Chat with John Oreovicz
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com IndyCar reporter John Oreovicz stops by to talk about the season, as the league hits the streets of Toronto for Sunday's race (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
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 400 Indy-style races for National Speed Sport News and other racing publications around the world, and he co-authored A Winning Adventure, a history of Honda's successful Champ Car engine program. Known as "Oreo" within the IndyCar paddock, John resides within walking distance of his home track, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Send your questions now and join Oreovicz Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Oreo (2:00 PM)
Good afternoon IndyCar fans, and thanks for joining our live chat session on ESPN.com!
Oreo (2:01 PM)
The action is underway in Toronto, and it was a bizarre session that featured Justin Wilson crashing in the pits when his DW12 refused to select neutral after an installation lap. With cold carbon brakes, JW was unable to stop the car, which struck four crewmen, two of whom have been hospitalized.
Oreo (2:02 PM)
Wilson later ran into trouble on the track when Alex Tagliani spun and blocked the track, leaving Justin no choice but to steer the Sonny's BBQ Special into the wall.
Oreo (2:03 PM)
Dario Franchitti led a Target Ganassi Racing 1-2 in the session with a best lap timed at 60.879 seconds. INDYCAR's revamped website does not having historical statistics available, so I'll try to figure out how that time compares to those from the past as we chat.
Oreo (2:03 PM)
In the meantime, let's take some questions!
Chris (Westfield, IN)
With Lotus finally making some changes, do you think they will add some teams next season?
Oreo (2:06 PM)
Unless the uprated Lotus engine suddenly shows a bunch of power that translates into speed, I cannot see any teams switching to Lotus unless Lotus pays them to. And with Lotus' future very uncertain under its Malaysian owners, I can't imagine that happening. I think it is far more likely that Lotus will disappear from the IndyCar grid in 2013 than actually increase its presence.
Oreo (2:08 PM)
BTW Simona De Silvestro in the lone Lotus car was 21st out of 24 in the first practice session at Toronto, besting Ed Carpenter, Rubens Barrichello and Wilson. We expect to see EC down there on a street course, but I have not determined why Barrichello was so far off the pace. He ran the most laps in the session (26) and I'm sure the bumpy street course is a bit of a culture shock to him after being used to glass-smooth F1 tracks for the last 20 years.
Bernard says he want 19 races for next year, we already know about Houston, what are the other 3 venues he is looking to add?
Oreo (2:11 PM)
Surely after the last few weeks, Randy is smart enough to realize just how badly almost everyone involved in the IndyCar Series wants to race at Road America, so hopefully that is a given. Michigan Int'l Speedway claimed to show interest but track boss Roger Curtis wasn't very complimentary about how he was treated by INDYCAR, so that's obviously still a shaky relationship. Another favorite within the IndyCar community is Phoenix Int'l Raceway, but again, the strained relationship between International Speedway Corp. and INDYCAR could be a factor that prevents that from happening. Pocono Raceway has also shown interest and that's one I'd like to see happen. The bottom line is that INDYCAR is going to have to be realistic about the sanctioning fee it seeks from whatever new tracks it approaches.
Rumors of Andretti getting a team in Nascar seem to be surfacing.. do you think we could see Marco make the switch to Nascar.. he has under achieved his entire career, i think MA's patience is running thin..
Oreo (2:15 PM)
I think Marco is an Andretti Autosport driver for life as long as he doesn't do anything stupid. Which is kind of sad, because as you correctly point out, Mitch, he has never come close to achieving his potential over the last 6+ years in Indy cars and I don't think he really will until he branches out from daddy's team. I'm shocked that Michael's name has come up in the Dodge/NASCAR conversation, but he has shown that he's not afraid to diversify. But given the amount of effort and attention that all aspects of the IndyCar Series require and his stated desire to help rebuild the sport, moving into NASCAR sounds counterproductive to me. Marco in NASCAR? Sounds unlikely to me.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Next Driver to Leave the IZOD IndyCar Series for Another Auto Racing Series?
Oreo (2:18 PM)
A frontrunner who gets a reall opportunity elsewhere, or a backmarker who just fades away? I'll take a flyer on Tony Kanaan, whose late 30s skill set may be more suited to stock cars. As for backmarkers dropping out, Katherine Legge has not impressed at all in her return to Indy cars and may have blown her last shot at open-wheelers. I'd guess that Mike Conway is another on shaky ground, but please note that all of these examples are pure speculation on my part.
will (west palm beach, fl)
if you could bring one driver ...dead or alive from any discipline or any period in time to the current indycar series who would it be and why?
