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Allmendinger’s Next Opportunity

June 1, 2013 Comments off

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit:  USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit: USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger steps out of a Roger Penske machine after finishing seventh Sunday in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 wondering what will be his next opportunity in racing.

The 31-year-old Allmendinger has dipped his helmet in different series throughout his 2013 racing season including the IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. An offering he was not positive he would ever receive after his NASCAR suspension due to the use of banned substances, Adderall, in 2012 while driving for Penske.

Opportunities materialized for Allmendinger this season in open-wheel and stockcar racing. In NASCAR’s premier series, he has made the most of his chances in James Finch’s No. 51 Chevrolet with an average finish of 13.5 and worst finish of 16th.

His IndyCar performance is highly anticipated after his successful finishes of five wins in 2006 in Champ Car, but his best finish was at Indianapolis after leading 23 laps.

The rookie’s first race at Indianapolis was impressive on many accounts. He was forced to pit twice off-sequence mid-race due to a possible flat tire, and later in the race due to his racing-belts coming loose. Rallying to a seventh place finish was a success.

“With seven or eight laps to go, I thought we still had a shot to win it,” Allmendinger said. “We had just passed three or four cars the lap before and I thought we were right there. But we just didn’t have enough at the end. It was a great experience, but I really thought our car was good enough all day.”

It was not until earlier this morning that it was announced of Allmendinger’s future plans for Penske. Prior to the Indianapolis 500, he noted this could be his “last chance” and needing to make the most of it. But Penske released today Allmendinger will drive the No.22 Nationwide Series car at the road course events at Road America and Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course.

”There’s nothing I could do to come even close to repaying him,” Allmendinger said. ”So, I just try to give everything I’ve got and hopefully it’s enough.”

Allmendinger is not in a car this weekend at Dover in NASCAR, but is racing in Detroit’s grand prix in IndyCar, but look for him to only accept a competitive ride in IndyCar or NASCAR. His best option is to have a chance to win, but he has a different opinion.

“I’ve always really enjoyed the road course racing in NASCAR, so to get the opportunity to compete in two events in the Nationwide Series with Penske Racing is amazing,” Allmendinger said. ”I’m just happy to have the opportunity to drive something.”

From the Marbles: Who is IndyCar’s Identity?

May 2, 2012 Comments off

When looking at major sports throughout the world, all have a specific name for most people who is the face of the sport. It is possible not all will agree with the same people, but for the most part it will conclude with two or three similarities.

But, if I were to ask you one name from the IZOD IndyCar Series, who would be the most popular name to arise?

The NBA will be Michael Jordan or LeBron James. NFL would have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. NASCAR would have Dale Earnhardt or Jimmie Johnson.

These sports all have one thing in common: identifiable athletes.

Since Danica Patrick left for her future in NASCAR, IndyCar has been left with a large gaping hole. Since 2005, when Patrick came into the spotlight for being the first woman to lead at the Indianapolis 500, the series has had a name, brand willing to be the face of their sport. She left in 2011 and now the series sees what seven years of advertising one event and one driver will leave it when one ditches for another dream.

The Indianapolis 500 is still, in my mind, the most prestigious sporting event in the world. And, as of 2012 and possibly beyond, it may be the only thing IndyCar has to hold on to.

With the advancement in the new car, dealing with the tragedy of the reigning champion Dan Wheldon and more troubling news such as Jim Nabors not being able to attend this year’s 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in for a difficult May.

The Speedway is obviously the biggest venue IndyCar has to offer; however, IMS cannot save this series forever when they are looking to broaden their viewership outside of just the racing fan. Losing Patrick may have been one of the more recent losses the sport could encounter, despite Wheldon’s death, but it came at terrible timing as well.

IndyCar was in prime position for a beautiful transition with the DW12 (new chassis) and returning Indy 500 champion (Wheldon) making reestablishment into the series for Andretti Autosport. Wheldon could have been the new poster boy for the sport, as he was the ambassador during his hiatus outside of the racecar.

Now it needs someone to fill in the black hole it sits in. Can it be Dario Franchitti, four-time IndyCar and two-time Indy 500 champion, or Will Power, a driver who has not won a championship or Indy 500?

Neither.

Both drivers, despite being great drivers, are not marketable material for IndyCar. Listen to an interview, they both lack personality an outside fan will want to see. Franchitti and Power are both names nobody will recognize.

That’s why I bring up two drivers who IndyCar need to distribute most of their market ability on for the upcoming years: Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti.

Non-fans know these drivers. They are stars outside of the racing community and people will recognize their face in public. Castroneves has had issues with tax evasion, but won Dancing With The Stars on ABC. And Marco? How much more do you need than his last name?

