Chat with John Oreovicz
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com IndyCar reporter John Oreovicz stops by to talk about the season. He will be in Ohio this weekend covering the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Oreovicz attended his first Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in 1978 and still hasn't broken the open-wheel racing habit. He has covered nearly 300 Indy-style races for National Speed Sport News and many other publications around the world and co-authored "A Winning Adventure," a history of Honda's successful Champ Car engine program. "Oreo" resides in western Indiana within earshot of his home track, the Putnam Park Road Course.
Send your questions now and join Oreovicz Friday at 4 p.m. ET!
Oreo (4:02 PM)
Greetings from the Media Tower at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course! It's a splendid day in the central region of the Buckeye State and the IndyCars have just taken to the track for a 60-minute practice session.
Oreo (4:03 PM)
Certainly eventful times in the IndyCar Series, what with the introduction of the new car concept, Milka Duno's probation and Helio Castroneves' slap on the wrist for his Edmonton outburst. Or was it for failing to heed the black flag? Only Brian Barnhart knows for sure!
Oreo (4:04 PM)
We've got a few questions in queue, so let's get down to business!
Drew (Bloomington, IN)
John, where would you put Ryan Hunter-Reay's odds of winning either at Mid-Ohio or Infineon?
Oreo (4:06 PM)
I'd say reasonably good. I'd rank him as the seventh most likely driver to win at either track - behind Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson. He's certainly the most likely driver to win out of the Andretti Autosport stable.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What race if Milka Duno keeps driving too slow that she will probably be suspended from the IZOD IndyCar Series?
Oreo (4:09 PM)
Hi Chris. I envision them giving her until the end of the season. She's going to be hopeless here and at Infineon, but she will fare a little better - in practice, at least - at the 1.5 mile ovals that close out the season because they require a lot less driver talent. They may even allow her to test at the start of 2011, but if her road course pace doesn't improve - and it says here that it won't - I can see them suspending her license.
Drew (Bloomington, IN)
John, who do you have for Rookie of the Year at this point? I know the first driver a lot of folks think about when they hear that term is Simona de Silvestro, who's had a superb rookie season and should definitely contend for the title, but I would tend to lean in the direction of Alex Lloyd simply because he's been fast on ovals, four of which remain on the schedule. Agree?
Oreo (4:11 PM)
With all due respect, it's not exactly a vintage rookie class. Lloyd has the best rookie result of the year (4th at Indianapolis) but he's had only one other decent race. Simona has had much more impact on the series even if her results have been spotty. She's shown a lot of promise in practice and qualifying but hasn't put together a full race yet. But she has certainly done enough to justify her place on the grid and if Danica is around next year I could see Simona beating her almost every weekend.
oscarlove (las vegas)
If Ron Fellows wins Saturday, with Tony Eury Sr, does not brand Danica Patrick's 1st nascar season as failure? Also what about seat with Andretti, I heard at least 1 theory that she's on her way out.
Oreo (4:14 PM)
I think the only way you can call Danica's NASCAR effort a success to date is in terms of T-shirt sales and air time on ESPN. They certainly can't seem to stop talking about her even though she's usually running 30th or worse. Stock cars are so different than formula cars that it's almost like she has to learn to drive all over again, and in that respect she's doing a decent job. But I doubt she'll crack the top 15 or 20 anytime soon. Everyone else who has driven that car has been much faster.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear JohnCould you see the President comming the Indy 500 Next year?
Oreo (4:16 PM)
Given the amount of attention Randy Bernard puts into promotion, I could certainly see them trying to get him to visit. It kind of makes sense - the Indy 500 is an American icon and 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first race. And surprisingly enough, President Obama won Indiana for the Democrats for the first time in something like 40 years.
I'm still bewildered by the Edmonton block call. How come this "rule" has never been widely mentioned before? Also, my understanding was there was supposed to be an "imaginary line" drawn thru the center of the curve and you could choose one side of the line and couldn't weave to block on the other side of the line. That to me is how the blocking rule should be applied. Do you see changes to the rule coming?