Oreo (2:24 PM)
Having some technical trouble with the chat...
Oreo (2:24 PM)
Greg Moore is my number one answer. Talk about a guy who was taken too soon...imagine what he would have achieved in that #3 Penske car over the last 12 years. I'd venture to guess that he would already be a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, for starters. Here's what Dario Franchitti told me in 2009 when I was writing a story about the 10 year anniversary of Greg's death:
Oreo (2:26 PM)
Apparently it's not going to let me cut and paste the quote, but the jist of Dario's quote is "He would have mopped the floor with us in Penske's cars and re-written the record book."
Given the price of replacement parts, how much more are teams spending than they planned on? Any chance they just open up the rule book to let these guys buy whatever they want?
Oreo (2:32 PM)
They need to open up the rule book for sure. I think that under Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR built a "special" relationship with Dallara. That resulted in Dallara being really the only company considered for the single make chassis formula introduced this year. And it seems the team owners were sold a bill of goods, by Dallara and/or INDYCAR. The base price of the car came close to what was promised, but it was not a turn-key machine (just add engine, wheels and steering wheel) as promised. The big issue is the cost of spare psrts. Dallara is charging 40-50 percent more than what teams would pay if they could produce them themselves or source them from other specialty manufacturers in and around Indianapolis. The higher-than-anticipated cost issue is a serious one for INDYCAR and Dallara needs to be cut out of the spare parts business, in my opinion. On an unrelated note, Dallara promised the State of Indiana that 80 jobs would be created at its US facility, and the total to date is 15 - and that includes the staff at the Italian cafe in the assembly facility (don't call it a factory). One team uses the slogan "American Made, American Driven," and if the 'made' part is meant to talk about the car instead of the sponsor's product, they are not telling the truth. The DW12 is approximately 10 percent American, by my calculation.
Tony D. (Indy)
Will we see any Indy Car drivers outside of Paul Tracy and Ana Beatriz run the Rolex race at the Brickyard at the end of July?
Oreo (2:34 PM)
I don't think so. Chip Ganassi is running his NASCAR drivers in a second car for the Rolex at the Brickyard, but I don't anticipate any current Indy car drivers joining the field. A question for all of you: Do you think running a Grand-Am race at Indianapolis devalues the history of the Speedway? My own opinion is that ALMS sports cars are much more in keeping with the tradition of technical innovation and excellence that the Speedway has fostered over the last century.
Paul Pfanner (Irvine, CA)
Do you think IndyCar Aero kits announced for 2103 will create fan interest and restore some to the luster lost in the de-contented Spec Car era of IndyCar racing? Or, do you think it is an un-desireable expense on top of the unanticipated running cost increases for the Dallara DW12?
Oreo (2:39 PM)
Aero kits for 2013, or 2017? As a purist, I firmly believe that teams and/or manufacturers should have freedom to develop their cars, both aerodynamically and mechanically. I don't really know if the average fan cares about that as much as I do. I think opening up the rulebook would help bring back the diehard fans who enjoy technology and real competition. There's a lot of talk about how we need to create new fans, but as far as I'm concerned, bringing back the fans lost to the CART/IRL split is actually more important. They already have a working knowledge of the history Indy car racing and don't need to be spoon fed the basics. Now that the Delta Wing proved itself at the 24 Hour of Le Mans and created a lot of interest, I hope INDYCAR management realizes that there is a significant fan base out there that enjoys and appreciates racing for technical excellence and innovation. Spec racing is not at all popular with the sport's real fans, and those are the fans that Indy car racing has lost over the last 10-12 years.
Will IndyCar go back to Kentucky anytime soon? Its always a great race, but moving dates around sort of killed the attendance.
Oreo (2:46 PM)
Was moving the dates really the problem, or was it the fact that the spectator audience for oval racing in general (even in NASCAR) has been shrinking for at least the last five years. It has been demonstrated through demographics that the typical oval fan is not as wealthy or educated as the typical oval racing fan, and in terms of at-track attendance, road racing events in IndyCar or ALMS have not suffered as badly as oval events in IndyCar or NASCAR. (The Grand-Am's fan base is so small it's not worth mentioning). Looking beyond Kentucky specifically, I think the real concern is INDYCAR's relationship with the track owner, Speedway Motorsports Inc. In the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy and some crackpot comments from the likes of Eddie Gossage and SMI chairman Bruton Smith, it's easy to see that their relationship is under considerable strain. Texas, for example, still draws a decent crowd of about 50,000 for IndyCar, but that's about half of what Texas races drew as recently as 5-6 years ago. Kentucky's attendance followed a similar trend, dropping from about 60,000 at its peak to maybe half that. Can you blame date changes? Maybe. But I doubt that's the root cause.
