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?

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