2014 IndyCar Season Preview (Pit Lane Reporter)

(NOTE: This post originally appeared in issue one of “Pit Lane Reporteron 3/16/2014. My writing at PLR will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location one month after originally appearing on/in PLR website and magazine. Didn’t download the first issue? Shame on you! Stay tuned for details about issue two next week.)

A frozen winter in North America and an unusually busy offseason for driver moves have punctuated the five months since the IndyCar paddock took the checkered flag at Auto Club Speedway and Scott Dixon was crowned series champion. Teams have been engaged in preseason testing since January at a multitude of warm weather locations including Sebring International Raceway Short Course, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Auto Club Speedway. In the midst of all the action, homeless drivers have been vying for the quickly shrinking pool of open seats.

The transition from 2013 to 2014 in IndyCar has been a relatively smooth one considering we are talking about open-wheel racing. INDYCAR and newly appointed CEO Mark Miles looked to streamline what had historically been a family run business lacking the acumen to consistently fortify the series’ place in the US and global motorsport world. Jay Frye as Chief Revenue Officer and CJ O’Donnell as Chief Marketing Officer and Mike Kitchel as Communication Director have been welcome additions as all three men bring a wealth of knowledge and history in the sports and motorsport world.

On-track, the largest change will undoubtedly be the transition of Honda from a single-turbo engine layout to a twin-turbo system. The change was to be series mandated as technical officials have had difficulties balancing the single system from Honda and twin system from Chevrolet, however Honda had plans for the switch anyway and was well into development when the rule change was announced.

Honda had lagged behind Chevy in a few key areas in 2012 and 2013 and the change to a twin-turbo layout was more of a competitive decision to stay on par with Chevy. Honda had made sacrifices the last two years in drivability and fuel economy to stay in the same range of horsepower as Chevy. By the end of 2013, Honda had made huge strides in containing the power of the bowtie brigade. The move to twin-turbos could give Honda a decisive advantage considering all the work they have done on engine drivability and power delivery on their tricky single-turbo unit.

After two years of development, the 2.2 liter direct injected turbo motors are purportedly making in the neighborhood of 725 horsepower while in road trim. This could be as much as 50 more than when the power plants debuted in 2012; a considerable increase in the heavily homologated engine formula with few windows for upgrades. And with two years of aero development in the bag, 2014 should see speeds increase at nearly all tracks, a trend continued from 2013.

Adding to the tangled web of engine talk, Chip Ganassi racing has swapped manufacturer during the offseason. The championship contending team has opted to go with Chevy for 2014 after perceived lack of commitment from Honda soured Ganassi on the partnership. Andretti Autosport went the other way, choosing to represent long-time partner Honda for the 2014 season.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore was unfortunately axed from the schedule because IndyCar and the city of Baltimore were unable to find a suitable date to hold the event. A future revival of the grand prix does not look to be an option for either party. IndyCar also lost the Sao Paulo Indy 300 due to the promoter backing out of the contract forcing the series to look elsewhere in Brazil for a possible return to the country sometime in the future.

Although two fan favorite races have been lost from the schedule, a new road course event has been added at the newly reconfigured Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix Course. The race will take place on what is traditionally opening weekend for the Indianapolis 500; the crown jewel of the series held on the famous oval during Memorial Day weekend.

The Indianapolis Grand Prix will complement the three returning double header weekends. Detroit, Houston and Toronto will host two full distance, full points paying races; one Saturday and one Sunday. Each double header weekend poses a true test of endurance and fortitude of the teams and drivers. Surviving race one intact and unscathed as to be in a strong position for race two is imperative to a successful championship push.

Also returning for 2014 will be the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Triple Crown. A traditional sub-championship awarded to the winner of three 500 mile races; the Triple Crown will include the 500 mile oval races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Speedway and Auto Club Speedway. A 1,000,000 USD payout is the prize if a driver can see the checkered flag first at all three events.

For 2014, the IndyCar paddock is missing a few familiar faces, but it is also home to new and returning drivers looking to make their mark on IndyCar racing. Dario Franchitti’s retirement following his high-flying impact with the Houston catchfence and ensuing concussion and bone injuries was a shock to most of us. But unlike many of the drivers that came before him, Dario was able to retire in person and will continue to be involved in some capacity with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Also Absent from the 2014 paddock is Simona de Silvestro who left KV Racing Technologies to become an “affiliated driver” with Sauber F1 Team. What this means for the young Swiss driver’s career is still to be seen. Simona’s 2013 teammate and 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan has also left KVRT, but to fill the #10 seat left by Dario. 2013 Dragon Racing teammates Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra have both departed Dragon to fill the two KVRT seats leaving Dragon with no drivers and no current plans for the 2014 season.

