Quick Thoughts on the ABC Supply 500

A huge thank to Dallara, the AMR Safety Team, Jay Frye, Indycar and anyone else who had a hand in designing this car. It definitely saved a life today. I hope Robert Wickens has a speedy recovery.

It looked like the front aero improvements did not help passing. I’m not sure if it the lack of the final practice, the temperatures, or effects of the accident,  but it seems as if there was no improvement from IMS.

Alexander Rossi continues his meteoric rise to stardom. If anyone can overtake Scott Dixon for the title, he is the one who can do it.

Dixon showed again today why he will be tough to beat for the Astor Cup. He had an amazing drive today for the podium.

Zach Veach had an outstanding weekend. he lead the practice session, sat on the provisional pole until fewer than ten drivers were left to qualify, and had his third straight top ten finish. keep an eye on him next year.

Why did NBC have to replay the accident so many times? I could understand once or twice, but it seemed as if they were showing it over and over. It seemed as if one time they showed the replay followed by the Indycar commercial with Dixon’s accident at the 2017 500.

The repair of the catch fence looked like a shoddy patchwork job that was not up to standards. I’m glad there was not another incident there the rest of the day. The series should have paid more attention to Sebastien Bourdais.

I hope before the race at Gateway Race Control has a long talk with the drivers about starting a race. Power did start correctly, but other drivers got too anxious.

I will have a full race story on Wildfire Sports sometime tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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Dixon Stays Home

Scott Dixon has signed a multi-year deal to remain at Chip  Ganassi Racing. Dixon had considered an offer from McLaren and also had drawn interest from Team Penske, Andretti Autosport, and another team. 2019 will be Dixon’s 18th season at Ganassi, the longest any driver has been with the team. he made his 300th Indycar start at Mid Ohio July 29. Dixon began his Indycar career with PacWest Racing in Champ Car in 2001, then moved to Ganassi for the 2002 season.

Dixon has 44 career wins, third on the all time list behind A. J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52). While the length of the contract isn’t known at this time, he should have time to catch Andretti. Dixon currently leads this year’s points, holding a 46 point lead over Alexander Rossi with four races remaining. Winning the the title would be Dixon’s fifth, just two behind Foyt.

Rob Edwards, COO of Andretti Autosport, expressed disappointment but not surprise at the announcement. ” Probably some of the other conversations took too long to come together to the point where Scott needed to make a decision,” he said.

In this afternoons’ teleconference, both Dixon and Ganassi gave a glimpse of how the new deal came about. Dixon talked to Ganassi about a month ago and Dixon told his car owner that they were okay.  He conceded there were “moderate discussions going on” with other teams, but in the end, it was “a fairly straightforward decision.”

“These people gave me the opportunity to start with,” Dixon said.

As for the championship race this season, his approach is to “take each weekend as it is. The worst thing you can do is points racing.” Dixon hopes the missed opportunities at the beginning of the year don’t reflect at the end of the season.

Ganassi thinks Dixon is driving as well in 2018 as he has in his career.

“It was easier for Scott with teammates Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon. It’s tougher now without a champion driver on the team.”

Ganassi said he has no plans to expand the team beyond its current two cars.

Talking about the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono this weekend, Dixon said the new front wing configuration “gives everybody more options,” but will not “fundamentally change things.”

He went on to say he thinks the race will be “similar to last year.”

Dixon said, “I like this year’s style of racing better. ”

On the health of the series, Ganassi said, “It’s in a period where it’s on the uptick,” noting that he has seen Indycar go through up and down cycles. He is very excited about the NBC package.

Dixon added that his PNC sponsorship “speaks volumes about Indycar racing.”

Dixon staying with Chip ganassi racing is also a positive for the series.

Thoughts:

Seeing Dixon at any other team would just not feel right.

I wonder how much sponsor PNC Bank influenced the decision.

Staying with Ganassi means if he wins the title, we likely won’t see a number 1 car next year. Ganassi has been reluctant to have that number on his championship cars. can PNC help here? I think the champion should carry the number 1 the following year.

Some late news items:

Zachary Claman de Melo will drive for Harding Racing at Pocono and Gateway. DeMelo, who drove earlier in the season for Dale Coyne Racing’s shared number 19 car, takes over the 88 car as the team seeks to audition drivers for 2019.

Richmond is looking more likely as the oval to be added to next year’s schedule.

fernando Alonso is making an announcement tomorrow. Is Indycar involved? I may be up late tonight waiting to hear.

