Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Indycar Title Chase Winding Down - Silly Season In Full Swing
Since my last post to American Motor Journal about the fantastic Chicagoland IRL finish, I've had time to reflect on what has been an awesome season title chase. It's now down to Briscoe, Dixon and Dario with two races to go, and there is bound to be fireworks somewhere along the line before the season winds up at Miami Homestead. The IRL oval races have taken a turn for the better since Kentucky as photo finishes there and at Chicagoland will attest. Motegi is a different kind of oval however, and fuel consumption strategy places a bigger role than aero tweaks, with its odd shape and lack of banking. I'm sure the folks at Honda and Japanese fans are looking forward to it.
Danica returns to Motegi where she got her lone Indycar win last year, and she is reported to be seriously considering running NASCAR Nationwide races next year in addition to the full IRL season. That sounds like a good move for her, and if Scott Speed can go from F1 to ARCA, getting seat time in the heavy taxicabs before committing to a full series switch must be a good thing for Danica. Even my man Tony Stewart has reportedly been consulted by Danica, and he is being quoted as saying she is serious about making the move.
Speaking of Honda folks, will Hideki be back in the AGR stable next year or will the Formula Dream yen go elsewhere? There sure were a lot of Formula Dream people at Chicagoland, and with reports that Dixon had considered moving to Gil de Ferran's new team in 2010 before re-signing with Ganassi, can the sponsor move from AGR to de Ferran be far behind? Will Takume Sato end up behind the wheel at de Ferran? I doubt that crashing out at Chicagoland helped Hideki's cause much, even though he had some very encouraging runs lately.
And how will the changes at AGR play out, now that Michael Andretti is going to be sole owner of the team, and his partners are going to focus on Andretti Green Promotions? If the Formula Dream money goes elsewhere, re-signing Danica has to be of paramount importance for Andretti. The team is probably going to have to make some other changes as well, as overall they have not done well in 2009. I would expect TK to go for broke in the last two races to try to get one in the win column, even though Danica is leading the charge in the season points for the team.
The guy I think could surprise everyone these last two races is at KV Racing however: Mario Moraes was truly spectacular at Chicagoland and it looks like he's got this oval track thing figured out. He was strong at Indy before he and Marco tangled on the first lap so he could do well at Motegi and steal one yet.
Everyone else is pretty much running for bragging rights, or a contract for 2010. What's going to happen to Vitor Meira? Will Wheldon jump back to AGR from Panther? And what about Vision Racing? The Hulman purse strings have been cinched up tight so Tony George is going to have to drum up some sponsors it looks like, which could be bad news for Ed Carpenter and the team, especially since Eddie has looked so good in the last two oval races and had his best ever road course finish at Sonoma.
With MotoGP done in Indy for another year, and the Grand Am series running a very popular and successful open test at IMS this past week, much remains to be revealed in the racing capital of the world over the next few weeks. I'd like to see Dario take the IRL title, and I hope the teams pit blunder at Chicagoland doesn't prove fatal to his title chances. I'd also like to see IMS renew the MotoGP deal and get some more general admission tickets out there for race day. The fans of the knee-draggers don't want to sit in the grandstands - they want to go where the bikes corner and pass, so give them what they want Mr. Belskus! And let's hope the Speedway management can find a way to run an endurance race in the fall with the Grand Am series, maybe as their season finale, and run it into the night on a Saturday. Finally, when the musical chairs end in the IRL after this season, let's hope they can get back to 26 or 28 cars at every race next year and continue to show the way with the fastest, closest racing on the planet.