Tony Kanaan will be joining current Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Charlie Kimball and 2013 series champion Scott Dixon along with Ryan Briscoe. Returning from a 2013 season of sports car racing, Briscoe parlayed his 2013 Indy 500 drive for the team into a full season charge. Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power will be joined by Juan Pablo Montoya who returns to American open-wheel racing after a 13 year absence.

Largely unchanged for the 2014 season is Andretti Autosport as the team welcomes back its trio of North American drivers. James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be joined by rookie Carlos Munoz who drove for the team to dramatic effect at Indianapolis and Auto Club in 2013. The surprise driver signing of the year award goes to Andretti Autosport who inked a deal to run NASCAR driver Kurt Busch at the Indy 500.

Mikhail Aleshin, the second full season rookie competing in 2014, will team with veteran Simon Pagenaud at Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. This will be the second rookie stablemate Simon has taught in as many years. The team will also be home to Jacques Villeneuve for the Indy 500. Villeneuve, 1995 Indy 500 winner, 1995 CART champion and 1997 F1 World Champion, will be an interesting addition to the team and series this May by continuing the tradition of drivers in the twilight of their career coming to, or back to, Indy.

Single car operation AJ Foyt Enterprises welcomes back Takuma Sato for another year. The team will also have Martin Plowman making his IndyCar debut with them for both Indianapolis rounds. Ed Carpenter will take the wheel of his namesake team’s machine for the oval rounds, while sometimes IndyCar ace Mike Conway will take the honors of wheeling for the team on the remaining road and street courses.

Dale Coyne Racing and Justin Wilson will attempt to take on the big dogs for yet another year. Coyne’s second seat has always been a sort of enigma with late driver signings the norm; expect this seat to be filled for a second full season entry from the team by St. Petersburg weekend. Bryan Herta Autosport has enlisted the services of Mazda Road to Indy veteran Jack Hawksworth who has already been testing with the team at Sebring. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has signed up Joseph Newgarden to contest the championship for the third consecutive year with the team.

The National Guard sponsorship was transferred from Panther Racing to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during the offseason. The move not only secured Graham Rahal’s future with his father’s team, but it has also allowed the team to sign Orial Servia for at least four rounds this season. Losing this sponsorship has brought Panther Racings’ already unstable future into question. The team has done preseason testing with Carlos Huertas, but is currently tangled in a legal battle with RLLR, INDYCAR and the National Guard regarding the sponsorship transfer. The teams’ chances of securing a full season entry look very slim.

There should be between 22 and 24 cars on the grid for the season opening race in St. Petersburg. But the question at the start of most recent seasons has been: How does the series make it to the historic car count of 33 for the Indianapolis 500? First, the bulk of the balance will be made up by “Indy only” entrants from full season teams. Busch, Plowman and Villeneuve have already signed to such programs. Look for Townsend Bell, Buddy Lazier and Conor Daly to ink Indy only deals as well.

And there are a few Indy only teams that will most likely make an appearance as well. If Panther Racing or Dragon Racing miss the full season, they will almost certainly still attempt the 500. Dreyer & Reinbolt Racing, once a full season entrant, will also do their best to be back in May. A new and unknown Cutters Racing Team is also looking to crowd source the funding for an Indy 500 attempt.

Team Penske could be the team to beat in 2014 with Target Chip Ganassi very close behind. Helio Castroneves is chasing his elusive first championship to compliment his three Indy 500 wins and Will Power looking to finally clinch a championship in the absence of arch-rival Dario Franchitti. With the driver and engine shake-up at TCGR, the addition of Montoya to an already driven Team Penske and the slightly inconsistent Andretti Autosport, Penske looks primed to capture its first championship since 2006, an eternity for Team Penske.

However, IndyCar is not defined by the big teams. Simon Pagenaud won two races in 2013 and his team has coalesced to become one of the best teams on a budget in the paddock. A championship is not out of the question for the small operation. The move by Sebastien Bourdais, 4 time ChampCar series champion, to KVRT thus freeing himself from Dragon Racing may be the best career decision he has made since returning to the paddock in 2011. Finally, the cash infusion received by RLLR and Rahal may very well propel them into the realm serious contenders. Only time will tell how they use the new resources.

The championship is wide open in 2014 with as many as 15 drivers possessing the skill to take a win on any given week. A podium finish at sometime during the year will be within the grasp of every single driver taking the green flag. Pound for pound, IndyCar has some of the tightest competition in the motorsports world and the series’ history of nail biting races and championship finishes is prepped to deliver again in 2014.

