It has been quite a while since have chatted. Amid a strenuous work schedule, unforeseen sick time, an even more critically injured computer, and the holiday craziness, it’s nice to be able to slow down and talk some indycar with all of you.
The news has been not as slow as one would expect during the off season. We have seen the bad, but in a very invigorating change, we have heard many good things come out of the paddock of late. I would hardly say that indycar has been burning up the news wire, but it sure is a nice change of pace compared to the dark and cold off seasons of long forgotten past.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing – Sarah Fishers longtime sugar daddy Wink Hartman has finally made his connection to the team official. This was the same guy who gave the squad a brand new Dallara chassis last year. The reformed family team will plant new seeds in Speedway, Indiana where they will build a brand new racing shop on Main Street near the new Dallara facility. This can only mean good things for everybody’s favorite little team that could. Although the team lost driver Ed Carpenter to his own race team(!) ; they were able to procure the services of reigning Indy Lights Champion Josef Newgarden.
On a personal level, I am very excited about the new race shop. One of the major things than NASCAR seems to get right, is its fan friendliness. It seems every garage in and around charlotte, North Carolina are tourist attractions in their own right. They have public tours and gift shops; all to spread the love of the team, and ultimately the sport. In the SFHR presser, it was noted there would actually be a fan interactive section, and retail element. This is something that has been sorely missing from the Indianapolis racing landscape. The only true indycar attraction is the museum, and with the addition of SFHR to the already planned indycar experience at the Dallara plant; things are starting to look really fun in Speedway.
Final Vegas thoughts – My initial concerns over the cancellation of the Las Vegas race for next year have been quelled. I have to applaud INDYCAR as a whole in the professional and transparent manner in which they went about the press conference. We were also privy to the report itself. I don’t have firsthand knowledge of other fatality investigations, but it seems that the general public received a large amount of information regarding the accident; including the actual report itself. I truly hope that INDYCAR follows this wonderful precedent that was started with this press conference.
The unlimited racing lines opinion is one I had never heard voiced before, and a very valid point at that. With this information in hand, the decision to at least postpone the 2012 Las Vegas event makes more sense. This was an oddity that the series, or we as fans had never experienced. I have watched those first ten laps many times in the recent weeks, and it became more and more apparent that I was watching something akin to plate racing; a nuance in the action I had failed to pick up on before. There were truly no places the cars couldn’t run. Thank you INDYCAR for removing all doubt in my mind about that decision.
Lotus – Where are you? The delivery date of December 15th; the day teams received the first chassis orders, has come and gone and nary a sound from a Lotus engine. Not more than a month ago, we were wondering if the vaporware that was the Judus would ever be seen. John Judd, the engine designer, seemed intent to move his engine program forward with, or without Lotus. Surprisingly, the beleaguered project then seemed to take an encouraging step forward. The manufacturer signed four teams to a works-type program. Bryan Herta, Autosport, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, HVM Racing and Michael Shank Racing Indy will all, supposedly, work together in an engineering think tank. Interesting concept.
Lotus then broke news that all their motorsports properties will be branded in the familiar black and gold John Players Special livery that was so synonymous with the racing imprint. It seems everything is starting to finally take shape over in the Lotus camp. But no engines…still no engines. January 15th is the target date for the Lotus teams to begin testing. Even with the positive traction the project has made into the series, I still have my doubts. I will not believe, for one second, that we will have a black and yellow car on the grid in 2012 until I see video of the lump taking testing laps.
DW12 – Oh the dilemmas that we face. The chassis is still suffering from imbalance problems even with the trick new gear box and spiffy new aero appendages. Although the paddock does not seem to be whipped in to a froth; fans are on the brink of madness. Is it time to take the dang airbox off yet?!? Should we be talking about ditching the bumper yet?!? It all just seems like a bit of crazy talk for the time being. Yes, the chassis is on a very compressed time frame. But there are good answers coming down the pipeline. A redesign the both the front, and rear suspension should make for an incredibly improved weight balance by shifting the chassis forward in relation to the wheels.
This alone, should help the chassis. But again, we must wait. There are no actual examples of these pieces that I am aware of and no testing has taken place to verify the concept. I must admit, I understand this will not fix the car, but a large amount of the hope I have in the issues being addressed, ride on these little A arms. I will also admit that I will be a bit disappointed if speeds are not in the 220s next May. But the excitement for the new car, if it works, is almost too much to bare. Part of the excitement of Indy is watching the speeds rise every year; this time we will just have a bit farther to go. If the car is safe to drive, and not crazy and unraceable, I will be just fine with that.
It’s good to have stuff to talk about in the long indycar off season. Not only do we have a few new teams springing up, we also have confirmation that the Mazda Road to Indy may actually work. Initial concerns of low 20 car counts have been replaced with optimistic counts in the 30s. Silly season is still as unpredictable as ever; when things cool down I would like to check out where people are starting to land, but with so many enormous questions to answer; #7, Servia, Wilson, everything at this point just seems to be pure conjecture. Once again, it seems like the tides may have turned back to indycar’s favor; we will have to see how the New Year treats us. So more non-news news in a rather busy off season and I am back in business once again. It’s good to be back.