 

 

Dixon Stays Home

Scott Dixon has signed a multi-year deal to remain at Chip  Ganassi Racing. Dixon had considered an offer from McLaren and also had drawn interest from Team Penske, Andretti Autosport, and another team. 2019 will be Dixon’s 18th season at Ganassi, the longest any driver has been with the team. he made his 300th Indycar start at Mid Ohio July 29. Dixon began his Indycar career with PacWest Racing in Champ Car in 2001, then moved to Ganassi for the 2002 season.

Dixon has 44 career wins, third on the all time list behind A. J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52). While the length of the contract isn’t known at this time, he should have time to catch Andretti. Dixon currently leads this year’s points, holding a 46 point lead over Alexander Rossi with four races remaining. Winning the the title would be Dixon’s fifth, just two behind Foyt.

Rob Edwards, COO of Andretti Autosport, expressed disappointment but not surprise at the announcement. ” Probably some of the other conversations took too long to come together to the point where Scott needed to make a decision,” he said.

In this afternoons’ teleconference, both Dixon and Ganassi gave a glimpse of how the new deal came about. Dixon talked to Ganassi about a month ago and Dixon told his car owner that they were okay.  He conceded there were “moderate discussions going on” with other teams, but in the end, it was “a fairly straightforward decision.”

“These people gave me the opportunity to start with,” Dixon said.

As for the championship race this season, his approach is to “take each weekend as it is. The worst thing you can do is points racing.” Dixon hopes the missed opportunities at the beginning of the year don’t reflect at the end of the season.

Ganassi thinks Dixon is driving as well in 2018 as he has in his career.

“It was easier for Scott with teammates Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon. It’s tougher now without a champion driver on the team.”

Ganassi said he has no plans to expand the team beyond its current two cars.

Talking about the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono this weekend, Dixon said the new front wing configuration “gives everybody more options,” but will not “fundamentally change things.”

He went on to say he thinks the race will be “similar to last year.”

Dixon said, “I like this year’s style of racing better. ”

On the health of the series, Ganassi said, “It’s in a period where it’s on the uptick,” noting that he has seen Indycar go through up and down cycles. He is very excited about the NBC package.

Dixon added that his PNC sponsorship “speaks volumes about Indycar racing.”

Dixon staying with Chip ganassi racing is also a positive for the series.

Thoughts:

Seeing Dixon at any other team would just not feel right.

I wonder how much sponsor PNC Bank influenced the decision.

Staying with Ganassi means if he wins the title, we likely won’t see a number 1 car next year. Ganassi has been reluctant to have that number on his championship cars. can PNC help here? I think the champion should carry the number 1 the following year.

Some late news items:

Zachary Claman de Melo will drive for Harding Racing at Pocono and Gateway. DeMelo, who drove earlier in the season for Dale Coyne Racing’s shared number 19 car, takes over the 88 car as the team seeks to audition drivers for 2019.

Richmond is looking more likely as the oval to be added to next year’s schedule.

fernando Alonso is making an announcement tomorrow. Is Indycar involved? I may be up late tonight waiting to hear.

 

 

Quick Thoughts on Mid Ohio

I am so impressed with the drivers that have come into the series the last three years. It was an impressive win for Alexander Rossi, and a good drive to second for Robert Wickens.

Rossi’s fuel saving drive was Dixon-like.

Scott Dixon is now 46 points ahead of Rossi, who leaps to second. Rossi expressed confidence he has time to take the lead.

Disappointed to see Max Chilton not take advantage of his sixth place starting spot.

Conor Daly ran another good race for Harding. A shame he ran out of fuel on the last lap. If a team needs to develop a car, Daly is the driver they want.

The attendance was the best I’ve seen at Mid Ohio since my first year there in 2008.

Sebastien Bourdais put on quite a show coming from last to a top ten on a track where passing is difficult. Not many of his position gains were in the pits.

Dixon did what he needed to do, hang close and get another top 5.

The cloudy skies and cooler temperatures allowed more grip contributing to the surprisingly caution free race..

My more detailed race report will be up no later than tomorrow morning on

wildfireradiosports.com

 

 

Quick Quick Thoughts- Honda Indy Toronto https://t.co/6Qlbh0QPfN- Honda Indy Toronto

Indycar put together another good race. The Honda Indy Toronto was a great follow-up to the great race in Iowa last week. This was a street brawl. Cars banged together, fought for position, went wider than anyone thought possible at Toronto. The race played well on television.

The new aero kit has definitely improved the street course races. They have all seen more passing and action than in year’s past. I hope what we saw last weekend means they have finally figured out the oval configuration. Pocono and Gateway will provide those answers. I’m not sure if there is much to be done on road courses. At Road America Newgarden didn’t run away and hide from Hunter-Reay, but Hunetr-Reay couldn’t pass.