Eric Hall

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The Weekend Rewind… Sunny Florida Edition

(Note: For 2014, I’m going to turn over a new leaf during these race reviews. Usually, you won’t read much about the drivers’ actual race performance on these pages. It would take exceptional situations for me to devote much space to any one driver (the return of JPM for example). However, after looking at some of the awesome post-race resources provided by INDYCAR (I get them from the MoreFrontWing.com event summaries page) and the post-race press releases (provided by TrackSideOnline.com along with awesome insider content for 22 bucks a year) I think it’s about time I at least try to talk about the drivers in a non-technical way )

Race one in the bag, and Will Power leads the points. How am I not surprised? It’s not that I don’t like Mr. Power, I just love rooting against him even more. Everyone needs a bad guy, and it is even sweeter when your bad guy runs up front. I love seeing him squirm under the championship pressure and I’m glad he could build some confidence early in the season because he’s going to need it! The major players were in attendance and did not waste a second in continuing the battle from 2014. Some years it feels like St. Pete is kind of a warm-up for the season, but on Sunday it felt like the entire paddock was more than ready to race once the green flag fell.


THE Restart – Simple, not Will Powers fault. From the moment it happened, I saw the rear of the field assuming the leader was going to gas it out of the last corner to take the green. However, under the directive of race control, pace car driver Johnny Rutherford entered the front straight at reduced speed and pulled into pit lane at a later spot on the track than in 2013. Power followed suit and the first few guys (read: the experienced end of the grid) did as well. It was the rush to pack up in the rear of the field that ultimately caused the crash. Do you think, as a Roger Penske employee, Will Power would really brake-check a teammate?! That’s just irresponsible. Believe me, I’m the first one to try to find a reason to throw Power under the bus. This time he’s in the clear.

Montoya – OK, I think I can objectively look at JPM now that he, and I, have a race under our belts. To be fair, street racing is probably the hardest of the three disciplines of indycar racing to just jump into. Dealing with a low grip surface, constantly changing track conditions and the total lack of runoff room poses unique challenges to drivers that choose to kick-off their indycar career on the streets. Will JPM win a race or five this year? Yes. Will it come before Indy? Barber… Maybe, but probably not until after Detroit. Power looks super focused this year and could pose a huge road block to Montoya in his quest for victory lane. Juan Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya will take time to adjust. Honestly, I’m very glad he finished P15. Imagine the “NASCAR taught Juan how to race!” if he took the win.

Aleshin – The young Russian had quite the interesting day while still managing to finish P12 while making five non-penalty induced trips down pit lane. Mikhail lost five spots on the first ever flying start of his career five positions and placing him in a long fight at the tail end of the field for most of the first half of the day. Aleshin fought his way to 17th before shortly losing a lap during the second pit stop rotation. Three trips down pit road in six laps and an amazing second restart allowed him to fight Juan Pablo for 11 laps, overtaking him in the process. Rahal was able to make his way to the rookie, but Aleshin held him off until the checkers to secure an eventual P12 finish. It was truly an interesting debut for the highest placed rookie and also the highest placed driver to make more than three stops.

Honda Twin – With only two Chevys in the top 9, it looks like Hondas decision to reconfigure their engine was a good decision. By moving to the twin turbo layout, Honda was able to more closely match the characteristics of the Chevy motor. Honda also took the opportunity to rethink the layout of a twin turbo motor. The manufacturer moved the two 10+ pound turbo units as far forward in the rear heavy DW12 as far as possible to improve weight distribution. This has allowed Honda to turn the tables in St Pietersburg as they have had a total of seven top ten finishers in 2012 and 2013 combined. 2014 saw that number equaled with Chevy placing only three drivers in the top ten. Honda feels much farther ahead of the curve than they have been at the start of the previous two seasons and has a much improved platform to compete with Chevy each week.

Coverage – I was able to catch a fair amount of radio coverage this weekend along with the ABC broadcast of the race. Pippa Mann and Paul Page did a great job for their first weekend together. It was rough in a few spots and a bit unfocussed, but much better than what we had been enduring in years past. The radio team still had the problem of sometimes not dictating the on-track action to the listeners. We don’t have video coverage and need the team to paint us the picture; I felt more than a little blind at some points in the coverage. ABC was no better or worse than last year. For an indycar fans with not much experience with NASCAR, new announcer Allen Bestwick was competent if not a bit timid in his new environment. Hopefully he will be a familiar voice for curious onlookers during the remainder of ABC’s coverage.