This year’s Indianapolis 500 on May 27 may be one of the more crucial races IndyCar will have in its immediate future. The new chassis will have story lines due to the low speeds, but IndyCar, IMS and fans need to be sure to move on from Wheldon’s passing and look toward the future with a new star.

Castroneves is chasing his fourth Indianapolis 500 to join Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser, which will boost his marketability higher than it already is. Andretti chases his first victory, in hopes to overcome what his father and grandfather couldn’t since 1969.

For IndyCar’s sake, I’m hoping for history or a new face in victory lane.

From the Marbles: Chevrolet the Future of IndyCar?

March 29, 2012 Comments off

Chevrolet has seven Indianapolis 500 victories in twelve seasons as an engine manufacturer in the IZOD IndyCar Series – Sunday they marked their return in dominating fashion.

Chevrolet filled four of the top-five finishers in the Grand Prix at St. Petersburg, where Helio Castroneves won his third at the street course since 2006. Two Team Penske and two Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12 chassis filled the top-five while a Honda engine, Scott Dixon, finished second from Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

The engine manufacturer race will be followed closely all season, expecting to be an exciting return to competitiveness in the IndyCar Series. Despite Lotus, the least expected to survive, having their best finish of the weekend 15th.

No surprise that Team Penske came out on top after week one, but not many expected Castroneves to be the driver out of the three-car stable to win. Castroneves made the winning pass against Dixon in Turn 1 on the outside.

Will Power was caught on pit road early in the race after dominating from the pole, but couldn’t find enough time to make up the positions lost.

St. Petersburg held a great event this past weekend for the first race of the season, and despite ratings not improving from 2011, the race was exciting outside of the front pack. There were plenty of storylines in the middle-to-rear of the field while Castroneves ran away from the pack to a 5.529 second victory.

Honda may be in a vulnerable spot heading into Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. With four Honda-powered cars finishing in the top-10, Dixon was the only name outsiders would know. Rookie Simon Pagenaud was one of the fastest cars all weekend and finished sixth, while Charlie Kimball crossed the line in ninth and Justin Wilson came in 10th.

Dario Franchitti, 2011 IndyCar champion, finished deep in the field (13th) compared to where he is expected to finish. Franchitti told reporters Saturday they needed to find speed, but they would have it on raceday.

Apparently, they did not.

“Sometimes you have those days when you get across the finish line and sometimes you don’t,” Franchitti said. “Today was a bit of a disaster, to be honest.”

The way Dixon lost the race, it should worry Honda’s engine program that their equipment is not up to par to Chevrolet’s. Barber will be the final testing ground to prove they can compete with the power of Chevrolet, or if Honda will be in the shadows of Chevrolet in 2012.

Team Penske owner Roger Penske realizes the efforts from Chevy throughout the offseason led to the victory for his team Sunday.

“This is a great day for General Motors and obviously for Chevrolet, who made the commitment to come back into IndyCar racing,” Penske said. “This really shows the commitment in the automobile industry in the U.S. All the engineers within Chevrolet teaming with Ilmor to bring a product to the marketplace like this car in one year is amazing.”

Castroneves and his No. 3 team will move on to Barber this weekend knowing they are off to a start they can be excited for after their season last year.

“It’s important for us to know as a group that we know we can do it,” Castroneves said. “New car, new engine, it gives you a fresh start. As of right now, obviously, it’s a fantastic feeling.”

BAJA Sports: What is happening in the auto racing world

December 18, 2011 Comments off

A.J. Allmendinger was released from his duties for the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports. Will Kurt Busch take over for the Best Buy sponsored Ford? Credit: Getty Images

NASCAR:

Richard Petty Motorsports has released A.J. Allmendinger from his duties in the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion. Allmendinger, 30, was the top driver for RPM in 2011, where he finished 15th in points after being on the cusp of the Chase drivers.

Allmendinger will find one of the hardest times to secure a ride for the upcoming season. After being released in 2009 by Red Bull Racing, he quickly was signed by RPM. In this case, it will be much tougher to find a ride for the driver who never was outside the top-18 in points for his second year with RPM.

RPM now is in the hunt, and, most likely, is the top-dog for former Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch. Keeping Best Buy as a sponsor at RPM is the most important factor for their company and Kurt Busch will be the driver who can fulfill Best Buy’s needs by getting much exposure and wins.

Tony Stewart, 2011 Sprint Cup Series champion, was voted the Driver of the Year award for the second time in his career, receiving 15 votes. Last won in 2005, Stewart, 40, beat runner-up in Cup points Carl Edwards, IndyCar’s Dario Franchitti, NHRA’s Del Worsham and World of Outlaw’s Jason Meyers who all received one vote.

The biggest surprise is why Sebastian Vettel, 2011 Formula 1 champion, didn’t receive one vote? Vettel, 24, was the top driver in his series without doubt with 11 victories in 19 events. His closest competitor was Jenson Button finishing 122 points behind eventual winner Vettel.