Oreo (4:19 PM)
I definitely see some sort of clarification to the rule, and it should definitely be put into the rulebook instead of just discussed in the drivers' meetings. It's funny that the IRL went out of their way to release video and a transcript of what Brian Barnhart said in the Edmonton driver's meeting - they were that concerned about getting the word out that Helio really did transgress what was discussed in the meeting. Tony Cotman came up with that rule for the last year of Champ Car, and it made sense at the San Jose hairpin or Turn 3 at Toronto. They even painted a white line on the track, which made it easier for the drivers and fans to understand. Personally I think it's a stupid rule, but the call fit the rule so the rule is the real problem.
Scott (DeKalb, IL)
re: the new car, do you think that the IRL and Dallara simply stole the delta wing concept? Wasn't delta going to build a platform in Indiana and then allow "open sourcing" for various body parts? It seems like the IRL just took the delta wing and had dallara make it with a wider front end
Oreo (4:21 PM)
There's no question that the Delta Wing - both the car and the thinking that went into it - had an effect on the design and decision process that led to the Dallara Safety Cell contract. I think "stole" is probably expressing it too strongly, but there were definitely some ideas borrowed. Most of the uproar isn't so much about the fact that there is a single supplier, but rather that the supplier selected was Dallara. They flat out fleeced the teams with the current car, and as the HRT Formula 1 program showed, they are not exactly using state of the art in their technology.
If you looked in a crystal ball where do you see Graham Rahal ending up next year or a few years down the road? Is he with Penske? Ganassi? Rahal Letterman? F1?
Oreo (4:25 PM)
Next year I'd say his best bet is Newman/Haas, assuming Berni Haas (Carl's wife) wants to continue. It will be dictated by sponsorship - the only reason they answered the bell this year was Hideki Mutoh's sponsorship. He would be prefect for Penske but RP already has too many drivers on board. And Chip is set as well and hasn't shown any indication he wants to expand to three cars. With next year being the last for the Dallara, costs will be as low as they're gonna be, so it makes sense from a financial standpoint.
Titus Pullo (NY)
How dependent is the IRL on for the IMS to make money with its NASCAR and MotoGP races? Brickyard attendance is still high but dropping every year. I assume MotoGP will be the same. Isn't the IMS still fundinf the IRL?
Oreo (4:27 PM)
It's common knowledge that the Brickyard funded the formation of the IRL and even with the Speedway half full, they're still making money. The IRL is still being funded by the Speedway; a recent article in the Indianapolis Business Journal calculated that the loss sustained by the IRL is now under 8 figures, but it's still losing money for sure. I think they will have a hard time building the Brickyard back up, especially with a race coming to Kentucky next year. The racing - and the viewing - will be a lot better there and it's barely two hours from Indy.
Do you think Penske remains a 3 car team next year? Any word on prospective sponsors for the 2 non-Verizon cars?
Oreo (4:29 PM)
I do think Penske will stick with three cars. As mentioned above, costs are as low as they are going to get for the last year of the Dallara formula, and none of the drivers has done enough bad things to get fired. Briscoe is third of the three this year, but he's still relatively fresh in the team. Helio has been there for 11 years now and he's the logical one to leave, but Penske obviously likes him and the business implications he brings in Brazil.
Larry (N. Carolina)
Do you believe that the IRL Series Owners are looking to sell the series (or otherwise exit their ownership position) after the new IndyCar is launched in 2012? Obviously, the business needs to be righted such that the Indy 500 remains the crown jewel of the series. Presuming we achieve stability, is the series for sale and what types of organizations would be likely bidders?
Oreo (4:30 PM)
A couple of years ago Tony George said the IRL needed to be profitable by 2013 and it's unlikely that's going to happen. However, I think with the Izod sponsorship and a dynamic new leader on board, the sisters may be willing to give it a couple more years, especially if there is some demonstrated growth in the next year.
Do you buy many of the things the new CEO is going to try and change? Do you think he will be able to make the changes he wants?
Oreo (4:32 PM)
I've been very impressed by Randy Bernard's energy and open-minded thinking. He's creative and aggressive, and the fact that he was Josie George's hand-picked replacement for her brother suggests that he's got a strong backer in his corner. His challenge is to convince the Hulman-George family board to keep spending money even if the desired results don't come as quickly as everyone would like.
What is thought of to be the better series of racing around the world. Indy Car or GP2?
Oreo (4:34 PM)
IndyCar. GP2 is still a bunch of rookies trying to make F1. There are a few drivers at that level in IndyCar, but the best drivers in the series - Dixon, Franchitti, Power etc. - would fare decently in Formula 1 if they were given a REAL opportunity with one of the top teams. But we all know that will never happen. Certainly CART, from about 1988-98, had a field of talent equivalent to F1.