Really, the race was pretty straight forward. A few loose brains on THE restart, but by no means the worst we have seen out of this crop of drivers. Although Bestwick didn’t absolutely stun me, I felt his addition and chemistry, perceived or actual, with the rest of the broadcast team boosted the energy from the booth. While not totally stunning me, they were able to make what could have been a boring race entertaining and easy to follow. And that is really my take away from the weekend. There were more lock-step green flag laps than we are usually accustomed to at St. Pete, yet the race still felt compelling and unpredictable. Well done from everyone all around and a great start to what looks to be a great year.

Eric Hall

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Into the Crystal Ball… Welcome to Sunny Florida Edition

crystal ballWith an actual pre-race article we are FINALLY here! 2014 is upon us and the entire indycar circus is hunkered down in the St. Petersburg paddock ready to battle from the first sight of green on Friday morning. Firestone takes over from Honda as the presenting sponsor of the event with 2014 marking the 11th edition of the early season staple. The short 1.8 mile airport circuit is always an exciting way to open the season and 2014 should be no different. Let’s just hope the guys can repeatedly navigate through turn one without crunching too many cars this year.

Five Things to Watch

Rain – Nearly every year this event has been contested, rain has affected some portion of the weekend. Some kind of rain is nearly inescapable in Southern Florida during the early spring months, and from the look of the forecast, 2014 will be no different. While Firestone has hinted at an updated full wet, I believe they will only have the intermediate from last year available for this first portion of the year. Unfortunate, because the current drizzle tire does not do well in the monsoons of Florida. Here’s to hoping for sprinkles instead of torrential rain if the skies must open this weekend.

Tires – Speaking of Firestone, we do know that the dry weather slicks have been worked on during the offseason. Drivers reported slightly higher grip and wear during winter testing and Firestone has stated that the gap between the black primary tires and red alternates will be even wider for 2014. Increasing mechanical grip is never a bad thing and I look forward to the drivers having a more racey compound to work with. We saw Simona struggle with rooted tires in the closing laps of the 2013 race, and I’m sure we will see similar sights this year.

Engines – Adding an extra dimension of complexity to the tire management issue is the increased horsepower from both power plants. Honda has whispered figures of 725 plus, while Chevy has been coy citing 675 horses. Right. Over two years into development. Riiiight. Truthfully, the figure from both manufacturers could be close to 750 in full on street circuit mode. Those slightly softer tires will be asked to do deal with even higher forces than their 2013 counterparts. Even on in-car video released from the Barber test, the engines sound meaner than last year. Slowly but surely were getting more power and the long runway of St. Petersburg will be the perfect place to see what they can really do.

Track Record – 2003 saw the fastest lap ever turned at the seaside facility; a 1:00.928 in the fire breathing Lola/Cosworth wheeled by none other than Sebastien Bourdais. The 2011 pole time was 1:01.9625 and for 2012 it was 1:01.3721. The DW12 has been inching closer and closer to the ultimate lap and 2014 could be the year. Given the quicker tires, stronger engines and over two years to massage the aerodynamics, we could see the old CART record fall by the close of Saturday. Enough dry running to do this is a tall order, but we could still see records fall all year long.

Montoya – Strap in for a year of Juan Pablo Montoya fanboying… Fair warning. I’ve already written in a multitude of places that Montoya will be the man to watch in 2014. And it all starts this weekend. I know, I know. Rubens Barrichello, AJ Allmendinger, Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato are guys who have all had trouble just jumping into an indycar and finding immediate success. However, JPM is a top echelon driver who can and will compete at the absolute highest levels of any motorsport he chooses to apply his trade to. Don’t give me NASCAR crap, I ain’t got time for that.


Pole – Will Power – Prove me wrong. Please. Seriously. I need to have another confident pick on a street circuit! I could wish anyone I want to pole I want, but Will Power. Come on man.

Winner – Simon Pagenaud – The Frenchman takes his first steps in becoming a serious title contender this year.

Epic Performance – Juan Pablo Montoya – OK, I admit it may take a few races to get his legs under him, but anything less than a podium would be a disappointment.

Biggest Loser – Helio Castroneves – He needs but a single championship to solidify himself into indycar lore, but a tough race in St. Pete will start his championship bid on the wrong foot.

We have talked 2014 and the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to death, it’s time to kick the tires and light the fires. A long off-season is rushing to an end and the beautiful Florida paddock is always the perfect place to kick the season off. The off-season shake-ups will be put to the test and Honda’s trick twin turbo steed will finally turn its first wheels in anger, I could not be any more excited. Strap in for another amazing edition of indycar and the GP of St. Pete.

Eric Hall

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A Different Double Points View and The Return To Brazil

A Different Kind of Double-Points Breakdown

After years of claiming to be the most diverse series in the world, INDYCAR finally took a small step towards making that an honest reality. Sure the series races on both twistie and oval circuits, but the points have been massively unbalanced from the moment we were purported to be a multi discipline series.