The IZOD IndyCar Series released the initial findings to Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. IndyCar will not return to Las Vegas in 2012 but with a possibly in 2013. Credit: Zimbio.com

IZOD IndyCar Series:

Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident investigation is over, and IndyCar has released its initial findings behind the lap 12 wreck that involved 15 cars in the season finale race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Wheldon who died at the age of 33 was survived by his wife and two sons.

IndyCar has announced their plan not to return to Las Vegas in 2012 and had to pay their way out of the contract with a possible return in 2013. A third party independent firm was brought in to investigate the findings of the accident.

The 49-page report released by IndyCar says Wheldon was airborne for 325 feet before making contact with the SAFER barrier then the catchfence. He struck a pole on the outside of the fencing where the pole intruded the cockpit and hit the driver in the head. According to the findings, Wheldon his head twice, and the first blow was not enough to injure a driver normally. The second hit produced non-survivable injuries.

Formula 1 will race in Austin in 2012. The race weekend is set for Nov. 16-18. Credit: Mechanikong.com

Formula 1:

The United States will host a grand prix race for F1 in 2012. The Austin race has been announced it will be on the schedule in the upcoming season and has been granted a webpage on formula1.com. Its page shows a diagram of the 3.4-mile circuit. The date is set for Nov. 16-18; however, some information has yet to be released such as practice, qualifying and many other times.

The guess for number of laps is likely to be around 56, which is about 190 miles around the Circuit of the Americas.

Wheldon’s crash fatal from “unsurvivable injuries”

October 17, 2011 Comments off

Dan Wheldon signing autographs for kids during their field trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May. Credit: Thomas Hitch

The danger of motorsports is prevalent around the world; however, with the improvements in safety over the past 10 years, it makes it impenetrable for the racing world to swallow the passing of Dan Wheldon yesterday.

The chase for the championship between Dario Franchitti and Will Power quickly disintegrated and thoughts and prayers went to Wheldon and other drivers involved in the fiery crash.

Wheldon is survived by two sons and wife. He was 33.

During the IZOD IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 15-car wreck on lap 12 included many cars getting airborne. Wheldon was one of many in the wreckage.

Also involved were the cars driven by Will Power, Paul Tracy, Buddy Rice, Alex Lloyd, E.J. Viso, Charlie Kimball, Tomas Scheckter, Jay Howard, Wade Cunningham, Pippa Mann, JR Hildebrand, James Jakes and Vitor Meira.

Reports had shown promise for the 2005 IndyCar champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. For Wheldon, who raced twice in 2011 at the Indianapolis 500 and at Las Vegas, his career could have only been beginning again.

According to sources, Wheldon’s plan was to sign a contract to replace Danica Patrick’s ride in 2012 with GoDaddy as a sponsor.

Dan Wheldon won his second Indianapolis 500 in 2011. Credit: USA Today

If there was a cheerleader for IndyCar, it was in the hands of Dan Wheldon. As said by Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s historian, Donald Davidson, “Wheldon was like a politician on election day. He wanted to shake everyone’s hand and talk to them.”

From someone who has seen Wheldon’s demeanor in the spotlight and outside of the cameras, he was what every sport needs. There was no bigger supporter for the IndyCar Series and IMS, and who understood the importance of the series and company that made his living.

During the 2011 season, Wheldon began working for VERSUS’ station during a few telecasts. He had an idea to use the Grid Walk most used by Robin Miller before the race began.

Throughout the season, Wheldon was the sole research and test driver for the new car the IndyCar Series will be use starting in 2012. The new car features enhanced safety features which will hopefully leave part of his legacy.

His legacy can include an extensive amount of elements. In short, he was an ambassador for the sport and was known as a loving, bubbly man who cared about everyone more than himself.

When listening to drivers throughout the 2011 season about Wheldon, each driver will say that he deserved a ride more than anyone else in the garage. Not many would argue how underrated as a racecar driver he was.

One of the best drivers to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the past few decades and is underrated, despite winning twice in nine races.  For a driver who finished second in 2009 and 2010 before winning in 2011 at the Indianapolis 500, it was amazing Sunday’s race was Wheldon’s second race of the season.

He was a legend before his career and, possibly, his second effort at it was over. In the world of motorsports, we lost a great champion, but more importantly an amazing man.

In the final words, there is nothing nobody can say better than Marty Reid yesterday during ABC’s signoff.

“People ask me, why do you sign off with ’till we meet again?’ Because ‘Goodbye’ is always so final. Goodbye Dan Wheldon.”

From the Marbles: Where is the talent: NASCAR or IndyCar?

September 15, 2011 Comments off

Trevor Bayne (left) won the 2011 Daytona 500 and Dan Wheldon (right) won the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Credit: Zimbio.com

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dan Wheldon, claimed in an interview Tuesday IndyCar provides the most talented drivers and ‘far outweighs’ NASCAR.

