Hello Indy car racing fans and thanks for joining the chat this afternoon.After a rain delay and a brief interruption, IndyCar Series qualifying is nearly completed. The top five right now is Castroneves, Franchitti, Kanaan, Dixon and Moraes. Danica is 7th at the moment with five drivers to go, including Ryan Briscoe, who is on the track now.
Briscoe quickest on his first lap. Can he hold it together for 3 more laps?
He's done it. Ryan Briscoe takes over as provisional pole sitter.
Here's our first question.
Will the racing at any of the remaining ovals be as good as it was at Kentucky?
The racing at Kentucky was far better than anyone expected. Tim Cindric pointed out before the race that Kentucky is traditionally a single-file race - remember Sam Hornish' 17-second lead with the Cosworth-"Chevy" in 2003? This year, it was side by side through the pack. Chicagoland should produce a good show - if anybody can stay awake late enough to watch. Japan will be a good driver's track where strategy will be ore important and Homestead usually gets a close finish.
Graham Rahal has just qualified P5. Tomas Scheckter now on track.
Is Milka Duno as hazardous as she looks on TV?
Yes. Even more so, because the TV cameras don't follow her all around the lap. In any other series she would be parked for not coming within 107 or 110 percent of the leader's pace. It was comical to watch her go through Turn 1 at Mid-Ohio 20-30 mph slower than any other car. And I'm not buying the argument that she brings positive PR to the series.
P13 for Scheckter. Milka, showing her impressive oval speed, is not last; she is ahead of Robert Doornbos and Jaques Lazier.
Which team will be fortunate enough to have the services of Justin Wilson next season?
Looks like Dale Coyne Racing, which is definitely not the penalty box it used to be. Dale has always had good people wrenching on the cars, but now he's got a quality engineer in Bill Pappas and more of a development budget. DCR targeted road courses this year and has scored a win and two podiums. They will work on oval setups over the winter and should make some gains there.
Qualifying is done. Briscoe increases his championship lead by one poing by claiming the pole, Castroneves makes it an all Penske front row.
Then its Franchitti, Kanaan, Rahal, Dixon, Moraes, Servia, Patrick and Wheldon completing the top ten. Second ten is Carpenter, Mutoh, Scheckter, Wilson, Conway, Matos, Hunter-Reay, Fisher, Viso, Duno. Back of the pack is Doornbos, Lazier, Andretti, who was very slow on his qualifying run - nowhere near race pace.
What's keeping the IRL from coming to Loudon?
A lack of common sense, in my opinion. That track hosted some successful CART races before the stigma of the split with the IRL killed attendance in the late '90s. The '93 race with Mansell, Fittipaldi and Tracy was a true classic. The IRL says they have a plan to run a parking lot race at Gilette Stadium, but for a series that needs more quality oval venues, this lack of interest in working with NHIS is puzzling.
how big is this race in the standings?
No more important than Japan or Homestead, but from a morale point of view, it could be crucial. Briscoe pointed out that the last 3 races are really spaced out so if a driver has a bad race it could cause a long hangover. I think Japan will actually be the most crucial race because alternative strategies often win there - like Danica last year.
Will Danica ever win another Indy car race? Where is her best chance to do it?
It depends on how long she stays in Indy cars. Let's assume she stays 2-3 more years. If so, the answer is probably. It's interesting that she showed the most outright speed as a rookie. If she was going to win a race on pace, that's when it should have happened because in 2005 she had a huge horsepower advantage. Now it is most likely to happen on a speedway-type oval.
It seems like we're still dealing with the aftermath of the split and then the rejoining of the two...how long do you think it will take the sport to come back from all of that?
Yes, we are feeling the aftermath of the split, with the additional weight of the poor state of the economy. Assuming the TV audience can be rebuilt, I'd say it could show signs of strength in 5 years. But that's being really optimistic.
What problems will the Versus channel's contract issues with Direct Tv have on the IRL?
The IRL could lose 25 million households, or about 1/3 of Versus potential audience, in one fell swoop. That's not healthy for the series, or for hockey, UFC or whatever else Versus carries. The series has 9 years remaining on its contract and it remains a controversial topic.
Who are some of your fave Indy car driver of all-time? Mine...Tom Sneva and Rick Mears.
Mears is definitely one of them. I enjoyed watching Michael Andretti back in the '80s and '90s and I was proud to be at Cleveland '88 for one of Mario Andretti's greatest victories. Alex Zanardi was a breath of fresh air.
does any known indycar racers wear curly boots?
Only possibly Dan Wheldon. He has a shoe fetish.
John, Big fan of Mario Moraes. What are your thoughts of the young Brazilian...
I think he's very quick and still prone to make mistakes. Has had some bad breaks, like when his 'teammate' Tracy took him out at Edmonton. He had a good run at Sonoma and that should be a confidence boost for him and the team.
do you think Danica could handle a cup car
In terms of the physical strength required to drive it, a Cup car is much easier than an Indy car -power steering and a bunch of smooth oval tracks. I think it is more a matter of learning the car control skills required for a low-tech, tube-frame front engine car as opposed to the formula cars she has been driving her whole career. That, and adapting to the grind of the 38-week schedule and the exponentially greater media and PR demands moving to NASCAR would bring.
Who will be this years Indy car champion?
I'm going with Franchitti. I think he'll run in the top 4 at Chicago and Homestead and I have a hunch he will dominate in Japan. That should be enough to get the job done.
Do you think danica will remain in indycar racing Because i don't pick up nascar on sirius .i,m only on xmus i,m on ly allow xm radio.