With the news that double points will be awarded to all three Triple Crown events, indycar took a small step in the direction of actual instead of perceived balance. In the interest of full disclosure, I have already mentioned being on board with increasing the points awarded for oval races. (Link here, I mention as much in the ‘Balance’ section. Article was posted on 10/3/2012)

For the 2014 season, there will be 18 total races, with six being contested on oval tracks. If straight points, without bonus points, from 2013 were to be used for the 2014 season, twistie events would award 600 points while ovals would award a measly 300 points.

There will be 2385 miles contested on oval tracks and 2090 miles contested on twisties in 2014. (Race length for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis has not been released yet, so I am assuming 200 miles for the event) If we use the non-doubled points of 2013, One oval point accounted for 8 miles while a single twistie point accounted for 3.5 miles. That is a huge point difference being awarded per mile simply because the oval races can be up to twice the length while still awarding the same points.

Move ahead to the 2014 points system and the spread is not as shocking. 2385 miles on ovals with 493 points awarded, including Indy qualifying bonus points, lowers the miles per point for a season of oval races to about 4.8. Still not even in the same range as the 3.5 miles per point available on twisties, but much closer than we had in 2013.

To lower the miles per point to 3.5 on the ovals, equal to how points are awarded on the twistie portion of the schedule, there would have to be about 680 points awarded across the six ovals! It would take awarding double points at all oval rounds, plus the Indy qualifying bonus, plus a handful more points sprinkled in to make each mile raced in the season weighted equally in points.

This was not as big of a deal as when we had more ovals on the calendar, but with only a third of the schedule turning left, something had to be done. We always talk about balance in every facet of indycar racing and steps have actually been taken to make that ideal a reality.

I admit, from the outside, awarding double points looks like a massive shift in importance to the ovals. But even with the increase in points awarded, the twistie events are worth more per mile in the championship. In the past as Will Power has shown, you could crash out on almost every oval and still make a run at the championship. In 2014, performance on the ovals will be even more important to a championship assault.

Awarding miles per point is absolutely an ancient idea in the motorsport world, but I see it as a more pure way to score a championship. Why should a 250 mile and 500 mile event pay the same points? I want to see every mile count equally. I want skill to be equally important across every mile. I don’t want a road course stud to be able to throw away the ovals and still be in for a chance at the championship.

For some historical perspective, for most of the history of American-Open Wheel Racing, points were awarded based on the mileage of the race. A fantastic breakdown of the various points systems through the years can be found here.


Autódromo Internacional Nelson PiquetSome good news came on the racing in Brazil front recently following the cancelation of the Sao Paulo 2014 round of the championship. The series and local promoters have recently spoken of a deal, possibly signed already, that would place a round of the 2015 season in Brasilia, Brazil.

Cool. But what’s so special about Brazilia? Well, the series is looking at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet as the venue to host indycar’s return to South America. Note that there are two facilities in Brazil with this name; the facility in question is not the Jacarepaguá (Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway) circuit that held oval races from 1996 through 2000.

What we are talking about is the same facility that has been in talks with MotoGP organizers and nearly inked a deal for the 2014 season. Delays in track modifications (read: safety upgrades), ultimately denied its homologation for the 2014 season.

The official statement from INDYCAR describes the track as: “Autodromo Nelson Piquet, which has a 12-turn, 3.4-mile counter-clockwise layout for most of the races, would host the event.” The word that stands out to me is “most”. Why include that modifier in the release?

What may have been missed is the existence of a 5 turn “perimeter road course” at the facility. To me, it looks more like a flat, possibly skinny oval with a dogleg between what would be turn 2 and turn 4. Could INDYCAR be hinting at an oval-ish type event down there? Could the addition of IndyCar be what the track needs to secure final funding for modifications?

I have no idea about any of this, but it does make for an interesting trail of breadcrumbs. Here is a link to a crazy Corvette Zr1 Hennessey 750 doing hot laps around the 12 turn circuit. If you look carefully, you can see the perimeter circuit pass through is simply coned off and in the same condition as the rest of the track. The video is from October 2013 and the track does not look to be in very bad shape at all.

I would love to see the series attempt the wonky oval type road course thing. Car setup would definitely be different than a road course or oval package and could pose some interesting decisions for engineers to overcome. Of course this is idle banter until something official is released, but the possibility is very interesting.