When talking to the media, with IndyCar’s CEO Randy Bernard, about IndyCar’s season finale Oct. 16 at Las Vegas, he spoke about the talent in the open-wheel series.

“When you look at the depth of the field in the Izod IndyCar Series right now, it’s full of talent. So it’s certainly going to be harder to come to the front than in recent years,” Wheldon said. “When you consider the talent level of the grid, I think quite honestly, it far outweighs NASCAR.”

Really?

Wheldon must be talking about the “talented” field which has produced seven different winners from only four teams. Wheldon must not be talking about the series which has produced 15 different winners from eight different teams.

Without Weldon’s surprise victory at the Indy 500 this year the victories in the IndyCar Series would have came from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing.

NASCAR’s teams include: Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Roush-Fenway Racing.

Wheldon must forget about Tony Stewart, who won an IndyCar championship in 1999 in his rookie season.

Really?

Or Juan Pablo Montoya who won the Indianapolis 500 in his first attempt at the speedway and left to Formula One where he succeeded before NASCAR.  Or Sam Hornish Jr., who still holds the most wins in the IndyCar Series with multiple championships. Or even Robby Gordon, who nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in 1999 before running out of fuel in the closing laps while leading.

Wheldon must forget about the drivers in the series who took a crack at NASCAR who failed to compete in the sport they thought they could conquer next such as Hornish, A.J. Allmendinger, Scott Speed and Dario Franchitti.

Speaking of those four drivers, who did they drive for in NASCAR? Oh yes, Penske, Red Bull Racing and Ganassi. Teams who have proven above average performance and can compete for wins every week.

Realistically there are about three teams in IndyCar who can win every weekend: Will Power, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. Which is why Franchitti and Power have combined for 10 wins in 15 races so far this season.

NASCAR is completely different.

The number of competitive teams in their main series is a number much higher than three. Hence, the number of different winners this season is the same as the number of races IndyCar has run.

Sure, it is unfair to compare the two auto racing sports. They are, in fact, completely different. They both produce absolutely incredible racing, hot tempers and fired up owners who want to win every time their car(s) burn rubber.

But there is a reason drivers from all other forms of motorsports such as Travis Pastrana, Montoya, Tony Stewart, Hornish, Franchitti, Jacques Villinueve, Danica Patrick, Ron Fellows and many others come to NASCAR.

Really?

It has the best drivers on the planet.

From the Marbles: IndyCar Series and Toronto

July 13, 2011 Comments off

Many cautions came from turn three in Toronto for the IndyCar series, like the one listed above. The series will race next at Edmonton on July 24. Credit: IndyCar.com

The IndyCar Series raced on the streets of Toronto last weekend where many incidents prevailed in turn three showing many turned the wrong way.

Toronto was the 10th race on the schedule this season and only the 5th road course where double-file restarts have taken place. Some say double-file restarts needed to take the blame, even though rarely did the cautions take place on the initial restart.

Mario Andretti, 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, made a comment about double-file restarts via Twitter after the race:

Mario Andretti at the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Thomas Hitch

“Toronto #INDYCAR race showed once again how well double file restarts are working…Big joke!!”

Not that any former drivers or present drivers have a say in taking away double-file restarts, but it goes to show the underlining problem in the IndyCar Series. Drivers attitude toward the series officials is what is the problem.

There are things the series seems to do that take the race out of the drivers hands such as penalizing drivers for blocking, over-aggressive driving, avoidable contact, etc.

All of this took place Sunday, and, unfortunately, took out many competitive cars for the win such as Will Power, Tony Kanaan and Mike Conway. So many wrecks allowed drivers who were not near the front all day such as Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz to finish 10th and 11th.

Power was involved with two-time defending series champion, Dario Franchitti, in an accident taking Power’s chances of finishing away. Power would finish 24th and fall further in points to Franchitti by 55. He would not be silenced before calling Franchitti, live on Versus, a “wanker” and saying the IndyCar Series plays favorites, talking about retracting a penalty on Franchitti already assessed for avoidable contact.

Kanaan also made his voice heard via Twitter on penalties by the IndyCar Series:

“And race control is starting with their excuses. WHAT A JOKE . @IndyCarPR @IndyCarSeries.”

Due to the competitive cars being at the rear of the pack or in the garage, strategy took place allowing Ryan Hunter-Reay to run up front and finish third. Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti, finished fourth after being involved in one of many incidents in turn three.

Marco did eventually take fault for wrecking Justin Wilson and Oriol Servia, and made his apology public via his Twitter.

At the end of the day, drivers needed to focus on patience to make the double-file restarts work. The restarts were not the issue Sunday afternoon, it is the ongoing wrecks throughout the race in a corner with no room to pass.

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