Andrew H. (New York)
Do you think that IndyCar will get to race at the Circuit of the Americas next year?
Oreo (2:48 PM)
Not next year, but it's on Randy's radar. That's a better question for Eddie Gossage. He hasn't hidden his displeasure about IndyCar adding Houston next year, and a third race in Texas would really set him off. With INDYCAR needing oval venues, and the all of the drivers except Ed Carpenter (George) much happier with the style of racing this year, does the series really want to further upset a track that has been a key part of IRL/INDYCAR era racing? Austin has a lot going for it, but is it worth losing TMS for?
Andrew H. (New York)
Do you think that Ryan Briscoe might get replaced by Penske at the end of the year, and would Penske be interested in Newgarden?
Oreo (2:51 PM)
I figure Will Power is the only one of the three Penske drivers who is safe for 2013, and you are correct in presuming that RP would probably keep Helio over Briscoe. There are a lot of quality drivers who would be a good fit for Penske. Tim Cindric told me that Sebastien Bourdais was high on their list when they hired Power part-time three years ago, for example. Penske has demonstrated that nationality is not a factor when he hires drivers, though it would certainly be nice if Indy car racing's highest profile team would consider running an American. Then again, I always preach that performance should be the number one reason to hire a driver, and in that regard, would you hire someone like Wilson or Bourdais, or a less successful (to date) American like Graham Rahal or Newgarden?
Do you think Sonoma will be replaced with Laguna Seca in 2013, especially if IndyCar does not go back to Texas (Sonoma and Texas are SMI tracks, ofcourse)?
Oreo (2:53 PM)
Sonoma is a SMI track, so that could be a factor. As long as Sonoma is on the schedule, Laguna Seca will not be added because of a non-compete clause in the contract. I love Laguna Seca, but clearly, we've seen that modern Indy cars do not put on an exciting race there. It's a great place for a demonstration of precision driving, but the circuit layout simply doesn't offer anyplace for Indy cars to pass.
Andrew H. (New York)
Do you think they will up the boost next year? These cars need another 150 hp.
Oreo (2:54 PM)
Short answer: Yes, they'll have more power, but not as much as the drivers and fans would like to see. They definitely need to revisit the engine change penalty rule, because I think that's been confusing to the fans and unfair to the drivers and teams this year.
Andrew H. (New York)
How do you think Will Power would fare in F1 in a McLaren?
Oreo (2:56 PM)
I think Will Power is as good of a road racer as any driver in the world. Thing is, any Indy car driver who ever gets a chance in F1 needs to perform there IMMEDIATELY, and without the unlimited testing of the past, that's unrealistic. F1 teams don't have the patience to bring a driver up to speed, which is why elevating a driver who has GP2 experience on F1 tracks is a much safer bet for them. Indy car drivers have an incredibly poor record in F1 over the last 20 years and that will adversely affect any F1 aspirant who races over here for a long time.
Andrew H. (New York)
15 races in the top American Open Wheel series is a joke. Randy went on the record again saying he is targeting 19 next year and 22 in a few years. Is this another pipe dream?
Oreo (2:58 PM)
I reckon they will; have 18 races next year. More is better, but again, with sponsorship hard to come by and expenses higher than projected, the series can't afford to grow too fast or the teams won't be able to keep up.
Any chance cleveland grand prix ever returns?
Oreo (2:59 PM)
Doesn't look good. Mike Lanigan owns the rights, and he chose to bring back Houston instead because Shell/Pennzoil jumped on board as the sponsor. Much as I love Mid-Ohio, I'd rather see Honda spend its sponsorship on a Honda Grand Prix of Cleveland and make its Ohio associates drive an extra 100 miles to see a better race.
Any chance that IndyCar returns to Vegas in any way in the future (LVMS or a street course)?
Oreo (3:00 PM)
I reckon LVMS is going to have a stigma for a little while, because even nine months later, the Wheldon death is still fresh in memories. The 2007 LV street course that Champ Car used was fantastic, but attendance was pitiful.
No Hinchtown in this practice :( Hope they get things fixed!
Oreo (3:01 PM)
Ain't that the truth! A Hinch victory in TO would be the shot in the arm that Indy car racing in Canada needs to put it back where it was in the days of PT, Greg Moore and Scott Goodyear. A better Canadian TV package would be a help as well.
Oreo (3:02 PM)
Lots of good questions today - thanks to everyone who participated! Keep it off the walls and have a good weekend, everybody...