Eric Hall

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Into The Crystal Ball… 2014 is Upon Us!

crystal ballThe green flag drops in St. Petersburg in a bit over a week and we haven’t event talked a word about 2014! The season finally kicks off in sunny southern Florida and finally marking the end of a long and cold off-season; an off-season packed with news and driver moves and noisier than indycar has been in between seasons in recent memory. We lost a few events, gained a few drivers and corporate guys and solidified the remains of the calendar into a repeatable schedule ripe for growth. I’m not sure if anything in indycar-world was left untouched during the off-season. What we have left is a more or less positive feeling about 2014 and beyond.

So, welcome back to anotherindycarblog and as thanks for returning you get one whole extra discussion point because it’s the SUPER SPECIAL SEASON PREVIEW!!!

Six Things to Watch

Honda Twin-Turbo Engine – During the off-season, Honda dumped its single turbo setup used since the introduction of the new engine formula. Under normal circumstances, changing the configuration of an engine three years into a highly competitive and homologated series like IndyCar is a recipe for disaster. However, this is Honda we are talking about; a proud company based in competition. Honda did so much engine control work to make the single turbo setup compete with the Chevy twin unit that it is nearly certain they learned more than a bit of 2.2 liter IndyCar engine voodoo that Chevy would not have been otherwise been exposed to. Those secrets should allow Honda to unlock instant potential in the engines and fight for wins from day one of the championship.

Compact Scheduling – The 18 round, 15 event, 14 track schedule is one of the more balanced and consistent schedules we have seen in years. Of course I would like to have a few more ovals, but just a single roundy-round event added before Indy and a natural terrain road course somewhere between the GP of Indy and Mid-Ohio would have made the 2014 trail perfect.  Save for the run of four road and street events to start the season, the events are well distributed and the longest schedule gap is three weeks between Texas and Houston. The year closes with three straight weeks of combat to punctuate what will be a non-stop summer of action. For what we have to work with, the year ahead looks great and there is plenty of space before and after for future additions to compliment the solid string of events inaugurated in 2014.

Points – Double points are to be awarded at the three 500 mile races this year. These are the supposed crown jewels in the triple-crown, so extra weight on these events makes sense. This also brings point balance to the schedule by making more points available on ovals and bringing the total closer to the points available on road and street courses. Too bad we aren’t awarding road and oval trophies this year, but that is a rant for another day. Kind of gimmicky yes, but not out of the realm of sanity. A little over 30 years ago, a 500 mile race was worth 100 points and a 200 mile twistie race would be worth 40 points. How this plays out at the end of the year should be interesting. There could be many more players involved in the historically close championship than we are used to seeing. Which is almost uncomprehendable.

Tires – What would any racing preview be without tire discussion? 2014 may have a different look for Firestone as there is quiet talk that they may actually develop the road tire during the year. There were also reports from the Barber test that the compound provided by Firestone was already softer and gripiper than what the drivers had in 2013. Taking into account the debacle that was Firestone introducing a drizzle tire that was “more of an intermediate rain tire than its full wet predecessor” with a “tread pattern inspired by the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval Indy 500 passenger tire”, the company’s commitment to bring a new and true full wet to the series this year is more than welcome. By bringing us an enhanced product, Firestone feels much more focused and onboard with IndyCar in 2014.

Chassis Development – During the offseason, safety development of the DW-12 has been well underway. Anti-intrusion laminate, carbon fiber cockpit opening rings and advanced foams have all been added with only ten pounds gained by the already robust chassis. During the summer of 2013 we also heard whispers of undertray aero development for this year’s Indy 500. As of yet, there is no word on the status of said whispers, but all of this points to the expectation that the introduction of aerokits in 2015 will raise speeds; one part of the equation in breaking the track record. The undertray development could be the first step in the quest for speed. All the talk of breaking Luyendyk’s record in nice and all, but there is still that 241.428 that stands as the ultimate speed barrier at a track the bandwagon stops by at the end of the year.

Team Penske – The addition of Montoya to Team Penske was exactly what Will Power didn’t need. With the retirement of Dario, Power finally had the headspace to make an honest run for the championship. We know Dario wasn’t performing to the top of his abilities in 2013, but his mere presence on track was enough to derail Power. 2014 looked like his year until Montoya found a home right beside him. Power could insulate himself from Franchitti because they didn’t debrief together, nor did they share a garage or a team. Montoya will win this year and he will be a force to be reckoned with. Power needs a smooth road to a championship and Montoya will present a huge pothole for him. And there is always Castroneves waiting in the wings to pounce while still chasing that elusive fourth sip of milk in May.

Seventh-Thing-to-Watch-Just-Because-I-Want-To-Put-It-Out-There-Now – Busch can win the 500. Allmendinger + Busch’s skill – seatbelts = 2013 Indy 500 champion.