Good Days Spoiled

Marco Andretti had fourth place locked up until he pitted for fuel with two laps to go. Was there a fueling issue on his last stop?

Spencer Pigot was on his way to his second good finish when he hit the wall and had to retire.

Josef Newgarden had the race in hand, and would probably have had a close fight for the win with Scott Dixon when he brushed the wall on a restart. He clawed his way back to 9th, but lost a lot of ground to Dixon in the title chase.

Good Days Rewarded

Simon Pagenaud had his second podium of the season in what has been a frustrating year for the former series champion. The next race at Mid Ohio is a track where he done well. It will be interesting to see if his success carries over.

Tony Kanaan’s sixth place was AJ Foyt Racing’s best result of the year.

Robert Wickens reached the podium in his first home race. Teammate James Hinchcliffe finished fourth. This is the third straight year a Canadian driver has been on the Toronto podium. Hinchcliffe finished third the last two years.

Conor Daly stepped into the 88 Harding Racing car this week. He started 11th and finished thirteenth, Harding’s best overall weekend of the year. Daly is a master of jumping in a car at the last minute and doing well. Harding is looking to put a second car on the grid in 2019. Could Fall be a candidate for that seat?

Charlie Kimball in fifth was the best result for Carlin Racing this year.

Zach Veach finished seventh after starting 22nd.

Dixon in Control of the Title

Dixon’s quest for a fifth championship is looking better. he now leads Newgarden by 62 points. I believe this is the biggest lead this late in a season since Juan Pablo Montoya held a commanding lead in 2015. Dixon has done very little wrong this year, taking as high a finish as he could, then finally breaking through at Detroit for his first 2018 victory. He and Newgarden now lead the series with three wins each.

Dixon has now won 44 races, just 8 behind Mario Andretti. If you don’t appreciate this future legend yet, start now. He definitely belongs with the greats of old.

My full Toronto recap will be on wildfireradiosports.com Tuesday. Wednesday watch this column for a story on the 1956 Indianpolis 500.

A Home Game for SPM Drivers- Honda Indy Toronto Preview

Photo above from Honda Indy Toronto website

The Verizon Indycar series makes its only trip outside the United States this weekend in Toronto. James Hinchcliffe gets to race at home coming off his victory in Iowa. Teammate Robert Wickens also can claim Toronto as his home track. Look for great results from this pair this weekend.  With Zachary Claman DeMelo also in the field, this is the first time in several years that three Canadian drivers have been in this race.

Indycar has had a long history at Exhibition Place beginning in 1986. The race was off the calendar in 2008, but returned the next year following the merger. This was one of the venues where double headers took place in 2013 and 2014.  Michael Andretti won at Toronto seven times, including three sets of back to back wins in 1991 and 92, 1994 and 95, and 2000 and 2001.

Active drivers who have won previously are Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, and  Scott Dixon. Power leads active drivers with three wins. Newgarden and Dixon each have won twice. Dixon swept the 2013 doubleheader for his two victories.

The event has the buzz of Indy about it, making it a fun race to attend. After track activity, there is Toronto to explore. This race is definitely worth a trip. Public transportation makes it easy to get to.

Does Honda Street Course Domination Continue?

Hondas have dominated on street circuits this season. Power has had the strongest Chevy on the streets with two seconds and a seventh place finish. He has qualified second twice and third once. Newgarden has not qualified well and although he has three top ten finishes, he hasn’t really been a factor in any of the street events.

Honda has won the pole for all four street races.  Alexander Rossi has won two poles.  This trend should continue. Hondas seem to like tracks with slow corners and short straightaways.

A Great Weekend for the Home Team?

The momentum SPM and Hinchcliffe have from winning Iowa and Honda’s strength on this type of track point to a great weekend for the team. Robert Wickens excelled at St. Pete and is one of the favorites to win his first career Indycar race Sunday.  Wickens has been in contention in most races this season and will be a factor on race day.

Indy 500 2018 190

Robert Wickens is one of the favorites for his hometown race. Photo: Mike Silver

Can Dixon Extend His Points Lead?

We are in the part of the season where points are as important as who wins the race. Dixon’s big lead suffered a slight drop last Sunday, but not enough to put his spot in jeopardy. It would be a shock if he had two bad races in a row. I’m not sure if he’ll extend his lead, but he may have a different runner-up chasing him to Mid-Ohio.

Is the Duel Back On?

My picks- Rossi on pole and Wickens winning the race. In a perfect world, they will both start on the front row. Rossi and Wickens could develop into a great rivalry with their different driving styles. Rossi has gained a reputation for his aggressive, unapologetic style on track, while Wickens drives steadily and doesn’t push the envelope.