What course remaining do you think we'll see the drivers struggle on the most?
Oreo (4:36 PM)
Both Mid-Ohio and Infineon are difficult, physical tracks with high G-loads and elevation changes. The measure will be how far Milka is off the pace. At the moment she is 6 seconds off the pace here at Mid-Ohio, but surprisingly, she's not last. Jay Howard is. BTW, the current order is Kanaan, Dixon, Viso, Wilson, Hunter-Reay.
Steve (Urbandale, IA)
In May, 2012, will the new aero package rules allow teams to show up at the Indy 500 and surprise everyone with a brand new aero concept? Or, will they have to go through a process where every team and fans will see what they have months before they can enter the concept, such as the beginning of the season? I'm hoping for a return of the days when there was anticipation regarding what cars each team would show up with at Indy.
Oreo (4:38 PM)
All of the aero packages will have to be approved by the IRL and the approval process has not been defined yet. Vendors of aero kits will also need to be able to produce enough to supply whatever demand there is for their kit, and sell them for $70,000. Certainly the top teams (Penske, Ganassi and maybe AA) will try multiple kits, but it is my understanding that there will be a deadline for them to commit to the two kits of their choice. Whether the rules will be opened up at Indy remains to be seen.
Larry (N. Carolina)
Regarding your reply to Tony from Atlanta's post on Graham Rahal: "Next year I'd say his best bet is Newman/Haas, assuming Berni Haas (Carl's wife) wants to continue." Can you elaborate a bit more on the current situation at NH? Is Lanigan out officially or just operationally? Is Carl no longer active with the team? It would seem odd if the team was for sale because it appeared the succession plan was in place with Lanigan coming on board.
Oreo (4:40 PM)
Mike Lanigan has officially been out for about three months now. That happened with little fanfare. Lanigan owns the rights to the Cleveland and Houston races and has formed a committee to try to get Houston on the 2012 schedule. I wish he would focus on Cleveland instead - it's a better event. Carl Haas is not in the best of health; his memory is pretty well gone and he doesn't communicate very well anymore. It is sad to see one of the true giants of American motorsport face such difficulties, but Carl is close to 80 years old and he's lived a rich, full life.
Ricky (Fort Worth)
What do you think the big announcement by TMS is going to be in a couple of weeks? They're renting out the House of Blues for it.
Oreo (4:42 PM)
My understanding is that one of the Texas NASCAR races will become a night race, and there is some talk that the Texas Indy car race will move to the slot immediately before the Indy 500. I kind of like that idea - cooler weather, and it would be a much bigger publicity bump than the poorly-attended Kansas races have been.
How irritated do you get that you have to write Danica Patrick stories every week of the season?
Oreo (4:43 PM)
Can I take the fifth? Actually, pretty darn annoyed. I'm a purist who believes drivers should be written about because of the results they generate on the track, not because of their souvenir sales or novelty value. If and when Danica becomes a true frontrunner, I will be happy to write about her and her accomplishments. Until then, I regard it as a bit of a chore. And I don't think I'm the only journalist that feels that way.
Do you think we'll ever see someone try to drive IRL and NASCAR at the same time? Would that be too difficult to even try?
Oreo (4:45 PM)
Well it would be impossible to try to do them both full time. A more likely bet is that someone might try the full IndyCar schedule with a partial Cup schedule. I can't imagine anyone being successful trying to do that, however, and it would be absolutely brutal in terms of travel and logistics.
Titus Pullo (NY)
Will any IRL drivers ever end up in F1 or has that been closed after the failures of daMatta and Bourdais?
Oreo (4:47 PM)
I sincerely doubt it. Drivers from American open-wheel racing - CART, Champ Car or IRL - have been tarred and feathered in Europe and I can't see that situation changing anytime soon. There is just too much of a record of failure. The racing is harder and tougher in Europe - look at some of Michael Schumacher's moves - and the U.S. formula cars are bigger, heavier and less wieldly. F1 is a big jump, one that drivers hones in America can't seem to handle. Sad.