Series Championship – Juan Pablo Montoya – Read this for the first of many times this year: JPM is the best driver of our generation. A CART championship and F1 championship finishes of two thirds, a fourth, fifth and sixth in the Schumacher era? Check. Monaco and the Indy 500 wins? Check. The powers that be possibly blocking him from success in NASCAR? Check. You can have the field, I’ll take Montoya.

Indy 500 Champion – Tony Kanaan –I am physically unable to pick any other driver as long as he is entered.

Rookie of the Year – Carlos Munoz – If he can keep it out of the tires and off of the walls for most of the season, nothing can stop the driver that wowed us in only his first 500 attempt.

Manufacturer Title – Honda – See: Chevy contingent. Ganassi, KV, Penske and possibly DRR, Panther and Dragon. A prickly group to say the least. Honda is lean, focused and has an incredible group of teams to develop with and to back the Andretti armada.

Triple Crown – Dixon takes Pocono and Fontana – Dixon could be unbeatable this year on the ovals, but then again he is almost every year. Easy pick.

That’s it! I’m more than ready for another ridiculously exciting season of IndyCar racing and the wait in 2014 has been tougher than usual. US sports car racing is in shambles, F1 is cool but slightly underwhelming and NASCAR is dead to me. Win 35 in a row, come in second at the finale and lose the championship?! Come on. With all of the positive momentum gained over the offseason with rules changes, strengthening of INDYCAR management, increased commitment from key partners and a cohesive schedule, I don’t see anything in the way of IndyCar growing in popularity. Not to mention, the on-track action is as close and as competitive as it has ever been. 2014 will be a telling year in the saga of American open-wheel racing; strap in, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

Eric Hall

P.S. I did an entirely different style of season preview for “Pit Lane Reporter”. The business begins on page 42. Direct link here.

Posted in Into the crystal ball | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things are Changing Again! on OP, Pit Lane Reporter, aicb, and IndyCar Blogs

Hello! Welcome back to anotherindycarblog. As you can see, it’s already been another active year! A few administrative issues to get through before we can get back to the same ‘ol aicb goodness we are all used to.

I have mostly shuttered my portion of Open Paddock.net. Why?! Well, remember the “Podium Magazine” from last year? Well, it has been rebranded as the “Pit Lane Reporter” and is even prettier than before. My large feature articles will appear there monthly with the usual drivel available here at some sort of regularity. Our first issue went live today! (Direct link to first issue) Download, read, share and interact!

The conflict of interest created by my transition to the full-house motorsport publication has necessitated my resignation from the still awesome, but also full-house source of motorsport coverage, Open Paddock.

My “How Did We Get here?” series of article originally appearing at OP will absolutely be finished. That (or those, not sure how many articles the series will take to finish) will be my last written appearance on Open Paddock for the foreseeable future. Of course, they will be posted here at least a week after appearing on OP.

On a more personal level, I also felt that shuttering my blog to transition to an actual motorsport site was the wrong decision. Open Paddock is a fantastic place and can cultivate A+ talent not otherwise available through independent blogging. Just look at Mr. Kevin Neely; an amazing writer who exploded onto the scene at OP. I have no worries about the continuation of their historically fantastic IndyCar coverage.

Basically, I felt that closing my slice of the internet and moving to OP caused more harm than good to the entirety of independent coverage of IndyCar. Sure, I would probably do better as OP has a much greater reach than I do. But a shuttered blog is not helping fight the good fight, and I had the power and drive to rectify that situation. So here we are again!

A common misconception about blogging is that we only do it to see out names in the lights, monetize somehow or just to “get in”. For me, I was inspired by the bloggers I was reading and I needed a new hobby so writing it was. I already like indycar but was not a successful language student. I nearly failed every spelling, writing, grammar, French, Spanish, English class I took… I was not passing with flying colors… at all. My new hobby not only allowed me to find a new creative outlet, but it was also a journey of personal improvement.

I want to enjoy they awesomeness that is indycar racing! I also want to just put more content out there. We enjoy an under the radar sport that could always use more balanced and well spoken commentary. I’ve met life long friends and shared some amazing experiences with them through this crazy journey. I just want as many people as possible to know about and be involved with this most epic sport.

Along those same lines, I have created a new site called The IndyCar Blogs. A place where every single Indycar blog I can find will be linked to. Alive or dead, shuttered or active, the pages will live on. Some sites aren’t even available to read anymore, but I have included everyone. Currently it is just a list, but links will be added soon enough.

I’ve created a twitter account to accompany the list. The goal will be to simply retweet every single new blog post from across the IndyCar blogosphere. Make no mistake; this is not a ratings grab by me! I want to share ALL THE WORDS! When I found out there was such a thing as an IndyCar blog so many years ago, those writers rekindled my love of the sport and possibly sent it into over drive. The least I can do is share as many new and established writers as I can!