It looks like she is going to stay in Indy cars with Michael Andretti's team. Probably for a 2-3 year deal. She's got plenty of time to think about NASCAR. She's 27 and weighs 105 pounds, and you can be 50 years old and/or weigh 270 and still win in NASCAR.
How bad will the series miss Danica in 2 years when she is doing NASCAR/NW full time?
Yes, chances are she will bolt in a few years, assuming IndyCar racing is still a distant second to NASCAR in the popularity sweepstakes. If she is able to help Indy racing turn things around, she may be tempted to stay for a while.
Vill there be any more engine maufacturers in the IRL in the future or will it forever be Formula Honda?
It looks more and more like its going to be Formula Honda for the forseeable future. The world economic downturn for auto manufacturers certainly didn't help the IRL's cause. The series biggest hope might be allowing Roger Penske to badge Ilmor engines as Saturns to compete with Honda.
It sounds to me like you dont have much respect for cup car drivers.
In general I believe it takes a lot more skill to road race - to accelerate, brake, shift gears, turn left and right through fast and slow corners, etc. - than to just turn left 2 or 4 times a lap. That said, oval racing is a specialized skill that I have a great deal of respect for. I don't enjoy most NASCAR races, because of the low-tech cars and the preponderance of oval tracks. But the top-line drivers - Jimmie J., Edwards, J. Gordon, Kyle Busch - could be champions in whatever form of racing they choose.
What do u think of Tagliani's new team?
I will believe it when I see it. I hope he pulls it off because he's a good driver and deserves a shot in the unified series. Not as much as Tracy...
Who in the IRL is responsible for the race schedule? If it was Tony George, will his ouster allow for the start time of the Indy 500 to be moved back to 11am, allowing the Indy/Charlotte double?
I'm sure it's run by committee. It is something they should seriously think about and part of what made the Indy 500 unique. Made for an early start to the day but also an early finish. And having some Cup drivers, especially if they can attract some 'name' Cup drivers, would benefit the Indy 500.
Sounds like you are saying that you need a young,girlish figure to drive IRL. An I reading you right?
I'm saying you don't need a young, girlish figure to win in NASCAR.
Is there anything the IRL can do to hasten the re-growth of the sport?
Introduce a sexy, high-tech new car AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
So frustrating that the IRL doesn't get the love from the media that it deserves. Open wheel racing runs circles around Nascar. Anyway, what are your thoughts on Versus coverage?
I think the Versus broadcasts have generally been very good. The pit lane reporting is solid and the give and take between the analysts (Buhl and Beekhuis) has been informative and entertaining. I would argue that they could use a more recognizable analyst in the booth, the dream being Mario Andretti or Al Unser Jr. I think Jimmy Vasser would be good too. The problem with Versus is it is not a 'destination' channel and its hard to find if you are not extremely familiar with your cable/satellite channel lineup.
Hey John, If you were IRL President, what one thing would you change/add in hopes of improving the perception of the IRL?
As I wrote above, I would make a priority of getting the new chassis/engine formula finalized and introduced ASAP. Give the cars 850 horsepower and make them fast and hard to drive again.
I like the guys who do the play by play, but bring back Paul Page.
I'm not sure the food eating contests could afford to lose him.
Do you think the road/street course races are a little boring? There isn't a lot of passing/action. What could be done to improve it?
The amount of action or passing is dependent upon the circuit layout. Some street circuits create excitement and some prevent it. The good ones are Toronto, Surfers Paradise and the old Long Beach layout used through 1998.
I agree VS is hard to find, but at least they alot more time. When the IRL was on ESPN, they would have to end right at the top of the hour, so the race and postrace coverage could never overrun.
Would you rather see a million people watch a broadcast that gets cut off without an interview? Or 100,000 people watching because there is bonus coverage? I know which one advertisers would prefer, and I am not just being an ESPN company man here.
Shouldn't Danica move to Penske or Ganassi? They're clearly the 2 dominant organizations.
Penske doesn't have a spot for her. Ganassi might not be a good personality fit for her. Right now they are both better alternatives in terms of winning races than AGR.
Maybe IRL should follow NASCARs lead and encourage big bellied red necks to squeeze into those little cars,spit tobacco on the floor and learn the art of turning right.
That might make Indy racing more appealing to the average American short track fan. But that was the IRL's rationale for starting up and it didn't attract an audience. Where are Joe Gosek, Bronco Brad Murphey et al now?
You don't think Penske would find a spot for Danica? I know they already have 2 1/2 drivers, but she's the most marketable driver in the sport.
Penske doesn't seem to use his race team as a marketing tool, and neither does his sponsor - of course they are not allowed to. I think Penske is mostly concerned with hiring drivers who have the best chance of winning races and in the IndyCar Series, I think he believes there are better choices than Danica for that.
What's up with Marco Andretti? Will he be around next year in the Indtcar Series?
Hard to tell about what has happened. He will almost certainly be back in his dad's team; I don't know who else would hire him. Wherein lies the problem. I think he would become a much better driver much faster if he was driving for another team. On road courses he has arguable regressed since his rookie year, though he has improved vastly on ovals.
Will Hornish be back in the IRL next year and with whom?
No. He's pretty clear that his heart and his appetite is in NASCAR these days.
Will the organization changes at AGR improve their cars and make them more competitive?
It's hard to imagine that the management shake-up will have a direct effect on the performance. Though I hear Kevin Savoree is not any more popular within the walls of AGR than he is outside...
Well, we have successfully filled an hour. Thanks for taking time to send in your questions, and for your continual support of Indy car racing.