Daly to drive for Harding

Conor Daly will drive the 88 Harding car this weekend, replacing Gabby Chaves. In a statement from Harding the team states they are looking to audition drivers for a second car next year and want some fresh input on the car. They are also looking at some Indy Lights drivers. Chaves will be back in the car at some point this season has a contract for 2019 with Harding.

Look for my Toronto recap on wildfirradiosports.com early next week. I will catch up on Indycar news in this space mid week, and I plan to have a feature story on a n historic turning point in 500 history.

The Dixon Domino; Other Thoughts

Silly Season began early with talk of new teams, especially McLaren, working with established teams. Now the first driver name has emerged as possibly moving to a new team. To the surprise of many, Scott Dixon’s name came up as the possible diver of the full time McLaren entry should Fernando Alonso only want to do the 500. The story seemed odd at first, but Dixon has confirmed that he has talked to Zak Brown’s team. he has also had talks with Andretti about next year. While everyone assumes McLaren will, partner with Andretti, that may not necessarily be the case.

Honda wants to keep Dixon as one of their drivers. Is Honda completely okay with  McLaren?  Although HPD, the U. S. arm of Honda that provides the engines for Indycar, would be welcoming, is the parent company okay with McLaren and Alonso after the Honda/McLaren debacle in Formula 1? Zak brown has had talks with Chevrolet as well, looking for the best fit for his Indycar team. I think they will definitely be at the 500, but the rest of the season is still a long way from being settled. What Dixon does will determine all other driver movement in the offseason. If Dixon stays at Ganassi, there shouldn’t be a lot of changes in the driver lineup.

There likely will be more intrigue with new teams and this year’s part time teams than with drivers heading to 2019.

An Andretti F1 Team?

Rumors flew the weekend of the Canadian Grand Prix when Michael Andretti and one of his team principals made an appearance. He spent a lot of time with McLaren and Alonso, but there was talk that he was also looking into buying the beleaguered Force India team. Somehow, the conversation turned to Andretti trying to buy McLaren.

I don’t think  buying McLaren is even a remote possibility. Purchasing Force India is probably not happening either. I don’t see how Andretti could swing that deal. The F1 team has huge debts that the new owner needs to assume. Andretti would be better off starting an IMSA team than drowning in the red ink of a Formula 1 entrprise.

The 2019 Schedule

A great weekend at Road America got even better with Sunday’s announcement that the Kohler GP will return for three more years. Next year’s event will be on the same weekend, June 20-23. The race has rapidly become the Crown Jewel of Indycar’s  road course races.

Speculation that Homestead will replace Phoenix as next season’s second race continues to grow. Homestead had the same attendance issues that caused Phoenix to be dropped. It would be putting an oval on the schedule just to replace an oval. Indycar might be better off finding a road course replacement until an oval venue that will be viable is found. The season doesn’t need to begin with two street races.

No word on where next year’s finale will take place. There is strong sentiment for Gateway. If the season ends in St. Louis, where does Sonoma go? It would be difficult for the tracks to just swap places. Does the series go down to just one race in California? I think that would be a mistake.

Bonus Point Watch

Apparently I had way too much time on my hands this week. I have compiled totals of each drivers’ bonus points for the year. I did this as a means to see how the bonus points affect the championship. The maximum bonus a driver can earn at the Indianapolis 500 is 12, nine for the pole, one for leading a lap, and two more for leading the most laps. In all, other races, the maximum is four, one for pole, 1 for leading, and one for leading the most laps. For Detroit’s races, a point also goes to the driver who led the qualifying group that did not include the pole winner. At Indianapolis, the fastest nine qualifiers receive points, with the polesitter getting nine points then one point les for each position.

In the ten races to date, a driver has earned the maximum bonus points eight times. Phoenix and Texas are the only times no driver received all bonus points possible. Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden have earned four bonus points twice, Rossi at Detroit Race 2 and Long Beach; Newgarden at Road America and Barber. Below are the top eight in bonus points through Road America:

Newgarden                       20

Will Power                         16

Rossi                                     13

Sebastien Bourdais          12

Ed Carpenter*                    12

Simon Pagenaud               11

Robert Wickens                  10

Dixon                              9

*Carpenter’s points all earned at Indianapolis 500

Dixon’s first bonus point was qualifying ninth for the Indianapolis 500. Newgarden has earned bonus points in seven races. Bourdais, Rossi,  and Ryan Hunter-Reay  in six each.

While bonus points may be important, consistent finishes lead to championships. They are the reason Dixon leads the championship at the moment.