Eric Hall

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Core Audience: YouTube is King

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 2/18/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

(NOTE 2: The numbers used in this article were retrieved on the afternoon of February18, 2014)

A conversation between Matt Archuleta (@Indy44 get on twitter… follow him now), Steve Jarzombek (@sejarzo) and myself about YouTube, subscribers, the NASCAR behemoth and IndyCar uncovered something interesting.

We all know that NASCAR far and away exceeds INDYCAR in popularity in all aspects of the word. But a curious little tidbit came to light when looking through social media numbers. The oft quoted social media count to determine who is watching is twitter. The official IndyCar account (@indyCar) boasts a following of 105,668, while NASCAR (@NASCAR) comes in at a respectable 1,349,455. With an order of magnitude advantage, the evidence is pretty damning concerning who talks about what more.

Over on YouTube, the story is a bit different. NASCAR has 53,219 subscribers, while IndyCar has 108,645. Considering this is a NASCAR verse IndyCar numbers comparison, the difference was quite surprising to me. The subscribership/follower numbers for indycar are very close, whereas the NASCAR twitter following dwarfs its YouTube subscriber number by over 20 times the amount.

The reasons could be simple, and probably are, but there may be more complex things at work here. Another twitter user (@JPIndycar) quickly pointed out that NASCAR has many other media outlets to distribute content through. Races, practice, qualifying, testing, hunting, cooking, magazines, news, RV pimping; the list of NASCAR themed and related properties could go on forever. IndyCar and its fans and sponsors would do nearly anything for the kind of saturation and exposure that NASCAR enjoys.

And of course, there will be an argument that NASCAR fans may not be as tech savvy as IndyCar fans. The twitter numbers and the views of NASCAR crash videos would say otherwise.

But these numbers got me thinking. Who is the core audience; the audience that will choose Verizon over Sprint because of auto racing affiliation? We all know that casual fans pay the bills and build the playgrounds, but how exactly does one determine that core audience number?

How many are left standing once all the “casual” viewers are swept away? Common knowledge states that the bulk of NASCAR consumers are also entertainment consumers; the regular stick and ball guys who also watch and odd sprinkling of other entertainment properties. The IndyCar casual audience looks to be absent.

I said crash videos earlier because the NASCAR channel itself does not have a staggering amount of views, and the content is a bit sparse considering who we are talking about. IndyCar has 2,144 videos while NASCAR has 1,835 videos. The views are pretty similar with videos getting one to five thousand views while the odd standout may have 20 thousand plus. But the crash videos posted by everyday users for each series could have over a million views each.

There are many more user posted NASCAR videos, but they are usually some kind of crash video. And the users who post these videos are usually in the business of posting various crash compilation videos. There are more NASCAR videos around simply because they crash more often and more spectacularly than other forms of racing. Again, yet another segment of the casual audience who are searching for crash videos on the whole, and the view numbers for both forms of racing crash videos are very similar.

YouTube is a fantastic place to find cool videos and is used by nearly everyone with an internet connection, but the subscription system seems to be the home of the fanatics. They are the kind of fan who is guided by brand loyalty and must consume every ounce of media that their favorite racing series releases. The fan that will support the series before supporting any singe driver or team. The fan invested in the longevity and perpetuity of their favorite kind of racing.

Could this be one area where IndyCar could leverage its advantage over NASCAR? I have no idea, and I am probably completely backwards how I interpreted these numbers. But the fact still remains; IndyCar has twice the amount of YouTube subscribers over NASCAR, which has to could mean something.

Does the number of YouTube subscribers indicate core audience size? These guys are dedicated enough to have an account and click subscribe with the intent to return for content. If you could pinpoint this core audience and find a way to speak directly to them, could you use this communication to leverage nontraditional advertisers and sponsors in a nontraditional way? I have no idea, but it is always cooler when you feel an organization is speaking directly to you because they “get you”.

YouTube has replaced casual or couch surfing TV viewing for me, thus freeing me from the tyrannies of non-DVRed programing of which I cannot skip through commercials while watching. YouTube is possibly the best route to advertise to me while having my undivided attention outside of radio commercials during my morning drive to work dose of Bob and Tom.

Do you have a YouTube account and are you a subscription user? I am, and have found that I get huge amounts of fresh and interesting content on a daily basis. When IndyCar shows up in my feed it’s just bonus because I have already decided to watch YouTube without purposefully seeking out IndyCar specific content to watch. It has become increasingly more difficult to directly advertise to people; maybe it is time to turn up the volume for people who are already actively listening.

Eric Hall

Posted in Brain Vomit | Tagged , | 5 Comments