The milestones and bench marks that comprised the 2011 IZOD Indy Car series read like a Tom Clancy novel, but with a distressing ending instead of one where the hero swoops in to save the day. If you follow only the highlights in a Cliff Notes version of the 2011 season summary, you come across some absolutely sterling gems of headlines. “CONWHEEZY Triumphs at Long Beach”; “Rookie Blows Fame and Fortune at THE 500”; “Man Who Finished Second at Indy in 2009 and 2010 Seals The Deal”. From rookie drivers stepping not too ashamedly on stalwart toes in 2011 to bunches and BUNCHES of women starting at Indy, made 2011 an interesting season to be sure. I have not even gotten to the point that 2011 was truly the year of the finger…………….
I bet that you thought Helio’s Canadian melt down in 2010 could not be topped! Heh….(Insert I like Hinch; a LOT, here).
How many of you were aghast that Michael Andretti “bought” a starting spot in the 2011 Indy 500 for Ryan Hunter-Reay? I recall one pundit mentioning that this would NEVER happen in the Old, Lloyd Ruby golden days of Indy Car. Well, I am here to tell you that the record book reflects the well-earned seventh place finish for Mr. Hunter-Reay in the season’s final standings. I also wish to remind you of the fact that wayyyy back in 1993, Bobby Rahal failed to make the field when he could not get his R/H-001 Chassis up to speed, despite winning the season opener at Long Beach. Even at that point in time, the rule stated that a car qualified for the race and not the driver. Contemplate this factoid: back then, a team did not “buy” their way into a race when their car turned out to be a dog and they failed to qualify for the Indy 500. They just tucked their tail and went home. Today, a driver buys his ride…..wierd, isn’t it? We do live in a strange universe at the moment.
Ah, but for now, on to the 2012 season and all of the question marks that it brings. A new, yet doggie slow car that will never win any beauty pageant title; engines that say Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus along with an absolutely poopie schedule. May I have my root canal now, please? How does one get this far into the off season and still not have an engine beyond the dyno stage? Lots Of Trash U See………
I have heard of new chassis being slow and new chassis being ugly, but I have not really heard of a new car being both slow and ugly. In a poll of ticket holders, the new DW12 received unanimous un-love. Too slow, too quick to over/under steer with weight distribution and bias totally out of whack, along with a disparity between CFD simulation and on track testing. These are bright guys working on this stuff but when a quick fix is to add weight to the nose of the car, oh my. The race to find a fix is on and thank goodness Dallara is going to pick up the tab for relocating and correcting suspension geometry, along with a slightly different aero kit.
The silly season has so far been one of suspense, silence and staggering poor guessing on the part of those that keep up with whom will end up where. With Hinch and Servia both on the market again, some “C” class drivers on the outer fringes of seat landing will be shut out for 2012. I would count Josef Newgarden as one of the most fortunate to land a 3 year deal. How many FIL champs are still seeking regular work? Conway to Foyt is almost as shocking as his leaving Andretti Autosport (I still chuckle when I refer to them as AA and if you knew some of my friends you would know why). Who fills the Conway seat there? Who fills the seat vacated by the passing of Dan Wheldon? Who filled my Christmas stocking with crap?!
On the topic of the 2012 schedule……Don’t get me started.
Open wheel racing as we know it is now officially dead. If you think that going back to Belle Island would be worse than holding a street race in China, then you may join me in my next root canal as you have both taking place in 2012. I totally understand that you cannot hold a race unless the venue WANTS you there, and no amount of whining by the “non”-viewing public will ever land a race at Road America, let alone Nashville (sorry George Phillips). You simply cannot will a race to take place. I have chastised my 17 loyal readers in the past on this topic; if you want to see more ovals on the schedule then get off your kiester and GO TO AN OVAL RACE. The best feel good story for Indy car in a decade took place at Kentucky this season and the crowd was simply pathetic. And you call yourself an Indy car fan. Wait; maybe I am onto something here. Lack of fan support may be a direct result of, wait for it, falling television numbers. My fear is that the series is tumbling into the abyss of irrelevance as an entertainment medium. Case in point; the 2012 schedule. No Las Vegas; no mile and a half banked ovals; racing in a time zone half way around the world. WE NEED VIEWERSHIP for 2012 so consider yourself invited to join me at 3am next year for the race from China. It is, after all, a street race! Baltimore on the schedule will drop off on January first when payments due to a gazillion interested parties fails to be made. I do not see how that much scratch can be gathered up in the next few days. “Nuff said. However, I am very worried for the future. Sure a new car levels the playing field and the Ganassi/Penske Death Star may have a few upsets at the hands of Sarah Fisher and especially Ed Carpenter’s new team. Derrick Walker does not put together a weak staff by no means and they may just be formidable. I sure hope so. David needs to slay Goliath ,more than once in 2012 to boost TV ratings.
That is enough rant for this week. Talk to you next time!