Titus Pullo (NY)
Any chance Randy Bernard tries to void the Versus contract and get the series back on ESPN or time-buy with major networks? Or does he think the success of the NHL (which had higher ratings than Indy 500 holds the key)-find some good young athletes from diverse countries and promote them?
Oreo (4:49 PM)
I will preface my answer by saying I have no knowledge of contractual TV dealings. Having said that, common sense says that Indy car racing would get greater impact from being on ESPN/ABC full time than it gets from Versus. In an ideal world, ESPN/ABC would treat Indy car racing with greater respect - put it on SportsCenter, ramp up the coverage on ESPN.com, and treat it like a major sport. The company often says the Indy 500 is one if it's prime crown jewels...if it put some effort into building the series as a whole, its rewards from the Indy 500 would be much greater, in my opinion.
Buzz (Fort Lauderdale)
How long do you think Miami will keep the season-ending race and what is the buzz on the relationship between the IRL and International Sppedway Corp.?
Oreo (4:51 PM)
I'm 99 percent certain this is the last year for a Homestead finale and I'm pretty sure Homestead will be gone from the schedule, period. The lack of attendance justifies the track being dropped from the schedule. Randy Bernard wants to end the season in Las Vegas, and a stronger relationship with Bruton Smith/SMI would benefit IndyCar. ISC/the France family hasn't done Indy car racing any favors over the last 15 years and Randy is smart enough to realize that.
Larry (N. Carolina)
For 2012, it was noted in some article that Cosworth would likely NOT be an engine supplier for IndyCar. I have not idea of the validity of that statement, especially since we're so far out. Who in your current view are likely engine suppliers in 2012?
Oreo (4:52 PM)
That's somebody putting 2 and 2 together. If the "Lotus" F1 team switches to Renault engines from Cosworth, they figure that the "Lotus" Indy car team - owned by Cosworth owner Kevin Kalkhoven - will go away. But the Lotus branding is just a sponsorship anyway. Neither car is really a Lotus.
Joe (San Antonio)
With IndyCar moving into more road racing, any chance we get a race down here in San antonio or Houston?
Oreo (4:53 PM)
Mike Lanigan is pushing to resurrect Houston at the Reliant Center track, but I believe there are far superior tracks and markets the series would consider first.
Know when next year's schedule will be announced? Will St Pete still be on it?
Oreo (4:54 PM)
Hey there! I think the schedule will be out by Labor Day, but I doubt Portland will make the cut for 2011. The year after is a different story. Randy Bernard wants to be back in the Pacific NW and Portland is the logical place to be. That was a great event for many years before it lost sponsors and momentum during the open-wheel split.
Anthony (San Antonio)
with new package for 2012 do you see speeds rising again at Indy over or close to 230 for qualification?
Oreo (4:55 PM)
I hope so. The cars and tracks are safer, and "A new track record!" was such an important part of Indy lore. I think it's safe to say it will happen with the new car.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Auto Racing Series Do you think would be a perfect fit for Milka Duno? & I do not think it is NASCAR.
Oreo (4:56 PM)
I think Milka would be in her element pushing shopping carts. A lot less dangerous to other drivers too.
Scott (Sterling, Il)
I read they have shortened the pit stalls by 5 feet, how do they look?
Oreo (4:57 PM)
Haven't seen any hot pit stops yet. The test will come in the Sunday morning warmup. Thsi is a tight, narrow pit lane at the best of time, so hopefully everyone will be on their best behavior in the race.
Oreo (4:57 PM)
Will Power is now fastest, ahead of Helio and Hunter-Reay. Biggest story is that JR Hildebrand is 5th fastest!
Titus Pullo (NY)
We should be grateful that Tony George, for all his faults, avoided something as stupid and contrived as The Chase. Or does that mean the IRL introduces it in a few years?
Oreo (4:59 PM)
Thne IRL hasn't needed a contrived formula to create an exciting championship - but that looks to end this year. I think Will Power is going to run away with the title, especially if he wins here on Sunday.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Do you think that Danica Patrick will race in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 or do you think that she will race in NASCAR maybe in the Sprint Cup Series Full time?
Oreo (5:00 PM)
Will she race Indy cars in 2011 is a more relevant question...I think she's got one foot out the door, and she'll be gone for good if the lawyers can get her out of her contract.
Oreo (5:01 PM)
That's it for today. I appreciate everyone's time and knowledgeable questions!!