pass.

Sub! Last week's Mid-Ohio test resulted in one casualty as Charlie Kimball fractured a bone in his right hand after crashing into a tire barrier. Giorgio Pantano, who competed in three IndyCar races a year ago, will step into that seat in what looks to be a one-off effort. The 33-year-old Italian finished 17th as Sonoma, 26th at Baltimore and 16th at Motegi in 2011.

Brickyard. Not a lot of good stuff has come out of NASCAR's trip to Indy over the weekend. Neither the Nationwide or Cup race was very well-attended, and TV ratings took a hit to the tune of 17 percent compared to last year. NASCAR is blaming the Olympics for that one, and that had an effect, but I don't think that much considering the NNS race only dropped .1 from 1.6 to 1.5.

Obviously the race makes a lot of money or neither side would continue the partnership. And I like NASCAR at Indy because as the Racing Capital of the World it should host events of all disciplines. I wish they could do more -- although there should be only one IndyCar race there, that's for sure!

I think NASCAR really screwed up moving the Nationwide race over from Lucas Oil Raceway. That was a great niche race and to have it on Saturday night before the big race was cool. Plus it was great short-track racing and people love that.

The estimated attendance was 40,000 but it looked like the race at Chicagoland the week before had more people. I kid, but there wasn't 40K there, no way -- just like there wasn't 20,000 at Chicago either. Still, why mess up a good thing? Oh that's right, they probably felt like they could make more money moving to the Speedway, and that trumps all.

I thought the Cup race was decent. Not "exciting" but not a snoozer either. Jimmie Johnson led 99 laps en route to his fourth win to tie Jeff Gordon for most NASCAR wins at IMS.

Notice I mentioned Gordon's name only. I think there are some who believe that winning the Brickyard four times equates winning the 500 four times. It doesn't, sorry. Thankfully both Gordon and Johnson have enough respect for the Speedway to acknowledge that fact. It doesn't take away what they have accomplished but you don't mention the 500 and the 400 in the same sentence, just like you don't equate winning the Daytona 500 with the Coke Zero 400. Maybe it's the same track, but it is two different events and that needs to be kept in mind because it applies here.

I am glad that Gordon and Tony Stewart did get the chance to win a race at the Speedway given they had grown up dreaming of winning the 500, but both have a good perspective of what winning the 500 means.

Not to mention the fact that the Brickyard has been run 19 times, and almost half of them have been won by two guys, from the same team no less. Anyone who has won the 500, even once, can tell you it's the hardest race of their lives to win. When one team has racked that many wins in a race's short history, it doesn't add up.

I got into a discussion on Twitter with soemone who said that Johnson's win made him arguably the best driver ever at IMS, along with AJ Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser and Gordon. Well, if you are going to base it on total wins, I guess Michael Schumacher would be since he won there five times.

But the discussion of "greatest" starts and ends with the 500, and the rest fall into line. I make this argument for two reasons: 1) the 500 is the centerpiece of the track and 2) they have been racing there for 100 years, you are counting a lot of guys out if you go just solely on wins.

I mean, I look at the drivers I've followed over the last 30 years and several of them could be in that conversation as well. I mean, how is Mario Andretti not in the discussion? What about putting Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves or Al Unser Jr. in the discussion? Or even Dan Wheldon? Or one of my favorites, Emerson Fittipaldi? In a six-year stretch, Emmo led 493 laps, won twice and came a blistered tire (1990) and a stupid decision (1994) away from winning two more times.

Look, the "greatest" three (Foyt, Unser, Rick Mears) did enough to separate themselves from the rest. They are the only ones who should be in that discussion. Everyone else is racing for fourth place.

One controversy Johnson did cause was his burnout on the bricks at the start/finish line after winning. I am on the fence about that one. Burnouts and donuts -- a tradition mostly started by the beloved Alex Zanardi, by the way -- are how drivers celebrate wins. Was it poor form to do it on the bricks? Yeah, I'll give you that. Lesson learned for next time, but we don't have to burn him at the stake for it.

After all, like I mentioned last week, some of the best racers of all time won just one out of every 10 starts, so if it were me I would celebrate every single one of them like it was 1999. I mean, let's set our biases aside, if Tony Kanaan wins the 500 next year and does donuts until the tires wear down to their rims, including over the bricks, would we harp on him about it? No way, in fact, I'm going to start a campaign that when he wins we storm the track like they do in college football and basketball. TK deserves that!

AJ Allmendinger. Been a tough few weeks for Dinger, as a failed drug test after the Kentucky Cup race led to his being released from the Penske organization today.

First of all, I salute NASCAR (and IndyCar) for having such policies and that the system worked. I don't think anyone likes the result, but we have to accept the decisions and move on. Dinger has already begun the Road To Recovery program, which could lead to NASCAR resinding his suspension in the next several months.

Where will this leave Allmendinger's career? Who knows. There is some hope he comes back to open wheel racing, and maybe that is a good idea given the success he had in Champ Car several years back.

If he gets a ride, someone will be taking a big risk, and will have to decide if it is worth it. I think the first thing he needs to do is start mending some fences, beginning with full disclosure to any team and owner exactly what triggered the positive test.

I know the public wants that answer as well, but in the end I don't really care. He is still just a person like the rest of us and it is a private matter that should stay that way. Some have argued that his fellow drivers should know as well. I'll put it this way, so long as he keeps passing subsequent tests that doesn't matter. I would hope he isn't stupid enough to put himself into a situation where he fails another.

Plus, he's got to get back into the good graces of the media and fans, because I don't think his manager, Tara Ragan, did him any favors whatsoever with her speculation and spin doctoring. Taking the high road would have made him look much better. They failed a test and they knew exactly what had been detected in that test. How that got in his system and whether it was deliberate or on accident, is a whole different discussion.

They tried to play ignorant and it jumped up and bit them. Toeing the line and letting the process run its course would have been better, because they way they approached it they seemed like they had something to hide. AJ should have taken a little better control of the situation.

Senna. ESPN2 aired the unbelievable documentary about the life and career of Ayrton Senna Sunday night, and counting my first viewing last December I have now seen it four times. It's just an incredible piece of work, and if you haven't seen it, get If you have but not in the last couple of days, watch it again.